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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November's Fabulous Finds

It's a total cliche to talk about how quickly the months go by.

But for a four-month pregnant woman who sleeps through the majority of time following the workday, it's so true. And alas, the legal time for listening to all the Christmas music is here! The weary world rejoices!

Apart from the napping and excessive weight-gaining, this month has been full of lots of accomplishments - like getting through one of the most tumultuous election seasons without an ounce of alcohol. That's right. I'm basically Wonder Woman. Which means I can forego proving what a baller I am by delivering naturally and have the nice doctors load me up with all the epidurals.

Thank you very much!

What I Read

I'm getting through Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker. It's sad, and rich and sweet. And as someone who has been hesitant about motherhood for several reasons (career, travel, and the chance that this little creature we create becomes a jerk), it's been refreshing. She's like the older sister who confesses honesty.

She doesn't get wrapped up in expectation or the "shoulds" of motherhood. And I value the freedom she walks into her journey with.

I'm also working my way through Today Will be Different by Maria Semple. I'm not far enough into it to make a glowing recommendation yet, but I will say I've laughed hard through the first one-third of the book. Her writing style is unique and utterly hilarious. It's like reading an email from a scatterbrained friend.

What We Watched

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

(ALL THE SPOILER WARNINGS). I'm going to try to get through this while keeping my friendships intact.

Short story: y'all. Watch it. It was a gift. A gift that Amy Sherman-Palladino in all of her top hat glory was absolutely under no obligation to give us. A gift that was brought on by the demands of diehard fans who weren't satisfied with the end of season seven - did we forget how awful season seven was? The criticism I've seen as a result is upsetting to me as a creative.

And if I were dear Amy, I'd take my nice paycheck from Netflix and never write another script for that show again. Because that's the fan karma we've collected.

Listen, I've kept (relatively) quiet online and sat on my hands when I wanted to throw down. But loves, you're in my house now. Have a seat and let's chat. I'll make some tea and supply PopTart peace offerings.

For the record: those of you in the Team Logan camp, get in here. Let's group hug. You're excused from my Paris-level rant. That relationship was difficult to watch on so many levels. To the point where I was almost rooting for him. (Almost). If I'd been gaga for him since the beginning, admittedly, I'd have a very different outlook on the series.

And though he plays a central role in all my favorite episodes (You Jump, I Jump Jack and Friday Night's Alright for Fighting) lucky for me, I always knew he was a Cheater McCheat-face and saw through his privileged playboy rallies. And don't you tell me they were "on a break" in season six. A five-minute argument in a pub does not a breakup make.

Once again, Jess sets Rory on the healthy path. You make me proud, bud.


 On the last four words:

I've gone through this series twice now. And several allusions in the very last episode are celebrating the "circle of life" (cue: Lion King). It's clear that Rory is following in her mother's footsteps. The obvious father of her child is the new Chris. Jess is the new Luke. It's not so much of a cliffhanger as it is a promise. A "here we go again."

We got one year with these characters. And I saw them more of how all three of the women coped with Richard's untimely death. Emily found independence. Lorelai found health and stability in marriage. Rory found her grandfather's desk and inspiration to write her story.

Rory will find success with her manuscript (I don't think it's a coincidence that she has an old friend with strings in Hollywood), just as Lorelai has found success with her inn.

On the crucifixion of Rory's character:


If you've never been in a season of utter confusion, struggling with your purpose, feeling the ups-and-downs of worthlessness, wandering and being built up like you're a person who's going to Do Big Things only to be hit with the reality of the job market and the hindrance of your own talents/abilities, maybe it's disappointing to see her unravel.

But man did I identify with this character. Acting out in her hunt for something more, something deeper.

There are a lot of balms for this level of disdain. And you know what one of them is? Getting pregnant. The reality check to end all reality checks. Take it from someone who knows.

The head-scratchers/things I'll allow complaints about:
  • The 45-minute musical interlude. And this is coming from a Broadway lover. It was cute for five minutes, especially since Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (you'll know him from the OBC of Legally Blonde and SMASH), but let's pick one song-and-dance number. Although, I'd keep Waterloo.
  • The therapy scenes. I like the fact that they were there. But in no way this would go down like that in a real therapy session. She was not doing her job and was in no way leading that room to reconciliation. I would've enjoyed watching Lorelai and Emily make real progress in their relationship - and hearing an "I love you, mom." (For the record, that was my prediction of the last four words.)
  • The wookiee. Imagine Luke finding out about that.
  • And if you thought Rory having a one-night stand was out of character, let's talk about Lorelai's rendition of Wild.
  • Sometimes it seemed like we were watching a reunion of characters for the sake of having a character reunion without their appearances moving the plot forward. Take Lane's dad, for instance. 


Things to remember during the dark times:
  •  Kirk and Petal.
  • Final confirmation that Michel is gay. We all knew it, but we didn't know know it. I feel a lot better.
  •   Carole King.
  • Emily's meltdown at her final DAR meeting.
  • The secret bar scene.
  • Emily in jeans.
  • Lorelai winning points for the best her hair has ever been.
  • Paris. Just any scene that she was in. She slays.
  • The wedding scene and the throwback to Luke and Lorelai's first dance.





What I Tried

Do I have friends left? For those of you who stuck with me, I can offer you a special 20-percent discount on makeup! Because lipstick is important.

A few months ago, my friend Louise began selling Arbonne products. And though I've been known to shop for cosmetics in the drug store aisle, I've always liked their products when I've had the funds to order them.

She asked if I'd review a few products on the blog in exchange for a few products. I happily agreed. And now, if you send her an email with your wish-list items and tell her my blog sent you her way, she'll give you 20 percent off your order!

Lipstick

She knows me well. Louise gave me a bright red, and I love the way that it makes my lips feel. It's the perfect blend of a fun color and moisturizer. I tend to go for the matte colors that dry out my lips something awful. This was different. It's almost buttery.

And the smell. It smells like watermelon. Seriously.

Primer

I've never used the stuff before, but again it's a smooth product that really moisturizes my face. Since I don't typically wear foundation (I do a quick dab of under eye concealer and cover my trouble spots), I haven't really been able to gauge its staying power. But, again, I really like the feel of it. Especially since my nose is prone to blackhead city.

Mascara


Y'all. I've seriously been spoiled by this mascara. I'm a Cover Girl convert. And I don't think I can go back to the way things were before. It boasts water-resistant (a little will come off if you tear up), and long wear, and it's completely accurate. Take it from someone who cries at commercials these days, this stuff lasts.




What I Learned

That this is not a time to be hard on myself.




That grace is for every season.



And that with the right friends, we can find resilience to be the women we were meant to be.







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Monday, November 28, 2016

When You Grow Out of Your Pants

It's a difficult thing to grow out of your pants.

Actually, with all of the late-night carbs, and begging my husband to take me to Chipotle, it was pretty easy. We're a solid four months into our first pregnancy and I'm starting to feel the extra padding that comes along with it.

I step on the scale in the morning and see another ounce or two tick up to the weight I started at before I made big life changes. Before I took care of my body and stopped eating as a measure to combat stress or overindulge on celebrations.

Not that I was a whole 30 fiend by any means -- those challenges don't have a stick-to-it affect on me and tend to make the pendulum swing for the fences in the opposite direction -- but I had made close to 20 pounds of slow, but meaningful progress.

And for someone who had carried extra weight, including a decade of self-image issues, watching the numbers on the scale blossom higher and higher is, in spite of all the good I know is coming from it, a little disheartening.

Before I was pregnant, I'd balk at the women who complained about their bodies changing under the weight of their growing babies. It didn't make sense. Couldn't they see that the very core of who they were was changing to make room for something wonderful?

Couldn't they take the focus off themselves for one minute to focus on the health of their child?


"Hellooooo!" I wanted to yell. "You're growing a child. Reality check: your body will change."


Enter: a passive resolve to behave and think differently if and when I ever became pregnant.

I'd never complain like that. Surely I'd have the right frame of mind to not complain in such a distasteful way. Especially in a time when I should be so thankful.

But I get it now.

I get how hard it is to fall asleep in a time when everyone is telling you to "sleep while you can because after the baby comes you'll party like a rock star every night" (I deleted those comments on our Facebook announcement, btw. We know.). I get how hard it is to breathe, sometimes. How sometimes even walking feels like your legs are marshmallows, even when your "baby bump" looks more like you've spent a little too much time at the pub knocking back pints.

I'm not saying it's right to complain. But I am saying that it's a lot easier to make promises to yourself when you have no idea what you're in for.

After running (literally) hundreds of miles over the past few years to regain control of my gaining body, I too balk at the fact that my jeans won't clasp. I too watch the numbers on the scale tick up, up and way with one eye open. Afraid to commit two whole eyeballs the witness of these changes.

Afraid of the will-power and discipline it will take to return to the way things were before it all began.

So much of this process, the frustration with my clasps and stubborn zippers is reminiscent of a time where I was at my lowest, health-wise and spiritually. It reminds me that this part of my life, like so many others, is a journey.

And I'm still walking it. Even in the midst of walking into motherhood.

I'm still working to make peace with the mirror, even when it doesn't make sense that we're at war with each other. Even in a season where I should surely be able to give myself grace for the expansion, grace for the stretch marks, grace for the extra weight around my middle.

Grace for the bits and pieces of my life I thought I'd have figured out by now.

And grace for the judgement calls I've made from the outside looking in.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

8 Holiday Hostsessing Tips for the Anti-Crafter

There was a time when hosting parties sent me into a whirlwind fit of PTSD. 

Recovering former waitresses, such as myself, will tell you stories about busy kitchens, misfired entrees, tray and champagne flute spills and nightmares where the distance between the expediting station and the guests at their tables was miles long.

Furthermore, I hate glue. I mean hate glue. And crafting. Of any kind, with very few exceptions (like knitting). The mess, the Popsicle sticks, the feathers. I know I'm a mom-to-be and having these sort of items at the ready is supposed to be in my wheelhouse...

Maybe I'll just encourage my children to read/go outside.

At any rate, since I've never earned a Girl Scout badge (Awana, anyone?), and Pinterest makes me grumble angry nothings about patriarchy, boring homemaker expectations, etc., I was never one to play hostess. Who was I kidding? I didn't even own a glue gun.

But, as it always does, my extroversion won out in the end. I started reading books like Bread and   Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story that celebrated the importance of community, food and a life shared with people. In your home.

Then the extrovert married a man who loves his friends and his kitchen appliances as equals. And together we began the fearful and wonderful task of opening our home and inviting people in. If our marriage was a song, hospitality is one of our goal baselines.

Last night we had about twenty people in our home for a Friendsgiving potluck, and our little two-bedroom condo felt like it would burst in the best possible way.

So, for you, my fellow anti-crafter, here are a few tips to hosting your own holiday gathering. No glue-gunning required!

Bake the night before

Let me begin by saying: I am not a Rockefeller and don't pretend to be one. Gordon and I invite groups over for potlucks, meaning we all share the financial and cooking strain. So, as the leaders of the soiree, we typically tackle the main course (in our case, it was a delicious pork and gravy dish), and dessert.

All of my desserts I do most of the prep/bake-work the night before. This saves me from crowding the kitchen the day of for the hot dishes, and a lot of stress. Aside from having to restrain yourself/littles/husbands from indulging before the party, it's a fool-proof plan.

Set the table beforehand

The night before the party I had a fresh tablecloth, a flower arrangement constructed with mason jars, scotch tape and Harris Teeter flowers and our plastic cutlery, paper plates and cocktail napkins. I picked up Thanksgiving-themed plates from Tusesday Morning. Not environmentally friendly, but so pretty.

We're fortunate enough to have a lovely set of serving dishes and utensils; if you have it, now's a great time to break out the fancy occasion items.

Make space

Before any party I aim for a clear dishwasher, fridge and trash. This way there's no scrambling at the last minute to make room for leftover foods and any dishware you use throughout the evening. Your guests don't have to play "mash the trash" when they're tossing their used items.

It's just good manners.

Pre-draft text messages

I'll be honest, this is a stressful hurdle I'm still practicing overcoming: about half an hour into a party is where your home reaches "critical mass." Meaning, mostly everyone who will be there has arrived. If they come bearing food and delightful beverages, you'll likely get overlapping questions from guests about where to set up and the best place to put their items.

Then your phone buzzes because someone needs directions.

We live in a gated community and have limited guest parking. I have a set of instructions saved in my notes application on my phone for these moments. If anyone gets lost, needs the code for our gate, or assistance on knowing where it's safe to park on the street, blamo! I copy and paste the draft into the messages and can return my full attention to my guests without having to bury my head into my phone.

Accept help when it's offered

It's as simple as that. I don't want to be stomping around the kitchen in a sweaty fog of rushing to do things at the last second.

Assign tasks (kindly) when help isn't offered

This is a big one: so many people want to give the illusion that you're in control, but the fact is that if you're hosting a party, your job is to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The fact is that most people, especially new friends, might be more comfortable helping with setting up and feeling like they're contributing, rather than sitting on their hands waiting for people they know to arrive.


A "would you mind refilling the ice bucket?" or "would you please take this into the dining room?"
is fair game in my book.

Relaxing music playlists

At least, before the party begins. I like to make last-minute prep and cleaning as calming as cleaning can be. You can crank up the jams once guests arrive, but something about slapping the bass in the final countdown of what can be both a lot of fun and a lot of pressure seems to raise the non-existent stakes.

Pray

Last night before my guests arrived, I prayed over our home. That people would feel welcome. That there would be community, laughter and meaningful conversations.That people would remember how they felt, rather than what they ate. And I think it makes all the difference.


Tell me, did I miss any? Do you have any tips for hosting? Let me know in the comments!
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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Life This Week

First

Just as everyone promised, the second trimester hit and my zombie-like tendencies of pregnancy that made me hole up in my bedroom like some sort of Elizabethan invalid have passed.

This was shortly followed by ravenous hunger – the hunger I'd feel after running two miles and needing a Caesar salad with chicken and bread (just, plain bread) more than I'd care to admit; strange dreams about my 35-week pregnant friend's baby holding my finger through her round stomach; and the tiniest flutters I can't yet determine if they are baby's movements or stomach settling.

I'm also learning this strange new emotion that comes from missing someone I haven't met yet. My curiousity is brimming over and I can't help but wonder what this little one will look like and become. It's a marvelous and simultaneous dreadful anticipation.

Second

At work, I've had two opportunities to hear from distinguished military leaders. One was an Admiral at the Pentagon during 9/11. The other was a founding member of the U.S. Delta Force and lead soldiers through the battle civilians know as Black Hawk Down.



My prayer through every job I've had, be it at a preschool, restaurant, grocery store, or my very grown up public relations gig, is that no matter my attitude, joys or inevitable dissatisfaction in each role, that I'd learn all that I could from each.

Learning about leadership from men who have stood on the literal front-lines of combat zones and terrorist attacks is how I'm absorbing all that I can in my current position.

Third 

A girlfriend invited me to cheesecake and coffee. This was amazing on so many levels because a. I really admire said friend and have a blast talking about anything with her and b. who could ever say "no" to cheesecake?

I've been trying to soak up little moments like these with my friends and husband the past few months because, though I know I'm about to step into a new season of fun and bewilderment with a newborn, I also feel a slight tugging of mourning for this come-and-go-as-we-please part of our lives. I know that in six months the moments I'll have with friends without the background noise of worrying about my little one, or even longing for them, will be rare. If existent at all.


Life this week is simple, thankful – and in spite of big news for our nation – hopeful. How was your week?

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Don't Save it Up

They call it nesting.

And to be fair, it's way too early for it, as far as the books are concerned. That's what I've learned: when you suddenly become expecting and your world turns upside-down the books are your best friend and worst enemies all at once.

Sort of like every single one of your friends from middle school.

At any rate, the past few weeks have been a season of making small preparations. Preparing room. Turning the chaos that is the second bedroom in our condo, aptly named the walk-in-closet with a bathroom attached, into a suitable place for a newborn to be rocked and fed and changed.

How bad is it? Let's just say two large wooden doors my husband lovingly detached from my bedroom closet to make room for our grown up bed set are leaning up against the wall. And a standing desk made out of two-by-fours is in the corner.

Last weekend, I started another project, which was piecing together a brand-new china buffet that rests in the corner of our dining room. Ever since our wedding, our fine china has remained protected in their respective boxes. They were too nice to unwrap and set in our kitchen cabinets with our every day pieces.

Now they're rightfully on display, ready for our next dinner party.

I remember when my aunt gave me the first few pieces at my bridal shower. Before I unwrapped them, she looked at me and said, "Now, I don't want you to put this away. You should use it. It should sit on your dining room table."

And it does. The sugar bowl sits in the middle of our dining room table. It's present for every small group meeting at my house on Sundays. It's there for every podcast recording session.

It's used. And there's a small spark of joy when I hear the clink of removing the lid and spooning out a few grains of sugar into the Downtown Abbey-themed tea my sister-in-law gave to me.

It made me wonder, as I was unpacking these lovely settees from their bubble wrapped storage:

What else have I been saving up?

What else have I tucked away? What have I deemed too special or out-of-the-ordinary for the hum drum patterns of sun rise and sun set?

What have I put on hold for later, when the timing is better, when I have space and room in my life prepared?

I feel that way with my novel-in-progress. A dream for a long time was to see my name on the front of a paperback book. I feel that way with singing. With running a marathon. With making friends outside of work and church.

I feel that way with joining the budding fight for social compassion in this nation.

I have thoughts, ideas, passions. From the simplest acts of keeping granola bars and water bottles in my car for the homeless population I pass in the streets of downtown Norfolk. To following alongside my husband's vision of beginning boots on the ground work of racial reconciliation in a city we love so dearly.

The temptation is to do it later. Later, I'll do it later. It's too important, too big to pursue now. After all, I have to buy groceries. Fold laundry. Get my oil changed. Show up on time for things (relatively).

But I'm learning that later always comes. And what we want, what we fight for, what we believe hardly ever arrives alongside it.

So, friends, what have you been saving up? What have you locked away that's inside of you that you felt wasn't the right time to use?

What sits in your closet or a shelf in your hallway?

What dream is stored up that you want to work for?

Because I think it's time we unwrapped them. I think it's time to arrive and give the world that needs us the grace, compassion and love it deserves and so desperately needs.




This week on the Prodigal Sisters Podcast:

Sarah and I list our final fours on topics like:
  • Fictional characters we'd want to uncork a bottle of wine with.
  • Books that feel like home.
  • Four foods we couldn't live without.
  • What we'd rather be doing than worrying about this week's election results. 
We love this project, and I'd be honored if you'd give us a listen! If you like us, subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app!

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Friday, November 4, 2016

A Post for the Women

Let me be the first to say: I cannot be trusted.

For those of you who aren't my real-life people, or my internet friends who've crossed over into the Facebook-friendship realm, my husband and I are a whole trimester into expecting our very first baby.

And ever since, the pressures of life rose and converge.

Everything became heightened. Like watching a color TV for the first time. Or tasting a ripe fruit plucked from the crooked branch of a mango tree in the Dominican Republic.

Different. Real. Real in a way you can't turn back.

The past few weeks have flown. There's been a playlist of treasured, hurting friends and family members, hurricanes, financial unrest, questions and reevaluations about life-stages and career choices and diets and weight-gain and pants that are more than just a little too tight.

Not to mention 8:30 p.m. bedtimes.

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly. Was it when I realized the faint faint pink line on that test wasn't just a shadow? Was it when my sister called me crying after I sent her the news via SnapChat? (Not a recommended method for good-news sharing.)

Was it when we thought midway through the first trimester that we were losing our sweet baby, and I began to mourn someone I never met but loved with my whole heart?

Was it when we went to the doctor's office after that weekend from hell when the ultrasound technician showed us the flickering image on the screen? Was it when I texted "FOUND HEARTBEAT!" to everyone I had asked to pray, pray, pray?

Or was it when I heard that gentle rumbling that sounds unmistakably like horse hooves with my own ears? The fast, triumphant proclamation: I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!

I'm not sure when it happened. When all the unraveling overcame hope, dignity, and replaced them with self-pity.

But I think somewhere along the positive pregnancy lines, somewhere in this season the fears, doubts and worries finally crossed into a more powerful place.


Here's what I know:

My life, my first-world stress, my distractions do not reflect strong
character. Plain and simple.

This isn't me. Seeking a deeper purpose from things like work and bank accounts. To let worry absorb me. To overthink, second-guess, and let my hunt for more, more, more define me.

To the point where the old me, the girl who went on missions trips to third-world countries would be astounded by my materialism, my doubts, and what angers me. Because she was a girl who held her chin high, popped in a Katy Perry song and kept pressing forward.

Even when she was sure she was going to lose.

That's who we are. And somewhere along the way, we've lost it. I've lost it.

We are the Women.


We are the Women who welcome challenges.

We are the Women who overcome obstacles, large and small.

The ones who juggle coffee and car keys, carry all of our Target bags in one lop-sided trip from the car to our house; the plastic bags that make red impressions on the insides of our elbows.

We are the Women who are there for the grief, who find time to meal plan and fight to make time for the people we love when it's tempting to just power through and only think of ourselves.

We are the Women who show up. Who shut up when we know silence is
imperative because our words can be ravaging.

We're the ones who rise up when we're tired. Or grumpy. Or devastated. Or haven't had nearly enough caffeine.

We stay in jobs we're not crazy about because they grow us. In hopes of a promotion or a really nice job reference. We persevere when the world looks hopeless.

We are the Women who remain grateful in the face of everything, because we know the majority of the world lives on two dollars a day. And that's what we believe a fair price is for a tall cup of coffee.

Somewhere along the way I lost this. And I want this. I want it for all of us.


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

28 Lessons for 28 Candles

I keep forgetting that it's time for me to turn another year older.

I shouldn't be surprised, what with the patches of premature grey hair. But I've already decided I'm keeping any grey that comes my way. Que sera, sera. I'm free to be me.

There are some pretty big changes taking place around these parts. None that I care to go into great depth right now. But this year has been one of fulfillment, growth, letting go, support, encouragement and fighting the no-you-can't voice with all my strength.

I've celebrated a year of marriage with my new husband, launched a podcast with a dear friend, traveled to weddings, baby showers, held my baby nephew, made new friends, celebrated year three of hosting a small group at my house, nearly completed an e-book on dating and marriage.

And continued to chip away at thoughts here.


I can't tell you what an honor it is to write for you. Another year, another few insights.

Which brings me to today's post. 28 Lessons for 28 Candles. A listicle, yes. But I wanted to write out a few thoughts, things I've learned over the years. All of these are still work-in-progress, and are more a reminder to myself than anything else:


1. OxiClean. Everything. Dish detergent. Laundry. Cleaner. All of it. I have no idea how harmful it is for the environment, but I try to walk everywhere (except my 20 minute commute to work), so I hope it all comes out in the wash (heh).

2. Wait for the man who's too mature to play games and leave you wondering. Wait for the man who will let you know where you stand at every inch of your relationship. This is the man worth marrying. All the other boys from your past can look at your hot Instagram updates and cry.

3. Running heals stress, self-doubt, writer's block, anger, sadness, all of it. There's a joy that comes with taking a few more steps than last time and the time before that. And Target's workout clothes section is both dangerous and wonderful.

4. The heartbreak of trying and failing is easier to overcome than the

nostalgia of a dream you never pursued.


5. If you miss work because you're sick, the rest of the world will be able to carry on without you. And your co-workers will thank you for not spreading your germs. Don't be a "hero." People may gossip about you or roll their eyes, but they'll forget after a while. Stay at home and watch You've Got Mail.

6. If you're not a nice person online, you're not a nice person. Period.


7. When you're tempted to gossip about someone, turn your comment into a compliment if you can't restrain yourself from speaking about them all-together. Never speak anything ill of another person. It could come back to haunt you, yes, but it also solidifies the things that annoy you about them. Making it harder to forgive and move on.

8. If you're in a new church, stick around for at least five minutes after the sermon. No exceptions. That's how you meet people. And that's how a church becomes your family.

9. Never complain about getting older. Wear your age with honor and pride. It's not en vogue to be depressed about something you can do absolutely nothing about. We twenty somethings spend too much time thinking we're older than we actually are, anyway.

10. It's better to let others discover the genius in you, rather than trying to market yourself to death. Let your work be the gift and any recognition you get as a result, a lovely cherry on top.

11. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

12. Midnight premieres of movies sound like a much better idea than they actually are.

13. Ditto nights of three-plus glasses of wine.

14. Paying a few hundred dollars toward your student loans each month will hurt at first. And you'll be tempted to only pay the required monthly payment from time to time. But there's a lot of joy in watching five-digit numbers turn to four-digits over time.

15. If you can't pay for it with the amount of money you have in your

checking account, you can't afford it.


16. Meal planning. Always. It takes fifteen minutes, tops. It saves you time and money at the grocery store. And it makes date nights all-the-more enjoyable.

17. Go to the doctor. Everything on Web MD will either tell you that you're pregnant or have cancer. Chances are you have neither. Especially if you're a dude.

18. You can't drink a glass of wine and get a pedicure in the name of "self-care" if you then simultaneously go to bed at 2 a.m. Self-care starts with getting a reasonable amount of rest, eating something healthy and getting your body out the door.

19. If you're in a money crunch, delete all of your pre-saved credit card information from Amazon, Etsy and all of your other hot-button money tempters. Unsubscribe from cute but cheap clothing, or jewelry sites. You'll save more than you realize.

20. Don't even attempt to start the work day without listening to "Guns and Ships" from the Hamilton soundtrack.

21. People pleasing rarely pleases everyone. Especially if it makes you

22. Go to small group, even when you don't feel up for it.

23. Whenever possible, be the woman who honors her commitments. Be the woman who people know they can count on to show up when she says she will.

24. Everyone can pull off red lipstick. It's all about finding the 

right shade that works for you. 

Side note: you don't have to get fancy with it. Wet 'n' Wild will do just fine in a pinch!

25. To receive snail mail, you must first send it. Also applies to dinner dates, coffee dates, and time with your best girlfriends. You can't expect everyone to flock to you. You are not Scarlet O'Hara at the barbecue. Relationships take time and effort. And sometimes it means being the first to reach out.

26. Work on the art of not being offended when you get unsolicited or premature life advice. Yes, it's annoying when strangers speak out of turn about engagements, weddings, marriage, pregnancy, disciplining, saving for college. But you don't have to take it. Or let it affect your attitude. Make like Elsa and let it go. (And maybe hold on to the advice that sticks, because, admit it, you don't know everything).

27. Accept compliments genuinely.

28. Don't abandon the ship when the water gets rough. It's the water that makes the boat rock.
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

You Don't Have to Do it Alone

Group projects were the worst.


Extrovert that I am, all through middle school and high school I hated them. Because my pride, my patronizing others and their ability to get the work done and done well siphoned me off. I didn't need or want any help from anyone.

I was going to do it all by myself.

Thoughts and feelings of others, be damned. I could do it better and faster. Alone. I wasn't mean about it. At least, I hope I wasn't. It was just the way it was. I'd take on a little more of the workload here and there, because I knew I could get it done. On time. With a guaranteed "A" in the back-pocket.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom!

What's worse is that I knew better. I've had friendships along the way that have treated me similarly. The mistrust. The micromanaging. The control drove me crazy. It was borderline insulting.

You don't think I'm capable of doing x, y, or z?

You don't think I can make a phone call or turn in a paper without you checking in?

You don't think I'm as smart or as capable as you? 

Don't we have the same letters behind our names?

Didn't we grow up in the same school system? Aren't we in the same life stage?

Of course, it was only obnoxious when others treated me this way. Their actions weren't justified, unlike mine, of course. I carried this attitude into grad school, adulthood, and advanced adulthood (where they teach you about taxes and explain the secret that no one really knows what they're doing).

 I carried this attitude until I became a runner. And stumbled upon this phrase in the midst of training, group runs, dodging in and out of running stores:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

 Well, then. Shall we cue the mic drop?

I took a look at how I was treating others in the midst of what I thought was supreme leadership skills and a good work ethic and realized it was the opposite. It was jagged, iron-jawed control. It was stepping on toes. It was selfish. And what's worse, it inhibited others from flourishing.

It was hard to step back and admit that someone might have a better idea than me. Someone might be more qualified and have more experience. Bringing other people into the mix, into the story,  might carry all of us farther.

It might be what community was designed for.


This week, my dear boss lady friend and I launched our very first podcast episode. And let me tell you, it has been a group effort from the very start. From our pictures, to our logo, our theme song, to our episode itself, so many people had a hand in the process.

And we've come so much further together by inviting other people in. By their being willing to work with us. By the privilege of having people who design, snap photos, compose musical tracks and produce audio so much better than we ever could, support us.

Carry some of the load. And sing their wonderful praises along the way (I'm looking at you Christen, Amanda, and my wonderful husband, Gordon).

I'm a writer, primarily. So much of what I do is solitary. And for so long, I liked it that way: I had no one to keep accountable but myself.

But, until this project launched, I'd forgotten how important and utterly fun it is to invite others in. We're lucky. We have some great people standing beside us.

And we didn't do any of it alone for one second.


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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Marriage Sure Isn't a Prize

And here we are, September.


A year ago, my husband and I were quietly learning what it meant to be husband and wife. After the parties ended. After our photographer had passed along our images. After my dress had been pressed and preserved.

Marriage.

The real work of it. The breaking of your dating patterns. The bubbling first few months of leaving the house each morning knowing you'll miss him. The avoiding plans between work and home, just so you'll be able to see him sooner.

I was speaking with a sweet girlfriend a few days ago about forever, and how long it seems.

"You'll be thankful for forever," I said.

Being truly, honestly, whole-heartedly thankful that I get forever with this man. That I have his support for a lifetime. How quickly more than a year has breezed by, and how I'm frightened how quickly forever seems.

Slow down, forever.

Before I was married, before I even dated Gordon, before I was out of the sludge of bad relationship decisions and dating nearly anyone who showed a glimmer of interest in me: the jerks, the men who hit, or drink too much, or who were just flat-out wrong, wrong, wrong, I thought marriage was a reward.

I thought it was a prize for the people who had their lives together.



 

At the time, there seemed to be a checklist for people who were married:

-They were virginal (for the most part).

-They had, at one point, Kissed Dating Goodbye.


- They were in the folds of God's will for their lives (or at least, it seemed that way). 

-They generally had their lives together in a neat little package.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom! Showers! Pinterest boards! Invitations! Rings!

Rehearsal dinners! Weddings!


The recipe for marriage. Not only that, but the recipe for deserving marriage. And, at the time, I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Looking back, this reasoning made absolutely no sense. I knew plenty of broken people who were married. I am such broken person. We all are. Married or not.

I really thought that if I lived my life perfectly, if I dotted my spiritual i's, if went to a Christian graduate school, didn't cuss, let people pass me on the highway, volunteered, made regular appearances in church and Sunday school, and maybe painted in my Bible, I'd be ready. I'd have earned my way into a marriage.

But I've learned that marriage is nothing you earn. It's not a prize for being a phenomenal Christ-follower. It's not the end-goal. It's not even a goal in and of itself.

Marriage is a gift.

By my former standards, f you were to ask why I'm married at this moment, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I've done nothing to deserve the caring and attentive man who asked me to be his wife. I couldn't have begun to earn a second of the deep happiness, the fun, the care and support he's given to me so selflessly these past few months.

And I'm so grateful.

No blessing in our lives, marriage, great career, bonus paycheck, kids, homes, book deals, none of it comes about as something we've earned. The greatest desires of our hearts -- whatever they are -- never come about simply because we're in the best place to receive them.

Sometimes we just happen to be.

But most times, they're more of a reflection of the Giver than us, as the recipient. And today, I'm ever-thankful for this gift I don't deserve, but am so thankful to have been blessed with: my husband.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August's Fabulous Finds


Patience is a word I need to be familiar with.

In the back of mind it's already been September for two weeks. You can drive yourself crazy thinking, planning, dreaming one step ahead, one step ahead, one step ahead.

This is a surefire way to waste a lot of precious time. Because we can make plans. And then, life. And then, rent goes up. And then, and unexpected opportunity or a dream you thought you'd put to rest long ago begins to take on a life of its own.

And all those plans? Though, perhaps they gave us a sense of control and security in the interim, there's no escaping what they really are: a waste of time.

I Tried Day Designer for a Month and Here's What Happened

So, we don't make big plans for the future. But we can plan our day-to-day. We can write out our goals and tasks for the day. We can keep our appointments, meetings and due dates in order.

As a planner-addict, I'd coveted one of these bad boys for a long time. They're so pretty and their social media game is so strong. Peonies, creamy coffee, puppies. Utterly drool-worthy.

I'll be honest, it took a little while for me to get used to the day-by-day version of the planner. I typically like to stick to the week-at-a-glance sort of planners. But for someone who gets a little overwhelmed at her task-list, it's nice to turn over a new leaf every day and rank your most important to-dos.

There's even a space at the bottom of every page to write something you're thankful for, a space for meal planning (something Gordon and I have been able to keep up since January) and a by-the-hour section for appointments.

http://daydesigner.com/#


Overall, I'd mark it as a "fabulous find" because it's helped me focus on one project at a time rather than getting absorbed by a week-long list of deadlines for my real-person work, my freelancing side-gig, blogging and pod-casting.

If you have a lot to balance and are a keep-the-plates-spinning sort, I'd encourage you to try it. Now that I know how this planner works, I think I'd have a really hard time adjusting to another one a year from now.

What I Read

Our small group is cooking our way through Shauna's Bread and Wine. I know, I know. I harp on her a lot around these parts. But, goodness, her books are so relevant at any time, honestly.

I'm also continuing to work my way through Present Over Perfect. I'm reading it too quickly. Her chapters are so short but so chock-full of little nuggets of wisdom. If I zone out in my usual reading pattern, I miss stuff.

Other than that, I'm looking for some good, fun, fiction. Because. Well, try as I might, I'm a grown-up. And we grown-ups can read whatever we like when we like ;)

What We Watched

Slim pickin's for movies in July. Gordon and I checked out the Bourne movie. Which, was pretty good, and had a story line for people like me who hadn't seen the other 27 movies before this one came out.

Florence Foster Jenkins

It was a delightful film, really. Meryl (Muriel) is always a safe-bet. I had some fundamental problems with the story. But it wasn't really the movie, if this was how it all truly played off in real life. I was going in anticipating a Julie and Julia piece of work. And it was a smidgen darker and more depressing. But the costumes. The soundtrack. And the courage. It was pretty inspiring. And heartbreaking.

Who I Followed


I made a new friend on the internet! Her name is Danielle, and she creates these magnificent signs and sells them through her Etsy shop.

We met each other on Instagram, and before I knew it she told me she was going to send a sign in the mail -- one from her hymn collection. I was so jittered, and was so excited when I received her package.



Little did she know this is my all-time favorite hymn. At the end of my graduate school commissioning ceremony, my cohorts and I sang it together. That moment, everything collapsed, emotionally:

The years I spent working nights and weekends, the financial and social sacrifices I had to make to even get through school. The work. Heavens, the work. And yet, the loving professors who truly rooted for me. And the fact that God's faithfulness, in that moment was so real. 

What I Learned

To get back up when you're frustrated with your life's circumstances. And to not despise the day of small beginnings. Because they can lead to something outrageously fun.






Would you like to be featured on a Fabulous Finds post? Let's chat! It's important to me that I only ever feature products and services that I know and love. If you' think we'd be a great fit, email brett@theprodigalsister.com.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bringing Others into the Story


Meet me for emergency pedicures?

It was one of those fly-by-night, shot-in-the-dark texts. Very last-minute.

And in a season where so many of my friendships have to be scheduled around full-time jobs, kids, volunteering, side-hustles, I didn't expect her to be available.

Not that it's a bad thing, to work to make time for friends. But still. It was all very exciting when she responded with a yes! When and where?!

Those are the sort of people I always want to have in my life, and the type of friend who everyone should have: someone who will drop everything to get a pedicure with you.

That's when I knew that Sarah was a woman I wanted to bring into the

Prodigal Sister story.

For those of you who are new around here, Prodigal Sister started way back in 2008 as a college assignment. One of my professors had instructed our class that if we wanted to write we should be writing.

Back then it was more of a diary – a place for me to write out thoughts about college. Then it became a sort of therapy. A place where I could grumble about singleness or life post-graduation.

And now, thanks to a little persistence, encouragement from my professors in graduate school, my sweet best friends and a few internet BFFS (hi, Renee, Sarah, and Jenny!), here we are. The Prodigal Sister. 

A blog about community. Faith struggle. Marriage. Friendship. Red lipstick. Coffee. You name it. I've written and written and written myself into a frenzy. Online. Professionally. And in the nooks and crannies during lunch breaks and when my husband is doing schoolwork, the writing I love best.

I'd have to blink at the stats on the page. Because it seemed like more people were reading along than just my mother.

Frankly, I'm still surprised when I discover someone other than my close friends or family members are reading along.

It's an honor, really.

And I feel so lucky to live in a world where we can communicate so easily. Where we don't have to cower away in a chilly, Dickens-like home by a fireplace, hunched over parchment. We don't have to do any of it alone. Our lives, our careers, our free-time can be vibrant. It can be beautiful.

Besides, a blog about community should have more than just one voice.

One thought-process. One opinion. One upbringing. Don't you think?


That's why (drumroll, please!):

We're launching the Prodigal Sisters Podcast!!!!

A weekly podcast that's girlfriend therapy for the life journey. We don't have all the answers, but we promise to be there every step of the way.

This project, comically, started in a similar vein as our friendship. A series of texts, digital blips, where we joked about starting a podcast together.

And then we got serious. Started writing down topics, and having grown up meetings in coffee shops, and had our pictures taken by our friend Christen.

We even have a few episodes recorded. They're giggly and deep. And, honestly, I can't wait to see where the project takes us. In our friendship, certainly, but also in bringing others into the community. Into the conversation.

It's been a long-time dream. And I'd love to invite you to come along!

Our very first episode will be live in September 2016, and we couldn't be

more jittered.

We hope you'll follow along on Facebook and Instagram for important updates as we continue to get our website and voices spiffied up.

I can't wait for you to hear it. And I sincerely hope you'll be with us from

the very start.

Thank you, sweet friends, for allowing me to have the privilege to write and be read. I don't take this lightly, and I'm looking forward to growing with you.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Letting Yourself Get Interrupted

"Sometimes if I have to write a paper and a friend calls or wants to stop

by, I'll just turn the paper in late. It's just a paper."


I blinked at my friend. Nothing in my life was just anything. Just a paper? Just a deadline? How foolish, I thought. How irresponsible. How borderline-lazy.

Those words were spoken to me and a group of friends several years ago. Back in college. Back when papers were necessary currency to your GPA as well as your intellectual standing with your friends/classmates/competitors.

Back then, I couldn't imagine putting something as important as a paper on hold for a person. I couldn't imagine putting my academic career on the line to make time for a coffee or dinner date.

I'd sing a constant song with how stressed I was or how much I had to get done when one of my friends who was really making an intentional effort to spend time with me asked me to dinner. Again. And again.

My answer to her each time was a personality cocktail of incredulous tension: I don't have time.

To which she replied, you do still have to eat, though, right?

Back to my friend, who was speaking to a group of us. Sharing her wisdom with us in a quiet, safe circle:

"I always want to make time for people," she said. "So I let myself get interrupted."

And so, I carried on my merry way, momentarily baffled by this philosophy on friendship and life in general. Letting myself let go of the temporary in favor of the eternal. Staying up a little later, or all night, if it meant helping a friend get through a fight with her boyfriend at 3 a.m., or accepting a simple coffee date even when my schedule was jam-packed.

(Or at least, the collegiate version of a jam-packed schedule.)

And let me tell you: I don't remember a single paper I turned in. I don't remember the individual grades of each one. I don't remember the tests that wore me down and made me unable to function without a Venti coffee and an energy drink throughout the day.

But, I remember the dinner dates.

I remember my a capella group rehearsals three times a week and weekend performances that we we were all too busy for, but somehow still made time for.

Those moments are what I remember. Those glorious, rose-gold interruptions. Thank God we made time for them. Thank God. Or I would've missed out on one of my fondest seasons without realizing it.

So much of my life as a writer is time spent alone. 

Time spent inflecting. Getting in some face-time with my bright-white screen.

And many writers will tell you to make time for your art. To be diligent. To  prioritize your creativity and your ambition over everything else. Because no one will do it for you.

I do this sometimes. I burrow myself away in a room when all of the extroversion within me would rather be sipping tea with a girlfriend or spending time with my husband that doesn't include plopping on our big red couch and watching Frasier reruns.

It's not really a discipline for me. I know the writing will get done.

But the letting myself get interrupted? In the name of a grieving friend or a discouraged family member? That doesn't get done as often as I'd like.

I do this with my spiritual life, too.

I don't want to be thought of as productive. Well, as only productive. Do I want to be a hard worker? Yes. Do I want to under-promise and over-deliver in my professional and creative life? Of course.

But, I don't want that to have such a stronghold on my life that it's the only adjective that describes who I am. I don't want to be so focused on what I think should matter: money, writing, gaining followers, writing fiction and non-fiction that stacks up in the industry that I forget.

My dreams, my goals might get interrupted. 



Many times I feel like my career, my progress as a human who's been pruned and encouraged and uplifted enough to believe that she's destined to have a big impact on the world around her, is at a stalemate.

But maybe, at this time, in this season, it's simply being interrupted. Interrupted for character growth. Or personal development. Or to simply enjoy.

We are always at risk of being interrupted at the hand of our Creator, our master storyteller. 

How many of us have been surprised by a pregnancy? 

Or swept into a whirlwind of a seasonal shift? 

A move?

An illness?

Injury? 

A car repair?

A new opportunity?

A job failure that pushed you into a new career?

A book deal?


A boyfriend who becomes a husband? 

Our lives might be fraught with interruptions. For better or for worse. And we can choose to invite them in. To let them perform somersaults in our schedules and day-to-days. We can welcome them in, and watch the friendships, the joys, the frustrations, setbacks, surprises and disappointments play out.

Because we put what we thought was important on hold long enough to see the beauty in a life that makes room for interruptions.
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Go Deep With the People Around You


 This is the season we've been waiting for.

The season that we've looked forward to since we were children. The nights that we can stay up late, the nights that we can drink cocktails and jet of to whirlwind-far places. The time to live in wide-eyed wonder and freedom.

But here's what happens – at least from what I can tell in my limited experience in adulthood – finding and experiencing true freedom in this season: freedom from stress, job pressure, five-year plans, career goals, career frustrations, schedules, all of it is at best, manageable.

And at its worst? Nearly impossible.

Let me state on the record: I do not have a hard life. I don't have any kids to wrangle, just a few dreams and ideas I have to chase and keep at bay. I have a home, means to pay for things that I need (and what I want). When I need a time-out, I can take it. My husband holds me in his arms and I feel safe and secure. In a lot of ways.

I have a lot of freedoms as an American woman living in this century.

And I need to remember that.

But what I'm beginning to see is how the jobs, the budgets, the hunting for side gigs, the achieving, the mixing, the chaotic fray of working through life is such a distracting. Such a hindrance to freedom.

I'm beginning to see how narrow the road is to heaven. I'm beginning to see how I have a camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle sort of life.

I'm beginning to see how this life, this wonderful, wholesome, American-dream life is, in spite of all its blessings, brings a colossal hindrance to true community. To really growing relationships with the people around you.


I met one of my favorite people from the internet a few weeks ago.

She is the co-host of a podcast I've grown to adore. And she was just as beautiful and vivacious as I expected her to be. She's the sort of person who travels. A lot.

She just happened to be in the area where I live for a spell, so, as you do when you have the chance to meet someone you truly admire, I invited her for cocktails with a few of my friends. She said yes, and we were thrilled (even if it was only because we offered to buy her a drink).

Our drinks turned to dinner, and dinner turned into shared desserts and dragging our waiter outside to get the perfect Instagram photo together. But, the night stands out to me because our conversation was so rich.

She went deep. Fast. And made me feel like a lazy conversationalist.

Which is fine if you don't have a master's in journalism, and haven't been trained to ask the right, open-ended questions. But, I do. I have. And when I found myself talking about marriage, my dreams, my past, with a one-way stranger, it was a big wake-up call.

I'd been so distracted by the achieving, the dreaming, the doing, the budgeting, the car repairs, dental work, grocery shopping, bills, that I'd forgotten that this life is meant to be enjoyed.

Not only that, but this life is meant to serve and care for others. And one 

of the most important things we can do for our friends is simply listen.


I've been walking through the conversations in my day-to-day like someone who texts and drives. Only really halfway paying attention to something really important.

I've been holding back. I've been fearful. I've been unwilling to go deep because it's time-consuming. Even a little scary. Or it doesn't match my brand. Or I can't make money from it. In a word, selfish.

This person showed me what freedom in Christ truly looks like. She showed me what it's like to have that wonder of the season. The season we've all wished for our whole lives.

The freedom to let go of your distractions, and your moments. 

Maybe not all the way – we're not perfect.

But perhaps enough to go deep with the people you break bread and clink cocktail glasses with.



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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Like My Coffee Like I Like My Life: Regular

We live in a world, it seems, addicted to change.

We chase happiness, fulfillment like children in an Easter egg hunt. Dropping plastic orbs in our baskets and scurrying away to the next, letting them rattle in the bottom of our baskets. Plopping the chocolates into our mouths, unwrapping another as quickly as we can.

Never stopping to be thankful. Always looking for another prize.

This is me at my worst. Collecting points and accolades and resume-boosters like seashells. Entertaining for just a moment, just to turn-over in the palm of my hand, before I send them back.

It's been like this for as long as I can remember. At the start of every new season, every new endeavor, I was ready for the next.

When I was a senior in high school, I couldn't wait to get to college.

When I was a senior in college, I couldn't wait to get plugged into the real world.


When I was single I couldn't wait to date a man who loved me.

When a man who genuinely loved me and proved he could be trusted, I couldn't wait to be engaged to him.


And when he finally popped the question on Thanksgiving Day 2014, I was ecstatically happy for a week or two. And then I was overwhelmed with a longing to be married.

I approach every good season with the same hunger and eagerness:

Well, that was fun. But what's next? What's new?

Let's get on with it, shall we? What's the next level to unlock? 

Always in a spell of growing up, up, and up. Never growing down. Always more. Never less. Never still. Always with an itchy craving for the next season, the next job, the next status update.

I live life looking for the next opportunity to level-up without stopping to track my steps and see how good I have it. How far I've already traveled.

I'm not in an extraordinary season right now.

Not really. Life is wonderful, don't get me wrong. I am loved. I have the bandwidth to love and serve others. This is a life of plenty. This is a life to be thankful for.

But then, there's the hunt. The crawling ache for the next season.

There are obvious tells of what our next season should be to a couple who's been married for an appropriate amount of time. Oh, sweet, life-altering parenthood.

And the answer to the question my husband and I get, mostly from strangers, is when we'll spread our lives into that season. When we'll begin to try to be a part of that fraternity of frazzled, busy and supremely loved people who are parents.

That's the next level, isn't it? That's the next logical step.

And for those of us who like to see change and additions and fun parties and Pinterest boards you wish you could hop into with the help of Mary Poppins, it could be really tempting to jump into it head-first.

All in the name of change. All in the name of keeping life entertaining.

But I'm learning that there is an art to contentedness. There's a discipline here I'm missing.

So for now, I wake up. I pull out a dress from my closet. I kiss my husband goodbye. And then I'm off to the office in my little blue car, tracing the same commute, drinking the same coffee, curly hair pulled into the same, chaotic top-knot for optimum concentration powers (amen?) over and over and over.

I'm trying to embrace the regularity of life. To sit satisfied, humbled and thankful. Without the hustle for more, for the next, for the brighter, the flashier, the shinier.


Resolving to stay the same. For now. As much as I'm able. It's hard. I'm not the best at it. But, like my wise friend, Christen says, I don't want to look back and remember these days as the good old days without realizing that's where we are. Right here, right now.

I'm trying to find the extraordinary in every season. Because at one point, I wished for this season. At one point this place where I've arrived is where I desperately wanted to be.

This is what I know:


Any lot, any toil, any broken-down day I've ever gotten through has come out from under complete surrender. Falling-to-my-knees in the shower moments.

And those moments only happen when I feel stuck. Trapped. Like I've reached the end of my rope. Like nothing is changing. Or challenging. And the only way through is by Christ.

Not by myself. Not by more money. Not by more likes, follows, words on a page, promotions, children. The next season. The next Instagram-worthy career. None of it.

And sometimes surrender feels a whole lot like stopping. And being thankful for this moment. For this day. In all of its glorious normalcy.


 #


Thanks to all of you wonderful, beautiful people who've signed up for my email list and have joined the Prodigal Squad. You guys rock. And for those of you who haven't, we're cool, we're cool ;) There's still time to win a free copy of Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. I'll be announcing the winner on Instagram tomorrow! Good luck!




   

   
   
   
   
   

   


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Treasure These Small Beginnings







When I held him in my arms, my heart broke in the best possible way.

It was a frigid day in February; my husband and I were scattered every which way preparing for a flight out of town. We were so worried he'd be born while we were away. That we'd miss out the joy of his arrival.

But the world stopped when I held my nephew. My heart broke of selfishness in that moment. Of fear. Of doubt. And for a moment it broke up bitterness that crumpled and rolled off like marbles in the palm of my hand.

It's been six months and now this darling, wriggly boy is on the move. He smiles. He laughs. And he wants anything but to sit still. A trait I can identify with on so many levels.

He's a small beginning. A reminder that something so little grows and grows. But he had to start somewhere. And that start in that darkened hospital room on that cold, February night was such a joy.

A neighbor congratulated us on our first year of marriage.


Back in July, through a row of magnolia trees that separate my family's home from hers. She'd attended our wedding with her husband of almost 60 years.

"And how are the newlyweds?" she asked.

Gordon stood up straight and smiled, "We're not really newlyweds, now," with the pride of a kid showing off his artwork. As if to say, it's been a year. We're in the midst of it. We're on the road doing the lovely and refining work of marriage.

But, to a woman who's been married to the same man for three-quarters of her life, we are newlyweds. And likely will be until we hit the ten-year mark. Until the time that we've been together outweighs the time we spent living without each other. Some twenty-odd years. Maybe even longer.

Our love is so small in comparison. But it grows and grows.


























Scripture says, "despise not the day of small beginnings."

I'm not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination–I've even carefully curated a Bible study with some of the world's greatest people that's more of a book and tea club as to avoid becoming one.

But to me, despising-not means to honor fresh starts. To have the faith that God will bring these small beginnings to fruition if they're truly of Him. 

To me, it means to hold them like an infant. Like a small, silver band on your wedding day. Treasures. Keepsakes. As vital as that first big breath after you break surface from beneath the water.

Often in my own life I'm tempted to forget I'm a small beginning, too.

In my faith, certainly. In how I emulate Christ to others, of course. Beginning, beginning, ever-loving beginning.

And then the gap between college and what we call real life has widened year after year. My ten-year high school reunion is in its planning stages. But my career, my dreams, even after all this time, isn't exactly where I thought it'd be.

So often I want to be mature, veteran, deep and rooted. I want to appear to know what I'm doing. I want to give counsel. To be an expert-witness. To be trusted.

But the truth is, I'm starting. And I'm starting small. I'm learning not to resent it just like I don't discriminate an orchestra for tuning or buds for pushing up the ground.

We trust that they will be complete in their creation. We trust the conductor will wave and silence the cacophonous start into a structured, rhythmic piece of art.

We trust that God is always in the midst of refining our character in our work, in our family lives, in our day-to-day.

We trust that babies and marriages grow. And we trust that He who began a good work in us will fulfill it to completion.

I don't know where you are tonight. I don't pretend to. But if you find yourself like me, in a small start, waiting for business to pick up, relationships to dive deeper, babies to be born, maybe it's time we learned to do more than to not despise our new beginnings.

Maybe it's time we learn to adore them.






Speaking of new beginnings, I've started an email list like a real blogger! If you sign up below between now and Wednesday, Aug. 17th you'll have a chance to win Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Livingby Shauna Niequist!








   
   






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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Present Over Perfect Giveaway!*

It's here! It's finally here!

Y'all, this book. I could hardly sit still during work yesterday because I knew what was waiting for me on my doorstep.

If you've been a longtime reader of the blog, you'll know that Shauna Niequist remains one of my favorite authors of all time. Her words inspired me to get the ball rolling in my own writing world. I started blogging after reading her book Bittersweet, and when I finished, I was delighted to know that her first book, Cold Tangerines was mine for the taking.

When Bread and Wine was released a few years ago, I drank it in like a bubbly champagne. Savor, too.


But Present Over Perfect will be a merlot.


When I first discovered Shauna's work, about five years ago or so, I was in the midst of a heavy emotional battle and an emotional relationship. When I picked up her books, she made me believe that my voice matters.


In writing, certainly, but also in life. If a woman from Michigan could inspire me to adopt French cooking, go back to church and gather girlfriends around my table in a delicious, rich community, what could my words spark?

Much of what you know from the Prodigal Sister blog today is a direct result of Christ's healing in my life. And Shauna's books. This is a big day.

Now I want to pass her words along to you! I'm giving away one free copy of Present Over Perfect to one of my email subscribers.

All you have to do is enter your email in the form below and that's it! You're entered! (And if you're already a #ProdigalSquad member, you're already in the running.)

I'll be announcing the winner on Instagram (brettwtubbs) on Wednesday, August 17th.

*This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you click on a product and order it from this page, I may make a penny or two from Amazon. Nifty, isn't it? But, you should know that I'll never promote anything that I don't find truly fabulous ;)

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