The Last Leaf

Loveys, how is this season going for you? This gorgeous tree is in our backyard and the leaves have slowly been darkening and falling. Now there's a pile of leaves underneath these branches. And we know winter is on its way. But I want every leaf to take its time, and for fall to last as long as possible. Maybe because of all we've gone through this year, this season seems to be more rushed than usual. We've pretty much adjusted to life here in Virginia. There've been moments of homesickness for Colorado and friends and family there. Lily has asked me many times when we'll be going back to the "real house" (meaning the one in CO). But as the kids have made friends, gotten used to the new school, enjoyed seeing Grammy and Grandpa all the time, and experienced the fun of Halloween and now moving into the holiday season, I think we're feeling settled. To me, home is wherever the five of us are. Home is a feeling. It's people. I feel it whenever I step off the plane and feel the humidity in Houston, Texas. I sense it whenever I walk up the sidewalk to my parents' house. And I wake up to it every day, when there's usually at least one small person curled up between me and Jeff.

That's home.

It's a cold, rainy day and the kids are off school because of icy roads. Yesterday I got in the mood to start decorating for Christmas (scrolling through Insta will do that to you). Jeff dragged up the tree from the basement and put it together. It looked so pretty and green and festive! Then I plugged it in.

And one and a half strands work.

I just thought, That's about right.

Loveys, it seems to be one of those years where nothing is as easy as you'd like. For my family, there have been multiple serious health issues this year. Difficult decisions to make. Huge life changes. The reality of what has to happen, what we need to do even when its hard.

It's been a difficult year and it's not over yet.

There are days and moments when we're all overwhelmed. When we've reached the edge, emotionally, and spill over. (I think I'm living on that edge right now.)

I woke up this morning at 4:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. I kept thinking about King David for some reason. When he's living on the run for so long, praying for help and peace and safety. How God loves us but that doesn't keep us from hard days or having to do hard things.

We keep going. Moving. Doing what we have to. Loving each other and taking care of each other. For my family, there've been blessings throughout the journey this year. And still so much to look forward to. Christmas. Family. Things I don't take for granted especially this year.

I think I'll continue to feel just a little bit rushed this holiday season. Can Thanksgiving really be one week from today?

Ready or not, families will gather together and make memories. And when the last leaf falls, we'll switch over to counting down for Christmas. Yesterday, Ashtyn said to me, "This year Christmas will be different." Of course it will. Of course she feels it. And I smiled and told her that it will be different and still awesome. And overwhelmed or not, this mama will fill her calendar with Santa, shopping, holiday get togethers, children's Christmas programs, gingerbread cookies, Christmas Eve church services, and all those fun things that create holiday memories in our children's hearts.

The truth is that I need those things as much as the kids do. Because they make it magical for all of us. (But I'll save my sanity and take shortcuts where I can. Store-bought cookies are wonderful and shopping online works great. And a little whitespace on the calendar is healthy.) 

So the kids will play and make a mess all day. I'll go down to the basement and look for lights that work.

Do you know those mornings where we wake up so early, because the reality is that there's so much to think about? To worry about? We think and pray, and then get up and feed the kids breakfast. Then string Christmas lights. Then go to work. Cook dinner. Do homework. Go to choir practice. Respond to emails and check in with our people.

We do all the things. And thank God we're here to do them.

The Next Thing

I keep wanting to write and feel unsure of what to say.
Do you know that feeling? Too much swirling inside you. Too many thoughts to organize. Too many feelings to find words for.
So you do the next thing. That's where I find myself sometimes. I was looking over my calendar yesterday, and the month of October was so filled with dates and times and things penciled in--I took
a breath and just looked over it.
The truth is, I wouldn't want it any other way. It's what it looks like to try to balance life with family. The five of us in this house and the people close to my heart, near and far. And there's only so much you can worry about. There's only so much we can carry. We have to do the next thing. Choose the life we want, and live our days the best we can because we only have so many.
Yesterday was spent out at a pumpkin patch with Lily and Mom and Laura and Virginia. Hayrides and corn fields and animals and choosing pumpkins. Cool breezes and sunshine and the feeling of fall around us. Lots of laughter and smiles. Lily skipping around. I keep looking at the pictures. Thankful for such a perfect day.
I have just a few minutes to myself this morning. The house is a wreck and needs this mama to clean up. But my fingers want to type, even if there's too much to say.
What's this season look like for you, loveys? It's been a long year, filled with unexpected situations for our family. The year is long still, but the days are moving faster. They always do during the holiday season, don't they? Halloween. We've already got candy waiting for all the little ghosts and goblins stopping by soon. Thanksgiving. Plans are underway for time with family. Christmas. I've started planning my tea party, thinking of table settings and menus. Lincoln's let me know that he's already trying to decide what to ask Santa for. I'm wondering where I'll place the tree in this new house of ours.
And it's all just what I want for my life. Falling into bed tired, but snuggling up close to Jeff to catch up on Poldark. A marriage that's real and hard sometimes, and a love that we fight for and keep holding on to. The other night, I was overwhelmed. Truly. The kind of overwhelmed where you're numb. You need to do the next thing but you can't just yet. And there's nothing more comforting than knowing there's someone there to take care of you. You don't need to take any more on. Just breathe and live and he'll help take care of the rest. We'll do that for each other when we need to. It's who we are to each other.  
I was reading a book recently, written by a woman who has a lot more energy than I do. And it occurred to me that there are women out there conquering the world.
Loveys, in some seasons of life, it's okay to not want to conquer anything. To not take more on. To shake off your shoulders everything outside your control. To focus on the next thing. To let people love you. To just focus on being thankful for what you have.
That's where I am today. I'm so thankful for children and costumes and candy and parties and pumpkin patch field trips.
This has been a good year, but hard in lots of ways. It's still hard.
And yet.
We're so excited for trick-or-treating. There's so much excitement for the holiday season. Mom and I were just talking about Christmas and ham and dressing and presents, and we all can't wait. There will be wonderful days ahead. 
But it's very true that there are days we are completely overwhelmed. And then we breathe again, and there are these little people running around the house or climbing into our bed or asking for ice cream or running outside to play. And the messy house can wait a little longer.
I believe in letting our people love us. And loving them back in return.
I believe our days are numbered and how we live all of them matters. The leaves out back are blowing in the wind right now and the light on them looks perfect. It's okay to sit still in this moment.
Breathe. And then rise up and do the next thing. 

The Hunt for Orange October

Loveys, I will admit that when we started talking about moving to Virginia, I couldn't help being excited for Virginia in the fall. Because it's something special. Don't get me wrong, I love fall in Colorado. When the weather starts to turn cool, our family usually would take an afternoon drive to Evergreen to see fall colors and rushing rivers and take some family pictures.

But I've lived in Virginia in the fall before, and I know how beautiful it is when all the leaves turn orange and red. This week, Lily and I went on her first-ever field trip to an apple orchard not too far away. I was just as excited as she was. And as we drove up and around winding roads, under a bridge, past beautiful farms, and finally turned into the apple orchard--I felt that sense of anticipation you feel when something's around the corner.

Colors and cool days and boots and sweaters and warm drinks and pumpkins everywhere--the anticipation is real.

Growing up in Texas, I don't have tons of memories of chilly, fall weather. I know we all got extremely excited when we were getting a cold front! But I do have memories of fall festivals at our church, my mom making delicious chili and beef stew, and our school going on field trips to the Oil Ranch. (Who else from Conroe remembers those trips?) Wherever you grew up, what sticks with us are often the traditions and things we looked forward to every year. This will be my kids' first holiday season spent in Virginia. We've come out for Christmas before, but this year, Lynchburg is our new home. We'll be making new memories and traditions. Maybe because it's the first, I want it to be special in lots of ways for this little family of mine.

We've been settling into our new normal. New school. New house. New community. New grocery store. New job. New martial arts studio. We need new doctors and pediatricians and dentists. All the things that go into a move like this. It's a lot.

The other morning I woke up thinking about my dad. Worrying a little. And then it occurred to me that I could just hop in the car and drive over to my parents' house. And that's exactly what the kids and I did.

After many years of living states away (even continents away at times!), this is a great blessing for us. It's why we're here. Time with family. It's one of my favorite things.

Recently, the Jeffster and I were in Sag Harbor for a birthday party, and for a girl who's never been to the Hamptons, I have to say, it looked like every movie I've ever seen with a Hamptons setting. Water and boats and clouds and fun little towns, perfect for browsing bookstores or having a late brunch or having appetizers and drinks while listening to live music outside with friends and family--all of which we did. I loved every minute. Grammy stayed with the kids (and they loved that!). I'm so thankful for memory-making trips with Jeff, and opportunities for my kids to be with their grandparents. These moments are good for my soul.

We were out there for Jeff's boss's 50th birthday celebration, and listening to the speeches given and toasts raised, I was thinking of how a legacy comes down to the lives we touch. Our spouse and our children and our family and friends. We're building the legacy that we leave behind. Laughter. Love for our people. Forgiveness. Grace for each other.

The truth is that I can struggle with anxiety at times. I know it affects lots of us. And so I really value and treasure peace. Peace of mind and peace in my life, those calm moments of just breathing and being content and thankful. Happiness. And the older I get, I know that being at peace with myself--who I am and what I enjoy doing--tends to result in a more peaceful life. And for me, that's a priority. I love how God made all of us different. We need different things. We want different things. We care about different things. We're good at different things.

Some people are trying to change the world. Some people are just trying to make ends meet. Some people are so sure they're right about everything. Some people feel broken and are just trying to breathe every day. Some people are lonely. Some people need a miracle. And some people need a fresh dose of hope and motivation.

Some of us just want one day where the dishes and laundry don't pile up so fast.

This morning before school, Lincoln crawled in bed next to me, and about a minute later, Lily scrambled up and curled up on my other side. And those moments are the best. It's hard to describe how happy and thankful I feel when it comes to my children.

Some seasons of life are harder than others. Maybe financially. Maybe emotionally. Maybe physically. I know those difficult times can seem to drain the happiness we want, the joy we need.

Because life can be hard and unpredictable, I think it's so helpful to choose joy as often as we can. To choose gratitude. I want my happy days to outnumber my sad days. I want this house to be one where we feel safe and happy.

We love fall over here. We love pumpkins and costumes and Halloween cartoons on TV. We've had lots of cloudy, rainy days lately, which I enjoy. But we're ready for orange and red leaves and cool days. This past weekend, the clouds finally parted and we suddenly had cool temps and a blue sky just in time for a football game. It felt as though fall officially began at that moment and I loved it. I was sitting with Ashtyn, the two of us munching on popcorn and watching the game together, and I wanted to freeze time for just a moment. Because happiness is worth holding on to. And I hope these moments are imprinted on her heart like they are on mine.

So far this fall has been busy--apple orchards, football games, a trip to the county fair and carnival, our weekend away at Sag Harbor, along with some bad colds and sniffly noses and antibiotics for everyone.



October, November, and December tend to come fast and go by in a blur. If I want one thing, it's to slow down these next few weeks and enjoy them as much as possible. To be happy and at peace, despite the busyness of family life. To love each other well.

And for all the colors to change and to place pumpkins on the doorstep.

How's fall going for you, loveys?