17 November 2012

1500 miles

Over the past two weeks, I've travelled over 1500 miles. Today, I'm exhausted. When I arrived home last night after 9 hours on a bus, I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to watch even 20 minutes of television. That's huge. I almost immediately went to bed.

Most of the travel was for work. Last week, we took freshmen to visit two universities. This week, we chaperoned juniors on a trip to visit five universities. I've discovered that the enjoyment of students increases exponentially by year in school. Even though I'm tired, the trip with juniors was so enjoyable. Plus, I laughed so, so much with the other chaperones--two of whom are my bosses. I literally made myself sick with laughter.

Last weekend, Husby and I saw An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. It was lots of fun. We weren't sure what to expect. Although I feel like most people were there to see Anthony Bourdain, it was Eric Ripert that excited us. Just like when we met Chef Hubert Keller on our honeymoon, I feel like I would have been starstruck if we'd met him. Even looking while he walked on stage made my heart beat! I adore chefs.

This weekend begins my Thanksgiving break. I have plans to see several friends. This introvert is super excited to connect with these people in my life. Tomorrow, I'm heading to see my BFF of Granbury, Texas. I've been promised a visit of pajamas and coffee, games and laughing. I'm really, really excited for this time with her and her husband. Before I leave, I plan to make a stop by the store to buy ingredients for apple pie, sweet potato casserole, and Brussels sprouts with cranberries and pecans to make for Thanksgiving.

After being on the go so much, I'm thankful for a break. Thankful for family and friends. Thankful for cooking, coffee and laughter. Thankful for rest and tradition.

12 November 2012

101 in 1001

By design, I am a list maker. Looking at my desk, I see three lists. I love crossing things off, and more so, the feeling of accomplishment! For the past few years, I've seen 101 in 1001 lists on various blogs. I've wanted to create one, but it seemed like such a daunting task. Since I'm working to find me again, I decided to create a pretty exhaustive list of things I'd love to accomplish in the next 2.75 years. Here is my list of 101 things I'd like to accomplish in by August 10, 2015...

Start date: November 12, 2013
End date: August 10, 2015

1. Send 40 handwritten notes (0/50)
2. Donate 500 items (0/500)
3. Christmas goodies to neighbors
4. Send happies in the mail to 10 friends (0/10)
5. Write a monthly letter to our Compassion kids
6. Volunteer with Children's Miracle Network
7. Go on a mission trip

8. Watch all Star Wars movies (0/6)
9. Watch all Harry Potter movies (0/7)
10. Attend a haunted house
11. Take a cooking class together
12. Go to a movie at Liberty Hall
13. Expand our family
14. Start adoption process
15. Go on a spontaneous road trip
16. Go geocaching
17. Complete a puzzle
18. Go to three movies with Jeremy (that I don’t want to see) (0/3)
19. Create a Jesus Tree to use at Christmas

20. Attend BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)
21. Memorize 20 scriptures (0/20)
22. Participate in a 5K Color Run
23. Participate in a Turkey Trot
24. Participate in a Jingle Bell Run
25. Make bed every day for 30 days (0/30)
26. Lose 50 pounds (0/50)
27. Try a new hair color
28. Get a shellac manicure
29. Drink only water and coffee for 30 days
30. Eat paleo for 30 days
31. Become CPR certified
32. Don’t hit the snooze button for 7 days
33. Attend 3 book events (book signing, author q & a, etc) (0/3)
34. Wash my face every night for 30 days (0/30)
35. Successfully give up something for Lent (no cheating!)
36. Have family pictures made
37. Frame my degree
38. Purchase personalized notecards
39. Have a blog makeover
40. Be in a flash mob

41. Pay off car
42. Develop a budget
43. Stick to budget for 90 days (0/90)
44. Save $100 per month for one year (0/12)
45. Set-up monthly draft for tithe
46. Insure engagement/wedding ring
47. Choose a stock & invest
48. Have a no-spend month (only necessities—food & gas)

49. Take a calligraphy class
50. Take a craft class
51. Read 30 books (0/30)
52. Learn 2 songs on my oboe (0/2)
53. Learn to ice cookies with royal icing
54. Sew something
55. Make a mobile for nursery
56. Visit Tyler Museum of Art

57. Buy a freezer for the garage to store food
58. Buy beef from a local, organic farmer
59. Make a soufflé
60. Make chicken liver pâté
61. Make a flourless chocolate cake
62. Make homemade mozzarella
63. Learn to make tamales with Delia & Sarah
64. No eating out for a month (0/30)
65. No fast food for 60 days (0/60)
66. Make a reproducible recipe book from my grandmother’s handwritten spiral
67. Enter a recipe contest
68. Take lunch to work 4 times per week for a month (0/28)

69. Attend a taping of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
70. Go to a midnight showing of a movie
71. Attend The Book of Mormon
72. Attend Wicked
73. Attend a sing-a-long movie
74. Visit NYC
75. Visit the Northwest
76. Visit New Orleans

77. Celebrate 12.12.12
78. Host a game night
79. Throw an Eggnog & Appetizers Christmas Party
80. Have a fondue party
81. Start a girls supper club; meet monthly for six months (0/6)

82. Organize every cabinet; then start over
83. Organize every drawer; then start over
84. Organize every closet; then start over
85. Organize garage
86. Organize photos in matching albums
87. Print honeymoon photos for album
88. Make J’s closet a safe place during emergency (stock with flashlights, water, pillows)

89. Finish master bedroom
90. Decorate a nursery
91. New flooring in house
92. New light fixture in dining room
93. Remove chair rail from dining & entry
94. Paint entry
95. Paint dining room
96. Change light fixtures in halls
97. Unpack extra room
98. Paint/finish nightstands
99. Sell couch & chairs in living room
100. Print, frame, & hang a wedding picture
101. Plant a magnolia tree

07 November 2012

-ing & a recipe

For me, the intimidating part about writing two thoughtful and, hopefully, thought-provoking posts (here and here) is that at some point there's a post that just normal. So, we're back to normal posts for a while at least. Here's what I've been doing this week:

Traveling:  On Monday and Tuesday of this week, me and three other chaperones took our 60ish member freshman class on a college tour. We visited two colleges, Texas A&M and Baylor. This means that I was around freshman boys non-stop for 36 hours, minus sleeping hours. What I learned? Boarding school for the freshman year is an option if we have boys.

Packing:  A couple of weeks ago at church, we grabbed two boxes for Operation Christmas Child. I love this ministry. It makes my heart to happy to pack boxes of goodies for kids who otherwise wouldn't receive anything. This year, I discovered that my dollar goes much further when I shop the post back-to-school sales. Things go on crazy clearance! I found the cutest chevron journal and striped socks, plus more. I'm convinced that the girls who receive these boxes will be thrilled.

Cooking:  As planned in this post, I cooked out of my new book, Practical Paleo. I made Blueberry  Lemon Muffins. I was a little hesitant since I'd never baked with coconut flour, but they are so good! And my house smells fabulous. Here's the recipe:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk all wet ingredients together. Sift in dry ingredients and then stir until well blended. Gently fold in blueberries. Fill muffin tins half full. Makes 12 muffins.

**Modifications: 1) I didn't have a lemon, so I skipped this ingredient. 2) I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Because if some is good, more is better. 3) My blueberries were frozen, so instead of folding them in, I scooped the batter into the tin, and then poked the blueberries into the batter. Otherwise, they all freeze in a big clump in the bowl. 4) The recipe says to cook 35-40 minutes. Mine took about 20 minutes. Pull them out when they start browning and a toothpick comes out clean.

Folding:  Clothes. Towels. Sheets. (Actually, not sheets. I prefer to throw them into the drawer where they're stored, half-folded, half-wadded. It works.) I'm so behind on folding. I blame travelling. Or television.

So, that's what I'm doing this week. What about you?

05 November 2012

the election

After an almost five month break from blogging, it makes total sense that I'd write a post about something as controversial as politics. Here goes...

Tomorrow is an important day for our country. Although I am more than ready for this crazy election season to be over, I know that it'll be a few weeks before things die down, no matter the outcome. At least the bashing of both candidates will mostly be over. Until 6:30pm tomorrow, I'll be on a bus with 45 high school freshman; thankfully, my attention will be focused on something other than projected outcomes. My method to get through Election Day is to unplug. [Mom, I voted early.]

I hope that no matter the outcome, the leader--our President--will be respected and revered by all, but especially by believers in Christ. More importantly, I hope that Christ-followers, instead of lamenting or heartily rejoicing over the outcome will approach the throne of grace, covering our President with prayer. We're called to this, y'all; take a look at 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (NIV):

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Praying for our leader doesn't have to include praying that all he wants will happen or that all of his legislation will be approved. I'm sure that by recalling each president, we can think of at least a half-dozen things with which we do not agree. We don't have to align our beliefs with our leader, and we certainly don't have to agree with all that they do. But it is important and Biblical that we lift them up in prayer. Without being a fan of a President, we can pray for wisdom, pray for blessings over him, pray for his family, his relationships, his safety, his stress level, his leadership. Pray for future Presidents. And even past Presidents.

I know we're in election season, so there's been lots of bashing going on. As Americans, we have the freedom to say what we think; praise God for that! Unfortunately, that means disparaging the President. The Bible is clear that we are not to speak harshly about our leader: You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. ~Exodus 22:28 (ESV) There's an adage that floats around, "If you don't vote; you can't complain!" Mostly that's interpreted as: if I vote, I can say whatever I'd like about the office. But you know what? As a believer, you shouldn't. God is pretty clear about that.

Over the next days, be careful with your words. Be mindful to pray for our country, for our President-elect. Again, Paul writes in 1Timothy for "...petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving...for all those in authority..." That means interceding for Tuesday's President-elect that may not have received your vote. Our God is sovereign. Even with an outcome with which we don't see hope, He can move and work and do great things.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. ~Romans 13:1 (NIV)

04 November 2012

finding me

I'm not sure how it happened, but over the past years, I feel like I've become a watered-down version of the person I once was. Last night, as Husby and I chatted over the sushi appetizer on a restaurant crawl, I shared with him that once married, I seemed to stop doing so many things that made me "me." I went onto explain that the creative person in me no longer creates; the cooking enthusiast/novice foodie no longer obsesses over a recipe to try; the scholar quit reading and writing; the planner no longer invites people over. Somehow, at some point, complacency set in.

I don't at all think it's because of marriage. It seems that seasons of busyness piled on top of each other, creating seasons of harried-ness. And when this happens, the introvert in me withdraws--preferably on the couch. At one point, I'd be happy on the couch reading something off of my ever-growing Amazon wishlist. Or catching up on blogs. Or the latest Real Simple, Food & Wine, or Country Living. But now? I have a stack of new magazines in a pile; I agonize over how many books I haven't read this year; I realize it's been weeks or months since reading a favorite blog. The time suck, and likely a huge reason that I've become less "me"? Social media.

I am ever-connected to a people through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although it is great to stay in touch with [some] people, I'll be one of the first people to warn that social media gives a false sense of relationship. Many times, I have to give context when I say, "friend." It's Facebook-friend or Instagram-friend or blog-friend. And though I love that I've "met" new people through blogging and Instagram and the like, and I believe that if given the chance, we could be friends, it is still not an ideal way to create or maintain friendships.

The easy fix for finding me would be to create, cook, read, write, connect. I mean, how hard is that? But I think at this point, I need a practical way to do these things that I love, the things that make me, "me." My goals over the next days and weeks:

Create: I began following Her Southern Charm on Instagram. She illustrates/doodles her journals and planner. So, I don't have a journal (mostly because I'm not disciplined enough to write in it except on occasion), but I do have a planner (that I actually made!). Last week at work, I broke out our tub of markers that I hadn't touched since I started my job 4.5 years ago. I brought such joy to make my planner colorful and whimsical! I'll continue to do this.

Cook: I recently bought a cookbook, Practical Paleo. Each week for the next month, I will cook a recipe from this book. Please note: over the next three weeks, I will be in town nine days. I'm just realizing that this is a bigger deal than it seems.

Read: By the end of the year, I will read four books, including: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, In the Garden of Beasts, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Write: Over the past months of my unintended hiatus, I've wondered if I should even continue blogging. Do you know how many blogs there are? I don't. But it's a lot. I wonder what I have to share that is different from others. More than anything, it's a way for me to write. Writing is something I'm [sometimes] good at. (Especially when I don't end sentences with a preposition!)

For me, if I read, then I'm able to write. The more words that go in, the more come out. Although my next few weeks are well-planned, my goal is to write four times a week on the blog.

Connect: I'm thankful for the upcoming holiday season since my next few weeks are so very busy. While holidays are typically busy, working at a school means I am able to have a week off at Thanksgiving and two at Christmas. So there's time to rest and connect.

Next weekend, Husby and I are hitting up Ft. Worth for "An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert." Although it may not be super-exciting to a vast majority to hear chefs talk about food, it thrills us! While there, we'll visit one of Tim Love's restaurants. (Side note: what celebrities are to most, chefs are to me.)

Mid-month, I'm heading to Dallas with a friend for some shopping and eating and to see the folks from Young House Love while they sign books at West Elm. The next day, Husby and I are heading out to visit a BFF couple in Granbury. I'm planning to stay in my pajamas for as long as possible each day we're at their house.

So that's my plan. I hope to report back at the end of the month--or possibly throughout--with the intentional things I do help me find myself again, find the the things I love to do, the things that make me, "me."

27 June 2012

a year of dates: comedy club

First up in our year of dates: a comedy club with three acts. Although I can create the above date card with a moving box, scraps of paper, a Sharpie and an ink pad, it is beyond my creative ability to come up with catch-y names or titles. We all have weaknesses, right?

The title of our comedy club: ha(squared). Get it? Ha, ha.

(I know; it's super corny.)

(But it included appetizers and drinks, prepared by me. So that made up for me having to explain the name of it.)

(I am nothing, if not proud of my cooking ability.)

(And my ability to make a gift from a moving box.)

The Ha Ha Comedy Club was at our house. As promised on the date card, I made a dinner of appetizers.  Actually, it was just one appetizer since it was just the two of us. On the menu: Pioneer Woman's Spicy Whiskey BBQ Sliders. So, so, so good. To go with them, we had grown-up Cherry Vanilla Coke, using grenadine and a splash vanilla vodka. Very tasty!

As I prepped dinner, we had our first act. I ordered Mad Libs in Love from Amazon. I'm pretty sure neither of us had done Mad Libs since junior high. It was fun, but I don't think you'd have to have the "in Love" version. Any Mad Libs you have in the house or find at the dollar store will work! If you're on a budget--or wish you hadn't spent $5 on a book that you only use for 20 minutes--try an online version.

After dinner, we headed to the couch. (Our most favorite place in the whole house.) The second act was a comedy DVD. Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian. We watched his I'm No Rockstar comedy DVD. HILARIOUS! He has tons of videos on YouTube. With the videos found on You Tube, this could be another no-cost way to do this date! Here's one of our favorites, his tribute to Chick-fil-a:

For the final act, we headed to the computer. I LOVE laughing with my husband. Like really laughing. Until there are tears. So we visited: Graph Jam, Cake Wrecks and Damn You Auto Correct. (I know. A cuss word after a Christian comedian. Yikes!) These produce the hoped for laughter! We clicked from one thing to the next, just dying from laughter. That's the best!

Our year of dates was off to a great start. We spent an entire evening together, laughing.

25 June 2012

a year of dates

This post has been in the works since, oh, December 26. I've meant to post, but then I needed pictures. And then I didn't like the pictures I took, so I needed new pictures. Let's just pretend that it's not 6 months until Christmas and that I take decent pictures. Okay?

From our early dating days, I knew that Husby loved experiences over things for gifts. For past birthdays, I've given him weekend trips, zip line passes (that I hated with every fiber of my being), and even a day at home with absolutely no interruptions and only good food. These things make his heart happy, and that makes me happy. (Except for the zip lining. That meant my heart almost exploded.)

Last fall, I stumbled on this blog where she gifted her husband with a year of dates. I knew that I wanted to do this for Husby's Christmas present. Wouldn't you know there are a few web sites dedicated to dates? And not just the dinner and a movie variety! I went through ideas here and here, making a list of possible dates. I even password protected a Word document once I had a complete list. And then I forgot the password. So I started all over.

Here's what Husby received for Christmas:

It's a stack of dates. Thirteen dates. I am fully aware that there are twelve months, but I love celebrating fun days, so I had to throw in an extra date for Leap Year Day. I cut pieces (to fit into a gift box) from a leftover cardboard moving box, and then decorated each piece of cardboard appropriately for the date, using paper, stamps, ink, pens and just a bit of paint that I already owned. Because I had planned for a couple of months, I had purchased a few gift cards along the way to be used for some of the dates. My goal was to be frugal in the execution so that I could spend more on the dates.

I'll post more details about each date. Here are all of the cards with a brief description:

1: ha ha comedy club, a comedy club in three acts with drinks & appetizers

2.14: hamburgers & capture my heart (Think capture the flag. I had Nerf guns and little stuffed hearts.)
2.29: blue man group

3: a mystery date (played an computer mystery game)
4: frisbee golf with a twist

   5: friday's for dinner; then to see The Avengers
6: restaurant crawl (a fancy way to say 'progressive dinner')

7: indoor camping (with a fire and the A/C, roasted hot dogs & s'mores, cards & snuggling)
8: italian date night. unfortunately, not in italy. :)

9: his choice!
10: dinner & a ghost tour in a nearby haunted town

11: pizza and a drive-in movie
12: a return to our 'firsts': first date (Barnes & Noble), first restaurant

24 June 2012

and we're back...

As if prompts from friends over the past couple of weeks weren't enough to remind me that I haven't written in a while, I just spent 20 minutes attempting to figure out my password so that I could blog. There was fear in my heart as I typed every combination. Each time hoping that it wasn't the time I'd be locked out, forced to answer security questions that I probably should pay more attention to. But I did it. Even when Blogger told me I didn't have a blog. I finally figured it out.

Husby and I just returned from a little getaway. Initially, this was going to be our vacation time. We were going to rent a cabin in the Appalachians. It was supposed to be a relaxing 10 days away--reading, writing, hiking, spending time outdoors. We even booked a few nights at the first stop on our trip. But then I confessed on the way home from church the next day that I wasn't happy with our vacation plan. (First world problem, I know.)

The issue? I can totally spend an entire weekend inside, watching episode after episode of a TV series, reading, napping and playing games. I can even spend a little time outside when it's not in the heat of the day. But 10 days in nature? Probably not the best place for me.

To be completely honest, I love the idea of hiking. And here's my confession: I really wanted to do it after Husby and I watched all six seasons of LOST in just as many months. I love that Kate totally rocks it hiking on the Island (aka: Hawaii). But I don't like snakes, bugs, spiders or their webs, feeling like I'm going to fall of the side of a steep hill, or sounds of the forest that make me think an animal is coming after me. These things are all realities on the border of Tennessee and Alabama. At one stop, when we told someone where we'd hike, she said, "Oh, just watch out for snakes. They could really be out during this season."

(Guess what they don't have in Hawaii? Snakes. Kate didn't have to worry about a water mocassin or copper head on her path.)

The next day (when I came down with whatever cold Husby had), we set out for a couple of hikes. I even downloaded a trail app for my phone. As it turns out, I prefer urban hiking. I do not enjoy overgrown trails, possible wildlife, keeping watch for poison ivy (for Husby), or spider webs. After hiking through a couple of these trails, we resorted to following a paved trail. Or a road. Whatever. This was our destination:

It's a double decker bridge: the top was for trains and the bottom was for cars. I feel certain that I would have timed my trips so that I never crossed with a train. Can you imagine?!

After we passed the heat of the day in a bookstore, we headed to our second hike: Dismals Canyon. This is why we came to this area. I found it over on kevinandamanda.com.

Because the entire hike is only 1.5 miles, we knew that we wouldn't need an extraordinary amount of time to complete it. It was well worth the trip. Although it's not urban hiking, it's wonderful! You hike into a canyon where the temperature is noticeably cooler. There's no wildlife or poison ivy in the canyon. It was great! Except in the dark, scary parts.

We timed our hike so that we could do a night tour into the cavern. On the canyon walls live little "glowworms" called dismalites. They light up when it gets dark, attracting gnats and rogue mosquitos that travel into the canyon as a meal. The canyon walls look like a dark sky speckled with stars. It was such an incredible sight! Think firefiles, but a sustained light. Unfortunately, I am not a great photographer at night, so there are no pictures to share.

Since we only spent a portion of our vacation time away, we have another trip planned in late July. This time, we'll stroll the streets of Chicago. And maybe rent a bicycle. And visit some museums. And maybe even go to a park. Because I like nature. In an urban setting.

22 April 2012

weekend update

This is the first weekend in 2.5 years of marriage that Husby has been gone. Every few months, I have an overnight stay with a friend or for work. Although I hate leaving him, I think he secretly loves it. He can do whatever he wants. Whatever he wants usually includes playing video games and eating fast food.

Once or twice, he's had something for work that's called him away for a night, but I've never been on my own for two nights. I'm not a fan. Other than the fact that I have no one to listen to me dramatically tell stories, I also have no one to kill bugs or make me feel secure without using every possible lock on every single door in our house.

After I got Husby out of the door on Friday, I visited the Gresham Barn Sale. It's about a mile from our house. If you're familiar with First Monday in Canton, Texas, then this is similar but only a barn full of stuff that doesn't include nearly as much junk. Within an hour of Husby being leaving town, we were the proud new owners of an antique, handmade Amish seed bin. And it's beautiful. Currently, it's in our garage. It needs just a little TLC before it makes it's new home in our dining room.

Friday night, I headed back to the school to watch our kids perform Bye Bye Birdie. Y'all, it was SO good! I've seen my fair share of high school musicals, and this was pretty amazing. I mean, just look at these cute kids:

On Saturday, I had a visitor. We played outside, took a walk, had lunch, and snuggled while watching The Backyardigans. After three hours, I wonder how stay at home mom's ever get anything done or have a moment of down time. Thus, The Backyardigans. Here's Karis using the slide in our backyard for the very first time:

Cute, huh?

This morning did not start off well. I had to kill two gross bugs. A water bug was on the super tall ceiling in our living room. It took about 45 minutes to come up with a plan to kill it from twelve feet away; I couldn't wait for it to make a descent. Ultimately, I was successful. I'm just hoping the Raid on the ceiling fades over time.

(If you're not familiar with east Texas, "water bug" is another term for "big nasty cockroach." They like our pine trees, but a super finicky when there is too much water or not enough water.)

(If you're wondering about the second bug I had to kill--because, really, who isn't--it was a gross wolf spider. They freak me out. I hate them.)

(I feel fairly certain that the world could go on surviving if water bugs and wolf spiders became extinct. Surely, they don't impact us that much.)

Anyway...Husby is about an hour away from his return. He has homework to complete, but he's going to have to listen to a couple of stories. Mainly about how I can't believe I had to kill two of my least favorite creatures on earth on a day that he's gone.

09 April 2012

an easter heart

Yesterday was my birthday. For the second time in five years, my birthday was on Easter. It had never happened before 2007 and won't happen again until 2091. I won't share my day again. And neither will the Lord--at least not with me. All last week I joked that no one remembers my birthday when it's on Easter. The focus in on Jesus. And rightfully so. I'm so insignificant when it comes to him.

I'm funny about my birthday. I don't want a big deal made over it. I like for friends to remember it, but I don't get offended if I'm forgotten. I don't publish the date on Facebook because I don't want 200+ birthday wishes from people who wouldn't know my birthday except for the little birthday reminder. This year, I am thankful for my family and a handful of friends who remembered.

Do you know what I like for my birthday? Besides something chocolate in the form of a cake? A new outfit. Something cute and spring-y. And maybe some new sandals. I mean, it's the beginning of April, after all. Do you know what I must have for Easter? Besides a basket with chocolate candy? You guessed it: a new dress.

On Friday afternoon, I ran by the mall to find a dress. I grabbed a half dozen possibilities and headed to the dressing room, not once looking at a price tag. Almost any price (within reason) would be justified by the fact that MY BIRTHDAY WAS ON EASTER. In actuality, I deserved two new things: one for my day and one for Easter. First world issue, I know. I found one dress that would work. It was cute, if a bit too long.

Then, my friend, Chandra, came over on Saturday morning. We hadn't seen each other in quite a while, but had no trouble talking for a few hours. We talked about everything we could think of: work, submission in marriage, children, spending time with the Lord, party planning, blogs we read. And then I recommended a book: Seven by Jen Hatmaker.

One of my sweet friends, Allison, sent me an email at the beginning of the year, recommending Seven. I quickly put it on my Amazon wish list. [Side note: when Allison and I ever live in the same state again, I will be ecstatic.] Then I started hearing about it from other people. And then Allison blogged about it. I caved to indirect--or non-existent--peer pressure and ordered it that day.

Turns out, Chandra had read about Seven on another blog. She knew about Jen Hatmaker and her radical-ish thinking. She'd read Jen's posts about Easter (here and here) that were on my list of things to read this weekend. And then she mentioned something about Jen not buying a special Easter dress. At this point, we proceeded to talk more about the book, but that whole no Easter dress thing really stuck with me.

As is typical, I tried on the new dress Saturday night. I looked in the mirror, at every angle. It was a weird length. Even Husby agreed. Ugh. I attempted to do a quick "hem" by bringing the waist up just a bit and securing it with safety pins. It didn't work. I removed the pins, folded the dress and placed it in the shopping bag to be returned.

But returning the dress is more than a weird length issue. It's a heart issue. I knew after hearing about Jen's decision that I'd return it. See, I grew up in a church where clothing seemed like a big deal. The church I attended as a single seemed to place a big emphasis on outer appearance. I have judged people for not wearing appropriate clothes to church. A few years ago, I MADE myself wear jeans to church week after week because I had a heart issue that needed to be worked out, and this was one step in the process.

The Easter dress issue seemed a repeat of the same heart issue. I've always had a new outfit for Easter. Everyone at church dresses in their finest that day. Everyone has something new. But this year, I didn't. I wore a three year old dress from my closet. And do you know? I'm pretty sure no one noticed. Mainly because I have NO CLUE if others were wearing new dresses or three year old dresses.

I'm sure that I'll have a few new outfits for the season. But it's not this dress, not for Easter. Slowly, I'm learning that Easter is just about Jesus. It isn't about baskets or egg hunts or pretty clothes. It's about Him, even when it's on my birthday in 2091, Easter--Resurrection Sunday--will still be about Jesus.