Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Recap

The blog got pushed to the back burner this month as I worked to address envelopes and draft a Thanksgiving letter in order to get my new address out in time for friends to use when addressing Christmas cards.  Though I do love receiving Christmas cards, this was not an overt attempt to force people to send Christmas cards; I merely wanted to lessen the frustration and cost of friends having to address two envelopes and to spend money on two stamps because the Post Office appears to have a pretty strict three-month policy on forwarding mail.

This month, I also enjoyed attending a friend's pre-Thanksgiving gathering.  This was her third time to host a gathering for friends to share a Scripture that has carried them through the year and to tell how they have seen the Lord at work this year.  It was such a special time of fellowship and encouragement to see and hear of God's faithfulness in the lives of these women.

I took the train home for Thanksgiving and enjoyed spending several days with my mom.  She generously offered to let me plan a menu, and then she cooked, which is a win-win for me!  The weather was so mild this year that we were able to take a couple of late afternoon walks.  We took the opportunity on Saturday to travel to Gruene where we enjoyed a wonderful meal at The Buttermilk Cafe and browsed at several of the shops.

The train's delays, which totaled almost five hours during my commute to and from home, provided the perfect opportunity to finish off several books.  I enjoyed Mark Batterson's latest, The Grave Robber; Sara Hagerty's memoir, Every Bitter Thing Is SweetTasting the Goodness of God in All Things; and Nish Weiseth's book, Speak - How Your Story Can Change the World.

I hope you enjoyed a restful Thanksgiving and are preparing your heart as Advent season approaches.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October Recap

It seems a bit early to be thinking about a recap for the month of October, but by next weekend, it will already be November and time to fall back an hour.  So before October gets away, here are a few things I want to remember this month.
Words are so life-giving, especially for one whose love language is words of encouragement.  As part of my birthday celebration, my friend Susie created a decorated ring to hold the cards I received.  I keep it hanging on my bedroom door knob so I can read some when I need to refuel my love tank.  The art of writing may be a dying art, but it shouldn't be.  Words like these from friends, and the powerful words of Scripture, can encourage over and over again after being written only once.
My friends Krista and Jeff invited me to sit at one of their tables at the Young Life Banquet.  The speaker this year was Bob Goff, the author of Love Does.  I never dreamed I'd be able to meet him, but he has to be one of the most approachable New York Times bestselling authors ever.  Who else puts his real cell phone number on the last page of his book and actually answers his phone?!  He lives a life of loving others abundantly and has a huge heart for protecting children around the world.  His stories about the work he's doing in Uganda gives goosebumps.  He's truly a hero.

Another hero is Noah, as well as his wife.  As I've been studying Genesis, I've been reminded of the incredible example of obedience that Noah demonstrated.  God didn't give him a blue print like he gave Moses for the tabernacle; instead, God gave Noah only a basic outline.  Noah's main task was to obey, even if it meant building something that likely seemed unnecessary; after all, there had never been rain prior to the flood.  And as was pointed out in our talk this past week, Noah's wife is to be admired for being his helpmate and supporting him throughout this process as he undertook this huge building project (possibly in their front yard) for DECADES.   

This has been one of the hottest Octobers on record here.  It also has been a rough month for Texas football.  So, I'm looking forward to cooler weather and to hopefully getting a couple of wins in the last four games of the season.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Perspective: Celebrating 40

In preparation for turning forty, I wrestled with how to celebrate this milestone birthday.   For many years, I’d “threatened” to plan a big party that would serve as a wedding reception in case I wasn’t married by forty.  I was hoping that my threat would convince God to introduce me to my husband so that I could have a real wedding reception—one where all my friends and family would gather together in one place with me to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness.  But as I’ve learned over the past thirty-nine years, you can’t force God to do anything, and I don’t end up liking anything I’ve schemed for.  And so I had let go of the idea of having a big party. 

Then, some sweet friends of mine plotted together and offered to throw a birthday lunch, a birthday dinner, or a birthday tea for me.  Being a gal who loves all types of teas, tea rooms, and anything that remotely resembles a proper British afternoon tea, I chose the latter.  My mom was already planning to come for the weekend, and she agreed to stay an extra day to attend the tea with me. 

I couldn't have asked for a sweeter celebration; it was beautiful in every way, and there was so much love in all the details that three hostesses thought of.  Sarah, Krista, and Susie did an amazing job. 

I didn't even notice right away that the painting on the mantle was for me; my friend Susie painted it, and it now proudly hangs above my bed. 


Mom also helped me comply with the obligatory work requirement:  bring your own birthday cake.  She whipped up this four-layer pumpkin cake with a caramel and pecan topping, which was devoured in the blink of an eye on Monday afternoon.
On my actual birthday, I chose to have a quiet evening at home and read through cards and notes sent by my family and friends.  It was a perfect birthday for this introvert who enjoys reading encouraging words.

My mom wrote that it is time to enter my promised land, just as the Israelites did after their forty-year journey.  I've read that the number forty was used by God to represent a period of testing or judgment (the length of time necessary to accomplish some major part of God's plan in His dealings with various portions of mankind), and I'm so very ready for His plans to be realized in my life. 

Forty hasn't really sunk in, mostly because forty feels different when you aren't where you expected you'd be and can't set goals to get there.  But in so many ways that I could never have imagined, the Lord has used the past thirty-nine years to show me that He is faithful and good; He has surrounded me with such godly family and friends who have encouraged me, who have walked with me, and who have pointed me back to His Truths, which never change.  That, in itself, is worth celebrating - milestone birthday or not.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September Recap

September has always had a special place in my heart because it's attached to going back to school and getting back in a rhythm.  Summer was always a little loosey goosey with no set plans for each day.  And while that had its perks, my Type A personality has always gravitated toward routine, which lends itself to some predictability.  And even though I haven't been in school in fourteen years, I still have a fondness for September and for a new rhythm.  Here's a little recap of what this September has held:

The trip to Austin for continuing education - along with the longest bus ride ever, as I recapped here.

An evening with Laura Bush, thanks to my sweet friends Krista and Jeff, and an opportunity to catch up with my friend Emily.

Women in the Word on Thursdays. It's been so fun to see how this has grown over the past ten years.

The Longhorns game at AT&T Stadium (f/k/a Cowboys Stadium).  It was a hard fought game that ended with a 20-17 loss, but I enjoyed getting to spend time with friends.

Surviving a colonoscopy and the prep and receiving the all-clear, for which I'm very grateful.

Birthday dinners for two friends and Sunday brunch with my college roommate, whom I hadn't seen in way too long.

Getting to hang out with Krista and Jeff's son and watch one of his football games.

Finishing two excellent books that I highly recommend:  Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee and The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst.

September did not disappoint.  May the rest of fall bring cooler weather and a sweet rhythm. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Perspective: Stuck

If you have ever driven on I-35, you've probably wished for an alternative route.  At any given time of day, it is in desperate need of more lanes as it cannot handle the number of vehicles that attempt to make their way from the northern part of the state to the southern part of the state. 

I usually avoid it altogether by taking the train.  But the train hasn't been operating southbound this summer, and so I resorted to riding Megabus down I-35 to Austin last week for a conference.  And "riding" took on a whole new meaning.

After departing the Grand Prairie station at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday and then making our scheduled stop in Dallas, we made an unscheduled stop between Georgetown and Round Rock at 4:20 p.m.  As all three lanes of the highway plus an exit lane began to fill up with red tail lights, Twitter revealed that there had been an accident two hours earlier in the northbound lanes.  As the news story was updated, we learned that an eighteen-wheeler had a blowout, hit the median, and dropped his load of one-ton steel beams in the southbound lanes; by the grace of God, no one was killed, but multiple people were injured.  And in order to bring in equipment to removed the beams that were dropped, the highway was shut down.

At 4:20 p.m., we knew that we would not make our 4:55 p.m. scheduled arrival in Austin, but passengers began predicting arrival times of 5:30 or 6.  When those times passed without moving more than a mile, we held out hope that surely we would start moving soon.  "Soon" did not come for more than five hours.  At one point, I texted a co-worker who was attending the same conference and asked if he would come and pick me up; he replied that there was no way for him to get to my bus.  I knew that, but I needed to hatch an escape plan because I was feeling trapped and claustrophobic, which I didn't know was possible on a bus with huge windows.  Other passengers devised plans of possibly walking to a restaurant to pick up food because we were surrounded by restaurants but had no way to drive to them.  An older lady, who reminded me of Betty White, kept talking about how many babies she thought had been born while we were stopped.

During the time we were stopped, I was so thankful that we had a bathroom on board, that I had packed food and water, and that I didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time (though I had hoped to eat dinner at a nice restaurant and get in bed early).  And I was so grateful that this had not occurred the previous week when Erin and I were in Austin. 

When we finally crept our way to the exit where everyone was supposed to exit, the highway patrol removed the barriers and opened up the southbound lanes; we were among the first vehicles to get to travel down the highway in five hours.  We sped to Austin, arriving around 10 p.m. 

In the aftermath, I gave thanks that none of the vehicles around us had run out of gas, that no one on the bus had lost his or her mind during the time we were trapped, and that God had sustained our bus driver who had been up since 3:30 a.m. and had to keep his foot on the accelerator and brake for way too long.

I was reminded during this trip that it is hard to deal with being stuck because it is often the result of circumstances that are beyond our control.  But I was able to see the Lord's hand even in the midst of this; He never left us. 

And on the return trip, He even showed off a little, reminding me that He keeps His promises.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Best Week of the Year

We celebrated my mom's August 23 birthday for most of last week, and it was pure joy. 

Earlier this year when my sister announced her due date, my mom commented that it was likely that Erin wouldn't make it to Texas this year.  That didn't settle well with Erin; she couldn't imagine going a whole year without coming back to her roots.  And so the idea for this birthday week celebration was born.

Erin blessed me by flying to DFW and making the road trip southbound 35 with me.  Our first stop was in West at the Czech Stop.  Who'd have thought that two girls would buy a dozen kolaches?!  There were just too many good choices that couldn't be refused.

Our second stop was in Waco.  My whole family is hooked on the new HGTV show Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, and so we couldn't resist stopping at Joanna's store Magnolia.  Although the shop is small, we found many things we liked and filled the backseat with our purchases.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat in Bastrop and managed to get home about seven hours after we started.  We visited for a bit before heading to Gruene to take Mom to a birthday dinner at the River House Tea Room.  Unfortunately, our picture frenzy was short-lived, and we failed to take pictures for several days.

We enjoyed a couple of low-key days at home--putting together a puzzle, taking walks, and going through our baby items in the cedar chest--and then spent Tuesday in San Marcos.  We found a few good deals at the outlet mall, but the memory-making event of the day was when we tried to find a new place to try for lunch.  We decided to try a place that had a couple of rave reviews.  I got a bad feeling right before we went in, but Mom and Erin thought it would be okay and forged ahead.  I thought they would back out once they saw that there were only three people (all at the same table)eating lunch.  Or that they would change their minds when they saw that the menu on the white erase board was almost illegible.  I opted for tea only and watched the train wreck unfold.  Mom and Erin could barely contain their laughter when their unappetizing lunches arrived.  Between the laughs, they tried to make it look like they had eaten some of the food, but I think they mostly pushed it around to rearrange it.  We paid and left within 30 minutes of having arrived and headed to The Root Cellar Café, where we enjoyed a delicious meal.  Tried and true won the day.

On Wednesday, Erin and I headed to Austin, and I had the pleasure of exposing her to South Congress Café's carrot cake French toast.  We got haircuts and shopped at Kendra Scott before meeting up with Mom and her friends in Martindale for another birthday celebration for her and an impromptu baby shower for Erin.  One of Mom's friends had made Erin a baby quilt and had added a special touch by incorporating something from my dad (his red tie) and my mom (a crocheted collar).

After breakfast on Thursday, Erin and I started the trip back.  We stopped and picked up a few more things at Magnolia and then did some shopping in Cowtown.  She wanted to take home some tortillas, so we stopped in at Central Market and ran into this guy:

He was there promoting Shark Tank and his favorite cookie, made by someone named Alyssa.

Friday was departure day, but Erin and I managed to squeeze in a walk, a little selfie session, and a yummy lunch at Ellerbe Fine Foods before she flew back.

To have some time off from work was refreshing, but to be able to spend that time with my family was a huge grace gift.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Perspective: Learning Limitations

I grew up wanting to make a 100 on every assignment, to rate as Superior on piano at Junior Festival, to be first chair on French horn, and to place first in every U.I.L. academic contest that I entered.  By the Lord's grace, many of those desires came to fruition, rewarding my perfectionist tendencies. 

In the years since I finished my formal education and wrapped up my participation in music competitions, I entered adult life with all its responsibilities.  And I quickly learned that there's not enough time for perfection.  Instead, some tasks just need to be completed.

But perfectionist tendencies die hard, as I was reminded when I took on a recent painting project.

With the intention of saving money, I set out to paint a headboard, a desk, and a filing cabinet, using white Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  My experience with painting is quite limited:  I put a coat of varnish on a chair in high school and have helped paint a couple of walls for friends.  And yet, I thought I'd do a perfect job on this project.

On July 4, I put a coat of paint on the headboard and the desk.  The headboard was already white, so the goal was only to give it a fresh coat of paint.  It dried nicely.  But as the paint on the desk dried, it buckled and crackled in a few places.  The next day, I called the store where I had purchased the paint and was informed that in a few cases, "Annie" doesn't like whatever coating is on a piece of furniture, and so "she" won't stick to it.  I was instructed to lightly sand the desk and to put a top coat on before re-applying the paint. 

As I noted in a previous post, the month of July flew by because I was gone most weekends on trips.  And so I didn't get back to the project until last weekend.  I followed the store clerk's instructions, only to have it crackle even more with the second coat.  The filing cabinet, which I put a top coat on before even attempting to paint, also didn't want to accept the paint.  It crackled as well, but not as badly as the desk.  I spoke to the clerk at the paint store again, and she advised sanding down the desk and completely starting over.

At that point, my perfectionist tendencies waved the white flag. I have no place at my apartment to completely sand down a desk, nor do I have the tools or know-how required for such a task.  I'm sure there are plenty of YouTube videos that could be watched.  But I will choose to spend my time differently.

And so I will give myself grace to know that the goal of having a white desk and a white filing cabinet have been met, at least for the most part.  But if you stop by, you may notice that each piece has quite a few "design elements," which make the furniture extra special.

Desk and cabinet before moving:

Desk and cabinet after moving: