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 ❤

 

Overflowing.

I haven’t thought a thing about resolutions this year because I feel there is nothing in the whole world I could possibly want right now. I feel full to the brim and overflowing. I feel like my heart will burst and to want anything more than what I already have is just plain greedy.

2013 was a bright, beautiful year for me and Darren. Not every year is of course. Actually, the last two or three years before it have been pretty tiring and blah and perhaps that is part of why this past year stood out as such a happy one for us.

Sometimes I’m afraid to talk about the good things in my life—the things I’m most thankful for—because I don’t want to sound like a braggart or someone who has absolutely everything. No one I know enjoys being around someone like that so instead I tend to focus on the hard things in order to be real and relatable, in order to let others know that our lives aren’t perfect and we do truly understand what others are going through. But right now I feel that not being thankful and mentioning the good things would be the exact opposite of real and relatable—we have much to be thankful for and to pretend otherwise would be a little dishonest.

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Before this year, I had gotten to a place where I knew certain things in my life needed to change but I couldn’t see any end in sight to the way things were. It was quite depressing, actually—struggling through each day as it rolled in exactly the same as the one before and wondering if there would ever be any way out. I was exhausted and lonely and struggling along but didn’t know how to make any real changes. I felt like the way things were was just exactly how they had to be and how they would always remain.

I started reading about the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, hoping I would find something to encourage and carry me through what felt like a private wilderness experience. I felt parched, dried up and alone in the desert.

But this year some light broke through and things started to change. I know that real change needs to be internal not circumstantial. But sometimes when you’re drowning, all you really need is to be pulled to shore before you sink completely. This year anchored me and pulled my head above water—it feels really good to breathe again.

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First of all, in April Darren and I bought an old colonial house needing a little love. The most important thing about this house is its location—in the country, close to the woods, wrapped around by trees. Both Darren and I grew up in the country and I don’t think either of us realized how much we would miss the land and the woods. We’ve lived in town ever since we moved to Massachusetts five years ago but have been hoping ever since then that we would be able to buy a home of our own in the country.

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{Wild flowers Darren picked for me in our new yard}

I grew up in a place that was a little bit magical—though I didn’t know it at the time. In the country, in the woods, close to the land…that is where I was shaped and made into who I am. I left the woods behind and took off as fast as I could for Massachusetts and all the excitement of the coast and the cities out east. I like it here in New England; it’s a lovely place to live.

But I miss the woods. I miss the wheat fields—the golden stalks turned pink and orange in the late afternoon sun. I miss the vastness, the endless rolling hills of crops. I miss the grass and dirt beneath my bare feet. I miss the rhythm of life lived close to the land. I miss having enough time and attention to notice the palette of colors used by the sun in painting the earth awake and asleep each day. I miss how bright and clear the stars were over the fields at night, unobstructed by the lights down here, enchanted by the lights up there.

All these things got into my blood and my soul, and though I left them behind, they won’t leave me alone. I can’t find my place, my peace, my sense of balance without them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever make it back to the plains or the prairies where I’m from but I’ve known for a long time now that I absolutely must find my way back to the woods. And this shabby colonial of ours is just exactly what we’ve needed to do that.

Knowing that soon our days spent sharing a duplex and yard right on the road will end and we’ll be able to settle into our first single family home with our own private back yard is just about too much…I. Am. So. Excited. and so, so thankful. When I get frustrated and discouraged about where we are I’m encouraged by knowing there’s end in sight and soon we’ll be back in the woods where we belong.

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{Still waters found on a walk through the woods near our new house}

Here we will have a place to plant a garden and a yard to walk around in. We’ll be able to raise our kids close to the land which is so very important to both of us. We’ll be able to see the stars at night and watch the sun cast its brilliant rays across the fields at sunset. I think we’ll both breathe again and feel like we’re really living the way we’re meant to, just the way our souls were put together and intended to get along. It’s a huge gift and I’m so thankful.

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In June we went to Europe—Europe! This was not just a fancy vacation for us—it was a giant adventure we had both hoped for since our teens. We wanted to see the world, experience different cultures and see what people so different from us are like.

From Spain to France, Italy to Croatia and on to England we were able journey and explore. We rode trains and ferries and shared a taxi with strangers from other countries. We jumped in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and wound in a bus up the Amalfi Coast past lemon groves and rooftop gardens.

We walked and walked…through Pompeii, Sicily, Venice, Marseilles, Rome…on and on until we collapsed in bed each night…exhausted but happy.

We drank the best coffee in Barcelona and ate scrumptious pizza while we sat on the curb waiting for the train in Pisa. We found that people all over the world are kind and friendly and willing to help when you are lost and confused and don’t speak the language.

It was magic and I’ll never ever forget what it felt like to be lost and found at the same time stomping around the globe and seeing the world with my own two eyes.

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Finally, in the fall my sneaking suspicion that a baby was on the way was confirmed. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Though I’ve enjoyed the years I’ve spent working outside the home and am thankful for the skills and experience I’ve gained, I’ve always looked forward to the day when I could wholly focus on raising a family instead.

Maybe some people will think less of me for choosing housework and a baby on my hip over a career at a growing company—that’s fine—we don’t all have to be the same or want the same things. I want to stay home, cook meals from my garden, and raise a houseful of munchkins and I’m thankful we’re finally on the road to starting a family of our own.

I’m sure there will be days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking and will wish for high heels and the office. But ultimately, I know my heart and soul are most settled at home—this is the place where I’m most gifted and centered and I’m ready to make the trade for this new life—however difficult and exhausting it may sometimes be.

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{Moments from our year}

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11

I’m thankful for a year of much-needed change that helped refresh our spirits and renew our focus. I’m thankful too that life is all about seasons and that nothing is forever. I’ve enjoyed this season of our lives and look forward to the seasons to come. Thank you for sharing the past year with us; I’m looking forward to sharing this new year with you too :]