Saturday, April 12, 2014

Love at Daybreak

We sit together on the couch and she starts playing with my hair. Stroking it with her tiny fingers. She leans in close and whispers how beautiful I am.

Laughing I shoot and miss. Again. With a black controller in my hand I tell him how good he is at this game. He beams and patiently shows me once again- 'A' is to pass. 'X' is to slide. 'B' is to shoot. 

She comes alongside me as I prepare dinner. She asks to help and smiles wide when I tell her to pull up a chair. Together we put this and that into the pot. Together we serve.

She waits for me in her bed with a book in her hand. I curl up beside her and she starts to read. Some words come easily, others she takes her time to sound out. With each one her confidence grows and I get to share in her joy.

Tiny everyday miracles. Moments I try hard not to take for granted.



His hair falling wild across his forehead.
Her sweet giggles as I sing her our bedtime song.
The way her socks are always mismatched.
How she'll hug my waist and rest her head against me.
His love for his baby sister.
The bracelets they make me.
The bubbles in the bath.
The wind blown hair.
The silly songs.
The laughter.
The tears.

As a mom, I am given these tiny miracles.
They are my gift.
Every. Single. Day.
Even on hard days....

Tomorrow will be one of those hard days. April 13th will mark 22 years since I lost my mom to cancer.
This day is always hard.... and yet for the past few years it has also been a day that God has used to awakened my mama heart.
It it like a beautiful messy day of grief and thanksgiving.  

Tonight, as I think about my mom and the great joy it is BE a mom, this is my prayer:

"Surprise us with love at daybreak;
    then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
    we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
    the ways you rule and bless your children. 
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us"
   Psalm 90:14-17 (The Message) 

Oh God, may it be so.... Surprise my family with love at daybreak. Make up for the bad times with some good times. Let us see what you are best at. The way you rule and bless your children.

I am going to spend the day with my eyes wide open. I am going to hug tighter. Laugh longer. Listen harder. Love deeper.

And one day.....one day,  I will share these tiny miracles with her too.
xoxo


Friday, October 25, 2013

Date Your Spouse Challenge

It's 8:15am. I've been lying in bed for over an hour willing myself back to sleep. Finally gave in and snuck out of the quiet room, leaving a peaceful dreamer beside me.
I can't sleep in anymore. I am officially old.

This is our last day here. A week away in the mountains without our children. And though I have missed them, I wish we had a few more days here....



I realized this week that I truly do miss my husband.
Back home we see each other every day.
With a quick kiss here, a (kid interrupted) conversation there,  a snuggle on the couch after dinner, a "hey, how was your day"....

But this alone together week has been so wonderful.
So needed.
Time to just "be" together.
Sitting side by side reading.
Hiking in the morning air.
Late night swims and hot tubs.
Holding hands browsing mountain shops.
Cooking meals for two.
Quiet dinners out.
No schedule.
No set plans.
Just laughing. Joking. Loving.
Time to be reminded of why we chose one another.

It has been such a gift.

We have been married for 13 years and this is the first time we have been away alone for a week. I know that we are spoiled. To have family who spent the last week with our four joys. I know four kids is a lot..... I also know that this relationship. This marriage is a treasure. In this season of dirty diapers, and school papers, and sports games, and Saturday morning pajamas, and Friday night movies, and bedtime stories, and homemade cookies... my MARRIAGE is important. It's ok to ask for help. It's ok to set aside time for the two of you. It's ok to fall in love all over again.

It's ok and needed.

I have an idea...a little challenge. It's for my marriage and for yours. It's for those of us in the trenches of raising babies and those of you with school aged kids. It's for those who's babies are now teenagers and those who's birds have flown from the nest. It's for any and all marriages.

One day a month let's date our spouses. Let's take the time to put it on the calendar. Let's look forward to it. Let's put in a little effort.
It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to cost anything. If you can get a baby sitter great. If you can't- put those kids to bed early and make a romantic dinner for two.

Who's with me?

Please feel free to take this image and use on your posts (if you have a blog) or if you don't have a blog just come back and share in the comments what you ended up doing.


Here are a few fun ideas to get you started :)

1- Set up a scavenger hunt for your spouse- or find one online and do it together
2- Go for an evening walk
3- Take a trip to your local zoo, aquarium, amusement park- something you'd typically take the kids to but experience it with one another instead
4- Stay home and cook a romantic dinner for two together
5- Stay home and play board games together
6- Drive to a field and star gaze
7- Go fishing or to the driving range
8- Go on a bike ride together
9- Go to a garage sale/ flea market and spend $10 each and see what you can find
10- Go window shopping
11- Go out for ice cream
12- Ice skating/ roller skating
13- Go out to a restaurant and order each others meals
14- Find a quiet place to make out like when you were dating :)
15- Plan a "secret date night" where one of you surprises the other with the activity. So fun to not know where you are going until you get there!

And here's a link to soooooooo many more great ideas: 101 Date Night Ideas 

Happy Dating!
xo



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All I Can Do

This song came on the radio today. I've heard it before, but today it sunk into my heart. More and more I find myself awakening to the reality that my life is truly beautiful.... a gift. One that I didn't earn or deserve....

All I Can Do- Mikeschair

I could write a love song
Tell You what I think you wanna hear
But it wouldn't be good enough, no
Yeah, I could try so hard
To give it everything I got
But I'm not ever gonna measure up

All I can do is thank You
For this life I never deserve
Wanna thank You for the grace
I know I don't have to earn
You love me, You love me
Your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank You
Today all I can do is say thank you.... 

It would have been easy
But I'm glad You never walked away
'Cause Your love runs deep for me
And I see this beautiful world
And it brings tears to my eyes
And I think it's beautiful to be free


I know that it's Mercy that allows me to wake up each day with a chance to allow Him more room IN my everyday. The more I try to do things on my own (especially with parenting) the harder I find it. It's not until I slow down and notice all the little things I have in my life to be thankful for that I gain perspective.
And so, I continue to count....

#332. Cleaning the clutter
#338. Jumping over the cracks
#345. Frozen gummybears
#350. Dangling little legs while I carry her sleepy body to bed
#365. A quiet house
#401. Her giggle when I wrap her wet hair in a towel on top of her head
#402. Warranty for broken glasses
#430. Reading side by side
#442. Cake in the oven
#467. Hum of the dishwasher
#495. Toys strewn about
#501. Boys who respect
#506. Grass and bare fee
#515. Her wild curly hair
#528. How it takes a village
#537. Early christmas shopping
#539. Made up songs
#541. Anticipation for a week away- just the two of us
#544. Leaves dancing in the wind
#548. Playing grounders- not caring about the other parents watching
#551. His first powerpoint erased. Lessons learned.
#555. Kisses goodbye in the school drop off line

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, October 11, 2013

A New Start


This past week I have been getting up at 5 am.
Craziness.
FIVE. IN THE MORNING.

If you are a morning person you may be thinking, umm.....what's the big deal?
As a night owl I am here to tell you it is a VERY big deal.

For the past 10 years since having our first baby I have been (unsuccessfully) trying to morph into a morning person. It hasn't been for lack of effort. The intentions are there. The desire clear. I want to love getting up. Somehow though, the morning rolls around and I am just mad that I have to wake up. I wish I could jump out of bed with pep in my step, but alas, I must resort to forcing my body up. Willing my eyes to open. Giving myself just 5 (ahem 15) more minutes.

Anyways, back to this 5 am madness.

My husband has been getting up at this insane hour for the past couple of weeks to workout. He does his workout, hops in the shower and is at work by 6:15 am.
And people, he's happier. He's been telling me how awesome it it, how much work he gets done, how much energy he has.... blah, blah, blah.
Well, his peppiness made me a little jealous, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I have been doing this thing for a week now, and here's the deal- he gets up happy, smiling, ready to go.... and I stumble down the stairs with my eyes half open, a little grumpy and angry at him for being so "lalalala!" He laughs at me and says he doesn't understand why I don't love it. I wonder how on earth he can be laughing before the sun is even up. Grrrrrr.

But here's the fun part....after about 10 minutes of running on the treadmill I start to enjoy it. Gasp. I know. It starts to become enJOYable. And a little smile creeps into my heart and I am actually thankful to be awake.

Thankful to be able to watch the sun rise.
Thankful to have two hours before we have to head out the door for school.
Thankful that I am not rushing & yelling & rushing & yelling at the kids to get going.

Funny how the heart shifts as it awakens....

Our kids get up at 7am. Correction- they are not allowed out of their rooms until 7am. Our spunky 6 year old is usually awake before then- and inevitably wakes her little sister (they share a room) but they have to stay in there until their clock says the magical number seven.

This getting up at 5 madness has given me an hour of quiet after my workout. An hour in the morning before any of the chaos begins to start my day with Jesus. This morning in the bible study I am doing (God's Wisdom for a Mother's Heart) I was challenged to write out my goals. As a woman of God. As a wife. As a mom.

It's amazing how writing things out brings such clarity. Especially for me. Writing has always been a way in which I process. A way in which I learn. A way in which I worship. It's so great to see where I want to be. The areas in which I need to grow. And the ability to look back at where I've been.

One of the things I wrote down this morning on my list was that I want to get back to writing. I miss this. Tonight a friend started blogging again...and once again I heard His whisper.

I'm not sure what this is going to look like, but I want to write again.
This, my friends, is a start.

And I am reminded of the fact that if I didn't push through the hard (getting up when my body screamed NOOOOO!) I'd miss out on the awesome.
I'd sleep right through the blessing.

Do you have goals written out? What will your list look like? 

xo

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making room- Part Two

I am now more than halfway through my "7" fast.
I have done food, clothing, possessions and today I am finishing up media.

(If you haven't read my first post on "7" you can read it by clicking here)

I can honestly say that God is wrecking me. It's hard to put into words but I want to document what He is doing in my heart, so I'm going to try and write out what's been going on. Here goes....

CLOTHING

Let's start with the clothing. For two weeks I gave myself 7 articles of clothing to choose from.
2 pairs of jeans.
3 t-shirts.
2 sweaters.
(undergarments and winter wear weren't included, in case you were thinking "what the what"!? Ha!)

As I predicted this particular fast wasn't that difficult for me. In fact I was a little disappointed that it wasn't harder- especially coming off the food fast where I needed to rely daily (sometimes hourly) on God. It's just not an area I struggle in (but trust me- we'll get to the area I MAJORLY struggle with soon...ahem.media.ahem)

I decided to start the fast without letting Chris know what I was doing... it took him almost a week and a half to notice that I was wearing the same few shirts every day. Hmmm. This either speaks to how much I value clothing and looking presentable to the world, or how much he really looks at me. Ha!

What I did discover is that even for someone who doesn't struggle with clothing I STILL had a closet full of clothes I don't necessarily need. I managed to pick out 3 large garbage bags packed full to give away.

POSSESSIONS

This was the fast I was most excited about when I read the book. See, I love to purge. I mean I reeeeeeaally LOVE to purge. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing a messy disorganized space and imagining what I can do to clean it up!

I am really not attached to "things" and can happily move them along to another home.
Plus, Chris and I have been really trying to break the spirit of entitlement in our home. Why do we feel like we are so entitled to have all that we have. And our kids? Well, we want better for them. We want them to feel joy and thankfulness in what they do have, rather than be overwhelmed with SO.MUCH.STUFF!

So we did an experiment. We had the kids bring every single toy they own up to our family room and we dumped them in one large heap. Then I instructed the kids to sit quietly for 5 minutes and look at all their stuff. We sat. We looked. We grieved.

Finally Abby spoke up "This is too much for one family, Mommy"
Yes, my sweet love. It is. Too much for one family indeed.

So we organized it all and then we allowed the kids to pick a few items to keep and we got rid of the rest.
Since doing this, I have noticed their imaginations come to life. I hear them making up elaborate games. Even our two year old now crawls around the house pretending to be her big sisters pet doggie.
Gone are the days of "Mom I'm boooooored" followed by "How can you be bored? You have so many things to play with!"
Gone are the days of taking out every single toy and not knowing what to play with.
Gone are the days of confused children standing among the disaster of a mess of toys overwhelmed with where to even start cleaning up.

Who knew that having less would serve them even more!!

This week wasn't just about the kids. I went through the kitchen, the bathrooms, the basement... and said goodbye to many an item.
What did I learn? Even though these two weeks were fun for me, they also grieved my heart. How did we ever allow so much stuff? How did I not notice it before? I honestly purge my home at least a couple of times a year and yet, we still had so many things that we could give away. Sigh. My way of thinking has changed. I pray that as we move forward He will continue to quicken my heart when it comes to what we allow into our home.

Which brings me to the area in which I most struggle...

MEDIA

Media. Sigh.
My heart is so grieved after these two weeks. I find it hard to even put into words. How do I explain my heart when it is still so very raw....

I have always struggled with balance. Finding time for God, time for myself, time to be a good wife, time for my children, time for my business, time for friends...ect. And for a long time I have felt so out of balance. This fast has really been a big piece of finding an answer to that puzzle.

I have always been aware that I spent way too many hours online. It was an easy escape. A way to somehow feel connected. Inspired. Encouraged. And yet I also discovered after these two weeks that it was a way in which I compared myself. Where I found worth. Where I found a false sense of identity.

For these past two weeks I have stepped away from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs. I texted only when necessary. I shut down my computer- only checking email once a day (a necessary thing when running a business and corresponding with the kids school.) Basically I unplugged.

And man oh man. My heart is torn in a million peices. How on earth did I allow myself to go so far down the rabbit hole? It wasn't until I complete removed these things from my everyday that I realized how much worth I truly do find in them. And really, how much worth is stolen from me at the same time.

Specifically when it comes to my business. This is when I most often feel like I am not enough. Isn't that just like the enemy? To whisper these cheap lies into our hearts?  It's almost like I've become addicted to feeling bad about myself. For me, it's the enemy's playground- stomping all over my insecurities, making me feel like I completely and wholly suck as an artist, as a person.

It's like I'm an alcoholic. I have become addicted to beating myself up and comparing myself to everyone else. So, like any addict, I need to remove myself from the temptation. It grieves me because I want to be happy for my friends and fellow photographers. I want to be inspired and encouraged by their talent, and yet it's an area in which I can't control (at this point anyways). When I see someone else's work I am jealous and ugly. I start to tell myself how much I suck. How far I have to go. How I'll never measure up.

It took stepping away from this for two weeks to discover that I was doing it on a daily bases. How refreshing these past two weeks have been- to not feel like I am not enough. It's been like a breath of fresh air.

So... where do I go from here?

To be honest, I don't really know. It's going to be a work in progress. I have to continue to remove myself from the temptation of comparing. I am not strong enough yet to jump right back into where I was two weeks ago. So, I am going to continue to limit my exposure. I am going to dive more into his word. I am going to focus in on my own art rather than looking at everyone else. And maybe, eventually, I can open up my heart and not feel like I am not enough.

I read this last week and it really does sum up what I'm learning...

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you. Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God has done for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of maturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

May it be so.

xo

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slow to speak

I saw a post today on a friends facebook page.
She was upset about something someone else did and shared her thoughts on her page. Soon after there were many comments backing her up. Cheering alongside her. Like an angry mob, they joined in her cause.

But here's the thing. I didn't agree with her.

I even started to write out a comment, simply pointing out that there was a different side to the coin.... but then I took a second, thought about it, and deleted it. What did I hope to accomplish? Would I start an ugly debate, and fuel the already angry flames?

And then I got to thinking. Really. Why do we have to be so mean to each other? Why do we come down on other parents when we don't always know the whole picture? When we don't fully understand. Sometimes I think we are so wrapped up in our own emotions that we don't stop to think about how what we say can affect others. How it can hurt them.

The more I think about this, the more I can see past this particular incident and right into my very own heart, where I am mean. And judgmental. And critical. And harsh. Not always out in the open, but in my heart of hearts I can be ugly.

And yet, I feel a shifting. An awareness. A light bulb turning on. He's revealing the ugly in me. Not to feel bad about it, or like there is no hope for me, but rather to set me free from the bondage of fear. And insecurity. And unforgivness. And judgment. And anger. Because that's exactly what it is. A bondage. No one can be happy and angry at the same time. Full of joy and full of judgment at the same time. And which would we rather be.....?

This is my prayer today. For me. For you..... May we all be quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Grace.
He's there to cover all.

xoxo

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making room

For a long time I have felt unsettled in my heart.
It's been too hard to explain it and so I haven't really tried to write about it here. I haven't even really tried to talk about it with many people. And when I do, it seems to come out all wrong.

This morning I read this in my devotions and it just so perfectly explains the inner battle I have been having.



The priorities I have in my life are not lining up with how I spend my time.

I did an exercise a few months back where I wrote out what I thought my priorities were and then in the next column I wrote out what a typical day looked like and how I spent my time. The two lists did not match up. I was wasting away my days. Not pouring into what my priorities were "suppose" to be, but rather into meaningless, wasteful things.

And so I have been on a journey to figure this all out.
Last month after a sweet friend recommended it, I started reading the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.


The concept of 7 is to fast 7 areas of excess in our lives (one fast per month) in order to make more room for God.

More room.

Maybe my heart has been out of balance because is is so jam packed with excess.
It's been so cluttered with "stuff".

I read the book from cover to cover in 2 days. And got excited.
Here I have some practical ways to walk out this unsettled feeling I have in my heart.

I decided to do each fast for 2 weeks. 14 days of giving up a specific area in my life that I can then allow more room for his spirit.

Food.
Clothing.
Possessions.
Media.
Waste.
Spending.
Stress.

Seven areas in my life that I can take a closer look at and re-arrange priorities in.

First up was Food. I just finished this 2 week fast on Sunday.

I've always had the intention of feeding my family well. I have always wanted to serve healthy, wholesome meals. But the reality has been that more often than not our diet consisted of processed junk. Lack of planning. Convenience. And really just laziness all contributed to our multiple times per week drive-thru meals and phone calls to order pizza. Sigh.

For the two weeks I choose 7 food "groups" that I would be allowed to have:
Fruit
Vegetables
Meat
Dairy
Nuts
Weird flours to bake with (almond, quinoa, flaxseed)
Tea

A few things you need to know. I love pop. Especially fountain pop. Preferably from a drive thru.
I also love chocolate. As in I need to have it in some form or another every single day.
Candy and chips and pretzels and ice cream were our treats of choice for after the kids were in bed.

For two weeks I had to say goodbye to the McDonald's line up, the daily chocolate bars I once enjoyed. I bid farewell to candy, chips, ice cream and all things sugary and processed.

It's weird. I thought that these two weeks were going to be torture. That I wouldn't be able to live through them, but in fact they have been wonderful.

Some nights (due to planning) turned out awesome. And some nights we didn't eat until after 7pm, but all in all I am proud to say we didn't drive through one line up to pick up food. All of our meals were home cooked, without sugar (and the first week without wheat- but that's a whole other story!) healthy and delicious!

Through these past two weeks God has shown me a lot.  I believe it's because I have allowed him room. In my everyday. So many opportunities these past couple of weeks to speak with him. Focus my attention to Him. Pray for family & friends, and actually see some of those prayers answered. It's been so good that to have these opportunities where I would normally indulge and instead take a step back and spend time in prayer rather than stuffing my face. HaHa. God is fun.

What have I learned?

* I can cook healthy, yummy, pretty meals that my family actually enjoy.

* I have more energy when I eat healthy- go figure!

* Saying no to sugar was not as hard as I thought.

* Habits can be broken.

* Making our own granola bars and fruit roll ups is fun :)

* The kids love eating healthy.

* I emotionally eat. I happy eat, sad eat, mad eat, stress eat.... basically any form of emotion is covered in food. Rather than eating for health, I fuel for emotions. This is a work in progress.

* And the biggest thing I have learned??......I feel entitled- even in the food I eat. Like somehow I "deserve" to eat what I want when I want to because I give "so much" to my family, and I deserve some small reward. Right?! Yikes!

I have allow entitlement in through food and it just grows from there to other areas of my heart. What a crazy concept. I didn't even realize that I was doing this. Thankful that He opens our eyes to areas in our hearts that He wants to touch.

It's surprising, after these two weeks I'm not even really craving all the terrible stuff I used to put in my body. For me this fast has been about taking a step back and seeing what food has done to my body. That we really are temples of the Holy Spirit and that the way we eat can in fact be a form of worship. Craziness.

I am not going to swear off all the yummy sugary treats forever, but my way of thinking has changed. These treats will be just that- treats. Something to enjoy every once and awhile, not everyday. I am excited to continue to serve my family healthy home cooked meals and enjoy the fact that every once and awhile we will splurge on a meal out. Moderation. It's a good thing.

Thankful to be on this journey of allowing Him room....

xoxo

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