Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Okay with Imperfect

How's your week going, loveys? I'm sitting here at home with a cup of coffee, my desktop and my laptop, wondering where to begin. I've got a stack of manuscripts on the corner of my desk that I'm not looking at. The edit that has my attention is pulled up on my laptop. I'm listening to Snow Hill's cover of Be My Baby (loving it). I just gulped down about half my cup of coffee since it was on the verge of getting too cold for me. And I'm thinking about how I feel at the moment.

I'm okay.

Right outside my window, fall is in full effect. The air is cool and sweet and every time I drive down the street, leaves swirl like I like them to. And the song on my playlist just switched to Home by Dawn Landes. My bangs are making me a little crazy. I'm not sure I should have had bangs cut again. (I will tell you this because if I have this discussion with the Jeffster, I get no sympathy.) I'm wishing this baby would start kicking. I'm thinking I need a new pair of black boots. And maybe new eyeliner.

Does your mind do this to you, loveys?

I've been all over the map lately. I think it's pregnancy. And maybe just me.

Let me just tell you, I'm okay with imperfect.

I was thinking the other day about my faith journey. I think I get more okay with imperfect the older I get. I rely on grace more. I see Scripture through the lense of a lot of stories about imperfect people, and I think, God must really love us. David and Abraham and Peter and Thomas and Rahab . . . with messed up, beautiful stories. And we're all just people. Needing to love and be loved.

And I don't need to try to be perfect.

I'm okay that my kids aren't perfectly obedient, vegetable-loving munchkins that go to bed the second I tell them to. They're just mine and I'll take them as they are. And I'll love them like no one else because they're mine. I think God must feel that way about us. When he saw David commit adultery and then murder and then be broken by his own choices--I think God loved him because David was his.

I think God can use any of us.

I'm easily distracted. I lose my temper. I'd rather have dessert than anything else. Sometimes I lose my train of thought mid-prayer and suddenly I'm writing my grocery list. I'm nervous when I'm alone in the dark. I'm obsessive about things like TV shows or books I'm addicted to. I don't really like talking on the phone very much. I wish I had more personal time. Even if Lincoln has gotten out of bed for the tenth time, when he tells me he wants another kiss, I'm going to give it to him.

I'm not the perfect wife or mother or Christian or friend.

I'm okay with that. It's not even on my to-do list.

I've been touched by grace in ways that changed me. I've reached down inside myself to find forgiveness that really means something. I've chosen belief when I'm not even sure. I've loved even when it made me cry and I wasn't sure I could. I know the things that matter to me.

Perfection is overrated, lovey. Don't worry about it. God keeps loving us.

And the song just switched to Today by the Smashing Pumpkins.

There are things to do. Maybe a second cup of coffee is in order. It feels good to just breathe easy and be thankful and know I'm loved. I don't have to be more than I am. I'm loved regardless. You are too, lovey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Good for the Soul . . . Autumn Musings

Loveys, it's been a fallish, chicken-and-dumplings kind of weekend at the Bruce home. I'm thinking about the fact that tomorrow is Monday and I have so much to do this week. It's a very busy week for me. And now I'm looking down at the belly as I type this--also thinking that Honey Bear and I are tired and need to go to sleep as soon as I finish this blog post.

It's been a full weekend, with wonderful, good-for-the-soul moments in abundance, along with a few horrible moments (getting cussed out by two women in a parking lot over a parking spot and feeling so livid that I was ready to fight, pregnant or not. Only by God's grace did I bite my tongue and leave.). I suppose we take the bad with the good. Anyway, beyond that wretched experience, we also had lots of family time this weekend (something about taking my kids to buy pumpkins and seeing their excitement over Halloween costumes just delights me!). And fall just sort of feels romantic to me, I suppose. Cool breezes and beautiful scenery and holding hands with Jeff--all excellent things.

Another excellent thing is beautiful, transparent conversation with wonderful friends. My friend Tammy came into town Saturday night, and she and I and our friend Nancy stayed up late at my house, talking and catching up. Tangible moments of laughter and honesty and friendship. As Tammy said, it's good for the soul. I think I needed that more than I realized. It filled me up.

Here, right at bedtime, doesn't it just seem sometimes as though our minds are racing? Too many thoughts to even keep up. Everything we have to do. Life is made up of so many things. But I look back over the last couple of days, trying to remember what took up all of our time--and I stop and smile. The kids squealing with happiness as they picked out their pumpkins, their tiny hands and gorgeous faces filled with joy. Hearing Jeff tell me he thinks I'm beautiful (despite the fact that I'm growing by the hour) and feeling thankful that he can stay calm when I'm so upset I'm practically having an out-of-body experience. Hearing Tammy and Nancy laugh while we sit together and talk about anything and everything and appreciating the freedom of people who will take you just as you are. Red leaves everywhere. Chicken and dumplings on the stove.

Good for the soul. We take happiness and blessings as we find them, lovey. And we let the rest go.

And sometimes we seek out what we need. Deep breaths. Date night. Hugs and kisses from our kids. Friends. Pumpkin bread and coffee.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Happiness in a Bottle

It's almost eleven and I've been working all morning. A little tired from a long week, to be honest. My days have felt full and I'm slow to catch up. I'm a tad run down today. Ash is home, off from school, and I've hardly heard a peep from her (other than when I was forced to play Indian princess with her for a bit and help get all the animals to safety in Lincoln's room). She's such a homebody, that one. The realization that she didn't have to go anywhere, that she was free to stay in pj's and play all morning--sheer happiness for this girl. She's upstairs playing away (mostly wrecking Lincoln's room while he's not here), and she's just so content. Really. I wish I could bottle that kind of happiness.

I suppose it's that way for all of us, to an extent. You wake up on a free day, nothing pressing, and can do whatever you choose. We have so many responsibilities--and I'm fine with that and thankful to be able to work and help take care of my family--but a little play time in pj's is always a good thing.

Anyway, a quiet, productive morning has been good for me. Yesterday was sort of emotional. I had an OBGYN appointment, loveys, and I sort of yelled at my doctor.

Not really.

Well, here's the thing, I was planning to take one of those tests that tells you a lot about the baby and even the gender and all that sort of thing. It's a simple blood test. Not a big deal to me. I think the doctor was trying to communicate to me that lots of women have strong feelings about this kind of test (finding out possible issues beforehand). That's fine. I don't feel that way. I wanted to know the details of what the test will tell me and such, the accuracy and all that. She was saying something like 99.6 percent sure. Which sounds pretty sure to me. This is the first time I've met with this doctor and I have a feeling we just have very different personalities. She seems hyper.

I'm tired. Not really into hyper.

Anyway, at some point she was just raising her voice and saying off-the-wall things about how she can't promise the child won't have asthma or that we won't get into a wreck on I-25. I'm not sure what got her so riled up.

I told her I'm not really worried about asthma, and really, she can calm down.

Jeff was sitting with Linc in the corner, trying to find a game on his phone for our child who would not be still or quiet. At the sound of me saying she could just calm down, his head snapped up like a rubber band. I could see the look on Jeff's face--a little concerned about what I was about to do, a little amused about the whole situation, suddenly very present in case he needs to get involved. The doctor gets even more flustered, saying she is calm. But since she's now super flustered and even standing up--she's seems less calm than ever and I'm just sitting there watching her.

She left kind of quickly after that, with a sort of a mumbled apology.

That's fine. But the whole experience was not great for me and my raging hormones. I went from excited to hear the baby's heartbeat and to check in with the doctor, to feeling very frustrated and unsure what her problem was. Maybe she's not very in favor of that blood test. While she was assuring me some women have strong feelings about it, I was shrugging and saying it's just a blood test. It doesn't bother me. But she seemed to want to be sure I'm aware of how other women feel. In that moment, of course, it's my decision that matters, not anyone else's. It was an awkward situation and put a cloud over me for the rest of the day.

Jeff shook it off by the time we reached the elevator and told me not to worry about it at all. Sometimes I think he's better at shaking things off than I am (more than sometimes). Anyway, we did in fact hear Honey Bear's heartbeat, which was strong and beautiful.

And it's finally Friday. One of my book projects will be sent to typeset later today, that's always a good feeling. There's more work to be done, of course. I will have a busy November.

Today, breathing easier from the stress of yesterday, hearing the sounds of Ashtyn playing upstairs--my spirit seems to be calming. I walked through the kitchen and passed the chalkboard we have. Here's what it says:

And my soul drinks in the words like water.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Grace for today. Hope for tomorrow.

Now I have Ashtyn sitting next to me (or Soft Paw as is her Indian name today), eating yogurt and then asking me to warm her up. Lincoln will be home soon (I should do something about his room). It's cloudy today but we'll be seeing friends tonight and that gives my heart a boost (I should do something about my hair so they aren't all horrified). And it's the weekend. Time at home with my family.

So I breathe in and breathe out and accept God's grace for today and hope for tomorrow. And it's enough.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Recipe for Love . . . and Friendship

Loveys, I was super excited to receive my box of books today for the final book in my series, Recipe for Love. Whohoo! I flipped through the book, reading over the Acknowledgments and feeling kind of emotional, to be honest. I loved writing this story and I'm going to miss these characters. It releases next month and I so hope you'll hop on Amazon and grab a copy then. You can go here for the book link. The book setting takes place during autumn and winter in the mountains, so it's a good book to read for fall.

I've so enjoyed incorporating food into these love stories. Food brings people together. When Jeff and I were dating, I remember going out to eat together a million times. There's something about sitting at a table for two, getting to know each other over dinner. And now, dinner alone together is pretty rare, but when we do get a night out together, there's still something special about quiet conversations over a meal. I think of special times that stand out in my mind--our first lunch date at Tejas in Conroe. Breakfast together at a hotel on Waikiki beach while on our honeymoon. Our first Christmas alone, a candlelight dinner on Christmas Eve. Conversation, fellowship, delicious food--it's a recipe for love alright.

And friendship, come to think of it.

And family.

Some friends of mine came over the other day for an October brunch. We sat around my table, talking about husbands and children and life over breakfast. And I appreciated every minute because friendship and food just sort of go together. And because with busy schedules and kids and so much to do every day--a few minutes of conversation and laughter over an egg casserole can be a blessing.

So host an October brunch, lovey. Or maybe an October dinner party. Invite a few friends over and make some coffee. It's a recipe for friendship.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gummi Bears and October Breezes

So I went to the OBGYN office this week. I feel strongly that they do not need to do a weigh-in every time! Seriously. Ridiculous. So we heard the baby's heartbeat and all was well and I was feeling good about everything . . . until the end. That weigh-in came back to haunt me when, right as I'm about to leave, the nurse tells me, "You know the baby's only the size of a gummi bear!"


I hadn't thought of that really. And now I'm feeling not very positive about this weight gain they remind me of every time I walk through the door, since I realize that someone's hungry and eating a lot and it's not my little gummi bear.

I suppose I will worry about that another time. (Probably around April as a matter of fact.) Since we're entering the season of fun-size Snickers, then pecan pie, and then Christmas cookies, I should probably stop thinking about it. Which would be easier if those nurses didn't insist on weighing me every fifteen minutes.

Anyway, so it's officially October! How exciting! We've had rainy weather and cool breezes and Colorado Springs looks like a painting every day when I drive to work. Yellow trees everywhere. I'm trying to soak it in since fall lasts about ten minutes. One good gust of wind and all those leaves drop like flies. Hopefully we'll drive up to the mountains soon to see all the gorgeousness before winter takes over.

I've been thinking today about being joyful. Are you the kind of person who infuses joy into others when you're around them? I know I don't do this all the time but I hope I do sometimes. And I know some people are better at this than others. I've heard a lot of sad stories lately. Families who've gone through so much. And it's reminded me of the importance of choosing joy whenever I can, and being grateful. I heard this woman's testimony recently--she lost her husband when she was 31 years old and she had a six year old and a 3 year old. It was a devastating story for me to hear. But she still had so much joy! It was amazing to see how her faith gave her so much strength. When I got home, I literally put my arms around Jeff and didn't want to let go for a really long time. Love and marriage don't always come easy. After being married more than 12 years, I know this. But to me, Jeff is a gift. We don't have a perfect marriage. But we love each other and still work to make each other happy. When I went in for a heart tone check at the OBGYN this week (just a quick visit to hear the baby's heartbeat), I told Jeff he didn't need to come. Linc and I would run over.

Then Jeff walks in the waiting room. I wasn't even surprised. He's that kind. Like I said, he's my gift.

I mentioned before that the Jeffster's been having major issues with a pinched nerve in his back. It's been really rough for him. It can be rough on all of us. Pain brings stress. He starts physical therapy soon and we're so hoping that will help. Things like pain or illness or change can throw off the family dynamic. But . . . they're also opportunities to take care of each other and show love to each other.

Fall is here, loveys. It's time to host an October brunch, set a pumpkin on your doorstep, light a cinnamon candle. Now that we're finally settled into our house, I feel like it's time to get social. With Jeff's back issues and my pregnancy, we're not quite feeling 100 percent. That's okay. The people who care about you take you just as you are. I'm hoping to have coffee with some girlfriends tomorrow. They don't care if I'm currently providing my gummi bear with more room than he or she probably needs at the moment. :) They don't care if the house is perfectly clean. They don't care if my bangs were cut too short.

Fall is a delicious time of year. Let's choose joy whatever the season.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Becoming that Neighbor

Loveys, so Thursday night I was trying to sleep and I kept hearing noises outside. I'm already not sleeping well so the noises annoyed me further. I finally got out of bed, looked at the clock (10 pm) and went to the window. Hm. A whole bunch of teenagers right outside our house, in front of the streetlight, taking pictures of themselves with their phones.

Pregnant woman not impressed.

Jeff's solution was to turn on the porch light.

That didn't work. So I pulled on a hoodie over my pajamas, opened the door and stepped outside.
"Hey!" I yelled. They were not far away from me and yet only like one looked in my direction! So I scream, "HEY!" All eyes on me.

"It's late and you guys are being really loud!" I yell. Quiet for a second. (I am now my mother.)

"Okay, ma'am," one of the guys said (at least he said it somewhat contritely). I go back in and shut the door. Jeff is watching them from the window. The whole crew files into the house next door. The one where new people have been moving in all week and I didn't think they were sleeping there yet. The one that I'm supposed to take a "welcome" cake to soon. Tricky. I'm sure I'm now known as the "crazy, pregnant woman next door" by the kids (here's the worst, there could have been adults out there too, but I didn't put on my glasses before going outside so I have no idea).

It's one of those "I'm a grown-up woman and I yell at loud teenagers" moments. Sweet Jeff just puts his arm around me as we go back upstairs and he assures me that it's a good thing, we've set a precedent and hopefully this will deter any more shenanigans (by "this" I mean myself).

I truly am lucky to have Jeff.

For example, he took over some cinnamon rolls to the neighbors tonight as a "welcome." :)

It's been a full few days. And I think that's been good for me. I can be pretty emotional during pregnancy. Time with friends helps. Lincoln's new habit of telling me I'm his girl helps too. :) I mean, really, I melt every time. Both my kids are just incredibly sweet. The other day I told Ashtyn to hug me, that I needed to feel loved. She gives me a tight hug, then just looks up at me, really studying me. Then she looks at my belly and smiles and says, "Now how's Honey Bear doing?" Precious. (The kids call the new baby "Honey Bear".)

There's nothing quite like the love of family. I was thinking the other day about how Ashtyn sneaks and climbs into our bed all the time. I wake up and she's just between me and Jeff. It can be annoying, to be honest, when you're tired and she's stealing your pillow. But I understand it so well. Nothing feels quite as safe as Mom and Dad. (I know for some children, that's not the case sadly.) For me, when my dad was home, I never worried. (It helped that he's super tall and strong and carried a gun for a living, I suppose!) Come to think of it, my mom always made me feel safe too. She's a strong woman.

You guys know I can be a bit unsteady when Jeff's not home. (Read: crazy and terrified and prone to calling the police) It's amazing to me that when he's home, it takes me about ten seconds to fall asleep. I grew up in a home where I always felt safe. And I feel blessed to live in a home where Jeff makes me and the kids feel safe. Maybe it's the love that does that. I don't want to take for granted the love of family. It's such a gift. And it matters the most.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Not Going to Happen and the In Between Season

So when I first got pregnant this time around, I had all these lofty goals of walking every day, sticking to ONLY 300 extra calories per day, and so on.

Then I got hungry.

Like on day two. And all those dreams and aspirations floated out the window and were replaced with snacks.

Then I got tired.

And I don't feel like walking. I want to sleep.

This is not going to be a skinny pregnancy, loveys. It's just not. There's no going back at this point. People who know me, don't be shocked. Just roll with it.

I was thinking today of my to-do list. All the things I need to do this fall (not to mention this week!). And I was thinking that being pregnant sort of puts you in this "in between" spot. You're growing a baby and you know that in a few months, things will change and there will be a new member of the family and that's a huge deal. But for now, you're growing the baby and going on with life as usual.

When the baby comes, things stop for me. At least, that's how it's felt before. Work stops, busyness of life stops. I'm home in my pjs, living on very little sleep and completely enthralled by this new tiny person who has taken over my heart and my life. Those are special times. Tiring, of course, but very special.

Those days are coming, but not yet.

Right now I'm thinking of work projects I have to do. Book projects I'm hopeful about. The fact that Jeff's back is hurting and he needs to go back to the doctor this week and I'm worried about it. The fact that the garage needs to be slightly cleaned out by winter so I can park my car in there. Ashtyn needs to get enrolled in gymnastics (and practice this crazy math homework). Lincoln needs a bath . . .  probably. I had my bangs trimmed this week and the girl seemed to forget what she was doing and now I look twelve years old (except for the pregnant belly). I was like, "Um, this is a little short." She says, "Maybe you'll like it once you get home." Hm. I guess that's an option.

I'm tired. (And hungry but let's not mention it.)

The 'in between' season feels a bit hectic at times.  And heavy, come to think of it.

Do you ever feel 'in between'? You know . . . I want to do something fun like a join a book club, but I'm tired. I'd like to go to a Bible study, but I really can only do so many things without feeling stretched too thin. I go to work and colleagues say that they feel like they never see me. I see friends on my days off and they feel like they never see me. I'm in between, I suppose. Popping in here and there.

Loveys, we do so many things. Life is busy. Carpool and grocery trips and homework and bills to pay. It's hard to slow down when life doesn't slow down. Jeff and I were talking about going up to the mountains for a weekend soon. Sometimes, we just have to take ourselves out of our schedule for a few days, in order to recharge. Stop for a minute and regroup, then keep going. People need us. Children depend on us. That doesn't stop. People get sick. People get hurt (I'm thinking of Jeff's back).

I'd rather be needed than alone, wouldn't you?

But still, it's important to recognize when we need a recharge. When we need a day to ourselves. When we need to have coffee and connect with friends. I went to the library the other day, in search of a new devotional. I just felt this need to find something to minister to my heart this fall, something to give me some spiritual truth and encouragement during the next few holiday months. I was thinking of One Thousand Gifts. If you have recommendations, please send those my way! 

October is almost here. I've been holding on to summer, but I can't fight October. Costumes and candy corn and yellow leaves. Once we cross into October, it's sort of like my pregnancy weight gain, there's no going back. :) Embrace the falling leaves, the cool breezes, the chocolate-covered apples. Stick a wreath on your door. Invite a friend over for cider.

The in between season. We all have them. Let's live them together.