Thursday, August 21, 2014

Alone at Home

It's officially back-to-school time at the Rush house.

The big girls are in Virginia and just started their first week of classes. And Bird went back to school today.


Looking super styley in her first day of school outfit. 


So what does this time of year mean for me?

A little bit more alone time. 

I don't know about you but I am one of those people that is just a little bit nicer to everyone if I can get just a few minutes of alone time every day. (I know. I know. You're finding it hard to believe that I could ever be anything but nice, aren't you??) After being by myself for a little while, I feel refreshed and revitalized and ready to face whatever comes my way. 

And home is the place I most like to be alone. 

So what do I do with my time when I'm home alone?

Well sometimes, I do productive things, in spite of my best efforts to avoid them. I mean, Lily's in school five days a week and Ryan's occasionally going to ask what I did all day, so at least one of those days should be spent doing something constructive, right? 

My more productive home alone days include things like doing laundry, baking treats for school lunches, meal planning, and making grocery store runs that involve lots of label reading.

But setting aside boring chores, let's get to the good stuff. 

The stuff I don't run around telling everyone because it might make me seem lazy or Heaven forbid, like a real-live-human-being-who-sets-aside-her-to-do-list-occasionally-for-no-good-reason-other- than-she-needs-a-break kind of person. Because, who would do that, amiright??

Here we go.....   

For one thing, I read. 

You know how everyone puts out all those fun summer reading lists? I do read in the summer but probably a whole lot less than any other time of the year. Mostly that's because I don't get large chunks of uninterrupted time when Bird's at home. She'll hang with me, lying on the couch for about 30 minutes while I read, and then she's ready for something with a little more action. 

I bookmark all those summer reading lists, pull out my own TBR list (to be read, for those of you not up on all the hip literary lingo like myself), and get to reading. In fact, after dropping Lily off for her first day of school, I went straight to the library so that I'd have a good size stack of books on my nightstand. Because along with some alone time, a good size stack of books on my nightstand makes me a happy girl.

But I do much more than just read when I'm home alone.

I do lots of very interesting stuff, like.... 
  • immediately change into sweats after delivering Bird to school
  • wear no make-up
  • listen to podcasts of This American Life (like reading, another one of my favorite things)
  • watch TV shows that no one else will watch with me, like Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey
  • eat peanut butter foldovers, cereal, and avocado toast - but never sitting at the table
  • take naps (yet another favorite thing)
  • catch up on all my favorite blogs
I told you it was interesting. And unproductive. Unless you count watching Call the Midwife as educational preparation in case I'm ever in a situation where I might be called upon to deliver a baby. 

Now it's your turn. What do you do when you find yourself with a little free time and no one is home with you? Please tell me I'm not the only teensy-bit lazy person out there.... 
"In Search of Identity: Three of 2013's Best Translated Novels" were chosen by Juan Vidal for NPR Books.
This post was inspired by A Cup of Jo, who has cute illustrations to go with her home alone activities, which maybe you could check out right now... I mean, if you just happen to be at home right now.... alone.... you know.  


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Surprise!

I had one of the best things happen to me last week.

But I need to give you just a little back story first....

I don't think I've shared that Ryley decided to stay in Virginia this summer to complete her internship, as well as continuing to work in the club sports office.  The only downside to that plan was it meant that Ryley would more than likely not be back in Texas until December.

Well, Ryan and the big girls decided that was way too long to wait.  Especially since Ryley had not even seen our new house or visited our new church yet.

And that was the start of Operation "Bring Ryley Home Without Mom Knowing".  They kept me completely in the dark for two whole weeks!

So this past Friday morning, we headed out to Lake Conroe to rent a boat and just have some fun family time, minus Ryley.  Ryan informed me that a friend of his from Florida was flying into Houston that morning for a meeting but wondered if Ryan could swing by the airport to pick up some paperwork he'd been needing to hand off to Ryan.

Maybe I'm gullible but I totally believed him.

So we made a slight diversion to the airport where I dropped Ryan at the curb to go get his paperwork. I circled the airport, came back to pick him up and this is what happened:



Can you tell I was just a little bit surprised?

They got me real good.

So off we went to the lake, all five of us, which made a great day even better.

We also discovered that while Lily can take or leave the ocean, she is definitely a "Lake Girl".  She had a blast on the boat and didn't hesitate to get right in the water.



The big girls had a pretty good time, too.


All my girls, together again.


Since I'll soon be delivering yet another daughter to Virginia for college, I'm especially thankful for the times we do have all together.  

So have you had any big surprises lately? Or a fun family adventure?  I'd love to hear about it! 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Makes a House a Home?

If you asked one hundred people what makes a house feel like a home, you'd likely get one hundred different answers.

Homemade bread in the oven.

China dishes from a great-grandmother.

A family picture hanging over the mantel.

Books in the shelves. And nightstands. And coffee table. And end tables. And....

It probably goes without saying that part of what makes a house my house is books.

But with our recent move, I realized that while I was surrounded by books, it still didn't feel like home.

In fact, after being in our house for a month now, it has only truly begun to feel like home in the past few days.

And I was actually pretty surprised at the moment the thought, "this feels like home", first struck me.

It was late evening, just a bit past 8 PM. The sun was just disappearing. Light fading. Lamps glowing. The house was settling in for the night and so were we.

While Ryan tucked Lily in, I started the dishwasher and moved some laundry from the washer to the dryer, added towels and soap to begin yet another load.

Ryan stepped out of Bird's bedroom, singing under his breath, turned on the television and found a Spurs summer league game to watch.

Reagan got on the computer and FaceTimed Ryley in Virginia, showed her the progress on their new shared bedroom.

I opened a kitchen drawer, selected a Mexican hot chocolate, and fired up the Keurig.

And that's the moment when I first thought, "Home. Tonight this house feels like home.".

You know what it was?

Sound. Or rather, sounds.

Lily gibber-jabbering through the baby monitor, Backyardigans on the iPad.

The murmuring voices of Ryley and Reagan on the computer, punctuated with laughter.

Singing.

A basketball game on TV.

Washer, dryer, and dishwasher all busily humming along.

The Keurig noisily spluttering out my yummy drink.

These were the sounds of home.

I paused for a minute, just listening, feeling grateful that such simple sounds could be that powerful, could evoke such warm feelings.

Living in eleven houses in twenty-two years of marriage, you soon learn that a house is just four walls and a roof.  It's what's under the roof that really makes a home.  And hearing those sounds was a nice reminder that this twelfth house will soon feel like a home every day, too.

So what about you?  What makes a house feel like home to you?

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."
Maya Angelou


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Goodbye Dessert

Monday night, as I was making one of our family's new favorite desserts, I had a revelation.

This had become our "goodbye dessert".

I don't know about you, but certain foods evoke special memories for me.  Chicken and dumplings reminds me of my Mamaw. Prime rib and popovers reminds me of my first Christmas with my in-laws.  This cake reminds me of a friend in Virginia. Bruschetta reminds me of a family trip to Italy and a tucked away restaurant. Breakfast pizza reminds me of Christmas morning.

While telling friends and family about our completely unexpected and out of the blue move to Katy, we attempted to sweeten the news with a little dessert.  Hoping that a burst of warm, fresh blueberries with a delectable maple-y topping might soften the blow just a little bit.

I'm not at all sure that it worked.

I distinctly remember reaching for kleenex rather than my bowl sitting on the coffee table, melty ice cream over berries, slowly turning purple.

Until Monday night, it had been a while since I made this dessert.  I think my heart was starting to ache just a little every time I thought about making it because I was associating it with good-byes.

And it's just too good a dessert to have a sad memory tied to it.

So I made it Monday night.

And shared it with my parents.

And no one said a word about good-byes.

As I scraped my bowl clean, I had another revelation.

Side note here - I am perfectly agreeable to getting revelations through the eating of dessert.

This could just be a friendly dessert, something to serve for any occasion.  A warm and sweet way to say good-bye, or hello, or welcome to the neighborhood, or congratulations, or happy birthday, or.... you get the idea.  Best of all, it could just be a regular-old-night-of-the-week-hanging-out-with-the- family kind of dessert.

So good-bye sad little dessert.

Say hello to the new happy little dessert.

Click here for the best Blueberry Crisp you've ever eaten, courtesy of Shauna Niequist.

photo courtesy of shaunaniequist.com

Don't like blueberries? Then do apples, peaches, blackberries.... you get the idea.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bittersweet

Don't you just love those kinds of friends that you may not have spoken to in years, yet when you call them up out of the blue, they just pick up the conversation right where you left off?

Like all that time never even passed.

Are we friends like that?

I dearly hope so.

Because I dropped the ball on our conversation.  And now I am calling you up, hoping that we can  just pick up where we left off.

Have you heard of someone who, at the start of a brand new year, picks a "word of the year"?  A word that means something special or a word that will be a focus for the year?

Well, I've never done that.

I mean, how does someone go about choosing one word for a whole year? What if you pick the wrong word? What if three months into the new year, you change your mind and wish you had picked a different word? Can you change it or are you stuck with it because you called it "The Word of 2014"? What if someone else picks your word? Is it ok to share a word?

I just can't take the pressure.

But this year was different.

I felt like my word was supposed to be surrender.  And there was no getting around it.  It was like God had written the word on a steamy mirror after a hot shower. Like those people who see Jesus' face on a piece of toast, it was right in front of me, obvious and undeniable.

So I moved forward, declaring my word for 2014 to be surrender.

I was just so happy to finally join the ranks of the "word of the year" people that I never really put much thought into living the word of the year.

Otherwise, I might would've picked something like "sleep" or "read" - things I am 100% confident that I can really live.  And live abundantly.

God had more in mind for me and my word of the year than just getting it stamped on a cute silver bracelet.

Being married to a pastor can be an adventure.

Because ultimately, your husband's boss is God.  And it's not like God sits your spouse down at the conference table, reads his resume, assigns him to one church, presents him with a long-term package outlining his salary and benefits, pats him on the back, and sends him on his merry way with a few good ideas for sermons.

While that might be nice at times, there's a little more mystery and faith and trust and discernment involved.

And at the end of the day, even if God is your boss, you still have a choice.

The choice to listen or ignore.

The choice to trust or to doubt.

The choice to fight or surrender.

Surrender. That word again.

Ryan and I were recently faced with an opportunity that, while shaking us to the very core of our beings, has been nothing more than an opportunity to exercise belief and trust and surrender.

My husband is an incredible preacher.  He tells stories and shares the word of God in practical and life-changing ways.  He has an amazing heart for the family and wants nothing more than to heal so many of the world's hurts that stem from broken people living in broken families.

Not like he's got a real big goal or anything.

But he is also an amazing pastor.  A leader who loves his people, shares in their joys and sorrows, and  truly desires to invest in the lives of his congregation.

When you're married to a man like that, you start to love people, too.  You listen to their stories, rock their babies, feed their teenagers, freeze at outdoor Easter services together, and study God's word alongside them.

And because you care, people love you back.

They listen to your stories.

They come sit with you when you have a newborn who quits breathing occasionally and you're afraid to stay at home alone with her.

They send you to Houston for a month for your daughter's open heart surgery with so many groceries and gift cards that it fills a suburban top to bottom.

They bring you whole cakes so you can give them to the nurses so you'll be their favorite patients and they'll bring you the best recliners and pillows.

They host your teenagers in their homes, feeding them and driving them all over kingdom come.

They send you on vacations, give you free eggs from their backyard chickens, take care of your cars, host benefit yard sales, read your IEP before ARD meetings at school, send your girls gift cards for no reason, bring you real maple syrup, babysit your youngest, mow your grass, feed your family for six months after heart surgery, send you interesting special needs information, take your big girls to the movies and shopping, and on and on.

We do these things because this is what family does.

And our church is our family.

But when you're married to an amazing preacher and pastor, word gets out.  And calls start coming in; churches looking for a pastor.

Because this is family, we say no. Our people are right here in Austin. We are right where we need to be. Right where God wants us. We are here for the long haul.  Locked and loaded.  Amen.

So when one of those calls came in February, Ryan was surprised by God.  Taken aback to discover that maybe God might have something different in mind.

No, God did not sit Ryan down at the conference table and share the latest news with him.  And we did not see Jesus' face in a piece of toast.

But Ryan felt God giving him a slight kick in the pants.  A not so gentle reminder of who Ryan works for.  A hard question - "Do you have a career or a calling?"

Yikes.

And here I am, happy and clueless with a cute silver bracelet stamped with "surrender" circling my wrist.

Change is hard. And when you love the place you're living, the people you serve, and you have not one reason to leave, why would you create change?

Only because God says so.

And He is the boss of us.

So after much wrestling, many tears, several sleepless nights, and two jars of Nutella, it became abundantly clear that God was telling us it was time for the next part of our story.

We are leaving our beloved church and city, the place we felt so clearly called to ten years ago, for a new church and city, the place we feel so clearly called to right now.

Bannockburn has been a blessing that words cannot describe and a piece of our hearts will forever remain in Austin.

Now, we will create a new home, learn our way around a new city, and shop in a new Target.  We will find "our" Sonic, get lost many times, and find the best barbecue in Katy.

But mostly, we will listen to new stories and share in the joys and sorrows of a new congregation.

Because church is family.

And that's what family does.






Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Mystery Series Ever. Period.

You know that I have a deep love for reading.

And over the years, I have read a lot of books.  Like, a lot.

So when I say I've discovered the best mystery series ever, you can be 100% sure it is the best mystery series ever.

No need to ask questions. No need to research.  Just take my word for it.

The best mystery series ever is the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny.  In the author's own words, here is how she describes her books:

"And finally, a small note about the themes in my books. They're inspired by two lines from a poem by WH Auden, in his elegy to Melville. Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge/his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it.

How powerful is that?


My books are about terror. That brooding terror curled deep down inside us. But more than that, more than murder, more than all the rancid emotions and actions, my books are about goodness. And kindness. About choices. About friendship and belonging. And love. Enduring love.

If you take only one thing away from any of my books I'd like it to be this:

Goodness exists."

In the words of yours truly, I describe the books as "a thinking man's mystery series". 

Click here to visit Louise Penny's website and get behind-the-scenes scoop on all the books and the author herself.

So here is your to-do list, straight from me to you.  

Tuck the kids in bed, maybe even a little bit early.  I won't tell on you.

Put on some of these comfy pajamas.

Make this Easy Hot Chocolate from Kathy's Kitchen Table.

Curl up with one of those awesome no-sew fleece tie blankets, like this one.

And read the best mystery series ever, starting with Still Life.  Yes, you must read the books in order. Trust me on this.


Are you still here??

Go.

Read.

After all, it's on your to-do list.



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