A Married Valentine’s Day

Hello all,

I’m working on a series about gaming (board games as well as video games) but it needs more time to come together. I’ve been poking my brain for a few days to see what, in the way of blog post topics, might fall out. Lots of things did. Almost all related to books (recently covered) and games (the series grows longer).

I wanted to write something relevant to Valentine’s Day and…I didn’t really come up with anything cute or stirring. Just…I like Valentine’s Day. Always have, even pre-relationship when I spent every Valentine’s Day fending off people’s pitying looks and watching movies while eating ice cream and chocolate and cheesecake.

Red was my favorite color for most of my life (jury’s still out for my current favorite color). My mom used to make cupcakes on Valentine’s Day every year. I enjoy a focus on showing affection for others, enjoying flowers, demonstrating love for others even if you don’t tend to on other days of the year. Plus, any excuse to eat sweets is a good one in my book. I also love romance stories, romantic mysteries, romantic comedies. I love hanging out with my friends. I got to do all of these on Valentine’s Day.

This year is Tyler’s and my first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. But there doesn’t feel like much to report.

Last night we went out to our favorite Thai restaurant, Ladda Bistro, preempting the Thursday-night crowds. He got crispy duck, I got Pad See Ew; his was better, but mine was also very good. The pork dumplings were excellent, and we loved the mango sticky rice dessert. I had bought us 2 cupcakes from Smallcakes earlier that day, so we each had half for a second dessert right before bed.

On Valentine’s Day, we’ll probably cook dinner and play a board game, as Thursdays are our board game night. Tyler plans to buy me flowers. He already gave me a mug that says “girlfriend, fiancee, wife.” I ordered him a gift in a similar vein that hasn’t arrived yet. We might cut into the top tier of our wedding cake, which my bridesmaid Nicole has been saving for us in her freezer.

It’s probably because we’re newlyweds and at least a little obnoxious to everyone else right now (sorry, we don’t mean to be), but Valentine’s Day doesn’t feel like as much of a big deal as in felt in years past. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m perfectly fine with every day being a little more romantic and sweet than I’m used to. I’m glad that I’m thinking about better ways to love Tyler every day. But I have really enjoyed wearing my Valentine’s Day socks this week.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day this year? Any good restaurant recommendations?

Making a Change

I intentionally build rhythms into my life. Doing so helps me track the days and gives me things to look forward throughout the week. Something unique to that day of the week breaks the mundane, but I prefer when that event is in itself a part of a larger, familiar rhythm. For example:

Monday – Water plants, Bible study
Tuesday – Favorite webtoon (online comic) is updated, new blog post
Wednesday – Water plants
Thursday – Game night with Tyler
Friday – Water plants, work blog updates, night “off”
Saturday – change out towels, laundry
Sunday – church, lunch with Tyler’s family

Other items—dinner with a friend, exercise, errands, trips to the grocery store, scrubbing the tub—I slot in to the open spaces.

The goal of my schedule is to build a healthy life. Over the years I’ve struggled to give myself enough structure to get things done that are important to me but maintain enough flexibility that I’m not over-scheduled. When I have too much on my list for the week, I feeling stifled and, if I don’t meet my own expectations for a day, I feel like I failed.

The feeling of failure is very bad for my confidence, productivity, and general well-being. I’m too much like Hermione in that way. Especially if I’m already tired or having a bad day.

On the other hand, when I’m not scheduled enough, things fall through the cracks and become habits I’m embarrassed to claim. Like my inconsistent writing schedule. Like my infrequent calls home. Like my lack of exercise. These are made more complicated by my sharing time and space with another person (which is also a very new and very big change in my life that I need to make some allowances for). They’re also complicated by my personal dislike of exercise in general and the fact that dishes are never ending. I did dishes and cleaned the entire kitchen Sunday after I made too many pigs-in-blankets for the Super Bowl, but there was already an imposing tower of tupperware sitting by the sink last night. And then there’s the whole “3 meals a day” thing.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a month’s pass at a local yoga studio, which would let me attend as many classes in a month as I want. To make the price worth it, I’d need to go to 2 or 3 classes a week. Honestly, that sounds like the type of schedule I’m going to resent and ultimately fail to keep up. I need to make exercise a habit again, but I don’t want to pay for something I may not get the most use out of. At the same time, I’ve had a list of yoga YouTube videos on my phone for years and have yet to turn those free resources into a habit. I used to walk 3 times a week, but my schedule changed when Tyler and I got engaged, and recently my walking buddy moved.

And so I do nothing. I continue to do nothing. But I need to make a change. The earlier I start the sooner those habits will form. Despite how much my life has changed in the past few months, despite how much I yearn for a steady rhythm, I know I’ll feel better when I’m claiming better habits. And I should be make changes one habit at a time.

Winter Reading

I used to give a book 100 pages to win me over. Then 50. Now, if I’m not enjoying it after 30 pages, I put it down and leave it behind. I let myself quit reading when I’m not longer enjoying a story, either, even if the book or series is well underway. Last summer, I was in the middle of well-touted book beloved by several of my friends. I had been listening to it on Audiobook and I’d invested 5 hours in it. But I had 9 left to go and I wasn’t willing to give that time to that story. So I took it off my phone, bought another audiobook, and started listening to it instead.

Here are the books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this winter:

The Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn
A Curious Beginning
A Perilous Undertaking
Mystery, romance, young adult; so much fun!

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Memoir; adoptee searches for birth parents while she’s pregnant with her first child

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Creative living/writing guide

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Romance; sequel/companion to The Wedding Date

A Quiet Life in the Country by T. E. Kinsey
Cozy mystery, historical, 2 middle-age spinster protagonists; fun romp!

***

And here are the books I’m looking forward to reading this spring when they are released:

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy, young adult; centers on my favorite character from the Shadow and Bone trilogy (which, with the Six of Crows series, is going to be a Netflix series!!!)

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Historical, young adult; Beatles-loving protagonist with OCD tries to cross Kuala Lumpur during the 1969 race riots to find her mother

Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston
Fantasy, young adult; the same author who wrote the Star Wars book I pined for and dreamed of as a kid: Ahsoka; George Lucas did Padmé so wrong

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey
Mystery, historical; sequel to one of my favorite books of last year: The Widows of Malabar Hill

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Fantasy, romance, young adult; opening line: “People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.”

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
The fourth book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

(En)joy

On New Year’s Eve, as we were reading in bed after watching the ball drop in New York City, I told Tyler that I thought my word for the year should be either joy or enjoy. In my mind I’d stylized it (en)joy, at least until one or the other became more apparent.

As with “believe”, my word for 2018, I wanted my word for 2019 to encourage me and remind me of my goals and hopes for this year. I want to relish it. A year without a huge party to plan. A year, hopefully, without last year’s stress. I just want to enjoy being married, spending time with friends, and following whatever whims come to me: wreath design, scarf creation, weekend-long read-a-thons, maybe a dance class. Instead of worrying or stressing, I want to enjoy this year. I want to find joy in all the little things around me. I even thought of a photo I could keep by my desk, a jumping picture in the desert from the same trip to Egypt as my 2018 photo.

So I find it ironic, and tiring, that I got sick on New Year’s Day with a sinus infection that laid me out for two weeks. I haven’t been that sick since I had the flu four years ago. Tyler was also sick. Many of the things that usually bring us comfort, like cuddling and going for walks, were out of reach. We struggled to find the energy to feed ourselves three times a day. We went to work when we felt well enough (which wasn’t often), went to Publix for orange juice and saltines and a different kind of decongestant that might help me sleep. We were in constant need of more Kleenex.

Enjoy? We were miserable.

And now I’m sick again. And things at work are complicated. And I’m still trying to get my name and address changed in all the necessary places. And once again I can’t seem to get enough sleep. And I’m thinking about my word and wondering How?

I have, of course, thought back to the many Sunday school lessons that focused on the differences between happiness and joy. Happy is a fleeting feeling based on circumstances. Joy is an abiding connection to God regardless of circumstances. I have tried to connect to joy by naming things I’m grateful for, like Tyler, blankets we’ve been gifted, sunshine, Gatorade, paid sick leave, health insurance, and money for plungers and Kleenex and pizza someone else made.

I’m stubborn, so I’m not changing my word now. But I am beginning to worry that this year will be a trying one in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. I know I’m tired and therefore prone to some fatalism. But if this year is going to be a difficult one, the joy and enjoyment I’m seeking will constantly be in spite of. Which sucks. But we aren’t guaranteed anything else in life. We aren’t guaranteed time where everything’s great, where the government isn’t shut down, where everyone I love is well, where Tyler and I each have the time to pursue our own interests, where we aren’t plagued by worries.

But neither are we promised a life with no enjoyment at all, no sweetness or fun. And we have had those times this year.

We’ll see what the balance will be.

Mary Oliver

Yesterday we learned of the death of Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. I enjoyed seeing her work filling my Twitter feed, including poems I’d never read and many familiar verses.

I can’t articulate well why Mary Oliver was one of my favorite poets. I read her poetry collections slowly, alone, with a pencil to underline beautiful lines, but I inevitably failed to use it because each line is so visceral and enrapturing. Mary Oliver came with honesty in her hands and I floated in her words, comforted. And now she is resting. I pray it is peaceful.

In an earlier version of this post, I quoted six of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. However, a friend rightly point out that Mary Oliver’s works are all under copyright. I don’t want to keep anyone from paying for her art by supplying her words here, so I’ve replaced the poems with links to some of my favorite collections of her works. If you haven’t invested in one of her collections, or if (like me) you’re wanting to get another one, I heartily recommend these three.

A Thousand Mornings
Dog Songs
Owls and Other Fantasies

Color Questions

A couple of days before my brother proposed to his girlfriend, I texted him to ask what her favorite color is. I wanted to send them engagement gifts in time for the big question and wasn’t sure what color to pick for hers.

He texted back, “Green (I think, double checking).”

I started to text back, “No wait! If you don’t know, you don’t want to ask outright!” But I didn’t. After all, I wouldn’t get upset if my husband didn’t know my favorite color. Actually, I was pretty sure he didn’t. I couldn’t remember us ever talking about it, and if we had it’d been years earlier. We’d known each other 9 years before we started dating, after all. We simply didn’t have as many of the expected “get to know you” conversations in our remembered past.

So I looked at my husband and said, “My favorite color’s red. I don’t expect you to have known that.”

His ears hadn’t been ready to listen, and I hadn’t given any context, so he asked me to repeat myself and then asked a couple of clarifying questions. Once done, he said thoughtfully, “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“I didn’t think so,” I told him. I don’t use it in decorating or wear a lot of red or anything. “But I wanted to tell you.” Then I asked, “What’s your favorite color?”

“It’s blue.”

“Okay,” I answered. “That’s what I would have guessed.”

The summer after I graduated from high school, my youth minister, his wife, and our head pastor took as many graduates from the church as wished to go (as I remember, there were 3 or maybe 4 of us) to a lake in TN for a long weekend. As we played cards after dinner the first night, one of my fellow grads sat forward.

“I want to confess something,” she announced, loud enough to attract the entire’s room’s attention.

We weren’t from a denomination where confession is done publicly or in a structured time/place, so no one seemed to know quite what to do.

“My whole life,” she continued after a moment, her face rapturous, “whenever someone’s asked what my favorite color is, I’ve said green. But really, it’s blue.”

The room fairly erupted into laughter and applause.

She hurried to explain, “Everyone always says their favorite color is blue, and I didn’t want to be like everyone else, so I said green. But it’s really blue.”

The adults fanned their faces and sagged with relief into their chairs. “I thought this was going to be something serious!” one exclaimed.

“Well,” said my friend, still in a very good mood, “it is. I’ve always known the truth about myself but I didn’t share it. And we’re talking about who we want to become when we go to college. I just want to be more myself, and have the confidence to say what’s true even if it’s the same as everyone else.”

I, meanwhile, did a gut check of my own favorite color. It’s red, isn’t it? I questioned, searching my feelings as I outwardly applauded. Yup. Definitely red. I didn’t have a cool revelation to share and shock everyone—which held a measure of appeal to me—but I knew my favorite color.

My brother soon texted back, “Her favorite color is blue and I sense I’m in a teensy bit of trouble.”

“Uh oh!” I answered. “Tyler didn’t know mine either if that helps.”

Except, now I’m wondering.

I just picked out colors for a wedding and a whole registry worth of household items. How much red had I chosen? I looked up from my brother’s texts and studied the room: a Christmas pillow on the armchair, the wreath on the door, the tree skirt. That was about it. The watercolors I’d bought for our home didn’t include red. Our quilt was mostly purple with stripes of neutrals and bold colors in the same palate. Our dinnerware wasn’t red. The clothes I’d bought that fall included 2 red sweaters, but I had many more neutral sweaters, and my closet hadn’t felt complete without a purple one. I never pushed for red towels and I’d originally planned to change the red, grey, and white shower curtain in one of the bathrooms, but it grew on me.

So how do I feel about red?

I still get a zip from it. The 2 red stripes on the quilt. Red cars. Red Christmas accents. My Atlanta United jersey. My car.

In general, I find red more imposing than I used to, and than I prefer. I don’t want to see red walls or red linens every day for the whole year. No red drinking glasses. No red towels. No red coats or art. A friend chose red as her accent color for her winter wedding, and I liked it, but I was glad I’d chosen sapphire blue, with a little peachy pink for variety.

What colors am I preferring these days? I looked around again. My coat, favorite long and short-sleeve shirts, much of the quilt, and new journal are all purple. Our towels, koi watercolor prints, cooler, bridesmaid dresses, bouquets, new cell phone, and favorite highlighter are all blue.

I don’t know that all this constitutes a change in my official favorite color. I don’t have to decorate with or wear a color for it to be my favorite. But I also know I’m not the same person I was as a child and teen and high school graduate. Gratefully so. It’s conceivable that one’s favorite color might change. And maybe that’s the case with me.

Why am I think about all this? It’s a new year. And at a new year, I tend to evaluate myself and my life. What’s working for me? What would I like to build differently or new this year? What do I know about myself that I didn’t a year ago? Some years I think about shoes, some years I think about colors. And, since I’ve been sick with a bad sinus infection since NYE, missing days of work on top of the holidays I already had off, I’ve had a lot of time to look around my apartment and wonder.

What Do I Thirst for this Christmas?

A friend recently pointed me toward Mary Oliver’s poem “Thirst” and encouraged me to consider what I am yearning for in the coming season. I’ve been reflecting on this all month, both because it’s Advent and because I’ve been in the habit this year of writing in my One-Line-a-Day journal. I’ve found it supremely helpful to spend a few minutes summarizing the day, good and bad, before bed. However, it’s rather different to look back on a single day than to look forward several weeks toward a day seeped in so much expectation and attention and baggage.

I have been looking forward, however, with the help of a one-page-a-day Advent journal. Each day of December, the journal prompts you to answer a question about your upcoming Christmas and provides space for you to record the festive things you did that day. Many of my entries thus far include passages processing my younger cousin Santee’s death, as well as notes about what gifts I’m looking forward to giving, what traditions are new for Tyler and I, the movies we watched, the shopping I did, and the flavors I’m experiencing (like gingerbread cookies and peppermint hot chocolate).

So what do I thirst for as Christmas approaches?

Comfort for Santee’s friends, girlfriend, sister, and niblings. I yearn for comfort as well for our extended family, including conversation about Santee’s life and death. A death so near Christmas, as well as experiencing the first holiday without a loved one, is it’s own unique brand of pain. Worse because your grief is in direct tension with calls to be jolly and joyful and the insistence that all is merry and bright. Our family has experienced this before, but many of Santee’s friends won’t have.

Time to rest and enjoy the season. That means time to read a fluffy Christmas romance and watch a ton of movies. That means time to bake and make ornaments. Time to run errands without feeling rushed. I’d love to get my wedding photos organized and printed but I’m concentrating on enjoying the season, not bogging myself down with something I can do any time of the year.

Peace for all people. The peace I refer to comes from a Hebrew word, shalom, referring not only to a cessation of violence and vehemence but also the wholeness and wellness of the entire community. This won’t happen on the scale I want, maybe not even in my family, so I’ve chosen several ways to work toward providing a more peaceful holiday for others.

What do you thirst for as December trots on? Silence? Solitude? Companionship? Rest? Understanding? Shortbread? I’d love to hear the desire that sings for you.

A Creative Christ

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the life of my cousin Santee, who died very suddenly yesterday. In time I may write more about him here, but for now I just want to say that he was always such a loving, sensitive person. And he had the best smile in the world. He struggled and he kept secrets and he died in a way we as a culture cringe away from and immediately judge: an overdose. An overdose after years of successful rehab and good community and generous support of others. We thought he was through the worst of it, out of the woods as much as one can be. But the Christmas season is hard. And his late mother’s birthday was coming up, and it was an accident. He worked with his hands and gave that gentle love to so many people. The same love that sent him running toward me for a hug and a game when we were kids. My little cousin. We’ll bury him on his birthday beside his father. He’d lost so many and been hurt so deeply. It is so hard to comprehend that his brightness has gone out of the world.

A few weeks ago, I read an introduction to the song “The Gospel According to Mark” by a musician I had yet to encounter: Nick Cave. Indeed, the article seemed to be as much an introduction to the book of the Bible as to the song, which I have repeatedly forgotten to listen to. I’ve since read conflicting reports about Cave’s theology, but his intro sparked a lot of thinking, and therefore a lot of blessings, so I want to share one those.

Cave said of Jesus,

“He enters a wilderness of the soul, where all the outpourings of His brilliant, jewel-like imagination are in turns misunderstood, rebuffed, ignored, mocked and vilified and would eventually be the death of Him.”

I had not considered that Jesus’ words, at times confusing even for those of us who’ve heard dozens of sermons and read countless books on that very phrasing—as well as the rest of the Bible—sprouted from Christ’s imagination rather than a vague sort of above-ness. I considered Jesus to be more divine than usual in his understanding of the world and in his use of metaphors to describe it. And I viewed the people around him dense and hopelessly defined by the cage of their literal minds. Only after Pentecost did I believe those cages flew open and they understood.

I’ve thought of the phrase, “jewel-like imagination,” daily since I read it. Immediately, my brain pulled forward my memories of a friend whose mind I would describe as having a jewel-like imagination. Her brain is wired brilliantly and much differently than all others I have known. When we lived in the same town, I loved to spend time just listening to her interpret whatever inputs surrounded us. We could be on a walk or crafting or driving to get milkshakes or discussing a movie. She once explained to me, in tremendous detail and depth, the personalities and appearances of her and her three sisters, including who got what from which parent, how stress alters the performative actions of each, and in what ways the older ones influenced the younger. She spoke passionately and precisely, as if she’d been studying a specific scientific phenomenon all her life, rather than a unit of individuals to which she also belonged.

I couldn’t follow along. I confused her sisters’ names as well as their traits (none of whom I’d met). I couldn’t keep it all in my head and quickly stopping trying to understand, but simply listened to her and pretended to comprehend. It was all so simple and straightforward to her. She understood and explained it well. But I hadn’t met her family at that point and didn’t have the necessary context to be able to understand and retain. Some years later, once I had spent time with her sisters and parents, I considered asking her to explain their personalities and traits to me again, certain I’d better understand. I chickened out though, not wanting her to know I only remembered the topic of the conversation, and none of the principles or details she’d so painstakingly laid out.

This friend once confided in me that she thought it very rude, even cruel, that Jesus didn’t explain himself to his followers in ways they could understand. Being divine, he ought to know exactly how to do so. Therefore, their lack of understanding must be the result of Jesus’ deliberate choice not to explain it well enough for them. Worse than the choice to leave them uncomprehending, he then grew angry and annoyed with them for it.

Cave acknowledges the disciples’ incomprehension and Jesus’ resulting anger, saying,

“Even His disciples, who we would hope would absorb some of Christ’s brilliance, seem to be in a perpetual fog of misunderstanding, following Christ from scene to scene with little or no comprehension of what is going on. So much of the frustration and anger that seems at times almost to consume Christ is directed at His disciples and it is against their persistent ignorance that Christ’s isolation seems at its most complete.”

My friend’s logic tracks but her conclusions didn’t sit well with me. I suspect they stem from the intense compassion which my friend and my Savior both possess. In truth, I wonder if Jesus isn’t a good bit like my friend. While walking the earth, Jesus interpreted it in ways none of the rest of us had considered, and in ways which seemed perfectly obvious to him. He used elaborate and apt metaphors and images to explain the material and spiritual world to those around him. And though the words were ones the people all understood, they could not all understand. A few with “ears to hear” understood (see Matt 13:16), and the rest did not. None understood all of the time. Even his closest friends and family members didn’t understand his meaning much of the time. We who surround the jeweled imaginations lack the context to comprehend.

If had I had access to the text of my friend’s explanation of her sisters once I did have context, I’m sure I was have managed to understand. Just as, with the help of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, the disciples suddenly understood all that Jesus had taught them.

How lonely for Christ, to be explaining as well as his humanity and divinity allow and to still be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and frequently abandoned or despised because of it. How lonely for all the wonderfully unique people, driven by compassion for others, who struggle to be understood.

Having now entered Advent, let’s consider the brilliant, creative child who came and the lonely, loving man he became.

November Made

I’m planning a series of more reflective posts for Advent, which starts next week, but I didn’t want to get off schedule too much before then. So bear with me for a brief overview of my November creations.

I’ve been crafting again! Okay, I didn’t stop. In the past month, I’ve crocheted three pumpkins (orange, white, and green) and a turkey (Terence, my first foray into stuffed animals, as evidenced by the crooked tail feathers and oddly proportioned head). I turned a few empty ornaments into mini winter wonderlands and displays for our keepsakes like graduation tassels and a bracelet from our honeymoon. I have plans for a few more ornaments, if only I can get the right size and shape plastic ornaments.

4B3F542C-A7FE-47C9-82E6-104F1BDE3BD9

I made a banana pudding that only required me to go back to the store once. I chickened out on the meringue, as I’ve never made it by myself before and the pudding was intended for Tyler’s family Thanksgiving. Tyler and I made beef stew, taco soup, and a potato casserole together. The soups were experiments in our Instant Pot, both of which turned out well and froze well (important when you’re only feeding two at a time). We also baked whipped shortbread cookies and snickerdoodles. The snickerdoodles will definitely come out of our kitchen again.

Tyler created a gorgeous and highly delicious unicorn cake for my 30th birthday that I love too much to not mention here, though it certainly wasn’t my accomplishment.

fad46d08-9530-4cc7-80e9-e225b983f05b.jpeg

I read two books: An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof and Cancer Just Is by Morgan J. Bolt (this one was for work and I loved it). Both are excellent memoirs, the first about two years sailing the Caribbean and food, the latter about four years of cancer treatments and theology.

I didn’t participate in NaNo in a traditional sense this year, but I did use it to track the words I wrote on all my many writing projects, most of which are secret. I’m happy to report that I broke 10k words yesterday, which was my goal for the month.

I’ve seen 12 Hallmark Christmas movies so far this season, my top two favorites being “Road to Christmas” and “It’s Christmas, Eve.” (The full list is below.) Tyler hasn’t been very impressed with Hallmark movies so far, but he’s now seen 5 and has survived very well. I particularly enjoy when he starts shouting at the characters.

-Christmas at Pemberley Manor
-Christmas Joy
-Road to Christmas
-Let It Snow
-Christmas at Reindeer Lodge
-Christmas in Love
-A Bramble House Christmas
-Engaging Father Christmas
-Marrying Father Christmas
-It’s Christmas, Eve
-A Veteran’s Christmas
-Christmas in Graceland

We’re planning to put up our tree this weekend and I’m hoping to finish the ornaments and a wreath I have in mind by then. The calendar has really thrown me off this year. I’m used to transitioning directly from Thanksgiving to Advent, but we have a whole week in between. Whatever your week looks like, I hope it’s bright and life-giving.

On My Thirtieth Birthday

My thirtieth birthday was less than a month after our wedding and a few days after we “fell back” for Daylight Savings. I’d had a pretty good day at work and was looking forward to going out to dinner that night with Tyler and a few friends, including a couple of my bridesmaids. About 4:00, however, I noticed it was getting really, really dark outside. Like night. Surely it hadn’t been that dark at 4:00 the day before? I checked the weather radar and saw a huge red-cell thunderstorm growing as it approached us. I left work exactly at 5:00 and arrived at our apartment complex just before the bottom fell out. I texted, then called by friends and canceled our dinner plans. The storm was just too rough. Then Tyler called me.

He works at the next town over, usually a 35-45 minute drive. That day, he’d left work on time but was still far from home when the storm hit. He was unable to see more than a couple of feet in front of him. Other cars were stopping in the middle of the road. He was scared, afraid of cars and downed trees he couldn’t see. When a tornado warning came over the radio, he called me and told me his plan to make it to the parking lot of the place he used to work so that he’d have somewhere safe to wait it out, and to get inside if he needed to. The wind howled and the rain pounded the side of our apartment building. It was so loud, I couldn’t tell whether the wailing I could sometimes hear between the thunder was just the wind or a tornado siren. Tyler told me about the tornado warning on the radio, and a friend texted that she could hear a tornado siren, so I took a candle and a lighter and locked myself in the bathroom, the innermost windowless room in our apartment.

I grew up on the Atlantic coast, so I’m more familiar with hurricanes than tornados, and I’m glad for it. Tornados come fast, erratically, missing one house and hitting the one next door. And most of the time you have no idea they’re on their way until they’re right on top of you. I loathe them. I’m afraid of them. I know the second floor isn’t a good place to be if one hits.

Tyler talked to me until he got to the parking lot he had in mind. We told each other “I love you” and hung up to wait it out. It was my thirtieth birthday and all I wanted was for my brand new husband to get home safely. No gifts, no dinner, no big trip or special dessert. I just wanted him home.

I called my mom, told her the situation, and asked her to talk with me to keep me calm. As the storm lightened, I hear the tornado siren more clearly. I lit the candle. Soon after, Tyler texted that he was getting back on the road, but he planned to avoid the interstate so it’d take a long while for him to get home. Mom and I stayed on the phone together until he walked through the front door, half-soaked and shaken but safe.

That night, we watched a movie, ate a frozen pizza, and cut two generous slices of the ice cream cake we’d intended for our friends. I couldn’t have been happier.

That night, as Tyler and I lay in bed, we talked about what we’d felt during the storm, how we’d worried more about the other person than ourselves, and then we prayed together, thanking God for protecting us and asking help and comfort for the people whose night had gotten worse when ours had gotten better.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you experience the joy of sharing food with others and may you find rest.