A Strange And Perhaps Unmerited Sense Of Accomplishment

We had flash floods last night and early this morning (MY WORD at the rain; there were times during the night when it sounded like people were emptying buckets of water on the roof), so most of the schools in our area had a late start today. The only problem with this development was that we didn’t find out about the late start until Alex and I were about to turn in the school parking lot, which means that we missed out on getting to sleep in a little later than normal, not to mention that I had gone through the motions of putting on make-up way earlier than was actually necessary.

SO. Since we were already out and about, we decided to head to Panera for coffee (me) and a cinnamon crunch bagel (Alex). We hung out there for 30 or 45 minutes, and I decided right then and there that I would like to start all of my mornings that way. It was so relaxing and peaceful and calm, all qualities that have been lacking during the early mornings at our house thanks to a certain adorable puppy who likes to run through the house with shoes and then wrestle them to the ground before she barks at them for an average of 3 1/2 minutes. She’s a cute one and all, but at least once a morning I want to pull a Frank Costanza and scream “SERENITY NOW” at the top of my lungs.

(And while I don’t have any idea what David’s Crocs have done to upset Hazel so much, I do know that she wages war against them at least twice a day.)

(The good news is that Crocs are seemingly indestructible and thankfully none the worse for the wear.)

Anyway, as I soaked up the quiet in Panera this morning, I eventually started thinking about what I needed to get done today – and reality set in. Since Mondays are usually my grocery store day, I knew that I had to make a list, and as Alex and I talked about what might be good for suppers this week and what I needed to buy, a very appealing thought started to form in my mind:

I could go to the grocery store right now.

RIGHT NOW.

AT 8 IN THE MORNING.

So that is exactly what we did.

By 8:30 I was putting my newly purchased groceries in my trunk, and I basically felt like I had cured a disease while crossing the finish line at a marathon and simultaneously advocating for world peace. There was just something about knowing that I’d planned the meals and done the shopping and IT WASN’T EVEN 9 O’CLOCK that made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could touch the sky. It made me feel like I could soar. It made me feel like I could run through that open door. It made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could fly.

Sometimes some 90s song lyrics are all that will do.

So for the rest of the day – even after I dropped Alex off at school and went to work (where I stored all my perishables in the refrigerator) – I kept thinking about the early morning grocery run and how it had made my whole day. It didn’t matter what challenges I faced. It didn’t matter that the pollen was trying to choke and also kill me. It didn’t matter that my hair was totally uncooperative and flat as a pancake. None of it mattered.

Because I had gone to the grocery store, found what I needed, crossed every bit of it off my list – and I’d done it all by 8:30 in the AM. It really did make me feel like I had won all the things in all the areas of competition and clearly someone needed to give me a medal. Or, better yet, A CROWN.

And listen. I get it. In the grand scheme of life, it was a tiny little thing. Not that big a deal. But sometimes getting those little things out of the way – especially when you weren’t planning on it – makes you feel like you have accomplished the biggest, hugest, most majorest (totally a word) goal that anyone has ever attempted. That doesn’t make it true, of course, but still. THE FEELINGS.

Have you done anything lately that’s made you feel like you’ve unexpectedly conquered the whole wide world? Did you clean a bathroom? Weed a flower bed? Organize your silverware drawer? Pull the floor mats out of your car and spend more than 15 seconds vacuuming them? Buy a new container for your paper clips at work? Put a pot roast in the crock pot before you made the morning carpool rounds?

Don’t be afraid to bask in your victories, people. If you have just washed every towel in your house and maybe even folded a couple of them, you need to celebrate it. Let us cheer you on.

Unfortunately I Cannot Think Of A Title

It was almost 2 this past Friday morning when I rolled my suitcase into my hotel room in Chicago (well, technically I was in Geneva, but considering that I have very little understanding about the locations of various Chicago suburbs, it’s sort of surprising that I even know the name of the place where we stayed). I was asleep within about ten minutes, and somehow I didn’t feel like I’d been hit by a truck the next day when I woke up at 7:30. That was the most delightful surprise.

Melanie and I spent most of the day at Tyndale, meeting with the sweet people who have worked so hard for us and our books. They made us feel right at home. They had all of our favorite snacks at the ready, and for lunch we ate deep dish pizza that was oh-so-delicious. There was also a chocolate cake that proved to be a formidable Lenten opponent; the fact that I made it out of the conference room without shoving the whole thing in my face was, in retrospect, a high point of the day.

Here! I will show you pictures!

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I should point out that I did not take pictures of the cake because it had taunted me enough already.

My flight left Chicago about 6 Friday night, and while I was sitting on the airplane before it left the gate, I decided that I am fascinated by people who talk loudly on their cell phones in quiet spaces. I’m not sure if there’s an absence of social awareness (others are quiet, but Loud Talker isn’t picking up on the social cues) or if it’s just plain ole narcissism (Loud Talker feels that whatever he/she has to say is very important / entertaining and therefore a quiet plane is the perfect opportunity for others to listen and, lo, ENJOY).

‘Tis a puzzle.

By the time we landed in Birmingham, I was so ready for pajamas and bed, and both of those things happened in short order after I got home. Hazel and I had a very emotional reunion since apparently she had decided I was going to be GONE FOREVER, but after she settled down and I visited with my fellas, I proceeded to sleep so hard that I couldn’t remember a single dream and had no idea where I was when I woke up Saturday morning. In other words: SUCCESS!

Saturday (are you still awake? I know this is so boring. A thousand apologies.) I ran a ton of errands; we have a jam-packed week ahead of us, and I knew that Saturday afternoon was my only errand window. I went to lunch with David and Alex and then ran to get a pedicure before I dropped by a bridal shower. The girl who did my pedicure was so sweet, and when I realized that she was expecting a baby, we started talking about her kids. After she told me their ages and where they go to school, she said, “Do you have any children?” I told her that I have a son who’s in 4th grade, and after I said it she looked at me for a few seconds and said, “Oh. So you had him when you were, um, older?”

Y’all. I was so tickled. I knew she didn’t mean anything by it; plus, she started her family in her early 20s, so my early 30′s pregnancy would definitely be “older” to her. But all I could think of was one of my favorite Suzanne Sugarbaker lines: “Why, if I’d wanted to be insulted I would’ve stayed home and waited for a crank call.”

People are funny.

I was halfway between the nail place and the bridal shower when it dawned on me that I was wearing jeans – not exactly appropriate attire for a bridal shower – but in a fit of courage I decided that it was better to go in jeans than to not go at all; there just wasn’t enough time to run home and change. So I pulled up in the parking lot and got out of my car and prayed that my mama would not ever find out because I fear she might be tempted to disown me. I did have make-up on (even some jewelry!) and had fixed my hair and all that, but when I walked in the shower and saw everybody in cute dresses and heels, all I could think was, “OH. I have failed at Southern womanhood. It is only a matter of time before I get kicked out of the club.” Thankfully, though, Southern women tend to be polite, so nobody said a word about the jeans, and I don’t even know if anyone would have noticed if I hadn’t been so quick to apologize for what I was wearing.

Who am I kidding? Of course they would’ve noticed. It’s just easier to surround my faux pas with some degree of denial.

Today we’ve been home all afternoon, and that has been pretty much the best thing ever. I feel like I’ve recovered from the travel madness, and I’m ready to face the week. Plus, since I need to redeem myself after the unfortunate denim incident, I may even break out some spring skirts and wedges and whatnot.

Or I may just wear a lot of yoga pants and pretend like I’m on my way to the gym.

It could really go either way.

I’m Sure It Would Be My Kind Of Town If I Could Ever Get There

So remember in the last post when I told you that Melanie and I were going to Chicago today?

Well. FUNNY STORY.

This afternoon I was pulling into the parking garage at the Birmingham airport when Linda from Tyndale called and said they were getting alert messages that the flight from Chicago to Birmingham – the one that would eventually take me to Chicago – had been cancelled. I wasn’t overly alarmed because I had updated all my contact info with United just this morning and hadn’t received an email about flight changes or anything like that, but I told Linda I’d check just as soon as I got in the airport and let them know the news.

When I got to the United counter there were two very angry-looking people right in front of me, and I thought, OH. I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS IS GOING TO END WELL. So I told the lady behind the counter that I needed to check on my flight to Chicago, and I had barely finished my sentence when she said, “Yeah. About that. Not gonna happen. We canceled it this morning about 10 o’clock.”

As an aside, I would just like to interject what would have been a super-helpful gesture on the part of the United travel alert system: SENDING OUT AN EMAIL WITH A NOTIFICATION OF THE CANCELED FLIGHT.

Even still, I know how tricky flight schedules get when there are storms, so I said, “Well, could you just put me on the next flight?”

“Sure,” the woman replied. “It leaves tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock, goes through Charlotte, and will get you to Chicago around 10:50.”

Considering that I have a meeting in the morning at 8, that was not my favorite option.

The next ten minutes were a flurry of texts and phone calls and brainstorms and possible alternate plans. I had just about decided that my best option was to go home and then fly out in the morning, but on a whim I walked down to the Southwest counter and said, “Hey. Do y’all have a way to get me to Chicago tonight?”

They could not have been nicer. The non-stop from Birmingham to Chicago was full, but they could fly me to Tampa, then to Chicago, and I would be there by 9:25. That was our best option, so I got my ticket, rushed through security (the flight was scheduled to leave in about 25 minutes), and ran (okay. I didn’t exactly run. but I did walk really fast.) to the gate so that I could pick up my boarding pass. Just a few minutes later they started pre-boarding.

And then we waited.

And we waited.

And we waited.

And then we found out that our plane had a tire that needed to be replaced.

For some reason I have never thought about the fact that planes get flats.

Finally – a little over an hour later – we boarded the plane. But by that point I knew that I was going to be too late to make my connection in Tampa, so I had to get switched to a later flight from Tampa to Chicago. The Southwest people were so helpful that I can’t even complain about it; besides, planes don’t like storms, and there were storms all over the country today.

Oh! This has nothing to do with anything, really, but I was so delighted by this sign next to the play area in the Birmingham airport.

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It might as well say, “HAVE FUN SITTING, KIDS.”

Anyway.

We got to Tampa about an hour before the final leg of my flight, and I was tickled to death that I might be in Chicago by 9. But then I looked at one of those departure board thingies and saw that the second flight was delayed until 11:20. And that is why I am now typing this blog post from the comfort of Gate C40 at the Tampa International Airport.

(By the way, Tampa, you do have a very lovely airport.)

(And I appreciate the little study carrells that also serve as charging stations.)

(I don’t think I spelled “carrells” correctly, but I’m too lazy to check so I’m just going to go with what I have.)

Right now we’re scheduled to leave at 11:05, so FINGERS CROSSED that I get to Chicago tonight / tomorrow morning. Apparently the plane that is taking us to Chicago is on its final approach, so I have big hopes for that plane and also its tires. Not to mention its engines and whatnot.

Hope y’all have a great Friday!

p.s. I hope this post doesn’t sound whiny. I am so grateful that I get to even go to Chicago. And, you know, write books.

p.p.s. Air travel is almost always humbling, isn’t it? :-)

p.p.s. Here are five things I’m grateful for right now: I have a window seat, Hazel barks like a beagle and it makes me laugh, I get to see Melanie tomorrow, my husband is so supportive of the writing stuff, and Alex will have something funny to tell me when I get home. Because he always does.

p.p.p.s. I feel better now. :-)

24 Things I’ve Done So Far This Week

1. Picked up a sick young’un from school Monday morning.

2. Took said sick young’un to the doctor’s office, where he was promptly diagnosed with strep.

3. Encouraged that same young’un to RUN TO THE GRASS when he needed to throw up in the doctor’s office parking lot.

4. Reminded myself that it’s a doctor’s office parking lot, so it certainly wasn’t the grassy area’s first throw-up rodeo.

5. Discovered that we have not been buying bully sticks for Hazel; we have been buying bravo sticks. I do apologize for any confusion.

6. Spent ONE HOUR yesterday trying to get a movie to stream from my Mac to the Apple TV. I said on Twitter that I had discovered a whole new level of hatred for devices with inputs and was contemplating maybe just performing a skit.

7. Called my husband at work to get him to walk me through how I could play a movie. Turned out that I was changing the inputs on the wrong device. This is hardly surprising considering that there are about 15 things plugged into our TV.

8. Slightly exaggerated the number of things plugged into our TV because maybe there are only 14. And yes, I have romanticized the days of the VCR and my utterly reliable VHS tapes.

9. Washed about five loads of clothes and actually folded all of them.

10. Celebrated with Alex when his fever broke because he hasn’t been that sick in a lonnnnng time. Bless.

10. Put away all the folded clothes except for the stack of towels that’s staring at me from across the room right now.

11. Wondered if that the same stack of towels will still be there Saturday. My guess is YES.

12. Made a doctor’s appointment for me because I felt yuck yesterday and immediately got paranoid that OH NO, IT’S THE STREP.

13. Felt relieved that it was only sinus / allergy issues. So basically it was par for the springtime course.

14. Slowed down when I was driving down our street this morning because the dogwoods are starting to bloom and they’re my favorite.

15. Marveled at Hazel’s deep affection for shoes. She loves them and likes to have one in her mouth at all times unless she’s sleeping. This is why almost all of the shoes in this house are resting on an elevated surface right now.

16. Made the bold statement that McAlister’s Deli has the very best iced tea – but then I had some iced tea from Zaxby’s and now I’m wavering. I think I’ll stick with McAlister’s, though, since I’ve loved it longer.

17. Changed the lyrics to “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” for pretty much every question I’ve asked Alex in the last 48 hours. And he is all better now, by the way. I doubt his recovery is directly connected to my singing, but it may have made him even more determined to get back to school so that he could escape my renditions of the songs from the Frozen soundtrack.

17. Discovered that there is a Sea Salt Caramel flavor of Talenti gelato and CALLED ON THE LORD right there next to the frozen food in the grocery store. I am trying to stay away from sweets during Lent, but y’all – SEA SALT CARAMEL GELATO. I stared at it for a long time and then pretended I could taste it and then practically caught a wheelie moving my grocery cart over to the cheese aisle so I could pretend again that some cheese would totally satisfy my gelato craving.

18. Packed an overnight bag because I’m meeting Melanie in Chicago tomorrow. We’re gonna spend Friday with our Tyndale people and I am just as tickled as I can be about that.

19. Listened to this album by the Oh, Hello’s over and over and over and over and over. Adore it.

20. Caught up on our Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon episodes on the DVR. It is such a treat.

21. Sneezed.

22. Rubbed my eyes.

23. Wondered why Taco Bell decided to get in the breakfast business and why teenage boys seem to think that it’s THE TASTIEST FOOD EVER.

24. Put a dress at Nordstrom in my online shopping cart – only to delete it. And then put it back in the shopping cart again. And then delete it. And then put it back in the shopping cart without buying it because DRESS COMMITMENTS ARE HARD.

How are y’all?

The Day That Frozen Surprised Me

Earlier today I finally saw this little gem.

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Now y’all know that I’m terrible about going to the movies; I always put it off because it feels like such a big commitment in terms of time. I inevitably wind up telling myself that I could write X number of words in the three hours it would take to go to the movies, so I wind up seeing practically nothing at the theatre and about two movies a year via iTunes. I think we can all agree that it’s a very impressive cinematic track record.

That was sarcasm.

Today, though, I was part of a little celebration with some of my favorite high school girls, and they suggested that we watch Frozen as part of our fun. I thought it was a great idea, but honestly, I didn’t really expect to watch. I figured I’d answer some texts and check some email and whatnot. Heaven forbid that I actually sit down and pay attention.

Well.

The first ten minutes of the movie totally pulled me in. I won’t go into details in case you haven’t seen it yet, but for me it rivaled Up in terms of requiring me to make a big ole emotional investment from the get-go. I was hooked – so I sat and watched the rest of movie, and I was completely captivated. There was so much that I loved about it that I couldn’t even begin to list it all.

But here’s what surprised me the most: the Gospel is all over that thing, y’all.

I have a feeling that there are probably lots of people who have written about the redemptive thread that runs through the movie, but I’m gonna write about it anyway because, well, it surprised me. If you’ve seen Frozen, you probably know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen it, you’ll probably want to stop reading now because SPOILERS.

SPOILERS.

SPOILERS.

(I don’t know why I’m trying so hard to notify people about spoilers; I think that there are about 17 people in the whole world who haven’t seen Frozen yet, but ounce of prevention, pound of cure, etc.)

All righty. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about ever since the movie ended.

I should warn you that you are about to see me NERD IT UP.

I blame every bit of it on the fact that I was an English major.

1) “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show…” is the world’s favorite coping mechanism.

It’s what Elsa learns from her father when she can’t control her powers, and then she preaches it to herself when she leaves Arendelle. Honestly, it’s probably default behavior for most of us when we’re facing a struggle or wrestling with our own brokenness. But it’s a bad idea. It creates shame, it isolates us, and it damages our relationships. Just ask Anna. And by the way, “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” LAID ME OUT.

2) So much of what we think of as “freedom” is a counterfeit.

When Elsa leaves Arendelle and unleashes winter on her kingdom in the wake of her shame, she revels in the fact that she’s been exposed (“well now they know”) and decides that she’s going to be WIDE OPEN in terms of everything that she has previously tried to control. She’s doing exactly what she wants (“No right, no wrong, no rules for me – I’m free”), and it looks like she’s finally taking charge of her life (“the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all”). The problem is that she’s actually in a very beautiful prison of her own making. She thinks she’s empowered, but she’s more enslaved by her brokenness than ever. I should mention that you could’ve seen this same pattern at work in my early 20′s, oh bless my heart.

3) Our brokenness – left unchecked – will always affect other people.

Elsa breaks Anna’s heart early in the movie with her insistence on isolation. Elsa’s kingdom, Arendelle, literally sits in the winter of her discontent. And while Elsa tells herself that she’s just fine (“I may be alone, but I’m alone and free”), learning the reality of what she’s done to Arendelle is more than she can bear. Instead of trying to make it right, though, she retreats into her shame and lashes out in fear – and this time around, she doesn’t just break Anna’s heart; she freezes it. I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve tried to minimize my own sin and pretend like my issues weren’t my issues – but that stuff just has a way of welling up and seeping out and hurting the people we love, doesn’t it? Also, please know that I am very much aware that this movie has apparently touched a nerve in me and caused me to lapse into severe over-analysis and thank you for sticking around if you are still here right now because I imagine that I have reached staggering new levels of annoying.

4) “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”

That’s the truth, isn’t it? It’s the Truth, too. (And how much do I appreciate the fact that the relationship between Anna and Elsa takes precedent over the relationship between Anna and Kristoff? WELL PLAYED, DISNEY.)

5) Real freedom comes through sacrificial love.

Anna never stops pursuing her sister. She knocks at her bedroom door through all the stages of her childhood. She chases after her when she runs from Arendelle. Anna finds a way up the mountain, she endures brutal weather, she walks up a seemingly endless staircase – and at every turn, she tries to help her sister, to walk with her, to assure Elsa that they’ll get through everything together. And in that steady, faithful pursuit, Anna faces rejection over and over. Even still, at the end of the movie, when Elsa’s life is in danger, Anna steps in again and lays down her life for her sister. That sacrificial love is what thaws Elsa’s heart – and when Elsa’s heart thaws, that changes everything. Sacrificial love ripples in beautiful ways throughout the movie, and my goodness, I can certainly say that the same thing, by God’s grace, is true in real life (1 John 3:16-18, amen).

*****

When Alex and I were driving home this afternoon, I was telling him how much I loved the movie (he saw it before Christmas), and he said, “You always think things are allegorical, Mama.” I’m afraid he’s right about that. But all in all – especially considering that the last movie I saw was Gravity, which seemed to imply that any renewal that takes place in the human heart is the result of sheer determination and will – I just thought Frozen was oh-so-awesome. I love that it has some real depth to it (whether the Gospel overtones were intentional or not) and the story has hung around in my head all afternoon and night.

The stories that hang around awhile are my very favorite kind, by the way.

Y’all have a great weekend!

Good Time Links & Fun

Well, I don’t know about y’all, but for me yesterday was the day when the allergies showed up and said, “HELLO! WE ARE READY TO COME BACK INTO YOUR LIFE AGAIN!” I felt like I was rubbing my eyes and sniffing all day long. However, I am not complaining because there are actual flowers outside and a forecast that calls for real-live sunshine today. So basically I will take all of these things over, say, the month of January.

Also, I got very tickled reading your comments about paper towels. I am always being just a little bit silly when I post about not-so-serious stuff like that, but by diggity I do like my full-size paper towels (which are more and more difficult to find without some sort of design on them, and that, THAT IS ANOTHER STORY ALTOGETHER). Anyway, my informal assessment of the comments is that people with small children seem to prefer the select-a-size over the full size, and that makes perfect sense to me (smaller people, smaller messes). It did bring me some degree of comfort to know that my fellow full-size paper towel fans seem to share the tendency to become BLINDINGLY ANGRY when they accidentally get home from the store with a roll (or even worse: a CASE) of the select-a-size. So this has all been very enlightening.

Anyway. Here are some things and some links and some more things.

- For the last year or so I’ve admired Rachel’s sunset pictures on Twitter and Instagram (at some point I hope we get to go chase some sunsets together). She has taken some stunning photos from some of Birmingham’s best-known landmarks, and about a month ago, she created a website that I just love: Picture Birmingham. Many of her sunset pictures are there, but the best part is that she’s attached a greater good to those photos. You can buy prints or notecards, and here’s the best part: all profits go to The WellHouse, which is a ministry here in Birmingham that provides shelter, counseling, and so much more to victims of sex trafficking.

So. If you’re looking for a great gift or maybe something special for your house, remember Picture Birmingham. The prices are super-reasonable, and the long-term benefits to The WellHouse are even better.

- A couple of months ago I mentioned that I’m speaking at the Allume conference this year. Well, tickets are on sale now, and I just thought I’d pass along that info just in case any of you are thinking about going. It would be delightful to see some of y’all there.

- The next Secret Church is Good Friday, April 18, from 6pm-midnight.

Secret Church – The Cross and Everyday Life – Promo 1 from David Platt on Vimeo.

Tickets at our church are sold out, but there’s a simulcast option available, and if you have a group of at least five people, it is super affordable. Plus, it’s just a great way to soak up some rock-solid, Bible-centered teaching – and this year’s topic has so much practical application in the day-to-day.

- I imagine that most of y’all have seen Kevin Bacon’s entrance on The Tonight Show last week. But just in case you haven’t, please do enjoy. The part that starts around the 2 minute mark makes me laugh so hard and reminds me of junior high.

- Shellie and Trent Monk released a new CD called We Are The Monks this week.

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(I know that’s a terribly small image. I couldn’t figure out how to make it bigger in iTunes. I do apologize.)

Anyway, this CD is so joyful and soulful and good. Trent and Shellie’s harmonies are fantastic, and their message about love and truth and Truth is even better. For $7.92, this CD will brighten your whole week and make you want to see these two perform live and in person. Big thumbs up from me.

Hope y’all have a great Thursday!