This Was Not the Plan

My life in many ways looks exactly like I hoped it never would. I had a different plan in mind. I was going to be important. I was going to do big things for God. Early on, I had my eyes set on full-time ministry— serving overseas as a missionary and turning the world upside down for Jesus.

Only it wasn’t really for Jesus. It was for me and Jesus was just my ride to impact and fulfillment. I remember very clearly in college, when trying to decide if I should marry Darren, saying, “I wasn’t just going to end up sitting in a pew somewhere.” My motivation wasn’t all bad. What I meant was I didn’t want to be complacent, apathetic, or uninvolved in what God wanted to do in the world. I didn’t want to show up to church on Sunday, do nothing but take, and head back into another week on Monday completely unchanged. That’s all good.

The problem was I viewed anything other than full-time, frontline ministry as inferior. I didn’t understand depth, foundations, roots, or the long road we must sometimes take to grow into a person God can actually use. I didn’t understand patience or humility or self-control. I saw the world through a very self-centered lens where ultimately, I and not God, was at the center of my story. All the things I wanted to do “for God,” were really for me and my own pride.dsc_1313When it became clear I wasn’t going to be in the ministry as I had hoped, I consoled myself in believing I would still do big things if I could just find the right job. I had a degree in counseling and thought I knew quite a lot about helping other people with their big problems at the ripe age of 22.

Once Darren and I settled in Massachusetts, I started applying everywhere for work as a counselor. I started with the glitzy positions and slowly lowered my expectations as I waited for call-backs and interviews that never came.

My first job was working in retail at the mall. I hated exactly every minute of it. I hate sales. I hate being sold to and hate even more trying to sale to others. I didn’t want to tell people what I did; when I had to, I was quick to point out that I was the Assistant Manager and not just a sales girl—it was all the same in the end.

Eventually, I quite that job. If there was one thing worse than sales, it was explaining to people that I had no job at all. I lived in a tiny apartment and had no kids so there was no explanation as to why I would be unemployed. Meanwhile, Darren was rising in his career, having started at an aerospace company and quickly being promoted. I felt like a dud. All my big plans and preparation had come to naught. IMG_20171217_132251_180.jpgAfter a couple more dead-end jobs on my end, Darren started at a new company and got me a position as well. I liked telling people I worked in aerospace; it made me sound smart and successful. Truth be told, I was sitting at a desk filling out routine paperwork and running to the office supply store to keep things stocked. Glamorous it was not.

We had been married five years now and five years had equally passed since I walked that stage, diploma in hand, ready to change the world. But I wasn’t discouraged because I knew my “highest calling” was just around the bend.

Though I had no deep maternal desires for a baby, we decided it was time to start trying for a family. I believed having a baby would at last give me that sense of purpose and fulfillment I was longing for. I wouldn’t have said those words to you at the time but looking back I realize that’s how I felt.

So we had a baby. I left that job I liked telling people about and stayed home to raise a family…and got knocked right on my butt as you might imagine. That first year of motherhood was hard for a lot of reasons but my expectations about finally finding “my thing” and feeling important certainly didn’t help.

We have another baby now and I no longer hold onto any glowing ideals of motherhood. Raising children is the hardest, most humbling thing I’ve ever done. My son is not good at making me look good at all. He’s the kind of kid people stare at in the grocery store and I’m the exhausted, stressed-out kind of mom I used to judge.

No, this is not how I saw my life. I didn’t plan for the days being so long or the nights so short. I didn’t prepare for the dishes or the diapers or the epic temper tantrums. I sit in that pew on Sunday, if I’m lucky, but just as often I’m home with a sick little one or working in nursery. For the girl who said she’d never warm a pew, there are few things now that seem like a greater privilege or luxury on a Sunday morning. IMG_20171217_132251_179.jpgMotherhood is not what I thought it would be. My life is not what I thought it would be. And I’ve been grappling with God about these very things of late.

Why, God? Why did I go to college if you knew I’d never use my degree? Why did you once move me to do big things for you only to tuck me away in a dusty corner of life? Why did you give me this burning desire to write if my words will never be read? Why give me a love for creativity if you never intended to use me in that way?

My frustration is only magnified by watching the world around me. I might comfort myself by saying, “Well, it’s just a season; things will be different when I’m not so busy with little ones.” But I see plenty of moms with littles, a hundred times busier than I am, already doing all those big things I once dreamt of.

I feel with God that I’m up against a wall. I try to take a step forward and he pushes me back two. I try to use the giftings he’s given me only to see my efforts fall flat. I want to quit. I want to tell God, “Fine. If you don’t want to use me then I won’t be used. I’ll stay out of your way. I’ll do the grunt work and forget about anything of substance.”

I’ve prayed these hard prayers to God lately and asked him to show me what he wants. I keep thinking he doesn’t hear me and he’s not going to answer but twice now in the last two weeks of these prayers, he’s surprised me.

First, I was reading through Lamentations and just when I thought the story couldn’t be any more heartbreaking or bleak, God gives a glimmer of hope in chapter three:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Lamentations 3:21-27 (NIV)

I have quoted and rehearsed that one line to myself many times over the last year, “His mercies are new every morning.” But I had never read or understood them in their proper context until last week—which is exactly when I needed that understanding the most.

Again today, I was doubting God and his work in me. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Maybe I’m an extra he doesn’t really need. I ate my lunch with one hand and spooned baby food into my daughter’s mouth with the other. I decided to listen to a podcast featuring one of my favorite Christian authors, Ruth Chou Simons. Her words caught me off-guard and once again reminded me that God does, in fact, see and hear me when I question him.

You can listen to the podcast yourself by clicking on the link above, and I really hope you will, but her story and words were exactly the reminder I needed today that though I feel silent and invisible, I’m actually right where I need to be.

What I’m learning is this: I may or may not ever get to do “big things” for God. It doesn’t really matter either way. What matters is that I be faithful. Right here, today, with my children, in that church pew I never wanted to sit in—this is where God’s asking me to grow deep roots and wait quietly for him. The point is not what I accomplish for God but how well I get to know and how deeply I love God and people along the way.

Yes, I’d like to be good at something. I’d like to be useful and successful. But before I can really be anything, I must be God’s. I must be humbled, submitted, and deeply rooted. I’m learning to be faithful when I see no growth or blossoms, when I see only another long day, week, or year ahead of me that looks so very much the same.

I get tired and discouraged. I struggle to see the point. But I sense God asking me to hold on. To believe in what I can’t see, because that’s the essence of faith after all—until our faith is sight.

I needed Ruth’s words today. And most of all, I needed to be reminded yet again, that God hears my most honest prayers and loves me through them. I choose to believe God will complete the work he’s begun in me and that’s really all I can offer here today.

Why Inspiration Matters

IMG_20171022_221813_524.jpgOnce a week, Darren takes the kids out of the house so I can sit and write. It’s magic and I’m so thankful for his help. Occasionally though, this doesn’t work out and if I want to write, I find myself doing so in all the moments I can find in between—like right now.

The house is quiet for a few more minutes before my son wakes and starts his day like a hurricane. He’s equal parts motion and noise so any activity requiring concentration or quiet must be done during the precious early morning hours before he wakes or while he naps in the afternoon (both assuming his sister is cooperating at the same time 😉 ).

Sometimes though, when the house is quiet and I have these valuable minutes to get things done, I feel a little guilty using the time to write a blog. I could be doing many other things, like pulling my life together for instance.

Is this a waste? Am I being selfish? Avoiding more pressing responsibilities? All of these are questions I’ve grappled with while hiding away with the laptop to tap out words. Words I write mostly for myself and will share with only a handful of people. Certainly I’m not changing the world over here so am I right to use my time in this way?

The answer and release of guilt I needed came for me after a few weeks of that evening alone I mentioned. I found that having a few hours to myself to do something I love refreshed me and filled my heart and mind with new inspiration. I’ve found too that being refreshed and inspired helps me be a better wife, mom, and homemaker.

Why?

Because burnout is no joke and can happen fast when all day every day you’re busy meeting the needs of other people (be it as a mother, teacher, doctor—whatever your vocation and calling may be). While our lives certainly shouldn’t be lived fully and exclusively unto ourselves—we are called to service and sacrifice without question. We also shouldn’t be so busy taking care of everyone else that we completely minimize the need for reasonable self-care.

I think we all know this, really. But I’m here to argue that finding and doing whatever it is that sets your heart on fire and fills your mind with energy and excitement for the next thing is a worthwhile endeavor and not a selfish waste of time.

I shared the picture of my daughter asleep in my lap, computer open, because this is often what writing looks like for me in this season. I write in the scrappy moments in between all the living and doing. And every word I tap out here gives me a little fresh energy and excitement to invest back into my family. My people are my top priority but I’m a better person for them when I take care of myself as well.

For me, this looks like getting up early so I can start my day slowly and quietly with a cup of coffee and my Bible. This gives me a minute to collect myself and prepare my heart before the day is underway. I get dressed in real clothes and put some mascara on because as tempting as yoga pants all day may be, they really don’t help my self-esteem ;). And as I said before, I try once a week to have a few uninterrupted hours to write and create.

Creativity is really so instrumental in raising children and running a home. Have you ever considered how often you, as a wife and mom in particular, use creativity day-to-day with your kids and in your home? In the meals you serve, the way you decorate, how you dress yourself and your family, the projects you do around the yard, house and with your kids—all of these are creative expressions of yourself—of what inspires you and makes you tick. So how worthy an investment then is the time you steal away to nurture your own heart, mind, and creativity? You’re helping yourself for sure but the dividends get invested right back into your home and family too.

Trust me, your family enjoys a happy, healthy wife and momma a whole lot more than a depleted one—I should know because I’ve been both and the difference I see in my family is staggering.

So if you’re struggling with guilt over making time for yourself, feel creative pursuits are a waste when there’s so much else to do, or just feel burnt-out and depleted in general, I hope you will give yourself permission to pursue something you love. This will look different for everyone—for me it’s this little corner of the internet where I can tap my heart onto the page once a week and connect with like-minds. What is it for you?

I can tell you for sure that sitting here writing and having some time alone to think is the fuel that powers so many of my other creative outlets. Typically by the time Darren leaves with the kids, I have made several threats about never having any more children and burning the house down. By the time he gets back, I’m ready to try again with the whole wife and momma things for another week at least 😉

Go do it. Get a cup of coffee. Give your babies to someone else for a minute and find that inner whatever that sets your heart on fire ❤

All Is Grace

As we step into this new year and all it holds, I’m reminded to not too quickly forget the year we’ve stepped out of and all the goodness and growth it held as well.

When I think of 2017, one word comes to mind— b a b y.

Honestly, when I was first thinking about writing this post and recounting the blessings and adventures the last year held, I could think of little else beside our daughter being born. It wasn’t until I started looking back through pictures and thinking through what we had done month by month that I realized just how full a year it was even apart from our daughter.


January We stepped into 2017 with a two-year old and a broken arm. It wasn’t until March that Roman would have his last cast removed. I had honestly forgotten this had even happened this year—amazing since it was such a big ordeal at the time.

February We celebrated Valentine’s at a fun restaurant in downtown Springfield and walked the streets remembering the little apartment we shared there once upon a time before we were parents.2851D58F-.jpgLater that month we found out we were having a girl. A girl! I couldn’t stop smiling that day and my heart is still so full. She’s all magic and sunshine and I’m so very thankful.16938858_10154291813166517_5793260963927159684_nMarch My best friend came to visit from Kansas City to celebrate her 30th birthday. We stayed up late laughing until she snorted and I cried and explored all my favorite nooks in Boston together with our husbands. IMG_20180104_144820.jpgNext, Darren and I flew to South Carolina so I could be in a dear friend’s wedding. This was our last trip just the two of us before baby. We walked around the campus where we met and relished a million memories from our college days and falling in love.17493194_10154369610946517_2319655507711607348_oFinally, I spent a girl’s weekend away at the Cape celebrating another 30th birthday. Though it was the end of March, we still nearly froze trying to explore the boardwalk and ocean 🙂 17200940_10154823328411072_1166534279125778372_nMy belly really began to show and I couldn’t wait for warm weather and that sweet girl to be in my arms.img_20170322_103404.jpgApril My parents and grandma came to visit and we had a great time exploring NYC together. My mom and grandma were able to celebrate my baby shower with me which is such a treat with them living across the country. IMG_20170507_105009_127Next, Darren’s best friend came to visit with his family and after his wife and I took off to Ikea, the boys were good enough to put Roman’s new big boy bed together. It felt strange having Roman out of the crib and nursery and in his own “big boy” room. We celebrated Easter together before they headed home to Maine. IMG_20170416_103634_839May Ahh May. We were tired by now as you might imagine. I was 7ish months pregnant and it had been a whirlwind of company and fun for three months straight. I was ready to slow down and focus on my boys and preparing for our girl. We got the nursery ready amid lots of other nesting projects.IMG_20170522_070619_198

IMG_20170625_102309_989June We got our new-to-us SUV on the road and broke it out on a trip to Tennessee. I was right at a month from my due date and nervous both about being so far from home that pregnant plus so many miles on the road with our son but both worked out just fine (meaning no baby was born in the car and minimal tantrums from our toddler lol). We had a reunion with my side of the family and it was such a sweet week together with everyone sharing a big cabin and catching up.19059471_637432103120404_6195418944302178349_nJuly Man oh man, July. It was finally the month we would meet our baby. I was due the 11th and told to expect her early since this was my second time around. I thought for sure we were getting a July 4th baby (not what I wanted) when I had regular contractions all day on the 3rd. I got a hospital bag ready and we stayed up late timing contractions only to have everything peter out.

The days ticked by and on the 7th we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary.IMG_20170707_211648_100My parents and grandma came into town anticipating our daughter’s arrival. Baby girl’s due date came and went and I grew frustrated by all the extra doctor appointments, poking and prodding, and being over-due in the July heat. IMG_20170716_093307_819Roman turned three and we celebrated his birthday with family and lots of construction vehicles in his honor 😉

The time my family could stay in town waiting for our daughter was fast running out and I spent many an hour pacing the driveway trying to burn off frustration and walk her out.

Finally, ten days over-due, I was induced. It was strange, going to the hospital not yet in labor but knowing I would leave with my daughter none-the-less.IMG_20170720_154958_343Last photo right before we left for the hospital.

received_10154719411036517.jpegI was apprehensive about being induced but the whole labor went far better than Roman’s and just a few hours after we arrived at the hospital our little Aletheia Rae was in our arms at last. IMG_20170808_222639_248

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IMG_20170721_190017_264August We spent a weekend up in Maine to celebrate Darren’s parent’s 50th anniversary. Aletheia was only two weeks old and it was fun showing her off.

When Roman was a baby, his first trip to the ocean was at Old Orchard Beach in Maine so we wanted to take Aletheia to the same place. We stopped on the way home and spent a couple of hours in the sand and sun.IMG_20170916_165423_400.jpg

September Our friends from Maine came down and stayed with us for a few days again. Gretchen and I stayed up watching Poldark while the boys played xbox 😉

October We had a missionary family from the Philippines stay with us for a week. This is the first time I’ve ever had anyone I didn’t know stay in my home and I was nervous about it, especially since I’m not the most outgoing person ever. But I’m so glad we did it. The kids had fun playing together and we were so encouraged by the couple we met. I loved getting to know them and it showed me what a blessing it is to open my heart and home to someone needing a bed, even if we’re strangers when they first walk through the door.

November We flew for the first time with both kids to see my family in Kansas City for Thanksgiving. The flights went fine-ish and it was a fun time away with family.IMG_20171129_142726_787.jpgI got my nose pierced while we were there mostly because I wanted to do something a little spontaneous 😉IMG_20171126_143441_934.jpgDecember Life is beginning to feel normal again. Aletheia is sleeping in her own room and Roman is sleeping through the night again after being disrupted by her arrival.

I had fun decorating a lot more than I normally do for Christmas and opening presents with Roman was super fun this year since he’s old enough to know what he wants—a crane and digger to be exact.IMG_20171215_215659_576.jpgIMG_20171209_184127_350.jpg


And here I thought it had been such a quiet year with nothing but a baby born. This is the beauty of looking back, of writing down and remembering. How sweet it has been to turn this past year over in my heart and mind and to remember all God has down every step of the way.

As I thought over the past twelve months, one thing kept coming to mind: All is grace. The moments so beautiful they catch in your chest and throat and you can’t breathe for a moment taking it all in. The moments so exhausting and hard you struggle to remember any of the beauty that came before it. All is grace. God is unfathomably good to give us any of it and to walk with us through every bit of it. IMG_20171231_141954_568.jpgSo whatever this new year may hold, I remind myself, all is grace. However beautiful. However hard. Every bit is breathed out in His love and mercy.

But this I call to my mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:22-25 (ESV)

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2018, I’m Coming For You

In my last post I shared about gearing up for the new year and said I would be sharing my goals for the new year this week—and I am. But before I do I’d just like to say that I wrote this post a couple weeks ago when I had time to sit and think through my hopes for the new year and since then I’ve been reminded often that while it’s good to have goals and a plan to stay on track, it’s equally important to remember that no matter how successful or unsuccessful I am in the upcoming year, absolutely nothing I do or don’t do will change my standing in Christ. I’m His. He’s mine. The most important work is already done in Him on my behalf.

So yes, I’ll do my best this year. I’ll wake up early. I’ll work hard. I’ll make progress. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll end 2017 with a messy house—dishes in the sink, bags not yet unpacked after arriving home late last night. I’ll roll out of bed tomorrow—the very first day of a new year with all these hopes and goals bound up in my heart. But I’ll also wake up the same person I am tonight. Those dishes will still be in the sink waiting to be washed. My preschooler will need the same correction and love as he does today. My baby will still need diaper changes and middle of the night feedings.

It will be a shiny, brand new year. And I like that. But I’m reminded all over again tonight to start that shiny new year with realistic expectations. Slapping 2018 on everything doesn’t really change anything unless I do. All the same hard work will still need to be done, all the same battles fought.

I hope the New Year is full of hope and growth for each of you. Thank you for being here and reading along as I tap out my heart and share my story here line by line; your support and encouragement mean so much to me ❤

That was a lot of words—sorry about that 😉 For the sake of holding myself accountable and perhaps inspiring you in your own goals for the New Year, here are my plans for 2018:

I thought through my resolutions in the categories that mostly make up my life—myself, my marriage and children, my faith, and our home.

For Myself

I will write my heart out in 2018. While I’ve written off and on for years, I want to write on a regular basis going forward. Darren and I worked out a system where I have some quiet time each week to focus on writing and I’m so thankful for his help and encouragement.

I will manage my finances well. I need to focus on a few heart matters concerning money—contentment, self-control, patience. How I spend or even think about spending says a lot about my heart and it’s an area needing improvement for sure.

I won’t yell at my family. I wrote about this more here.

I will use my phone and social media with discipline and intention. Practically speaking:

  • I’ll stay off my phone on the Sabbath and in the evening when our family is together.
  • I won’t scroll mindlessly, especially if it’s pulling my attention away from things that matter more like my children or a conversation.
  • I won’t carry my phone around with me everywhere and I’ll leave a book within arm’s reach to give me another option.

A few other things— I want to dream and live with a little bit of whimsy again; I kinda lost that after having kids. I also want to read a couple books each month and spend more time outside.

Spiritually

I will practice the Sabbath. Sunday, for me, is a really frustrating day. You want to sleep in but kids wake you up. You’re trying to get yourself and everyone else ready for church. After church, it’ a race against over-tired kids to get back home, eat lunch, and get everyone down for naps before a total meltdown (from the kids or me…depends on the Sunday).

After all that, I often find myself using Sunday as a day to play catch-up around the house, trying to get things cleaned up and ready for another week. So instead of heading into a new week rested and refreshed, I’m usually as tired as ever and frustrated about the weekend.

All that to say I’ve really felt God moving me to take the Sabbath seriously and to use the day for rest and worship as He intended.

I will test the power of prayer. I will start keeping a prayer journal for the first time this year and I also bought some really beautiful prayer journals for my kids to keep record of my prayers for them over the years. I want to see what God will do when I ask Him in faith.

I will dig into God’s Word each day and memorize specific passages of Scripture. 

Marriage & Children

I will invest in our marriage by creating time together and making the man I’m so lucky to love a top priority in my time and attention.

I will build our home on love and truth. Not on yelling and frustration. Not on ever-changing boundaries and expectations. But by daily, consistently living out love towards two of the most precious people I’ve been given to love and lead well.

I will block out time with my kids. It’s easy when you’re a stay-at-home mom to feel like your kids have more than enough time with you since you’re always there. But I’m learning being physically present and being really zeroed in on my kids are two very different things. To make sure I’m giving my children the individual, focused time they need, I’m blocking out a couple hours each morning to spend with just them doing what they love. I’m also blocking out time to take Roman on a special outing just the two of us each month.

I will start the day before my kids. Because momma needs coffee and five minutes alone before all the things. For me, this means getting up stupid e a r l y and I’m not even a morning person 😥 but I know it needs to happen so it’s gonna.

Home 

I will make our home a place we love. This needs its own blog post but I want home to really feel like home.

I will simplify and organize. I have this idea in mind that I always want to be “moveable.” And by that I mean, if we decided to pick and take off one day, I don’t want clutter and material things to slow us down. I want to own what we need and use and pretty much let everything else go. Which means I have some work to do.

I (and by I, I mean Darren) will (finally, officially) finish remodeling this house! Just. All of it. That’s all.

A n y w a y.

I know that’s probably more detail than some of you wanted or needed but it helps me to hash things out here and it also holds me accountable because now you know. So, if ever you catch me on my phone scrolling through Pinterest and yelling at people…well, you probably already knew that was wrong…but ya, nail me for it 😉

I know this word is really overused, but if there’s a single word I think sums up what I hope for 2018, it’s intention. I just want to live with intention, on purpose, thinking through our days and hours and not just showing up and trying to keep my head above water.

That and love. Love is kind of the thing that sums up all the other things and I really want to do a better job loving…loving God, loving people, even loving the life God’s called me to. I want to really live out love in my words and actions and not look back at 2018 wishing I had made more time and loved my people better and more.

So what are you all up to in the new year? Any great expectations? Do share ❤

 

I Am Resolved

IMG_20171213_180459_897.jpgThere are a few things I like that maybe most people don’t—Mondays for instance. While I’m no happier than anyone else to see the weekend over, I always enjoy a fresh start and Monday feels crisp and new at the beginning of another week. I get bogged down after a few false starts and mistakes and by the middle of a week or month, a fresh start and a little grace is certainly something to look forward to.

Soon people will be writing their New Year’s posts and sharing resolutions. Often, when doing this, people say something like, “I don’t normally do this,” or “I’m not a big fan of resolutions but…”. Well, I’ll just be up front and say I love the new year and I love resolutions. I like challenging myself and looking forward to the next step and I especially love a clean slate as we say goodbye to one year and start over with another.

I realize I won’t perfectly keep and fulfil every resolution I make—but it’s something to strive for and measure myself by when I’m knee-deep in living out what I originally set out to do.

This year I decided to try something different with the hope it will help me be more successful—and that’s to start practicing my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of December instead of the first of January.

Por que?

Well, I figure a month-long trial run to work out the kinks and settle into habits early can’t hurt anyone, right? This gives me the opportunity to test out my goals and see if there’s anything that’s clearly not going to work with the season I’m in. And if I find that to be the case, I can axe it off my list now rather than feeling like a failure and getting discouraged right out of the gate come January.

This also gives me the opportunity to settle into habits and routines—which are basically how I survive right now with all the noise and chaos around me with littles. I get distracted easily and can’t deal with a lot of different things going on at once so it helps me a lot if I can go on autopilot for certain things and leave my mental energy to really concentrate on a few other things

So here’s how I’m getting myself organized for the new year and learning to live intentionally every single day:

I’m crushing hard on my day plannerlike, I might even name it 🙂

I’ve always liked pretty paper goods and keeping my head space cleared out by writing stuff down. But this coming year I’ve decided to be stupid detailed about it.

I found a planner that gives me a space to note birthdays and anniversaries by month. This way I can just look at the beginning of each month to see what’s happening and not stress about remembering everything in the moment. I have approximately 30,000 nieces and nephews who have a birthday every single year so a little help remembering is appreciated 😉

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In the same section, I made a list of family activities to try for each season. We often get to the weekend and want to get out to do something as a family but waste so much time trying to decide what to do that we don’t even end up going. So this will give us some ideas to look forward to and help get us out of the house and exploring. I included everything from visiting an apple orchard in the fall to spending the day at the ocean in the summer plus simpler things like getting ice cream, running to the lake, or going to the movies together.

Next, in the monthly section, I went through and wrote down absolutely everything I could anticipate happening in the next year from doctor visits to remembering to renew a driver’s license. Then I worked backwards making notes in the month before about what I need to do ahead of time to be ready for the next month. For instance, if there’s a birthday the next month, I note that and give myself time to get a gift before I’m on my way to the party. If there’s a prescription that will expire, I make note to schedule a doctor appointment before I need to head to the pharmacy.

I realize this is tediously detailed. But I realized something else too—this stuff is going to happen whether I’m prepared or not and planning ahead gives me the opportunity to stay on top of things instead of always running two steps behind like I normally do. I know things will not always go as planned and certainly there needs to be room for flexibility. But the goal is to autopilot the tedious things and leave margin and peace for the important stuff. Many of the things we do are really quite routine and predictable so there’s no reason to feel surprised, rushed, and frantic all the time if we think ahead a little.

IMG_20171218_053020_004.jpgStress and frustration do not get to rule in my heart and home this year. I want to create enough margin and a calm enough environment to focus my heart and time on what really matters to me—these three.

One other way I’m using my planner is to write down all of my goals and hopes for the upcoming year. And when possible, to put a due date on specific goals and write those dates down as a way of accountability throughout the year. I’ve set goals for myself personally, for my marriage and family, spiritually, and for our home and I’ll share more specifics about each of these in my next post.

Anyway, I hope this gets you excited thinking about a fresh start and a new year. His mercies are new every morning and how very thankful I am for that ❤

 

Kansas City

Over Thanksgiving, I went home to Kansas City for the first time in almost three years. It was our first time flying with both kids and as soon as we got into the air, Roman–who was sitting behind the wing, loudly announced, “Oh no, something’s wrong with the engine! We’re going to crash!” So really, it went as well as expected 🙂

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The last four months since my daughter was born have mostly been spent at home caring for my babies. The days get long and lonely sometimes so it was just nice for a week to be out of the house and with a few of the people I love most in the world.

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It’s funny how something as simple as food or coffee can bring people together. We flew across the country to share a special meal with family and ended up sharing lots of meals, moments, and memories along the way.IMG_20171129_130542_235.jpg

My little brother would go into the kitchen to prep food, turn on some jazz, and eventually, almost everyone would end up in the kitchen working on something. I stood at the sink on Thanksgiving washing a gazillion dishes. My grandma stood beside me drying, and though it was a simple act I repeat at home several times a day, it was nice being in the kitchen together sharing an ordinary task with people I love.

I got coffee with my best friend who I haven’t seen since March and got my nose pierced with my sister-in-law because she’s braver than I am and wouldn’t let me abandon ship once I was there 😉IMG_20171129_125538_981.jpgMy parents and grandma were saints and let the couples go out to dinner kid-free one night. We ate fabulous Indian food and my little brothers made me laugh until I almost choked.20171206_190908.jpg

Each morning we’d sit around the kitchen table with coffee and some crazy toddlers and start our day together. It was noisy and chaotic and frustrating sometimes for sure. But I think that’s how families always are. They make you swear off your lineage right up until the moment you have to get back on the plane—then you just want to cry because you miss them so much and know they won’t be at your table tomorrow morning when you sit with that cup of coffee.

Being together. That’s the thing. Life is pretty routine really—meals, dishes, kids making noise. But when you get to do these pieces of life together, they’re warmer, deeper, and richer because they were shared with someone you love. I miss my people, these pieces of my story. But how thankful I am for one loud, busy, caffeine-fuled week together. I’ll take a hundred more any chance I get ❤

When the Fire Goes Out

I’ve been in a funk lately. Perhaps it’s baby blues or the relentlessly gray weather or too many days in a row spent at home in yoga pants doing the same dishes and laundry over and over again. I find myself on my phone…while feeding the baby or with a toddler in my lap watching a show. I get bored so I instinctively start scrolling through feeds and looking through snapshots and sentences of other people’s lives.

Creeper.

I know.

I find myself comparing. I find myself looking at the numbers instead of the hearts. I find myself jealous and discouraged because my focus has landed too many times in a row on all the wrong things.

In Love Lives Here, Maria Goff talks about comparison and “keeping our eyes on our own paper,”

He [Jesus] doesn’t want us to become like each other; He wants us to be like Him. The problem is that we’re letting other people do that talking for Him. We all have something we are good at. Figure out what it is and celebrate it.

God stretches each of our lives before us like a canvas. He hands us the brushes and the paint and asks us to make our lives look like our unique version of His love. Pick your own colors, not someone else’s.

Sometimes social media is a huge encouragement and inspiration and sometimes it eats away at my insecurities until I’m convinced I have almost no value at all compared to other people’s success. We all know the pretty pictures and words we see online are just lines and chapters out of someone else’s book—not the whole story. But when we never get the whole story, it’s easy to believe the messy and unlovely parts of our own lives will never size up to Miss Inspiration over there killing it.

To combat the funk and the comparison game, I took a break from my phone. Sometimes you just need to look up and look around for a little while to get some fresh perspective.

When I was tempted to grab my phone, I picked up an old book instead. I’ve been knee-deep in parenting books of late and I was craving something a little less about how to do everything right and a little more about dreams and adventure.

I chose a book I’ve read before about an American girl in Italy. It’s a story about adventure, and love, and a little bit of intrigue. Published over a hundred years ago, the book smells and feels old in my hands as I run my fingers over the slightly raised typeset. IMG_20171115_183613_452.jpgI get lost in the romantic Italian language and descriptions of the landscape. And I remember, the last time I read this book I was in high school or college and dreaming of seeing Italy for myself someday.

After visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Sicily and many other parts of Italy now, the story feels familiar this time around. I need not rely on my imagination so much as I can actually picture from experience the stucco houses and terraced vineyards. I’ve walked these streets and heard this musical language in person.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it reminded me that I used to dream about big things. I used to pick up old books and get lost in a story. I used to love words because they carried me to far off places and lit my heart on fire.

Lately, I’ve been far too inclined to love words only for what they can get me—likes, follows, shares…a sense of affirmation by being given a virtual thumbs up. Where’s the adventure in that? I let the fire go out and it’s no wonder I found myself in a funk.21551921_10154856780841517_2828362598542887962_o

Tonight I’m sitting in front of a fire sipping coffee and falling back in love with words and the stories they tell. Stories of love. Stories of adventure. Stories of grace and redemption.

And I’m reminded all over again, that I have a story of my own to tell. I have days spent in Paris and Rome, nearly ten years of marriage to a man I still love, the birth of two fiery little babies. I have a Midwest childhood and many a day now spent exploring the streets and nooks of Boston and Massachusetts. I have five brothers. I have one cat. I have a story all my own. And the best part of all—I’m still writing it. There are adventures yet to be had. Love yet to be shared. Words yet to be written. More cities to see.IMG_20160920_122956.jpg

If you, like me, find yourself discouraged by where you’re at, stop and make sure your eyes are where they actually need to be—on your own story. The story you’re still writing every single day with your own words, pictures, loves, adventures, and mishaps ❤

 

On Being an Angry Mom

I’m soft-spoken, reserved, shy even. I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person or someone who yells. But motherhood has a way of breaking down all your walls. Both the walls you build around yourself with other people and the walls you build up inside to hide the things you’d rather not face.

My first year as a mother was really good—hard on the outside with difficult circumstances in life, but good on the inside with quiet days spent at home with my son. I didn’t understand then what all the fuss was about motherhood being so hard. Sure, I was tired. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do when he cried and I was very lonely staying home after leaving my job. But motherhood itself seemed pretty magical. I spent that first year with my son almost constantly in my arms or asleep on my chest and I loved it.IMG_20141112_195626Then he turned one and decided he was the Roman Emperor. He had always been busy but now he was defiant too. No problem though, I knew what to do—I had heard all about it and read all the books so I was all set, right? Hahahah. Tears. No.

I did all the things I was told and still he disobeyed and defied me. I didn’t yell at him then because he was just one and still basically a baby. Everything would straighten out once he was a little older and understood who was really in charge.

Then he turned two, terrible, TERRIBLE two. This is the part where I started yelling, where I exhausted all the stuff I “knew,” and started hating being a mom. I remember more than once when he sat on the floor and cried and I sat on the floor and cried with him. I didn’t understand. I had done everything I’d been told to do and still it felt like everything was falling apart.

That year started to break me down but eventually we made some headway with him and the terrible two’s seemed to be officially behind us. So I decided to have another baby.

He turned three. I brought his sister home. And everything went to hell in a hand-basket. I started yelling again, more than ever, actually. He pushed me harder than ever before and I pushed back every bit as stubborn as he is—determined to establish my authority and let him know who was in charge.

I knew having another baby would shake things up and be hard. I never imagined I would sink so fast or so deep in not only frustration, but FEAR. Fear that I actually had no idea what I was doing and that my children were going to grow up hating both me and God.IMG_20171107_090720_562.jpgThese last four months since I had my daughter have been hard. But the feeling of total loss and helplessness is actually what helped me see my true need and the source of my true help. A few things happened to help me leave anger and yelling behind:

I Prayed for Wisdom

Not just a quick, trite prayer for wisdom in general but a humbled, “God, I’m lost. I can’t do this. Please help me before it’s too late” kind of prayer. I’m not even sure if I actually expected God to hear and answer me or if it was just a desperate plea from the bottom but God did enter in and respond.

I Opened my Bible

Not just here and there when I had the time as I have off and on all my life. But every day with a heart searching and seeking wisdom and direction from the heart of God.

I Asked for Help

I got over myself a little and reached out to some moms I look up to and started asking for help and ideas on what I was dealing with.

I Read and Read

It’s amazing when you’re seeking wisdom how you realize how many resources are actually available. I started reading books recommended to me and listening to podcasts and sermons from people who have gone before me or are right in the trenches with me and can offer wisdom and insight into what felt like a hopeless situation.

I Learned to Deal a Different Way

One of the things that helped me the most was this post by Allie Casazza. So much of what she said resonated with me and helped me stop and think about why anger and yelling had become my knee-jerk reaction to stress and frustration. She gave me pause and helped me understand that learning to react differently actually takes practice and a very conscious choice every time I’d normally lash out in anger.

She also helped me understand that trying to gain control and demand respect by yelling was completely counter-productive. Yelling only shows my children how out of control I am of myself. Demonstrating unkindness and disrespect through raised voices and angry words is never going to produce kindness and respect in my children.

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20 (ESV).

I Began to Grasp How Dangerous Anger Is

This podcast by John Piper and the Scripture he shares was a big help to me in realizing that anger isn’t just a “struggle” or a “weakness”—it’s deadly serious. Not only is it sinful to lash out in anger, but if unchecked, it could destroy my marriage, home, or relationship with my children.

I Saw the Difference in my Family

Not that I master this perfectly all the time even still, but the difference in my relationship with my son in particular, and my family overall, is massively different when I leave anger and yelling out of things and deal with issues in a controlled, loving manner. Wild and busy as he may be, my son has a soft heart and my anger and yelling did nothing but shut him down and teach him to react with plenty of anger and yelling of his own.

I Saw the Heart of God

A passage I often run over in my mind is Lamentations 3:22-23

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (ESV).

His mercies are new every morning—are mine? I have a patient, loving, forgiving God who greets me with new mercy for every single day yet how easily I forget to be merciful with the people I love most.

The heart of God towards me demands a loving, controlled response from me towards the people he’s so graciously placed in my life—including my children.


This was a hard post to write. I thought several times about sharing something else today instead but my heart and mind kept coming back to this not so pretty topic. I don’t like to admit I’ve lost my temper or especially that I’ve yelled at people I love. But I share all this to offer hope to anyone else, mom or otherwise, who’s struggling as well. It’s easy to feel alone in this. No one wants to admit they freak out, lose control, and take anger and frustration out on other people, especially our own children.

But trust me, you aren’t alone. And there’s hope.

One thing I’m learning every day as a mom is if God requires something of me, he also enables me to do it. If I’m expected to deal with the stress and frustration of raising children without anger, then God will give me what I need to do that. I may need to humble myself first. I may need to slow down, dig deeper, or ask for help—but if I’m required, I’m also enabled.

While I don’t like what I found in my heart as a mother, I’m thankful it was brought into the light because only there could it really be dealt with and rooted out. God’s not through with us yet. Don’t lose hope in the struggle.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV).


And if you’re looking for resources to help, the following are some of the best books I’ve read on parenting (no affiliate links, just helpful resources). And if you have any recommendations, I’m always looking for good books and podcasts so feel free to leave those in the comments as well.

Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend

Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard

Love Lives Here by Maria Goff and Love Does by Bob Goff (not parenting books but deeply influenced my perspective on living out love in our home in both words and actions).

Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (a strange recommendation for parenting books, I know. But this book helped me think through the myriad of ways Satan would like to hinder God’s good work in my heart, home, and family and I have thought of it often when struggling through hard days as a mom and homemaker).

❤ ❤ ❤

 

A Legacy of Love

I’m at the stage of life where you drink all the coffees and read all the parenting books. Parenting books are great except they all say different stuff.

Lately, instead of reading all the books, I’ve been watching all the parents. Again, every family is different but I’ve noticed something: The families I admire the most and see the most hope and happiness in are the ones brimming with love. They may have different rules, live in different cultures, go to different types of churches, educate their children differently—on and on. But they have love in common.

So what is love, exactly, beyond a feeling or a nice word?

I opened my Bible to the “love chapter”— 1 Corinthians 13 — and read through the detailed description for a better idea. After explaining how you can do everything else right and have all the ability in the world but if you don’t have love, it will count for nothing, Paul goes on to detail what love is action by action.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

As for prophesies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (italics mine). 1 Cor. 13

Just about every word in this passage convicts me. When I look at our home and my mothering in particular, I see how poorly I live out the actions of love in our family. This is not meant to heap on mom guilt when it’s already so easy to feel like we’re failing and can’t keep up with all that’s required of us. But it does give me pause to think over how often I’m patient or kind with the people I’m with the most.

20626962_10154761931351517_5291673004939242159_oAfter praying over this passage and asking God to specifically help me live out love in my home, I noticed all the more how often love is the last place I go with my husband and children.

When love asks me to be patient, I am so often impatient with the dawdling and explanations of my three-year old.

When love asks me to be kind, I catch myself being sharp in moments of frustration and fatigue.

When love says not to envy or boast, I find myself scrolling through social media wondering why everyone else is doing a better job and having more success than me.

When love is not rude, I’m biting with my words and attitude toward my husband and kids after a long or disappointing day.

Love doesn’t insist on its own way but how often do I, either openly or overtly through quiet manipulation?

Love bears, believes, hopes, endures and never ends. It’s as if Paul is saying, if you just do first what love requires of you, you will later see the fruit in that love never ending in your heart and home.

All of this challenged me, as I said. But what really caught my attention was the latter part of the passage where Paul talks about all these other impressive things eventually passing away—the knowledge and wisdom of the day (uh parenting books for instance 😉 )—these things are only limited, partial knowledge that will eventually fade in light of the full knowledge of eternity. They’re helpful, but they’re not necessarily the most important thing.

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What will last though, is love—the greatest of all these things. Greater than knowledge, greater than ability, love will be the lasting legacy.

I want to be careful not to rip the passage out of context and away from Paul’s intended purpose but I thought what he said about thinking like a child was so helpful too because I forget sometimes that my three-year old is just that, three years old—like he’s been alive for only three years and sometimes I expect so much of him. Perfect, immediate obedience. A level of calm and self-control that probably no three-year old boy has ever had. Understanding of big concepts and words that are still quite new to him—respect, responsibility, consequences.

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Yes, these are things he needs to know and learn but he’s a child—he speaks, thinks, reasons, and acts like a child because he is one. Eventually, like Paul, he’ll become a man and give up childish ways. But until then, what he needs is love coupled with truth and correction

So what does this look like? It’s patience with a little boy’s energy and learning curb, it’s kindness and gentleness when I’m prone to lose my temper and ere on severity. It’s words that build up and instruct when I’m tempted to be sarcastic and rude. It’s being steady and self-controlled when I’m prone to react in the moment and let my emotion and frustration rule. It’s bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring whatever life may bring to our home and family because if we do—love never fails. Love wins. Love brings the child in his childish ways into the man who puts childish ways behind him. All the rules and frustration in the world can’t produce that and all the other knowledge I might gain along the way is partial and fleeting in light of love and the eternal imprint love leaves on a heart, home, and family.

The greatest of these is love. I see it in the families and people I look up to and I see it laid out so clearly in Scripture—love—above all method and knowledge, let our homes be built on love for this is the one thing that will not fail in the hearts of our children and families.

Because He Loves Us

IMG_20170917_151032_292.jpgI look at my daughter and I’m reminded anew that God really does love me. She’s an answer to prayer, right down to her mop of black hair. I’ve always wanted a dark-haired baby girl. The dark hair didn’t really matter, I knew that, but I thought it would be so cute.

When I found out with my first pregnancy that I was expecting a boy, I had a really hard time with it. God changed my heart after I held my son and I wouldn’t trade him for any other child in the world. He’s my buddy and I’m so thankful for the unexpected gift he has been to me. But still, when I found out I was pregnant again, I so wanted a daughter. I grew up with all boys and have always hoped for a bit of girly fun in having a daughter of my own.

When we went for the ultrasound to find out the gender of our second baby, I waited with nervous excitement telling myself it would be fine either way and willing myself not to be disappointed if we did, in fact, get another son. All through the ultrasound, the technician used gender-neutral terms, “it,” “the baby.” But just once she slipped up and said, “his foot.”

His foot. My heart sank. So it was another boy after all. I was glad she had slipped up, actually—that gave me a minute to get my head around it and move past the initial disappointment before she made the big announcement.

Soon, the lead technician came in and asked if we were ready to hear the gender. Yes. Tell me it’s a boy, I thought. But instead she said, “it’s a girl!” and Darren and I both practically yelled at the poor girl, “it is?!?!?”

My heart was so full. I went from being frustrated trying to talk myself into the idea of another boy to being so grateful and excited that I was getting my girl after all.

My girl.IMG_20171022_221449_326.jpgFast forward to her birth several months later…it felt like about 14 months later with her being so late 😉 I was induced and sat there nervously waiting to do the hard work of bringing my little baby into the world. Roman’s birth had been so hard and left me so uncertain about ever delivering again. But there’s no going back, only knowing what you must do to hold that precious baby in your arms.

I put my earbuds in and fixed my mind on Ed Sheeran’s smooth voice in my ears. Soon though, even Ed couldn’t talk me off the ledge of that pain and I knew it was time to bring my daughter into the world.

I pushed for 7 minutes, I think, and then this screaming, dark-haired baby girl was placed in my arms and she had so  m u c h  hair!

IMG_20171003_121438_849.jpgEvery time I run my hand through that head of hair or dress her in another girly little outfit, I’m reminded of the very specific gift she is. In giving her to me, dark hair and all, I’m reminded how God delights to answer both our very specific prayers and the deep desires of our heart.

Does this mean God gives us everything we want right when we want it? No, of course not. I had to wait for her and God’s timing. And there are other desires and prayers that haven’t yet been granted and may never be.

I want to be careful because I have dear friends who are trying for babies or praying for a spouse or working through other difficult circumstances and I by no means intend to say that if God just loves you enough or in a special sort of way, then he’ll grant all the desires of your heart right now. This side of heaven, our hearts will always be broken to some degree about something.

God is complex, as is each of our individual relationships with him. And we often learn as much or more in the waiting and the “no’s” as we do in the ‘yes'” and the gifts. So while it’s good to stop and consider his blessings and the ways he chooses to show love to each of us personally and individually, it’s also important to remember his love in the no’s and the waiting. Both are from God and both are able to draw us to him if we allow it.

Today, I’ll kiss my daughter’s chubby little cheeks and thank God for her yet again. I hope you too, will take the opportunity to consider how God is showing his very personal love to you. And if you’re discouraged in the waiting, take that to him as well. Tell him your hurts and see what he will do even in the aching, broken parts of your story ❤