Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where to begin? Mousketales and Diamond Rings

Loveys, we just got back from our vacation last night. We were gone nearly two weeks, but I feel like it was a month! Good grief, so much happened. First off, we flew to Virginia for my sister Laura's graduation from college. My sister Sara and I both graduated from Liberty University and now Laura has as well. It's family tradition at this point!

And it just so happened that at the graduation commencement--in front of about 30 thousand people--Laura got engaged. Crazy! Oh my gosh, it was so exciting! My family and Sara and her husband and our grandmother and Tia were all up in the box watching the ceremony when all of a sudden, Jerry started talking about Laura. He told her to stand up and Wes stood up with her (her boyfriend) and he knelt down in front of the whole world and proposed! I am smiling again thinking about it! I've watched the video a million times and I cry every time. So special. And so great that our whole family was there to see it! My parents were sitting right there on the front row with them. It was perfect. Laura was completely surprised and overwhelmed and all that good stuff.

Graduation! Engagement! Celebration! Followed by family vacation to Disney World. It's almost too much to take, I know. :)

Some days blessings fall like rain. You have to take a breath and close your eyes and thank God for those days because they're special and they don't happen all the time. Your heart is full and you're surrounded by family and love and laughter and smiles and happy tears, and it's good. You guys know that I'm all about family. This is why. Because the love multiplies.

I'm very happy for Laura and Wes. Wedding planning starts  . . . mmm, immediately. :)

Well, after all that wonderfulness--we left Sunday morning for Florida for more magic. Jeff and the kids and I drove to Florida. My parents came soon after. Sara and Nemo flew to Orlando, and a couple of days later, Laura and Wes flew down too. The Brumble-Bruce-Hanson-Falwell clan take Florida, loveys!

So. Much. FUN.

Oh gosh again. All kinds of wonderfulness. My family had never been to Disney World or Universal Orlando and we basically fell in love with all of it. I was so thankful my parents came out. I don't think I could have managed those parks without the help of my mom. Thankfully, they were there and everything went better than I could have envisioned. Princesses! Parades! Fireworks! Shows! Rollercoasters! Mickey Mouse pancakes!

Loveys, you know that my love for Harry Potter races past obsession and lands somewhere near 'life-changing.' Going to the Wizarding World has been on my must-do list ever since it opened. Walking through it with Sara (whose appreciation matches my own) was really, really special. We had an amazing time. Butter beer? Yes please. The Harry Potter rides at Universal were my favorite! And the fireworks spectacular at Disney? So fantastic and beautiful. There's just something magical and thrilling about castles, don't you think?

You just want to clap your hands and squeal and put on a big poufy dress and have someone named Prince Charming kiss your hand. (For me, his name is Jeff Bruce and it was more like two very sweaty, exhausted people standing together while Princess Brandy says "Please get me a Dr. Pepper right now.")

Loveys, it was the best trip ever. Probably because it was shared with the people I love most in this world.

I've been sitting here this morning, back in chilly, rainy Colorado, looking at all the vacation pictures and sipping a cup of English Breakfast tea. I keep thinking that I feel so very blessed. Lily is sleeping next to me in her pink bouncer. Lincoln's watching Peppa Pig, and he's a little low on energy this morning. I am too, for that matter. Allergies and all that. Ash is at school. Jeff is at work. I'm so thankful for a quiet, sleepy morning to just reflect and be grateful for such a wonderful time with my family.


We hold on to it wherever we find it. Dreams and wishes and wands and fairy dust.


As Cinderella says, "So this is love. This is what makes life divine."
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day . . . and Making it Count

Happy Earth day, loveys! How are you? I've spent much of this Earth day watching the Jeffster dig up some earth out in our backyard, along with feeding Miss Lily (who likes to eat every twenty minutes or so) and watching superhero cartoons with Lincoln. Right now, both Lily and Lincoln should be napping. Shocker--neither of them wants to cooperate. I have about a million things on my to-do list, but I decided to hop on here and talk to you guys.

It looks like rain outside, which isn't good news for yardman Jeff. He's been so determined to start working in our backyard. Honestly, I think he needed a project. Jeff likes to dive into a project (like finishing a basement or building a deck), then it wears him out and once he finishes he says he doesn't want any more projects ever; then he gets the itch to do something else. I've seen this cycle happen a time or two (or more) in the sixteen years we've been together.

I'm fine with it. Really, I'm the one who desperately needs the backyard to look like something other than a mud pit. I need a place to shoo my energetic children when they are running circles around the island in our kitchen. Earth day seems like the appropriate time for Jeff to get his hands a little dirty and work with what we have.

I really do understand that itch to dive into a project. For me, it's usually a writing project. I start to feel the urge to write, to think up characters and plots and to dream of book covers. It's who I am, I guess. But sometimes it's a house project, a scrapbooking project, or maybe just a new book I want to read. Whatever it is--you know what I mean. There's a drive to do something. Maybe we just want to make our time count. To fill up our hours and minutes with something we care about.

I had lunch with two friends this week and over chicken-salad sandwiches we talked about the fact that our time is limited and so we have to be intentional with where we spend it (the same goes for resources). For me, sometimes just sitting next to Lincoln on the couch and watching Spiderman feels very worthwhile. With his little feet tucked under my leg and the weight of him leaning against me--I could stay sitting there a long time just to feel him comfortably next to me. Or sitting quietly and feeding Lily--I know she'll never ever be this tiny again. I love holding her. Spending time with my kids is time I never regret. But once they're finally in bed, I have to admit that I savor those few minutes I have to myself or with Jeff. Even if I'm so tired I can only drop myself onto the bed and use the last few ounces of energy I have to turn on The Good Wife--that time sans kids is important too. A little time to unwind. It counts too and we need it, lovey. Maybe it's a bubble bath or a work-out session or a devotional--whatever your unwind time looks like, it helps.

I was reading the other day online about some of the atrocities happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, and I felt this sense of hopelessness about it all. What can we do to help? We can pray, and I certainly do, but--I'm just being real here--it doesn't feel like enough. Maybe because it's so far away, it doesn't feel real to us. But it is real. And every life being executed for what they believe is a life that counts. I don't want to try not to think about it. I don't want to feel sad about it for just a few seconds and move on. I wish that somewhere among my hours and minutes spent doling out snacks and changing diapers--I could do something that might make a difference.

I'm not sure what the answer is, to be honest, lovey. It's an ongoing discussion in my head. Here's what I do know--stopping to pray (amid hours of doing laundry and organizing miniature superheroes and making lunches), that's a good thing. I want God to bring those issues to my mind all throughout the day, and I want to be a woman who will pause to pray and beg for his help and mercy for the Christians (and others) being persecuted. I also know that the things we do constantly for our families (like going to work or cleaning house or washing clothes) those things count too, and they are very necessary. For me, making it count starts with the kind of woman I am. Am I consumed by superficial things, or are my thoughts balanced with things that really matter?

Like I said, it's an ongoing thing. Being intentional about where I spend my time, my resources, my energy. We can only do so many things. Time spent with family. Conversations with good friends. Date nights with the husband. Even a little down time with a favorite book. All these things count and make life beautiful. I just don't want to be so wrapped up in my own beautiful life that I can't spare time and thought and resources for those suffering. I want to be a woman who's made of more than that.

I know God wants me to be that kind of woman as well. I know he wants me to make this life count. And even small ways can make a difference. It starts with who we are and we decide that. Loving the people around us. Praying for those near and far. Having a heart that hurts for those in need. Using our words to build up, rather than tear down. Those are the ways I think we can make it count every day.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Finding Her Again

Loveys, have you had moments in your life when you felt like you really knew yourself? Maybe you found your calling. Or you discovered your passion. Whatever it was--you'd found who you were meant to be. You felt . . . comfortable in your own skin.

As women, our bodies go through quite a bit during pregnancy. For me, usually early in my pregnancies, I feel good. For one thing, I've wanted to be pregnant each time, and there's something wonderful and fulfilling in growing a life that your heart has longed for. Still, once I reach nine months, I've usually had about as much as I can take. I'm stretched to the limit, the heartburn is out of control, it's just not possible to get comfortable, even my maternity clothes are tight. So when it's time for baby to arrive--it's a relief. 

However, after the big dance of delivery comes the work of trying to get back to your pre-baby body. It's like searching for your former self. Where is that girl who used to fit in all these clothes that haven't been touched in months? I know there's that small minority of women who bounce back right away. The ones who wear pre-baby clothes on the way home from the hospital. (Seriously. I have no words.) Then there are the rest of us. After Lily was born, when the nurse asked me how I was, I kept telling her I didn't think I was still supposed to look this pregnant. She just nodded and told me I was fine.

It takes time. I know it does.

It can be hard. Really hard.

Body image is something so many of us struggle with. We struggle to accept the way we look. We see ourselves critically. We want to look different. I think it comes down to wanting to feel strong and confident in our own skin. I know that's what I want. Trust me, that can be hard post-pregnancy. I'm right there in that season. This week, I got it in my head that I wanted to wear my favorite jeans. I haven't worn them since before we moved into our new house so I wasn't sure where they were! But it just hit me that I needed to find those jeans. I was a woman on a mission, searching through every drawer to find them. Who knows why I like them so much! Loveys, these threads are old and ripped and falling apart.

I can't throw them away. They're me. I bought them at Express forever ago. My BFF Michelle and I used to always go shopping together for jeans at Express. I can see us as girls (and then as young women) shopping for jeans and then having lunch in Houston. (P.S. Shell, I miss you. I loved those days.) Those memories are like treasures. There's something about a fave pair of jeans--wearing them is comforting. You feel like . . . you. I finally found them and squeezed this body into them.

I felt like myself again.

Later this week I went out for dinner with a few girlfriends of mine. It was the first night I've gone out with friends since Lillian was born. Between the initial recovery post-birth and then two bouts of mastitis (have mercy), I haven't felt like doing much at all. But I put myself together and I went--and the time out was so encouraging. It was like finding a little piece of myself again. You start to remember that the exhaustion and the recovery (and other issues) are all just temporary. Things get back to normal. You're still that girl who likes to laugh and have fun. She's still there. You're still you. Those jeans will fit eventually, lovey.

I wish women didn't struggle with body image so much, but we do. (So much of it stems from outside pressures and is projected upon us and then we end up obsessing over how we look.) It's an important issue to me because I have two daughters and I want to raise them with a sense of confidence. That's not so easy for girls today. Getting healthy--staying healthy--getting fit--staying fit--loving ourselves. It's never healthy or right to obsess over how we look. I know that. But to feel comfortable in our own skin--that's a good thing for any woman.

I think part of that comes from feeling loved and accepted just as we are. The thing is, to love and accept ourselves--that can be the most difficult. But it's a worthy goal, lovey.

I've had a few people ask me if I'm missing work yet. Really, the past nearly five weeks have been a combination of sleep deprivation and being knocked down by mastitis. I know I'll miss it eventually, but for now, I'm good with just finally feeling a little more whole, feeling a little stronger. I'm good with holding Lillian and just pouring my energy into loving on her. Every day is a day closer to getting back to feeling like me again.

But I'm not lost.

We've had so many people help us since Lillian was born. My mom and Sara have done so much. We had so many people (friends and neighbors) bring meals. The day I woke up with mastitis for the second time, a friend of mine stopped by with cookies and ended up sending me upstairs for a nap while she watched Lily and Lincoln for me. I needed that rest so much. Cookies and support and practical help from a close friend, coffee dates this past week with girlfriends, dinner out, a quick phone call just to talk--you know what's true? Sometimes the people in our lives help pull us back to where we want to be. When we're a little off our game, when we feel a little unsteady and tired--God uses people around us to encourage us. They find us right where we are.

It's a beautiful thing. Sort of like slipping into your favorite jeans and feeling like you just found yourself.

God loves us, lovey. If you struggle to love yourself, start with that reminder. And take it one day at a time.