Standing in the middle of the field as a tepid breeze whistles in my ear, the sound of dirt and spit and discarded sunflower seeds crunching beneath my feet. The lights dancing off the chain link fence as 25-year old boys, mostly boys, run around playing like 5-year old boys with bloody knees and semi-inflated egos.

It’s my favorite place in the world to be. Not playing softball per se, but outside, under the stars with great friends and my wife watching and eternity on the horizon, just below the moon. How could it not be?

And as I marched around shortstop last night at our game, in between innings while girls speckled the air with their pitchy voices and those aforementioned boys loosened their muscles by waving bats over their heads I thought about how all of this is so very much like what I do every day with God.

See in softball, as is the case with most semi-sedentary sports, there are precious few seconds of live roll-the-cameras lace-up-your-spikes action. Most of time is filled with dirt being swept from side to side, gloves being smacked with balled up fists, and chalk dancing out of the straight line it was supposed to represent.

Most of the time you’re sitting there thinking, preparing for the 3-4 seconds of complete chaos that uncovers this truth about who you are as an athlete, as a ballplayer.

As extrapolations go, it’s a pretty good one, because I find my walk with God and my spiritual, if not actual, life to be much of the same. Hours of preparation and discipline equals success. But as is the case with both, one slip of the mind into something other than what is in front of me and poof, ballgame.

So how will it be? What is my priority? Can I focus on the day, on the moment? Do I have it in me to be humbled to the point that all I am is rigorously focused on that which is important?

The sound of metal on cork slices the air as my eardrums react negatively. The ball is rocketing up the middle of the field at a pace so frenetic I can’t even process it. I take one sharp step to my left, cross over with my right, and leave my feet…

I hope my mind was clear.

I hope I was focused.

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Our First Easter

Yesterday, we got another badge on our grownup marriage vest. We spent our first married Easter in Dallas.

After a full morning of church, we feigned a real Easter dinner with some other 20 something pretend grownups. And it actually turned out to be pretty legit. There were fancy things like crescent rolls, green bean casserole, an actual baked ham, and a homemade pound cake with toppings. For the day, with all eleven of us and the two tiny ones, it sort of felt like being with family. There was laughing and crying (not any of the adults, thank goodness) and shared cleanup and games in the yard, including the Jumper’s Jungle game service. There was nap time and life discussion and then there was even a birthday party. With more food and more games and the pitter patter of some rain on the roof, though we couldn’t really hear it from all the game-induced giggles.

All in all, it was a successful Easter, though I’m still not entirely sure what the Easter Bunny is for. Am I supposed to get my kids to believe in him like Santa? Is he supposed to leave eggs in the yard for them to find when they wake up? Or is he just some mythical creature we celebrate in the form of milk chocolate and eggs? Does anyone realize that bunnies don’t actually lay eggs?

Someone help me.

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The Adventures of Roxy

Sometimes I don’t understand why God answers us the way he does. I mean, not to be picky or anything, but when I started praying a few months ago that he would help us get to know our neighbors better, I didn’t expect it to involve dog sitting for two weeks straight.

Okay God, I’m trying to have an open mind here. But every time we walk into the apartment to feed her and take her out, I’m praying that she doesn’t eat us alive. That’s right, she’s nothing cute like a cocker spaniel or one of those dogs that’s so fuzzy you can’t tell where their fur ends and they begin. No, this is a larger-than-life, probably-weighs-more-than-me can’t-tell-what-breed-she-is gigantic mut named Roxy. The first time we walked in to take her out, she let out the deepest growl I’d ever heard and I really just prayed that we wouldn’t end up in the ER or have to kill this dog we promised to watch over. I just keep reminding God that we won’t be very close with our neighbor if he comes home to a stuffed dog versus the real one he left in our care. Even though the thought makes me giggle.

There are several things I don’t understand about this scenario, starting with why you would own a giganto dog when you plan to leave the 48 contiguous states for weeks at a time. While our neighbor is traipsing the isles of Hawaii, we’re risking our extremities to feed and nurture his dog. Also- why would he choose us to dog sit when every other person in the building actually owns a dog? Who can really say? Maybe the lack of a dog screams, “Aw, this poor couple doesn’t have a dog to play with. I’ll let them hang with Roxy for the next few weeks.” When all it actually means is that I don’t particularly enjoy the canine family and choose to live dog free for the sake of my furniture and my marriage. But those are just little details.

God- I know this is an answered prayer, so I’m trying to accept while not kicking and screaming. At the dog or at you. I’m willing to do this. But I really hope you come through big time.


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What Fabric Is

Some days I just work in a fabric shop. Most days it’s simply a retail job filled with colorways, thread counts, and yardages; filling my time with cutting bolts upon bolts and watching them whittle away, dreaming of all the things they’ll eventually become.

Some days it’s our regulars who slowly let us become part of their lives, who feel more like relatives walking in on Christmas morning than customers simply coming in to pick fabric for their newest creation.

And some days its a woman coming in because her dad is passing away and she wants to make a dress in his favorite color. Some days it’s an almost first time mom, who came in to pick fabric for a nursery but then lost her baby halfway through the pregnancy. On those days its not really just a fabric shop at all. And the Lord shows me bit by bit that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and not really in all the fabrics we spend so much time ogling. There’s something about sharing the burdens of people we hardly know that makes them just as heavy than the burdens of those we do know. And those are the days we feel most alive.

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A Night of French Cuisine

Reason #382 why I love Dallas.

This weekend, I was blessed to be a part of a night of French cuisine. It was beautiful and delicious and full of amazing young women. Our friend Morgan, the most gracious hostess of all time, invited a group of her friends over so she could test her French cooking skills on us. After studying her skills, I have decided that French cuisine is defined by copious amounts of wine and butter. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Our beautiful hostess in her element- we had Coq au Vin and Ratatouille- both amazing!

She used a combination of recipes from this French cookbook and also Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. The former didn’t require that she set the brandy on fire in the process, which was fine with all of us.

Chelsea and Ashley- gorgeous girls.

And a beautiful apple tart prepared by Lindsay. She shared that her secret was a really sharp knife and an apricot jam glaze. Yes, please.

Here are some of Morgan’s favorite French songs in case you want to have your own party. Or in case you get the urge to wander around your house saying things like, “Bonjour!” or “Bon apetit!” I won’t judge.

La mer- Charles Trenet
Je sais quie vous etes jolie- Jean Sablon
Etoile des neiges- Line Renaud
C’est si bon- Yves Montand
Le pont Mirabeau- Leo Ferre
La chanson des rue- Jean Sablon
Je suis comme je suis- Juliette Greco
L’enfant de la balle- Eddie Constantine
Sans vous- Ray Venturea

(These are all on the album “100 Classic French Songs,” which you can buy for only $12 on iTunes.) Thanks, Morgan!


Game Night

There are few days during your first year if marriage during which you feel an actual shift. Most days are plagued with intense battles and victories too tiny to recognize. But this day, our victory is sweet.

We used to fight. A lot. Mostly because we’re both insanely stubborn people and giving any ground signified istant defeat. White flags raised. Honor lost. But gradually, we’ve become better at disagreeing, better at talking things through, better at game nights. For you see, game nights were our weakest link. My husband would approach them as if he were approaching WWIII, only playing to win, every opponent a bug to be crushed. And yet we’ve somehow paved a way, through literal sweat and tears, to a victory. On a New Years Eve game night the girls dominated. And so did my husband.

We won. In a huge way. Twice. The girls saw through every sports reference, battled through names we’d never heard of, and fought our way through to a big win. But instead of accusing us of cheating simply because he lost – yes, it really used to happen – my husband complimented us.

All the girls looked to me for affirmation ‘Is Kyle being sarcastic? Is he inadvertently making fools of us while we celebrate victory? Should we feel scared?’ And I got to look on, proud as I could be, at his changed demeanor. He said we were good. And he meant it.

Kyle fights. We still fight. But somewhere in the last two years he’s turned his sword toward things that are not of this world. Sure he still gets mad about silly things and I’ll annoyingly remind him of our victory for the next 11 months and 29 days, but our marriage saw a victory this week. And for that I am thankful.

The Rebuttal

In case you missed Kyle’s post yesterday, here it is. This is my response.

I usually read our previous posts (re: Kyle’s) and love them, dwell on them, and move on. I get the digital thumbs up that it’s my turn to write, so I sit down with my oatmeal and coffee and churn out something brand new. But because it’s our blog, I don’t have to be relegated to the comments section, but rather get to write an entire post in response to his.

For the last few years, I’ve battled with my family over what we’re all getting for Christmas. That’s right, all of us. My mom would email us asking for gift ideas and I’d reply all with some self-sacrificing antidote on why none of us want anything and that we should all just donate money to (insert 501c3 of your choice here) and call it done. I know everyone is feeling sorry for my family (as you should) but they’re very much used to my whims of nonsense and we all got gifts anyway. Which I may or may not have later donated to charity.

I don’t think Kyle struggled with this type of sin before I came into his life. I don’t think he would ever have known what Toms were or that he would have struggled to rid himself of things in the name of Christ. In fact, I think he was slightly on the other end of the spectrum (the 12 Masters polos in his closet would serve to prove my point), but I think I’ve gradually pulled him over to the other side. I really struggle with a sort of emergent worldview that the less we have, the more we’re serving the Lord. I think most of what’s in our hearts is good, though we’re still not quite there. Maybe we do it because we think if we don’t have a lot of stuff, we’re not able or called to actually give anything. Maybe we think we’re identifying with the less fortunate by depriving ourself of worldly objects. I don’t know. But I am learning this:

When we rid ourselves of things, be it material possessions or the views we have of ourselves, all it leaves is empty space. We’re getting so good at ridding ourselves of stuff (well, come over and you can be the judge) but all it’s leaving is an empty house.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”- Matthew 12:40-45

We’re putting our house in order. We’re getting rid of all the “wrong” things, buying all the “if this is all I owned I’d be hippie but it actually cost 2k and I throw it around in my trunk” stuff. Our generation (or at least some of us) are getting so good at living a self-sacrificing lifestyle, except that it isn’t FOR anything. Other than a better image of ourselves. Our sin is still in worshipping our stuff, except that we worship the lack of stuff. And we pat ourselves on the back.

To my wise husband- I’m sorry I’ve taken advantage of the things you love about me and turned them into the only way to honor Christ. I really believe this is our biggest struggle and that I’m often at the forefront of it. I know that things don’t define us as good, but they also don’t make us sinful. That comes only from our human hearts, and from making an idol of the state of our household. Lead on, even if it’s in your Masters polo. I’m okay with that, and I promise I won’t give them away.

On Living Outside Myself

We aren’t entirely sure, but we think the rest of the world might be back at work today. We are still taking time off and sleeping irregular hours for one last day. We’ll soon return to our normal lives and regularly scheduled postings.

This isn’t a reflection on Christmas or a looking forward to the new year, though I’m sure those posts are to come. I’ve been reading a fictional book lately on the slow goings of becoming like Christ and who he wants us to be. The long and painful process is different for each of us, though we often struggle with many of the same things. After a day of reluctantly keeping a woman company at her death bed, the young woman in the book wrote in her journal:

I have learned one thing worth knowing. It is this: Duty looks more repelling at a distance than when fairly faced and met. I still see men as trees walking, but He never leaves His work incomplete and is leading me into a clear and open vision if I’ll allow Him to do it.

The world is full of those of us who are met with a call to duty and yet shy away from it. I find myself being often called to share more of myself or give more than is comfortable, and yet my first response is rarely like Mary’s- ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.’

The root of my unbelief comes not from doubting who I am, but in seeing my husband, my parents, people at work, not as souls, but as trees walking. My eyes have been opened enough to recognize what I should see, yet I fail to see it on a regular basis. Yet duty, when fully faced, is much less intimidating, more fulfilling than we can ever comprehend before we obey. The world sees marriage as a repelling compromise, a duty to be shirked for the thrill of living your own life day by day. Yet the duty (and joy) I have in being a wife is preparing me for many opportunities down the road to respond as Mary did. For I am the Lord’s servant.

We hope you all had an amazing holiday week. We’re headed back to Dallas for a few days without travel. Cheers for our own bed!

A Playground Kind of Weekend

It’s been a long weekend at the Porter house. We’re playing hosts to some munchkins and their parents, my cousin and her husband. We haven’t decided if this has made us more excited or more nervous to have kids, but it has definitely made us more sleepy. After a full day of playing and eating and more playing, we’re pooped out. Here are a few playground highlighs. The lowlights don’t get captured because they include tears, but they were nearly non-existent. Snaps and fake parenting badges all around.

We hope your weekends were full of highlights lacking in tearful lowlights. Cheers to the last 13 days before Christmas!

What She’s Thankful For

Some things I’m thankful for after living a day dedicated strictly to giving thanks:

1. I’m thankful that neither we nor my parents are pet people. This isn’t a shot at Kyle’s family- Junior the chihuahua and I are learning to get along- but as I sat my pie plate down on the carpet I was strangely overwhelmed with being able to sit my pie plate on the carpet. No critters coming to lick me or my plate. I like being on the carpet in peace.

2. I’m thankful for a family who isn’t caught up in material things. We may be caught up in other things- mostly ourselves- but it’s so freeing to be around a group of adults who don’t care one inkling what they wear, what they drive, or what they live in. As much as Dallas offers us, it rarely offers this.

3. I’m working on giving thanks for the cold front. As much as I complain- and will continue to complain until next May- the cool air really does bring a feeling of holiday with it. And that’s certainly worth more than I give it credit for.

4. I’m thankful for the sugar highs that come from eating too much pie topped with too much whipped cream.

5. Last but not least, let’s all give thanks that we weren’t born under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-il or the like. America really is a beautiful thing.

6. Oh, and lastest but not leastest, my extraordinarily servant-hearted husband. And not just because he made me say it.

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