Friday, November 6, 2015

Fierce Thankfulness

The world and all its expectations and demands swirls us up into the vortex and we get a little lost sometimes, don't we? We look for home through the haze and the craze of all of it but sometimes home is nowhere to be found. Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. Sometimes I feel the same, spiritually speaking. I have a pillow and blankets and I am even audaciously blessed with a roof and four walls and yet sometimes weariness drags me down and I feel like there is nowhere that speaks rest unto my soul.

I wonder if maybe I'm looking in the wrong places? I wonder if maybe I'm fighting the wrong battles? The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his weary head and yet he was filled with joy. He had no roof and no pillow and yet he gave and loved and spoke words that brought water to the thirsty.  I am burdened and weary and wonder where in the world my joy has run off to. I think, perhaps, the fight to have a clean house and obedient children and a little time to myself at the end of the day has run me dry. But how, when the Son of Man had next to nothing and next to no one and circumstances far more difficult than those I face on a daily basis, did he yet have joy?  

He had joy because he fought for it. He didn't meet all the expectations or deadlines, and he didn't focus on "finding himself" or "doing what made him happy", in fact he didn't seem to engage in any of the silly or serious endeavors we undertake to become more "whole".  I'm not really even bashing any of that because I do the same and it is a big part of our culture and society but when I look at the life of Jesus it seems that he found joy because he fought for it by living a fiercely thankful life. It is when I lose focus on what truly matters that my heart begins to go off-course and out-of-wack. It is when I begin to focus on what I don't have that my life seems to lose its color and purpose. Thankfulness doesn't come packaged in a pretty box with a bow on top, it has to be fought for. It is not easy to be thankful when things are broken and we are tired. It is not easy to be thankful when our spouse has wounded us deeply and all seems lost. It is not easy to be thankful when our children seem to be spiraling downward and all we can do is watch and pray and love. It is not easy to be thankful when the doctor calls and the news is grim and fear grips our hearts. In this world there will be trouble, says Jesus, and doesn't trouble just seem to come in all at once and destroy everything? But take heart, he continues, for I have overcome the world. We can be thankful for that--even in the midst of the vortex. We can choose thankfulness because thankfulness is the way back to joy. It is a language our heart can use to talk with God when our heart can't think of anything else to say. When we choose thankfulness we destroy hopelessness.

So maybe this season we make that our vow. God, I choose thankfulness to you today. In the midst of circumstances and emotions and all the stuff, thank you that you are God and I am yours. Amen. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Some Days You Just. Can. Not. (And guess what, that's okay)

 That time when you just can't even handle one more minute with your precious little babes and you skip evening teeth brushing because you might call it quits on parenting if those sweet things try to defy you one more time today. Then you see the toy-strewn family room but would rather pick all the toys up yourself in QUIET then wait while your children dawdle over their pick-up routine (I KNOW, okay. Not a good habit. But let's be honest, some days...) And then, to top all the wonder of childhood off with a cherry you skip bedtime routine and cut it down to one (short) story because MAMA IS GOING TO LOSE HER EVER-LOVING ANY MINUTE NOW so goodnight sweet thing, Jesus loves you and so do I but right now I'm out! Peace and sweet dreams and a better tomorrow.

Anybody ever have a day like that? From the moment your eyes open to the last goodnight kiss and "I love you" is said you are just on edge and the dominos are crashing and you feel like Epic Fail Mom because you can't handle your life or your kids and what is wrong with you?! Take a breath, soul! As Annie says, "The sun will come out tomorrow." And even if it doesn't, God's mercies will come fresh-baked and ready for you to savor. We all have days (heck, sometimes even seasons) where we are not totally on our game. Sometimes we don't even know what "our game" looks like and life is just hard. Maybe it's a phase our kids are in or maybe it's a phase we ourselves are in--and we just can't be that mom we want to be. Do you know what? We can keep the fire while ditching the guilt. It's great to have desires to be a mom who loves her kids well and lives that out daily in whatever way God has crafted it to be in you. But do you know what else is okay? Failing at that sometimes. Today I spent too much time on Facebook, stuck the kids in front of the tv so that I could cope with life, and tried my hardest not to snap each sentence out in my harshest tone. I wasn't "fun-loving mom" or "sweet-snuggly mom" or "attentive and interested mom". I was "mom who did the bare minimum and tried to smile more than I frowned". It was not awesome. But it was all I could do today. And that is okay.

I love my kids more than life itself, and most days that shows. But some days we need to let Jesus make up for the lack both in us and in our kids. We need to be kind to ourselves the way we would to a good friend, and take a long hot shower in God's grace. It may not make the day go by any quicker, but I promise you it feels a whole lot better to have an "off" day in the freedom of knowing that God will take over than in the guilt-trip of feeling like you are failing.

So to all the moms out there who had (are having) a hard day, hang in there. Take a bite of God's fresh mercy and pour an extra cup of coffee to go with it. Take a short-cut. Pray. And let God do His thing today because he is really good at doing his thing on days like this. You can try again tomorrow.

This week I am linking up with Women with Intention, Morning Motivated Mom, and Pat & Candy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why I Don't Consider Being a Mom to be my Highest Calling

 Anybody who knows me knows that I love being a mom. Interacting with my young ones brings light to my eyes and laughter to my lips (most of the time, let's be real). I think often about how to help my kids thrive in this wacky world. I love pontificating our family's future and cooking up crazy ideas that we can do together. I love laughing at dinnertime and snuggling at night (I don't so much love waking up to their zealous joy for the day...give a girl her coffee before all that business starts, would ya?) I love the high honor of being called by God to speak life and truth and love into these baby hearts and helping them to grow. The task is crazy btw...who would pick an ordinary girl like me for such a grown-up task as this? Only God! He's crazy enough for the lot of us!

As a mama with littles, the main focus at this point in life is them. They're tiny ones still, with much dependence on yours truly to be their lunch-preparer, diaper-changer, boo-boo kisser, nap-enforcer, and primary playmate. The entirety of the day is filled with thoughts of them and attentions to their needs because that is the season of life we are in. Also, I want to be a mama who is present and so I strive to give them eye-contact and verbal interaction with regularity because I feel like those things are important for them both intellectually and emotionally (plus, let's be honest, this extrovert would go crazy if I didn't chat with them because PEOPLE--even little ones--are my favorite!)

The thing is, as much as I love being a mom and as much as I do feel with full intensity that if we are mamas it is part of the calling God has put on our life and we'd best be striving to do our very best to love those kids well because we have THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE to answer to and He is serious about making sure children are LOVED WELL and VALUED... (deep breath) much as all that is true, I don't think being a mom is my highest calling. And I have to tell you, I kind of wrestle with that. Because this mama bear would do anything for her cubs and there is nobody in this world I feel more responsible for than them. It is mighty hard to loosen that grip a little sometimes. Anybody else?

But the truth, when we get right down to the nitty-gritty, is that our allegiance first and foremost belongs to God. We can surely take the reigns on our own life and he's likely not going to shoot us down with a lightning bolt, but he doesn't really have to. We are fully capable of messing up the entirety of our lives--our marriages, our relationships with our children, and all the other most-important things all by ourselves, aren't we? And when we do, grace is waiting. This is true in parenting, surely, but it is true in the wholeness of our lives. Raising up our cubs is a part of the bigger calling of being a follower of Jesus.

"What does all of this this mean for my little life?" I've been wondering. I don't fully know, but I think in part it means that when I'm mothering my kids and being intentional with them I am fulfilling what God has called me to. I don't think it means I need to change what I'm doing, as much as where I'm looking. Perhaps, more than anything, my "take away" (because apparently we're at youth group right now) is that I need to keep my eyes and heart wide open in all areas of my life. For the next several years my kids will be a primary focus for me. God has given them to me as a gift and I cherish them. I want to nurture them and enjoy them and teach them how to be good and strong and brave. I want to cheer them on and boost them up. But I don't want them to grow-up thinking they are all I have eyes for. I want them to see me have eyes for Jesus. I want them to see me look outside of myself and outside of themselves and on to the many ways God has called and created us each to breath him out.

When all is said and done, I think perhaps what I am learning is that I want to be God-focused no matter what my life looks like in its current state. In the kid-centric world I am in right now, through the rebellious and rocky teenage years, and into the empty nest I will one day likely find too quiet, HE is my rock. I hope that this is the legacy I pass on to my children. Through loving them and through loving Jesus.

This week I am linking up with Tuesday Talk, Women with Intention, A Little R&R, & Pat & Candy!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Listen to the Music

Sanity is highly overrated. When I dream about the kind of woman I want to become, it is not one who has all my t's crossed and my i's dotted. I want to be the kind of woman who dances to the music of life--even when nobody is watching. I came across a quote by Friedrich Nietzche that delights my soul. He said that "those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." I want to hear the music, don't you!? I want to be the crazy one who is dancing in delight and joy, bringing life and color to those around me even when I look flat-out crazy. I want to be the one who helps those around me to hear the music too! Because it is there beloved, it is there.

I don't always hear the music, though. There are days when the only music resounding in my ears is that of whiny children and my own grumpy tones. May this be the exception, more and more, as I learn the art of listening to the music around me. There is a children's book we read frequently called Giraffe's Can't Dance (by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Reese). In the book a wise cricket speaks these words, "Everything makes music if you really want it to." We live in a God-breathed world and though it is full of brokenness, at it's root is unadulterated beauty and glorious music.

Can you hear it? The sweet lullaby of a baby coo and the sharp trill of a toddler scream...both representations of the vibrancy and life within our young ones. It is easy to hear the music in a child's laugh or a teenager's heartfelt moment of authenticity but what about in a door slamming or an angry "I hate you!"? It is much more difficult to find the music in these moments, but perhaps these moments are the pause before a crescendo of opportunity. Opportunity to express love and forgiveness and grace.

The glorious melodies of heaven and earth surround us, if we but listen. May we hear the music today. And may we dance!

Love You!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Solidarity Sisters

This past month, I tried something new in the blogging world. Well, new to me. I think it is pretty common for bloggers but it was my first experience. Anyway, I joined Susannah at Simple Moments Stick for Solidarity Sisters. What is Solidarity Sisters, you ask? It is kind of like pen-pals for the blogging world, but even cooler because you get to glean blogging wisdom from eachother (or in my case, glean wisdom from her, but really not have much blogging wisdom to offer in return. (Sorry Michelle!) ;) For a whole month you connect with your partnered blogger each week, sharing tips and tricks for a variety of blogging endeavors, as well as encouraging each other on your individual blogging journeys. It was wonderful to connect on a deeper level with a blogging friend, and it is something I would definitely do again (and you can to if you head over to Susannah's Solidarity Sister Registration Page (that's a mouthful)!

My FANTASTIC Solidarity Sister is Michelle who blogs at Grammie Time. She is wonderful, you guys. Simply wonderful. Seriously, you should stop reading this and go check out her blog RIGHT NOW! She is fun and encouraging, posts some delish family recipes, and I am always inspired by her reads! A few of my favorite posts by her are:
Honestly, there are just so many more I can't even tell you. I could pick a hundred more faves. AND she hosts a linkup on Tuesdays called Tuesday Talk which holds a menagerie of other great bloggers' posts, and is a great place to link-up your own gems! She is so sweet, and is going to be featuring one of my posts on Tuesday Talk tomorrow, so head over to her home page tomorrow and check it out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Capturing Autumn's Glow

There are so many things to delight in during the autumn season, and so much to celebrate! The colors alone can be breathtaking with such vibrancy and beauty it almost makes you breathless. Then there's the food and the festivals and the clothing accessories! Love. I just love it all! Sooo I thought it might be fun to share some of the small and large ways that we can bring the glow of Autumn into our hearts and lives (and tummies!) this season.

ANYWAY, I've already shared my family's bucket list (which you can read here), but I thought it would be fun to get a little more specific about the small ways we can celebrate autumn each day. For my home, I want to bring a touch of autumn's glow into each day of the season. One of my goals as a mama is to create a sense of celebration in the hearts of my little ones. I want them to grow up knowing that there is always room for a thankful heart and a warm smile, and I want them to seek out opportunities to delight in life and this crazy story our Jesus has called us to be a part of. Sometimes this is shown in big ways and mountaintop experiences, but oftentimes I find that cultivating hearts of joy, thankfulness, and delight are done one simple day at a time as we live with intentionality. 

  •  Apple Picking                     
  •  Apple Art Projects
  •  Apple Cider
  •  Applesauce
  •  Caramel Apples
  •  Smores by the fire
  •  Leaf collecting
  •  Leaf project
  •  Welcome fall banner
  •  Last picnic of the year
  •  Nature walk
  • Decorate front porch
  • Have a "Welcome Fall" party
  • Leaf rubbing projects
  • Make a scarecrow for your front yard
  • Go to a football game 
  • Make homemade soup
  • Have a pumpkin pie latte 
  • Visit pumpkin patch
  • Call a friend or relative you haven't talked to in a while "just because"
  • Buy or make fall-scented candles
  • Make or find Holloween costumes
  • Carve and/or paint pumpkins
  • Trick or Treating (or Trunk-or-Treat if you'd rather!)
  • Host a football party at your house
  • Volunteer as a family
  • Make a hearty Chili & Potatoes dinner 
  • Do something nice for somebody just because 
  • Take annual family pictures (who doesn't look good with a backdrop of  autumn leaves!?)
  • Send out annual family cards for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas 
  • Build a fort 
  • Bake pumpkin bread
  • Have a family board game night
  • Make pumpkin bread 
  • Family movie night (watch Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving or Free Birds)
  • Create a thankfulness tree
  • Thanksgiving 
This week I am linking up with Grammie Time, Women with Intention, Simple Moments Stick & Pat & Candy

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What if we didn't live in fear? (A call to be the light)

Fear. It surrounds us cloaked in so many forms, and it is insipid. I am heart-broken over the responses of too many of my brothers and sisters around the world towards the atrocities happening both overseas and at home. Why am I seeing Christians responding in such hateful and unwelcoming ways towards those in need? Whatever happened to us laying our life down for another? Whatever happened to us giving the clothes off our back to one who has asked for only a coat? Is this truly what we have become?

Clenched, angry fists ready for battle are too often the mark of my fellow Jesus-followers. Judgement has become the hallmark of Christians in too many instances. What if, instead, we had hands open and ready to give and to serve? What if, instead, we had hearts overflowing with kindness and mercy? Haven't we read that mercy triumphs over judgment? (James 2:13)

But fear. Fear of "the other" and what they will do to our comfortable lives. Fear of how somebody elses' pain and loss might taint our own rose-colored sky if we let them in. Are we so desensitized and so comfortable that we would trade offering our abundance for the insipid whispers of "what if..." What if we don't have enough to give. What if wolves come mascarading as the innocent. What if our life has to change and our hearts have to break and all that is just too scary.

We like our comfort and our order, don't we? Friends, sometimes our lives have to get uncomfortable. Sometimes our hearts have to break. Sometimes we have to take small steps that seem insignificant and clumsy to get the the place where we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. Fear holds us back from experiencing and offering real love. Where there is fear, love cannot exist in its fullness. "Perfect love casts out fear." (1John 4:18) The closer we move to Love, the less hold fear has on us and on the decisions we make.

So let us seek love. Let us push back against the excuses we have to look away or disengage. Let us push back against our selfishness. If we want to look like Jesus (and I, for one, desperately want to look like Jesus) than we need to run after the things he ran after. He did not run after comfort or security, but instead he put himself in uncomfortable positions time and time again, for the sake of love. And it looked flat-out crazy. Even his disciples were, at times, baffled by the way Jesus lived his life.

I don't always know what to do when I see brokenness around me. But I do know that God is faithful and when we let our hearts be broken and ask God what to do, He will give us a direction to go. If your heart is broken for something today--pursue it. Fall to your knees and seek God's wisdom in it. Find something to do about it, even if it seems small. Look around and see what you have that can be leveraged for the betterment of somebody else. Money? Time? An extra room in your home? An extra chair at your table? An extra seat in your car? A skill to teach? A kind word to give? Let your heart continue to be broken, because the alternative is developing a heart of stone. We live in a world full of pain. We can't fix it all. But we can be a light. And we can do something. We weren't called to shake our heads and cluck our tongues or to hand out unsolicited advice. We were called to be love in a broken world. What does that look like in your world?

Let's choose to be a light to the hurting and broken today~

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Adventure Beckons (and we can find it here!)

I have always had a longing in my heart for adventure. Going new places, seeing new things, exploring unknown territories--even in my own backyard--has always heightened my senses and sped-up my adrenaline. It thrills me to think of doing and experiencing and relishing. My poor husband has been dragged along more than a few times on some weekend expedition that his wife cooked up to satiate that craving for adventure.

There are times, though, when I lose that part of myself for a while. Something happens that reminds me of the frailty of life or my own vulnerabilities and fears and I hole up my heart and life in a fortress of safe normalcy. The fortress can't hold for long, though, and eventually I am reawakened to the truth that I was made for more. With that comes a desire to experience more fully and live more fully--squeezing every drop out of this life before it fades away.

Is it realistic to think that my simple life can be anything great and adventuresome? There are times when I feel like the monotony of life stifles any longing for adventure I may have...every dream is cut short by reality squashing it down. Yet even as it is happening something in my spirit rises up and says, "No! I will not live a ho-hum life of mediocrity. And I don't have to!" Because I know but I know but I know that we were made for more than that. Even in the potentially monotonous days of our present reality, opportunity beckons.

In early motherhood there is a season of sleepless nights and diapers, diapers, diapers--it can feel endless. And pointless. Yet perhaps in the quiet nighttime nursing sessions there is opportunity.  The middle-of-the-night heavenly conversations with the One who created the stars and the sky and perfectly made that sweet, hungry baby who interrupts your sleep--those conversations can be life-changing. In the monotony and repetitions of baby-tending there is a sacred space for God to move close and sit with your tired self and commune through being with you. Let him.

As time goes by and baby turns toddler there is a new opportunity, one that continues to grow with your child. It is an opportunity to wonder and explore the world baby-step at a time. Exploring the backyard may not seem thrilling to you, but if we can wear the eyes of a child we can see wonder in a rolly-polly or a pumpkin patch or a flower's first bud. It is in these small things, I am finding, that I can relearn how to savor God's creativity and His intricacy. He invented such a variety of flowers, and designed them to mix and invent even more. Each one unique and full of such variance of color and design! He wants to woo you with these simple beauties. Let him.

There are people off in exotic lands doing crazy-bold things for Jesus and I love to read their stories and live vicariously through them. There was a time when I thought that in order to live a crazy-bold life for Jesus you had to do it "out there" (and I still think that getting out of our bubble is an important part of being able to live out a God-sized life), but I no longer think that adventure for and with God has to happen "out there". There are a million adventures both big and small to have right in your own backyard. God wants to have those adventures with you. Let him.

So today, may we make it a point to get out of our comfort-zone and look for opportunity. Whether through a conversation with a stranger at the park, a smile and some change for somebody who is in need, or a warm and inviting meal full of conversation and love with your own family--may we live out adventure in the small things as well as the large. Our Creator wants to engage with us in everything from dish-washing to decision-making. May we let him.

Love you so much! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Savor & Give Thanks

The warmth of summer is fading, but thankfully it is a slow fade. Summer clings on to its last few weeks as if it knows it is leaving, and it wants to leave a pleasant impression. The weather hovers in the eighties here, and it is absolutely perfect. Days like this make me want to soak it all in and hold on tight, because I know that in just a few short months we will be decked out in our layers and indulging in hot cocoa instead of lemonade. I love autumn, but for whatever reason this year summer is making it hard to let go.

Perhaps it is because I feel as if I am just getting into the rhythm of being lost in the moments, and I'm not ready for it to end. The laughter of children splashing in a creek and making friends with the ducks is magical. There isn't much that compares to the genuine shriek of delight from a young child. What I am finding in myself is a longing to be fully immersed in these moments. I want to breathe them in and let them fill me up with the magic and delight that my children seem to find so easily. I want to savor.

Each day holds so much to delight in, if we but see. When our hearts' default setting is thankfulness, the blessings that surround are absolutely overwhelming. It is when we get caught up in the schedules and the disappointments and all the things we don't have that our vision becomes dull and lifeless. I have this theory that the more we tune our hearts to thankfulness, the more we see our world with the eyes of Jesus. I want to see this world with my Savior's eyes, don't you? The colors are so much brighter when we live awake to the beauty and blessings around us.

When you eat too many carrots, your skin takes on an orangish hue. It's called carotenemia (I know it sounds like I just made that up. Google it, it's legit.) Anyway, it makes me smile when I think of this weird condition because I can't help but think that if I ever meet somebody with orange skin I will know that they have a major obsession with carrots (or pumpkin or whatever). They won't be able to hide their obsession. I want my gratitude and joy to show like that. I want to be colored with that when people interact with me there is no question that I am filled-up with thanksgiving. I want there to be no question that I am filled-up with Jesus.

May we be a people who overflow with color and warmth and joy. May we be a people who are wholly swallowed up in the delight and kindness and mercy and love of our God. May we teach our hearts (and the hearts of our children) the language of gratitude, and practice it until it becomes a language we know so well we dream in it.

Blessings to you this day. May you delight in Him!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Words of Life: Psalm 33

 Shout for joy in the LORD, oh you righteous! 
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deep in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him
For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. 
The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 
The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love
that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
~Psalm 33

I just needed a reminder today of His goodness, His grace, His unbending love, and His trustworthiness. He is worthy of our all...and there is none else in whom we will find full comfort and full assurance of hope. When all is caving in around us and we are weak and tired, we wonder how we will get through. Grab onto the rock and cling tightly as waves crash around you. When we are in Him, we may be battered by the waves but we will not be broken. 

May you cling to the Rock today, whatever your storm may be

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A is for Autumn (My favorite time of year!)

 Late summer and early fall is my favorite time of year. The anticipation of the "new year" rests upon teachers and students alike as they wonder what their class will be like and make all kinds of mental plans for what they hope their school year will entail. More than the actual New Year, I see this time as a time of setting goals and building bridges that will glide us through the next few months and into the Christmas crazy with joy and delight instead of dread and stress.

This time of year, more than any other, is one I have filled with family traditions and memory-making activities that I absolutely LOVE. As fun as the carefree days of summer are, there is something calming about getting back into a set routine (anybody?) and knowing more-or-less what each week will hold. We are adding a few items to our Autumn bucket list this year, and I cannot tell you how giddy I am as I look forward to this season of harvest, gathering, and of course, family.

I am excited to share more details later (since my husband tells me that I am CRAZY for getting so Autumn-exuberant when it is still 90-degrees outside and we are a whole month away from the official beginning of fall. Haha!) But I kind of consider the back-to-school time synonymous with the wrapping up of summer and ushering in of fall, and come September we are going to hit the ground running with doing some preschool at home and I have all kinds of ideas for how I want to incorporate the fall season into our learning adventures. SO, all that being said, if you need a little bit of inspiration for family traditions and connections this upcoming season in your home, grab an idea or two from my list and try it out. As I always jokingly tell my husband (usually with some goofy expression and weird accent), "The family that plays together stays together!"

Ideas for a Little Fall Fun
  • Leaf collecting (and of course, fun leaf projects like leaf rubbings)
  • Soup-making (it could be Hearty Beef Stew or Zuppa Toscana...but I LOVE soup in the fall!)
  • Apple Picking (New tradition for the family this year...super excited about it!!!)
  • Hot Air Balloon Watching (Our area has an annual Hot Air Balloon spectacle in September that is just magical!)
  • Pumpkin-Patching (This is one of my FAVORITE traditions of the entire year)
  • Story-timing (at the library)
  • Cider (or Hot Cocoa) & Stories (Brew up a tantalizing pot of apple cider or hot cocoa and snuggle up in cozy forts or comfy couches to read stories with the kiddos).
  • Firefighters Open House (Many Fire Stations have an annual Open House around this time for fire safety month, with firetruck rides and other fun events for the kids). 
  • Pumpkin painting, pumpkin carving, and of course pumpkin seed cooking!
  • Take annual family pictures (what better time of year to do this than fall with the great lighting and fantastic colorful leaves surrounding you!)
  • Writing an annual Thanksgiving letter (as opposed to a Christmas letter...things are just too crazy for me to ever get those out on time, haha!)
  • Take a fall hike (and maybe even hit the hot springs!)
  • Go to a harvest festival (most towns have one somewhere...a school, a park, or a church in your area probably has some sort of harvest celebration!)
  • Make s'mores (And this s'mores coffee me it is AMAZING!!!) 

So there you have it. A (somewhat) short list of some of the things I like best about fall. There are more to come, I assure you (because I am a bit of a planner and dreamer who derives as much joy from planning out the events as actually doing them. ;) Happy autumn everyone ( a month, so I guess happy early autumn). ;) What are your fall traditions?

Love you all!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dear PMS, I hate you. The end.

When you cry over the Foreward in a book you are about to start and leave it tear-stained and smudgy in less than a five-minute span, and when all of a sudden you feel like you have no friends anywhere in the world and never have (because they have all been pretending all these years), and when you feel like both of your kids hate you and your husband is at work on purpose because it is more exciting than you are, and when you crave the four-dozen chocolate chip cookies you are making for the community center in town and contemplate only sending three dozen (but overcome that temptation...minus one cookie), and when you walk the grocery store aisles teary-eyed because you are overwhelmed by meal-planning, budget-planning, and life in general, and when you are ready to either throw a frying pan on the next person to come into contact with you or attack them with might (just might) be PMSing.

Why, God, why did you invent this dreadful thing? I mean isn't life hard enough without adding an extra several doses of crazy into the mix every month or so? Now, I'm not a big over-sharer but I figured I already crossed that line when I even started this topic and besides, I'm PMSing so I don't really care and you, my friend, can just deal with it (and maybe pray for my poor husband because this is the mess he gets to come home to today...yippy skippy!) ;) So, it has been a while since I've been hit by this dreadful PMS thing and I can tell you with full assurance that I did not miss it. Nope. I understand now why the Duggars have so many is because she figured if she just kept popping out babies she wouldn't have to deal with PMS. BRILLIANT PLAN MRS. DUGGAR! Sign me up (as the husband gasps, hoping I am not serious). Give me pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep any day...I can handle those! In comparison to the evil villain PMS, those are a cake walk!

Okay...not really sure this is a point to this post because PMS. But here is the deal. The one (and I do
mean ONE) good thing about PMS is that it reminds me how much I need God's grace. There are days when I feel like I'm doing pretty good and am relatively even-keel and I think less about the serious blessing of God's choice to cover over our sins with His grace. But then comes PMS and everything that exits my mouth is mean or unnecessary and I just cannot seem to reign it in and keep that thing shut. Then grace enters in and I cannot even fathom how patient and kind His love is because I am a hot mess and am not worthy of the gift. There are days that I cannot pretend like I have it all together because I just don't. Those days are the best days for falling to my knees in awe of my Jesus who hung on the cross for me. Those days I can truly say that I am flat-out dumbfounded by my Savior and His choice to cover over all my shortcomings with His blood. There is freedom in that, my friend. Even in the midst of a bad attitude and an uncontrollable tongue...grace flows freely. It isn't stopped up by my dam of pride and anger...if I let it, it breaks that dam right down with it's flood of mercy and grace. So, in that regard, thank you PMS for teaching me the lesson that NOTHING can separate me from the love of God...not even you. Still though...don't feel like you have to come visit again too soon. ;)


Sunday, August 2, 2015

~A Letter to My Man-Cub~

Beloved Son~

You grow more and more into your own personhood each day. I see your personality beginning to emerge in each smile, each laugh, each look of concern or excitement or depth of thought. What kind of man will you become? We named you Judah after the Lion. The Great Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who came to the earth to do beautiful and difficult things in the Story of our redemption.

Our prayer is that you would grow to be brave and courageous and strong and good. Our hope is that you would stand up for the weak and love the unlovable. That you would do the right thing even when it is difficult and painful. I don't want pain for you, but I do want courage. And if being brave and true brings adversity, then I want for you to have the strength to accept it. As your mama, I guess I will need strength to accept it as well.

I don't want you to just be safe. I want you to be a pursuer of the heart of God. Sometimes that isn't safe, but it is always good. I want wisdom for you. May you have a God-given ability to see the bigger picture and the wisdom to know what to do with it. I want for you to know the depths of God's love for you. On the days when you fail--and you will fail--I want you to know that God's grace covers all things. Sometimes how we handle our failures can define us more than how we handle our successes. Let your failures build you up. Don't let them tear you down. Remember that God's love for you doesn't ebb and flow like the tide. It is strong, it is solid, and it is unquestionably for you. There will be times in life when sin will try to bind you up and shut you down. You do not have to let it. There is always a way out. It may be difficult, but on the other side you will see the hope and beauty and goodness that has always been there--waiting for you.

Don't live by any label this world wants to give you. If you must live by a label, let it be a reminder of the truest things about you. Redeemed. Loved. Forgiven. Chosen. Blessed. Son. The world will tell you that you are not enough. It will tell you that you need to be more selfish. It will tell you that you need to be more trendy. It will tell you that you need to have more stuff. It will tell you that you shouldn't be content with what you have or confident in who and Whose you are. Let the world's worries fall from you. You will find contentment when you refuse to own them.

You were loved from the beginning and you will be loved forevermore. You are loved by me simply because you are my son. I will love you forever--I would lay down my life for you. More importantly, you are loved by your God simply because you are His son. He will love you beyond the farthest forever and he did lay down his life for you. May you live in the freedom of that love more and more each day. I am so excited to watch you grow. I am so blessed to be your mama.

All My Heart,
Your Mama

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just Him

You know those moments where you catch a glimpse of eternity? You get a slight view of the big picture and wonder how you could ever be so small-minded as you typically are. Is this just me? I live for these moments...they are unexpected reminders of how unnecessary the vast majority of my worries are. I mean like, seriously, why do I care if my hair looks like a hot mess right before I head out the door and it just will not be tamed? If I look like a crazed professor who REALLY NEEDS A CUP OF COFFEE, what's it going to hurt? I may get a few side-long glances or a look of pity from somebody who thinks I should probably avoid having any more kids...but hey, I just gave them fodder for their people-watching convo I guess. Your welcome. ;)

I want to be the kind of woman who is confident in who I am (and not the world's view of who I am btw, but the real who I am--daughter of God, called to be a blessing to those around her (even when she doesn't have it all together...whatever that even means). Anyway, all this to say, I had a moment this morning. An "aha" moment if you will. Sitting in the back row of church getting ready to run (okay, walk) up front and take Communion...trying to get my head in the game and focused on God and the Bread of Life and all that (and failing miserably), I almost just didn't go up. I was so distracted by worries and wonderings bouncing around in my brain like a hundred bouncy balls, I just couldn't be present in the moment for Communion. I didn't want to be flippant about it so I almost up and left. I'm not sure why I didn't, really, but next thing you know I'm headed up front with a friend of mine. I grab a hunk of bread representing the Body of Christ (and wonder if I grabbed too big of a piece). I dunk it in the juice representing the Blood of Christ (and wonder if I spilled some). I take my dripping bread symbolizing Jesus' ultimate sacrifice back to my seat and I'm sure a lightning bolt is headed my way because I just cannot get out of my own head and into this moment and I'm frustrated. I close my eyes, so frustrated with myself, and for a single second the clouds part and it is just Jesus. It is just Him and me without any pretense. And it's almost as if He stretches His arms out and says, This is it, my love. All that stuff clouding your mind is going to float away...but I am here to stay. Breathe, child. Keep me in your focus-lens and all the worries will pale. I am here. Focus on me.

A million times I have needed to be reminded that I cannot shake God off--He is not a coat to be shed when I'm warm or a fickle junior high romance that will fizzle quicker than an off-brand soda. He will never up and go...even if everybody else in my life decided to do so. At the end of the race when I cross the finish line it is Him who will be waiting with open arms to swing me round. I don't have to impress anybody else. I don't have to get it all right. I don't have to get worked up about all of the trivialities that make me tight-chested and high-strung. He is there whether I focus on him or not. He is there whether I get it right or terribly wrong. He is there whether I am having a bad hair day or a mad-at-the-world day, or a life-is-good day. I don't have to strive for his benefit. And even if my OCD self wants to make sure Communion is perfect and my heart is totally right...He's there to remind me that even when it's not, He is still there.

So perhaps this reminder is just for me, or maybe it is meant for you too. We are ambassadors for this great God--even when we are a hot mess with all of our flaws and imperfections sticking out. Truly, I believe, it is in our authenticity that we best represent our King. So let's throw off everything that hinders and live lives that bubble with authentic love and maybe a little bit of crazy. At the end of the day, may our lives be lived for Him.

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Simple Thoughts on Profound Love

As I write, my sweet boy is coughing in the other room. He has a cold and has been restless and cranky. My heart breaks for him, even though I know it's just a stupid cold and we'll be through it fast enough. I admit though, that the selfishness inside of me is not only concerned about his well-being but my own. With only fits and spurts of sleep last night I was desperate for naptime today...and after only 40 short minutes Little Man was awake and crying. I couldn't take it, you know? I was exhausted and emotional and just needed a break and a nap. But there he was, crying once again. I ran out the the garage to put something away before going to get him and took a minute to take a deep breath and remind myself that we would get through this day with God's help, and when I came back inside he had settled down for a few more minutes of rest for him, and rest for me. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I really needed to spend some time soaking up God's truth. Isn't it funny--or rather, ironic--how it is oftentimes not until the last possible minute that we realize what we really need? We try this or that or get caught up in whatever and then realize that what we really needed was there all along.

So with a few extra God-given minutes, I decided to hop onto She Reads Truth and check out the study they are going through. Day 1 floored me...words I desperately needed from God today, and maybe you do too. They are from Isaiah and they are life-giving. "'For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,' says the LORD, who has mercy on you." (Isaiah 54:10) When all else seems to be rocking and you feel like you are going to lose your ever-loving remains. I'm not sure why that gets me so choked up today--maybe it's lack of sleep or maybe it's because I know I haven't earned a love like that today or maybe it's because it is raw, beautiful truth. Whatever it is, I am so grateful we have a God who loves like that. And now, I have a sick little one to cuddle. May I pour onto him the love God has poured into me.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Commitment to Making Memories & Having Fun

There are seasons in my life when I have been able to be ridiculously spontaneous. Like taking last-minute weekend getaways with the hubby to the beach, the mountains, or the city for a day or two or three just because we could. Or choosing to binge-watch my favorite show until 2am on a Friday night because no alarm was going to go off on Saturday morning (and by alarm I mean child yelling "Good Morning mama!!! Can I watch Daniel Tiger now, can I?! I'm hungry, can I have candy for breakfast?! Get up mama! Let's play!!!"). In college my spontaneity involved heading out for a hike last minute and being able to stay out all day with just a few snack bars and a bottle of water...and no worries as to whether anybody might need me (and by "me" I really mean my boobs...because us cows nursing mamas are in high demand to be milked to feed tiny hungry tummies that, at times, WILL NOT BE SATISFIED with anything but our boobs.) How about heading out AT ALL without all the baggage that gets tacked on when you have little kids. Seriously, I feel like a pack mule when we go out for longer than an hour! Jacket? Sunscreen? Shoes? Snacks? Drinks? Distractions (aka toys)? Nursing blanket? Teether? Diapers? Wipes? Baggies to put the inevitable whopper of a dirty diaper in when you are not near any opportune place to throw the thing away? Change of clothes that you won't need unless you don't bring it (and if you don't, heaven help you because somebody WILL have a blowout!) The list goes on, my friend...and if you are a parent of young ones you know that it doesn't matter how big your diaper bag is, IT IS NOT BIG ENOUGH! *Deep breath* Anyway, ahem, my point is that "going out" when you are not a parent is an exhilarating opportunity to toss your cares away. "Going out" when you're a parent is a dirty word. If it's not probably isn't happening. We will think of a reason to not "go out" if we have young kids and are not personally related to Super Nanny.

All that to say, being intentional is an important part of parenting, I believe. Especially in the younger years. Both with our conversations and actions on a daily basis with our kids, and with the more specific ways we want to engage them in their world. The more intentional we are, the more natural it becomes, and the more "spontaneous" we can be with it. The more often I let my toddler "help" me make dinner, the more natural it becomes to accept that the process will take longer, be more messy, and that this is all part of the joy and fun in the tradition. It becomes easier and more fluid for me to want to invite her to help me the more times I actually do it. The same can be said of leaving the house to go on an "adventure", making time to read books together, or pulling out the paint for craft time.

So my solution to the problem of the summer doldrums is two-fold. One: Just say yes. It might not be something you really want to do, it might sound like too much work...but when your kiddo asks to go to the park or get an ice cream cone don't let 'no' be your automated response. Say yes more than you say no, and if you say no to something reasonable (like going to the park some morning) think of a time that you can follow-through with that activity. Then do it. Two: Initate. Come up with a handful of activities you want to do with your kids or family this summer. Then plan them out. Pencil them in. Talk about them and get the family revved up about them so that even if they are small things (like going to the community pool or going out for ice cream sundaes) they become an event to be excited about. Spontaneity may not look the same when we have young kids. It takes more planning and there is an edge of uncertainty because there's always the chance that somebody could be grumpy or refuse to nap beforehand. That doesn't mean it's an impossibility. We can still make memories and have fun with our kiddos in big and small ways if we do so intentionally.

 Let's Make Some Memories!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Whimsically Rustic Fenceboard Sign

So I recently threw a bridal shower for a friend of mine, and I wanted to share a project that I made for the shower. I was going for the Rustic Chic look, and I was trying to find something on pinterest that fit the vision for what I wanted, and I couldn't find it. So I made it myself and figured I'd share it with ya'all so that if you like it you can make one too! ;)

My friend is a photographer and it was important to me to incorporate photography into this project, and she also loves the somewhat rustic look so I took a chance and went pretty rustic. I am so happy with how it turned out and (bonus!) so is she!


The How:
Pretty simple design concept, really. I started with a piece of fenceboard that I happened upon, and I shortened it up a bit. (I chose to do 5 boards across, at 5' tall). Then I whitewashed the fence by watering down some flat white paint (about 1/2 paint, 1/2 water). I brushed that on and took a rag to some of it to lessen the paint just a bit more. After it dried, I made a stencil of what I wanted on the fence. In this case it happened to be an outline of the state of Idaho, along with a phrase that I felt represented the couple. I used a permanent marker to outline the stencil of Idaho where I wanted it on the wood, then painted over the marker with a small paintbrush and some acrylic paint. Then I placed the word stencils where I wanted them, and painted them with a small brush and the black acrylic paint while I kept them as taut to the board as I could. There was a little bit of bleed, but since I was going for the rustic look I actually kind of liked that. After it was dry I tacked jute rope on the backside of the fence and strung it back and forth over the front in a pattern I liked. I hung pictures of the bride-to-be and her future husband with burlap-fronted clothespins I found at Target. I think if I made a piece like this for my own house or yard, I would probably forgo the jute rope and just stick with the sign, or I would make it smaller so it could hang on a wall and then maybe add pictures to that, but I do LOVE the dimension the photos added for the bridal shower, and if you love to change out pictures it is a nice way to do that! Hope you enjoy! ;)  


May Your Day Be Beautiful! :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Dirt and Glory

 This mama thing is hard work, I tell you. Sweat and blood go into this job. Tears-both the happy kind and the sad-spill over this sacred duty called motherhood, and only God knows the number that has been shed. Thousands of diapers changed, meals prepared, prayers prayed, and questions left unanswered dot our days. Monotony can overtake, can't it? Sometimes our lives feel like groundhog's day...the same thing repeated again and again...and again.

Make no mistake mama, the repetition of your million little acts of love are not falling on barren ground. Your countless kindnesses to your children through dressing them, snuggling with them, smiling at them, reading to them, feeding them, playing with them, laughing with them, and doing life with them are watering the garden of their tender souls. You matter. You are doing an incredible thing--mothering your children--and whatever you may read in magazines or see on pinterest, don't let it fool you. This calling is not easy! But it is a calling--a glorious and incredible and messy calling. There are no clean, straight lines (or clean, tidy least not mine!) or cut-and-dried answers. We will feel we are doing it all wrong at least a million times over the course of this parenting journey and years down the road we may say, "If only I knew...".

But here's the thing, all we have is today. So as messy and dirty and crazy as this motherhood journey is, I want to be all in. I want to dig in the mud with my kids both literally and figuratively. I want to laugh hard and play hard and love hard. I want to give fierce snuggles and one more goodnight kiss. I want to throw off the hindrance of my insecurity and run with reckless abandon this mama race set before me. We won't be perfect--probably not even close. We will make mistakes--likely every single day. So what? I, for one, don't want to let that be an excuse to be half-hearted in my love. I don't want to hold back because I'm afraid...I want to get messy and earn my battle scars!

This life--this mothering thing--it is a mix of dirt and glory. I want to have a little bit of mud on my face. I want to be in the game and not on the sidelines. I even want to fail sometimes (even though I hate it!) because it means I'm giving my all. At the end of the day there is nowhere I would rather be than right here, in this mix of dirt and glory. So for all the sighing and second-guessing and "I can't wait for this faze to be over-ing"...for the endless toy-strewn floors, sticky fingers, and tear-stained cheeks...for the "she started its" to sort out, apologies to make when we screw it up, and moments when we just don't have anything left to give...look for the glory that is showing through the cracks. I promise it is there. In the midst of the chaos and the mess and even the monotony, His glory shines. May we have eyes to see it, and may you--if only for a moment--catch a glimpse of the beauty that surrounds you this very day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June Dinner Menu (#boringbutnecessary)

Okay, it's official. I am annoyed. The past few weeks we have been so off of our normal schedule that we keep planning on eating dinner at home and then something comes up and we end up going out or eating with somebody else. It's great to have this time with family and friends, but I have never had to throw away so much food! I just had to dump two whole, perfectly good chicken breasts because I pulled them out for dinner and then we were gone all day so they defrosted and then sat for hours. I get so hopping mad at myself for letting food go to waste and here it's happening again and again.

All that to say, I have decided to pronounce June the month of easy-to-whip-up, low-cost meals--so maybe I can put an end to this madness and bounce back from my frustration (while still being able to enjoy some spur-of-the-moment get togethers)! Not that you care, but I will share my meal-plan here (in hopes that it helps keep me organized and on-track to follow-through with said plan). Using ingredients I already have on hand, or ones that are inexpensive and easy to purchase we will try to make June dinners budget, waist, and time friendly (and yet still delicious)! :)

June Meals (Week 1)
...To Be Continued...

~Let's Get Cookin'!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sink or Swim: Rescuing our Sanity this Summer

It's here, it's here, IT IS HEREEEE! Summertime (unofficially) has least in my neck of the woods. School is out, kids are everywhere, and opportunity beckons. One of the perks of being married to a teacher is that we really do get a bit of a "summer vacation" together. Hubs works a second job in the summer but it is not as demanding as teaching, so he's got more time and more energy. It is so exciting to think of all the different things we could try to knock off our bucket list...and yet, this morning I woke up in a bad mood. I couldn't quite place it and then Hubs gently pointed out that I don't necessarily appreciate having my routine thrown off and here we were at the start of summer, with a completely different routine from what we've had the past nine months. He was so right! I felt a bit aimless and discontented--not because I wasn't excited about having him home or about loosening up the reigns of routine--but because I wasn't sure exactly what the plan was--what our goals were--and I kind of like knowing where I'm going. It might sound a little fuddy-duddy to the adventure-types out there, but with little ones at home it can be tough for me to break off from routine and run without a plan.

All that to say, if you are anything like me, than maybe you're feeling a little out of sorts about the lack of structure and routine that come with summertime. I have found that just being able to name that discomfort has helped to ease the edginess tremendously. Now I can think through what my overarching goals are for this less-structured season, so that I don't miss the boat on what I feel is most important. Then maybe I can sit back, relax, and enjoy some of this summer fun!

 How can we rescue our sanity this summer? Our boats are unanchored and our crew is off of their routine, but we still want to end up in port at the end of our journey. Let's start with a few questions to define our we can know where we want to end up when the day is done.

I will be pondering these questions and hopefully soon be posting some of my thoughts and goals for this fabulous season! I would love it if you would share some of your tips, tricks, dreams, and destinations with me! I am hopeful that this will be a journey to remember--with plenty of photo-ops and giggle-makers for both my family and yours! Happy Summer!