Friday, July 27, 2012

out-of-town guest

once the baby and hubby were asleep, kemberly and i and bailey all curled up on sofa, lights dimmed, and talked. no one looked at their watch or worried about going to bed.

 i wasn’t just hosting just any ol’ out-of-town guest for the night, but one of my dearest, most cherished friends. just like kemberly says, our lives have gone down different paths over the course of 15 years, but with each visit, we just pick up where we left off. the time between visits is like a litmus test of a friendship, and ours is one that survives anything. everything.

kemberly has a “helping profession” that reflects in everything she does. though she sees herself as my friend, she’s also my greatest therapist. she has this innate ability to say the right things – the most empathetic and supportive character of anyone i know. these traits have a lot to do with kemberly’s faith and walk with god – she always chooses thankfulness and joyfulness for the good in life than give a flying flip over the negative. for this, it’s so easy to love her.

it was fun to wake up in the same house together – drinking chai tea, eating fresh fruit in the chaos of my toy strewn house, talking between work-related calls and/or emails. it was an event we’ve promised to replicate on a regular basis. so easy and enjoyable! it felt as if we had somehow found a way to have the best of both worlds. children and work trips and late nights. best friends and little families. a simple idea and the best kind of fun!

Song: West Coast  Artist: Nighttiming


Thursday, July 26, 2012


Little Mister turned one recently and it about blew my dang MIND, y’all! How did that even happen? I feel like I was pregnant about 60 seconds ago, and now here he is… All big and heavy and tearing up our house… And a whole dang year old! I don’t know how that happened, but here is what I do know: 1st birthday parties are stressful as all get out, and I’m super glad they only come once in a lifetime because that mess will seriously eat you alive if you aren’t careful.

Some birthday catalog arrived in the mail, advertising their newest mustache theme paper party package. I didn't much like their design, but I was totally diggin' the mustache idea. How darling would that be?! I went to Party City, expecting to load my cart up with mustache goodies and be done with it. This is apparently not possible. So, I had jumped on Pinterest for inspiration (which is basically a website devoted to food that your big hind-end shouldn’t eat, things you aren’t crafty enough to make, and stuff you can’t afford… Can’t get enough of it! Total time sucker!). Yeah, so some aspect of the party was totally stolen from Pinterest, but I have to give Pete and I credit for hands-on projects of our very own.

I love entertaining, but I’m a major people pleaser, so I was feeling a touch nauseous before the guests started arriving. The decorations looked great, the food turned out just like I wanted, and Little Mister seemed thrilled to be at his favorite pool with all his favorite people. First baby guest to arrive? Little Mister’s precious pal, Linden. 37 guests in total and the party went off without a hitch...I think. Little Mister ate his cupcake like a man who had just been rescued from a deserted island and hadn’t eaten in months. I told you, he is his momma’s boy! We don’t have a sweet tooth, we have sweet TEETH.

I won’t lie, when Pete carried over Reef's little cake with the candle lit up and everyone was singing, it took everything I had not to start doing the ugly cry in front of all those people. I just couldn’t believe an entire year had passed since that amazing day when I brought him into this world. It's been one of the best years of my life...and Pete concurs. I can’t even explain to you all how much joy and peace one tiny little person has brought into my heart, and to see so many people who love him gathered around, celebrating that with me, meant more than I could ever measure. At one point, I caught Pete's eye and I could tell we were both thinking of Reef's first year at a glance -- determined to hang on tighter with these years flying by as quickly as they are. All the stress and worry about this silly little party melted away and I once again realized what was truly important: He is here. He is healthy. He is happy. He is our baby.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

age 1


i’ve started this letter to you a dozen times already.  each time, deleting my words and trying again.  i keep searching for words that don’t exist in this language.  or perhaps any language.  what i need to tell you can only be felt.  experienced.  and so i’m really struggling to get this down.

in a blink.  one year ago.  you were there.  in our arms.  with each passing day, each month since you arrived, we have fallen, or better yet, risen more deeply in love with you.  we are better versions of ourselves.  better parents to you and your siblings.  better partners to each other.  better people to the world.  because of the love you’ve poured over us.

thank you for making me new.

this is our anniversary, reef william.  your first year of life.  twelve months of giving us laughter and love and teachings and proud milestones.  and this is my first full year as this better woman.  i made mistakes but learned what you needed and when you needed it and how to rock you just right and what to say to get you to smile and a thousand other little things along the way.

your father and i have loved every single second that has passed since your birth.  we marvel in the joy that is you daily.

thank you for coming into my life,

Song: Dream  Artist: Priscilla Ahn


Monday, July 23, 2012

ladies, this needs addressing

To all of you dear WOMEN -- this post is for you!

I want to address a topic that I hear from so many women. In some version or another, this is what I'm hearing...


And, HELLO GORGEOUS FACEBOOK PHOTOS! HELLO PRETTY BLOGS! They have a tendency to start up that damaging script in our heads that says we are not good enough/smart enough/creative enough/skinny enough/desirable enough, etc. There is just so much access to other women & their lives, outfits, homes, parties, etc. And it seems more than ever before, women all over are plagued with comparing themselves to others, all along their self-esteem is deflating.

I hear it constantly. And not always directly. Often times innuendos. From my friends. Family members. Colleagues. The struggle to find a balance between tapping into their true identity & worth while at the same time, balancing desires for...

-Being famous for something.
-Being super-model thin.
-Being the gal with the best outfit at the party.
-Being rich/er.
-Living in a nicer house.

-Driving the nicest car.

It's so easy to fall victim to this crap.

For starters, can I just say, with all sincerity, that you ladies...ALL OF YOU...are wonderful. I haven't met a woman yet in my entire life who was not a beautiful human being with either the biggest heart or the best intentions to offer something good to this world. One of my greatest wishes ever is that we can all tap into our worth & end this horribly damaging cycle of comparing ourselves.

I know you can end that cycle. And here's how I do it....

Decide what you really want out of this life, and surrender to it. Completely. I gave all of my heart to it. (I decided to do this when I was at the crossroads of my life -- in the midst of an unfulfilling marriage.)

This is what I decided I wanted the most & clung to it for dear life:

-To be a good mother.
-To be a good wife, worthy of a good husband.
-To share & give all that I have to helping others on their path.
-To leave this earth a better place for being in it.
-To be happy & at peace, regardless of circumstance (cause it helps me to do all of the above.)

EMBRACE THE BEAUTY & SUCCESS OF OTHERS. Instead of letting the success of others bring me down, I feel excited for for them. I feel special/grateful to be able to associate with someone so talented/creative/or successful. Surround yourself with people that you admire. Reach out to them, love them, and learn from them.

GIVE UP THE COMPARING OUT OF LOVE FOR YOUR LOVED ONES. If you are dwelling in negativity and self criticism, I guarantee it will spill over onto your husbands, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, family and coworkers. You can't really hide that stuff. And guess what - - it's not attractive. It doesn't lead to happy marriages and relationships. So if you are letting your desire for skinniness/riches/fame/attention make you feel negatively, think of the poisonous negative energy you are sending into the world and the effect it is having on others. Consider that you are teaching your children to live this way as well. Use your love for others as a catalyst for trying to change your ways. Love really is the most powerful force that can help us to stay on track.

HAVE LOVE & GRATITUDE FOR YOURSELF. Think of every kind word that has ever come your way. Think of every person you have influenced for the better. Think about HOW BLESSED you are!!!! For your eyes. For your hair. Legs that walk. A healthy, loving family. A chance to be alive and experience this beautiful life! No matter who you are, think of what you have and cherish it.

THINK OF OTHERS, INSTEAD OF YOURSELF. When I walk into a room - whether it's a room full of billionaires & their wives, or a room full of women at church from all backgrounds, or a room full of young urban teenagers with wit and style that could intimidate the crap out of me (if I let it).......Instead of thinking of MY inadequacies, I think about how I could make others comfortable, how I can bring a smile to their face, how I can get to know them better, how I can brighten their day in some way, or how I can just experience what they have to offer and learn from it. Thinking of others and taking my focus off of myself leaves no room for damaging thoughts. TRY IT! I promise it works like a charm. And it's a great way to ensure you look and feel radiant.

And lastly, if any of us have a weak moment and find ourselves comparing the crap out of someone else's life & wishing we had more.......THINK OF VERUCA SALT. :) This girl had everything, but was never grateful for it & always wanted more...and ended up a blueberry!

"All I've got at home is one pony, two dogs, four cats, six bunny rabbits, two parakeets, three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle and a silly old hamster! I WANT A SQUIRREL! But I don't want any old squirrel! I want a *trained* squirrel!"

"I want a party with roomfuls of laughter, ten thousand tons of ice cream. And if I don't get the things I am after, I'm going to screeeeeeeeEEEEEEEAM!!!!"

-Veruca Salt, Willy Wonka.

Song: Slide  Artist: Dido


Monday, July 9, 2012

our new church "home"

Our move to The Woodlands took place 1.5 years ago, and since that time, we’ve discussed on numerous occasions the desire to visit a new church -- that our current church at that time was simply too far of a drive and…well..we simply weren’t that invested. We all know how easy it is to postpone things that we aren’t forced to do.  How easy it is to [insert sarcasm] coordinate the family’s schedules to be at the same place at the same time, during the summer with vacations, baby arrivals, weddings, some having to work around the house on weekends, and other obligations. Seriously, it is about as easy as herding cats.  So, more recently, we just gave up and decided that this would be the week we visited The Loft (otherwise we may have never made it).

I was under the impression that The Loft was non-denominational, and it was not until I talked with a friend at work that I found out it was actually affiliated with the United Methodist Church of the Woodlands, located just across the parking lot. This friend explained that the mention of “Methodist” isn’t highly promoted, simply to avoid it becoming a barrier for anyone. She also said that their goal as a church was to reach the unchurched. This, I get.

On the day of our first visit, we were warmly engaged on our way in, which confirmed to me that these people were sincerely interested in getting to know us. It never seemed as if they were “putting on a show” in hopes of attracting some new members, which I have to admit I have felt in several churches I have attended in the past.  Unfortunately some churches can be likened to casinos…they “lure” you in with the pretty lights and entertainment, but once you are inside it becomes less about making sure you leave with more than you came, and more about keeping you busy so that you won’t go somewhere else.  In these churches, relationships and engagement never progress beyond superficial habits into real transformational experiences that lead to a life of committed service.  I do not mean to be overly critical here, but unfortunately the “competition” among churches for attendance numbers is a very real thing (if you don’t believe me, just ask your pastor).

Walking towards the “Garage” (a name given to the youth sanctuary), I noticed a coffee station – ahh, a place where I can fill up on God’s glorious brown nectar of life (OK, so I’m a coffee lover). I also spotted comfortable sofas and bar-height tables for gathering and fellowship. The whole interior of the building has a warehouse feel to it -- stained concrete floors, exposed ceilings, and corrugated metal walls. In the sanctuary, the room dimmed and the up-lighting from the back of the stage gave the room a nightclub rock concert type of atmosphere…where a drum kit, keyboard, and mass of guitars dominated the space.

I would argue that the praise band at The Loft is probably the most talented in the Houston area. Come to find out, the music leaders are accomplished musicians and songwriters. The music was as eclectic as the congregation, which consisted of the most diverse mixture of race, age, and income level that I have seen in a church so far. The songs were a bit difficult to catch on to at first, only because I didn’t know the songs…but at the same time, they are more in line with the style of music that I prefer to listen to. Very much like that of the music played on KSBJ radio. So even though I did not connect through participation, I still connected to the music through “feeling it” (if that makes any sense). I couldn’t belt out the tunes as I usually do (fortunately for those around me)…I was still enjoying and worshiping God just the same.

After worship, a man came up to the stage to deliver the sermon. This person was not the pastor of the church (Andy Nixon) that I read about online, so I can just assume that he is either an associate pastor or maybe a lay speaker. I later found out that the speaker was Rob Renfroe (@RobRenfroe1), the Pastor of Discipleship over at the main church (also known as “the big house). He had our attention with his candor and humor, but more importantly, my husband's attention with "I'm growing my hair out." Rob taught from 1 Samuel, using the David & Goliath story for everyday people. The theme was called, “Facing Your Giants,” and though I won’t even attempt to re-convey the lesson Rob taught (NO, because he was phenomenal!), it was along the lines of shifting our minds and hearts, recognizing that the battle is not ours but is Lord’s, and through Him we can overcome our giants, whether that be problems in the marriage, issues at the office, the lack of a job and/or income, disease, death, and the like. That’s not to say “oh, just sit back and do nothing – God will handle,” but rather use our experiences as opportunities. Rob was so descriptive of his main points, bringing out some important lessons from the Scripture topic and some needed exhortations on living a Christian life. Sometimes pastors can be so polished that they sound phony or insincere, but Rob made me feel as though we were having a one-on-one in the comfort of my living room. It is sort of like me writing this blog -- I am not an accomplished author who has dedicated years of her life to literary studies and amassed an expansive vocabulary in the process (I was trying to sound smart there…did it work?). Instead, I am just a regular “Joe” (Mandi, actually). Nevertheless, it sure is nice to hear someone who I can relate to do the preaching in a church, and also deliver a sermon that you know without a shadow of a doubt is from the heart instead of a sermon that sounds extremely well crafted.  

If I am someone (a visitor) who is hungry for God, would I find Him at The Loft Church? Undoubtedly. How would I be directed there?  Who would help me find the way?  The Holy spirit led my family here, I am certain. If the message that is preached at a church is led by the Holy Spirit, then it must be an indicator of where this particular church is on their journey, how healthy they are spiritually, and their level of maturity in the faith (because God would want the message to be delivered to the right people at the right time, right? Right!).  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

happy 4th!

July 4th on a Wednesday kinda stinks, right? Sort of throws the whole idea of taking a long weekend out the window. And when people ask if you'll be away for July 4th weekend, things get all confused because you don't know which weekend they are talking about. And then, of course, there's the extreme jealousy of those lucky people who just decided to take off the whole damn week. :)

Hope you had a Happy 4th! (Even if it was smack dab in the middle of the week.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

3 job opportunities. finally solved!

I took a deep breath yesterday. Like a real one. A fill up every square inch of your lungs deep breath and then let it out slowly and deliberately. I let all of the leftover worry shake off with it. I’ve been carrying so many concerns on my shoulders lately and knowing that we can put a big fat black mark through this is major. Onward we go.

Song: Hey ya!  Artist: Outkast
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