Friday, August 30, 2013

Learning A Forever Kind of Love

I remember the first post-marriage fight Hubs and I had. "What happened to smiles and butterflies?" I wondered, "Who the heck is this man I married? Is there an "out" clause?". (Okay, maybe I didn't really wonder if there was an "out" clause, but I was highly concerned with what I had gotten myself into.) Welcome to real life sister!

Let me start by saying that the hubs and I have what I would call a pretty strong marriage. We are both faithful and committed, and even when we don't want to (read: even when I don't want to) we hash things out and get down-and-dirty working through whatever needs to be worked through. For the most part, we make each other better versions of ourselves. That does not mean, however, that life is always rainbows and sunshine. In fact, as I am typing this, I am pondering the truth that you can't get rainbows unless you have a little rain in the mix if you know what I'm saying!

To be honest, I can't really recall what that first post-marriage fight was all about. All I know is that after what seemed like days of us not seeing eye-to-eye on something, I felt like I was at my wits end. I was hurt, mad, and did not want to be married to this guy anymore! But alas, we are the for-better-or-worse kind of team and I realized we were either going to work through this or die trying! (At that moment my stubborn, hurting heart did not want to try and I thought I might just wait him out in anger for fifty years...but that didn't seem like it would work out too well for me long-term.) So there I sat, in my car in the Safeway parking lot, crying in anger and self-pity. Anybody been there?

Even though I knew that whatever it was we were fighting about was absolutely 100% his fault and I was completely faultless in every way I decided maybe it would be a good idea to pray. "Lord," I said, "I don't want to do this! Show him he's wrong and he's mean! I don't like him right now and I don't know how you can expect me to do this!" At that moment a song came on the radio. Apparently God thought it might be a good time to remind me of my vows because it was the song. It was our wedding song...the one that was played during our wedding as we washed one another's feet as a symbol of our desire to submit to one another and to Christ.

In that moment I was reminded of the big picture. Forgiveness and acceptance. Hope and healing. Trust and a letting go of my need to be "right". If marriage is a picture of Christ's love for us (and it is) than in that moment I saw the depth and richness of the forever kind of love that worked through the nitty-gritty and kept going. The kind of love Christ has for His bride (us) and the kind of love I wanted to work towards in my marriage.

Since that moment there have been seasons of sunshine and seasons of rain. There have been moments when I have had to hit my knees to the floor and ask God to take over, because I wasn't sure how to work through this one. But we have a God who is there in the sunshine and the rain. We have a God whose love is never-failing even when ours is a faltering, wavering mess. He is a God of redemption and as our True Husband (since we are his bride) he gives us a picture of the kind of love we can have, through him, in our marriage. Now that is something worth celebrating!

Today I am linking up with Simple Moments Stick!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Be Still

Happy Thursday! I was loving on my sick girl yesterday so I didn't get a post out...instead I snuggled and watched movies! (I know, I know, television is not recommended for little ones but some days you've gotta put on cartoons and curl up on the couch! So that is just what we did...and I have to say, it was a sweet time. The laundry did not get done, the dishes were left unwashed, and Baby Girl got all my time.

Today I do not have a lot of brainpower because my little sickie needed lots of attention last night. I began to feel myself getting grumpy and negative this afternoon and though I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold I decided that I needed nothing more than to sit and spend time with God. I had just watched a great video by Lisa Chan that reminded me of how much I needed that one-on-one time with Him to get my heart right. (You can check out an excerpt from her video "Be Still" by clicking here!) So instead of doing the chores that were mounting and cried for my attention, I sat with God.
This doesn't have to be some mystic experience, in fact, it is rather ordinary. I grabbed a cup of coffee (a desperately needed cup of coffee) and sat in my favorite seat. I pulled out my Bible and a book I am currently reading (Resolution for Woman, by Pricilla Shirer) and rested. I have to tell you, it refreshed me. It put my mind back in a thankful state. Taking that time to be reminded of good things about God made me more thankful. I know it sounds cliche, and I try to steer clear of cliches that sound sappy and overused, but I can't lie. I don't know if I would have been able to finish my day with a joyful heart if I hadn't taken the time to be still.

It was a good reminder to me that life will always have things to throw at me. There will always be something to check off of my to-do list and there will always be one more project I could be working on. Am I carving out time to refresh and recharge with the Creator? When I do, the pieces seem to fall into place. I am no less tired than I was before, and my house did not miraculously clean itself. But I feel capable, now, of pursuing my work with a peaceful heart. And that, to me, is more of a success than crossing everything off of my list today.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You Depositing "Money in the Bank" with Your Child?

We all have countless opportunities each day to make deposits or withdrawals in our children. We are the primary cardholders when it comes to making sure they are getting the love and encouragement that they need on a regular basis. We can either build them up and add to their "emotional bank accounts" or we can tear them down until they are depleted and overdrawn.

I was recently introduced to this principle (through Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective Families") and I began to ask myself, how are you adding to the accounts of those around you? It is changing the way I relate to those around me--specifically in my immediate family.

Though my daughter is itty-bitty, I have countless opportunities to "add to her account" each day through smiling at her often and noticing her accomplishments. I also have opportunities to subtract from her account through disinterest, frustration, and criticism. As she grows, each interaction will be one in which I add to her "account" or I take away from it. Of course there will be times when we, as parents, will make withdrawals from our children's accounts. They will get in trouble, and we may lose our cool on occasion. The key is, are we building up enough equity in them with our kindness and support, that when we do subtract from their account it doesn't become a crisis situation?

If we want to grow healthy, confident, loving children, we have to make sure we are adding to their emotional accounts every day. So here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are filling them up:

 Do I greet my child with joy and undivided attention when they get home from school (or I get home from work), or am I distracted, tired, and inattentive? 

Am I quick to say kind words to my child, to tell them what they are doing well, and to express my love in verbal and tangible ways?

Do I make a conscious effort to spend time with my children on their level? Do I play games with them (even if I would rather watch television), share dessert with them (even though I would rather eat it all myself after they go to bed), and engage them in things they find interesting (even though I think I might die if I have to hear that knock-knock joke one more time)?

Do I speak positively about my children to others? Do I spend more time sharing my thankfulness and appreciation of them or do I spend more time complaining about how difficult they are? 

Do I have a thankful heart in regards to my children? Do I (in my own heart) feel blessed and joyful to have these kids with their own uniqueness and quirks--even when their decisions aren't the best and it seems like they will never learn?

I'm sure there are many more questions we could ask ourselves, but these are some of the "self-checks" we can do to help us be good stewards of our children. The same, of course, can be said in our relationships with our spouses (or any other relationship we want to be pouring into on a regular basis). Our words and actions can be an investment into our children or they can suck the value (and connection with us) out of them. When we make the choice to be investors, the return investment is priceless.

The idea of the "Emotional Bank Account" is borrowed from 
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families" by Stephen R. Covey. 
Also, today I am linking up with A Better Mom for Better Mom Mondays!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Kind of Sticky are You?

There is a group of women in my community that I absolutely love to be around. They are funny and full of life. They love to laugh and their love of God comes out in everything that they do.  Even when life throws everything it can at them, these woman choose to remain thankful and loving. They rub off on me in a good way. They are sticky, and in their living life they catch others (like me) up in the adventure. When I am with them I am reminded that there is much to be joyful for, and it cultivates a more thankful spirit in me.

I saw these woman this morning and as nerdy as it may sound, it felt like Christmas. I hadn't seen them all summer and I didn't realize how much I missed their easygoing manner, their kindness, and their genuine excitement to see me. It refreshed me, and it also made me wonder, "Am I that kind of woman? Do I have that kind of stickiness?" Do I make others feel welcomed and invited into conversation when I see them? Do I show a heart of gratitude and thankfulness that overflows onto the hearts of others? I hope so.

We impact those around us whether we mean to or not. So we can either impact them with negativity and dissatisfaction, or we can impact them with hope and a joyful spirit. And we don't have to be "fakers" to do it. Life isn't always a bowl of cherries and it's important to be honest about our struggles and real-life-messiness. But we can do it with a heart full of trust in Christ and hope for the good He has planned.

If I am going to be sticky, I don't want to be the sand-in-your-shorts kind. I don't want people to walk with a bit of a limp because of their interaction with me, not sure why exactly they feel unhappy or unsettled. If I am going to be sticky, I want to be the melting-popsicle-in-a-toddler's-hand kind of sticky. There is joy and deliciousness in the stickiness. It leaves good memories and a good taste in your mouth.

I have a choice of what kind of sticky I am going to be. In each interaction I have--whether with a grocery clerk or a barista, whether with a friend or my spouse--I get to choose what kind of sticky I am going to rub off on those around me. Am I leaving the cashier with a sincere "Thank you" and a smile? Am I making the extra effort to ask the woman at church whose name I can't quite recall how she is doing today? When I speak to my husband, do I sound like sand-in-his-shorts or a melting-popsicle? In all I do, I want to make the choice to be the good sticky. What kind of sticky do you want to be?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peanut Chicken & Rice Deliciousness

Sorry for the semi-absence of posts...I have been busy with projects around the house! Lest you get to distraught over your lack of reading material, I am giving you a yummy dinner recipe to try out. This is one of my absolute favorite meals. I make it on a regular basis, it gets rave reviews in my fam, and it even makes great leftovers! So, unless you have a peanut allergy in your family, it is certainly worth a try!

Peanut Chicken & Rice
(approximately 4 servings)
1 Cup Brown Rice (cooked according to package directions)
1/2 White or Vidalia Onion, chopped
5-7 Mushrooms, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder, or a minced garlic clove
1-2 Chicken Breasts (We usually use one BIG chicken breast) chopped into small pieces
1/3 Cup Peanut Butter (I use Adams chunky, but you can use whatever you have)
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth (I use sodium-free)
2-3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (Sauce to taste)

In a large pan, saute onion, pepper, garlic, and mushroom in the butter until onion is translucent (approximately 10 minutes on medium-low). Add chicken pieces and cook thoroughly. Once chicken is cooked, add chicken broth, water, and peanut butter. Keep stove on medium-low and stir ingredients until peanut butter is melted and ingredients are mixed. Add in soy sauce to taste. If mixture is too thin, let simmer for five more minutes or so. Then add in cooked rice and mix thoroughly. If you are feeling adventurous, feel free to add chopped peanuts, cilantro, or green onions to the top...we usually don't have any of these ingredients and it is great anyway. Now it is time to chow down!

The directions probably seem a bit loosey-goosey...I usually don't measure anything so I had to approximate the measurements. But the nice thing about this recipe is, it is hard to mess it up. I have made a variety of peanut chicken sauces and this is the healthiest version with the best taste that I have been able to come up with thus far. So try it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Connecting with Your Spouse: 20 Questions to Get the Ball Rolling

The hubs and I are headed to "the city" (and by the city I mean a city of 210,000...which is significantly larger than our town of 14,000 but teeny-tiny by city standards) later this afternoon. It is about an hour drive from here and most of the time we listen to music, zone out, I read a know, really use the time to connect as a couple. Ha. But I got to thinking, what if I came up with a list of questions that I could pepper the hubs with on the way to the city!? (If he were reading this right now he would most definitely be cringing in mock agony.)

These are the questions that will get the ball least that is the plan. *Smiles.* I thought I would share in case anybody else wanted to jump on the connecting-through-questions bandwagon with me. The great thing about asking questions is that you don't need anything other than your mouth and ears. Also, if you really listen to your spouse as they share, you might actually learn something! It is amazing how many times I think I know something about my husband, only to find out that, in fact, I did not. In the ebb and flow of life, we don't often take time to "study" our mates. This is an opportunity to do just that...whether it is in the car, on the couch, or over a cup of coffee. So without further are some questions to connect! 

1. If you were any superhero, which superhero would you choose and why? 
2. What is one of your favorite memories of us...the one that first pops into your mind?
3. If you could change jobs and had no fear of failure, what would you want to do?
4. What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced this year?
5. If I could do one thing to make your day easier on a regular basis, what would it be?
6. If we could up and go anywhere right now, where would you want to go?
7. What is one thing you really like about your life right now?
8.  If our life was a book, what would you title it?
9. What is something you are currently learning from or about God?
10. What is your favorite Disney movie?
11. What character do you most relate to in that movie?
12. If you had a free day and $100, what would you want to do?
13. What is one thing on your Bucket List that you'd love to do someday?
14. If you had to pick one, would you rather have six cats or six dogs?
15. What is your absolute favorite kind of cake (or favorite dessert)?
16. How do you feel most loved?
17. What other couple do you look up to and want our marriage to emulate in some fashion?
18. What would you say our biggest strengths are as a couple?
19. If you had a different first and middle name, what would you want
them to be?
20. What are you most thankful for?
Today  I am linking up with The Better Mom and Happy Wives Club!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Delighting In Your Todays

Heart heavy, eyes bleary, I stumbled out of bed this morning not at all ready to take on the day. Baby Girl struggled to sleep all night. Her new teeth slowly making their grand entrance made it difficult for her to get comfortable, in turn making her need much mama comfort throughout the night. It is easy, in these moments, to wish for the next stage. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we will be any more ready for that stage when it comes.

Never before have I been so constantly tested and bombarded with things to learn, ways to adapt,
decisions to is the hardest job I have ever had, being a mama. And yet, in the same breath, I can say that it is the most awe-inspiring job I have ever had. To watch this knitted-together-by-the-Creator-of-the-Universe baby grow and learn is almost incomprehensible. One minute she is learning how to nurse for the first time, and the next, it seems, she is learning how to crawl. In my weariness it can be easy to miss all of the in-between.

I want to soak in each moment. The moments where she smiles over a new delightful discovery...and the moments when she is crying so hard she gives herself the hiccups and by the end of the ordeal we are both hiccuping and crying profusely. These moments are what make up her childhood. They are the things that, Lord-willing, we will someday sit and laugh over while we share a dessert together. They are the memories that I hope to remind her of when she is a mother of her own.

As I often say, and even more often need to remind myself, I don't want to miss this. Not a moment. It is real life, in the beauty and the shadows. When Baby Girl is throwing her first temper-tantrum (and I am melting into a puddle of mortification, as it is most assuredly going to be in the most crowded, least opportune situation it can possibly be) I want to be there. (Side note: If you tell me in the moment that I said this, I might say something inappropriate to you, so it's probably best if you wait until said temper-tantrum is done and over. Maybe then I will be able to laugh.) The first time she has a crush on a boy, with all my mama anxiety and "what if's", I want to be there. Her first big failure--the one that leaves me wondering what I have done wrong as a parent and what I could have done to prevent it--I want to be there. When she gives her heart to Jesus, of her own volition, and falls head-over-heels in love with Him, I want to be there. 

So maybe I will move a little slower today, and maybe my emotions will be on high alert due to little sleep and a fussy baby. But there is still nowhere else I would rather be. You could offer me a beachfront condo with my own personal masseuse and while I might flinch as I turn you down, I would still choose being a mama. And not a mama who wishes away each moment of her child's life...though I am as guilty as anybody of doing this on occasion. A mama who delights in this moment of this day. A mama who finds joy even when happiness is elusive. A mama who is content in the blessings that God has given for right now, and finds thankfulness for what is right in front of her face.

Today I am linking up with Whimsical Wednesdays and Wedded Wednesdays.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Apples, Pencils, & Kleenex

The start of a new school many possibilities! I am a little bit embarrassed to say that once upon a time I was the nerdy kid who got butterflies in her stomach as I got amped for school. I couldn't help it! Looking at my freshly organized binder with brand new college-ruled paper and spotless dividers got me downright giddy. I can still smell that new-backpack smell and hear the squeak of my new shoes hitting the hallway floors.

The thing I love about "the first day of school" is the same thing I love about the new year. Anything is possible. The slate is wiped clean and there is a chance to change things that didn't bring you success the year before. Though I do not have school-age children yet, I am married to a teacher. And I have to tell you, the back-to-school rituals are not so different as you might think. Just like children headed back to school, there is a sense of loss and a sense of anticipation. New supplies are bought, classrooms are reorganized and set-up, plans are worked on, and summer memories are wrapped up to prepare for a new season.

One way I have seen my husband and his students plan for success is by creating mission statements for themselves. My husband has two mottos for his classroom: The first is, "Do the right thing because it's the right thing to do." The second is, "Slow down, pay attention, focus on detail." His goal for the year is not only to teach his students the necessary curriculum, but also, perhaps more importantly, to teach his students to do the right thing and to do their best. These goals come out in every aspect of his teaching.

All this got me thinking...if I had a school-age child, what might his or her mission-statement be? Last year my husband had his students write down an "I will" statement of goals they had for their classroom experience. They wrote them on sticky notes and put them on their desks as a reminder of what their goals were. Each student had different goals, based on what their strengths and weaknesses were and what they wanted to work on. The neat thing is, by the end of the year I saw growth in each student towards their goals. They may not have made the mark completely, as we are all a work in progress. But they had taken steps toward growth and maturity in the areas they had set their minds to.

So maybe as you sit down to lunch with your youngsters in between all your back-to-school clothes and supply shopping, you could ask them: "What is a goal you have for this year?" (If they are older, you could even help them come up with a mission statement or a word to define their hopes for the year).  Their goal might be learning to count to 100, it could be making new friends, or it could be improving their GPA. Whatever they choose, write it down and post it on the refrigerator. Encourage them in their goal throughout the year. Maybe it will get tweaked along the way to fit more in line with them and their abilities. In the end they will have taken steps forward, and hopefully felt you cheer-leading them along the way.

Today I am linking up with The Better Mom for "Better Mom Mondays".

Friday, August 9, 2013

July Goals Completed...mostly

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, ID.
Well it is time to give an update on my summer goals! So far I feel like I have (more or less) achieved them. That is to say, I have done more than I would have if I didn't have any goals at all...though my interpretation of what qualifies as follow-through might be a little bit hazy. But that's life, isn't it? We do the best we can with what we have, and try to find the humor when it doesn't turn out in real life quite like we had it pictured in our minds.

I am happy to report that my number-one July
Doesn't he look so happy to be here!?
goal of going on a date with my husband did indeed happen! It was so nice to connect with one another over a yummy meal and some seriously-sweet peanut-butter-cup cheesecake. All this followed, of course, by coffee (like we could leave that this family no date is complete without coffee) at a cute little cafe. We laughed and dreamed and talked about our life. Mental note: don't wait so long to do that again! It is easy to let life get in the way and make excuses for why we can't get away for a couple of hours, just the two of us. But the truth is, we can and we should. It may not work to schedule dates every week in this season of our life, but we can certainly have them every month! (Though, perhaps in the future, they should be less calorie-laden...because eating like that on a regular basis could be a recipe for an increase in pant sizes and who wants that as a side-effect from a date?)

Baby Girl and the Hubs bonding over a waterfall viewing.
As far as camping goes...we didn't even try. Life got busy, finances were tight, sleeping bags were MIA and our cozy bed beckoned nightly. Oh well...this is where improvisation comes in! When it became apparent that camping was not in our summer 2013 future, I decided that we at least had to check out a local tourist attraction I'd been wanting to see. So we hit the road and spent a day checking out the beautiful Shoshone Falls and swimming in a nearby lake. It was a great family adventure that cost little and didn't take much planning. We will definitely be planning another day-trip soon!

Goals help keep me on track to get stuff done. It may not be exactly what I had planned, but it is assuredly a lot closer than if I didn't plan anything at all. Next up, August! I've already started working on those goals so I'd say I'm on a role! And (bonus!) the hubs and I have another date planned for this month. I think my I'm starting to like this planning thing...

Baby Girl's 1st lake experience.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Teaching Our Children to Fly

Lately I've been pondering how to help my little one learn to be her true self. Though she's only itty-bitty now, it won't be long before she begins to learn how to make her own decisions and be her own person. I, as her mom, have a vital role in helping her develop the skills she will need to be confident in her abilities, in her decision-making skills, and most of all in herself.

I look at her little cherub face and wonder "What will my daughter love? What will she not be able to stand? What will she be afraid of? What kind of humor will she have? What will hurt her feelings? What will make her feel cherished?" and on and on it goes.

I want my daughter to know who she is and not second-guess her worthiness. For that to happen, I have to love her each day, right where she is at. This plays out in different ways at different seasons in her life, but one of my goals as a mom is to be a mom who is remembered as one who found joy in watching my daughter grow into her own person, and delighted in the journey. I may not will not agree with every decision she ever makes and there will be times when she needs to see consequences for actions that she takes (many, if her dad and I are any indicators). But through the journey I want my heart to always be tender toward seeing her through God's eyes.

God sees who we are becoming, and he sees how each part of our individuality can be used for His glory. That is how I want to see her as well. If she has a strong personality I want her to know that God can use that stubbornness, if it is submitted to Him. If she is timid and shy, I want her to know that there are others who may be timid and shy that can benefit from her gentleness and quiet speech. It is within the nuances of her personality that God can shine brightly, revealing Himself to her and to others through her.

As a mom, there is always a lesson to teach or a skill to practice or some way in which it is our responsibility to grow our children. It is a good reminder to me, in the midst of this, that as we teach and lead our children they are supposed to blossom into their own selves. If they are just like us, afraid to branch out into their own dreams or ambitions than perhaps we haven't completed our job. There will come a day when they need to fly solo. I don't want it to hurry up and get here, but when it does come, I want my daughter to have strong wings and be confident in her ability to fly.

Today I am linking up with Rachel Wojnorowski for Whimsical Wednesdays and with Beth Steffaniak for Wedded Wednesdays! Visit these amazing blogs by clicking on their names above!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Time: Doing Life Together (Part 2)

We work, work, work and often are so darn busy that when we finally have down time all we want to do is melt into a puddle in front of the television. Mindless oblivion can feel so nice for our weary, overloaded minds. The problem is, mindless oblivion doesn't do much to bring a sense of connectedness to our families. It doesn't recharge our batteries in the long-term way we need our batteries recharged. And, most of the time, it doesn't create the memories that we desire our children to someday recount to their children.

Obviously we want to cultivate a sense of family unity within our homes, but how do we do that with all of the distractions of life? I am finding that, just like all things that are good for our well-being, it takes concerted effort. Strong, healthy families don't just happen. We mamas and papas must be intentional about setting goals, creating avenues, and investing time to build the families that our hearts yearn for.

So where do we start? Where do I start? A runner doesn't run his first marathon without any goals or preparation. A builder doesn't build his first structure without plans and blueprints. So I sit here and think, why would it be any different with me? If I wanted to create a bountiful vegetable garden (side-note: This would flat-out be a bad idea because I am indescribably horticulturally-challenged) I would have to set it up for success first. Research, plans, purchases, getting my hands dirty, tilling the soil...these would all be a part of the prep before I even dig that first hole. I would never expect that carrots and whatnot would just appear without me putting any work into it! That would be absurd. So what makes me think I can grow healthy, well-balanced, passionate-about-Jesus kids and have a whole, connected family without even knowing what I really want or how I want to get there?

With this in mind, I see the need to sit down with the hubs and talk about what goals and desires we have for our family. Asking ourselves the questions of what do we want our family to be known for? What are some of our family values? Are there any important ideals we want to instil in our children as they grow? And how do we get there? Writing our thoughts and answers down, and maybe setting up a yearly date to revisit our hopes, plans, and desires so that we can remember why we do what we do.

Whether you're a brand-new mama or your kiddos have kiddos of their own, we all have goals of the kind of moms we want to be, and with work we can get there. Let me know some of your family goals and how you plan to reach them! Also, stay tuned for Part 3 of Family Time: Doing Life Together (whenever the hubs and I actually make time to sit down and plan out our family goals), and if you missed Part 1, feel free to check it out here!

Today I am linking up with The Better Mom for Better Mom Mondays!