November 27, 2013

To bring Him the Hard...and give thanks

Confession:  The last two years I've been one of those snarly cynical people on Facebook who see people jumping on the "30 days of thanks" bandwagon and have thought it was totally dumb.

Why only be thankful one month out of the year?  I'm not doing that, because I am always thankful, my prideful, know-it-all heart would say.  I swore I would never participate as I would rather go against the crowd when things trend like that on Facebook anyway.  I'm such a rebel.

But this year, I felt like my heart needed to ponder gratitude on a more deeper level.  It's been a rocky few months - okay, it's been a rocky several months really.  I've been hurting, I've been angry, I've been busy, I've been struggling, I've been overwhelmed.  Where is the giving of thanks in that?

Jacob.  Work.  Laundry.  My home.  Parenting.  Youth Group.  Hosting my family for Thanksgiving.  Marriage.  Friendships and feeling like I am failing at every one of them.  Finances.  Struggles with food.  Insomnia.  Issues with contempt.  Old hurts.  Feelings of rejection.  And failure.  And hopelessness.  And self-loathing.  Needless to say, all of this - my full plate, my full heart, my full stomach - led to a somewhat massive melt-down.  But afterward, I made a list of some ways I could care for myself.  I reached out to some friends.  I made an appointment to see my counselor.  I had a long talk with Todd.  I sought out some accountability.  I had it out with God one sleepless night.

Of course, my meltdown hit shortly after I decided to commit to this whole 30 days of thanks bit though - talk about a humbling experience.  Lest I sit in shame for quitting in the middle of it, I have forged through.  And ya'll - some days have just been downright hard because I don't feel very thankful for anything.  But a moment, a brief ray of sunshine will happen in my day, and I take notice.

I've been Instagramming my thanksgiving journey.  Taking a picture a day, looking for moments in my regular every day to be thankful for rather than just making a list.  Again, my own rebellious way of doing it and not being like everyone else.  Because I'm Jenn. 

This is probably my favorite so far.  The exploded potato in my oven. 
That day I was thankful for messes.  And for Jesus' unfailing love that always meets me right in the midst of it.  Because He does.  Because He has - every single time.

I've been thinking about this potato and it's mess and how it feels hard to give thanks for what's gone awry and needs tending to.  How it never feels easy to give thanks for the hard, for the painful, and challenging.  I do wonder though what might happen if I thanked God for those things - what might happen to my heart, to my relationship with Him, to my marriage, my friendships if I could thank Him for the hard things in those very moments.

It's maybe more natural to sit around our Thanksgiving tables and thank God for our blessings.  For our homes and jobs and families and health and our good and wonderful abundant things.  And I am deeply grateful for the life I have and the many abundant blessings that surround me.  I wonder though what it might be like to give thanks to God for the hard places.  For my pain and struggles and unmet longings.

This Thanksgiving, this is the place where He has asked me to meet Him.  To bring Him the hard and to give thanks.

So tomorrow, I will bake my pies and clean my house and prepare to host my family for a day of food and laughter and singing and memory-making.  And my hope is that my heart stays in this place of remembering and thanking Him for the things I really don't want to thank Him for.

November 20, 2013


Last weekend, we celebrated my Grandfather - my Poppy - and the great event of his 80th birthday.  We had food.  We had cake.  There was reminiscing and friends and family paying tribute of his life and legacy.  We sang worship songs and prayed.  It was like a glorious church service.
But the night was all about honoring his life and legacy.

As I think about my Poppy, the only Grandfather I have ever known, there will probably always be a few things I will remember about him.

Like how his face would light up on a Saturday morning when he would find Grammy in the kitchen making Spam and waffles.  How he was always up early in the morning, long before dawn, reading his Bible and devotionals and praying before his day started.  The sound he makes when he clears his throat to pray or to sing.  I will always remember the color of his lightwashed jeans he does yardwork in and how they hang by the washing machine no matter where they have lived. I will never forget his rendition of the "turkish toilet story."  And I will always, always remember his great laughter anytime we sing "The Joy of the Lord" and the "hahahahaha" verse of the song.  (It's an inside joke and you would have to be there to get it.)
I think we all consider Poppy to be the Patriarch of our family.  The Dad, the Grandfather, the Great-Grandfather.  His faith, his roots, his heritage, his love for music, his passion for God and the Word - all of it has been woven in to our lives intricately and beautifully. I am not the only grandchild who would testify to that.  I simply wouldn't be the woman, the mother, the wife that I am today had he not been at the start of it all.  Our son, Jacob Paul, bears his name because of the man he is and the impact he is had on my life.  Because I would want my son to be like him.
Eighty years is a life lived long.  Poppy has stories, scads of stories, about God's faithfulness and goodness and miraculous things that have happened along the way.  He is a man changed by knowing Jesus and walking with Him for many, many years.  He has been all over the world, lived on the mission field, pastored churches, and ministered to hundreds, if not thousands, of people during the course of these 80 years.

He loves his family, he loves music and singing and performing.  He loves good food and laughter and deep conversation and rich fellowship.  He loves prayer and spending time with the Lord and studying the Scriptures.  And it's funny, because the things he loves, are all things I love too.

I consider myself blessed to still have all of my Grandparents with me.  They are some of the relationships that I deeply treasure most as their presence and influence in me life has been far reaching.  My Gramma and my Poppy and Grammy have provided consistency for me when I had none, advice and guidance when I needed it most, and have been a safe place for my heart and my story throughout the years.  I dearly love them all.  As I look to the future, I simply don't want to imagine doing life without them in it.

He may not agree, but I would take 80 more years and then some, with a Grandfather, a Poppy, like mine.

November 17, 2013


Her handwriting was on those musty old boxes.  Her flowing cursive handwriting that was just as fluid and pretty as her singing voice was.  I didn't know what was inside, but I knew I couldn't wait until after we had finished running our errands that day to open them.

I tore into the first box on a mission.  I suppose every time I've been given something that belonged to my mother, my heart hopes to find some great treasure.  Something of hers that will bring comfort to the places inside of me that forever need a mother.  I dug through pictures and frames and old cards she had saved - some from me.  And at the bottom of the box, in old, faded brown leather, was the treasure of treasures.

Her bible.  Brenda L. Hull it read.  With a symbol of a dove next to her name.

And a journal.  Her journal.
I took them out of the box along with cards and notes and pictures that were sitting at the top.  I gathered them up in my arms and tucked them under my chin like a squirrel who had just hit an acorn jackpot and was off to hoard my find somewhere.  I stood outside and rifled through things on the hood of Todd's car.  As I flipped through her journal, I was flooded with disappointment when I discovered she had only made about ten entries.

She journaled like me, I thought.  I always have good intentions for journaling.  I want to.  I need to.  I enjoy it.  But I rarely have the time.  With work and small children and a hundred other things, who has time to journal?

Todd came outside to see me pouring over my stash on the hood of his car.

"Look what I found," I said.  I held up her Bible and looked into his eyes.

And then I lost it.  Right into his arms in the middle of the driveway.  With the neighborhood boys playing in the middle of the street, and the guy across the way mowing his lawn and his wife carrying in groceries - I sobbed.  I wept because having her Bible feels like having a piece of her heart that I always wanted to have.  Todd held me and kissed my forehead and let me cry for a few moments.

Later that afternoon, I read her entries.  I memorized some of what she wrote.  I cried when I read how about her struggles with resting, with trusting God with His best, with asking for miracles.   Reading her private thoughts to God felt like getting to have a conversation with her.

That conversation, that old leather Bible - handwritten and underlined and highlighted....oh what treasures for my heart to savor.

November 13, 2013

Goodbye House

A house is never just a house.

It's the place where we make memories, live our childhoods in and they mark chapters of life lived.  Home is where our stories begin.  It is in the homes of our friends and our families that we form the deepest relationships, where we share meals around the dining room table.  It's where we do life, where we cry and wipe out exhausted on the couch from a long day of work or parenthood or both.  It's our resting place, our haven.  Home - having a home, making a home, building a home - has always been important to me.  And perhaps it is for that reason I get so attached to them.

There have been a few houses I've had to let go of in the past.  My own childhood home after my parent's divorce. My Grammy's most favorite house with huge front and back yards that I had dreamed of having my wedding at.  And I almost said goodbye to my own when we thought we were moving to North Dakota - and I'm sure there will come a day when we leave here and I will weep like a baby.

But these homes, these places I don't want to let go of, are the homes that contained life and laughter and sweet times that my childlike heart will never forget. It's the memories I am always so desperate to cling to.  I want to remember the good.

Sunday, I said goodbye to my Gramma's house.  She has lived there for 41 years.  Longer than I've been alive, it's the only home I've ever known her to be in.  I can remember 30 years worth of Christmas Eve's, bubbling pots of spaghetti cooking on her stove and the distinct way Great Grandma would answer the old rotary dial phone on the wall.  I can remember sliding down her hallway in my socks and admiring her collection of porcelain glass dolls.  The trees in her front yard had some of the biggest leaves I've ever seen and made the best piles for jumping.  I have childhood memories of picking up pecans and cracking them around her kitchen table.  Of making molasses cookies and covered in flour while we listened to Gramma tell stories.

I lived an entire season of my own life there too.  My early twenties when I was single, struggling with depression, with secrets, with addictions.  It was a hard season of my life for me, yet a necessary one too.  I grew up in that house - no so much as a child, but my woman started to grow there.  I went through a difficult journey of my faith with God.  I still remember the words spoken to Him in darkness out of anger.  And later out of my desperate need for Him.

I moved out of Gramma's house when I got married.

But of course, her house, her home, my home, my Gramma - they are all precious to me.

Gramma is entering her own new season of life where it means she lives with her son and his family since her body and health require more dependence and need for others.  They found a lovely home and I couldn't be more thrilled.  Yet saying goodbye to the house, to the place she lived for so long is bittersweet.

My Great-Grandmother died there.  It was the last place I saw my mother alive.  I suppose in some ways leaving the house behind feels like losing parts of them all over again.

But I suppose that's how it is with any season.  A death and a new life experienced at every turn.

I am left only holding memories of the past.  Pieces of my story.  Pieces of my heart.

November 9, 2013


Halloween has come and gone and I've been in a flurry of November glory.  Reflecting on places of gratitude and thankfulness, especially about God's plans and the adventure we were on earlier this year with trusting and North Dakota and His great giving and taking away of things.  And I've been enjoying fluttery open windows in our Texas autumn and cooking up steamy, warm comfort from-scratch things in my crock pot.

But even in the few and fleeting moments I have had for reflection and beauty, I still see where I have this tendency to get in a rush this time of year.  The calendar goes from zero to sixty in no time with holidays and special events and lists of things to-do, to-buy, to-cook, to-get-done.  I usually find myself getting caught in the middle of wanting to do everything and knowing that I can't.  Finding a "balance" or whatever it is that you're supposed to find so that it appears that you're both managing it all and not doing it all at the same time.

And seriously, I say no to things all the time.  Just ask the children's ministry director at my church.  I'm not one of those people that over-commits to things and signs up for every Bible study or group.  We have one weekly function mid-week.  Yet there is still so much on my plate and my mind and my heart.

Thanksgiving planning - I'm hosting this year (which I'm crazy-excited about).  Christmas cards.  Christmas presents.  Poppy's birthday party.  Gramma moving into a new house.  The second job across town.  Youth group.  Friends.  Bills.  My weight and food struggles.  Marriage.  Extended family that I hardly ever get to see.  The crazy things happening in our nation and our world and with healthcare - all of it invites me to worry.  So many things vying for my attention, my time, my heart.

The biggest part of life that feels challenging at the moment is one little bundle of eight-month old cuteness.  I have this precious, adorable baby boy who I dearly love, but who is attached me like white on rice.  If I'm there, if I'm home, and he's awake - he needs me.  All of me.  All of my attention.  And I'm not handling his attachment to me well.  Most of my time home is spent on the floor playing, keeping him from giving himself another black eye as he thinks now is a good time to try and pull up on things and attempt to walk everywhere - as gracelessly as possible.  He is adventurous, stubborn, strong-willed, loud and so incredibly joyful.  A completely adorable handful.


I've felt myself feel nearly desperate for alone time.  Just some silence to breathe.  To read and write.  To clean something in my house.  To pee in peace for gods sake.  To run away alone to the beach for some solitude.  The moment he goes down for a nap or off to bed for the night I'm trying to stay on top of life.  The laundry.  The bills.  The everyday tidy and clean-up and the sweeping the kitchen floor again because if there is anything there, Jacob will literally face plant on the linoleum and lick it up regardless of what it is.  And writing, blogging, journaling, taking a walk - ha.  The things I enjoy the most are the things that always come last.

I love my boys, I love being a mother - I really do.  But some days, being a mom to a baby again, plus a million other things, wears on every nerve in my body. 

Earlier this week some old hurts surfaced for me.  I'm still not sure what to do with them, but it became very clear to me that it was time to find some care for myself again.  Some sit-with-a-counselor and be faced with some heart questions is something I need to do.  Yet, as Todd and I talked about this last night on a short and very late date-night, my main question was - where do I find the time?

While much of me enjoys a good amount of energy and activity and life-living, I am honestly just very tired.  I'm working less, I've trimmed down my calendar of obligations and weekly night activities.  Yet, I constantly feel on the go and just slightly behind on everything.  I feel like I'm always letting someone down.  I'm not there enough for my family.  I'm not present enough for a friend.  I'm struggling in areas that I can't seem to get a grasp on. 

Does any of it ever even out?  Will it?  Is there some magical balance I will manage to achieve where I can work, mother, have a social life, a clean, organized and beautifully decorated home, be a living example of a Godly woman and wife, have a thriving sex-life and marriage, lose weight and be healthy and just feel caught up with life in general? 

All of that feels like some distant, impossible dream.  For some reason, being that woman is who I am always striving to be.  And I'm wondering if I'm striving for the right thing....

Regardless, I'm left here hoping this is a season - one that will be moving on quickly.  Or if at thirty-two I'm supposed to have this whole "balance" thing figured out.  Do all women go through a season where they're just trying to keep their heads above water?  Knowing they need more, that they need something for themselves  and not being able to get it?  I guess I'm afraid I'm missing something or doing something wrong.  So much of me wants to live life fully, to do everything, be everything, and get everything right and "figured out."

And with that, my baby awakes and my time to write and vent and spill my guts to the world has come to an end.  It's time again to play on the living room floor.

November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween is fun.  The costumes, the dressing up silly-making.  Making hot dogs with friends and walking the neighborhood watching kids collect candy.  I felt like a giddy four year old waiting until work was over and it was time to get home so all of the festivities could begin. 

This year we had a Spiderman in our house.
 And baby Jack-Jack from The Incredibles.  
Cutest baby I've ever seen maybe.
We went trick-or-treating with friends.  
Tommy and his best friend Callie - The Fox.  And if you ask her, she totally knows what the fox says.
Todd and I decided to dress up too as Phil and Kay from Duck Dynasty.  And boy, did we got a lot of attention.
 I love that my husband is down for some silly on Halloween. 
 Todd suprised Tommy with an awesome Spiderman glove that shot webs for real (a.k.a - silly string).  
He was stoked.  Not to mention, the coolest Spiderman out last night.
 It was Jacob's first time trick-or-treating.  
The night was pleasant and cool, and thankfully he enjoyed going for a ride.
 He was so adorable, I could not stop taking pictures of him.  
That precious pointy hair just got me.
 It was a fun-filled Halloween.  
Lots of treats, minimal tricks, and dozens of memories for the books.
And just like's November.