“The List”

Like any writing teacher worth her salt, I am always looking for creative prompts that might allow my students or me to dig into memories and pull out some verbiage and truth. This one, though not presented as a prompt, piqued my writer’s curiosity. Parents teach us lots of things. Some are stated clearly, but most seem subtle and therefore tacitly inferred. Inspired by Amy Poehler’s Yes Please in which she included a list of some sweetly thoughtful and many more hilarious ideas, I began ruminating on my own list. After much jotting and revising and smiling through funny memories, here is my compilation, albeit incomplete, of what I learned growing up. There is a story (or many) behind each one, but it was fun to synthesize the many tales and skim across the surface for a while. I found it a welcome ski down memory lane and hope you enjoy it as well.

Things I Learned from Mom:

  • Always plant flowers in odd numbers.
  • Respect your father. He loves you and works really hard.
  • When kids relentlessly taunt you, don’t react. They will get bored and leave you alone if you can just stand to ignore them.
  • When girls want things from their fathers, there’s a certain smile that works every time.
  • Girls everywhere: when considering a husband, choose wisely!
  • Never cancel plans with one person to do something “better” that comes along.
  • If you do not like something at a restaurant, send it back.
  • Respectful kids always greet their friends’ parents. Head-nods don’t count.
  • Everyone has endearingly weird family members. Some of their stories deserve to be told again and again.
  • People who grow up in chaotic households can become amazing people.
  • Never change boyfriends as frequently as you change your underwear.
  • Yellow is not your color, and you may want to think about not parting your hair down the middle.
  • Dogs work their way into your homes and then your hearts.
  • You deserve to be listened to, and it is okay to cry.
  • Being silly is encouraged.
  • The night is young!
  • Boys should treat you right. No idiots or losers allowed.
  • If you are dating an idiot loser, your mom will know and will set up boundaries that are irritating but don’t cause massive rebellion. Mom will also send in reinforcements to sneakily make sure he’s not being too loser-y. When you end up breaking up with him, which you will, you will thank her later.
  • Education matters. Go. Dream. Work hard for it.
  • Women can be beautiful, smart, and confident.
  • Now that you’re 21, have a drink, girl! Better yet, let dad make you one or buy you one.
  • Beaches are the dream.
  • Being a grandparent is going to be the best, and until then, not-yet-grandmothers should hold as many other random women’s babies as possible.
  • Your faith and love for your family matter more than anything else.
  • Moms will do anything to protect their kids.

 

Things I Learned from Dad:

  • When you find the right girl, don’t be deterred.
  • Respect and love your mother. She’s great with finances, scary smart, and has a mean ring-finger punch.
  • Always “marry up.”
  • Tip generously, if you’re able.
  • Work hard.
  • Between bouts of working hard, spend weekends at the lake.
  • When spending weekends at the lake, listen to 60s, 70s, and 80s music.
  • Capitalize on your best singing and dance moves, but only ever so often.
  • Embarrassing your kids can be really fun.
  • Call people back as soon as possible. Not doing so is rude, and some times these people are worried about you.
  • Your kids deserve the best opportunities, and the best dads believe that for their daughters as much as their sons.
  • Go to bed early sometimes, or even better, all of the time.
  • People constantly snapping pictures of you is obnoxious.
  • Exercise should be more for your health later than for your body now.
  • Well-timed spanking really works. If your kids are raised to respect you, sometimes a very disappointed stare works even better.
  • If a boy honks when he arrives at the house, he better be dropping off a pizza, because he sure isn’t picking anything up.
  • Don’t mess with your “old man,” especially when there are hot dogs for dinner.
  • Tickling people is tons of fun.
  • Tortilla chips and afternoon naps are the dream.
  • Dads who were the social chairs of their fraternities sometimes worry that their not-yet-21 daughters aren’t having enough fun.
  • Once said daughters turn 21, some dads become the ultimate in-safe-company drinking instigators.
  • Yard chores are a must. There is a rake with your name on it – literally.
  • Most situations can be navigated either with a firm tone and serious expression or with sarcastic humor. Choose your delivery method wisely.
  • Say, “I beg to differ” often. It sounds serious and befuddles everyone.
  • It’s weird how crazy some people are about their dogs, but when no one is looking, you should feed dogs scraps from your plate and whisper sweet things to “your girl.”
  • There are so many ways, other than with words, for someone to say, “I love you.” Cleaning your kids’ cars and slipping them occasional twenty-dollar bills are a major part of that.
  • Be generous with your kids, and encourage them to do the same.
  • Talk about everyone, especially your family, with respect.

Be Still Now

Stillness and quiet… one of the things I have most enjoyed about this trip to Santa Rosa Beach in Florida. Yesterday, we biked as we have so many days while here, and I closed my eyes on a smooth strip of freshly paved grey road as the air softly curved past my face and under my arms. I breathed deeply, content. Oh, that I could stay like that, coasting with my palms up, the sun golden behind me and the wind flowing past me…

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This morning, there is the slightest breeze through the treetops and palms as the blue-green ocean glitters in the distance. It’s funny that I used to have so much trouble being still, and now I just wish to be still so often, to spend hours just listening and watching the trees and the clouds from my hammock or my deck. From this balcony.

Though I’ve had plenty of time this summer, I haven’t spent enough of it rising early to really take in the quiet, when the day has not yet fully woken and the sun has not yet gained its strength. It’s at this time when everything else quiets that I feel most spoken to and most full of my own new words. The summer is such a gift, of time and refreshment, and I want to savor it well. Five more weeks is time a-plenty, for adventure and for quiet, for inspiring and refining. Plenty of time to seek out the stillness, for it always breaks like waves and crashes onto the shores eventually, its white caps foaming with the adventure of the day.

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Until it’s Gone…

There was a moment tonight, sitting along the sides of our rustic wooden tables, eating pizza and laughing together, that I phased out of the conversation and just soaked it in. “The last supper,” as Justin jokingly called it. The last meal with the Chappells before they leave us for their new adventure in Florida. Their last meal with friends before they go… I couldn’t help but sit and think. Really? Are we already here?

There have been a lot of “lasts” for me lately. Last department meeting. Last PLC. Last time hearing Mr. Carter inspire others with his stories. Last supper. And there will be more in the next week as I close out school.… and sure, there is the tired truth that endings are also beginnings, and that’s certainly very true in both cases, but I am thinking more about the old adage that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

It will be an incredible new beginning for the Chappells in Florida. God has great, grand things in store for them there. I am thrilled to be teaching at Westminster next year. Yet, I can’t help think that I just want to sit a bit longer with the now. I looked across the table tonight and felt like some things are moving too fast. I finish editing our 6th grade teacher video for the last day of school, and I grin ear to ear as I watch these incredible, big-hearted, dear friends and teachers dance to “Happy.” I hear Caitlyn do another goofy voice inflection. I look around my classroom, its walls and cabinets slowly emptying.

In some ways, I wish I was more verbal and lighthearted tonight or that I had more time to inhabit those walls, but it is also good to sit and realize that we don’t do this enough. Even with the seconds and minutes zooming by, I can learn this. We don’t take time to speak into each others’ lives and encourage the way that Brian, Justin, and Caitlyn did. We don’t savor time with each other enough. We don’t appreciate that gift when it’s unfolding.

I couldn’t muster the words tonight to speak as candidly and genuinely as Brian did, but I am so thankful for these friendships, for how wonderful and yet brief our connections are. I’m thankful for Caitlyn’s heart and how she encourages women, for how she listens and puts me at ease, for how she’s an incredible athlete who puts me to shame with her energy and strong will, for how she’s willing to try new things, for how she supports those around her. I’m thankful for Justin and his vision, the way he relates to people, his big ear-to-ear smile, his gusto, his easygoing and positive nature, and the way he speaks so highly of his friends and honors them. What a gift it has been to know these two, and how I wish we could have another week’s worth of nights like this one, meals together laughing and talking, playing Spades, dancing, worshipping…

Chappells, it’s been an honor. A true, real honor… and yes, it’s our last supper, but at least it’s for now. Because you are the types of friends who we won’t let go of. Even from midwest to coast. Expect visits, expect texts, expect prayers. We miss you already.

Farewell, dear friends.

But only for now.

 

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In Joy and In Pain

My mind and heart have been bouncing back and forth these past few days between opposite emotions. During the most joyful, Praise-the-Lord wedding festivities, I am reading Caring Bridge updates on my dear friend’s 2.5 year old nephew who has aggressive cancer… I read a text update, take a deep breath, pray a silent prayer, and watch another dear friend finish her wedding make up. The happiness and excitement is palpable as the photographer snaps photos and different visitors keep popping in to give their blessings. I think back to hearing sobs on the phone the other day as I was told Little Kai wasn’t waking up from his surgery and the cancer was quickly causing his hours and days to dwindle… That grief was palpable too. A few minutes before the ceremony, we gather to pray over the couple, (their hands clasped around a door so as not to see one another). We claim God’s goodness in their lives, affirm what He has done to bring them together, pray for their future. At the end, Erin asks playfully, “Do I have to let go?” and squeezes her fiancee’s hand.  Somewhere in an Austin, Texas hospital, Kai’s family are gathering to pray too, I’m sure… His parents both squeezed beside him and held his hands, and when they wonder or ask, “Do we have to let go?” they mean something else entirely.

What a reality that must be for The Lord to live in every minute, every hour – to know the deepest hopes and joys of our hearts and the depths of our despair…to hear his people simultaneously cry out for help and praise Him for His good works…to listen as his people bless his name in joy as well as through immeasurable pain. I received just the smallest glimpse of that during this past day as those moments increasingly  intertwined around me.

Shortly after 8pm last night, Erin was kissing her new husband and walking back down the aisle to the beautiful gospel sounds of “Oh Happy Day”. And at 8:22, I received a text that Kai had passed. A few short minutes later, we were cheering for the new couple as they entered the reception and began their first dance.

When we went to bed last night, I learned of a friend’s new baby, Michael, who had been born earlier in the day, and at 5:09am this morning, I became an aunt to my second nephew, Noah.

Michael means “Who is like God?” and Noah means rest, comfort, and peace. What perfect names to be born to those faithful, incredible parents and to be born before and after a day such as that…like bookends reminding of us of God’s sovereignty and his goodness.

All I know is that I’m so very glad that there is none like our God. There is none who has experienced every emotion, having lived among us, who hears us when we pray, and whose banner is always love. There is none who dances over us with joy and singing or who has wept over death and comforts us like our God. I’m a mixed bag of emotions, but one emotion I most definitely can pinpoint is thankfulness. I’m thankful to be rooted and established in this grace. I’m thankful that whether my friends are dancing with joy today and flirting as they finish packing for their honeymoon, are comforting one another in the wake of great loss, or are welcoming a new baby home, they know The Lord and find security in Him. Here’s to the reality that life will never be the same and to the reality of our great God who will anchor us through it. May His name be ever praised.

Springing Forward

Despite all of the gorgeous snows we’ve had, the brisk air, and the possible freezing of millions of mosquitos, to say that I’m more than ready for this winter to be over would be an understatement. This seems to be the coldest, seemingly harshest and longest winter we’ve had in recent years. There were a few oddly warm days that brightened our spirits and then quickly flashed away just ask quickly as a woman with menopause, but now that we’ve broken into March, I’m getting impatient. 

I want to shake off this winter, rinse the grey sludge of it off myself. The cold and the snow have been dampening my spirit, and the heaviness on my eyelids and heart are tiring, both physically and emotionally. It doesn’t help that today is hopelessly grey and foggy, and my car is covered in grit and salt from the recent snows and ice. I’m ready to snap out of this grimy, frigid haze. Yesterday, even my clothes began to feel itchy and constricting. I’m tired of jeans, sweaters, and socks. My skin wants to breathe. I’m longing for a tank top and some flip flops, to sit with my face in the sun and feel its rays energizing me. 

This weekend, we spring forward, and the temperatures are predicted to rise into the 50s and 60s for a few days. I’m hoping and praying that they stick, but no one should be surprised if they see a pale woman in a T-shirt and shorts with her face and palms turned up to the sun as soon as the temperatures break 59. All that is fresh and green and life-giving is ready to burst through the soil, and my heart feels the same. It’s time, midwest. Here’s to hoping for tomorrow. 

Expecting to Wait… Hopefully and Less Impatiently.

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Waiting is hard work.

Talk to any couple wanting a child, any single person longing to find their mate, any patient wanting a diagnosis, anyone dealing with grief, any soul searching for answers… Ask, and I’m sure that they will all tell you that though waiting seems like a simple idea, it can be one of the most time-consuming and wearying processes to endure. The preoccupation of wondering what and when and why can fill and take over your thoughts to a very unhealthy degree.

One of my first inclinations after hitting a rough patch in life is to search for answers. I go looking and talking and rehashing the issues until I find the reason for them, and then I go about fixing them. If I can just diagnose the problem, then I can move forward. Thinking. Communicating. Gathering data. Analysis. Discussion. Checking the facts. Diagnosis. Set problem solving in motion. Ideally, that works.

But, what if we’re not talking about a work issue or an easily fixable “oops” problem that presents with a systematic solution? What if after looking and talking and rehashing the issues with anyone who will listen for several weeks or even years, the expectations that you had are rendered futile? What if you realize that you just need to wait?

Waiting is hard work. But sometimes it is necessary when you don’t know the answer and you’re not privy to the point of view that would give you the answers that you need. The higher perspective that sees all of the moving parts evades you, and you’re left answer-less no matter how far you search… and, for now, you’re just repeating a set of unanswerable questions and mere wisps or traces of their answers. The sand falls between your hands…

I feel myself in that helpless cycle right now, and I know I’m not alone. There are questions all of the time in life that require us to wait. Sometimes, we think we even know what the end result will be, or we can sense a change coming in the wind. The seasons will change; we know that. But the waiting is still really difficult. Sometimes, the reason why information is withheld from you (or in this case, me) is that I might try to jump the gun. I would, in essence, ruin it myself if I knew what would fix it. Because I want things to change now. I want analysis, discussion, checking the facts, diagnosis, and setting about the problem solving into motion. I want to get moving.

The Lord, though, knows better. For example, when he kept re-explaining to the disciples that he would have to suffer and die as their Lord. This did not fit into their idea of what the Messiah would do when he came. Their idea had more to do with temporal issues like political strife, peace to a country, or upsetting the current authority. They thought he’d ride in triumphant and start reconciling on earth right then. But God’s plans were greater, and Christ clearly knew that. So, he kept communicating that to his disciples. And as much as he repeated and even showed them time and time again that he was in control, they kept scratching their heads and coming up with questions unanswered. It didn’t make sense until afterward… when hindsight was clear because they had seen his great works, and they had understood the suffering that had to come and the results that it produced, which was demonstration of excrutiatingly sacrificial love and bearing of all sins so that ALL people had access to redemption, not just the ones there at the time.

And though I’m tempted to say that my little life doesn’t intersect with the gospel and Christ’s sacrifice in as epic a way as the disciples did, part of me thinks it does. There’s a reason why I have faith and why my questions go unanswered. There’s a reason why I don’t understand right now. The Lord’s sacrifice isn’t still pending, but some of God’s mission is. His plan to reconcile as many people as possible to himself is not over. God’s moving. He has a bigger plan, a way that lives will be impacted, something that I will learn or he will orchestrate while I wait. And though I would LOVE to know why I’m waiting for answers and why my life seems so much harder and exhausting in some ways right now, I realize on some levels that there’s a reason for the wait, even though I don’t know it yet. And I need to trust, to have absolute faith, and to be thankful while I wait. I need to live confidently on and look for opportunities for growth instead of exhausting myself more with the search for a currently unanswerable question. I need to devote myself to prayer and stop discussing and analyzing. I need to just rest… both physically AND mentally in the fact that I don’t get to know everything. But God does. He’s in a position to make the right moves and carry the intel. His sandbox is not only much larger than mine, but it encompasses every grain of sand that there is, every circumstance and every heart and every life. He’s sovereign. And if I can’t trust the sovereign, ever-present, always truthful, only faithful being there is, then what can I put my trust in? What can you?

I need to relinquish control, and wait expectantly. I need to devote myself to prayer. I need to live and be thankful. And so do you, no matter what the waiting requires or how long it is.

Rest in the fact, and I do mean FACT, that God has it figured out. He knows the answer. He knows when it will be answered (to you). He knows each person’s circumstances and each event that will need to be set into motion for the change in your life to occur. He knows how and when and why it will impact every single person that it impacts for your life to be changed, to be made better. He knows the cost of redemption and how to bring it about, even in such a broken world. He’s working. Don’t doubt it. He just knows more than we do so his timing looks different. And no amount of wondering or discussion will fix that.

I need to keep reminding myself of this same message every morning. Because, oh, am I ever tempted to forget?

Every minute. Every hour. Every day.

There’s a change coming in the wind, and I don’t know what it is or when it is, but I can feel it coming. I can feel that things aren’t right the way that they are now and that God has a plan of redemption on the way, even in my small life in this small way. And it will set about a course of events which are already in motion that WILL MATTER. Every struggle matters when it produces glory on the other side.

So, I’ll hang on, and I’ll pray, and be thankful for my hope and assurance, for changing seasons and a sovereign God, and for familiar brown eyes beckoning me away from my keyboard.  I’ll try to train my thoughts to rest on things above in the meantime. And, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about how that goes. For now though, I have a furry friend who is also waiting impatiently, wagging his tail and nudging my arm in hopefulness, and I think I’ll care for him … while I wait. His problems seem much easier to solve anyway.

And while I wait on him, I think I’ll thank the Lord for what I can see, such as this beautifully starry night – full of mystery, but so full of majesty too.

Wonder Woman Takes Directions

I’ve often thought that I am one who takes direction well. Clearly, I am a schooled individual, one who would learn for a living if I could. If given the opportunity to be a lifelong student, I’d snatch those invigorating ideas and tantalizing invitations to grow and explore my talents, and I’d trail-blaze the way to glory with my written words and powerful footsteps. Just teach me; I’m right here; I’m ready!

So I present on the outside. My intentions are pure enough. Though, through trial and self-realization, I’ve remembered some fundamentals from my childhood and adulthood that beg the opposite. For example:

Age 2: “I do it mySELF!” (on repeat, even wordlessly, for the rest of my life)

Age 4: Wonder Woman costume chosen for Halloween (self-fulfilling prophecy)

Ages 5-16: “Dad, I don’t want to hear it!” (crossed arms, angry dismissive face, and grass-stained soccer uniform with increasing stubborn attitude as I aged)

Age 22: Student teaching. (My former Army drill sergeant / cooperating teacher tries to teach me how to teach, and I buck the other direction constantly, almost to my own demise.)

Age 23: I get married… (Speak to my husband…. sheesh!)

Early twenties: Brian utters to me, for the first time, as I try to carry a towering stack of a gajillion things, something like, “Okay Wonder Woman, you don’t have to do it all yourself.”

A month and a half ago: God says, “rest.” (I don’t.)

A month ago: God continues the same message, but work demands increase. I subsequently go through the hardest few weeks of my mental life so far. Anxiety-filled and crippled by my workaholic nature and increasing professional and personal demands, I crumble, for a while.

God builds me back up. Brian continues to repeat the same mantra, “Well, if you’d just let me help you…”  I let him help me some. I pray a lot. I take some direction, and I rest. Some…

And on and on and on…

I’m constantly asking my students to follow directions, and they’re honestly REALLY bad at it. Especially this year. On the whole, their first reactions include:

a) yelling, “WHY?!?!”

b) staring at me like I have three heads or like I’m not their authority figure, which I clearly am, thank you very much.

c) ignoring me, after which they receive discipline.

I said this many times today: “Your first job is to follow directions; I’ll explain soon.” or “You do not need to know the reason. You just need to follow my directions,” or my favorite today, “HEY!” (wait for shock and silence) “This is not your playground. This is not your free time. I am not your babysitter or your mother. You follow directions the first time given, from ANY adult in this building, and you do it quickly.”  Silence… crickets… better behavior. I hate the yelling and the lecturing, but sometimes they just need to hear it.

And lately, I’ve been needing to hear my biggest authority give me some direction. And it’s really hard to hear. It doesn’t always feel good, and it certainly doesn’t feel easy. I’m not a natural at following directions, and similar to my students, I probably feel like I’m great it at it most of the time until my authority reminds me that no, I actually have a heck of a lot to learn, and I’m going to drive myself into the ground over and over again if I keep insisting on doing it my way (and I better get working on redirecting my behavior now. Pronto). Oh, yes, and “Trust me, it’s good for your character,” I say, and God says.

Part of the time I feel like a trail blazer, and part of the time I feel like the little kid powerfully thrusting my fist into the air with my confidence and costume, only to realize later that I do far too much with my own strength and don’t take advice or prompting well…

God is moving in me, and in my life, and I’m really looking so forward to the end result… but gosh, is it not frustrating and painful and against the grain right now? It takes time and hard work and oh-so-much prayer. I’m thankful for the people who are believing in me, speaking into me, and praying for me, and I’m trying to listen and follow. I’m trying to trust. I’m trying to say “thank you” for the trials because I know they’ll produce better character in me in the end, but it’s not my first inclination, to be honest.

Perhaps my students might thank me one day, smack-dab in the middle of a rough lesson… wouldn’t that be a trip?  I can see little Johnny now, raising his hand, waiting patiently to be called on, all the students eager to please and trusting me completely, and Johnny says, “Mrs. Simpson. We were all texting each other last night, and we just wanted to say, ‘Thx.’ We’re grateful for this difficult learning opportunity to develop our character. We see the story in the struggle, Mrs. Simpson. Thanks for being a great authority figure in our lives.” And I fall over from shock, to which they revive me and do NOT take Instagram photos of their light-headed or unconscious teacher.

Yeah, right. In my dreams. This Wonder Woman ain’t holding her breath. But she is praying and listening. And learning… quite a lot.

Feel free to join me.

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Redemption at Rest

Sleep is a beautiful thing.

Have you ever seen those commercials?

I’ve enjoyed my sleep for quite a long time. For a while, I would have said that I had to get eight hours of sleep every night, or I was a cranky bear. Often, I would actually count backward to figure out exactly when I needed to go to bed to get my eight hours, and part of the cranky bear problem was really just me being cranky about not getting the “full night’s sleep” rather than really, actually being exhausted in the morning.

God’s teaching me things. Apparently, he has stores of energy available for me if I would just live and breathe and pray more, and stop worrying so much about how much sleep I actually get or about how much I have to do or about whether I’ve taken care of all of my to-do lists. Or as my dear friend, Ayschia, once said to me in college, “If you’d stop making lists and just spend half your time actually doing the things on your lists, you’d get a heck of a lot done!”

In the past few weeks, it’s been more like 6.5 hours per night. Which is not too shabby. And, until last week, I was still functioning at quite a high level, and I was waking up to my “body clock” in the morning, which seems to wake me up earlier than I’m ready.  But instead of getting all fussy and checking the exact sleeping minutes that I got, I often thought, “Well… I might as well take advantage of this peaceful morning.” And those mornings were glorious.

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This morning, I slept in, and I missed the flowers waking up the way that I usually see them, and I missed the early-morning watering of our souls. But, I did need to sleep in, so… I took advantage of that. And sleep is very important, but so is nature and time to breathe and time to pad barefoot around my yard in the dew-filled grass with my pup. I have realized that this last week, when I was spinning out of control, I barely saw the sunlight… I was jetting off to work and returning when it was dark, each day, and my brain and my body and my heart got so, so tired and confused. It was an odd feeling and definitely not a good one. And, I am sure that there are many reasons why that happened, but one of them was that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and another was that I wasn’t ever outside. I didn’t even know that it had been really hot in St. Louis, if that tells you anything.

God means for us to rest, and I’m trying to practice that now. But, I feel oddly out of practice despite a very recent refreshing summer.

When my parents’ sweet Riley Roo died, I remember my mom talking about how mentally exhausted she was. Not only had they been up with her at odd hours for nights before, but the day they discovered her cancer and put her to sleep, my mom said that she was spent. Her whole body just longed for bed. And after sleeping, I checked on her the next day, and she felt so much better. Things were still very difficult and emotional, but it was better. God allowed her to recharge a bit and put some distance between herself and that very awful day. You know that he was the one that created sleep, right?

Every time we rest, God is working redemption, restoring what was broken or low on fuel. I’ve never really thought before of sleep as a redemptive thing, except that I loved it and wanted more and more, and was sometimes REALLY thankful to go to bed or take a nap and wake up more refreshed. But God is in the business of restoring and making beauty out of broken things. And we are broken, even in ways as simple as running out of energy or getting tired and cranky, or feeling exhausted or uninspired, or having headaches. And God can heal, even through sleep. Every day, he gives us rest, both awake and during sleep, if we’ll receive it and look for it, and even sometimes when we’re not aware that we are. His graces are new every morning; we just have to peel the layers off of our blinders (allow God to heal and open our eyes), and we’ll see it. He’ll amaze us and fill us up with hope and gospel eyes, if we will just pray, and take deep breaths, and look, intently.

I’m sure I’m just on the very beginning of the journey of learning of God’s restorative and redemptive power, at work within us, but I’m going to keep praying to peel back those layers, for God to reveal more and more to me of his goodness and his grace. Of what He sees. Of His vision for his kingdom and how he is working that out, in his timing.

I’m keeping my eyes peeled, with His help. I suggest that you do, too.

And whatever way that you get rest, whether that be through sleeping, gardening, writing, and getting into the Word (like me) or in some other completely different way, be sure to do that, soon. Don’t delay. Take your Sabbath. And spend it doing the things that restore you, and praise God for that restoration.

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Cool Down! Stop Freaking Out!

A few things were yelled to me (or at me) this week, which I really needed to hear.

I mean, let’s face it, I’m stubborn. So if I feel like I’m REALLY right, then tell me once, and I heard you with my ears. Tell me twice, and yeah, I heard you again with my mind. Yell it in my face, and “Geez! Lay off!” My ego might be bruised a bit… but then, I go reflect, and I realize what you were trying to teach me, and then by this point, I must be really wrong, and it’s time to correct some things.

I’m going to try to do something unusual, and I’m going to make this short. Sweet. To the point. So with little further ado… here’s what I’ve heard loud and clear. And, just to clarify a bit further, I’m paraphrasing. Oxymoron?

1) All you have to do is ask, and I’m RIGHT HERE. – God, and everyone who loves me.

2) Slow down. Take deep breaths. – Same

3) No really… just trust me. – God and “Dr.” Leong.

4) Don’t worry so much about what people think. –  Jesus Calling as well as lots of other wise people throughout the years.

5) Let ME take care of you, and everyone else will be fine. I’ve got them, too. You might hurt them, actually, if you care-take too much. Cling to ME, not them. Jesus Calling.

6) Learn how to say NO. Practice with me. “Thank you for the offer, but I’m fully invested at this point and time.”  – work colleagues who really know what they’re talking about

I’m not clear on much else, but I’m thankful for those messages over the last few days.

That’s it for tonight, I think. Wish I was feeling more wordsmith-y, but you might be celebrating the brevity!

Cool down! Stop freaking out! 😉

I’m Living a Fairytale, for real.

Last night, we celebrated the one year anniversary of our store, East + West.

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designed by @adamsimps

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@benchkraft

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We had a beautiful photographer, a talented, fashion-forward DJ spinning on her turntables, a very well respected STL mixologist making tasty cocktails, inspired handcrafted leather and wood that screamed quality and care, hand-dyed fabrics with gorgeous geometric prints, and creative sketches-turned-stationery with a few of our favorite things. And we had a full house, with delicious eats and drinks, incredibly supportive people, loyal customers, family who had come in from states away, friends who poured out of our church and our childhood and my school, and we partied. We got after it. We drank a little and danced a little and loved it, a lot. And I was so grateful. There were times that I stood outside the front doors of our shop, and I looked in at the faces and the energy and the smiles, and my eyes started brimming with tears because I couldn’t believe that we get this… this support and love and absolute God-ordained success. We are so, SO blessed…

…but then before I could get too emotional, someone else had grabbed my arm or my attention, and I was back to entertaining and greeting and thanking and swapping stories. And the night rambled on.

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DJ Agile1

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Matriarch @rachelsstewart

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@sarahdoriani

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before it got too packed to move around

Our ability to open our store and see the success that it has had is totally God. Absolutely. Incredibly. Overwhelmingly God. The way that we felt guided in this process and encouraged was otherworldly. The fact that people came out of the woodwork to assist us in getting our doors open and then supporting us once they were, was undeniably divine. We felt absolutely spoiled… There’s something about taking huge life risks that shows you who’s in your corner. And suddenly, there they are. The girl who paints with you day after day through a sweltering St. Louis summer with the windows open (because we’re not paying for AC yet. No ma’am! #moneysaving). The guy who is running his own business and just plain GETS IT… who walks into your shop and says, “Hey. Outfit me. Whatcha got?” Who serves free cocktails at your events and gets you hooked up with drinks from Major Brands. And as they shake your hand and put free booze in your trunk, they say, “So who are you again? Because we don’t do this for everybody.” There’s the guy who helps you lay baseboards. The girl who comes with her talented carpenter hands and teaches you how to caulk and use power drills and circular saws and shows you proper safety methods (and holds her breath while you operate heavy machinery). There’s the girl’s dad who shows up sweaty and drinking coffee on a brutally hot day and fixes your deadbolts before giving you each salty-sweaty kisses on the cheek before he leaves, like you’ve been his daughter all along too. There’s the family and friends who pour in from out of town and in town, who bake you brownies and make Caprese kabobs and help you steam and fold clothing, who lend you decorating expertise, who hook you up with deals on your furniture, who give you hugs and support and flowers and their presence, which is gift enough. There are the people who lend you their gifts, and suddenly you have a beautifully crafted website, a killer logo, and amazing leather and wood products for your shop and your home.

I can’t even express the amount of giftedness that our friends and family have… the love they pour out on us. The absolute, 100% blessing and heart and soul and sweat and tears and energy that has gone into this business. The exhaustion. The thankfulness. The understanding… I couldn’t thank everyone if I tried. So, let me just say this – “THANK YOU.” Yes, you. Absolutely you. For being there. For trusting our vision and believing in us and the Holy Spirit’s nudging in our hearts. For coming along side us in this incredible and somewhat scary adventure. For contributing to our livelihood, our hopeful future. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Our cups runneth over. And we can only pray and hope that when our people need us from here-on-out and are working for their dreams, that God gives us the energy and clarity of mind to jump in with both feet and work, work, work and pray for them too.

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Last night was a late night. And my body, of course, woke me up at 7am. And I was thankful, actually. Because then I get a calm, lovely morning with my pooch and a breeze to collect my thoughts, find some inspiration, and send out some prayers. So, I grabbed my tail-wagging pup (and my sore eye from where he stepped on my face last night. All 80 lbs of him…) and I picked one of my new free books (by an amazing Korean-bound colleague) and I went to my hammock and lied back.

And I read a fairytale story in comics, called Passionella. Mostly about dreaming and longing and wishing more for your life, and what you do when you actually find it. And Ella, the chimney sweep who was down on her luck, turned into Passionella, the beautiful busty actress who was granted all of her “dreams” by the fairy godmother in her TV. However, the beautiful thing about this story was that those rich and famous dreams of hers actually didn’t make her happy. All of the fame and fortune and finger-snapping swag that her movie star friends had in their success actually made her feel empty… because after the Late, Late Show came to a close each evening, this blue-collar-worker-turned-busty-blonde turned back into herself, and she would hide from the lights and watch her TV and contemplate her emptiness.

And the most beautiful point of the story is after she returns to being herself in the form of “acting” as a chimney sweep in her best movie ever. With the cries of delight and amazement by her mouth-aghast fans (“Oh my, how DID she make that incredible transformation?!” into being a real, imperfect, flesh-and-blood-woman), she accepts a high award and she gets engaged to her dream man who actually seems real and not so fazed by the flashing lights (despite his dreamy looks and incredible 50s leather jacket)… And they’re making out on the couch at her house (yes, this really happened in the comic)  when all of the sudden, they hear the Late, Late Show ending on the TV, and they look at each other in horror as they BOTH (!!!) turn into their real selves. And shock and fear turns to shy surprise and admiration and then absolute delight, because – Oh my goodness! You’re real too! And we can stop putting on this front and facade to each other, because you’re you, and I’m me, and we love each other, warts and all.

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And they lived happily ever after. For real. Because they were, in fact, real. They were broken people who were brave enough to engage in love and dream big and see their flaws revealed, and then find comfort in the fact that no one is perfect, and we can all just let down our guard. We don’t have to keep this beautifully unique secret to ourselves, that we are more scarred and sinful than we ever could atone for, but we are more beautiful and loved than we ever dared hope.

That’s a fairytale, brothers and sisters. That is my life.

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Mark Grapengater for the Apolis shoot, featuring our Apolis / East + West collaboration with the STL market bag.
http://www.apolisglobal.com/journal/retail-st-louis-regional-local-global-partnership/

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I am so thankful for the support and love of my family and friends, and I pray for more success for our business and our future. I want our legacy to grow and our dreams to flourish. I want to be dressed up beautifully and have photos taken of us that hang on our walls. I want to have babies and have them be absolutely gorgeous and enviable. Let’s be honest. I want those things. But, really, when we get down to it, I’m more than happy to just sit on this couch in Brian’s gray V-neck T-shirt with chocolate stains on it, in my workout pants with a hole in them, with my unbrushed teeth and my sore eye from getting stepped on, and my unkempt hair, and just be. And in just a little bit, my very handsome husband with his unbrushed teeth will wake, and our incredibly loyal friend Paul Paul will come upstairs from the “dungeon” bedroom and use the bathroom for the fifth time this morning, and then we’ll amble out the door and go to church (after some teethbrushing, of course). And we’ll live happily ever after. And I like it that way.

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logo collaboration by @allpurposecracker and @adamsimps. Woodwork by tinkeringmonkey.com

The flashing lights are fun, but I like my little home and my little life and my big, GREAT God. I love those things more than “my” dreams, and photos of me that will fade, and having “it all.” God’s dreams are better, and truer, and they definitely end with the best happiness that we can muster because I’m not happy all on my own, doing my own thing and dreaming my own dreams. If we’d gone with my meager dreams, this business would not be, at all.

These dreams he’s shaping are better. They’re scary and thrilling and breathtaking all at the same time. They make me cry and get anxious sometimes. They make me jump with joy and dance with my husband and praise, praise, praise my Lord. They show me that there is beauty in dreams and in seeking and in hard, hard work. And that you should never doubt when God’s on your side. Never.

I’m on this ride. And I’m not screaming to get off…

I’m all in, baby. Here I am. Trusting. Believing. Dreaming big with you. I can’t wait to see where God takes us next…

@eastandweststl (Twitter and Instagram)

*Photos are a mixture of last night’s events and our Grand Opening in August of 2012