Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Splintered Flash of Grace

Image source
Regarding experience and what it means for hospitality, from the book Radical Hospitality, by Lonni Collins Pratt:

Letting ourselves believe that our experience constitutes normality and that other ways of doing life are abnormal is delusional and dangerous (pg 105).

and later:

When we hold tightly to a worldview in which our experience is at the center, we live small lives. If we don't consider the ramifications of such a life we can easily slip into suspicion, misunderstanding, and prejudice of strangers -- those who do not meet our standard of 'normal' (pg.111).

God has been repeating this truth to me over and over, clear as day, lately. I don't know that I've ever heard Him so clearly on anything before. Well, except for when He assured me that He would mold Mr. Ford into the man that would become my husband. He is faithful!

But what these quotes reflect, and what I have been discovering from other conversations, things I've read, and time seeking God on the true meaning of hospitality, is that we MUST be open to hearing the stories and the experiences of "the other". (No, not "The Others", from "The Island"...calm down LOST fanatics.) But "the other", meaning anyone who is not you. No two experiences are the same and that is as it should be. But we cannot fall into the trap of believing that OUR experience is the correct one or the normal one. When we do that, we cut off our ability to fully, deeply, and truly love. We must dare to believe that "the other's" experience -- their story -- has something to teach us; that by opening up to those stories, we are in essence opening ourselves up to the Grand Story that God is telling through each individual person and that He has been telling from the beginning of time.

That's not to say that it is easy. It's a HARD thing. There is a sense of security in believing that everyone else's experiences are, or ought to be, like mine. But it is a false sense of security. Allowing other's experiences to be valid, rather than invalidating them by calling them "abnormal", is scandalous, actually. It opens us up to a greater capacity to be hurt, to be taken advantage of, to be walked on. It is grace. But what you discover as you slowly, tiny piece by tiny piece, begin to allow other's into your heart, your life and to really let them feel about a situation however they feel about it (rather than imposing how YOU would feel about that situation on THEM) is a thin place. Holiness begins to seep through the cracks and explode you wide open. I am beginning to experience these moments, here and there. They are glimpses of the Holy. And I find myself feeling, in those moments, more compassion, less anger, and the beginnings of a deeper understanding of the love that I think 1 Corinthians 13 is really speaking of.

Pratt says it so eloquently, so beautifully:

You will be tucking a child into bed, or pouring a second cup of coffee for you neighbor, or sharing a breadstick with your friend. You will be trying to know what is holy in us all and wondering how to be known by the Holy. You will have read a few books and maybe taken a workshop. You will have spent some time with people reputed to be experts on the subject of hospitality. You will wing it more often than not.
And then that splinter of light will get through the great mysterious confusion, who knows when or where or why, and grace will sneak up on you and you will know, if only for a splintered flash of a second, you will know that your trying is making a difference and your trying is enough (pp. 125-126).

Oh, that I might never stop trying, if only for those splintered flashes! 
 



Monday, November 5, 2012

"Eshet Chayil!"

I recently finished reading Rachel Held Evans' fantastic new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. It's a memoir about the year she spent attempting to take as many of the Bible's instructions to women to their literal, and sometimes absurd, extremes. She does this to posit that perhaps there is no one definition for "Biblical Womanhood" and that maybe, just maybe, that's okay. That maybe, because the roles of women throughout Scripture, are as varied as they are today, there is no one size fits all mold for "Biblical Womanhood". I found the book funny, disarming,  encouraging, and empowering.

There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the release of this tome, both negative and positive, from all kinds of people that agree and disagree with her theology, hermeneutics, ideas, methods, what-have-you. What I don't want to do is outline where and why I agree or disagree with what she proposes in the book (though by my use of the qualifying adjective "fantastic" you can probably infer where I might fall in that particular discourse).

What I do want to do, however, is tell you how reading her book has encouraged me, and even empowered me, as a woman. Yes, I just used the word "empowered" for the second time.

Far and away, my favorite chapter in the book was the chapter on "Valor". In it, she takes on the Proverbs 31 Woman. If you've grown up anywhere even tangentially near the evangelical church you KNOW about the Proverbs 31 Woman. If you're a woman, you know you are supposed to be just like her. If you're a man, you know you're supposed to marry a woman just like her. So Rachel decided to take to the literal extreme, the general idea that has more or less been championed regarding the Proverbs 31 Woman: she made it a checklist of things to do, that one must accomplish in order to be a good woman. And 14 days into it, she writes "the Proverbs 31 Woman had made me feel guilty, inadequate, and poor" (p. 85). I thought that was Pinterst's job...

In order to try to understand this passage of Scripture better, she turned to a Jewish woman, and rabbi's wife, Ahava. Ahava told her that the phrase that is usually translated "a wife of noble character", or "eshet chayil" in the Hebrew, is actually better translated "a woman of valor". Ahava also told Rachel that her husband calls her an "eshet chayil" at every Sabbath meal, and sings the Proverbs 31 poem (because that's what it is, a poem) to her. This is a fairly common Jewish custom, apparently. The MEN are the ones who memorize the passage, not the women. The MEN sing it over their wives as a blessing, because as Rachel writes, "Eshet chayil is at it's core a blessing - one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally" (p.88). I mean...how liberating does that feel? Sit with that a minute. 

What we've done, as Rachel writes, is
...abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description. [T]he woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor (pp.89-90).
But oh my goodness, how much do you love the truth of it?! Ladies, do you hear this? Becoming like the Proverbs 31 Woman is not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it - with valor (paraphrased from p. 95)! After telling her husband Dan about this, he began to shout "Woman of Valor" to her whenever he wanted to bless her for something she did. Like, clean out the guest room closet. And then she also found that blessing the women in her life with it was incredibly powerful and encouraging. 

I was so buoyed up by this idea and have kind of been floating on the liberating feeling of it and the power of the blessing of "Eshet Chayil"! I shared this with Mr. Ford and the first time he called me a Woman of Valor after a particularly grueling day working with 3 little ones, I nearly burst. And I began to think about all of the incredible, brave, strong, valorous women in my life and felt an overwhelming urge to run around shouting "Eshet Chayil" over all of them, because I want them to feel empowered to continue to live out their Womanhood in the valorous ways that they ALREADY are. So I'm just gonna do that right here on my little blog. 

To my sister, Sarah, who has had to be brave in ways I will never have to be...
Eshet Chayil!

To my mother-in-love, Colleen, who raised the man I am undeservedly allowed to spend my life with, along with some really fantastic brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law, and who has encouraged and blessed me in untold ways...
Eshet Chayil!

To my sister-in-love, Elizabeth, who is raising my incredible nephew as a single mother and bravely being his champion...
Eshet Chayil!

To my other sister-in-love, Gina, who raised two sweet girls to adulthood and is now bravely raising two more sweet girls...
Eshet Chayil!

To my other other sister-in-love, Stephanie, who spent years studying and working hard to become a successful pharmacist...
Eshet Chayil!

To my Grandma Maybell, who never had an easy life but always had a smile and who, even at the very end, was more concerned about the people she loved most and their well-being than her own...
Eshet Chayil!

To my Grandma Howell, who waited patiently for the love of her life to come home from the war to marry him and who followed him all over the country as he planted churches and who raised 6 kids in the midst of all that...
Eshet Chayil!

To my Grandma Pat, who fought and conquered her battle with breast cancer...
Eshet Chayil!

To my Aunt Cindy, who is a friend and encouragement to me and a bad-ass who runs mad crazy relay races and marathons...
Eshet Chayil!

To (one of) my other other Mommas, Debbie, who has had to do what no mother should ever have to and buried her daughter, but continues to valorously seek God and rest in His peace...
Eshet Chayil!

To (one of) my other Mommas, Lynn, who is a Momma to all that walks through her door and loves each one fiercely...
Eshet Chayil!

To (one of) my other Mommas, Dena, who has been the one I turn to when I can't get ahold of my own Mom and who graciously allowed her daughter and I to take over her living room every weekend so we could learn the dances in Newsies and who taught me to love a good harmony and Les Mis...
Eshet Chayil!

To my Aunt Tennie, who has raised and home-schooled 5 of the kindest and most generous children (whom I count as sisters and brother) and who can write a mean note of blessing and encouragement...
Eshet Chayil!

To my best friend, Kate, who has never stopped pursuing her dream and who is working on her PhD and who has been the true meaning of iron sharpening iron for me for the better part of my life...
Eshet Chayil!

To my roommate, Kristi, who even though she is a homebody, bravely moved with her husband to England and has flourished and done so well in her job there and who has taught me so much...
Eshet Chayil!

To my roommate, Leah, who never stopped taking steps to make herself a better teacher, including moving to Russia for a year, until she achieved her dream - her own classroom - and become one of the favorite teachers at her school and who also has allowed me to learn what it means to mourn with those  who mourn...
Eshet Chayil!

To my SisterFriend, Andi, who has bravely prayed for and forgiven those who have hurt her and shown me what it really means to have a ministry of reconciliation...
Eshet Chayil!

To my cousin, Heide, who is raising triplet girls and a single boy, and who is acting CEO of one of the craziest, busiest, most generous families you will ever have the privilege of knowing and who knows how to savor every complex flavor of joy there is to be found in life...
Eshet Chayil!

To an acquaintance, Joanna, who has also had to do the unthinkable and bury her daughter and has fought tirelessly and valiantly everyday since to carry out her daughter's wish of raising awareness and finding a cure for childhood cancer...
Eshet Chayil!

To my cousin-in-love, Miranda, who spends half of her time as a single mother while her husband travels for work to support them and who has stood by my cousin through some really tough times and who has become an absolute treasure to our whole family in such a short time...
Eshet Chayil!

To my mentor, Brenda, who has been a fiercely loving mother to her kids and a fiercely loving wife to her husband and a fiercely loving follower of Christ and who has been an example for me in more ways than she can know...
Eshet Chayil!

To my kindred spirit, Hanna, who is relentlessly chasing her dream of becoming a writer and who has been creative and resourceful to support that dream in the meantime and who has creative talent oozing out her pores...
Eshet Chayil!

And to my mom, Ruth, who has been a champion for my sister and I our entire lives, who has been a caretaker and nurturer for more people than any of us could ever count, who has shown me how to love a husband fiercely and without end, who has seen more, experienced more, and dealt with more than I will ever truly know, and who is maybe the most valorous woman I know...
Eshet Chayil!

And to you...yes, you...whoever you may be, reading this. Someone I know that I may have foolishly forgotten, or someone I don't know...whatever it is that you are doing with valor, keep doing it...
Eshet Chayil!

I am proud to be counted worthy enough to know these great women of valor and I, for one, am "taking back" the Proverbs 31 Woman for what she truly is - a woman of valor. And that, and that alone, is the standard she offers me by which to measure myself. 

And men, take notice if you have a Valorous Woman in your life, a true Proverbs 31 Woman. Doesn't have to be your wife. She doesn't even have to be married to be valorous. Won't you let her know that she has blessed you with her valor?

What about you? Who are the Women of Valor in your life? Will you bless them today and speak Eshet Chayil into their lives? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bread & Wine

Have you heard of Shauna Niequist?

Better yet, have you read Shauna Niequist?

I recently discovered her and her way with words and her heart which so clearly echoes my own.

My husband bought her first book, Cold Tangerines, for me to read on our anniversary trip last month and what I found in the pages of that book was a soul sister who loves a good story, good food, good conversation, and good friends and family. I mean, she studied English and French in college. We're basically kindred spirits. 

As a small sample of how IN MY HEAD AND HEART she really is:

I'm not a doctrinarian, mostly because for me, doctrine is not the thing that God has used to change my life. I'm a reader and a storyteller, and God chose literature and story and poetry as the languages of my spiritual text.     ~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, pg.24

I mean. Hello. Yes, yes, and yes.

That book gave me lots to chew on and I have a whole host of things to say, inspired by her words, but I'll save those for another time. 

The point is, I kinda have a friend crush on her now and in order to feed that in the healthiest of ways, of course, I started to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. And Instagram. Don't judge me. As a result of my fan-girl-ness, I discovered she is writing a new book, to be released in April of 2013, called Bread & Wine. It's going to be a collection of essays combined with recipes and the whole idea is that we come to the table, and we break bread and drink wine and tell stories, communing with one another and with Jesus, and we find the Kingdom there. We meet all manner of holiness there.

This idea of hospitality and stories and bread and wine around a table has been creeping it's way into my bones for sometime now and I am allowing it to inform the way I move through my day. This communion in and with God in the everyday is becoming my "why". So I'm waiting with great anticipation for the release of Shauna's new book. 

Imagine, then, my delight when she put out an all-call for recipe testers for it! I immediately jumped at the chance for a number of reasons. I love to cook and try new recipes, the idea of being a part of the publishing process in some way thrills me, the idea of being a part of Shauna's book appealed to me, and quite frankly, she said we'd get our name in the book if we were chosen. So...yeah. No shame. :)

Oh, and I was chosen. I squealed and did a happy dance. And then made plans to test it out for Mr. Ford and for my parents.

Me using a grill for the first time ever! I know, I know...

The completed dish.


Our table complete with wine.

And basically, what happened that night, was what I imagine is exactly the kind of thing Shauna is hoping to encourage with this book. My parents, my husband and I came to the table together, where we told stories and shared delicious food (because, yes, this dish was spectacular and if it's any indication of what the rest of her recipes are like, I will be cooking my way through the book) and drank wine and we met Jesus there and in one another. 

We talked about the church and where it has been, where it is, and where we see it going. Mr. Ford and I shared with my parents the vision, the dream, the passion we have for what our place in the future of the church might be, what our generation's place might be. We talked about family and some of the joys and fears and ups and downs we've experienced together over the last several years. We welcomed a deeper communion with one another and we welcomed the One from whom all ability to have any kind of communion comes. We welcomed the gifts, the grace, the eucharisteo of bread, wine, community, and Jesus.

And I walked away feeling like I'd just had church there, at my parent's table, the four of us together. 

So, Shauna, if you happen to read this, just know that your book, this heart on paper you've worked so hard to get out, it's already having a great impact, and accomplishing what I imagine it is you've set out for it to accomplish. And it hasn't even hit shelves yet. I can not thank you enough for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this project. I eagerly await it's completion and fully expect the Lord to do a great work through it and at my table because of it. 

There's not much more in life I need but good food, good friends and family, good stories, and my good God. Yup. That about covers it.

 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Holy Ground

Photo by Jill DeVries

Mr. Ford and I are celebrating our first anniversary this weekend.

I tried several times to come up with words that were worthy of marking this year. None were sufficient.

So I'm just going to keep this one for us. That's how it should be anyway.

This year has been a holy experience and I am taking off my shoes and experiencing this holy moment and walking this holy ground with my husband and our God and we are keeping it for ourselves.

God is good. God is faithful. His grace abounds.

We are off to Tahoe to reflect together on our first year and to seek God's vision together for our next year. We will raise our Ebenezer there together and come home, ready to walk into our next year with great expectations and anticipation.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Adventures and Expectations

Image Source

September has begun and has brought with it a mental shift to all things Fall. To be sure, I'm dreaming of oranges, reds, and yellows, burlap, all things pumpkin flavored, and I've already begun planning my menu for my very first Thanksgiving as hostess! (I know, I know, but I'm excited, okay? It's like a rite of passage as a housewife, for me.) 

But September has also ushered in a heavy sense of expectation. Not heavy, like, "Whoa, dude...that's heavy". But more like SO much expectation that it's...heavy. Like the only response is to turn my hands palms up, ready to receive whatever it is the Lord wants to place there. I have this feeling that He has some pretty rad adventures lying in wait for us and there is nothing I love more than adventuring with Mr. Ford. I feel like He probably has some brutiful moments to hand us...the kind where the brutal and the beautiful collide and there you find Him and His love in their rawest and purest forms. I'm fairly certain that He has some big changes coming our way, changes that we may not fully come to realize for awhile yet, but they will be set in motion this Fall. I just have a sense of great things to come and I'm ready for them.

We celebrate our first anniversary this month. Maybe that has something to do with it. When we got married, we committed to one another to spend our first year focusing on this fledgling, delicate, new thing we had just given birth to. It was probably the best thing we could have done for ourselves, not taking on any new commitments outside of the single most important one we'd just made. A lot happened in our first year and the Lord was so good to us to know what was coming and gave us the right people at the right time to counsel us to make this commitment. There were many storms that raged around us during that first year, external circumstances that caused us to move closer to one another and to the Lord, in a way that I don't think would have been possible had we not made the commitment to take that year to be wholly present with one another. And I think we are both feeling greatly strengthened and refreshed and like we know who we are as a team and ready to move forward into the dreams that the Lord has given us for our lives and our marriage. We know who we are, individually and as a couple, we have a good sense of the purpose God has breathed into our marriage, and we are ready to walk into it. The Fall has been a starting point for everything in our life together...our first date, our wedding, and now...well. The rest of our life together! 

I've taken claim to these lyrics of a popular worship song:

"I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith. I see a near revival, stirring as we pray and seek. We're on our knees."

I truly believe that Mr. Ford and I are on the front lines of that generation. At least, that's our heart's desire, one that I know comes from the Lord Himself. We are on our knees, hands open, praying and seeking, as this Fall begins. We are eager and willing to take our place and to accept whatever brutiful adventures on which our Jesus wants to send us. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Club

Image Source (and Book Club Source)

I, Mrs. Ford, English Major, have joined a book club.

Not all that shocking, I guess, but news nonetheless.

It's an online book club that I found through a blogger, Edie, I follow, who also, coincidentally, is good friends with my Aunt out in Tennessee. Edie is a strong believer and advocate for reading and reading the classics, which just speaks to my little soul.

I have been aching for discussions on literature, one of the things I miss most desperately about my time in college. And I've toyed with the idea of joining a book club, but most book clubs. that I know of at least, aren't...well...they aren't reading the classics, I'll put it that way. I've been feeling a pull back to them but was struggling to find the motivation and the incentive to go back. And then Edie announced this new online book club and my heart soared. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I will not be asked to read 50 Shades of Grey...and that's the kind of confidence I want in a book club I join. 

She's doing a chronological approach, so we're starting with The Odyssey by Homer, for September. I've read it before, but it deserves a re-read when I'm not also trying to read three other books for other classes. It deserves some undivided attention and focus. And that's what Edie is really trying to accomplish with this kind of book club. She doesn't want to shy away from the difficult classics for the very reason many do...they require focus and effort, which is something we are sorely lacking in our age of social networks, tweets, and instant information. Ironically, that "information" is often meaningless and empty, so very unlike a classic like The Odyssey. Your high school English teacher wants you to read these books for a reason, and it's not to torture you. 

To begin the discussion she offered this article from the LA Times (it's a few years old, but every bit as relevant now...if not more so) on "The Lost Art of Reading" and holy cow. Sing the song of my people, please. I have serious thoughts and musings on this kind of stuff and the "why" behind reading fiction and the classics that is intertwined with, and cannot be separated from, my life as a Christ Follower and my God-given ministry of reconciliation. That may be a subject for another post, but I will offer you this quote from the article that kind of sums up what I mean by that:

[T]he ability to still my mind long enough to inhabit someone else's world, and to let that someone else inhabit mine. Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being.

Chew on that for awhile, then let's talk. Seriously.

Anyway, I'm really excited about this. If you're looking for the same kind of challenging (and life-changing) literature in a book club forum, join me, join us! And let me know if you are. It'll do your heart, mind, and soul some good.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Basement Dwelling

Y'all, I've moved to the basement. 

I've watched all this Chick-Fil-A mess unfold in recent days with an ever-increasing heart-sickness and it came to an incredibly noisy din yesterday that left me utterly heart-broken. 

But then I found a light in all of it, a quietness that gave me hope. This blog post:


followed by this one yesterday:


And I joined her in the basement.

I beg you to read these. And to consider them in your hearts. Then, if you want to sit and have coffee with me, and weather the storm, and try to find a way to calm the storm, and find a way to help those battered by the storm, come down and join us basement-dwellers. We've got our work cut out for us.

In the meantime, basement-dwelling husband and I are headed to Santa Maria for the weekend. This weekend getaway could not have come at a better time. 

Love and peace to you all.


PS - Incidentally, the author of the Basement Manifestos graduated from my own alma mater. God Bless OBU. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saved and Being Saved


This is my contribution to Sarah Bessey's synchroblog on "What is saving your life right now?" 

So many things save me, every day.

11 pounds of unconditional, curled-up-next-to-my-leg-as-tightly-as-possible, love.

A little boy saying, "Ms. Ashley. I like you. I like when you come to my house."

The rise and fall of another little boy's ecstatic giggle when I offer him an Otter Pop.

Novels that wreck me in just the right way and then put me back together in a wholly unexpected fixing.

No JAB.

The people we meet with every Monday evening.

A blogging community that stretches my heart and mind in ways I never thought I would be stretched...ways that are painful, annoying, and beautiful.

Relationships once thought to be lost, but are found again.

Weekends to celebrate with family, adding to family, to look forward to. 

Gilmore Girls.

Friends and family breaking bread together at our table.

Hot coffee out of a mug made especially for me by my Kindred Spirit.

My sister.

Peter, Wendy, Neverland.

Trying a new recipe and declaring it a success.

My bed...and ALL of the life-saving properties contained therein.

Boundaries.

The peace that comes from choosing to rest in God's faithfulness even when it seems impossible.

An appointment to have my hair cut.

Moms clamoring to claim a day for me to watch their most precious gifts.

Mostly though, what is saving me right now, is the friendship, trust, loyalty, camaraderie, love, equal partnership, and team that I have in the gift of my Mr. Ford. His quiet strength and leadership and never-ending faith in the Lord's care for US, offers me the equilibrium that I so often need. His deep desire to do what he can to make a way for us to live out our dreams together and the way in which he needs me and my discernment to help make those decisions. His perseverance and hard work in everything he does. The way he notices me, large and small. His servant heart. The way he seeks out the wisdom of those who have gone before him. The faith he has in me and my strengths. His arms wrapped around me and the softness of his kiss. His smile, his blue eyes, his blonde hair. The way he sprawls across the floor or the bed or the couch that says he has not yet lost the little boy inside. The way he doesn't move away from, but rather towards, me and my ugly cry when I am at my weakest. The sound of his laugh when we are totally relaxed and silly. The way he allows himself to be the instrument through which God speaks to me, that right now, I hear best. All of the ways he gives himself to me and humbly and joyfully accepts the ways I give myself to him. 

My husband, my friend, my lover, my partner. 

Right now, HE'S what's saving me. 


What's saving you right now?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend Dates

*Edit: I'm so dumb! I never mentioned what movie we saw. We saw Moonrise Kingdom. Oops!

Since Mr. Ford's work schedule is not a Monday through Friday deal, we have to take our "Saturdays" whenever we can get them...which usually means anytime we have a day off together. This week yesterday was our Saturday and he was off early enough on Thursday that it felt like a Friday night. This is so rare and we took full advantage of it.

Happy to have a summer evening together.
Thursday night, I had a hankering for some yummies from a local food stand called Sunflower. It's a vegetarian place and is probably the best food around. Hands down the best tacos I've ever had, with or without meat. So we hopped in the car with the dog and drove over there. While we were standing in line, we heard live music start up in the park next door. So after we got our order (two nutburgers...to die for), we walked over the hill and discovered a summer concert series in full swing. I think all of Fair Oaks and the surrounding area had turned out for it. TONS of people with their picnics and dogs and families. And dancing. Oh, the dancing. The people watching was solid gold. And the summer evening weather was perfection. It was a wonderful impromptu date night. And boy was it impromptu...I was in my sweat pants and had not put on any make-up all day. But a pleasant surprise evening out with my little family. 

Fair Oaks Summer Concert Series
Cute puppy and a nutburger.
Then Friday, we slept in and drank coffee in bed. Then Mr. Ford left to have lunch with a friend while I leisurely got ready for the day. When he came home, we decided to drive up to ELDO because my adorable 6 year old cousin had a lemonade stand and you just cannot deny that. Poor thing was at a slight disadvantage, living in a gated community in the foothills, so I wanted to be sure she had some business. So the whole Ford family hopped in the car and went in search of some lemonade. And cookies. And "decorative straws". Her exact words. 

Me with my decorative straw.
She and her little friend were SO cute and so optimistic about their lack of customers. But can I just say how disappointed I was in the several people that just drove by her and waved. People, what on earth can be so important that you don't have time to stop for 2 minutes and buy some lemonade from a little girl?! Seriously. It'll make their day and more than likely, seeing their smile will make yours too. Don't drive past, this summer, if you see a sweet little girl with a lemonade stand. Take a moment and make a difference in her day. 

Cutest little lemonade stand ever.
After we hung out a little bit and helped her pack up (we were her last customers of the day), we headed back home to drop the dog off and then we drove into downtown Sac for some bookstore roaming. Mr. Ford bought me a used copy of an Ann Patchett novel I've been wanting to read for awhile. Then he surprised me and told me that we were going to have some dinner and see a movie!

A notice on one of the shelves in the bookstore.
There is an old theater in Sacramento called the Tower Theater that only has 3 screens and shows some of the less mainstream movies. Right next door is the Tower Cafe with a wonderfully sweet outdoor patio. This is where we had dinner and a movie. It is so charming and I love that my town has such a gem like this. I loved sitting under the overgrowth of trees, talking, laughing, and enjoying a meal and some drinks with the love of my life. 

Dinner on the patio.
The movie was perfect. It was sweet, beautiful, and dreamy. And the little boy was SO much like my Mr. Ford (Khaki Scout!) and the little girl was enough like me (yellow suitcase full of books) and the way they spoke to one another and dealt with life was so familiar to us that I told Mr. Ford when we walked out of the movie that I was more in love with him then when we went in. I fell more in love with my husband through the character of Sam. Is that weird? Well, I don't care. It happened. It was just such a delightful little flick and I was in a dreamy, other-worldly haze for the rest of the evening. Even still a little bit today. 

Tower Theater and Cafe
We finished off the evening sharing a slice of tiramisu and a couple of espressos back on the patio of the Tower Cafe, with it all lit up and romantic. We laughed a lot more and reveled in the hazy cocoon that the movie had wrapped us in and just enjoyed each other. There is nothing better than dating my husband and the longer we are together and the more we learn about each other and the deeper in love we fall, the better the dating gets. For as long as I live, I never want to stop dating my husband. Whether the dates are completely impromptu, semi-planned, or planned months and weeks in advance...they all have their place and they are all wonderful. 

LOVE my husband.
Hope your weekend is just as lovely!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Celebrate!


So the weekend of June 22-25 was a weekend of many celebrations and boy, was it exhausting!

My Dad turned 50 back on the 13th but we threw him a surprise party on the 22nd when his sister and her family were in town from Tennessee.

Sidebar: Shout out to the Dibbs! You should come back to Cali more often...or just move back. We all know you want to. I LOVE when they are around. Mine and my sister's relationship with our cousin's Andrew and Morgan can best be summed up like this:

Graphic via here
Anyway, the theme of the party was MarioKart and my mom really went all out and managed to pull it off...he was totally surprised. Had no idea.

We made him "break through" the "finish line".
We had an awesome cake made by a local bakery:

We had cupcakes too with little MarioKart figures on top.
And my mom made cookies to look like the invincibility stars:

Mr. Ford ate a lot of these.
We ordered cakepops to look like the "one-up" mushrooms from Mr. Ford's awesome cousin's cakepop business, Sallyface Cakepops:

CUTE. And yummy.
B-T-Dubs, they ship anywhere in the country. Got your back, Chy. ;)

My Uncle Kirk grilled and smoked so much of his famous Tri-Tip, I don't think he left any for the rest of the state of California. The man is a Tri-Tip wizard. So yum.

And my Dad got to play MarioKart with a lot of his favorite people.

By which I mean his nieces and nephews.
Mostly, it was just a wonderful time spent celebrating an incredible man who has done so much for so many in his 50 years with family and friends who are family.

The next day we spent just chilling at the Miller homestead in Yuba City with family, which is so rare but so lovely. Relaxing, refreshing, and fun. So much fun. The Millers love to laugh and know how to make each other laugh (however inappropriate it may be at times...oops ;) and that's how we spent Saturday. I wish we could have more time like more often.

Cousin Andrew wearing G-pa's hat.

Mr. Ford and I

6 1/2 year old Gilly teaching cousin Andrew how to play a game on her Kindle.
Then Sunday it was time for Ford family celebrations! It was not only Mr. Ford's sister's birthday but also our niece, Giulia's first birthday! So we headed over to Ben and Gina's to celebrate our sweet, sweet, full of personality and life Giulia. 

WIth our niece/Mr. Ford's Goddaughter.
That girl LOVED her cake and is not afraid to get messy...while still looking gorgeous. My kind of girl.

FEARLESS.
Mr. Ford's sister, Elizabeth, and her son, Logan, as well as my wonderful, Mother-in-Love, Colleen drove up from down south to be with everybody for Weekend 'o' Celebrations, which was a real treat. I love having them around and I got to bond a little more with Logan, which was a major plus. Sunday night we had a quiet dinner at Chevy's to celebrate Elizabeth. Mr. Ford got her a sombrero and she retaliated and got him one too, since his birthday was on Monday! (I told you there were lots of people to celebrate!)

Mr. Ford can be such a goober...but he's my goober. :)
And Monday was my Mr. Ford's birthday. Oh my, do I love that man. We had a nice quiet morning, drinking coffee and I read all of his Facebook birthday wishes out loud to him, emphasizing when there were all caps and the number of exclamation points used. He really loved that. ;)

Then Mr. Ford got cooking. What he wanted most to do for his birthday was to cook a fabulous meal for some of the people he loved (which turned out to be, as he put it, "the women in his life"). He has always loved to cook and to be adventurous in the kitchen, but since starting back to school full-time while working full-time, he hasn't been able to cook much of anything at all, much less get adventurous. So that's what he wanted to do. And boy was it phenomenal! It reminded me of why I fell in love with him and married him.

He made a 3 course meal, plus an aperitif course and a dessert course. For the aperitif he made what were basically gruyere cheese-its...holy cow. They were so good! They were gobbled up so fast. OMG, yum.

Then he made a chilled melon soup that was so refreshing and perfect for summer.

Then there was a FABULOUS roasted, chopped beet and red onion salad. You cannot go wrong with roasted beets. Just ask me.

THEN. Oh, then...he made duck confit. MY man made duck confit. I have died and gone to heaven. Duck confit is the food of the gods...and also the French. Oh, my word. I love duck confit...probably one of my favorite foods and the singular reason I go to France. ;) Just kidding...kind of. And my man NAILED IT. It was unbelievable. No words. I may go so far as to say it was the best of my life. Sorry, Frenchies. But it was really that good. Woo! Cloud nine.

It doesn't look like much, but TRUST ME.
 And then we had a tart tatin, which is basically on upside-down, open-faced apple pie and also very French. Yum, yum. Even though it made a GIANT mess in my oven. But whatever. I'm over it.

I was very proud of my table setting too. :)
And other than oohing and ahhing over my husband's chops in the kitchen, we just had a lovely evening chatting and being together. And watching Logan run back and forth and play with toys. Man, do I love that kid.

Love this kid. Also our Godson. We collect them, apparently. :)
My husband is truly my best friend and equal and perfect yin to my yang in every way. I love him forever and am so grateful to have been able to celebrate another year of his life, because his life has changed mine in radical and unexpected ways. If you've ever met him, count yourself blessed and enriched. The fact that he chose to cook for others on HIS birthday speaks volumes of his character and his servant heart. I love you to the moon and back, Mr. Ford.

And Tuesday I got to spend a quiet day at home with my sister-in-love, Elizabeth, chatting on the couch for hours on end. That was a true blessing. I am so grateful to have her and her precious son in my life as well.

It was a crazy, busy, long, exhausting weekend but a weekend we'll always remember. Full of celebrations of the ones we love. That is always a joy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Showing Up


Graphic via here


I must beg forgiveness for my lack of showing up here.

Which is ironic because God has been stretching me much farther than ever before in certain areas and He's been teaching me that no matter what, no matter how hard (or easy) it may be, you must always show up...show up for yourself and show up for the people in your life. 

I don't ever want to stop showing up for the people I love. I want them to know they can count on me. 

But sometimes I am literally at the end of my ability to do so; at the end of my grace bucket and I have stretched the rope it is attached to as far as I can possibly stretch it to reach those who need me to show up and I simply cannot do it. 

This is where the brutal/beautiful - or "brutiful" as my friend (by which I mean blogger I follow on whom I have a total friend crush), Glennon, over at Momastery says - work of God in my life takes over. When I get to the bottom of that bucket that's at the end of that rope, it leaves me no choice but to allow God not to just fill up the bucket, but to literally continue to pour out the grace from that - what my faulty, sinful, human eyes can only see as empty - bucket and to extend the rope as far as it needs to go to reach whoever it is that needs reaching. The only requirement of me is to show up.

And so I'll continue to show up. And I'll continue to let God stretch me and pour out His grace through me and my bucket...even when it's empty. It's not always going to look perfect. I've realized, it's often going to be brutiful. But God doesn't ask us to be perfect vessels through which to work. All He asks of us is to show up with our vessel...no matter how empty, ugly, cracked, or messy it might be.

And if I fail to show up for you or if it looks a little messy when I do...just know I'm trying. Forgive me when I fail because showing up is a hard thing. But as one of my dear mommas, Momma D, who knows a thing or two about hard things, reminded me, "I CAN do ALL things through Christ Jesus". Even the hard things. Like showing up. Even THAT I have to let Him do through me...He shows up through me. There's no two ways around it. The only way to make it in this life is to realize and embrace the fact that you must WHOLLY and COMPLETELY rely on God for EVERY possible move you make. And THAT is truly brutiful.

We - God and me and you - can do hard things. (Another Momastery mantra.)

PS - We had a whole lot of celebrations going on last weekend and I promise to show up tomorrow to tell you all about them! ;)

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Lifetime of Laughter

Source: Pinterest
(Note: I found this photo while perusing Pinterest and it didn't link back to the actual source of the photo. My apologies for inadequate source citation.)

This may be one of the most beautiful images I've ever seen.

Maybe it's because I'm an old soul, but I'm always drawn in by images and stories of couples who have  stood the test of time. What's more inspiring than that for a young woman just beginning her love story?

Even before I met Mr. Ford, I always loved these stories, because it gave me hope that the thing I longed for most was possible...attainable. Realistic.

Siiigh.

This particular image - her in a hospital bed, him in a wheelchair, laughing and just delighted to be in that moment with one another - perfectly encapsulates what I want most in my old age...any age, really.

Mr. Ford and I love to laugh and we laugh often. We're probably not really all that funny, but to one another we are and we delight in just being together. The joy boils over and comes out in laughter. 

I don't ever want to lose that.

Whatever this couple's story is, I know they've laughed a lot together. And that's probably how they've gotten through many a difficult time together. 

Like the one they were probably experiencing when this moment was immortalized.

That's been true of the Ford's story so far. I hope it's true of our story for a lifetime.

Through the joys and the sorrows.

A lifetime of laughter with my beloved. 

That's really all I want.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Napa Weekend



Wine country is just gorgeous. I love my state...it is so diverse in it's topography and I just adore that about it. Wine country is certainly no let down. My pictures don't do it justice. If you ever have the opportunity, go! Even if you don't drink wine...

We had a wonderful time at the Marriage Retreat in Napa. The whole weekend we kept saying to each other, "We're in Napa...weird". Neither of us had ever been there, so it was such a treat for our first visit be together. There are few things I love more than experiencing new places and things with my husband. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling 100% on Sunday when we were going to stick around and visit some wineries, so we didn't get to enjoy that part of Napa quite as much as we would have liked (I know, totally lame), but I DID enjoy some wine at dinner on Saturday. More on that in a moment.

The retreat itself was a great opportunity for us to get away and just be together, focusing on our marriage and gaining tools to help us as we move forward. We take this thing very seriously and are always hungry for ways to help us protect our marriage against all that this world wants to throw at us to destroy it. We came away with several nuggets of wisdom, but one of my favorites was this idea that conflict in marriage needs a re-framing...rather than thinking of it as me vs. you, think of it as us vs. the problem. You are on the same team in your marriage...don't fall prey to the lies of the enemy that you are fighting one another. Fight the problem TOGETHER. Seems obvious enough, but it's so easy to forget that...stay on guard and be vigilant to protect against the insidious lie that you are alone in whatever issues arise. You are a TEAM. And you have to protect that team at all costs. Good stuff.

A few other wisdom nuggets:
- Often, the thing that irritates you most about your spouse is the thing that you need the most. The example that the speakers gave was that in the early days of their marriage and their work in ministry, he would go full steam ahead and spend a lot of time outside of the home working to advance the Kingdom (not in and of itself a bad thing) and she would be bothered that he wasn't home very often. One day as he was venting to God about how she was slowing him and the Kingdom work down, God smacked him and said, "If it weren't for her 'slowing you down' you'd already be burned out". I thought that was awesome...whenever I get really irritated by something that Mr. Ford does/doesn't do, I'm going to start thinking about it in terms of what God could be telling me it is that I need. Isn't it amazing how the Lord knows just exactly what we need and gives us people (oftentimes our spouse) to provide that thing? He orchestrates every detail...
- Here's a pithy one, but underneath the pithiness, it's just beautiful: The look of her dreams is far more important than the look of her jeans. AND Be less concerned with what he is earning than with what he is learning. In other words, fall in love with their dreams and they will ALWAYS be the most attractive person in the world to you; fall in love with how they are growing and the ebb and flow of life will be a much easier ride. Beautiful, no?

Psyched for our date night.
And the most useful tool we came away with was what they called The Dream Spouse List, meant to help communicate expectations. Basically, you ask your spouse what the 5 things you could do that would make you their absolute perfect dream spouse and then rate them and weight (out of 100%) them in priority order. And then share the lists with one another and begin working on those items. The trick though is to re-evaluate every quarter or anytime there is a major life change, because as you begin intentionally doing the things on the list, other things may come up. You can take some items off, or leave them on, even if your spouse is doing really well with those, just as a reminder that "this is really important to me and you're doing a great job with it, but keep it up". The other thing is grace...if it's not on the list, offer grace to let those things slide. That thing doesn't matter...yet. Add it to the list the next time you re-evaluate, but don't hold them accountable for it if it's not one the list. 

I think ultimately, in all things, grace must abound. That's the gospel after all, and as far as I can tell, marriage is meant to be a mirror of the gospel to your spouse. Cover yourself and your spouse and your marriage in grace and the Lord will bless it. Grace, grace, and more grace.

Aside from the marriage wisdom nuggets, we met some younger couples that we are hopeful can blossom into deeper friendships and we also had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends which we are hopeful will lead to another mentoring relationship. We also had the opportunity to have a nice date night out which was probably my very favorite part of the weekend. 

Mr. Ford and I have always loved going out to eat and we are huge foodies. Some of our earliest dates were 3 hour long dinners where we took our time, slowly enjoying each course and talking. Oh, the talking. It's been awhile since we've been able to do that, so it was such a joy to intentionally spend literally hours over dinner and drinks and conversation with one another. I never tire of hearing Mr. Ford's thoughts and it means the world to me that he is so intentional in making sure I know he feels the same about me. We learned new things about each other, encouraged one another, and reconnected on our vision for our life together. What a gift to be married to a man who desires to partner with me in my life calling and I with his...that our life callings seem to match up and fit together so perfectly. It's like Someone knew what they were doing when they brought us together.

My plate was a work of art.
And the food was spectacular...as was the wine. Only in Napa can you have wine on tap. Yes, my Riesling was a blend that the sommelier of the restaurant created himself and was stored in the barrel on the premises and poured straight from the barrel. Don't tell me Jesus doesn't love me...holy cow, that was some good stuff and it went so well with my snapper and Chardonnay mussel emulsion. Shut. Up. Amen, thank you Jesus! And Mr. Ford's Zinfindel and pork chops with a whiskey apple mustard sauce was nothing to pooh-pooh either. We left fat and happy. :)

So many gifts in our lives...we are consistently humbled and amazed by the Lord's goodness to us and we were reminded yet again of His faithfulness this weekend. 



Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Soft Place to Land

My oh my, it's been a while. 

Well, we moved! It was a long, exhausting weekend but we are so happy in our new home and so glad to be out of what has now become affectionately known as "The Cave". It wasn't until we were sitting in our new living room after we emptied the truck and were taking a breather, that my Dad remarked, "I never realized how much of a cave you guys were living in before". 

This new place is so bright and airy and feels so much bigger than where we were before. We are thrilled at the promises of new memories to be made here.

We signed the lease and got the keys and officially "moved in" on the Saturday before Memorial Day. We brought over the bed my parents had been storing in their garage for our "someday guest room" (Dad was THRILLED that "someday" had finally come) and slept here that night. 

Sunday morning we got up, went to church, then to Lowe's to pick up a few last minute things we needed for painting, as well as some various herbs and other plants for our little garden. Then we came home and got to work taping, cutting in, and rolling. It was Mr. Ford's first time painting and he did a great job! We (I) chose a light grey color with some lavender undertones that really come out in certain lighting, and it looks FANTASTIC with the crown molding. I am so happy with it.

My parent's came by to see the place and I had sworn we would not make them work, but my Mom can't help herself. She VOLUNTARILY rolled an entire a wall. She kept saying, "Oh, I'll just do one little bit and then you can take over again". Nope...she did the whole darn thing. Thanks, Mom! 

That was a long day...we (I) decided at about 10:00 that night that we needed to do a second coat. So we were up until 2:30 that morning finishing that, and we still haven't even finished the second coat in the hallway. :/ We still have some odds and ends to finish up...

Monday was official "Moving Day". I dropped Mr. Ford off at the U-Haul pick up and I went on ahead to the apartment to finish packing up the kitchen. Mr. Ford's wonderful brother, Ben, met me there to help and we are SO grateful for him. We could not have done it without him. Mr. Ford and Ben worked so well together and were terribly efficient and Ben was the puzzle master that made everything fit into the truck. My parents showed up a bit later (they ran/walked a 5K that morning with my Dad's company), and we finished loading up the odds and ends in my car and their car. My parents are wonderful too, always willing to help us out with whatever we need. It is so nice to have them nearby. Then we all caravanned over to the new place to unload. Ben stopped by Grampa Ford's to pick him up so he could help with the planting, which was also an enormous help. That project would probably still be wallowing around if not for Grampa. That man's got a green thumb like nobody's business. 

Mom and I untaped the living room and I directed as the strapping men unloaded the truck. I was amazed at how quickly they accomplished it. I think they just wanted to be done with it. For all my effort to purge and get rid of junk, we still have a lot of stuff. Maybe I wasn't as harsh as I thought I was...

After everything was unloaded, we grilled up some bratwurst and had a nice little late lunch/early dinner, before everyone left and Mr. Ford and I were finally fully and completely IN our new home. We are so beyond blessed to have wonderful family so willing to spend their Memorial Day helping us move. We are grateful and do not take it for granted. And then it was time to start unpacking and settling in. I refused to stop until I had our bedroom and the kitchen more or less completely done. One thing I learned from my mother in all those years moving was always unpack your bedroom and the kitchen first. Those are the rooms you'll need/want to use the most. 

And then Tuesday we went back to the old place to clean and have an initial inspection. We learned in the initial inspection, that regardless of how clean we left the place they were still going to bring in a professional service to clean, as well as shampoo the carpets, and were going to charge us for that no matter what. So even if we had scrubbed our fingers raw to make it as clean as when we moved in, they would still take $70 out of our security deposit for a "light professional cleaning" because it was "policy". I lost any interest in cleaning at all, right quick and in a hurry. What a joke. And a rip off. So, we did the bare minimum to make sure they didn't take more than $70 and boogied. I was over it. 

We have spent the time since then trying to unpack and settle in and take care of all of the "other" moving stuff, like internet, change of address, insurance changes, etc. We found the exact couch I'd been wanting for a long time from IKEA for MUCH cheaper on Craigslist and are now trying to figure out how to get rid of the old one that is taking up an enormous amount of space in the middle of my living room and preventing me from really feeling settled. We also have to get all the stuff up on all the walls and finish the second coat in the hallway. Once those things are done, I'll share pictures. :) The next steps will be painting the bedrooms/kitchen/bathroom. 

We are so pleased and feel so blessed to be able to call this place home and we cannot wait to open it up for all of our friends and families to visit, break bread, and commune together. Ultimately, that was the driving force behind the desire for a larger place. We wanted to have space for people to gather, to get away, to laugh, to rest, and to recharge. 

Our guest room is open to you...yes, you...and our table too. Whatever it is you need or want, let us help you find it here in our home and at our table. If you need a calm from the storm, come. If you need nourishment for your belly and your soul, come. If you need a safe place to work out whatever it is you need to work out, free from judgement, advice, and blame, come. If you need a place to laugh and forget the hard things and remember the good things, come. 

We believe in the very depths of our souls that this is our calling and our purpose in marriage. To create and foster an environment where intimacy can flourish, for all who need it. We strive to make our home a soft place to land for each other, and all who walk through our door. We would be honored to have you here. And children are, of course, welcomed with open arms and open windows! ;) (Extra cookies when you come if you get that reference!)

We are headed to Napa this weekend for a Marriage Retreat with our church and are so thrilled to hear what God has in store for us. Clearly, it's something important...He's called us to Napa after all. ;) Our dear friends and mentors, wisely counseled us before we got married to find an opportunity once a year to intentionally focus on our marriage and that is what this. We are humbled by the generosity of my parents to gift us this opportunity, because it probably would not be happening without them. 

Y'all have a great weekend and start planning that trip to Hôtel Ford! ;)