Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving and Receiving and Grace

My sweet friend Jan got married on Saturday night. Just a few years shy of my mother's age, Jan has really filled the role of my "Waco Mom" for the past five years. She has laughed with me, cried with me, comforted and encouraged me, given me a gentle dose of unvarnished truth from time to time, and always, always cheered me on. She is positive and energetic and unfailingly kind to everyone around her. She's funny and wise and brave and strong. She radiates so many of the qualities that I desire for myself.

And on Saturday evening she stood in the midst of a small and beaming band of friends and family, face alight, hands clasped with a new love, as they pledged "to freely give themselves to and joyfully receive each other" as the good gifts they are created to be. And I was struck again by her bravery, in turning this new chapter and starting a new life at her age, and with such hope and wonder. And I saw in her eyes, and in his, that they truly are giving themselves freely to one another and freely and joyfully receiving each other as gifts, as good and precious gifts from the Lord, the Father of heavenly lights and the author of their lives.

It's not an easy thing, to give yourself freely. To drop the masks and step around the barriers, to let facades crumble and face one another in naked vulnerability. It's never easy, no matter how much you love and trust. It's something we are only able to do through grace. And receiving can be even harder. There are times when I feel so undeserving of my husband's love, so small, so petty, so flawed, that I can't let it reach me. Just as there are times when he feels so low, so uncertain, so anxious. This takes grace too, to stand awash in unconditional love and to receive it, to know it is ours. To believe it, to accept it, to lean into it, to need it. Only grace can surmount the fear that would keep us from giving ourselves freely, from receiving each other joyfully.

I do think it's helpful, in those times when it's hardest, to remember that we are gifts. My husband has been given to me, a gift. He is mine. To delight in, to enjoy, to receive. I can't cast my eyes down or fear to take hold. I cannot spurn the gift, or the giver. Here is a gift I have not earned. One I cannot earn, any more than I can or have earned life or breathe. A gift entrusted to me. Belonging to me. Mine always. Just as I am his gift.

And this is grace too. This is the essence of grace. That it transforms us. That it takes us, all of us, even with our walls and masks and barriers, even though we're small and petty and anxious and so flawed, and it makes us gifts. Grace makes us good gifts, worthy to be received joyfully, aching to be given freely and completely. And grace gives us good gifts in return and makes us worthy to receive them, and gives us courage to receive them with joy and with all humility. And grace reminds us of that, each and every day in a thousand ways both great and small if we will only have eyes to see it and ears to hear. And hearts to receive, and to give. Freely and joyfully.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Musing

"To encourage, to comfort, to awaken, and to stretch those who find themselves riding this big ball as it screams thru time in the silence of space. To be a bridge, not a barricade. To be a link, not a lapse. To be a beacon and bolster; not a bragger or a bummer. To help bring the corners of life's lips to their summit. To be a friend to those who find their fit a little awkward in this chaos society calls living."
-Vess Barnes

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maybe He Knows Something We Don't?

We have four cats. Ransom, our biggie-sizer, is a twenty pound lapcat. Falcor is a tiny ball of demonic energy and cuteness. I swear she is spring-loaded. Eowyn is the matron. Sophisticated. Aloof. Proper. I'm also convinced that she has Jedi mind powers, but that's another story. Then there's Ajax, who is all beauty and no brains. He's one of the prettiest cats you'll ever see, all creamy with dark brown marking around face, legs and tail and bright, bright blue eyes. But he's also, sort of, hmm.....mentally stunted would be a wildly generous way to put it.*

Keith named Ajax after the famous Greek warrior of the Iliad, hoping that he would show the same strength and ferocity. Alas, no. He's actually the wimpiest of our brood, letting all the other cats boss him around. He has a fractured attention span, very little cognitive skill (even for a cat), and, we suspect, tunnel vision (judging from the fact that he frequently can't discern objects that are in his periphery. He is also devastatingly codependent when it comes to his love for Keith. He follows Keith from room to room throughout the house and if there is a closed door between them, Ajax will sit on his side of it and howl unrelentingly until Keith comes back.

So, needless to say, with Keith out of town all weekend, Ajax was despondent. And being as "challenged" as he is, he couldn't quite grasp the concept that Keith physically left the house and never came back, thus he is gone. Ajax reasons more along the lines of: Keith isn't in this room. I wonder where he is. Maybe he's in the bedroom. If I sit by the bedroom door and howl long enough, surely he will come to save me.

And that's what Ajax did. Saturday morning, I get up, make myself some coffee, settle onto the couch with my book, and suddenly Ajax realizes that something's wrong. I'm in the living room, but Keith is not. He must still be sleeping. Ajax must wake him up. And he proceeded to yowl. For a good 10 minutes he yodeled his little cat brains out. Then he took about a five minute break of prowling restlessly around the house before the yowling commenced again. And on, and on, in cycle, ad nauseam. Until finallly, I let him into our bedroom. I let him sniff around, and look for Keith, and sleep on our bed until he was satisfied. Then I brought him back to the living room and he was happy again.

Until the next morning. When the cycle started all over again. I recounted this to Keith over coffee this morning (he returned late last night). I told him I don't think Ajax grasps the concept that when someone leaves and doesn't come back that means they are not there. Or maybe, Keith countered, there's a teleportation device in our room. And he knows about it. And he just assumes I've used it to travel back home.

Which I suppose is possible. How do you argue with that?

* They're all named after characters from favorite books or movies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Reclusive Weekend

As previously reported, I've been sick lately- of the sniffling, snotting, phlegming variety. So when Keith left on Friday afternoon to attend the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, I settled in for a weekend full of hermit-ing.

I spent almost all of Saturday and Sunday in my pajamas. I ordered a whole bunch of Pei Wei for dinner Friday night, then ate off the leftovers the rest of the weekend.

I watched lots of old movies and new movies about old times, the kinds of things that Keith doesn't like to watch with me. The Duchess. The Young Victoria. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea. I also watched two seasons of The Tudors, which is basically a medieval soap opera. Fluffy and scandalous and highly entertaining.

I also read a ton. Harry Potter (again for like the sixth time), and glossy magazines, and The Art of Family, and blogs I was behind on, and A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, and celebrity gossip websites. All in all, I feel it was a fairly productive weekend.

Then Monday rolled around and it was back to showering and dressing and going to work. This evening we will make our way south to have Thanksgiving in the valley with my family. Still feeling a little phlegmy. Here's hoping I kick this thing soon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week

I used up five boxes of Kleenex.

I blew my nose approximately 517,001 times.

I coughed up a lung.

I switched from one side of the couch to the other at 15 minute intervals just to give each nostril a chance to clear up for a little while.

I took a day and a half off work to try to make my head stop spinning.

I missed contemplative prayer at DaySpring (something that becomes increasingly more important and essential to me with each week that passes).

I went through an entire bag of Ricola cough drops. Then proceeded to get incredibly sick to my stomach from all the sugar.

I pumped at least 100 squirts of nose spray into my nostrils.

I sneezed 247 times.

Then I braved temperatures in the mid-forties at 10:30 last night.

Sat in an overly-crowded theater for over an hour and a half, just waiting. 

Rolled my eyes 412 times at all the obnoxious people around us.

And finally, finally got to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.

Which somehow made everything else in this entire snotty week seem totally okay.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Countdown to Deathly Hallows

It's nearly here. Are you ready? Do you have your tickets? Tomorrow night at the stroke of midnight the end will begin. Keith bought our tickets a few days ago and I am so excited. And just to remind you that I am not the biggest and weirdest Harry Potter fan ever, I give you this:

I can't decide if this kid is sad, creepy, or completely awesome. No matter, his point is well taken. I cannot hold a candle to him when it comes to Harry Potter fandom. But I can sit through the movie in rapt enjoyment, nonetheless.

Tomorrow night. Midnight. Wands at the ready.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I don't really have it in me to write a new post. I feel like I'm getting sick and my head is all fuzzy and the Kleenex box is my best friend today.

So instead, I'll point you over to Keith's blog, where he is posting on Paul and free will and quoting a passage of Chesterton that I love so much. That's one of the reasons I married him, y'all. He is so smart and he appreciates all the right passages by all the right authors.

So go read him today and pray that I will feel much better soon!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2011 Calendar Update

I wasn't able to hold out as long as I thought. Two weeks ago I chose the two calendars I wanted to commit a whole year of my life to (this one and this one), and I ordered them. They arrived at the end of a really long, really stressful day at work, just the pick-me-up I needed. I tore into the familiar brown Amazon box and pulled them out slowly, reverently, only to be met with...

Disappointment! Turns out I need to pay more attention to the size measurements when I order calendars online. Because they are both small. Really, really small. With little tiny squares barely big enough to write initials on. I love marking my calendars with appointments, reminders and special occasions. These squares are so small, I'd have to come up with acronyms for every single event. KRBD (Keith Reich's Birthday), DSWPDC (Diana Smith's Wedding in Playa Del Carmen), RCFB (Remember to Clean Fan Blades). Not nearly as much fun, and I'd probably never remember what anything stood for.

Keith watched quietly as my expression went from hopeful anticipation to morose despondence and put a sweet, comforting hand on my shoulder. And then he laughed at me. Because he thinks it's so funny that I can get so excited and then so sad about something as small and silly as a calendar. And I reminded him that part of the reason he married me is that I can take pleasure in simple things, and thus am usually easy to please. Then I decided, grudgingly, that I could make do with the calendars, small as they are. Because they are pretty. And they've already been paid for.

And then, yesterday, Keith told me that he'd ordered part of my Christmas present and he wanted to give it to me early. I was, as always, amenable to that. So I closed my eyes and he placed a large, flat envelope in my hands. And it was this. My old faithful stand-by. The calendar that's seen me through years and years and years. The Mary Engelbreit calendar. And it's big. And the squares have plenty of space for me to write as many words as I want. And I'm reminded how nice it is to have things you can count on. 

Like calendars that are consistently awesome every year. And incredibly thoughtful husbands.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


These baby otters are so cute, I am officially adding them to the top of my Christmas list. Can I have one, please, please, please? I'm sure they would love the kitties! And the bathtub! Don't worry, no wading pool required.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ratty Law School Hattie

I had my hair cut Saturday morning. I finally screwed up the resolve to lop off a good three inches. I've been avoiding it, because it takes so long to grow my hair out and this is the most I've had cut off in at least three years. But it needed to be done, and I'm sure my hair is healthier and probably looks significantly better. It's still pretty long, and yet, every time I look in the mirror it feels so short to me, shorn even. Guess I'm still adjusting. But sometimes, you have to do what needs to be done in order to look presentable.

Which brings us back to the story I'm interested in today. I had my hair cut Saturday morning. I arrived a little early for my 9:30 appointment (standard for me) to find that Joy, my stylist, was running behind (standard for her). So I curled up with my Starbucks (gingerbread lattes are back, yo!) and a magazine while ten, then twenty, then thirty minutes ticked by. And it's like Joy to run a little behind: she gets carried away talking and gesticulating and sometimes forgets to actually, you know, cut hair. But it's not like her to run thirty minutes behind. Especially in the morning, when I'm only her second client.

So I engaged in a favorite pastime of mine: watching people and trying to deduce, or fully fabricate, their stories. The girl in Joy's chair was an attractive young woman with little to no makeup on a beautifully formed face. She had long, blond hair, perfectly groomed brows, a trim figure, fashionably casual clothes. She alternated between refined, articulate speech and a sort of "valley girl" dizziness as she discussed law school (she was in her third year), her parents (impossible to please), reality television (OMG, she, like, so loves it!), and the boy in her life (probably The One, but mom and dad will never approve). Fairly typical, ambitious, Baylor girl in law school, I concluded.

And then finally, finally, she was through and it was my turn. As soon as Joy had me settled me into the chair and swathed in the standard waterproof cape she leaned over and lowered her voice. "I'm sorry I'm running so late but it took me twenty minutes just to comb out her hair," she confided. "She told me she hasn't brushed it in over two months!" Joy and I stared into the mirror at our matching reflections of shock and horror. I shuddered as I tried to imagine it. "You mean she just doesn't brush her hair? Like, ever?"

Joy confirmed this was true. Apparently "Ratty Law School Hattie" showers, she even washes her hair, she just doesn't ever deign to break a brush or comb through it. Even now, days later, I am floored by this revelation. And I am not a major hygiene stickler. I don't wash my hair every single day. I think over blow-drying can be damaging. I'm not above wearing my jeans a few times between washes or sleeping an extra thirty minutes instead of getting a daily shower. But not brushing your hair? Your well-below-the-shoulder-length hair? Ever? And then going to the salon and putting that rat's nest in someone else's hands and expecting them to deal with it? I just can't imagine.

And then, this morning, I came across this article about The Great Unwashed in the New York Times and it appears this is a trend, and the cool thing to do, and "kids these days" are not only foregoing shampoo and hair-brushing but also even just basic bathing and deodorant. What's next? Not brushing your teeth? Not wiping? I feel we may, indeed, be just a few, precarious steps from the steep side of that particular slippery slope.

And it's uncomfortable to think that I am this close to a head-shaking, fist-brandishing, kids-these-days rant, because even at twenty-nine, I don't feel I'm that far from the kids, these days, but there you have it. I must be, because I just don't understand this. Apparently, I am officially old, and out of touch, and fogey-ish. But at least I smell like jasmine and vanilla rather than body odor and sweat. Nor do I smell like Icy Hot and denture cream.Yet.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Do You Know About Pinterest?

Because it's one of my favorite fun new addictions! It's basically a virtual bulletin board. See an image you like on the web? That perfect pair of boots you've been searching for? Inspiration for a living room makeover? A kitschy version of a favorite quote? Simply "Pin It" and your little gem will be collected on Pinterest's site. Then you can view all your pins together, sort them into separate boards by subject, or share them with friends. You can also view other people's pin boards and "Re-Pin" their images.

It's loads of fun. I used one over the summer to gather inspiration and ideas when I was building a logo to launch our new brand. And though I haven't done much with it since, I have another one going right now with Christmas gift ideas and wish list items. Right now I'm cruising for tall boots and rugged bags. You can see them all here. And I'll be adding more as the weeks go by.

I can't help thinking how much I would have liked this when I was wedding planning. It would have made it so easy to keep all the pretty, pretty pictures together and organized in one place, rather than keeping track of a million bookmarks on my web browser.

If you're interested in an invitation to join Pinterest let me know and I'll hook you up. This holiday season is the perfect time for it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall Dinner for Four

We had a couple of friends over for dinner last night. I had taken the day off work to play catch up around the house and to take a trip to the zoo with Keith. So we had lot more time than usual to tidy the house and prepare for dinner. It was so much fun to really go all out with the pretty dishes and matching serving pieces and a centerpiece and everything. And we really enjoyed spending the evening talking and laughing with new friends over a good meal.

We served orzo pasta with Italian turkey sausage, red onion, garlic, roma tomatoes, roasted red peppers, feta cheese (on the side for those who find it too strong) and a little Italian parsley on top...

...and spinach salad tossed with with green onion, green bell pepper and parmesan, and topped with pumpkin seeds toasted in sea salt, sugar, and cinammon.

This was supposed to be for after-dinner coffee or tea, but we got sidetracked by red wine and leftover Halloween candy, and I never even got around to offering any.

After our guests left and we cleared the table, I rearranged a few things and ended up with this little centerpiece. With my ubiquitous black and white, the bright orange pumpkin and the sunflowers it just says fall to me. And despite the last gasp of summer's heat we've been experiencing lately, today actually really feels like fall. It's a welcome change.