Tuesday, December 25, 2012

my gift of grace

I am not sure where to start this story, as I'm not sure where the beginning is. But somewhere between green leaves budding out of the trees and those very same leaves falling to the ground, my heart was forever changing.  To feel the seasons of life leave its imprint on my heart has been one of my greatest gifts. The sense that what has been and what is to come all has been linked through the simple truth of the Lord's steadfast presence along the way, no matter how near or far I have been. As I turn around and look back, I see what He has done...what He might be doing and what He can do.

To carry life again this time around feels like a huge blanket of grace has been laid over me.  I slowly stepped out of a season of life leaving me very frail, broken, and tired. I wasn't sure who I had become through the process, but knew I was walking away from that season into a newer season...a different gal, a better version of myself with a heart open to anything He set before me. Willing hands ready to serve and feet ready to walk anywhere, filled with his grace as I found His joy through the things often unseen by the naked eye.  

I can't really explain what I spent much of my time doing in the midst of leaves growing and falling, but along that time frame, I knew I was preparing for something. My home, my body, my heart.  I could feel Him calling me to be still and know He was God as I found peace in that stillness.  I was cautiously going forward, a bit fearful of what may lay ahead and yet thankful to be walking again at all. 

As I prepared and followed, I knew that there was something more to come... and then it happened. After years of off and on infertility and lost babies and while I was breastfeeding, the smallest miracle happened... God breathed life into me. Not just the form of life through a baby...but the kind that speaks to my heart each day telling me I was made for more and that I was worthy and that He was not done with me yet.  While I spent time close to Him he prepared not only my home, my heart, and my body...but He prepared my ways for me so that all I could do was simply follow with no looking back. To be honest, at one moment in all my blind preparing I thought He was getting me ready to make some changes within our home. I thought he was leading me to homeschooling full time and was mentally letting my head be encouraged by me heart's nudges that something bigger was coming. 

The day I learned I was carrying new life was a day of a little bit of shock, but mostly a day of humble, humble knowing. This was it. This is what was next, even when I thought I was barely doing God any glory with the first blessings He had given me.  Where I had been did not define who I could become. And this new little life forming fearfully and wonderfully in my womb was proof that God gives and God takes away and even in both places, He shows us His grace through his gifts. His gifts. They are always here...if you can't see them...you are not looking close enough.

I am beyond humbled and grateful to be carrying this little life. When I learned I was carrying a daughter, I was all alone. And in my time by myself I carried this secret and found God again. Steadfast, always. I decided to keep this secret until Christmas morning and surprise my husband and boys. I spent a few weeks with my secret knowing this time with just me and baby girl was not timeless. But I dreamed about her and talked to God about her and thanked her for already making me more of who God wants me to be. For she has come into my life when I have learned that my purpose is only as valuable as I let God make it.  It is always valuable in His eyes...it is my own that I must not lose sight of. So I will wait for this little girl to arrive knowing I was made for such a time as this. And when she comes and I first hold her, I will know that He gives and takes away and no matter where I am that day or the days following...I was made for Him. And as a mother, I was made for her. And all of them who have grown in the same womb before her. Always and forever with a purpose just for Him. And always and forever receiving his grace. She is my grace gift...my first little girl.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blessed be Thy Name...always

By my bed sits my little book of gifts. When I decided to jump in and take Ann Voskamp's challenge to come up with 1000 gifts of my own, I wanted to see if her way of seeing through the world through small pieces of God's grace could really make a difference. So I found the perfect size notepad with pretty pink flowers covering it and wrote down my first gift.

1. clean white sheets to rest my very tired body

When I wrote my first gift I was in a season of months on months of very little sleep, a needy baby boy, a new business, and a roofing project going on around me. I was so very tired in every way and the first gift I saw was my bed, to no one's surprise, and the crisp white summer bedding that waited for me at the end of every day. As my days let up, my gifts began to come more and more as I ran my pen across my paper and started to see...started to hear...started to feel. By the time I wrote down my 100th gift, I knew this gift numbering thing was slowly changing my heart.

100. breath of fresh air
101. swinging on a front porch
102. toes in the water
103. breeze through the windows
104. warm homemade bread with melted peanut butter
105. baby's head on my shoulder

As my gifts started to pile up, my eyes began to see the everyday pieces of God's grace all around me. Once I found myself in the 2 and 3 hundred's, I was becoming very aware of what God gives us everyday and how I was living letting it all go unnoticed most days. Rush here, do this, be there, make that, get this, go....go...go. The pattern in my life had me worn thin and the only thing saving it was the new time God carved away for me after months of long days and this little list that was helping me recognize the beauty all around me...his grace.

I began to have a patient heart as I walked through my days to stop and really know God was with me. I could feel him in the sunshine against my face on a warm day and the touch of my baby's hands wrapped around mine as he learned to walk and the sway of that old swing on our back porch as I closed up many summer nights with my biggest boys and the sip of hot flavored coffee on my lips. These things that seem like everyday occurrences are really second chances...over and over again, day after day, God gives me many little pieces of His grace to embrace and my heart is filled with his joy.

My heart has found a place of stability as I keep penning away my gifts of grace... But as I watch around me, I wonder if I would stay in this place of grace gift searching and seeing if my life suddenly fell apart.  Sure money is tight and I've been throwing up while my baby grows inside of me and we have crappy insurance, but my life is good. It is blessed. The gifts I count keep getting put down each night before bed and I am thankful here.

I drove home from the doctor's office the other day and out my window were pink ribbons tied to trees alongside the very church where my dear friend stood and said goodbye to her baby boy almost 3 years ago. Only in that church today stands another mother who is saying goodbye to her very own sweet young girl and the pink ribbons have me thinking about her, and my friend, and the hearts of those who have truly felt loss. How do they see God's gifts when the very gifts that came from their bodies are passed on way too early? I stand in awe at the faith I see them living out as they walk this life with less of who they created.

303. time to see
304. a mothers love
307. a mothers trust
311. a mothers surrender
316. a mothers grace

I see these mothers and they are being used by God, surely they are. In my time of blurry vision I found this list making of 1000 gifts to help me lift the fog and see the gifts around me.  I am finding through their faith in what has and is happening in their life, that my own is being taught to keep seeing and believing and trust that God gives grace through all things.  The mothers who have felt loss deep in their guts are standing tall as they lean on their Savior to help them step into their days filled with little pieces of God's grace. They do not go unnoticed and the grace they are leading their life with speak volumes to me as I have been searching for the little pieces of God's touch through out my every day life. These mothers who have stood in the same church and shed similar tears and said goodbye way too early to the ones they've shared a heartbeat with are some of the biggest vision of God's grace that I have found... grieving mothers willing to stay true to the one who gives and takes away...and still walks away saying, Blessed be Thy Name.

My book is filling up with the wonders of God's second chances that are all around me. But watching these mothers is filling my heart with truth that even in the deepest places, you can feel God's grace.  Even when you have no daily list of all the precious gifts you've seen or felt,  the heart can be filled just knowing the Deliverer of second chances. And some days that is the only thing I need to write down for the day...

325. I know Him. Blessed be They Name.

Monday, November 12, 2012

time for thanksgiving

In the season of thanksgiving I have found it is easy to list the things we are all thankful for...family, friends, faith, good health, our homes, and so on. Yet, I have been looking deeper and trying to see the little things that fill my heart with full thanksgiving. The list of family and friends and so on is true to my heart too...I am so very thankful for these things. But what about these people and these heart fluttering things is it that makes me feel a deep gratitude to the Creator who has blessed me with such at this time in my life?

I have started my days looking for what makes my family and my friends and my home and my faith so special to me. For me to have full thanksgiving, I have to see past the obvious and not take these things as if they are mine to keep always.  And then I read these words this morning..."We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing" This is found in Psalms and as I read the words over and over I realized what it is that makes me so thankful for all the things listed above.  Family, friends, faith, health...all these things are not the ordinary.  For if you look long into our world, many are without these things that come so naturally for us to be thankful for. They are extraordinary things that God has blessed me with, but the biggest blessing of all is the time He has given me to enjoy and be with such things.

As a follower of Jesus, we essentially have all the time in the world...ever-lasting life and yet so often...I am out of time? In trying to rush around to accomplish what I have made important to accomplish, I run out of time to be with the very basic and yet very extraordinary things in my life. I look back at my last year and see where I let time slip through my fingers and rushed to get something that at the end of the day, does not really fill my heart the way the first blessings in my life do. How often do we say..."if I had more hours in a day"? We have lots of hours, awake hours even, yet we still run out of time.

This past summer I abruptly put a hault to many things outside of my immediate commitments...my faith, my family, my home.  In the fast paced days I was living, my time was leading to nothing really. A moving shadow in a fast paced world that demands our time. I wanted to make space for the time it took to build mountains amongst my family and create bridges with friends and live by faith instead of simply saying it. Time needed to show me what my shadow was doing while nobody was looking. While rushing through my hours of a day, I came up with nothing at the end of them.

Then something beautiful happened... our Creator and Savior blessed me with time. The kind of time where you sit and squeeze  your baby's cheeks and look deep into your son's eyes as he tells you the same story for the 20th time and the ability to really see the face of your husband who has worked a long hard day and feel the goose-bumps you get only when you've tucked everyone in at the end of the day and can truly say to yourself...today was a good day, a really good day. Why? Because I had time...time with and for and amongst all those everyday extraordinary gifts that bring the meaning of thanksgiving to a whole new degree when you've really given them time. Shadows of time that let you see the small, simple, and rare gifts of each day. Story reading, heads around a table, bath full of bubbles, and all piled on a couch together. Because when my days of rushing come to an end, I hope that my heart will still be able to say....thank you. Thank you for eyes to really see the slow and simple. Thank you for ears to hear the quiet and distant noises of my day. Thank you for hands to hold and be free to what stands in front of me...right now, at this moment. Today I have time for my family, my friends, my faith, my home... and today I write it across my heart. I am ever so grateful for not only ever-lasting life time, but the very exact minutes happening right now. For in time, I have found a deeper thanks. And thanksgiving lives on in a whole new way.

Friday, October 19, 2012

more then a name

They are everywhere. On your computers, coming from your TV, seen in your newspaper, polishing your neighbors yard if not your own, and even on your door steps. Yes, politicians are visible and heard loudly these days.  Election day is coming very soon and I see this day as one of our nation's greatest days...the day we as Americans can safely walk to our polling locations and cast our own personal votes. A great privilege in a great country.  

Every dinner table holds its own political conversations and amongst every occasion are listening ears. In our case, three small children hear and see what we represent as we pass one opinion after another across the table. We drive around town and my same three small children can pick out the signs seen from one neighborhood to the next. And when I take my children with me to see me vote and experience the freedom to choose our best candidate, I know they have been watching, listening, and paying close attention to our actions towards all those on that ballot form.

But beyond the names we see plastered everywhere these days, are real people. Beyond the words that come out of our mouths in our home about our candidates, are fathers and mothers and somebody else's son or daughter...just like us. And beyond the ballot forms are local community members brave enough to put their name on that list. So when I walk my children into that voting booth on election day, I want them to know that there is more then a name we are choosing or not choosing.

As we greet contenders at our door, we show our children we welcome each one onto our doorstep with the same respect for what they are doing...because they are more then a name. And when we pass another yard sign, we picture our local running mates standing next to their sign. A real person, not just a name. When another commercial comes on TV, we try to remember that the face we see is doing their best to represent themselves and their community. Why? Because we believe in our country and what our everyday people can do for their communities. Because past every political piece of paper that lands in our mailbox is a real person. 

Our family has had the great privilege of seeing firsthand some of our local community members and even better, dear friends, throw their name into the pool of people willing to stand up and serve us through our governmental system. As our family has watched Walt Rogers and Matt Reisetter give all they can to representing our community and serving a greater purpose, we have found great respect for what the political world could be...for everyone. Here are two very intentional, God fearing, Truth telling, family focused, honest  and integrity filled men fighting a good fight all the way to the end. 

When I watch these guys walk in strides with all the critical and negative things that come their way as they walk through some hard days in the political world, I hope our children are catching some of their core examples of being more then a name. These two men have shown our children that truth matters and accepting the golden rule as a way to live matters and that representing more then a name matters at the end of the day. It is being that person on that ballot, standing next to those signs, and coming through the papers that matters more then hurting the next person's name. These guys are truly being who they say they are and they are showing my family that their intentions to represent us hold the highest respect in how they handle their jobs as a political candidate. 

I hope my children have learned on voting day, that while we are choosing one over the other, that we respect that all names on that ballot are more then a name... they are our everyday people who deserve the same respect from us as the guy getting our votes. And my hope is that all those names on that ballot would do the same...remember, there is more behind a name on a sign then your actions sometimes let on. Speak slowly and gently and show our children that truth truly matters and the golden rule still exists. Because our children are paying attention to more then just your name.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

auto zone

It is October and I am happy to say we actually got into the routine of school this fall with very few hiccups. I remember when I started home-schooling part time last year and another home-school mama said to me "give it a full year before you decide if you like your routine...it took me at least a year or two to find my groove". So true for all school aged mothers. This is our fifth year of sending a child off to school of some sort and I am FINALLY feeling like we've got a good rhythm for how we function inside the home with the outside things. And its only taken me 5 years :) I have tried many ways to deal with outside things and all things school related to keep us organized and flowing well. It is October and I am not pulling my hair out, nor am I buried under school papers and meal plans. Here's a few things that worked for me...maybe I can save you some missed assignment papers, the whats for dinner question by the end of the week, or forgetting the next dress up day for your kids. Or maybe that was just me as a parent? If this isn't you...well, congrats. You are super-mom!

These things make me happy when it comes to running this house...and keeps everyone else running smooth and happy as well. Mission accomplished. 

1.) Once you have school aged children in the public school you will be overwhelmed with notes and papers to sign up for everything under the sun. This caught me off gaurd and I quickly got buried with them.  In between that will be newsletters, spelling lists, and math home-work. (yes- plan for your sweet little one to bring home home-work by age 6, at least). I tried a few things and finally landed on this...
This makes my counters much more visible and usable ..for something other then holding papers. Each person in the family gets a slot and papers, bills, notes worth keeping get put in each person's spot. Everything else goes directly from back-pack, mail pile, or car to the garbage can if it is not shelf worthy. Thank you to Dave's cousin Jenny (Junk Revised on Facebook) for using this old school filer to recreate this pretty piece for me! It's doing it's job wonderfully.

2.) We don't have an office and even if we did, I'm not sure we would function out of it very well. I needed an area that was smack in the middle of where we live. This area needed to handle multiple functions, but still look pretty...in my opinion :) This is when I started visioning my "auto school zone".

With more kids, my memory seems to be less and less. Sad, but true for me. I needed a place to keep everything organized and together and in front of my face. I check in to this area every morning and every night before bed. Here you'll find...family calendar (chalk-board) which holds all dates to not forget. Also holds a list of the kids daily chores...for both our remembering. You will also find a magnet board that holds school menu, school monthly newsletters, weekly spelling list, weekly memory verse (Austin preschool), and any notes I need to keep for school. To the far left is an old window that I use for a white board. I write each days events on there, as well as any to-do's for the day that I can't forget. Above the whole thing is a wire attached for pinning our family devotions as we do them and art work the kids bring home. Below the table is back-pack area for kids to keep their bags stocked and ready for each day. And last but not least...our phone chargers and lap-top plug-ins. I hate cords all over and this keeps them in one spot and off my counters! This has proven to be my sanity spot in the house. Junk, toys, and miscellaneous things are not allowed on here and we all function better with an Auto Zone...where things happen automatically :) Sort of!

3.) Along with providing an auto zone for school and life outside the home, I added an auto zone in my kitchen. I totally lost track of my cleaning schedule in my mind this last year with my high-energy baby. It felt really good to claim this again. I know realistically, my home will not be "clean" with young kids. But I try to keep it at least livable right now. A place we all enjoy ending our day at and enjoy coming home to...a blessing to my family  This requires some organization and planning. 

Inside my pantry door lies this little space...small and simple, yet saves me every day. I try to use coupons when and where I can. However, I cut them out and over time forget where I put them or don't remember I have them. I needed a coupon area and now they hang nicely right inside this door...ready for use when the time comes. 

At the far left is a weekly menu. This is where life gets MUCH easier in the kitchen. You can lose a lot of time in the kitchen by not being prepared and I'd rather spend those extra minutes with my kids. I borrowed this idea from a friend and tweaked it a bit for our family. At the start of each month I write in what we will eat for dinner every day of the week...and we have the same thing every day each week. There is a little flexibility, but the same idea each day of the week. Right now I am doing Monday-baked meat, pot, veggie. Tues- Tacos of some sort, Wed- church meal, Thurs- soup and bread, Fri- pizza, Sat- grill, Sunday- left-overs, popcorn night. It makes my life so much easier in the meal making department. I make different soups or change up how we do tacos, but this is what happens each week. I do all my grocery shopping on the same day of the week and never have to run back because I planned a last minute meal and didn't have something. I am loving this and so far nobody has complained about the routine meals. Besides, they are only 4-5 weeks long and then they change! 

The middle and far right columns are my cleaning lists. If I can accomplish one thing each day, I am happy. So each day of the week holds only one thing to be done and for this stage of life, it is good enough. Same idea as my meals...Mondays are bathrooms, Tuesday is laundry, Wednesday is floors, and so on...

4.) And last, but not least...organizing my kids outfits for each day of the week. I used to lay my kids clothes out for the next day every night before bed. Some nights I realized I had no clean underwear for one kid or another...dang, hate when that happens. So now I pack all the clothes on Sunday for the whole week and it saves me a lot of last minute washing and staying up getting prepped for next day. I made a small investment in these great hanging clothes organizers...not attractive, but does the job. 
These just hang in their closets and each days full outfit is laid on a shelf for each day of the week. I stock them on Sunday and don't have to think about it until the weekend. It's been great for me and the kids.
I know these seem like small and silly things, but in my home, they are big. Life here is running smoother then it has in a long time and I am happy to say this is the most organized school year I've had yet! It only took me 5 years :) I decided as much as my life that can run "automatically" right now, the better. Especially since I don't see it slowing down around here any time soon! as the ole commercial says...Get in the Zone...Auto Zone! :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

life verse lessons

As life moves and I stumble through it, my life verse from Jeremiah always stays close. Yet, I tend to drift towards other words from the Truth as I find myself in certain places in life. Whether it be joy or pain, I often find meaning in the only Truth that stays constant through each season of life. My thirties have seen everything from life to death to deep joy and great pain. My sense of understanding has grown and my heart has been stretched into shapes I didn't know were there. And as I stretch and move once again, I have found challenging words from God's truth to give me understanding and peace here in this life, at this moment.

The words from Joshua 1:9 continued to come across my path a little over a year ago and it has become the most recent verse to walk alongside my life verse with me. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." These words speak a similar promise to me that my original life verse does, yet I hear it in a whole new way with new eyes to see, that weren't with me before.

Holding onto God's promise of hope and a future has sometimes kept me in the rosy world happy place. Even though this verse from Jeremiah is from when the people of Israel were being banished from their homeland for being so disobedient,  God used Jeremiah to tell them that He still had a good future in store for them. I have held onto the 29:11 part of Jeremiah....and often forgotten that my ways have probably gotten myself into my own trouble a time or two, like the exiles in Babylons in Jeremiah's time. The words from Joshua have opened my eyes this last year to be okay in challenging places. It doesn't mean God is punishing me or not happy with what I've chosen. Rather He wants me to be strong and courageous wherever I am. Even though only He knows my plans, I can do my part through acting out in strong and courageous ways. He uses weakness to make us strong. I should know, He has done it in me as a regular pattern in my life. He is doing it in yours too.

For these two verses to walk side by side with me this last year is no mistake. I have found these words to guide me and be used in me. Life verse's are not meant to just leave us with a fuzzy, happy feeling about our Savior all the time. They are used to teach us. Our lessons from life woven together through His word.

I love that our family church did a whole teaching series on this. If you haven't today, I strongly encourage you to find that verse that always seems to speak to you. Read it, claim it as yours, and let it leave an imprint on your heart! It will truly be a life-giving lesson of a life-time! I'd love to hear yours too...so feel free to share.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

life-giving lessons

The idea of a life verse makes my heart warm as I hear people around me announce their chosen verse and the reasons behind it. Life, really, should be guided by His words and what better way to move toward that way of life then by a chosen life verse. In different seasons of life I have read the same verses and found new meaning many times. When I chose what I consider my main life verse, I didn't know near the depth to it that I have found in the years following my adopting the words from Jeremiah 29:11...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 I was 17 and barely ready to enter the big world and my aunt and uncle wrote this verse down for me. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with life, but this verse had me sitting on a promise and I trusted it. I entered college, started new jobs, met my husband, and began a family. All along the way I fell into valleys and climbed beautiful mountains. And all along the way I read these words of hopes and good futures and looked up, reminded that He is a Father full of grace and love and good things for His glory. This verse was one of the first ever high-lighted in my Bible and to this day is the best known words I know by heart.

In my twenties filled with new wedded bliss and babies and the beginning of what is today, my heart yearned to be a life-giver. Even when I went away to college and wasn't sure about my profession, I knew very much so that someday I wanted to be a mother with a home full of little people. So once baby number one arrived, I was on the road to filling my dreams and looked forward to adding to that number. When number two didn't come and didn't come and even after losing a little one prematurely, I found myself clinging not only to my life verse for hope but also paying very close attention to the words from Proverbs 18:21..."Words kill and words give LIFE. They are either poison or fruit...you choose".  I longed to carry life within me and I kept praying for God to breathe life into me. But as months and years went by, I found so often that God was asking me to be a life-giver of my own. I was so focused on carrying life that I was missing so many opportunities to give life in the circumstances God had me in. As my heart began to turn outward towards others and my home more I found grace in the idea of being a life-giver. I said this verse from Proverbs over and over to myself and as I accepted that this stage was to be filled with life, a form only God can use through me, I found peace from His words once again.

Walking through my 20's with my life verse strapped to my back gave me a starting point to walk into adulthood with a promise for what was to come. It made those first years feel like the beginning of an adventure. A hopeful adventure. One that would be filled with beauty and hard times, but amongst all of it...life-giving. His words continue to be life-giving to me. As I borrowed those words from Proverbs for so many years to guide my hopeful heart, His words set me free to be a life-giver while He breathed life into me through the only words that can...His truth and tellings. Today I get hungry for His words, for the longer I follow God's heart the more drawn I am to His words. He has come to give life and give it to the fullest...The One true life-giver.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

in the beginning

There has been a lot of talk about life verses at our home church these last few weeks and I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing what our teachers have had to share about this topic in their own lives.  To be honest, I have rarely sat in a pew and heard a sermon in months... mostly due to my infant who has had everything from ear infections, colds, nap issues, nursing marathons, and just my short season of life of choosing a "backyard blessing" session over attempting church with a room full of people whom I would have to get dressed for and brush my teeth. Luckily, church can be done in the comfort of your home when needed and I have really enjoyed my quiet mornings spent with my Lord and a still heart to worship solo. None the less, I miss my community of church family members and am hoping to transition back to showers, teeth brushing, and worship with a room full of other followers.  These last few months I have been using my minutes to really tune in at home and tune into my heart following God's. I have been drawn to His word in a way I never have and have found so much life in the old pages of my Bible. So when I returned to church a few weeks ago, I instantly connected with the "life verse" theme. And here we go...the beginning of mine.

I grew up with a father who read out of his old worn Bible to us four kids every night before bed. He sat in the hallway between our bedroom doors and read the word. Sometimes I paid attention and sometimes I secretly wished he'd be done so I could pull out my flash-light and hide under my covers to read the next book I was burying my nose in. Bibles sat open on my grandparents coffee tables and bed side tables and on the dining room table. His word was in many places as I grew up and even though I never really fully SAW His word as my way the way I do now...I strongly sensed it was a compass for this life.

When I think of the phrase "life verse", I have a few that come to mind at different times in my growth and growing up years. Today I will share from the beginning. As a young teen I kept myself busy with various sports activities and so like any young believer I took a lot of things literally. It's no surprise to me that as I went through sports seasons that my verse that hung in my bedroom had to do with winning.

Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 

While I'm not sure I let these words lead my days as I went through my daily routine as a high-schooler, I did let these words cling to my heart in a way that encouraged me to try my hardest and not be too upset when I failed. I was reminded that my real race was the one that ended with Jesus. The self-discipline related well to me as I juggled a very busy schedule filled with sports, school activities, and a handful of other commitments. Being so involved had me worn thin when I didn't practice self-discipline to finish well. I had no real vision of what "the race" in life really was. I was ignorant to what this race from this verse spoke about and used it to apply my hard-work efforts and self discipline to finishing well in my eyes and my peers eyes. My "crown" here in this time of my life was to participate in my activities with a kind and friendly heart, as to please God in the way I acted while "racing"...yet I still wanted an earthly prize.  As I used this verse to guide me a bit, I suppose God was using it to plant a seed for His daily bread and how in the future it would continue to feed me. When I graduated from high-school, my mama had this verse put on a wood plaque for me and there those words sat collecting dust for awhile during my years of transitioning into college and young adult life. Even though this sign collected dust on my wall, my heart was left with a finger print from God  In the beginning these words helped me recognize something bigger then myself, yet I still was searching for that personal relationship with the One who was leading me through the efforts of others.

The day I graduated my uncle and aunt gave me a book by James Dobson. Inside they had written the verse...Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.  Here begins my next life verse that has stayed with me even through today... and another example that God continualy uses others in my life to lead me towards Him and His ways.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gardener's harvest

Have you ever wondered if God created your children a certain way to simply teach us as adults? Now I know they are created for much more then that, but the idea that they are a very purposeful tool in the arena of working on my heart is so amazing. A glorious plan if you ask me. The very first hours I became a mother I knew life would never feel the same again. Within days of taking that baby boy home, I knew I was already being tested to grow into something better. And because a little person entered my world and forced me to see things through a whole new lens, I started to also see God a bit better. With each child that enters my life I just keep getting a more clear view of who God is on my journey. It will always amaze me that God can use the smallest to lead me, but it is what I am using as a compass these days as I reach for God's heart.

Having three boys is anything but dull and usually not even that quiet, but every so often a very quiet thing will happen that will scream loud into my heart. Through these little years with these little people I hear and see little things happening that add up to big things when I really pay attention and let the small lead me.  I live my daily minutes cleaning up after three (okay, four really), scheduling naps and feedings, washing clothes, making food, playing cars and trucks, watching football games in my back-yard, and following around my little people while they experience the world at face value. Sometimes, in the right season, we dig into God's earth and plant seeds and wait for something miraculous to grow. Sometimes that little seed sprouts and grows great fruits and sometimes it shrivels up never producing a single thing.

I have spent my last few months wondering if I have misheard God speaking to me about where His path should go. Like my little ones plant their little seeds, I have dropped a few of my own hoping for a great crop. Watching the boys choose the right seed and the right soil and the right location has shown me just how much nurturing needs to go into such a decision. For it only takes rotten seeds or bad soil or bad sun to spoil a full harvest. This summer my middle son insisted we plant pumpkins. I assured him we could try, but it was really late in the season and the soil was not that great. I had already planted a rasberry bush in the very same spot and it was doing poorly. But his persistance got the best of me and away he went to scatter his seeds. Days went by and I quickly forgot about the pumpkin seeds planted amongst the thorny raspberry sticks until early one morning. The sun was shining and the heat already setting in as my middle son and I headed to the back-yard. I followed him around as he reviewed all his plants and when he arrived to the raspberry bush I was too surprised to not react. While I stood in amazement at that long green vine with big yellow flowers blooming, Austin simply grabbed the watering can and simply said "I told you this soil was perfect for pumpkins." Pumpkins, not raspberries, I thought to myself. He was right, of course. The evidence was clearly growing all up the raspberry stems and stretching under the deck. Where we had planted raspberry bushes hoping for a full berry crop this fall, was nothing more then a huge bushy pumpkin plant growing in all its glory. While I found disappointment in my raspberry plants, I didn't think to pay attention to something else that might be growing.

In that moment I understood God's leading through the simplicity of my little one. While I spend my days trying hard to plant a group of seeds hoping for one thing, I have forgotten to see the land for all its potential and recognize that maybe, just maybe, God had a different and better vision for harvest time all along. Some days I am working hard to plant raspberries when I suppose God intended for me to grow pumpkins all along.

During that time when my seeds seem to not be producing what I wanted, I now can see a little better that something bigger and better might be growing all on its own. Even with poor soil, God can nurture the smallest seeds for a bountiful crop. While I spend these little years following my little ones, I am thankful for the planting season that is preparing me for harvest time. And when my little ones find rich soil or a good seed or the perfect location, I am going to be a little more open to seeing what can grow. For in this life I can only fully harvest what God is planting in me, and if he so chooses a different crop then I would have...well, I'd like to think that through the little lesson in my very own back-yard and at the hands of my 4 year old, I will be able to recognize not only a good seed, but not under-estimate the Gardener.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

good-bye summer

The cooler nights are moving in and it makes me crack the windows as my little ones rest their heads on their pillows after a long day in the sun. The curtains in my room blow a little toward me from the gentle breeze as I drift asleep and I am reminded that the wind is not the only thing blowing through my home these days. New seasons are waiting to welcome me into the next place in life. This season that is gently blowing in sends two out of three boys off to school and I remember thinking that this year, this fall, this time in our lives was so far away not that long ago. My pattern for this time of year is to stretch my summer out as long as possible, but the rather slow pace I created for myself the weeks leading up had me feeling actually ready for the school days to begin and the pool days to end. The slower pace let me indulge in lazy mornings with my kids and long afternoons out back. I found my days ended with my cup over-flowing instead of begging for one more drop. As the gentle fall breeze moves in, I find I am looking forward to what is to come instead of looking back at what has already gone by.

The summer started off in a big spinning circle and by the end of June I was feeling a strong sense to slow down and stop. So that is what I did. Looking ahead at that time I knew I wouldn't move into the next season well if I didn't change the rate at what I was going about my days before the apples started turning red and the leaves began to fall. On these days tucked away at home I made some space for my soul to rest and be present in the here and now. I carved out time to carefully prepare and create our home to be ready for this new season. I ignored the urgent matters and paid attention to the important things. I said no to a lot, but in the process of turning many things away, I said yes to so much more that was happening within my 4 walls over here in our neighborhood.

I want to do these little years with my children well. This requires some very intentional planning, some humor, and a lot of daily grace. It also requires that I have made time for myself to be available to hear my own Father lead me, to not take myself too seriously, and to give myself some room to grow.  As I am not nearly done with my own little flock of boys, neither is my Father finished with me.  So slow and steady is where I find I am best nurtured, taught, and ready for whatever comes along in these ever-changing seasons. Not only have I made plans for the crew living under my roof these days, but I have very much included myself in these intentional nurturing days. When I find my bed at night and feel that cool autumn breeze blowing in, I greet it with welcome arms. I am still. I can feel he is God. I can trust I am walking into a place ready for whats next.

Instead of dragging my feet and trying to avoid a rather painful goodbye to summer, I am opening those windows and letting this new season blow in. My heart feels ready, my home feels like home, and my daily minutes are ready for whats next. Goodbye's are not forever...just a see ya later. This season will be back and with it comes a new joy looking ahead with arms open ready to greet an old friend.  Good-bye summer...see ya soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

a fresh start

Today marks the first day of school for our 3rd grader who has spent his summer swimming, playing with friends, helping around the house, learning to bake, working on the roof, time with cousins, caring for his animals, VBS, bike riding, visiting the neighbors, playing with the neighbor church kids, and growing tall. He has caught fish and twirled sparklers and built sand castles and nurtured a garden and baked brownies. His days have been filled as he has been blessed to enjoy a leisury summer as an 8 year old boy. He was fully ready for today and my heart was at peace knowing he was prepared to begin a new year. A fresh start.

In the world of parenting I continue to keep up with how fast the seasons change. God created our world in 6 days and I suppose it was his intentions from the beginning for things to change, to see new seasons and for things to not just stay the same. He moved quick and with perfection. But He was focused and purposeful. I am slowly accepting that life changes at rapid speeds. It's not so much the change that gets me at times, but the pace. The pace at what I live it. My son enjoyed a rather slow paced summer and on the day that it was time to shift seasons, he was prepared. I have found myself in a place that has me still, nurturing my heart, my mind, my body after a too-fast paced stage that left me worn out and weary.

I recently had almost an entire day to myself. This is a rare, rare treat. A whole day to myself, in my home, all by myself. I love my family and my animals, but sometimes I just want everybody to get out :) I spent the day finishing up some projects, listening to my favorite music, totally gutting and cleaning out closets, counters, and drawers, eating chocolate for lunch, and drinking Arnold Palmers all day. It was beautiful. I accomplished so much outwardly, but inwardly I found good clarity too. The past year my home had become a cluttered mess...my rather fussy non-sleeping baby with repeat ear infections, new jobs for both my hubs and me, a rough year for my 2nd grader, and a pace that had me in survival mode had created a very cluttered home. It honestly overwhelms me to have such chaos around me and when my outside atmosphere is that way, my inside feels about the same. So it was no question that a whole day to myself in my home may have been the best day ever...okay, that is slightly exaggerated...but it.was.awesome!

As I worked quietly in my home I thought about the time, energy, and planning it took to run a smooth home for a family of five who would enjoy spending their time here and want to end their day in this place. A place where they truly felt like home was "home, sweet home". As I purposely filled those hours, I also thought about what living a clutter-free life looked like too. Clutter sometimes goes unrecognized because it can often be good clutter. I have spent the last 6 weeks clearing my daily calenders from most things outside my home to create an empty slate for my heart, body, and mind. I have really purposely focused my energy on the immediate needs of our family and tried to make a clear path for whats next. I've had to say no to many things and its been hard. Really hard. Friends have had babies, gotten married, had hard things happen, church has called for volunteering, school has sent out PTA cards, dinner parties have happened, and park play-dates been set-up... but I have had to say no to most of it. I wasn't sure which way I was going most days, so in order to find the starting place so I could carefully go forward again, I stopped almost everything. I did not feel ready for the first day of anything, unlike my son, ready to walk his new journey confidant in where he was.

Today my home feels a little more comfortable and a lot less cluttered. My heart is feeling similar. I am not jumping into anything yet, as I need to stay in this place of de-cluttering while my heart finds the starting line again. I am finding that these days I spend doing just what is required of me in the role as mom and wife that I am leaving space to truly see and hear. See the things that went by so foggy for so long, hear the things that came muffled to me during a cluttered life stage. In this place of de-cluttering my heart feels thankfulness in a new way and sees beauty as God created it. Seeing is believing and hearing is truth. Truth is pressed upon my heart today as I send my boy off to school and feel His peace upon my heart. A fresh start for more then one here, in this less cluttered home these days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

finding beautiful

My baby's first birthday stands just days away and I've been pausing more recently to stop and look back at the trail that trickles behind us as we get ready to celebrate such a little addition to our home. Really, the trail we've walked along has been a rather foggy one and I'm not sure I have seen some of the landmarks along the way. Walking in fog is hard enough as one can't see if the road is still there or if you've stepped off the path, but running through fog is even scarier, as one is sure to trip and fall down if not once, but maybe many times. As the sweet baby boy came home almost a year ago, I know I didn't even realize that the fog was setting in. Through my "just fallen in love" eyes, I began a light jog down a path. Somewhere along that path the fog was so heavy and the pace I had made me desperate to catch a breath. I ran through stop signs maybe and  forgot to yield when things were coming my way. All the while, I stopped seeing what was around me and could only feel the sweat running down my back as I ran hard to stay on a path I thought was the right one. And maybe it is, but I can't see clearly. And it's hard to make the right turns when you just can't see. As I have ran through the thick dense fog I've lost sight of the beautiful landmarks that line the road...the little yellow flowers or the new blossoms on the trees. The sun rays shining across the blue sky and the drops of rain hanging onto the green leaves. The little things that make our world beautiful. When I pause and see beauty, I find my heart speaks truth to my head and once again I can start to see clearly and pass my vision onto my children.

Today I sit to write this post, a little scared that I might let myself be too honest. I am timely reading through Ann Voskamp's book, A Thousand Gifts, and it really resonates with me when she says "that moving the ink across the page opens up the eyes". John Piper says it too, "that there are eyes in pencils and pens". I get what they are saying, I think, and find beauty as I let the writing of my heart have its way. Healing or an open door to seeing, fog lights for a dreary day..I'm not sure? Maybe a little of both. 

In running through the fog I've found myself in a clearing. Not sure how I landed here, but I am here. A place where I can stop and let the fog pass a bit before I walk again. I am on a journey to find beautiful again. I know it is always around me and the gifts I see daily don't always whisper to my heart though. I see, but I don't see. I don't let my soul slow down enough to really feel the gifts surround me and lead my thoughts toward beautiful, just as God created all these such things. I'm looking for whats right in front of me. I just can't open my eyes all the way. I am hoping my pen will guide my vision. Chin up, I am looking for it. The beautiful.

I am challenged by Ann's list of 1000 gifts. I feel it making a difference in my heart as I sketch out a mental list in my head. So I am going to jump in and see where my own list can lead me. I want to see beautiful along each road my life leads me down. I want to notice the simple gifts that surround me and let my heart be thankful in every way, so I can keep my eyes on the beauty and not let the fog block it out again. I have no time-frame and I'm just looking...and writing them down. In my little flowered note-book, chosen for it's empty pages and potential to change my life. I believe my path can be made beautiful again. I know I can find it. I want to see it on clear sunny days and be able to train my eyes to see it through the foggy too. It's been created for us and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Only 3 pages into my little note-book and I can already feel the mind squinting through the fog to see clearer, to pick out the beauty in the distance... only it's not that far away. It's been right by me all along. I'm just only starting to see again...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

just a yard away

Did you know that Americans today spend such little time outside of their homes that most don't even know the names of the people living just across the street from them? It's a sad story if you ask me. Garages are built right into houses and mail boxes on the front door so all you have to do is magically drive in and out of your garage and technically never go out to see who is really outside your 4 walls of a home. That inner door keeps you from walking the extra distance across a lawn or two and facing a real life person or interacting with the average dog walker and jogger coming by. While I love a good back-yard, I also know the value in hanging out in my front yard, parking out of my garage, and letting my neighbors see we are some real folks living life right alongside our fellow neighbors.

When I think about what I've learned about community and what God wants from us to live within community, I quickly think back to our own block of community members. Every so often something unexpected and wonderful comes out of simply choosing to walk across a yard and say hello. As I intentionally gathered my children, cleaned their faces, and baked cookies to deliver to new neighbors a year ago...I took that little walk across the front yards and arrived at their front steps intending to welcome them to the neighborhood and offering a friendly suggestion to stop by sometime.  I went to be the giver, but I have found that my life has been deeply impacted as the receiver in a way of community that I wish every person could experience in their own neighborhood.

My family sat out front one night this week and admired the big moon and ate pizza late at night and laughed and let summer settle in around us. And we did it with our neighbors. Our neighbors who are just a yard away, but in my heart they are comfortably sitting on my family room sofa. Delivering cookies quickly became delivering ourselves in a way that we have been able to open our homes and hearts as we pass the days together. Between sharing tools and recipes and baked treats and dog sitting and kid swapping and meal making and yard games and tears and laughter, we have somehow stolen a little piece of what I think community can really look like. I am beyond blessed to have such kind, genuine, and good neighbors. A place where my children can go and be loved on and played with and cheered on to be who they are. A place where I can walk in and be welcomed with a smile and be encouraged to be who I am. People who I can invite to my dinner table the very last second and know they don't care if I am serving left-over soup from 3 days ago or a 4 course meal. People who offer to help in so many ways, yet don't pass judgment when my house is in shambles, my teeth aren't brushed, and I just yelled at my kids. These folks from just a yard away in so many ways are the best neighbors, but mostly, they've become some of our best friends.

As I step out of my front door I always look just a yard away and feel like I'm just gazing on down home. I am blessed to eat pizza late at night with another family who is willing to step outside and share life with my bunch. It's been just a year since we went on a walk just a yard away. Today my boys run that short distance to greet some of their favorite familiar faces. As I intentionally tried to welcome them to the neighborhood, I have been so blessed as they intentionally welcomed me into their hearts. They say the grass is greener on the other side...in our case, it most certainly is!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rais'in the Roof

Today is supposed to be another hot summer day, near 100 degrees and heat index of 105. In these hot conditions it makes me want to lay around in my air conditioned home or get my brood to the pool faster then you can say fried egg. What I want to do today and what needs to happen today are two totally different things. For over two weeks now we have been tackling the project that most people run from when they hear what you are doing: re-roofing our house. Not just re-roofing, but redesigning our roof line to make it work with our new double garage. We have had a very narrow single garage our whole life and Dave's dad is a natural born expert in the carpenter service area, so he managed to draw up plans to make this new roof include expanding a garage wall, filling an empty gap between our home and existing garage, and wa-la...new double garage. Genius if you ask me.

I can't even put into words what it feels like to have someone show up at your home day after day and sweat through these nasty heat conditions to put a new roof on our house. He comes, smile in tack, and climbs back up even after he's trudged home soaking wet and weary from the day before. All I've done is make meals, serve water, and keep kids and have questioned a time or two...is all this work worth it? But he keeps coming, keeps serving, and every time I go out there...he keeps smiling. I go back inside and lay a baby down or prepare a snack and am reminded...it takes a lot of hard work to put a new and better protecting roof on a house. It takes the same sweat, hard work, and smiles to put that kind of shield over a home. Home, the place my children learn and grown and try and fail and find grace and meet Jesus and begin their story. Home, where my I hope others enter and feel welcomed and loved and encouraged and cared for. Home, where I hope my family looks forward to coming back to at the end of their day and finds safety in a place where they can be just who they were designed to be.

Building a stable roof over our home is similar to the hard surface roof going up as I speak. I look back at how we've done our life with these kids and with each other and we've chosen the harder route for sure at times. We've sweat a lot and cried and worked hard, really hard, to make what we're building stand firm in something bigger then us. And we've questioned along the way...is all this worth it? We've had to redesign our lives many times to make it work better for our family and what we're trying to accomplish here with these little souls under our roof. As good men have just showed up to work side by side my smiling and sweaty father-in-law, I am reminded that with our home building we have so many that show up for the hard work in here too. This roof can't go up on it's own or with one man. Our home can't be built by our hands alone. We have very intentional people stepping in and sweating hard with us to make all this come together... both house roof and home roof.

Shingles are getting scraped off and new ones being placed over top. As I watched some of our best friends scrape and scrape ugly, worn, not working anymore shingles I felt like I was understanding a bit more why my Savior lets me sweat through hard times in life. He is getting ready to re-shingle, to place new ones, better ones over me. Shingles not doing their job, must go, and sometimes a complete new design must be built. All of this takes time and requires work, hard work. I find I question myself when it feels the dirtiest and on the hottest of days, but know the roof will stand in beauty one day soon as each hand has laid it's shingle right where it goes. It's a slow process that takes careful design, but the Designer I am letting lead me is a bit of a Genius of His own. I just need to keep showing up with a smile on my face, even when the day before was brutally hot and sweaty, and trust that all this hard work now is definitely worth it. I am slowly learning to let more in to help me raise our roof and humbled at the hands and feet that voluntarily show up to complete such a task.

Today is another hot day...but guess who showed up with a smile already? Yup. Guess I can too today as I help re-roof a bit of my own...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

firefly summer

Summer has settled in all around us and I can't help but notice the signs that tell me it is a season for small wonders and simplicity. For some, summer brings long vacations and high adventure amusement parks and weekend road trips all bumped up against each other. For others, summer is quietly whispering its name across backyards and lazy mornings and the sparkle of firefly's as the sun goes down each night.

As a storm of a spring is settling down around here I am longing for the summer filled with simplicity. Don't get me wrong, this gal loves a good vacation and a little roller coaster from time to time... but these baby steps into summer are leading my heart towards days filled with the slow moments that let me see my kids each day, really see them, and hear the lull of the crickets at night as we sit in our back porch and watch the firefly's come out to play.

I believe there is a reason our Creator intends for us to have a regular Sabbath, a day of rest. I also really believe in sabbath like seasons. There are times when you need a day, no not a day, but days lined up against each other with the intentions of nothing really happening. The beauty though is that a lot happens on these days filled with "nothing". My slowest days are the days that I really sit down and finish that game of Candyland, really laugh with my kids and see deep into their souls as we sit and read a stack of books together as we swing back and forth on the ole' porch swing. On our slowest days we start the day on the outside porch and let the fuzzy blanket keep us warm huddled together while we make breakfast last an hour around that big table. These are the days where I can sit in the green grass and find cloud shapes and know my kids are laying next to me, content to be doing the same and not begging for something or someone to entertain them, simply because I've let myself be still and quiet right along side them. The slow summer days are ones where we sit down together for all our meals and find our way back to the yard for snacks while we chat about nothing in particular. There is no rush to be anywhere and the babe can nap whenever he wants and my heart is still. When the firefly's come out at night, we are there. Ready and willing to chase them.

This transition into summer is slow, but steady. I am making small plans and letting the days be filled with nothing so that big somethings can happen around this home. Somethings like us all really seeing and hearing and being together. Our tones in our voices say it all and the way my boys find my lap more naturally at the end of the day tell me that this summer with the firefly's is just what we needed. The beauty of firefly's is that they are small and go unnoticed to the hurried eye. But, to the one who stops and sees them and takes time to chase them finds that they bring much wonder and joy to the holder. Thank you summer for finding your way to us. As tradition lies here, we have made our to-do list for our summer and like most years many fun things have been added. The one I hold the dearest this season though is number 7...catch  firefly's. I officially claim this our firefly summer. Happy summer to you all!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the paper plate parable

Today I woke with a little more bounce in my step then the last couple weeks. The last day of school will do that for a mama! Getting to this spot has brought my heart so much respite. Like a weight lifted off my shoulder. After a long month of more then usual responsibilities, it is nice to let one thing fall off the plate. My son's 2nd grade year has come to a close and I think the whole family has been waiting for this day for some time! It was a tough year and while I didn't like the beginning of this journey very much, I feel so at home with where the beginning led us to. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing part time home-schooling. Ending 2nd grade with my boy who has spent his afternoons home with us the last 5 months is such a beautiful moment. I feel like we all tackled this year together, as a family. It was different and took more from me in the mom department, but the heart growth we've all had and the extra built in time for our relationships has been so, so good. The five of us have truly benefited from this structure for this season in our lives. I would do it again in a heart-beat if I had to choose.

In all the added things to our schedule the last few weeks and my total crash last weekend after exhausting every angle of myself, I have looked back at what I would do different...given the next time I decide to home-school, raise chickens, nurse a baby, start a business, do day-care, and all the normal stay-home mom stuff we all attempt to do everyday. Yes, I have definitely learned what NOT to do along the way this month!

This is where my paper plate parable comes in. Looking back, I had a lot of big things on my plate. And the pace was much faster then I ever intend to live my life. I knew going in that it would be a crazy few weeks. I didn't know it would almost swallow me whole when I was so close to the end. I should have been better prepared, like when I know a baby is arriving into our home soon and stock the hall cupboard with paper plates like they are going out of business at the paper plate factory.

Here is the truth. I will have another busy season like this short one this last month. Everybody has unusually busy seasons in their life. So often our commitments in our lives will intertwine a time or two and we will catch ourselves running very fast to keep up. It is okay to have a paper plate season every so often amongst your home. It is temporary and does not define who you are at that moment, but rather who you are working at becoming. A mom after God's own heart knows when to pull out the paper plates and when to serve with her best china. Paper plate seasons are all around us and I am fairly young in the parenting journey, thus I am positive I will find myself in another paper plate stage of life.

While I attempted to keep all my things afloat this last month, I became incredibly discouraged when so much of what I was doing felt like it was all falling around me. I really felt like I was not doing 1 thing in my life well. It was overwhelming and so frustrating and Satan loves getting me down to that place of discouragement and doubt. I should have gone into this season with my paper plates in stock.

Next time, I will let some little things go for a bit while I keep the bigger things of the moment moving ahead. I will use paper plates more and be okay making 10 lbs of taco meat to serve every which way you can name it.  I will rent some good learning videos from the library and feel good throwing that in if I need some work time quick. I will set up "help days". Days already planned for my kids to go have fun some place else, with someone else, so I can get some work done. And be okay with that. I will say no to almost anything that comes up last minute, knowing I need to stay focused on whats already going on, and will not add to my commitments in the midst of over-committed mode. I will delegate when it comes to the house chores more. I enjoy serving my family in this area, usually. But when my mind and energy is being used up in other areas, I fail in this area miserably. A cluttered and messy home makes me feel anxious inside and I can imagine my family probably doesn't enjoy "relaxing" when there are old diapers sitting next to them and the chewed up tennis balls all amongst their feet and breakfast dishes still sitting smelling up the kitchen :) As for home-schooling...that's the beauty of homeschooling. You can take breaks when life gets moving faster then usual. Let that move down a bit on the list for a few weeks. It will still be there when this all passes! I will skip baths a bit more and know sending my dirty children to bed will not make them sleep worse or better. I will say yes to all offers of help. I will go to bed as soon as I can and get as much sleep as possible (those dirty clothes will still be there in the morning!).

Paper plate seasons will happen. I know the norm here is not paper plate mode. But, it doesn't hurt to let them take over for a bit while you keep your heart, mind, and body in a good place for yourself and your loved ones. For me to let go of a few little things while the load is heavy, lets me make the big things like our relationships and the tone of our home stay in tact. We're all going to have those times in our lives when the paper plates just need to be pulled out. And it is okay. For we all know that when those paper plates run out or aren't needed anymore, the brightly colored teal glass ones are anxiously awaiting to be used again and the people eating off of them will hardly have felt the difference.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the ugly truth

Day 23. I knew this month was going to be hard. And I am at day 23. It is feeling very hard right about now. Hard to keep going strong with Jaxon's home-schooling in the afternoon's, hard to finish well with my daycare kids and be sure they get to enjoy the spring season of gardening and backyard fun and science experiments and learning about being a little seed themselves that God is growing all the time that I usually make happen at my house this time of year, hard to find time to pay attention to my husband...real attention, not the kind where I just nod my head and pretend I am listening to him at the end of the day even though my brain is zapped and my body is exhausted, hard to really be mentally available for my kids as I juggle a bazillion details through my head each day and go to bed missing them like crazy because I feel like I was never really "with" them during the day, hard to find alone and quiet time to be with my Lord and let Him fill me up when I grow weary, hard to make meal times a happy and much looked forward to part of our day here, hard to find time to wash clothes and clean house and weed gardens and put winter clothes away while spring ones just get piled on top in over-flowing drawers, hard to launch a business and do it well, hard to get to church, hard to see my friends, hard to be available for anything out of the normal, hard to make the money needed to pay the bills. Whew. May just was going to be hard, but I was up for the task....so I thought. So I think?

But the ugly gut wrenching truth is I am exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed and sleep deprived (which makes EVERYTHING seem way worse then it usually is). I have so much on my plate that I feel like I am doing none of them well. At all. And the things that matter the most to me are getting the worst of me. I truly believe God does not intend for us to live our lives in the "busy" lane all the time. And for good reason, as that pace leaves you with no reserves when things really get hard. I hate feeling like my first response when someone asks me is "busy". I don't like this pace of life and while being busy with a healthy amount of things is good, being so busy that you are missing life is bad. And I feel like I am missing life right now.

I know I have a lot of things on my plate and I knew this month of crossing responsibilities a bit was going to stretch me. I have hit panic mode a few times and feel a bit lost in the fog at the moment. Starting a new business is tough stuff, on top of normal everyday duties, and not seeing quick results for months of hard work has left me really confused about God's calling for me and my family. That frustrates me because I hate to waste anything and I especially hate things that waste my time or anyone else's time. You can't get time back. In all my frustrations I have found my heart is a bit bitter and it just leaves a yucky taste in my mouth. Bitterness is an evil root and once it sets in it can leave a very ugly open wound. In the fog I am losing sight of the things in my life I am so thankful for, I am losing my grateful heart, and just a little frustrated with my current spot. That thing that happens to me when life changes too quick on me is happening...I freeze, I panic, I stop. I become afraid to move forward. Instead of being energized I am becoming numb and paralyzed. Doing nothing is worse then trying something!!

I feel dried up. I was feeling this way when I went to bed last night and I awoke very early today trying to let God speak to me a bit, to calm my anxious heart. I started to remember the story in 1 Kings when Elijah had to depend on God to provide food and water for him, literally. Elijah depended on God's gifts to survive, but eventually the brook dried up and Elijah had to depend on God himself, not the things he thought he needed to survive. God blesses us with provisions daily and sometimes I recognize them and some days I don't. The important thing I am learning is to not panic when those provisions dry up. Bad time to question God's goodness for my life. Instead I want to trust God himself that he will provide a new source...a new way. I am in a foggy place and have had my eyes squeezed tight a couple times during this hard stage. But I am peeking them open, slowly, trying to see past the fog to the light that I am sure is just ahead. Frustrated or not, God has me here at this moment and I want to be wise with what He has put before me. I want to finish well. Only 8 more days!

I am not writing this to get sympathy votes or for anyone to feel bad for me. I write this ugly truth post because it's real and it's what moms go through and it is just life. And we're all here at some time or another and I don't want to sugar-coat it. Life is just hard at times and those hard moments do not have to define us. I know life will slow down, I know God will care for me and my family, I know His plan is meant to be good and hopeful. Hard moments stretch us and make us better and I am all for that. I just don't always like the growing pains that come with it and most of all, I hope that in the long run that relationships aren't left uncared for for too long while I try to see my way into the clearing. 8 days and counting...

Monday, May 7, 2012

from there to here

Like a weather man predicts a good rain storm coming our way, I knew that spring time around here would feel a bit stormy at times. But like many good storms, we usually needed the rain and a few days later the grass is always greener, flowers are blooming, and the world seems suddenly more beautiful after a good rain. If you've read earlier in my blog posts, you also know I have been feeling this nudge to be a bit more courageous in my faith, for my family, or with my heart. It's scary to try new things and I am so slow to adapt to big changes. Things sound exciting to me until it starts happening and then I panic a bit inside. I doubt and sometimes doubting freezes my good intentions and I do nothing to move forward. Well, I'm trying really hard to not let my doubts, fears, and unknowns paralyze me. These last few months I've just decided to jump, to take leaps of faith and see where it lands me. And so I am going from there to here these days...

First of all, these little years of my children are days I have prayed for since before I was married. I prayed for my future children and looked forward to these mommy days like little boys dream of being football stars. Now that it is here I am loving it, but also living in reality of making it work with things that also happen when you get grown-up responsibilities put on you besides just being a mama. Bills have to be paid some how, children have to be trained some how, relationships have to be nurtured some how, others must be served some how, houses need cleaning, meals made, and growing must be allowed.  Being a mama also means holding onto some sort of identity other then being called "mom", even though most days that is all I really care to be called.

As I slowly stepped out of the fog of having a new baby I was seeing that there were just some things I wanted to be courageous about. Things that held a lot of value for me, but at the moment my current circumstances were making it hard to achieve. I'm slowly getting an everyday perspective that this life here is very temporary and what I do today really matters in the long haul. How I spend my hours is pretty important, considering it could be my or my family member's last minutes at any given time. For as much as I prayed for these years with little ones, I didn't want to waste them.

These thoughts started to lean hard on my heart and I slowly started to make some decisions in favor of establishing some good new rythems to how we function here as a family, growing up little hearts for Jesus and getting to know our Savior more ourselves. The first big leap was going to part time home-schooling. God has honored this choice and made it work really well for our family right now. I love what it has done for my relationship with Jax and his over-all growth. Another leap was getting chickens. I am serious. My middle son is a lover of animals and I saw an opportune moment to really hone in on some of his gifts and use the caring of animals as a great lesson in life in many areas. Seems silly and like ridiculous extra work, but at this house with this kid, it's worth it. And maybe the biggest leap of all... starting a whole new job. I have worked in the arena of early-childhood for 11 years. Teaching and doing in-home daycare in some way or another since I graduated from college. While I have a huge passion for leading the little ones, loving on them, and preparing them for the next big years as a child, I knew as we added a 3rd child of our own that this sort of job for me was really going to stretch how well I could balance family and work. So when I had a friend ask me if I had thought about starting my home-made baby-food business lately, I first laughed it off and then started to really give it some serious thought.

How did I get here you might ask? Any one who knows me well, knows I enjoy being in the kitchen and bringing good food to those I love. I love what gathering around a table with others does for relationships and I love reaching people's hearts through the art of a good meal. I think eating well is important, but I also know eating something especially tasty can make a bad day seem alright again. I have made my babies first bites from the beginning, have enjoyed teaching my friends and family how to serve up some fresh baby bites, and love sharing those first experiences with baby and food with others. I've never thought of myself as someone with the ability to start my own business or offer something special, but a little nudging from a few friends, a good support from my hubs, and asking God to lead the way has led me to this new adventure called Mama Made.

I had no idea where to start or how or when. A friend mentioned the farmers market circuit and I started to really explore that avenue. Praying hard as I tip-toed forward with this idea, I actually started to see it start to take shape and become more than an idea, but an actual means to an ending that I wanted for my family. I have been overly blessed with the amount of help I've had to get this off the ground. My incredibly talented friends and family have stepped in to offer their skills to help make this business idea come to life. One step after the other started to fall into place and before I knew it, I was standing in my very own farmers market booth next to my best partner ever, my sweet sis-in-law, Heidi. Getting to that place was a lot of hard work. A lot. I would lie to say it wasn't really hard at times and there were moments I wanted to just quit. But, I also am holding onto the truth that I knew this was going to be a crazy spring, May especially. The work/family balance feels really off centered right now, but I know we'll be sitting in green grasses and seeing the beautiful flowers soon...after the storm is over. At least I am trusting God's leading right now and hoping that is the outcome!

I have been forced to really get out of my comfort zone as I move ahead with this. I have had to ask for help, specific help, which is hard for me. I have had to let some things slide for a bit while I worked to get some of these other things going. I have had to let my friends and family see me frazzled and exhausted and unsure of myself.  I have had to stay up really late, say no to other things, turn my TV on more then usual for my kids while I worked, make tacos to eat for days in a row, let my laundry pile up to the ceiling, and just barely keep things afloat at times while I did all I could to get this off the ground. I am learning lots, tons actually. And if this business is nothing more then a step into something else eventually, then I know that I have given my all into this plan for now, God has opened doors, and I am jumping with my eyes wide open to any and all possibilities. My biggest worry is that I will let too much space get between my relationships with my family and friends while I go ahead full throttle for a short bit. And that all this work now, will hurt any relationships in the long run.

I really want these new adventures to be a good, good thing for our family. To allow for a better home focused way of life where I have more time to train and be with my own children. A routine where I go to bed at night feeling good about how I spent my day with my family, where I am with friends and family outside of this home, and connected to Jesus. I want my hours to count in the right way, so when this temporary home becomes my past, I can look back and know I spent it wisely and in the light of the Lord.

I am so thankful for the relationships in my life that have helped me get to this place. My life is a puzzle put together with people from many places along the journey. I know God uses these people to help mold me...my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, and sometimes total strangers with short encounters. I am excited about where this crazy season of trying new things could take us as a family. I'm also a bit scared about what it could do. So time will tell, but for now I know I am moving from there to here...

Friday, April 13, 2012


I love words. I love to surround myself with words that challenge me, inspire me, define me, explain to me, teach me, speak to me, scare me, show me. Words in so many ways are life-givers... words can give life, words can take away. We all choose what kind of words to give to others. And often times I come across someone else's words that breathe life into my very soul.
After a very long day today of feeling a little defeated I stumbled across this...

You learn to speak by speaking,
to study by studying,
to run by running,
to work by working;
and just so, you learn to love by loving.

All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.

- Saint Francis de Sales

...and suddenly I felt stronger again. Defeated no more, for I must keep doing and trying things to actually ever get better at anything. Can't very well be a good _______, without just doing _________. Tomorrow is a new day, another morning to try again. And try I will! Happy weekend everyone!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

finding holy

The longer I have been a follower of Jesus, the more the week leading up to Easter has become more special. There are a handful of reasons this time of year, here in this culture I live in and today's era of over-commercialized holidays, that this week has become my favorite "holiday". For one, I love that it is way less commercialized and way less pressure to get carried away with the holiday part of it. This is the first year I seriously forgot that there is a large majority of people visiting Easter bunnies at malls and buying chocolate rabbits to eat on Sunday morning. I absolutely see no problem in doing these things for fun with your kids, but I know that many kids soak in that Easter is about bunnies and candy and little about their salvation. I love that the week leading up to Resurrection Sunday (as we refer to it here) is called "holy week". Each year I am challenged to find some holiness in my week and it has nothing to do with being holy myself or thinking I am holy, but seeing God's holy desires for my heart.

This year I knew in order to find God's voice this week that I needed to turn some other "voices" off. I plugged out of a few things to leave space for God to whisper to me as I went about my week... turning off my phone through-out a few key times during my day, ignoring facebook, no radio as I drove around town, choosing my Bible before bed instead of my favorite book at the moment, home-school afternoons were less focused on the school end of things and more focused on the heart end of things and rest, no TV, and no new projects started. The TV wasn't turned on, except for some kids shows a few times and the outdoors was our personal sanctuary. Worship music filled our background here as we went about our day. Holy started to weave itself into our hearts as we found cleared away space to let Him in.

We began the week with a quiet walk through our favorite wooded area and started each day with our Bible breakfast. We read through and talked a lot about what it would have been like to live during the time of Jesus's accusation, crucifixion, and rising from the tomb. By Friday, as I read aloud at the breakfast table in detail what was happening to Jesus on preparation day in those times, my heart broke and I couldn't hide the tears. I'd had a week of turning my eyes away from things that drown out God's voice so often and was deeply humbled as I read through what Jesus had to do for me. And I realized I so often act in a way that is so ungrateful, so undeserving. My boys just sat in silence with me, as they too realized just a little tiny bit that there was something more to this Easter season then chocolate bunnies and easter egg hunts. I had read through a beautiful poem the night before called "Watch the Lamb" and while my boys quietly waited for me to get past some tears, I just saw myself standing before God as they held my hands and we saw the lamb together. As a parent I felt suddenly very equal and small. As a mom I spend much of my time assuming I know best and am a bit superior to my kids. But really, I am just blessed with raising these boys right now, but someday we will each be held accountable together, before the same God, and bringing the same equal sins to be wiped away. The lamb of God was slain for our sins, starting with the very littlest all the way to the very oldest in our family.

We know that Easter and holy week are both times of year planned by men. But I have chosen to use the origins of Easter, the timing of Jesus crucifixion, and my responsibility to Jesus to draw closer to Him. I have grabbed my kids by the hands and tried to help them hear God as we live this week a bit more focused on the gift laid before us. We've had fun finding easter eggs and eating chocolate bunnies heads off, but we've hidden God's words in our hearts, seen his beauty in the things he created around us, and heard his promises as we read the truth together each day. I have found holy this week and am overly humbled by what it does for my life. My salvation is secure and it makes the resurrection mean everything holy to me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

He knows me

After every new baby it seems I am always blowing in the wind awhile until I finally find a place to land and walk in those shoes for a bit. As I blow around I tend to feel very unattached from "me". I think to myself that I just need this or that to function again like it did before so I can feel more like myself. I work hard to get things back to how they were or at least as close as possible. I don't know why I adapt to change slowly (I think) and it ruffles my feathers a bit. I am starting to gain some perspective though on just who "me" is in all these stages and I've finally found some good conclusions to this rather questionable place.

Who I am, is where I am. "Who you are is where you are". I read this not long ago and it finally hit me.

I am me right where I am at. I have a visual in my head of who I think I am or who I think I need to be and this just needs to go sometimes. Some stages of my life I have been super organized and on time and remembered everything and wore clean clothes. That was me. Some stages I have been exhausted and worn out and loving little ones drooling on my shirts and forgotten things all the time. That has been me. Some stages I have been sad and wimpy and insecure and boring. This is true, this has been me. Some stages I have been helpful and well rested and had time for everyone and made monthly menus on my computer for the fun of it. Also a true version of me at some point. Whatever it has been that I've found myself doing or being...it has been or is me. Who I am today is simply that...who I am. God knows the well put together and loving life version of me and He knows the frazzled and a little unsure of myself version of me.

The truth I find in all this is that God knows me. He knows what it takes to make me His in each stage. He knows how to best form me in each season. He knows who to put in my life at the right times to help me be who He made me to be. He knows me. He knows me. He knows me. And I have much faith in Him knowing me. As long as I keep looking for Jesus in each stage of my life, then I can find peace in knowing He has me where He wants me and I want nothing more than to be in that place. So I am working hard to stop trying to get back to wherever I think I need to get back to and just as much trying to not focus too much on who I am trying to be and just be who God has made me to be today. Where I am is who I am and that, my friend, will be forever changing. As much as it ruffles my feathers, change is good and I'd be bored with the old me anyways :)

So as for today, right at this moment...I am just trying to be a follower of Jesus, loving on my kids, and helping my husband. That means a handful of different things for me from changing poopy cloth diapers to planning home-school for next week to washing Underdog costume to holding wrenches to praying to cooking meals to playing ball to reading my book to kissing owies to feeding dogs to having a joyful attitude to seeing Jesus. Whatever else comes my way today, I am open and willing because I know He knows me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The D word

No, not that word you may have thought of first. The D word in my life is doubt. Doubt: to be uncertain about, consider questionable or unlikely, hesitate to believe. This D word in my life creeps in when I am overly tired, when something seems too big to tackle, when the issue seems overwhelming, when I feel unequipped or unresourceful, when I don't think I have the energy to see it through. Satan loves this word. God releases us from it.

Too often I believe we let doubt fill our heart up before we give God a chance to show us a way or that we can. Lately I have felt God using this state of mind to make me aware of how he made me, not how Satan made me. Strong. Stronger then I think, actually. Especially with Him on my side. And with people in my life who I believe He uses to show me my own strength. Now this doesn't make me think I can do it "all". Whatever "all" is. But, it does make me feel like I am capable, if willing to do the hard work. And in my 32 years of existence, when I do the hard work I reap the fruits of my labor...usually!  But some things just still seem really, really scary. For example, home-schooling. This seemed crazy scary at times and the moments I let doubt take over, my decision was made. Not doing it. When I really handed it over to the Lord, He showed me the way and gave me the means. It was and has been a lot of work to make happen, but it is very good. But there are smaller examples too... take 3 kids to the grocery store, take 3 kids to Adventureland (1 being a 3 weeks old), try some new ventures of my own, attempt to heal a broken relationship (too much work, right?), clean/organize my kids bedrooms (scary at times!), and so on. Just think of all the little and big things we don't do because we doubt. I look around at my community and see so many strong people doing courageous things. I also look around and see so much potential in some who won't even take that first step.  I know that feeling. It freezes me at times and keeps me in a safe place where I can just keeping doing what I am doing and not rock the boat. But then I never get to experience the greatness that comes from trudging through some hard places.

That D word, doubt, finds its way into my heart when I least expect it and when I very consciously let it in. If you ask me, it is one of Satan's best weapons on us. Doubt leads to discouragement and that leads to being still, doing nothing. God wants us to be His hands and feet. He wants us to be women and men of faith. I can't do that when I am paralyzed by my own doubt. I have been leaning heavily on this verse lately...

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9

It's been very reassuring to know He is with me wherever you go. It's also been a good reminder that he commands me to be courageous. That's a hard pill to swallow some days. It doesn't mean everything will just become easy or that He will show me obvious signs of what and how to do things. It does tell me to seek though. And to try things. And to just remember that life will just be scary and hard at times... and that's okay. Really okay, actually. In these sometimes scary and hard places I wipe away doubt and let God use me and in the end I feel His strength come over me. With that strength I can finally really be His hands and feet. I am working hard at not letting that dang D word get the best of me. Hope you'll try too!