Big & Boo: Coming Soon To Two Cities That Might Be Near You

Well, I would’ve blogged more this week, but I’ve been very busy talking.

That really isn’t an exaggeration. Monday night I met some friends while Alex was at football practice, so that was non-stop talking, and then last night he had a game (more talking), and then work has been full of talking and then talking again and then talking some more.

So I reckon the bottom line has been that by the time I’ve gotten home every night, I’ve been fresh out of words.

But I’ll tell you when I won’t be out of words (HOW’S THAT FOR A TRANSITION?).

November 7-8 and November 16.

Here’s why.

Earlier this year I was speaking at a women’s retreat, and I was walking to the first session when I realized that I missed Melanie like crazy. Seriously. I know that sounds like the most random thing, but for the last six years we’ve done all sorts of women’s ministry stuff together (traveling & blogging for LifeWay, dotMOM, book stuff, etc.). We’ve walked into all kinds of new and different situations, but somehow those things weren’t nearly as intimidating knowing that we had each other.

So when I was walking into a retreat all by myself – well, I missed her.

The retreat turned out to be great simply because there were so many sweet women there, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Melanie were there, too. I thought about how we could’ve taught the sessions together and talked about our hair and maybe even led a discussion group about college football during the breaks.

I mean, assuming that anyone actually wanted to talk about college football, of course.

So I thought about all of these things as I drove back to Birmingham the next day, and I think I’d been home all of two hours when I called Melanie and said something along the lines of “Hey – what would you think about doing some of our speaking stuff together? Because I think it might be a ton of fun.” So we talked about some possibilities, and before we hung up the phone, I said, “Tell you what. The next time one of us gets a speaking request for something out of town, let’s just throw out the idea of us being there together, and we’ll see what happens.”

“Deal,” Melanie said. Or maybe she didn’t say “deal.” I didn’t really commit her response to memory. But she definitely agreed.

And I kid you not. A couple of days after that conversation I got an email about speaking in Charlotte. So I responded with the idea Melanie and I had talked about – and they were nice enough to invite us both.

So just look how that all worked out. WE ARE JUST AS TICKLED.

And while we’ll still be doing most of our speaking stuff individually, we’re so excited that we get to do two speaking things together this November. The first is at First Baptist in Charlotte, NC on November 7-8. I’m speaking Friday night, Melanie is speaking Saturday morning, and then we’re going to do a fun Q&A / podcast-y type of thing after lunch. If you’re in the area, we would love to see you – and you can even make reservations online. Registration closes October 22nd.

We’re also speaking at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, Louisiana on November 16th. It should be a mighty fun Sunday afternoon. There’s tea time at 3, and then we’ll start speaking at 4. There’s even a holiday theme, and that just delights me to no end. Tickets are $15 and will go on sale in a couple of days on the First West website.

Normally I don’t mention a whole lot of speaking stuff in blog posts, but since these two churches were kind and brave enough to give our little idea a chance, we want to help them get the word out. And we’d love to see some of y’all there.

Mainly because I’m hoping some of y’all will ask Melanie about her eyebrow products during the Q&A.

And while I would not dream of frying bacon in a sanctuary, I would be so happy to talk about it in a group setting.

Y’all have a great Thursday!

Subpar Nachos, dotMOM, & Oh Have Mercy A Dak Attack

First of all, raise your hand if you cannot get Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” out of your head.

I know that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. But considering that it’s been playing on a loop in my brain for the better part of two weeks, I just felt like a group acknowledgement might turn down the internal volume a little bit.

So. I got home from Nashville early this afternoon, but only after a slight detour through some beautiful Tennessee horse farm country (I dropped Melanie off at the airport this morning before I started home, but in an attempt to bypass a blown-up bridge on I-65, I took the wrong exit and immediately developed a deep dependence on the Google Maps app). Despite my navigational troubles, I had the best time being at dotMOM and getting to visit with some folks that I don’t get to see nearly enough (even though I’m still sad that there were a few people I didn’t get to see at all). I’m reminded every year that dotMOM really is such a sweet conference, and I hope the mamas who were there left feeling encouraged and rested and relaxed.

Melanie and I got to spend tons of time together while we were in Tennessee (yay for that – we were way overdue), and as is our tradition, we managed to find some truly subpar Mexican food not far from our hotel. We split some fajita nachos, and while I could pretend that they were delicious, the truth is that they were a real low. I later told Mel that I knew we were in trouble when our waiter delivered the nachos and my first thought was, “Gosh, these sort of smell like Italian food.” The saving grace was that the chips and salsa were tasty, not to mention that Edie happened to be passing through and was able to meet us at the restaurant. OH MY WORD WE LAUGHED. And all that laughter did my heart a world of good even if my stomach was considerably less enthusiastic.

Now. Let us talk about the game.

If you are uncertain about which game I am referencing, then clearly I haven’t done a very good job of introducing myself over the course of the last nine years.

It was a little after 5 Saturday afternoon when Melanie and I left the church that was hosting dotMOM, so we went back to our hotel, changed clothes, and drove to our friend Mary Katherine’s house. Mary Katherine is also a big college football fan (specifically: Alabama), and for two years Mel and I have talked about how we’d love to watch a game or eight on Mary Katherine’s back porch. This past Saturday night was our first opportunity to do just that, and it just so happened to coincide with State’s road game against LSU. I wouldn’t say that I had high hopes for the game, but I did think that it would be a good one, and I was mighty curious to see how the Bulldogs would play against an SEC team.

I’d told myself ahead of time that I was going to be a normal person and watch the game on the porch with everybody else, but as soon as we started our first offensive series, I had to put myself in solitary confinement in Mary Katherine’s den. I mean, I don’t think my particular brand of college football crazy is any big secret, but I knew that I’d need to pace and talk to the TV and maybe even yell and I didn’t want to be a distraction to my friends. When State scored I pretty much kicked and yelled and jumped in many graceful and sophisticated ways.

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And not too long after that, when our defense stopped LSU on our goal line, I managed to stay put in a chair, but my reaction was basically like this.

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GIFs via Tumblr

By halftime I was feeling borderline confident, but I didn’t dare speak the possibility of winning (long-time Mississippi State fans will totally understand this reaction). And even when it was late in the 4th quarter and I was actually sitting on the porch and feeling somewhat relaxed about the outcome, I still didn’t speak about a possible win because HISTORY HAS BEEN A VERY GOOD TEACHER FOR BULLDOG FANS.

So when we snapped over our quarterback’s head and LSU picked up the ball and scored, I quietly left the porch and returned to solitary confinement in Mary Katherine’s den. If the Bulldogs were going to self-destruct, I wanted to be able to weep (and maybe kick some things) privately. And moments later, when LSU scored again, I started pacing like a madwoman. I even contemplated turning off the TV and just letting the sound of the reactions from the porch tell the tale.

Eventually, though, I decided to stand in Mary Katherine’s hallway and watch the game from a considerable distance. I don’t know why the hallway seemed like a good idea unless subconsciously I wanted to be near a bed in case we lost and I needed to lie down for a bit, but at the time I appreciated the space between the TV and me.

I watched the final play with my hands over my face, and OH, HAVE MERCY, when Will Redmond intercepted that last pass, I am fairly certain that I cried out to the Lord and maybe even fought back a few tears. Our boys just played so hard, and it was great to see things go their way. Mississippi State folks are a loyal bunch regardless, but it’s so fun to be able to celebrate after a game like that.

It’s been a long time since Bulldogs had a reason to smile in Tiger Stadium.

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HailState.com

Once my heart rate returned to normal, I went back outside and savored the win for a bit before Mel and I drove back to our hotel. We talked about football pretty much the whole way. State has a bye week coming up, and then October 4th, we play Mel’s beloved Aggies. They’re #6, we’re #14, and I’d be willing to bet that there will be a podcast sometime between now and then so that we can talk about all of our football-y feelings.

In the meantime, I’m gonna savor this one. I actually watched the game again earlier tonight, and I was so happy that we won all over again.

I love it when that happens.

Hope y’all have a great Monday!

Hail State and Go ‘Dogs.

A New Angle (That Thankfully Did Not Require Geometry)

Well, I planned to post something Sunday night after the Miss America pageant, but then I got sidetracked by sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing cups.

Apparently anything is still possible in America, y’all.

Honestly, it took me a good hour to wind down from the pageant, and I don’t know when Twitter has tickled me more. I thought Kaye Lani Rae Rafko’s hula dance was memorable back in the late 80s, but the cup talent really just beat all.

That’s saying something considering that there was also a ventriloquist in the top 8.

I have to say, though, that not even a surprising Miss America result could put a damper on our weekend, which was delightful all the way around. I was out late Thursday night at a NEEDTOBREATHE concert, and all I could think when my alarm went off early Friday morning was, “THIS IS WHEN I AM REMINDED THAT I AM NO LONGER 27.” I was worn out, but the concert was so worth it. The Oh Hello’s were everything I thought they would be and more, and when they finished their set (do you like the hip lingo? the next thing you know I’ll be talking about when their new album drops.) I felt so inordinately proud of them that I was totally teary-eyed.

This is what happens when you’re in your 40s and enjoy the musical stylings of some folks who are at least 20 years younger than you are. There are a lot of maternal feelings.

And all I know to say about NEEDTOBREATHE is that they essentially led us in a two-hour worship service. Absolutely beautiful. Sweet mercy they’re talented.

Anyway, I had a speaking thing early Friday morning, then work, so by the time I picked up Alex Friday afternoon, I was flat-out loopy from the tired. Somehow, though, I managed to stay awake until approximately 9:30 Friday night, at which point I practically face-planted myself on the bed and slept without moving until 5 Saturday morning, when Hazel decided that there had been enough sleeping, thank you.

About mid-morning I willed myself to go to the grocery store. I don’t know if y’all realize this – because apparently I forgot for most of last week – but the grocery store is a place that has food that you can buy and then take home so that you can prepare meals for your family. WHAT A CONCEPT. So I bought some of the food that Publix had available that morning, and I brought it all home, and then I cooked for three whole days in a row.

I may have to print myself a certificate of achievement.

Sunday was our pastor’s last Sunday at our church, and it was the sweetest morning. We typically go to the 9:00 service, but Sunday we also stayed for a little bit of the 11:00 because one of Alex’s buddies was being baptized. While we were waiting for that second service to start, we were hanging out in the back corner of the church with some other families who were there for the same reason, and I realized that my view of our church was different than it normally is. We almost always sit in the same row in the same section, so something about standing in a different part of our sanctuary – which is pretty big – caught my attention and made me think.

It was almost 13 years ago when David and I stepped in our church for the first time. It was nowhere we ever thought we’d visit, much less join, so we walked into that sanctuary with some trepidation and more than a few reservations – and we thought it would more than likely be our first and only Sunday there.

Much to our surprise, though, we visited the next Sunday. And the next. And the next. Eventually we started to call it “our” church. So not too long after Alex was born, we decided to become members – and nobody was more surprised than David and I were. We grew up together in the same Methodist church, then joined the Episcopal church after we married, so every once in awhile we’d look at each other on the way to Brook Hills and say, “Are we really BAPTISTS?” Then we’d laugh. Because even though it was not necessarily the church we’d expected to be a part of, we knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

Church life, as y’all know, can be complicated. There have been times over the last 13 years when I was so involved that I could’ve told you the extension numbers of most of the ministry assistants, and there have been times when I was so unplugged that I’ve sat in the middle of a sanctuary of 1,500 people and felt just as lonely as I could be. I’ve been challenged at our church, I’ve been broken there, I’ve been encouraged there, and to be really honest there have been a few times when I’ve been ticked off there. It’s been a place where David and I have grown in our faith and in our relationship with each other, but we’ve also sat through our fair share of Sunday mornings where the music started and the tension between the two of us was so thick that you’d need a stick of dynamite to blast through it.

Over eight years ago a young whippersnapper named David Platt began serving as our interim pastor. He promptly grabbed hold of all my well-established notions of what church was supposed to be and flipped them upside down. Honestly, there were times I’d leave church flat-out mad because he wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. One Sunday I was so unnerved that I marched right up to one of our associate pastors and said, “I mean, I GET what this new guy is saying, but I AM A MAMA WITH A TWO YEAR-OLD. What does he want me to do? Go to AFRICA or something?”

The associate pastor just laughed. And a little over a year later, when I was the mama of a three year-old, I went on my first trip with Compassion. To Africa. Because God is funny like that.

(This is where I could totally go off on a tangent about how I know our pastor is most associated with being “radical,” but the area where his leadership has impacted me more than any other is worship. And while it wasn’t a super comfortable lesson, it’s been such a good one and something that I hope / pray will continue to ripple in my heart.)

(End of tangent.)

ANYWAY.

Sunday morning we were standing in that back corner of church, and that meant that I got to see all manner of folks walk into the sanctuary. I didn’t know all of them by any stretch, but there were a lot of familiar faces: one of our associate pastor’s wives, Alex’s 4th grade teacher, his 5th grade teacher, the mom of a guy that I taught eight or nine years ago, a friend from choir (back in the day when I used to sing in the choir), a former staff member who kept the nursery during Wednesday night church way back when, and a couple of “mama friends” whose boys are Alex’s buddies.

So the music started and all of us who were there for baptisms were standing against the back windows, and I happened to be in a spot where I could see most of the sanctuary, which was full to overflowing. Alex asked if he could go stand with a friend of his, and after he found his spot and started singing, I watched those two boys stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re at least a foot taller than they were a couple of years ago – closer to being teenagers than little kids – and I thought about how many Sundays they’ve run up and down the hallways and the stairs in that place, how many trips they made out to the playground when they were younger.

It’s the only church they’ve ever known.

And as they walked down the aisle for the baptism about ten minutes later – as they found a few more of their buddies and watched their friend C share his testimony – it occurred to me that while our church is about 20 times bigger than the one where David and I grew up, Alex is just as at home in that big ole sanctuary as we were in the much smaller one with the wooden pews and the stained glass windows.

That would have been impossible for me to imagine 13 years ago.

David and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what we were doing when we first walked through the doors at our church. We were just a young married couple who knew that there was a whole lot we didn’t know, and we wanted to learn. We didn’t ever dream we’d be there this long, but God has used the people in that place – the ones we know and sometimes even the ones we don’t – to change us.

And now? To see that happening in Alex’s life, too? To see that happening in the lives of his friends?

It’s a mighty sweet thing.

And I am just all kinds of grateful.

Miss America Viewing Party – New Details

Hey everybody -

Earlier today I was thinking about how it can get difficult to follow a conversation on the blog because of all the refreshing / clicking to new pages / etc. So after getting some feedback earlier today on the Twitter, I decided to move the Miss America Viewing Party over there. I think it’ll be a lot easier to follow the conversation and keep up with everyone’s comments. We’re going to use the hashtag #ThereSheIs so we can keep up with what all of our bloggy people are saying.

Even if you don’t tweet, you can still follow the conversation. Just type #BooView in the search box in the top right corner, and all of our tweets should form their own timeline – or you can use Tweetchat and follow the hashtag there.

See y’all on the Twitter at 8 central!

Edited to add: we changed the hashtag to #BooView since the other has tag was being used by lots of folks.

17 Happy Things

1. I just found out that James Taylor will be in concert here in Birmingham in November. He is the original JT. DO YOU HEAR ME, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE?

2. There is the slightest hint of a cool breeze during the super early hours of the morning. One day it will be actual fall.

3. Tomorrow (Thursday) night my friend Heather and I are going to see NEEDTOBREATHE and The Oh Hellos. I AM JUST AS TICKLED.

4. This song by The Oh Hellos is called “Dear Wormwood.” I know I’ve linked to it before. But oh my goodness.

5. This past weekend I bought a new hairbrush, so now I get to blow-dry my hair without the threat of the brush handle twisting off. It’s the little things.

6. Last night I spoke at Mountain Brook Baptist Church here in Birmingham. It was their women’s ministry fall kick-off, and their decorations are still making me smile so big.

7. They also had a cowbell on the edge of the podium for me.

8. And there was some Mississippi State stuff in the entry decorations.

9. I felt right at home.

10. My new role at work is harder in some ways than I ever expected, but I love it so much.

11. dotMOM is next weekend in Nashville! We would love for y’all to join us in person or via simulcast. It’s always the most fun. And I can’t wait to see Melanie because we haven’t seen each other since April and five months is too long.

12. College football.

13. There’s a song called “Awesome” on Travis‘ new CD, and I listen to it at least 3 or 4 times a day. Well worth adding to your collection – and playing REALLY loud in your car.

14. The winner of Miss America’s Tuesday night talent preliminary was a ventriloquist.

15. Miss America is this Sunday night, September 14th.

16. That means we’ll have a Miss America viewing party starting at 8pm central right here on the blog.

17. Clearly I am beside myself with joy.

Family Traditions

Mama, Daddy, Martha, and five of their favorite cakes and pies arrived at our house about 4:30 Friday afternoon. Hazel wasn’t expecting any company (I must have forgotten to tell her about our weekend plans when I was serving her breakfast that morning), so as soon as Daddy opened our front door, she fully embraced the role of Ferocious Protector Dog of the Universe. She really didn’t bark as much as she hollered, and after Alex and I managed to convince her that THE VISITORS ARE NOT HERE TO HARM US, we somehow got everybody inside and relaxed and settled.

Even Hazel.

Kind of.

We were actually way overdue for a weekend visit with the grandparents. We didn’t intend for it to happen, but between deadlines and summer camps and vacations and whatnot, we weren’t in Mississippi during our summer break nearly as much as we normally are. We kept trying to find little windows for a trip here or there, but our calendars just wouldn’t cooperate. Because of that, Alex was looking forward to some time with his grandparents, not to mention that it’s been a year, probably, since Martha and I made our last trip to the Steinmarts.

(I mean, I’m not saying that the CEO of Stein Mart called me personally or anything like that, but I am saying that earth was in danger of slipping ever-so-slightly off its axis.)

(Why, just think of all the 3/4-sleeve jackets Martha might have missed! Can you imagine? I can’t even imagine! It’s just so hard to imagine!)

I cooked supper Friday night (I made this chicken and asparagus casserole, which is always a hit with Mama and Martha), and after we spent a good hour or hour and a half talking about what all the different churches in my hometown do for their 50-Plus programs and what they cook for Family Night and who spoke at their revival services and why the grass won’t grow in one patch of Martha’s yard (clearly that was a sidebar conversation), I cleaned up the kitchen and climbed in the bed at the wild and crazy hour of 9 o’clock in the PM. I felt a little shamed when I could tell that Martha could’ve talked for 2 or 2 1/2 more hours, but it had been a busy week at work, and I knew that I was going to need all my strength for our Saturday shopping.

It was not going to be my first Steinmart shopping rodeo, you understand.

Saturday morning I woke up pretty early, and after Mama, Martha, and I were all dressed and sufficiently caffeinated and ready to leave the house, Martha quickly reviewed her “like-to-find” list for the day. I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but for Martha the “like-to-find” list is an ever-evolving and changing mental document where she keeps track of various items that, well, she’d like to find when she shops. One day she might like to find a really good brand of pepper jelly, some cute Christmas napkins, and a coral-colored candle. The next day she might like to find a tea cart for her kitchen, a green lamp, and some homemade caramels. Some things stay on the like-to-find list for months before she discovers that elusive something or other, while other things only stay on the list for a few hours before my goodness! have you ever! can you even believe that I’ve found this porcelain elephant / brass dresser pull / filigree liquid soap dispenser?!?! Isn’t that perfectly wonderful? I’m just thrilled! It’s perfectly wonderful!

The like-to-find list for Saturday’s excursion was pretty simple, really: a 3/4 sleeve black knit shirt, two pink hand towels (not hot pink! not fuchsia! a soft pink! but not peach-y pink!), and some Isotoner velcro slippers. I, on the other hand, wanted to look for some clothes for work, and Mama was just happy to be along for the ride. So off we went.

Our first stop was Nordstrom Rack, and while Martha thought they had some cute things! such cute things! some really cute things!, I could tell it wasn’t really her cup of tea since Nordstrom Rack doesn’t typically carry many 3/4 sleeve jackets. I, on the other hand, found three or four cute shirts for work (I am very partial to the Pleione brand and the Daniel Rainn stuff, too), and the only way I can imagine experiencing the same level of enthusiasm that Martha felt about my purchases would be if Mississippi State were to win a national championship in football. Three years in a row.

We eventually left Nordstrom Rack, went to Kohl’s (hoping to find the elusive pink hand towels, but no), then Zaxby’s (Mama and Martha think their chicken tenders are OUT OF THIS WORLD), and then to the mothership, Stein Mart. Neither Mama nor Martha made it more than a foot inside the front doors before they were completely captivated by a display of decorative wheat, and I was so tickled that I just stood there and watched them. I have no idea if I’ll make it to my 80s or not, but if I do, I pray that I won’t be able to take more than four steps inside a Stein Mart before I am absolutely bowled over by a set of bookends or a ceramic doorstop or an artful arrangement of artificial fall leaves.

It was no time at all before Martha found a black 3/4 sleeve black knit top, at which point she looped around the store until she found me next to a rack of wide-legged pants and asked if I thought her top was too long to tuck in. As someone who has not tucked in a shirt since 2002, I didn’t feel I was qualified to rule on the tuck-in matter at hand, but Martha finally determined that it would be fine to blouse the shirt over the waistband of her pants since that would still allow for a clean line under her jacket sleeves.

So obviously I was relieved that we solved that pressing issue.

By the time we left Stein Mart we’d worn Mama out, so we ran her back to the house before we went to Target, where Martha bought a hand towel in the perfect shade of pink (not sure why she opted for one instead of two), and I bought some ketchup and a hairbrush (listen. I know that nobody cares. but I have officially crossed over to the land of TOO MANY DETAILS). Afterwards we went to the grocery store, where Martha was thrilled to find some Mrs. Meyer’s countertop spray and probably could have inspected the bulk items in the bin section for another half hour if I hadn’t needed to get home and start supper.

So then we drove home and I cooked supper and David cleaned up the kitchen and we all watched football.

And then today we ate lunch at Chuy’s. Mama ordered a grilled chicken salad that I didn’t even know Chuy’s offered (but she said it was absolutely delicious), and Martha ordered the stacked enchiladas. When they brought our food to the table, Alex leaned over to me and said, “Mama. As soon as Martie sees hers? She’s gonna say, ‘THESE PORTIONS!’” – but Martha responded with admirable reserve. She just said that it looked delicious, which it did.

Our people went home after lunch, and even though we were sad to see them go, it was mighty nice to have them here.

I just hate that Martha never found those velcro Isotoner slippers.

I guess they’ll be at the top of the like-to-find list the next time she’s here.