Monday, December 30, 2013

The Waiting Game

Waiting... Waiting... Waiting.

Ever had a big life event on the horizon? You know that anticipatory anxiety you get before big events, those butterflies in your stomach? Yep. Every day. Every Single Day! You see when you get married or have a big birthday or whatever you have an end date. Every contraction, every hour, every weird feeling I think "is this it?"

Even though I have a due date, due dates mean squat. Only like 5% of women actually deliver on their due date. I have yet to understand why they don't give you a due week or due month, lets be real, that's much more accurate.

Honestly, I thought we would have met little G by now. We had a false labor scare the Sunday before Christmas and thought it might even be the real thing, I mean when they checked me I was already 3 cm and 80% with contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. 2 hours after arriving, nothing changed so we went home thinking it would be any day and definitely within the week. Nope. 8 days later, still pregnant.

So I wait, and I wait and I wait.

Big G asked me  last night if I would rather know the end date or if I would rather not. Honestly, if I knew when this would all come to a head I would probably be more anxious than I am now. You see, this pregnancy has been wrought with anxiety and denial. It's not something I planned for and I have had a terrible time coming to grips with the upcoming changes. I also have a daughter to worry about this time around and I am in constant fear of something going wrong and E having to deal with the consequences of that at such a young age.

But God is faithful and trustworthy and I have had to lean on that truth over and over. I often feel lead to read Isaiah 41. I can sum the chapter up in 1 sentence. Do not be afraid, I am with you. Such grace that God has for his kids to give them that hope and assurance. "Don't be afraid of this, I will hold your hand through it. I will be with you." Thank you Jesus.

So we wait in eager anticipation for a little boy who is going to forever change our lives and bring us immeasurable love and joy over the course of his life. Someday in the very near future our little threesome will become four and our hearts will overflow with more love than we can imagine even possible. That's what excites me, so I hold on to that hope and excitement and try my darnedest to focus on what will more than likely go right than what could remotely go wrong.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What are you living for?

I wrote a brief Facebook post last night in response to an article Dave Ramsey posted on his blog. You can read the original post here:

Someone had posted it to Facebook and it piqued my interest. I came away from reading the article completely torn and honestly feeling a bit off-put. Maybe it's because I grew up poor or maybe it's something more.

His (Tom Corley not Dave Ramsey) 20 habits are all good habits and things that everyone should try to do, sure. The problem lies in his assumptions. He bases this article and hid book Rich Habits off the assumption that it is these habits that made people rich. That there is causality, not merely correlation. Causality and correlation are worlds apart. Sure these habits may very well correlate with being wealthy but that does not mean they cause wealth.

I think the hardest part for me in reading this was how it led me to view the poor. This list puts people into categories, rich vs poor. Let me tell you from experience, poor people do not often choose to be poor. They are goal setters but typically that goal is either to survive or to find a way to make enough money to simply put food on the table. They are often hard workers who have lacked the opportunities afforded to more affluent families like education, books, and gym memberships. There is a cycle of poverty, one that takes immense effort to break free from. People do it everyday, I did it, but even though I already practice many of his 20 habits I am no where near wealthy. Which brings me to my final point.

What are you living for? Are you living to acquire wealth and riches. Is that the end game? Sure we all would like to be financial well off or at least stable, but is that your goal, to live a comfortable life? To keep up with the Joneses? Or are you living for Jesus? Are you willing to do what Jesus asks of you? Are you willing to sell all of your possessions and give to the poor if that's what he calls you to?

Mark 10:21-25 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Psalm 37:16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of the wicked. 

Psalm 49:16-17 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he does he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down with him. 

You see, God will bless some and they will be wealthy and others he will call to poverty. In the end we can't take anything with us. We can't make ourselves rich, God is our provider. He is our source of everything good. He provides what we need, not always what we want. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. 40 YEARS. Are you ok if God calls you to wander the desert for 40 years. To be forced to trust Him and his provision and not in your abilities to make yourself wealthy, healthy, and wise? 

The rich young man went away sorrowful because he had put his trust in the provision. Not the Provider. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Little Update

I felt the urge to write while Ellia takes an early nap, but honestly I am having a hard time deciding where to place my focus. So, lets just do a little post on the random thoughts that tumble through my brain.

1. Baby Time! In somewhere around 7-8 weeks we will be bringing home a new baby. I still cannot fathom how quickly this pregnancy went. I am getting more and more excited to meet our little warrior and we finally have a middle name. However, I feel completely unprepared this time and that is causing my nesting instinct to freak out a little.

2. I feel hopeful lately. For quite some time I have felt very dry, and very stuck in our situation. Things are still tough but I feel God beginning to move things around. I don't know if its just that I have become more grateful for what we do have or if there really is something brewing, but I am hopeful. I feel like this season of drought might finally be coming to an end. I hope and I pray it is.
hope shines brightest in the darkest moments... Above all things.. Hope!

3. Worry steals, joy gives life. You will never regret a moment spent in joy, but you will regret those lost to worry and fear. This thought hit me last week. I have worried so much in my life. I worry about everything and it often succeeds at stealing my joy in most situations. Instead of excitement over meeting our little boy I have been racked with fear. The enemy comes to steal and destroy, and he does so through worry and fear. Jesus comes to bring abundant life full of joy and hope. So I choose joy. I don't want to waste my life worrying about the would be's or could be's. Instead, I want to enjoy the is's and are's.
4. Happy Holidays. This is my very favorite time of year. Since we can't travel for christmas this year my family will be coming to us. I cannot tell you how excited I was to find out that they were all willing to come to us the weekend before. So thankful!

5. Prayers, please. There are some opportunities that may be making themselves available to us. We desire God's will over all and we know that it is only by His will that things will work out. So we ask and pray and hope that God will move in a mighty way. I know its all very vague, but please just pray that God would be moving in our situation and that His grace and His glory would prevail.

6. Update on One Thousand Gifts. I am still working on writing things down. I have not done the best job recently but I do feel it continually shifting my view from the negatives to the positives. I am thankful for the change in perspective. We have so much to be grateful for, but life often distracts us and pulls us away from the good in our lives. I keep jotting new things down and God continues to remove the scales from my eyes one by one.
gratitude- this is so very true and what I live by- quit griping people and suck it up!!!! God bless you today! :)
7. Happy little E. E is such a joy. I honestly could not have asked for a happier child. I prayed often before she was born that she would be full of joy and boy did God answer me. She makes people smile everywhere we go, and I pray that God would continue to grow that joyful spirit that she would just be such a light in the darkness. She is to me every single day.

That was all over, but sometimes it is nice to just sit and reflect on what God is doing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Men and Women Want

Before I get into my point I should warn you, I haven't been single since high school. I won't pretend to know the struggle of waiting day after day for my prince charming. However, getting married young and moving forward has been challenging in its own ways and altered the course of my life in ways that being single wouldn't have. I wouldn't trade it for the world, but know that it is a challenge to be married as well.

I have been seeing a lot of articles circulating about facebook titled things like What Men Want in a Godly Woman and What Women want in a Godly Man

I have read both and wholeheartedly agree with many of the points made, but I have some reservations about what singles may take away.

I fear women and men will read them and think; OK, I'll just fix this, this, and this about myself and then a man will come. Then Jesus will finally approve of me enough to send me the desires of my heart. I will be whole and therefore ready for any man who rings my bell, and by golly he will be The One. If I can be all of these things I will be worthy of a husband/wife. Then, they try and try to fix all their faults, to be better, to be less emotional or more masculine and nothing happens. Men/Women don't come flooding in and they are left wondering what else they need to change to finally be lovable.

Women are always comparing themselves to each other. We want to be like Sally, Josie, or Betsy, because they are married and happy and have everything they have ever wanted. They shine like beacons a midst a grey and dingy world of singleness. Single women are left wondering what is wrong with them that they don't have that? What is wrong with them that they haven't found their partner, their helpmate?

Here is the thing. Women, you will never be wholly what a man wants. Men, you will never fully live up to a woman's expectations. We have ridiculously high expectations. These articles, although true and good, read as though you can make yourself those things and then a man will want you. Until you realize that living for the approval of a man is useless, you will continue to try harder to be better and keep failing. The only man you need gain approval from is Jesus. He is the only one you ought to be living to impress.


Here is the kicker, if you are truly living for Jesus, those things will fall into place. Many of those attributes are attributes of God. Honestly, loyalty, masculinity, right emotionality. Those are God traits, that is why we want them in our men and women. Women want a man who loves Jesus with his whole being, because if he does, he will no doubt be honest and loyal. Men want a woman who has a heart of compassion and loves like her Father loves. Jesus is faithful as we follow Him to make him more like us, to make us new creations, over time.

God is God of your love life.

However, and here is the second kicker and probably biggest challenge. You will not find a perfect man. The man God intends for you will not be perfect. (Men, neither will the woman). He will fail you, and heaven knows you will fail him again and again. I fail my husband weekly, if not daily. He fails me just as much.  We are human. Sinful, messy, humans. The perfect man for you will not meet every item on your checklist, and you can bet your bottom that you will not meet his. As long as you are itemizing every character trait that your future spouse must have you have completely forgotten grace. Grace is what keeps us going in life, and especially in marriage. Without grace, we are nothing. Without grace in a marriage, it will fail. (This is not saying you should be unequally yolked, but that's another discussion for another time)
"I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not perfection." Anonymous
So rely on Jesus, hide yourself in Him, clothe yourself in his righteousness and accept His grace and love. In doing so, you will be able to show grace and love to others. You don't need to be better, you need more of Jesus. We all need more of Jesus.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Single Digits

As I was walking with my friend last week we were chatting about my current pregnancy and she asked how far along I was. I am 31 weeks along and she exclaimed, "Oh! Your in single digits" and I thought, "Oh crap, I am"

Where did the time go? I remember waiting for what felt like an eternity to reach my due date with E. It feels like Baby G just started cooking yesterday.

31 weeks.

Less than 9 weeks to go.

January 3rd is now less than 2 months away.

What. Is. Happening!

I still don't feel like I have fully wrapped my head around what it will be like to go from a family of three to a foursome. Often, I get excited thinking of what little G will look like or be like, but just as often I worry about what an upheaval this will be for E. I feel sad that her reign as an only child is coming to an abrupt end and she isn't even old enough to fully understand what is happening. I know she will be a wonderful big sister and the fact that she is young should actually work to her advantage in the long run, but its odd to think about her not being the "baby" anymore.

If you haven't noticed I tend to worry a lot.

Fear is something that has ruled my life for quite some time, I am often fearful of most things. So it is only natural for me to fear what this means for my family and my sweet girl. Thankfully, most things rarely live up to my fears and even if they do I often handle it far better than I imagine I could. God truly gives us the strength we need when we need it. So I may freak out now, but I know that all will be well in the end.

Speaking of upheaval, if any of you out there have tips for how to help an 18 month old transition to siblinghood, please please share the love! Even just thoughts on going from 1 to 2 children would be greatly appreciated. It is amazing how God equips us in the moment, but I also fully believe in the mantra "it takes a village to raise a child." Villagers, what say ye?!

2 months.

2 months until we meet our little man, a little boy. 2 months until our house goes from pink to blue and bows and ribbons turn into bow ties and suspenders. What a wonderful worry to have, that I have been graced with 2 children to love and parent. What a blessed mess of a life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A PSA from a Wedding Photographer

A Friendly Public Service Announcement for Fancy Camera Yielding Wedding Guests:

Since starting my journey into photography I have shot a number of weddings, I have also attended or was in my fair since beginning to shoot as well. Since DSLR's (fancy cameras) have become all the rage among amateurs and pro's alike, it's only reasonable that etiquette may need to be explained to those interested in and excited about photography. 

This post is made in good jest and hopefully you can read it with a sense of humor! If you are guilty of any of these, that's OK, in fact you should tell me about it in the comments! We are all human and we all make mistakes, its even better when we can look back on them and laugh at our silliness. (Like the time I told a pregnant woman she looked far farther along than she was, DOH! See, I started us off!)

1. Thou shalt not have more/equal equipment to the main photographer

When attending a wedding I rarely, if ever, will take along my DSLR. Now, there is no issue with you bringing yours, but it is important to realize that the bride and groom have shelled out a pretty penny for someone to come and make them smile and pose and do all sorts of awkward things, they don't need Aunt Berta asking them to do the same. If you do bring your fancy camera, leave the extra lenses and external flash at home. How many pictures of someone else's wedding will you be hanging on your walls anyways?

At one wedding I had to actually ask someone to put away their equipment in fear of them trying to do the same as me during some vital shots. It's always an awkward conversation. Nobody likes awkward, so leave your extras at home!

2. Thou shalt not plagiarize the photographer. 

Wait, plagiarism, isn't that when people copy and paste cliff notes instead of actually writing their term paper? Well, yes, but it is very possible to plagiarize a photographers work. I never thought of this one until I was working on my wedding contract and reading through various others I found on the internet. Many, including mine, ask that family and friends refrain from taking pictures while the photographer is doing the posed shots (think family, couple, bridal party). And then I began shooting more weddings and this became all the more real to me. 

Example 1: At one wedding as I was focused on posing my bride and groom along with some family members, I began to walk backward down the aisle to get a better view. In the process I ran over the man behind me with his fancy DSLR and external flash who was quite literally shooting over my shoulder. This is plagiarism. I did all the work to pose and set up the shot, he now gets to claim the picture he took as his work and doing. 

Example 2: I was once in a wedding where the photographer had to ask a guest with a fancy camera to stop taking pictures while she took bridal party pictures. The guest was not pleased and threw quite the death stare the photographers way. Don't be them, if the photographer asks you to stop be polite and move on. 

Now, there is a caveat to this. If Grandma Jane is snapping away with her point and shoot, or maybe even a DSLR, I will rarely ask them to stop. It doesn't bother me if family is just taking some candid shots while I do the main deal, but as soon as you turn on your flash or get in my way during the posed shots, I will probably say something. Which brings us to number 3

3. Thou shalt not use flash

Please please please don't use flash at a wedding unless you absolutely have to. I know everyone does it. Try not to, at least while you see the photographer actively shooting. The flash from someone else's camera can completely ruin a shot for a photographer. If you need to use it, just be aware of whether or not the photographer is in the middle of shooting and try to take it in between their shots. 

4. Thou shalt not try to direct the photographer

Unless you are the bride, groom, wedding planner, DJ, or venue professional you should probably avoid telling the photographer what to do. Most of us have done this before and should have done our research on how to best manage our shots. Trust us, we have a plan. If we ask you a question, answer us then, otherwise just sit back, relax and enjoy the wedding!

5. Thou shalt have fun

I am not sure if you realize this but most weddings I shoot are 9-12 hour work days with much standing, bending, laying on the ground, kneeling, sweating, and all together running around. A photographer's job is not easy, it is entirely fun, but not easy. If you are a wedding guest you have the distinct pleasure of sitting back and enjoying a beautiful day, and you get to eat cake!  (I do too, but you get to enjoy yours) Enjoy the wedding, be present. Take candid pictures, take pictures with your friends (seriously, I love taking pictures of people taking pictures), dance, have fun. You have the easy job, bask in the glory that is being able to actually be present and focused on making memories! 

Those are my five commandments, now go with your knew knowledge and use those fancy cameras wisely! If you have a fancy camera you should be using it, but don't forget to enjoy what's around you first before you focus on the perfect shot. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oh the Humility!

I feel like this blog has been pretty heavy lately. So let's lighten this up a little with some real talk on motherhood.

I have never felt so ill equipped to do anything in my life. Never. I am one of those people who is pretty good at the whole fake it til you make it phenomena. In college, I managed to write a ten page paper on a book that I read the same amount of pages of. I got an A. (It was for extra credit and I don't think the prof even read it)

In grad school I managed my way through grueling internships by feigning confidence in the midst of sheer terror at the impact I may or may not have on the lives of those I came into contact with.

Motherhood, is a totally different ballgame. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Always. I wanted lots and lots of babies. Now that I am in the throws of motherhood, expecting number two within the next 3 months, I am not far from crawling into bed, assuming the fetal position, and waiting out the storm. My child has been incredibly easy, until recently. She figured out that she can willfully disobey Mommy and honestly I think she thinks it's hilarious. She often stands up in a chair we have in our play room and looks at me like "yep, I just did that, what are you going to do about it? Oh pull me out, nice try mom, I'll just go ahead and climb back in and do it again." Funny, sinful, little child.

This child, at only 15 months, knows how to push my buttons at just the right times. And I get angry and then think, how am I going to do this as she gets older? How will I do this with two? HOW? Oh and there is no way short of a miracle that this little boy will be as easy and laid back as his sister was as a baby. No way.

Then I think of my bed, and again I'm tempted to crawl in and never come out.

Until I think of all the goofy things that E does, the laughs, the giggles, the obsession with my scarves and anything that can substitute as a bracelet. The silly faces and dances she does.

That's motherhood. The joyous mess. It's beautifully humbling and entirely terrifying, but simply amazing at the same time.

Motherhood makes you into this person you never knew you could be. Someone who is obsessed with bodily functions, especially poop. Is it the right color, consistency? Oh look, she ate some crayon, thats an unexpected surprise! Someone who loves this little being more than they ever thought possible. Someone who willingly gives up fancy clothes, showering at normal times, eating warm meals, and their thought of the perfectly clean and decorated home for their child.

Its humbling, surprising, and often hilariously messy.

Thank God that we don't have to be prepared for everything, that He meets us in every messy chaotic moment and grows us into better mothers with each blowout, each throw of the cup, each whine, hit or bite.

Thank God that we don't need to meet perfection, that He is the perfect one and that we get to share that with our children when we mess up. "See Mommy needs Jesus just as much as you do because she gets mad and sins and has to ask for forgiveness too"

Someday I will look back and miss these days terribly. The days that I could pick up my child and hold her tight. The days that she pooped in the tub, threw her cup 45 times, whined, complained, and then gave mommy the sweetest hug. I will miss each sweet mispronounced word.

Because someday she will be a teenager, and knowing how I was, and knowing how many are during that time, I will look back and beg for her biggest issues to be throwing cups and pooping in unexpected places. Because its much easier to clean up a mess on the floor, than a hurting heart or broken friendship.

So for now, thank God for spilled milk and standing in chairs.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Life of Gratitude Part 2

I wrote a few weeks ago on how I have struggled recently with joy and gratitude in the midst of suffering and I wanted to give a small update.

I finished the book I was reading, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and although there were parts I may not fully agree with, the overall message painted a beautiful picture of learning how to practice living in gratitude to a faithful loving God. The great thing was it wasn't a self help book, it was a memoir, a reflection on how noticing God's graces leads Ann to a more grateful life and a greater union with Jesus.

Couldn't we all use more gratitude? More Jesus?

As I began reading I decided to take on the challenge and write down 1000 gifts over the course of the next months or however long it takes me. Each day I try to write down one or two things I am thankful for. Simple things, some recent examples being: walks with friends, the smell of the woods in fall, and driving under the yellow trees on Kossuth Street.

A word of caution, one could fall into worshiping God's creation rather than worship the true God. So we must be careful to recognize that we are giving thanks for the good gifts God gives, no matter how small, not worshiping the gifts themselves.

I have found that being intentional about keeping track of these gifts, these moments, has helped me to be more aware of what God is doing around me. As I said in my earlier post, my vision has been completely obscured by negativity lately and this forces me to find the positives of each day. Slowly shifting how I view the world.

It's a wonderful thing when we can begin to feel God moving in us, making us more like Him. Although small so far, I am hopeful that this shift is just the beginning of beginning to live a more grace filled, grateful life. That joy and gratitude would overcome my tendency towards negative realism. I feel like this is just the starting point, just the beginning of freedom from negativity.

Ok, I love a good quote so I will leave you with a few on thankfulness.

“Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.” 
― Thomas Goodwin

"Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can. You have not the power of your comforts; but have you no power of your tongues? Say not that you are unfit for thanks and praises unless you have a praising heart and were the children of God; for every man, good and bad, is bound to praise God, and to be thankful for all that he hath received, and to do it as well as he can, rather than leave it undone.... Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.”  Hence Baxter

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." Charles Spurgeon

“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” 
― Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Thursday, October 3, 2013

All Knotted Up

Ok women, please tell me you have had a necklace that became a tangled up, knotted up mess of a thing. Every time you thought you were getting close to untangling the last tangle, a new one appeared, then another, then you were worse off than when you started.

Frustrating. A mess. A beautiful, cherished, mess.

This life.

A beautiful, chaotic, cherished mess of an existence.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

It's that sin. It entangles us. Ensnares us. It knots us up and when we think we have victory another knot appears. Then we get all tangled up again. How true. How very accurate, we are a sinful mess. Isn't that exactly what sin does to us, makes a knotted up mess of us. 

Jesus calls us to throw that sin off and run with perseverance. Keep going, keep untangling, unwinding the mess we have made of ourselves. Placing our focus on Jesus and knowing what He endured that we might have a hope to overcome and not lose heart. 

That's the hard part, right? Moving forward, running when you feel like you have nothing left to give. I hate running. Hate it, its boring, tiring and I feel like I can't breathe the entire time. That's not fun. That's not enjoyable, that doesn't seem like life. 

That's why we focus on Jesus. Why we put our hope in Him. When you run you are supposed to focus on something other than the excruciating pain and inability to take a normal breath. You are supposed to listen to music, distract yourself from the negative and focus on the positive. Focus on why you are running, for the benefit of it all, not the pain of it all. For the joy set before us.

We will always be knotted up messes until Jesus makes us whole and right. The great untangler of our sin. Until then we keep going, keep running the beautiful chaotic race of life, with our shorts around our ankles and our heads held high. Because a great joy awaits us, even in this life. Every triumph over sin, every good gift that God gives us to keep us going, to keep us moving. Every little glimmer of hope. The smallest things, like a yellow leaf on a dreary day. The biggest things, our child's first words, first steps, first anything. Those joys keep us going. They give us the strength to endure the knotted up mess that sin creates.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I don't know about you, but I would much prefer to be giving than receiving help or hand outs. However, many situations in the last two years have put us in situations where we are the ones needing the help, needing to ask for assistance, just needing.

It's a hard place to be. Feeling vulnerable and having to humble yourself to the reality that sometimes you can't do it on your own.

Within the mess and chaos, stumbling through one difficult situation after another, God provides. The biggest provision God has given us is our community. The family of believers and friends that He has placed us in. Without our church family, we would have been up a creek without a paddle many times.

It was them who sat with me in the hospital when my husband had surgery, them who helped me clean the house while I had a baby with RSV and a husband who couldn't stand.

It was them who gave us $1000, $500, $300  and more to put towards what we needed, they who have kept us afloat.

It was them who came over on a sunny afternoon to talk of parenting and faith and making it through hard times.

Them who brought us meals when we had a miscarriage, when we were grieving in ways we never knew we would. Then those who brought us meals in celebration of our precious gift, who sat and held our daughter in the hospital with smiles and laughter full of joy for the blessing that we had all been asking to receive.

Those who have prayed for us, laid hands on us, interceded on our behalf. Those who have fought for us, with us, against the evil one who seeks to destroy.

Those who have watched E countless times without asking anything in return. Those who have served us, loved us, cared for us.

Those who have made this passage come alive. Acts 2:42-47
"42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

The church's purpose lived out in our life, that we would receive God's love and provision through the kindness, love, and generosity of those He has placed in our life. 

How do you do this mess called life without community? How do you go through your rough patches, through all the valleys and droughts, without people surrounding you? Telling you to keep going, keep walking. How do you keep from falling down under the weight of this world without your community holding you up? 

Our family would not be where we are, even if far from perfect, without our community.

I look forward to the day when we can give instead of need, but for now, with humble hearts we thank Jesus for the family who has stood beside us when things were crumbling.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Here's to the Dads

Has anyone noticed how commercials and sitcoms portray the modern dad? A fumbling goofus with little knowledge of how to raise or even care for a child. Someone who is inept at even the most basic of household tasks, is often lazy, and drinks an inordinate amount of beer. One commercial tonight (the one that sparked this rant) had a woman on the phone with a credit card company saying her husband forgot to pay the bill. When the woman on the phone resolves the issue she asks if he is "off the hook" the wife responds, "oh no, last week he went out for milk and brought home a puppy." Really, a puppy? I don't know about your husband/father but mine would never go out for milk and bring home a puppy, he might bring home the wrong type of milk, but not a puppy.

I would even say this commercial is a tame example. Look at Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and  Ray Romano. They are hapless men who seem to know little about functioning as a parent or even adult in some circumstances. Often Dads are portrayed as selfish slobs who tune out their wives and children as they watch football and drink beer. This is not reality, at least not for many of the dads I am privileged to be around. 

I should also note that I do not have a good relationship with Dads. Mine was a deadbeat who hasn't seen me since I was sixteen. If anything, I have every reason to think Dads are selfish jerks who abandon their children and wives. But I don't, because even though my Dad was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a stand up father, I witnessed many who were.

Are there men out there who aren't stepping up to the plate of fatherhood, a resounding yes! However, what are we saying when our portrayal of men is inept, lazy idiots? Aren't we giving men a free pass saying, "it's ok, hunny, you are just like every guy I see on TV, that must be the norm." Shouldn't men be challenged to step up, to be the warriors that they are made to be. Warriors for their morals, for their families. 

Men were once seen as strong and fierce, now downgraded drastically to weak and lazy. 

BUT, here is the ray of sunshine. Men are fighting back. I see it everyday when my husband comes home from one job early to play with our daughter for an hour before going to the next to provide for us. I see it when he gets up early on a Saturday morning to be with E so that I can have a small break. I see it when he and I talk of mediocre fatherhood and the righteous indignation he has for laziness and ineptitude. I see it in my friend's husbands who sacrifice their football games to take their daughters on a date or their son's fishing. The dad's who give up their video games for pink tulle and ribbons. The men who not only look after their own children, but fight for other kids to love and know Jesus. I see it when my husband sacrifices yet another free day to put his energy into the jr high students at our church. 

You see, I am blessed to have a husband who loves and cares for his daughter and I the way he ought to. A man who most likely hates that I am saying all this about him, because he is humble and doesn't like attention. A man who sacrifices day in and day out for his family, who didn't run away when things got hard. A man who makes mistakes, yes, but has character and integrity that puts many to shame. It's not just my husband either. It's many more who are standing up against this age of fatherlessness. Who refuse to let the stereotypes define them. Men who are rising up and acting their age, knowing the great responsibility that has been given to them. 

So here's to the dad's who are not content with the status quo. Men who fight for their family, for their manhood. Men who know they have been called to a mighty task and face it with bravery and strength. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Life of Gratitude

Do you ever feel like your circumstance is sucking the life right out of you? That you just want to stay in bed until the clouds break and the sun decides to finally peak out and offer you a ray of hope? Do you ever feel like nothing is going right?

I know you have. Everyone has. And if you say you haven't, my guess is that you are either A. in denial or B. an ultra optimistic person.

In recent months, I have felt much like a wanderer, wading through a desert with no oasis in sight. Truthfully, my soul has felt the dryness of the sand. Parched. Thirsty. Worn. There has been little joy, little relief from the day to day stresses of not having enough, not feeling enough, not being enough.

It's draining. That lack of joy. You bleed out, life removed.

Through some divine act (I'm not a big reader, especially when stressed), I have been reading a book lately called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Her writing is everything I aspire to, poetic and profound. Her words paint beautiful, sometimes painful pictures of life and loss and how to live in gratitude in the in midst.

She calls it eucharisteo. Simply meaning: to give thanks. Her goal: notice and record 1000 gifts. Her result: a life of gratitude.

As I have read I have been smacked hard with the fact that I am living with a major lack of gratitude. My focus has shifted, the foreground of joy obscured by dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. There is no denying life has been difficult, that wouldn't be genuine. There is also no denying that I have forgotten the good that God is giving. Those peaks of sun, the rays of hope that light up the darkness of stress and fatigue. My sight has been so obscured by the negative that I have lost all view of the positive. Selfish. Prideful. Ungrateful.

In my distress I have cried out to God. I have whined, I have complained. I have pleaded for an end in sight. I have been silent with frustration. I have not given thanks.

A life of gratitude doesn't begin when things are in order. A life of gratitude comes from knowing the Giver of good. From knowing that He is enough, even when the world around us is falling apart. It comes from finding the good gifts that Abba Father has been giving you in the worst of times.

Ann didn't focus on writing down gifts that God gives that are profound. She didn't focus on the answered prayers, or materialistic gifts. She focused on the mundane, the day to day. She found thanks for the obscure gifts that God gives. The little things like a child's laughter, a husband's warm embrace, the way the sun pours into morning windows. Little glimmers of God's goodness to us.

That focus on the small, seemingly insignificant gifts is what shifts our focus. The foreground becomes clear, we begin to see the good in life. We begin to see God in the little things. The Good Creator. The scales begin to fall off our eyes and we begin to see with a clear perspective. If I can shift my focus to all of the good that the Good Giver has placed in my life, won't the negative become background? Negative replaced with positive. Yes there will be difficulties, yes life is hard, but is there not much joy to be had each day?

Romans 12:12: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (ESV)
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
God commands us to rejoice in hope. There is no qualifier, no "if you feel like it." He commands us to put off anxiety and clothe ourselves with prayer and thanksgiving. This doesn't mean that we will get what we ask for, but that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts" Isn't that wonderful. What a gift. With prayer and thanksgiving comes the peace of God. A life of gratitude leads to joy and peace in Christ. Because even when life doesn't make sense, when everything falls apart, He stands. Being thankful for what God has already given you (read: Christ on the cross) and for what he is giving you each day (read: the gifts we often overlook) will lead to a peace that transcends all understanding. 

Now the hard part. The practice. The discipline of gratitude. It's not an overnight epiphany, it is a marathon. Something done after months of training and discipline. Days upon days of intentionally noticing the good gifts of the Father. So, following in dear Ann's footsteps, starting tomorrow I will begin my own 1000 gifts. Keeping record of the good in my life, in hopes that my focus will shift. That I will move from a place of dry desert to healing waters. 

Discipline. Practice. God's goodness displayed in the mundane of life. 

Who's with me?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In the Quiet

Today, as I laid in the quiet stillness of our bedroom, tissues scattered across the bed, hot tea by my side, I noticed something. Something I wouldn't typically notice because on a normal day I am not lying in bed during the midday light. 

Our walls look lavender. Our gray walls, the ones that are supposed to be neutral so as not to emasculate my husband who is currently outnumbered 2 to 1, they look light purple. Feminine, girly, flowery, all things that come to mind when you think lavender. Not masculine, not even gender neutral. 

Oh well, in the evening, when it matters, it looks gray. But, why am I writing about this? What in the world does this have to do with anything?

After I noticed my lavender walls, I began to think. What other things am I missing? What other things are only noticeable in the quiet. In the midday light. You see, I am pretty good at talking to God. Asking Him what he wants to do with us, asking for what we need/want. However, often I struggle with listening for God. Having patience and waiting on Him to answer. Instead, I keep asking, keep talking. 

What am I missing God speak when I cover the silence with the babbling of my thoughts. I've felt distant from God lately, like there is some sort of static making it hard to hear what He is doing, hard to know what He wants from me. That static I'm hearing is my own chattering. There is no disconnect, no technical difficulties, just me getting in the way. 

I wonder what I would hear if I could stand the silence for longer than a minute. If I could just be still and wait in the silence. If I was able to turn off all of the distractions, the constant humming of thoughts whizzing about in my head. If I would be patient enough to wait in the silence to hear God speak. Maybe I would get the direction and affirmation that I desperately seek. Maybe I wouldn't feel overlooked, forgotten. 

You see, God sometimes speaks to us loudly and clearly. But often I have found that it is in the quiet, in the wait that I find God's voice among the many competing distractions of my mind. Those moments, those small whispers, have impact that far outweighs their volume. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sacrifice of Staying at Home

When people hear I stay at home with my daughter, I often get a response that goes something like "That's wonderful that you can do that" or "Man, I wish we were in a financial position for that to be possible" or "You are so lucky you can afford to stay at home."  (Note: If you have said one of these things to me, please know I take no offense and I hear it often.) Some women who stayed at home with their kids will say things like "I never regretted staying at home while they were young" and "Good for you" taking the emphasis off finances.

You know, I never really know how to respond to the former of the two types of responses. I say that because, financially it doesn't make sense for me to be at home. It is a huge sacrifice right now. My husband lovingly and sacrificially works two jobs so that I can stay at home. Now, we have mitigating circumstances that made it so difficult financially, namely tax bills and medical bills that came fairly unexpectedly and after I had quit my job, but it would remain a sacrifice without those things. And it is not a decision we took lightly, in fact I did go back to work for about 4 months after I had E. So, I know both worlds.

I struggle with this decision daily. But, and this is important, for our family this is what is best. When I was working I was spiraling further and further into depression over not being able to care for my child in the way I felt called to. At home, I feel content and at peace. Obviously, not all of the time, and I often wonder if we are making the right decision. It seems to us that we are. When my previous position opened back up I honestly thought about returning to work for a time. You know, to lighten the financial burden placed on my husband. However, we had recently found out that we were expecting again and knew that when Baby 2 came along, I would need to stay home due to my salary vs childcare costs. So, I remained.

Often when I am rethinking this decision Jesus reminds me, gently and lovingly, that the best way is not often the easy way. Yes, finances would be easier if I was working. Yes, we could buy our children new things, instead of thrifting and going to garage sales. But does that outweigh my desire that I would be able to teach and train my children before they go off to school and I re-enter the workforce? Simply, no. Not for us. I will learn to be ok with little and to be frugal as long as I feel Jesus calling me to remain at home with our kids.

God often calls us to obey and trust him in situations that don't make sense to the rest of the world. So we sacrifice and we rely fully on God to provide for us. I don't think I see it as often as I wish I did, but God is there, moving in the everyday. Providing in small, but significant ways that allow us to keep going. To keep trusting that this is what is best for us. I pray often that God would move us into a time of much where we can bless others the way they have blessed us. But there is something about being in a position of needing Jesus to come through, to provide, that builds my faith. At a snails pace, my faith in Him is increasing and I'm learning how to trust The Provider, rather than trust in our abilities to make it work.

Disclaimer: If you work, or stay at home, I hope this post does not offend. This is what is happening in our life, in our family and I realize this is a highly controversial and sensitive subject. What is best for one family is not always best for another. I fully believe some women are called to work, or called to work for a season, and in no way do I want to diminish the sacrifice that you make each and every day for your family. This post is about my journey in trusting what we feel God has called us to and I hope you would be encouraged to trust Jesus in what He has called you to, whether that be to stay at home, work part time, or work full time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Climbing the Mountain

There is something about having a child that allows you to see the world through a different viewfinder. Something about getting down on their level, seeing things from their point of view. It brings you to your knees. Humbles you. Makes you think about things that, before, seemed too simple, obvious.

The other day as I watched E climb the stairs (with me standing behind her, of course) I thought about how those stairs must seem like a mountain to her. She is less than 2 feet tall and those stairs are far taller. To me, they are just stairs. I go up, I go down (and then back up because I forgot something). Sometimes tripping along the way. But not E. She climbed them. She climbed that mountain that was in front of her without fear. She knew Mommy would catch her if she fell. She knew she could do it with Mommy behind her. No trepidation, fearless, brave little 1 year old climbing a mountain.

Isn't that life? Aren't we all climbing our own mountains. Some steeper and full of sharp rocks, others that seem straight out of the Sound of Music, green with grass and blue sky above. The difference is the fear factor. That dreadful anxiety that sweeps across the hills of life. Will I ever make it? What if I fall? What if I fail? What if the rocks give way beneath me and I tumble back to the bottom?

You see, E knew better than I how I ought to view my mountain. She knew Mommy would catch her. She wasn't fearful, instead she moved forward boldly. She often checked to see that I was still there, still able to catch her, and then she moved. She didn't wait for me to tell her it was OK. She didn't ask to be carried. She moved, even though she knew that she could not do it by herself.

We ought to scale that ferocious mountain with that sort of surety. That sort of trust in the Catcher, our Protector. The one who set our path on that mountain, knowing full well our weaknesses. We, well I especially, ought to trust that if and when we slip, He will catch us. We ought to check in, constantly relying on the strength of Jesus to propel us forward, that we would know our weakness and rely on the one who gives true strength. Then we move, we don't wait to be carried, we move with the Mighty One standing behind us, boldly and without fear. We listen for His guidance, our True North. And we move, we go, we clamber up that mountain with the grace of a toddler learning to walk. Tripping and slipping into the arms of a gracious God, always there to catch us and put us back on the path He has chosen.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why I Write

On Friday night our friend Lauren came over and watched our little E so that Greg and I could go out on a date. Those have been few and far between in the past months and it was a wonderful getaway, even if only for a couple hours.

After a little Mini Golf (which by the way, in case you were wondering I am horrible at) we went for some fro yo. Greg doesn't really like fro yo, but thankfully he loves his wife and sacrifices for her from time to time. Anyways, back to the point. While we were enjoying our fro yo outside we talked about various things. One thing that came up was how I have been blogging a lot more recently. I looked at my husband, who hates loaded questions, and shot one at him. "Do you think it's ok that I write what I write on my blog?" Or something along those lines, I'm pregnant, details elude me sometimes.

It was loaded though, I know that. I do that on purpose sometimes. Mainly because I know he is one person who will be truthful with me. He might try to sugarcoat it a little, but I've known the guy for more than a decade and I can read him well enough to know what he is really trying to say.

He shot back an equally loaded question. "Well, why do you write it?"

Hm. Um. I'm not sure. Wait, let me think about this. I was not prepared for that question. I hadn't really thought about it before. Do I write a blog for attention? For influence? Just because?

Let's be real, it's probably a little of all three. However, I think the biggest reason I write is because I am a very verbal person. I like words, although my grammar has a lot to be desired, there is something about putting words on paper (or on a computer screen) that take them from floating about in my head to being worthwhile. It gives my thoughts meaning and reason. And I have a lot of thoughts. Lots of them. Really, my brain is pretty hard to shut down.

So, you all get to see a sort of public journal. For awhile I thought this would be a great focus for my food and my photography, or funny quips about raising children. It hasn't been that though. If you notice I write a lot about God and what He is doing in and around me. Not because I am super spiritual or that I even know what he is doing, but because it takes my questions for and about God and puts meaning to them.

When things are difficult, I write. I write truth because I need to be reminded of that truth. In my writing I make the assumption that I'm not alone in my questions. In my wondering about why God chooses to do what he does. I assume that others might be encouraged by being reminded about the same truths that I seem to need to drill into my own head over and over. God loves us. He has grace on us. He has a plan. That's what it all comes down to really. God's plan doesn't always align with ours and then we are left with unmet expectations that we then have to deal with. We have to question, we have wrestle. We have to wrestle the lies and the half truths that the enemy feeds us, oh they sound good, but we have to get back to the truth. Back to reality.

So, that's why I write. I do want to have an influence, and according to the sermon in church this morning, "we are made to be influential." I want to have a positive impact. But really, I just want to understand God and his truths and the best way for me to do that is to write them down.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Never Ending Battle with Mommy Guilt

If you are a Mom you have undoubtedly struggled with your fair share of "Mommy Guilt." I sense it daily, whether I've spent too much time looking at my phone, forgot to provide 5 different colors of food at dinner, struggled with our decision for me to stay at home, or decided that bath time could wait one more day because I'm tired and getting soaked while attempting to wash her hair just doesn't sound like my ideal for the night.

That's just a small taste of the little things that add up every day. The sneak up on you and smack you in the face with the harsh reality that you aren't good enough. You aren't perfect.

And don't forget how we are constantly comparing ourselves to other Moms. Moms who brush their hair every day. Moms who work and take care of their house and seem to do and have it all. Moms who feed their children a balanced, organic, diet of food from their meticulously maintained garden. Moms who bake their own bread, make everything from scratch, and manage a household full of children. Moms who have organized play dates and lesson plans from the time their child is an infant. 

Can I tell you a secret? You aren't that Mom. And guess what? That is ok. Do me a favor, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you will never be perfect. 

There is freedom in imperfection. Freedom in knowing hard as we might try, we will never be the idealistic Super Mom we have built up. It's unattainable. Thank God for that.

What if we were perfect? What would our children learn? Would they learn how to set unreasonably high expectations for themselves? Would they beat themselves up each and every time they didn't meet those expectations? What about grace? Mercy? Forgiveness? There would be no room for mistakes, no room for failure. No room to grow and mature. No room for sanctification, for the refining fire that God uses to mold and shape the clay of our hearts when we are broken and vulnerable.

Don't aspire to be perfect. Aspire to be malleable and tender in the Potter's hand. That you would allow God to use your mistakes and your shortcomings to mold you into the Mom HE wants you to be. To allow God's tender grace and mercy to smooth the wrinkles and dimples of an imperfect person. That God would put you through the refining fire and you would come out just as He had planned, scars and all.

Jeremiah 18:1-6: The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LordBehold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Zechariah 13:9: And tI will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and vI will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’;and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Ok Moms, with grace as your shield and the truth as your sword, go forth and conquer yet another day. Another day that you get to teach your child that even Mommy is imperfect and needs Jesus to save her, to forgive her, to love and care for her. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Let's Be Real

I've gotten hooked on a new phrase lately. Although it's not as cool as "presh" or "cray cray" or any other new hip lingo (how old am I? 65?) it's slowly working its way into my daily conversations.
"Let's be real" I can't tell you where I heard it or why I have been saying it more lately, but I think it reflects my current state of mind.

I highly value genuineness. But, let's be real, I'm not always the best at it. I think we all struggle with it from time to time, especially when that time is not so fun. Maybe that's why this has become a recent addition to my vocabulary. Times right now are not as fun as I'd hoped.

Let's be real.

Things lately have been rough. BUT, there have been so many glimmers of hope. God has shown Himself faithful in the most difficult of times in my life. He has provided for us in ways that don't make sense (like a $300 gift card showing up in the mail, or $1000 in an envelope with Greg's name on it with no note or name attached). God is providing, maybe we aren't where we want to be financially, but we serve a God who is God of finances and He knows what we need and when we need it.

So how do we show genuineness when life is pummeling us with lemons. We tell the truth. Things suck, but God is good. He is always good, even when it seems like nothing in life is going quite right. We choose joy and hope over despair and frustration. Choosing joy is not being fake. It's not denying that life can be crummy.

Joy says life is hard but what Jesus has done and is doing for me is far better than the negative.

2 Corinthians 4:16: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Joy says this suffering will lead to something good for me and to glory for God. It does not deny our hardship, it makes our hardship purposeful. 

Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So, let's be real. Our limited thinking tends to focus only on the negative (unless that's just me, then kudos to you Positive Polly, I wish I could be more like you) and in focusing on the negative we forget what God has done for us and we become blind to the good He is currently doing. 

 Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Let's be real. Let's be genuine. Let's hate the bad and evil in our lives and hold tight to what is good. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Miss me?

Hello blogging world, I'm back. Apparently I decided to take almost a year long blogging hiatus. Who knows when I will write again, so lets make this good.

The last time I wrote I was a newly minted mom in the throws of early motherhood. I was probably (read definitely) hormonal, sleep deprived, and scared out of my mind. Now I have a whole year worth of trial and error under my belt. Which, honestly, is nothing in the grand scheme of things. But I've learned a lot about love, grace, and forgiveness along the way. I've also learned more about myself and how my past has influenced my current self than I thought possible.

Above all of that, God has shown me how much he loves and cares for his kids. Before I was a  mother, I prayed often for mothers that they would remember how much they love their children and how Jesus loves them immeasurably more. The thing is, I had no idea the depth of love you could have for a little person whose current functions in life are to eat, sleep, and poop. The kind of love that makes you burst into tears at the sight of the slightest smile (which is likely due to gas, and not mommy's presence). Or the kind of love that makes getting up in the middle of the night for 8 plus months bearable. The kind of love that makes you fear every weird noise or slight cough because obviously it means your child has the plague

You see. God loves us far more than we love our children. He loves us with this perfect unconditional love. I know how much I love my daughter. I would do anything for her. God loves us more. He is not a neglectful parent. He desires good for us, just like we want the best for our kids. Grasping this truth has made the difficulties of the past year more bearable than if I didn't have a child. I've begun to see this temporary affliction as just that, temporary. It's a season and it will pass just as the others have. There will be seasons of plenty and seasons of dryness. The key is to remember, through it all, God wants the best for us and he will use those seasons to refine and shape us. Just as we hope to refine and shape our children.