Friday, October 4

The Two Important Questions I've Been Asking Myself

Hi Friends! 
It’s been a while since I’ve written in this space…I’ve been momming (that’s a real word, you know), and working (I started a part-time job at my big girls' school), and just doing this crazy little thing called life—it is a little crazy sometimes, isn’t it?
I have been writing in small bits and pieces in other places, but I’ve missed connecting with you all here. This is where I do my heart writing, my real life writing. Sure, I enjoy writing articles about concussions because I get to interview real life neurosurgeons, which is so cool, or about how coffee is brewed, because there is actually a whole science behind it. But, what I really love to write about is life, and Jesus, and motherhood, and womanhood, and how all of those things intersect. And boy do they ever intersect in the most complicated ways sometimes (um…every day of my life. Am I the only one?).
I’m heading up to Ellicottville this weekend to stay in a big chalet with 20 other women from our church. Some of them I know pretty well, and some of them I only know by name. In both cases I look forward to getting to know all of them on a deeper level, which is what the weekend is all about. 
Sometimes, the reality is, we live in community, but we don’t really know our communities because we’re so busy buzzing about, feeding our families (which is important, don’t get me wrong), and doing all of the other things we need to do to keep life moving forward. So, I’m looking forward to the pause: The chance to get to know, on a deeper level, some of my sisters in Christ.
On Saturday I'll have the opportunity to do some teaching from the book of Ephesians, which I'm both excited about and also a wee bit nervous about. I’m excited because I actually do love teaching, but I’m nervous because…well…I hope it all comes out ok. 
Here is the irony and the beauty about what we’ll be talking about this weekend—in the book of Ephesians Paul is writing to remind the church to remember what they already have. To remember their identity in Christ and what that means—what that really means in their day-to-day lives. To remember that we are LOVED deeply, that we have strength beyond measure through the Holy Spirit, and that we have this spiritual inheritance that far surpasses the riches of the wealthiest people in the world! And that if we live loved, out of a place of believing ALL of this, that we can have total peace no matter what we're doing, where we are, or what our circumstances are. 
In preparation for the weekend I’ve been asking myself two questions in my prayer time every day for the last few weeks. The two questions I’ve been asking, and expecting in faith that God will provide answers on, are:
1.     Who am I in Christ? 
2.     Am I living, really living, out of that knowledge?
I would pose those same questions to you. Who are you in Christ? And are you living, really living, out of that knowledge?
I have to tell you, as I’ve posed those questions to God in my quiet time, He has revealed so much to me, which is exactly what He promises to do ("I keep asking that our glorious Father may give you the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation so that you may know him better" Eph. 1:17 )
In an effort to remind myself, and my sweet sisters in Christ, about some of the promises of who are we IN Christ I put together a reminder sheet that I’m posting here (see below "In Christ We Are...).
I hope you are blessed by these promises, encouraged, and reminded that—no matter how tired, empty, overwhelmed and insufficient you feel today, that you are deeply loved, and have everything you need to get through this day, to even thrive in this day, in Christ!
To use Paul’s words I pray the following for you today:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19)

Sunday, June 2

Why the Unplanned Moments Are the Best Moments (Day 5)

I was going to write a summary of our busy weekend because, well, it's felt so busy that I haven't had much time to think about the deeper things of life. It's been all the usual-- a chorus concert, yard work, house clean up, laundry, grocery shopping, upcoming birthday shopping for my big girl, a birthday party on Saturday night to celebrate my big girl and her grandpa (Scott's dad), church this morning (Scott got there early to play with the worship team), a few more errands and then here we are...

4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon...with my toes at the precipice of the next week...the first full week in June.

The week that begins the "crazy" month as we often call it.

For us June is the last month of our school year. It's also the month that happens to host Ava's birthday, Scott's birthday (his 40th this year!), my birthday (41!), my grandmother's birthday, Scott's dad's birthday, my brother's birthday (the same day as Scott-he's also turning 40!), Father's Day, dance recitals, chorus and band concerts, field trips and end of school celebrations and field days galore!


I know many of you are already starting summer vacation in your parts-- that May was your crazy month and now you are already neck deep in summer vacation fun/chaos/fun/chaos mode. I'll pray for you if you pray for me (; That we all have the energy, grace, and enough coffee stock piled for all of these fantabulous memory making moments!

But, something happened this afternoon that made me pause to relish in the sweet blessing of an unplanned moment. A moment I realized that was one of my very favorite of the weekend.

About an hour ago I came downstairs from taking my daily 20 minute "nap" (Yes friends,  I set the timer on my clock for 20 minutes everyday and close my eyes...I now consider it necessary to my survival as a mom and think everyone should give it a try!).

I made a latte as I often do in the afternoon and planned to head back up to our bedroom to put away the oodles and oodles of clothes that are laying around our bedroom-- clean laundry, dirty laundry, needs to be ironed know. As I stood in the kitchen frothing milk I noticed the sun had finally come out and decided I would take my latte out to the front porch and just sit in the sun for a few minutes because sunshine is very good for this girl's soul and it's been scarce lately.

Within two minutes of sitting on the porch I heard the familiar pitter patter of my six year old in the hallway heading towards the front door. I knew she would find me, and kind of hoped that she would. She came outside, pink bow flip flops on, her pink sparkly sun glasses, and a Capri Sun juice box in her hands.

"Hi Momma."

"Hi, sweet girl. You want to come and sit with me?"

I patted the concrete next to me on the porch. "I'm just watching the birds and sitting in the sun-- it's so nice."

"It is so nice," she responded kind nostalgically, which made me laugh.

She popped her straw into her Capri Sun and looked out at the street. She doesn't sit still for very long though, and popped up within seconds.

"Watch momma!"

Over the next 5 minutes I watched her balance across the rocks that edge the garden bed in front of our house, run multiple laps around the front yard, swing from a tree branch, and then run some more laps. She told me she wanted me to see how fast she was.

She finally came and sat back down next to me. "Ahhhhh," she said, taking another sip of her juice.

She gave me a hug, squeezing me tight. I squeezed back- staring at the braided pigtails that Ava put in her hair during church this morning when she wouldn't sit still and needed to be preoccupied. Staring at the freckles on her face, and realizing, especially because she is my youngest, how fleeting and fast these days truly are. I soaked up her balancing act, her lap running and her silly front porch acrobatics.

She's only this age once. I felt the weight of the reality and we sat a little longer. 

Adding caption to this picture
And this, I then thought, is my very favorite moment of this day. 

This beautiful moment wasn't on my to-do was one of these moments that I would have completely missed if I had opted for the laundry over a few minutes in the sun. And yet, there it was. My very favorite moment of the day, sitting on the front porch with my latte and my six year old soaking up the sun. I silently thanked God for the many blessings (especially my children) that I so often forget to thank Him for in the middle of our busy days.

We stayed out there for just a few more minutes and then we came back inside because the laundry was still waiting for me, but I started at my computer and realized if I didn't write this all down now I might not ever get around to it and so instead of the laundry I opted to type this blog post.

So NOW, I'm going to put the bazillion items of clothing away in my bedroom. At least I think I am...unless some other unplanned moment with one of my three children pulls me in another direction. Because the reality is the laundry will always be there, but as all of the wisest women have ever told me the days are short, but the years go so fast...

So today I'm decided to linger a little longer in the slow...

Thursday, May 30

30 Days of Life: Landing Back on Planet Mom (Day 4)

Have any of you, my dear momma friends, ever wondered what would happen if you (the mom) went away for five days—like, would everyone survive, would they eat actual meals, and would they make it to school with clean underwear on? 

Well, I can now officially tell you that this answer is YES! They do survive, and YES! They mostly ate real food, and well, I honestly can't answer whether or not everyone made it to school with clean socks and underwear everyday last week, but I can tell you that it doesn’t really matter.
I know this isn’t new for some of you—some of you have taken week long business trips, or trips to visit family in other parts of the country, so you know how this goes. You know they all survive and that they appreciate you more when you return (they actually told me that!). You know that it's ok to get away. 
This was new for me, leaving the house for five solo days with dad in charge. Scott and I have been away together before , but his mom has always come to stay and she’s like Mary Poppins in our house (somehow she gets all of the laundry done and our sheets changed in the time she’s here—I honestly think she’s a miracle worker!).

A picture of me with my kiddos when we all got pedicures
before our last Florida trip. 
I felt bad about leaving all of the responsibility to Scott. I felt badly that the kids might miss me. I felt like I might be neglecting my responsibilities in some way...
But, I got over it, made the effort, was glad I did, and they all made it! They made it to school every day with semi-legitimate lunch food. They all bathed, practiced piano, made it to ballet, gymnastics and soccer, and as far as I know all homework was turned in a timely manner, and at least one load of socks and underwear was washed.
Can we say success?!
It really was a success…on all fronts, and I’m sharing this with you in case you were ever tempted to do something similar, but have been stricken with panic attacks about what might happen if you actually left the house for that long. I'm here to tell you that it will all be ok!

So here’s the next big question you might be wondering. It's a question I was wondering before I left: Does a mom actually feel refreshed after being away for five days? 
The answer to that is a resounding, “Yes!” as well.
In my case, I was doing something I loved all week. I was in the mountains (love!), where the sun was shining (can I get an Amen?!), with other writers (extra LOVE), attending classes on writing all day (love), gathering for fellowship and worship (LOVE!), and eating meals that I didn’t have to shop for, prepare or clean up after (OMG! Love. Love. LOVE!  I actually do enjoy cooking, but a break from cooking daily is really nice too!). 
The reality is that I did come home feeling refreshed. 
The big girls told me they have a new appreciation for my lunch making skills (score!), and my littlest one missed me so much that she wanted to snuggle all day on Friday, which was great because she was off of school.

But here's the thing, because there's always a "thing" when you're a mom. This is what you should know if you go away, the thing that has to do with what it feels like to return: Within five days of being back home, back into the fray—the laundry, lunch packing, homework, chauffeuring, shopping, cooking, problem solving, play date arranging, yard pick up, fray—it can feel like you never left…in both good ways and in hard ways.
The good is that you step right back into your rhythm—your husband is grateful to have a second set of hands back on deck, your kids are extra grateful for all that you do and actually tell you so (which is sweet), and the piles of unsorted papers, mis-matched socks, and unsorted laundry are all patiently waiting for your return.
The hard is when the overwhelm seeps back in, and it happens fast—the moment where you realize how hard it is to actually make time to read and write on a regular basis, even though you realize keenly that they are practices that feed your soul.  The hard is when you are staring at a domestic to-do list a mile long, and comparing it to a “dream” list that also feels a mile long, and you’re not sure how to reconcile the two. 
You realize the only thing you can do is to keep on doing…you get up and make lunches, and give big kisses. You pray for your kiddos before school, and plant flowers and vegetables with them afterwards. You jot down everything you’re thinking about on oodles of paper, from the fact that you need more toilet paper to the brilliant website concept that just ran through your mind: All on one crazy sheet of paper, or dozens, with different colored markers.
You just keep plugging away with a smile on your face, and hope in your heart…even when you’re tired. Sometimes you’re so tired that you just get quiet for a while, but you keep hugging and doing no matter what.
This is what it looks like to be a mom and pursue a passion—for some women that passion may come in regular weekly hours at more formal jobs, for me it has come in bits an pieces, sometimes in scraps of borrowed time, sometimes in chunks of intentionally created time. For every woman it looks a little bit different, unique to them, but the same in the sense that it’s not easy, and it can create tension in your life, and sometimes you wonder if “it’s all” worth it.
To that, I would also say YES! Yes, it is worth it.
I met a woman last week who has 9 children (Hi Kerrith!), four of her own and five siblings who she adopted through an international adoption process (which is a HUGE task in and of itself!). She is currently working on a historical romance novel in her “spare” time (because I’m sure she has lots of it, right?!). What I love most about Kerrith is that her passion to write didn’t stop her from adopting 5 children from a foreign country (she had only planned on one, but these siblings needed a home), and the fact that she adopted five children, adding to the four she already had, hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her passion to write, and homeschool!

She actually brought her ninth grade daughter to the conference with her last week—how cool is that?
It was dozens of women like Kerrith that I met last week that reminded me that its ok, even good, to pursue our passions no matter how entrenched we our in our parenting. It’s simply part of what makes us us
So, if you like to paint, make time to paint. If you like to sing, find places to sing. If you love rescue animals, find a local group to support and do some volunteer work with. If you like to cook, take a cooking class, maybe one of your kids even wants to go along! If you like to write, there are a lot of ways to write—poetry, fiction (romance, mystery, suspense, etc.), non-fiction, devotionals, essays—find ways to write (feel free to ask me, I’m happy to offer advice).
Ultimately, I want to encourage you be the WHOLE you that God created you to be. The creativity, and living out of your passions, will fuel and re-new your spirit in ways you can’t even comprehend until you’re walking out of that place of passion.
I’m going to leave you with a few words from Jo Saxton, and make sure you read the whole quote (even though it’s long) because it’s SOOOO good.  This is from her book The Dream of You, 
“Remember, your voice, your vocation, is the expression of your redeemed identity. It needs to be heard. It’s a story that needs to be told. You aren’t just a recipient of the blessing of God’s family. You’re a contributor. You get to reconnect people to the bigger picture when you tell them your story. You will help others recover their names, their full names. You will use your voice to sing the songs they have hidden in their hearts out of fear, and you will help them find their voices and unleash their purpose. This is part of the life that you were made for.”

Your voice, your vocation is the EXPRESSION of your redeemed identity. Isn't that beautiful?

What does that look like for you today? This week? This month? This year? Who is the whole you that God created you to be, and how can you integrate that into your life as a mom?

I will say, it's not easy, and you have to keep your expectations pretty low, especially while you're babies are little. But, the effort is worth it and you'll be a better mother for it...So friends, go sing out of the voice.

I want to hear you!

(This post is #4 in a series of 30 posts where I simply write about daily life. Some of the posts may be long, others may just be snippets, but either way I had gotten out of the habit of blogging  and so in an attempt to create a new rhythm I'm giving myself the freedom to write about whatever comes to mind for a period of time.   I was originally going to post every day for 30 days, but that proved...well, impossible at this season of life. So, the 30 days will come as they will...simply as I can post them...)

Wednesday, May 22

30 Days of Life: Day 3, Permission to Follow Your Dreams

Happy Wednesday from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

I'm here at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference, and can I just tell you it's absolutely beautiful here! For the last three days (I got in on Sunday) we have had nothing but stunning blue skies, 80+ degree weather, all while nestled into the Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center at the edge of the mountains. We've been learning, making friends, singing worship songs together-- it's been incredible.

For this girl from Buffalo who loves the sun and is at the tail end of a six month season of gray clouds and cold weather this place is like water to my parched soul.

I'm also writing this post from a quiet hotel room at that serene conference center, so for those of you that are mommas I know you know how renewing it can be to get a way for a day or two and focus on a piece of your life that has nothing to do with managing the pieces of your little people's lives. You all know how deeply  I love my people, and their pieces, but a break is good for the soul.

A quick, funny story about momma breaks, and conferences...

My good friend Sarah stopped by on Saturday, the day before I left. Our house was trashed, and I mean TRASHED. We had had a busy week with birthday parties-- one that we were hosting, and others the girls were attending-- and then soccer, school, book projects, etc.  Add in my packing and getting ready and we wound up with a whirlwind of mess all around us.

 What I love about Sarah is how real we can be with each other. I invited her in, she and I laughed at the mess, and then we talked about how I was leaving and joked about how she needs to find a job or a hobby so she can go to a conference too (her husband had just come back from multi-day work trip in some warm place that I can't recall right now).

We brainstormed for a minutes about passions she could suddenly take up, just so she could find a conference and get away for a few days--I mean anything-- quilting, stamp collecting, a newly found interest in environmental biology...whatever.

"What about horses, do you like horses?" My husband, who was standing in the kitchen asked.

"I do. I do like horses," she said.

"There you go," I added. "Let's find you a horse conference!"

She smiled at the thought of it. She likes horses, but she's not a horse lover, but when you're a momma looking for a chance to get away and not feel bad about it, sometimes you're ready to go anywhere and try anything just for the break-- just for the distraction from the overwhelming responsibility of being a momma 24/7.

Here's the thing...

I think every mom needs to get away for a few days sometimes, and I don't think we give ourselves permission often enough.

I've had this conversation with my own mom a couple of times over the last few years-- I'll tell her that I'm driving to Rochester for a writing workshop for a day, or in January I drove to a monastery that is about an hour from my house to find some quiet (which wasn't quite the retreat that I expected it to be, but that's a whole other story).  And she'll say, "I always wished I could have done something like that when you kids were young."

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, like in Back to the Future, and somehow make a way for my mom to get away-- I think it would have refueled and refreshed her soul in ways that would have given her renewed energy for her own tasks at hand. Life hasn't been easy for her, and when we were younger I can't even imagine how overwhelming it all felt, but I do know she needed space for her soul to grow-- space that she didn't get.

So here I am-- in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I arrived tired and weary, and am just beginning to feel renewed: Because my mind has had some time to focus on the Lord, and to be with other people who love Jesus too. Because the academic part of my mind is being engaged by the many classes I've attended already, and the inspirational keynotes that have reminded us all that we  have a God inspired seed of dream inside of us, and we need to tend it to make it grown.

We have been reminded that our dark world needs our light bearing, grace-filled messages and have been given permission to share those messages and share them boldly.

Isn't it funny how sometimes, especially as we get older, we need to be given permission to do the things we should do?! 

It's all been very good--this time away.  Refreshing. Encouraging. Inspiring.

I've made some new friends and have taken enormous amounts of notes that I'll have to process when I get home.

And since I'm here, and you might be wondering-- is it worth it? Should I do it? Should I take that leap and go to the conference and leave my family for a few days?

The answer is, YES.

I miss them dearly. They've struggled a little bit to get out the door in the morning (which makes me feel sad), and apparently there was a crises of enormous proportions yesterday when one of the kiddos somehow carried Nutella onto our new couch (I'm glad I wasn't there to see that go down!), but it's all good.

I'll be more mentally prepared for the morning routine and for the Nutella crises when I get home on Friday.

So, moms...I give you permission. 

To pursue a passion-- even a little one and to follow it to another state if you so feel led. I give you permission to jump out of the fray for a few days and let your own soul be renewed, or at the very least temporarily distracted, but distracted in the very best way. 

Here are a few photos from the last couple days (I have a few more that I'll post later, but I'm having trouble accessing them right now):

One quick update-- I've been thinking about the "30 Days of Life" posts that I'm committed to writing. I'm realizing that rather then squeeze them into 30 literal days (one month), that I will stretch them out over however long they take me to write them, which simply makes more sense for my own life and our rhythms right now.

Each time I blog I'll just write "Day 3", "Day 4", and so on. So, you won't get 30 days in 30 days, and you'll have to put up with me blogging about random life for a little bit longer, but that's ok (;