{Dear Daughters} On being the first to crack

{Dear Daughters} On being the first to crack

Years ago not long after moving to Memphis, we met a new couple in our small group. They asked us over for dinner and that night while she was finishing up the meal she pulled the strangest contraption from her drawer. I had never seen anything like it, so I asked her what it was. She told me it was an avocado slicer. While she raved about this little invention, I jokingly gave her a hard time about how truly “difficult” it was to cut an avocado with just a knife. We laughed together and moved on to dinner with our men. But I would never look at an avocado again without thinking of her.

It would only be a short while later that we would both enter the darkest season of our lives to date. I remember vividly sitting on my guest bed (back when we actually had a guest bed) and talking to her on the phone. In between tears and some needed silence, we cracked. We said the hard, vulnerable words about what we were facing. Our situations were very different, but our pain was shared. We walked through those days together and many, many more. She now lives several states away, but we text daily and talk on the phone several times a week–usually with loud kids in the background. And every year Jess and I save our pennies and get on a plane (where I usually end up needing the little white baggie and poor Jess has to order ginger ale for me), so we can fly to the sunshine state and the three of us can sit around the same table and talk about nothing and everything and then some more.

What started with an avocado slicer became one of the greatest gifts of my adult life. But someone had to crack. Someone had to say the hard, vulnerable words. Someone had to listen. And someone had to return vulnerability with her own hard, vulnerable words. This is how true friendship goes.

It’s scary–a bit like walking into that junior high dance where boys are on one wall and girls on the other and you just want to go home and put on your pjs and watch Full House. But walk over to that wall of girls. Look for the one who makes eye contact with you but looks equally scared. Remember that the ones who look like they have it all together are broken too. We all are. Don’t even pretend like you have it all together. That just delays real friendship. Go ahead and let your guard down. Sometimes it will be a bust. You will have a nice conversation, but it might not be a forever friendship type thing. That’s ok. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep being willing to crack. Because eventually you’ll find your avocado slicers. And you’ll have found that rare and treasured gift of true friendship.

 

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{Dear Daughters} Let’s talk about friends because you know how girls can be.

{Dear Daughters} Let’s talk about friends because you know how girls can be.

Dear Daughters,

I want to talk about friendship, not the hey-we’re-Facebook-friends kind, but the real kind. You will have friends in childhood. (And if you’re really lucky you’ll keep a couple of those into adulthood.) You will go to each other’s birthday parties and put your mother’s makeup on together. You will compare loose teeth and talk about how annoying siblings can be. You will learn the fun of experiencing life together.

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You will have friends as a teenager, although the emotions will go through the roof. Sometimes you will feel like you’ve hit the friend jackpot, and sometimes you will feel alone. You will navigate the cafeteria politics, and you will realize some friends are headed down a dangerous path. You will see friends on their best days and on their worst days, and you will realize friendship is hard.

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You will have friends in your 20s when you’re all trying to figure out who you are and what you’re doing. (The answer: arrogant and trying to prove yourself.) (At least that was my answer. Maybe you’ll be ahead of me.)  You will try to amass friends like there is a shortage because you need connections! Opportunities! To know the right people! You will have a blast trying out new restaurants and staying up late. (Because–hello! You can sleep ’til noon the next day!) But the next day you will wonder if you said the right thing, were funny enough, and looked the right way. You’ll look at the selfies in your phone and critique your hair, your oily skin, your arm that you should have held away from your body a little bit so it looked thinner.

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And then toward the end of your 20s you’ll hopefully find your people. There’s a good chance you will find them on your darkest days. Or maybe find out they’ve been there for a while, but you just didn’t know they were your people. They will leave boxes of pastries on your doorstep when your heart is broken. They will call and listen and cry with you and two hours later you will finally hang up. They will let you see their dark day, their ugly parts, their true self. And you will muster up the courage to show them yours. And you will be loved. And then you will know you’ve found your people.

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You will travel hundreds of miles to see them when life puts you in different cities. You will call and text and send pictures daily. You will have inside jokes, TMI confessions, and you will make them promise to delete your text message thread should you die. (Because no one else needs to know you blamed that smell on your newborn baby when you knew good and well it wasn’t her.) You will carve out time and write birthday cards and cheer them on. Your heart will break when they hurt. You will walk through hard days together. You will cook meals for each other and take care of each other’s children. You will swap recipes and pep talks and acne + wrinkle creams. (Because, sweet girls, it is possible to need both at the same time!) You will laugh and cry together. And you will pray and thank God a million times for your people.

Oh, and you will eat. 😉

Pictures are from a trip a couple weeks ago to Tampa with two of my people. (Because one of my people had to move back home to Florida three years ago, a move I’m still mourning.) Two hour meals, fresh seafood, palm trees, and sleeping in. Bliss. But we’re back home and knee deep in laundry and homework and crushed Goldfish crackers so we’re more like this now. . .

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Dear daughters, when you find your people, hold on to them. Love them well. Be real. Be vulnerable. And when it’s been too long since you’ve all been around a table, fly or text or call or do whatever it takes to make that happen. These will be some of the best moments of your life.

Friendship, Chicken Pot Pie & Inevitable Messes

Friendship, Chicken Pot Pie & Inevitable Messes

photo (63)So this happened yesterday. That’s a freshly baked chicken pot pie that had an unfortunate meeting with the floor. It turns out disposable pie pans are not very sturdy. I cried. The girls both grabbed forks. After my tears subsided, I laughed at the fact that my girls aren’t too proud to eat chicken pot pie off the floor. Of course they aren’t. They eat chicken off the floor at Chick-fil-A all the time. (Disgusting, I know. I try to stop them, but they’re fast I tell you.) The worst part was the chicken pot pie wasn’t even for us. It was for a family I only knew through mutual friends. I texted a pic of the disaster to the momma I would soon meet and told her I was working on a Plan B.

We ended up taking their family the chicken and rice soup I had made for us to eat. When we piled out of the van at their house, I went up to the door with my humble dinner offering and a slightly embarrassed heart. We walked through the front door, and I saw a Lindsay Letters canvas with a quote from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine hanging on the wall, and I knew this was a divine meeting orchestrated by God despite any pot pie fiascoes. I think Shauna said it perfectly, “This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…” Within minutes, my heart had attached to this fellow momma, our journeys both having so much in common. She introduced me to her four daughters, one of whom they adopted from China a year ago. We laughed and even teared up a couple times. We shared adoption stories and homeschooling stories and several only-God stories.

After I left her house, I got in the car and saw a text from Liz telling me to bring the girls over since we were already in her neighborhood. So, we stopped by intending to only stay a minute. One of my kids wasn’t even wearing shoes, and Liz was in the middle of folding laundry. But the kids ran around like banshees, giddy to be with their best friends. And pretty soon Liz and I were throwing biscuits in the oven and pushing eggs and sausage around on the stove. Friendship is a messy, beautiful gift.

Chicken Pot Pie

from Matt’s sweet step-mom Jan

  • 1 chicken boiled and shredded or 4 chicken breasts boiled and shredded (Or use the meat from one rotisserie chicken to save time!)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (you can find an organic version on the natural food aisle if you’re interested!)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 can of peas and carrots, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (use a little more if you use the organic version of cream of chicken soup because it isn’t as salty)
  • Good dash of pepper
  • 2 pie crusts (store-bought or homemade, whichever you prefer!)

Saute the onion in the stick of butter. Mix shredded and cooked chicken, onion, cream of chicken soup, peas and carrots, sour cream, salt, and pepper together. Line a pie plate with one of the crusts and lightly brown crust in the oven. Pour chicken mixture into lightly browned crust. Top with the other crust and seal the edges. Make slits in the top crust to let the steam escape. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the top crust is lightly browned. Then, allow it to rest for 30-45 minutes so the inside has time to set.

I’m going to have to recommend you NOT use a disposable pie pan. But if your pot pie should end up on the floor, grab a fork and remember Shauna’s advice, “Tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six…throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…” And maybe a few residual tears.

 

Thoughts After A Meltdown

Thoughts After A Meltdown

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI had a bit of a meltdown yesterday. And since the meltdown began Monday that probably means it was more than a “bit” of one. It’s the heat and the seven months pregnant and the brokenness in people I love. And it’s Matt’s car deciding not to start which pushed our buying a van up a few weeks, and this planner still gets her panties in a wad when her plan gets messed with. And the firecracker who was fiercely independent at one is about to turn two and is bringing new meaning to the word “independent.”

I texted my bestie yesterday and told her that for two-year-old birthday parties I think it’s the parents who should get the gifts instead–things like pedicures and date nights and maybe a mild sedative. I know now why God gave her those honey curls and big blue eyes. He knew I would be spitting mad, take one look at her, and that Shirley Temple curl falling right down the middle of her forehead would get me every time.

After a good cry and a long trek on the Greenway this morning, I’m feeling better. The spinach and artichoke hummus I found at Costco last weekend didn’t hurt either. I was really craving a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing from Kimmie, but since she lives three hours away and I have my gestational diabetes test tomorrow I’m sticking with the hummus.

I was never an outdoorsy person until I started running last year, and then I realized how healing the outdoors can be. It’s the magical sunlight coming through the canopy of trees and the way dewdrops hang on a spider web. It’s the sound of mockingbirds and cicadas singing their songs, and it’s the sound of nothing at all. No IG pic showing me all the junk in the pumpkin spice latte I’ve been looking forward to for ten months. (Sometimes oblivion is bliss, people.) No Baby Center pregnancy reminder saying that I should be “resting now to prepare for baby.” They should really create a new set of weekly reminders for parents who already have kids with reminders like, “Breathe. And don’t kill anyone today.” “Yes, raisins and Goldfish definitely count for a well-rounded meal.” And “Get a pumpkin spice latte for crying out loud. They cost like four bucks a piece, so you’ll only get two, maybe three, all season anyway. Enjoy every last drop of that caramel color and preservatives.” I really think those would go over well, Baby Center people.

Usually my girls fall asleep somewhere around mile three. That didn’t happen today, but the outdoors must work on them too. A couple miles in after we had identified a few birds using their new bird guide “toy” from Chick-fil-A and after I showed Lydia a dead cicada and she freaked out, they quieted too. And for just a little while I soaked all that quiet in, letting it reset my heart and dry my tears.

These roles of wife and mom, friend and confidante–they aren’t easy. They tear you apart and give you gray hair. They keep you up at night and make you cry. But just like it takes dirt to give us forests and sand to give us beaches, it takes the grit and grime of life to give us the greatest gift of all–the kind of hard-fought love that creates beauty in friendship, strength in marriage, and perseverance in motherhood.

When You Don’t Know What to Say

When You Don’t Know What to Say

photo (56)If I’m being honest, writing has been very hard recently. Maybe it’s the heat or the sheer exhaustion from the second half of pregnancy. But really I think it’s that I have several people I love whose hearts are smashed wide open right now. And my heart is broken for them. I shared with Matt the other night that I just feel so inadequate. I’m at a loss for what to say or what to do to help them. A simple meal and my scribbled out prayers seem so vastly insufficient to the depth of pain they are swimming through right now.

Yesterday, we were at the zoo, and the otters weren’t in the water like they normally are. It was an overcast day, and they were all nestled together in the basin of a bed of rocks, heads flopped on top of one another making it difficult to tell where one otter ended and another began. That’s what I wish I could do with my hurting friends. I wish I could tuck them in to a safe place where they didn’t feel alone or rejected or broken. I wish I could snuggle them in and give them a long nap, the peaceful sleep that’s been evasive recently. I wish they could feel surrounded until the intense loneliness subsides.

I wish I could say or do something that would make them feel all better, but I can’t. The best I can offer is a safe place to share a broken heart, a warm meal to replace an empty fridge, and the fervent prayers of a soul who knows God is faithful even when the days seem as dark as a moonless night. If you are hurting today, please reach out to someone. Please forgive those someones if we say or do the wrong thing because we probably will. But know that we love you, and we are working hard to carve a little nook in the rocks so you can have a safe place to rest your broken heart.

Love Language

Love Language

photo (45)If you thought this was going to be a post about marriage and communication and deep, important things like that I’m afraid you might be disappointed. Really, it’s about pizza. Last night most of the girls from my beloved Bible study gathered around the table to say goodbye to Lisa as she prepares to move back to Texas in a couple weeks. Three-and-a-half hours later, we were still around the table, a table now littered with empty plates and a few crumbs of chocolate cake. We had originally planned to make it a Mexican affair with Cinco de Mayo and all, but we weren’t sure about crowds and impatient servers. So, we switched to Old Venice Pizza Company. Pizza. My love language. I had the Daddy Crawdaddy pizza which has cream cheese, mozzarella and crawfish so really there’s no way to go wrong in my book. We ate pizza and breadsticks and chocolate cake and laughed so much I had to wipe the tears from my eyes with my napkin. We are an eclectic group, our little Bible study. All moms, some having been mom for years, others for only six weeks. We love talking and eating and laughing and we especially like to do all three at the same time. We don’t always stay on topic, and we don’t have a problem speaking our minds. We are always late and usually breaking some rule. But that group of girls has shown me love and community and sisterhood in a new way. We won’t be the same without Lisa. That’s what I love about a really great group of girls. Each girl adds something unique. And Lisa definitely adds something special. I’ll always remember last night and hours around the table eating pizza and chocolate cake and laughing. And waking up the next morning knowing what we had was something truly special.

I take my love language seriously, and I’ve done extensive research in the field. As soon as we get to Rosemary Beach, I want to stop by Bruno’s and get their Ultimate Veggie to go. I could eat Memphis Pizza Cafe’s Greek pizza every day, and Trolley Stop Market’s Margharita pizza is loaded with fresh mozzarella and big chunks of tomato and basil. And Aldo’s vodka cream pie–spicy and creamy–yes, Memphis has some good pizza. And I don’t know how many pieces of Lou Malnati’s Chicago Classic we ate the week we spent in the Windy City for Matt’s 30th birthday, but that pizza lived up to all the hype. We love to make pizza at home too. My favorite crust is Ina Garten’s from her White Pizza recipe. That white pizza is amazing, but the crust works for any type of pizza. It is easy and only has to rise for 30 minutes. A couple things–I split the batch into two balls and make two pizzas instead of six individual pizzas and the temperature is crucial. Bake at no less than 475 or the crust won’t be crispy like it should be.

Now, what to put on top. We love BBQ chicken pizza. Throw some chicken and water in a crock pot until it shreds easily. Add some BBQ sauce to it. Stretch out your crust on the pizza stone. Smear a thin layer of BBQ sauce on top. Layer on the BBQ chicken, fresh mozzarella and diced red onion. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top and bake. Or a summer favorite is Bruschetta pizza. Stretch out your crust and sprinkle salt and red pepper flakes on top. Smear a thin layer of pesto on top. Layer fresh diced tomatoes (try and get as much water out of the tomatoes with a towel first) and feta cheese on top. It’s a great way to use summer tomatoes and basil. The white pizza is a winner too. When I make Ina Garten’s white pizza, I use feta, mozzarella and goat cheese and leave off the arugula. I prefer my salad on the side.

Matt and I joke that my love language is pizza, but really it’s what pizza represents to me. It’s one of those foods that puts people at ease. You can eat it with your hands and get messy. You can make it yours with a limitless combination of toppings. My favorite people are the same–comfortable in their own skin, not afraid to get messy and okay being unique. I love the pizza, but really I love the people sitting around the table with me.

To my Bible study girls, you are all of those things. What we have is something special.

And to Lisa, thank you for the fashion advice, that pink champagne cake, the running tips and all the laughs about certain “running ailments.” Thank you for making every Wednesday a little more fun and for never being afraid to say what you think. Texas is lucky to have you coming home, and we’ll be heading out for a road trip and that Cinco de Mayo Mexican food we missed very soon. We love you, and we’ll miss you like crazy!

 

 

A Letter to Sutton

A Letter to Sutton

Dear Sutton,

Today you took your first breath, and you met you first hero. Of course, you already know her because she has carried you for nine months–your mom. I have known your mom for two decades, but to know her now is to know a hero. A warrior. Sutton, most moms would have given up before now. Having been through a fraction of the pain and loss your mom has, they would have surrendered to the fear. But not your mom. She’s a hero. A warrior.

She continues to put her heart out there, a heart that has been gingerly pieced back together, pieces that are held together with a special brand of Scotch tape. She is a wounded warrior, but I think those are the bravest of all. For they know not to take victory for granted. They have seen the other side but choose to fight another day anyway. She is a hero, and now that you’ve looked into her eyes I know you’ve seen it too. Sutton, you are a miracle, but you’re a miracle in the arms of a hero. A woman who would not give up believing, praying and begging the Lord to give her a child to hold. He has heard her cry, and as He was through every loss and every dark day, He is faithful.

Sutton, you and your big sister are so blessed. For every day you get to do life with a warrior. She isn’t perfect. No mommy is. But she is brave. The bravest kind of mom I know. And if you watch her she will show you how to be a warrior. How to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. How to believe and hope when your heart is smashed. How to hold on to the Faithful One during the darkest of days. How to be brave.

If you’re holding on today to a desperate prayer, don’t give up. You aren’t alone. And God is always faithful. In the dark days where hope seems far away and on days like today–when a million prayers are answered in the single sound of a baby’s first cry. Happy birthday, Sutton. I pray you’ll be a brave warrior who dares to believe that with God nothing is impossible. Just like your mom.