Favorite Things Monday: Thanksgiving Edition

Last week came and went at some sort of lightening speed. Today brought the reminder of just how fast and furious it was as I can still feel the weary…and it was worth every bit of it.

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Austin and Atlanta aren’t exactly close to each other. It has been years since I was in Georgia for Thanksgiving. It clearly had been years since I last saw fall. It cools off in Texas and our trees change, but our trees do not show off quite like the south (sorry beautiful northeast, I have yet to visit you when the temps drop). I was in awe and have to admit that the colors about made me giddy.

Thanksgiving came. It felt like the day we had all fought for. And a lot tried to fight against it. My niece was sick, therefore my sister didn’t make it for dinner. Sophia had us jumping up at 11pm to the sound of puke. Thank God, she was doing better and we were able to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner. We had driven a long way and selfish or not, I needed this day.

Why did we need Thanksgiving so bad this year?

It has been our hardest. It has been the incredibly sucky year of firsts without Caleb and the reminder of what isn’t and who isn’t there.

It hurts. It aches. It has tried really hard to take my family out this year.

Thanksgiving won.

Is the grief still unbearable? Yes. Is it still a shock? Yes. Are there holidays, birthdays and anniversaries coming that will shake us? Yes.

Will it take us out? No.

Thanksgiving won.

When Sophia got sick, the first one to ask what happened was my cousin Rhonda. When Sophia was better the next morning, I said it was “because Aunt Rhonda must have been praying some “oh hell no” prayers”. We needed this day together.

Thanksgiving won.

We gathered, ate, laughed our heads off, talked about everything under the sun. I saw my family breathe and took a deep breath myself.

img_1112My Unca’ Ron prayed to start the meal and there was joy. Joy and grief sure can and do exist in the same place, but for this Thanksgiving meal, the joy was heavier.

It wasn’t that we weren’t thinking about what was missing.

It’s not a memory lapse that allows for these moments. It’s not a lack of awareness. If anything, awareness is heightened. We are that much more aware of what is going on. We know what is right and we know what feels wrong.

Thanksgiving won.

Holidays are always changing in appearance. There are years where the table is full, joyfully over-crowded, new faces, missing faces, missing noise and missing quiet, missing when people were little and loving new phases of life (cause grown up cousins are just as fantastic).

Thanksgiving wins every time.

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Also…my family is simply amazing. When you look around a room and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that only God could knit this together. God puts families together and when we let Him, He sure does know how to write a good story.

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Favorite Things Monday: When Life Happens Edition

This post was started last Tuesday. Then, thanks to weak WIFI, it’s not getting posted till now. We are home after a lot of time in the car…but grateful for a trip that was totally worth it. That is a post all it’s own. For today… Favorite Things Monday…When Life Happens Edition

Some weeks are full and happy and joyous. Some weeks are full and run you over. Sometimes we are left with the weary setting in and wondering with the dam will break. Then we have days where we can’t see how joy and the madness exists in the same place. Like some sort of “only Jesus” miracle, it does. Year after year, in every change of circumstance, I know that I know this; that God is good, God is faithful and He does not fail.

There is so so much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving tends to be the fastest perspective shifter.

This last Sunday, I was thrilled to have 6 women around my kitchen table. It’s amazing what sitting around a table full of different women, good food and conversation can do for your soul.

This time of year can get insane. Sometimes, it is because we say yes to ALL THE THINGS. Then there is the other. The life factor. I have found that I can be in control of my calendar and the weary sets in because life happens. Phone calls happen. Plans fall apart. Things change.

What do we do then? How do we get back to where we need to be when our circumstances won’t change and simply saying “no” to a calendar won’t bring the necessary rest. 

Psalm 3:3 – But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.

Something about just reading that verse causes a shift in my heart.

Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest…

Sometimes, I want to find rest in Netflix or the Hallmark Channel’s marathon of Christmas movies.

While those things are fun, they do not restore my soul. My brain may be able to check out and I may be able to call the entire plot in detail by 5 minutes in, but at the end of the day, I am no different. Sometimes we need to unwind and all of the time, we need to get back to the center of it all.

So when life happens…

Jesus is our place of rest. He’s got it. We have to stop trying to find it in empty things. It’s HE who lifts up our head. It’s His strength and grace that sustains.

Whether or not you needed the reminder, I sure did.

As for the rest of this crazy week… There were some definite highlights.

This little girl was beaming all weekend. She may have unsuccessfully hid her cry face at one point during her game, but nothing stops her. Also, she is successful at hiding tears 0% of the time. It was a full weekend of soccer for Sophia and Ray. I got to go to her last game. I can totally be that mom.

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Cephas likes the zoo. Cephas could see every single thing he wants to see and be back in the car in 45 minutes flat. We had a blast. I never stop learning things about this kid. He doesn’t stop and neither does his brain.

Our dear friend brought the message on Sunday. It is a MUST listen and grab a pen and paper because you will be taking notes. While he brought a great message, one other favorite thing from Sunday morning was his ridiculous wife. She’s the best and I can call her ridiculous because that is the title of her blog and Instagram handle. We have the understanding of what “ridiculous” means to us and often have to remind others that we mean it as a compliment.

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After service on Sunday, I told Katie that Brandn’s message was fantastic. To which my over-the-top-super-proud-wife friend just beamed and smiled and said “I know”. If you know Katie, you know there was a little dance in her head nod.

And last but CERTAINLY not least… we have a niece! A new one! A tiny one! A practically perfect in every way, Scarlett Rae Ortiz.

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Not even biased, she is perfect.

Sage is some sort of rock-star who managed to get through this labor and delivery process with minimal discomfort till it was time to deliver. DRUG-FREE. Like some sort of medical marvel.

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And I need to talk about this for a minute. This man, holding his little girl. I literally cannot even. Good job Eric and Sage, she is perfection. 

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Whatever your week or weekend holds, I hope you are able to breathe, feel your head lift and rest. I get it. It doesn’t come naturally…but we got this!

Favorite Things Monday: Let’s All Breathe Edition

What. A. Week.

It was all a bit overwhelming.

You were there. I was there. We all experienced the same thing. Our reactions all different. The noise. I wanted calm and peace to be the thing I brought to this super loud party.

Ernie Johnson said it with more calm than I could muster…and said it all so well with such perspective, conviction and grace. You can watch it here.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that 🙂

By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready to breathe. I have the gift of working for a company that gives the day off on Veteran’s Day. As if Veteran’s Day isn’t enough to give perspective and gratitude.

Ray and I headed to Waco to visit and shop at the Magnolia Market (and the kids had school…hello date day).img_0949

 

We are Fixer Upper fans, no doubt about that. What I didn’t expect was the incredible atmosphere. This was a place to breathe. Every square inch of that property is lovely, perfectly planned out, organized, beautiful, creative and inviting. Everything was brand new but it felt familiar at the same time.

You guys. I cried.

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From the beautiful wall decor and every stunning statement to the Christmas decorations… It made me miss my family. My cousin Rhonda’s house has always had a distinctive look, cozy feel and smell to me and all I couldn’t help but think how much she would love it. Not only love to shop around, but to take in the overall feel of it all. It gave me hope and not just hope for myself.

Beautiful things do that.

The amount of vision, hard work and time it requires to pull something like that off. If you know me, you know that that hits me right in the heart and doesn’t let go.

I know, I know. This is a place where you buy things sold by people with that tv show.

I dare say it was more than that. And because there is still a lot of feisty left in me from last week and the big-mean-ole-internet, I would fight you over that statement.

My mom gave some perspective when I tried to explain how I felt without sounding like a total lunatic. “When people are walking out their purpose, it becomes sacred”.

One’s creativity and gifting walked out really is a gift to us all.

Then it got me thinking about the things I overlook because they don’t look like my definition of success or ministry or life well done. I miss the sacred. The God-ordained, beautiful moments, the life, joy, the moments to take in a deep breath…

 

The weekend ended with soccer scrimmages, goals, Christmas trees and a Sunday morning worship service that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Because when it all seems crazy, the day-to-day can be the very thing that keeps us grounded and hopeful.

Little girls who are growing up and realizing how strong they are and taking on challenge after challenge…

Celebrating the pending arrival of our new niece and her awesome momma… img_0957

Christmas trees all set up and lit up because momma got it done before life got crazy…

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Sunday morning…because when we gather together to worship, the noise doesn’t have a leg to stand on, our perspective shifts and the Truth that cannot be shaken is once again the place we rest our hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Things Monday: Good Reports and Great Memories Edition

WHAT. A. WEEK.

It started with Pastor’s Appreciation last Sunday which kicked the week off on a high note. We felt all the love. I can’t believe that God allows us to do what we do and do life with such an incredible bunch of people. The best is yet to come!

Halloween on a Monday should not be allowed…ever. Can we all agree that that was a bad idea? A Tuesday wouldn’t have been as bad, but Monday had the rest of the week feeling a little off and at a warped speed.

We made it.

Halloween was a blast. My costume? Glad you asked. You can tell by my Longhorn t-shirt and skinny jeans, that I was clearly dressed up as a “good intention”. That’s as good as it got, folks.img_0914

 


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My kids had a blast. We had a blast with church family.

I can handle a Wonder Woman and Kylo Ren, any day. How cute are they?

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Tuesday was a big day. We felt like we got beat up, thanks to Halloween on a Monday. It was also report card day and Cephas had a doctors appointment.

Ray had been telling the kids for a few weeks, that depending on how the report cards were, we would celebrate by taking them to see Trolls. If the reports were really good, we would go to the fancy theater.

Tuesday came. Sophia had a pretty good report card and Cephas had a really good report. The doctor’s appointment was for an echo with the pediatric cardiologist.

Now, I wasn’t worried about this appointment. It was strange that this has never been heard before. I had severe shortness of breath at his age (mitro valve prolapse). He didn’t seem to be having any issues, but his doctor just wanted to be sure. Sophia has a slight murmur and her doctor has never suggested this. I wouldn’t go down fear street, especially knowing what issues I had and knowing he has none of them.

The result: An innocent murmur, “he just happens to have a really loud heart”.

When I got this news, I literally laughed out loud. It was not only great news, it summed up my child perfectly. I hope he uses those words to describe himself as as adult.

And so we celebrated.


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Good report cards and loud hearts. Good news and Good reports.

Was it the original agreement? Not exactly. I mean…it WAS a good report.

I always knew that memory making was important and special. Often times, those moments sneak up on us and the normal because something that sticks with you.

This came up on my Facebook feed.

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I have so many pictures of little faces on Halloween. Mackenzie as a Hershey’s kiss, Caleb as a sea creature… I want to post every picture I have ever taken.

I’ve known that little girl since she was 4 months old. They lived next door to Matt and Rhonda…and so for a good long time, she was my neighbor too. I used to babysit her and her brother. She is now a gorgeous and godly woman, traveling the world, working her dream. This picture caught me off guard. It’s precious. I dare say it is perfect. It’s a memory. It’s still a shock. It’s still not fair. But the moments… Oh the moments. What I wouldn’t give for more of them.

I have more family pictures in front of that fireplace. All of my prom pictures are in front of that fireplace. The location was a focal point, the pictures became memories and years later, I cherish them more than ever.

So we celebrate because silly kids in costumes, good reports and everything in between…it matters.

I don’t celebrate because my family has experienced great loss this year. I celebrate because it was always important. I miss the mark on this, I have to remember the “simple yes” can result in huge memories and those memories can mean the whole world.

So my “good intention” Halloween costume was good enough. Getting bit by one thousand (or 7) mosquitoes so we could spend the whole evening outside and eat smores… Worth it.

Memories, traditions, new traditions and simple yeses… the things that actually make the world go ’round.

Hello Holiday Season… you don’t scare me! Let’s enjoy every bit of it this year. Not the overwhelmed and exhausted kind of enjoyment we are used to. Let’s take a step back, enjoy, breathe and cherish it. It’s worth it.