Saturday, September 27, 2014

Live bright, bold & beautiful

I want to share some stories with you. Stories of people I admire, who have made choices to love their lives big, bright, bold and beautiful.

Joy Pouty


via Joy Prouty
One that I've mentioned on my blog a lot lately is Joy Prouty. A well-established  professional photographer living in Southern California who made radical life changing choices in the spring of 2013. They were tired of the commercialism & materialism of their lifestyle, tired of being tired and busy all of the time. So they decided to make some major life changes. They sold their home, Joy's husband Donny sold his business, and they traveled around the Pacific coast for almost a year in a vintage trailer.
via Joy Prouty
They settled into a little house in Washington State where Joy continues to work as a professional photographer, she also teaches photography workshops and they continue their journey towards homesteading & self-sustainability. 
via Joy Prouty
via Joy Prouty
These photos are barely even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beautiful, inspirational images on Joy Prouty's blog. Under each one there is a link to a specific blog post that will just leave you swooning. I love the way that they have left the beaten trail, laid down their expectations and chose to dream big. The heart I see through Joy Prout'y blog & Instagram encourages me almost daily to not be afraid of being different, to not cave to trying to be who other people expect me to be and be willing to try something new.

It's tempting to see Joy's life as some kind of picturesque happily ever after but she is an ordinary person, with good days and bad days. She struggles with balancing family and work, the needs of her body and the demands of her children. She is an ordinary person choosing to live an extraordinary life, but she lives it day by day hour by hour up and down, in the middle of discouragement, loneliness and insecurity - just like me.

I want her to rub off on me. The guts to dream big, do something different and the willingness to do it, for the most part, in public. In full view of everyone who would be critical of their choices. The grace to keep going even when it gets hard.


Sara Janssen
Another family dreaming big and living boldly is the Janssen Family. I ran into Sara online back when our oldest girls were both still littles and they were about to embark on their Live Lightly Tour. They have been touring in an RV on and off since 2007. Here is the link to Sara's current blog.  She is such an inspiration living boldly, brightly and off the beaten path. Their family has been advocating alternative ways of living for as long as I've known about her. Buying local, using alternative fuel, choosing to live simply, they went vegan raw for almost a year, she grew dreadlocks, her home tours are simply fantastic. Now they are passionate about unschooling & essential oils. They are about to embark on another tour in their RV and I'm glad that I looked her up again and started following Sara on Instagram again.  

via Sara Janssen
via Sara Janssen
Jamie Laslo
Another one of my personal heroes is Jamie Laslo. I went to church with her briefly when Emma was a baby and connected with her immediately. She gave a talk about how a college trip to Uganda changed her life forever. She embraced her calling to support missions in Uganda and she has continued with this path despite personal tragedy, all of the ups and downs of ministry and the daily grind of life.  In some ways doing work that is even harder than if she had moved to Uganda, she works here in the States doing work that supports several programs in Uganda. She is someone living off of the beaten path. She is someone who has followed her big dreams

via Pearl Ministries


Anjelica
One more woman who's story I want to share is my best friend. Anjelica M. I showed up at her house for small group one night three years ago - with five kids and a broken heart. All I did was show up, week after week. She opened her home and her life to me and since then she has been the biggest influence and best friend. Encouraging me to keep on being the woman that God has made me to be and setting an amazing example for me. Letting me see that her amazing marriage is still full of ups and downs, fights and disappointments - and that her homeschooling days are still sometimes less than picture-perfect. Her life is very real. Her life might seem pretty ordinary to some people. She's a stay at home, homeschooling mom to four girls. She is active at my church, she sings, she leads & hosts small groups, she reaches out, she stays involved. But to me she is a tremendous example of someone who lives big, bright and beautiful right where she is.

Friday, September 26, 2014

business photography

DSC_0476 edited
Today I was able to head out to the Library to do some head shots for the husband of a friend of mine. Above is one of my favorites. It was his idea - and while I don't know if it would work as a business portfolio type shot I kind of love it. The hubs said it looked creepy. Either way - it was nice to get my big girl camera out today to shoot something other than ants. You would think a headshot would be easy - they are so simple. It is really not. It has to look natural but not too casual. The light needs to be even. It's a lot harder than it looks.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

this is what happens to a bored photographer

I haven't picked up my big girl camera in ages but the other day when I noticed some sugar ants that had found a bit a syrup on my table I grabbed my camera, slapped on the macro filter and snapped away. Most of the pictures turned out horribly but I thought it would be fun to post the ones that didn't.

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DSC_0361
DSC_0347
DSC_0363
There were so many of these tiny guys!
DSC_0374
A quick spray of all purpose cleaner and they were gone, but it was fun to photograph them while they were here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An ordinary day

Some days I run out of words, that is the thing I love about pictures because they are still there to say something beautiful, even when I can't find any.
These are photos from my phone that I took earlier this week and they are reminder to me of the beauty, simplicity and love that I have for Eli and our life in this season. It had really hard moments at times but it is good.











What did I do today?

Today I was present.

I didn't get a lot accomplished. 
Today wasn't profound. 

Today I showed up. 
I cheered & high-fived my way through two fun runs.
That is enogh. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I am missing my brother today


These are some of the photos I have of my brother. Even though he was a teenager when he died - this is how I think of him, and how I tend to remeber him as - a little boy. These pictures of him and I are some of my favorites.


I feel like it is important to remeber him on his birthday. To mourn the loss of my brother, the kid's loss of their uncle. He loved my kids when he was alive and he would have loved getting to know them if he were still alive.

He was my favorite person to photograph before I had kids of my own - that one in the mirror was one of my first attempts at an artistic photoshoot. We read together, we did our school work together. He reminds me so much of my Josiah. He was so friendly, he was passionate, he was kind to all kinds of people, especially the ones some people might have not wanted to befriend. He was my brother. He was a pain. He drove us all crazy. But we loved him and we all miss him and wanted to see him succeed in life. 

I also feel like it's important to remember him out loud. To say "I lost my brother to suicide" out loud because this is a real thing. It is a serious issue that I can not be silent about. He was a good kid with great grades, a family who loved him and friends who would have done anything to help him. But he also had friends who talked about suicide and who were planning their own deaths and encouraged him to plan his own. 

Mourning his death was hard. I had just seen him a week before, and hadn't noticed anything to make me worry. If anything he seemed like he was doing better than ever. Figuring out how to deal with all of the thoughts and emotions after was hard. Letting go of guilt and blame took me a long time. I would have let him live with me. I would have picked up the phone day or night. I felt like getting married and moving out while he was so young was letting him down in the big-sister department. It was, oddly enough, watching the episode of House where one of the doctors commits suicide, that helped me deal with how I was feeling. 

Loosing my brother definitely shapes how I think about parenting. I hold my kids tight, I tell them over and over to treasure each other. I try to teach them not to trust all of their emotions. That even when we feel alone - there will always be someone there for us if we just speak up. 

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide - please speak up. Please don't joke about death or talk carelessly about killing yourself. Tell someone. All kinds of people, no matter how perfect-looking your their life might look, or how messed up everything is, struggle with thoughts of suicide. There is help, but you have to speak up. 

I miss my brother, today more than ever. I wish I would have made more of an effort to stay close to him. I just assumed it would be easier for is to have a relationship when he got older, and took him for granted. I wish I hadn't been so consumed with my own life. I wish he could have seen my kids grow up as much as they have. I wish he would have talked to me about what was going on with his life. I wish he could have known how much I loved him. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's next, what's now and the faithfulness of God

I've been writing a lot about what's next in my life. I wrote about it again here. My journals have had this one common theme for months: what's next? I don't know.

Over the weekend I got some very much-needed quiet time away from my family. I sat at Panera with my notebooks and my coffee and I journaled it all out, because sometimes that is the only way I can think clearly - with a notebook and a pen, pouring out my prayers in ink.

God was really faithful and He met me there. You might say I stumbled upon a link, but I'd say He led me to a website with some really good questions to ask when you're at a crossroads in your life. I wrote them down in my journal and have been pretty much talking about them ever since. This post about re-launching your life was really good too. I also really connected with post about setting goals that mean something more than just a to-do list. What are my goals right now? I don't know. 

I mentioned the other day that I listened to a live-stream of Joy Prouty's keynote address at ClickAway (I am so thankful that I was able to listen to it for free!) I spent some time searching through the archives on Joy's blog to find this post. Here is my favorite quote (the emphasis is mine):

for the last few years, we have felt so tied down by the high cost of living, never having any money in savings, working so hard and never being able to enjoy the downtime because we are so tired and, just simply, being sick of always feeling overwhelmed and busy.

I really connect with that. It feels like that is where we are at, we are just getting by. We are just making it paycheck to paycheck, weekend to frustrating, boring weekend. This is not the life that either of us particularly wants it is just the life we have stumbled into. But what changes do I feel like we need to make? What exactly is causing me to feel like this? I don't know. 

Here is another quote from Joy Prouty's blog post:
we are making a choice to stop putting off our happy life and we are going to jump right in.


I feel like God is loading the bases and here I wait on the edge of my seat, asking God - when are you going to move? When are things going to change? Where are these changes going to take us? What do you want me to do to help things along? When I ask these questions all I hear is crickets:  I don't know.

I read this verse on Monday and it was so comforting:

1Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 129:1-6 (ESV)


So much of my struggle, when faced with a decision, is the fear of getting it wrong. Knowing that God hems me in, and remembering how He has done that for me in the past, is a huge comfort to me. It reminds me that God is a God who opens doors and closes them. He gives and takes away. Sometimes this is terribly frustrating. When door after door slams in your face and you just want to scream at Heaven, yeah, that is definitely not easy. But when I look back at how God has hemmed me in I am overcome with thankfulness. He has kept me on a good path.

God has also been reminding me that He is God. I am not the one calling the shots - demanding to know the plan. He is God and He really really values faith. Believing Him when I can't see what happens next. Believing Him when I can't see how this is going to turn out. Believing Him that this is going to be good. Even though I don't know how or when.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)


I feel like God is reminding me to do what is in front of me. To live this life that I have right now with all of my heart. Not with one eye to the future, not worrying about what is next, but being faithful with the life I have now. He is reminding me that when I am asking these questions about life I am in a position to listen. Maybe the answers and the direction isn't coming as quickly or as easily as I'd like it to, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just need to keep asking, keep seeking and keep listening.

Today on Instagram I came across this:

In order to go deeper, sometimes we have to get comfortable in the very uncomfortable places. We have to make our home in the dark corners and ask the questions we don’t want to ask. This area of transition is where deep calls out to deep; the cracking open of our hearts at the foot of the cross. It is where we scream, and yell, and face the loneliness head on. But, it is also where we find redemption, and the map of freedom road. (By Mandy Reid via Mind Full Collective)

As I went through today I found myself singing this song (I don't want to be a flame, I want to be a raging fire. Tired of my will, my way, Your calling's higher... I want to be moved!!) it is my heart-cry in this season.

In another song she sings "you can't find the answers till you learn to question... you're insecure and it clouds your perception. so stop and listen and learn I'll listen and love without condition."

So yeah, I've basically been listening to Ginny Owens a lot this morning - when I got to this song, the one I posted below, I felt like it was the perfect one for the end of this post. The perfect spot to end all the questions and to lay down everything - the anger, the angst, the uncertainty, the questions and just sit in surrender.

 
and since I'm here I'm listening to this too (Be Thou My Vision - performed by Ginny Owens, who is blind. Beautiful.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'm okay with the questions

I have been asking a lot of questions lately. Questions that once filled my journal have started coming out into the open. I ask these questions as Daniel sits across the table, I talk about it with him on the phone in the middle of the day, I have started writing about them here on my blog, so it has started coming up in face to face conversations with friends. I have tried to be open and honest about how hard it has been for me to live with questions without answers. Waiting with questions hanging in the air.

But lately it had been a little easier. I have been okay with the questions. Because finally the questions have moved on from "what next?" to more specific questions about how we are going to live our lives.

Doing this reminds me that I am healthy.
I have had seasons that were not so healthy, when I was barely getting through the day and the weeks. I have had years where I was barely scraping through. While being in a season of asking big questions about our life isn't necessarily comfortable, I feel like it's a reminder of how much more healthy I am now then I was even a few years ago.


This season remind me that  I am brave enough to hope. 
There have been times when I didn't dare to hope. When I was just getting by. When life had run over me so many times that hope felt like it was a luxury I couldn't afford. Now I have hope. 

Asking these questions about our life, and talking about them with Daniel reminds me that we have a renewed hope for our marriage. If we thought of our marriage as a time bomb, about to explode, we wouldn't be able to have these kinds of big conversations. 

Asking questions reminds me that I can be honest. 
Honest with myself about what I really want my life to look like, but especially with others. To say what I am honestly thinking without being afraid that they'll think I'm crazy. Yes - what Daniel wants for our lives and what I want are going to be different, but I believe that when we dig down beneath the surface - want a lot of the same things. We have to talk about them and be really honest with what we want and what our big crazy dreams are in order to work towards something that we really want.

Being honest also means not copying anyone else. We all have our own stories, our own trials and blessings. I can't copy someone else's journey hoping that it will make me happy. I have to live my own unique life with my own unique family with our own unique set of values & desires.

So, that's where I'm at right now. Thanks for listening.

My life is loud

On Sunday evening we all took a walk
My boys and my girls and me
We walked around our neighborhood
(to see what we could see)
and in this moment 
I learned something 
about life

Life is not always lived in a line
(everyone taking their turn to talk)
Life is chaotic
(and that's not always bad)
everyone talking at once
laughing at the neighbor's cat 

Life is loud.
My life
right now 
is loud.

"embrace it" 
(whispers my soul to me)
"don't waste these years 
trying to force everyone into a polite line
everything into what makes sense and looks nice
embrace this moment of joyfulness
joyful mess
family loud and loving."



Friday, September 12, 2014

dream small



I just watched a broadcast of Joy Prouty's keynote address at Click Away. It was called "Dream Big" It was beautiful. I cried. I agreed with 100% of what she said and in the wake of this address I have a lot of soul searching to do.

But as I stand here, stirring pasta, asking God again what in the world am I doing? I reflect on all of this angst I carry, the weight of this unanswered question that sits hanging in the air, in this month upon month-long pregnant pause.

I think about my life right now, my very ordinary cereal and sandwiches life and I think "sometimes maybe I just need to dream small" maybe my five kids in these four walls is enough for me right now. I agree totally and completely that we should live lives of radical risk-taking, but right now, in the waiting, the risk is in being still and small, content, all-in and full of joy in this totally ordinary season of life.

I had this thought the other day how so much of my life is marred by the expectation of productivity and accomplishment. I want a label I can conveniently slap on my life, that sets me apart and proves I have purpose. I realize how much of my angst with the mundane of motherhood is rooted in pride. (Ouch, that is so convicting!) I am capable of so much more than making spaghetti and changing diapers and helping first graders with their spelling and it grates at me something fierce. I can do so much more. Shouldn't I be doing something more?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe I need to dream bigger and take risks and move out of my comfort zone. Maybe though it is in the dinners and the diapers and the minutia and the mundane that my life is being formed - and my children's lives are being molded by how I handle the spilled milk and the burned pasta and the sibling squabbles and the hurt feelings and all of the little things that aren't tasks that can be neatly checked off, but that are so vital in the shaping of a life. 

We learn so much in the ordinary task of life, like setting the table and getting dinner on. The gentle voice, the working together. The "I'm sorry" when working together isn't working out so well and the gentle voice turns sharp.  My life is formed by all of the moments when I just keep going when I have had enough... hours ago. When I just wanted to sit down and have a meal together but they decide to have a "let's make noises with our mouths that sound like farts" contest. Or whatever that Drives Me Up The Wall tonight. The "pressure cooker" days - they are not fun, or easy, or obviously productive but the do produce character.

The littles come to the table and let me know how much they don't like spaghetti. I say "you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit" (thank you Pinkaliciouss for that nugget of parental wisdom!) and we sit and we eat and I think maybe I just need to get my feet under me I need to have my legs strongly rooted before I can reach my arms out. 

This is what it means to me to dream small. To say - this is enough. I want to be faithful with this little.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another bad day

Such a great end to a beautiful day!
I have been writing this post in my head for a over week now. I thought the title could be misconceptions about depression because that's kind of where I'm coming from, but that's a terrible title for a post on a blog like mine.

Especially after Robin William's suicide I noticed a lot of people speaking up about depression - and that is such a good thing. We need the vocabulary to communicate with each other what is going on - and the freedom to do so without stigma.

Before I go any further I want to be clear that I'm no expert on depression, causes, treatment or whatever. I know that my experiences with depression have been far from exhaustive. I'm only describing my own personal experience because I know I feel better when I write honestly about my experiences and I feel better reading other women's experiences with depression because then I remember that what I'm experiencing is pretty common and that makes me feel that much less alone. 

I don't feel sad
I feel like it's a common misconception that depression = sadness. People who do not suffer from depression sometimes say "oh I'm so depressed" when what they really mean is that they are feeling sad or having a bad day. When I am having a bad day/week/month/year  I may or may not be aware of feeling sad. It's more like I just don't feel anything at all. I once read that people who suffer from depression have this chemical imbalance in their brain that keeps them from being able to experience pleasure. I get that. I totally get that. I remeber standing on a beach with my family, watching them smiling and laughing and thinking "this is great - I should be loving this" but I didn't feel anything, except for maybe stressed out. That is what makes me sad. I don't suffer from depression because I am sad, rather it is because I suffer from depression and am often unable to enjoy the things that used to bring me pleasure that makes me sometimes feel sad. I try not to think of my depression as emotional, or spiritual or mental either. I think of it as physical - chemical imbalances in my brain. Thinking about it this way puts me in a position to try to do what I can to be less stressed out, better rested or whatever.

I do feel exhausted
When I am having a bad day/week etc. I feel exhausted. All Of The Time. Getting out of bed is harder because I feel like I have lead in my bones and soup in my veins. Making up my mind is harder because I get "brain fog". Eating is harder because it requires making up my mind, so I often find myself skipping meals simply because I couldn't decide what to eat. Sleeping is harder, I just lay there awake, unable to fall asleep. Going to the store is miserable because I struggle to maintain my train of thought, especially if I have my five distractions children with me. Yesterday I stood at the meat counter for ten minutes trying to decide which package of ground beef to buy for spaghetti. I am pretty sure the guy behind the counter thought I had lost my mind. Making decisions and following through is called "executive function" and it is also something to do with brain function. When I am having a bad day my executive function is really weak. Also my social anxiety really amps up. When I'm having a bad day being anywhere with a lot of people really stresses me out and I find myself mentally running back home as soon as possible. I'm already kinda awkward and shy but when my depression is bad my shyness turns into full blown social anxiety. By the end of the day my body aches, especially my joints, I'm overwhelmed and stressed out because all day long every little thing that I usually do easily has been hard. I want to be alone, with a book or maybe a movie. Or I want to take a bath and go to bed because I am totally mentally, emotionally and physically out of fight.

Finding perspective
The first thing to go when I'm having a few bad days in a row is my sense of perspective. There are days when I my entire existence seems like a failure, because, oh I don't know, my kids ate white bread instead homemade freshly ground wheat. But a lot of the times I settle into the thought that I'm fine. Really, I'm not that bad. Which usually means I'm not as depressed (sad/hopeless/suicidal) as I have been in the past, so I'm going to ignore what is going on with me right now and pretend everything is fine, because really, it's not that bad. Wrong. When I find myself telling myself "it's not that bad" it's a warning flag for me that my perspective has probably started to drift. I remeber vividly the first time I did the depression self-assessment and actually had it scored. I was blown away by how high I scored - because I felt like I was in a pretty mild state of depression and it made me stop and think. Maybe it's not as bad as it has been or could be, but for the sake of all the people who have to live with me, I should take this seriously. I feel like this is the worst part about depression, like the numbing agent a mosquito uses before it bites - loosing perspective is the first part of depression that means I can get into a pretty serious funk without even realizing it. I can look back at seasons and think what was going on here?!! and it was because I'd lost my perspective. 

I can't just "snap out of it"
I think that one of the most common misconceptions about depression is that there is some element of choice. Like if I somehow just kept my chin up and counted my blessings I would snap back to normal. But I can not choose if I am depressed or not, any more than I can choose to catch the flu or suffer from allergies. I can not will myself out of this or choose not to be like this. This is how life is for me, and a lot of people like me. Some days are just a little (sometimes a lot) harder than usual. I can however choose how I respond and what I will do to make my symptoms better or worse. I can try to eat well, get outside and keep up with social activities or I can go into a depressive death spiral and withdraw (hide) live off of coffee, potato chips & ice cream and Netflix. Change is really hard, really slow and painfully difficult because I easily loose my momentum. I get some inertia going and then stall out. It's insanely frustrating. I wish I could just "snap out of it" but I can't.

I don't have any kind of magic bullet for curing my depression. I notice I do better when I am eating fresh fruits and especially raw veggies, when I get some exercise, get out of the house, and have a little time with friends. It helps. Making plans and having goals are good for me too, something to look forward to and work towards. Sticking with my small group of friends has been really really good for me. Speaking up, and letting my closest people, especially my husband, know when I'm struggling is important too. It's important to be honest, even though it's hard.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Let's sit and chat a bit

Sometimes it's good to have those moments of quiet, making dinner. When I finally shoo the kids out of the kitchen long enough to stir my rice and start my chicken stir-fry, or whatever.

Tonight I've been thinking, turning the thoughts as I turn the bits of chicken and beans and rice, as I observe the mess that has become dinner and an idea that, more than likely, will be filed under "things that didn't turn out the way I thought they would".

I have had moments in life like that too. My file of "things that didn't work out the way I thought they would" for my life would be FAT. This year has been excruciating. It has been stressful, it has been overwhelming, and through it all I have been asking God the same questions all year - what next? What NOW? 

A couple years ago I started a photography blog, that turned into photography classes, that turned into 10pm- 2am work hours and a heart full of resentment and exhaustion. I felt like maybe it was time to step away for a bit. God made it very clear that it was time. I loved that job, but I had a new baby and needed to be done.

I've been a full-time stay at home mom for about two and a half years now. Right now it is Driving Me Crazy. I know that it is what I'm supposed to be doing. I know that having the mental, emotional and physical energy to be available to my kids is really important right now. I can't afford to be distracted or overwhelmed with work. But it has been hard. Like "where do I turn in my pink slip" hard.

I liked saying "I'm a work at home mom" and "I'm a photography teacher." I liked having something to do other than dishes and dinner, and I really liked having some additional money. It was a great job, and I am really thankful for everything I learned during that period of my life but I feel like that phase of my life is over for right now. I don't feel like it was a failure. But I know that's not the direction I want to go right now.

So it has been hard just sitting with this question "who am I?" Not just roles, not just relationships - me. Under the labels that are so easy to hide behind. Behind the words of affirmation (that mean the world to me, but threaten to define me) what do I want to do and who do I want to be? More importantly who has God made me to be? Because I want to be that person - no more but no less.

Here is what I'm realizing - I have to be willing to continue to add to my folder of "things that didn't turn out the way I thought it would." 

I've been working on writing some fiction and it has honestly been one of the hardest things I have ever worked on. Ever. I have had to face a lot of inner demons and a lot of fear. I have sent my artist-sister a gazillion texts about it. Biggest of all is "what if this fails?" What if I don't want to write fiction? What if I pour hours of effort and tons of mental energy into something that a) I might not ever be good at and b) I might not even want to pursue as any type of career. 

It is scary to take the first steps without knowing where I'm going to end up. It's scary to keep moving forward, not knowing how things will work out. What if this whole experiment in writing doesn't work out?

via The Nester

Well - hopefully I will have grown a lot internally, learned some important lessons about facing my fears and working hard even when the results are discouraging.


Today as we were walking into Target and Eli was holding my hand I thought I get to enjoy this stage for just a little bit longer and then it is going to be gone. My little boy is going to be stepping up on that bus before long and I'll have nearly the whole day to myself and I'll be missing these days. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Perfection, the mess and my home

I am so glad that I started following The Nester on Instagram, so thankful that I was browsing Instagram on our lazy Monday Labor Day morning and so happy that the book The Nesting Place went on sale for Kindle. I bought it without thinking twice, downloaded it to my phone and started reading it right away. IT IS SO GOOD!!! Especially relating to the ideas of perfectionism & contentment. I feel like the heart of the message of this book applies to everything and everyone, everywhere - no matter what your life circumstances are. It's about our home but it's primarily about my heart.

I am so loving this book that I knew I had to blog about it but then I came to this place mid-way through chapter 4 and I knew exactly what I wanted to say...


The Tyrone house  in spring
our little duplex
When my oldest two, who are only 18 months apart, were very little it was a crazy season of our life together in pretty much every way. My husband worked a residential pest control route and I stayed home. We drove an about-to-break-down car that was made the same year I was born. We lived in this tiny little duplex, on a little road lined with duplexes on the other side of the rail road tracks.  We had no money but we had fantastic friends and a really good life.

We lived in this itty bitty space that was almost never ever clean. There were dishes in the sink and laundry waiting to be folded piled up in my bedroom. Our couches were the ugliest things ever. But when I wasn't busy feeling guilty for my house not being clean enough, or good enough - we were really happy. Our kids jumped on that couch, our dog sat on that couch and when we got rid of it and bought something slightly less embarrassing it was terrible for jumping on. It had recliners at the end of each side so that if my girls wanted to jump they would get hurt. It was awful and I hated it. Turns out this cheap ugly awful couch was perfect for our family and this simple, mundane un-noteworthy life I was leading turned out to be really sweet. 

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I was so eager to move out of that place and so thrilled to get rid of that furniture, but looking back - that was such a sweet season of life (and I really do miss that couch!)  I could not wait for my girls to get a bit older so we could move onto a less boring and messy stage, but it turns out that this stage is really hard too and I look back at that season with a little bit of longing, wishing I could have lived those years with the perspective I have now.  I stayed home with my girls and even though I was generally bored out of my mind (and at the same time exhausted all the time!) it was a whole lot of nothing that added up to one beautiful something - a life. 

One of my favorite quotes so far in "The Nesting Place" is:
"It's easy to make decisions based on what others will think, settling for the appearance of perfection instead of insisting on authenticity. But is that really how we want to live? Just keeping up appearances?"

In some seasons there is an appearance of lack. I lack a pretty house in a chic neighborhood. I lack the Pinterest-perfect living room ensemble. I lack the business-card-worthy job title. But despite the appearance of lack, I have a life. A good one. One I want to embrace with both arms.

"Most of us renters are choosing to live someplace we don't love because there are more important things we need to tend to: raising children, paying off debt, living close to family, finding a job, supporting a spouse, being independent, being financially responsible. Remember there are a lot of women who would consider you lucky that you even got to make that choice in the first place. You will look back and have fond memories of the rental you currently despise. And choosing a less than ideal home in order to have the kind of home life, financial peace or family circumstances you want is not the kind of decision you look back and regret." 

I can say from my experience that this is so true. You could even re-phrase this to say most of us are choosing to live a life the way that we are (not even just the where but the what too) because we see something more important than keeping up appearances. Making the decision (and sometimes having to make that decision again on a daily basis!) to live small, to stay focused on home and kids and not pursue other things - I know that these are things I won't regret. I don't look back at that time when my bigs were itty bitty and think how I should have gotten a job so we could have a bigger house or a better car. I think how glad I am that I got to be present during those highly formative years of my oldest girls lives. I have to remind myself of that now, while Eli is little and I sometimes get a bit restless, this is not the kind of life I am going to regret.

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