Monday, June 19, 2017

Appreciating the Differences

When Howell and I were dating, the biggest source of our conflicts usually boiled down to personality differences. I was serious and usually stressed about school (or something) while he was calm, laid back, and never worried about anything. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the differences, but over the years, I’ve learned how important it is for us to balance each other.

We may have shared this story before, but we met during my senior year of college. I was serious about school—focused, determined, and probably not a whole lot of fun. When Howell found out that I’d never skipped a class before, he made it his mission to get me to skip just once.

In my last semester, I finally did—but only on a day I thought I could and only after I emailed the professor to let her know I wouldn’t be in class (yes, still so responsible). I think we went to a movie or drove out to the lake—I honestly don’t remember, but I remember thinking, this guy is good for me.

About a month ago, Howell was in Lubbock and had the afternoon off. He called me on my lunch break to come join him. Although I have plenty of vacation hours (all of which expire June 30), my pulse started to race. I can’t just leave. I’m on my lunch break. I didn’t tell anyone. I have to ask. I have to be responsible.

But I went (after responsibly asking for permission—Ha!) and y’all, we had so much fun. We shopped and got ice cream and spent a completely un-planned afternoon together. I was a little stressed at first—I kept thinking about work and whether I should’ve left and whether someone would lock up my office and whether my emails would wait one more day.

Once I got there, though, the stress and the worry melted away, and I was thinking later, on the drive back, that even ten years later, he could still talk me into a skip day.

Our photo to commemorate the spontaneous afternoon off

I’m grateful for Howell, for my highest complement who has taught me how to have fun and be spontaneous, how to relax, how to let go, how to be at peace.

He is calm and constant, and the Lord knew just what I needed.

Two weeks ago, he blogged about the chaos in our little world these days (update—the kitchen is ALMOST done!), but there’s no one I’d rather walk with through the chaos than him.

Married friends, if the differences divide you, I encourage you to consider a different perspective. It’s a good thing your spouse isn’t just like you! Instead think about how he or she creates a balance in your home.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Throwing Stuff Away - Take Two

Remember when I told you that I have a problem with throwing things away—like when the toothpaste tube is squeezed empty, but I keep hoping for one more brush out of it?

Apparently the same applies with shoes.

I like to wear shoes until they haven’t just worn out, they’ve completely broken. And even then, they might be “repaired” for a while.

When Howell met me in college, I was sporting a pair of black heels that were duct taped. That’s right. Duct tape.

It became a running joke over the last several years—the things I duct tape to preserve. Picture frames. Tire fenders. And many, many shoes.

Sometimes when the shoe has broken, I still hold on to it because, well, I’m crazy like that.

I had a pair of tennis shoes that I loved, and when it came time to replace them, I wore the new pair, but still kept the old ones. Then when I got the next pair, well, you can imagine. In fact, until recently I still owned my last five pairs of tennis shoes. (Who does that?) I didn’t wear four out of the five, but by gosh, I kept all five.

The same applies to dress shoes and sandals. With reservations, I share these pictures—one of a broken buckle on a shoe that I paper-clipped and continued to wear for six more months, the other of a broken heal that I taped with a paper towel for cushion (yep, a paper towel…).

So, maybe it’s because I just had a birthday, and I’m getting older now, and I’ve decided to be an adult who buys things, like clothes and shoes and picture frames, but I spent my birthday week (last week J) making some major headway.

First, I spent money on clothes for myself. This is big, y’all. Most of my clothes are hand-me-downs (yes, I’m in my thirties and still gladly accept hand-me-downs J), and I never spend money on myself.

But I went shopping on our girls trip (my sister makes me brave J), and now I have several cute new outfits.

This even spurred me to come home and clean out my closet. I know—shocker. But I refused to add anything new until I’d thrown stuff away.

I not only donated two trash bags of clothes, but I donated an entire trash bag of old shoes (and threw away ten pairs of broken shoes—you read that right: ten).

When my best friend came for my birthday, she took me shoe shopping and bought me a new pair of pumps. My parents also gave me money for shoes, and I bought an additional two pairs this week.

I haven’t read that book about tidying things up, but I’ve got to say, I think she’s on to something.

I enter my closet and feel so happy. It’s lighter and easier to find what I really want. My shoes are only shoes I actually wear.

In a word, it feels like freedom.

I don’t know that I have a good spiritual truth to tie in here (I did that once already), but I’d encourage you—this week, throw something away.

It feels amazing. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Times of Change

For Laura and I, now is a time of change. Our schedules are changing, my job has changed, and our kitchen is in the middle of a facelift. It’s like our little world has been turned upside down.

To be transparent, these times are a struggle for me. Keeping everything else straight while certain parts of our lives are in flux is beyond my natural ability, and I have to rely on the Lord for help with this. We’ve done this a few times now, and with experience does come some wisdom.

During times of change or new beginnings, it’s very important to manage expectations. This is something that I naturally struggle with, and I think, a lot of other people do too. I’m great at the classic, “This will take ten minutes…” when it actually takes an hour. It’s a matter of learning for me, but it’s very important to give your spouse realistic expectations of time, money, and effort that is going into or out of whatever project or effort you are conducting. Accuracy isn’t always possible, but it’s definitely better to under promise and over deliver.

Another thing that is helpful is a prepared heart. I talk about this a lot, but taking the time to slow down and have the conversations that keep connections between people going is vital. First, it’s a good idea to say to each other that this is likely to be a stressful time and pray together about it going in, if possible. Second, I believe it’s vital to check on each other as you go through. Lately, we haven’t had a kitchen available, and this is very inconvenient for both of us. It requires extra meal planning so both of us have asked each other how the other is feeling that day, and if they would like to eat out or have leftovers. These little conversations let the other person know that you see them and what they are going through too.

Most importantly, it’s vital to stay spiritually connected during times of change. Your metaphorical ship is being tossed by waves, and the only one who can truly right it is Christ. If I’m not in tune with what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me about Laura, or I’m just in “survival mode,” trying to make it until tomorrow, then we are susceptible to any and all icebergs in the water. This is especially difficult for me, because I like routine. I master something, and I can function at a high level, but when I don’t have control, I’m using all my mental resources to keep going. If you’re like me, the only lifeline in times like this is the Holy Spirit. Thankfully though, He is there and helps me do what I cannot, under my own power.

How about you? Are you facing any changes or new beginnings? What lessons have you learned in times of transition?


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Want Some Good News?

I’ve shared the quote above several times only because it still resonates profoundly with me. Many of you know that I’ve wanted to write fiction my entire life. I started churning out short stories at the ripe ol' age of six.

They were descriptive, too—right down to the color of the Laz-Y-Boy recliner and the buttons on the remote (important images for me back then J).

The dream has been in my heart for several decades, but I’ve only spent the last almost decade getting serious—thanks, in large part, to my husband who helped me believe in myself, in my God-given talents.

At the time, I was working on my PhD. Writing a work of fiction while writing a two-hundred page research project not only seemed unrealistic but also, again, less serious. One side of my brain is processing Foucault and Bakhtin while the other half is wading around in the minds of my characters, a stubborn and independent journalist and a life-worn but seasoned rancher.

It had been a few years since my grandmother passed away, and I felt nostalgic, missing her like crazy and sentimental toward all things small town, and ranch life, and antique.

I officially finished the manuscript in 2013, and I’ve spent the last three years making intense changes to it—not the story line, per se, but the quality of writing. I’ve learned a lot from those who have helped me, critiqued me, mentored me along the way.

I’ve shared before about the waiting game of publishing, and today, it’s no different. But I’ve taken the wise advice of a writing mentor this semester, who said, when you’re waiting, KEEP WRITING.

So a few months ago, I gave myself a daily writing goal and decided, for my own soul, I would endeavor to write every day.

Occasionally, it feels like a chore, but most days, it’s a breath of fresh air. My whole brain resets, and I come away revived.

I’m still very willing to wait, to learn, to receive all that God has for me on this journey.

And in the meantime, I have some good news to share with you:

I’m happy to tell you I’m less than 10K words away from finishing a second manuscript. I’m on track to finish on or before June 15, and I hope to spend the next few months on the first round of edits and revisions before sending it off to critiquing eyes.

I’m also over-the-moon overjoyed to share that my first book is a semi-finalist in the prestigious Genesis contest. We were hosting about thirty-five students and faculty at our house the evening I was notified, so I missed the call. And when I listened to the voicemail in the rush of letting the dogs out and getting ready for bed, I seriously froze—and almost fainted.

Y’all, I can’t even describe how honored and humbled I feel. It’s not even the end of the contest—like finalist or winner—but this alone feels priceless. All glory to Jesus, for sure.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. The time will pass anyway, so I’ll keep chasing after my dreams. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sharing the Load in Marriage

Summer is here, and that means.... YARD WORK! 

We have almost an acre of land at our house, most of which is in the backyard. Doing yard work is a task that can take over three hours if Howell does it alone.

So I help. If I mow while he weed-eats and edges, we usually finish at about the same time—in less than half the time it takes him to do it alone.

I really don’t mind. Mowing is relaxing to me—and riding on the mower is fun.

Rizzoli doesn't like the mower :) 
I was recently talking with a couple women about yard work and found that all of us liked to mow our yard, but one woman said her husband had been criticized for “making” his wife mow.

I told Howell that story later, and he said he’d been criticized for the same thing when people drive by and see me mowing.

My jaw dropped. I had no idea!

Maybe we’re not normal, but it works for us, and in my mind, it’s just one of the many shared responsibilities we have—like laundry and cleaning house.

I had a shower at my house the other day (btw, there’s nothing like hosting a shower to give you every re-arranging, hanging, and decorating itch you can imagine). After Howell helped me hang stuff on the walls and re-arrange rooms, he swept and vacuumed while I made sausage balls.

Could I have done both? Sure—but it saved me so much time that he was willing to do that for me.

I’m not saying all wives should mow or that husbands should all clean house, but I think couples should find what works for them—ways that they can share the load, be more efficient, and in the end, create more time together.

If I help with yard work every week, that’s an extra hour and a half that Howell and I get to spend together, taking a walk or watching a show.

That sounds like a no-brainer in my book!

Married friends, do you share the load in your house? What’re some household chores that you both do?