February 26, 2013

the seasons of coffee dates

I think they probably started around the time we all got our drivers licenses.  Coffee dates.  Meeting a friend to chat over our hot beverage.  About life.  About our dreams.

Back then, let's be honest, we'd talk mostly about boys.  About who was dating who.  About who we wanted to be dating.  Or maybe about who we were dating and how sweet or not-so-sweet it was.  And our future.  College?  Here or there?  There was always something next.  Something that must be better than now.  We were always eager to move forward.

Then we graduated high school and some of us stayed and some of us moved.  Coffee dates of college exponentially increased in frequency and coffee in consumption.  The faces changed and conversations deepened.  We talked about purpose.  About how our studies fit into the big picture of life.  Of what God was teaching us.  And, of course, boys.  Who we were (or weren't) dating.  Who was engaged.  Who was already married.  And me, still looking forward.  Something more, something better.  Waiting for whatever it is that completes you.  Unsatisfied with now.  I still don't think I got it.

Eventually, two by two, we all got engaged.  Married.  And started our grown-up jobs.  Coffee dates of college graduates are now for catching up.  We seemed to think we were busy in college, but we had no idea what busy was.  We talked about our married life.  Husband and wife stuff.  Recipes.  Sewing.  And of course, babies.  When are you starting to try?  How many kids do you want?  How spaced apart?  The season of coffee dates that were paired with tears over heart break and months and months of wanting that next thing.  A child.  Oh, when that happens, life must be complete?  At least, this is how I always viewed it.

Then, we are blessed with babies and meet for coffee dates as mothers.  Conversations unfinished due to hungry babies and distractions of spit up and blow outs.  How is it to be a working mom?  Will you quit?  Will you stay home?  How long is your baby sleeping?  Ea where you are poured out far more than you are filled.ting?  Are you doing baby-wise?  Baby wearing?  Cloth diapering?  Oh, the conversation options were endless.  It was easy to stay surface, because life was very much surface and there was a whole lot of it.  I know that I felt alone at times, in my quest for depth and purpose in this new season.  The season where we pour out a whole lot more than we are often filled.  

And then the conversations always turn to the next one.  How far will you space your kids?  Do you want another boy?  A girl?  Really, two in diapers?  There was always something next.  Something more.  And still, I found myself pushing myself quickly toward that next thing.

Then something happened.  My one baby became a brother.  And my big baby slowly became no longer a baby, but a toddler.  A walking and gabbering toddler.  All in a matter of months.  And suddenly the importance of the here and now is impressed on my heart in a way that I never understood before.

In this season, my coffee dates look different.  

I would talk about purposefully taking the days slowly.  Not rushing my kids to grow.  Watching them explore the world for the first time.  Soaking it in.  

I'd ask about what you love doing with your kids.  Right now, what is your favorite thing to do with your time?  What memories have you created recently?  

And what can we do right now that is pouring into them?

What am I doing right now that is building my relationship with my husband?

What am I doing right now that is encouraging my kids?

What do you love most about now?

In a way I haven't quite understood before, I know that today is a gift.  Time goes more quickly than we realize.  I'm in a season of looking forward, but not hastening now.

February 25, 2013

when he listens without understanding

Just now I was on the floor playing with the littlest, shortly after putting the big one down for a nap.

He doesn't like to nap.  This I know.  But I'm not about to wave my white flag on nap time.  That one will be a battle I'll continue to fight.  I need it as much as he does.

But he's always been content to goof around in his crib.  I give him a few books and sometimes he dozes off and sometimes not.

This was one of the sometimes not times.

While playing peekaboo and urging the littlest to take a try at crawling, I suddenly hear, and feel, a huge thud.  It shook the whole house.  (our house is small, it doesn't take much)


And then nothing.

I think it was the nothing that scared me more.  I pictured him falling on his head and unconscious on the floor.  Even though I know this child is incredibly agile and excels at climbing, this was the image I had in my head as I ran toward his room.

I threw open is door and there he was.

Standing in the middle of his floor.  Truck and blankie in hand.  Grinning from ear to ear.

"What did you do???" The look on my face must have shown my fear, because the grin quickly turned to tears as he asked to be held.

I scooped him up and rocked him in my lap (since he has long outgrown my arms) and then had a very stern but gentle talk about staying in our crib.


I'm not sure I'll ever get used to my children getting older.  Conquering new feats, I encourage and praise them, but it is bittersweet as I realize that it will never go back to the way it was before.

Some days the growing up is hard.  Other days, it's wonderful.

There's nothing that has made be understand the Lord quite like parenthood.  And why I am his child.  And how he fathers me.  And why he didn't create us to simply be controlled.  A Lord creating us to choose Him.

How I love when my boy chooses to listen.  Because when I tell him not to climb out of his crib, it isn't because I want to burst his bubble and ruin his fun or hinder his motor skill growth.  Far from it.  It's because I don't want him to fall on his head and hurt himself.  He doesn't see that.  He can't comprehend that right now.

But he listened.  I put him back in his crib and gave him his books and he stayed right there.  So we have the crib for at least one more night (until I can get a guard rail up).  But I'm so proud of him when he listens, even without understanding.

Lord, what do I need to listen to?  What do I need to have faith to do, despite understanding?

February 22, 2013

removing the bowls.

Seasons of new truth and growth are wonderful and exhausting.

I'm learning loads about myself, but even more about the grace that covers all.  And so I want to know more about this grace and this love demanding a Savior.  I no longer want to depend on what I've been told second-hand my whole life.  A season of eating the real Word is good and needed.

But with it comes responsibility.  I can't read truth and act as if I haven't.  I can't have heart change without life change.  It just doesn't work.

Weeks and weeks ago I read Matthew 5.  Not for the first or even tenth time.  Who knows how many times I have read that we are the light of the world and to place my light on a stand instead of under a bowl (or basket, depending what version you read).

And in my overly-deep and analytic mind, this seemingly simple verse goes on a spiral.

I think in the past I have read this and thought I needed to go out and figure out where my light was.  Instead of realizing that I am the light.  Him in me is the light.  Right where I am.  In my day to day without even leaving my home.  I shine for my kids.  I shine for my friends.  I shine for husband.  Christ in me.

But in this season, I'm looking to identify the bowls I've placed in my life.  The friendships where I have shied away from speaking truth.  Even the attitudes where I choose self over Christ.  The moments where I can shine and serve, but it's easier and more tempting to complain and choose entitlement.

Sometimes my mind is exhausting.  Sometimes recognizing the bowls is exhausting.  And keeping them off is harder work than putting it on.

I think I like to hide under bowls in some areas of my life.  Two stand out in particular to me.

I think I like to put bowls on my blog.  There was a time last fall where I felt the tug to write more.  Share more of my heart.  Be real, truthful, honest.  Encourage, through my mess.  Not for the purpose of just airing my junk, but to seek Christ in the middle of it.

But, multiple times since then, I've been tempted to believe the lies.  That it doesn't matter.  That maybe I'm being too bold or in-your-face or offensive.  That I should back off the Jesus talk.  That nobody cares about that.  That is the bowl of insecurity in my calling here.  And the lies of the Devil.  As dumb as I feel sometimes about taking this little blog seriously, I really do.  But that's not to say I don't feel the risk of putting myself out there like I sometimes do.  I definitely feel that risk.  I pray against this insecurity all the time, but it is there.  Wondering who is reading.  Wondering what they think.

But ultimately, I know that those thoughts aren't from Christ.  Simply, they aren't.  So I keep walking and keep writing and remove that bowl.

I also like to put bowls on my hospitality.  Welcoming people into my home is not a natural gift I have.  It's another area of insecurity for me.  Many many times after I have friends over, I kick myself for not offering the water or coffee sooner.  For not asking more questions about them.  For not being more welcoming.  My natural introvert tendencies are to stay home and keep to myself.  Especially when it comes to inviting people over that I don't know.  But I also have a desperate need for community (I think us ladies were created that way).  Sharing my heart and sharing life with other women.  So I have to talk myself up and remove that bowl telling me I'm a bad hostess and invite the people over and share life in my imperfectness.  I share life with my messy sink and dog hair in all corners and my bedroom door closed, because that's where the mess all hides.  I am making it a priority to open my home, as uncomfortable as that can be for me.  Because sharing meals and sharing life lets the light shine.  It's so much harder to shine through the closed doors.

These bowls of insecurity prevent me from sharing life.  Sharing the light.  Sharing what I'm learning about Christ.  Sharing that I'm imperfect but have found grace.

What bowls do you need to remove to let your light shine?  

February 20, 2013

when I realize I had it all backwards

We met on Monday morning like we do.  Braving the winter weather and sub-freezing chill, ready to pass off the kiddos to the sitters and quickly preparing our hearts to dig deep and do so quickly.  Two hours can fly by before you know it.

We're trying to be more like David.  The sinful human man who understood God's heart.  Desperate for God.

And the question was asked.  Do you live in need of God?  What does this realistically look like in your life?

And my thought progression goes, well, yeah.  I need God.  I know I need Him.  In my mind, I know I need Him.  But in my life, I act like I need coffee and sleep and people and facebook {shamefully} more.

I remember when I was a new mom.  Into this motherhood gig only a few months, and I cried out asking Mom's how they make the time for everything they need.

The advice was what good for me in that season.  That season where I was adjusting to my new all-consuming role ridden with guilt for not doing-it-all.  They told me to be easy on myself.  That if I don't read my Bible every day and don't do all-the-things that it is okay and that God knows my heart.

And really, that is truth.  It's not about doing all the things.  It is about my heart.  And the message of grace.  Because He never asks us to have it all together first anyway.

But I took that as somewhat of an excuse to be lazy about it.  To not need God, and to start living out of myself.  To not wake up early and read, because I had reasons not to.  To not take the time to be still before Him, because I didn't hardly find time to shower.  Of course, these things never happen intentionally.  But it is just our natural selves that start to show when we lose focus.

A year or so later, I am realizing that I had it all backwards.

I need Him in order to do any good in this motherhood/wife/friend gig.  I need Him first.  I don't need to be a mother or a wife or a friend first.  I need Him to fill me first so the rest can follow. 

For me, that does mean I need to make this a priority.  It means I am reading.  It means I am finding ways to meet with the Lord even when I'm run into the ground exhausted.  David did.  As messed up as he was, he was one of the few people in the Bible who got it.

Isn't it funny how the same lesson learned over and over and over can have new truth in the different seasons?  Of course I had learned before that I need God.  But this truth is taking a new and deeper meaning in my heart.  Or maybe I am just more receptive.  I recently read it best, when said I must narrow my life until Jesus becomes everything.  A difficult, but totally freeing process.  As this happens, all the rest seems so trivial.

In whatever case, this new truth and conviction requires action.  Confession and moving forward, toward Christ.

And so I keep on walking.


February 18, 2013

the most important thing

It seems to happen over night, doesn't it?

One night they go to bed only a baby and wake up and they're talking and jumping and turning two in a matter of weeks.  And the other who I swear I was just pregnant with yesterday.  And now has teeth and eats his own food and is only days away from crawling all over the place.

And again I am in the busy season where the days are long but the weeks and months and years go by so quickly.  The childhood that seemed to last forever, I now know was only the blink of an eye.

It's bittersweet.  I'm thankful for the difficult times to pass, knowing that one day I will look on them fondly.  Loving to watch them grow and learn, but wishing they could stay little always.

But this here is my missionfield.  My kingdom work of serving these little people and pointing them toward the Lord.

This is the hardest work I have ever done.  The work my heart is completely wrapped up in and I am too often tempted to worry and try to control what is not mine to do so.  Worry that I will do them right.  That I will be imperfect.  But then knowing that of course I will be.  But in seeking Him in the day to day going through the motions, and in praying that their hearts would see past me and to Him.  Because it will never be about me.  My prayer is that the Lord would capture their hearts.

I think of that day often, lately.  I'm in a season immersed with loads of scripture reading of His plan for His people.  And also a season of hearing of many other's testimonies and I wonder what theirs will be.

In my many prayers for these precious boys, my boldest is that they would know and love Him deeply.

February 15, 2013

small change :: being a homemaker

A friend recently sent me a message, basically saying, "How are you so organized??  And how do you have the energy to get it all done??"

I think I did the snort-laugh as I read that.

Friends, can I just say that my plate is full.

And if I have given any of you the impression that I am first of all, organized, or second of all, get the infamous all done, we need to have a heart to heart.

My plate is full of good things.  Lots and lots of Bible reading and community building and praying through this busy season.  But doing it all is not part of those good things.

Remember when I talked about giving up good?  Well, lately I'm struggling to even keep up with the things I've labeled as priorities.

One being, this blog.  {For that, I am sorry and grateful for your grace!}

Another is housekeeping.  I do not have the clutter-free gene.  Any of my roommates in college can tell you that my natural-born tendency is slob.  I have to create reminders for myself to do simple things like make the bed and do the laundry and pick up as I go.  It's just not in my nature.

The upside to this?  It doesn't really phase me when my kids make a mess.  I hope that this will one day work in my favor in ways besides destroying my house.

The downside?  My hubby is the tidy one.  And lately I have been convicted of the fact that it really blesses him when I keep a tidy-ish home.  Something that I lack at and must work towards.

I asked for advice on facebook the other day.  And I got tons of great tips on how to be a good homemaker.  What works for other people.  What they make priority and what they let side.

But for me, the heart of this isn't necessarily to just have a tidy house.  That is great and all.  But I do have young kids and messes are going to happen and I am fine with that.  But my heart in this is recognizing how I can bless my husband as a homemaker.  So that my home is a place where he comes home and doesn't feel the weight of a dirty bathroom or a cluttered sink (things that may not phase me, but stress him out).

So, here are some of my favorite tips I received from you.

- Have a written out plan emphasizing what is important to you.
- Do a little bit of laundry every day.
- A nightly clean-blitz (run around finishing up cleaning tasks) for 20 mins can make all the difference.
- Involve your kids.
- Know your priority areas (such as the bedroom or bathroom) and focus on those.

I think another key to less clutter is to simply have less stuff.  Remember my revelation with the dishes?  I'm now paying very close attention to what comes in my home and if it doesn't have a specific place or need in my home, out it goes.  Especially in a small house like mine, clutter happens quickly and without my permission most times!

The key here for me will be to create new habits so that the little things don't become big things.  I don't want to add to my plate by trying to have an immaculate house.  Because that's simply not going to happen.  But there are small changes that I can make in how I go about my day that will lead to big change in the atmosphere of my home.  A home that allows for less stressful living.  A home that I feel comfortable inviting anyone into at any time, despite whatever mess I may think is there.  And a home where I take on the attitude of a servant and present the laundry and the clean dishes and the made bed as a gift to those I live with.

What does it mean for you to be a good homemaker?  What are your priorities and what do you let slide?

February 11, 2013

scripture for your walls :: Blossom & Vine

I started writing a blog, not because I intended to make friends or find a community.  It was simply to write and document and share my thoughts on life and whatnot.  It started to surprise me when random people who I hardly knew would share with me that they read my blog.  Then, other people started finding me.  People who I didn't even know.  People who live on the other side of the country.  Sharing life with me.

Now, my favorite part of blogging is the friends I have made.  Kindred spirits who read about my triumphs and my dirt and share an, "amen!" and a "with you sister" to spur me on.  Writers who have become friends.  Who share their own hearts that I so identify with and are a tremendous encouragement in my life.  

Aly is one of those people.  

I've highlighted her shop over here before, and I'm going to do it again, because if you haven't taken the time to check out this gal's talent in getting God's word on your walls, you should.

Aly has a sweet shop called Blossom and Vine, where she writes scripture and faith quotes creatively for the walls of homes.  She has done some re-designing and her new prints are available starting TODAY at her shop re-launch!

This dear friend sent me a few as a preview.

Aren't they gorgeous?  And so needed for my walls.

I love the idea of having this kind of encouragement and prayers displayed where I can soak it up every day.  I need more of this.

Aly is giving 30% off to the first ten orders she receives today, so you should rush on over to her sweet shop to take a look to see what fits in your home.  And stop by her blog also, because she's running fantastic deals all week to celebrate this re-launch.  And because this girl shares her heart so well and is such a great encouragement to me to continue to do the same.

And this week only, my readers get to use the promo code of JOY15 to get 15% off your order!  If you do get some prints, I'd love to see them on your walls!!  Instagram or comment with your prints!

Thanks Aly!

February 7, 2013

how we keep our marriage breathing

I'm not one to casually give out marriage advice.  My husband and I are quick to say that our 6.5 years together has been filled continual re-centering on the Lord and loads of apologies and grace.  I'm more likely to be the one scouring my google reader for advice on how other people make their relationship a priority in a season overwhelmed by diapers and whiny toddlers and sleepless nights.

It's not easy.  It takes intention.  Time.  Selflessness like you wouldn't believe.

Add kids in the mix and that takes it to a whole new level....

{Read more of my heart over at Amanda Lynne Designs today!}

February 6, 2013

when there is just too much noise

A friend of mine recently posted on facebook, something to this meaning,

"don't let Satan trick you into thinking that being on facebook is actually doing something!"

I was challenged to reject my obvious laziness.

And then the next day on twitter,

"if social media is the first thing you check in the morning and the last you check at night, chances are you have a problem."

And I am challenged to examine what really has my heart.

And on my heart lately is the challenge so appropriately presented by Hands Free Mama to unplug and just be, so as not to miss a childhood.

And even more so than just unplugging so that my kids remember my face instead of my iPhone case, I am right now in the very middle of grappling with learning again to be alone and be quiet.

To not run to my email or facebook when I have a spare moment.

Community is great.  In person and online.  With people who I know and hug and real life and people who I have discovered kindred spirits with online.  But I'm afraid I'm in a place where I am becoming so connected that I can't be alone anymore.

Still.  Before Him.

Without everyone else in my life (really, literally) at my fingertips.

I'm praying for a heart more like David, with praise on my lips the first thing in the morning.  Not the desire to quick check facebook or instagram, as innocent as those actions may be.  

Really, for me I'm finding it's a heart issue.  Because when I'm that connected, it's easy (for me) for the world to get little footholds in my heart.  Comparison.  Perfection.  Insecurity.  Standards that aren't given by my creator, but the best-foot-forward image that I see in everyone else.

I know that they don't all share their dirt, but my heart somehow still gets wrapped up in it.

Even my Bible reading plan is on my iPhone, and I can't tell you how much that drives me batty some days.

There is just too much noise.  Right now, I need more silence.

I'm entering into a season that's more intense than I've had in a long time.  More focused on Jesus and the kingdom in an intellectual way, as I'm taking a 14 week course to really educate me on the gospel throughout the entirety of the Bible and teach me how to put it into terms that I could present to anyone at any time.  I'm also in a position of discipling, which I haven't done in a very very long time.  All that to say, I'm feeling the pull away.  From the things that aren't bad, but aren't good for my heart right now.

I also have the tendency to want to know everything.  To research to death.  To google any fleeting thing that crosses my mind.  I want to wonder more.

It can easily become an obsession of sorts for me.  The needing to know and needing to be connected and get worldly affirmation.  But that's not what I need.

That's why I've been quiet here lately.  Not because I don't intend to write (because I do), but because I'm sorting through where my heart is in relationship to the internet.

The internet and I are having a DTR.

I wish I could live a disciplined life naturally, but I need to set myself rules and goals and boundaries on a daily basis.  Or else my days just wash away and I wonder what the heck I did with them.  But I have big dreams.  Big hopes to bless my husband and my family.  A big heart to share the gospel and to be ready with it on the tip of my tongue.

That kind of life doesn't just happen.  At least not how I want it to.  It takes intention.  Focus.  Discipline.  Rules.  Boundaries.  Dreams.  Goals.  And loads of prayer.

That is where I'm at in this second.  Making goals to put the digital devices away while my kids are awake.  Goals to do more truth saturating, more homemaking to bless my family, and more unplugged time to clear my mind.

That's the dirt of where I'm at.

February 1, 2013

warning :: work in progress

Friends, you may notice things look a bit chaotic on the ole blog.  A couple of weeks ago I was inspired to create a new look.  And apparently tonight I was inspired to implement it.

Only, I don't know HTML as well as I hoped.  So, excuse the mess while I figure out how to make this thing look how I want it to. ;-)

Thanks friends... hope you have a wonderful weekend!

five minute friday :: afraid

A phrase I heard once that has stuck with me is simply stated that God doesn't give you grace for your worry, he gives you grace for your the moment you're in.

There is nothing that has caused me more joy, and worry, in life than being a mother.

With such a great gift and great responsibility leaves much to be lost.

There are times when I find myself obsessing over every little thing.  Kids meeting milestone markers.  Isaac's little flat baby head.  Jude not quite talking as much as other kids his age.  Google does not do me any favors.

In all reality, I know that my worries are miniscule.  Not life or death.  Not even the smallest hint for concern.  Simply me being an obsessive Mom.  And my mind just goes over and over and over things.  Google helps me to continue to ruminate instead of encouraging me to surrender my worries and my fears to the one who asks me to cast them upon Him.

It's struck me lately that worry and fear are easily one of Satan's strongest footholds in my life.  It's what consumes my mind instead of letting truth reign.

Yet, the word says fear only the Lord.

So, this is me surrendering my crazy ruminations.  Choosing to not be afraid.  But to live in confidence of a sovereign God.