26 February 2016

For the Love of 35...

It's my birthday!
It's also my super-handsome hubby's birthday. We do EVERYTHING together. (kidding, I will NOT make him coffee)

I recently finished a book called For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. My friend Bridgette gave it to me- Bridgette's name is in the back of the book AND she went to Jen's house. So Kevin Bacon rules, I'm only one removed from Jen. More about Bridgette later.  The book is an hilarious, encouraging book and I read it quickly- which are pretty much my favorite things about any book (unless it's Harry Potter. #Ravenclaw4Eva)  

Jen Hatmaker is incredibly relatable...or, at least, I relate to her.

She has several chapters in the book that sort of spurred this blogpost. One on turning 40, several on giving people a break, emphasis on loving others well, and encouragement to do well with whatever it is you do.

And y'all. I talk. A lot. Anyone who's ever met me knows this. The quieter YOU are the more keenly you've felt this given my penchant for filling in the quiet spaces across a table or in a coffee shop.

So here we are. I turn 35 today. I like to talk. And today I'm gonna talk about my friends. Because they fill me up and I want to make sure they know that.

***DISCLAIMER*** If you do not find your name in this blogpost it has nothing to do with me not loving you.*** If you want to feel love, I would encourage you to write your OWN notes and (whether you include me or not HA!) see if it doesn't make you feel like you've been dunked in a big pot of grateful soup. There's just no way to cover everyone. This was the one thing holding me back from writing this that I might hurt someone by omission. But as Jen emphasizes in her chapter on turning 40, you own you better by the time you're 40. And even though I'm 5 years shy, I just want to own these notes to the ones here. Much love to everyone else who came and by golly I hope some of you turn around and speak love to others.

This is gonna be long. But I don't even care. It's my birthday. So there.

First. Family.

Heather Ann (aka-Heathas) I just love you. I never ever get tired of being around you or all of your people. I am SO glad you and Zach went for the 4 kids thing. Makes my 5 seem like we were both prewired for crazy because instead of "And my sister has 2" I say "and my sister has 4." See? Just one off from Crazy, Level: 5.  I love that you are learning Spanish and Interior Design. Not sure why God dumped EVERY ONE of the musical genes in our pool into your DNA code, but I could never be jealous of the way you give your voice and music back to the Lord. Your heart for people and readiness to love others makes me wanna be like you (even though I'll never be as old as you. Hanging on to my gray hair and those 20months that separate us like a grandma and her pantyhose.) Speaking of old, we are gonna never need medicine when we're old and widows and live together because laughter is the best medicine. And sister, you keep me doubled over.

Mama- The older I get the more I realize I am like you. And not because of our obsession with green grass and that I talk way too much in church like you; I remain confounded that I did NOT inherit your ability to teach people. Particularly small people. So glad you're coming for a month because all 5 need tutoring. I have more blind spots than I realize (hence, a blindspot) but I like to think that I see potential in people and aren't scared of hard things or loving difficult people and I think I watched you to gain some of that fearlessness. I may like curry more than you now, but I watched you down that pumpkin soup in Trinidad because you loved those people and it made a difference. Thanks for putting up with me and for putting me in the 3rd grade class you did because you thought the teacher would appreciate my "creative messes." You and I know it made a huge difference...possibly even changing the skin color of your grandchildren...that now crawl around my creatively messy craft room. (and by "craft room" I of course mean "my house.")

  Mom- Goodness where do I start? First thank you dearly for that handsome son of yours that you managed to birth ON my birthday one year BEFORE my birthday. You truly are one of the best gift-givers ever! How can I top a husband for a birthday gift? Never. I should just quit now. It stands as the greatest. The Lord has taught me so much through our relationship and I come out grateful every time. I'm grateful to have rejoiced with you and wept with you. You could let the distance on earth keep us at a distance from your heart, but you don't and that is just huge. I forgot to thank my mom for this too, but thank you SO much for supporting our life. For seeing stopovers and 30 hour trips just to get to our front door as an adventure and not an impossibility. Its made a huge difference for us and the kids. We love you forever. Oh...and thanks in particular for those Puccio genes you passed to Ivy. That kid is ten kinds of cute running around with her Grandma's nose. 

Jennifer- I have no clue if you know that I think this about you (but, duh, it's why I'm writing this kind of stuff) but I find it absolutely incredible that just 11 months after the Lord took my little sister home to heaven, he effortlessly brought another sister into my life. Not that you are a substitute, but you and your kids are living breathing proof that God is gracious and good if we'll look to him and be thankful- even in the midst of our sorrow. I wish every time that I had more time with you. You are as easy to be around as your brother and I keep hoping that somehow that ease of personality will somehow rub off on me...no? Keep hard at it Mama. Kyle and Katie are rockin' kids and much of that is due to you and your fierce love for them. Love you seester!

Michelle- In every way you are family. You cry way too much and I ADORE that about you. You embraced my kids and never blinked. Your love for all "your kids" and every person you've pulled through your door and around your kitchen table astounds and humbles and teaches me. You may not be "blood" but we all know there are more ways to family than blood.

Martha- Every time I'm with you I am grateful that I have even a smidge of proper upbringing. You know so many things about being proper and are so smart and so wise that I keep you close, hoping all of that will become part of me by osmosis. Your girls are darling- even more so in how individually God created each of them- and I hope hope hope that the continents between us won't affect Isaac and Lizzie being the closest cousins in age or Birdie and Mary Grace being best cousin friends. Thanks for loving my cousin. I geek out when I think about how perfectly suited you are for each other. BTW- our day of Mennonite quilt shows and homemade pie might be one of my favorite memories ever. EVER.

Onto the friends- These might be shorter. We'll have to see.
I'll start on this continent (ok. dividing it by continents probably means it won't be short. I don't even care y'all!)

Angie- You are just the best. You listen and you let me decorate your house and you love my kids and you let me love your kids. "Work" relationships are some of the hardest around and for the thousandth time, I'm SO grateful that you are funny and not weird or hard to deal with. Seriously. You eat my Christmas duck and sit there for the entire length of our pedicures while it takes me that long to choose a color...and you never complain. (at least to my face) Even when my latest antics involve getting you to be a cheerleading coach with me. (It'll be fun. Promise.)

 Hayley- Your constant friendship- despite the fact that my hand phone NEVER works...(I currently can't find part of it after Ira threw it on the floor and I'm not even joking and you totally know I'm not) and you have to send me messages through fb messenger- is such a bright spot in my world. I am WAY too excited about your babies going to school with mine next year. I love that God brought you into my life from that southern tip of Africa. Your garden, your books being published, your knowledge and passion of the rules of rugby... I don't feel dumber around you because of your accomplishments, I feel grateful and inspired. Please start a horse riding club at school...though I am a farm girl, my kids have a much better chance at learning that from you. (BTW- I want to suscribe to that aloe heat gel you gave me. I'll let you know when the bottle is getting low.)

Jenny, Sherin, and Viv- Am I allowed to group you? (Yes. My blog post, my rules.) The fact that you're from 3 different continents doesn't stop me in the least from grouping you either. I love you individually, of course... but in my soul I know that the Lord brought each of us from our corners of the globe to be a part of each others' lives. I see all of your families and I think, "They give my kids a run for their money on the 'Cutest kids Ever' title." And it has everything to do with their Mamas. In your own circles you ladies are the Light of the World and Cities on Hills. Each of you has individually and collectively challenged my view of how it is we are to go about influencing the world in the name of Jesus. I don't want any of your giftings or talents -though they are enviable- I just want you, every one of you, in my world, always. I get hives when I consider the expat existence and thinking of you ladies separate from here. We say it like a broken record, but I need more coffee with y'all. I laugh so much and love so much around a table with you. (y'all should all move to my side of town...just sayin') Count on me to be the one praying for staying power. And if you move, I'm gonna bring my whole tribe with me and not even apologize for it when I stay in your homes. Love you!

Jodie- When I think of things that add color to my world, you are on my list friend. You are so kind and so laid back... and how you pair that with the deep passion I sense in you befuddles me. You've seen my behavior around a card table and still talk to me. Why? (don't answer that...don't even ask yourself that) Thank you for being a creative friend. I think we both know that I don't really care as much as I let on about the fingerpaint on my white kitchen chairs, the silly string still stuck to the outside of my house, or the millions of tiny floating styrofoam balls that litter my yard from your "Christmas gift." ... how could I lament the affects of having such a friendship as yours? I BROKE YOUR SEWING MACHINE and have kept it for like over 6 months and yet you still write me and ask about my life with all patience and gentleness. Sometimes when people stare at me carrying my black baby through the grocery store, knowing you are doing the same- in Asia- is enough to get me through the checkout line and not deck the kid who asks ridiculously inappropriate questions.
How I landed you as a friend is surely the Lord's doing and I am grateful. In your next house you can count on my help to washi-tape your walls. 

Anna- I want to be like you so much. Probably because you remind me so much of Jesus. (And you're rolling your eyes and thinking of your shortcomings right now while reading this I just know it.)  But I stand my ground. You encourage me in a dozen ways with just a facebook picture of your family. And the fact that you totally took me up on my offer to stay at my house- TWICE -with your family of (then) 5 kids means the world to me. You and yours and me and mine around one large- very very large- table is enough to give me all the feels. I want to be on the manuscript-reading-team of your book when you write it and I also want a signed copy. Come back and stay at my house ASAP. #15UnderOneRoof

April- Could I have had babies in Asia without you? No. No I couldn't. Your fierce determination to make things work and the effort and thoughtfulness you put into your parenting- and your life in general- make me up my game every time I think of it. I needed a strong friend to navigate this continent and whether or not you think it, God gave me you. Not laying eyes on you since your youngest was born doesn't even matter. You are my people and I cannot wait for you to interpret for us when we come visit you...I'm counting on you getting us a discount at the Great Wall (do you have to pay for that?) 

Shana- So. Much. Sass. I vacillate between wanting you to move to my city and keeping our in-person contact to once a year. I think my dining table would greatly benefit from you and yours sitting around it, but I know you would be able to bring your A-game with the wittiness and I just don't think I have the sustainability to keep up if it's more than once or twice a year. Why I wrote YOU to get thoughts on having "one more biological" (which meant a total of 5 kids) to the lady who says without blinking, "We've always said 6" must mean I have lost my ever-lovin'-mind. I hope George and Ivy will live long and happy together seeing as how she can attribute her existence to your advice (you are more than welcome to hang that over her head for as long as they both shall live). Thanks for your faith- it's worn off on me and I am grateful. Keep at the nit-picking, kiddo. (I mean lice. Not nagging. But you knew that)

Shazrina- Do you even know that you are one of the reasons I moved to Malaysia? Your friendship means the world to me and it has fundamentally changed my perspective on the world. I can be a "western Christian" girl AND live in a majority Muslim country AND love it. We prove all the haters wrong, ye ke? Thanks for taking me on as a friend all those years ago. Thanks for coming to see my baby in the hospital and including me in your adorable growing family AND in your extended family. Seeing the way you "grown kids" have fun together makes me excited about the years to come when my Littles get Big. Love you forever, friend.

...and making my way part way around the world....

Andie- I don't even care that I haven't seen your face in nearly 2 years. I'm determined to find property in Yarm and drink tea (possibly even warm tea) and have a great conversation with you every day if its the last thing I do. By the time we're 70 I think we could hash out the world's problems...maybe even before then? You are just something else, friend. I'm sitting here amazed at how not one woman listed so far is like another...and I think you would be similarly amazed and thankful and that's why I love you.  Stuff about little, big things that matter to life and faith and not ignoring them or undervaluing them... plus a good bit of Yanks and Brits comparisons... you opened your heart and home and family to us and it was just so easy to reciprocate. Mark your calendar for 2019... you bring the girls and Dom to Disney (you never age out of Disney, that's the brilliance of it) and I'll try not to start speaking with a British accent as we spend loads of time together. Miss you friend. You can count on me cheering you and yours on from wherever me and mine are.

...and now across the pond to 'merica....

Julia Roberts- We go back the farthest I think. I think a novel written about our small friendship would be a lovely thing to read- not super exciting necessarily, but when I step back and look at the whole of it (and we're not even done!) I see the Lord's hand keeping our hearts within range of each other and it moves me. If our one day at Disney (6 years ago, to the day!) together sans kids, and that week in Ecuador is any indication, we need to plan a joint family vacation. I'm already laughing about jokes Paul and Anthony haven't even made yet! Not having you and yours regularly around my table here is one of those things that makes me saddest if I think of it too long. So when you DO walk through my door and you have that crazy-eyed "I've-just-been-on-a-plane-for-far-too-long-somebody-get-me-a-xanax" look on your face, my world will fall together a little better then. Keep being that type of woman who people come to for help. I know it's exhausting, but it is a gift and you are getting better and wiser at it. People know you love them and they're not afraid to show their true selves to you...warts and all. I want people to know I love them like that and watching y'all lean in to people's hurt teaches me loads- plus, if/when my world ever comes crashing down, I know who I'm calling. #EntradaSinGratis

Cara Jane Hill- I think I wonder in awe at how mature you've been since the day I met you.  I can't put my finger on why I love you so much- maybe it's too many things? All I know is your soul feels old and comfortable to me, like how Grandma's pearls are meaningful and gorgeous and hold their value always- that's the image our friendship is in my mind (with a heavy side of good food and a shared appreciation of hours in a dentist's chair as children/teens/adults) and I'm surprised we only met in college because it feels longer than that. You are smart and sassy and tender and compassionate all at once. I am THRILLED about your new husband. You know this, but please, bring him to our house. (You get to share a room this time! Yesss.) I will even let you make my children pb&j's that defy the laws of physics by how much each slice can hold...and just giggle along with you knowing we're both thinking the same thing. Love you forever Beefa.

Danielle- Funny how you think you're just trying to find someone to help pay the rent and not be a psychopath in the next room... and you come out with one of the sweetest friendships ever! There was no chance we couldn't bond over that many rolls of toilet paper in our trees over a 3 year time frame. That's the trenches of friendship, I tell ya. You are one of the hardest workers I've ever known and it humbles me and makes me grateful for the chance to do what needs to be done...because that's what Danielle would do if she were here. And it's not even an issue as to if a Disney vacation is the best kind of vacation... we KNOW it is. 

Candi- (I refuse to call you Candice. I do not care how grown up you think you are.) How is it that beauty, brains, faith, and a sense of humor can be wrapped up into a package as lovely as you? What's our average in seeing each other? Once every 5.5 years? Does it change my love for you? Not a chance, friend. The thing is, I am nowhere NEAR as classy as you. And I don't even care because I am so sure of your love for me. Your ability to put your whole heart into loving who you love is why I take my place in your heart readily and give you a spot in mine. And I will never ever get over how similar your life is to the movie Legally Blonde. It only makes you more dear. Thanks for being you.

Olga, Kim, and Julia Roberts- Another group because you are yet, another group in my heart. I love you collectively as much as I love you individually. The way you use your unique individual gifts makes the lot of you my favorites. Maybe we can ask God to put our seats near each other in heaven? I keep trying to write the next sentence but I just keep laughing. There's at least a thousand thoughts about all of you and I can't put even one of them down because the next one is funnier...and we don't even live in the same time zone most of the time...heck, we don't live in the same day half the time! I don't get a lot of time with you, but it's awesome when I do. Tonight for my birthday to have you three at my table eating all my chocolate chip cookies and bringing up Nacho Libre lines at all the exact right moments would have meant everything to me. (Great. Now I'm crying. Thanks a lot.)  Please come see me. Just sayin'.

Lacy- God's grace and the way his kingdom works makes complete and total sense when I'm near you. I do not care a lick how much you can or can't remember about specific bible passages (or that it gets on your nerves that you can't remember) because you love me. And you love others. And you love the Lord. And by my reckoning, loving God and loving others is the whole kit and caboodle and you've got it down. I wish you could come and sit in front of me at our church here. We would laugh and get in trouble because this sanctuary is much smaller than Bowling Green and everyone would hear us. Just know friend, that every time I tweeze those chin hairs out in the car line in Malaysia that I am thinking of you. And most of the time I laugh....really hard...about you getting jalapeno oil on your face that one time when you had to get out of the car line. I love every moment when I see you and heaven is gonna be a BLAST, isn't it?!!

- This post is your fault, you know. (thanks for the book! Do I pretend that hand-written signed "Merry Christmas! Love Jen" in the front cover is really from her to me? Yes. Maybe I do.) I'm not sure when you found your way deep in my heart but here you are. It runs deeper than you satisfying my need for home improvement projects and letting me live vicariously through your Betsy-the-House projects. You are wise and lovely beyond your years dear. You have so much common sense. Not just with money or DIY furniture paint color choices. But with life and faith and how the two come together. This world is losing its mind and God is good to have given me you as a friend. I am hopeful with you that your family photos will be as varied as ours are... you letting God build your family helps me stand firmer on how he built mine. In general I just feel less crazy when I'm around you and how could I not love you for that? #GrayWalls4Eva

Ok. If I don't publish this thing now, it won't even register as being written on my birthday. I don't even care that I don't have a picture on this one. The images of you ladies and memories and feelings and laughter and crying and more laughter filled my mind enough as I wrote it. Thanks for making my birthday awesome- and for letting me talk your ears off through my blog.

Y'all are the best! xo-the Birthday Girl


  1. I can't believe I waded all the way through this and did not see my name :) Who else cleaned up after you in Ecuador. Seriously though, Happy Birthday to both you and Anthony. I truly enjoyed reading this post and I love the way you describe your friendships. It blessed me to see you blessing these wonderful ladies. May your 35 year be your best year ever and may God continue to awe and amaze you as you walk this journey of life out.

  2. Such a sweet post to write on your birthday!

    I am the opposite of "wordy", and my favorite line from Jen's book is "Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus." I think you do this amazingly well, and I have learned so much from you in the last few years we have known each other.

    Thank you for all of the adoption advice, encouragement, prayers, decorating tips, and for getting me hooked on IKEA*. I'm ready for another Hobby Lobby/JoAnns/Andy's Igloo run next time you are on this side of the world. ❤️

    *Craig does not thank you for this last point. He refers to IKEA as the "Rat Maze" and complains every time I even mention a trip.

  3. I live in Bowling Green and I know your mom and dad. I was their mail lady for years. They are the best of the best people. I enjoyed reading your blog. Every time you were describing your friends and loved ones, I thought of some one in my life that has been there for me. Thanks for letting me take a glimpse of your family. They are great. I pray that keeps on blessing your family.