Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Save it for a rainy day: How #Groupon is helping us in the #laflood

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

While you can't save and hold value of a coupon (or Groupon) forever, you can certainly purchase and redeem a Groupon in times of need, which help with the financial burden and peace of mind for both you and your house.

Currently, I'm sitting in Not My Own House, at Not My Own Address, and am at heightened awareness about any money I spend (thanks, #laflood!). And because of how the unprecedented weather and subsequent effects in Baton Rouge in the past few weeks have impacted my family, I find myself trying to save pennies and nickels and dollars now more than ever.

But thanks to Groupon, even though our house flooded recently, we have been able to indulge in some creature comforts and replacements such as these Groupon Goods without needing to spend additional money, which is a tremendously huge relief.

And, also thanks to Groupon, we can treat ourselves to eating out occasionally by having an indulgence and feeling normal while not being so limited as we were before all this.

It's been a nice reprieve to the shock.

I've been Grouponing for years. The Louisiana flood may be a rare occurrence, but saving money is vital and necessary in real life, especially in times of crisis.

Monday, August 29, 2016

#Katrina11 + #laflood = brand new perspective

Biloxi, before and after 

Hurricane Katrina.
Eleven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I grew up.

As tragic as that day, the months and years to follow have been, I didn't think I could feel any more strongly about personal belongings being destroyed than I did in 2005.

I thought, "You know, I'm FROM the coast. I get the sense of loss. I'm as close as you can come to being the one who actually lost everything."

And maybe I was. Maybe. 

Or maybe I didn't realize that while being away and not being able to help in the ways I wanted pained me, just as a picture of a destroyed landscape doesn't show a 360 degree view, nor does not living in it.

Panoramic view from our driveway in Baton Rouge, 

taken this evening.

Maybe I kind of missed out on the fact that driving past debris piles daily wears on you. Seeing others' belongings sitting on their street is saddening in ways you can't describe. And hearing about diggers climbing on debris mounds is both infuriating and heartbreaking at the same time.

And there's no maybe about this one -- I certainly didn't think about the toll a mass displacement takes on hosts and hostesses during this type of crisis. "Yes, please come into my home. I want to make you feel welcome. What can I do to help you?" And then silently, surely, "How long will this last again? They're nice, but...my family needs some normalcy, man." 

Then the guilt. Everyone involved feels the guilt.

Those of us who went through it wonder what we could've done better, how we could've been proactive.

Those of us not present to help want to be there to help, even when there's nothing tangible to do, and maybe even nowhere to stay while we do the nothing that's so important for us to feel like we're doing. (This was 100% me in Katrina while I was three hours' north of my family, by the way.)

Those of us present bend over backwards to help however we can. Laundry? Dishes? A place to hang out? A meal? My home? A ride to work?

It's all over the top, and we are over the top, and our emotional barometers are full before we can ever brush our teeth in the mornings.

Each anniversary of Katrina, I reminisce on my beautiful upbringing and all the places and faces I call "home."

This year is different.

This year I'm empathizing with Nan, and all the times I offered to give her something -- you know, a basic, like a nail file, and she replied with, "Well honey, I used t'have SEVEN of 'em, but now I guess they're FLOATIN' in th' GULF a' MEXICO."

This year I'm thinking about my Mother, and her multiple washings of Nan's and others' clothes to make sure they got that "Katrina smell" out and saved the saveable clothes from ruining. (God BLESS laundry and dish washing angels!)

This year I'm thinking about Pop Ball, who diligently worked at contacting FEMA and filing insurance claims and making repairs like it was his job, and I'm thankful for a husband that is doing the same, on top of his own full-time job, plus spraying the house nightly for mold and sorting through clothes as we organize ourselves in another new place.

This year I'm thinking about the many who hosted families like my own little Maricelli bunch of Baton Rouge in their homes when they were displaced by that storm.

This year I'm thinking of all the power outages, which I am thankful we are not dealing with, and all the nasty heat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August '05 and in Baton Rouge in August '16, and how we are all getting so much sun, but not in an ideal way.

This year, on the anniversary of the storm that changed the landscape of my upbringing, I'm thinking about the first 18-wheelers I saw coming into Baton Rouge post-flood, and how they were all from my Mississippi Gulf Coast. And the first of still ongoing Red Cross trucks that delivered meals to my neighborhood, and how they were from my Mississippi Gulf Coast, too.

No, this memory and day aren't all about what we went through in Baton Rouge, but I'm experiencing a different sort of commemoration of Hurricane Katrina, and it's all because of the flood we just experienced and, though we [read: me] are terrified, we have been shown enormous kindnesses.

Mainly, I'm keenly aware that while eleven years ago today Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of where I grew up, and that while two weeks ago a flood changed the landscape of my present life, I am from a resilient people, and a pattern has been set to overcome tragedy. Michael and I will not just survive; we will thrive.

Our perspective may have changed, but our resolve has only strengthened.

Of all the beliefs that remain unchanged, though, there's this: good riddance, Katrina.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Unprecedented: How the Louisiana Flood Seeped Into Our City, Home and Hearts


That's the word I kept seeing to describe the flood waters and the back flow that crept into Baton Rouge last weekend, turning my sweet, fun-loving city into a crest of the unknown, and then into a smelly row of debris piles.

Once meteorologists and city officials led us with the term, it became a key word around here:

We've had an unprecedented amount of rainfall...

The parish and surrounding areas are seeing an unprecedented amount of flooding...

This crisis is, aside from hurricanes, completely unprecedented for the state of Louisiana...

Our neighborhood, when we came home
Sunday after evacuating Saturday night.
I took this picture and am standing at the
street corner, about 8 houses from ours.
The guys you see are our friend Scott and
Michael, waist-deep in water. They have
just been to our house for the first time.
When my husband and I got back to our home of one year and one week the day after we evacuated, we saw that the meteorologists and city officials were right: this flooding and back flow were, indeed, unprecedented.

Parking at least a mile away, we passed tired, tearstained, sunburned faces pushing children in Target shopping carts and knew we had made the right decision to leave the night before. What we couldn't have imagined was that our home, some forty feet above sea level, could have taken water. After passing boats still rescuing our neighbors and wading through knee- and hip-deep water into our subdivision, we learned that not only was water in our house, it was in it nearly two feet high.

Thankful for the gracious friends who had insisted we come to their house but still fearful of the unknown, we waited two days for the water to recede. Once it did, we faced the devastating truth that our area, once laughed at for no flood insurance due to its high elevation, was now sitting in two to four feet of water.

Unprecedented, indeed.

Half of our neighborhood looked like our house. Much of Baton Rouge is the same. The stench, we fear, will never leave our noses.

The two quiet towns east of us, Denham Springs and Walker, and a lovely town northwest of us, Zachary, are badly damaged. No one we know doesn't have some kind of story about someone losing everything.

For Baton Rouge, that is unprecedented.

But also unprecedented, we noticed immediately, were the calls, texts, Facebook messages, and outreaches to us and our families on our behalf checking on us. People drove by our house, trying to see if we were all right and offering assistance. One of our best friends came right away, and seeing our shell shocked faces, whipped up a team from our church to help clean up the debris the next day. She also insisted on setting up a Go Fund Me account for us, and secured our storage unit.

The same friends who are housing us didn't ask, but prepared meals for us every day and night, and could not if they tried ever make us feel more at home. Their son, our ring bearer just a year and a week before, greets us every time we walk in with an enthusiastic, "Hey Michael! Hey Rebekah! Hey Ringo!"

Probably most unprecedented for me is the way I see our neighborhood coming together. The night before the flooding, when Michael was checking the drainage ditch every 30 minutes, he would mention, "Rick said so-and-so" or "Robbie mentioned this," and I was all, "Um, is that the neighbor?" Today, to quote Nan, I would know our whole street if I saw 'em on th' big road, hon-ey. I think that's how it's supposed to be. But still, it's unprecedented.

The majority of our things are in a pile on our street. I know that's not the most important thing in life; the most important thing is that we are safe and healthy and together. But the furniture that Michael's granddad made and the things Nan gave me can never be replaced, and so we grieve because while those things are just things, they are our things that are precious to us.

We have just been married a year, so many of our registry items were nearly brand new. Those were just things, but we picked them out together to start our life together, and they are ruined, and it was kind of sad to throw them on the heaping pile of soggy trash in front of our once nice and neat neighborhood.

All of this, for us, is certainly unprecedented.

But also unprecedented is the overwhelming compassion we feel for one another. I am more protective of this man I married than I ever dreamed possible. I have butterflies like I did when we said "I love you" and got engaged and got married, only they've grown. Maybe they're more advanced butterflies now? I'm not sure. Unprecedented, certainly.

We are absolutely blown away by our church, and The Church. The sheer love we have seen from our friends, family, church family and people who don't even know us is just, well, overwhelming. As Michael said to me on like Day 2, "You know these people love Jesus, but when you see them doing for you what He would do for you, it's just a completely different chapter of the story."

And he's right. It is. It is an unprecedented love we've been shown.

It has only been eight days since the Louisiana flood seeped into our city, and our home, and our hearts. And while it's going to be quite a journey without flood insurance, we are forever grateful for this unprecedented love we are encountering.

One thing is for sure: the circle will certainly not be broken. We will pay this unprecedented kindness forward.



Friday, July 22, 2016

For Budget or For Worse: Why I Groupon.

disclosure: this is a sponsored post. all opinions are mine.
Embarrassingly enough to admit, for me, with marriage came an actual strict budget. I know -- I should have been doing this well beforehand, but the fact is that I wasn't. And another fact is that budgeting has helped me tremendously. (I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I married an amazing numbers person, but balance is likely another post altogether.)
Thankfully, I knew about Groupon coupons long before meeting the Budgeter in my life. Whether I want to buy quality, high thread count sheets at a huge discount, or a manicure and pedicure at my favorite salon for half the normal cost, or a fantastic bargain from the greatest beauty retailer of all time, signing up for Groupon emails is the way to do it!
At first I was leery about getting yet another email in my inbox each day – is saving money really worth it? – but then I realized I could actually exercise some discipline and filter the emails coming through each day, just like I do with other company’s communications.
If I don’t need what’s being offered, I can delete the email. But if I’m in the market for candles, or a gift, or new workout clothes, or a 50% off deal to the best Thai restaurant in town, I can use my allotted budget for that and take Groupon up on their offer.
Maybe you want to, too? It's fun!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Things I Wish I Had Known

Always use sunscreen.    Eat more fruits and vegetables.    Easy on the sugar, sugar.    Exercise whether or not you need to, because how much more fun could you have than that?!

I suppose as I approach 40, the usual suspects should fall into my list of things I wish I had known throughout my life.

I can't blame anyone for not telling me the things I wish I'd known -- including those listed above -- because as with most life experiences, it's my own fault for not listening and having to learn lessons the hard way. But, thankfully, my life has my own imprint, and my steps are rebekah-sized and specific to my path.

With that in mind, here are the things I wish I had known throughout the past 40 years, give or take a few (years and things):

  • Everything isn't part of my charm.This one still stings, especially since I haven't even been married a year, so I'm adjusting to someone living with all my quirks. "What do you mean it's not cute and eclectic and an adorable expression of my creativity for me to leave my shoes by the couch?" 
    (I could go on, but you probably get the picture.)

  • Genetics don't get you everywhere.
    Even if you don't think you have great genes, you probably do. You may not be Jennifer Lawrence or Gigi Hadid, but you likely have something going for you. You know,
    I, much like JLaw, woke up like dis.
    that stuff you don't have to work for, but sometimes get compliments on? (LOVE those things.) A few exhibits A: High metabolism. Good skin. Quick wit. Easy hair. Pretty toes. (What. That's a legit thing.) Some of us -- no names named, obvs -- may not realize that these things could go away one day, or that even one of these things not being around could change our appearance. Then one day, bam, in your late 20s, you can't eat everything and not exercise, and what do you have? Ten extra pounds. Clearly not speaking from experience, of course. So still take care of things that you think your genes have covered, because whoa, Nellie. It's a harsh reality when you have to start three decades into life.

  • People aren't around forever. 
    I know, I know. Who isn't aware of this? I mean, we all are. But, not to be a buzzkill, but you don't exactly expect your favorite high school teacher to succumb to cancer before you can write that "how you changed my life" letter after you graduate from college. And, that BFF you think will always live less than a mile from you may decide to do summer missions in Australia, and your lives could go in kind of different directions from there. So if you have an intention, just follow through with it, already. Trust me.

  • Friends can be seasonal, and that's ok.
    It was about this point in my post that I realized exactly
    how depressing my advice is. Sorry, guys.
    If you're a people-pleaser like me and you're hearing this for the first time, you won't think this is ok at ALL. I get that. You may have to read it twice, or you may even just close out this post. I've been there. "I'm a good friend. My friends won't ever go away. And I would never do that to them!" And no, we don't want any of that to happen. The great philosopher Deep Blue Something crooned it best in Breakfast at Tiffany's: "I hate when things are over, there's so much left undone."

    However, sometimes it's best for our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual states of mind for things to be over. Sometimes we need the gifts someone can offer, but only for a season. And sometimes we can only do them good for a short period of time.

    I'm not gonna lie. This can hurt like the devil -- both sides of it. I know from experience. And there have to be more graceful ways to handle it than how I have in my life.

    But accepting that seasonal isn't just a section of greeting cards is probably a good start.

  • If something works, stick with it.Ok, so you should probably switch up your breakfast to add something else into the rotation, but I'm talking about important things. You know, lipstick. Hairstyles.* Colors that look good on you. Styles you constantly get complimented for wearing. Also, exercises you love! If you're like me, you feel like you should jump on the latest bandwagon and try out whatever is new and fun. There's nothing wrong with that, but you know, if Richard Simmons keeps you in shape, sweat to the oldies, my friend!
    * This does not apply to a Carol Brady-type fad style. Keep up with the times. Get a hairdresser you can trust. Perhaps that's another blog for another day.

  • If two or more people say it, it's probably true.This applies to everything from a bad haircut to the guy you're convinced you'll spend the rest of your life with. It's also important to note that these people shouldn't be related, or friends with each other. They need to be saying this to you independently. If that happens, BOOM. Sealed. You can either listen and fix the haircut, or blissfully ignore them and spend the next six -- count 'em, SIX -- years thinking that surely the guy you think is The One will exhibit appropriate behaviors. Up to you.
There you have it. All my wisdom.

Aren't you so freaking enlightened?! Don't you hope I'm still blogging at 80?!?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Rebekah's General Warning: 
I drafted this in October or November of 2015, and am just coming back to it. While a lot of adjustment has been made, it's all still true. :-)

I remember (not that long ago, really, at ALL), thinking oh.so.clearly: "Contentious wife? How could I possibly ever be contentious toward the man that I love?!"

Not to mention, "C'mon, y'all, if you love the guy, how hard can it really be to do him good and not evil all the days of your life?"

These things -- no joke -- seemed quite simple to me.

(Minor side note: I was not a wife yet.)

Though not necessarily deemed "young" by most (ahem -- almost 40 and counting) and certainly not wise by many (no offense taken!), I surely had read a few key Proverbs by now and had my instructions laid out. Right? Right.

So, Very. Wrong.

After a mere six and a half weeks of living with this beautiful gift God created just for me, it was clear that if there was one thing I've learned, it's that I have not one single clue about anything. At all.

For example:

  • What is laundry.
  • What is a meal.
  • How do I park.
  • Did I frown wrong? I'm not mad! Is your whole day ruined?
  • Did I react wrong? I don't think you're mad! My whole day is ruined.

I know how to do laundry.
I think I know how to do laundry.
I used to know how to do laundry.
Why am I even trying to do the laundry?

I'm just gonna go....oops. I no longer have an apartment to go back to for a second. I'm sorry, precious introvert of a husband. :-( I can't really give you any breathing room right now. It makes 100% sense to me that you need alone time to rejuvenate, but as an extrovert, I may or may not have my own tendencies to need some alone time, too.

Bottom line: No one ever said it was easy.

Adam and Eve had their issues. Right?

When our friends and family smiled and patted us on the back and wished us well and said, "It's work, but you're in love," we had NO IDEA. Did we? We did not.

It, indeed, is work.

It is roommate-hood, plus love. Which means we're invested a little more (thanks, county judge), and we're accountable to all the people we could afford to invite (thanks, limited budget), and we're even accountable to all the people who know through social media that we're married (sorry for my Facebook over-friending issues, sweet pea).

Those of you who are long married are dying laughing at me, I know. And you should be! One day I will be in your spot, and perhaps doing the same. Or maybe reaching out and saying, "You're not alone. It happens. This is pretty normal. Nothing prepares you for the roommate you love."

Fortunately for us, we have had parents and friends and relatives who have said that to us very recently, and it helps. A lot.

'Cause here's the thing: the worst ever is thinking you have it figured out, then realizing you don't, then having no one who gets it.

And the best ever, in any situation, is having someone who gets it -- whether you fully do or not.

So marriage? Maybe I will never fully grasp what it means (much to Michael's dismay), or maybe we'll both keep trying, and we'll one day breathe in and out while embracing this beautiful, hard work we've been tasked to do.

Either way, I hope we can keep laughing -- whether that's at ourselves, a silly video, or the cute puppy who entertains us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It came upon a Thanksgiving clear....

Julie Shreve, Amberly Noble and me calmly hanging
in Brandon Hatmaker's and Jen Hatmaker's
yard. In the heat of summer.

P.S. I'm from the South and look the
least comfortable in this Texas heat and humidity.
Ok. I KNOW the title of this post does not quote an accurate song.

But I happen to think Thanksgiving doesn't get the respect it deserves, so I'm ADJUSTING. Join me? ;-)

I am fully aware that I have been crazy-silent with blogging, especially given All The Big Life Stuff in my world lately.

Or maybe it's because of that.

At any rate...Thanksgiving has always been special to me. (I know; I'm unique, just like a snowflake. Ha. :-| )

This year, however, I'm even more reflective than usual -- probably because of the Many Life Changes that've occurred for and to me, not the least of which is the launch team I was involved in for Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love."

Tonight, as I prepared for precious in-laws to visit while trying to recover from another bout of adrenal fatigue and thinking about packing to go to my sweet parents' and gulping down beautiful breaths of marital grace that I most certainly have not earned after a pretty big snafu, I sit with a full heart.

And really, I wish I could say it was from intentional relaxation efforts tonight, but the fact is, it goes so much deeper than that.

Along with safety and comfort I'll never deserve, I'm grateful for ‪#‎the500 -- the group of worldwide women and an infamous #bandoffour men -- who were also chosen for Jen Hatmaker's "For The Love" launch team, but who now continue to daily pepper my newsfeed with humor and reality and mercy and prayerfulness. As I thank my Jesus for the daisies and the roses, I also thank Him for our very different paths that led us all to the words from that Texan in Buda.

While I'm aware of the gravity so much our world is experiencing, I'm also unashamedly grateful for the sacred, safe space that this group of 500 allows me, where I can vent and share ‪silly pics and videos with the best of 'em.

I didn't even know I needed it -- is "needed" the word?! how CAN it be right now, in the midst of such chaos and actual need? -- but this new community is so right for even an over-extender who can hardly keep up with her own self. If someone had told me last year I would have 500 extra items on my thanksgiving list this year, I'd have had no idea how wonderful that could be.

If you are looking for community, I pray you find it. If you look for relaxation and safety, here's to that. If you seek humor and love and unconditional praying, I know it is out there.

This may seem lofty, whether you were born in the church or just discovered it. I get that, but I still believe it's doable, and it's not just because of how I was raised.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Peace on earth. Goodwill to all men.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26