If These Walls Could Talk

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

A Different Kind of Christmas List

I discovered a love for running in college but since having children, my choice of exercise shifted towards higher intensity activities I could accomplish in smaller amounts of time. My work out routine also shifted and became not-as-frequent. So, here we are. As our kids are getting older and require less constant supervision, I reintroduced myself to running. I still do high-intensity interval training and a variety of other programs, but I wanted to give myself permission to go back to something I once enjoyed, even if it takes more time away from some mom and housework duties. Now don’t get it twisted, y’all. I am not training for a marathon and my pace doesn’t correlate with the length of my legs, but there is something about putting in my ear pods, turning up the music to a volume I’ll likely regret down the road, and checking out from my day’s to-do list.

In college, I would run to hip hop music or current hits, but now I really prefer running to worship music. I have always felt closest to God in worship, and combining the two creates the most cleansing, precious time. I’m sweating out both toxins and fears, praying for people and situations, praising Him with humility and gratitude, and even though I am physically moving, I am still.

“Battle Belongs” by Phil Wickham was playing when I prayed for our friends to have strength and peace while navigating the new unknown that comes with their son’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. I grieved for another friend who experienced two failed in vitro fertilization cycles to Charity Gayle’s “Throne Room.” A few weeks ago, I was running and praying for this very column—what could I share that could help a reader? What do I want my kids to learn or remember when they read this one day? As I flipped through my mental Rolodex, it occurred to me how blessed I am to have so many topics to consider—my family, our health, and the holiday season… the list goes on and on. Why celebrate just one when God has given us many?

My husband’s birthday is five days before Christmas and while we celebrate him every year, we will go a little bigger this year because John Flippo turns forty! John is so many things that are good in this world. He puts his family first, has worked incredibly hard for his success, and is a good, loyal friend. It is a guarantee the clothes he is wearing have been freshly ironed. He takes his coffee black, and you should never ask his opinion unless you are ready for it. His favorite Christmas song is “Pretty Paper.” He has terrible vision and grinds his teeth in his sleep, but he gave our children his beautiful blue eyes and his natural hand-eye coordination. John balances my emotional overthinking with logic and common sense, and his attention to detail is eerily keen. Every day he empties the contents of his pockets into his catchall in a specific place and in a specific order because “it just makes sense.” We started dating when I was 19 and I still haven’t learned which direction his money clip faces because I get caught after getting in it every. single. time. He is the fun parent, a proud Atlanta Rabbit, and loves classic country music. Do not let him catch a Gaither Homecoming special on television, either, because it will get recorded on our DVR, never to be deleted. Excuses are never acceptable for any hardship or trial, only ownership of the action and motivation to do and be better, regardless of who is responsible for the circumstance. John may be strong in his opinion but will be the first to apologize when he’s wrong. If he’s not on the golf course, watching a Razorback sport, or working hard to provide for his family, you are likely to find him right in the palm of our daughter’s hand. The Brothers mimic everything he does, and I can only pray they turn out to be husbands and fathers like him. I pray the same for the boy our little girl marries one day. He makes me a better person and not a day goes by that he does not compliment me in front of the kids. He is just good, y’all. We certainly don’t deserve him, but we are so happy he is ours and so happy he was born.

The youngest Brother stopped eating for over ten days back in September. Two hospital stays and my debut as momma bear to a room full of doctors later, the biggest fan of food in our home started eating again, and all has been right in the world with him since. Those eleven days were full of anxiety and complete helplessness as a parent. We still don’t really understand what caused it but let me tell you one thing—I will never take our health for granted again. I will also never forget how our village stepped up without hesitation in our time of need. Teachers, friends, speech therapists, family, our pediatrician, church staff, colleagues, friends of friends—I don’t know that we have ever felt such heavy blankets of love and prayer around us as we did during those days. We were completely overwhelmed with gratitude.

I followed the American Cancer Society’s recommendation and had my first mammogram this year. I am thankful my results were normal and that my mom remains cancer free since her diagnosis and double mastectomy in 2013. We were appreciative to discover the oldest Brother’s tree nut allergy after he puffed up, almost instantly, after a bite of cashew dip. Children’s Benadryl now lives in every bathroom, bag, car, nook, and cranny. And perhaps the healthiest and greatest move of all is the one big sister made when she prayed her prayer of salvation in the spring. Her faith alone has brought such goodness and beauty to our home when moments were cloudy, and I thank God for using her to remind us of His greatness.

Now if I’m being completely honest, I’m not ready for the holidays. Like, at all. As if most days aren’t already spent putting out fires and taking care of the revolving door of laundry, I can’t seem to get my thoughts together before another flame sparks somewhere or I find another basket ready to be washed. Ready or not, though, I know Christmas morning is about to burst through the door like the Kool-Aid Man. Gifts, meals, coverage for kids while they’re out of school and I am working, class parties, work parties... all the things are happening and if I let it, anxiety will creep in, making me question if I’m doing it well.

Will I make it special enough for my kids? Will they be happy with their gifts? Is my house clean enough for having company? I won’t let anxiety win because as cliché as it sounds, I need to remember the reason for the season. Jesus doesn’t care if we remembered to make some Pinterest-inspired reindeer food to sprinkle on the grass Christmas Eve or if guests see water marks on the bathroom mirror, friends. Let’s get real. Gabbie has lost at least eight teeth and I just learned the other day the tooth fairy is supposed to take the tooth after she leaves the money. She does not seem to be bothered that her tooth fairy doesn’t follow the same protocol as others, and really, neither does Jesus. He was born in a manger, died for our sins, and I am questioning if I am following the tooth fairy’s policies and procedures? Girl, bye.

Maybe Santa cares, but Jesus doesn’t. I think He cares about loved ones being around a crowded table, giving thanks for the things we have and lives we live, knowing He gave them to us, and we don’t deserve a single bit of it. He doesn’t care if you sit at a beautifully decorated place setting with Christmas dishes or on a sticky floor with paper plates. It doesn’t matter to Him how your Christmas tree is decorated, or if you have a tree at all. He wants our hearts because He loves us more than we can ever imagine. He loved us like this before we were even born. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful He loves my sticky-floor self.

As I look back at moments in my life, I can’t help but wonder, “What if my circumstances were different? Would I still feel grateful?” Maybe I’m being naïve, but a large part of me believes our circumstances just are what they are, and it is our outlook that creates the outcome. Sure, we can take the hard and run with it, or we could find the goodness because it is there, too. I promise. I have and will continue to see hard times and dark days, but perspective, especially when intentional, is such a powerful thing.

On the days I don’t feel like hitting the treadmill, I am reminded of my favorite Peloton Coach’s phrase, “You don’t have to, you get to. It’s a privilege, not a punishment.” Thank you, Jess Sims. One of the popular song requests on our drive to school is “I’m So Blessed” by Cain. Friends, there is something about listening to your children sing about how every day, even their worst day, is a good day because they have a heartbeat in their chests and are a child of God. On mornings we struggle, we may even listen to it twice just to make sure it sinks in. I want them to be grateful for the highs and the lows because He is faithful. After all, I was able to snuggle my once heartbroken friend’s perfect newborn baby girl in October and watch our other friends’ son continue to grow and thrive despite his Type 1 diagnosis.


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