Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hunter

I know pride is a sin, but I really hope that being proud of someone isn’t.  Several times in the last month, I’ve reflected on some of the younger-than-me adults of whom I’m immensely proud.  It comes with the territory of doing my job.  Sometimes I get so frustrated with teenagers that I want to shake them, or put them in a padded room…or maybe I’m the one who needs the padded room?!  Other times, I am so proud of them that I’m crying.  I feel guilty about this.  It’s God who has worked in them, not me.  He should be proud of them; that’s not my place.  I’m not their mom; their moms deserve to be proud of them.  But, I am their youth pastor, and I cannot help but be proud of them, too.
The first former youth I’m proud of is Hunter Frame.  I should say, “Dr. Hunter Frame, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech.”  Last Thursday morning I heard Hunter present an overview of his doctoral research to his review board and a scattering of friends and family members.  That’s the unique thing about my pride for this former youth.  He’s not just a former youth; he’s also my little brother-in-law.  The professors said they’d never had so many family members show up to hear a doctorate defended; I’m proud of that, too.  Our presence at Virginia Tech Thursday morning was all Hunter asked from my husband and me for Christmas, and I’m pleased we obliged.
In the summer of 2001, I was a Summer Youth Ministry Intern.  Hunter Frame was attending that church with his girlfriend.  That meant Hunter was in my youth group.  His brother, Sammy, was leading a larger youth group a few miles down the road.  But, it’s hard to compete with teenage love for youth group affiliation, and Hunter chose his girlfriend over his brother.
Hunter and I knew each other.  I had dated his big brother for over two years.  He was the little brother who acted up when we went out to fancy restaurants with their parents.  He was the little brother who hung out with us when their parents were screaming and fighting.  He was the little brother who caught us making out. 
But now he wasn’t the little brother.  He was a student in my youth group.
I wasn’t big brother’s girlfriend, either.  I was his summer youth ministry intern.
Hunter and I had the unique opportunity to get to know each other apart from our connections to Sammy Frame.  I think we found out that we liked each other alright.  He was fun, always acting up, and incapable of shutting his mouth.  I was uptight and incapable of keeping him in line. 
I was also there when he decided to become a Christ follower. 
He bet me that summer that I would be his sister-in-law one day.  I took the bet.  I still owe him $500.  He reminded me again last week.
I am proud of a young man whose family was ripped apart during his high school years but who excelled in school anyway.
I am proud of a young man who discovered his passions, interests, and talents and went after them.
I am proud of a young man who attended church as a teenager, even though his parents didn’t.
I am proud of a young man my son calls, “Crazy Uncle Hunter.”
I am proud of a young man who makes my daughter belly laugh.
I am proud of Dr. Hunter Frame, and I am thankful that I once had the honor of being his pastor.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

State of Our Union

Monday we celebrated our anniversary. 
Us in 1999
I got three gifts from my husband.  The first two were an amazing, supportive, expensive, pillow, and a novel.  What he really got me were rest and relaxation.  He knows me well.
The third gift was one I asked for.  I haven’t figured out many things regarding marriage, but this one I’ve learned:  If you want something, then ask for it.   It is not fair to expect mind-reading.  So, I asked for a love letter.  We wrote profusely when we were dating, especially in high school and when we were apart during college.  But it’s been a while since I’d received a love letter.  I was feeling a bit insecure in our relationship.  So, I told him how I was feeling and asked for what I wanted.
And he delivered!  On my pillow the evening of our anniversary, after he’d come home late, was my love letter.  It is beautiful, and it is encouraging, and it makes me feel loved.
On our anniversary, after our $1 taco lunch, we had a state of our union talk.  Honestly, it wasn’t much fun.  Frankly, it sucked.  I don’t often use that word, and I apologize if it offends, but it’s the only word that will do.  I had to express what I’ve been feeling and experiencing.  I had to listen to what he’s been feeling and experiencing and thinking.  I had to face truths about myself and our marriage. 
But we emerged better, stronger, and more in tune with our relationship. 
The next morning we heard Ecclesiastes 7:3, “Sorrow is better than laughter.”
We could have spent 30 minutes laughing at Modern Family, currently our favorite TV show.  That laughter would’ve been good for us, but the sorrow of an honest conversation will be so much better for us. 
I am grateful for a husband who gives thoughtful gifts, who gives requested gifts, and who gives the gift of honest conversation.
Us in 2011

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Birthday/Anniversary/Burn-Out Prevention Trip

Saturday and Sunday my husband and I got to take a trip!  He’s usually the vacation planner, and he’s great at it.  He saves a bit at a time, so he can splurge on vacation.  He researches options, but doesn’t plan strict itineraries.  He’s also the one who thinks big in our home, and I’m the one who thinks details.  For example, he sets us up to save money for our kids’ college; I save us 35% at the grocery store.  But this time, it was my turn to plan the vacation and to try to think big.
He seemed pretty impressed with the “big”ness of our trip.  Here’s our hotel:

The hotel, the Gaylord National, sits on the Potomac River in Maryland.  We could see the Washington Monument and the Capitol from the windows.  Thanks to Groupon, we stayed in an executive suite that was over half the size of our house. 
I managed to stay awake for most of road trip, which is quite an accomplishment.  I’m a girl who gets carsick and who has spent an inordinate amount of time on the 400 miles of road between my divorced parents’ homes.  My coping mechanism is simple—sleep.
After checking in, we walked through beautiful weather and a beautiful tourist trap to a late lunch at McCormick and Schmick’s seafood restaurant.  Seven years ago, on the day of our wedding, we had reservations at McCormick and Schmick’s (different location, same restaurant).  We were going to eat dinner there en route to Dulles International Airport where we were catching our flight to Paris.  We got stuck on the great parking lot called Interstate 95.  We had to call and cancel our reservations, at which time I found out a special table and personalized menu had been prepared for us.  It took us seven years, but we made it back.
We walked, sat, and talked on a pier.
We tried on hats at a boutique.
 

The hotel’s renowned steakhouse was booked solid, so we ordered room service.  We re-arranged our living room so that we sat on the couch, feet propped up on chairs, and pigged out on buffalo wings, sliders, and quesadillas while watching VCU throw away their NCAA tournament game (two words:  foul shots).  We watched my team, the Kentucky Wildcats, until they were sufficiently annihilating their opponent.
We went to a club on the top floor of our hotel late in the evening.  We’d never been to a club before, and the people watching was immensely entertaining!
Before we left Sunday, we enjoyed an insane buffet.  They call it a brunch buffet, but it’s a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert buffet complete with pastries, carving stations, crab legs, made-to-order omelets, and tiramisu.

Most importantly, we talked, and we napped, and we relaxed, and we slept in. 

Update

I thought it was time to reflect upon some of the things I’ve written here over the past few months, and to see where I am now.
1)       I’ve given up on cooking meals for my family on a regular basis.  I miss it!  I really miss it!  But, I don’t miss a one-year-old wrapped around my legs screaming for 30 minutes while dinner is prepared.  I miss the feel of eating freshly-cooked food versus processed, but I’m dealing with it.  This season will pass.  Lily will get better at playing on her own.  And then I will cook again.
2)      We found the money to get my hair cut—by someone other than meJ  AND, I saved up some money and got my hair highlighted.  I love it, and I consider it money well spent!
3)      I still prefer to look decent most of the time I’m in public.  But, I have made huge strides in going sans make-up.
4)      I’m trying to relax some and be less anxious.  This will be the story of my life.  My family history indicates a few disturbing trends.  The first is significant heart problems that often lead to early deaths.  The second is that divorce and re-marriage and unhappy marriages abound.  The third is that worry and anxiety are in my genes.  But, I’m trying to let go, to put down my phone, and to be present, like this:

5)      We’re out of debt (mortgage excepted) again!  That means we joined the YMCA a couple days ago; Happy Anniversary to us for paying off our debt.  I did 2.35 miles and 100 crunches, what used to be my quick workout, in under 30 minutes, and it felt great!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Clean conscience

When I reflect back on my time in high school, one feeling emerges--exhaustion. As an AP and honor student, cheerleader, dancer, student leader, community volunteer, church volunteer, and girlfriend, I was always on the go. I was always exhausted. I loved it, and I hated it. It's a pace of life I've since tried to avoid.

In addition to the crazy schedule, I was also not sleeping much. Most nights I tossed and turned in bed for hours listening to Q94 playing softly on the radio. The sleeplessness was usually the result of a guilty conscience. I was living a somewhat secretive, somewhat rebellious life at times, and it always caught up to me in the stillness and quiet of my room at night.

Those days are long gone, and I'm thrilled to say it has been years since a guilty conscience kept me awake. Here's why:
'the blood of Christ, who through eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, (will) cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.' Hebrews 9:14

Today I am thankful for blood spilled that allows for my clear conscience, which in turn allows for my service to a living God and his church. I empathize with those who have yet to obtain the gift of a clean conscience. I pray that they realize that gift and in turn experience the thrill serving God. Even when it's hard, it's so much better than staying awake feeling the shame of a guilty conscience.