Friday, February 28, 2014

Things I've Learned

I'm pretty sure that this my first every "10 Things I've Learned" post and first time linking up with Emily Freeman's  blog. If I could live next door to anyone in the world, it would probably be her. I love her encouraging blog & inspiring books. If you read my blog but don't read hers - go subscribe now!

I'll admit that when I first thought of doing a 10 things post I wondered if I would have a hard time coming up with ten things. I've been in a bit of a brain fog lately so here goes nothing...

{one} I am stronger than I think I am.
December was tough for me. I felt totally de-railed. January was rough too but February has been totally overwhelming and March is threatening to be harder still as my husband moves to Atlanta to start his new job. This is happening in the middle of the struggles I've been having with my daughter's schoolwork and I've been stressed!!! 

On top of which our family is now battling sickness when we need to be healthy to go to my grandparent's anniversary party tomorrow. This feels like the straw that broke the camel's back. This is too much!!  Yet still, somehow, I still keep going. Sometimes with a better attitude than at others. 

But what I have learned this month is that I don't have to fall apart. I don't have to crumble under this overwhelming pressure. I don't have to be stressed. Some moments are made to stand and fight. Fight for faith against doubt and fear. Fight for love when it's easier to be annoyed. Stand on the promises and not be shaken. For me, this is one of those moments. 

{two} yoga is terrific for stress
I finally did some yoga this morning and I felt like a month of stress got released. It was really what I needed this morning.

{three} I made a good choice a year ago.
About a year ago I quit my work from home job to be a full-time, full-on Stay At Home Mom. I loved my work, but after Eli was born I just didn't feel like I had time or the energy to do it well.  I have doubted that decision a lot over the months but yesterday as I was on the computer, finishing up a project for my grandparents anniversary party I realized, overwhelmingly, that I am so glad my life is spent away from the computer now. 

{three} I need a lot of empty space in my life.
One if the up-sides of having sick kiddos is that I was forced to stay at home and this reminded me of how much I love having wide open spaces and room to breathe in my week. Time to just sit with Eli outside in the sunshine with nothing in particular that needs to be done today or at least not right now. It is a tough balance because I also need to get out of the house sometimes. But it was a good reminder.

{four} I don't need to see the point in everything

Jessi at Naptime Diaries put it so well: It doesn't have to have a point to have a purpose. This applies to time spent with friends, kids and the hubs - without an agenda or a list of talking points in my back pocket. I think this also applies to seasons of my life. There were a lot of moments, looking back, that didn't seem to have a point. It was just a whole lotta nothing - but there was also purpose. Looking beyond the what of my days to embrace a bigger purpose. Maybe there doesn't have to be a point. I can trust there is purpose.

{five} dark chocolate with sea salt caramel 

Where have you been all my life? 
Mind. Blown.

{six} spotify 
Spotify was so worth the hassle of trying to figure out!! I have it on my phone and I have created a bunch of playlists. My kids have really started to enjoy listening to secular/pop music - I wasn't ready for this! For my kids to say their favorite song is one I don't know from a band I've never even heard of is uncharted territory for me. So this allows me to create a playlist of the music that they like without the music I don't like, or the crude DJs on the pop radio.  I also have a worship playlist that has pretty much every single one of my favorite songs in it. 

{seven} Grilled Pimento Cheese
I discovered how to make these this month and have been craving them ever since. They are extra-yummy with some extra cheese, mayo & sriracha sauce. But come on, isn't everything better with sriracha?  

{eight} Gentleness & Ease
I've been thinking about these two words a lot lately, especially as it relates to my parenting. At this moment I feel like pulling my hair out and screaming  because parenting school-aged kids is so much harder than I thought it would be. I'd like to get back to a place where I had more confidence in my parenting and for gentleness to be at the core of everything I do with my kids.

{nine} this song
Windows down, sun shining and Happy on the radio!
Also I was so happy to hear Majesty Rose play this on American Idol this week.

Speaking of American Idol - do you have favorites yet? Sam is my 100% favorite!! Also MK has won me over. I wasn't sure about her at first but now I hope to see her go really far.

{ten} it doesn't have to be perfect
I don't really have a tenth thing. I've been waiting to post this all day for lack of a tenth thing. So this is my tenth - it doesn't have to be perfect. 

If you are visiting from Chatting at the Sky and have also done a list of ten things I learned please let me know and leave a link to your blog post in the comments!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The why behind our what

have been co-leading a Bible Study on the topic of purpose and priorities this month and in all honesty I have found it very easy to slip back into the "right answer" frame of mind. Sometimes I have to sit and wait past the cliche or obvious answer to get to something honest and get at the heart of the topic.

Last night I was watching a random YouTube video and I was deeply impressed with this guy's thoughtfulness about the why behind his living spaces. This was one of those lightbulb moments for me - one of those things that connected the dots for me on the topic of purpose.  He spoke so eloquently about how he wanted his home to be a refuge and how he created specific spaces to give his home that feeling of shelter and comfort but then he also took great pride in the view and connected that with an ancestral priority to establish oneself in a place that had both a prospect (a good view) and shelter. 

Purpose. The purpose of our lives, of life as a whole as well as my life - individually and uniquely and irreplaceably my own.

That is hard for me. In a world where everything seems replaceable and is often replaced by the newest model and where our lives are often transient and rarely settled. It is hard to think of anything or even anyone that could be truly irreplaceable. It is almost impossible for me to think of myself as irreplaceable or as of having an irreplaceable purpose.

It's hard for me because I tend to be so busy with the what of life - what to do, what to say, what to wear, what to eat... and I get so caught up with the what that I forget the why. 
Why am I doing this instead of that? 
Why am I going to make this a big deal but let that slide? 

The why it is really important - even if, maybe especially if I feel like my life is small and insignificant. It is important because sometimes it feels like our lives our shaping us more than that we are shaping our own lives. 

For this guy in the video the why motivated his what, it was underneath it and all of his whats flowed out of his whys. His thoughtfulness about the life he wanted to create for himself was inspiring to me. I want to be more like that - not just in my homemaking but in my life.

When I get so busy and distracted by the what in my life that I forget the why of my life I am ignoring the One who made me - uniquely, purposefully. I crowd Him out. I get so caught up in trying so very hard to become more like the person I think I ought to be instead of ask God who he already made me to be and then just be that and let all of the doing flow from there.

The God of open doors

It's easy, when the Red Seas are parting and the manna is falling and you feel that things are going well, to be confident that God is at work in your life. But when life is looking scary, the seasons of life start to change before you feel ready and you look ahead and see a really tough transition - it's a little harder.

In retrospect, maybe I should have seen this coming. Over the fall I was singing back to God "where you go, I'll go... I will follow you" and I meant it with all my heart. I was hearing this word everywhere. Looking back at this now maybe it was God's way of preparing my heart for this but when the moment came I was all like "God - this is not what I meant" When I told God I would move wherever he wanted me to go I was not thinking literally moving metro areas. 

I love living in Augusta. It's a smaller metro area than Atlanta, where I'm from, and where I am returning next summer. Here I have been a part of an amazing church, I have been able to move in ministry more here and a piece of me has come alive through that and I have made some of the best friends I have ever had at any time in my life. I have loved living here. It has changed my life, overwhelmingly for the better.

But now we are moving.

I prayed and fasted and asked God to show me how to respond. I expected peace about this decision, I expected to hear that gentle voice behind me whispering this is the way, walk in it - but all I got was deafening silence. I didn't hear God. But I did hear my husband. It was hard to hear him through my fears but eventually I heard him saying "this is a great opportunity and what I think is best for our family" and at the end of it all I had to say "I love you, I believe in you and I am confident that we are going to succeed wherever we go." and trust Daniel with this decision.

Through all my desperate prayers to God to direct our path, this is the one thing I did hear: "Who do you believe that I AM? Believe in me. The God who opens and closes doors." 

This is my landing place. 

It is a lesson God introduced me to over the summer. As I watched door after door close and I struggled with how God was choosing to move differently this time around. God had not changed. But our circumstances sure had. The God who provided suddenly is also the God who led me down a longer path of seeking and provided at the end. 

I don't see the end from the begining of this transition. In all honesty, all I can see right now is how hard this move is going to be. But I believe God does. I believe he works everything for good, even if I can't see it. Right now, I'm resting in that.

The details of our move are this: Daniel will be leaving us to live in Atlanta Monday through Friday until we can follow him in the summer. We don't know exactly where in the Atlanta metro area we will live.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lessons learned from the other day

The other day I grabbed a shirt I received from a friend but haven't had the nerve to try, just because it was the only thing that was clean! And I felt so put together! 

On this same day Eli, who is usually pretty well behaved, went on a streak of exceptionally good behavior. He walked in and out of stores with me without an antic or a complaint. We went to small group and the grocery store and the park. We breezed through our morning. I felt a little bit like a fake. You know? Most mornings I'm not that put together and mornings aren't that easy. In fact this is me this morning, in my "get stuff done" sweatshirt with my girls.

Yeah, my house is a disaster - almost a week of snow days will do that! We've got bedrooms (mostly) cleaned and my kitchen is next. For lunch today I ate a bowl of ice cream with a banana and melted peanut butter - because I refuse to eat another sandwich or bowl of cereal - something we got a lot of while we were iced in and I totally spaced out at the grocery store yesterday and only got what I needed to make a cake for the Hubs for Valentine's Day. 

This is my hubs, covered in kids, watching TV - probably American Idol or Chopped (on Food Network)
That day I felt like I needed to stop and explain to that mom with her two out-of-control kids that usually I am that mom. I felt like I needed to say "he's not usually this well behavd" and I'm never this put together. And it made me realize something about how I view others. I think now when I see someone's put-togetheredness and I'm tempted to feel inferior, or I see that mom who seems to have all her ducks in a row and I'm tempted to feel like a failure relative to her got-it-all-togetheredness - now I think I'll remind myself that we all have our mess. We don't always post about it on our Instagram or write about it on Facebook - but it's there. It may take different forms but we all have it. 

Well, this blog post sounded better in my head, but I'm going to publish it anyway...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A New Begining

That moment, sitting in my corner of the couch, sobbing, because I have finally found a place to start.

It is hard to see things clearly when you're in the middle of them, in the day to day exhaustion of family life. 

Sometimes it's easy to ignore the warning flags of mother-instinct. It's easy to say I'm being too dramatic or overly protective or too anxious or too sensitive. 

It's easy to say it's not that bad it could be so much worse, it is so much worse for other families. It's easy to say this is just a phase, it's probably "normal". It's nothing to worry about. Let's wait and see.

Sometimes it's easier to blame myself. I can look at the landscape of our family life and say I'm just not doing enough not consistent enough, not stern enough, not gentle enough. Not good enough.

Occasionally I blame my husband. If he were more of this, less of that - we wouldn't be experiencing these struggles. 

But then, I woke up.

Last week was a perfect storm - a heavy homework load, a commitment to make sure it all got done, a sheaf of graded papers with a lot of incomplete work. My husband came home to one hot mess and I'm like "I don't know what to do! I can't make dinner and help her with homework and she can't do this by herself." 

A day or two later Daniel and I had a pivotal conversation. The something is not right conversation. It was an important conversation because up to this point the conversation has been one-sided. "Does she need to be held back?" conversations with teachers that end in "she's not that bad" and "we had a hard morning" conversations with the Hubs that end in "I hope tomorrow goes better." 

This time the conversation went differently.

Now I'm standing there saying that she can not even write a complete sentence without help. At least, not anything more than three or four words long and she is in third grade. She can not complete a simple reading comprehension worksheet without a lot of help. When she sits down to do her homework she needs a lot of help actually starting her work. This child does not lack intelligence whatsoever, so why is this so hard?
This time he says maybe we need to start asking better questions, maybe we need to start talking to different people. Maybe she doesn't just need better study habits or more supervision. Maybe it's not the fault of teachers or our parenting. Maybe there is some type of an underlying cause, something we're not seeing - the forest for the trees and whatnot - and this deeply resonates with me. It echoes what I have been feeling for quite awhile. 

I brought home an armful of books from the Library on every behavioral disorder, neurological issue and chemical imbalance I could find. We looked at autism (and quickly ruled it out) I'm still looking at bipolar, and haven't ruled out dyslexia but then I came to this:

I was stunned. This is my daughter to a T. 

This is a description of ADHD. 

She is usually well behaved, she contains herself in the classroom enough to not get into trouble. She is sweet, she is friendly. She is funny. But she is also everything in this checklist.  

Then I read this:
Creating more interesting classroom environments with music, cooperative learning, technology and aesthetic spaces...
and I start sobbing. This is what I have known my Katie-Abigail has needed for a really long time. This is what I wanted to provide for her every time I've said "do we need to homeschool her?" I have known she was not succeeding in a traditional learning environment for awhile now, but it has never been so significant that it raised red flags with her teachers. It's been side-lined with "she's just young for her grade" and "it's really not that bad"

As I have been reading more about ADHD I have begun to realize that this also describes Josiah. While he does a lot better at the attention part he shows a lot of the signs of the hyperactive side. 

I've been saying "watching him is a full time job" since he could crawl but he's my first boy and my brother was a lot like that so I thought he was just an active boy. But lately I have realized that when we stop enjoying being with him because we feel like we are constantly disciplining him, and when he starts to say "I'm bad" and "I'm just a freak" because he's constantly getting into trouble at home and at school maybe there's more here than just an active boy. Maybe there are strategies that will work better. Maybe there are foods that are triggering his behavior issues. Maybe there is more to this than I thought. He is the most sweet, loving boy you'll ever meet and he gives the best hugs but he also drives us crazy. 

It's not like an all day every day thing, we have good days and bad days and it's something you kind of get used to but when your insides are screaming what am I doing wrong here?!!! Well, maybe there really is something wrong. 

I was raised in an environment that viewed ADHD as the result of poor parenting. Too much sugar, too much TV, not enough discipline. I was raised to believe that all I needed was the Bible and a good strong spanking spoon to raise good kids. 

But it's not working.

I look at my oldest two and now my youngest and while we struggle at moments with them it's not the same. It's not so constant and it's not so intense as it is with my middle two. I'm raising them all more or less the same so why are these two so difficult? Maybe it's something that can be helped. 

So that's where I'm at.  

It's not a particularly wonderful place. I never imagined myself needing to have the types of conversations that I will need to have over the course of the next few weeks with teachers, doctors and school, but it is a place to start. In this place I'm scared to death but it is the start of something that I hope will change our family life for the better. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

A whole lot of nothing

Yesterday was the first day of leading my new small group. I co-lead the group with  another mom who has pretty much become my best friend ever. I was out-of-my-mind nervous and had been up way too early with Josiah. 

Today I'm reminded how much I love leading small group. I feel like it's one of those things that makes me come more fully alive. 

Yesterday we talked about our significance and we came around to how we feel about being stay-at-home moms.  It often feels like our value is placed on how much money we make, or on status and accomplishments. Even our husbands often come home with the question "so what did you do today?" 

I ask myself that question often and often come up short. Nothing.

I felt lonely but I was never alone
I was bored but constantly busy
I completed few tasks (if any!) but I barely had a minute to sit down.

It feels like a whole lot of nothing.
But that whole lot of nothing somehow adds up to an incredibly huge something. 
The formation of a character
The development of a little person

The way we were gentle, maybe not every time but we tried. 
The way we said "I'm sorry"
The way we snuggled them, kissed them, told then "I love you" the way we smiled at them, laughed and talked with them.
These things are no small things. 
These things are hugely significant in the  development of our little ones.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Today I am trying to remember, even as I am feel crappy and stressed that God has encircled me and he cares for me, (Deut 32:10-11) the he carries me (Deut 1:30-31) and he can not forget about me (Is 49:15-16)

I sent this to my sister in a text message the other day. She wrote them out and sent them to her sister in-law who passed them along. So I thought maybe I should post them here so I can look back at them later and maybe encourage someone else.

“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:29-31 NKJV)

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, (Deuteronomy 32:10, 11 ESV)

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; [you] are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:15, 16 ESV)

I am going to feel better

One of the blessings of having a bunch of little kids is there are fewer moments to stand sobbing in the shower. You just have to "dry it up" because somebody needs you. You move on, let it go, just as an act of pure necessity. The flip side of having most of my kids at school is that every now and then I get stuck in my own funk. 

The other morning I was there. Stressed out, feeling poorly, in a funk. I sat there thinking to myself I just feel soooooo bad! 

And then...

I thought okay but what is one thing I can do to feel better?

I can't change my circumstances at the moment. I can't change that it's just that time of the month. I can't change the weather that is currently gray and cold and rainy. But I can do one thing.

I can be present with Eli. I can read his favorite book to him and soak in his sweetness. I can laugh with him. 

You know what? I got up and I did that one thing. I talked to my two year old. I got down on the floor with him and looked him in the eye and the sun came out and I did feel better.  

Some days it means taking a step back, taking a bath and having a moment of quiet after a day of sibling squabbles. 

Some days it means taking a shower getting dressed and getting out of the house. 

Some moments it's texting my little sister.

In this moment - there is still stress. In the "hallway" season I'm in, between one thing and the next, waiting for doors to open or close, sitting up late talking over decisions that need to be made. Everything isn't going to work itself out in a minute but right now I'm choosing to feel better. And that is something.


Monday, February 3, 2014

I, Volunteer

Tonight (Friday) my church will host their annual dinner and volunteer award show and it is a Big Deal. Everybody dresses up and childcare is provided(!!!).  I'm not gonna lie, the day of the Big Show I woke up stressing about what I was going to wear and how I was going to accessorize and was texting my best friend and my sister about all these little details. They are awesome and haven't stopped replying to texts... yet.

As I'm sitting here though, thinking about what a blessing it has been to be involved in the volunteer force behind the scenes at my church, I don't know - something inside of me shifts. Settles down and sits back to see the big picture.

I remember, about this time last year, I sent a text message to the nursery coordinator that wound up changing how I see myself as a volunteer. Up until that point I volunteered regularly but I would kind of roll my eyes and think "time to volunteer again." Until that text.

In that text I volunteered to be in the nursery every week - same room, same time, every week. If I'm honest with myself I remember secretly thought I was going above and beyond. I also thought it would be easier on my kids if our routine was the same every week but I had no idea how this small step would open my eyes.

For one thing, it opened my eyes to just how many hard working faithful volunteers my church has. As we moved into offering three services every week I watched my sweet brothers and sisters serve and serve - many working every service, every week with a humble attitude and sweet sprit. I realized I wasn't going above and beyond - they were.

For another it totally changed how I feel about being a volunteer. To watch a child go from screaming hysterically every week to coming into the nursery with a smile - that is a blessing. To know all these little people by name - that is a blessing. To make friends with someone new who I never would have met if she weren't handing her little bundle of joy over the baby gate every Sunday morning - that is a blessing. To sit and chat between diaper changes and feedings with ladies I only see in the nursery - that is a blessing.  If there is a week I can't be in the nursery I really don't know what to do with myself and miss it terribly.

Last week I saw one of the moms from my small group volunteering for the first time. She was standing by the doors with a huge smile on her face. Seeing her there made my heart want to explode! I can't wait to see more of my ladies in my small group get to know the blessing of being a volunteer.

This title is inspired by the movie title I, Fankenstien. Yes, I'm terrible at coming up with blog post titles! The picture is the dress I wore to The Big Show and the award I received as a nominee for volunteer if the year in the category of Nursery Workers :)

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