A Selfless Man in a Selfish World

IMG_20170814_061957_246I’ll never forget the night we met, the way we fell into conversation seamlessly and became friends almost instantly. There was hardly a moment from that first meeting when it didn’t feel right having you at my side. It’s surprising then, how long it took me to decide for sure that I really loved you, that I really wanted to marry you. Looking back though, I’m glad I took my time. Not because you’ve disappointed, but because we were so, so young and because I realize better now than I ever could have then just how significant that choice of life partner really is. IMG_20170814_062137_610We’ve been married for nine years and together for twelve. I hear those numbers and think I must have done the math wrong—how are we old enough to have been together for twelve years? But then I look at the life we’ve lived in those years and it hardly seems time enough to contain it all. Moving across the country, a condo we could barely afford to heat, a tiny downtown apartment, our first house, and our ridiculous farmhouse remodel. We’ve traveled, made two babies, worked various jobs, and started a business of our own. In all of it, I’ve learned something significant about you, about the man you are and what a lucky girl I am to have you at my side. IMG_20170814_061844_794I’ve learned in a loud world preaching self-promotion and a me-first mentality, a man who is humble, who is self-sacrificing, who sets his own wants aside to better serve his family—that is a rare find, you are a rare find. If I had understood just how uncommon your character is when I was 19 and toying with who to marry, I would have made my decision much faster.IMG_20170815_074139_745You have always loved me well but never did I realize how well until we had children. These years with little little ones are intense. We don’t sleep through the night. Someone always needs us and the margin of time left for each other or anything else can be thin. But in a time when I’ve seen many men step away from the intensity of home and family, I’ve seen you step in and stand up. IMG_20170721_215341_888You work a high-stress job all day followed by a long commute each night. But still you walk through our door ready for the next job—the kids and house and wife still needing you, still wanting what’s left of your time and attention. You get on the floor and play with our son, sit and give a bottle to our daughter, show up with ice coffee and a warm hug for me because you remember not only yourself and your own hard day but think of me and what my day might have been like as well. You mow the yard with our son on your shoulders and help wrangle two children on different schedules into bed. You give from the moment you get up to work and provide for us until the moment you hit the bed again at night.IMG_20170721_215210_339We are old enough now to see the marriages of friends and family crumble. It stings, watching people you love fall out of love with each other. I realize when a marriage or family falls apart, there is likely some level of fault on both sides. But I’ve seen too that many of the marriages I’ve watched disintegrate have done so because a man who took on a wife and family and all that home life requires decided one day (or many days over and over) that he didn’t want that life after all. It’s not that he didn’t love his wife and kids, he simply loved himself more. So he left.

But you have stayed. You have been humble. You have been selfless. You have listened and served and worked on behalf of others when your time and talent could have easily been used to promote self or to earn more money or to have more hobbies and things. You could have bought that boat and spent your days on the lake like you’ve so often talked about—but you’ve chosen our family first instead a million times over. There’s nothing in the world wrong with a boat, but a man who can discern where his time, energy, and money are most needed and who is selfless enough to live accordingly is a rare find indeed. IMG_20170707_211648_100How incredibly humbled and thankful I am that you are mine. I hope I love and serve you half as well as you love and serve us ❤

When Motherhood Isn’t Your Thing

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I always knew I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Before Darren and I ever decided to marry, I told him what I wanted to do and he agreed–someday, when the time was right, I would leave the workplace and stay home. And that’s exactly what I did–after 6 years of marriage, work, home buying, and traveling, we decided it was time to start a family and whole-heartedly welcomed a baby into our lives.

I loved the first year at home–though of course, at times, it was very hard and was a huge adjustment from my former office job. That first year was just me and Roman most of the time as Darren was working, going to school, and remodeling our house. From sun up to sundown (and plenty of times throughout the night) Roman was in my arms or at my side. I was zeroed in that first year, present and focused on enjoying my baby boy before he was no longer a tiny little thing in my arms. I am proud of that first year and have very few regrets about how I spent my time with our son.

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But this year, with a now 18 month old toddler, things have been different. I’m struggling. No, I’m drowning. I’m starting to realize that the baby stage was my happy place but this whole toddler stage just isn’t my jam. Roman is a wild, busy little thing and we are both going a little batty being stuck inside during these long winter months. He’s bored and I’m bored and we’re both driving each other crazy.

Truth be told, I want to put him in daycare and go back to work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m just surprised to find myself feeling this way after so many years of wanting to start a family and stay home.

Maybe I’m just tired, discouraged, or disillusioned. Maybe it will pass as things often do.

Or maybe motherhood isn’t my thing and it turns out I’m really not all that good at the one thing I spent my whole life preparing for.

I don’t know.

I know Roman isn’t going to daycare because it makes no sense for me to go back to work right now. By the time I settle into a job and know what I’m doing, I’ll be pregnant again. That’s just where I’m at in life right now. I want more children and I want to stay home with each child for at least the first year and you can’t just hop in and out of work at your own leisure. So for right now, my life is at home.

I don’t have a problem with committing my life to home for as long as this is where I need to be. I’m just struggling to figure out how to make this whole home all day every day with a cranky toddler thing work in such a way that there’s some peace and happiness in our lives again.

I want to be a good mom, not the cranky, frustrated one I’ve become of late. But how do I reconcile who I am and how I’m struggling with patient, loving parenting and a happy, healthy home?

Beats me.

If you have answers, I’m all ears.

I’m sorry this isn’t my usual “life is beautiful and magical” type post but I’m just not there right now. This isn’t a mommy blog but I’m knee-deep in motherhood and struggling to find my voice in this space as I once did. I miss writing and photographing and I’m determined to get back to it. But in the meantime, this is where I’m at, this is why I’m absent, and until I can come back with something nice to say, I’m not coming back at all :]

Tis the Season…of Consumerism

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond and writing his work of the same name he said that “men have become the tools of their tools.” He wrote that in the mid 1800s so I imagine he might have had a mental break had he ever met the internet.

Just imagine Thoreau with an iPhone for a minute; it makes me smile.

I went to Walden Pond once. I drove out with a friend and together we sat by the water’s edge with journals in hand and wrote about the beautiful, quiet place we found ourselves in.

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We walked in the replica of the tiny cabin Thoreau built for himself and I snapped a few pictures of Mr. Thoreau reading my very own copy of Walden Pond :]

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I like Thoreau. I like what he stood for and what he did by example. But I’m not very good at following that example. I’m much better at online shopping and Angry Birds, truth be told.

It seems like simple living should be, you know, simple. But the world we live in is awfully glittery and I choose consumerism and material things far more than I would like you to know.

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I think about this a lot this time of year. Not only because of Christmas shopping but also because my birthday is a month before Christmas and Darren’s is a month after. So for three months straight we are thinking about buying and getting things. I have nothing against birthday and Christmas presents; I think both can be thoughtful demonstrations of love for the other person and that is certainly what we hope to accomplish by giving each other these gifts. Still though, it’s easy to get carried away by it all, by all these shiny, glittery, latest and greatest things that we convince ourselves we simply must have and give each other.

Fortunately this year we are broke.

Not really, but we are building a house…in the woods…with a big garden beside it…with all the hope in the world that it will help lead us to simpler, more meaningful living. But even houses in the woods built with good intentions cost money so this year we have to really stop and think about every dollar we spend.

And you know what? It’s been super wonderful. Seriously. I like not worrying so much about what I’m giving and getting for birthdays and Christmas. I like that every single gift I bought for Darren this year was picked out based on what I know he’s good at and will love. I like that this year feels a little slower, a little less about things, and more about building dreams together. I like that on my birthday Darren gave me a remote-controlled monster truck because every time we end up in the toy aisle I drool over them. That’s a nutty thing to give a girl but he knew I would like it and it made me smile that he remembered and did something that felt hugely thoughtful to me.

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how hectic and frantic these last few weeks before Christmas are. About how people are stretched and stressed to the max by all the shopping and parties and decorating. And I think that’s really sad. Because the shopping and the parties and the decorating are not what this is about. I’m a Christian, so foremost I think this is all about Jesus. But even beyond that, this really should be about people and love and thoughtful, heartfelt giving–giving of gifts we picked out with something special and specific in mind, gifts of our time just to be with people and to enjoy each other….gifts that matter for more than the glitter.

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I’ve let the beauty of Christmas get away from me many times before by focusing on all the wrong things. But this year–this quiet, slower year–is teaching me something I hope I won’t forget.

Let’s not be the tools of our tools, okay? Okay :]

The Seeds We Plant

It’s getting cold here in New England; it even snowed a little the other day. Today when I went outside it felt so warm I thought it must be in the 70s but the temperature read only 48°. Regardless, I celebrated the heat-wave by leaving my coat home today :]

As warm as 48° feels, winter is still inching in around us and Darren and I were busy for a few days trying to beat the frost and get hundreds {or a billion} daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs dug up and transplanted for spring. That’s the thing about flowers and spring—you have to plan ahead if you want to see color and results when the world finally thaws out months from now.

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We got all the bulbs in the ground where we wanted them and then a few days later it was really warm and pretty so I kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pant legs, and went around the yard filling the wheel-barrow up with pretty round rocks to use as a border around the flowers. It took a lot of loads back and forth to wrap all the way around the area I wanted but it felt good to be outside tramping around in the dirt and grass. Darren called me Tom Sawyer the rest of the day but I think he meant it affectionately :]

I’ve been thinking a lot about those little bulbs we put into the ground and all the work and planning that goes into having a pretty yard and garden come spring. And I’ve thought a lot too about all the other seeds we plant, not in the yard and garden, but in our hearts and lives.

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Words, actions, thoughts, decisions—these are the seeds planted throughout our lives that carry with them the power to grow either beauty or weeds in the soil of our hearts and souls.

I think about the words we hear growing up and how those little seeds grow in us and shape us for better or worse all throughout our lives. I think about all the decisions we make and how they too take root and grow into either weeds or blossoms in the tender sod of hearts.

Once weeds take root, they are hard to pluck out; they hold on and keep coming back up over and over again. It doesn’t seem fair that just the opposite is true of flowers—they are tender, delicate, easy to root out and kill. Beauty and blossoms have to be nurtured or they will suffer and die.

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It’s just the same with nurturing beauty in our hearts and lives—you only need be told once that you are stupid or unwanted to have that weed planted in your heart—and plucking it back out will likely have to be done again and again as the weeds keep springing back up. But it seems we must be told many times throughout our lives that we are loved and wanted and worthy before those tender seeds take root and are finally settled into our hearts producing fruit.

So be careful of the seeds you plant—the words, the actions, the thoughts and decisions. Be careful of the seeds you plant in the lives of others and careful of the seeds you let take root in your own heart and soul.

Because once weeds take root they are hard to pluck out and blossoms easily die.

The Comforts of Home

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Today we are home, curled up on the couch watching football. The cat is curled up on the other couch, because obviously, he needs a whole couch to himself…diva. The Pats are playing the Dolphins. I would rather be watching my home boys, the Chiefs, but they don’t show their games out here. We were in Kansas City a few weeks ago and were almost late for our flight because I just had to see the Chiefs finish their game while I had the chance. They normally lose, you know, so watching them win for once is a lot of fun :]

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We had big bowls of hot soup for lunch today and dipped thick chunks of warm bread in it. The heat is on because it’s cold, cold, cold outside and we are sipping mugs of hot coffee to warm up. I sprinkled cinnamon over the coffee grounds before brewing it; between that and the pumpkin creamer, it’s just about the perfect mug of coffee for a crisp fall day.

The whole house smells like the jasmine and sandalwood incense I’m burning…I love how the tangy, sweet smell of the smoke permeates everything in the house.

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This morning we went to church and I worked in the nursery. There’s a bit of a baby boom going on among my friends right now. Every time one girl has a baby, another announces she’s pregnant. It’s fun…all these kids and babies and watching families grow and change. Sometimes working in the nursery is completely exhausting because all the babies melt down at once and you’re left wiping tears and noses and wondering what on earth you did wrong. But this morning, it was fun. The kids were mostly good and it was nice visiting with the moms and watching them visit with each other. It made me really thankful for my church family and the little group of girls I hang out with here; their friendship means so much to me and I was reminded of that this morning.

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Last night we had dinner with Darren’s brother and sister and their families. We all live within 15 minutes of each other and I love the way we are able to spend time together and move in and out of each other’s lives. My sister in law made a big batch of chili and my brother in law made an apple pie. We all sat around eating and talking while the kids played on the floor. Our new baby nephew was passed around and held while the bigger boys climbed all over us and wrestled with each other on the floor. It was nice.

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I tell you all these bits and pieces because together they remind me of one thing…comfort. Our little home and mugs of hot coffee are comforting on this Sunday afternoon. Spending time with our friends at church was comforting this morning. Dinner with family was comforting last night. Even the cool weather and hot meals are comforting. And with all these bits and pieces that make up our normal, everyday lives–I’m thankful. Thankful for the comfortable, familiar things that settle our hearts and minds and for the weekends that give us a chance to rest and regroup before heading into another busy workweek.

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This is why God gave us a Sabbath–because he knows us and knows we need rest and refreshment. It has been good this weekend to be reminded of the simple gifts of home and family and to enjoy this day of rest in our little home.

That Time I Almost Blew It

I tend to take things very literally. Like, way too literally sometimes.

So here’s what happened.

Darren and I had been on one date. That one date was the only time I had ever seen Darren in my life but I liked him. We were in college and one evening after that first date I walked past him in the library. He was standing at a computer and when I walked by I punched him in the back, grinned, and kept on walking. When I walked back through the room Darren was still standing at the computer and I stopped a few computers down to check my email.

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Handsome Mr. Darren walks over and asks me if I want to go get an ice cream. And I was like, “no.”

That’s it. That’s all. No explanation, just no. Because, here’s the thing, I don’t really like ice cream and at that particular moment I literally didn’t want ice cream so the answer to his question was just no.

If he had asked me if I wanted to go out with him again, I would have said yes.

If he had asked me if I wanted to get a coffee and talk, I would have said yes.

If he has asked me if I wanted to go running around the building in the dark, I probably would have said yes.

But ice cream? No.

Poor guy. The time between the first and second date can be quite delicate, you know, when you’re waiting to see if the other person likes you enough to ask you out again or if they just sort of dodge you instead. So being the kind, sensitive person that I am, I flat-out turn Darren down the very next time he tries to talk to me. Ayy, yayy, yayy.

Lucky for me Darren is very persistent and kept asking me out…and he must have asked me the right questions after the ice cream mishap because here we are.

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Oddly enough, it was a while later on an ice cream date when I realized that I loved him…but I still don’t like ice cream so the answer to that is still no :]

Don’t Look Back

Sometimes I look back at who I was a year ago or five years ago and I’m embarrassed by some of the things I said or did. The advent of social media doesn’t help either because now if my memory fails me, Facebook and even this blog will be here to remind me of my less than stellar self. Super.

Sometimes I want to gather up everyone who knew me before right now and apologize for all the stupid thing I ever said or did. I feel this urgency to explain to people that I’m different now, that I’m sorry and I’ve changed.

This is great except I’ll probably look back ten years from now at the person I am today and want to apologize all over again.

You see, if I’m moving in the right direction then hopefully I’m always growing and changing from who I am today into a more loving, mature person tomorrow. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is looking back and remembering who I was at a different place in the story. But what I’m trying to remember is this: There’s no need to be ashamed of who you were yesterday if you are becoming a better person today.

Yes, I’m sorry for some of the things I said or did in the past and I do hope people know that. But at the same time I’m glad to be aware of what I did wrong because hopefully that means I’ve learned and grown and am not still making the same mistakes today.

So don’t be ashamed of who you were; be proud of who you are becoming. If you can’t be proud of who you are becoming, then worry about that instead of the past.

“…But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

You & Me

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Dear Darren,

Five years ago I said “I do” to you. That was pretty smart if you ask me. I love you for lots of reasons…some reasons I can’t always pin down or articulate, some I can. Here’s a few—I love you {in part} because:

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And you make me laugh…a lot…sort of foolishly at times…until I can’t stop and everyone is staring at me…so thanks for that.

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I love you because you are silly and don’t take yourself too seriously.

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I love you because you are gentle and kind and good to every living thing. Your heart is huge and I love every inch of it.

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I love you because every winter, the first time it snows, you build me a miniature snow man and leave it on the counter for me to find.

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I love you because, hello, those arms are absolutely fabulous…oh, and you built that frame to go around the mirror for me…but mostly I like your arms.

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I love you because you work so hard and because we have invested ourselves in so many projects together. Thanks for teaching me how to sheet rock, babe.

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I love you even though you throw me in the lake sometimes.

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I love you because you are adventurous.

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I love you because you pick flowers for me…and you get kisses for it too :]

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I love you because you are the best uncle to our nieces and nephews and I know someday, you will be the best dad too.

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I love you for so many reasons and am thankful for each day we’ve had together and I look forward to each day to come.

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P.S. I love you very, very much for agreeing to build a fort on the living room floor and stay up all night watching movies to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Seriously, do they even make men better than that? I say no.

Laugh Together, Cry Together

We are asked to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep; easier said than done.

It’s difficult to relate to people who are going through vastly different circumstances than we are. It’s hard to know exactly what to say or do when everything in my life is good and someone I care about is just trying to keep their head above the deep waters. It’s difficult to be happy for other people when our own hearts are breaking.

How can I connect and relate when my life is so different? Does someone struggling even want to talk to someone who’s breezing by? I know from times of struggle just how annoying and patronizing it can be to have someone who’s doing just fine stop by and say, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I know what you’re going through.”

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Either way, looking at your pretty little life doesn’t make me want to tell you about my problems.

And yet that is exactly what we’re asked to do: We’re asked to enter into each other’s lives—bright and beautiful, dark and ugly—all of it without regard to what’s going down in our own lives at the time.

We’re asked to rejoice with those who rejoice—even when our heart are bleak and weary.

We’re asked to weep with those weep—even when we have great joy we want to share.

We’re asked to go beyond ourselves and find our way into the beautiful mess of each other’s lives.  We’re asked to be there for each other when everything is right and when everything is wrong. We’re asked to empathize and understand the joy and sorrow all around us in the lives of those we love.

I’m trying to learn how to do this, how to set my own life and circumstances aside and enter into the array of beauty and sorrow that paints each of our stories.