The Day I Took a Walk – Part Three

New to this week’s anniversary series? Read Part One and Part Two

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The morning of our anniversary dawned as beautifully as our wedding day did ten years ago, but this time, of course, there were children in my bed.

Funny how that works.

Having already delivered all of the necessary supplies to my parent’s house two nights before, the girls and I were free to wake up leisurely and get our day started before being picked up by my mama for our fun bridal-esque day on the town.

Mom and I giggled a bit to recall our identical drive a decade past, leaving my capable sister-in-law, Amy, in charge of all of the wedding chaos back at the house while we enjoyed our last day together sharing the same home and last name. (Thanks again, Amy – you were awesome! I will owe you FOREVER!)

As my mama’s baby and only girl following three sons, the two of us had really savored every possible second of the entire bridal experience, and while I would maybe do a few things differently in retrospect (i.e. save my parents some money by toning things down a notch), we were feeling absolutely on top of the world that day.

And so it was fun to see a similar glee on my daughter’s faces as we loaded up into my mom’s SUV. I’m sure you know this already, but one of the crowning joys of life is having girls in your life to do girly stuff with.

And can I just say that I was so proud of Betsie for being brave enough to wear her sponge rollers all over Tulsa, although I am sure she soon realized that it was a wise choice, as every woman we passed stopped in her tracks to fawn over the cuteness and nostalgia that her ‘do evoked.

Maybe I’ll try to wear sponge rollers to Tulsa someday. Do you think people will think I’m cute?

Yeah, okay, maybe I won’t.

So our first stop was to the donut shop to get donut holes because donuts are important, whether it is your anniversary or not.

Next, we drove to the flower shop to pick out our flowers. We didn’t actually get our wedding flowers from Stem’s in 2005, but we did have roses at our wedding and Stem’s has roses, so there you go. Plus it was in the same shopping center we would be in all day.

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Did you know that The Pioneer Woman has shopped here before? I could feel her lingering presence. That’s why I’m really smiling in this picture, not because it is my anniversary and I’m about to get my hair did.

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Stem’s always has a gorgeous selection of flowers. It was hard to leave without buying the whole room!

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Next, because we were a little bit early for my first appointment, we stopped in at Pottery Barn Kids to waste some money…er, time.

I wonder, sometimes, if Pottery Barn Kids recognizes our family as the people who come and play with toys but never buy anything?

I hope not.

We make up for it at Christmastime.

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And then it was time for my hair appointment at Ihloff Salon and Day Spa, the magical place where I spent many hours in the months leading up to my wedding getting groomed and scrubbed and polished, and where I had my hair done for bridal portraits and our wedding.

I touched on this already in Part Two of this series, but it felt so strange to be having an updo as an old washed-up woman in her thirties.

At least, that’s how we allow ourselves to think sometimes, isn’t it?

Which leads me to the second part of the lesson I told you about yesterday.

If I’m being quite transparent, and I thank you for allowing me to do so, I would have to confess that this was not an ideal time in my mind to be focusing an entire day and photo shoot around myself.

Shepherd’s pregnancy – and my ruthless craving for hamburgers that accompanied that pregnancy, I am sure – was hard on my body, and almost two years later, I have yet to return to my favorite weight range and the size of clothing that I feel most comfortable with.

It doesn’t help much, of course, that Sheppy is a devoted cuddlebug who hypnotizes me with his preciousness at least five times a day. While Betsie had me on my feet every second of her awake-time trying to keep her alive, therefore causing the pounds to just fall off of me, Sheppy is more like, “Hey, Mom, you want to sit here on the couch with me and let everything that we just ate turn into fat?”

It’s cute.

And I always say “Why, yes, Sheppy, I DO.”

And I say all that not to fish for compliments and not to give the impression that I am unhappy with the way I look – on most days, I feel perfectly fine and passably attractive for a mom of four kids in her early thirties.

But a photo shoot?! Where I’m the star? And where there isn’t a baby on my hip, camouflaging my midsection, at all times?

Awkward.

Therefore, this surprisingly painful practice of forging ahead and being the “woman of the hour” was good for me, not only to battle the self-consciousness that can so easily hold dominion over a woman’s spirit – even a woman who holds to all the right theologies! – but to display to my daughters that this earthly shell of mine isn’t something that I will shrink under.

We have bigger fish to fry, do we not?

And do you know what?

I totally went for it. And, please, feel free to go ahead and applaud for me because I didn’t even wear a SHAWL. Sleeveless, baby, for maybe the first time in public in I don’t even KNOW when.

Okay, it was a cap sleeve, but now you’re just being picky.

And the moral of this section of my anniversary series is as follows…

most husbands don’t want perfect-looking wives, they just want confident wives who aren’t so obsessed with their bodies that they keep them under lock and key both in and out of the bedroom.

On this day and on this anniversary weekend, I chose to be confident for my man, and believe you me, he was a fan. 😉 😉 😉

Moving on, before we get to the fun of our outing, there is one last secret that I’d like to pass along, a secret that applies to all family gatherings, especially when children are involved, and it this: though beautiful and touching in theory, this momentous day of ours was no more perfect than any other day outside of the gates of Eden.

Let me explain.

I was telling my friend, Kodi, that I am the queen of dreaming up these idyllic scenarios about the special moments I will share with my family.

In my imagination, there is always laughter and frolicking and I’m never sweating or feeling like I could wring someone’s neck.

And, in my projections for this day, in particular, my impressionable daughters would most assuredly be sitting on the edge of their seats, watching their beloved mother being transformed into a vision of timeless beauty. Their eyes would sparkle as they would watch my hair being pinned up, and they would meditate on how happy they are to have landed in my nest.

HA.

Fake, boooooooored smiles.

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Five minutes into my updo, Rebekah chirped, “How long do we have to be here? Can we go back to Pottery Barn Kids?”

Betsie, who was hanging like a monkey from the neighboring stylist’s chair, dropped to the floor and nodded her head in agreement.

And I realized again, in that moment, that my children are humans – especially on holidays! – and that I should just sit back and enjoy my day in a realistic manner. No pressure on anyone, just love and humor, and this attitude would most certainly serve me well the entire day, and really, my entire life.

I hope you’ll remember this at your next Easter Egg hunt when everyone is crying, your kids have changed into sweatpants without your permission, your hair is wind-blown and stuck to your lipgloss and your underarms have leaked sweat onto your blouse for all the world to see.

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My mom, ever the astute helper, soon whisked the girls off for about an hour, leaving me and my stylist, Whitney, to chat and relax…

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and they returned just in time to see the last pin being slipped into my fifty pounds of hair. (I sincerely felt sorry for this sweet lady who had to figure out how to arrange that mess!)

Before leaving, she put on the finishing touch, the crystal brooch that was pinned in my hair ten years earlier, and then we moved down the street to my make-up session at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was, you guessed it, exactly where I went on my wedding day.

The girls felt a little perkier about this portion of our day – they love make-up! – and Debra at the Trish McEvoy counter was so accommodating to our little party.

How nice it felt to sit at my leisure and have a professional gussy me up. The only problem was, this make-up application felt SO good and relaxing, I just wanted to go night-night when it was all over.

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And now I’d like to display to you for just a second what it is like to sit with Betsie during church…

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Oh! And have I mentioned yet that girls are fun?!

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Before we left for the day, Rebekah and Betsie got to join in the pampering, and they were giddy with excitement.

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I share my lipgloss with them faithfully, but this was another level, entirely.

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On our way out of Utica Square, we picked up the cake at Queenie’s Cafe — the same strawberry cake that was featured on the dessert table at our wedding — the flowers that had been put back for us at Stem’s, and supper for all of us to eat after the celebration.

And then?

We were off!

While the drive to Tulsa had been almost identical to the one I took on my wedding day – heart full of excitement to luxuriate in a bridal transformation – the drive home was much different.

There were no nerves this time.

No fears or doubts.

No somberness about the life I was leaving behind.

Only praise and gratitude from mulling over how good God has been, pure excitement about spending the evening with my favorite people, and, honestly, relief that this entire shenanigan was almost successfully concluded!

Turning onto my parent’s country road from the highway, we stopped and pointed out to the girls where, ten years earlier, their Papa had been standing in the bar-ditch with my brother, Pete, propping up an antique door that told wedding guests where to turn.

As mom and I had slowed down to greet them that late afternoon, Mr. Gore had turned his back to me so he wouldn’t see me before the wedding, and I felt like I was going to burst. I’d had butterflies galore in that moment, and I had them again, just thinking about my bridegroom who has stood by my side for a beautiful decade.

When we finally pulled up into the driveway, Rebekah, Betise and I scurried to my mom and dad’s room through the back door while Mama went through the front door to deliver strict orders to the boys not to come back there.

It was a full-out GIRLS ONLY moment, and the next hour or so was spent thumbing through our wedding album, watching our wedding ceremony on DVD (Rebekah could not BELIEVE how “adorable” her papa was!) and watching the collection of old movie clips that had played on a big projector screen at our wedding reception.

And then, just like on my wedding day, the evening swung into full gear, Becky arrived with all of her camera equipment, we began to get dressed in our fancy clothes, and then, well…

then we took a walk.

~

I vow to you that you’ll see EVERY BIT of that walk, tomorrow!

Life Abundant

~ written several weeks ago at the close of a wonderfully soul-stirring day ~

Today was one of those days that used to fuel me.

I went shopping with my Mom at the most venerable shopping center in Tulsa, a beautiful and aged outdoor plaza with all of my favorite stores gathered in one place – Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Saks 5th Avenue, Williams Sonoma, to name a few – not to mention my favorite little eatery in the state, Queenie’s Plus Cafe.

I had a delicious burger for lunch that somehow fed not only my stomach but my soul. The cows they use are REAL or something and that beef just ministers to me all the way to my stomach, as does the Jack cheese and the special sauce and the fancy non-iceberg lettuce and the juicy tomatoes that surely must have been plucked yesterday from an organic farm in America’s heartland. “Holy cow” is an understatement.

I tried on every article of clothing that tickled my fancy at Anthropologie.

I exchanged something I got for Christmas for something I really, really wanted and skipped out of the store like Mary Tyler Moore.

I played toys at Pottery Barn Kids.

I had afternoon coffee and a slice of chocolate cream pie that was other-wordly and surely must have been baked in heaven’s oven.

I rummaged through an antique/junk store to my heart’s content and made a mental wishlist of the 52 treasures I could find a place for in my home.

I enjoyed…nay, relished…the company of my Mom and “my girls” (I squeal a little everytime I say that), laughing at Miss Sunday’s bossing and opining, marveling at Betsie’s beauty and sweetness, and discussing life with the woman who means more to me than any other on the planet.

It was simply lovely, in every possible way.

And then I came home to the normal hustle and bustle and preschoolish chaos of my life and as the day wound down to a close, my husband and children congregated on the couch to read the next chapter of “Dangerous Journey“, the beautifully illustrated children’s version of “Pilgrim’s Progress”….

…a Celtic instrumental rendition of “Be Thou My Vision” and then “Nearer My God to Thee” was playing in the background, and I sucked in a breath at the beauty and simplicity of the moment as I spiraled into that realm where my thoughts and convictions and imagination resides.

My worlds have collided this past year. The world that I used to be immersed in, where I went to church on Sunday and Wednesday and then spent money and climbed the religious and social and financial and educational ladder on Monday thru Saturday could no longer keep pace with the Spirit’s work in my life. For a couple of years now, He has consistently been calling me out and introducing me to a worldview that is, crazy enough, actually incahoots with the words I have been proclaiming since I “walked the aisle” at the age of 7 and, after all these years of drifting through the American version of Christianity, He has demanded a change in me. And true to His gracious nature, He has since been performing that change in me, in spite of my sinful tendencies to ignore Him and store up for myself treasures on this earth. The result, as I mentioned earlier, is that those things that used to fuel me are now seen in a very different light.

My Mom and I discussed this very thing today as we mozied down the sidewalks of Utica Square and marveled over the fact that we just no longer spend like we used to, mindlessly buying every sale item that fits us and every book, movie and magazine that grabs our attention and all the irresistable kitchen goods that catch our eye at Williams Sonoma. In fact, we actually avoided that very store today so we wouldn’t even be tempted to buy anything, a practice we would have found laughable in the not so distant past…

And the plumb craziest thing about it is that I’m loads happier now than I was then — my Mom is, too. The freedom I am finding leaves me dumbfounded and gives me the power to enjoy life at its simplest. I couldn’t be happier if I tried.

And as my children flank their Papa and hear about Christian’s pilgrimage to the Celestial City, I have a sense that our journey is only just beginning…

the prospect both thrills and terrifies me.

Will I continue to give up and let go of the things of the world to follow hard after God?

Could I happily downsize to a smaller and older house to accomplish more for the Kingdom?

Can I give up more of my time and energy to allow more children into our home and commit to teach and nurture them for life?

When I say I ‘love’ my church body and call them my ‘family’, am I really willing to shoulder their burdens and share in their financial struggles and care for them in their old age?

Am I really willing to consistently live like a pilgrim in the smack-dab middle of Vanity Fair?

…to be honest, I don’t know…

I seem to have a chronic case of the “Lord I believe; help me in my unbelief!” mentality.

But I am begging for grace to make it through each day in a way that denies my own plans and desires and glorifies God in a Biblical and convincing way. I want to be faithful more than ever…

but I am ever sinful and afraid that He will ask too much of me.

What a faithless and sorry excuse for a sojourner.

And yet I know without a doubt that here on the narrow and difficult road – that avoids Williams Sonoma most of the time but not all of the time (even sojourners have gotta cook!) – there is life and life abundant to be found.

I’m just praying that I still believe that tomorrow.

And the next day…

and the next day…

and the next day…

I hope you believe it, too.