Dear Summer

Dear Summer

IMG_6016Summer, you’re almost over, and you looked nothing like I thought you would. I imagined lazy mornings and naps in the afternoon. (Apparently, I was very tired come May. Apparently, I was also very delusional–lazy morning AND naps. Yeah, I’m not sure where I got such grandiose ideas.) Those things didn’t happen. Instead the summer sprinted along like one big run-on sentence. When I try to see the whole, it still looks like a big blur–like someone accidentally put her finger over the lens when she snapped the shutter. But when I slow it down and look frame by frame, I see life. I see laughter. I see adventure. I see beauty. Singing Amazing Grace to our Peach during the middle of the night at a hospital in Mobile, Alabama. My sweaty pacing around the kitchen island while my hands shook as I first heard about our baby girl. Pajama trips to Sonic. Water fights in the backyard and Lottie sneaking up on me. Sushi couch dates every Friday night while rewatching old episodes of West Wing. An acute case of pimento cheese cravings. (I blame the adoption.) Smiling at my big girl across the table at Swanky’s while realizing she’s becoming a young lady and that I truly enjoy her company–not just because she’s my daughter but because she’s a fun, intelligent, engaging person. Eating an oreo cake that is the stuff of dreams with girlfriends and eating pounds and pounds of sun-sweet peaches. Road trips and too many FedEx trips to count. Watching miracles happen and the honor of walking with friends through intense grief. Frame by frame, I play the movie of this summer back, and I smile. There were so many tears packed into these couple of months–the joy-filled kind and the gut-wrenching kind. But I can see the beauty in it all. Summer, you looked nothing like I expected. And you remind me (once again) to let go of my expectations and surrender to the adventure. I’m finding this life is richer, fuller, lovelier when I have open hands and an open heart. That’s a lot for a recovering control-freak to process, but God’s been at work on my heart.

A few weeks ago I finished the sweetest of fiction books, and I emailed myself this quote from it, “This was a girl who sought in every way she could to make the world beautiful, to give comfort when it was least expected and joy where it was most needed.” Isn’t that just the most lovely thing to be said of a person? I am surrounded by people just like that, and my tribe has been especially strong this summer. I know that we could focus all our time and attention on what’s wrong with this world, and certainly I believe it’s our calling to stand up for injustice and do something about it. But in all that standing, we must remember that beauty and pain can exist together. We can spend all our time ranting and raving or we can choose to make the world beautiful. To give comfort when least expected and joy where most needed. Summer, you’ve taught me much.

 

*The book quoted is The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriani Trigiani.

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

We spent the weekend in New Orleans for Matt’s step-mom’s family reunion. The girls loved getting to see their Doc and GranJan and all their cousins, and we had so much fun exploring and eating lots of Cajun food. Matt and I love New Orleans. When we got engaged, we wanted a destination wedding that felt like a vacation for our guests but still wanted somewhere that our grandparents could easily get to. Since New Orleans is only three hours south of Jackson, we both grew up going there often for family trips, and it’s a festive city so it seemed like a fun place for a wedding. Two months before our wedding, Katrina tore through New Orleans devastating the city. My daddy was stationed with the emergency response team right outside of New Orleans, and I remember him calling and saying, “Liss, it’s time to find a Plan B. It’s really bad down here.”

With no electricity, scarce gasoline, very little cell phone coverage and only eight weeks to go, we started making plans to move our wedding from NOLA to Jackson. It ended up being just perfect for us, but we still have a special place in our hearts for the Crescent City. We’ve taken the girls back a few times. Lottie’s first trip she was not even two months old yet, but I snuggled her in the Baby Bjorn and we trekked all over the city. This time the temperature was a bit warmer, but that didn’t stop us from going all over and leaving our mark–quite literally as eating out with littles tends to go–throughout NOLA. Thank you, Doc and GranJan for a fun weekend.

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Fourth, Fireworks and Fun

Fourth, Fireworks and Fun

Have I mentioned I love summer? Nothing is more summer than the Fourth of July, and we made it a weekend to remember. Thursday night, we watched fireworks with friends. The girls loved dancing to the music with their glow sticks. Lottie’s dancing is something truly special.

Friday morning we ate breakfast outside enjoying the most beautiful weather July has ever seen in Memphis. We spent a few hours at the pool which combined with the late night fireworks the night before resulted in a four-hour nap for both girls. Which meant Matt and I got to watch an entire movie together. Aren’t nap times spectacular? While we were sitting on the couch watching the movie, the baby was kicking like crazy, and Matt got to feel baby kick for the first time. We’re both thinking this baby is a girl, but Matt hasn’t had “the dream” yet like he did with Lydia and Charlotte, so we’ll see. Only 19 more weeks to go!

Friday night we grilled out. I wanted to make something different, and I saw this recipe on Pinterest for White BBQ chicken. The first time I had white BBQ sauce was at Cypress Inn in Tuscaloosa, and this recipe reminds me of that. It’s hard to find BBQ sauce that doesn’t have tons of sugar or preservatives. This recipe has none of either. It’s tangy, spicy and super yummy! We also grilled zucchini and corn. Lydia ate her corn cob and finished off everyone else’s too. After a Saturday morning run through all the fireworks wreckage, we took the kids to the zoo to enjoy the beautiful day and a picnic lunch Lydia had been asking for. Charlotte even got a kiss through the glass from Teva the sea lion.

The best part of the weekend–date night. We went to Babalu, a 601 creation that recently opened up in Overton Square. They had me at the guacamole made table-side. Everything was fresh and delicious, and I Love Lucy was playing on the wall like artwork. Mamaw and I used to watch I Love Lucy marathons while we would shell peas or snap beans in the summer, and I would glance up every now and then and laugh because I could remember exactly what happened in that episode. After dinner, Matt and I went to Levitt Shell for an outdoor concert. Apparently, Elvis played his first paid concert at the Levitt Shell on July 5, 1954, so the music celebrated 60 years of rock and roll. We had a great time talking and listening and definitely people-watching. (Twilight meets Animal Kingdom, right, Matt ;)) Memphis has so many fun–and often free–things to do. I love this city we call home.

I’m grateful for freedom, the freedom that comes from being an American and the freedom that comes from being a child of God. Thank you to the men and women who sacrifice so much to give me freedom and to my Savior who sacrificed everything so I could be free.
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Salty Memories

Salty Memories

We drove back to Memphis this weekend with a gallon of seashells, a smattering of freckles and a million salty memories. Lydia, I’ll remember you with your little pink floatie around your waist saying, “Let’s get in the waves!” over and over. I’ll remember you boogie-boarding for the first time and all the bowls of homemade ice cream you enjoyed. Charlotte, I’ll remember your blonde curls curlier than ever thanks to the ocean’s humidity and your fearless attempts to go swimming “on your own.” Matt, I’ll remember our little walk to dinner for date night and seeing the “Hot Now” sign on at Krispy Kreme which we couldn’t resist. I’ll remember Gracie and Kayla and Carlie painting our girls’ toenails and our searches for spiral seashells. I’ll remember the boiled shrimp and fried calamari Pops cooked for us and Didi’s blueberry pie with four candles in it for Lyd to blow out. I’ll remember thinking a million times thank you, God, for these salty memories with my favorites.

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‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

girls and their treeAs far as food is concerned, this time of year is like none other.  The other day I ate raspberry chipotle sauce over cream cheese and crackers for lunch. To up the nutritional content of that well-balanced meal, I ate the last of the Harry & David pears Matt’s dad and step-mom sent us. I had saved the gold-foil-wrapped pear for last, and with each bite juice ran down my chin like eating a popsicle when it’s 100 degrees outside. A couple nights ago at Bunco my dear friend Jess made the most amazing apple cake with cream cheese icing. The cake was still warm from the oven and the icing was equal parts tangy and sweet. Perfect. And then there’s peppermint everything. Matt and I have a thing for minty desserts. When we first moved to Memphis, we went to Sheridan’s every night for an entire week to get a Grasshopper, vanilla custard mixed with mint and crushed Oreos. Since the first Christmas after Lydi was born, we’ve been making peppermint bark together. Lyd loves to crush the candy canes and lick the bowl after the melted white chocolate has been poured out. Matt and Lottie just love to eat the finished product.

Such a rich season, lights twinkling everywhere, the scent of cinnamon lacing the air and cream cheese and butter in, well, almost everything. Gratefully, this year we’ve managed to say no to a lot of good things. No to Pinterest. No to that overachieving elf. No to a billion parties. There’s nothing wrong with those things. They just didn’t make our list this year. Because of saying no to all those things, our pace this season has been a lot slower than previous years. Which has been lovely and terrifying. Sometimes I think I do my best to stay blurringly busy so I don’t have to truly face what my heart is feeling. With the cold temps we’ve been having, we’ve spent lots of time snuggled inside, lots of dance parties to Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder Christmas songs, lots of late night Christmas movies with my hubby and lots of time saying thank you. Ann Voskamp’s reminder rings through my ears like a thousand jingle bells, “When we have an agenda for God, we can’t see the gifts of God.”

This Advent season has held some pain as all waiting does, but I’m grateful for Voskamp’s reminder. I don’t want to miss the gifts, abundant and lavish, that surround me. The smell of evergreen and Ivory soap as we flock our tree. Two little girls in fleecy footy pajamas going to look at Christmas lights. The curve of our oak Advent wreath and candlelight reflecting in their eyes as Matt reads our Advent story each night. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and watching The Polar Express as ice glitters our trees outside. Tacky Christmas sweaters and laughing with girlfriends. A trip to Target with our small group to shop for Christmas in a Red Bag and gushing over tiny baby clothes as one of our couples prepares to welcome their long-awaited son.

I may be waiting. My heart may be aching and longing, but I wait with hope. Because when I stop and look around me, I see the rich and lavish gifts of a God who loves me dearly. I see a million whispers of His faithfulness, a thousand reminders that He is Emmanuel, that He has come to us. I want to treasure these moments and Christmas memories, these decadent tastes and rambunctious dances, these mistletoe kisses and little candy-cane-sticky hands. These gifts, rich and lavish, that surround me.

That Night

That Night

weddingIt was a perfect fall night. The air was laced with a chill and everywhere bubbles floated around us, like swimming in a champagne glass. He grabbed my hand and I twisted the smooth band around his finger, smiling at the shiny reminder of our new journey. Once in the car, we were cocooned in a swarm of white wedding tulle. With one hand we waved goodbye to family and friends and with the other we gripped a mass of white balloons. We looked at each other, hit the gas and let the creamy orbs soar dotting the inky sky like pearls on black velvet.

It was late as we pulled up to the beautiful Fairview Inn where we were spending the night. My sweet friend Kirsten worked at the inn, and she had worked her magic to get us the Spanish Suite where the queen of Spain had stayed when she was in town for the Majesty of Spain exhibition. We opened the door into a room cast in a golden glow. Buttery walls, a gilded canopy bed laden with layers of feathery down and fine linens, the bathroom clad with marble and stacks of fluffy towels. We collapsed onto the bed fit for Midas himself. With all the excitement of the night, all the dances to dance and necks to hug, we had barely eaten anything except a couple scrumptious bites of chocolate cake with raspberry filling and a few extra licks of buttercream icing. By then it was nearly midnight and we were famished.

We went back out to the car and dug around in the trunk searching for the basket of reception food we were supposed to have, but it wasn’t there. And that’s how we ended up back in the convertible at midnight driving the sleepy streets of downtown in search of late night munchies. A few minutes later we spotted it, not wedding bells but Taco Bell. We winked at each other, laughing because, of course, we would end up at Taco Bell on our wedding night and pulled in the drive-thru. A few minutes later with a Grande Meal, five crunchy tacos for him, five soft for me, a pile of Fire sauce packets and two gigantic fizzy sodas in hand, we made the short drive back, piled onto the gilded canopy bed and gleefully devoured every last bite.

We didn’t know then how fitting that memory would be, a humorous allegory for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, suite fit for a queen or Taco Bell Grande Meal, to love and to cherish all the days of our life.

There are so many things about that night I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the way he looked in his tux or the smile and the tears when he locked eyes with me down the aisle. I’ll never forget my squeals in the back room after walking down the aisle as husband and wife or the way my cheeks hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ll never forget our first dance to Frank Sinatra when he sang every word in my ear like a secret promise for our future or the rowdy rendition of Sweet Home Alabama with our college friends. I’ll never forget driving off under a canopy of twinkling stars with toilet paper streamers fluttering behind us and my hand laced with his. And I’ll never forget the ten-dollar box of tacos on the day you and me became us.

Yesterday, today and every day, I choose you, Matthew Hudson Roberts, to love and to cherish all the days of my life.

On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

IMG_6037This past weekend, we embarked on a little road trip to Sweet Home Alabama to visit my Mamaw and meet our new niece. Fueled by iced coffee and the Love Does book on audio (me being the audio), we made the trek to Leeds, Alabama, a small town just north of Birmingham. My grandparents have lived in the house my Papaw built since the day they were married, and my mom spent her entire childhood in this home. My Papaw went to be with Jesus almost five years ago, but his fingerprints are all over this home and this land.

So many of my childhood memories are on that farm. The golden sun breaking through the blinds, the smell of sausage and biscuits wafting from the kitchen, the sound of the train rumbling across the tracks just over the highway. Mornings spent in the garden where I would play underneath the trees bursting with apples, pears and figs. And where I secretly wondered how that odd looking fruit came to resemble the Fig Newtons Papaw would keep in the pantry for an afternoon treat.

After Mamaw finished picking the ripe vegetables, we would head inside. Some days we shelled peas. Some days we snapped beans. But whenever we were done, I would assemble my grocery store on the wooden table in the dining room. I would drag out Papaw’s old scale and separate everything into baskets. The plump eggplants were my favorite, weighty with waxy skin the color of a moonless night. Once I had everything just right, I would invite Mamaw to come shop at my grocery store. As she made her selections, I tallied up her total on a yellow notepad. A few years ago, we came across a small stack of these now-wrinkled and faded receipts. She had kept them all those years.

In the late afternoon, I would go out to the pasture with Papaw to check on the cows. I loved sitting on the tractor with him and hearing all his stories about his beloved bovine friends. He would tell me how each one came to the farm, its age and its personality. He would tell me about the bull too and how he had to be careful with that one. We would ride past the salt lick (which I know from experience is quite salty) and make sure the cows had plenty of fresh water. Papaw used an old bath tub for their water trough. I would run around the pasture while the water ran, Papaw warning me to watch out for “fresh patties” and to never ever touch the electric fence. Even though I knew he’d already checked it a half dozen times to be sure it was off.

At night Mamaw and I would make lemon ice box pies, two at a time, and watch I Love Lucy marathons. And I would always sneak out to the back porch where Papaw would be reading his Bible. Every Christmas he had only one request, a new Bible. Because his one from the previous year would no longer be attached to the binding and the pages would be falling out from being read so often.

And every time I had to leave to go home, they would stand on that porch and wave goodbye. They tried to cover their tears, but I knew they were there. I didn’t even try to cover mine. I would look out the back window down the long driveway, waving one last time and at the top of the hill we would enter the highway, giving a little honk and a last goodbye.

My Papaw went to be with Jesus November 2008. A few months later on January 17th, his birthday, the first one he wouldn’t be here to celebrate, I found out I was pregnant. That baby would join him in heaven a month later and then another baby would join them both later that summer. But as I watched Lydia running and Charlotte crawling on the lawn in front of that porch, I smiled. The same patch of grass my Papaw once mowed. The same patch of grass my mom played in as a child and then me and my siblings a few decades later. And now my two girls enjoying the magic of that farm, lost in the sweet smell of country air and a lifetime of treasured memories.