Sunday, August 16, 2015

The New Normal- Part 2: Back to School

I went back to work this week. Thanks to the many folks who have checked in on me to see how it went. Here's a random assortment of thoughts from the week.

Let me start with a little bit of thanksgiving. I am thankful for Elaine Burleson, who got me in touch with Elizabeth Juline, a Hill Country parent, who has 14 years of experience keeping infants and toddlers in her home. Andy & I had already paid the deposit for a daycare center nearby, but when Elaine let us know that Elizabeth had availability, we were willing to call that arrangement off. Elizabeth is super sweet, and we liked her and her family right away. It's a blessing to have Story in a home with a nurturing care-taker, the only infant in the bunch. And it's kind of neat because I will be teaching Elizabeth's son Biology this year. So she has my girl and I have her boy. I think that's called "community."

I did a little practice round on Wednesday with Story. We got up at 6AM and did our little morning routine. Feeding, some snuggles, then down into the rock and play while Mom showers and gets dressed. I got her to Elizabeth at 7:45 and headed to Starbucks, where I slurped down a cappuccino and cranked out an entire semester of lesson plans for Biology. At 11:30, I was in the car, saying "Munchie, Munchie, Munchie," like a mantra as I maneuvered through traffic to get my girl.

Elizabeth sends me fun pictures like these throughout the day.

Thursday I officially reported for duty at Hill Country for the first day of in-service. I got choked up on the seven minute drive over to Elizabeth's. I prayed. I don't even know what I prayed, but I prayed. I think I just said, "This is hard," a lot.

Here's another place to be thankful. I love my job. Those of you who are a part of Hill Country might know this feeling well. Hill Country is on the move in the best of directions. It's really cool what I've seen God doing there in the past five years. That's a subject for another blog, but even then it would be hard to articulate. When I left Jack Britt right after getting married, I thought I'd be lucky to ever work at a school that operated so well, was filled with such great leadership and effective teachers. Now, I feel the same way about Hill Country but with the added bonus that it is a Christ-centered community. Like I said, a subject for another blog, but it gets me excited just thinking about it. ;)

So, it was hard leaving my sweet Story behind me, but it was beautiful to hug co-workers I haven't seen in months, fill up on breakfast foods provided by the PTF and join together in worship as Clayton Ring, worship leader for Hill Country Bible Church, assisted us in offering a sacrifice of praise to start the school year. While we sang, I kept thinking about Hannah from the Bible. I had listened to that story on my Bible over the summer. Her story is so incredible. All she wanted was a baby, and then when God gave her one, she brought him to the temple to be raised by Eli, the priest. This story moves me in a deeper way now. She took her most precious thing, and gave him to God. As I sang praises to the Lord Thursday morning, I thought, "well, I'm just going to have to do the same as Hannah." So I held both hands out, palms up, and in my heart, I gave Story to God. My most precious thing. Given over to the God whose love moves me into a community of students and educators, to do my part in giving love, even as I have received it. This is a posture to remember for life. Not a comfortable one at all, but, as it turns out, the very best one I could be in. It's the posture God chose for me before Story was born. I have to remember this when Mommy-guilt tugs at my brain. Some people might say that Hannah abandoned her son. But we know he was in the best place. He was Samuel, the priest God used to anoint King David. I want Story to know that our God is great. He is trustworthy and good. And He has a plan for our lives. He is worthy of my most precious thing. 

A couple of working-mom friends have encouraged me that one of the silver linings about going back to work is that it helps you stay focused on your kiddo when you are at home. I'm committed to this mind-set, and have already started following through. After a decade of spending 50-60 hours a week doing what teachers do, I am not just cutting back, I'm cutting completely off. Forty hours at work, and then I'm coming home to focus on my family. No compromises this year. I even wrote it in my syllabus. I've got some ideas about things I'm going to change in my classroom to make this happen, and if they're successful, I'll share them on here later for any other teacher-moms out there. We'll see how it goes! :)

Speaking of coming home and focusing on family, let me share just a couple of practical ways we're adjusting to the new back-to-school normal before I sign off.

Practical house-keeping change #1: I've been told multiple times this summer that when you have a new baby, you get a free pass on keeping your house clean. And there have definitely been days that I've let myself off the hook over the summer. But, with school starting back, it's important for me to establish some consistency in cleanliness, mainly because I have a mind that doesn't function in chaos. I'm that person who has to clean their space before they can work in it. So, Andy & I have started practicing what we're calling "power hour." Since I get to pick up Story before 4, I have about two hours with her before Andy gets home. We're hopefully going to use this time to just hang out together, play, maybe go for a walk when the weather cools off. But when Daddy gets home, he's going to take Story for an hour and I'm going to use that time to start dinner and clean something. We did this last week, and it was awesome. It's amazing how having just one hour to focus on the house keeps it from erupting. This is a big adjustment for me. I'm used to having hours on the weekend to get the house immaculately clean. Gone are those days. At first I was a little troubled by this. My response to taking care of things piece-meal was, "Oh no, my house will never all be clean at the same time again."  But the flip side of that is that it won't ever all be dirty at the same time either. And that's good enough for this new normal.

Practical house-keeping change #2: This weekend, I assembled a cleaning caddy. This idea was shared with us at our last Square One class. With only one hour (really, less than that when you consider that starting dinner is a part of power hour too), set aside for house maintenance each day, efficiency is going to be key. One of the "seasoned moms" from Square One shared some cleaning tips with us on our last day of class. She recommended a cleaning caddy that you can easily move from room to room, which will save time on going back and forth to under-the-sink to get what it is that you need. I loved the idea and bought the caddy and some cleaning essentials at HEB this weekend. I'm actually excited to start using it during power hour this week. Another thing she said that has motivated me in a sort of mind-blowing way... "If I can't hear my washer and dryer running, I'm already behind on laundry." Granted, she has two boys, so we're not quite there yet, but I'm thinking those are going to be words to live by as the new normal continues to evolve.

409, Lemon Soft-scrub, Pledge, Furniture Oil, Floor Cleaner, Magic Erasers, Clean Sponges, Lint Roller, Dusting rags

Monday, August 10, 2015

The New Normal- Part 1: Calling Jesus

When I sit down to write something, it's sort of like looking through the unfocused lens of a camera. I have a good idea of the thing that I want to capture, and typing words helps me bring the thoughts into focus. Capturing those thoughts in words is a really important part of my life.

But, as I mentioned yesterday, I have this idea about a "new normal" for my life that is a process I'm just beginning. Not only is my vision blurry, but I don't even know where to point the camera.

I had some thoughts about "normal" life that I jumped to right away. Fit back into my clothes. Make sure that Story gets on a schedule. Try not to let the house explode with baby things. But I'm experiencing first-hand how hard all of that is.

Fit back into pre-baby clothes? Easier said than done when you've got diastasis recti so badly that you can fit almost three whole fingers in between your abdominal muscles. And, I mean, I'm hungry all. the. time. Breastfeeding makes some women get super-skinny. It makes me get dessert.

Make sure that Story gets onto a schedule? Absolutely, but just let me get thirty more minutes of sleep... because I was up for at least an hour every night for the past, like, three months. (who sleeps 3rd trimester?) And, who wants to be rigid about a schedule when you're going to hand over your firstborn to someone else to keep for eight hours of the day? I've wanted to squeeze the quality out of the moments, not lay her down in the pack and play to learn to take a nap there.

Try not let the house explode with baby things? Do I really even need to give you a word picture for that? Maybe I'll just take a real picture at the end of today and post it on here.

These seem like good things, right? They're goals I set for myself before I had Story, and they still sound pretty good to me most of the time. It's just that, well, are they even realistic? Or important? I'm not sure that I know anymore.

But I do know this. In Mommy-world, there seems to be a LOT of pressure. It feels like a judgement-welcome zone. Like middle-school, but for grown women. I know that there are these little pockets of community where there's freedom, and out of God's graciousness and through my good friend Holly Thurman, I've been invited into several of those communities this summer. But in the great big world, which includes the internet, you know you're being judged. I don't think I'm just being paranoid here. Maybe I'm drawing from my own experience. I judge. And, come to think of it, I was kind of rotten around the middle school years, too. There's no sense in denying that. And I think there are a lot of people who judge, too. As my cousin Stephen jokingly said to me and Andy back in February, "I can't wait to judge you when you're parents." We took no offense to this. Stephen was teasing us, but... I think somewhere deep down I also knew that it was true. And I think it would be naive of me to expect him to be the only one who felt this way.

Being judged as a parent isn't something to get bent out of shape about. Because it's going to happen, and probably not to your face. There are so many ideas out there about parenting nowadays. And I guess it gives us some sort of twisted boost to our self-esteem when we can look down on one another for vaccinating ( or not), formula-feeding, sending a child to daycare, letting them have their own iPads... you get the idea. We do this. I do this. And from somewhere within this random assembly of opinions, my idea of "normal" springs forth. But, the ground feels so shaky. It's like that sand from that Bible verse in Matthew. I can sort of see myself looking to the right and left and watching it all slide around my toes. Digging your heals into sand isn't helpful. So what am I supposed to do? Where will I find this "new normal?" What do I need to value? What do I need to try to control? Where do I need to loosen up on my desire to control? The answer is, it's unclear for me right now. Like I said, blurry, but... I think I am figuring out where to aim the lens, at least.

I'm looking to the Bible. Because, it's not the sand. It's the rock. Unfortunately, there is no New Testament passage on vaccinations or organic diapers, but there is the story that I read today about what to do when you're facing a crisis. It's the story of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. At the beginning of the story, it says that Lazarus got sick, and good old Mary and Martha completely bypassed WebMD and the homeopathic websites and called for Jesus. No, I'm not saying that Andy and I are going to avoid Western medicine when Story gets her first ear infection and opt for some prayer beads and holy water instead. The passage doesn't say that a doctor wasn't called. It just says that Jesus was called. And I'm guessing that He was one of the first people alerted. So there's my take-away for the day. Crisis? Call Jesus. Then, maybe, if you're feeling it... check the internet.

So that's what I've got into focus for now, folks. This "new normal," this is going to be a tough one to figure out. And I need to let Jesus know about it. I love the way that the message was sent, too... the sisters said, "Tell Jesus, 'the one you love is sick.'" That's pretty cool, right? Because you can't tell that to the internet, or even, really, to your favorite mommy community. When you tell your mom troubles in those places, you're saying "The one I love is in crisis." When you tell it to Jesus, you say, "The one YOU love is in crisis."

Bear in mind, that Jesus heard this message, and then waited around for a few days for the worst thing to happen to His really good friends, but that's a blog for another day. For now, I'm focusing my words in on this principle: "Jesus, can you come on into this identity crisis we're having at the Wermel's house? We're going to need you to show us how to be working parents. Because the ones YOU love don't want to get sick."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Two Months with Story Lamm

Oh, Story. 
Challenges and Adaptations 

As the end of July approached, I faced one of my least favorite challenges- saying good-bye. Not only once, but twice... in the same week.

Good-bye #1 was to my best teacher friend, Robin, who I blogged about earlier in the spring. Robin is moving to Moscow to start her international teaching career. Robin and I have spent so much time together laughing and loving on students in the past few years that her absence was more than I could process in the late weeks of pregnancy/early weeks of postpartum. She did her darndest to say good-bye well to the many people who love her and will miss her so much, and I was present for some of those last meals, laughs and hugs. But my own good-bye happened after she boarded her British Airways flight. See, Robin "sold" Andy and me her Honda before leaving. The day after she left for Europe (she's doing some travel before settling into Moscow in August), Andy and I drove out to Manor, where Robin's car was resting at her mom's house. When I got in that little gray car and saw the card with my name on it sitting in the passenger seat, I began to cry. So like Robin to include one final, thoughtful, gift. Tears rolled down my cheeks and some sobs came as I drove toward the setting Texas sun. Memories- all of them good- filled my mind, along with thanksgiving and hope for my friend.

Good-bye #2 was to my parents, particularly my Mom, who had been with us since Story was two days old. I cannot thank my Mom enough for all of her help. My Dad also got to visit when Story was first-born, over the 4th of July, and again when he flew out at the end of July to collect my Mom for their drive back to NC. I can't convey how heart-breaking it was the Sunday morning they left. Five and a half years of living in Texas, and there's not a single good-bye that I haven't cried over. Some have been worse than others, but I always cry some. But this one was the worst ever. Worse even than that first trip down Water Oaks Drive with my brand-new husband. I can usually at least keep it together until I'm alone, or it's just me and Andy, but not this time. I must have started crying an hour before my parents were fully loaded into their SUV. I couldn't bear to watch them pull out of the driveway. After they had gone, I crawled back in the bed and sobbed myself to sleep. There's a deeper ache now that Story is a part of our family, because of the joy that she brings us all.

Grandmomma snuggles Story on one of their last morning together. 
Before moving on to some other challenges, let me give you a little silver lining to these good-byes. Robin and our wonderful friend Leslie (whom Robin has been traveling around Europe with) challenged me to a photo war called "Story vs. Europe." As they went around Scotland, London and Paris over the past few weeks, they sent me goofy pictures of less-than-picturesque European sights. And then I countered with something cutesy that Story was up to (mostly sleeping). It's been fun. Thank God for iPhones.

Story vs. Airport Delays = Story win

Story vs. Coffee with one of our students in London = Europe win 

And, as for Mom and Dad, I've loved taking photos and videos throughout the day to share with them. Additionally, I bought a plane ticket to head out to NC during Andy's September drill weekend. Having that date on the calendar has made it easier to adapt to the distance.

The card mom left for me when after she returned to NC. Love the encouragement to be a big girl.  Just what I needed at the time. Watch out for those boots. ;) 
Another big challenge came after these good-byes, and was, in a roundabout way, related to them. My body was stressed and exhausted, and responded by producing less milk for Story. I was really concerned, so I called my nurse and she gave me some suggestions, including a prescription medicine that I could begin that day. I wanted to do everything I could, so I  had Andy pick up the script that evening on his way home from work. The next day, I noticed that I felt "off." Since the good-byes were less than a week old, I thought I was still adjusting to being alone with Story. The next day, though, was really terrible. I was agitated, could not sit still, felt hot flashes, had blurred vision, and could not control my emotions. Around 3PM, I called Andy, crying. I thought I was experiencing postpartum depression. It seemed rather sudden, but I reasoned that the good-byes and the anxiety over Andy's upcoming drill weekend, had brought it on. Andy did an incredible job comforting me. He called his teammate and told him he needed to stay home for the weekend. When he got home from work that evening, we sat down together on the sofa and spent some time in focused prayer. Tears came as I struggled to sit still, feeling completely out of touch with my real "self," but desperately wanting to feel normal. It had been a struggle to focus on anything the entire day, even Story. But after the prayer, I felt like the Lord said to me, "it's the medicine you are taking." And with that, I asked Andy, "Did they say anything to you at the pharmacy about side-effects of that medicine?" "Yes, they said if it affects your mood, contact your doctor." BINGO! Relief came as I realized that I wasn't struggling with postpartum depression, I was experiencing a side-effect of the drug! I followed up with my doctor the next week and she was pretty amazed that I'd experienced what she called the "black box" side effects of this particular drug. They're apparently very rare, but can cause major issues, including permanent facial tics! I cannot express how those two days have changed my perspective on struggling with chemical imbalance. I've had respect for chemical imbalance, ever since I learned about brain chemistry, but I don't think I've ever experienced it first-hand to a great degree. But whatever happened in my brain while I was on that medicine, it made me not me, even though I desperately wanted to be myself and be able to care for Story and Andy. The thought of living in that state for even one more hour was unfathomable. As soon as the Holy Spirit let me know the cause, I stopped the medicine. But I have a deeper understanding now, of how incredibly difficult it is to have a chemical imbalance that leads to depression/anxiety, etc. and how hard it can be to regulate medicine to help with that. For me, this was a short-lived, though acute, problem. But for some people in my life, there is an ongoing struggle to find that right balance that makes their brain most functional so that they can be their best for the people they love. And because of this first-hand experience, I am filled with greater compassion and understanding than ever.

Milestones and Events 

At two months, Story weighs 11 pounds, according to the bathroom scale... which I'm pretty sure is a little off, so don't hold me to that. Her official weight will be recorded at her two month appointment on Friday. I have no idea how long she is and I'm not motivated to try to stretch her out and measure. But she's outgrown nearly all of her newborn things, and 0-3 month clothes fit best right now.

Getting bigger
She's started smiling some, but those smiles come on her own terms. I caught a little one on this video. I'm really looking forward to smiles being a consistent part of our interaction. :)

As you can also tell from the video, she loves to move her arms and legs. In fact, right now, she's sitting in her high chair as I type at the kitchen table and those feet are flying!

The other fun thing she's trying out is her voice. She's gotten a lot more vocal in the past month. Before, she was either silent or crying. Every now and then you'd get a little coo, but now she's experimenting with different tones, pitches and volumes. We love hearing her little voice as it develops.

She's a bit of a dainty eater. I certainly wouldn't mind it if she ate a little bit more, but hopefully her weight will be on target when we go to the doctor. And she's not a bad sleeper. Andy puts her down in the crib at night, starting around 10PM. Some nights are easier than others, but she's usually asleep in her crib by 12:30 at the latest and can sleep through until sometime around 5-6AM. We split the night up so that Andy is responsible for anything that comes up between 10-2 and I'm responsible for anything between 2-7. That way, we're guaranteed a solid block of sleep every night. We're sleepy but not exhausted.

We're using the Wonder Weeks app to help us understand her development. Right now, she's going through a "leap," which means that her brain is changing to help her understand something in the world better. During a leap, she gets pretty grouchy and definitely loves to be held by Mommy and Daddy.

One of Story's favorite spots during a leap. 
We had some special events in the past month. First, we had a visit from my Aunt Judith and Uncle Torrey, who were in Dallas visiting their daughters, Shelley and Alissa. They drove down to Austin on a Sunday afternoon to visit with us. My cousin Shelley and her family also came down later that night, and we all got to go out to dinner. They spent the night at a campground nearby, and Story and I enjoyed another visit with them on Monday. It was wonderful to have family visit our home. :)

Aunt Judith

Shelley, Christopher and Kayla 
Last weekend, we celebrated Andy's birthday, as I wrote about in my previous blog. Story had a babysitter- my friend and former student Nicole, who drove up from San Marcos. It's a blessing to have babysitters that you're comfortable leaving your two month old with. Nicole sent me this funny picture while Andy & I were having dinner.

This past weekend, we took our first family 'venture. We drove about an hour west toward Johnson City and spent the afternoon at Pedernales Falls State Park. It was at least 100 degrees out, so we hiked around the falls just a bit before heading to the swimming area. There was water- always a big deal when going somewhere during a Texas summer, but it was warm. A bit of a disappointment for Andy & me, who love the refreshing spring-fed waters found in many central Texas rivers and swimming holes. But better for Story, who had her first experience "wading."

Lessons and Prayers 

A few days ago, I was putting away some of Story's clothes while she napped in her rock and play in the living room. I like to put iTunes radio "lullabies" station on while she's falling asleep, and this song by the Dixie Chicks has become a favorite.

I listened to these words as I put away tiny socks and soft blankets, and I was all of a sudden overcome with the desire to worship God. I hit my knees on the spot and held my palms open, overcome with gratitude for the sweetness of this time in my life. But then I realized that not only do I have so much to be thankful for because I can sing a song like this to Story, but that God sings a song like this to me. "How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough?"  My Father God loves me enough to sing a song like this and make it 100% true. Because of Jesus, we have exactly forever. "Is forever enough? Cause I'm never, never giving you up?" makes me think of the promise in Romans that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ. And the tears came. It was beautiful.

Another lesson I'm learning about is the "new normal". One of the girls in my Square One class told me about a post-natal yoga class at Yoga Yoga Northwest, and Story and I have been going every Wednesday since. One of the things I like about the environment of the class is that it's a very supportive little community of new moms. I don't find myself hating my soft tummy so much when I'm in there with other moms who are also trying to gradually regain some strength and flexibility. There is a lot of talk about the "new normal" of your body, because it never really returns to the way that it was. I didn't like this at first, but the idea is growing on me. I finally realized, "What was so great about the old normal? Isn't there always room for growth?" I'm not just talking about my physical body, though that's definitely a part of it. I'm talking about my entire sense of self- how I spend my time, my goals, my desire to perform. In the past few days, I've decided that the whole business of being Meredith needs a new normal anyway. One that's a little more restful, more interruptible, more open. More to come on this development.

As for prayers, the biggest one on the horizon is for my transition back to work. Before I got pregnant, I thought I would never want to stay at home. I love being a teacher, and our school community is so central to our life here. But during pregnancy, God challenged me to let go of my own ideas and put His plans before mine. So even before Andy lost his job, I prayed for God's will for our family about where I should be in the fall. After Andy lost his job, we prayed together that God would give us His vision for our family. He answered by showing me that I needed to sign my contract. I'm clinging tightly to this revelation as I transition back to work this week because as much as I love being a teacher, I love Story even more, and I am going to miss her so much. Thanks to a friend and co-worker, we've found a great in-home childcare for Story to start this week. I am abundantly thankful for the opportunity for her to be in a Christian home while I'm at work, but it's going to be really hard separating from her this week. My heart aches over it, and I don't even really want to write about it. But I need prayer. I'm asking you to ask God for His confirmation that I am in His will, and that He will give me peace and assurance in Him as I return to school for in-service this week.

Thankful for the chances I've had to just snuggle and enjoy my little girl these last few days. Andy grabbed this shot of us asleep on the couch one morning before he headed out the door. 

Love this crazy selfie of our little family.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Andy!

Today is Andy's birthday. I want to take a moment to write about him, and what I'm learning about loving him in this new phase of life.

This week I've been encouraged to tend to my marriage. It started at Square One, where we talked a little bit about loving our husbands in the midst of adapting to life as a mom. One of the challenges we were issued was to look at our husbands when they're holding our babies, rather than just looking at the babies. The "seasoned" moms have been assuring us that we will fall in love all over again as we watch our husbands change diapers and make silly faces at our tiny ones. So I took up the challenge. I love looking at Story. I think she's the cutest (I know, I'm biased). But, looking at Andy with Story might just top Story when she's solo. I love watching her tiny body rise and fall in rhythm with his breath when she's asleep on his chest. I love his laugh when he thinks she's doing something funny. I love how he calls her "little girl" and "munchie." And I love how excited he was to receive this birthday present. I know he will faithfully read this to her every night when he puts her into her crib.

The next encouragement came from the Awaken Love seminar I attended at Grace yesterday morning. Our discussion at Square One got me motivated, but what I learned at Awaken Love really challenged me. I have a LOT more to learn about how to more completely receive the blessings God intends for me to find in marriage, and I'm going to take the Awaken Love class this fall to learn more. But one of the challenges from yesterday that I wanted to immediately implement was to spend time really trying to know Andy better. I shared some of the lessons I learned at the seminar with Andy over lunch yesterday and he was super supportive of my desire to dig deeper in our marriage. So last night, when we went out to dinner to celebrate his birthday, we didn't talk much about Story. We didn't look at our phones. We didn't talk about school or work or logistics. We asked each other questions, we talked about what we have learned about each other and about marriage. It was awesome.

Out for birthday dinner at Sway
It's really easy to get into the rhythm of life and neglect your marriage. Andy and I have a particularly "easy" marriage. We never fight (we like to joke that we got it all out of our system our first year, which was so hard) We enjoy many of the same things. We give each other a lot of freedom and we trust each other completely. But just because something is easy and seems to come naturally doesn't mean that we're fully enjoying it the way that God intends. That's what I'm really excited to be learning about marriage. I can see the way that our culture tends to push this idea that all of the excitement is found in the process of looking for life-long love. A couple of examples come to mind. I'm watching this super cheesy show on Netflix this summer that I don't even particularly like, but it's sort of wholesome and I like having background noise when I'm buzzing about the house with the baby. One day I realized that none of the main characters on the show are married. There are a lot of divorcees and some young single characters, and the premise of the show is about all of them looking for love. I wonder if the writers of TV shows nowadays avoid married characters because they think there wouldn't be anything exciting to write about? Then there are the magazines you see in the check-out aisle at the grocery store. I'm sure you haven't  missed that almost every single cover highlights a wedding, a baby or a divorce. Like these are the only interesting events life has to offer. As soon as everyone has swooned over a star's multi-million dollar nuptials, they're clamoring for details about who cheated who or who's getting what in the divorce settlement. That's popular culture stuff, but I'm not sure that the people inside the church are really doing a much better job. Most people realize that the divorce rate is the same within the church as it is outside of it.

And it's easy to understand why. It's pretty easy to slip into a rut in marriage. It's easy to believe the lie that it's boring. Or to just get so side-tracked by the other things that are going on in life. But I was reminded yesterday that the purpose behind marriage is to mirror Christ's relationship with His church. When I buy into the idea that marriage is boring, I'm also saying that Christ is boring in the way that He loves His people. How can He be boring when He is infinitely complex? Obvious answer is that He can't be. But if I'm honest, I get into a rut with Him, too. Sometimes it can feel boring with Jesus. But the reason for that is that I'm side-tracked in that relationship, too. I'm not responding to His pursuit of me. He's a Romantic, that Jesus. He has never stopped trying to chase me down and thrill me with His love and grace since I said "yes" to life with Him. But sometimes I'm too focused on my own agenda to receive any of it. Yesterday we were encouraged to pray this prayer, "Lord, help me to be interruptible." Because to receive the best love, you have to be willing to drop what you had going on and take in love when it makes itself available to you. Love doesn't fit onto the pages of my day planner.

But love isn't all spontaneity, either. It takes dedication to really know someone. To know Jesus, I need to read about Him in the Bible. And I need to talk to Him all the time. I need to believe that there is enough about Him to keep me engaged and interested in learning more. And to know Andy, I need to dedicate intentional time to learn about him, so that I can keep exploring the person I said "yes" to. I didn't marry Andy so that he could cheer on the side-lines of my life, but I think I make him feel that way sometimes. I married him because I wanted to explore life with him. Together, I wanted us to live a wonderful adventure. Now I'm realizing that he is my adventure, and there's much more to explore. I couldn't be more excited. :)

Andy, I love you so much. You are my greatest adventure. Happy Birthday!

Story and I both love to snuggle Andy. :)