Archives for December 2015

Joy Of Every Longing Heart

Yesterday we drove to Mississippi to celebrate an early Christmas with the Hudson side of the family, and we had more fun! Just so much fun! You just can’t believe how much fun!

That was Martha-speak, for those of you who are unfamiliar with my mother-in-law’s preference for saying things in threes.

We made Martha promise that she wouldn’t cook a meal for us while we were there – there’s just no good reason for her to wear herself out trying to pull together a meal for seven people – so we drove straight to her house, picked her up, and after a lengthy debate about whether Outback (“the Outbacks”) or O’Charley’s would be better, we ended up at O’Charley’s because Outback was closed. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to eat at a restaurant that is in fact open for lunch, and if you can’t have Outback’s cheese fries, then O’Charley’s yeast rolls and honey butter are a pretty good alternative.

(Insert tiny sad trombone because NO ROLLS FOR ME.)

(I don’t know if anything makes you question your gluten-free commitment quite like a piping hot yeast roll.)

We’d been at the restaurant about fifteen minutes when we ordered our food. I was getting some sort of Large Salad Product, and when the waitress asked me what dressing I’d like, I said, “I think I’d like Ranch.” And then she looked at me like she had THE WORST news and said, “I’m really sorry, but we haven’t had any Ranch dressing in, like, three days.”

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

Honestly, I wanted to run over to the Walmart and buy some for her.

Then she said, “And I think we might have Lite Ranch, but it’s probably nasty.”

WELL, SIGN ME UP!

I opted for blue cheese despite the fact that the Lite Ranch sounded oh-so-tempting, and even though it took about four hours for us to get our food (slight exaggeration) (it really only took two hours) (oh, I kid, it actually took about 45 minutes) (and our server really was as sweet as she could be), we had a good time visiting and catching up and etc. Martha ordered the chicken tenders platter, and when our server put Martha’s food in front of her, David, his brother, Scott, and I all said, “OH MY WORD THE PORTIONS!” And then Martha said, “I’m not the one who said it! I didn’t say it! Did everybody notice that I didn’t say it?”

She was totally thinking it, though. You could tell by how big her eyes got when she saw all of that food.

It was just so much food!

After lunch we went back to Martha’s house, where I took some really subpar pictures of her Christmas decorations.

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Seriously. It all looked so pretty, and I love Martha’s Christmas china, which is a gorgeous discontinued pattern. It’s a shame that I really stunk it up on the photography.

I did manage to get a picture of these three people, though.

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And I would just like to point out that it was pretty much last year when the young’uns looked like this.

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Sometimes I feel like time is mean.

One of the gifts we gave Martha this year was a faux-suede and shearling sweater coat, and I think it may have been my favorite in terms of Martha’s reaction and her pure delight at how cute it was when she put it on. I always enjoy when Martha chronicles what she can wear with whatever we give her, and this year she immediately launched into what pants would look cute with the jacket.

“I can wear my dark gray pants! Or my light gray pants! Or my even lighter gray pants! Or my navy or my brown or my black! Because you know I have plenty of black pants! And my jeans! You know I have some jeans! Wouldn’t this be perfectly darlin’ with my jeans?!”

We all made sure to affirm all of Martha’s pants / jeans options. It seemed like the right thing to do.

So. We had the best time in Mississippi, and now we’re back here in Birmingham. Which reminds me. Earlier today Alex and I went to the grocery story to get, oh, 492 things, and while we were unloading our cart at the check-out, someone sneezed so loudly – it was more of a holler-sneeze, really – that the entire store got completely quiet for about five seconds. In the middle of the stone cold quiet one of the managers walked by me and whispered, “What WAS that?”

And about the the time that I said, “I think it was a sneeze,” somebody at the front of the store said, “Well, Helen! Bless you! MY GOODNESS, HELEN!” I don’t know if Helen got in some pepper or if she just got caught unawares by the sneeze of a lifetime, but I can tell you for sure that when Alex realized that the loud KA-BOOM-ish noise he’d heard was a sneeze, he laughed for about the next 20 minutes. So did the guy bagging our groceries. So did our cashier. It was like none of us could recover from the shock of it all, so we just giggled uncontrollably.

I don’t even know why I told you that. But I’m pretty sure that “Helen! Bless you!” will be a favorite catchphrase from here on out.

I’m also pretty sure Alex is going to re-tell that whole sneeze experience one or fourteen times this week. We’ll have family with us until the weekend, and after that I am going into hibernation for the next two weeks while I hopefully wrap up book #3.

I wouldn’t turn down prayers for that last thing, by the way.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Christmas with the people you love most. And if you’re dealing with something difficult this Christmas – and I would imagine that many of us are – then I really do pray that you feel the Lord’s peace and comfort so near to you throughout the holidays. I mentioned this on the podcast, but this year I’ve sung “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and thought about the expectancy surrounding Jesus’ birth – and I’ve also felt such a deep longing for His return as our triumphant Savior King.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” – Malachi 4:2

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 56

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Well, welcome to our Christmas hodgepodge.

In this episode Melanie and I talk about Christmas preparations, Christmas menus, the A&M quarterback situation, my favorite way to cook steaks, Mel’s upcoming trip to the AT&T store, a couple of apps that I’m enjoying, writing software, and our favorite Christmas songs.

We also talk briefly about the rumor that Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry are ALLEGEDLY dating in real life.

This could change everything, y’all.

I’m not doing any links this time because we don’t really talk about any products or websites or anything like that. Remember, the word for the day was “hodgepodge;” this episode really is a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing. However, it’s over an hour of nothing, so hopefully that counts for something.

See what I did there?

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here on the blog.




Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

And many thanks to Travis for being such a great sport. His “In the First Light” is my FAVORITE Christmas song this year.

Hope y’all enjoy this episode – and Merry Christmas, everybody!

You’re The Meaning Of My Life, You’re The Inspiration

For the longest time I didn’t consider myself a creative person. In fact, as recently as five years ago I would have told you that I wasn’t creative even a little bit. In retrospect I think what I really meant was that I’m not a crafty person. And believe me: I’m REALLY NOT a crafty person. In fact, I can’t think of a quicker way to send myself into a mental / emotional / lo, even spiritual spiral than standing in a room with about eight other people and then hearing someone say, “Okay, everyone – tonight we’re going to have a three-hour group crafting session, so to get started, go ahead and grab the big bucket and pick out the 25 buttons that you like the most!”

Tell you what: let’s don’t and say we did.

Or, come to think of it: let’s just don’t. Period. The end.

Now, though, I think that everybody is creative. It may show up in different ways and in different areas of our lives, but we all create something (plus, you know, we’re made in the image of our Creator, so there’s that). And over the last few years, I’ve paid more attention to what inspires my creative side. In the past I don’t know that I’ve even been terribly aware of feeling inspired – I might have just told you that I really liked this or that or the other thing – but around the time that I started working on my first book, I realized that certain music, certain performances, even certain colors made me want to do better and work harder as a writer.

I know. I can’t even believe I wrote that last sentence. The apathetic 23 year-old that I used to be is absolutely mortified and wants you to know that she still doesn’t care about anything other than The Real World and Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

So. Because I’ve been thinking about all of this inspiration stuff (and also leadership, but that’s another topic for another time) way too much lately, here’s a not-at-all exhaustive list of some things that really inspired me in 2015. They’re in no particular order. And I probably mentioned some of these things as they happened, but maybe putting all of them in one convenient spot will transform this very boring blog post into a go-to inspirational resource. Or maybe not. But at least I’ll have all these things in one place and won’t have to click around the interwebs nearly as much.

1) A January sunset

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January was something else, y’all. Mama went in the hospital the day before Home is Where My People Are unexpectedly released two weeks early, and the combination of those two things – plus a big pile of new book vulnerability – left me feeling like a basket case only not really that stable. It was the weirdest thing, trying to manage that early book release while camping out in Mama’s hospital room for four days and nights, and by the time I got back to Birmingham, I was as exhausted as I’ve ever been. This sunset was a reset button for me, the thing that reminded me to keep on keepin’ on because it was all gonna be okay. That being said, if you ever offer me a million dollars to re-live all the emotions of January 2015, you can rest assured that NO. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

2) Wes Hampton – “Because He Lives”

Our friend Wes is crazy talented. I rarely get to see or hear him perform, though, because I mostly just see him being a husband to Andrea and a daddy to his awesome boys. So when I saw this video right after Easter, it LAID ME OUT. Encouraged me like crazy. Reminded me how powerful it is when our gifts are an offering.

Because He Lives Easter Special from Church of the Highlands on Vimeo.

3) Jen Hatmaker at Trinity UMC

I don’t have a video or a link. I just know that Jen spoke here in Birmingham back in April, and she talked about how, when we were growing up, most churches either knowingly or unknowingly depended on a model of “Believe / Belong / Behave.” Then she asserted that in our current culture, a more effective model might be “Belong / Believe / Become.” Her words struck me like a lightning bolt. Since I work with teenagers, I spend almost every single day trying to connect with kids, and Jen’s words reminded me to meet them where they are and love them right there.

4) Garth Brooks at the BJCC

I wrote all about the Garth Brooks concert right here. HE WAS THE ABSOLUTE BEST.

5) My favorite Pen & Paint print

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This print hangs in my office, and it has been with me every step of the way with this latest round of writing. The colors, the lettering, the words – every single bit of it speaks to me. One of my all-time favorite things.

6) SEC Storied: Shaq & Dale

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I just happened to see this documentary one night when I was flipping around on the remote, and MY GOODNESS. What great lessons about loyalty, influence, and the power of relationships. I was relationally weary when I watched this – last spring was a doozy, y’all – so I cried a lot as I watched. But I’ll tell you what: it put some spring back in my relational step, and it reminded me how important it is to love our people well.

7) One Wild Life: Soul – Gungor

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Without a doubt this is my favorite studio album of 2015. In some really weird ways the themes of this album cross over with what I hope the big ideas of the new book will be (imagine that! actual themes!), so this music totally spurred me on with writing. Perfect words at the perfect time.

8) Live from the Woods at Fontanel – NEEDTOBREATHE

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This is my favorite live album ever. EVER. IN MY WHOLE LIFE. I have listened to it so much that Alex hears the opening lines of “Wanted Man” and says, “Really, Mama? AGAIN?” And I say, “Yes. Again. And again and again and again.” It is SENSATIONAL, and it makes me so grateful for the gift of music. This album is such a happy place for me.

9) Chef’s Table – Netflix

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Somewhere on social media I read a recommendation for this series, and since it was summertime and I needed a break from writing and I’m forever fascinated by the kind of creativity that’s specific to chefs, I decided to watch. I was hooked within five minutes of the first episode. IT. IS. FASCINATING. It’s also absolutely gorgeous. I’ve since seen all six episodes, and while I identified with some chefs more than others (and as you’d probably imagine, there’s a pretty wide range of world views represented), I so appreciated the commitment that the chefs have to the work they were clearly made to do. The music is also full-on dreamy.

10) Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton at the CMAs


I know that I linked to this performance a few weeks ago, but y’all, I bet I have watched it 100 times. You can read my initial reaction on Instagram, and my down-the-road reaction is that mainstream entertainment hasn’t given us anything better this year than this unexpected duo. My favorite part is at the very end – because not one person on that stage is hogging the spotlight or seeking any glory for themselves. Everybody on that stage is looking at someone else, applauding someone else, pointing at someone else, encouraging at someone else. I’m more convinced than ever that this is the very best way to live.

11) Flash – Rachel Anne Ridge

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The stories in this book are sweet, they’re tender, they’re funny, and they’re thoughtful. When I started the book that I expected to relate to Rachel’s efforts to take care of Flash, but sure enough, I related to the donkey. Flash and I have way more in common than I expected. I loved all the practical takeaways, too, and there are certain phrases that I’ve thought about again and again.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Out Of The Loop I Am

So granted, I haven’t paid much attention to pop culture this year. It’s not that I’m not interested; it’s just that the year has been super full and I haven’t had a lot of time to keep up with entertainment news. Plus, since I’ve been working on a new book for the last five months, I have barely watched TV (with the exception of about three things I faithfully DVR).

Anyway, I say all of that because the fact that there’s a new Star Wars movie somehow missed the exit ramp onto my personal information superhighway. I mean, I knew in the back of my head that they were filming one, but I didn’t know what it was about, or who was in it, or when it was being released.

WELL.

Yesterday at lunch David and Alex were talking about the new Star Wars movie, and I said, “When does that come out?” They laughed at first, thinking that I was kidding. But a few seconds later, when they realized that I really had no idea, they looked at me like I was a stranger.

I knew that I needed a conversational rebound, so I tried this one: “Is it even supposed to be good?”

David did an honest-to-goodness double-take and probably wondered who I was and how he ended up sitting next to me in Chuy’s. “IT’S JJ ABRAMS,” he said. “It’s a huge deal, and it’s supposed to be REALLY good. The internet loses its mind every time a new trailer is released. Whenever people see new footage, they analyze it like crazy.”

I know that the quote "Luke, I am your father" has nothing to do with this picture, but that's the only Star Wars quote I know, so I am running with it.

I know that the quote “Luke, I am your father” has nothing to do with this picture, but that’s the only Star Wars quote I know, so I am running with it.

I nodded, somewhat puzzled since there is clearly way more buzz than I thought – and that was when the high level of my clueless state started to sink in with my husband.

“You really didn’t know?” he asked. He laughed for just a second, and then I started to see legitimate concern. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? HOW HAVE YOU MISSED THIS? IT’S STAR WARS!” And the whole time David was talking, Alex just sat there, staring at me and shaking his head. I think he may have been embarrassed.

“HEY. I DON’T REALLY FOLLOW THE STAR WARS,” I replied.

“I’VE BEEN WRITING A BOOK,” I continued.

“I SURE DID USED TO LOVE PRINCESS LEIA’S HAIR,” I added, hoping that my fake enthusiasm would buy me a half-ounce of credibility.

About that time some friends of ours walked in Chuy’s, and before he made it all the way to our table, our friend Wes looked at David and Alex and said, “Are y’all so excited about Star Wars?!”

Then my head exploded.

So. Apparently Star Wars is A THING. I have been sufficiently Star Wars shamed. But really, I DIDN’T KNOW, y’all. I barely remember what happened in the first three. Couldn’t put together a loose outline if my life depended on it. This is not an area where I excel.

Are y’all excited about the new Star Wars movie? Or will you be like me and stay home to watch House Hunters while your people make a beeline for the theatre?

Jam-Packed With Fun & Also Expenses

I feel like the most important thing I can tell you at the beginning of this post is that I was approximately ten minutes away from having our Thanksgiving dinner completely ready when I turned on the disposal and the other side of the sink filled up with water.

And that leads me to the second most important thing I can tell you: nothing will diminish your Thanksgiving Day appetite like watching the remnants from your disposal back up into the opposite side of the sink.

It took me a few seconds to process what was happening, but once I did, I ran to get the plunger and tried to unstop the drain. After a couple of minutes I realized that my efforts were futile, so I took a deep breath, reminded myself that it was time for our meal, and then I covered up the sink with a towel, oh yes I did. It was exactly what Mama would do in the same situation, and I wanted to spare my family from having to look at all that, um, unpleasantness when they walked through the kitchen. Truth be told I didn’t really want to look at it, either.

So Thanksgiving lunch was fine and semi-delicious (THAT SINK WATER, Y’ALL – it was etched into my my brain like a cattle brand), but as soon as we were finished I hopped in the car and ran up to the Rite Aid so I could buy some Drano and maybe even some special Metholatum that my sister had told me about that morning.

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I believe it’s been said that when your sink clogs on Thanksgiving Day, a new variety of Mentholatum will make everything all better.

(I haven’t even tried the new Mentholatum yet, by the way.)

(I’m saving it for a special occasion. Like Christmas. Or maybe this winter’s first cold. Whichever comes first.)

I handed the Drano over to David and Daddy as soon as I got back to the house, and I proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon watching football and talking to Mama and reading football message boards because DENIAL IS FUN. By about 4:30 that afternoon, though, we knew we were going to need the professionals, and that is how I wound up asking RotoRooter to please come to our Thanksgiving Day rescue.

They absolutely rescued us, by the way. And just in case you ever need this information for one of your own holiday weekends, the fine folks at RotoRooter do not charge extra for holiday service calls, oh hallelujah.

So by 6:30 the drain was unclogged, the kitchen was clean, and my nerves had returned to a semi-normal state of operation. It was a delightful evening.

Friday morning I decided that I needed to be a responsible grown-up and take my car to the shop. Ever since my battery ran down a couple of weeks ago, my car has been iffy about cranking, and while there are many aspects of car operation that might be considered optional, cranking is sort of a requirement. Daddy followed me to our favorite repair place, but they were so swamped that they couldn’t look at it, and the short version of this miles-long story is that I ended up going to the dealership to get them to look at it. Turned out that I needed a new battery and oh, by the way, four new tires, too.

So at that point it all became sort of comical. Because why not just take money out of our checking account and throw it up in the air and see who grabs it first? Why not stack it in front of an open door and then turn on a fan? Or why not this?

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I have to say, though, that the battery was totally worth it because my car cranks oh-so-reliably now. I’m sure I will feel that way about the tires after I recover from the sticker shock, which hopefully will be sometime in early 2018.

On Saturday Sister and I made a quick trip to Starkville for the Egg Bowl. Even though the Bulldogs lost, we really did have the best time. We went to Dawg Walk, where I used my cowbell to keep a tree limb out of my eyes for the better part of 30 minutes, and then we got to visit with Daph, Marion, Elizabeth, and Wendi before the game. We sat with my dear friend Bubba for the first half of the game, then with my beloved TRiels (if you read my last book, TRiels is Tracey) during the second half. I am here to tell you that T, Sister, and I SOLVED SOME THINGS during the third and fourth quarters, so even if my competitive side was a little disappointed by the final Egg Bowl score, my relational side was overjoyed. And getting this message from Alex at the beginning of the 4th quarter made it even better.

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Of all the forms of optimism, the blind variety may be my very favorite.

Sister and I got home late Saturday night (well, really it was early Sunday morning), and after our people headed back to their respective corners of the southeast, David, Alex, and I embraced our inner introverts and enjoyed the most relaxing Sunday afternoon. After spending five days in a hotel room together and then five more with family, it was like we all intuitively knew that NOW IT IS TIME TO BE QUIET. And by the time my alarm went off early Monday morning, I was actually ready to get back into the routine of work and school and writing and etc. Plus, I’d missed my work people, and I couldn’t wait to hear what everybody had been up to over the break.

So. That was Thanksgiving 2015 for us. Well, all of that and the fact that I listened to “All I Ask” by Adele approximately 32 times. I recognize that this is a whole separate discussion, but it’s been a long time since I heard a ballad with not one but two key changes in the final 90 seconds, and for that reason I say KADOOZ TO ADELE.

And Merry Christmas to y’all. Hope your Thanksgiving holidays were great, too!