It’s Supposed to Be Hard

I’ve been wrestling with God lately—pushing hard against him as he pushes right back. I’ve asked him why things have to be so hard. Why, if I’m doing what I believe to be right and best, am I struggling so much? Being where you think God wants you to be and doing what you believe he’s asked you to do is supposed to bring peace and joy, right? Well, yes and no.

I didn’t recognize the answer to this wrestling until I said it out loud in a conversation with my husband. We were talking about parenting—about all the well-intentioned advice we get and all the books we’ve read looking for answers. So much information is available saying, “Do A, Get B.” Only none of those formulas work on our son and we’re starting to wonder if we’ll ever figure any of this parenting stuff out or if we should just start saving bail money now (I’m kidding…sort of 😉 ).

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I told Darren I knew parenting would be exhausting and a ton of hard work—and I can handle that part of it. It’s all the not knowing what we’re doing and fearing that we’ll never reach our son’s heart that really scares me.

And that’s when it hit me—I can handle the hard work and exhaustion—so God gave me a little more than just that to remind me of my need for Him—to draw me close to his heart as I turn to him for the help I’ll find nowhere else. I need wisdom that’s beyond me and the advice others offer. I need strength beyond my physical ability and fortitude. I need hope and encouragement beyond the easy answers and quick fixes people offer to make me feel better. I need Jesus and struggling with my son reminds me of that every single day.

There was a time in my life, before I was a mother, when I very clearly remember thinking, “I can do this without consciously needing the Lord’s help.” I didn’t mean it to be an affront to God; I was simply in a place in life where I could ride the waves and do my job and everything went pretty smoothly whether or not I chose to include the Lord in my day-to-day. After I thought, “I can do this on my own right now,” I also thought, “but God’s not going to let that last forever.” I knew my comfortable status quo would change and I would likely come into a place of need that I didn’t really want to experience.

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Enter motherhood.

From his incredibly difficult birth right up until today, my son is God’s hand of change in my life. Every single day I’m made aware of my failings, weaknesses, and need. Every day I fight to start at the feet of Jesus because I know how much I need his help to get through each hour before me.

So why does it have to be so hard? Probably because I’m stubborn and self-sufficient and can handle a lot of pain. Probably because God knew this level of frustration and insufficiency is the only thing that would get my attention and draw my heart close to his.

So its not punishment or God mocking my efforts as I have sometimes felt. It’s mercy, it’s grace, it’s God reaching into my life, grabbing me by the shoulders and saying, “I’ll help you every step of the way but first, you need to know you need me.”

As I’ve wrestled though these thoughts, I’ve pictured myself not so very different from my son. Struggling against God as my son struggles against me. Twisting and fighting and demanding my own way. I see God’s arms around me as constraining and confining—just as my son sees me. But God is not constraining me; he’s fighting to hold me close. Not crushing my will or spirit but leading me to surrender willingly out of trust and obedience. All the same things I try so hard to communicate to my son only to have him fight back in anger—yes, how very much we’re alike and how profoundly patient is my God.

I see his Father’s heart now and finally, I think I’m learning to be at rest in his arms—not twisting and fighting his power but seeing his good plan for me; his love and care in not giving me my own way. My need is my greatest asset because it opens my heart to the all-powerful, all-sufficient God who loves me and desires good things for my life. Just like I want to give good things to my son if only he will listen and trust me, so God desires the same and so much more for me. So my prayer remains, “Lord, help me trust when I can’t see. Help me hold on when I don’t understand. Help my unbelief”

Mercy for Today

As I stand at the beginning of another week, I want to remind myself and anyone else reading this of one thing: If you are saved, you are covered, redeemed, and set free. Yes, we will sin this week. I will stagger and fail. I will struggle with my thoughts and attitude. I will war against apathy and discouragement as I start each new day facing many of the same battles as the day before and the day before that. I will get tired and in my exhaustion, it will be hard to be patient and kind even to the people I love most.

But…

But I am covered, redeemed, set free.

Christ has already done the work on my behalf and reached down into my darkness with the light only He gives. There is hope, grace, and mercy already in place to catch me when I fall. pexels-photo-250609.jpegA couple of days ago Darren and I had a moment with our son where we were trying to follow through consistently on something we had said. In the end, we messed up. We handled the situation poorly and wished we had done things differently. I felt bad. But even in my regret, I felt relief—relief that though I will mess up as a person, wife, and mom—I am covered by God’s grace and his work continues in me day by day. Yes, I wish I could hit rewind and do things differently at times. But even in those moments, I need not sink in self-loathing or a sense of total failure because how well I perform in any given arena is not ultimately what determines my standing or success. Who I am in Christ and the work he has done and continues to do on my behalf is what matters.

Sometimes, when I’m struggling against dark thoughts of failure and discouragement, the words to this song wash over my mind bringing sweet relief of my standing in Christ:

 Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
a great High Priest, whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

 When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.

 Behold Him there! the risen Lamb!
my perfect, spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM”
the King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by His blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ my Savior and my God.

Before the Throne of God Above by Charitie Lees Bancroft

Keep your eyes today not just on who you are but whose you are. We are covered, redeemed, set free—that is our hope and mercy for today.

Unraveled

After a night of winter rain, I watch the dawn break in pink clouds and sunshine. The morning sky deepens into cobalt blue set off by gray clouds moving fast to the east. I’m thankful for the sunshine; for the hope of a bright, clear day to contrast the dead winter palette.

All day I watch the sky shift moodily from crisp blue to heavy gray clouds. The changing light plays games in my living room, dancing across the floor where my children play. It feels like life—sunshine and rain, sunshine and rain.IMG_20180131_223914_609.jpg

I’m an orderly person. I like to see everything in terms of black and white—manageable, predictable. The good times purely good. The bad times purely bad. The two never mingling together to confuse or interrupt the other.

Only life is not at all that way. People are not at all that way.

Winter is a hard season. The cold, the gray, being cooped up in the house with restless, unhappy little ones. Everyone I’m close to is busy with work and school and I’m doing my best to pass the long days and short nights with heart and mind intact. I feel frayed, unraveling—like my hands are full of beads falling all over the place and I’m unable to gather them back up before they roll away.

I don’t want to wish this season away—the days when both my kids mostly just want to be in my arms and half the battle is figuring out how to meet all the needs for attention and affection. The days when my three-year-old climbs on everything and walks around with his toy moose ever tucked under his arm, feet dragging on the ground. I don’t want to forget the stories he tells or the way his big brown eyes look so wild and intent as he does. He sits beside me as I type these words, intermittently trying to push buttons and asking a million questions about the words I’m writing and why.IMG_20180207_203806_458.jpgWhy? Because these days are hard and I’m tired and these words are scribbled in a fog that settles over my mind after one relentless night after another of almost no sleep. But still I want to remember. I want to record these words and this gray season so I might look back and remember these days gone by and the lessons I learned and the ways I changed when I thought I might never be myself again.IMG_20180122_190739_449.jpg

Motherhood is the hardest, most humbling thing I’ve ever done. Sunshine and rain. Never could I love more. Never could I be more discouraged, unsure, or afraid. I want to read a book and know the right answers but instead I find a million times over that the answer remains: Watch, wait, and try again tomorrow. I will get some things right; I’ll always get some things wrong too. I don’t know anymore if there is a right answer or if the answer is simply to trust and pray and grow through all the hardness of these years.IMG_20180125_161516_767.jpgPerhaps the best lesson I can teach my children after all is simply obedience one step at a time, day by day, doing the next right thing. Maybe this lesson will teach them more than having all the right answers packaged up and tied with a tidy black and white bow. They will see me struggle; they will see me fail. But I hope in all of it they will see God’s relentless mercy and grace. I hope they will see me get back up and learn to do the same.

That’s all I can offer for today in this hard season of gray.

Not a Word Wasted

20180118_151546.jpgOne of the great things about technology and social media is the freedom and opportunity it gives everyone to write, share, and communicate with others. But on the other side is the overwhelming amount of words and information we must then sift through to find the “good stuff.”

The more I interact with social media, the more I feel these words rise up in my heart: Not a word wasted. Meaning, I don’t want anything I put here on my blog or anywhere else to be noise, fluff, or attention grabbing nonsense. I want what I say and the space I take up to be filled with purposeful, meaningful substance.

I feel this pull back and forth in wanting to be an actual “real” writer—between just being myself and doing my thing and feeling that there are things I should be doing and giving my time to in order to succeed. I need to build a social media presence and “brand” myself and share a certain amount of pictures and words in just the right space and way as to draw in followers and likes. I need to sale myself and what I’m doing or I’ll get lost in the myriad of others who are likewise writing and sharing and wanting to be heard.

Only, none of this social media stuff has ever sat very well with me. I like it when I like it but then I want to put my phone down and feel no pressure to post or share anything unless I’m independently moved to do so by the beauty I capture in a photo or the words I jot down after I’ve come to a realization I want to share with others.

It seems to have gotten turned around—we capture a photo for Instagram to build an audience and garner attention when really the photos we share would be better to come from such beauty and enthusiasm that we can’t help but share. The landscape so stunning, our heart so broken or full that we can’t help but overflow into the hearts and lives of others with our words and pictures. Better indeed than the turned-around situation we find ourselves in where we take a picture or scribble some words and practically bang down the door on other people’s hearts and lives in order to have our own hearts and lives seen and heard.

Lately, I’ve been writing and sharing here very consistently. It’s good practice for staying in the habit of writing and I find the more I write, the more I have to write about. It’s as if one thought leads to another and my heart opens up more and more to all the beauty and lessons around me that might be captured and shared.

But I haven’t gotten there yet with say, Instagram or Facebook. It just feels like too much work trying to keep up with it all. After all, my real, everyday life is only so sharable and interesting to others—especially when it must be summed up in an eye-popping photo complete with a succinct and engaging description (I’m looking at you, Instagram).

I don’t mean to sound like a hater. Like I said, I do like social media. I get to share and connect with lots of beautiful people only because such tools exist. It’s a really cool time to be alive and such an amazing thing to be a part of. I just don’t want to get carried away by it. I don’t want to become, as Thoreau said so far before his time, “a tool of my tools.”*

Not a word wasted.

So if you hear from me at all, I hope you hear something worth your time and attention. I hope I present to you only my authentic self and only when I’m ready and inspired to do so. Never because I felt compelled by self-centered motivation or the need to merely compete for attention with all the other voices around me. Sometimes I give a lot, sometimes hardly at all. At the end of the day, I have not deluded myself into believing you notice either way.

And if you do, perhaps you, like me at times, need to look up and away from the lives of others and invest a little more into your own. When I start to feel jealous or less-than in the world of social media, it’s typically not anyone else’s fault—it’s me, looking in all the wrong places for attention and fulfillment. And in those moments I’m reminded to keep my eyes on my own road and story. To be who I am and do what I do regardless of who notices or “follows” along. People and crowds and audiences come and go but I must live with myself forever—so there’s that.

If you have something to say worth hearing, people will probably notice and pay attention anyway. And if not, don’t sacrifice the quality of your life and words merely for the attention you might gain in doing something less than your very best in an inauthentic way.

I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone else and asking every time I go to Instagram or Facebook, “Why?” Why are you here? Why are you saying that or sharing that image? Would you do the same if absolutely no one noticed or cared? Or are you living to be seen and putting on a show for a hoped-for audience? Questions I must grapple with every single time indeed.


*The actual quote is, “Men have become tools of their tools.” Henry David Thoreau

 

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 ❤