Family Christmas

It was so nice to be with family for Christmas. Each year that passes I am more aware of how unbelievably fortunate I am to have this group of people in my life. Like, how in the world did I get so lucky?? I have incredible parents, the best siblings, the sweetest niece, an awesome grandma, and this whole other amazing family that adopted me into their clan just because I married one of their own. It is humbling just how deeply loved and supported Josh and I are, and nothing reminds me of that more than being with family.

We left Georgia almost 7 years ago, hearing nothing but messages of support as we set off into the unknown for the pacific northwest. The love of our families has been our strength and sense of peace as we’ve re-settled a few times since then. Knowing people have our back, love us unconditionally and believe in us makes all the difference.

We were able to spent a solid 2 weeks in Georgia this year for the holidays. We packed up the car and the pup, headed east on I-10, and landed at my parents’ house the following afternoon. Our time there was full of eating, laughing, playing games, golf cart rides, sitting, talking, and filling up on moments that will sadly need to last me awhile. I’m so grateful for our time with the people who mean the most to us in the world. They are precious precious moments to both Josh and myself. There are no words to describe what family is to us. Maybe it is because we don’t have the luxury of weekly meet-ups or sharing every special occasion together. Whatever the case may be, I adore these people and feel empowered by them to continue growing and learning and becoming who I’m meant to be. They each bring their own gifts into my life and speak truth to me in unique ways and life wouldn’t be the same without each one of these people. I’m so grateful. I love you, family. More than you’ll ever know!

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As I jump back into Austin life and start my second-to-last semester of school, I’m filled to the brim with gratitude that we have a soft place to land whenever we need it. These relationships-the ones that last forever-are the good stuff in life. No matter where we end up, it will always be good to be “home” because of the people who are there.

Happy new year!

Sweet Virgina

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This is not my favorite post to have to write.

My sweet grandmother Virginia Gross went to heaven last week.

The timing of it all made it pretty tough to process and grieve, what with it being midterms. Josh and I took a whirlwind 2 night trip up to Ohio this week to attend the funeral, but even after the all of the ceremony, I’m still a bit in shock.

Death has a way of making you think about someone in a completely different way than you ever have. It is a shame, really, that many times we don’t get to appreciate the fullness of a life until they are gone. I knew a lot about my Grandmother’s life before she left this earth. I knew her and personality and her past. But somehow it all comes together into a beautiful, sad, deeper way when they are no longer sitting across from you at a table. You allow yourself to step back and think about their time on earth as one long story, and it makes you wish you had pieced it together long before they had passed.
My grandmother was an incredible seamstress, baker, gardener, book-keeper, and care taker. She was smart and detailed and remembered everything about everyone. She kept up with the people she loved, and like many who lived through the Depression, she was resourceful and frugal. The pastor speaking at her funeral put it brilliantly when she described my grandmother as a “domestic engineer”. I LOVE that job title. She made home making look easy, which now that I have tried it I can say that it most certainly is NOT.
Sweet Virginia gave me a lot in this life. Probably most importantly, she gave me a mom. She raised my mom in love, and that love was carried on to me as I grew up. I would be nowhere without the love of my Mom. It was the rock I stood on growing up, and a rock I still stand on now.

She gave me a deep, passionate, undying love for pie. Blackberry and cherry to be specific. And goodness, homegirl could bake some pie. There is no better taste in the world to me than grandmother’s pie. It is second to none.

She gave me a home when I was first born. My dad was deployed in Korea with the Air Force for most of my first year of life. My grandparents opened their home up to me and my mom and sister, and I can’t imagine what that must have meant to our family back then. What new mom of two couldn’t use the help of her parents in such a big transitional time in life?

She gave me a deep appreciation of health. God bless that woman for how well she took care of herself. She ate flax seeds decades before it was cool. She took shots of apple cider vinegar (and no, I can’t imagine she ever enjoyed it). She exercised well into her 80s. She ate foods she planted with her own hands. She was so well read on how to take care of yourself, it is no wonder she lived to 92. I am deeply inspired by her dedication to caring for her body.

I will miss my grandmother very much. She worked hard and loved well, two things I can only pray are spoken about me when I’ve left his world one day. I’m so grateful for all these years I got to spend with her and the legacy she leaves behind. I’m thankful for the family I get to be a part of and the time I got to spend in Ohio this week. Though my heart aches at the thought of her being gone, it is also full with gratitude and contentment.

Hug your loved ones tight today. This life is so short. Make it one full of love and forgiveness and lots and lots of pie.

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The thing about “having a family”

This post has been in my brain and on my heart for awhile now, but I haven’t had the energy to sit town and type out my thoughts until tonight. It’s an emotional subject for a lot of people, and it can be for me as well. But just bear with me.

As you may have noticed if you live on planet earth in 2014, there are many opinions swarming around out there in internet-world. One of the most prevalent topics people love to post about is family and kids. Ever-growing conversations like ones around “mommy wars” or the demise of traditional families fill the blogs, but another big elephant in the room of young adults is showing up more and more: The question of whether or not it is ok to wait to have kids…or, dare I say…whether it is ok to not have them at all. (Gasp.)

As many of us women who grew up in the southern church culture experienced, our lot in life was very clearly laid out for us. We were destined to be the Proverbs 31 woman. But the hot kind. The kind that the husband can brag to his fellow deacons about. Ew. Most of what I took away from that chapter, though, were these:  She was a servant. She was married. She had kids.

When I got married at age 20, I thought for sure I would have at least one kid by the time I was 23. Why waste my youth on myself, right? Luckily at that point, we had zero pressure to rush into parenthood. Few of our friends were having kids, and our parents obviously understood how desperately we needed some time to finish growing up ourselves. Here I am at age 26, still with no intention of having children any time soon. It is strange to me how fast the time has flown, and I’m so beyond grateful for the past 6 years I have gotten to spend sorting out my identity and my marriage. It is definitely tempting to compare myself to other people my age. And comparison truly is the thief of joy.

“So and so is pregnant again.” I always tell Josh. He rolls his eyes, knowing where my brain is going and wanting to reassure me that our life is beautiful. It is meaningful. It is worth a lot. But sadly, many of the things posted on the godforsaken internet beg to differ.

One viral post I came across on Facebook recently blasted young people for squandering their youth and not starting families as soon as they are old enough to procreate.

“So if you really want to do something bold and beautiful with your youth — love someone, commit to them, have kids, forge a place in this world for you and your family. You can go stare at buildings in Europe and walk across sandy beaches on the Pacific, but none of those experiences will teach you more about yourself and the world than staring into someone’s eyes and saying “I do,” or holding your child and swearing silently to God that you will gladly die for this little being in your arms.”

Many christians I know of buy into the idea that it is our mission as believers to have children. As many as possible. Those same people have thrown around a lot of hurtful words against people like me. People who choose to use their 20’s to do other things. But is it fair to say people like me are selfish in their intention?

I’m not going to sit around and write all my justifications for not wanting to rush into parenthood. Many days, I will admit, I have no other motive but getting a good night sleep. But then there are times when a friend calls late at night and asks me to come over and watch her kids because she had a family emergency and I was the only one able to rush over last minute. Or the fact that I have the opportunity in this season to mentor, share, give, see the world, and be present for my husband. It hasn’t been all fun and games because that isn’t what following Jesus is about. Following Jesus requires sacrifice, but that doesn’t have to come in the form of midnight feedings and budgeting for organic diapers. Paul was never even married, after all, and I think we all know how he felt about the idea of settling down. It seemed to me like he thought that was kind of selfish. Just saying 🙂

Here’s the thing I want christians to hear: Being a parent or being married does not make you a better christian. Just like being childless doesn’t make you selfish. How you spend your time and energy dictates what kind of person you are. The world is not that simple, and we all just need to chill out and give each other some space to breath and become who God wants us to become.

{Side thought: Is being so focused on your own family that you forget the needs of your neighbor so different than a married couple never having children and mindlessly enjoying all of the frivolous pleasures of life together?}

My friends who are parents are the most sacrificial, hard-working people I know. I want to be like them. Being a parent is incredibly significant. I look forward to sharing in that journey and understanding those joys and battles. But for now, I’m going to live sacrificially and love the heck out of people around me while I still have the capacity to easily serve people outside of my own family. The past 6 years have been about growing, learning, giving, failing, learning boundaries, and now entering into a career that serves the needs of hurting people.

Proverbs 31 lady is still alive and well, but she looks a bit different than the person I had in my head in high school. “Having a family” at age 26 looks different too. It looks like me and Josh trying to give ourselves away for the sake of others and navigate the complexity of life and suffering and joy together. I can certainly live with that, and never feel an ounce of guilt because of it.