An Evergreen Christmas (Part Two)

Hello, good reader! If you’ve just stumbled upon this page, you can find the first part of today’s story here. Once you’ve read that, you will then be allowed to proceed to the story below. Okay, so you can see the story below no matter what, but…just read part one. You’ll almost for sure not regret it.

~

I hadn’t given up on our evergreen tree painting, really.

I had just sort of shelved it, that’s all, hoping that someday…somehow…it would happen.

“Someday and somehow” can mean so many things, can it not?

In the worst case, it can mean NEVER.

In the not-great-but-not-the-worst case it can mean 80 years.

In the BEST case, it can mean exactly NOW.

(But that’s not really good for your character, is it?)

And then, in a really-g0od-I’ve-got-no-reason-to-complain case, it can mean…let’s see…approximately two or three months.

Which is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, just when my “someday and somehow” came along!

I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram of a morning, when an illustration caught my eye.

It was actually the cover of a book that Story Warren was recommending, and though the book itself sounded pretty amazing, it was the artwork that stole my breath. Here it is, just so you’ll know I’m not being dramatic (this time)…

See what I mean?

Breathtaking!

I left a comment about it, and next thing I knew, S.D. Smith (the author of the Green Ember series and the founder of Story Warren) had sent me a message introducing me to Jamin Still, the artist behind the illustration.

By the way, this is just another reason you should be a subscriber to Story Warren; when they say that they are your “allies in imagination” and are on your side, they really mean it.

Anyhow, I immediately hopped over to Jamin’s Instagram page and, once a follower of his work, found myself repeatedly impressed by the magic he was able to bring to life with a paintbrush.

“If Tolkien or Lewis had used paints rather than words”…I thought, delighting in the vibrant and imaginative creations that filled up his Instagram feed.

And I cannot seem to recall what triggered it (pregnancy brain, much?), but I eventually saw something in Jamin’s work that caused the memory of Hosea to resurface, and with it, the painting my husband and I had hoped for.

It was a total lightbulb moment, and this bolt of hope shot through me…

but it was a hope that I quickly squelched.

Because there was no way, right?

Artists have their own stuff going on in their heads, right?

They’ve got things to do and people to see, right?

And you especially can’t just up and ask someone who has beautiful illustrations on the cover of a book to paint a TREE for you, right? Right???

Or…can you?

This is the internet, you know. Magical things happen!!!

With this in mind, not feeling SO very optimistic but determined to at least give it a try, I shot Jamin an email asking if he ever did custom paintings.

Imagine my surprise when he messaged me back, completely open to the idea!

And long story short (because this blog story hasn’t been long at ALL), we started discussing my husband’s journey with Hosea, and the probability that a painting of our favorite passage was actually something that could happen before Christmas 2017.

Turns out, it was very probable. 

In fact, the entire process came about with such ease and such success that I couldn’t help but feel that the Lord was directing this, and had been all along.

Does God only concern himself with the big things, like our health scares, or who we marry?

Is He confined to a pattern with which to declare His glory and power?

Is He limited in the ways He chooses to care for His children?

HA!! Excuse me while I quote my friend, Cher Horowitz.

Pity the Christian who believes that God is too big for the small stuff; in fact, I think He delights in the small stuff, even, by golly, over the paintings we have on our walls! And when we invite him into the minutiae of our lives, He is more than capable of displaying His glory in every single corner of our hearts and homes.

The most touching thing to me about this part of the process was that Jamin, once entrusted with this gift, took it upon himself to really understand the story we wanted to tell.

Stunning in his professionalism, he listened to my husband’s sermon, and with his tools, he brought it to life.

When he sent me a picture of the painting for my approval, tears burned my eyes.

There it was…

our evergreen tree.

And not just any evergreen tree, but one whose life flowed out rather than in. The greenness of the tree in the painting was extending, taking over the dry, cracked ground of the barren wilderness surrounding it, and, well, we KNOW that greenness very well, don’t we? Because it has spread and it has spread and it has spread until it has crossed oceans, finding us and redeeming us and making us green, too.

Us! The people who were NEVER green!

And this greenness will continue to spread until every tribe, tongue, and nation will know of its life-giving fame.

So the painting felt living to me, in a way. This was no inanimate gift that I had retrieved from the mailbox and had hiding in my closet. It was a story, throbbing from behind cardboard packaging with memories of a church changed by the Word and through the Spirit, with Christian brotherhood that reaches across miles and Instagram accounts, and with wild affection for a husband who loves the Scriptures more than life.

Ah! It’s no wonder that I had a hard time waiting to give my husband this gift! It was basically begging me to every time I walked by its hiding place between my boxes of boots in the closet!

But the wait was totally worth it.

For the most amazing thing happened on Christmas Eve.

Gathering our children around him before bed, he opened up the Bible to read to them one of his favorite Christmas passages, not from the book of Luke, but from the book of Isaiah, where God promises to judge the proud.

How exciting this decree of doom must have been to the Israelites. Finally, the Assyrians were going to GET it! God was going to destroy all their enemies!

But then, in what must have been a horrifying twist, those words of judgement swing right back around to the Israelites, themselves. Their own idolatry and pride had found them out, and a great purging was on their horizon: “Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.”

Israel’s deserved future was a landscape of stumps, dead, lifeless, and hopeless. 

Sounds like someone we know, doesn’t it?

(cough, cough, GOMER)

“But wait…” my husband told the kids. “There is good news!”

He then took them to the next chapter of Isaiah, where the story takes a truly amazing turn: from one of those dead old stumps, “the stump of Jesse”, to be exact, a shoot was going to spring forth! And this tree…this tree that was dead…this tree that was a STUMP…it would bear fruit.

What a beautiful prelude to the Christmas story!

And what a beautiful way to start our own Christmas that evening; if you find it striking that my husband was talking about TREES two hours before I was going to give him our TREE PAINTING, you are not alone.

I was struck.

But wait, it gets better. For he then proceeded to sum it all up with these exact words to our family…

 “And the tree that grows forth from that stump? It’s going to be EVERGREEN! For a people like us who are never green…Jesus, the promised Savior, will be evergreen

My friends, I was just quietly sitting across the room from him with our baby asleep on my lap, and I was thinking that I might could just die on the spot.

Is this really happening?” I thought.

I mean, it had been such a long time since he had mentioned that tree!

And now with the painting in the box under the wrapping paper right there next to us he’s basically quoting his sermon from Hosea?

Coincidence??

NUH-UH, DUDE.

And so the belated Christmas gift that I want to send your way this January morning is a testimony from a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma who has done more faith wrestling than she cares to admit: God is real.

And this God who is real declares His glory in millions of ways in millions of homes every single day, and the testimonies of His work could stack up and reach the sky where His glory is already declared ‘round the clock.

Was this painting really a gift for my husband, then?

Or was it a gift for me?

Funny how that all gets blurry sometimes.

Our Christmas Eve devotional concluded and, sending the children off to bed, we began getting the house and presents ready for the next morning. And as we worked, my heart was thumping in anticipation, along with a fair amount of trepidation.

I thought the painting was perfect, but what if it didn’t translate to my husband? What if he had wanted something different? What if he didn’t know what it was?

But when the time finally came and we were sitting by the light of the Christmas tree and he tore off the wrapping paper and he pulled out that small but mighty painting, his eyes landed on the tree, and he looked immediately over at me in speechless wonder…

“This is Hosea…” he whispered.

If I had worried before that the gift wouldn’t be as special to him as I hoped, I’d wasted my time, and if I had wondered at all whether this gift truly was Spirit-led or not, I’d been wondering in vain. Our living room, so often a scene of disorder and Cheerios and video games, had turned sacred all of a sudden, and the man that I love held the painting that we’d wanted and he stared at it, shaking his head in amazement.

I don’t have any compunction at ALL saying out loud that God wanted us to have this painting.

He wanted this tree to be on our wall.

And I don’t know how He will use it or how it will impact our family, but I do know without a doubt that one of the best things that happened to me this Christmas was seeing first-hand YET AGAIN, in this world full of sin and suffering that can reduce faith to a flicker, that God is near.

That He cares.

That He writes our desires and hears our prayers for them, even the smallest ones about paintings of trees that make us think of Him.

Ah, He truly is evergreen.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that now.

But if I do…

~

I can’t thank you enough for sticking around to hear my Christmas story! I thank God for you. And I also thank God for the brothers He used in this story. If you’d like to see more of Jamin’s work (which is truly incredible – I already have my eye on another painting for my eldest’s upcoming birthday!), follow him on Instagram and then be sure to check out his website. You’ll get lost there, in a good way. And if you’d like to find an amazing new resource for your family, look no further than Story Warren (and follow them on Facebook and Instagram, too!). I could write a completely different two-part blog post about the ways they have impacted our family, but I guess I’ll have to save that for another day. Lastly, if you’ve not read the Green Ember series by S.D. Smith, you are missing out! Find them at Amazon here (affiliated link), and keep up with Sam and his family on Facebook and Instagram; they are sure to bless you! 

An Evergreen Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas…

and all I could think about was the gift I had waiting for him under the tree.

It had been in my possession for months, and I’d almost cheated and given it to him on a couple of those occasions when, as a doting wife, my sentiments were especially high.

But we had somehow arrived at Christmas with the intended surprise still intact, and I was so glad that I’d mustered up the self-control to wait. Our own gift exchange was tentatively scheduled for midnight, after the kids were asleep and the Christmas morning preparations were completed, and as the time drew nearer, my antsiness grew, this long-awaited surprise bubbling up inside of me like the coffee in my percolator.

And when I say “long-awaited”, I really mean it. The story of this gift actually began the previous year, in the summer of 2016…

and, well, you know the drill around here. I’m going to need to tell you the whole story.

It’s what I DO.

(And you are so sweet about listening!)

So my husband is an expository preacher, and the choosing of a book to preach through is quite a big deal to him; once he begins expositing a new book, he’s more or less committed to finishing it so that our congregation can understand the entirety of the message as it was written, in context.

We’ve been through the Psalms together…almost all of them!…we’ve been through Habakkuk, we’ve been through John, we’ve been through 1st and 2nd Corinthians…

and after much prayer and discussion with our other pastor, he had settled on our next book, which just so happened to be one of his favorite books, the book of Hosea.

After the practicality of Corinthians, rife with applicable instruction for how to live and how to treat one another, the book of Hosea was quite a departure. Hosea is a heavy book. It’s a grave book. But he insisted from the get-go that it is one of the most beautiful books in the Bible, and our congregation soon found this to be true. As we labored through the pages of that ancient text, studying the story of the prophet Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer, our understanding quickly grew of the gravity of our sin and the depravity that we would choose to live in were it not for the astounding grace of God.

For we all know it, don’t we? Without His keeping, “Gomer” we would most certainly be, not just prone to wander and leave the God we love, but prone to happily return to the filth and vomit from which we were rescued.

It’s sickening and sobering and sad.

But wait!…

then you get to the REALLY GOOD news.

After months and months and months of highlighting the despicable whoredom of the Israelites and the much-deserved consequences they were facing for their sin, we finally reached the beautiful and shocking climax of the book found in chapter 14, made all the more beautiful and shocking by all that time we’d spent walking through the gutter.

Rather than trying to explain this climax in my own words, I’m just going to pop over to my husband’s podcast, if you don’t mind, and type out the final words he shared with us from the pulpit that day:

“…And I love how (Hosea) ends.

‘I am like a evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

Listen, if there’s a section in Hosea that you can memorize to know what Hosea is about, it would be Hosea 2:14-23.

But if there was a verse to remember what Hosea teaches us about God in Hosea, it would be this one — ‘I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

God has remained ever faithful, ever green, to a people who have been faithless over and over.

He has been evergreen to a people that have been never green.

And what does this evergreen provide?

From me comes your fruit.’

Israel fell when they forgot where their fruit came from…but not anymore. They will know that from God alone comes their fruit.

So look again at the picture of what God is going to do as he fulfills what he said in Hosea 2: Israel is going to sit in a wasteland, sit in a desert, and yet, in the midst of that wilderness there will stand one tree, and it will still be green.

Imagine how shocking that would be…how stark…to be in a desert and find a tree, and not just any tree, but to find, like, a pine tree!…to find a tree that is always green! It’s like something out of the Chronicles of Narnia here! And what is even more shocking isn’t that this tree is green so that it survives. What’s shocking is that it is a tree that is so flourishing in the midst of the desert that it doesn’t just survive…it provides. ‘I am a tree that is evergreen and a tree that can still give you fruit.’

God is not just an evergreen tree, he is an evergreen tree for us.

And again, I can’t help but see how this would point us to Christ.

Our life is like that of Hosea 13 and 14: The weight of our sin dragging us to death, the wrath of God looming over us. Our lives are JUST like that desert…hopeless…empty…and in the desert of this world, what hope would a bunch of sinners like us have?

But in the midst of our desert, we hear this whisper.

Repent.

Return.

Return to me.

And when we lift up our eyes to that whisper, in the midst of our desert, we see there, on a hill shaped like a skull, such a tree.

A tree that will ever be green, a tree that is alive and that will give us life.

~

Yes!! Did you hear that, Gomers of the world? There is hope for you yet! There is hope for us.

Our church rejoiced that Sunday as we contemplated this incredible grace that would bring miraculous, undeserved LIFE to a people who had nothing but the shame they had heaped upon their own heads.

And our pastor…my husband…rejoiced alongside us.

He’d spent so many hours that year pouring over the words of Hosea, researching them, praying over them, and asking God to help him clearly exposite the text, and as he worked, that good news of the cypress tree rooted itself deeper into his heart than ever before; this beautiful portrait of God had reached him, and it had changed him, just like it was changing our church body.

In fact, it was all so very impactful that, somehow, both of us came to a rather surprising conclusion that day.

We needed a painting of this tree.

Which is sort of weird, right? I mean, we’ve heard a lot of touching sermons in our day, and never once have we both decided that we needed a painting of said sermon.

And yet that’s exactly what happened after this finale of Hosea.

“I’d like to have a painting done of that tree,” he mentioned out of the blue. “An evergreen tree that would be common to our area like the cypress tree was to those hearing Hosea’s message…”

“I’ve been thinking this exact same thing!” I gasped.

We looked at each other in a “curiouser and curiouser” sort of way, and then, probably because we live in a lively house where grown-up conversations are interrupted before they can even really get started, we didn’t speak of it again.

I didn’t forget it, though.

Occasionally, I would search through the seemingly endless annals of Etsy, looking for an artist or a graphic designer, even, who could bring this passage to life for us.

But it was a totally overwhelming quest. I didn’t even know where to start, really!

That’s perfectly okay, though, because I learned something important this year…

the God who creates artists (and we know He does that from the book of Exodus) is more than able to help you find the one you need.

~

Oh golly, I love Christmas surprises, don’t you? Thank you for reading today, and please come back tomorrow to hear the conclusion of this special story. Did we find an artist? Did we get a painting of that cypress tree? Will I show it to you??? Stay tuned…

 

(and until then, you can always find us at Facebook where I tell most of our stories!)

 

 

 

With this Nail Polish, I Thee Love

I feel like I have walked through every emotion known to woman – or at least most of them – since becoming a mom, but my very lowest points, when closely examined, all seem to be centered around one common theme:

to be a mom is to be a servant.

You always hear these funny sentiments – probably penned by women whose children are grown and can help with the laundry – about the mom being the “queen of the house” and, while I WILL admit that my children do gaze at me with worshipful eyes some of the time, especially when they are under the age of 6, when I look around our house, I don’t see a throne.

I see a mop and a broom and a line-up of hungry kids who want me to make food out of the ragtag ingredients in our pantry.

Now, I don’t love making the following known, but it’s just a fact: being a servant isn’t something that I came into this world naturally equipped to handle in a gracious and joyful manner.

In fact, I daresay that being a servant goes directly against every fiber of my sin-natured being.

You would quickly figure that out if you could see me on my worst days, in my favorite cry spot on the floor of the master bathroom toilet closet, sobbing my eyes out because…

well, because I spent this entire day doing what I did ALL day yesterday, cleaning up messes I didn’t make, wiping bottoms, changing diapers, making meals and cleaning up the kitchen so we could do it all over again, answering questions, finding lost toys-shoes-socks-pencils-books-notebooks-YOU NAME IT, and what I’ve realized that it all comes down to is not so much the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding, but the deep-down, crushing weight that a lady can feel when she simply doesn’t want to be a servant today.

My ability to handle it all with ease and optimism comes to a screeching halt when I start resenting my calling and pining for that throne.

But that’s one of the most beneficial things about being a wife and a mother…

it pushes you to be something that might have taken you much longer to become.

You see, when you go from being the star of your own story, a person who can go to Starbucks if she wants and stop by the shoe store to try on some new sandals and then come home and watch girly shows on Netflix, to having your life bound up in another’s…and then another’s…and then another’s…until your life is tied directly to, say, five other people, people who need you, people you are called to love and serve, people you are inextricably yoked to, well, it will CHANGE you from the inside out and back again.

Whether you thought you needed changing or not!

And here is one of the most important things I’ve learned about serving, and it continues to surprise me to this day…

the want-to of serving and the JOY of serving come not before you serve, but AS you serve.

This point came up recently, and it was eye-opening for me.

My little girls had been begging me for days to do their nails.

But here’s the thing. I don’t LIKE doing nails. Especially when they are the size of a tiny button. Painting little girls’ miniature toenails is like being the detail artist for the fine china company!

And…I’m busy!! Did you not just read about the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding?!

Therefore, my first internal instinct when they ask me to paint their nails is usually something akin to “I don’t WANNA!”

But late Saturday evening, after they came in from the little swimming pool in the front yard (and after I stain-treated their swimming clothes and towels and put them in the washer and then bathed the kids and then clipped their nails and brushed their hair, but who is keeping track?) I got them sat down with their supper at the kitchen island and…

I just did it.

I sat myself down on the floor, I gathered a foot at a time in my hands, and I applied the nail polish to their tiny, little nails.

Did I really want to do this? Not necessarily. Did I have time to do this? It never feels like it. But how God manages to bring reverence and awe in such a moment is proof of how amazing He is and, as I sat there, bringing such simple happiness to the little hearts that love me so, a sort of resounding joy began to well up inside me.

You see, I didn’t necessarily go into the act of service with joy, but AS I served, joy most certainly followed.

It’s another of those incredible paradoxical principles in the Kingdom of God.

We have these opportunities to push ourselves every day of our lives, chances to serve and to not only meet the basic needs of our family, but to nurture them. To show them sacred dignity. To prefer them over ourselves.

It might be painting toenails.

It might be changing that diaper right away rather than putting it off until it’s about to explode.

It might be brushing the tangles out of a little girl’s bed hair and gathering it into braids at first light.

It might be ironing the wrinkles out of a pretty dress for church.

It might be whipping out a favorite recipe for the boy who is hungrier by the day, a recipe that only he likes.

These are the kind of above-and-beyond things my own mom has built an entire life upon.

The kids and I stayed at her house while Mr. Gore was in Africa last month, and I noticed when I went to tuck the kids in every night that she had turned down each of their covers and put a special book and stuffed animal on their pillow.

Do you know who else noticed this simple little gesture?

My 3-year old.

“A BOOK!!!” he would exclaim, every single night, looking in wonder at his neat little bed with the unexpected treasure at its head.

It sank in deep as I watched this display that our acts of kindness and servitude are not at all lost on the littlest among us and that, yes, the time and the effort are absolutely worth it.

And when you are like my mom and have daily practiced this sort of loving service, it just starts to come naturally.

Her ministry oozes out of her rather than being forced, and oh my goodness, it gives me so much hope. Because it’s exactly who and what I want to be for the Kingdom of God.

And so my prayer today is that I’ll just keep choosing to serve, whether the joy is there at the forefront or whether it comes in the act.

Maybe someday, if I keep practicing…if I keep painting those toenails…I’ll find myself at the beds of my grandchildren with a special book and a stuffed animal to leave on their pillow…

~

Thank you for reading today! If you want to hear more stories about childhood, marriage, pastor’s wifery, family, homemaking, homeschooling and other important things like shopping and British television dramas, find us on Facebook! Or Instagram

Sing the Bible

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the music of Slugs & Bugs.

It was VBS time, 2016, and though there are few busier times for a pastor’s family, my mind was preoccupied with the “Story Warren” website, an online resource that helps parents foster a holy imagination in their children.

I felt I’d stumbled into a secret tunnel that led me to a magical like-hearted community where children are treasured and imaginations are nurtured and God is glorified, all at the same time. And just when I thought I’d discovered all the faces and facets of this movement, I’d find another…and another! Writers! Poets! Musicians! Artists! Each delightfully using their gifts for the Lord.

I was atwitter and, as time allowed, would come back to read more — sometimes even during my breaks between VBS music classes.

Arriving home that night, I pulled the website back up to check out more of the recommended links…

and that’s when I landed upon the site of Slugs & Bugs.

It was a love at first sight moment. The artwork reeled me in, I think. A lightning bug playing a bulbous bugle? I’M IN!

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And though I was clueless about who they were and where they’d been all my life, I just clicked on the first video I saw. It was called “God Made Me“, and I wish you could have seen my kids’ ears immediately perk up, all across our house. In seconds, I was surrounded by children, and their eyes were lit up in my favorite way, and they were giggling, and I turned to my husband and resolutely said, “No offense to Lifeway, but this has to be our new VBS theme song.” The whales and the sea and the green and blue…it was simple and funny and quirky and it fit perfectly with 2016’s “Submerged” theme.

The next night, before learning our Lifeway songs, we played that Slugs & Bugs video for each class, and a current went through the room every time, whether it was the 5th graders or the preschoolers. The kids sat up straighter, their eyes began to dance, they were cracking up…it was thrilling to behold.

“God Made Me” turned out to be the number one requested song of the week — in every class! — and what I loved most is that the kids actually SANG it. Loudly. Childishly. Smilingly! Every single word. Every single time.

That was last summer, and as the year has passed, our family has added more Slugs & Bugs songs to our library and, although we still have a couple albums to go, there is already no way to pick a favorite.

There are songs like “I Wanna Help” that have inspired our kids to work around the house (HALLELUJAH!).

Or “Tiger” that I’ve heard my girls singing together whilst pretending to run a zoo (be still my heart!).

Or “The Ten Commandments” that teach about God’s Law while also teaching about our inability to keep God’s Law while ALSO preaching the good news of Jesus while also teaching important vocabulary definitions like “covet” while ALSO teaching about the leading monsters of literature. Phew! Instant classic.

Or “Masterpiece” that fills my heart with praise (usually while my daughters do ballet across the schoolroom…the perfect twirly song!)

Or “It’s Sleepytime” that just slays me and causes me to shamelessly beg my 10-year old to let me rock him to sleep, just like old times.

Or “Tractor Tractor” that makes our entire family to smile, from age 3 to age 36.

Or “The Boy Who Was Bored” that is so epically cool and boyish it HURTS.

Or “You Can Always Come Home” that…sniffle sniffle…is so everything I want to say to my entire family, every day.

Or, yes, even “Mexican Rhapsody” that gets in my head SO BAD but that I can’t stop loving because…it is so stinking funny!!!

I could go on and on. Diverse musical styles. Humor. Ninjas. Bible memorization. Potty-training motivation. The Society of Extraordinary Raccoons Society. Biblical principles. Pirates. Monsters. Imaginative poems and rhymes…it’s all there, and it’s all fantastic.

There are people in this world who, just by being who they are and creating what they create, produce the keys to children’s hearts. They intuitively know exactly how to turn a phrase, to paint a picture, to make a rhyme, to sing a song…and in so doing, they unlock the magic of childhood in its fullness.

Slugs & Bugs has that ability in spades. There is so much music on the market that give children a knock-off version of what the pop world has to offer and, while it might make them feel cool and edgy (I know, I remember how it felt to sing with my Barbie cassette in Elementary school), Slugs & Bugs meets kids where they are and says, “You are free. Free to be little and silly and funny and adventurous and starry-eyed and exactly how God made you to be.”

You know what? I think that’s a message worth investing in, and that’s why I asked Slugs & Bugs if I could help spread the word about their new Kickstarter campaign that, if its goal is reached, will result in TWO new “Sing the Bible” albums being produced in 2017 (one of which is a Christmas album inspired by Charlie Brown, SWOON!). Listen, y’all…

the Gore family needs more Slugs & Bugs music in our life.

And I think yours does, too.

We have a lot going on in our house — as I type, we are simultaneously raising funds for a mission trip to Tanzania AND for our one-room schoolhouse in Oklahoma — but we believe in this music SO MUCH that we plan to sit down this week to determine what we can commit to the campaign.

I hope you’ll join us.

You can check out the Kickstarter page here:

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The reward packages are so fun, and you’d better believe if I had a spare $5,000, I’d drop it in an instant to get that free concert! I’ll be honest, though, the virtual high-five and free coloring pages sound pretty awesome. 🙂

You can also find sneak peeks of songs that will be on the albums and I’m already making major heart-eyes at  Galatians 4, it’s light and airy and leads me heavenward. I know you’ll love it, too.

If you’re a parent, a grandparent, or just a champion of children, PLEASE don’t miss this chance to be a part of an amazing project that will feed the hearts and souls of families all across the Kingdom of God.

Thanks for lending me your ears today, precious readers! Now…spit spot!…go lend your ears to some Slugs & Bugs. Pick an album, any album. You won’t be disappointed.

~

Any Slugs & Bugs fans out there? Tell us your favorite songs! And be sure to share the Kickstarter link with your friends and family: http://bit.ly/STBVol3

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Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Four: Union Street Inn)

Welcome back, dear ones, to our nautical trip down memory lane. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed revisiting this experience, walking through each moment, smelling the smells, tasting the food, seeing the beauty, and jotting it all down before the crispness of the memories fade.

My mom was out of town when I published the first three installments of this series, and came home to find this birthday gift waiting for her on the internet. She has tried to speak to me about it, but the words keep failing and she hugs me and says “Someday I’ll be able to talk about it…”

So thank YOU, to each of my blog readers, for giving us this opportunity to tell our story, and for accepting it so lovingly. You’re the best cheerleaders in the world! If you’re new to this series, part one can be read here, part two here and part three here. And now, I present to you…part FOUR! Settle in for this one…

~

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As I mentioned in my last post, if my mom and I ever go back to Nantucket, we will most certainly take the ferry and skip out on the tiny-airplane-over-the-ocean-thingy — in fact, we briefly considered skipping out on our return flight and doing that very thing, if the timing would have worked out! — but I have to say, the Nantucket Airport was quite the fantastic welcome.

This was no cement and brick structure, cold and airporty.

It was…gorgeous.

Grey shingled walls and roof. Clean white trim. That tarmac full of tiny, rich-looking planes. And, on the inside, instead of little cushioned rows of seats, there were wooden benches and…rocking chairs. ROCKING CHAIRS!!!

We were in love at very first sight, both of us.

The airport was our first drop on the tongue of what Nantucket had to offer, and we immediately knew we had landed in a very special place on the planet.

In fact, if you want to be a real Nantucket geek like me and know even more about the airport, you can read this interesting article that outlines the airport’s recent renovation, as well as describes the policies that keep Nantucket Island looking so uniform and beautiful. It’s fascinating. Well…it is to Nantucket geeks. The article can be found here

(Wait, what? Did I just seriously share an article about an airport renovation? Yes. Yes, I did.)

Anyhow, walking through that completely unique airport, feeling SO HAPPY to be alive, to have made it, to be rid of a sinus headache, to have both feet on the ground, I was first met with a precious navy blue sweatshirt on a rack just outside of the gift shop. “OH!!! I adore that shirt!!” I gasped.

“We just got here!!” Mom laughed.

“I know, right?” I chuckled. “But I love it. I need it.”

We took a vote and decided it was ridiculously soon to buy a souvenir, so we kept on walking, but we had this awesome feeling that, if the first thing we saw was purchase-worthy, we were in for a GREAT TRIP.

(spoiler alert: I bought that sweatshirt before our flight home and wear it just about every other day. M’favorite.)

We quickly grabbed our bags because, tiny plane, and, just like that, we were free to go. Our vacation could officially begin!!!

We said goodbye to our fellow tiny plane survivors, all of us exultant and chatty about the experience we’d just shared, and walked excitedly out of the pretty doors, straight to a row of taxis where, before we could even worry about what to do next, an eager driver immediately stepped forward and asked us “where to?”.

Neither Mama nor I had ever ridden in a taxi before, so we were a bit goosey about the whole experience; the cool island air, the exciting week ahead, the fact that we had just zipped across the ocean in a Cessna, coupled with our first taxi ride…it was the perfect formula for face-splitting grins and giggles.

While the driver loaded our bags, the two of us quickly murmured together in the backseat, consulting the little “guide to tipping” I’d printed off for mom’s purse. Our only tipping experience in the world thus far had been at restaurants, salons and spas; taxis, bellhops and concierges were all new to us, and we so wanted to treat everybody right on our special trip!

We quickly got the hang of it, though, and, by week’s end, Mom — a generous person, already — was passing out bills like a post-redemption Ebenezer Scrooge.

Our driver talked easily to us all about Nantucket as he squired us through winding streets, pointing out important buildings and sharing interesting bits of trivia; one thing we learned right off the bat is that Nantucket Island is very pure and historically preserved. There are no billboards, no fast food, no restaurant or market chains of any sort and very particular codes for new structures. The result is a kind of village-type beauty that I had only read about but never seen, and I just couldn’t stop staring, in wonder, at the scenes before my eyes. It was a feast, one upon which my beauty-hungry heart would continue to gorge all week long.

On one narrow street, in particular, our taxi began to slow and we were pulling up to the curb of the beautiful Union Street Inn.

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Now, backtracking just a bit, in the weeks leading up to our vacation, we had quickly reserved three of our four nights away at a more remote location on the beach (which you will hear ALL about later), leaving us just one remaining night to find lodging; with the rest of our week taken up in the country, we were hoping to spend this first night in Nantucket proper, close to all the action.

The only problem with that is there were about a thousand choices and, oh my goodness, they were all beautiful. It was like “pick a mansion, any mansion”, you know?

That is, until I landed upon the stellar website of the Union Street Inn. Once the site loaded upon my screen, with its gorgeous photography and magazine-quality decor, I simply could not move on. I was absolutely smitten.

I couldn’t believe our luck when their reservation calendar showed that one room was still available for our free night…yay!!!…

that is, alas, if we were staying for more than one night.

Like most popular inns and b&b’s, Union Street had a reasonable two-night stay minimum.

“Noooo…” I wailed, sure that we were destined to be at this inn, determined to be a part of its history while the opportunity was ours. How could we possibly set foot on the island, knowing it was there and yet not calling it home? T’would be tragic, I tell you!

My heart pining and pounding like it does when there is a sale at Anthropologie, I e-mailed the inn, told them of our situation, and basically groveled at their feet. They were so nice, encouraging me to keep checking back and, if it was nearing our trip and no one had reserved the room, they could open up a one-night reservation for us. It wasn’t very likely to happen, I was warned, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, so long as I didn’t mind waiting until the last minute to snag a reservation.

I could handle that. I was in love, after all, and love will make you do crazy things, like go on the trip of a lifetime without nailing down your reservation until it’s too late to get another room!

The inn’s manager and I e-mailed back and forth a couple of times, touching base about the room and, by jing, what do you know??? Just a few days before our trip, glory hallelujah, we GOT it.

I was beyond thrilled.

I had just known, of all the websites I’d visited and all the beautiful places we could have stayed, that mom and I needed to kick off our trip at the Union Street Inn — we HAD to! — and, though I’m wrong a lot…

this time I was so right.

The Inn was amazing. Situated right there on the narrow sidewalk and street, just down the block from Nantucket’s picturesque main thoroughfare, it was nestled snugly in a row of shingled houses that looked like something straight out of historic New England.

Wait, that’s because it WAS something straight out of historic New England. Listen to the description…

“Occupying an 18th-century whaling captain’s house, this high-end boutique inn is a 1-minute walk from Main Street, a 4-minute walk from the ferry terminal at Straight Wharf, and 0.4 miles from Children’s Beach.

The luxurious, individually designed rooms include period details and feature free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Some have wood-burning fireplaces.

Complimentary hot breakfast is cooked to order and there are also free afternoon snacks. A patio overlooks a garden.”

Is anybody else out there swooning right now?

I AM!!!

Lucky for us, since we had left Tulsa before dawn, we arrived at Union Street Inn just in time for those free afternoon snacks! Making the acquaintance of the manager and then stowing away our things in our pristine room, we had the sweet luxury of sitting down at a table on the spacious and quiet back patio to a variety of teatime treats and coffee.

Heaven, it was.

HEAVEN.

The air was crisp and perfect, the mood was tranquil, and the treats, delicious. What a perfect way to kick off our time on the island, and to fuel up for an afternoon and evening of exploring.

Mom, by the way, was still beaming. 🙂 Is she not the cutest 64-year old girl you’ve ever seen??

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There was no doubt about it, we’d found us a spot in this world, one of incandescent happiness and relaxation. We leisurely finished our repast, had a refill of coffee, took some time to unload our things and freshen up in our room, and then set out, on foot, to see what this Nantucket had to show us.

Now, I will save the details of that unforgettable jaunt for my next post (stayed tuned!! You won’t want to miss the bustling Main Street, the homemade ice cream and the shopping!!) and, fast forward, instead, to the moment when, many hours later, tummies full, hearts SOARING from all we had just seen and experienced, we walked, in the dark, back to the inn to call it an early night; our day had begun many, MANY hours ago, and 8:00 p.m. was feeling an awful lot like midnight!

As we approached the little steps that led to the front door, however, a light fell across the threshold and I looked up to see a couple exiting the foyer, starting their night on the town just as we were ending ours. We stepped aside as they descended the stairs, nodding and smiling at them in greeting before beginning our own trek up the stairs to go inside.

But before we could, the woman stopped, laid one hand gently on my arm and another on mom’s, looked us deeply in the eyes with the most genuine expression I think I’ve seen this side of heaven, smiled like an angel, and lilted, with a voice full of otherworldly joy, “I hope you two have a wonderful night…”

It was a simple but world-stopping moment, an extraordinary act of friendliness in this increasingly unfriendly world and it sort of stopped mom and I both in our tracks. We thanked her, gushingly returned the sentiment, and then stood, gaping, at her retreating back.

“Who was that?” I whispered.

“I don’t know…” Mom said, her voice matching mine in wonder.

“Does she own the inn?” I guessed, marveling over the kind familiarity that had passed between us. “Do you think she recognizes us from our I.D’s or something?…”

“I don’t know…” Mom repeated.

The woman had just been startlingly beautiful, for starters. The kind of beauty that you don’t see every day. Her figure was petite and perfectly trim, her bob haircut was sleek and shiny, her eyes sparkled with a rich soul, and that outfit, though: figure-skimming ankle-cut jeans, a simple and classy black sweater, a leopard-printed belt with the perfect amount of taste, and skim brown flats that just shouted style and class.

At least that’s the way I remember it. Sometimes I think she might have had a detachable fur collar on her sweater. And then I think the sweater might have been a twin-set cardigan. And then I wonder if I made up the leopard-print on the belt…

regardless, she looked like a movie star from days gone by, one who had voluntarily left Hollywood before becoming jaded, and had been living out her days in anonymity and health and beauty. And the John Hamm lookalike who was escorting her looked so happy to be hers and she looked so happy to be his. They were, in a word, dazzling.

Mom and I eventually retrieved our chins from the path and scuttled up the stairs and into the inn, but this unusual encounter had somehow added the perfect story to end our day.

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Our night there in Room No. 5 at the Union Street Inn went on to be as relaxing and luxuriating as I had hoped it would be. The bathroom in our room was minuscule, as the reviews at Trip Advisor had warned, but I didn’t see what the problem was in that: it was gorgeous and clean and looked straight out of a magazine!

The room was perfectly cozy and immaculate, the kind of clean that refreshes your soul, the very essence of what you shoot for in the look and feel of your own home, but in this instance, on this one glorious night of your life, you didn’t have to lift a finger to get it to that state.

How delicious it felt to shower away the day of travel, not one responsibility on my brain, not a worry, not a timetable; I might have gone through a thousand degrees of mental anguish to find my way to this island, wrenching my heart away from my husband and children, flying across the country on those dying-flying machines, but now, here, with my mom beside me in this perfect room, I was immediately tapping into a deep rest, a time of refreshing, that I didn’t even know would be beneficial for me.

And here I thought this trip had been for Mom!

With open windows pouring sweet Nantucket air into our room, Mama and I settled into our four-poster bed for the night with our books, two like-minded and like-hearted women propping up our feet in the primary way that delights us, whether we are in the Northeast or the Midwest, and we read to our heart’s content.

And then…

we slept.

Like babies.

~

One thing that can be said about our time in Nantucket is that we didn’t waste time.

Primping and long grooming sessions could be done in Oklahoma, but not here: we had exploring to do! Food to eat! Stuff to buy!!

It struck me many times on this trip how happy I was to have this experience well into my adulthood, all of my man-hunting days behind me. “Let my hair be untamed! Let my make-up be passable! No one knows me here! No one will remember me! Hallelujah, no one cares, and neither do I!!!!”

It was a fantastic way to live, especially since my very thick hair, next to the ocean, was an untameable beast. And I just let ‘er fly, like never before.

All that to say, we typical slow-pokes readied quickly the next morning and made our way back down the stairs, full of excitement for the day ahead, to the inn’s dining room and kitchen where a hot, made-to-order breakfast awaited our command.

“Is this real?” I asked myself as we walked through the maze of historically-preserved rooms. “Have I died and gone up yonder?…”

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The dining room, so quaint and picturesque, was a tempting place to sit and enjoy our food, indeed, but the fresh fall air beckoned us back out of doors with a call that we couldn’t resist. To the garden patio we went!

I marveled once more over the beauty of Union Street Inn, the cleanliness, the order, the perfection.

“Could I not live here, for good?” I sighed. “Or at least stay here once a month?…”

Mom and I are dreamers, both of us, and we had only been eating for a couple of minutes before we started imagining out loud about how often we would frequent the inn if we lived in Boston. Every fourth weekend, to be sure.

Our laughter and our daydreams mingled in the air and unbridled joy was our comrade as our breakfast was consumed.

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The blueberry pancakes were scrumptious, the sausages the fattest, and we felt like the queens of the manor. But before we had quite finished our patio breakfast, one more blessing came our way when, to our surprise, the celebrity couple we had briefly met the night before, looking just as beautiful in the daylight as they had under the street lamps, came outside and took their seat at the table nearest us on the patio.

We exchanged polite greetings once more and, before too long, had begun to acquaint ourselves. They did not own the Inn (ha!), they were not former movie stars (aww, shucks!), and they, too, were as enamored as we were with the beauty of Nantucket.

It was a nice, lively chat, with words easily flowing and, before we returned upstairs, they offered to take a picture of mom and me on my camera. “That flower behind you is just so beautiful,” the woman said. “You two look just like a picture!”

We returned the favor for them and, just like that, we were on our way, my heart a little sad to know that, since we would be checking out of our room in just a few minutes, we would likely never see this couple again.

It was a pity, for I could have stared at them all the day long.

We said our goodbyes to them, then to the inn’s manager (who kindly offered to store our bags for the day until we checked in to our new hotel), to our beautiful Coastal Living bedroom, to the screen door that I adored, to the quaint lobby, to the yellow buffalo-checked dining chairs, to the spacious back patio and garden, to the kind wait staff and, with our hearts already full of memories, my adventurous mother and I, her homebodied mate, made our way back to the streets to do some more exploring, which, again, I will share in more detail in my next installment.

Our precious time at the Union Street Inn had come to a close.

Or…

had it?

Skip through the hours with me, if you will, to late in the afternoon when, full-up on sight-seeing and shopping for the day and eager to begin the next chapter of our trip, our feet stepped one last time over the threshold of the Union Street Inn to retrieve our bags from the foyer.

At least I thought that’s why we were there; what I could not see with my common eyes is that a sort of magic — my favorite kind in the world — was at work in that room and strange and amazing things were about to take place.

Grabbing our bags from their neat pile in the corner, we were about to load ourselves down like pack mules and walk to our shuttle location when, would you believe it, our new friends materialized once more, and the four of us again began to converse. Turns out, some friends of theirs were also vacationing in Nantucket and they were meeting them in the foyer for a group excursion.

I was so happy for this chance to say a final goodbye, and I tried to convey to the woman, without sounding like a flatterer, how happy I was to have met her, and how she and her husband were genuinely special to us just from the short time we had conversed, but I needn’t have worried, for God, as ever, was very near, and had very special things in store.

“I know the answer to this already,” she said, smiling knowingly at mom and me from behind her shaded glasses, “but you two are believers, aren’t you? Am I correct in guessing that you are my sisters and that we’ll be spending eternity together?”

“We are!” I confirmed, delighted to my toes. A mid-westerner, through and through, I had just never once dreamed that we would stumble upon other Christ-followers in Nantucket and, though I had not been able to shake the familiarity I felt with this couple, I had been reluctant to put my finger on its source. I had hoped, I had prayed, I had wondered, but, to my shame, I hadn’t dared believe it.

And now my joy knew no bounds.

Wordlessly, like magnets, we crossed the room and embraced as family.

“I knew it,” she murmured, hugging me like a daughter, a sister, a friend.

“I did, too!” I laughed, tears filling my eyes as I recounted how reluctant I had been to leave them that morning.

Our entire group exchanged heartfelt hugs and greeted each other anew, one by one, our acquaintanceship left behind us as our true kinship took root and sprang up like some enchanted tree in a faraway Kingdom. Clasping hands with mama and me, the woman went on to recount the recent loss of her mother, the way God had allowed her to speak to her mom about Christ, and the way she had been abundantly blessed just by watching mama and me interact with each other.

“Hold on to each other,” she encouraged us, tears spilling onto her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful to see a mother and daughter together, loving each other, enjoying each other….it has ministered to me so deeply in my grief.”

I’m telling you, and I will tell you all the way to glory-land that, right there in the foyer of the Union Street Inn, the floor just fell out from underneath my feet.

Why? Why was this “chance” meeting such a big deal to me?

Because, though I have seen proof of God’s sovereignty and kindness my entire life, though He has led me, faithfully, every step of the way, I never stop being shocked and amazed by it.

In the “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief” sort of trajectory I was born into, I am always looking, always inspecting, always longing, to see this work, to see this power, to see this proof that God is, indeed, real and active and working, and yet, when I do see it — again and again and again — I see it as if for the first time. Like a hungry child, I cry out and He feeds me. And He does it the next day. And He does it the next day. And I stand amazed, every single time the food reaches my soul.

Precious readers, to see and know, deep down in my heart, on our first full morning in Nantucket, that this mother-daughter trip might have been about something bigger than just my mom, than her birthday, than me, than our relationship, than the things I could see and understand and orchestrate…

to see that it reached beyond our own life, our own state, our own story…

it just made me want to weep.

My mind reeled back through what it had taken to get us to this inn, at this moment, with these people, the little things that had seemed random and circumstantial, those reviews I read that kept us away from Martha’s Vineyard, the room at Union Street Inn that had remained free, the timing that had allowed us to bump into this couple one, two and now three times…

not a bit of it seemed so random, anymore.

It was just another beautiful step in my long, long journey of learning to trust the God who made me and to rest in His will for my life, whether he has me in Tulsa or Nantucket, and any hidden doubt that I’d held onto about this trip being Spirit-led, planned by God, every detail, just flew out of that beautiful screen door, never to alight again.

I was free in that moment, free to trust Him, free to praise Him…

free to believe.

Mama and I had left our nests in Oklahoma to find this sister and brother in Nantucket, and it was one of the most joyous and awe-inspiring parts of our trip because, yes, Nantucket was beautiful and remains so in our memories, but the REASON it is so beautiful is because God was there, from start to finish. What joy. What grace. What LOVE!

As we bowed in prayer with our newfound family, hand grasping hand, voices lifted to God, I realized once more that the Christian life truly is a pilgrimage and one of the most beautiful aspects of that journey are the fellow-travelers we meet across the way. Some we do life with, day in, day out, meeting to worship together weekly, through the breadth of our days….

some we simply pass as we’re walking and, joining hands for a moment on our way, we spur each other on.

We meet to part.

We part to meet.

How sweet it was to meet at the Union Street Inn.

~

Ah, lovely memories! Thank you for hanging in there with me through the recounting of this sweet tale. I can’t move on without sending you first to the Union Street Inn’s website, but I urge you to do so cautiously…you just might fall in love. To take a look, click here.

And stay tuned, for a fun-filled visit to the sights and shops of Nantucket! Until then, find us on Facebook!

 

You Are Worth It: a letter to my family

A year or more ago…maybe two…I had an idea.

I suppose I could be categorized as a creative person, and while I don’t paint or sew or craft, when my heart feels something big, I yearn to DO something about it. To express it, somehow.

Most often, I do this through writing, occasionally I do it with a party, but every once in awhile, another outlet comes along that quenches my thirst for expression.

For many years now, I have been keeping up with the work of a young man who grew up behind me. He is a visual storyteller and, though his business title would probably fall under the “videographer” category, I marveled-from-afar at the talent of an artist in him, and eagerly watched every video he put out for the university he attended, and then for the weddings he filmed. They were amazing!!!

And somewhere along the way, a dream sprang up in my heart, and a twofold yearning could be found therein:

  • I wanted to make something really special for my family that would express my love for them.
  • I wanted to help Clinton exercise his talents and perhaps find another customer-base for his business: families.

The wedding industry is huge, yes? Americans have poured countless dollars into this one special event in a person’s life, and we don’t feel our day is complete without all the must-haves: an amazing dress, great food, an impressive cake, special music and, perhaps most importantly (or at least right behind the dress), a photographer and/or videographer.

It’s so important to us to have proof that our day existed, and to memorialize it somehow.

But…

what about life after the wedding?

What about the sacred space where our families are planted and take bloom?

What about the years after we make our vows – the years of intense spiritual growth and personal maturity – when God goes on to use the groom, and then perhaps the offspring we share, to sanctify us and help us to know Him better?

There might be a nitty-grittiness to marriage that is not there on the wedding day, but I’m a firm believer that the beauty of the union in its everyday state is so worth capturing and celebrating.

Granted, we do take a ton of pictures, most of us. You can scroll through i-photo on my desktop and get a pretttty good idea of what our family has done almost daily for the last ten years!! 🙂

But videos are different. They allow you to see how your loved ones move. How they walk. How they laugh, from start to finish. How their mouths form words. How they hop off the bottom stair with gusto after walking carefully down the others. (that will make sense later).

And so, with all these ideas swimming around in my brain, I contacted Clinton with a crazy request: please, please, PRETTY PLEASE, come to our house and make a day-in-the-life video?!?!

PLEASE?!?!

I’ll spare you all the wordy details of our back-and-forth discussion that took place for months, trying to figure out how to even make this WORK – the equipment it takes to film a wedding video is crazy expensive, and it took some mulling-over to figure out how to truncate things in a way that we could afford – and, instead, I’ll just tell you that this project that was on again and off again for a long time was, out of nowhere in early May, brainstormed, planned, executed and DONE.

We went from scheduling an appointment to having the finished product in our hands in a matter of weeks!

And here’s what we had finally ended up settling on: a collection of recorded events that would paint a true picture of what our family does on a regular basis. We filmed a morning scene, with the kids actually eating breakfast. We recorded our morning Bible study in the schoolroom. We did our read-aloud. We played the piano and sang together. We had lunch. We played with toys. We went for a walk. Basically, we did everything we could think of that we do regularly enough that our kids wouldn’t watch the video someday and feel like they were watching a Pinterest version of our life.

The ONLY things, in fact, that weren’t realistic in our “movie” are as follows: 1. My house was SPOTLESS. There are usually parts of our house that are clean and tidy, but never the entire thing at one time! 2. I wore real clothes and shoes (I couldn’t let my cadaver feet be shared on the internet, I just couldn’t). 3. I was awake before everyone. In a truly genuine representation of our life, I would wake up with at least three kiddos playing recess on the bed around me.

Other than that, this was a pretty normal day in our neck of the woods! Minus the whole guy-with-a-camera thing.

So then, after we had finished with all the film and put Sheppy down for his nap, Mr. Gore, Clinton and I closed ourselves up in the schoolroom and made an audio recording of me reading a letter I had written for my family.

Which was, like, TORTURE for me. But that’s another story for another day.

And just like that, five hours and three wardrobe changes after we had started, we were done, and Clinton was on his way with a major piece of my heart stuck on a memory card.

I didn’t realize how accustomed I am to being the chief of my own creativity. Collaboration is super fun, but it takes a lot of trust. Thankfully, I put my trust in a guy who knows his stuff, and then some. And then some MORE.

Before I share the video, I want to take a minute to share with you what a meaningful experience this turned out to be for me. It was staggering, really…

The way the Lord put these specific heavy words and emotions on my heart the month our video ended up taking place.

The way Clinton messaged me with a request that I write something up for a voice-over a DAY after I had “coincidentally” been writing a mental letter in my head to my family. 

The way no one was sick and nothing happened to postpone our appointment. (I can’t even tell you how rarely that happens!!!).

I don’t put a lot of stock in my own discernment, but when it was all said and done, this entire project felt very incredibly Spirit-led and sovereignly-timed and, as a result, what had begun as a neato idea to memorialize my loved ones became something quite spiritual.

Thus, the entire week preceding our film day, that two-fold desire I’d had in the beginning was daily growing and morphing into something far greater…

I was VERY SURE that I didn’t just want to do this for my family, or for Clinton, anymore.

I wanted to do this for moms.

For people who, like me, have seen their childish dreams of fame and fortune crumble into chaff under the weighty glory of life at home.

For the dignity of family.

For the sanctity of human life, and for the scores of aborted children who never got a chance to say “I’m important! I’m WORTH it!!”

For my amazing Creator-God who knits together a people who are fearfully and wonderfully made and who, for some crazy reason, put four of them into my care.

And, oh, my dears, although I remained critical of all those personal things about me that I don’t love during my first viewing of the finished video, by the time I had finished my second viewing, there were tears of love and joy and motherhood streaming down my face.

I didn’t care what my “baby” voice sounded like (that’s an inside Facebook joke!) and what I looked like, ever. I could have had a big zit on my forehead. Or my muffin top could have been hanging over my jeans. Who cares??? This was what I had wanted to tell my family, this is how I wanted to capture them, this is what I wanted to DO for the One who created us!!!

And Clinton, the little stinker, was even more of an artist than I had initially realized: he had seen and put together things that I had not even DREAMED of, joining words and film and music into a beautiful and fluid medley that took all the things that had been on my heart and sent them heavenward in an act of genuine worship.

UMMM…CAN YOU TELL I’M EXCITED?!?!?!

When we shared the finished video on Facebook last week, I was feeling a LOT of things…

Scared — I was offering up a huge part of myself here and was mostly just hoping to be handled with care.

Hopeful — I REALLY wanted some people to see and appreciate Clinton’s work.

Excited — I was looking forward to a typical handful of shares from people who like our family and some sweet comments from those who enjoy things like this; I was excited to bring some light into their day, which is one of my favorite things to shoot for.

What I was NOT EXPECTING was the feedback that we ended up receiving. In fact, I was rather blown away.

The video seemed to hit a nerve, of sorts, solidifying deep feelings in the hearts of so many moms who have found unexpected joy in giving up their lives for the ones they’ve been entrusted with. Before the day was up, my Facebook newsfeed was full of our video, shared over and over again by friends and relatives who saw themselves in this SAME story and whose heartstrings were tugged by the reminder that their family is worth living and dying for.

{Sidenote: that nerve apparently ran a different direction over at Youtube, among those who do not see children and motherhood and family as “worth it”, further proof to me that this was, indeed, a spiritual act that engaged a spiritual battle. We witnessed some major darkness as a result of this project!}

And now, one week later, my emotions have settled into something far less complex: I’m just happy. Happy to have spent a day doing something that the Lord had convicted me of. Happy to have helped other mamas and daddies have a fresh perspective. Happy that Clinton’s work was so lovingly noted and applauded.

Happy to have taken a moment in time to tell my family — and my God — how I REALLY feel about them. For our time together is so short…

Before I tuck this video away into our collection of mementos and keepsakes, I’m offering it here today to my blog readers, in the hopes that it will remind you of what you’re doing in the trenches of home life, that you will see your children and your husbands and wives with renewed love, and that you will remember once more that this job you are doing of washing feet and wiping bottoms and making food…

it’s really, really important.

It’s eternal.

And it is so totally, completely, 100% worth it.

God bless you, as you raise up a family for the glory of God and for the spread of His Kingdom. I’m cheering for you, my brothers and sisters, from our little white house on a hill. ❤

~

For more information on Clinton and ARETÉ Videography & Photography LLC, to discuss an idea for visual storytelling, or to book him for a wedding or a family video of your own, click here (and tell him I sent you and what you thought of his video!). I personally think it would also be awesome to do this same format, but write a letter to your high school senior doing their favorite things, intermixed with the typical scenes of them standing in front of old trucks and walking down railroad tracks and moseying through fields…you know, senior stuff! It would be such a beautiful tribute!

Okay, I’ll be quiet now, although I have a thousand more “visual storytelling” ideas. 😉 Thank you SO much for watching our video (and listening to me go on and on about it!). If you want to keep in touch and hear daily funnies or encouragement, join us on the Facebook. ❤

Hope for the Introvert

Hope for the Introvert (Because God is bigger than psychology)

Hi. I’m Mrs. Gore, and I am an introvert.

If I didn’t already know that from a fun little personality quiz my FFA instructor administered to our class when I was in high school, I would certainly know it today from the daily article or quiz I see on Facebook about introverts and what defines an introvert and how introverts deal with the world and 10 things you don’t know about introverts and introvert introvert introvert.

These articles and quizzes always pique my interest because, like everyone else, I like to know more stuff about myself and what makes me tick and what makes me “me”.

It’s the American way, isn’t it, to analyze and re-analyze ourselves? We sort of thrive on psychology, especially when it comes to our own personalities.

But the thing I have noticed about so many of these extroverted introvert articles (get it? Because they’re everywhere?) is that, once the information is presented about all-things-introvert, the article ends, leaving you with basically just another explanation from another person of “this is who I am” and “accept me for who I am” and “this is what you can expect from me” and “this is why I poop out at parties”.

End of story, right? I’ve done my part by explaining who I am and what I like and now it’s up to everyone else to be okay with that.

And what can happen to introverts like me who read a hundred articles about why I am the way I am and why I feel the way I feel in social settings is an acceptance that could, if left unchecked, lead to a laziness and entitlement that could greatly damage the health of my church and stilt my Kingdom potential.

Self-acceptance is a good thing when it allows us to rest contentedly in the way God crafted our personalities and talents, but it also is a state of mind that can easily turn toxic, is it not? John Bloom at Desiring God (and one of my favorite writers in the land!) describes this tricky line much better than I ever could. Read his article here.

And, personally, if I’m being quite honest, when I read articles about introverts, I typically feel this heady solidarity rising in my chest…

yes! I am not alone!…

So THAT’S why I always feel so TIRED after going to a party! Aha!…

NOW I understand why I feel a need to retreat to my room after a day with the littles!

I’m not the only one who is petrified of the telephone?! Thank you, Lord! I feel so normal now!…

and, if I’m not very, very careful, I can take this psychological research and this introverted testimonial and I can withdraw to my comfy place, and instead of feeling any pause over this course of action like I normally would, I now feel justified and empowered.

This sort of attitude could surely be dangerous in any person’s life, but believe me when I say that it can be downright debilitating for a believer.

Now, because this is the internet and every argument is met with counterarguments, let me be quick to assure you that I AM NOT saying it is a bad thing to know who you are and to think about how God made you and to know your limitations and to draw some boundaries about what you are capable of. I am sure that many an introvert like myself has unwisely overextended themselves and crashed into a miserable pile of burn-out because they didn’t take time to nurture their heart.

BUT.

But.

As Christians, we can never be content to slap a psychological label on our personality when we have the transformative Holy Spirit working in us to deliver us from the most dangerous creature on the planet…

ourselves.

And who knows? Maybe the typical components of being an introvert are not as precious as we’ve made them out to be.

One of the favorite things I have drawn from my husband’s expository preaching through 1 and 2 Corinthians is the message that we have each been gifted by God to accomplish certain tasks in our local body. He has equipped us, introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, and herbivores, to do exactly what He wants done in the communities He has placed us in, and we can take joy and be confident in that.

But here’s the part that really blew me away: we can ALSO, while working with our gifts for the betterment of the church, look to the gifts of others in our body and pursue those gifts, as well.

And that’s yet another reason why it is so important for us to physically meet together and spur each other on to love and good works because – for instance! – while I am not naturally wired to serve, I can see those gifts in my sisters and brothers, and when I do, I am motivated to follow them and do as they do.

They TEACH me how to serve, so that, in the end, what you get is a girl who, though not normally inclined to be a servant, is serving.

I love this!!!!!!!

And that same principle can be applied to any number of good things that God desires for His children to display.

And you know what? At the end of the day, this biblical call to growth and transformation is so much more exciting to me than the latest human research about who I am and how I am always going to be.

I’m just more and more convinced that…

I want to look like Christ, period.

I want to chase after every fruit that the Bible says I should have as one who has been cleansed by the healing blood of Jesus, and if that pursuit sometimes challenges my introverted heart to die to its natural tendencies and forces me to be in large crowds or to talk on the telephone or to have people constantly in my home or to engage in “small talk” with a loving heart or to pray out loud in front of people I don’t know, then so be it.

And piece by piece, someday, my prayer is that I will be known less as a typical introvert and more like another redeemed person who has lost their natural identity in Christ.

That maybe, just MAYBE, I will take an online personality quiz and break the internet because “Jesus” isn’t one of the quiz results.

(Seriously, how awesome would that be?!)

By God’s grace, I am beginning to understand that, if I will simply be faithful to the Word first and foremost — even if it feels draining or scary — by meeting with my brothers and sisters, by being hospitable, and by showing love always, that I can trust my timorous, introverted heart to God and know that He will take care of me and that His Spirit will lead me every step of the way.

God is not cruel or uncaring, and if I truly need quiet time to recharge, He will ensure that I get it, sometimes, even by inspiring me to ASK for it.

And, friends, believe me when I express to you how this call to holiness has helped me so much more than another article on introverts.

The articles patted me on the head and told me I was doing okay.

The Word and the Spirit help me to grow and to CONQUER the things that, if left to my own devices, might become poisonous and idolatrous.

For that reason, even though I am what the psychological realm calls an introvert, I am learning to pursue some amazing things…

to put aside my solitary work and meet together with my brothers and sisters every chance I get…

to enjoy the loud sounds of my extremely spirited husband and children and to thank God for them, trusting that I will have time later to enjoy some quiet…

to go to loud concerts and crowded events with my extroverted mom because she enjoys it and I enjoy watching her have fun…

to leave my safe house and go to the scary “big city” with my church sisters because I know it will be a great time for all of us…

to answer the phone and be brave and kind even when I feel like I’m dying in the process…

in other words, to not put my perceived needs first, but to live for others, and watch, amazed, when there is still miraculously just enough time for me and my introverted tendencies to heal and rest.

And the conclusion is this…

The Christian life is so much more adventurous than any of the psychological boxes our culture loves to put us in.

I’m super happy to have the leanings of an introvert and I truly relish the blessings that come with such a personality. I’ve never been bored in my life, my brain is one of my favorite companions, and I can’t think of anything that sounds more fun than being quarantined (I could read and write and internet for DAYZ)…

but shame on me if I ever allow a man-made title to weaken my potential for God.

~

I PRAY this was a help to any of my fellow God-fearing introverts. 🙂 And if you’re new here and would like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, you can find us on Facebook.

The Day I Took a Walk – Part Two

Read Part One here

~

As the day of our 10th anniversary drew closer, the details of the special celebration we’d decided upon began to take shape, bit by bit.

I bought a dress.

I gathered up some prospective outfits for the Mister and our four small children.

I made a couple of appointments.

And as everything fell slowly into place, I began to feel that this day that had been capturing my dreams really might have been Spirit-led. This plan was burning inside of me and the very thought of it frequently brought tears to my eyes.

However, there was still one major component lacking, and it was pretty imperative, as far as I was concerned. Forgive me, please, if I bumble in the paragraphs to come, for I’m afraid that I don’t even have the words for this part…

As you might remember, our default photographer of all special family occasions, Benjamin Grey Photography, moved to Kentucky last year.

I was devastated, not just to see two of my favorite people on the planet leave our hometown, but also to lose some of my most dependable and enthusiastic blog cohorts. Teamwork is an important factor in creative endeavors, and I had grown so accustomed to having someone just down the street who could help me get the pictures out of my head and into reality.

Thus, when it came to hiring someone to capture our special day for us, I didn’t even know where to start. My taste runs high but my budget runs short, and homemade granola, blog exposure and maybe a Benjamin Franklin or less had always been enough to satisfy our very talented photography buddies.

Pardon me, but how was I even supposed to approach someone new with those terms about joining the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team without sounding like a beggar or a lunatic?

Especially because the “Mrs. Gore’s Diary team” isn’t even a real thing, unless, of course, you travel through the delusional and/or egotistical regions of my own brain.

To say I was stumped was an understatement.

Finally, just grasping for straws one day, I contacted a young woman on Facebook who grew up in my church.

She lives quite far from us, but she is a beyond talented wedding photographer who seemed to be in a creative network, of sorts, and I thought she might have some connections in the Tulsa area and could at least make a recommendation for us to begin a conversation with someone…anyone! I was growing less picky by the minute!

Thus – and I’m getting to the good part, I promise – you can only imagine my delight and shock when she, right off the bat, volunteered for the job.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t, really.

Praise the Lord for his sovereignty and kindness, she would actually be in a neighboring town on THE night of our anniversary, and the two of us proceeded with excited and giggly plans from there.

Now, I could try most vehemently not to gush about this girl’s talent and generosity, but it would be of no use.

Becky, of Champagne and Blush Photography, was on board from the very beginning of our correspondence, she caught the exhaustive vision of what I wanted this day to be, and she completely captured every single thing on camera (which I’ll be sharing with you so soon!) that I could possibly have dreamed of: the history of our wedding day ten years ago, my parent’s homeplace where I grew up and got married, our crazy-but-beautiful life with four children, and, basically, every single detail that would deeply minister to my heart as I looked back on this tangible portrait of what God has wrought in the life of a woman who, a decade ago, had no inkling of what lay ahead for her.

In other words, Becky captured the “then” of our life together and she captured the “now”, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for on the evening of our 10th anniversary, a “marrying”, if you will, of our wedding day to our present life as mother and father.

Obviously, there had been no Gideon in 2005. No Rebekah. No Betsie. No Shepherd.

The people who, for the most part, completely make up our world today were years from even being formed! It might have just been the two of us a decade ago, but today we are six, and since they are basically our best friends and constant companions, neither Mr. Gore nor myself could even begin to think of commemorating this day without our children. We are a family, and if one of us celebrates, by golly, we ALL celebrate.

And so here, finally, is the outline of our grand plan.

On the morning of our anniversary, Mr. Gore would take the boys for the day, and the girls and I would go with my mom through a full repeat of all the things that I did on my wedding day.

I and the girls would not lay eyes on the boys all day long.

I would get my hair swept up into something fancy at a salon.

I would get my make-up professionally applied.

We would drive home from Tulsa and hide in my parent’s bedroom where I hid on the day of my wedding.

And then, as afternoon turned to evening, we would exit the french doors that my daddy and I stepped through on June 11, 2005, to begin that momentous walk that changed my life in ways I never saw coming.

With my little girls beside me, I would revisit that exact path — out the little gate to the pasture, down the fenceline, through the big gate that enters the yard, and down the grass-covered aisle that was flanked by white folding chairs — but this time, rather than being met by a waiting crowd of guests, a choir, a minister, and most importantly, my fiance, it would simply be our boys, my husband and my sons, standing on the exact spot on the porch where I said “I do” to Mr. Gore and became his wife.

This was not a vow renewal, really.

It was a meditation of vows already made, a proclamation to our little family that Papa and Mama spoke sacred words of promise to each other ten years ago, words of promise that God designed for men and women to flesh out, words of promise that God alone has helped us to keep, and words of promise that we intend to fulfill, by the grace of God, till death do us part.

And, oh my goodness, what a surreal experience this turned out to be, from start to finish, and I do believe I could write up an essay comparing the mentality of brides versus that of wives and mothers.

It’s funny, the crystal earrings I had worn on my wedding day and pulled out of hiding had not changed a bit.

The yard had not changed, except, of course, for the playset my parents set up for the grandkids.

The music we played on our ipod was identical, note for note, to the music we enjoyed during our ceremony and reception.

But I, the blushing bride of yesteryear, have CHANGED, and I’m not just talking physically!

For starters, I was so very tired by the time this event arrived.

Granted, there had been a pretty important Cinderella birthday party for our daughters only six days before this anniversary celebration, but still. Where did all of that energy come from when I was a soon-to-be newlywed?! How was I able to plan an event – that included a full supper, mind you! – for 400 guests in the middle of nowhere at the age of 23, yet barely manage to pull off a simple dessert party for our six family members in that same location a mere ten years later?

There had, indeed, been a lot of shopping to do, including my dress. There were clothes to gather up and iron for all four kids and my husband. There was wedding day memorabilia to dig out of storage and transport to my mom and dad’s house. There were hair and make-up appointments to schedule, after extensive research with all of my peeps on the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team. There were photography details to discuss with Becky. There was music to purchase and download. There was a cake to order and pick up. There was an outdoor pavilion to clean and decorate.

Not to mention, of course, a thorough scrubbing of my own house, where my husband and I would stay, alone, for two nights after leaving the kids with my parents.

I kid you not, by the time our anniversary finally arrived, I was almost too pooped to party!

But, even more noticeable than the exhaustion I was feeling in my body were the surprising changes that have occurred in my attitude after ten years of being a wife and eight years of being a mother.

When I was a bride, I felt pretty much entitled to all that was being done for me. This was my wedding, after all, and while I was no bridezilla, I didn’t shrink from a sliver of the attention or the pampering that was consistently coming my way throughout my entire season of betrothal.

Therefore, it truly took me off guard, about halfway through the planning stage for this anniversary celebration, to find that I am just no longer fully comfortable with splurging on myself, an art that I formerly excelled in!

The expense of this simple celebration made me positively squirm, I tell you, especially when it came to my own dress and appointments.

“This is such a waste of money…” I thought to myself as I made the call to schedule my updo. “And for what? To only be seen by a handful of people, most of whom are under the age of 9? To just go home after we eat cake and call it a night? WHY did I decide to do this??

Frankly, I was embarrassed. I had made all of these appointments and I had spent all this money and I had done all this work and I had hired a photographer, and it just all seemed so goofy and indulgent and unnecessary for a minute.

But then do you know what I did, and I sometimes wonder if this, too, was inspired by the Spirit?

I considered my prom nights as a junior and senior in high school, and therein found a new and confident resolve: if a girl can spend hundreds of dollars and take all sorts of pains to look amazing and special for a guy or a group of friends that she, for the most part, will only see on Facebook in the years to come, why on earth should she not do the same for her beloved and faithful husband, the person with whom she intends to spend a lifetime?

She should, by jing!

And she should do so with giddiness and gladness.

Which leads me to the biggest lesson I learned through this entire anniversary experience, a lesson I knew before, but whose resolve has been more deeply etched onto my heart than EVER before…

Marriage is worth fighting for.

It is worth our time.

It is worth our exhaustion.

It is worth our discomfort.

It is worth our money.

It is worth pampering and spoiling and getting fixed up for.

It is worth everything we can give it.

And this night of celebrating and luxuriating, though definitely out of the ordinary for Mr. and Mrs. Gore, was a cradling of our vows that I will never, ever forget…

and never, no, NEVER regret.

~

Thank you for joining us for this anniversary series! Stay tuned for more, tomorrow!

The Day I Took a Walk

On June 11, 2005, I took a walk.

My daddy’s arm was intertwined with mine and, as we passed by the long rows of white chairs holding our lifelong family members and friends in the backyard of our country home, my white satin gown was dragging the ground behind me, and I thought that I must be the happiest girl in the world.

Mr. Gore met me at the end of that early evening stroll, and he took my hand and he made me a promise.

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Ten years have passed since that beautiful day in June and, as the months were drawing nearer to the day of our anniversary, my husband and I began to discuss how we might celebrate. Our anniversary, bringing up the rear in a string of family birthdays, always seems to take the back burner, and the last time we actually appropriately celebrated our special day had been about five years and counting.

We wanted to do things right this time.

There were talks of returning to the seminary in Louisville, KY, where we spent our first years as man and wife.

There were dreams — okay, maybe just on my part — of taking a road trip through Texas’s Hill Country during bluebonnet season.

We even volleyed about the idea of traveling to Colorado with the kids, a state we’ve wanted to introduce them to for years.

But none of the ideas we came up with, fabulous as they sounded, seemed to match up with the weightiness I was feeling in my heart concerning this important milestone we were about to celebrate.

My heart was deeply stirred, drenched in sentimentality, and I couldn’t shake the persistent yearning to partake in an anniversary celebration that would satisfy all of the thoughts and emotions that were welling up within me concerning my husband, our life together, and the ten years we have traveled through as man and wife.

Fast forward to last week, the week after our anniversary, when a friend at church asked me how I had come up with the idea for the celebration we ended up settling on.

I was speechless for a minute, but finally, I responded with the only answer that seemed truthful.

“I think it was actually the Holy Spirit,” I laughed.

And I really mean that.

~

Marriage is under attack on a worldwide level.

And I’m not talking about the political agenda of the democratic party, or the recent Supreme Court decision.

I’m talking about within the Church.

Every day, it seems, there is news of another divorce amongst professing believers, another scandalous affair, another set of vows crumbling under the weight of our culture’s wooing. It breaks my heart.

And, believe me, it’s not as if I think I am better.

I’m terrified, actually, and when I hear these stories, I am driven to my knees, not because I’m sad on a purely sympathetic level, but because I’m scared.

That could be me, you know.

That could be Mr. Gore.

That could be us.

Because, if I’ve learned one thing in the last ten years about the union of marriage, it is that a lifelong agreement between two sinners is in most desperate need of a divine Helper.

I didn’t understand marriage when I first got married, no, not at all.

When we first said our “I do’s” I, like so many brides, was dizzy under the fog of romance and fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Yes, I tried to agree somewhere in my brain with all the Christian platitudes that we were proclaiming about marriage being a picture of Christ and the Church and so on and so forth and whatever else the preacher said that day, but…

secretly, I knew we were going to “make it” in this business of marriage because we were in LOVE! Mr. Gore was my Prince Charming and I was his dream wife. We were PERFECT for each other!

However, as the pixie dust fell slowly to the ground in the wake of years and babies and surgeries and budgets, my love underwent a steady transformation, morphing into something a little less fluffy and naive and more realistic and grounded.

But here’s the good part, and the part that I am most passionate to proclaim to anyone reading today…

it has been a love no less beautiful.

In fact, I truly believe the love I have for my husband today is even more beautiful than it was the day I became a bride, and I am sure that many wives of Christian husbands who are eager to love them in grace and truth, would agree.

I love my husband now not simply because he makes my heart flitter around like a thousand butterflies, but because God helps me to love him.

I die for him not just because he fills up my mind and my heart on a 24-hour a day basis, but because God enables me to lay down my life for his sake, even, incredibly, when I don’t want to.

And would you believe that these sorts of binding matrimonial chains are incredibly freeing?

In fact, I daresay they taketh my breath away!

The world is an expert in downplaying the beauty of marital love. They make it look ugly and fat and boring and like something that is only worth celebrating on day one.

The bridal industry is booming, while years and sometimes only months down the road, marriages are unraveling like the Berber carpet on our stairs. In other words, everyone wants to be a bride, but few people want to be a wife.

We need help.

Love that is easy and without blemish is sweet to look at. I’d be lying if I said the moony eyes of a young couple in love didn’t soften my heart and lead me to all kinds of goose-bumpy nostalgia.

But love that has learned to endure, love that has found triumph and joy after seasons of busyness, of coldness, of exhaustion, of stress…

it is a city on a hill.

Because that sort of love, while admittedly more gritty than the newlywed version, points back to a loving Savior who makes the broken whole, who can enable men and women to die to themselves daily, and who can cause the naturally faithless to cling to one another in an oath that causes them to soar.

The glory of it all makes me desperate.

I want my kids to witness this truthful and biblical beauty of marriage, on a daily basis. The after-the-happily-ever-after. The romance of “true love”, but mixed with a little bit of life and proof.

And do you know what? I want the Church and the world to see it, too.

Thus, it soon became clear that I didn’t want to go to Texas or Colorado or Kentucky for our 10-year anniversary.

I wanted to take a walk, and I wanted my kids to be there with me.

~

I am beyond excited to share this anniversary series with you! Please stay tuned for Part Two, coming up tomorrow!

Greatness.

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He stopped by after work today to take Gideon to the pond to work on “the clubhouse”.

They were gone for who knows how long, but it wasn’t long enough.

It never is, and when Gid came back home from a couple of hours with his granddaddy in the great outdoors, he declared, “this is the best day I ever had. I wish it would never end…”

Like his mother, Gideon tends to speak in superlatives to express the triumphs or misery of his heart.

“Worst day ever”.

“BEST day ever…”

And so I know what he was trying to say: “I just had so much fun, and my heart is so happy that he came by…”

And what I find astounding about all of it is not so much that Gideon had “the best day ever”, but that this man, this granddaddy of my children, this daddy of mine, who labors long hours at a grueling job, will stop by on his way home from work to give his grandson the best day he EVER had.

Astounding, but not abnormal.

I’ve lost track of the number of days he has stopped by of an afternoon, taking his heavy and dirt-crusted work boots off on the front porch, or stomping them thoroughly down, at the very least.

Sometimes he brings a snack from the local gas station.

Sometimes he is bearing gifts, a cool rock he found for Gid, an animal skull to add to our random collection, a piece of antique metal he dug up on the job.

And on the many afternoons we find ourselves at his house when the workday ends, the routine is always the same: he takes off his boots, he greets us congenially, he gets a Ginger Ale out of the fridge, he fetches a box of Cheez-its out of the pantry, he rustles up a container of peanuts, and he takes his seat at the head of the table – the same seat he has occupied since the table was purchased four decades ago – where he and the kids start divvying up the snacks, munching and drinking to their heart’s content.

It is so moving for me to see my children digging through the snap-closured pockets of his tan work shirts, the same work shirts he has worn every day for as long as I’ve been alive, and finding the same treasures that I used to play with as a little girl. The tip cleaners. The soapstone chalk.

And the reason I’m watching it all so closely and taking it all in is because it has been ruminating in my heart these past few years, this thirst for real, life-changing truth, this settling down of my ambitions.

I just so wanted to BE something.

To have my name recognized.

To gather up some fanfare.

To make a lasting impact.

I realize now that this is an inherent craving of the human heart and is nothing more than a misplaced hope that masquerades as something praiseworthy. “Leaving behind a legacy” and so on and so forth.

The knowledge that we should live forever, the Romans 1 realization that God is real and that we are without excuse, tries to cover its sight and find relief in a quest for eternity in something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We grasp for recognition or validation in anything other than this call to lose ourselves, thinking that if we can just be somewhere important…on the cover of a magazine, on the dustcover of a book, on the screen of a television…then we’ll count.

We’ll be REAL.

Our name will maybe, somehow, be attached to something that will live on, once we’re gone.

But this is all a mirage, isn’t it?

We should have known it was the minute we first felt ashes in our mouth after a perceived achievement lost its luster and gathered dust in the memories of all who were there to witness it.

Wasn’t I “Most Popular” once in a long forgotten yearbook?

Or…was I?

All of the silly, youthful triumphs are long gone, and in their place a new hunt arises as quickly as the old victory is shelved.

What can fill me up now?

A new accolade? A new title? Another subscriber?

But I’m really and truly starting to see it.

Beyond the spotlights, far removed from the viral, a figure emerges.

He looks like a nobody.

Same jeans, shirt and boots, every single day.

Same lunch in the same lunchbox.

The circle of his influence is miniscule. A couple of work hands he oversees five days a week. The wife he has been married to for forty-four years. Four kids, scattered across Oklahoma. A couple of handfuls of grandkids. A Sunday School class. A small church.

But his life is starting to outshine the elite.

He sins everyday, but his sin grieves him. He shares about his struggles weekly with his Sunday classroom of young adults.

He works tirelessly, in sickness, in snow, in sweltering heat, in overtime.

He daily rises earlier than he has to, to spend time in the Word of God and to study his Sunday School lesson.

He gives his hard-earned money freely, wherever the Spirit leads.

And every single day, he chinks away at the natural man until he looks more and more like the Christ who saved him so many years ago.

His hair is graying.

The wrinkles on his face are deepening.

The frame of his body has grown leaner.

But his godliness increases and his love for self decreases and his ambitions diminish more with every step he takes.

And on his way home from work, he stops by the house of a 7-year old boy to spend time with him, just because he loves him and just because he remembers what an impact his own granddaddy had on him so many years ago.

Do you know what, fame?

I want to be like that man.

Nameless, in the sea of recognizable faces.

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Weathered, among the shiny, the faux and gilded.

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Ordinary, but pointing daily to a greatness that holds up the world.

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I’m continuing to let go of the pursuit and I’m just thinking that, if I can turn out to be the sort of “great” that my daddy is, the sort of great that points directly to the One who made me and who loved me first and who saved me from sin, death, hell and myself, the sort of great that is the ONLY great that actually lasts forever…

that would be so great.

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Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

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