Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Different Kind of Christmas

It was a different kind of Christmas.  My grandmother passed away in January of this year, and to say things have been different without her would be an understatement.  She had been sick for over a decade, and we were and are grateful for her complete healing in Heaven, but we still miss her.  When she went to Heaven, I found myself being selfish in what should be the most joyous of times.  There is one less place to visit on Sundays after church.  She always called to sing "Happy Birthday", a little off-key, but she made up for it with enthusiasm.  On my 24th birthday, I got one less phone call, one less song.  She wasn't there to critique my deviled eggs or punch bowl cake at 4th of July (trust me, she would find something that needed improvement haha).  She never got to see my wedding dress; I'm the only granddaughter who had an extra candle instead of her at my wedding.  When my sister cut 6 inches off of my hair (don't worry- she does hair for a living) the day before Christmas Eve, I had a slight feeling of dread for a minute over what she would say when she saw it the next day before I remembered she wouldn't be there.  It's been almost a year, but I find myself missing her more instead of less; it seems to get harder instead of easier.

I have to remind myself that her joy is complete.  That my mom has a saved voicemail of her singing "Happy Birthday".  That she always loved that I love to cook; that I cook the way she often did:  without recipes, by feeling and the occasional taste test.  That she had the best seat in the house for my wedding.  That she probably asked an angel to intervene before my sister cut half a foot off my hair.

In addition to my grandmother being in Heaven, it was my first Christmas as Mrs. Cook.  After a few squabbles in scheduling, everything worked out just fine for us to be able to love on both families and start our own Christmas traditions.  We are fortunate to have both families within less than an hour of one another and our home.  It has been so special to have this time together, to start our own memories as the Cook family.

It was a different kind of Christmas for us- our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Cook, our puppy's first Christmas (yes, we are the crazy dog people), the first Christmas that we were responsible for all decorations.  It was a different kind of Christmas for our parents, with us waking up in our home instead of theirs.  It was a different kind of Christmas for my extended family, missing my grandmother.
But she had a different kind of Christmas this year, too- her first Christmas in the presence of the Savior.  Wow.  My grandmother loved a good party, and I cannot imagine the ultimate Christmas party she got to attend.  And I'm sure Jesus thoroughly enjoyed her rendition of "Happy Birthday" :)


Monday, December 8, 2014

I don't have time for this

I don't have time for this.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've said or even thought this phrase recently.

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the midst of addressing Christmas cards, writing thank you notes from our wedding, making a dip for a family get-together, entering grades, starting a load of laundry, and running the dishwasher.  As I often do when I'm trying to multi-task, I found myself getting more and more frustrated, more and more annoyed, more and more, quite frankly, grumpy.  And as I started every task, I found myself getting ill and frustratingly whispering to myself, "I don't have time for this!!"

And then I heard it.  That still small voice.  That still small voice that comforts, brings peace, gives grace, loves relentlessly.  That still small voice that convicts.

That still small voice whispered to my heart, "Don't have time for what?  For life?"

These moments, this small chaos, this is what life is made of.  It is busy and peaceful and crazy and hard and beautiful and frustrating and lovely.  It is good because the One who gives life is good.

So often, I get caught up in the chaos.  I've never been good at chaos and conflict- my instinct is to want to skip it...skip to the evening, skip to Friday, skip to vacation, skip to (insert event here).  But God has put it so plainly:  "Don't be wishing you were someplace else...Where you are right now is God's place for you.  Live and obey and love and believe right there." (1 Corinthians 7:17a, the Message).  He wants to meet us and use us right where we are, no matter our circumstance.  My chaos is relatively small, especially when you consider the happenings in our world.  And yet, with all that is going on in His world, God still cares about the chaos and mess in my life.  No matter how big or how trivial to others, to the world, or even to ourselves, God notices and He cares, and He wants to use it for His glory and our good.

Once I took a deep breath, I looked around our two bedroom apartment.  And I loved what I saw.
That pile of Christmas cards and that stack of thank you notes reminded me that we have people in our lives we are lucky to love and who love us in return.  That dip that needed to be made meant we have food to eat, enough to share, and loved ones to share it with.  Those grades I needed to enter were a reminder that I'm fortunate to be able to do what I'm called to do and get paid for it.  That load of laundry and full dishwasher meant we have clothes to wear, food to eat, and something to eat on and with, and clean water to wash them.  And when I calmed down, I realized my precious husband had picked up unloading the dishwasher right where I frantically scooted off to the next thing; he was stirring the ingredients in the crockpot and figuring out what to add next (quite the task, considering his wife doesn't often use recipes).

This holiday season, I'm working on eliminating the phrase "I don't have time for this" from my vocabulary.  Because what I'm really saying when I say that is "I don't have time for this life"; what I'm really saying is "I don't have time for these gifts, God."  And who am I to turn down a gift? ;-)

Making time,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

a brand new blog

Growing up, I wanted to do something great.  I entertained the idea of nursing, going to law school, becoming a banker, going into broadcast journalism (I went so far as to intern), just to name a few.  I had the grades and the family support I needed to go to many competitive schools (here's lookin' at you, UNC) and to give it my best shot at becoming those things.  The world was at my fingertips.  But my heart said no.  No to nursing, law, banking, journalism.  I knew what I was meant to be, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it.

I will never forget a particular car ride with my mom.  I was 17, and I was driving us to the mall.  We were talking about me going to college, what I wanted to major in, and I kept beating around the bush.  She finally cut me off and said, "if money was no object, what would you do?"  And, right there driving over a bridge, I finally said it out loud, "I would teach."  And my mom said, "Then that's what you should do."  The following Monday, I applied for the Teaching Fellows scholarship.  I accepted it that spring, and I've never looked back.  

That fall, I went to a college I never expected to go to, majoring in Elementary Education.  I fell in love with Appalachian State and the people I met there, including some of the most wonderful friends in the world and, oh yeah, my super cute husband :) 

After graduation, I spent my first two years teaching first grade at a low-income elementary school.  Those two years hold some of the best and hardest times of my life so far, and you can read about my journey of faith through it all here.  In the midst of it all, I was dating the most selfless human being I've ever had the pleasure to know.  We started dating just as I finished my undergrad degree, so he has seen my career from the very beginning- good, bad, ugly, and everyday mundane.  More than my career, he has seen me- good, bad, ugly, and everyday mundane- and he asked me to marry him anyway :)  We got married 10/18/14, and being Garrett's wife is one of my favorite blessings.  

At the end of my second year of teaching, I felt called to something different, something new, so I put in for a transfer.  As much as I wanted it, I still cried when my transfer request was approved.  I was offered positions at two schools- one elementary school, one middle school.  At crossroads like these, I've learned to step out of my comfort zone (or sometimes be thrown out), and so I accepted the position at the middle school to teach 6th grade math and science.  

Did I mention that both of these transitions have happened in the past 6 months?  So that brings us here.  To a brand new blog.  This is my story of navigating marriage and middle school.  Welcome to it :)