dusty cars

I was in "the city" the other day and got in the car with a friend. She commented about how "dirty" her car was. I looked around at it and couldn't help but chuckle.

Her pretty black city car was anywhere from dirty.

Mine on the other hand? Absolutely filthy.

Trips to the ball field for softball practice, trips to granparent's houses, or just trips to visit friends, require gravel roads around here. I love to hate them.

google images

Even when completely sealed up, windows tight, doors closed, the dust still infiltrates my nostrils. When it hasn't rained in a couple months, like as of late here, you can sense the dust particles filtering through the smallest of spaces and settling on the dash. And the outside? Forget it. You open the door and dust flies everywhere. You pop the trunk, you're covered in the ashy, dried dirt.

But the beauty? It is in the solitude of the dirt and gravel roads. It is in the rolling fields and the wildlife. It is in the old bridges you have to cross.

It's also in the company. On the highway each person is just a passing vessel of metal and machine, hardly worth your attention. But on a gravel road, barely wide enough for two cars, you have to pull over, slow down, and look at the person driving by. You wave, you maneuver around, and for a moment in time you're in it together with them; it's a dance in the middle of nowhere.

We could wash our car, but I don't see the point. We don't plan to stop driving these roads. And for now, my dirty car will remind me of a slower pace of life-- the dust simply a piece of my home.

google images

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a follow up of sorts :)

After yesterday's post, I listened to one of my favorite songs by Sara Groves. She speaks of God's faithfulness in providing our every need. I thought it was a good follow up, especially after all the great comments I received here and on facebook. Enjoy.

Here are a few other songs of hers that I love:

Who am I kidding? All of her songs are beautiful.

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commandment number 10

The other day I got a text from a friend of mine. She wanted to know about how stressful it was to plan a wedding when I was finishing college and in the middle of student teaching and preparing for a big transition/move in life. She said she has a friend who is currently in the same place in life, and is trying to pick a wedding date, and is considering moving her wedding back because it may be too much to plan around all the other demands of her life.

I read it twice. I thought, "Wow. I never even realized it but I kind of did have a decent amount of stuff on my plate while I was planning my wedding. Go me." And then I paused and thought, "What in the heck? Why is that a big deal? Why shouldn't I have been able to plan a wedding in the midst of my current life?" 

Here was my response:
"Okay. Maybe I'm weird but I didn't get stressed over planning my wedding. I was very lax, and if certain things didn't work I didn't really care and just moved on to something else. I was six hours away [from home and where the wedding would take place], and like you said I had a lot going on, but I just had fun with it and didn't lose any sleep over the details. So…My advice for your friend would be to get off Pinterest and realize she can't have a perfect wedding, enjoy the process, enjoy student teaching, and just keep the big picture (getting married!) in the forefront and pick the day she really wants. Too harsh?" 

My friend said it wasn't too harsh, but rather exactly what her friend needed to hear.

And I think a lot of us need to hear it.

I've been on this tangent before, I know. But more and more recently I see this happening: girls get engaged and are so excited and then a few months later you talk to them and it's all, "I can't SLEEP! I am EXHAUSTED! OH THE WEDDING! If I never have to look at another bouquet I will die happy. My bridesmaids…their hair…the drama! And the menu?! Well you wouldn't even BELIEVE what's going on with that. I can't get the DJ I want, but I floated the photographer an extra $500 so I at LEAST have that taken care of. I'm concerned about the invitations and…seriously?! No one told me it was going to be THIS MUCH WORK!!! I've never cried so much in my life because I'm just under so much pressure. If the wedding could just plan itself….!!!"

That may be a bit of an exaggerations, but I have actually heard 9/10s of that, maybe not all from the same person though.

What has happened to marriage? For real. I mean, since when do centerpieces and invitations and DJs and menus take precedence over the "till death do us part" and "with this ring"s? Yes, don't get me wrong, it is a big day. I too wanted it to go smoothly and look nice, but you better believe that I put more stock into my student teaching, and finishing my degree, and prepping my marriage than I did June 7, 2008. My college roommate got married the week after we graduated. ONE WEEK! Was she stressing out? Pshhhhh. She delegated like a pro because she understood that perfection is overrated when you are getting to marry the one you love.

Do you want to know what is happening? Here is my take:
source: pinterest

source: pinterest
source: pinterest
 As much as I love all of the above…holy cow! It should not be what we have come to expect, should it? I look at my grandparent's "wedding photo" [because there is just one], and for each set of grandparents, in the fading black and white image I am reminded of a simpler time, of a simpler set of ideals, and of marriages that were begun in a simple church with a few family members, with some sandwiches shared in fellowship hall afterwards, and no honeymoon to speak of. I am obviously okay with celebrating the marriage in a bit bigger way, and getting married outside, and all of that, but I do agree we've lost something when we start fantasying and trying to bring to reality the things we see in the media and online. I want to bring back the beauty of getting married under a streetlight in January, until death.

{I did write about planning a wedding pre-pinterest, and what I would maybe have changed, but touched on a lot of the same sentiments I've shared here.}

And in case you're wondering… this isn't really about weddings at all. Nope. And this is where I have to really check my own lusting, greedy heart.

Because just as easy as it is to except the perfect wedding day and want all the glam, and stress about the details and lose sight of the big picture, it's just as easy to do that with other things in our life.


source: pinterest

source: pinterest
Do you know how much I would love an updated house, or a fancy back yard, or dress like I have it put together every day? I would love all of those things. Give me! But I can't. I just can't. And the more I expose myself to blogs and websites and tv shows, the more I begin to think I need all of them.

I need to remind myself that it is similar to planning a wedding: focus on the bigger picture. Focus on my heart, on the people in my home. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart, right? I've had to really start to limit my time on sites like Pinterest or with my nose in magazines or even watching tv because during this season in my life, when I haven't shopped for new clothes in I don't even know how long, it's easy to get a grabby heart. And I want a generous heart. I want a heart that loves others well. I want a heart that looks to give her possessions.

Sigh. It's so much easier said than done. I think God made this the tenth and final commandment in the hopes it would be easier to remember when we finish reading them.

Do you struggle with this, or is it just me? Please tell me Pinterest makes you have a grabby heart as well!

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some ramblings about college

The other night Brent and I sat up way too late reminiscing about our college experiences. As new college freshman everywhere start their journeys, we were reminded of our own.

It was the fall of 2004, I had just said goodbye to Brent, which felt like walking over broken glass barefoot, and my Escort was packed full. When I arrived at my dorm, I found my packet of info and then went to meet Bethany. We had emailed each other [because this was before Facebook] and I knew she was bringing a TV and a fridge, so I already knew she was going to be a great roommate.

August 2004 with Bethany on move in day. We had just met. And my hair was super curly. What happened?  At this point I didn't know that she would literally quote F.R.I.E.N.D.S. in her sleep or bring me left over Pizza Ranch :) 
Minus Brandon in the black, Brent was fortunate to take two of his best friends with him to college and avoid the whole sleeping-next-to-a-stranger bit of the college experience. He missed out. But that hair?

Looking back though, I realized how strange this all is. You meet someone for the first time, you unload your stuff and politely ask if it's okay to have the bottom bunk or this drawer, and then your parents leave and there you are, with a complete stranger for all practical purposes. Sure, she can't be too harmless if she applied and was accepted at this college, but seriously, how weird is it to say hello and then sleep in the dark next to someone you just met?! I say it is pretty weird.

Staking out our brother wing our freshman year. I didn't know we'd become best friends, or I would have probably told Renae her hair cut was a wee bit short. ;) 
They kept us so busy during freshman orientation that you have no choice but to fall, exhausted into your tiny bunk bed and sleep soundly and not worry too much about the fact that your new roommate talks in her sleep sometimes. I met more people in those first few days than I thought I could ever fit into my memory… but I was wrong. Those people that I met on the green, drinking rootbeer from our "freshman mugging", those people's faces and names are still a part of me.

My college is so awesome, that everyone in the world probably should go there…but this is how we keep the numbers manageable: This particular blizzard occurred in March, leaving all of us stranded for a few days of our spring break. 
So we learned how to recruit friends to dig out cars and use jumper cables on frozen batteries. 

That first year Brent and I stayed up way too late and cried way too much talking to each other on our room phones. I didn't know if I could go four years, 8 hours away from him. I was sad because even though my sister went to the same school, she was busy and had her own friends and there was no one else with whom I could walk in a room and sit down and just be known. College was supposed to be this wonderful thing, but I wasn't so sure.

You don't even realize how small the living space is when you're actually there. 
Then sophomore year rolled around and I knew people and I loved people and I got involved and it was awesome. There were so many females on campus that year that we actually had two girls living in the the study room on our floor! The study room! It was like a constant party, full of late nights, showers that never quite seemed clean, and lots of laughing…oh and a lot of writing of papers too. I happened to get mono that fall, but I also happened to develop one of the closest female relationships I know I'll ever have with anyone in Renae. We were inseparable in the best ways possible, and I knew in her I had found that one college friend that would remain a friend for the rest of my life.

I lived with all of these ladies for two years. 
Lest I have under-emphasized the rigor of the school work…here I am trying to study. I don't remember who snuck this picture, but well done. 
Little did I know that my next year, my Junior year, more solid friendships would develop with people who had just been on the peripheral of my college life. I became an resident assistant, and the other ladies on my staff were like a strange family that year. Strange because, well, you couldn't get more different than us. I was responsible for nervous freshman and roommate disagreements, that just two years earlier were my life. Renae left me for a semester in Chicago, but I got engaged, made new lasting friendships, and raised money by selling underwear [ever heard that story?!] for a road trip with three girls I didn't know very well to Glacier Park, Montana.

The girls I was on-staff with. 
These are a few of the girls that were on my wing when I was an RA 
Enter a long series of pictures I'll title "you dress up for a lot of events when you're in college" 
What? Never seen the solar system on roller skates? #plutoisnotaplanet
As the cast of "Saved By the Bell"…sort of. I think we just kind of look creepy. 
This is one of my favorite pictures… Becker and I are doing "rounds" together. This is how we spend many, many, many nights our Junior year. As you can tell by our posture, we took it dang seriously. 
More dressing up for a little thing called Air Band. 
With the girls on our road trip! 
And then it happened. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I was a Senior. I was RA again in the apartments on campus, I had three awesome roommates, and would start my student teaching in the spring. My freshman year, college had seemed so daunting-- so impossible to actually accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished and meet all the people that needed to be met. But here I was, on the other side: hundreds of relationships richer, thousands and thousands of dollars poorer, a bachelor's degree more educated, and four years worth of living in a Christian environment more rooted in my faith.
Air Band VICTORS our senior year :) 
Getting pumped up for the slime fight! 
When your friend is an art major, occasionally you end up being her canvas. 
Student teaching
My roomies were the national champs that year in basketball! We were there support group. 
My senior year roommates: Amy, Deb, and Renae [with long hair ;)]. Notice all the cum laude tassels that are happening here. 

And this is why I can honestly say, even to Dave Ramsey, that my college debt is SO worth every single penny. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

Those of you that are in college or just starting out, here would be my top pieces of advice:

- GET INVOLVED. In a lot of different activities and groups.
- BE FRIENDLY.  Look for opportunities to sit with people you don't know and get to know them. 
- TAKE YOUR CLASSES SERIOUSLY. Get to know your professors and glean as much wisdom from them as you can.
- LOOK FOR LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES. And then be a leader and a lead well. 
- DON'T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND or TRYING TO FIND A BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND. A lot of time this limits you from some really great experiences and friendships. 
- SERVE. Find a way to serve others, whether it is on campus, in the city, or in another country. This will teach you far more than you could learn serving yourself
- GET TO KNOW UPPER CLASSMAN. They may seem scary at first, but they have a wealth of information on how things operate and what professors and classes are the best. 
- TRY TO BE ON CAMPUS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Live in the dorms. Attend campus events. 
- FIND WAYS TO GROW YOUR FAITH. The "real world" is looming. Get to know Jesus.

Any good advice you would add to this list? 

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the cost of children

Brent and I like to listen to a Christian radio station around here, namely for the D.J.s. That's right. You heard correctly-- a Christian radio station that actually has decent D.J.s that ooze and sap all day but actually make us laugh and think.

One of the guys on there actually had a morning show on a station we both listened to in Kentucky. It was my favorite part of my commute to work. When I knew we were moving, I actually thought, "Oh man. I won't get to listen to Brant in the morning anymore." Weird, I know. But then he switched stations!

Brant the D.J. has a blog. It is good. You should read it. You should probably read it instead of this blog, actually, if you have a rule that you can only read one blog or something.

Yesterday he blogged on "the cost of children."

CLICK HERE to read the blog.

Basically he talks about how the media right now is all, "Hey! It costs a lot of money to have a kid! Have you thought about that?" And discusses how, for most of us, it doesn't make sense on paper to procreate. He says, "Foolish to have a kid? Mathematically, sure. And I love math, but math ain't everything. You can't play kickball with it or watch it giggle in the bathtub." 

 It's just good. And those of you that are past the kid stage and your savings aren't quite where they would be had you not had kids…well, I'm pretty sure you don't regret it, do you?

Brent wanted me to pass this blog along. So my job is done for the day.

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containers! organization! spices! lids! sanity!

Once upon a time we bought a house and painted the kitchen cabinets TURQUOISE.
I have yet to regret that decision. 
Actually, it may be one decision I regret the least. 

However, inside of those beautiful turquoise cabinets was a mess. 

 As I accumulated bottles and cups and such for Blythe, I just sort of threw them in here. Yikes. So I started emptying everything.

It is at this point that it is easy to panic. Your countertops are full of things you haven't seen in ages, and it somehow cripples you with a fear that you will never know how to put things back or what things to throw away. Am I right?

But it is at this point you must press on.

I didn't have a budget for this organization day…meaning I scrounged around my house for any empty container I could find. I located a few baskets here and there and if I couldn't contain it it got pitched.

I have found that that is the key-- contain, contain, contain. It is so much easier to organize and STAY organized when you can easily grab a basket and get what you need, instead of standing on a chair and craning into the back recesses of a dark cabinet.

I put all my coffee goods in one basket, and other drink mixes and teas in another.

I got rid of old plastic cups we no longer needed, and found small baskets to keep lids to water jugs and thermoses handy.

 Granted, I have a lot of cabinet space in my kitchen, but once I was organized and purged I had an entire cabinet free! Woo hoo!

Then it was time to hit up my spice drawer and my cooking utensil drawer.

I didn't take a before picture of the utensil drawer for some reason, but just picture utter and complete chaos, the kind that requires you to hold your breath and stand on one leg just right in order to wiggle the drawer shut. [However, I will admit that I felt better when my friend, who is a nurse, told me she found a syringe in her kitchen drawer. Which begs the question: what is the weirdest thing you've found in one of your kitchen drawers? Not the junk drawer, but an actual kitchen drawer. I'll report the winner here later :)… the winner being the weirdest, obviously.]

I again rummaged through what I had and located several smaller baskets.  I tried to separate the utensils into groups that made sense to me.

Then I tackled that crazy spice drawer. Yikes. 
It was bad, you guys. 

The first thing I did was lay everything out on the counter. There were some spices I had three or four jars of, all at varying levels of used-up-ness. 

Then I threw out anything that I knew I had had since we were first married. Five years is probably a decent amount of time for the life of a spice [not to be confused with the spice of life…]. Then I combined half used jars of the same spice, kept a few reserves of the ones I use a lot, and then pedaled off the rest to other unsuspecting spice drawers in other homes. 

Then it was time to arrange. I had a few different containers I wanted to use, and arranged things according to size and frequent use. 
[By the way, I still have all the jars that were pre-labeled and given to me, filled with spices no less, from my Aunt Wanda as a wedding gift. It was an amazing gift, and as I organized this drawer…it kept on giving!] 

It's amazing what this drawer alone has done for my sanity. 
I'm over here throwing spices into dishes left and right now, just because they are easy to get to: "Cumin? Bring it on! Parsley? Why not? Garlic Salt? Of course!" 
[And now none of you want to sample any of my dishes :)] 

before and after.

I am happy to report that I actually did all of this back in June, and if I went and took a picture of each drawer and cabinet again, they look essentially identical to these pictures. It really is amazing what a little attention, some containers, and organization can do to your sanity and your space. 

Do you have any great "systems" that you use in your kitchen area? You should probably share with all of us. And if your answer is, "My cooking lady puts everything back neatly when she finishes up with the dishes," then we don't want to hear from you. :) 

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I feel it.

It's that time of year again. New pencils, the rubbery smell of fresh tennis shoes, the pristinely ordered backpacks. It's time for new schedules and finding lockers and syllabus reading.

I wrote about it last year, how I knew I would feel my decision to stay home with Blythe more during these warm days that are melting into fall. I would feel my decision more as young boys began football practice and teachers started shoving desks around in their classrooms.

And I do… I feel it. I feel it.

I liken it to when you're growing up and there are two events happening on the same day: your favorite cousin is getting married and your best friend is having a birthday party. You want to be both places, but it's just not possible. You know you'll have fun at the wedding. You know you'll have fun at the party. But a decision has to be made and you access it from all angles, throw your hands in the air, and make the best decision you can. But then you see pictures from the birthday party you didn't attend, or one of the girls calls you to ask exactly how you make that popcorn the way you do, and you're reminded of all your missing out on.

It's the time of year that I feel like I'm missing out on my best friend's birthday party.

I always loved and loathed the first day of school: I didn't like the panic that set in the days and moments before that first bell would ring; the restless sleep worrying that I had forgotten something essential. I didn't like the meetings and orientations that demanded new strategies and curriculum guidelines. I didn't like finally admitting that the students I had the year before were truly gone, no longer under my teacher-ship and no longer a part of the weird family we had created in that little classroom of 30 desks.  I loved the excitement and the attention to detail that teachers and students alike brought to that first day-- the excitement and attention that wane as fall melts into winter and Christmas break can't come soon enough. I loved getting a fresh batch of kids, with their bright eyes, and new clothes, and fresh hair cuts. I loved picking out that first, perfect back-to-school outfit, trying to meld professionalism with a touch of trendy so the kids would still think I was cool. I loved working so hard and so diligently those first few days back to create a beautiful, safe space where we could all learn and like each other.

And it is for those reasons that as the bus drives by tomorrow, and I get Blythe's breakfast ready, I will be sad. I will feel like I am missing out on the party, even though I'm attending another great event [which is beautiful and awesome in its own right].

I have missed teaching from the moment I made the decision to stay home. But I'm still glad I made that decision. It just all gets confusing this time of year.

Make any sense?

[Here is where I've written about some of my other prep and first days of teaching: here, here, here, here]

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