To The Girl In The Pew In Front Of Me

Dear girl in the pew in front of me,

I don’t know you, but I can tell a couple of things about you just from looking at your back for 20 minutes last Sunday: you are beautiful; you are athletic and work hard for those awesome legs; and you can wear a pair of daisy dukes WAY better than I can. Girlfriend, you’ve got it.

awesome

Ah, California. The land of sunshine and beaches, which sometimes means itty bitty clothes. I mean, I know the shorts are getting shorter these days and I’m a 31-year old fogey (I have been known to shout “Get off my lawn!” and go to bed before 9pm), but I have to wonder if you know how short those shorts really are. If you don’t, my guess is you’re thinking “that’s just the style these days, grandma”. If you do, there is probably a reason why you choose to wear them. You can’t wear something like that that leaves your bum in the wind and not expect people to notice, but, hey, I’m not here to shake my fist or call you names. I’m just here to encourage you.

Back-in-my-day-we-had-to-wear

Encourage you? Yah, betcha didn’t see that coming, huh? You deserve more. You are a beautiful young woman who deserves more than what those shorts give you: the cheap, fleeting attention of men, the superficial confidence, the less-kind chicks who will make assumptions and then gossip to their friends about you, even if they’re wearing the exact same pair of shorts. It sucks, but it’s true: the mean girls will always hold a double standard. Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, that’s what those shorts do. They give the world a false impression of you and invite quick judgments. You deserve more than that.

lunch

I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on in your life. Maybe you think they’re really just a cute pair of shorts. Maybe no one has told you another inch or two of fabric wouldn’t hurt. Or maybe it’s worse – maybe you have been hurt in such a way that your only sense of self-worth comes from how much attention you can get from men. I know lots of ladies who have been in that dark place. Maybe you thought if you wore something outrageous enough, your family wouldn’t make you go to church. Sadly, if this is the case, it probably won’t work – it’ll likely just make their resolve stronger. I don’t know. Whatever the reason you opted for those navy blue daisy dukes is none of my business. You don’t have to justify anything to me. Moreover, your reason doesn’t lessen the fact that you deserve more than what you’ve been getting.

I_don't_care

If you have been told “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, you deserve better advice. If you have been hurt, you deserve to be surrounded with people who will help you heal, not excuse it as a phase. If you’ve been ignored, bullied, or shamed, you deserve more. “More?” you ask, “Like what?” You deserve to be protected, honored, respected, cherished, and loved for who you are, not what you look like. You deserve to be more than a terrific pair of legs because, darlin, you are so much more than that. You are a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God! There is no one else with a heart or mind like yours! We should absolutely be celebrating that.

unique

My sweet, precious girl, you are indeed lovely and I’m willing to bet you will remain so for a very long while, but I hope, for the sake of your heart, that your identity isn’t found in those compliments. You deserve to be known for your intelligence and wit, your athletic abilities or artistic talents, maybe you have a fantastic passion for healing or innate ability to teach. The contribution you make to this world will not be a fabulous body, because we deserve more than that from you and we know you have more to give.

perfect

I’m not saying you have to dress like a nun or be ashamed of your body – not at all! All I want you to take away from this note is I think you have the potential to do great things (and I don’t even know you!), and I want other complete strangers to see it, too. You know how quick this world is to make judgments and spread rumors – you don’t deserve to be bogged down in that mess. Those shorts, though, are a VIP invitation to that mess, which is too bad because, if anyone can pull them off, it’s you.

With sincerity and love,
The random chick who wished someone would have told her these things when she was your age (which was, like, a million years ago)

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How are you holding up?

My husband deployed 11 days ago. It’s my first deployment. I have been overwhelmed by how many people want to make sure I’m alright: family, friends, even my postman (such a sweetie!). I absolutely love people’s generosity and concern, but I kind of wish we could find a different way to ask:

Loving & concerned person: Your husband just deployed right?
Me: Yes, a week and a half ago.
Loving & concerned person: [eyes full of pity] How are you holding up?

Is it easy having my husband half a world away for 6 months? No. Is it terrible if I’m okay he’s been gone 11 days? No. We knew this was coming. I understood this would be part of being married to a Marine. I made my peace with deployment long before I said “I do”, so please don’t make me feel like I should be a hot mess, because I’m not. I’m sure I will be eventually, but right now everything is good.

scaleI’m not trying to be ungrateful – as I mentioned previously, I love people’s concern – and I am definitely not trying to speak for all military wives. I just think there have to be better ways to ask how someone is doing. “How are you holding up?” sounds like I should be a bundle of sobs held together by runny mascara and a strong cocktail.

Option A: “Do you have any travel plans coming up? Maybe a trip back to Texas?”
I love to travel. It’s a great way to pass the time. And, yes, I do have plans to get back to Texas in May and the east coast in July! If I didn’t have travel plans, a caring friend could consider Option B.

Wet-Texas_jpg_800x1000_q100Option B: “Have you had a chance to explore [insert name of town here]? You could easily spend a day up there.”
I’m not from the area, as evident by my boots and prolific use of the word “y’all”. Yes, I am always looking for places to go and things to do. Have a favorite Indian food restaurant? Know of a cool shopping area? Make the recommendation, then if we’re friends and you’re not creepy, suggest we go there one day next week. If you don’t know the area or if we’re not friends OR if you’re creepy, see Option C.

Louis TullyOption C: “6 months? Wow, that’s a while. I’ll bet you could find some cool stuff to do in 6 months, like take Russian or learn to sail. Any big plans?”
A big thing I’ve learned from Marine wives with deployed husbands: plan. Whether it’s classes, fitness goals, reading lists, work, or catching up on shows, stay busy. Go back to Option B and recall that I am always looking for cool stuff to do, so if you know of a pottery class, say something! If you get to this point and you’re just not feeling it, see Option D.

pleaseOption D: “Hey, can I pray for you?”
I cannot tell you how strongly I rely on my faith to get me through times away from my husband. I would love to pray with you! Not the praying type? Well, we should chat about that because Jesus saved my life and I think He is pretty great. If you’re not the praying type, tell me to call you if I need anything. And mean it. I’ll take you up on it.

allowitThe problem is, when I’m asked “How are you holding up?” repeatedly, this is what happens in my head:

Loving & concerned person #1: [eyes full of pity] How are you holding up?
Me: Oh, I’m good. It’s weird, but everything is a-okay.
My inner monologue: What a caring person!

Loving & concerned person #2: [eyes full of pity] How are you holding up?
Me: I’m fine. We’re already counting down the days until he comes home.
My inner monologue: Ugh, 25 and a half more weeks…

emotionalLoving & concerned person #3: [eyes full of pity] How are you holding up?
Me: [sigh] I’m okay, I guess. It kinda sucks, though.
My inner monologue: I really miss holding his hand. I can’t hold his hand for 25 and a half more weeks. That’s a long time.

Loving & concerned person #4: [eyes full of pity, grabs my hands] How are you holding up?
My inner monologue: Cheese and crackers, do I look like I am miserable? I don’t feel miserable. Maybe I should. Do other wives feel miserable? Am I doing it wrong? I should feel awful. That’s it. I feel awful. Is my husband on his way home yet? I need a good cry and a cheeseburger. With fries. That also have cheese on them. [ugly cry]

Panic (1)See what happened there? Self-doubt kicked in, ya know, like it does, and there I was ready to eat my feelings and bury myself in a bottle of bourbon! I was fine 6 hours ago!

stopmeBut, for all of the wonderful people who will continue to ask how I’m holding up, I will say, “Ya know, I’m doing alright. It is a little boring at times, but I have some big things planned for the next 6 months. If you wouldn’t mind praying for us, I’d really appreciate it. By the way, let’s grab lunch some time; I heard there’s a great Thai place in this little town up north.”

High-Five-GIF-1

Courage, Dear Heart.

There were a string of moments in my tomboyish childhood I actually wished myself a princess so I could have a handsome prince save me from the fierce dragon that kept me confined to the highest room of the tallest tower. I blame Sleeping Beauty. As I grew, I discovered these mythical fire-breathing creatures could be metaphors for the very real struggles I faced: acceptance, self-esteem, trust, failure, and so on. As I matured from a young lady into a woman, I found that I had the strength, will, and knowledge to take on the dragon myself. When I married my True Love, I realized I didn’t have to face the beast alone anymore – I had help. Two swords are better than one, right?

slayerWe all have dragons; some are slain more easily than others and one or two may not ever die. For me, the dragon that just won’t seem to hold still long enough to get its head chopped off is Self-Doubt. Despite having a wonderful family, great career, and my Prince Charming, Self-Doubt still circles the village, setting fire to things just to remind me it’s still there.

dragon 1That dang beast did it again yesterday. Adam left for a few weeks on Official Marine Corps Business, so I’m here to carry on Official McCully Family Business. I should be looking at this as a dry run opportunity for his long deployment coming up in the spring, a chance to make sure I am familiar with the operations, routine, expectations, and needs. Instead, the very first question that popped into my mind yesterday after I dropped him off was “What if I’m not good at this?” Stupid dragon.

dragon 2Adam has done this before, so he knows what he needs and expects. I haven’t. We have talked through all of these things, but I don’t exactly learn by listening – I have to do something to understand. Despite months of conversations, now that it’s here, I feel like I’ve been thrown into the deep end of the pool. Where are those pink floaties?

pool pupYesterday, while I was eating my feelings because my feelings were eating me, I was so concerned by that question, “What if I’m not good at this?” Adam does so much for me and for us; I’ve come to rely on him, which is a big deal for me. That Trust Dragon wasn’t slain that long ago. He is counting on me to take care of all of these things – what if I let him down? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to let the house burn down or the bills go unpaid. So what if the dishes sit in the sink overnight? I lived by myself for YEARS! What am I so afraid of? I don’t know, but I am.

10920919_10101909483346953_861953026934765737_nSo this morning I was sitting in church, singing along, A.D.D. raging out of control (Did I see they had cinnamon-sugar donuts this morning? I should get one of those before the kids clear ’em out. When is the next time it’s going to rain? I miss the rain. How do I get to Lowe’s from here?), when a song I’ve heard a dozen times on the radio started and it was like a big ol’ dose of Adderall – I was hanging on every letter of every word of every note. Tears welled in my eyes as my conviction grew.

You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music

As Your love
In wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
couragedearheartChampion of Heaven
You’ve made a way
For all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You called me out beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now
The love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now
The promises You’ve made

I will be good at this, maybe not at first, but I will get there. I will be good at this because I love Adam. I will be good at this because my God in Heaven doesn’t set His children up to fail; He gives us opportunities to have faith in His provisions. I will be good at this because “no fear can hinder now the promises [God] made.” I will be good at this because The Lord will make me brave.

floaties

Philippians 4:13 reads, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” All. Not some. Not most. Not a few. All.

Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The man He was speaking to cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And He did. Lord, help my unbelief!

Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Well, I love God and His purpose for me to to Adam’s wife, his helper. There’s that word “all” again.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 assures us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and pray, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…” Declares? That’s a strong word. Captivity? Yah, that dragon has me held captive.

I will be good at this because God is for me, not against me, and He is good all the time. His mercies are new every day.

Here Comes The Bride

3 little days stand between now and our wedding! As you can tell from the absence of blog posts, it’s been a little busy. Last week, after the hugely successful cookie party, I set off in the Jeep for Las Vegas, before heading to Boulder, then on to Fort Worth.

rtoad trip Y’all know I like lists and, since I have had so much time by myself to do nothing but sing along to every song that comes on Sirius XM’s 90s on 9 and think, I have come up with a list!

Ashley’s Road Trip Reflections

  1. I love Las Vegas. From the very first time I stepped off of a plane at McCarran Airport in 2008 and the dozens of times I’ve returned, I have been enamored with the place. Vegas extends an invitation to be anyone you want to be, whether it’s your true self or some eastern European model who is in town shopping for an extravagant party dress or even a west Texas oil baron who has an affinity for cheap booze and theme restaurants. No one will ever judge you or ask questions because, as long as you can pay, they’ve seen someone crazier than you. It’s liberating!
    elvischick
  2. CDs are now super lame, apparently. I checked out a book on CD from the library, got outside of Las Vegas and was all excited to listen to my girly “The Shoemaker’s Wife” story, pulled out the first CD and realized my Jeep doesn’t have a CD player. At all. I have SD and USB ports out the ying yang, but no CD player. Between the library card and the CDs, I felt old for the first time in a long time. The last time I felt that old was when I saw a Class of 2018 letter jacket. Class of 2018. That means they were born in 2000. Good grief. Thanks a lot, CD player.
    old man
  3. I flipped over to Sirius XM Hits 1 for a while because driving through Kansas wasn’t torture enough. Y’all, that music is terrible. I’m not talking about making my ears bleed bad, but more of the “Oh my gosh, they really just said that” awful. Sure, there are some songs that I have a hard time calling music, but singing about drunk binge eating Twinkies and subsequently puking or the absolute abuse of the words “hero” and “epic” to me is just sad. These poor kids… Also, see #2.
    Back-in-my-day-we-had-to-wear
  4. Utah is one of the most gorgeous places I have visited. If you have the opportunity to drive from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City or Denver, take it and make sure you leave before the sun comes up. There is something magical about a desert sunrise and seeing the pink and orange burst behind the Joshua trees. You’ll drive through forests and canyons, across plains with plateaus in the distance, over mountain passes where deer graze. You’ll find a part of yourself you didn’t even know was lost on that drive. If you’re not moved by natural beauty, you’re doing it wrong. Duh.
    Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia) at sunrise
  5. Ladies, before you give up on finding Mr. Right, be sure to check the Arby’s in the Conoco station in Green River, Utah. No, really. There’s a dude there looking for love, so just go order your #1 and sit down at a table, take a big bite, and watch him waltz right up to you and ask if you’ve got a man. At first you might think he’s a bum asking for money because he mumbles a little and you were totally into your lunch, but rest assured he wants to know if he can buy you a cup of coffee and a Hostess Cupcake. That fairy tale just writes itself, doesn’t it? Romance isn’t dead!
    fish sandwich

More to come, but don’t forget to donate to New Day Foster Home and Carry The Load! Gotta go pick up a bridal portrait, get it framed, then get ready for dinner with my parents and my future in-laws. It’s getting real, y’all, and I couldn’t be happier!

11 Days! Hey, Judah!

The tenacity of little kids never ceases to amaze me. Take, for example, little Judah, today’s New Day Foster Home featured child: he was born with orthopedic issues, told there was nothing medicine could do for him, but don’t tell him he has a disability – he’s learning how to use what he has, just like all kids do.

judah (8)Judah will have surgery in the future, but right now he is focusing on his therapy, learning how to be safe and independent. He is a happy, happy boy and a pro at losing teeth! Do you think that all he wants for Christmas are his two front teeth? And a Mommy and Daddy. Maybe a brother or sister. C’mon, Santa!

judah (5)So, here’s my challenge to you: I see the clicks these posts get – y’all are reading them & I thank you for that! There seems to be a bit of a disconnect, though, when it comes to turning those clicks into donations. Can you commit $10 today? Right now? Just click this link and the green button, enter your information, and make a huge difference in the life of a child.

Click here to help Judah with a one-time donation: https://purecharity.com/newdayfosterhome

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.08.38 PMSweet Judah is waiting for his forever family, but his wait might be long as he’s an older boy (he turned 7 two days ago!) and considered immobile. Will you support him in his journey with a contribution of $25? ‘Tis the season to love, give, and hope!

judah (9)

All you have to do is click the link and the green button to be a child’s hero.

Click here to help these kiddos with a one-time donation: https://purecharity.com/newdayfosterhome

Adam and I are getting married in 11 short days. People have been asking us where we are registered: New Day Foster Home and Carry The Load. We already have so many things, so many comforts and conveniences; others need the generosity more than we do, so please, if you feel compelled to share in our joy, please share it with one or both of these deserving charities.

Carry-the-Load

The Wheels On The Struggle Bus Go Round and Round (updated)

Lucky number 13. 1 week, 6 days. With so much to do and so little time to do it, I thought it’d be a great day to hop on the Struggle Bus and ride around for a few hours. Or all day. Or, ya know, buy a 2-day pass.

doggie door struggleYesterday we were without power due to some scheduled outage for maintenance. The notice indicated it’d be back on by noon. Hahahahahahahahaha *deep breath* hahahahahahaha. Yah. Right. And I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona.

You_Sit_On_A_Throne_Of_LiesRules for Power Outages

  1. The night before, fail to remember the power will be off. Don’t charge your cell phone and definitely don’t make alternative food arrangements.
  2. Because you didn’t make alternative food arrangements, open the fridge, but instead of thinking through everything you need so you only have to open it twice (once to retrieve, once to replace), go ahead and open it 3 or 4 more times. Fermented food is good for you!
  3. Lastly, remember that while your house runs on gas, the ignition switches are electric, so nearly take your eyebrows, arm hair, and fingerprints off in a blaze of glory when you try to light the gas with a match. (Try being the operative word here. Note: It won’t actually work, so don’t even try it.)

hindenburgThis morning, after my alarm didn’t go off and I slept an hour later than anticipated, I looked Monday straight in the face and said, “Hey, homie. Let’s do this.” *high five* Just as I went to give Monday the highest of fives, it jerked its hand away and I swatted at nothing but air.

SeacrestMaking breakfast, I had 1 egg left. Except the egg had a crack in the bottom and was stuck to the carton, so when I tried to remove it, the shell broke and I had egg all over my hands. No egg for me. Monday laughed at me and then collaborated with Siri.

watch this“Siri, I need directions to the nearest post office.” Siri sent me to a place that was never a post office. “Siri, this isn’t a post office. Where is the nearest post office?” 1.9 miles away? I can do that… Yah, also not a post office. “Siri, isn’t there a Lowe’s around here?” At least she got that one right.

stitch angerDry cleaners: check
Lowe’s: check
Post office: check (finally)
Gym: I know how to get there! Huzzah!

Answer: 2 hours.
What is the amount of time it took for me to run 3 errands, Alex?

Apparently in the last few years, riding a bicycle has gotten really hard. When I showed up for spin class, I was told I’ve been riding a bike all wrong. After my instructor adjusted, pulled, tweaked, and duck taped me into (onto?) the bike, I was ready to go. And an hour later, I was ready to get off that crazy contraption. So worth it…

01_Cinderella_finalAfter 60 excruciating minutes of pedaling, totally robbing me of all the happy memories I had of innocently riding my bike in the driveway as a child, all I wanted was a sandwich. There was a Subway nearby, but I don’t want shoe rubber chemicals in my bread, thank you very much, so I asked that bitc sometimes-helpful tool Siri to direct me to the nearest Which Wich. 11 minutes? Not bad. I hope this place exists…

eating my feelings37 profanity-streaked minutes later…

sammichThe things I’ll do for food. Oh, and wouldn’t you know I made 3 wrong turns, hit traffic, had my gas light turn on, and found my phone only had 1% battery on the way home. Now that I’m home, 6 hours later, safely tucked into my house, I don’t want to leave. Ever again. Unless someone else is driving.

karen

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick!

15 more days! 2 weeks from tomorrow we’ll be chowing down on awesome barbecue, nom-noming some delicious cake, and something else… OH! Yah, and we’ll be married. Speaking of cake, that reminds me of pie – the recipe I posted yesterday was legit. That’s some dang good pie.

IMG_7014Back to the point: To celebrate this truly wonderful event (the wedding, not the pie), Adam and I are asking people to give gifts to others, instead of us. We don’t need new sheets or silverware, but Carry The Load needs to provide assistance to the families of our fallen heroes and New Day Foster Home needs to provide sick orphans with treatment and love. Will you (friend/family/stranger) celebrate the creation of a new family by blessing one in need?

Jack (1)Meet Jack. This sweet boy, is a testament to the amazing gift New Day donors give to these kiddos. He was born August 25, 2013 and abandoned at a local hospital on September 22, likely because he had some substantial tummy troubles. Fortunately, New Day Foster Home and their donors came to the rescue! Don’t you just want to snuggle him?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a mighty combination of surgery and love, Jack has made a wonderful recovery and is living life as a normal, happy little boy waiting for his forever family. Jack’s Mommy and Daddy are out there somewhere and, thanks to the generous contributions from everyday people like you, Jack is still here, waiting for them and better than ever. Will you be one of those amazing donors who helps save lives and build families?

Click here to help Jack with a one-time donation: https://purecharity.com/newdayfosterhome

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.08.38 PMThere are so many children who need life-saving surgery. Please hold them (and their future families) in your prayers and, if you’re able, pitch in $15 or $20. Every little bit counts.

Because this picture makes me giggle, I propose a caption contest. Leave your suggested caption in the comments. I’ll select the top 5 (hopefully we have that many) and we’ll vote on the best one. Winner gets cookies! No, really, I’ll send you cookies.

Jack (10)