On turning 10

My sweet boys, 
120 months.  That's how long I've been loving you {really more than that, but I couldn't do all that math.}  You were a surprise.  Have I ever told you that?  Not that we didn't want you, we most certainly did, it's just that God sent you when Mom and Dad weren't really expecting a baby.    I carried you 16 weeks before I found out there were two of you.  Mommy failed a test at the doctor's office and they told me something might be wrong with you.  We went to the hospital for another test so we would know more and guess what?  They were wrong.  There was nothing wrong, there were just two of you instead of one.  In a matter of minutes, we went from being scared to death to stunned.  Absolutely stunned. 

You two are becoming your own people, but mama wants so much for you.  

Be compassionate.  When you see hurt in the world, do something about it.    I want you to stand up for people who are different because it's the right thing to do.  This will not always be the popular thing.  When your heart starts to break for what breaks His, let it.

Be grateful.   I want you to understand that you deserve everything you work for, but that you are entitled to nothing.  I'm sure it seems unfair now, but I don't want to give you everything you want because what would I be teaching you?  I'd be teaching you that just wanting something means you get it.  You don't.  Life does not work like this.  Name the gifts you have, don't spend time wanting what you don't have.  

Be brave.  Brave is not something you become....it's a decision you make.  Brave is sitting beside the kid nobody wants to sit with.  Brave is doing the right thing even when no one will know if you cheat.  Brave is telling somebody that Jesus is real when they tell you he's not.  Brave is smiling at people who look/dress/act/love differently than you're use to.  Mother Teresa said, "When we judge people we have no time to love them."  Brave is not judging, just loving. 

Be love.  This is God's greatest commandment for your life.  To love Him with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Burn this into your mind and measure yourself against this charge.  The thing is, when you love you will automatically be compassionate and grateful and brave.      

As we pause to celebrate you today, I hope you will feel loved from all sides.  If I could have one day with you as babies again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  I'd hold you and kiss the back of your necks and stick my nose in your belly and just smell you.  
And then I'd want you to be 10 again because I love who you are and who you are becoming. 

Love, Mama  


Weekend in 7 Pictures

You can't have a birthday without four foot tall balloons.  
Except turning 10 doubles the price!  
$20 on balloons - CHECK 

They requested a cookie cake with a "Pirate P" and a sleepover. 
Each boy got their own birthday song {twin mamas...this is important}.
Also, never call a boy party a "slumber party."  Just trust me on this one. 

After pizza and cookie cake and a nerf war outside until 10:30pm...they all went upstairs and made my house smell like BOY.  Which, in case you are wondering, smells like dirty socks with the occasional toot mixed in.  

Saturday  morning we took those who could join us to Hi-wire and had another large time. 

Because we try to pack too much into one day, 
after all the boys left we loaded up 
and went to see the Gamecocks play. 

By the end, we all felt like this.  


Love Letters

This week has been CRAZY.  I have no idea how many times my post was shared, but I can see how many times the page was viewed.  25,000+.  Ya'll. That's all God.  I'm sure for some bloggers that's a drop in the bucket, but I literally thought a few hundred people might read it.  I love to write, but had really been struggling to find my purpose for doing so.  Well.  I think I found it.

Today I wanted to share quickly how to start the journal together.  I thought I'd break it down into a few steps today and see where that goes.

Step 1: Buy a journal and a good pen.  I prefer the kind that are spiral bound.  I don't really know why...I just like way I can fold it all the way back.  I buy them at the TJ Maxx or Marshalls for $4 or $5.  Just yesterday I was in Marshalls and saw this cute one...

Step 2:  Find a starting point.   I like to write, so words come pretty easy to me.  I know that is not the case for a lot of people.  In fact, in my work with teachers, it's the one subject that even teachers skim over because none of us feel "good" at it.  If asked, most people consider themselves readers.  Most people do not consider themselves writers.  Writing for me is a conversation.  So when you think about this between you and your "person" think written conversation.  
I started our journal for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  I decided to start with a little about what our life was like at that moment so when I read it back in 50 years {God willing} I could remember.  I included our wedding vows in that first letter.  If you wrote your own vows, this is a great time to dig them out and rewrite them.  We did not write our own, but I think we would today.   

Step 3: Be specific.  I'm going to sound like a teacher here for a minute.  Don't just write "I love you", "You are a good husband/wife/boyfriend/partner/friend", "Thank you for all you do for me".  

Say that and then TELL THEM WHY.    Why do you love them?  What about them makes your stomach flip? What do they do that defines a good husband/wife/boyfriend/partner/friend in your mind?  What do they do that makes you feel loved?  NAME IT.  If you want them to keep doing it, name it.  Affirm it.  Do not make them infer what you mean by those things.  Be specific.     

Some of you are thinking at this point, "He/she doesn't do or say anything to make me feel loved."  In that case, you are going to have to remind them of why you fell in love with them in the first place.  What did they do?  When was a time you can remember when you felt completely in love with them, infatuated? Remind them.  

Step 4: Need inspiration?  Use a quote, a poem, a song {maybe "your song"}, a Bible verse.  I do this all the time when I blog because I read so much and I can't keep all the good stuff to myself.  Read other love letters.  Go to Pinterest and search love letters.  You will find more inspiration that you know what to do with.  

Step 5: Bleed first.  We had a sermon series a while back that spoke to being vulnerable and our pastor used this illustration.  This is what I did the other day.  I bled first.  And you know what?  It felt good and freeing and people went out of their way to say they appreciated the honesty.  Put yourself out there first.  What do you have to lose?  You aren't posting it to the internet for everybody to read!  Unless you're me.  lol  

I thought you might like to see the first love letter in our journal so here you go...

Leave me a comment if you think this is something you will do or if you'd like more post on journaling together!  

It has been a long amazing week here.  Lee has been out of town since Monday.  The kids were only tardy once and we only ate out once!  Success in my book. 

I have to give you a good laugh for this Friday.  Last night at dinner, at 8:00 because he had baseball, Tradd spilled ranch dressing down the front of his favorite sweatshirt.  I told him to throw it in the laundry room before he went to hop in the shower.  This morning he asks, "Mom, where's my Pirate sweatshirt?"  I said, "Tradd don't you remember you spilled the ranch all over it?"  To which he replied, "I thought you were going to wash it?"    To which I responded, "When was I suppose to do that?  After I got you in the bed and cleaned up from supper and made the lunches?"  

And here it comes....he said, "Well what time did you go to bed?"  I literally could not breath I was laughing at this kid so hard.  Time to teach somebody how to do their own laundry.  Happy Friday!  


well now

Well.  Now what should we talk about?

Thank you is inadequate for the all the ways you responded to my post last night.

It took me days...DAYS...to write it.  I was nervous for Lee to read it.  When he didn't freak out and said we should share, I thought, ok maybe.  I sent it to a friend.  Then I rewrote part of it.  I read it over and over and over.  I knew I was using too many commas, but I really didn't care too much about that one.  Was it too long?

And then I prayed. {which in hindsight I realize I should've done first}

Sweet Jesus,
You put these words on my heart and I did the best I could.  Months ago when I was on my knees begging you to show yourself, just like all the times before, you did.  When we asked you back into our marriage you reminded us that you had never left.  I am scared as hell to hit publish.  I'm not an expert in anything.  I only know what is working for us and I just have to tell them.  Please let them see me as sincere and honest and broken.  My only hope is to point them to you.  Please let that be.
I'd like to tell you a tremendous peace flooded me, that I hit publish and went on about my night.  Didn't happen.  I was scared shitless....like not joking, I had diarrhea.  {Disclaimer: I love Jesus, but I do cuss a little.  Not the really bad words.  Sorry mom.  You did teach me better}.  I felt like I was just standing naked in the street.  No way to get the cat back in the bag now.

And then you read it.  And shared it.   And my blog nearly broke down.  It seems so many of us are feeling the same things.  I heard from young girls I use to teach who have yet to find "the one" to friends who are going through separations and divorces that I knew nothing of.  You poured yourself out and I am so grateful.    
I am praying about where to go from here and I think first we should talk about the journals.  That's the practice Lee and I have had in place the longest so I feel pretty square on that one.  I know a lot of people don't like to write, much less consider themselves a writer.  But writing a letter to your spouse isn't that hard if you just start.  I can help with that.

Apparently I have a lot to say.


My Marriage is Over {and other thoughts}

I was 19 years old when Lee and I started dating.  That was 19 years ago.   As much as we'd love for you to believe that the happy couple you see on Instagram and Facebook, the version of ourselves that we allow to be posted, was meeting each other's needs and loving each other well for all these years, it's simply not the whole truth.   Don't get me wrong, all those moments are real.  They happened just as you see.  Those happy smiles and cheesy grins are genuine.  But friends, life isn't always postable.  We put our best selves on display, filtering away harsh words and tears and insecurities.  We don't post heartache and anger and resentment.  And for good reason.  We are terrified of being vulnerable. 
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
-Zora Neale Hurston-

2015 was a year of questions.  We found our marriage stretching it's legs.  Not in a "I want a divorce" kind of way...in a "so this is it?" kind of way.  One thing lead to another and what I came to know was it wasn't just one thing, it was ALL THE THINGS.  All the things we had both been letting slide, all the things we had just avoided because silence was better than conflict, all the things that required truth-telling.   Long gone were the days of breathless love and googly eyes.  We were treading water.  We both knew we were right on the precise of one or both of us throwing our hands up and saying, "this is just too hard."  Throwing your hands up while treading water has only one outcome.   It was in that moment that we decided it had to change.

So we decided to change it.  We sought the advice of people with marriages we admired.  We leaned into the uncomfortable conversations and basically took off the skin we had been wearing.  We decided to figure out what his needs were, hold them against mine and see how to love each other again.  We decided to give our marriage to the only One that could save it, our only hope.  You see, Jesus can not heal that which we continue to pretend is not broken.

This weekend we had dinner with my brothers and their wives.  My middle brother has been married almost 4 years and my youngest brother almost 8 months.  Clearly we are all in very different seasons of marriage.  One in the honeymoon stage and one just on the cusp of "busy love" where children and resentment can take over.   The scene seriously looked like something out of a movie.  The six of us enjoying dinner and laughs and drinks and stories at the window table everyone wanted at the new hip restaurant on Main.  It was on the way home that I started thinking.  Wishing really.  

Wishing that someone had cupped my face and said, HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT NEEDS SAVING.  So here it is.  Lee and I are putting ourselves out there because we love marriage {especially those marriages close to us} and we want you to make it.  Here's me grabbing your face and saying, make some of these things your things.  

 Read together.  In an act of desperation we searched the bookshelves in our home for help.  We needed advice and quick.   We received His Needs, Her Needs as a wedding gift and never read it.   Sadly, it was the only book on marriage we could find. We dusted it off and took it seriously.  We had very frank conversations about what I need and what he needs from me.  My top needs are affection and conversation.  Notice me.  Write me a note.  Affirm me.  Talk to me.  So guess what?  That's how I tend to love people.  I love the way I feel loved.  The problem with this is that Lee's top needs are family commitment and recreational companionship.  Do you see the problem here?   He wants to go hit golf balls together and I need him to leave me a love note on a post-it.    Our needs are completely different so we have to love each other differently.   After reading this book together {something we had NEVER done before} we decided to always be reading something together.  Next up is this book.   The point here is read something together that will point you to Jesus.  

Learn how to fight and fight fairly.  I am a talker.  Lee needs a time out.  I need to resolve issues swiftly, Lee needs time to process.  If I had dialed into this sooner I could have avoided so much heartache because so often I pressed him to "talk things out" when he simply wasn't ready.  Our disagreements often inflated because I went after him like a chihuahua, nipping at his heels, literally following him around the house!  Lee's fault in this was that he would blowup and flee.  While I was still in silent treatment mode he would try to make me laugh {it always worked}, but he never wanted to circle back to handle the actual issue.  So many times I just left it alone for fear of starting the cycle over again.   In terms of fighting fairly, we would bring up past issues and say things like, you never_______ and you always________.  We had to verbalize, when not in the heat of an argument, how we were going to disagree.  Sadly on this one, we both knew what we needed to do, we just failed to honor it.  Now we both get what we need because I give him the time out he asks for and he has promised to always come back to actually talk things over.

 Remove I'm Fine from your vocabulary.  I'm fine is not an appropriate response.  Ever.  I'm fine says,  "I have something to say, but I don't think you want to hear it".  I'm fine is selfish because it doesn't say we.   I used this to shut down conversations when I decided they were over and he used it when he wanted to be done with me.  This never served us well.  Now we say, "Are we fine?"  That open-ended question gives us both the chance to agree that the conversation is over or  that we need to continue talking.

 Kiss passionately for at least 20 seconds a day.  This was Lee's idea and he's so proud.  Some days would pass and we would barely speak much less kiss.  This forces us to stop and look at each other and connects us in a way that is sacred to our marriage.  READ: you shouldn't be kissing your spouse the same way you kiss your granny.    20 seconds doesn't sound like like a long time, but it can be if you're currently only cheek-kissing.  For years I tried to tell him that affection and "physical stuff" were a reciprocal relationship for me.   Affection is the environment of the marriage that I need to want to be physical with him.  

 Date each other.  Lee and I had plans galore.  Plans with family and friends and our kids, but rarely did our plans involve just the two of us.  We failed to be intentional about continuing to court one another.  Even though I am the planner in the relationship, I still want him to plan things and surprise me.  We need to do the things that remind us of "us".  I don't want to get our boys out of the house and look at each other and not remember how to have fun just the two of us.  This can be a trip to Mexico {yes please} or a Netflix binge or the driving range.  We're marking clear boundaries for time that is just for us with conversation that is private and kid-free.

 Buy the flowers.  Lee has not been to the grocery store in the last 6 months without coming home with flowers.  This may not mean anything to some girls, but to me, fresh flowers speak love.  I think of him every time I look at them when he's not home.  Maybe it's not flowers for your spouse, but it's something!  Just the other day we were talking about things you should do when you're married and Jackson piped in with, "So you should buy flowers every time you go to the store like daddy?"  Yes, sweet boy.  Always buy the flowers.

 Pray together.  Talk about being vulnerable.  This is perhaps the hardest one on the list for us, and for many of you I imagine.  Lee and I both had prayer lives separate of each other, but never together.   This one stretched us to an uncomfortable place in the beginning, but we are getting better.  We want a "three cord" marriage.  If you look to your spouse for your every happiness, complete love and belonging, you will always come up short.  That's not God's design for marriage.

Realize that expectations kill relationships.  One of my favorite books is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  This little nugget of truth was hidden near the end of that book and it was just a revelation for me.  So simple a thought, but man it has changed my mindset.  I have said it to most of my close friends in some way or another.  Expectations kill relationships.  When we were first married I had a grand of view of what our life would look like, feel like, even what Lee should say and do in certain situations.  I would play these things out in my mind and when things didn't go exactly like the movie in my head I was disappointed.   Hear me when I say expectations are not all bad.  We should all hold ourselves and our spouses to certain expectations, but when we are so specific about the minute details we will most certainly be disappointed.   I am learning, ever so slowly, that the reaction I can control is mine.  As such, I am the only person who can control my expectations.  I no longer set myself, or Lee, up for failure by expecting things to go a certain way.  I am learning to take things as they come and quit caring so much that my life looks less like a Hallmark movie and more like "we made it another day and nobody died! Yay!!"

Understand that comparison is the thief of joy.  I specifically remember a moment on our HONEYMOON that I looked at Lee and in my head thought, what have I done?  This came after we had words trying to heave my 100lb bag on the airport shuttle and, once on the plane, he demanded the aisle seat so he could, in his words,  "save myself if this thing goes down."  Really?  We'd been married less than 24 hours and already I was in the rubble.  I immediately compared him to other husbands happily tucked in by the windows, prepared to go down with me.   That girl was looking left and right.  What I failed to see was that my husband was just scared to death to be on an airplane.  That it was a true fear that took him years to overcome.   I was looking at other people's marriages, their husbands, their children, looking at who I thought they were and comparing them to what was in front of me.  Know this...somebody in your circle is ALWAYS going to live in a house you can not afford, drive a car you'd love, shop at better stores.  Someone else's husband is going to gush on Facebook about how wonderful their wife is and you will think, why can't _______ be like ________.    This is not a maybe.  This is a guarantee.  In our over-shared and ever connected lives we open the door wide for comparison to steal our joy.  Remember how you only post the good stuff?  They do to.  Don't look around.  Stop looking right and left.  Just look up and start with thank you.

 Start writing your story.  For our 10 year anniversary I bought us a blank journal to replace anniversary cards and birthday cards, etc.  I wanted us to write the sweet words not Hallmark.   Lee and I write letters back and forth to each other constantly. Much to my surprise he has made this a habit and is much more diligent than me.  I find we will write things we may not say in casual conversation and sometimes I just sit and read it over.  It's a record of our lives and nobody can write it like we can.  One of my favorite movie lines of all time is spoken by Susan Sarandon's character in the movie Shall We Dance...  
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”  

I titled this post 'My Marriage is Over' because I knew if I did, you would read it.  I knew by the end you would understand that my marriage isn't over, it's actually the polar opposite.  It's said to be fully loved you must be fully known.  For the first time in a long time I feel this way in my marriage.   When you find your marriage in a year that's asking questions, I hope you will hang on until the year that answers.  With God's help, it's coming.  I read this today and thought, that's it.  "Love begins, it breaks down, it begins again.  Where love began is not where it will end.  We will be broken and changed and hopefully over the years, with a lot of grace, we will find ourselves in a marriage that has lasted, defined by a love that have been renewed again and again." {Lisa Leonard}  


If you like pictures of me and Lee, you'll love this post.

We just returned from a few days in Mexico on a trip Lee earned through work.  It was our fourth visit to this resort and if you're looking for an all-inclusive we HIGHLY recommend it.  So many friends and family have traveled here on our recommendation and I'm happy to say they ALL have raved!  When it came time to book this trip, we considered trying a new place, but just didn't have the time to really research it.  We are the people who never leave the resort, so as long as the food is good and the sun shining we are happy!  If it ain't broke...
We took a 5:30am flight out {which sounded like a great idea 6 months ago} and were eating lunch at the resort by 12:30pm!  We had great weather Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday and Saturday were cold and very windy.  We learned that Mexico in February can still be chilly! 
Thankful for a few days with my honey to remember "us"