Sunday, March 16, 2014

becoming a homeowner

It's been a few months since I posted here. (This seems to be the first sentence of each blog post I write, but I refuse to give up! I will persevere on this blog, as feeble as my attempts may be!) The months have been full, to say the least. In January, we packed up all our little belongings and moved into a new house. Hooray! However, I have quickly learned that moving is not for the faint of heart. We have packed, cleaned, transferred bills, scheduled, coordinated, pruned, remodeled, painted, loaded up, unloaded, unpacked, organized, and on and on. I do not wish to do this again for a long, long time!

Even so, I have long dreamed of being a homeowner. Of picking out my own paint. Of feeling settled, more permanent. Of knowing neighbors. Finally, at age 30, my dream had come true! I had what I always wanted! (Do you sense foreshadowing?) I owned a precious house in a precious neighborhood with my precious husband! But what has followed has been an immediate sense of being overwhelmed and unsettled. Oh me of little gratitude.

Why the overwhelmed-ness, you may ask? I've asked myself the same and have decided on these three ingredients:
  1. I don't handle change well. I like routine and comfort. I want to eat the same thing for Christmas breakfast every year, stay at the same place on vacation season after season, go to the same Starbucks every day on my way to work. I love traditions, which I think is a good thing, but on the other side of the coin is someone who is inflexible and unadaptable. 
  2. I don't do "not finished" well. In my StrengthsFinder list, "Achiever" is one of my top five, which mostly means I get a big time thrill from the check in the box. I like things complete, wrapped up with a bow, yesterday. 
  3. I am a perfectionist. When I was in 4th grade, I forgot the words to my solo in the chorus performance. I cried and cried and cried. My parents tried to comfort me by saying that the concert was like a beautiful painting with a small dot in the corner, and no one was going to notice or remember the dot. My immediate response was, "BUT I AM THE DOT." I have little grace available for myself in even the smallest of failures.
Take these three things, stir them together, and what you get is the recipe for being overwhelmed as a new homeowner. I miss my old Target and the market where we used to get dinner several times a week. I miss our gym. I have a to-do list that seems to only grow, never shrink. I sit on the couch and just see projects, projects, and more projects. And I had an all-out meltdown when my backsplash did not turn out perfectly.

Yes, a meltdown over a backsplash. Please don't judge me.

But there is a silver lining, and if I will pause just long enough to look for it, it's staring me right in the face. God is using all of this to refine me. He's taking these characteristics that shine a light to my sins and hammering, melting and remolding them away. 

He's showing me that life changes; it ebbs and flows, brings life and death, joy and sorrow, and this move is just one of many changes he needs to prepare me for. He's showing me that, at its core, my resistance to change stems from my desire for control, and that He wants nothing more than to teach me that there is only One who is in control of my life on this earth (hint: it's not me). 

He's teaching me that life is a process, and that he is working through all of the days of my life until my very last breath. He is doing a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it, but it takes time, and it's not always pretty, and it's definitely not always easy. 

He is showing me that I am not perfect, and that I can never be perfect. (And He's reminding me that this is news to no one but myself.) More importantly, though, He's reteaching me the gospel - that He did something so much greater by sending his Son instead to be perfect on my behalf.

So as I journey on, becoming a homeowner, I am praying for a new perspective. I am praying to be changed, to be made into someone who is joyful and grateful, who is present, who laughs at the days to come, who enjoys her lovely home with her sweet husband, who invites friends and neighbors in, even with an empty dining room, mismatched Ikea furniture, and yes, even a crooked backsplash tile.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

becoming 2014

January 1, 2014.

The old year has passed, the new year has come. It seems as good a time as any to try - yet again - to pick my laptop up and write something on this little blog. I'm not one for resolutions, but I do have a desire to write more in 2014...mostly for myself, as a creative outlet and a way to process externally all that swirls internally in my head. I asked for Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird for Christmas... "Instructions on writing and life." I'm not a writer by trade, of course, but I am hopeful that it will inspire me.

Anyhow, enough about the blog and writing. Back to January 1, 2014!

For me, 2013 was a year of bountiful blessings. Please let me say - I am truly aware that this is a great gift and one to not take for granted. I'll be the first to say that I have had other January 1sts where this would not have been my honest reflection on the year that passed... January 1sts where I closed the books on the year prior with gratitude that I somehow made it through by the grace of God. But, for whatever reason God chose, 2013 was a really sweet and happy year for Jayson and me. 

It was our first full year of marriage, chock full of memories and trips and adventures and so much love. After having two contracts fall through, we bought a house that feels like a gift straight from God, ordained in ways we couldn't have imagined. We joined a new married small group that is rocking our world in the best possible way, one Wednesday at a time. We went on the trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, Rome and Santorini, 2 1/2 weeks that we will remember and cherish for the rest of our lives. We enjoyed God's favor and provision in our jobs. We walked through life with family and friends who we love dearly, and who love us so well in return. We started going to a new church that feels like it's right where we're supposed to be. We watched all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and now have a 2014 goal to be just like Eric and Tami Taylor. :)

Blessings, blessings, blessings.

"The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

But here's a funny thing about a year of blessings. If left to your own devices, or, like me, my own crazy meandering thoughts that can take me captive instead of the other way around, a year of blessings can lead to fear in the new year. "If things were this good in 2013, what must be coming in 2014?" I think when you close a year of trials, you have no choice but to hope for things to swing up. But when the opposite is true, it's easy to feel like you're just waiting for the shoe to drop.

I may not know what 2014 has in store, but I am confident that this is not God's desire for my outlook.

So I sit here on January 1, 2014, praying for God to give me His perspective on the new year. I have so many dreams - dreams for our family, our new home, our neighborhood, our church, our community, our jobs. Dreams for life and peace and joy and rest. Dreams that, on January 1, 2015, I'll sit on my couch and again write, "Blessings, blessings, blessings." And yet the deeper truth that I know is that, no matter what 2014 has in store, whether God gives or takes away, by his grace and because of his love and provision, I will still be able to say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." 

So cheers to 2013 - a year of blessings! Thank you, Lord!

And cheers to 2014 - a year of blessings! Thank you for what you will do, Lord... for your care for me, your love for me, your provision over me, and your faithfulness, no matter what the new year brings.

Friday, October 4, 2013

becoming less forgetful

Or, in other words, I forgot I had a blog.


Life has been full and crazy lately. Here are a few snapshots...

LA with these cute friends, where sweet Bethany lives now. We have been friends for years since we all sat in cubes side by side by side in New York.

A Bread and Wine dinner party at Mandy's with my Atlanta small group girls. We all made recipes from Shauna's book and celebrated together before Katy moved to Birmingham. We hope Shauna would be proud of us!

A Grateful Table dinner to benefit our dear, dear friends at CloudWalk, a ministry that's been so influential in Jayson's and my life. We had cheese and wine and a carving station. There were lights strung up, acoustic worship, friends and loved ones, and the sound of the Chattahoochee River bubbling in the background. More than once, the comment was made, "This is what heaven will be like."

And today, as I write this, we are embarking on two more exciting journeys: we are under contract on a new house (perhaps more on that later - we're still working through some things, and it may or may not work out), and we have an exciting trip coming up that I'll report back on, too.

God is good, and there is much to celebrate!  Jayson and I realize that life brings seasons of drought and seasons of harvest, but as long as we are in the harvest, we will give thanks! (We will give thanks in the drought too, whenever the Lord brings that our way.) For now, we're just doing our best to live in the present and praise God for the blessings he's pouring out on us.

Much love, thanks for coming back by after my forgetful blog hiatus.

Monday, August 5, 2013

becoming a hostess

As we've been praying through building community here in Atlanta, Jayson and I felt led to take a step of faith and plan a dinner party. Now, I do realize that "planning a dinner party" may not seem like a daunting endeavor requiring great faith to many people, but it was for me, because:
  1. I am not a good cook. Or, maybe better said, I am not a cook. Our family of two mostly subsides on eating out, picking up take-out, grabbing a salad or soup from Alon's, or - if we're really getting adventurous - Jayson grills chicken and I put asparagus in a pan and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Cooking scares me.
  2. We live in a one-bedroom apartment. It's not so much big; you have to go through hoops like dialing in at a call box, going through a gate, going up an elevator, etc. to get in; the hallway carpet needs to be replaced; and, perhaps most importantly, we don't have a kitchen table.
  3. We don't have a group of friends, so we'd be inviting couples who don't know each other. This is fun to me, but I realize it can be intimidating or just not as fun to other folks.
So those are the reasons I didn't know about having a dinner party. But Shauna Niequist, who wrote Bread & Wine (which, one day, I will stop blogging about, maybe), inspired me to give it a try. Throughout the book, Shauna wrote that genuine hospitality is not about being perfect... having a perfect home, the perfect meal, a perfect life. It's about creating a space for people to come together, to share life, to break bread, to laugh, to feel at home, cared for and safe. So I put my insecurities aside and went for it with Jayson.

We picked a date and invited seven couples, three of which could make it. We asked the Williams to bring wine, the Sparks to bring cheese, the Dolvins to bring a salad, and we got ingredients to make homemade pizzas and a recipe called "Simplest Chocolate Mousse" from none other than Bread & Wine. We cleaned the apartment, set a Frank Sinatra playlist on the iPod, borrowed a few chairs from our neighbors, and prayed for God to provide a fun and homey night.

I can't say that the party was a raving success... mostly because I don't know how that would be judged, and more so, because that wasn't the point. We went into Friday night with open hands, asking God to bless our evening and make our friends feel welcomed in our home but trying to accomplish nothing beyond that. 

What I can say is that Jayson and I had so much fun, and we hope our guests did too. Our friends were beyond gracious - helping with pizzas, getting to know one another with a genuine interest, sitting on the floor to eat, sharing sweet compliments about our little home. We went to bed Friday night worn out but happy and grateful.

I don't know where God will lead us next on our journey toward building community. But I hope Friday night will remind us that our only role is to prayerfully trust God and obey as he leads us. And if that involves pizza, wine, chocolate and friends, well, we'll certainly oblige. :)

p.s. I didn't take too many pictures - in fact, none with people in them - but here is a before and after look at our kitchen preparations:



Friday, August 2, 2013

becoming a buddy

(I'm a few days late on this one, but I'm late for everything, so I guess it's no surprise.)

Sunday was Jayson's and my first wedding anniversary. 365 days since this day, which feels like only yesterday.

People often ask me what my favorite thing about our first year of marriage has been. And my answer is always something like this...

I guess it all starts to back when we were dating, but about to get engaged. I was with my family, but Jayson wasn't there. My grandfather, who has dementia and was 82 at the time, asked me, "Where's your buddy?"

It was so cute and sweet, and I told Jayson about the comment afterwards. And since then, we've often said, "You're my buddy."

And that's my favorite thing about being married. I have a buddy. I was single before - on my own, navigating life with the help of family and friends, but still a party of one. And now I have a person. A person to live with, to share life with, to problem-solve with. A person to love and know, and who loves and knows me more than anyone in the world, too. A person to laugh at silly things with, to go to sleep with, to cry with, to, Lord willing, grow old with. A buddy.

I'm so grateful for my buddy, my best friend, my husband. I love you, Jayson!

[All photos by Stephen DeVries]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

life lately, in books

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9

I am a total bookworm, so for me, summer is not just lovely for vacations and rain sunshine, it's lovely for all the extra time cooped up inside in the rain on the beach and by the pool. 

So here's what I've been reading this summer.  The three books on the top row - Rules of Civility, Where'd You Go, Bernadette? and Bread & Wine were my favorites, by far... A+!  I also very much liked Beautiful Ruins for an epic, yet summery novel.

I'm in progress on Freefall to Fly and Beautiful Outlaw but am really enjoying both of these non-fiction Christian reads. Both thought-provoking and honest. Rebekah Lyons's writing is particularly beautiful.

I just started Revenge Wears Prada and can't commit, but I'm excited - I mean, a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada?! Woohoo!

Lastly, I didn't so much like How It All Began or While We Were Watching Downton Abbey. (My litmus test is whether I can't wait to pick up the book to keep reading, or if I can't wait for the book to be done so I can start a new one. These two fell in the second category.)

What have you been reading this summer?  Anything to add to my reading list for August?  

Friday, July 19, 2013

becoming a country song

Before she knows it, she's a brand new bride
In a one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her, "It's a nice place"
She says, "It'll do for now"
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says, "Baby, just slow down"

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this