Pace

redd-angelo-14423We’re closing in toward the end of the first quarter of the year.

Seriously? Where has time gone?

I’m looking back at my last post truly wondering. But here we are.  Smack in the middle of Lent. Still looking back at the remnants of a 1st Birthday party held in early February that still make their presence known in our dining room. I’m right in the middle of my busy time at work. And JP is just busy–into everything.

And what I’m craving is slow.

I’ve been paying attention to my pace.  I’m not as in shape as I’d like to be so when I walk fast, I’m short of breath. But also when I walk fast, my mind is also tracking at that same pace. When I slow down my walk, I’m able to catch my breath, pay more attention to it and I’m more aware of my surroundings.  The flowers starting to bud. The shape of the clouds.

We’ve had a few conversations lately about being connected and what that really means.  To be honest, many of my connections are online and through the apps on my phone.  But I want to be most connected with my people–the ones who live in my house and I see every single day. I don’t want to be distracted by an Instagram post and miss staring into my daughter’s blue eyes.

So I’ve cleaned up my phone.  Deleted some apps.  Installed a few others that I hope to be my primary focus.  Found that some of my goals and Lenten observances were too far reaching or ill-willed in their motives so I’m adjusting.  And giving myself grace in that adjustment.

I want to pay attention. I want to be focused on others words and stories. I want to leave space for my soul and heart to breathe, to not feel overwhelmed and to be connected with things and people that matter and willing to walk away from that that brings stress and overwhelm and comparison.

I want to invite people into our home for a meal again.  Sit across the table at coffee and be able to give people a warm hug rather than scroll, scroll, scroll on my phone.

I’ve got some ideas on how to put this into practice but I’d love to hear yours.

And don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter on the scrolling place but you’re hearing more from me here.

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Christmas is Over? (Or, Happy Holidays, ya’ll!)

Yes.  I guess you could say that.  Although for me, there is something about being off of work and even being back at work but void of students that still signals “Christmas!”  I’m certain it has to do with the Higher Ed mentality.  I’m sure of it.  I know that in the summer, there is a bit for a break for me; each fall and spring when those extended times of “rest” come.  I’m sure that’s why to me, it’s still Christmas.

But perhaps I’m wrong.  I see and hear of people taking down Christmas decorations, having the winter blues now that the holidays have past and feeling a sense of restlessness now that all the celebrations are behind us.  I guess I can see what folks are saying–there is such hubbub, such pageantry with Christmas that sometimes (myself included) we forget the entire reason for Christmas, so when all the “holiday cheer” passes, there’s a bit of sadness that comes with that.  How  quickly we forget that Christmas is not about seeing family and friends, gathering for big meals, spending hours perfecting new recipes and pulling out old standards.  It’s not about hours of rehearsal for Christmas services, shopping for that perfect gift, and trying out all the new wrapping and decorating techniques one has found on Pinterest.

So if that’s NOT Christmas, then what is?  It’s anticipation.  Epiphany.

Ever had an epiphany?  That a-ha or light bulb moment?  I had one earlier this year.  I continue to reference how that has shaped many of my conversations, prayers and thoughts over the past few months.  I think about that morning, sitting on my couch having my morning coffee with God when He really opened an area of my heart I had been so closed off to.  I remember driving to work that day in tears so overwhelmed with what God was birthing in my life.

Christmas is about a birth also.  But not just the birth–the anticipation of that thing–that person–that changes everything.  Having many friends who have had (or are expecting) babies, the anticipation, the preparation and celebration isn’t just on the day of birth.  There’s a long time of preparing, painting rooms, updating gift registries, discussing parenting styles and expecting what life with that little one will be like.

Advent is marked by expectation and anticipation in preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus. 

So we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  We attend Christmas eve services, make a birthday cake for Jesus (heard of so many more families that are doing this!  Our cake was always red velvet with a miniature manger scene on top of the cream cheese frosting), sing “O, Holy Night.” Then we go home, attend those holiday dinners, rip open the gifts without the slightest idea how much time and labor was spent on those bows and then we’re done.  We go home, take the Christmas CD’s out of the player, change the Pandora station, put the holiday movies back in storage and then once we’ve mustered up enough energy, we pull those storage bins out and start putting those decorations up.  No more lights.  No more mistletoe.  No more candy canes. Christmas is over.

But how quickly we forget!  Advent doesn’t end with Christmas.  Christmas is just the beginning!

One of my dear friends just recently had her first baby in October.  I went to the hospital the morning after she was born.  24 hours earlier, that little darling was still cozied up in her mama’s belly.  We celebrated God’s goodness that day.  And when I saw them at our Christmas Eve service at church, I was just as excited to see that little bundle of joy.  The celebrating doesn’t end with something new and exciting and straight from God.

Christmas begins with Christmas Day December 25 and lasts for Twelve Days until Epiphany, January 6, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. (http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html)
 
The mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity.

This is the climax of the Christmas season.  I wasn’t wrong–it IS still Christmas!  Get the lights back out, deck those halls–it’s still Christmas!

I love holiday traditions.  I love celebrating all season and holidays.  I want to be better next holiday season remembering the true meaning of the seasons–Advent, Christmas, Epiphany–and not give in to the commercialized hubbub.  I have improved this year, but there is till a long way to go.  Lighting the advent wreath, reading the advent readings in our home, opening one (small) gift each day from Christmas to Epiphany.

So how will YOU celebrate this awesome ending (that is really a beginning) to such a wonderful season.  How do you typically celebrate something really exciting?  Have a party!  We just so happened to have invited some folks over for dinner on January 6th–completely coincidental.  But now, I think I’ll be planning a dinner party every year on January 6th.  And not feeling so badly that my tree typically stays up through mid-January.  There was a reason all a long, I just didn’t know it.  And when I say “Happy Holidays”–you’ll know the reason there also.

Happy Holidays, ya’ll!

Warmly,

Faith Nicole

Updates…

Many of you have been updated on Mom’s status over the holiday via my twitter/facebook updates.  I haven’t formally mentioned it over the blog or in an email because, well, it was just tough to deal with to be honest.


The long and short of it is that Mom went to the Doctor in early December with head congestion/sinus/yuckyness that had affected her hearing.  After a week, everything was gone–including her hearing.  It never reappeared.  Back to the doctor she went and was diagnosed with having fluid behind her ears.  After a few days of the condition worsening and being incredibly off-balanced, she went to the ER on the 21st.  I jetted home to VA the next day to find my mom having “one of the worst cases of inner ear infection” the ER doctor had ever seen.


We muddled through the holidays humorously for the first few days, as Mom was having trouble hearing what I said and her interpretations had to make you laugh.  When her condition continued to worsen though, it lost it’s humor.  We called the ENT and got an appointment.  His diagnosis was that her hearing loss was not due to fluid or infection, but nerve damage.  What? Yep—my Mom who was a beautician for 21 years and then not working for the past 10 or so due to her health conditions has nerve damage in her ears?  Where in the world could she have gotten nerve damage?  It just didn’t make sense and to see your ENT just as puzzled, well, that wasn’t so comforting either.


After 4 doctors, we headed to get an MRI for answers.  We tried to make it fun.  Made the trip to Roanoke our annual “Mom/Daughter Date” with stops at Barnes and Noble and Olive Garden (Mom’s favorite and always default choice for our dates).  We did have fun.  We shared the chocolate caramel gelatto for dessert.  We love our ice cream.  🙂


I was challenged as to what to do.  Do I come home to Kentucky?  Do I stick around until she gets the results of the MRI just in case it’s bad news?  What about the wintery weather that’s supposed to hit Virginia on Friday?  I have to be back at work on Monday.  The questions didn’t end.  After much wise counsel from friends and the Beau, I knew that I’d know what to do when the time came to make the call.  And I did.  I loaded up the car on New Year’s Eve and then early New Year’s Day made the trek back to Georgetown.


Thinking she’d hear on Friday, Mom diligently called the Doctor’s office on Friday right as they were closing up shop at noon.  A weekend of waiting for the both of us.  I had a “re-new years” planned with the Beau for Friday night and Saturday, but I know the weekend had to be torture for Mom.  One day at a time we both kept encouraging.


Yesterday was the day.  She called the office and finally got a response a little after 5pm last night.


“Good news!  There were no signs of a tumor anywhere.  But the bad news is that we don’t know what is causing your hearing loss.”


It really is the little things, you know?  Those were the words I was completely avoiding saying out loud to myself or Mom, but were constantly lingering in my mind.  She’s revisiting the ENT in 6 weeks to see how permanent the hearing loss is and what can be done about it (say “Hello, hearing aids!”).  Still no answers for the unsteadiness, but we’re hoping her family doc and Rheumatologist will give her some answers.


Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the long and short of it.  Maybe it was the long of it.  But thanks a million to everyone out there who has offered up thoughts, prayers and well wishes toward Mom and I during this.  Continue to remember her as she’s got 6 weeks of this before she’ll get more answers.  Pray for her emotional health as well–the loss of her independence has been a big thing to process.  Pray for her and her neighbors as they all deal with the volume of her TV. 🙂 And while you’re at it, if you don’t mind, say one for me, that I’ll remember daily that she is in God’s hands and that’s the best place for her to be.

What a week…

I mean, I knew that when the Giants won the Superbowl on Sunday I was in for a doosey of a week. That sentiment couldn’t have been more true. It’s just been a crazy week for work, personal life etc. However, there have also been some great highlights:

-Superbowl Party @ Xroads on Sunday–we had about 60 folks show up and 12 pots of chili AND some gumbo (thanks Rhett!) It was so fun AND the best part was getting to snuggle with little Jackson Stephan after wearing him out dancing to Tom Petty. He was OUT!

-A fabulous lunch with my RA’s on Tuesday (FAT Tuesday) and talking about lent, what people were giving up etc. One who was giving up french fries was trying to figure out if tater tots would be allowed. I think she decided no.

-Date night in Paris with Lewie last night. We were able to catch up our week so far over a cup of tea at Starbucks before heading to Campbell’s in Paris for dinner. GREAT spot. We were the only folks in the restaurant other than our waitress/cook/everything and her dad who was in his 80’s. They were so cute.

-RALEIGH WEEKEND!!!! We (me, Chris, Cher and Kelly) leave in 18 hours (apprx.) to visit our dear friends Fred and Jen who have recently relocated to Raleigh, NC. Chris has to announce for the GymCats tomorrow night, so we won’t be hitting the road until around 10pm and we’ll be roadtripping it college style by driving through the night. We’ll be stopping at my aunts about an hour north of Cary to nap and shower and then spend Saturday and Sunday before making our way back to Lexington (and stopping to say hi to mom on the way).

I’m glad this crazy weekend will end on a high note!

Holiday Revue

It’s December 30th and although my last post was a mere 10 days ago, it seems as if that were a month ago. Here’s a quick holiday recap:

-Finished out the year with students on December 20th
-Had a fantastic Christmas gathering with the patio crew on the 21st–what a great, memorable year it has been with that crew (more on that to come)
-Was able to participate in the Christmas weekend services at Crossroads on Saturday and Sunday (22/23)
-Had a great Christmas date with my friend Kelly to our favorite restaurant and then to see “PS, I Love You.” Beautiful film, but horrible in that I was SOBBING and honestly could have gone through a 1/2 box of Kleenex.

The week in Virginia was amazing as well, but just as busy:

-Drove to Virginia on Christmas Eve and hung out that day with Mom
-Christmas Day was spent at my grandparents–we got there early and it was nice and quiet then in the afternoon everyone rolled in. We had a great time sharing the charitable organizations we donated to (in lieu of gifts this year)–very memorable. I think this will be a new family tradition.
-Watched movies with mom on the 26th and hung out with my dear friends from HS Kristi and Joe at our annual Barnes and Noble date and then saw Kandia and Jeremy (friends from HS who now live in Boston)
-Back to Grandma’s on the 27th to see family from Raleigh and for my annual date with friend Sarah (and now her husband Chase) in Roanoke. It was great catching up with my “college cousins” also–Sarah is a junior at NYU, and Zach is a freshman at UNC.
-Stayed overnight there and took my mom on her Christmas date on Friday–shopping, Olive Garden and Starbucks for a Carmel Apple Cider (to which mom asked if she could get a refill). Later that afternoon, the Stinson crew came in and then we headed home (in the POURING rain)
-Saturday was an early morning even though I was leaving as I had breakfast with Jena at Panera. It was great to see her (and the trip to TJMAxx was great too!)

So, needless to say, I’m renewed, yet exhausted. It’s now Sunday; I’ve arrived back in KY to an eventful night with the crew as we went to see Sweeny Todd at the Kentucky Theater. Bloodiest film I’ve ever seen. Not much more I can say about it. (Well, Johnny Depp was in it…)

My life is so full and I am so grateful for all the blessings. Stayed tuned as there will be more updates this week….

(PS–a week from today, I’ll be in GREECE!!! YEA!!!)

Community…

I’m a huge believer that conversations in life are cyclical for a reason, and when I have a topic, person, song, or something else that surfaces many times, I’ve learned to pay attention.

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, has been that cyclical topic the past few days. This snip-it of this interview really hit me hard:

DOOR: Why is it important for single Christians to be living in a community instead of by themselves?

MILLER: That’s not law or a biblical idea, but in my experience I was unhealthy living alone. I needed people around me to irritate me, to call me on the carpet, to pray with me, to forgive me. I needed that in order to become healthy. And it’s worked for me. I don’t think that we’re supposed to live our lives alone. I think we’re supposed to live our lives with other people, and the toughest lie that I’ve ever had to contend with was that life was a story about me. It isn’t a story about me, it’s a story about God, and he made us, and he made us to live together. It’s humbling to live with other people, but it’s also wonderful.

Thanks to those of you who have allowed me to live life with you. I appreciate our similarities, our differences, what you teach me on a daily basis and the fun times and laughs we share.

Circa 1986….


So, Ashley is going to kill me for this, but this is what you get for sending me this pic on the week of my birthday when I’m super nostalgic. Ashley is 6 weeks older than me (and will never let me forget it). Growing up we had our moments as we are both only children, so we fought like siblings at some family gatherings. However, time has passed and throughout our college years we became closer, chatting over IM, reminiscing at our grandma’s email updates about the garden and the flowers (when we’re pulling all nighters and God knows what else), and now as we have moved into that weird quarter-life stage, we are experiencing a lot of the same things, bringing us even closer.

Thanks Ash for a great early birthday present! You ROCK!