Be Known

This weekend we had a birthday celebration for one of ours.

My brother-in-law, Todd, turned 28 on the 28th. So fun, right? We made all of his favorite meals from growing up and listened to rock and roll.  Dad even did a little air guitar and reminisced on his glory days of a garage band he had in the early 70s.

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Although he carries a different last name, he is one of our own.

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We ate dinner, told stories, and belly laughed the whole time. We made birthday brownies and Todd blew out the candles.  Let’s be real here, even if you’re turning 90, every one needs candles to blow out on their birthday.

My husband got a gift for Todd, and to be completely honest, it was one that I was a little embarrassed to give.  It was an X-men arch-angel figurine… like seriously?  Cody, my husband, assured me that it was something that could be cool for Todd to get and be able to share with our newest nephew one day.

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So I agreed and was a perfect wife in letting my husband purchase this gift. 🙂

The candles were blown out and present time was pursuing us.  So, Cody got up from the table and hands Todd his birthday gift in a crumpled up bag he found under the bed in my parents guest room… to say we were unprepared is an understatement.

Cody’s letter, written on an index card, said “I hope your 28th year gives you everything you ever wanted. Happy Birthday! Love, Cody and Laura.”

I felt my heart race, a little nervous at the reaction to such a silly gift. I mean what 28 year old wants an X-men figurine?

Todd opened the present and completely stopped. He wouldn’t look up, he wouldn’t speak, he just stared at his figurine in complete silence. The room was so silent that all I could hear was my heart beat, and every second of silence my heart raced louder and louder.

“I mean, it’s okay if you don’t like it man” Cody said nervously.

“Yeah, Todd, it really is okay, Cody just thought it would be cool.” I said as I felt my heart beat in my throat.

Todd finally looked up and Cody and said “How did you remember?”

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You see, months ago, Todd jokingly told Cody a story of Christmas when he was a boy.  He recalled being a spoiled child growing up.  He said there was never a Christmas where he did not get what he asked for.  One particular Christmas, I believe when he was 6-years-old, Todd wanted the X-men arch-angel figurine.  He says “Don’t get me wrong, I loved every single present I ever got, but I really wanted that arch-angel.”  Todd seemed to recall that he never forgot that Christmas.

But Cody never forgot that conversation.

The initial idea of the gift was so silly, but what made that gift special was the moment that Todd opened it and realized that he was known.  Todd, in those long moments of silence, recognized that this new family he married really did know him, they listened to him, they want only the best for him.

Isn’t it amazing? The way we feel when we realize that someone remembered something important to us?  What seemed stupid to everyone else, means the world to you?

When you have that moment, the moment where someone remembers, don’t forget to pass it on.

That God of ours. The one that created us, He knows us best. Better than any other creature on earth. Be known by Him, and learn to know others too.

Keep Adventuring

Do you ever miss the adventurous ways of childhood?

When the tiny box of raisins was the best snack, getting to drink a can of coke was the greatest treat and imagination ruled everyday life?

And let’s be honest here… Bangs, hairbows, and hand-painted Christmas sweatshirts for a FREE Christmas photo shoot at the volunteer fire station in your community was COMPLETELY acceptable.

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I have become so nostalgic towards the ways of my childhood and the protection I experienced within it.

I grew up living around my cousins, with a big pasture, a fantastic pond, hay bales, and grandparents a mile down the road.  We had a donkey named Moe and my sisters, cousins, and I would feed him carrots with Italian salad dressing… I mean carrots aren’t good without it.  We would pretend we were at war and run through the fields.  Some days we were soldiers, other days we were pioneers, most days American girl dolls.  Whatever we ventured, the excitement was real.

Life was simple and life was easy.

Now, I am fresh out of college and it seems as if the pending question for all like me is

“So, what do you want to do with your life?”

Is it appropriate to respond “I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA”??

You know that scene of The Notebook? Where Allie is trying to decide between Noah and that other guy? Noah keeps yelling “What do you want?!”  and Allie bawling and screaming “I don’t know!”.

Allie’s response is the way my tummy reacts when people ask that question. Instant panic tummy… insert fake smile and answers.

When asked that question, I come up with all the answers I feel like the world expects of me.  I tell people what my major was and that I have considered a masters program.  I tell people that I am enjoying my current job and am interested to see where it will take me.

You know what I am really doing? Telling people what I think they want to hear and hiding my insecurity with REALLY bogus answers. 

I attend a bible study that is happening in my community. A friend, the sweetest Rachel I know, spoke up about feeling insecure and inadequate. She told the group that she had been praying and asking the Lord what He thought of those words.

His response… 

“When you live in Him, you live IN-security. When you live in Him, you live IN-adequacy.”

We are secure.  We are adequate. We are enough.

Last night, the question was asked and before I could think of the perfect response, I immediately responded how I felt… “I have no idea.” I said what I loved and I spoke the honest truth, and it felt AWESOME.

You know what was even more peaceful about confessing my unknown? The grace that was given as a response. My heart felt a weight lift off my chest.

In Him… I live IN-Security. 

Pride aside, insecurity aside, embarrassment aside, inadequacy aside… I have no idea what I want to do with my life. It scares me. It terrifies me.  Somedays, it paralyzes me.

But God does. God sees. God hears. God adventures with us in the unknown.

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My friend Kayla invited me to adventure with her Saturday.  It was a sporadic trip and full of fun.  We hiked up a big hill and ate granola bars, attempting to tap into our earthy side.

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We spent the morning in spontaneity and recognized the adventure that God really has for us.  We discovered it in the playful nature that was pulled out of us in the discovery of a playground and the determination to make it to the top of a stupid steep hill.

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We discovered joy in taking the risk of turning left instead of right and pursuing a path into the unknown.

Even if we aren’t on a spontaneous hiking day, we are exploring in life.

And when you adventure, you never know what can happen next.  That’s the beauty of not knowing what you are going to do for the rest of your life, it makes life one big, fat, terrifyingly, awesome adventure.

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Keep adventuring. 

Real Men

My Grandmother is the only living Grandparent that I still have.  This past weekend she turned 82-years-old, and let me tell you, my heart rejoices in that.

My husband and I, along with most of our family, traveled to the small town that raised half of my blood-line, to celebrate.  Joppa, Alabama didn’t know what was coming when all those cars flooded the driveway of the old house.

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We had dinner and sat around telling “Mama Rue” stories.  I have never laughed so hard in my life listening to the stories that flooded that living room.  The southern accents permeated the room making the stories twice as funny.  My grandmother was a hoot as a young woman and quite different towards me and my sisters as she was towards her children.  It was as if for those few hours all the sadness or pain that 82 years may have brought, there were moments and moments and more moments that we could all reflect on and rejoice over her.

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She was a farm wife, which is a hard life, but she was good at it.  She will never know anything but farming and cooking, and she’s the happiest about that. Her greatest joy though, well, it was her man. The man that took her on as his bride and cherished her like ivory for over 50 years.

“What was your first date with Papa Doc?” we asked her.

“Well, he came over to me after a church sangin’ and asked if he could carry me home.  I told him ‘well I don’t know Doc’, and he said ‘well you reckon you can tell me who does?’  and I looked at him and laughed and said ‘well, I reckon my Daddy.’  So Doc asked my Daddy if he could carry me home. Doc drove me home from church that night.  That was our first date.  I was 15 and he was 24.”

That age difference would never fly today.

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That man, my grandfather, set the stage. He set the stage for men and their actions.  He was a tough man, he took risks, he made mistakes, and yes, he even could drive my grandmother crazy, but at the end of the day, he was the man.

He wasn’t the man because he was the main provider for the household or controlling of his wife, don’t get any ideas.  He was the man because he KNEW what he had and he fought for it.  Every. single. day. He knew that he had found a wife worth rubies, children that were a part of him, and that his responsibility was not to just provide for them, but to be present for them.  He knew what it meant to cherish his wife. He knew what it meant to teach his children.  The best part of it all? They all cherished him too.

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His sons married and are reflections of their father.  They work hard, they fight for their marriages, and they are present for their family.  They are constant in the good and the bad.  They challenge each other.  The best part of that? Their children have found men just. like. them.

My husband,  5 years ago today, walked 6 miles in the snow to ask me out.  His mama wouldn’t let him drive, so he walked.  He asked my daddy permission to take me to prom, and 5 years later, here we are.  He provides for us, he dreams for us, he never lets a day go by that he doesn’t think about us.

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My brothers-in-law, well, they are representations of real men.  They take care of my sisters.  They love them, they make them laugh, and they are present fathers to their children.  They honor my sisters with the way they live their lives.  My heart swells up with pride when I spend time with them. I can’t even tell that they aren’t blood related to me anymore.  They are men. REAL men. They set a standard of what all men should be.

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I have pondered Valentine’s Day over and over.  My husband and I spent our energy spreading love to others and not a dime on one another.

I realized something this morning.  My husband makes every day Valentine’s Day.  He celebrates me when he goes to work every morning. He celebrates me when he prays with me.  He celebrates me when I am sick and when I am healthy.  He celebrates me with patience for my sassy attitude and laughter to my bad jokes. He celebrates his bride by choosing her every single day.

A real man doesn’t just buy flowers for his wife for cheesy holidays (although it’s a very thoughtful and kind gesture) Real men sacrifice to be what the world tells them is wrong.

Real men are the ones that are still talked about when they are in heaven and their wife is 82.