Saturday, November 18, 2017

Grateful #18- Oh, brother

My brother and I were born eleven months, twenty days apart. (My poor mom) Such closeness in age doesn't always transition into closeness in life. But, for me, it did. And I can't express the gratitude I feel for that.

Growing up, my brother and I never tattled on one another. This does not mean that we were good and fair to one another. It's just that we dealt with those situations "in-house," - with a fist to the stomach or a proper shouting match. The disloyalty of tattling literally never crossed our minds.

I never liked being separated from my brother. One of my earliest childhood memories comes from a nursery class where I was separated from Grant (I think he might have been 3, and I was 2?) I can remember the feeling of being left "alone" in this class while my mom attended Bible study. I remember throwing a right good fit over it, not because I missed my mom, but because I was in a strange place without my brother. When I was in middle school, I tried public school and Grant went to private school. It lasted half a year. There were other circumstances at hand that led to me switching schools, but I remember the tremendous relief I felt when I started going to school with my brother again. Then again, with college, I went on college tour and played with the idea of going anywhere for a minute, but brother was at Wake, and I wanted to be there too.

It's odd to write about those times where I followed my brother because I can't say that I particularly liked him during some of those years. He certainly wasn't nice to me all, or even most of the time. My brother's personality is so different from mine...more difficult. If we were house pets, I'd be the golden retriever, and he would be the cat.

Being together with my brother was such a natural part of my childhood. The need for his company wasn't something I was consciously aware of. I just knew, when it was lacking, I needed to remedy that. But as childhood gave way to young adulthood, that need waned. I had other interests, other friends. My life was ever-evolving, for the worst and then for the better. The tides of grace took me farther away from my sibling than I had ever been before. It seemed that would be the way forward, but it wasn't.

I don't have a sister, but what I've witnessed of sisters is something very different from what I have with my brother. I'm sure it's very nice to have another woman to share life with when you're older, but navigating the seas of sisterhood takes greater delicacy. Brothers (mine, at least) are blunt, and that makes things easier. My brother and I can scream at one another at the top of our lungs one minute and the next minute share a joke that makes us both laugh out loud. There aren't hurt feelings or residual bitterness with a brother. Something happens and then it's over and he moves on and you move on. I was used to that bluntness with Grant, when it came to him expressing his displeasure about something. What I was not used to, however, was how he used that same matter-of-fact way when he approached me a few weeks before my wedding. I remember he said, "We are getting older. I would like us to be friends." And we have been cultivating our adult friendship ever since. There was no better wedding present.

Because my brother is more difficult than me, you could assume that he doesn't need people like I do, doesn't enjoy them, doesn't want to maintain relationships. But that's not true. The house cat doesn't wag his tail at everyone like the golden retriever does, but, in a way, that adds value to his friendship because it is something you have to earn. My brother maintains relationships uniquely. They are important to him. He goes about it in a less overt way than some people might want or expect, and he does so in his own timing and that could be off-putting, but he goes about it, and that's what really matters.

Today, Andy and I are going to meet Grant for the Wake vs. State football game. I'll stand in the cold and let my brother tease me about being a State grad. I won't take offense, but I won't fire back. We won't part with a huge hug... just a "see you on Thursday" but in reality we will have both spent the evening with a great friend.

People say that blood runs thicker than water. We can put a lot of expectations on family ties to keep us bound to one another. But simply being related is not enough. If it was, families wouldn't fall apart. It's true that I love my brother in a different way than I love my friends- a deeper, more forgiving, ridiculously long-suffering way. But to really love and be loved by your sibling, as both friend and family, requires God's vision to see that person as God's handiwork. Sometimes when we see someone as a family member first, we're tempted to see them in light of our own expectations. Their loyalty or disloyalty to us or the family makes or breaks the relationship. Such things are too heavy for anyone to bear. When God gives us eyes to see a brother or sister as a person in need of grace, a new world opens up for them and for us. A challenging, sweet, wonderful world. Siblings are given their pasts, but have to choose to go with one another into the future. Today, I'm grateful that my brother chose to go with me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Grateful #17- Friends

This post is getting in just under the wire... but part of the reason I'm so late in writing is because I was spending time with the thing I'm grateful for- friends. Because it's so late, I won't say much, but I hope that doesn't belie how grateful I am for my friends.

I think it's fascinating that finding, making, and keeping friends is a life-long process. It's fun to watch Story make some of her first little friends. When she sees them at church or school or a play date, she gets really excited sometimes, and is shy other times. But without fail, she ends up squealing with delight once they start to share something silly together. It's funny how those patterns also apply to me when I get together with my friends. In the course of human life, no matter your age, background or social standing-  you need friends.

As I've gotten older, I've learned that it's not always easy to make friends, but that doesn't make my need for friends any less important. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I really cherish the friends that I have, both old and new. Friends are a precious gift. If you are my friend, please know that I am so very grateful for you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Grateful #16- Home

The kids and I spent Tuesday night at my mom and dad's so that Andy could focus on some work commitments. It's always fun to have a "spend the night" at Grandmommy's. I like it because I don't have to cook dinner, and I can just sit at the kitchen table afterwards and chat with my mom while my dad cleans up. Story likes it because she gets to cuddle up with Granddaddy and watch plenty of "Thomas choo-choo" before she goes to bed.

But when I picked Story up from preschool on Wednesday, she said she wanted to take her nap in "Stow-ee's bed." I assured her that we were headed to our house. It's nice to get away, but nothing beats stepping back into your own house. For me, that's a house that smells of cinnamon and coffee and baby powder. A house that is filled with furnishings from thrift stores, CraigsList and other people's castoffs. A house with walls adorned with pictures of the places we've traveled. 

I watch a lot of HGTV while I clean or cook and I love the renovation shows. My house would probably be featured in the "before" section of one of those shows, when the people are talking about how they want an open concept floor-plan and they cannot possibly make it another day without a chef's kitchen (even though half of them don't cook) ;) But I like it. I like each cozy room. I like the built-ins in the den where our color-coded books flank the fireplace. I like the dining room, where we all sit down for dinner on most nights. I like imagining what my stairs will look like with Christmas garland wrapped around the railing. I like sitting in the bed with Grey at bedtime and hearing Story's footsteps heading down the hall... a book and a blankie in tow. This house is snug, warm, sturdy and ours.

Homes are only as beautiful as the love inside them. That's a great thing to remember whenever I'm feeling like I need some of those HGTV updates. I'm grateful for this home because I love being here with the people who live inside it. I hope we fill it up with love, and make it even more beautiful.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Grateful #15- iPhone

Today, I'm grateful for the little device that fits in my pocket, but connects me to people around the world.

I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I hate the way that I can pay attention to its screen instead of my daughter when we're at the breakfast table. I hate how I can check Facebook a dozen times a day (or more) to see how many people have liked a photo I've posted. I hate how the news stories that pop up are consistently tragic.

But there are some things about my phone that I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for group texting. I have one ongoing with some of my co-laboring mommas. We tend to send funny stories and photos to help each other laugh through the trying times with our little people. I have another one that keeps me connected with some of my closest sisters in Christ- two in Texas and one in Russia. Those texts turn into prayers, and that group chat has got to be a fragrant aroma to our King.

I'm thankful for the Audible app. At this stage it's hard to sit down with a book (though I still prefer printed text) But Audible gives me access to thousands of titles that can whisk my mind away to solve a mystery or learn something new while I'm on a walk or in the car or folding laundry.

I'm thankful for the fitness apps I've been using that are helping me stay motivated to get back in shape. They remind me to drink water, or encourage me to stay the course with my fitness goals- accountability that I appreciate nowadays, because I cannot stay motivated on my own.

I'm thankful for the camera feature that makes it possible to capture the many adorable moments of childhood happening around me all the time.

I'm thankful for the music app. One of my favorite challenges right now is finding music to add to Story's playlist that she and I can enjoy together, especially since we ride at least an hour almost every day. Yesterday I added "Seeds of Praise" album that includes scripture verses about the birth of the Messiah put to music.

I'm thankful for podcasts. Everytime I hear Ira Glass's voice on "This American Life" I feel like a spell has been cast on my world. For that hour, while the stories are told, all is warm and well. I also hang onto the truth that Tim Hawks tells me in the Hill Country Bible Church podcast. His recent sermon on the idol of status revealed to me (not for the first time) how I desperately need to worship God more than the acceptance and approval of mankind.

A phone is a tool, but unlike any other tool in human history, the features of this tool have the ability to capture my heart and mind. I'm thankful that God has given me self-control, so that I am able to choose to use that tool for good and His glory. I am weak and often don't exercise that self control as I ought to. It's a process for me, but I'm thankful for these good ways my phone is used as a tool to connect with others,  give and receive encouragement, engage with the world, and glorify God.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Grateful #14- I can't wait to get in there.

This morning, I was chatting with a lady in my BSF group as I walked down the hall of LaFayette Baptist Church. I had to make a pit-stop in the lady's room, but as I bid her a "see you in a minute," I thought to myself, I  cannot wait to get in thereThere is my BSF small group, a group of ladies from around the Fayetteville area who have been "thrown together" for a year of in-depth Bible study of the book of Romans.

When I was in Austin, Andy and I woke at 3:45 AM to make it to BSF leader's meeting at 5. You'd think we would have been slow at that hour, but... I couldn't wait. I couldn't wait to get in that circle and get down on my knees next to women of different ages, denominations and ethnic backgrounds, who were facing different challenges at different life stages. I couldn't wait to praise and thank and petition God alongside them.

When I'm working on my BSF lesson, I can't wait to feel the power of God's Word crash into my wounded life. I can't wait for His truth to restore me, refresh me, rebuke me.

When I attend a BSF lecture, I cannot wait to hear how God will speak to me through my teaching leader. Even though I've been taught for years, these passages seem brand new. Just as challenging and life-changing as ever. Knowledge accumulates like snow on a frozen heart, but God's refiner's fire has purified me each year. Every lesson is alive, and it brings life.

What's funny is that when I was first challenged to go to BSF in 2003 (by my mom, who insisted that I go as a sophomore in college or she would stop paying my bills), it was the last place on the planet that I wanted to go. But one Tuesday morning that year, Jesus himself reached out to me from the pages of a BSF lesson and told me that He was my Savior. And for the first time, I believed him. He has ever since been my Lord, and I cannot wait to be with other women who crave his pure spiritual food the way that I do. We cannot wait to get to BSF to taste and see how good He is.

Today, I am grateful for Bible Study Fellowship. Praise God for this organization that desires nothing more than to make His Name GREAT among the nations. When I'm in heaven, I think it will feel a lot like being at BSF. Lots of people from lots of different backgrounds who are just really excited to talk about God and His Word and His Son, Jesus. And, you know what... I can't wait to get there.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Grateful #13- St. John's Preschool

Image result for let them be little
Today, I'm grateful for St. John's preschool. I was sick all day on Sunday, and was not enthusiastic about starting the week. But it was helpful to realize that this morning was a "school" day for Story. Her routine of spending nine to noon at St. John's preschool in Fayetteville has structured this season of life for her, Grey and me.

I've been amazed at how much Story has learned by going to preschool. At 2 1/2, she can count to eleven, sing the ABC's (sort of) and LOVES playing with other kids. I like how St. John's approaches learning. They send me a picture of their curriculum each week, and I like seeing the topics Story is being introduced to. It seems intentional, but not militant. There seems to be a firm grasp on the reality that these are little ones. and they are letting them be little.

I love that Story feels completely at home at St. John's. She loves to say hello to the man who helps conduct traffic in the morning. She affectionately refers to him as "whistle." She loves to push the button to be let into the front door. She walks into her classroom and confidently hangs up her jacket and "pack-pack" in her cubby. She smiles at her teachers on her way to the bathroom to wash her hands. As soon as they are clean, I kiss the top of her head and she takes a seat at the craft table and doesn't give me a second glance. I love that she feels so safe and at home that she doesn't even look my way as I exit.

Today, while Story washed her hands, I heard Hillsong's "Oceans" playing in the background. It choked me up just a bit. That song is so powerful. I spent last night working on my BSF lesson, and being reminded of the terrible reality of hell. Scary. In the wee hours, I prayed for my babies... that God would call them to himself early. I know I have no control over this, but I know that "faith comes by hearing" and so it encourages me greatly that an anthem of faith struck my precious one's ears as she sat down to make her craft today.

I'm grateful for St. John's preschool and how they know and love my little girl, and are introducing her to learning and, more importantly, to Jesus.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Grateful #12- This Guy...

Today, I am grateful for Andy Wermel. It's funny... for a person who has so many words all of the time, when it comes to describing my husband, it seems like less is more. So I'm just going to write some words here, without embellishment, to describe Andy. Because that's how he is. What you see is what you get. And what you get is...

Sleepy (he's sort of starting to sound like the seven dwarves...)

Andy, I love you so much. And I am thankful for you every day, even though I don't tell you nearly as often as I should. You smoke a mean brisket. You are gentle and kind. You are creative and I respect your heart and your mind. Mostly, I am thankful for the way that you let the Lord mold you... I've learned (and am still learning!!) not to rush that process. I am thankful that you trust and obey Him, and are being made into His image. I am so grateful for you, my love.