Friday, April 29, 2016

What I learned: April

Constipated kids
This month I learned that your kids can be constipated even if they don't seem like it. Eli had his well-check to get his paperwork ready to start kindergarten in the fall and I mentioned that I feel like he was having more potty accidents than is normal for a kiddo who is almost five. She said this is more common then you'd think and sent us for an x-ray. It came back showing severe constipation. Kids who are severely constipated loose their ability to control their bowel movements or even to have the sensation of needing to go. I'm totally in shock. But glad to be learning something new. So he is going grain-free for a bit in case he has some food allergies I haven't been aware of. He's already dairy-free & egg-free. I'm planning on eliminating/reducing our consumption of grains as a family to see if that helps anyone else's digestional health. We eat tons of bread, rice & pasta, so this is a big adjustment.

Family Adventures
This month we tried to get out of the house over the weekends. We met up with my little sister in Atlanta and went to IKEA (for the first time ever!), we went to Stone Mountain (and I had a legit panic attack) and we went to the Earth Day celebration at Phinizy Swamp. Daniel enjoys going out so much more than I do and because I'm such a homebody I tend to not want to do things on the weekends. I just want everybody at home, reading our books and doing our chores and, in reality, getting  on each other's nerves. I mentioned in another post that I have been watching the Married at First Sight show and I noticed a lot of patterns in the behavior of these couples, one of them was that they got along a lot better when they were making the time to do activities together and that when there wasn't anything going on that they were more likely to fight. 

Clothing/closet organizing apps:
Thanks to an Instagram post by Emily Freeman I have dipped a toe into the world of clothing/wardrobe apps. The app Emily Freeman recommended was called Stylebook but because I don't pay for apps I downloaded a free version called Cluise:
The thing I like about the Cluise app is that once you add your clothing items you can create outfits, snap a selfie of the outfit and share. It's basically like an Instagram of outfit of the day. You can also ask the app to suggest an outfit for the next day. The app checks the weather in your area and then suggests a weather appropriate outfit. I asked the app to dress me and this is what it suggested:
It also suggested some other looks. I can't wait to enter more clothes into this app! It's a lot of fun. I have only been adding what I wear each day but you could also add it all at once. It really makes me think about what Ibwear, what I don't wear and what style I like.

I also downloaded Stuff N Style. It's a little bit more like Polyvore. You can request styling and (hypothetically) style your friends. 

It would be super fun to have a group of girlfriends on this app and have them suggest outfits for you. I requested a styling and this is what I was given: 
This is cute. Right?

I feel more like myself when I have a book to read. This month I picked up a few novels and actually finished reading them!  That hasn't happened in awhile. 
This was sitting on the adult new release shelf at my library, so I picked it up. It seemed like the least horrible thing on the shelf so I brought it home and ended up really enjoying it. It is about a young woman with early onset Alzheimer's and a young man with dementia who fall in love in a seniors care home. It's told from the perspective of the woman with Alzheimer's and also from the perspective of their cook, Eve. It reminded me somewhat of "What Alice Forgot" - it had a similar style and tone. 
I decided to find out for myself what all the hype is about surrounding "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes. Now I know. And I totally get it. It was so sweet!!! I loved the main characters, a quadriplegic and his young caregiver. He used to live big, she has led a small life. He hates his life now, she is trying to help him find hope. I found it to be rather pro-right-to-die, especially near the end. The story was so worth it though. I bawled my eyes out at the end. And have you seen the trailer for the movie that is coming out? It may just be even better than The Fault In Our Stars.
I picked this up from the new adult non-fiction shelf at my library and so far it has been amazing. I'm not very far into it but I can already see myself viewing my parenting differently. If you haven't read anything about mindful parenting or conscious parenting you really really should. This book is supposed to help my with my absent-minded and impulsive kiddos. I hope it helps because with Josiah home full-time now I run into his executive function lacks quite often and it is a struggle for me to know how to help him.

I also wanted to mention that Annie F Downs just released her Bible Study companion to Looking for Lovely (which I read last month and highly recommend). I got to see a preview of it and it looks amazing. The study is organized by occupations of characters in the Bible. I have never done a Bible study by Annie F Downs but I'm thinking that this summer that might change. 

I watched this last night. It's in French with substitutes and not appropriate for kids but so romantic. I'm not super into fashion so I wasn't sure I'd really want to see it but it was recommended in a list I read so I requested it from my library.

I've been listening to my worship playlist on Spotify and the album Brand New by 
Ben Rector

Recent Blog Posts:
When my prayers are lame
I caught a glimpse of myself 
What do you want?
Note to self
Homeschool re-cap

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A glimpse

I caught a glimpse of myself the other night. I was super crazy worn out from a long day of life with six kids, plus I'm in the early days of finally sleep-training Eli to sleep in his own bed, which meant a long late night sitting by his bed. Finally, as I'm on my way to bed and the whole house is asleep. I've got Grayson in my arms and I'm asking myself why I can't bring myself to leave Grayson to sleep in his crib in the boys room too. 

I caught a glimpse of myself the other night and this is what I saw: fear.

My mom has always warned me that I come from a long line of worriers. I used to pride myself on not being one, I don't know anymore. I feel like my mother-worry has just super-skyrocketed this year. And I don't know exactly what it means or how to make it stop.

I caught a glimpse of myself the other night and this was what I saw: an anxious heart.

I lay here awake going over yesterday in my mind. All the times I got so caught up in the what we needed to do that I forgot the why I am even doing this in the first place. The times I did not show gentleness or self-control. The times I got overwhelmed and yelled. 

I caught a glimpse of myself the other morning and this is what I saw: shame

I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror, I saw everything that isn't right, and isn't the way I'd like it to look. I caught a glimpse of myself and this is what I saw: insecurity 

But sometimes, in an encouraging text or an unhurried conversation, my friends hold up a portrait of me - they tell me how they see me. They encourage me to keep moving forward and keep pressing onwards and that what I'm doing and saying and who I am matters to them and to anybody else who cares to take a step into this square of space I'm living in.

Life is complicated- joy and sorrow, laughter and tears all occupy the same space. They show no respect for one another, they get all up in each other's space, they can't visit one at a time, they squeeze their wide hips into the same chair and we sit together. 

I am complicated, a mess of stress, postpartum hormones and trying to raise teens (and homeschool-preschool kicking my butt) and I feel like I'm just stumbling through. 

But tonight I caught a glimpse of myself. Messy and imperfect and deeply flawed and yet precious (and so are you) I hope I am someone that I would want to be friends with. I hope I speak the words to myself that I'd say to my best friends. I hope I am the friend I would want my friend to be to me. 

I'm terrible at ending blog posts. I don't know if you have ever noticed that about me. Sometimes I have drafts of posts sitting there for weeks because I haven't thought of a good ending for them. So tonight I'll just say:

To you, whoever you are, reading this right now: You are precious. You are so loved, even if you don't feel like it now.  You are so beautiful, even if you don't see it now. You have so much potential, more than you even realize. What you do with your life matters, right where you are, even if it feels like nobody sees or cares. Your words matter. The example you are setting matters. Your imperfection doesn't define you, your scars don't mar your beauty. You have so much to offer. Don't give up.

I don't remember where I read this, feel free to send me an email if you read this too, but I remember reading about a woman who caught a glimpse of herself in a wall of mirrors, she didn't recognize that it was her reflection and at first stepped toward the reflection as if she were moving towards a friend. She caught a glimpse of herself and it was a very meaningful moment for her. She began to shift her conscious thought towards the idea "I am my friend" and it made an impact on the tone of her self-talk, or inner monologue or whatever. That was what I was thinking of as I wrote this. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Note to self

I have a lot in my heart right now, a lot on my mind, a lot of questions that aren't any closer to getting answered than a couple of years ago - stuff about moving (houses and school districts), stuff about school (see previous) stuff about writing... I've been praying a lot about it lately, asking for direction. I've been asking God to show me which way to go. But I just don't feel like I have a clear idea of what I should be persuing and where I should just let go.

My song in this season is Lauren Daigle's "Trust in You" because I believe that at the heart of what it means to be a Christian is a surrender of everything and a trust that God really is leading and guiding and working for my good. It can be hard because I have the fear of wasted time, of wasted potential, of missing whatever it was God was trying to tell me. And I want God to show me clearly, like now. 

The other day I read something in "Looking for Lovely" by Annie F Downs that has really stuck with me, she was at a similar place in her life and she felt God remind her "trust the path" that God will lead when the moment is right and not to demand to know everything ahead of time. Be in this step, do what's right in front of you and trust God with the next step. And so that has become my motto for this season. I'm gonna "trust the path" and keep surrendering my ideas of what should or would be best, and keep on trusting. I don't know what is ten steps ahead but I do know what to do now. I have my kids and my husband and my friends, I can do this here. I know what to do with what is in my hands right now. I don't know if there are things I should be picking up or things I should be letting go of I don't feel a clear sense of direction about my future but I know what I need to do with today. 

I'd like to be looking for houses because that it was makes the most sense to me, but you never know, not moving might be the best thing that's happened to our family, which is hard for me because I was ready to move out of this place about three months into our lease, and because the high school in the next district over seems so much better suited for my girls, but here I sit, waiting, praying (and checking the Zillow search I set up) and waiting some more to see what God does.  

BTW have you heard the song "Note to Self" by Ben Rector? If you haven't heard the album (it's on "Brand New") yet you really should. It has almost nothing to do with this post, but I really think you'd like it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Homeschool re-cap

It is Friday!!!!! I have a ton of non-school related stuff to get done today to get ready for family coming to visit us over the weekend but I thought I'd stop here for a minute and reflect on how this week has gone with homeschooling:

Things that went well:
We started our days earlier. Ever since the time change I've been seriously dragging in the mornings. This week we have all been up and at 'em a bit earlier and that has made for a less hectic morning.

Eli has been reading more. He is at the stage where he is really catching onto reading so we do a page out of his phonics book and we work on a list of sight words that Josiah got from school when he was in Kindergarten. It is so exciting to see Eli finally putting the pieces together and make more progress with reading. The plateau stages of teaching your child to read can be super frustrating but these stages of growth make it so worth it!

We got out of the house
For better or worse we put a priority on getting out of the house. This is probably going to be one of the last good weeks of weather before summer weather hits (it's forecasted to be in the 90's here next week!) so I wanted to take advantage of it.

Josiah got to spend time in imaginative play. There was time this week for Josiah to just wander a bit, dress up as a cowboy and play with Eli. I think it's important for kids to have time to do that but it's hard when they are ping-pong-ing from structured activity to electronics to structured activity. In the picture you can see Josiah also enjoyed dressing up his brothers.

We set up a no-screen zone in our routine. Again, because I feel so strongly that this is a limited window of beautiful weather I said no to screen time from around the time everyone got home from school until dinner time and my kids played outside!! Together! (More or less) and with the neighbor kids. It was great. 

Eli is sleeping in his own bed. Okay so this isn't strictly homeschool-related but it is worth noting. This kid has been the hardest to train. Potty training was crazy hard, sleep training has been an ongoing battle but I think finally we have a winner. This week he went to bed in his own bed, it took forever to get him down the first night but it has taken less and less time each night and he stayed in his bed with minimal wake-ups. Most importantly he stayed in his own bed all night. I am a fan of co-sleeping, but it was time. There just wasn't room for all four of us in the bed. I can feel that I'm getting a better night's sleep. Grayson has been a terrific sleeper from the get-go, so I'm looking forward to some good sleep coming my way!

Wow - I honestly thought I'd only have like one thing to write in that column.

Things that did not go so well:
I am so ready for summer. Spring break ruined me for the rest of the school year. My older kids are doing testing at school and here at home we are just hanging out wrapping up our school year, I am just so ready to be done with it. I'm thinking the rest of the year we'll do more science experiments and art projects than anything else. 

We struggled with keeping a routine. I usually try to do the same classes in the same order but this week we were more haphazard and disorganized.

This week we struggled with writing. Every time Josiah saw something that requires some writing he freaked out. I am seriously struggling with how to respond when he does that. He feels so out of control. I tried to tell him that I would sit right with him and we'd break it down into little pieces. The work is hardly difficult for him, it just requires some extra concentration. 

This week the baby started teething which has made him about 100% fussier and made it more difficult to get school work done. Thankfully Josiah seems to have completed all of the core work that he needed to get done this year, now we're just running down the clock with review work and preview lessons for next year. I'm really thankful for the K12 program right now. I'm not sure how much school we'd be doing if it was just me. 

How was your week? I'd love to hear abut it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brave in the Asking

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be brave. I wrote a whole series here on this blog about finding my brave. Lately I've especially been thinking about what it means to be brave in what I ask God for. I wrote the other day about Jesus' encounter with a sick man and his question to him "do you want to be healed?" 

The other night, as we were driving around, my son was playing on our iPad and accidentally started playing a sermon I must have downloaded a couple of years ago. It was from Mark 6 and as it played I listened to the familiar verses about how Jesus could not do many miracles in his hometown and he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:1-6) 

These words really resonated with me and have been hanging out in the back burner of my mind. I don't want to limit what God is able to do in my life because I take Him for granted and am therefore full of unbelief. I want to give Him my biggest hopes, my wildest dreams and my deepest desires. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You are my everything

This morning I put together a new playlist on Spotify of some of my favorite worship songs. The first song to play was "Revelation Song" by Kari Jobe one of my all-time favorite songs both to listen to but especially for the worship band at my church to perform. I love how this song stands firmly in tradition and in Scripture yet extends it's arms up in praise and ends in a glorious crescendo that makes me think that this will be what heaven will be like. My favorite line of that song is "you are my everything and I will adore you" and when I sing it I cry it out with my whole heart, with arms as high as they can reach. 
Lately though I've been asking myself if someone saw my life Monday to Saturday would that match my declaration on Sunday? I can't rest on a check-list of things Christians are "supposed" to be doing. My life right now is legitimately insane and most days I'm with my kids from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. 
I think that there is extra grace for moms in this season of life. I believe in my bones that what I'm doing in the mundane of my days can be as much Kingdom work as the man or woman in full-time ministry. I believe that what God is calling is for generation of women who walk in the ryrhms of grace in mercy, in kindness and love without striving or shame, but I'm here, sitting at my kitchen table in a rare moment of calm asking myself  what would a life look like that is wholeheartedly devoted to God? 

I would really love to hear your thoughts. 

P.S. God is so good to give me what I need right when I need it. This afternoon I got this newsletter from Jess Connolly and she wrote :
I think we come by it honest, right? We want to be humble and we're just so darn close to our own issues, it's hard to see past them. So maybe we're good at being thankful and counting the blessings, but I think it's sometimes a lot harder for us to get bold and honest and say with a clear voice,  "Here is some fruit. Here is an area where God has grown me."
So while I'm making these bold claims, I want to answer any nagging fears or concerns in your heart and just put a stake in the ground to say: I believe that without a doubt God has grown YOU and God IS growing you. I wish I could sit with you over coffee so we could sort it out together and find the fruit, but I believe whole-heartedly that if you're in Christ, it's there for certain.  

Check out her blog here and be sure to sign up for her no-filter newsletter. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

When my prayers are lame

Today's blog post is a follow-up to yesterday's post. It never ceases to amaze me when I have read a passage a bunch of times, then I read it again and something new pops out at me. I was reading John 5 again and saw something more that I wanted to write about so here we are. 

Yesterday I wrote about the question Jesus asked of the man who had been sick for 38 years. Today I want to look at this man's answer and Jesus' action in response to the man's answer.

So Jesus notices this man, one of many many many invalids, he knows that this man has been sick for a long time and he asks this man "do you want to be healed?" Which seems like a really weird thing to ask a guy who has been sick for so long, but I spent an entire blog post discussing this so I won't say anything more about that here because I want to take a minute to look at what this man says in reply.

Jesus asks him "Do you want to be healed?" and the sick guy replies:  "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me."
John 5:7 ESV

It wasn't a declaration of faith in Jesus' ability to heal him. It wasn't any kind of request for Jesus to heal him. It was an excuse. I wonder if in the back of his mind he was blaming someone who he thought should have been there to help him into the pool. I wonder if maybe for the first few years there actually was someone who would come sit with him. I wonder if they tried to get him into the pool a couple of times but were never fast enough, or it never worked for him.  I wonder if in the background of his reply he's thinking about that brother who hasn't come to visit him in a really long time, or a wife who gave up on him or that friend who simply got preoccupied with their own troubles. But for whatever reason his reply is one of excuses and not faith.

Now look at Jesus. See how he responds. He doesn't say anything to this guy about having faith or about explaining who he is or what he is about on the earth he simply says "Get up, pick up your bed and walk" and that is exactly what this guy does. He is healed instantly.

As I read this I was really struck by how odd all of this is. 
-Jesus approaches one sick man in a crowd of sick people
-He asks the man if he wants to be healed
-The guy makes excuses
-Jesus heals him 

I'd encourage you to look up the passage in your Bible (John 5) and read the whole story, it's really interesting. But here is my take-away from this moment with Jesus: it isn't the beauty or quality of my prayers that gets my prayers heard or answered even my lamest prayer is still heard, still received, and I am still loved even in the middle of my excuses.

Sometimes I want something or someone to blame when my life is starting to go sidewise or otherwise feel unusually harder than I'd like for it to be feeling right now. (Because if there is something to blame then there is some way to try to exercise some control.) Usually I want to blame my prayer life - if I was praying with enough faith or if I was praying the right words or if I was praying super long prayers or if I was praying several times a day - then my circumstances would shift and I would be like Elijah praying down the rain. This encounter reminds me that it isn't the ineptitude of my prayers that is keeping things from changing - the time just isn't right, or these circumstances that I'm cringing under have actually come to do me good and to prepare me for what's next. 

Jesus didn't heal this guy because of the eloquent statement of faith he made, it even looks like this guy who he healed might not even have responded in gratitude after he was healed! Jesus healed him because that is who he is and this was part of his plan. And he hasn't overlooked me because of how lame my requests have been, he loves me, and he loves it when I pray - even when my prayers are lame. And when the moment is right he will act. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

What do you want?

A few months ago I sat in church feeling an uncomfortable question growing in my heart. The sermon was from John 5 on Jesus' brief encounter with a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus asks this guy, who must have been sick for basically his whole life, "do you want to be healed?" and this, on the surface, seemed like a really odd thing for Jesus to say to this man. I walked out of church with the question stuck in my mind and it rolled around stuck and uncomfortable like a pebble in my shoe - why did Jesus ask this man if he wanted to be well? It seems like a stupid question to ask and that bothered me. It bothered me as I drove home. It bothered me as I made sandwiches for my family. It bothered me until the Holy Spirit finally broke through all my bother and asked me the same question "what about you? What do you want? Do you want to be healed too?" And it hit me right between the eyes - because sometimes my broken places can feel like they are too much a part of who I am to give them up. In this moment with the Holy Spirit I felt Him asking me to tell Him what I want, above every fear and in spite of every fantasy - what do I want? Do I want healing? Am I willing to stubbornly hold onto that prayer through the storms and lulls of life and everything in between? That moment was a turning point for me. It brought a handful of tough months into clearer perspective and it was a moment I came back to as I went forward. 

So now here in the quiet of a Monday morning, I sit again. I sit here with Jesus - and this time He's not asking a sick man by the pool, He's asking me - what do you want? Do you want to be healed? 

With Jesus there are no "but I've always been this way" escape clauses. There is no temptation, no sin, no shame, no fear, no dream, no desire, no anything that is too big or too hard for Him. Here with him I choose to be brave enough to speak it. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why love?

I had this thought late at night after a truly awful horrible bad day: Why do I love?  Am I behaving in a loving way in order to be treated lovingly? What do I do when I don't get back what I had hoped for? 


In the darkness of my kitchen the Holy Spirit shines a little bit of light and I see a little bit of growth in the other side of the realization that I do, sometimes at least, love because of who I am choosing to be right now, and that is why I am choosing to behave the way that I am. I choose to behave lovingly because I choose to be an open-hearted loving person instead of the closed-hearted self-protecting person. I choose to behave lovingly regardless of how you're treating me, if you're living up to my expectations or reciprocating the way I hoped you would. Because who can live under the weight of my expectations? 

This is important in marriage, and I feel like this is the area where I practice this intentionally the most but this is do or die with my teens right now. A lot of parenting my teens lately has been about holding my peace. Letting them talk. Trying to set a good example and let them learn from that. Turn down the lectures and turn up the love. Love that is rarely reciprocated the way I'd like it to be. 

So why love? 

I love because I am loved first by God. 
I love because it is who I am.
I love because it is who I choose to be.

Monday, April 4, 2016

What I learned in March

I need to remember WHY
I have only been homeschooling since January and I have found that if I continually focus on the "what" needs to be done instead of the "why" behind what I'm trying to accomplish with this that my attitude suffers. There are days/weeks when I'm focused on getting that check-list completed as quickly as possible - some days we get it and then I feel like we didn't really accomplish any real learning, we just filled out worksheets. Other days we check things off s l o w l y and I find myself loosing my patience. In these moments I have to recalibrate and remind myself WHY I wanted to homeschool - that I wanted Josiah near, so I could practice gentle, repetitive discipline, to reduce his stress and thus bring down the angry in the whole house... I'm not achieving those goals when I'm yelling over math problems and writing assignments. 

I need to get out of the house
I'm such a homebody. Plus the weather has been ick and the kiddos have been sick and we spent the first half of the month at home. While it's awesome to have a day or two just at home it is important for me to make myself get out of the house sometimes. We lined up a play date and we went to the library and we hit up the park and I found that on those days I felt a little less suffocated by motherhood.

I need to work on my marriage
I've been watching "Married at First Sight" on demand. I even downloaded the FYI app so I could watch all of the seasons. It's so cathartic for me and it's like marriage therapy for free. One of the things I noticed is that all of the couples did better when they did fun things together. In general I'm too idealistic about how my marriage should feel. I'm too serious and often don't see the point in going bowling or going to see a movie or doing fun things when we aren't discussing goals or plans or whatever... My theme song for my marriage at the moment is, ironically enough the Taylor Swift song "out of the woods" my favorite line is "the monsters turned out to be just trees" that's what I hope for about all of the things that scare me about the flaws in my marriage - that those monsters will, in the light of day, turn out to be just tees and the mountains will, in fact, be just molehills. I could say tons and tons and tons more but for today I'n going to leave it at that.

Spotify playlists with my best friend.
My friend Anjelica and I started a shared playlist on Spotify. We both add our favorite worship songs of the moment and IT IS AWESOME. It's my go-to plays list at the moment. I love that she has added songs I hadn't heard yet or haven't heard in awhile. I highly recommend you figure out how to make one for yourself and your favorite people in your life. It's been great.

New favorite phrase: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
This is so true- especially in parenting! If I can head off the meltdown by understanding my kids, and if I give my kids an outlet to release some of their lent up energy and curiosity, it goes a long long ways towards having a peaceful home. The more self-aware I become in my parenting the more I notice how reactionary my parenting can be. But reactionary parenting is super ineffective. So, yeah. This is my mantra right now.

What I'm reading: Looking for Lovely by Annie F Downs I got an advance reader copy and y'all this book is JUST SO GOOD! It's just exactly all of the things you would want your best friend to remind you of over coffee. If you're going through a messy/crappy season of life READ THIS BOOK and discover how to really grow in this season instead of just enduring it. If you're high on life and things are going well READ THIS BOOK and maximize your enjoyment and get ready for when the winds change. It's too easy to kind of give up when life gets hard instead of pressing into God and opening my eyes to see what He's doing. I am reading one short chapter every day and it is doing all kinds of good things for my heart. 

Listening: It's been super-hard for me to listen to any music this month. I've mostly just listened to the radio and a favorite playlist on Spotify. I listened to Brave New World by Amanda Cook a good bit and enjoyed it a lot. 

Watching: This month I saw Alegiant!! That was fun. A good movie, so not what I was expecting though AND they are making a fourth movie so the ending of this third one was not at all like what I expected.

TV currently: 
Married at First Sight 
Zombie House Flippers/Hunters? Something like that. Love this show!
Tiny House Nation 
Tiny House Hunters

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