Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December 26

The anticipation of this shimmering season reached its zenith 24 hours ago. Christmas morning came with its wrapping paper and wide-toothed smiles, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and sugar-coated calories. It was wonderful, and now it's over.

I used to sort of dread December 26. When I was a lot younger, I almost immediately dreaded returning to school. Come to think of it... that part hasn't really changed. ;) The best part of the break always seemed to be before Christmas Day. There always was an abundance of purpose and joy in those days, and then the days afterward seemed dark and aimless- some people would consider that relaxing, but I've never been much good at that task.

This year, I'm tempted to feel the same way. I enjoyed the Christmas season so much. I loved preparing my home and talking about the menu. I loved visiting friends in Austin and then returning home to my babies. And the joy of Christmas morning with a toddler has to be one of life's best gifts. But, I'm not feeling down this morning, and I'm hoping that won't set in.  Here's why...

At the beginning of the Christmas season, I was listening to a sermon series on idolatry. In the last message of that series, the pastor pointed out that when we set our hearts on something that God could do for us, then, when that thing doesn't come to pass, we can begin to ask God, "What good are you?" I confess, I have felt this way for years. And each Christmas, as I've considered this thing that I want God to do for me, I have asked Him for a miracle. But as those Christmas days have faded into nights, and my life looks the same on December 26th, I've felt depressed, frustrated, and angry with God. I've thought, "What good are you? Isn't Christmas a time for miracles? Isn't this miracle according to your will? Why don't you come through for me on this?" This year I realized that I needed to just worship the Newborn King. That He is the miracle, and that I did not need to ask for more.

While I was in Austin, I got to sit down to lunch with three dear friends. They are my burden-bearers. Those who rejoice when I rejoice, and mourn when I mourn. We all agreed that as we grow in Christ and learn to walk in His ways (some of us, through some serious sufferings) we are amazed at how slowly He works. My friend said that she is realizing that what happens is that she will learn one new truth about God, and then look around at her life and realize that everything else is exactly the same- but she just sees it all through the lens of that one truth. I almost fell off my seat laughing because nothing could be more true. His ways are not our ways. He is not as fast as I'd like Him to be. In fact, sometimes He doesn't do what I want Him to do at all. And yet, He is still the best Gift, the only Gift that will really satisfy the deepest longings of my heart.

After the shepherds saw the baby Jesus lying in the manger, they returned to their fields rejoicing and praising God. I think most Christmases, I've been so caught up in the angels and the baby and the star (not to even mention Santa and traditions and presents and parties) that I have ignored the "returned to their fields" part. The shepherds weren't upgraded to a better lifestyle, they weren't regarded with more esteem, they weren't better rested or more healthy because they laid eyes on the Christ child. They went back to their fields, looked at their flocks, and everything was the same...except for one truth that they had learned about God.

On this December 26th, I feel the same way. Praise God for His Son Jesus, who was born to Mary & Joseph, was laid down in a manger, lived a perfect life, died the death I should die, was buried and rose again- that I might be restored to my Father and my King. Hallelujah! And Merry December 26th.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Grateful #26- Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel

This is the last gratitude post, and I have saved it on purpose. This exercise in writing about what I'm thankful for has been wonderful. Writing has long been my preferred act of worship, and reflecting on what I'm grateful for before writing about it has stirred up many thoughts and emotions this month. But there's one thing that ties each post here together- one Person, really, and it's that Person for whom I give thanks today.

A few years ago, the Hill Country Christian School faculty was encouraged to read a book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The message of that book is pretty well explained by its title. When we try to add something to Jesus (Jesus + good works, Jesus + a strong marriage, Jesus + happy children, Jesus + acceptance, Jesus + a beautiful body, etc.) we miss out on the everything that Jesus offers.

I struggle with that message all.the.time. It's probably why I'm also enjoying Tim Hawks' series on idolatry and listening to Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods on Audible. Because I am so prone to want to throw a + in there with Jesus.

It's a wonderful thing to be the recipient of so many blessings from the Lord. Each of the things I've written about this month is something that I am deeply grateful for. But many of the things also can become idols for me- things that distract me from truly worshiping the One True King.

So, let me end with this proclamation. I am crazy about Jesus. I love Jesus. I love Him more than anything or anyone. I love Him because He is the only Person who will never let me down. I know His character, I know He is true, I know He is endlessly patient, long-suffering, gentle and loving. I know He always wants my best. I know He is capable of all things. He is my hope.

But this is also true- I want to add more to my experience of Jesus. I fall into the + something camp so much of the time. I want Jesus to make my life work, make things make sense, make the hurt I've endured go away. I want Him to make things right. I want Him to teach the people who have hurt me and who refuse to acknowledge that hurt a lesson. I want justice... for me... and then maybe for other people too. I am a shallow and selfish worshiper. But, that's exactly why I love him.

Because what I know about Jesus is this- that no matter where I am, no matter what shape my heart is in or what my life looks like, He is worthy of my worship, and it is worshiping Him that will set me free.

Jesus, we are settling in to celebrate your birth. You came here with a mission. You accomplished that mission. You completed the work that set us free. Jesus, it's hard to understand why you allow certain circumstances to exist in our lives, and in the world. But we know that you understand our pain and temptations and sufferings. You have endured more than I can imagine. Please help me to place all these other blessings that I've given thanks for in right order. And please help my heart to worship You alone- whether I am suffering or happy, in turmoil or peace, have plenty or nothing. You are my King. You will never leave me or forsake me. You are the place I go to when life makes no sense. You are good. And I am thankful for You.

Grateful #25- Story Lamm

Today is the last day of November, so it's the last day that I'll write a daily gratitude. I didn't make it to 30, but that's okay. I didn't want it to become a chore. I also didn't write these in order of magnitude. Some days I just wrote what was on my mind. But there are two that I've been saving up for the end. So here we go...

Today, I am grateful for a blonde-headed little person named Story Lamm Wermel. Lately I've observed that when someone who loves Story sees her or talks about her, they can't help but smile. As Story's momma, I am 100% biased, but I think the reason for that is because Story is delightful. She is a sweet and funny and caring little person. And she happens to be ours.

There's something about this little human that makes other people well. Being around Story is like a salve for the soul. After I had Grey, something weird happened to me physiologically. My hormones crashed out and anxiety consumed my mind. I had friends and family praying for me everywhere, but one of the things that helped me the most was stroking Story's long, golden hair while we watched Thomas the Train. In that moment, I felt almost normal.

Like all people, Story was born into sin. She has her moments where sin manifests itself in selfishness, ridiculous toddler tantrums, disobedience. We are trying everyday to point Story to her need for Jesus to be her Savior from that sinful nature.

Even so, I can see how God created this person in His image, and she teaches me what it means to just rejoice in what He has made. One day, Story and I were driving in the car with my dad. As we passed the courthouse and law enforcement buildings in downtown Fayetteville, we pointed the buildings out to her and told her that was where Granddaddy works. Granddaddy, more tongue in cheek than anything, asked her "Story, where do you work?" She responded immediately. "Helper." We both thought that answer was perfect. She is indeed a helper. She helps me all the time around the house, and helps Granddaddy pick up sticks on the farm. How beautiful that she sees herself as a helper. What a profound lesson there is in that for me.

Oh, my Story girl, there aren't enough words to write how much I love you. I love each minute of the day with you, even when I am tired and you are whiny. You challenge me and delight me each and every day. I am so proud of you, and watching you grow is my JOY. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are the perfect gift. I pray that you know Jesus and learn to obey Him so He can make you into the true you He desires you to be. I love you, my Munchie Munch. And I am so grateful I get to be your momma.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Grateful #24- Second Chances

Andrew Grey Wermel is a fantastic night time sleeper. He falls asleep around 8PM and snoozes in his crib until sometime between 3-5AM.  Then, he makes tiny noises that are only loud to my momma ears. I bee line to the nursery to feed him and then he falls back asleep until 7:30AM.

But Grey's days are never as predictable. Some days, he's drowsy all day. Most days, he can snooze a little  in the morning, but he is  awake all afternoon. And others, like yesterday, he is awake ALL DAY long.

I struggle on days like yesterday. My desire to control things and achieve goals is greater than my desire to be patient and nurturing. I saw this come into full view yesterday, and it was pretty ugly. By late afternoon, I was frustrated and exhausted. My house was a shambles of baby feeding accouterments, Christmas decorations and the ingredients for yellow curry. All day, I'd wanted to get those decorations sorted and get that curry started, but Grey wanted to be held.

Finally, around 4:30, I was determined to get something done. I put Grey on the sofa on a green Christmas blanket and marched into the kitchen to start the curry that I had wanted to simmer all afternoon. I pulled out my Ninja to blend the curry paste, and I knew that the noise would be loud for Grey, but I was determined to accomplish at least one goal. After the blending was complete, I peeked into the den but saw an empty green blanket where Grey should have been. Apparently the noise from the Ninja scared him so badly that he leapt off the sofa. He was face down on the rug and crying. He wasn't the only one. I burst into tears as I scooped him up and tried to console him.

I felt so awful about what happened that I went to bed at the same time as my kids last night. I wanted the day to be over, wanted that mom failure to be behind me. But my sleep was fitful. I regretted the anxiety that I allowed to build up in me throughout the afternoon. I felt guilty that I chose my own desire to accomplish something over Grey's comfort and safety.The reality that sin never affects only one person was heavy and painful.

I asked God (and Andy and Grey) to forgive me for letting my frustration call the shots yesterday. I asked my BSF group to pray for me to put aside my desires on those tough afternoons when Grey doesn't want to be put down. Andy was understanding and gracious. My group was supportive and offered words of encouragement. And Grey has been all smiles.

God is gracious, and He knows I am a work in progress. So I'm grateful today for the many chances that I receive from my God and from my friends and family. Yesterday, I didn't get it right, but today, there's a new chance to yield my will to God's desire for me to love sacrificially.

Grey's having an easier afternoon. He's enjoying the pack and play that I set up in the den to keep him safe just in case I have to pull that Ninja out again. And I'm grateful to have another chance to be a better mom.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Grateful #23- Coffee beans and Christmas trees

This morning, I walked down the stairs to the most glorious smell. Coffee and Christmas tree. We got our live tree yesterday- a seven footer that is taking a prominent space in our living room. I came down here this morning to finish up my BSF lesson, and have been drinking in that sweet scent of evergreen while studying Romans. Time to go literally drink some of the coffee that's been percolating since 5:30 this morning.

Today, I'm grateful for Christmas traditions like bringing sweet-scented evergreen trees into our living rooms. Praise God for the eternal life that tree is a symbol of.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Grateful #22- Happy Holidays

A couple of years ago, I wrote a few blog posts about finding joy in the midst of unhappiness. At the time, I was feeling really unhappy. I was weary of the distance between me and my extended family. My two best buddies I'd made while teaching in Austin had both moved overseas. I was struggling under the weight of four science preps (one of them AP). And Andy and I were trying to figure out how to be parents.

On the one hand, as a middle class, educated, employed, married American mother, it seems a little silly to feel unhappy. I have so much. But, on the other, happiness is an emotion. And, like all emotions, it is completely circumstantial.

I think Christians feel guilty or ashamed about feeling unhappy. Maybe there's some good sense in that. An inventory of God's blessings is a good place to start to chase away a superficial case of the blues. But, at the same time, Christians are not "above" feeling unhappy. I think sometimes we feel like we have to "fake it til we make it"to try to sell people on Jesus. But most people have enough Holden Caulfield in them to sniff out a case of the Christian phonies. And there's no need for false happiness. Jesus doesn't promise to bring us happiness, He guarantees our holiness. I think the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the world is to just be real about where we are.The point of writng about my unhappiness a couple of years ago was to work the truth about Jesus into my heart in that unhappy season. It might be a spoiled American white girl thing to be unhappy in the midst of a mountain of blessings, but it was true for me, and I needed to rejoice in Jesus in those circumstances... not so He could make me happy. So He could make me holy.

Things have changed a lot since those posts. And while there are still some troubling circumstances I wrestle with, I'm in a happier season of life. So today, I'm rejoicing in my happiness. My family is close and everyone is well. My children are small and snuggly and delightful. There is enough money to pay the bills. There is no stress of working outside the home. And as the holidays are upon us, I feel even happier. I hope these days of glad tidings are cold and long and filled with traditions and time with family and friends.

Happiness is not a guarantee. It's not something we can trap. It's not something we can work to achieve. But, when it's here, it's only right to give thanks for it. So today, I am grateful for this happiest start to the holiday season.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful #21- To Grandmother's House We Go

Image result for norman rockwell grandmother's houseWhen I was a kid, I sometimes rode my bike down the half-mile drive that led to my Grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day. I'd pop out my kick-stand underneath her covered driveway and make my way into the house, which smelled like homemade chicken and pastry. The brick three-bedroom, built in the 1940's, was brimming over with my aunts, uncles and eleven cousins, so we kids usually spilled out into the yard to climb the Sycamore tree or walked down to the "front pond" (a glorified water hole in the cow pasture) Some adult, or one of the older cousins, would have to come and fetch us when it was time to eat.

My grandmother had a stroke when I was in college, and we never had another Thanksgiving meal at her house. It's sad to see the old brick house, which, in recent years, has been filled with renters instead of cousins, stand cold and vacant on Thanksgiving Day.

Story can't ride her bike to Grandmommy's house, but one thirty-minute jaunt listening to "Moana song" and we are there- at a brick house brimming with the same aunts, uncles and cousins plus the spouses and children that have joined us over the years. No one makes chicken and pastry anymore. Or chocolate meringue pie, my grandmother's two best dishes. Maybe it's a sort of reverence that holds us back... no living person will ever match hers. The universe is funny that way. But there will be plenty to eat, of that I am sure.

Today, I am grateful for Grandmother's house. A house filled with family members who might vote and think and dress and do differently from one another, but who gather today to eat and laugh and shoot skeet. To catch up and reminisce. To await that moment when my musical cousin might sit at the piano and charm our ears with the first Christmas songs of the season. I'm grateful for my family, and the way we fill up a house until the kids overflow into the yard and field beyond.

As time passes, we make choices. Do we matter enough to one another to try to stick together? Sometimes, it's hard. Distance and difference can win out, and erase ties that once bound. So I'm grateful that Story gets to go to her Grandmother's house today, and be with a family still working to come together and give thanks.

Wherever your family is today, and whatever it looks like, I hope you will cherish those whom God has given to you. I hope you will give thanks for the past you share, and I hope you will choose to love them into the future. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Grateful #20- It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Four out of five days a week, Story, Grey and I go to Fayetteville. I'm one of the "rolling stone gathers no moss" types. But, once a week, we spend a day at home. We usually do this on Thursdays but since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, we're at home today.

We made pumpkin spice chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and then took a walk down the street. It's one of those nice November days in North Carolina... so warm in the sun that we didn't need jackets, but not as humid as it could be. As we walked, yellow leaves came cascading down. Story wore rain boots and splashed in the puddles from last night's rain. Our neighbor stopped his truck to say hello and wish us a happy Thanksgiving.

I marvel at the simple goodness of days like today. It seems surreal that on a planet afflicted with sin's curse, I can walk down my street and feel perfectly safe.

What goodness today brings- the warm sun, the smiling neighbor, the houses with their trimmed hedges and aged trees, my daughter, my son,  and the chance to enjoy autumn's golden good-bye. Today, I'm thankful for this beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Grateful #19 - Smell me a memory

I got a little behind on writing these past couple of days, but I've been thinking about these gratitudes, none the less!

Today, I am grateful for the sense of smell. I was listening to a radio game show over the weekend.  The moderator asked the contestants a fun question and the contestants had to answer immediately with the first thing that came to their mind. One of the questions was "What did high school smell like?" One contestant shot back with "Noxema" and then the next said, "Binaca" (that aerosolized breath spray).

When I taught anatomy & physiology, I learned that the sense of smell is well connected with the brain's memory "hub", so that's the reason we connect smell to the past so well. It was such a fun exercise that Andy and I went through a couple of smell-associated memories as we drove up to Winston-Salem on Saturday.

What did high school smell like?
Me- dirty soccer socks
Andy- wrestling mats

What did college smell like?
Me- wet red clay (from many hikes and ball-throwing escapades with Gatsby) and stale beer at frat parties (don't worry, Mom, I did not drink that beer. But I did smell it and it was gross)
Andy- chalk bag (from climbing) and the musty basement smell of the campus safety office (where he worked)

What did Texas smell like?
Me- Lysol cleaning wipes (from cleaning the tops of my lab tables)
Andy- Eric's ranch- dirt, clean and open

I wonder what this season of my life will smell like? Coffee, wet wipes, Dreft, dirty diapers... I suppose that if someone asks me one day "What does happiness smell like?" I'll respond with one of those.

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 really...my 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" Christmas...an 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

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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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grateful #11- The United States Military

Today, I'm grateful for those who serve in the military. When you grow up somewhere like Fayetteville, even if you are not from a military family, the US Army influences your life in a thousand ways each and every day. Probably half the people I've met in my life (maybe more), I met because they served in the military.

When Andy served in the National Guard, he didn't like to go anywhere in uniform. He didn't want  people to tell him, "thank you" if they ran into him while he was picking up something at HEB. He doesn't want to promote what he considers the idolization of a "hero class." Because, according to him, not everyone who serves in the military is a "hero." Like all professions, there are "good" soldiers and "bad" soldiers, just as there are "good" doctors and "bad" doctors, "good" teachers and "bad" teachers, and so on.

But today, I'm grateful for the many good soldiers that I've met. Because the reality is, being a good soldier does require sacrifices that being a good teacher or a good doctor does not require. Andy didn't ever deploy to a combat zone while he served in the military, but that doesn't mean that he didn't want the chance. He really wanted to put his life in danger in order to be a part of defending freedom. Being willing to offer the days of your life in an effort to promote freedom is a noble thing, and I am thankful for every soldier who earnestly answers that call and defends with purity of heart and mind.

I'm also grateful for military wives, because... come on, how can we even have a day to offer gratitude for soldiers and not at the same time consider their wives and families? Surely the best soldiers I know are the ones who have the most support behind them. How these women selflessly love their husbands from a distance, and then again up close, over and over and over again, is just beyond me. They are constantly called upon to be both mom and dad for months on end. They absorb dramatic change in their family and home dynamic. They endure separation from their extended families, and from their husbands. It's a hard life. I am just humbled by some of the military wives I know. They are women of iron beauty- strong and selfless. To those women, and the men they love and support- today, I am grateful for you.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Gratitude #10- Happy Birthday Dad!

I've been looking forward to writing this gratitude since I started this project. Today, I'm grateful for my Dad- Ronnie Mitchell, whose 65th birthday we celebrate today.

My dad was born in 1952, into a family rooted in the sandy soils of Sampson County, North Carolina. We used to visit the old farmhouse there when I was very young. No one lived there anymore, but I recall the old tobacco barn, tall and narrow, the scrubby pines in the yard and the hand-pump in the kitchen. He was the youngest of five children.

At some point the family moved to Fayetteville. There are two "hills" in Fayetteville- Haymont Hill and Massey Hill. They are more distinct socially than topographically. Lots of people grow up on Haymont Hill, attend college, begin careers and enjoy success. It's a hill of privilege, one people are proud to live upon. Lots of people from Massey Hill go to prison. To say that you grew up on that hill is to imply that you survived something, rather than had something bestowed upon you. But like many "old neighborhoods" of the American tradition, my dad has a kind of pride of place in Massey Hill. He sailed away on scholarship to Wake Forest University after graduation, but he's not ashamed of the place that launched his journey into higher education. That hill shaped his ideals, and, even though I went to school on the other hill, it managed to affect mine, as well.

My dad is smart. He's got a huge head, with very little hair on top, and perhaps the reason is because grass doesn't grow on a busy street. Throughout my childhood, my dad would spout off random facts as we drove in the car or sat at the dinner table. He'd recite all the states and capitals, for instance. Or give a full account of all of the Presidents of the United States. Or tell you all the names of the starting line-up of some sports team and why you should or should not respect a particular coach or player. His mind is like a trap for seemingly random information, but in his work as a lawyer, that trap has served him well.

Like most people who build big lives from humble beginnings, he's also absurdly hard-working.
My whole life, I've seen my dad working. Writing briefs, dictating, taking phone calls at all hours. But I've only seen him in court once. And that time was at the highest court- the Supreme Court of the United States. He performed an oral argument there while I was in college. It was a moment that opened my eyes to my dad's professional acumen. If my father were a physician, it would have been like watching him perform a life-saving surgery. Or if he were a soldier, it would have been like watching him execute a mission without jeopardizing the lives of the men on his team.

An oral argument in front of the Supreme Court of the United States is nothing like an episode of Law & Order. The Justices sat high above the court, some of them imperious, some of them seemingly indifferent. I got the sense that the mission of the hour was to engage the Justices in earnest discourse, and yet I soon realized the difficulty in doing so. The Justices aren't there to be nice or polite. They are there to make decisions that become laws. They reminded me of cats, sprawled and comfortable, but ready to pounce at any moment. Their questions pawed at the attorneys in front of them, testing their skill and intelligence. Every time my dad would begin a statement with "Respectfully, Justice..." I'd hold my breath, wondering if the cats would show their claws, or, worse yet, completely lose interest. I had no idea what he was talking about, but, as the argument proceeded, it was clear that the Justices became increasingly interested in my dad and bored and disappointed with  his opponent. It took some weeks before the ruling was made, and, in the end, my dad's side  lost the case. But on that day in Washington, he won the respect of the highest court in the land.

I've heard integrity defined as "doing the right thing when no one else is looking." Surely in life, there are many times that we fail to do the right thing. The right thing is often exhausting and sometimes costs us dearly. But, my dad is a man of integrity. I completely trust him to do the right thing, even if that thing takes time and trouble to sort out. Eventually, he will do what is right, no matter who is looking. I count on that like I count on the sun shining this morning.

My dad is also very grateful. Suppose it's Saturday afternoon and my family has informally gathered around the kitchen table to eat a sandwich or some leftovers while watching a football game. The game is on, and everyone is at varying stages of consumption- some still spreading mayo on bread, some pressing the last crumbles of potato chips onto their tips of their fingers. My dad will, without fail, come in and ask- "Have you all prayed yet?" I've wondered why. Why is the ritual so important that in such an impromptu setting we couldn't just skip it and watch third down? But I've realized that it doesn't have anything to do with ritual. He's truly so grateful to God for that moment- his family, the sandwiches, the football game... that he can't take a bite until he's said "thank you" to the Giver.

I could write a lot more things about my dad for which I'm grateful. .But I'll end with this. It is the joy of my heart to see my dad with my children. He likes to see them a couple of times a week (though he'd be happier to see them every day) Sometimes he will come by our house when he's been working nearby. It thrills Story for him to show up like this. And when she sees him at the door or hears his car in the driveway, she calls out, "Granddaddy here!" When he doesn't get to see them in person, he FaceTimes, even though they're just 25 miles down the road. He did so last night, and I held the phone up so that he could see Grey, who was blowing bubbles as he rocked in his swing. My dad's expression was like a man looking upon a long-lost treasure. Because that's exactly what my children are to him- they are a treasure. One of immeasurably great value that was waited for and is now here, to be cherished and enjoyed. I'm so grateful for this because it helps me understand the heart of God. Little Grey is cherished, not because of what he has learned or accomplished, but simply because he is here. And Story is the delight of his life, because she is here, and also because she is of an age where she can be enjoyed. It's hard to fathom that God could feel the same way about me. That He loves me because I am here, because I am His. But He also wants to enjoy me. As I learn more about Him and obey Him, our relationship grows, just like Granddaddy and Story.

As I've gotten older, I've seen a lot of bad examples of fatherhood and experienced how much pain an unjust, unloving father can create and allow. And as I'm learning to parent myself, I see how hard it is, and how costly.  So today, I am so grateful for my dad. Happy birthday, Dad!!! I love you!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Grateful #9- The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

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Just a few minutes ago, I changed from my "out and about" clothes to a pair of "stay in" clothes. It was dark in my bedroom when I pulled a pair of leggings from a drawer, and I couldn't tell if the leggings were black or navy blue. I lamented my inability to tell for a moment, because I wanted to put on a red and black buffalo check flannel, which is especially cozy and perfect for this cold, wet day. I thought for a minute that navy doesn't match that shirt, so I hoped that the leggings weren't navy. Then thought... Seriously, have I actually just wasted a minute thinking about this? Who cares? It doesn't matter!

That reminded me of a little book my friend Robin shared with me a few years ago. It's titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. This tiny book (it's only 44 pages!) unpacks a gigantic truth that's based on Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I don't even judge myself...it is the Lord who judges me."

I admit that I lose sight of this truth most of the time. I do care what people think of me, and I do care what I think of myself. But, if you ever read this book, Tim Keller will help you understand that caring about such things steals the joy God intends for you to have. The antidote to insecurity isn't a higher opinion of myself...it's the freedom to forget about myself, and enjoy God and His gifts and callings in my life. Self-focus diverts our vision from God and His people. Self forgetfulness allows us to focus on that which brings true joy.

So, today, I am grateful that it doesn't matter if my pants are navy or black (they were black, by the way). I don't have to focus on myself. God has given me the freedom of self-forgetfulness.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Grateful #8- Hot and Cold

Today, I'm grateful for the hot shower I just took on this cold November afternoon. The past two days have been tough on Grey (his tummy has been giving him trouble). He cried nearly all afternoon and evening both Monday and Tuesday. But today he's feeling much better, and that meant I could put him in his rock and play and enjoy a long, hot shower while Story napped.

I also love late autumn days like this one. I love opening the door to let the dog out and feeling a little bite from the outside. Humidity doesn't bite, it licks, and at this point, I'd rather be bitten, for sure.

I'd love a mug of hot cider and a real fire, but I don't have either of those. So I'll stay content with the extra minutes to let my skin get red and clean while my little ones quietly rest.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Grateful #7- Food for the body

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When I was in middle and high school, I had an eating disorder. I was underweight for a few years (when I didn't really eat much at all) and then slightly overweight for a few more years (when I binged and purged food with regularity). That unhealthy approach toward food caused mental, physical and emotional pain for myself and the people closest to me for nearly a decade.

God delivered me from that snare little by little, but I turned a major corner my junior year at N.C. State when I took a human nutrition course. I'll never forget Dr. Sarah Ash coming in on the first day of class with a pack of Lance peanuts and a can of Coke. She said, "This is my breakfast. See, even nutrition professors don't get it right all the time."

I don't remember much of the biochemical depths that I was taught that semester, but it doesn't matter. What changed my life was learning to approach food as fuel, instead of something to control, fear or use to soothe my mind or emotions. Dr. Ash's mantra, "All things in moderation and variety in all things," has governed my food choices ever since I took her class.

After having a baby, it's been tempting to get down on myself because my body doesn't look or feel the way that it once did. I started a running program about a week ago to jump-start my weight loss goal, but even with that going on, I've looked at the scale or in the mirror and gotten discouraged lately. I've been tempted to try to control what I'm eating in an effort to slim down faster. But that mindset doesn't lead me into gratitude and freedom. It points me back in the direction that I came from. So today, I'm grateful that food is for the body, and that God provides great variety for me to enjoy and to give me the strength and energy I need to do His work today.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Grateful #6- Paradise

The day that Jesus hung on the cross, he had a conversation with the criminal beside him. He told that man, who admitted his sin, and acknowledged Jesus' authority, the he would be with him in paradise. 

Yesterday's shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas really shook me up. As violence pours out in our country this fall, I feel shocked, disgusted and worried. I can't stop thinking of the pastor and his wife. We know that their 14 year old daughter was one of the victims. I imagine that, as a parent, you'd be more worried about where your teenage daughter spent her Saturday night than her Sunday morning. The last thing you would expect is for evil to rip apart your world while your child sits in the house of God.

I told Andy last night, that hearing about these things makes me not want to go anywhere. He was quick to remind me that God hasn't given us a spirit of timidity. He's right, but.. my babies...

I wrestled with these thoughts in the wee hours, while I rocked Grey a while longer than I usually do. That's when I thought of Jesus telling the thief he would be in "paradise." Today, I am grateful for that word, and that real place that Jesus promised the thief- and promises everyone who repents and believes. What a word of hope in the final moment of life. Paradise- we don't know what exactly  Jesus has in store in this paradise he speaks of, but it's a good word, isn't it? An elaborate word. It conjures images of sandy beaches and pristine waters. Warm sun and no pain. I don't know that Jesus' paradise looks quite like the Jimmy Buffet version I tend to think of, but I know it's good. And I know that those believers who were gunned down yesterday were instantaneously there. In Paradise, with the King.

Focusing on this word this morning doesn't diminish the pain caused by the evil that overcame good yesterday, but it is an effort for good to overcome evil, which is what God desires. Today, I am grief-stricken over the hell on Earth the congregation of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs is facing. But I rejoice with them that paradise now holds those saints whose lives we grieve the loss of today.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Grateful #5- Grey

Today, I'm thankful for my little boy. It's amazing how, just when you think your heart couldn't get any fuller, God unfolds a part that you didn't know was even there.

When I was pregnant with Story, I somehow "knew" her. I felt like I understood her personality, even when she was inside me. When she arrived, she was just what I expected- only now I could see her and hold her.

It wasn't like that with Grey. I don't really know why. I kept saying to Andy throughout the pregnancy that I didn't really know Grey yet. I didn't know what to expect when he got here. And the first few days of his life were so challenging for me because of the anxiety I experienced immediately after his birth that I did not feel the immediate connection with him that I had with Story.

But today, I am grateful for the way each sigh, coo, smile and cry tethers my heart to him. I'm grateful for the sweetness that oozes out of my new little person. I'm grateful that when I smell the top of his head, it smells like me- a smell I'm not even consciously aware of, but, when I nuzzle him up to my nose, assures me that he is irrefutably mine.

Every day, I tell Grey, "You are important." I want him to know that even though he was my second ray of sunshine, his light was no less bright.

I love you, Andrew Grey. And I am grateful for you.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Grateful #4- Brokenness Welcome Here

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Today, I'm thankful for this Facebook post from a former student of mine.

Mark 2:17: “I have not come for the righteous, but for the sinners!”
Jesus didn’t come for the perfect. He came for those who are broken, weary, and burdened. His church is not a gathering place only for those who have it all together, but also a sanctuary for those who need refuge and renewed strength. I’ve struggled with my brokenness for as long as I can remember, because I’ve been broken for as long as I can remember. I went through a period where I gave up on Jesus and Christianity because I didn’t think it was for me. I was too far gone, too lost, and I felt I could never be “good enough” to step inside a church, or talk to the God who created this beautiful earth. I didn’t think I was worth His love, healing, or grace. I wanted desperately to share His love with the world, but I refused to accept it for myself. I was too broken. But that’s not what the Bible says. That’s not what Jesus is about. He came for the broken. He came for the sinner. He came with the message that no one was ever too far gone. He opens His arms wide and says “Your brokenness is welcome here.” He make beautiful things out of broken things❤️ 

You don't have to look too far to find brokenness. For me, all I have to do is check the news on my phone, consider some of my "relationships" with people or search my own heart. Brokenness is thriving. 

It's no wonder why. Jesus warned that we have a real enemy who is sowing seeds in the world that bring forth a harvest of brokenness. That enemy is here to "steal, kill and destroy." We also have our own humanity to consider- whose default mode is to glorify and serve itself instead of worship a Perfect Creator and love the people and things He created.

So we live each day with broken hearts, the jagged edges of which, shred the people we are supposed to love. 

So today I am thankful for this post, which encouraged me that Jesus has an answer to all this brokenness. He's standing at the door of our broken hearts, knocking. And I am so grateful for this sweet girl who has opened the door and invited Him in. I'm challenged to do the same. Sweet friend, let's let the healing begin. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Grateful #3- "Mommy, wait!"

Story suffers from an affliction common to 2 1/2 year olds, especially those with new little brothers or sisters. She's got a pretty serious case of "mommy-itis." She doesn't like to be separated from me, especially for something that's off-routine. She can get to preschool, BSF and church nursery without too much trouble, but if I try to step out the door for a yoga class in the evening, or even walk into another part of the house to take care of a task, she cries out, "Mommy, wait!" and then moves her little toddler body as fast as she can to catch up with me.

Baby girl, I understand. I feel the same way. I like to be with my Mommy too. And that's my gratitude for today- I'm grateful to get to be with my Mom.

Today, my Mom and I are going to the Holly Day Fair. It's a tradition we've had since I was in high school. She went yesterday with her friend Ann (they have that tradition too- they always go during the stroller-free hours... lucky devils) She sent me pictures of the good stuff and I am so excited to join in the fun today. But it's not really because of the stuff. It's because it's our tradition- me and my Mom. It's the start of our holiday season. It's a celebration of the good cheer that is coming- and I'm so grateful to get to start that celebration together with her. 

My best friend lost her Nana this fall. It's been hard. It's reminded me that our beloved ones are not here forever. God gives and takes away, and I don't know that we can ever be prepared for the taking part. So today, I'm here, resting in this moment where I can say, "Mommy, wait!" And she will wait. She has always waited. And I am so thankful for it.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Grateful #2- ALL

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Today I'm grateful that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for ALL people.

There are no qualifiers to the gospel, no exclusion policies, no background checks. The gospel isn't an institution that you have to apply for and hope to get into. It isn't for people who look or act or vote a certain way.

The gospel is for moral people and reckless people.
The gospel is for light-skinned people and dark-skinned people.
The gospel is for gay people and straight people.
The gospel is for rich people and poor people.
The gospel is for Republicans and Democrats.
The gospel is for ignorant people and educated people.
The gospel is for mean people and kind people.
The gospel is for Americans and for the NATIONS.
The gospel is for ALL people.

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to ALL who believe. Romans 3:22

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Grateful #1- Mommin'

Today, I'm grateful for getting to stay home with my babies. Grateful that I woke up to feed Grey at 5:30, and was able to go back and lay in the bed another hour without the stress of the workday crushing my chest. Grateful that I showered, put on a favorite pair of green lounge pants and a grey wool sweater, brushed through my wet hair and was at that point "dressed" for the day.

When I went back to work after having Story a friend encouraged me by saying that when she went back to work it helped her to be really intentional about parenting in the time she had with her children. I get that. I feel the same way. It's easy to get distracted by lesser things when you feel like you have the whole day ahead of you. Sometimes choosing to nurture is hard when you feel like you can just do it later.

Another friend warned me, before I ever had children, that the hardest part about staying home is that it's a 24/7 gig. And that's true too. There are days when it's 9PM and I've been spit-up on all day and someone has cried at least every half hour, and the laundry pile seems to have spread like some sort of Dreft-scented fungus, even though I've spent ten consecutive hours trying to contain it.

But today, I'm super grateful that I get to be home with my littles. That I get to walk Story into preschool and stay until she washes her hands and settles in to play. That I get to give Grey some serious snuggles this afternoon (he was a little neglected yesterday as I scrambled to get the house cleaned up for our little Halloween shindig). That we will spend a sunny afternoon in our yard, looking for some fun.

Work will come again, and there's merit in schedules, routines and a hard day's labor out in the world. But today, I'm grateful to have the time and space and lack of external pressure so that I can just "be" with these little people. I can take them in, in all their sweetness and dirtiness and crankiness, and taste how sweet it is to be their mother.