Thursday, August 21, 2014

Feeling Frail and Surrounded by Chaos

Loveys, my house is a mess.

Not a little one either.

A big fat mess. With boxes that are sort of packed (by packed, I mean stuff crammed into them without rhyme or reason). So the week before we move, the dishwasher breaks. Have you washed dishes lately? By hand? Holy macaroni I've forgotten what a chore that is and I'm grateful for that genius who invented dishwashers. Seriously, having to wash dishes every day was soooo not on my list of things to do the week of moving. So this morning, I'm trying to motivate myself to go into the kitchen (which looks like a tornado hit it) and wash dishes like Suzy Homemaker. Where is Blanca Brumble when I need her?

Here's a truth. I'm a teeny bit tempted to put them all in a box and just go use the dishwasher at the new house. Jeff says that's not allowed yet.

Anyway, so I'm surrounded by chaos. Nothing went as planned this week. We were supposed to close Monday. Didn't happen. They ended up needing to redo the floors on the first floor of the house. And move light fixtures. These things needed to be fixed, but it meant closing on Friday instead of Monday. Which makes me twitch since we need to turn in the keys of our rental bright and early Sunday.

And this house looks like yellow tape should be at every corner. And I need to pack and clean, but first, I must wash a million dishes.

Chaos and I don't live well together. I need order. I just function better with it. I'm like my dad in that way. I like things to be put away. (P.S. I just looked up from my computer and saw a vase of dead flowers that I forgot about.)

Picture me sighing and pushing up the sleeves of my purple robe and thinking that coffee would be good right about now.

On top of a chaotic week and a messy house, I've been feeling frail, which never helps. Especially during weeks when I need to be superhuman mom. Frail gets nothing done. Frail is weepy sometimes. Frail can't motivate herself well.

I normally think of women as incredibly strong creatures. We do amazing things like push other 8-pound humans out of our bodies. We are so many things to so many people. We run households and sit in business meetings and comfort crying kids and listen to stressed husbands and put gas in the car and sign homework sheets at night.

But sometimes . . . sometimes we're frail. Or, at least, I am. We cry over things we can't change. On Tuesday I dropped Ashtyn off at school, and suddenly I felt my heart ache. I drove as slow as possible through the drop-off lane, craning my neck to see her until she disappeared into the school. Walking with her little backpack, the tiniest person heading into school. I'm crying now again, thinking of it! Good grief. I'm frail this week, loveys. It would be a good week to curl up and wrap myself in a blanket and watch marathons of Downton Abbey, sniffling the whole time and drinking tea.

But I look at the chaos covering my house, and I know the big move is Saturday, and there's no time for frailty.

I wish I were stronger.

But I'm just me. I can do a million things, but sometimes I can't stop feeling frail. All I can do is try to tap into that source of strength that's not my own.

I've been having insomnia. It's really uncool. I wake up every night from about 2-3 or 3-4 a.m. And I can't sleep. Before we went to bed last night, Jeff asked me what I do when I'm awake during those hours. "Oh, I pray for the people in Gaza and Israel," I told him. "I pray for the children being trafficked. I pray for the children who are hungry. For the parents who are out of work. For the people who are abused and hurt and neglected. Children in orphanages in Russia. I pray for my own kids. That sort of thing."

Jeff reached over and touched my arm. "No wonder you can't sleep, Bran," he said softly.

It occurred to me that I'm probably not the only one feeling frail.

But we keep going. Because the boxes aren't going anywhere. And neither are the dishes. And the moving truck is coming. When I was a kid, the Secret of NIMH was my very favorite movie. I think of that mouse, running, yelling, "Moving day is here!"

Loveys, here's what I know to be true: It's okay to be frail. It's okay to feel broken sometimes. It's okay to know we're not the strongest. It's okay to push through when you're not sure where the strength is coming from, because you know you ran out about twenty miles before.

God doesn't need us to be crazy strong. He just wants us to be His. He'll do the rest. He's the crazy strong one. I'm the frail one.

He's the calm, ever-present one. I'm the weepy mom who doesn't like washing dishes so much and is easily distracted.

He loves us even in seasons of chaos and frailty. Maybe especially in seasons of chaos and frailty.

I don't know about you, but I needed to remind myself of that this morning.

It's alright to cry when we need to. It's alright to be frail and let God be strong. When the crying is over, we pick ourselves back up and keep going. Sometimes even amid the crying.

And even when I'm frail, my mother tells me that I'm stronger than I think.

She's right, I suppose.

But if you're feeling frail this morning, like me, you're loved. You're okay. What needs to get done will get done, the rest can wait. One breath at a time. One step at a time. Frailty and chaos are part of life. For people who think they're not--those people must easily forget that life is made up of different seasons. And when we cease to empathize with those around us--that's a tragedy. There are a lot of hurting people. Hungry people. Desperate people. Pray for them, lovey.

Jeff just told me he'll be back in about an hour, bringing me a cappuccino.

Excellent. He loves me.

Love makes all the difference.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The End of Summer . . .

Good grief. Is it mid August already? School has started. Ashtyn turned six years old on the 15th, and the big move is right around the corner. The past few weeks have felt like a whirlwind. Laura came to visit. I can't believe the move is almost upon us. I don't feel quite ready. Summer has been so nice . . . I hate to see it end. But with the coming of school, the freedom of lazy summer days seems to vanish.

Then again, with fall comes leaves and pumpkins and magic.

Not bad at all. :)

But for today, I'm thankful for still-warm days and green grass.

Actually, I'm thankful for so much. It's hard not to feel emotional when you read the news lately. So much suffering going on all around the world. So many people living in fear and turmoil. It's more than enough for me to remember to be thankful. And to pray for those near and far. An old roommate of mine from college passed away this past week. My heart has been heavy for her husband and four children.

People hurting. People broken.

It all makes me feel broken too, in some ways.

Then I remember that we're a broken people. All in need of grace and redemption. And that God is the author of grace and redemption.

Hope amid brokenness.

It's all we have sometimes.

Summer is coming to a close. And I'm so thankful for a summer filled with family outings and fun memories. I'm ready for this move to be behind us and for the Bruce family to feel settled in our new place. I have a feeling the next few weeks will continue to feel like a whirlwind.

That's okay.

Life is full of whirlwinds, you know.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Food and Books and Giveaways! Oh my!

Loveys, I know I've been a little MIA the past couple of weeks. Our summer schedule's been rolling along and we've been having a lot of family time with our little ones before school starts in about a week! But I wanted to let you know that I did a fun article over on Inspy Romance and they're doing a giveaway for the Second Chance Café! All you have to do is leave a comment to enter on the blog post (the one on Inspy). It's a great beach read or any-time summer read so hop over here and enter to win!

That reminds me, for all my loveys who've read the Second Chance Café, don't forget to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever! Those reviews really do matter and I appreciate each and every one so much! And definitely leave me a comment over here to let me know so I can check it out! It's so nice to receive feedback once readers have finished the book. Let me know what you think!

Having said all that, I hope you guys are having a fantastic summer! This has been such a nice, laid-back kind of summer for us and the kids. Lots of fun days. I can hardly believe school's about to start.
I'm so thankful for the warm, sunny weather and the time with my kids. Moving day is creeping up on us. We're about two weeks away from that as well! I'll be posting about the move once it happens. We're so excited!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Crumbs on the Table

There are crumbs on the table, loveys.

And under it, as a matter of fact.

And it's 7:59 and my kids are already eating suckers. Bribery starts early sometimes. (Imagine me shrugging and saying "Eh" and shrugging again.) I need a moment to slow down. This mom has already been to the dentist this morning (which went well. We may eat suckers but we definitely brush teeth in this house!). This week has been packed for me. My literary agent was in town so I got to reconnect with the great and fun Chip MacGregor (and Amanda and Erin) and talk shop. Then one of my authors was in town (the lovely Pam Farrel. Great seeing you, Pam!) so I got to have lunch with her and her husband and my boss. Lunch included gelato so obviously it was a delightful experience for all of us! :)

So my schedule was a little rearranged--taking the kids in late for Jeff, picking them up (late). It's been the kind of week that, even though it's only Thursday, we've already had cheeseburgers and pizza for dinner this week. A lot going on and this mom hasn't been up for cooking. But it's home-day today and I've got chicken thawing in the fridge and I'm looking forward to cooking real food tonight. I'm thinking shredded chicken enchiladas with black beans and salad.

And I'm hoping the coffee kicks in and I will do something about the crumbs soon.

Last night we went over to the new house. Surprise to us, lights were installed! Yay! That was fun to see. So it's coming along. Moving day approaches. I better not say that again or I'll start to feel a teeny bit panicked. Really, I know it'll be fine. Jeff and I are a pretty good team when it comes to moving. We're about 25 days out from the closing date. Wow. That means we're less than 3 weeks from school starting.

We need to buy pencils or something.

We've continued along with our #100daysofsummer and it's been truly great for our family. Fun memories. Tired kids at the end of the days. We went to the zoo this past weekend and had a wonderful time together. The kids loved it. Picnic lunch. Elephant swimming. Monkeys flying. Seals performing. All of us riding the carousel. Linc fell asleep halfway through the day. Beautiful family moments.

This week we all snuggled up on the couch together for a movie night (complete with popcorn and hot chocolate) and watched the Tinker Bell Pirate Fairy movie (loved it). I'm hoping for more movie nights at the new house. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to moving in and unpacking and having more than a handful of glasses and finding the lids for my corning ware. It's all so exciting! :)

I remember when I was a little girl and we moved into a new house that we'd had built in Conroe, Texas. It was so exciting. The house felt huge on that first night. (Laura was not even a dream in heaven yet. We were a family of four for a long time.) We slept on the living room floor together. Those are wonderful memories. Sara and I used to roller skate around the kitchen. It was a great house.

And here we are, years down the road. And Jeff and I are moving into our house with our two little ones. And it's fun and exciting. The same way it felt so long ago when Sara and I were singing and performing on the stage (aka the fireplace) at the house on Andershire.

The blessing of family.

Really, who cares if there are crumbs on the table? There's love in the house.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Team Us". . . Talking with Marriage Author Ashleigh Slater!

Hi Loveys! Here's a treat for you! We're talking with my new friend Ashleigh Slater! She's the author of the new book Team Us: Marriage Together. In her writing, Ashleigh loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. (For more information visit She's going to give us a marriage tip today and also give us a glimpse into what's on her to-be-read list (along with what she cooks for company!).

1. How did the writing bug bite you? Have you always wanted to be a writer? What's your story with that?

It's funny, while writing has always been a part of my story from as early as 3rd or 4th grade, I don't remember ever sitting down and thinking, "I want to be a writer when I grow up." Instead, I wanted to be a television producer. To the point that I studied it in grad school. Yet once I had kids, I decided not to pursue that career path. I really wanted to be home with my children on a daily basis. The thing was, once I put that aside, I still needed a creative outlet. Since I'd been writing music reviews and
articles since I was a teenager, I started to focus more on writing and editing. Almost 20 years after I had my first music review published as a teen, here I am with my first book.

2. Where did the "Team Us" inspiration come from?

When it comes to my writing, I actively hold to "write what you know." So when Moody Publishers approached me last spring about possibly writing a book on relationships, I sat back and thought, "Okay, what can I write about that I have experience in and am passionate about?" The first thing that came to mind as I reflected on Ted and our marriage was how grace has impacted our relationship. This idea of writing on grace turned into the book that is now "Team Us."

3. As we all know, marriage can be a little like a rollercoaster--highs and lows and freefalls! What's one practical way that you recommend staying on the same team even through the hard times?

Remember that your spouse is not the enemy. It can be easy when you face difficulty to start pointing fingers and assigning blame. You know, to look for what your spouse could have or maybe even should have done differently. And, as a result, "casting" your spouse in the role of villain in the tragedy you're facing. Instead of making it "you against me," I think it's important to make it "us against the problem." Determine to face whatever comes your way together, united. And I believe this is something that doesn't just apply to the "big" difficulties, but even the smaller challenges involved in parenting or finances.

4. What books are you currently reading? What's on your to-be-read list?

I tend to read two or three books at a time. Right now I'm finishing up Emily Wiergena's memoir Atlas Girl and am in the middle of Tessa Afshar's novel In the Field of Grace as well as Dannah Gresh's parenting book Six Ways to Keep the 'Little' in Your Girl. My to-be-read list includes reading The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Divergent Trilogy again. I've also heard a lot of great things about The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.

5. What's your special go-to meal when having company over? What are you famous (or infamous!) for when it comes to cooking?

We actually don't have one go-to meal. Instead, we kind of cater a few of our favorites depending on who the company is. Things like chili or chicken saltimbocca. But, if we have a large group of friends over, it's normally an easy crowd pleaser such as bratwursts or burgers on the grill. Ted and I both have a lot of German in our family history, so we love a good brat with mustard and sauerkraut.

Thank you, Ashleigh!! I am super excited to read Team Us and to get to know Ashleigh better! Check out her website and hop over to Amazon to take a look at what others are saying about her book.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Birthdays and Rainy Days

It's a home day, loveys. It's rainy and foggy and a little chilly in our house. And I've got two kids playing hide-and-seek. But I'm not sure they get the gist of it. Ash sits in a chair and Linc comes and taps her on the head. Then he sits in the chair and she comes and taps him on the head. Hmm.

It's a lazy morning. There are blueberry muffins and hardboiled eggs on the stove. Grape juice on the counter. And the kids just want to run and play. I'm wondering how much of a fight they'll put up if I want to take the crew to Hobby Lobby and look at stuff for the house. Hmm again.

I actually love days like this. Easy days where nothing is on the calendar. We stay in pj's as long as we want to. We watch cartoons. We have snack every half hour (that's actually not that fun for me since I start to feel like a waitress who lives here). We go to Chic-Fil-A for lunch, and then there are a million kids, and I have to promise ice cream in order to get my kids to leave. Then the drive-thru line is so crazy long that I have to drive over to Baskin Robbins to make good on that promise. Then if I'm at Baskin Robbins, I'm unable to leave without getting a scoop of rainbow sherbet for myself.

Vicious cycle.

So anyway. Both of my kids have birthdays next month, which has prompted me to say that I can never have another baby in August. If Jeff so much as winks at me in November, I'm not seeing it. So not only is August crazy with back-to-school chaos, I have two birthday parties to plan and cupcakes to take to school even though school has just started. And this year we're MOVING in August, remember? So packing, moving, parties, school. Obviously, August makes me twitch just a little.

I'm realizing Ash is at that age where she starts to have input on her birthday celebration. This is not cool to me. We drove through the party aisle the other day and I oohed and ahhed over the Sofia stuff, Frozen stuff, Princess stuff. She points to the plastic-head Barbie stuff and says, 'That's the one I want.'

My answer is to say we'll keep thinking about it. Ash also knows exactly what she wants to do at said party. She's getting older, I know. The parties become less about the parents hanging out and more about the kids and what they want and school friends. My friend Nancy warned me this would happen.

She was right.

That's okay. We'll do packing and moving and parties and back-to-school and it will all come together. I'm thankful that we didn't unpack too much when we moved into this rental. It won't be so hard to pack everything back up. This morning, as we were taking our time in pj's and socks at home, I kept thinking of what it will be like in just a little over a month, when we're doing the same thing in a new place.

The weekend is here finally. It's felt like a long week to me. Ash and Linc have been a little more difficult this week. Cranky, fussy, not wanting to listen, and so on. So I'm thinking I need to come up with some family activities for the weekend to keep them busy and active. The zoo might be in our future. (Lord, help me!) Summer stuff, you know. Fun stuff. Tiring stuff. Good stuff. :)

Have a good weekend, loveys. Summer's going by fast. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living the Dream

It's 7:48. I need to leave for work in about fifteen minutes. Jeff and the kids just went out the door. I woke up early this morning. By early, I mean about 5:45. But Jeff and I went to bed early last night, which we've been trying to do more of because life is tiring, so I woke refreshed. I even had time to read a few chapters from Shauna Neiquist's book Bittersweet, which is amazing. Not even kidding. She's one of my favorite writers because I feel like I know her just from reading her books. I love her thoughts on food and faith (two of my fave subjects). I love her transparency about life.

It's a good morning. Linc ran back from the front porch for one more kiss before leaving. Obviously, that melts this mom's heart. I'm thinking of all I need to do today, which isn't so much really. Work. pool time with the kids. Cook dinner. Clean up. The usual.

So this weekend we went to some new friends' home for dinner. We'd never been there before and we were hanging out together outside, getting to know each other a little bit. We've had a lot of rain lately and I think it's stirred up mosquitoes because Colorado is usually not very buggy. Compared to Texas anyway! While we're sitting there talking, I got a mosquito bite. Understand that if there is one mosquito in a fifty-mile radius, he will find me and take my blood. Growing up in Texas, this was tragic. My dad is the same way. We used to keep a can of Off repellent right by the front door so you could just douse yourself on your way out. My mosquito bites swell up like nickels and itch to death. So I was a little worried that I might be about to be bitten like crazy. We went inside to get things ready for dinner and the wife tells me that we can eat inside or outside, wherever we want. I'm already itching my arm so I mention I got a mosquito bite so maybe inside would be best, since she said either was fine. She cocks her head to the side and says, "You're kind of delicate, aren't you?"
Oh. Um. I don't know.

She finds me insect repellent and we eat outside.

This morning, as we're getting ready for work, I say to Jeff, "I'm trying to decide if I'm delicate. What do you think?" He laughs all the way back to the bedroom.

I've been thinking it over. I guess I am in some ways. In the way she was thinking. While we've been doing some trails and hikes this summer, I'm not usually that outdoorsy, so I have to be intentional about it. But I do love seeing the beauty of nature. I've never been very good at sports. My coordination level is about nil. I did a lot of sitting on the bench.


But then again. I'm usually up from before seven every morning, feeding kids, dressing kids, getting myself off to work. Together, Jeff and I run this household and raise our kids. I love being a book editor and an author. My days are filled with life and family and friends. It's a busy life. It's a good one too.

I don't like mosquito bites.

 That's okay.

I think sometimes we just have to accept who we are (not the bad parts, those we need to change, but the regular parts, the not-being-that-outdoorsy parts). I'm okay with me. I'm okay that I'm not very arts-and-craftsy. I'm okay that I don't spend a whole lot of time planning meals for my family, we're a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family when it comes to the menu. I'm okay that I don't like to spend a ton of time shopping for stuff. I like to go into a store, buy something and be done with it. I'm okay that I want my house to be clean, but I'm not going to kill myself making it spic-and-span. I'm okay that we like to watch TV and cartoons and eat pizza and ice cream on Friday nights.

Honestly, I love my life. I love my family so much. I love my work. I love writing. I love that before Jeff left this morning, he hugged me and said, "I'm really lucky to have you." I love that Linc ran back for second kisses. I've got people, loveys. That's what matters to me. I don't think God wants me to be any other woman than who I am. I think he understands me on a level no one else ever will. I think he's got patience and unconditional love for me every day of my life, and I'll take it gratefully, because I need those things so much.

I just read a chapter in Bittersweet about the things the author can't do. In other words, making a list of things that we're just not up for, and being okay with that list. How beautiful and freeing. God made us unique. Our personalities are different. Our interests are different. But if we're living the story God's given us, we're living the dream. We're alive and present and comfortable with who we are and what we're doing because we're in the right place.

Take a deep breath and live free today. Because you're loved. Every minute of every day. And who you are is enough.