Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Gift of the Girl Pig

I have this friend I call a girl pig as a term of endearment.

It's so fun to start posts with sentences like that just so I can imagine all of you reading it and going, "Wait.  What?!" and then scrolling back up just to make sure your eyes weren't playing tricks on you.  Fun for me.

But yeah.  I call her a girl pig.  Love her to death and I rarely use her name anymore.  See, Heather and I were reading The Book Thief at the same time and the step-mother character uses the German term "Saumensch" to refer to the main character, Liesel, a little girl who she takes in during World War II.  It loosely translates to "girl pig" and though it is initially used as a gruff sort of insult, the word eventually becomes coated with love as the novel progresses.

Heather and I both became engrossed in this book and it just sort of happened.  We call one another Saumensch.  It's going to be a hoot sometime when a German speaking customer overhears us and wonders what the heck is going on and why the server just called her co-worker a pig!

All this to say that I love my Saumensch and I also love that notebook she gave me as an early birthday gift.  It was packaged neatly in a blue polka dot bag along with a travel coffee mug that said "Keep Calm and Drink Coffee."  In case you haven't noticed, that's what I do.  I drink coffee and I blog.

I don't post every day and I don't make any money here.  I don't have a calender on my counter with posts planned out a month in advance.  Half the time, I'm making this stuff up as a go which is why it seems like I write about poop a lot.  It's not my fault that my four year old's hands seem to always smell like poop, even if he just washed them.  I mean, I could go in there and personally scrub his hands with industrial strength soap and he still would cram them into his brother's face ten minutes later just to hear him scream, "Miiiiicah!!  You're hands smell like poooooop!!!"

See what I mean?  Always comes back to poop.

This is why I'm excited that my girl pig gave me this notebook.  I can carry it around with me and jot down all the genius ideas I get for non-poop related blog posts.  It's going to be epic.  I can use arrows, bullet points, and other fancy punctuation to get my super-blogger crap together and write the kind of stuff that blows your mind.

Or I can just keep writing about blow-outs.  And not the fancy salon kind either that costs you $60 without a scissors even touching your hair, oh no.  I'm talking about the kind that make you breathe through your mouth and stifle your gag reflex.

At least I write about the Bible and stuff in between the posts about poop, food, how tired I am, how messy my house is, and how I sometimes think babies resemble serial killers.

How's that for variety?

Glad you're here.  Grab a coffee and stay a while.  You're among friends.

(By the way, that's an affiliate link I used on the book's name so if you were to buy it after clicking that link I would earn like a third of a penny or something, rendering that entire middle paragraph of this post a total lie.  Just though you'd like to know.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Deep Breaths.

I'm breathing.

The breeze is blowing through the windows and the patio door while the big kids play outside with the neighbors and Thomas naps in his new big boy bed complete with train bedding.  I'm pretty sure there is a a Styrofoam plane stuck up in a tree in the front yard and the kid from down the street already came inside and had me looking for the tiniest screwdriver I own so I could open up the remote controller for his helicopter so he could change the batteries.  The dog is napping next to me, his belly turned skyward.  A bit of a headache knocks at the back of my eyes, but I'd rather stay put and enjoy this moment than get up to rummage through the medicine box that resides all the way in the master bathroom which would require me to wade through the chaotic clutter in my bedroom. 

Nope.  I'm just going to stay right here for a bit.

And breathe.

Type....and breathe.

It wasn't so long ago that I wrote about feeling suffocated and how the craziness of our schedules didn't allow for much time for writing, reading, or much of anything at all.  All it took was for God to start doing that crazy God-thing he does and I found myself with two new jobs, submitting a new availability sheet at the restaurant that cuts two shifts out of my schedule to allow for more family time and more time built in for writing.

Freelance writing that can be done at home.
Assisting in the administration of a global men's ministry.  

Both jobs that will utilize the gifts God has given me in a way that brings Him glory and allows me more time to breathe.

There is no way for me to find the words to express the depth of my awe at God's provision in this moment.  I've been saying to my husband for months now that somehow I just knew that I wasn't going to wind up in a public school classroom when the time came for me to go back to work.  There was no doubt in my mind that God was leading me to something else.  I could go through all the crazy details of how this whole thing unfolded and how I initially turned down even applying for the assistant job because my schedule wouldn't allow it only to find out that it was still available weeks and weeks later.  I could tell you about how the freelance writing opportunity was literally dropped in my lap with no warning, no application, no interview. 

I called my husband and told him through happy tears that I had just been hired for my very first paid writing position.

He brought me flowers to congratulate me. 

Next comes the challenging task of trying to coordinate my new work schedule with the school schedules of all three boys and finding childcare that I can afford.  As soon as I told my mother-in-law the news of my jobs, she advised me that it wouldn't be long before things wouldn't look as promising.  She told me that I would start to look at the numbers and find that they didn't add up and that the income probably wouldn't account for all the expenses.  It would appear that it wasn't going to work.

Trust God, she said.  Trust that if he brought you to this place, that he will follow through.

I remembered her words as I calculated the cost of childcare and the loss of income that reduced shifts at the restaurant would bring.  The panic started to rise in my throat and the anxiety immediately began to attack me.

Trust God, she said.

I'd be willing to bet that the Israelites were pretty stoked when they got the email that Pharaoh had finally relented and was going to let them leave Egypt.  I'm sure they tweeted all their pals and "liked" the heck out of that Facebook post before packing their suitcases and strapping on their hiking sandals for the journey.  But God led them directly into an impossible situation, trapped between an advancing army and an impenetrable sea.  In all honesty, I would have lost faith at that point too.  So much for good news!  So much for freedom and blessings!  God didn't finish what he promised! 


So wrong.

So my prayer now is that I will continue to trust that God will finish what he started, that he won't abandon me with the way blocked.  A dry path will appear and I just need to be ready to keep walking forward...taking deep breaths with every step.

(The kids have migrated inside and are now engaged in a round of Hide and Seek that I'm sure is going to wake up the baby.  Time to kick 'em out, pop some Aleve to ditch the lingering headache, and blow off dinner prep to take a quick cat nap.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, Mid-afternoon

Me:  I need to sit down and write a blog post before I leave for work.

Sick Me:  Know what you need to do?  Take a nap. 

Me:  Sure, sure.  And after the nap I'll go to the bathroom uninterrupted and then walk barefoot to my spotless kitchen without stepping on a single Lego and drink an entire cup of coffee while it's still hot.  As long as we're dreaming, why not??

Sick Me:  I'm sensing your sarcasm, but my throat hurts too much to snipe back.  Consider this coughing fit my snarky retort.

Me:  Knock that off.  I have to work tonight and I can't be coughing on anyone's food.

Sick Me:  Oh frick.  I work in food service.

Me:  Duh.

Sick Me:  I quit.

Me:  Buck up, Buttercup. 

Sick Me:  I want to punch you. 

Me:  Quit bugging me.  I still need to come up with something to blog about before work.

Sick Me:  Fine.  If you need me, I'll be asleep on the couch.  Wake me up when you've gotten over your Crazy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It is In Vain (The True Side of the Story)

Praise God for birthday parties at the pool that double as cheap babysitting, nearby Starbucks with free Wifi, and a husband who suggests I bring along the computer "just in case" I don't need to stay at the party because I might be able to do some writing.


Quite honestly, I don't really know how these "real writers" do it.  It's an incredible feat just for me to carve out the time to write the occasional blog post, let alone chapters and pages that make some sort of cohesive sense.  If I think too hard about all the obstacles that stand in the way of my bucket list dream of publishing a book.....well, let's just say that I suddenly feel like I'll need something stronger than this Shaken Peach Green Tea Lemonade.  (Which is delicious, by the way.)

I owe you a lot of posts - a recap of the food of Savannah to supplement the run-down I gave you of Tybee Island, the story of how we took our kids camping for the first time, a review of the last few Stitch Fix boxes that I have sorted through and then haven't had the time to write about, my decision whether to get another tattoo or not, and finally some sort of open call for advice on how to get my four year old to quit crapping his pants.

Like I said, lots to write about.

Today I want to take full advantage of the kid-free time I've been gifted along with the Venti Iced Peach Tea that I got for free because the barista forgot to put the lemonade in it the first time and write about something that has been really important to me over the last several weeks and to give you Part Two to the topic I introduced last week.

PSALM 127.

Remember how only a few days ago I wrote about getting up earlier in the morning so I could make the best use of as much time as possible for writing, working, reading, studying, exercising?  I got sick and tired of feeling like I didn't have enough time to do ALL THE THINGS and decided to do something about it.  I set my alarm for 5:10 am and rolled out of bed with a "suck it up, Buttercup" mantra. In the efficiency department, I felt like I was killing it and I was so thankful that God had given me a way to find more time to do all the things I was committed to. 

It was great....until my body caught on to what I was doing and started to revolt.  I struggled to keep my eyes open when I drove to my second job, found myself tripping over my words because I was too tired to speak to my students during small group, and overreacting to everything because I didn't have the patience or energy to endure it. 

A couple months ago, I was wrestling with the same question I am now - How am I supposed to find the time to do all the things I need to do and still live my life in a way that is healthy and fulfilling?

Already exhausted, already burning the candle at both ends, already stretched thin, I agreed to taking on a summer job, more hours at another job, plus accepted an additional volunteer commitment at church.  I had no clue how I was going to pull it off.  I prayed and begged God for help.  I asked for more time, more energy, more endurance, more wisdom, more efficiency, more dedication.  As hard as I was working, it wasn't good enough. 

On the brink of my busiest summer ever, I sat down to blog one morning before lunch.  A notification went off on my phone from Instagram and I grabbed it to check it out.  Someone had "liked" a photo I posted on the #lampandlight Bible study hashtag and for some reason, I clicked on the hashtag and started to scroll through some of the latest photos.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a photo of Psalm 127 even though the photo only showed a couple of the verses.  I paged through my Bible until I found it.

Friends, I don't know that I've ever been smacked so hard in the face with Scripture as I was by Psalm 127.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early 
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127: 1-2) 

Over and over I read it, thinking about the late nights, the early mornings, the worry I felt if I had to ask off work for one day, or the fear I feel every day that I'm not working hard enough.

It was MY LIFE.  Right there on the pages of Scripture.  And God was telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I have been managing my work life and my time has all been in vain.  All of it.  Pointless.

I have often made the joke that when I am dead the epitaph on my headstone will read, "At least she worked hard."  What I desperately wanted was sleep and rest and peace and I was choosing to sacrifice it.  For what?

Just stop it.
Unless you trust me to build the house, your efforts are wasted.
You cannot do everything, be everywhere, please everyone.  Trying to is pointless.
Staying up just a little later, waking up just a little earlier is only leaving you exhausted.
Instead of trusting me to provide, you worry and fret, feeding your anxiety with fear.
Just stop.  Sleep.  Rest in me, my beloved.   
You don't need MORE.  What you need is LESS so there is room for ME.  

I wrote those two verses up on my cute little "Scripture of the Week" board that hangs on the wall in my kitchen.  Each day as I slammed my coffee, I looked at it, read it, and rushed out of the house.  That was nine weeks ago and I haven't been able to bring myself to wipe those words off the glass and change them because I honestly don't think it's sunken in to my thick skull yet.  I've memorized it, repeated it to myself while rolling silverware, underlined and marked it up in my Bible, read and re-read it over and over and over again.

Only to decide what I really need to do is to start getting up at 5:10 am so I can get more done.

*insert face-palm here*

Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for my stubbornness, my disobedience, and my pride.  I get some sort of vain pleasure in the admiration I get from people when they praise me for all I do and proclaim, "I just don't know how you do it!"  I soak up their amazement like a sponge and wear it like a merit badge.  Have mercy on me for my unwillingness to surrender to what you have made so clear to me, for my tendency to display my sin like a trophy for others to admire.  Could it be that I am simultaneously worshiping busyness as an idol and looking to others to worship me for my ability to manage it?   

How could I have let this happen?  How did I let my pride take such a strong hold on me? 

Someone once warned me that to sincerely pray the last two verses of Psalm 139 was incredibly dangerous.  I've known for months now that I was too busy, too stretched, and too tired to give what you were asking of me, but I never would have thought it had gone this far.  Thank you for your enduring patience, your steadfast love, and the forgiveness that I know I have in Christ.  It is only though Him that I can ask you to turn your face away from my sin and guide my steps forward on a path that you have determined, helping me to trust you above all else.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to rise early in the morning to be efficient with the time He has given me, but the motivation behind my "anxious toil" is where I have gone horribly wrong.  Just in the last week, this Psalm has been heavy on my heart and God has started to open a door that maybe....just maybe...could provide the opportunity for me to find some balance, toil in vain a whole lot less, and lean into my Savior a whole lot more. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Early in the Morning (One Side of the Story)

Mornings and I don't really get along.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that there have been many mornings where the only thing that could get me to emerge from my grumpy blanket cocoon was a cup of hot coffee being thrust directly into my hand.  Sometimes even that didn't cut it and I would fall back asleep in defiance of the snooze function on the six alarms I usually set on my iPhone. I type this it is currently 5:52 AM.  And I've been up for nearly an hour already.  My first cup of coffee is sitting directly in front of me and will need a refill in just a couple of minutes.  The decision to start setting my alarm for 5:05 AM was not an easy one for me and I'd be lying if I said I didn't not-so-silently curse to myself that first morning when my phone woke me up.

I just needed to find more time.

Now, I know my family and some close friends are going to read this and some will roll their eyes, others will lightly bang their fist on the table, and still others will send me a thoughtful yet concerned email about how I'm pushing too hard.  And you know what?  They'd be right.  I'm not going to sit  here and claim that getting up in the 5 o'clock hour is easy nor is it the ideal situation for me.

So why am I doing it?  Why have I dragged myself out of bed with the golden dawn for five days in a row now?

Because I've been feeling suffocated.  Writing is like oxygen for me and I haven't been able to find time lately to breathe.  When an opportunity was presented to me to do some volunteer writing at church, I felt like a window that had previously been locked with the shades drawn had been thrown open in front of me, an invitation to take long and deep breaths.  I said yes when the offer came, without any sort of consideration for how I would actually pull it off.  I just wanted to breathe again.

I asked God to help me find a way to write.  My prayer for some time now has been that God would place opportunities in front of me that would help me identify my gifts and figure out ways that I can use them for his kingdom.  All too easily I can fall into the trap of feeling useless and get stuck asking myself, "Why would God want to use me?  What do I even have to offer?"

Every. single. time. I have asked God to draw me up out of that pit of uselessness, He has delivered into my lap an opportunity to serve in a way that allows me to put his handiwork on display and celebrate some of the gifts that he knit within me in the dark and secret places.

I brew my own coffee now.  Most mornings I sit in front of my computer with my Bible open and either work on a new piece for church or for something to post here.  Other days I leave the computer closed and just sit on the couch with my journal and allow the Lord to just speak quietly with me.  Even though it seems like my youngest son somehow caught on to my little plan and has started to wake up and fuss from his crib the second I start the coffee, God has already blessed this time I have borrowed from the wee hours.

Now.  There is a problem to all of this.  I work....a lot.  In addition to the mornings that I spend working at Camp, I work somewhere around thirty-five hours a week during the nights and weekends waiting tables.  Most nights, I don't even leave work until after 10:30 at night, sometimes even later.  The math doesn't really add up to very much sleep and this is something I have been struggling with for a long time now.  I'm not so naive as to think the lack of rest isn't going to affect me.  In fact, I already felt the effects yesterday when I sat down with my students to talk about the raising of Lazarus only to find that I struggled to form the words and felt like Lazarus probably had more energy than me.

My prayer is that I can find balance.  I need to be able to do the things that make me feel alive while still getting the sleep that actually keeps me alive and able to function.  I'm working on it, I promise.  In the meantime, I need to make sure to keep my coffee cupboard well-stocked.

Coming up soon - My thoughts on Psalm 127, how it's been on my heart for weeks now, and how this entire post was all wrong.  

(I never said everything on my blog would make sense.) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Moment in Madison Square

My feet pounded hard into the pavement as I turned the corner onto Bull Street.  My camera slammed against my hip over and over again as I hurried toward the south, anxious to beat the rain that threatened in the distance.  As I approached Madison Square, I was slowed by the gaggle of teal-clad women ahead of me, tiptoeing with trepidation across the street so as to not dirty their shoes or, even more importantly, drop the handfuls of white wedding dress they carried.  Coming back to myself, I watched them delicately and carefully carry the bottom of Bride's dress over the bricks as her crinoline crinkled around her with every step.  Reaching the square, I crossed to the other side to continue on my way.

That's when I saw him.

There was Groom, standing with his back turned in the middle of the square, looking down squarely at his shoes.  He stood perfectly still, hands clasped, his eyes turned down and shoulders locked.  Like a soldier at the ready, he waited for her.

All at once, I was overcome with the weight of the moment and I found I couldn't take another step.  Suddenly very aware of my frizzy hair and rumpled t-shirt, I scurried to a more conspicuous spot to make sure I didn't inadvertently wind up in someone's living room photo album.  I retreated to behind a tree, my destination all but forgotten, and watched.

In mere seconds, I was undone.  Under the canopy of the Savannah oaks, the gravity of the moment came barreling into my chest and before I knew it, the tears had started to drop from my cheeks.

Bride, you looked absolutely breathtaking.  I could go on and on about that mermaid style dress and how it was perfectly suited for you, how the simple pearls you wore around your neck danced a bit as you took deep breaths.  But my dear, it was your eyes that held my gaze.  Your bridesmaids fluttered about you, arranging your dress, tucking a small lock of hair behind your ear, spreading your veil out perfectly behind you, but you didn't really even notice they were there.

Your eyes never left him.  

Groom, you were unmoved.  Resolute to fight the temptation to wheel around to lay eyes on her, you stayed.  Hands clasped and eyes locked on the ground, you waited as the anticipation filled the space between you.  She continued to gaze at you, watching you as your mind swirled with thought of her.

Then just like that, you saw me.  Groom, you lifted your head and your eyes came away from your shoes and fixed on the woman on the bench with the teal iPhone lifted in your direction.  At the very same moment that your eyes met mine, Bride's eyes dropped for an instant to compose herself before taking her first step toward you.

For that split second, it was just you and me.

I wanted to tell you so many things.  I wanted to tell you how beautiful she looked, how she gazed at you with such joy, and how I could see how much she loved you even from behind a tree across the square.

But I also wanted to tell you that this moment doesn't last forever.  I wanted to tell you about the unmet expectations you are guaranteed to struggle with, the confusion you will experience, the late night arguments, and the frustration when she just doesn't understand.  I wanted you to know about the incredible blessing of children and their uncanny ability to simultaneously strengthen and break you.  I wanted to tell you about the shift that happens inside of you when that ring goes on your hand.  That suddenly your life is no longer about you, that it must become about her.  That gorgeous creature behind you is looking to you to carry her, to cover her, to lead her, to hold her, to protect her. 

Her eyes lifted and she took that first slow, purposeful step toward him.

Do you know why I was in Madison Square that day?  I was on my way to Forsyth Park to see the fountain and walk the oak covered path.  I wanted to ask a kind stranger to take a photo of my husband and I in front of the fountains, one I could frame and hang on the wall to commemorate our trip to Savannah to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

But he wasn't there.

I sat in that square alone that afternoon because we had a fight.  I wanted to go to Forsyth Park right this very instant because the clouds in the distance were threatening to rain on my parade, so we needed to get a move on.  After a three hour walking tour of the city in the morning and more walking on the agenda for the evening, he was more interested in taking a bit of a rest in between so as not to burn out before dinner.  I was unwilling to relinquish my hold on my precious itinerary, so I stormed off in a huff, determined to just go by myself thankyouverymuch.

I entered Madison Square angry, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed.

But you, Bride and Groom, helped remind me of what was truly important. God brought me to that exact square, at that exact moment for a very specific reason.  He wanted me to see YOU.

He wanted to remind me of the slow, purposeful steps that it takes to sustain a marriage over a lifetime.  He wanted to make sure that I remembered that he was the one who joined us together ten years ago and no matter what struggles, betrayals, unmet expectations, and disappointment came our way, he would never leave us or forsake us.  He wanted me to remember the way that Evan looked at me on that day, ten years ago, full of the same love and adoration I saw on the faces of Bride and Groom.  I realized that I still catch him looking at me that way, even now.  He wanted to gently tell me that ten years was only the beginning for us, that he had some fantastic things in store for us and many more memories for us to make, maybe even some to photograph and hang in a frame on the wall.

Bride and Groom, I wish you abundant blessings.  I hope your wedding day was everything you dreamed it would be and that the rain that drenched us later as we walked through Bonaventure Cemetery didn't disrupt your celebration too much.

I'm grateful to have been privy to this moment between you even more thankful for the things it gave me to think about as I continued on to Forsyth Park on my own.  I took a super-lame fountain selfie and returned to the hotel where Evan and I talked about our disagreement that afternoon and moved past it.  We laced up our walking shoes to go grab a coffee down the street and I told him all about the magical moment I experienced in Madison Square. 

My super lame fountain selfie.  :)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

On Tybee Time

The delightful food of Savannah isn't confined within the city limits.  Think Hilton Head, but more Jimmy Buffet.  Laid back, friendly, affordable, and exceptionally delicious.  This island rests a short drive from Savannah down Hwy 80 and is well worth checking out.  We spent three days here and could have easily lingered much longer.  Here are just a few of Tybee's gastronomical highlights.

The Crab Shack

This joint is enormous.  Tons of seating, both indoor and outdoor.  We ate out on a huge patio with a wooden floor constructed surrounding gorgeous mature trees, right on the banks of the water.  The wind blew across the deck, causing the lanterns to gently sway from the trees.  Be sure to walk around The Crab Shack and really explore all it has to offer; maybe even say hello to the several cats wandering around the parking lot.  Live alligators (yes, you can feed 'em!) add the final touch to this tourist stop, but all the over-the-top decor would be useless without good food.  And believe me, the food is GOOD.

We saw this on another table as we were being led to our seat and immediately we knew it was what we wanted.  This is the sampler platter for two people.  It has crab, crawfish, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn, and mussels.  We didn't use forks.  Like, at all.

This was the first time I had crawfish and it was a teeny bit of a learning experience.  I tried that whole "suck the head" thing for a whole instant and immediately regretted it, but I can vouch for the tastiness of the tail!  The rest of the platter was killer.  My hands were coated in crab shells and butter by the end of it and I walked away a very happy woman.

The Breakfast Club

Don't miss out on grabbing a great diner breakfast at this spot on Hwy 80.  Drive toward the beach and look for the line of people waiting to get in.  We waited about 20 minutes to be seated and it was well worth it.  My favorite part was when our server made sure to clarify for us that our grits and toast would come with butter.  It was clear that the butter was not optional and it made me smile.

Evan got the shrimp 'n grits with sauteed spinach.  At first, he couldn't even get his head around the fact that this meal could even be considered breakfast, but after he took a couple bites there was little convincing needed.

As for me, I went with the mahi mahi with grits and eggs simply because this is not a meal I would ever see on a menu in Wisconsin.  I skipped the toast and tartar sauce (ain't nobody got time for that) and still only managed to put down about half of this colossal plate of food. 

Tybee Island Social Club

I'm going to make this simple - Social Club had me from the first sip of the mojito.  Evan got a traditional and I went for the strawberry version.  The food came very quickly and we were swiftly transported to Food Heaven.

Pictured here is the Chorizo Burger (with chipotle mayo and bacon), crab stew (heavenly!!!), black beans, and fish tacos (OMG).  Part of me wishes we would have gone back here for a second meal because there were so many other things on the menu I wanted to try, especially the shrimp and crab nachos.  Don't skip this one!

Sting Ray's Seafood

I know it probably sounds like I have nothing bad to say about any of the places we ate and that everything was too delicious for words, but that's actually the truth. Sting Ray's was no exception.

Evan got the crab and shrimp platter and I got the low country boil. For the record, he happily gave up that enormous stack of crab legs there because he loves me so much.  (Whatever, I totally stole them, but I definitely gave him a handful of the sausage you see there.)  The margaritas here are RIDICULOUS.  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw a photo I took after more than a couple of them and for that.....I apologize.  :)

If you stop in to Sting Ray's, try to sit outside and ask for Marissa.  Thank me later.

There are plenty more options out on Tybee Island for your tummy to enjoy, but these are the ones we are able to hit in our limited time there.  I'd love to hear your feedback, experiences, and comments!  If you are planning a trip down to Tybee, I'd love for you to pin this post on Pinterest and check out them out for yourself.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Leaving the Beach Behind

As it turns out, transitioning back to normal life after vacation is no walk on the beach.  (See what I did there?)

Within 24 hours of walking back through the front door and dropping our suitcases on the floor, Micah dropped a deuce in his pants....twice.  We struggled to let the dog out because the mosquitoes swarmed around him as if he were some sort of magnet and I would up swatting at the buzzing little demon for the next twenty minutes.  Instead of the sand between my toes, I stepped on a stray Lego. 

And the laundry.  Oh my word, the laundry.

But I quickly became intoxicated all over again by Thomas' giggle when I tickle his belly.  The way Micah's cheeks get all red when he gets frustrated is equal parts infuriating and adorable.  And then there's my Isaiah, my little mini-me.  He's attached himself to me tighter than I've seen in recent memory.

But gracious, am I exhausted.

I have a ton to write about our vacation, from the beautiful sights to the food that caused me to gain seven pounds in a mere five days.  Oh yeah, you heard me right.  Seven pounds.

Totally worth it!  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hey Y'all - Greetings from Georgia

Panoramic shot of the beach and pier on Tybee Island, GA

There are a few things Georgia has already taught me.

1.  Southern accents are contagious.

Despite my hardcore Wisconsin ya der ey that permeated every word that came out of my mouth on the plane, I swear to you that I wasn't even through our first meal here and I had already thrown out a "y'all."  I mean, I know I'm half southern on my mother's side, but it came out smooth and easy.  Within 24 hours, I could already hear the vowels in my voice changing to sound more akin to the smooth tones of those uttered south of the Mason-Dixon line.  By the time we leave, I'll have a full on drawl.

2.  Grits come with butter.  Period.

We went out for breakfast and Evan ordered the shrimp & grits immediately after the waitress agreed with me that when eggs are served with shrimp & grits, it becomes a legitimate breakfast.  I ordered mahi-mahi with grits and eggs because I knew that is a breakfast option I would see precisely NEVER on a menu in Wisconsin.  Our waitress, bless her heart, didn't even give us a choice in the matter, but sweetly cooed, "Now y'all's grits n' toats are gunna come with buttah, okaaaayyy?"  Yes, ma'am.  You don't argue when it comes to butter on grits.

Don't let the photo fool you.  I've been having a really hard time relaxing.  Yeah, that's a bunch of crap.  It rocks here.

3.  Southern hospitality is a very real thing.

Y'all, we haven't even set foot in Savannah yet.  (See what I did there?  I slipped in a "bless her heart" and a "y'all" like it's part of my normal vernacular.)  We have yet to walk on the streets of the city known as the "Hostess of the South" and already we have been made to feel more than welcomed.  Every single person we have encountered has been super nice, down to the random dude I called on the phone to ask about if we would be able to see the fireworks from the beach by our condo.  It's incredible.  We were locking up the door to our condo on the way to the beach one day when a neighbor insisted we take all the leftover food they had that they wouldn't be able to bring with them.  Suddenly we had a mega-sized tub of instant mashed potatoes and more Totino's Pizza Rolls than we would ever eat in a lifetime, but the gesture was there.  And it was adorable.

4.  I am madly in love with Tybee Island.

Picture Amity Island from the movie Jaws...except without the shark.  That's Tybee.  Spending only one day on this beach with perfect weather has absolutely slayed me.  It was 93 degrees or so, but the breeze off the water paired with the schools of dolphins romping nearby and the alabaster sand was a combination too powerful to resist.  My Kindle and I had some quality time on that beach.  Oh, and I enjoyed hanging out with Evan too.  :)  Add in the close-knit community and the delicious food - forget about it.  I never want to go home.  Or at least, I want to come back every year. 

For the record, I ran my whole "Tybee is like Amity Island from Jaws" analogy by a local and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree before she promptly announced that I was absolutely right.

Everyone say a prayer that we don't get eaten by a shark, okay?  Thanks. 

P.S.  A few moments after that top photo was taken, a police officer drove by on the beach and kindly informed us that glass bottles weren't allowed and that it would super suck to get a ticket for it.  I marched my butt back to the condo for a couple red Solo cups pronto, partner. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Last Ten Years

 The last ten years have been the hardest of my life.  Ok, so the last ten years have been the last third of my life and those years have brought me three babies, so I suppose that isn't all that surprising.  But this is supposed to be the "anniversary post."  This is supposed to be the day when I write all kinds of mushy and flowery things about the man I married and about the incredible journey we've taken together, how I'd marry him all over again, and how I love him more every day.

But that's not the post I want to write.

I want to write about the struggles we've had and the mornings I've woken up with puffy eyes, the evidence of the tears that kept me awake the night before as I sat with my back turned to him. 

I want to write about the hurtful words I have said to him and the wounds they have left behind.   

I want to write about how the expectations we both had on the day we got married were completely out of whack and how the reality of marriage ended up to be nothing like either of us imagined. 

I want to write about the fights, the slammed doors, the heavy silences.

I want to write about the days when I wondered if he even really loved me or if I actually loved him at all, the days that I asked myself out loud if we had made the biggest mistake of our lives by getting married. 

I want to write about the terror I felt on our wedding day and the apprehension that plagued our marriage for years. 

I want to write our story.

Our story is not the kind you will find in a paperback novel at the airport and it certainly isn't the story we thought we would be writing.  It has been filled with heartache, betrayal, disappointment, addiction and resentment.

But our story is also a story of incredible healing and grace.  Ours is a story of redemption and the power God has to rebuild what has been broken and to resurrect what is dead.

Ours is a story of how love isn't enough.

I want to write the story of how a marriage on the edge was rescued by the overwhelming love of a Savior, who is very much still in the business of restoration.  Page by page, our tale is being re-written by the Author of creation.

I want to write our story, but I'm just not ready yet to put it all out there.  To push the Publish button and have it in black and white for all the world to see.  To not be able to pull the curtain back over it ever again.  Soon, but not yet.   

For now I am going to say how grateful I am for the man who has dug in his heels and refused to yield when things got hard, give praise to the God who did the work of softening our hearts so that healing could even be possible, and write how thankful I am to be given the chance to continue to write this story.

Evan, there are no words I could use to fully express what you mean to me and after the ten years we have experienced together, I can safely say that I am so blessed to be doing this life with you.  You have stood by me and believed in me even when I couldn't bring myself to believe it possible.  Thank you for your devotion to me and your surrender to your God.

I couldn't ask for a better partner in this life.

Happy tenth anniversary, my love. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

If I Don't Gain Five Pounds, I Didn't Do it Right

I live in a state where we deep fry our cheese and wash it down with a beer the size of a labra-doodle.  We walk around our state fair munching on pickles, bacon, cookie dough, and other such oddities that have been breaded and deep fried, sometimes coated in chocolate, and served on a stick.  There is a whole building dedicated solely to serving cream puffs the size of your face.

Wisconsin is no stranger to belly-busting food and drink.  Spend one afternoon at Summerfest and you'll see I'm right.  I love a good craft beer as much as the next guy and don't even think I'm going to walk away from the fair without a cream puff.  But here's the thing.  It does make it hard sometimes to eat well.  In the year that I got serious about losing weight, I avoided a lot of the things I otherwise would have gone hog-wild on, beer and deep-fried food on a stick included.

But sometimes it is okay to just say To Heck with It and go a little wild.  This summer I am choosing to ignore the Bob Harpers of the world and for five days, I am going to ignore pretty much every single food rule I have created for myself to ensure that I keep the weight off.

Why?  Because we are going south.  Very very SOUTH.

And the South knows how to do food and I don't want to miss a mouthful.

Would I even be doing Georgia justice if I didn't have sweet tea at least once? 
How could I live with myself if I landed back in Milwaukee without having sampled some southern fried chicken and grits?

We never ever get to travel together like this so I will be darned if I am going to let caloric concerns get in the way of me having a good time.  We are going to be walking all over the place and I am going to attempt to at least be mindful of my portion sizes, but I'm not going to get all hung about about it either.

Basically, my attitude is that if I don't gain five pounds on this vacation, I didn't do it right.  I can lace up my shoes and hit the pavement to run it off when I get back to reality.

Here's just a preview of some of the naughtiness we plan to have on our plates:

1.  Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
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My whole approach to planning our food stops on this trip was built around the recommendations of a former local who I trust completely.  She guided us away from some of the more well known touristy places and toward a couple different options instead.  Her first recommendation was to skip Lady and Sons (Paula Deen's restaurant) and stand in line for a seat at Mrs. Wilkes' table instead.  The website describes the experience like this - "Tabletops are crowded with platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. The menu changes daily so regulars can have something different every day. Stop by and enjoy the special pleasure of a meal shared with neighbors and strangers."  Sounds to me like this place could be good for two or three pounds all on its own.  Can't wait!

2.  The Crab Shack

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 A good portion of our time will be spent out on Tybee Island and despite this place's touristy vibe, the food is said to be so good that it's worth it.  Low country boils, fresh crab, shrimp, and live freaking crocodiles make this place a must see.  Plus, my darling friends from church bought us a gift card to this joint, so this will likely be our very first foodie stop upon arrival!   

3.  The Olde Pink House
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I made reservations months in advance here for our one "fancy pants" dinner while we are in Savannah.  Often heralded as the best restaurant in the city, The Olde Pink House is an eighteenth century mansion that apparently also houses a haunted bar.  The word on the street is that the She Crab Soup alone is worth making the trip.   I'm packing a pretty dress and we are looking forward to having a wonderful dinner here after we clean up from tromping around in the Bonaventure Cemetery. 

4.  Zunzi's

According to my sources, this place is absolutely ridiculous.  Featured on The Travel Channel, this take out joint had to open up a second location with dine-in seating just to accommodate the demand for their sandwiches.  With the star of the menu called "The Conquistador," how can we not give it a shot? 

5.  Jen's and Friends

I have given my solemn oath to make a stop here, order a basil lemonade, and then walk out the door with it to embrace Savannah's open container laws.  Be watching for the Instagram photo where I tag Stephanie Howell and she gives me a virtual fist bump all the way from Italy.   

That's just five of them, y'all.  I'm not even going to try to pretend that I'm not planning to eat and drink my way through Tybee and Savannah while we are there.  I've saved up the cash and I'm fully prepared to pay the price on the scale.  And it will be WORTH IT. 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Days at Camp

Five days a week, I am surrounded by dozens of kids aged four to about six.  Apparently sometime this spring I lost my ever-loving mind and decided it would be a good idea to teach at the summer day camp held at my church, giving up my summer opportunity to sleep in and spend the mornings in my pajamas watching cartoons with my kids and not showering.

As it turns out, it was not a good idea.  It was a great idea.

I get to jog around on the grass and encourage kids to "Chase Teacher Steven," a game that is infinitely more fun than "Chase Teacher Sarah" would be.  Teacher Steven is young, lanky, has about 2.5% body fat, and stands about six feet tall.  Chasing him is fun for the kids.  Chasing me would be more akin to cow tipping.

There are so many cool things about teaching at Camp Notgoingtosaytherealnameinanefforttomaintainalittlebitofprivacyformyselfandmystudents.  First of all, the energy level of these kids is off the freakin' charts.  Even after a couple rounds of Chase Teacher Steven, they are still as jacked up as if we had handed them each a king-sized Pixie Stick on their way inside the building.  They land in our large group room and we teachers have to make sure we remember to check our pride at the door because we are about ready to get crazy up in this hiz-ouse.  We jump on one leg, spin around, shake our bodies like a Polaroid picture, and march around the space along with the kids.  Even if they aren't winded by the time that one song is over, the teachers are usually already breathing hard before worship even starts.

Worship is one of my favorite things to do at Camp.  The kids get so into it and I love to hear their little voices screaming praise at the top of their lungs.  The songs get stuck in my head so deeply that I often find myself at my night job standing in the server bar bouncing around and singing "Everlasting Love" or "Big God Story" while I wait for the bartender to give me my martinis and old fashioneds.  (For those of you who don't live in Wisconsin, Google "brandy old fashioned" and prepare to have your cocktail-making mind blown.)

Sometimes I have to sit out in the hallway with the kid who is afraid of the hot dog obsessed puppet with no eyes.  Then there was that one day when I filled in for the woman who usually brings the freeze pop obsessed puppet to life.  As I crawled behind the puppet theater wall and put the puppet on my hand, the significantly more youthful teacher in charge of the other puppet warned me, "Your arm is going to get really, really tired."  As it turned out, the muscles in my arm were set on fire, but I was so distracted by the burning sensation in my thigh muscles as I held my body in a squatting position for ten minutes that I barely noticed until later that my arm had turned into Jello.

The different personality types really come out of the woodwork during small group time because we suddenly find ourselves trying to keep the "active" children seated on the carpet when all they really want to do is roll around and take their clothes off.  Meanwhile, the introverts just want to crawl into a corner and watch the rest of the kids fight over who gets to raise their hand first to give what is always the correct answer at church camp - JESUS!!  The Bible geek in me confuses the living daylights out of my kids by clarifying that the Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a "big fish," NOT a whale and then we somehow end up talking about the time the kid sitting on the letter B spot on the carpet stole all her brother's Goldfish crackers, but we turn that right around to needing to ask God for forgiveness for being jealous and greedy and Boom!  Gospel.  Nailed it.

It's a hoot and a half.

Later we go outside and spray the kids with Super Soakers and run away before we get blasted in the face.  Last week I ended up with whipped cream on my face.  On Fridays, we spend a half an hour trying to keep our kids from killing one another in the bounce castle and I pretend I know how to paint faces.  The cherub-faced little punkin sits down in the chair in front of me and announces, "I want a unicorn!"  I glance at the plate of oil crayons in front of me and respond, "How about a rainbow or a heart?"

Here I am rocking my super-artistic abilities to draw a flower on this young lady's cheek.  I've disguised her face both to protect her privacy and also because she'd probably be embarrassed by my masterpiece.

And then there was that time when I brought my class over to the pond for our fishing day and I found myself hollering "Don't cross the streams!" to an audience who really couldn't appreciate my cleverness and pop culture references while they got their fishing lines all tangled because they kept crossing over one another.  At least I know I'm hilarious.  The best part was when one of my students who had been holding that worm in the water so patiently for nearly twenty minutes finally got a bite on her line.  I turned to look and saw an insane amount of splashing on the water, so Miss Linda rushed in to help her reel in what has become known as The Big Fish.

See?  Not a whale.  It was like God was making sure they knew Teacher Sarah was right about Jonah.  :)

By the time the parent show rolls around on Friday, the kids' faces are covered in sub-par drawings, their hair is coated in colorful chalk, and their bellies are full of hot dogs and freeze pops, but their hearts have been nudged into the path of God.  There is praise on their lips, joy in their hearts, and important questions rolling around in their minds.

It's the most exhausting job I have ever had, but most Kingdom work usually is. 

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