Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

This holiday always reminds me of my grandmother. She was a unique woman, full of elegance and grace, and her holiday table would’ve made Emily Post proud.

Her kitchen portrayed an absolute rotation of chaos and cleanliness—dishes were dirtied and washed and dried and the cycle repeated. She loved to cook and bake

As a young child, I was given easier jobs, like stirring the pot, drying dishes, or licking the bowl of batter.

Bammie and me in PJs :) 

Later, my tasks included making the crescent rolls, and I became the best crescent-roll-maker you can imagine.

At some point, I graduated to dessert duty, where I got to help with making pumpkin and apple pies. One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories involves my cousin, Kelley—the year we made the apple pies completely on our own. The crusted strips on top did not look like Bammie’s, but we were quite proud of our accomplishment.

This year marks the 10th Thanksgiving without my grandmother, and I always miss her most this time of year.

The holiday might be based on historical events and long-standing tradition, but to me, it’s always been about family—at least as much as it’s about food. ;) 

I’m thankful for my family, for my in-laws, for my husband. Life is precious, and relationships are valuable.

You might be feasting on turkey and green bean casserole, and you’ll be overloaded with potatoes and crescent rolls and carbs, and you’ll likely have a sugar high from all the cakes and pies and holiday goodies.

But take some time to give thanks, to share your gratitude for each other, and to relish each memory. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

I want to take the time, in this season of Thanksgiving, to say how thankful I am for Laura. Hopefully, in saying all this, your appreciation for your spouse will grow. God put us together to be greater than the sum of our parts. We met 10 years ago, and my life changed. I think that back then, we were really good together, but we have both grown in ways that make us great together now.

When I met Laura, I thought I was on a path that would ultimately lead to success in many ways. In my own eyes, I was mature, ambitious, and “going places.” After meeting her and falling in love, I found out what really mattered. I found the reason behind the drive, and we have gone places in our lives in ten years that I thought would take thirty.

Proverbs 31:11, in talking about what a great wife is, says, “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” That verse sums Laura up to me. I know that whatever she does, she will enrich my life. When she speaks or acts in public or in private, she represents our family with dignity and forthrightness. She always keeps me in mind in her decisions, and her choices reflect my best interest. My goal, as a husband, is to do the same for her. She inspires me to be a better husband without ever trying to. That is an incredible quality in a wife.

Laura and I have journeyed through many great times and difficulties, and I’m sure that many more will come. Through both of these, we have grown together. We know each other to a point that we actually finish each other’s sentences and have the same thoughts, often at the same time. This amazes me because when we were dating, it seemed impossible to be on the same page sometimes. I know her deepest desires and fears, and she knows mine. It is an incredible thing to share this bond, and I will fight forever to keep it and grow it. I pray that same desire comes for everyone who reads this  because marriage is something that must be fought for and cared for constantly.

She is the person whom I am most thankful for, in this season and every season. Laura is an incredible wife to me and an incredible friend and influence to so many others. I praise God every day that she is in my life. 

Who are you most thankful for in this time? What has your spouse meant to you?


Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Christmas-Break-Binge-Reading Wish List

The holiday season is upon us, and I’m already dreaming about the sides at our Thanksgiving dinner, the fireplace, all the yummy baked goods at Christmas, decorated trees and lights on the house and time with family. Time with myself. Just. Time.

Sitting down with a book, when I have free time, is still my absolute favorite. It’s hard to read during the semester because so often I’m reading for class preparations or I’m reading papers as I grade them.

And now, we're at the end of the semester, which means student conferences and final papers and final exams.

When the break hits, I end up binge-reading during my time off—this year that’s 12 days to binge. ;) 

So, for this post, I thought I would share my reading wish list, the books I hope to get to over the break:

1. Long Way Gone by Charles Martin. Charles Martin’s book has been out for over a month, and I’m a little shocked at myself that I haven’t already devoured it. He’s one of my favorites.

2. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham.  What can I say? I love Gilmore Girls. I even loved Lauren's fiction book, Someday, Someday, Maybe. And I can’t wait for the Netflix release or this book release, which are, not coincidentally, a few days apart.

3. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  You all know I’ve been dying to read this one since the Belong Tour in September. I enjoyed Shauna’s message and the heart behind it; I think this is a timely lesson for me.

4. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore.  I can’t wait to read Beth Moore’s first piece of fiction. She has a gift for writing and studying the Word, so I don't doubt this piece carries that same anointing. I’ve already heard good things about it!

5. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. Ann had me from page one of One Thousand Gifts. I love her writing style as much as I love the depth of her words. I’ve read all her books since then, and I’m thrilled to see she has a new one out. 

What about you, my friends? What are you reading these days? Any recommendations you’d give me for my binge fest?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Planting Seeds of Faith: Reminders This Harvest Season

It’s harvest season around here—a time of year when our farmers work long hours.

At 10:30, in full darkness, after the kids are all asleep, and you’re in your PJs, many of our farmers are still on the combine, their headlights like bright stars in an expansive darkness.

We don’t farm, but we live next to a field, and this year they planted cotton.

For weeks, I’ve been driving by and thinking, I’ve got to capture that field—a blanket across the land with bolls like big, fluffy snowflakes.

I’ve always admired fields of white cotton. I remember as a kid, after the farmers had harvested and taken their modules to the gin, their trucks left behind white sheets along the side of the highway.

As a five- or six-year-old kid, I remember thinking it had snowed.

Only it wasn’t flakes of frozen moisture.

For the last several weeks, I keep looking at white fields.

Every day passing them on my way to and from work.

And thinking of the fruit of one’s labor—the present reality of a promise delivered.

What was once only seed and hope is now birthed and fully grown, ready to be received.

When they planted and watered and waited, they were believing for, hoping for the evidence of things unseen.

Isn’t that what faith is?

Pastor Paul said last week that we exercise our faith by standing in the presence of the future.

A leap of faith is a leap only because one’s feet must leave what is present reality for what is unknown, uncertain, unseen—and one must stand, placing her foot on the other end of the gap, to say, “This is what I believe for my future.”

I shy away from that sometimes, from making bold declarations of faith because aren’t I then held to that expectation? Won’t I be judged for whether it comes to pass?

But to remain so means my feet are stuck, are glued only in reality.

No leaping. No daring. No believing. No planting.

That’s the picture I’ve had lately as I pass these fields.

I’d be like a farmer who didn’t put seed in the ground for fear that nothing would produce.

Yet our farmers live by faith ever year, season to season.

And now, it’s harvest time—the blessing of yesterday’s unknown becomes the present of what was once future.

So, I’m daring today, to plant a seed of faith—a word that’s out there that I’ve been too scared to say in this space.

I am healed.

Despite former diagnoses related to infertility, I believe God has fully healed my body, that my reproductive system is whole and restored.

He doesn’t call me Barren One.

He has opened my womb, and He’ll make me to be the joyful mother of children.

So why would I be scared to say so?

Well…this didn’t just happen. God has healed my body every month for about 18 months, and every month, I witness the evidence of my healing.

If I’m taking this leap of faith only to silence the doubt, then so be it.

Doubt says, why have we not conceived if I’m healed? After 18 months, why is my status unchanged?

I don’t have an answer for that.

But I submit my heart to His Lordship.

I submit my heart to the King.

He knows all things.

He knows what I need and when I need it.

He holds time in His hands.

But for a year and a half, Howell and I have been timidly holding this little seed of faith.

In secret, we water it; we shower it with prayer.

We expose it to the sunlight and comfort of only those closest to us.

But on the whole, it’s been hidden.

And now, I feel like the Lord keeps telling me, it’s harvest season!

It’s time.

I’m planting my stake, the word of my mouth and all that’s in my heart, in the Promised Land.

I’m standing today for my future reality.

I used to read Joseph’s story and think he was crazy for telling his brothers about his dream. Why didn't he just keep his mouth shut?

But I now know it took courage and boldness to share what he did. And to continue to believe.

It says in Psalm 105:19, “Until what He said came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested him [Joseph].”

God’s word over us—that He’ll make me to be a joyful mother of children—continues to test us, month after month when we see no result.

But we believe the words we’ve heard, and the dozens and dozens of prophetic words spoken over us, we receive them.

I pass fields of white cotton.

Promise upon promise of yields planted in faith.

And I declare, our harvest will come.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Remembering 2006: A Trip Down Memory Lane

It’s good to remember.

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We remember the finished work of the cross. We remember God’s faithfulness. We remember the miracles. The challenges. The storms we’ve weathered.

We remember all that He’s done for us.

Our remembrance leads to gratitude: a thankful heart for all we’ve been given.

I’ve been thinking about memories lately, about how important it is to remember.

Yes, we can’t go backward.
Yes, our best days are in front.
Yes, let’s be present.

But sometimes, it’s good to remember.

Howell and I started dating this month—ten years ago.

Howell's birthday (and one of our first pictures together)  

My birthday that same year :) 

We met on October 23, 2006. Our first date was on November 11. And we were officially ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ on December 7.

I must confess that Howell is the one who remembered all these dates. After we were first married, maybe a little over a year, he snuck up behind me, wrapped arms of comfort around me, and said, “We met today.”

I couldn’t believe he remembered. I had forgotten.

Well, I guess if I’m confessing, I should admit that I don’t actually remember meeting him on October 23. In my mind, we met a few days later—maybe on a Thursday, when Ann brought me over to “the guys’ house” for some games and a movie. (I didn’t know it was all a ploy for a second encounter.)

That night, Howell and I sat—just the two of us despite a house full of college students—at his kitchen table, talking about the Lord. (We were so spiritual in those days. :))

That same night, or maybe the next hangout, we sat side by side on his worn-down loveseat as he attempted to teach me how to play an X-Box video game.

A week later, I was informed by some of our mutual girl friends that he liked me—and asked, did I like him too?

On our first date, I think we talked non-stop for four or five hours. There was no movie, no entertaining distraction like bowling or putt-putt.

We ate dinner and sat at the park and drank coffee at my apartment—and we talked and talked and talked.

I’ve been sentimental about our story this month, maybe because it’s been ten years and that feels like a big mile marker.

I remember those dating years—my initial intrigue. I was so attracted to Howell’s heart, his goodness, the easy way we could be together and talk for hours, the comfort and calmness he held.

But once it got even a little bit serious, I stepped into fear. I pushed and pulled and ran and escaped.

In fact, I did a lot of up and down for a long time.

But Howell was constant.


He never once stopped pursuing me.

If you think I’m exaggerating or mis-remembering, if my characterization is too flat, too heroic, too perfect—I’m sorry. I can’t characterize him any other way.

I used to hate our story, our beginning. I hated that I couldn’t remember meeting him. Isn’t that a necessary part of your meet-cute?

I hated that I was so mean to him. My parents would tell people about our dating years and how awful I was—especially the first few times I brought him around my family.

He was so great, and everyone loved him, but I would pull away and ignore.

When my parents would share those beginnings, those memories, I would get defensive in my heart.

Our story should have been a love story with a perfect beginning and dating years of bliss.

I should’ve been the heroine, the rescuer, the saint. That’s the character I wanted to play. Isn’t that the role I’d always played, by dating guys who needed to be saved?

But Howell didn’t need to be rescued. I did.

I embrace that now, not to shame myself but to remember how awesome and humble and loving Howell was to pursue me still.

My heart needed to be healed from the fear I felt. My heart needed to be opened, to be placed securely in my Heavenly Daddy’s hand instead of gripped tightly in my own.

I had a lot to learn about love.

But He knew. And Howell knew.

When I remember our beginning, my heart is filled with gratitude.

I thank God for His gift to me, for sending me just what I needed.

I thank Howell for his love, for his pursuit, for his faithfulness even now.

10 years later: October 23, 2016

Married friends—it’s good to remember. Remember where you’ve been. Remember the years of bliss. Remember the times you’ve overcome.

Let your heart be filled with gratitude. Let your heart be re-kindled with love for your spouse. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo: Writing Exercise for Showing v. Telling

This semester I’m co-teaching Creative Writing, and we just wrapped up my favorite unit—short fiction.

We always do a fun lesson on showing versus telling, a critical skill for any creative writer.

NaNo friends, as you’re chipping away at your daily word count, perhaps these tips will help:

Take whatever scene you’re working on.
  1. Show us the senses: What does your character see, hear, smell, taste, and touch?
  2. Show us the action: What is your character doing? What’s her motivation, conflict, tension?
  3. Shows us the feels: Don’t tell us your character is angry; let us see her face flush and her jaw clench. Don’t tell us she’s tired; let us see her rub her eyes, the words on the screen unfocused, her eyelids heavy and closing against her will.
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One of the fastest ways to know if you’re showing or telling is to check your verbs.

‘To be’ verbs tell us. (e.g.: am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been)

Action verbs show us.

In class, I gave my students the following paragraph and asked them to rewrite a scene, showing instead of telling.

Maybe you’d find the exercise as fun as they did?

Jane is a timid freshman at State University. The youngest of six children, she misses the comfort of her home and her small graduating class of twelve. Her new roommate, Carol, is nice, and although the young man in her freshman math class makes her blush, she is thinking of him more and more.
Carol says she should give him a sign, but Jane isn’t sure how to do that. College is so different from Small Town, America. But maybe it won’t be so bad after all.

Using what you’ve been told about Jane, Carol, and the intriguing classmate, write a more descriptive paragraph, an action scene, or a conversation with dialogue that demonstrates one of the following:
  • How Jane feels
  • What Jane’s dorm, roommate, or male classmate look like
  • What Jane decides to do
You have full license to write in whatever genre you wish. Is this a love story? The start of a mystery? A feel-good inspiration? Is it set in our world? Another world? Are these humans? Etc.

Put whatever twist you like, but be sure your scene is showing and not telling.

Jane unlocked the door to her dorm room and dropped her backpack next to the built-in, oak-colored desk that only masked the laminate particle board.

The memory of she and her five siblings framed in a pose in a field of white cotton bulbs welcomed her. She stared at the glass until at last she saw her reflection, reminding her of her new home, her new season.