Another Good Year – Number Nine

I’ve tag-lined my anniversaries. 

Last year was the Good Working Year. 

This year was a continuation of the same.  In the best and most wondrous way. 

After hitting rough patches in the past, I don’t for one moment take the gift of another good year for granted.  As friends have experienced distance and separation and even death in their relationships, I feel the enormity of having another good year.  Each year takes work.  Each year we have fights.  Each year requires compromise.  But I think we compromise better.  I think we love better.  I think we recognize our mistakes better.

Just this week, I made some “outraged” remarks in response to a certain future set of his travel plans.  It was completely unnecessary (and inappropriate).  I left the table, put the kids in bed, and went to bed myself.  When Bray came to bed, I felt God clearly nudging me to apologize for my bad behavior.  I do apologize, but some apologies are harder than others and this was one. 

I laid there debating whether to apologize and finally realized I’d be letting God and Bray both down if I didn’t resolve this before he fell asleep.  I apologized for the way I had reacted, and then the next morning I apologized to his dad who had witnessed the whole thing.  That was NO fun.  But five years ago, I’m pretty sure I would never have apologized.  Heck, I might not have even recognized how wrong I was. 

Hanging in there through the tears and triumphs teaches us how to spot our own relationship weaknesses.  Sticking it out through the best and worst of times makes you a better person.  That single moment taught me how to take responsibility when I’m out of line whether it’s in marriage or parenting or friendship. 

We’ve been together now for eleven and a half years. 

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We’ve seen pink lines on pregnancy tests after years of struggling. 

We’ve learned how to be a team better than ever because that’s how we have to make it work with two full time careers and three preschoolers.  

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Since the day he proposed, I have never once questioned my yes was the best yes I’ve ever given to a question. It doesn’t mean we haven’t struggled.  But I have never doubted that Bray is specifically who God selected to make my life fuller and saner and happier and zanier and unpredictable-er!

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I am so grateful to have another year to learn how to live well with the love of my life. 

The Face of Busy

Too often, we don’t write down the basics of our schedule on a sheet of paper for the week.

We forget what the face of busy is because we don’t look at it on paper.

This is one of those weeks, the last in the series of eight, where I’m having to really look at what the week, seven simple days, look like.

Here is how my week is unfolding – what about yours?

May 3rd – a gift of a Sunday at the farm; it did mean that we got in at 10 pm and hadn’t shopped for food the week ahead;

May 4th – leave home by 6:15 am to make a breakfast at a WEN partnership event for the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) kick off; drive from south Houston to north Houston at nine for work; meetings all day; leave early for the first day of swim team at 4 pm where kids melt down and two threaten to quit; kids taken home and I run to get teacher gifts for appreciation week and basic groceries; home by 6 pm to cook dinner; kids in bed at 8:30 so I can bake a blackberry cobbler and blog;

May 5th – meetings start at 8 am; one more early day this week to pick up little man at engineering while the other two go to swim team practice; make dinner and assemble teacher gifts; pack for weekend away since leaving town Thursday;

May 6th – ninth wedding anniversary – hoorah; meetings downtown, including project for work and board meeting; boys go to swim team and I pick up little bit at ballet; mom comes to babysit so Bray and I can go out to dinner to celebrate; finish packing for my trip and for family weekend trip;

May 7th – wake before 5 am to catch 7 am flight to Minneapolis; arrive, delightedly, to see girlfriends living in Minnesota before giving keynote speech for Minnesota Women Lawyers annual conference; dinner with friends and then off to bed for early flight;

May 8th – vacation day – hoorah again, but yawn; wake before 4 am to catch 5:30 am flight out of Minneapolis so I can get back to Houston before 8:30 am, arrive home to load car and family and drive to Horseshoe Bay for wonderful state bar awards meeting and getaway for family;

May 9th – dare we sleep?  Horseshoe Bay filled with jet skis and canoes and swim outings if the rain doesn’t drive us indoors;

May 10th – Mother’s Day – hoorah, still yawning though what with 48 hours of non-stop triplet energy on the water; brunch and then meet family in Austin for a boat outing; arrive in Houston in evening to see own mom and hopefully run to grocery…

Is that what you see ahead?  Is that what you saw last week?  How do we do it?

Well, we fit in breaks.  We pray for supernatural energy.  We carve downtime out wherever we can create the opportunity.  For example, next week is all in town and bedtime will be much closer to 9 pm than 11 pm as it was the week preceding.  You play catch up.  You make sure that you have downtime interspersed with the crazy uptime periods.

After eight weeks of madness, I have two weeks with no travel and a mere four weeks from a full week-long family vacation in a national park with no connectivity to the outside world!  That’s the solution.  Building in breaks and delivering the best performance of your life during the big delivery season.

And in the meantime, try to go to bed!

Louisiana Crawfish Joy (I Mean Boil…)

This was a wonderful weekend.

For some reason, something in me turned off, after all the whirling of my schedule and just settled.

It was gorgeous.  Picture perfect weather.

We spent Saturday, once arrived at the farm, doing odds and ends.  Bray off with the kids while his mother and I sipped champagne in the breeze of the back porch as the sun set and moon rose.

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And then Sunday, oh Sunday, we had a full blown Louisiana crawfish boil.  The kids cousins that they adore and worship were there from Austin and they ran around non-stop.  The tables were set out on the back lawn and the kids played with the crawfish like it was Christmas morning.  The bigs taught the littles how to keep from getting pinched and they all stood back as grandfather tossed them into the spicy boiling pot.

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It was perfect.  Local neighbors and family all in a muddle of crawfish, corn and potatoes, beer, and piles of paper towels well-used from all the peeling.  Laughter from the older set mixed with kids squeals as they raced from backyard to front yard riding the buggy and digging for worms.

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It was a gift of a day.  Messy.  Funny.  Joyful.  Just plain FULL.  Full of life and characters and stories but completely devoid of technology and work and stress.

As the crawfish boil started to simmer down, Bray took a truck load of kids, 11 to be exact (how do people have 11 kids he asked as we bumped over the expanse of fields), on a hunt for wild blackberries. The Pied Piper of children and blackberry hunting – I believe he must have gone on three excursions.  They tumbled out of the truck, bigs paired with littles, and exclaimed to no one in particular their magical discoveries.  They used cups and cowboy hats to gather the beautiful dark berries and then dumped them all in an ever-filling metal pail.  Two pails were filled and fingers were stained from the little hands eating as many as they contributed to the community bucket.  (The smell of blackberry cobbler is wafting through my kitchen as I type.)

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Simple pleasure.  A late night arrival back in town last night with dozing children full of memories and sad to leave.  I can tackle anything after 36 hours of sun and wind and land and animals and food and family.

Fashion Fridays: Steal this Look

I know I’m a little late today, but I’m finally back into town and have a freshly inspired Steal This Look!

The woman sporting my sophisticated inspiration was one of the leaders of the group I had meetings with, and boy did she carry herself like she led {I couldn’t snap a picture so you’re going to have to work with me}. 

Think mid-50s executive, striking short blonde bob, simple black sheath, bone-colored ribbed long sweater over sheath, stockings, high bone-colored patent heels, thick gold unadorned ring, and large gold pendant necklace hanging from a neutral beaded strand. 

She looked rich.  Elegant. Sophisticated.  Empowered.  And she carried every ounce of her power as she strode into the room.  Y’all, sometimes attitude is what takes the outfit over the top. 

But as I studied each of her pieces, none individually looked particularly expensive, so I think you could easily recreate this simple, sophisticated look on a budget. 

Here are my recommendations. 

1.  Base sheath: This simple sheath from the Limited is on sale for $64 and you could purchase it in navy or black for this ensemble.

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2.  Ribbed sweater jacket: I knew the ribbed cardigan would be the hardest item to find, particularly during the spring, and it was.  This will give you a flavor but ideally you’d have one in a light neutral with some ribbing and long enough to approach the hem of your sheath.

This creamy long number is stunning, but even on sale at Nordstrom’s it’s pricey.

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This is my favorite style, but the fabric is too casual and I wish it was longer.

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The ribbing on this sweater from Last Call is spot on, but it only comes in this charcoal color which is too dark to polish the look.

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3.  Pumps:  Shoes are always the easiest, and if you are willing to sport the patent look, this is the perfect number from DSW.

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4.  Accessories: Finally, for the necklace to top it all off, here’s a high end and low end price option. 

For a piece on the high-end, this chunky gold pendant from Nordstrom works perfectly.

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For $50 or less you can go simple or a little bolder (no beads v. beads!):

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So tell me, what are you sporting these days??  I’ve missed you and ready for new challenges!

He Leads, So We Can Be Brave

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Be Brave.

That’s the entire title of the speech I’ve been giving this past month as I travel.

The how I often have to leave unsaid

How?  Because He’s got it.

The Bible is clear on this point.  All the stuff, the external metrics we’re so obsessed with living up to every day even though they keep changing, becomes irrelevant in light of the Scripture.  Once the measuring stick is gone, it’s tremendously freeing for a leader.

I couldn’t be free, or brave, without the cornerstone of my faith.

This is where I hang my metaphorical hat:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to doEph. 2:8-10

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Phil. 1:4-6

Did you catch that?  Three simple, freeing, promises:

1.  We are His work.

2.  He created us to do good works that He already has PREPLANNED.

3.  And He will carry out His good work in us.

External forces will always tell us there is a new barometer by which we must measure success.  Right?  Facebook changes its publicity policy faster than anyone can track.  The networking technique of today turns changes to the branding yourself tool of tomorrow.  That six figure salary won’t put a single kid in private school while you juggle your mortgage and car payment.

The money is never enough.  The promotion doesn’t buy satisfaction.  The plastic surgery, social media, luxury handbag or SUV, the front page headline, the publication, the big award, they never provide freedom.  They just provide more pressure.  To do the next big thing.  To surpass your last achievement.

But. God.

Endless freedom.  Stable assurance.  They form the foundation for a lifetime of brave leadership.

God wants you to succeed more than you do.  He just wants you to succeed differently.  {===> Click To Tweet}

He wants you to see that you are beautiful and loved and forgiven and a conqueror because HE created you.

He wants you to fulfill all the good works He has preplanned and stored up for you.  He’s just waiting for you to ask the simple question:

What God?

Where God?

When God?

How God?

Then He will carry out that good work to COMPLETION.  That’s right, all those good works will be done beyond anything we could have imagined for ourselves (Eph. 3) because He’s doing it.  We just have to go where He says.

Do you know how bravely you can lead when the pressure is off of YOU?

The pressure is on Him.

You just get to say, “okay, let’s roll,” and everything else is up to Him.  We follow where we’re supposed to go even if it feels NUTS.  Even if it’s antithetical to the way everyone says we’re supposed to do it.  The world says, “write a blog about only one topic if you ever want to succeed.”  God says, “mmm, no, I want you to write about a dozen things, none of them related, and any one of which might turn off the people who read the other thing.”  Crazy, right?  But SO freeing.  The world says, “speak more and more and take the bigger promotion and salary and do it bigger and bolder.”  God says, “why don’t you just stay quiet for a while, and wait on the promotion, and hang out with neighbors instead.”   Are you kidding me?  Oh, but how much more fun is it to do it the crazy way.

A girlfriend recently said, “I can’t get over how fun this is.  This following Him in the ways He takes me and doing the things I used to be way too scared to do.  Can you believe how He is using this simple act of obedience?  It’s nuts.  And so fun!”

If are ready for a wild brave leadership ride, then spend a little time each morning asking God those simple questions and then head out wherever He leads.  It will be scary and fun and nerve-racking and breathtaking and unexpected.  He’s leading, so we can be brave!