Ahhhhhhh. I have just enjoyed the most wonderful evening and morning with my man. He took me out last night to celebrate my 34th birthday (which is tomorrow :)). We got an overnight sitter so we could sleep uninterrupted- something that hasn't happened in almost 16 months- and sleep past 5 a.m.- something that hasn't happened in over a year. I just love sleeping in a hotel. Something about not having to wash the towels and sheets, something about having more pillows than you could ever need, something about the morning paper being at your door in the morning, something about the complimentary shampoo and soap. It just feels so blissful to me. :) But before we even got to the hotel part, he took me to a restaurant in Providence we had never been to before called Grille 29. YUM. Firecracker Shrimp, Bourbon Salmon, warm sourdough bread and Chocolate Peanut Butter-something or other-deliciousness. YUM. I ate so much it hurt to walk around Providence afterwards, but we did. We have so many delightful places in Huntsville to enjoy as a family in the evening or on a date night. Providence, Bridge Street, Big Spring Park, are all very magical places to walk around in the evenings. Then we got to the hotel and he surprised me with a gift. I thought the gift had been the expensive dinner and night of blissful sleep, but as usual, he went above and beyond. :) I had recently discovered this cool, unique, quirky gift shop in the lumber yard near Garden Cove called The Switch House. Nearly everything there is locally handmade- soaps, scarves, candles, artwork, purses, etc. I love it! He had been there and gotten me some Lavender Rosemary bath salts and soaps, a coral handmade 100% cotton washcloth, and beautiful silk blue and purple scarf. He knows me so well. :) There were two glitches in the evening; we had originally planned to do a double date at The Melting Pot with our friends Rich and Linda, but Rich had gotten very ill this week and had to cancel; and Brian's company was asked to do a shut-down for one of their customers starting at midnight last night. So, after about 1 hour of sleep, Brian had to drive to Decatur to work the shut-down, and didn't return for one more hour of sleep until 9 a.m. Well, one of us had blissful, uninterrupted sleep anyway. :) Brian is now catching up on his sleep. But before he brought me back home, he took me to Sunday brunch at Mezza Luna. Let me just tell you, if you're ever looking for a Sunday brunch place, look no further than Mezza Luna. Salad, fresh fruit, eggs benedict, scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, curry chicken and rice, steak with veggies, spinach quiche, sweet potato souffle, tomato basil soup, lemon poppyseed muffins, fresh squeezed orange juice, cheesecake and pecan pie. Seriously. Delicious. So now as he sleeps and I wait for the kids to get home from church, I'm having to unbutton the non-maternity pants I was bragging about still being able to wear. I may now have to get into maternity pants, only because of the last 24 hours food splurge. :)
Another way that he pampered me last night was with great conversation. I love conversation. Not chit-chat, but deep, thought-provoking conversation where we peer into each other's souls. I could converse like that for hours. Fortunately he humored me and participated, probably wishing we had the other couple there too so at least for a minute now and then he could just think about the weather instead of having to be fully engaged in how we should change the world. :) Humor me he did though, and I asked him a question that had been haunting me the last few weeks: Have I lost my joy?? Did I used to be a more fun, energetic, thrilling person than I am now?? Because lately the way I feel mostly is tired. Not just physically tired, but emotionally tired too, like someone who is carrying way more than they should for way longer than they should. Just drained. Spent. Done. Over the course of conversation, he helped me figure it out a little, and with the thoughts from that conversation, some other things I've heard lately, and the Scriptures I read this morning in the luxurious hotel bed :), I have some thoughts to share.
One mistake I've made the last few years is in thinking I was doing my family a favor to set aside all of my tastes, preferences, etc. to somehow put them first. We took a parenting seminar at Outback and I was surprised to hear the speaker say, "More than anything, your children need you to be real. Authentic. Genuinely you. Flawed, imperfect, you. Not full of perfection, but full of grace. Let them see you- not the made up, perfect, got-it-together you, but the real you." As I've thought about that and applied it to my parenting, I've begun to reveal myself more to my children. I'm sharing with them more about what God is doing in my personal life and what He is saying to me in my quiet time. I'm sharing my Pandora stations. Not just the praise and worship ones or the kid-friendly ones, but the Coldplay and the Mumford and Sons and the Ingrid Michaelson. And they love it. I've let them learn along side me and let myself say "I don't know" a lot more when I don't know, instead of trying to pretend like I do. It's been freeing. And I'm enjoying life a lot more.
One of my favorite pictures of Jesus has always been this one:
I mean, this is the Guy who said that He came into this world so that our JOY WOULD BE FULL. (John 15:11, John 16:24, 1 John 1:4). There was GREAT JOY when He first came into the world (Luke 2:10). In His presence is FULLNESS OF JOY (Psalm 16:11). He is our EXCEEDING JOY (Psalm 43:4). He is the God of hope Who can FILL US WITH ALL JOY (Romans 15:13). Because of Him, we can have JOY INEXPRESSIBLE in the midst of trials (1 Peter 1:6-9). Doesn't that sound like this picture would be a better depiction of Him than the usual ones we see of a somber, sad, boring looking Jesus? I think He looked a lot more like this than any other picture. And I know because of His Word that He desires us to be people of joy. No wonder the first thing Satan tries to steal from us is our joy. It is ugly to Him. He despises the Joy Giver. I agree with John Piper that life must be a continual fight to retain the JOY of the Lord. It is a fruit of the Spirit, available in endless supply for believers in every stage of life. Fighting for joy for me right now looks like letting go of parenting perfection myths and living an authentic life before my family.
"The JOY of the LORD is my STRENGTH." -Nehemiah 8:10