Monday, July 21, 2014

"Team Us". . . Talking with Marriage Author Ashleigh Slater!

Hi Loveys! Here's a treat for you! We're talking with my new friend Ashleigh Slater! She's the author of the new book Team Us: Marriage Together. In her writing, Ashleigh loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. (For more information visit AshleighSlater.com.) She's going to give us a marriage tip today and also give us a glimpse into what's on her to-be-read list (along with what she cooks for company!).

1. How did the writing bug bite you? Have you always wanted to be a writer? What's your story with that?

It's funny, while writing has always been a part of my story from as early as 3rd or 4th grade, I don't remember ever sitting down and thinking, "I want to be a writer when I grow up." Instead, I wanted to be a television producer. To the point that I studied it in grad school. Yet once I had kids, I decided not to pursue that career path. I really wanted to be home with my children on a daily basis. The thing was, once I put that aside, I still needed a creative outlet. Since I'd been writing music reviews and
articles since I was a teenager, I started to focus more on writing and editing. Almost 20 years after I had my first music review published as a teen, here I am with my first book.

2. Where did the "Team Us" inspiration come from?

When it comes to my writing, I actively hold to "write what you know." So when Moody Publishers approached me last spring about possibly writing a book on relationships, I sat back and thought, "Okay, what can I write about that I have experience in and am passionate about?" The first thing that came to mind as I reflected on Ted and our marriage was how grace has impacted our relationship. This idea of writing on grace turned into the book that is now "Team Us."

3. As we all know, marriage can be a little like a rollercoaster--highs and lows and freefalls! What's one practical way that you recommend staying on the same team even through the hard times?

Remember that your spouse is not the enemy. It can be easy when you face difficulty to start pointing fingers and assigning blame. You know, to look for what your spouse could have or maybe even should have done differently. And, as a result, "casting" your spouse in the role of villain in the tragedy you're facing. Instead of making it "you against me," I think it's important to make it "us against the problem." Determine to face whatever comes your way together, united. And I believe this is something that doesn't just apply to the "big" difficulties, but even the smaller challenges involved in parenting or finances.

4. What books are you currently reading? What's on your to-be-read list?

I tend to read two or three books at a time. Right now I'm finishing up Emily Wiergena's memoir Atlas Girl and am in the middle of Tessa Afshar's novel In the Field of Grace as well as Dannah Gresh's parenting book Six Ways to Keep the 'Little' in Your Girl. My to-be-read list includes reading The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Divergent Trilogy again. I've also heard a lot of great things about The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.

5. What's your special go-to meal when having company over? What are you famous (or infamous!) for when it comes to cooking?

We actually don't have one go-to meal. Instead, we kind of cater a few of our favorites depending on who the company is. Things like chili or chicken saltimbocca. But, if we have a large group of friends over, it's normally an easy crowd pleaser such as bratwursts or burgers on the grill. Ted and I both have a lot of German in our family history, so we love a good brat with mustard and sauerkraut.

Thank you, Ashleigh!! I am super excited to read Team Us and to get to know Ashleigh better! Check out her website and hop over to Amazon to take a look at what others are saying about her book.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Birthdays and Rainy Days


It's a home day, loveys. It's rainy and foggy and a little chilly in our house. And I've got two kids playing hide-and-seek. But I'm not sure they get the gist of it. Ash sits in a chair and Linc comes and taps her on the head. Then he sits in the chair and she comes and taps him on the head. Hmm.

It's a lazy morning. There are blueberry muffins and hardboiled eggs on the stove. Grape juice on the counter. And the kids just want to run and play. I'm wondering how much of a fight they'll put up if I want to take the crew to Hobby Lobby and look at stuff for the house. Hmm again.

I actually love days like this. Easy days where nothing is on the calendar. We stay in pj's as long as we want to. We watch cartoons. We have snack every half hour (that's actually not that fun for me since I start to feel like a waitress who lives here). We go to Chic-Fil-A for lunch, and then there are a million kids, and I have to promise ice cream in order to get my kids to leave. Then the drive-thru line is so crazy long that I have to drive over to Baskin Robbins to make good on that promise. Then if I'm at Baskin Robbins, I'm unable to leave without getting a scoop of rainbow sherbet for myself.

Vicious cycle.

So anyway. Both of my kids have birthdays next month, which has prompted me to say that I can never have another baby in August. If Jeff so much as winks at me in November, I'm not seeing it. So not only is August crazy with back-to-school chaos, I have two birthday parties to plan and cupcakes to take to school even though school has just started. And this year we're MOVING in August, remember? So packing, moving, parties, school. Obviously, August makes me twitch just a little.

I'm realizing Ash is at that age where she starts to have input on her birthday celebration. This is not cool to me. We drove through the party aisle the other day and I oohed and ahhed over the Sofia stuff, Frozen stuff, Princess stuff. She points to the plastic-head Barbie stuff and says, 'That's the one I want.'

My answer is to say we'll keep thinking about it. Ash also knows exactly what she wants to do at said party. She's getting older, I know. The parties become less about the parents hanging out and more about the kids and what they want and school friends. My friend Nancy warned me this would happen.

She was right.

That's okay. We'll do packing and moving and parties and back-to-school and it will all come together. I'm thankful that we didn't unpack too much when we moved into this rental. It won't be so hard to pack everything back up. This morning, as we were taking our time in pj's and socks at home, I kept thinking of what it will be like in just a little over a month, when we're doing the same thing in a new place.

The weekend is here finally. It's felt like a long week to me. Ash and Linc have been a little more difficult this week. Cranky, fussy, not wanting to listen, and so on. So I'm thinking I need to come up with some family activities for the weekend to keep them busy and active. The zoo might be in our future. (Lord, help me!) Summer stuff, you know. Fun stuff. Tiring stuff. Good stuff. :)

Have a good weekend, loveys. Summer's going by fast. Enjoy it.







Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living the Dream


It's 7:48. I need to leave for work in about fifteen minutes. Jeff and the kids just went out the door. I woke up early this morning. By early, I mean about 5:45. But Jeff and I went to bed early last night, which we've been trying to do more of because life is tiring, so I woke refreshed. I even had time to read a few chapters from Shauna Neiquist's book Bittersweet, which is amazing. Not even kidding. She's one of my favorite writers because I feel like I know her just from reading her books. I love her thoughts on food and faith (two of my fave subjects). I love her transparency about life.

It's a good morning. Linc ran back from the front porch for one more kiss before leaving. Obviously, that melts this mom's heart. I'm thinking of all I need to do today, which isn't so much really. Work. pool time with the kids. Cook dinner. Clean up. The usual.

So this weekend we went to some new friends' home for dinner. We'd never been there before and we were hanging out together outside, getting to know each other a little bit. We've had a lot of rain lately and I think it's stirred up mosquitoes because Colorado is usually not very buggy. Compared to Texas anyway! While we're sitting there talking, I got a mosquito bite. Understand that if there is one mosquito in a fifty-mile radius, he will find me and take my blood. Growing up in Texas, this was tragic. My dad is the same way. We used to keep a can of Off repellent right by the front door so you could just douse yourself on your way out. My mosquito bites swell up like nickels and itch to death. So I was a little worried that I might be about to be bitten like crazy. We went inside to get things ready for dinner and the wife tells me that we can eat inside or outside, wherever we want. I'm already itching my arm so I mention I got a mosquito bite so maybe inside would be best, since she said either was fine. She cocks her head to the side and says, "You're kind of delicate, aren't you?"
Oh. Um. I don't know.

She finds me insect repellent and we eat outside.

This morning, as we're getting ready for work, I say to Jeff, "I'm trying to decide if I'm delicate. What do you think?" He laughs all the way back to the bedroom.

I've been thinking it over. I guess I am in some ways. In the way she was thinking. While we've been doing some trails and hikes this summer, I'm not usually that outdoorsy, so I have to be intentional about it. But I do love seeing the beauty of nature. I've never been very good at sports. My coordination level is about nil. I did a lot of sitting on the bench.

Delicate.

But then again. I'm usually up from before seven every morning, feeding kids, dressing kids, getting myself off to work. Together, Jeff and I run this household and raise our kids. I love being a book editor and an author. My days are filled with life and family and friends. It's a busy life. It's a good one too.

I don't like mosquito bites.

 That's okay.

I think sometimes we just have to accept who we are (not the bad parts, those we need to change, but the regular parts, the not-being-that-outdoorsy parts). I'm okay with me. I'm okay that I'm not very arts-and-craftsy. I'm okay that I don't spend a whole lot of time planning meals for my family, we're a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family when it comes to the menu. I'm okay that I don't like to spend a ton of time shopping for stuff. I like to go into a store, buy something and be done with it. I'm okay that I want my house to be clean, but I'm not going to kill myself making it spic-and-span. I'm okay that we like to watch TV and cartoons and eat pizza and ice cream on Friday nights.

Honestly, I love my life. I love my family so much. I love my work. I love writing. I love that before Jeff left this morning, he hugged me and said, "I'm really lucky to have you." I love that Linc ran back for second kisses. I've got people, loveys. That's what matters to me. I don't think God wants me to be any other woman than who I am. I think he understands me on a level no one else ever will. I think he's got patience and unconditional love for me every day of my life, and I'll take it gratefully, because I need those things so much.

I just read a chapter in Bittersweet about the things the author can't do. In other words, making a list of things that we're just not up for, and being okay with that list. How beautiful and freeing. God made us unique. Our personalities are different. Our interests are different. But if we're living the story God's given us, we're living the dream. We're alive and present and comfortable with who we are and what we're doing because we're in the right place.

Take a deep breath and live free today. Because you're loved. Every minute of every day. And who you are is enough.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Christmas in July

Loveys, the Hallmark Channel has been running Christmas movie marathons for days. Seriously. You may roll your eyes at this.

I, on the other hand, feel an even deeper connection to Hallmark than I did before.

If you know me, you know I love the holidays. Really, they're wonderful. I love decorations. I love holiday parties. I love movies like Christmas in Connecticut and Miracle on 34th Street. I love being with family. I love seeing my children open presents. (I love opening presents too.) I love Christmas music and candlelight services and celebrating Jesus and putting ornaments on our tree and baking cookies and reading Christmas books.

Love it.

Having a few Christmas movies on lately (when I can squeeze them in amid Curious George and Octonauts) has been super fun. And has made me have Christmas on the brain. I start thinking about the joy and happiness that comes with that season. Those things come with every season, of course, but not quite in the same way. It makes my heart happy to know that Christmas is coming eventually. That I'll be with my family and enjoy lights and delicious foods and presents.

It sounds beautiful to me.

So I'm okay with a little Christmas in July (thank you, Hallmark!). We need the joy, don't you think? The peace that's encouraged at Christmas. The goodwill toward men and all that. We need it.

Do you ever feel like you've wasted time not choosing joy? It takes work sometimes, to choose to be joyful. To choose to shake off the pettiness, the worry, the tendency to hold tight rather than be open.

At the end of the day, I look at those things I just mentioned, pettiness and such, and I know that's not who I want to be.

How do you want to be remembered, lovey? What will people say about you once you're gone? What will your legacy and memory be filled with?

When I think of Christmas, I think of good things. I hope I live with a little more Christmas in me every day. More love for my family. More forgiveness. More peace. More gentleness. More tolerance. More giving things over to God and trusting Him. More kisses for my husband. More snuggles with my kids. More heartfelt prayers that change my whole life.

We're still becoming who we're meant to be. Are we going in the right direction? Or do we need to stop and change our path? Loveys, do you need a little Christmas in July?

This summer has been a good one so far for our family. Lots of family time. Building relationships with friends. Eating watermelon and all that fun stuff. But things can change in an instant. I've been thinking about some friends of mine. My friend's parents were out here visiting and her father suddenly passed away a few days ago.

Loveys, doesn't that hurt your heart? It hurts mine. I find myself stopping to pray for the family over and over.

We need peace and hope and love more than ever. Those things need to be who we are. The magic of the holiday season is God with us. But that's true every day. Even days when it seems like everything shatters. Even when it's hard to believe it (and believe me, I've had those days). God with us.

Living out love.

Living out trust.

Living out peace.

Living out hope.

Seeing the blessings and gifts in all the moments and seasons of our lives. And choosing to live with joy.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It Made Me Think of You

I've been sort of obsessed with Birdy's song Wings lately. It makes me have all these nostalgic butterflies swirling in my stomach for some reason. And I've been thinking lately about old friends and Texas. My friend Melissa is a missionary in Peru. We've been messaging back and forth, catching up on life lately. And I think of sleepovers with her and giggling and laughing and talking when we were young girls.

Reconnecting with old friends--summing up our lives in a few paragraphs or over dinner and coffee. Trying to give people a glimpse of who we are, what our lives look like, what matters to us. The wonderful thing about reconnecting is that there's already a connection. There's history between you.

I like having history with people. I like meeting new people too, of course. It's important to keep your heart open, to make new friends, to embrace community and friendship. But when I think of Texas and my girlfriends from back there--it's a different kind of history. It's people who knew you during those formative years. These girls knew me back when my hair was permed, loveys.We grew up together.

We're still growing up, I think.

Thinking of Michelle--she and I have been best friends since we were twelve. It's like we're driving down a road together, seeing the same things. We talk about Gillian and Ashtyn and Lincoln. We talk about moving and building houses. We talk about marriage and family. We're growing and learning and experiencing different things now in our thirties. But we're still on that road together. Still looking out the window and seeing similar things.

That's a gift.

Sunday night I met up with a few girlfriends for dinner and a movie. There's something refreshing to me about being with other women. We talk about life and children and husbands--but we still giggle and laugh. Those moments are important to me.

And I hear that song . . . and it makes me think of so many people. As Melissa and I have chatted and reminisced lately, I think of beautiful, hot, humid Texas and all those years that mean more to me than I ever knew they could. I think of the lovely evening and the incredible Colorado sky Sunday night as I walked through the theater parking lot. My family . . . and those wonderful people back home in Texas whom I have so much history with. Those beautiful people all around me now, whom I'm building history with. I think of Jeff, who makes me better and who is always there.

And in these moments, and these memories, and the nature all around me--I think of Jesus too. There in all of it, I think of Him.

And I'm grateful.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Let Freedom Ring

There's something about July 4th that just feels lovely. It's sort of like Thanksgiving. There's something fun about eating turkey on Thanksgiving and knowing that just about everybody else is doing the same thing. And on July 4th, there's something fun about knowing that just about everybody is eating hamburgers and hot dogs. There's red, white, and blue everywhere, and I feel very patriotic. First thing this morning, I was in the car and heard America the Beautiful on the radio. I smiled because, truly, I love living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It's a beautiful thing and I feel so blessed. Our day was spent with friends and great food, the sound of kids running and laughing, ice-cream cones and cupcakes, sunshine and a few rain clouds--blessings. #100daysofsummer

I can hear fireworks happening outside at this very moment. But thankfully, they haven't woken the kids yet. My kids were worn out tonight and went to bed early. Since the Jeffster and I were worn out too, early bedtime for the kids was very welcome.

This week has been busy and full, and yet even though I'm tired, there's something satisfying about a busy and full week. I think because it's also been a productive week. Things to cross off my list. The list never seems to really shrink, but it still feels good to cross things off. We're down to less than 50 days before we move. I feel good about that. I'm anxious for our house to be done, but I'm not anxious for summer to end and school to start--so we take it one day at a time.

We take it one day at a time, loveys. The good days. The difficult days. The busy days. The slow days. The holidays. The regular days.

There's grace for every day. Hold on to it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

100 Days of Summer

Loveys, how was your weekend? Plenty of rest time, play time, or both? I feel like we had a jam-packed weekend and I loved it. I've started hash-tagging (is that a word) my photos this summer with #100daysofsummer. I was thinking about how fast these three months go by--June, July, and August. And how those three months give us about 100 days, and how I want them to be meaningful. Even if it means an on-purpose pajama/movie day for me and the kids. Or a date night sans kids for me and Jeff.

So far our summer has consisted of VBS (vacation Bible school) for Ashtyn and cheer camp for Ashtyn. Day care for both kids so Mommy can keep her job! I wanted so much to do swimming lessons for Ashtyn but that might not happen. Last summer was great with a trip to Texas and Louisiana in early May. This year we're not doing a big trip (as far as we've planned right now) so I want us to do some fun things around here. Lucky for us, Colorado is a great place for fun.

Last weekend we were in Beaver Creek where we went for a hike, did some fishing, and went to the Bacon Festival at Keystone. I love being up in the mountains. So fun. This weekend we kept up our #100daysofsummer with having fun here at home. A little hike. A little pool time. And a BBQ with precious friends we've known for a long time.

The truth is that I can be kind of introverted and staying home and just reading and watching movies sounds like super-fun time to me. But my goal is to have an intentional summer. Key word being intentional. Create memories for these amazing kids God has given me. Enjoy this beautiful place God has brought us to. Savor summer and the delights that come with it.
So the goal to be intentional helps me with finding things to do and getting me outside and capturing these memories on camera for my kids. Even something as inexpensive as going to the neighborhood pool helps my kids associate fun splash time with summer. I know some moms are great about wanting to do that kind of thing all the time. This mom has to set a goal and plan it, or it might not happen. I keep hoping we'll get a carnival this summer. I think cotton candy and rides would thrill my children. :)

So we ended up driving out to our friends Jenny and Rich's house this Sunday for a BBQ, along with our friends Nancy and Mark. Such a great time. You can see all the delicious food above. Those are the kind of nights you wish could go on and on. It's refreshing to be with great friends. Saturday after church we went to the movies and ran into our friends Josh and Sherilyn, and it turned into an impromptu double date, and by the end of the night, Jeff and I were feeling so lucky that we'd been able to laugh and talk and be with people we care about. We were worn out from a long day with these kids of ours, and we needed grown-up time. Hanging out with Josh and Sherilyn was a bonus!

I want to associate summer with BBQs and friendships and ice-cream cones on the back porch. Memory-making happening here, loveys! Jenny has this sign in her adorable kitchen that says EAT and I love it. I associate all good things with food, so it seemed perfect. Holidays, birthdays, seasons--they all seem to connect with food for me.

Summer seems to go by fast in Colorado. And while I absolutely love autumn and everything that comes with it, I want these sunny warm days to last as long as possible. I want to be intentional with these #100daysofsummer.

Jenny and Nancy--I love you girls so much and Sunday night was perfect. Sherilyn, Saturday night was extra special because you guys were there. Sarah, the Pioneer Woman's lazy chiles rellenos were even better sharing them with you!

Life lived in community with sweet friends makes everything taste just a little better, don't you think? 100 days of summer, loveys. Make them count.