3.07.2015

>> grandma



I saw an elderly lady in Walmart yesterday whose shoulder-length white hair was pulled back with a thin clip, and for whatever reason I was reminded of my grandma and how she might have worn something like that in her hair. 

My mind went on a tailspin of memories about her, flashing one after another like a fast-moving slideshow. I saw her thin frame, apron-clad, standing over the sink. I saw me as a child, drawing one crayon masterpiece after another on scrap pieces of whatever paper I could get my hands on then proudly presenting to her in exhausting fashion. 

I saw her humble abode--a trailer with furry rust-colored, matted down carpet in the bedrooms (which were mostly off limits), a rusty white iron porch on the front and a wooden porch on the back. I loved playing house on the iron steps.

I saw her bookcase stuffed with encyclopedias full of humans' skeletal and muscular diagrams that fascinated me to no end. 

I saw her pretty vintage dresses. Midi length, thinning cotton, floral print, most feminine little things you've ever seen. 

All these vivid memories of my childhood led to me to dream about my Grandma last night. In my dream, it was just she and I. I took care of her in her trailer house. I washed her beautiful vintage dresses and took special notice of all the details in them. We laughed and we hugged.

Then one day, my duties were officially over. I wasn't expected to go back and see her, but I did. She sat frail as a flower in a wheelchair and when I showed up at her door, she smiled. She told me I didn't have to come but she was glad I did. We laughed and hugged and I washed her dresses for her. She told me she had peace.

It's amazing to me that I had this dream. My grandma has been in Heaven for 9 years. I don't often think of her and mourn, but when I think back to being a small child and the memories I have of being around her, that time is so vivid and alive. I remember smells and textures and expressions--little things that haven't faded away with time. It's as if I walked around her home back then with eyes wide open, enthralled and romanced. 

This morning I'm left thinking about my grandma and how she was and is so much more than my limited childhood memory of her. She was once a young girl with dreams and secrets. She was a wife, mother and daughter of the King. She was so much more complex than the simple memory I have of her.

I can't wait to sit down next to her one day and just chat. 

2.16.2015

>> valentine's day


This year's Valentine's Day was a little bit more meaningful than years past. Since it fell on a Saturday, we had the opportunity to make a day of it instead of just settling for a nice dinner out after work. The day was also beautiful, sunny with highs near 60. So we took a spontaneous road trip to the little college town where our story began.



We swapped out a romantic candlelit dinner for a greasy burger because it's a time-honored tradition of us to eat at CJ's every time we go through Russellville. We love the 50's retro diner decor complete with a jukebox and sparkly red vinyl chairs that give this place so much charm.

After a late lunch, we drove out to Mt. Nebo, the lookout point with insanely gorgeous views where Leslie proposed to me over 10 years ago.




We sat on the exact same rock where he got down on one knee and just took in the peaceful beauty. In my heart, I thanked God for bringing us to this point in our life and marriage. I told Leslie I'm so thankful we made it through the hard stuff and he agreed. It was simple, yet so sweet. 

Our trip down memory lane continued with a drive around the old familiar town. We even stopped in Kroger (because we don't have those here in Walmart land) and Hastings (possibly the last one left on earth??). We ordered the infamous Orange Cream Dream shake from the Hastings cafe and talked about how the place was the exact same as it was a decade ago. We topped the night off with a quick stop in Goodwill (because I'm an addict) then drove home, reveling in a day filled with simple romance that was so very special because it was a day built around reliving memories and just being together.


1.24.2015

>> blessings in disguise

This morning I was on my way out the door to hit up a thrift store before meeting a friend for coffee, when it hit me that I had not done my morning devotional yet. Knowing I had plenty of time before I had to be anywhere, I didn't hesitate to sit down and open up my Jesus Calling devotional to see what the day had to say.

As is a common thread throughout this devotional, the peace of Jesus was the subject for the day. As I read the words on the page, I stopped and re-read this sentence several times in a row:

"Thank Me when things do not go your way, because spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials."

The beauty of those words just struck me. Blessings in disguise.

I immediately thought about my current ongoing trial, which is infertility. It's a subject I haven't touched on in a while on my blog, yet it is always in the back of my mind. And although it has never stolen my joy, it has, at times, made me feel sadness from the depths of my soul that I can only describe as the feeling of loss over something you've never had.

One of the verses that coincided with today's devotional was James 1:2. (I'm also including verse 3.)

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."

I sat and took in the words. I thought about the fact that I have a trial in my life. I thought about how so many times in the past 4 1/2 years I've viewed infertility as a curse of sorts, a robbery of a blessing I felt I deserved. I've thought of it as a test of patience. But not often have I thought of infertility as a blessing. Not often have I thanked God for it.

But this morning I did. With a sincere heart, I thanked God that Leslie and I have not had a baby yet because we are growing spiritually through this, and our story is being written in a way that will allow us to minister to others.

Days like this are good days and are more frequent than few here lately. I truly see this road we're on as God-given, and the beauty of being in His will is undeniable. I still greatly desire to be a mommy, and I will still be sad every month that it doesn't happen. But I will always pick myself up and place myself back in His arms, having faith in His sovereign will.

For anyone reading this that might be struggling with infertility, I want to share a song that has great meaning to me. It's called Sovereign Over Us by Michael W. Smith. Sometimes I pull the lyrics video up on YouTube and just revel in the truth that God KNOWS and He is working for our good. What the enemy means for evil and defeat, God works it for our good. We just have to choose to trust and never lose heart.

11.17.2014

>> a week with molly

My sister and her husband left for their very first mission trip together a few days ago and will be in Honduras for a week. They entrusted their little one to Leslie and me, and we couldn't have been more honored...or excited! Dry run at parenting...here we came!

Our first full day together was Saturday. Molly impressed us by sleeping all night in her pack & play without waking up until about 7:30 am. It was brutally cold, so we stayed home all day. Molly stayed in her pajamas until after her morning nap (which only lasted about 15 minutes), then I dressed her in her Razorback outfit that her mommy had packed for her in anticipation of the big AR/LSU rivalry game.


We spent the day playing in between meals, snacks and naps. In the afternoon, we got some thundersleet/small hail.


Molly had a cold, hence a very snotty nose, AKA crusted, boogery hair. We gave her a bath before putting her down for the night and watching the Razorback game. I also had a cold, so my body was exhausted by the end of the day! But it had all been so enjoyable, I couldn't wait to get up and do it all again with Molly.


The next day was Sunday, and even though we desperately wanted to put Molly in her Audrey-Hepburn-style black pea coat and go to church, we opted to stay home on account of both of us being sick. We declared this day pajama day! It started snowing in the afternoon but ended up only being a heavy dusting on everything. This day ran smoothly in that Molly napped for longer lengths and I got all my usual Sunday chores done and even cooked a pot of chili for dinner. 


Leslie has been such a great teammate through all of this! I walked in from blow drying and straightening my hair Sunday evening, and he was changing a poopy diaper! So needless to say, I was sad to see him go back to work on Monday.


Today is Monday, and I'm going to try to recap the days as they happen from this point forward. It's another frigid day--highs in the low 20's! But Molly and I got bundled up and had our first outing anyway!


All we did was to go to the post office, but I was proud I was able to get us both bundled and the car warmed up for us. I did forget to defrost the rear windshield though...oops! Almost nailed it.


Whereas most babies might fuss to be oitside on such a cold, blustery day, Molly smiled when the frigid wind hit her face. She is seriously the most chill baby. She has pretty much only cried when we've had to suction out or wipe her runny nose.

Then my parents came over to visit for a little bit and brought me Sonic for lunch. Molly loved getting to see new faces...I wonder if she is getting tired of seeing mine... I mean, this is the look I got as I sang to her at lunch:


Maybe it was because today was my first full day alone with a baby in my care, but I was wiped out at the end of the day. Leslie brought me home a surprise Pepsi and, let me tell you, a small gift never meant so much to me.

Moving on along to Tuesday, which is the day I'm typing this. I took the day off work to save my mom from having to come over 3 days in a row to watch Molly. Not to mention, I wasn't quite ready to leave her. Listen to me; I sound like a real mom. 

Getting out of the house is good for both Molly and me. So today we went over to my sister-in-law's house for lunch and to let the kids play. Molly lit up when she realized we were in a new house filled with new but familiar faces.


On the way home, Molly fell asleep and didn't wake up until I got her out of her car seat. I'll admit, yesterday I was feeling weary and questioning if I was cut from the same cloth that makes stay-at-home moms love what they do; but as I gently took off Molly's coat and boots, laid her in her bed and brushed the hair off her forehead, I knew there would be no greater way I could ever spend 
my days.

So today was just a really good day. I even conquered another first: taking a tiny one to the grocery store. We only had to get three things but it went seamlessly!


Wednesday and Thursday I went back to work, and my parents came over to watch Molly. Thursday afternoon, the temps were in the 50's so Molly and I went outside for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine!


Friday was Operation: Let's Get Out of the House. Molly and I met up with friends at a local burger joint for lunch.


Then we headed to Target for some good ol' fashioned "clearance end cap browsing" and met up with my sis-in-law and her little nuggets.


Then to top the day off, Leslie and I took Molly out on a dinner date for some yummy bbq! 


On Saturday morning, Molly woke up before we were quite ready to stop being snuggly in bed. So I went and got her, and we all snuggled a little bit longer!

It was rainy all day, but we got out to the grocery store to shop for Thanksgiving meal items to contribute to our church's drive to feed families in our area.

The highlight of the day was taking Molly over to Leslie's parents' house to watch the Razorback game.


It was such a joy watching them play with her and love her as if she could be their own grandchild. And we worked really hard on teaching her "Woo Pig Sooie!"

On Sunday, we woke up feeling sad that it was our last day to have Molly but also excited to see Charlie and Emily again. Molly was still asleep when it was time to get her ready for church, so after she had a solid 12 hours of sleep, we had to wake her up, feed her breakfast, get her dressed and fix her hair all in about a 25 minute time frame. I was sweating because as the minutes ticked down, I couldn't get her tights to fit on her legs and had to improvise with a pair of leggings (from the dirty laundry pile, shhh) and socks. We were about 15 minutes later than we wanted to be getting to church, but it wasn't a big deal because a breakfast was being served instead of having first service.

After church we had lunch at home and laid Molly down for a quick nap before heading to the airport to pick up Emily and Charlie.


It was pure magic seeing this sweet family reunited. Molly took it all in stride but I could see gladness and a sense of comfort on her face once it set in that her parents were home. I watched everyone hug and thought about how amazing their week must have been serving Jesus in Honduras. I also thought about the amazing week I had as Molly's pretend Mommy and had to hold back tears at the sheer greatness of it all.

The week we spent with Molly will be forever treasured in my heart. I learned so much about what it will be like to be a full-time parent some day, and I fell even deeper in love with a very special little girl.

Emily texted me a few days after getting home and said that she had mentioned Aunt Martha to Molly. She said this is how Molly responded:

10.09.2014

>> my girls


So there are these girls that stole my heart. These girls are the little sisters I never had. I want the best for these girls. I want them to always feel loved. I want them to shine the love of Jesus to a dark world.
 

When they laugh, I laugh. When they talk, I listen with anticipation. Their burdens are mine.


For everything I dream of pouring into their lives, these girls pour abundantly back into mine tenfold.

 
 >> Tanyard Creek Picnic & Hike, October 5, 2014

8.31.2014

>> my story (overcoming social anxiety)




I am a 31-year-old wife, teacher, pug mommy, friend and Pinterest-loving crafter. I am an introvert that loves people. I can be as silly as a 12-year-old and love making others laugh. I am a good listener and love hearing other people’s stories.

Because we all have a story. And sometimes sharing it with others is the scariest thing we think we’ll ever face because vulnerability can sometimes lead to pain. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. He knew what he was doing when he gave us our character traits and our flaws. It is only recently that I’ve come to understand that the imperfections within us are meant to serve a purpose. God tends to use those with a limp, if you haven’t noticed. That being said, here is my story.

Growing up, I was thought of as the shy and quiet girl. I clung to my mother’s leg on the first day of Kindergarten and hoped that if I cried hard enough my parents wouldn’t make me stay. In elementary school, I remember playing alone on the playground and drawing elaborate pictures in the dirt with a stick. My best friend was my stuffed, pajama-clad bear named Chuckles.

Once, in the fifth grade, I had to demonstrate a “how-to” project in front of the class. This is my first real memory of experiencing crippling fear in front of my peers. I went with something quick and easy: How to Draw a Snoopy Face Out of the Number 55. I went up to the board and drew that thing out in about five seconds flat. There was no pausing to give my classmates instructions. I drew as quickly as I could with trembling hands as my teacher urged me to slow down and explain each step. I don’t remember what kind of grade I got on that presentation, but I do remember from then out having an inescapable fear of being called up to the board in class.
 

Fast forward to high school, where every day was spent making sure I didn’t wear a gray t-shirt to reveal my incessantly sweating armpit stains. I refused to eat anything for lunch at school other than crackers because I feared eating a big lunch would cause my stomach to make gurgling digestive sounds in a quiet classroom. My worst fear was being called on by my teacher to read out loud.

Then came college, where there was more of the same. Every day was spent fighting one anxious battle after another. I remember my heart beating fast each and every time I walked to class. I wondered: Would I get called on to read out loud today? Would I get a tickle in my throat and have an uncontrollable coughing spell during lecture? I told myself that if things got to too stressful in class, I would just get up and leave, pretending I had an appointment. This is an escape route that wasn’t available to me in high school, and I utilized it one day in Calculus to avoid board work. 

At the end of the day, I would go back to my dorm room and collapse on my bed, emotionally exhausted. A suite mate might knock on my door, but I wouldn’t answer, telling her later I had fallen asleep.

When Summer came, while other kids got jobs to further their resume and use towards experience in their field of major, I would stay holed up in my apartment, relying on savings to pay my part of the rent and bills. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t feel like a worthless freeloader. I couldn’t apply for jobs because my anxiety was through the roof. I remember multiple instances of my picking up the phone to call a potential employer then hanging up before they answered because my heart was beating so hard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. One morning I was in bed thinking about how all my roommates were at work and I was wasting another day away, a prisoner to fear. My heart started beating erratically, and I experienced a full-blown panic attack that left my heart physically hurting. I was so worried, I actually called my parents and asked them to drive me to the hospital for heart tests. After all the testing, I learned my heart was fine. I was told to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine. I was also told that anxiety is most common in college-aged women trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

No matter what age I was, a common thread coursed through my life: the concept of embracing who I was and simply being myself was never considered. It took all I had to face each day trying to hide my unrealistic anxieties from those around me. But even though it was the only way of life I knew, I never stopped to consider what might be wrong with me until after I got married.

At 23 years old, I googled “social anxiety.” The symptoms laid out on my computer screen sounded like someone was writing a biography about me. I felt exposed. I felt scared that I had an actual diagnosis which I would forever be trapped in and defined by. 

According to Wikepedia:  Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.”

Boom. There was my life summarized in two sentences. I cried to my husband that night and revealed to him my secret struggle that even he had known nothing about. I worried he would look at me differently, but he amazed me then and continues to amaze with his understanding and full acceptance of me.

I continued to live life crippled by social anxiety for a few more years. My breaking point came when my job required me to go into a few different stores and pick out products to highlight. This involved me carrying in a notebook and pen and asking an employee to help me with what I needed. I couldn’t do it. I broke down, absolutely overtaken by fear. My husband was my hero that day. He took my notebook and pen and went into each and every store and got the information that I had been assigned to get. 

Not long after that, I had a talk with my family doctor. My heart beat and my voice shook as I told him about the relentless anxiety I struggled with every day. He listened and acknowledged my struggle. He affirmed that I had truly been living in a secret hell. It was that day that I took the first step of treatment. And my life has been changed for the better since.

Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. But the difference is that instead of not making the call, I’ll make it now, even if I don’t feel the most confident. I put myself in new situations now and don’t hide from the world. I have discovered my real personality when not held back by fear of being judged. I am funny. I love people. I’m goofy and not as shy as I’ve always considered myself to be. I love teaching children. I see the value in complimenting a stranger and look for opportunities to be a light for Christ. And going back to what I said in the beginning about God using those with a limp: I am a greeter at my church. I struggle sometimes with stumbling over my words or feeling awkward trying to talk to new people, but I’ve also seen God use me just as I am to make others feel welcome and important. 

I recently read this quote and it has stuck with me: “Imperfections have a role to play in our lives and when we forget that, we become unapproachable.”

Therefore, embrace your imperfections. Don’t waste them. Figure out who God wants you to share your story with and tell it. You will be amazed at how many people will be able to relate and how many lives you’ll be able to touch when you take off the proverbial mask of perfection.

I am sharing my story to bring awareness to a disorder that affects millions of adults in America. If you are secretly struggling with social anxiety, know there are various forms of treatment and I urge you to consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.

There IS life beyond the labels.

“I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14

>> Published in Peekaboo NWA magazine, September 2014.
http://www.peekaboonwa.com/overcoming-social-anxiety/

8.22.2014

>> my classroom

Summer is over, and I'm a week into the new school year. I was super happy that the teaching bug hit me weeks before it was actually time to go back, as opposed to my hanging on to every last moment of summertime freedom like I normally do. I went to a summer training session in July that really rejuvenated my love for teaching and reminded me how blessed I am to have this job that allows me to pour into the lives of children.

First order of business before the new school year started was to go in for a drastic hair cut. I had been growing my hair out for years and it was so long. I loved it, but it was so dead on the ends, even after regular trims. It was also super tangly and a nightmare to style after being washed. So, I got what I like to refer to as my "teacher haircut." 


Next order of business was to get my classroom all set up. I added a tent to the reading area, scaled down all the small random toys, and added a plethora of new table activities to my white cabinet. I also found a white board/chalkboard easel and art drying rack on a local yard sale site to add to my room. The little red, white, and blue table was a freebie that I painted for my kitchen center. Oh, and I can't forget to mention my new valance curtain I made out of chevron fabric. Needless to say, I made lots of fun changes to my room this year that I deemed worthy of a photo shoot. :-)