15 Realizations of 2015 (Spoiler Alert: Leggings Are Still Not Pants)

Ba bah ba ahhhh bah ba baaa buh aaahh gaaa ba bah ba.

MAMA!

Oh, sorry y’all.

Luke thought since he can eat read board books, he could also write a blog.

And you read that right. He has said MAMA! Multiple times, in fact.

Although, his train-of-thought is really this: “I’m fussy… getting fussier… why haven’t you picked me up yet… brink of meltdown…okay, I warned you… meeellltttt—“MAMA!!!!”—dooowwwwn!!!!

But IT TOTALLY COUNTS.

Mama: 1, Dada: 0

(And when he says it, I’m wiling to give him ALL OF THE THINGS.)

(But he really just wants my attention).

(Because me? I’m MAMA).

(Prideful? Naahhh….)

I do apologize to my handful of readers for no blog since October. Truth be told though, I didn’t think there’d be another in 2015. This little human keeps us, what’s the word?, BUSY. And you might suggest I could when he naps. However, Luke seems to think the crib is fine and dandy during the nighttime (which LET’S GIVE THE LORD ALL OF THE PRAISES), but remains a torture device during the day.

So the blog-writing, laundry-sorting, floor-sweeping, dust-wiping will have to wait. Because they’ll always be there, and he will always not.

Those sound like some LOFTY 2016 resolutions, though.

Usually, at this time of the year, I write about things that should stay in the year we’re about to leave. And I really could probably do that again, but spoiler alert: Leggings are still not pants, Elf-On-The-Shelf still needs to be packed away forever, and Florida-Georgia Line still makes terrible music.

So this year, in honor of 2015, here’s 15 realizations from this life-changing year (in no real particular order):

1.  I’m so that mom. I take pictures of Luke everyday, and I post one (or two…) just about daily. And I could be sorry, but I’m not. I’d much rather look at a cute baby than read why Trump/Obama/Fill-in-the-blank is the devil.

2. Two things you don’t think you’ll ever say in the grocery store until you have a baby? “Do we need Boogie Wipes? Let’s pick up some gas drops while we’re here too.”

3. Daytime television REALLY needs to step up its game. Although, a Fixer Upper marathon still reels me in every single time.

4. I’m pretty sure when Luke is old enough, he’s going to want to send a Christmas card to Uncle Chip and Aunt Jo and wonder why we won’t visit them in their farmhouse or the silos.

5. God’s love has been reframed for me in a whole new way with Luke. Brett mentioned this in our LifeGroup, and it stuck with me. We were talking about the difference between God’s love and human love. I love y’all, but would I give up Luke for you? To save you? To redeem you? I’ll be honest, I don’t think so. But He did. So the verse I’ve heard since LifeGroups were known as Sunday School, John 3:16, has come alive in a whole new way.

6. I’ve tutored some sweet kiddos a little bit, and to my burned-out teaching friends? If  I could give you anything, it’d be an extra hour (are you laughing your head off? EXTRA HOUR? HA!), so you could find that joy of teaching without any tests, evaluations, and a whole bunch of “stuff” in the way. It makes you wonder how education has turned into what it is. (But trust me, your work is important and if nobody’s told you lately, you’re doing a great job).

7.God provides. We knew He would, and He has. From paying for a brand new car unexpectedly without a loan to Brett winning a full-tuition scholarship for his MBA out of thousands, well, it’s humbling. And reaffirms everything, especially… He is faithful (and He was when things weren’t so solid, too. He’s always there planning paths far better than our own).

8. Diaper pails work until a certain point. Without going into too much gross detail, basically that point is when solid foods are introduced. Then, just trust me: Bag it, tie it, toss it. Outside.

9. Baby shoes are adorable but pointless. That is a battle not worth fighting, my friends.

10. It’s important to take time to be silly even (especially) you’re sleep-deprived or stressed. The other day, I could barely keep my eyes open and Brett and I just started singing Adele’s “Someone Like You” as loud as we could to each other. He was in the kitchen, and I was in the living room laughing my head off. Mood lifted. (Try it, “NEVERMIND I’LL FIND SOMEONE LIKE YOUUUUUUUU….” Don’t you feel better?)

11. I don’t know if having Luke has made me hyper-aware and I didn’t notice before, but twice in the past couple of months I have seen children left in the backseat without anyone else while their parent is shopping or in a restaurant. Oh. You better believe I call or alert authorities when I do (and if it ever happens when it’s burning up outside, I’ll find someone to help me bust a window). I can’t imagine purposefully doing that to Luke or any child. Kills me.

12. People are very gullible. All these political blogs (conservative or liberal) that say an outrageous headline and get reposted a million times make me want to throw my laptop out the window.  There should be a quiz at the voting booth before one votes to see if you’re smart enough to tell the difference between actual reporting and clickbait.

13. We have recently caught on to the wonder of sleep-sacks. Not sure what their magic is, but these seven-hour-stretches-of-sleep don’t have me complaining.

14. I totally get the, “I’d rather be sick than you” line now. Nothing worse than feeling helpless, and so far it’s only been a sinus infection that’s had him down.

15. And on that note, I’m so thankful for so much this year. God gave us the desires of our hearts in abundance in 2015. A healthy, active, funny, curly-haired, blue-eyed baby boy that we are smitten with more every single day, family that’s been an amazing support system, friends who have showered us with gifts and love, and His grace for when we don’t appreciate our blessings enough.

2015, thanks for all you gave our sweet family.

Especially for those four bags of epidural during a long stretch of hours in March.

Amen.

Happy 2016!

When Revival Happens in the Parking Lot

“I’m feeling adventurous this morning!”

Those words came out of my mouth as we passed by our street while chasing down bad guys.

Actually, I said those words as we passed by our street to look for more yard sale signs. At the same time, the baby just woke up from a nap and was teetering on the fine line between fussy and giggly.

When you become a parent, your definition of adventure changes DRASTICALLY.

This was living, y’all.

We passed a few more streets and drove around a large neighborhood before calling it a bargain hunting day, and we turned back on to Highway 70 heading towards home.

We were laughing along to the radio when we heard it.

CLICKETY CLICK CLICKETY CLICK CLICKETY CLICK.

Uh-oh.

I didn’t mean that kind of adventurous.

Fellowship Baptist Church was just on the right, so my sweet husband pulled in and parked. He went to the hood, I went to get the baby out of the car seat, and then we saw it… a cord thing dangling on the pavement.

(I later learned that it’s called a belt).

(I did not know cars had belts).

(Maybe it makes the engine’s waist look smaller).

Thankfully, we weren’t far from home and my parents live close by, so they were on their way to come get us (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). It was also a low humidity morning in August in the South, which that alone is a miracle in itself.

But something really cool happened in that church parking lot.

While we waited for a few minutes, two different people – complete strangers – pulled in and asked if there was any way they could help. One of them was even getting his phone out for us to use to call loved ones if we needed it.

They didn’t know us, and I’m sure they were in the midst of a busy Saturday morning.

(In fact, one told us he was on his way to Antioch to visit his sister).

Yet, they made time. They made a choice. They saw a young family with the car hood up in an empty parking lot and stopped. They could’ve kept driving and gone along with their day, as many did, but they didn’t.

Would I have stopped?

I don’t really want to answer that question because, well, I know the answer.

I would have kept driving.

Oh, I would have made myself feel better by knowing that I have no car expertise at all to offer (see belt insight above), but I learned something today. I could offer my phone to make a call, I could offer to drive down to the Dollar General down the street and buy a cold drink, but the most and best I could offer is to let them know I care.

Those two gentlemen did that today.

In a world where people get shot in church, in movies, and we cringe to hear where next, those two guys taught us that there are still good people.

Let’s not be the Priest or Levite looking the other way when others need help.

Let’s be the Good Samaritan.

Let’s be the good.

Despite our good intentions, I think we sometimes make this whole church thing a whole lot more complicated than it has to be.

It doesn’t take a fancy building.

It doesn’t take committee meetings.

It doesn’t take bright lights, a choir robe, a smoke machine, a wooden pew, or a coffee bar.

It doesn’t even have to take money.

All it takes is a kind heart to shine the light of Jesus to the world.

Before we found ourselves in that parking lot, we passed that sweet little church on our yard sale excursion. I remarked that their sign was advertising a revival.

IMG_6540

Revival? I believe we just had it.

(Fun fact: We received a check in the mail this past week that we weren’t expecting. It more than covered the complete cost of the repair to the car. Thanks, God. I think you wanted me to learn a lesson this week. Lesson learned).

When the Snowflakes and Doubts Fall

So on Friday around 10 a.m., Lambchop, who comes out every week to read poetry to my sweet second graders, led the class in a very special Snow Dance.

You see, this Snow Dance NEEDED to work.

It had been a week.

Chaperoning a gym full of third, fourth, and fifth graders during an after-school Cupid Hop Dance, a Valentine’s Day exchange, and a couple of meetings after school made for a sleepy Mrs. S.

Not to mention that I took the morning off the day before to finally go to the doctor and get some real medicine for the sinus infection I had been fighting all week because Tylenol Cold had been as effective as eating a bag of Cheetos.

(I’m fairly certain Tylenol Cold is a placebo).

I was almost in the fetal position on my classroom beanbag with a white flag by Friday.

Listen. I know people juggle a lot more things that are much worse, but this almost 9 months preggo just needed a little break.

Little did I know that this apparently was the greatest snow dance in history and would not only work, but God showed us great favor and gave us the whole WEEK.

If you had told me that last week, I would’ve fallen over in said bean bag laughing because we live in Middle Tennessee aka the Snow Dome of the world and THIS NEVER HAPPENS.

Y’all, I am so thankful.

I hate that the ice made for some downed trees and power lines and caused wrecks and worse. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but Y’ALL.

I. am. so. thankful.

In more ways than one.

You see, this week has been more introspective for me than maybe for others.

If you know me, you know we’re about to experience a huge change in our lives. The greatest change is that our family of two will become three and we are beyond excited and grateful.

But I’d be lying if I said that we’re not a little bit anxious and nervous, as well.

(If any new parent says they’re not, give them a fire extinguisher because their pants are on fire).

Let’s have a little backstory: For as long as I’ve known I’ve wanted to be a teacher, I’ve also known I’ve wanted to be mama.

A stay-at-home mama.

For some mamas they can’t imagine having to stay home, and I get that. It doesn’t make any mother better than the other, but my Mama did it and she says it was one of the greatest blessings of her life.

However, real life happens and for a while I didn’t know if that dream would be possible for us. Then, one summer evening a couple of years ago, Brett and I were eating dinner on the back deck. He lands an Excel spreadsheet on the table and I teared up instantly.

It was a budget based on his salary and none of mine.

And it worked.

We could do this. 

Fast forward to this past year and when we paid the last of student loans making us debt-free other than our mortgage, we knew were ready to start a family. And in June, God blessed us so fast with the desires of our hearts that we still pinch ourselves.

Back then, my mind was already starting to wrap around the idea that I would be taking the one-year maternity interim leave and possibly beyond that. We are going to wait and see how we’re doing financially to determine if I need to return or will continue to stay.

(By the way, we feel very blessed having the option, as I have great coworkers that I won’t see every day and that’s the hardest part of it all. Plus, there is a daycare there where he’d still be in the same building as me. Oh, and I do enjoy teaching and my students, ya know).

(And I’ve already told a certain few colleagues that I demand a weekly meeting at my house since I live a mile away and ADULT INTERACTION, I will cherish it).

But things get real fast.  Doubt creeps in.

Will I enjoy being at home all the time?

Are we going to be able to afford groceries without eating Ramen noodles for a week?

How is it all going to work? Insurance change, one salary down, new bills? Will the budget my sweet husband created really work for our family?

I have started feeling it especially as my due date nears. Still excitement more than worry, but worry nonetheless. We are leaving our comfort zone in a small way and entering a new phase of our lives, and I just didn’t know. Then, God gave us a week off at home where we had no choice but to be… at home.

Now I’m not naive enough to think God shut down the whole state of Tennessee to calm me down, but I do think God gives opportunities for us to listen in the most peculiar of circumstances.

While I’ve seen lots of complaints of cabin fever, being stuck, and wishing for not another snowy day (the horrors), I honestly feel like God’s given me a hug.

Let me explain.

I have loved every minute of being home. I know I don’t have a newborn crying at all hours, and so I’m probably more pleasant than I will be in a few weeks (!), but I have loved every minute of it.

There have been no plans other than laundry. I didn’t have a meeting the next day and I didn’t have to give up a precious Saturday to clean the house. My body woke up when it was rested, not when an alarm clock shocked me up at dark-thirty.  I know a baby is soon to be my alarm clock, but I can go back to sleep when he does and stay in pants with an elastic waistband all day.

We have eaten food from the the pantry and freezer that I’ve forgotten about. I’ve realized that our groceries will go much farther than I’ve let them go in the past. I have the time to cook. I haven’t missed going out to eat as much as I thought I would because we’ve sat at the table enjoying a meal every night.

I’ve had time to enjoy the little things. I’ve lied on the couch counting the kicks as Luke practices to be a kickboxer, apparently. When Brett walked through the door yesterday and today, I couldn’t wait to hear about his day and tell about mine.

I’ve rested.

I’ve read (and puzzled if that’s a verb).

I’ve cleaned.

I’ve cooked.

I have had time.

I have loved being at home.

I have felt the doubts slide off my shoulders.

And I felt like I’ve appreciated more than I have in a long time.

When the ice and snow continued to build up, this one verse continued to pop up in my brain:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

I looked up that passage (I knew it was a Psalm but didn’t know the chapter and verse number), and would you look at the rest?

 Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

    The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

So while I look forward to warm days like many of you, you won’t find me complaining about being stuck inside my warm home (and paid for it this week!) with the husband who, while it’s not the proudest for me to admit, has shown more trust in God than me during this change prior to this week.  Those doubts I’m sure will creep back in from time-to-time, but those questions I’ve had just seem a bit irrational now.

I’ve been still and I know He is God. He will provide. He is our fortress.

Let it snow.

Don’t Judge A Shopper By Her Cart

Y’all.

I have a confession.

(Not to the degree of Usher’s).

(Just when I thought I said all I can say).

I’m one of those people.

I’m one of those people who looks in other people’s grocery carts at the store.

Not every cart, mind you. Just ones that catch my eye. Or if you’re taking approximately 398 minutes selecting your 24 boxes of NutriGran bars because you have 24 coupons that will double.  Then, you give me the evil eye when (HOW DARE) I meekly grab a box of strawberry flavor.

(This seriously happened to me a few days ago. Heaven help me, if I would’ve reached for her blueberry bars. I may have lost an arm for the sake of granola).

(And I didn’t even have a coupon!)

But y’all. I’m the worst. I’m going to be really real here, like Jenny from the Block.

(Sorry for all of the ’00s music references)

(Except I’m not).

(Because if you know me, you know it’s Just a Day, Just an Ordinary Day).

I see you with five bags of potato chips and three bags of candy? And I think, “Like any of us need all of that…”

I see you with a carton of cigarettes with two little kids beside you? And I think, “Shouldn’t you be spending money on something that doesn’t harm your kids?”

I see you with everything 100 percent organic? And I think, “Well don’t they think they’re just better than the rest of us…”

Here’s the thing. God has a funny way of giving us a reality check in the middle of a Kroger aisle.

One day a few weeks ago, I received one of those.

I took a picture of my shopping cart:

Image

Yogurts.
Grilled Chicken.
Frozen Vegetables.
Bananas.
Lean Cuisines (Also known as a Fancy Snack).
Sugar-Free Popsicles.

Well, judging by her shopping cart, doesn’t she look like she has it all together?

It’s all a sham.

What you don’t see is the junk underneath.  The baked goods, candy, the 3 boxes of Velveeta, and I hadn’t even reached the chips and cokes aisles yet. Not to mention all of the baggage already in the pantry.

It’s the same with people. We put on a good front.  We hide our junk. Dressed cute, hair fixed (or tolerated, in my case), make-up on, a smile on our face. A “Good, how are you?” response.

We don’t let people know all the stuff we’re carrying with us (or all the food in our pantry). My smile may cover up an experience I haven’t quite gotten over yet.  The hurt that a certain subject will always have.  A burden I’m harboring or a weight I’m carrying.

I’ve got some good great news, though.

God sees it all.

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And YES, that’s good news.

Because he loves me and you with all of my and your junk included.

Our best efforts with our healthy food in our carts and the days where our vices may outweigh our strengths. He knows it all.  And He sent His Son for me knowing that one day I will be that outrageous and look at other people’s carts thinking their items (sins) are worse than mine.

When in reality, a banana will spoil faster than that bag of chips.  My sin is just as rotten as yours.

Thankfully, Jesus gives us a solution:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

So next time I see a person with the bags of chips and candy? I won’t judge you when I remember the Publix bakery is my kryptonite (And I am well-known to eat too many potato chips with some authority).

That person buying the carton of cigarettes? I won’t judge you when I remember I don’t care that my O’Charley’s Ranch cost about $2.50 PER OUNCE when I know I should be a following a stricter budget (and it’s not that low in calories) (Especially when I like a little EVERYTHING with my Ranch).

That person with everything 100% organic foods? I won’t judge you when I remember that my food doesn’t taste like tree bark. (I’M KIDDING) (Kinda). Really though, I’ll admire the determination to provide the healthy choices for your family.

Sometimes, God gives you a life lesson in the middle of contemplating why shredded cheese is always so expensive.

And I’m thankful.

However, if you are buying 290 bottles of mustard so the store will end up owing you 3 cents per bottle and blocking me from retrieving the one bottle of mustard I will purchase for the year, there’s gonna be a little bit of judgement.

Go ahead and Cry Me a River.

 

I’ve been thinking of one word a lot lately.

No, it’s not queso.

(I already soaked up that $4.00 goodness at dinner the other night).

The word is actually acceptance.

Let me give a little backstory. The other day in class, one of my students corrected me on something that I wish I could remember now, but it escapes me (but I’d venture to say it had a turkey on it).

Now, some teachers would be super embarrassed about it, especially since I’m the teacher of first-graders. However, I jump at those opportunities. You want to make a six year-old feel like he is a king? Have him prove his teacher.  I said something to the effect of, “Thanks for teaching me!”

His look of awe is one I try to keep in mind during the rough days, followed by, “You mean I taught YOU something?!”

All the time.  In fact, there’s some days – and I kinda hate to say it – that the kids teach me more, than I probably teach them.

Last Wednesday was one of those.

One sweet girl in my class can be best summed up as to know her is to love her.  If you know anything about Junie B. Jones, she is that book character come to life. Tries her best, but can frustrate you to pieces, yet somehow after teaching your heart out with her, she always ends up making you laugh without trying.

Well, while checking folders last Wednesday morning, I got to hers.  She came in a little late, and I told her “Good Morning” without looking up, as she began to unpack.

I opened up her folder and a note from her mother fell out.  It informed me that she decided to cut quite a bit of her own hair at home (like I said, Junie. B. Jones.), and they tried their best to mend it, but in her words, “It’ll have to take time to grow out.” Her mom explained that she was feeling very self-conscious and emotional about it, so to kinda keep my eyes and ears open.

You know, kids get a bad reputation. The media paints them all as bullies, technology-entranced, and self-entitled.  And if I am being completely honest, I can occasionally fall into that trap.  I did on Wednesday. I was already mentally preparing how I’d handle it when (not if) this sweet girl got her feelings hurt by “kids being kids.”

Well.

I didn’t want to bring extra attention to the situation, so I didn’t say anything as she began to walk to her table.  This is always a quiet part of the day, so it was easy to listen in on any conversation that I just knew would take place. After all, I’m the teacher, right?

I watched as the kids, of course, looked as she went to her seat.

And I watched as she sat down, pretending to be very focused, but I could practically see her analyzing the looks coming towards her.

Just as I was about to open my big mouth to give a casual reminder that one of our rules is to be kind to others, I stopped.

And I watched.

And I listened, without reminding them to be quiet during morning work.

You know what I heard from her classmates?
Did you get a haircut? It looks great!

I like your headband!

I really like your haircut!

And you know what I saw from this sweet girl?

Her shoulders eased.

She leaned back.

And she gave a huge smile.

They were kids being kids. And let me tell you, nothing will make me prouder of them than that moment last week. Not a test result, a quiet line, or writing all their letters/numbers the correct way and neatly (but that may come a close second).

We all hear these same questions in our head at some point(s) during our lives:

Did she mean to ignore me when I walked by?
Were those whispers followed a laugh about me?
What are they going to think of my outfit? My haircut?

You can be six years-old, or ninety-six, it doesn’t matter. We all have felt unaccepted, whether we admit to it or not. And we especially won’t admit that we’ve been the cause for some of those feelings, too.

I’ve been there and still revisit that hurtful place, every now and then. And I know some friends who are going through it now, and feel like their good is never good enough.

Let me tell you. It is.

And let me tell you why.

Because Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life, accepts you for who you are.

Bad haircut and all.

Temper and all.

Insecurity and all.

He even loved you enough to die for you.

Every morning on my short drive to school, I say a little prayer in the car.  I always end it by asking God to let me be a light for others, for my students, and for my coworkers.  And my friends will tell you I do better some days than others.

My kiddos, on that Wednesday morning, were the light of Jesus to that little girl, even though His name wasn’t said and can’t be taught.  Some of them may not even know Him, but I pray that I and their classmates that do will show the grace and acceptance we’ve been given.

You know, kids being kids. And teaching their teacher a very valuable lesson in the process.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Romans 15:7

You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.

Another Year of Thanks (And Rambling)

How is it not midnight?

This is my first thought around 7 p.m. every weekday night, as I’m fighting yawns, all the while saying (scolding) myself, “You can make it at least two more hours… YOU’RE TWENTY-FIVE.”

Then again, my dear husband just said to me, “Wow. Your eyes look really dark.”

Keeping that spark alive, my friends.

Instead of just refreshing Pinterest tonight, I thought I’d write my annual Thanksgiving blog.

(I know. I KNOW. You have waited seven, long November days for this to arrive this year. I’m so sorry to disappoint).

To remind everyone, I take all of my would-be thankful Facebook posts for the month of November, and post it on here.  Because nothing says, “I’m really thankful” than getting it all over with in one post.

What can I say, I’m a giver.

Long story longer, here’s my thirty thankful things for twenty-thirteen (honorable mention: alliteration).

(Keep in mind, this is not in order of importance. I really do love Jesus more than Connie Britton.)

1. Country music has been such a great friend this year… to sing along with my actual friends, to blast in the car thinking the songwriter must have somehow read my mind. Although, none of that wannabe rock garbage that was (most of) the CMAs last night. (Between counting down until I go to bed at 9 p.m., and calling today’s country music too rock, just call me MeMaw).

2. My first grade colleagues who happen to be some of the best friends I have. It’s nice to know you can just vent, laugh, or laugh so you won’t cry with ladies who give you a hug or an invite to Mexican to forget about it. Love my BBBs.

3. My health, as I have been reminded of how fragile it is from close friends the past year.

4. The town, Nashville. I’m never reminded more than when I’m walking down Broadway to the Bridgestone for a show. Or when I can just go to the Opry’s website and see if anyone I want to see is playing this weekend. And drive 30 minutes to get there.

5.  The show, Nashville It’s a total nighttime soap opera, but I’m slightly obsessed with the music. I just need for Rayna and Deacon to get back together already.

6. My Redeemer. I’ve seen friends of mine wrestle with some pretty tough stuff this year, but one thing remains: Jesus is faithful and forgiving. He cleanses us of our own faults. I hope I never lose the impact of the realization that I don’t have to carry around every sin on my back. He died and did it for me. And you.

7. My darling husband. He may comment on my dark circles, but he also understands when a bowl of cereal is for dinner some nights. He always has been, but this year especially he has been my rock and biggest encourager.

8. Sprite. Let’s keep it real here.

9.  My twenty-one first graders. First grade has brought new challenges, but also new rewards. Love them all and the way they start each day with a smile, no matter what happened the day before.

10. My Mama and Daddy. Not many grown adults would love to vacation with their parents, but I loved it all. Even the boring shell museum. They are going to be fabulous grandparents one day. :-)

11. My church! This past week, our sermon was bilingual.  Our pastor preached in English, while a campus translated in Spanish. It was awesome and reflective of the diverse children of God (but bless my pastor’s heart, he doesn’t cheer for the right team).

12. The Crimson Tide. Look, they have brought me much joy over the past several weekends. I am going to RELISH in the victories while they last. (AJ, are you sure you have to graduate this year? It’s really overrated).

13. That I can put a big, fat check beside the words “Master’s Degree” and that the timing worked out how it did. Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve done it this semester. Hallelujah.

14. Howie the Honda and Esmeralda the Escape. Thankful for two dependable cars that have zero bills attached to them.

15. Witnessing this Sanibel sunset (despite the RUTHLESS no-see-ums):

16. Former students of mine— I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of the whispered “Mrs. Schultz!!!!” while furiously waving at me or being nearly tackled by a hug.

17. Our soldiers, especially after a friend of mine serving over there posted a picture the other day from his day at work. That’ll put things in perspective.

18. Spirit Days. (That noise you just heard was all my West peeps are saying, “Amen”).

19. The snow days we will have this year (If you build say it, they will come).

20.  Lots of sunny days for Recess this year. I think we’ve had only three Indoor Recesses and that is worthy of a praise.

21.  Uncrustables. Look, I know it’s more affordable to make my own PB & Js. But right now, that is one less to-do and we’re not counting our pennies (yet).  (Plus, I buy the whole wheat, reduced sugar ones so they’re totes healthy).

22. Our home.  There are some days, when I pull in the driveway, that I still wonder how we found the perfect house for us. Front porch and all.

23. My hammock! Maybe the best birthday gift ever (besides seeing #24), seeing as I was biting the head off anyone who even looked at me wrong around that time.  The hubs knew it’d make me sing “Hakuna Matata” for at least a few minutes.

24. The thirty-second N’Sync comeback this year.  Instantly, I was 13-years-old, laying on the grass at Starwood (RIP), singing “You may hate me, but it ain’t no lie, BABY BYE BYE BYE.” Choreography moves and all.

25. Girl Meets World. I have very low expectations, but I’m on board with anything Cory & Topanga related.

26. Croutons. I like a little bit of salad with them.

27. My new iPhone 5s and its cover. But mostly the cover because it’s beachy and was only 12 bucks at Academy. It even says “Salt Life” on it because I’m very fancy.

28. Tim Hawkins. Kudos to my Mama for making me go to his show earlier this year because HILARIOUS. You must watch this.

29. Daylight Savings Time. Yes it gets dark by 5 o’clock, but more importantly, I’m not arriving to school at dark-thirty.

30. Lambchop. My version of Linus’ comfort blanket growing up and I still have her. And my class loves for her to read poetry and act extremely silly every Friday. Someone should get control of her, these kids have fun in school on those days. (You knew I’d say something somewhat snarky). ;)

Wow, if you read this whole thing, I should give you a “No Homework” pass for my next blog.

I gotta say, I’m quite proud of myself for not using one of my entries as “That this list is over,” as I have in years past.

You can just add it to your thankful list.

Hope you have a happy November and Thanksgiving!

Peace.

2011 was quite the rollercoaster year.

Among the high parts, I married my best friend and we’ve had a blast as newlyweds. Our sweet new house is filled with laughter and love everyday.   We had our beach wedding, another week on the beach in the fall, and many other fun adventures.  There have been many, many more happy memories made this year as well that I’ve spilled on here.

However, 2011 also brought something that I hadn’t experience in many years in this way: peace.

Now, let me explain.

Yes, I’ve had peace many times the past few years- peace about my faith, peace about the one I was going to marry, peace about my career, and many other decisions that have impacted my life.

Yet it doesn’t come close to the peace that is experienced after a particular life event: death.

I began 2011 with two grandparents still living.  I am ending the year with zero left living on this Earth. Without going into too much detail, both of my grandmothers passed away somewhat abruptly.  My Dad’s mother was very elderly and had been sick off and on for the past few years, but she just happened to pass in her sleep this past August.

My Mom’s mother passed away Christmas Eve.  She went into a surgery that she was expected to wake up from and begin a long recovery, but she never woke up.  Nobody, including her doctors, her family, or herself thought that would be the outcome.

God did though.

When they died,  I cried a lot of tears (Brett has seen my ugly cry too many times in our young marriage already).  I was sad.  I was hurt. I was upset.

But I had peace.

Both of my grandmothers were born-again Christians.  They didn’t practice religion. They experienced a relationship.  A relationship with the Son of God: Jesus Christ.  They have set wonderful examples to me to be a Godly woman, and not just on Sundays. Through their lives, they were servants of God everyday.

But…

While they were good people, that didn’t get them to Heaven.  While they went to church regularly, that didn’t get them to Heaven.  While they believed in God, that didn’t get them to Heaven. Their decision to make Jesus the Lord of their lives to serve Him did.   I have such peace knowing that I will see them again. I’ll miss them here, but it’s temporary.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

You can have something that money can’t buy and Jesus already paid for you:

Peace.

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One night last week I couldn’t sleep, so I listened to my iPod on shuffle… and this song came on.  I had my grandmother & family on my mind and God knew it was what I needed to hear. Maybe you do too.