Monday, November 4

6 Steps to Practicing Gratitude with Your Family This Month

     I don’t know about the weather where you all live, but here in Buffalo there is a sudden chill in the air. It feels like it happens over night, literally, every year. I’ll be outside on a day in late October when the sun is shining, it’s 60 degrees, and I’m taking my coat off and leaving it in the car as I run errands. The trees are glorious shades of deep reds, burnt orange, and rich golds, and you take it all in, knowing that it will vanish so very soon. I always wish it would last longer than it does. 
     Then, overnight it seems, the gusty winds and rains come, the temperature drops 20 degrees, the leaves are blown right off the trees into piles on the ground and you realize, as you set your clock back and brace for the darker evenings, that yes, winter is coming after all. 
     What does this all have to do with gratitude? 
     Well, whether the weather has changed drastically for you or not, the flip of
the calendar to November queues us to another change of seasons as well: the holiday season! I have friends who have their Christmas trees up already (I’m not one of them, but I don’t shame those of you who do! The girls and I watched our first Hallmark Christmas movie on Saturday night—much to Scott’s eye rolls!).   I’m a take-one-holiday-at a time kind of girl and am still reeling from the excessive candy indulgence and pumpkin carving. I did locate the large green Tupperware bin in our basement that says “Thanksgiving”. For those of you who know me, and who have visited our basement, you know that alone that is a feat of gargantuan proportions (me locating something in my basement!). 
     This week, we’ll be replacing scary spiders (though honestly, we don’t really have “scary” decorations in our house because mom only likes cute, happy spiders) with turkeys and pilgrims and I’m trying to wrap my head around how to practice more intentional gratitude with my kiddos this month. 
     Because I firmly believe that we should all be practicing gratitude on a more consistent basis—that gratitude is ALWAYS the beginning of shifting our attitudes, perspectives, and hearts in the right direction—I believe it's important to take this time of year to remind and re-center ourselves on how to practice intentional gratitude. 
    You should also know, our family practices  don’t usually end up looking Instagram or Pinterest perfect, but we do them anyways. 

     And, that’s what counts.  You won’t find any softly lit, perfectly arranged montages of leaves and pumpkins with script-y words arranged on my kitchen table…nor will you find me taking pictures of said montages to post on social media. Why not? Well, because, I'm not that organized. Lol.  I’ll probably be looking for the battery to my camera which is lost somewhere, or my kitchen table will be so buried beneath school/sports/paper clutter that the beautiful montages will be lost in the abyss. 
     But, I never let that stop us. It's important to keep practicing, to keep talking to our children about noticing the blessings in their lives, to talk to them about how they can use those blessings to help others in some way. Even if you start a gratitude journal today and then don't write in it for 10 days, don't give up...we try not to. We fail to finish things all the time (it's something we're working on), but we keep going. It's kind of a family motto around here.  
So, without further adieu, here are...

6 Steps for Practicing Gratitude as a Family this Month
1. Post It Around the House

Pick up a wall decoration from Hobby Lobby or Marshalls that says “Thankful” or “Grateful” or has a relevant scripture or quote. Hang it up, even if its only for a month (easy peasy, right?!).  I bought this one at Home Goods last year and never took it down. It’s become a permanent fixture in my kitchen because I like it and think it’s an important reminder for myself, and my kiddos, every day of the year. 

We also painted the end of one of our kitchen cabinets with chalkboard paint and I use that space for writing quotes (I'll post a photo next time!), prayers and special holiday sentiments. I’m planning to put a new scripture or quote on the chalkboard each week and then we'll talk about as a family.

This weeks scripture is: Psalm 95:1-3 (see below). 

2. Practice Saying "Thank You" in Your Prayers
The scriptures are clear about this over and over again, God loves to hear us say “thank you” and to offer praise for the many blessings in our lives. 

Psalm 95:1-3 says, "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods."

While we often thank God for many things during our mealtime and bedtime prayers, I have been feeling convicted that our prayer times have gotten a little bit monotonous we're repeating a laundry list of things that we're thankful for...Thank you God for our house, and our food, and our family, and the sunshine. Amen. 

I'm going to us this month to prod the kids to be more specific. Here are three conversations starters: 

1. Share one thing that happened today that you were really grateful for.  
2. How has God blessed you this week? 
3. When did you really sense God's presence in your life this week? 

Ask your family these questions. Prompt them to start paying attention. Then incorporate the answers to these in your gratitude journal (if you choose to start one), on your Thankfulness tree (see #4) , and into your prayers! 

3. Tell Someone You’re Thankful for Them!
Write a note to a colleague and stick it on their desk. Write a card for each of your family members at some point throughout the month and leave it on their pillow- tell them how thankful you are for them and what you love most about them. Send your grandmother, or mother, or sister or brother a card telling them that your grateful for them. In this day and age when everything is so instant and easy via text, we have lost the art of writing notes and sending mail to those we care about.  Who isn’t over the moon excited to get something other than sales flyers or bill in the mail? I know I am. And who doesn’t love finding a thoughtful note on their desk? I know I do! 
My intention is to write at least one note (maybe 2!) to each of my family members (at home) this month, and I’m going to encourage them to do the same. I’m also going to pick a couple of extended family members or friends to send notes to as well. 

I found these cards at Trader Joes recently (they always have really clever, cute cards, for really cheap!): 

4. Create a Family Gratitude Tree or Journal
We’ve created gratitude “trees” many times. I’ve put sticks in vases in the center of our kitchen table and we’ve hung leaves like ornaments stating our “blessings” on the sticks. We’ve also, for many years, created a “tree” on our sliding glass door and then used paper leaves to write out the things we’re grateful for, usually while we’re sitting around the dinner table. In the past I’ve used brown paper bags to create the tree—this year I got smart and bought a roll of brown parchment paper (so I don't have to wrestle with the paper bags, though they do work!). 

I can't find any pictures right now, but promise to put on in my next post (after our tree is created and up next to our dinner table). 

This website also has some super cute (and printable) ideas for practicing gratitude with young kids. They include a very cute picture of a gratitude tree at the beginning of their post (disclaimer: its WAY cuter than mine will be!).

Hello Wonderful Article- Creative Ways for Kids to Express Gratitude: 

5. Read Books, Poems and Stories about Gratitude
I will write a more in depth post offering some suggestions on books and poems, but in the meantime Google “books”, or “quote” or “poems” on gratitude and you will find lots of suggestions to use at home. 

 Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts has become a classic in the Christian book world, and for good reason. It's beautifully written and reminds us to turn the most mundane parts of our lives into opportunities for praise and thanksgiving.  It's a book I keep on my own bookshelf and reach for when I need a reminder that "the practice of giving thanks is the way we practice the presence of God." 

6. Post it on Social Media
Here is a great way to use social media for good--- challenge yourself to post one thing a day—a picture, a quote, a prayer—telling friends what your grateful for, or encouraging them to practice thankfulness. I've committed to doing one post a day on Facebook this month...kind of like an online gratitude journal. Here is one from yesterday: 

What I've enjoyed about this practice in the few days that I've done it, is that it's forcing me to observe in a more specific way. To intentionally watch for the many things that bring joy each day (God's blessings), things that I can tend to take for granted in the quickly moving pace of our days. When we speak these things out loud, or write them down, it gives more meaning to helps us to appreciate them at a deeper and more intentional level. I bet it will do the same for you (or if it already has, leave a comment and let me know how!). 

That's it for now! 

Each Monday this month I'll be posting:

  • A picture (of something we've tried as a family).
  • A scripture (I'll picking one scripture each week to post next to our Thankfulness tree- this weeks is Psalm 95:1-3 from above). 
  • A few thoughts/suggestions to encourage you to keep going (and to let you know what has or hasn't worked for us). 
  • Some suggested resources (links to books, articles, ideas, etc.).
Happy November! Stop back next week. 

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 (;

Friday, May 17

30 Days of Life: Day 2

I’m heading out on an adventure this weekend, and super excited about it. 

I’m also a little bit nervous, but mostly excited, which is how an adventure should feel, right? 

My flight leaves at 6 AM on Sunday morning, which means an early alarm, and that my bags better be packed before I go to bed tomorrow night. I’ll be flying from Buffalo to Charlotte, and then on to Asheville, landing at 10:30 AM.  At that point a very nice transportation guy, who unashamedely has already declared his love for Jesus over the phone, will be picking  several of us up from the airport, and driving us to the Ridgecrest Mountain  Resort where we begin five days of writing instruction and encouragement at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. 


Honestly, I can’t think of anything more fun than hanging out with a bunch of book loving, writerly types in the middle of the mountains for five days. A place where all of my food is prepared and the dishes are cleaned up afterwards. Doesn’t that sound like a little slice of heaven?! (I mean, even if you're not a writer but you're a mom, doesn't that sound lovely?!)

Here’s the funny thing... I almost chose not to go.  

I’m not kidding. I hemmed and hawed until I was sick of hearing my own hemming and hawing 😜. 

I should confess that Scott and I can tend to suffer from decision paralyzation sometimes. Does anyone else feel that way? Alone or with their spouse? Or, both?!

 When we have a decision to make, be it big or small, it can take us F-O-R-E-V-E-R, like light-years and light-years FOREVER, to finally come to a conclusion and move forward in a specific direction. I'm not sure if this comes down to fear of making the wrong decision, or a fear of commitment, or if it's peronsality type, but whatever the case, it doesn't come easy and it doesn't feel like a whole lot of fun when you're in the middle of it. Which is what happened when the idea of this conference came up. 

While I've had the conference on my radar for several years, I've not even attempted to go in the past because up until this year I've always had at least one kiddo at home with me full-time during the day. Since this particular conference runs Sunday-Thursday (covering the span of four weekdays), it would have been hard to find childcare to allow me to go. But this year, with all three girls in school, (which still makes me want to cry tears of sadness and joy all at the same time) it really opened up the possibility that I could attend if I wanted to.

So, you might ask, if it was that easy why wouldn't I go? Right? 

I probably waited too long to research airline tickets, and so they kept getting more expensive, and with two of our three girls in a private Christian school our budget has been tighter than it used to be. Once I totaled the cost for airfare, lodging, the conference ticket and miscellaneous travel expenses it was all beginning to make me a little uncomfortable financially. 

I applied for a scholarship, but wasn't a chosen recipient (which I fully understood, but was still disappointed), and then kept my fingers crossed for a magic check, or tax return, or some obvious financial "sign" to show up in the mail-- you know, like in Lisa's version of a Hallmark movie (;

But that never happened either. 

So I prayed about it. 

And then I prayed some more. 

And then I waited for God to write an answer in the sky, but it's been so darned cloudy here that I think I missed the message. 

I'm kidding. Kind of. 

Honestly, I wasn't hearing anything specifically from God one way or the other. No yay or nay...Nothing. 

Finally, three weeks ago I decided that it wasn't the frugal thing to do-- to spend the money to go, and so I declared that I wasn't going. I thought I would feel peaceful about the decision, and at first I was, but then I got a little bit sad about it. 

The thing is I've been freelancing in bits and pieces for years.  I have a journalism degree.  I've been writing poems and stories since I was six years old, and reading books like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre for fun since I was in 9th grade. I really have always been wired to love words, and books, stories and the sharing of messages. 

Deep down, I really wanted to go, but the investment felt big and there were no magic doors opening. 

Somewhere along the way, after I made the decision not to go, but kept praying about it anyway,  I heard a podcast about decision making. 

I don't think it was Emily Freeman's podcast, though I have been listening to that regularly and recently purchased her book "the Next Right Thing" (which is all about decision making and is fabulous). This particularly podcast by an unnamed podcaster, or perhaps it was a radio show host,  talked about how God has equipped us to make decisions-- that He's given us the intellect, the emotional intelligence and the wisdom (particularly when we're praying about something) to make decisions on our own. 

Listen, I'm not a theologian, so I apologize if this isn't proper theology. I pray about everything in my life and sometimes I do hear God very clearly. But, sometimes I believe God doesn't have a specific right or wrong in mind for us...He wants us to practice our decision making skills instead of spoon feeding us answers. 

Hmmm...I thought. Maybe there isn't a clear right or wrong here. Maybe I just need to use my God-given ability to make a decision and actually make one that I feel good about, rather than making one out of guilt or fear. 

And so I did. 

I thought about my reasons for wanting to go, and why I was choosing not to go. I realized that sometimes, in cases like this, we have to make investments into our callings in order to figure out our next steps. I decided I needed to make a decision not out of guilt, sadness, or ambiguity, but out of the authenticity of who I am. 

I started asking myself some questions. Questions like, What do you want to do? How will you feel when the date of the conference comes and goes and you haven't gone? What will you do to further your writing dream if you choose to not go to this conference? What might happen if you do go? 

It was that last question that got me. What might happen if you do go?  

I wanted to know the answer to that question. 

I'm looking forward to discovering the answer to that question. 

To what God may say to me, to the friends I may meet, to the business opportunities that may open up for freelancing, or for my dreams to be the author of a published book someday. 

After all of this indecision, the thoughts and the prayers, after finding myself increasingly curious to answer the question "What might happen if you do go?", I woke up one morning, about a week after I declared that I wasn't going, and declared that I was. 

I bought a plane ticket before I had the chance to concoct more excuses, and now I'm two days away from arriving in Ashevlille with a proposal in my bag, a dream in my heart, and an open mind to the possibility of what might happen. 

And if it's nothing more than making a new friend along the way, because I know I will, then it will all have been worth it. 

So, in the spirit of needing to finish preparing for the conference (I've been working on my proposal in my minivan, at my kitchen table, at my daughter's ballet practice...just about everywhere), I'm going to wrap this up and am telling you ahead of time that I won't be posting here tomorrow. 

I haven't packed a single thing, and we're having a small sleepover to celebrate Aubrey's 6th birthday tonight, so I'll be playing putt putt, eating massive cupcakes from Ohlson's (a fantastic bakery here in town), and trying to get three 6-year old girls to sleep after they've eaten massive cupcakes and played putt putt. 

But, I will write on Sunday while I'm traveling, and share lots of pictures with you covering my adventures to North Carolina.  Until then I wish you luck on any decision making situations you might be in. I encourage you to pray, and then use your God given wisdom and discernment to make that decision. I'm rooting for you, and promise you'll feel so much better once you make that decision! 


Thursday, May 16

30 Days of Life: Day 1

Today I start a little writing experiment...30 days of blogging about the stuff of life. I'll write about things like faith, family, writing, the weather (Oi! Maybe you shouldn't get me started about the weather here lately!) motherhood, identity, and anything else that comes to mind, or emerges as a part of life over the next month. I'll write about whatever leaves the biggest impression on me on any given day, or at least in the moment that I'm actually writing because my days are usually full of so many things that it would be hard to summarize my thoughts about an entire day into a mere 1,000 words or less. 

I hope you'll join me. There is not pressure to buy anything, to get up earlier than normal, to try to set goals, to become more organized...I've realized I'm not that kind of writer, at least not at the moment. I just need to find a new rhythm, a new way of living that includes more writing and so this is where I'm writing about daily life and inviting you into it if you so wish to join me. 

May 16th
It’s so like me to start a blog post like this on a random Thursday in the middle of May, but then again such is my life—a little all over the place and seemingly random at times.
I had intended to start this at the beginning of May, and then suddenly it was Mother’s Day and now here we are smack dab in the middle of May, and so rather than wait until June first, or a seemingly proper Sunday or Monday (which both seem like good days to start something new, don’t you agree?), I decided I would just start here. Right where I am.
Because honestly, is there ever any better place to start?
Here’s the thing, I haven’t started, or finished, a lot of things in my life lately because it didn’t seem like the right time, or like I had enough time, or like everything was aligned in such a way that I would actually be able to finish the task(s) properly. 

(As a side note, I’ve read that this is a symptom of perfectionism, which always makes me laugh because if you observed my life for any amount of time you’d see that things are far from perfect. But, I get what the ‘experts’ are saying and so I’m learning to just start…to jump in… into the messy middle…to avert any perfectionist tendencies that don’t really suit my life anyway).
Why am I doing this? Writing about life, just plain life, for 30 days?
Well, because I haven’t blogged consistently for quite some time, and I thought this experiment in writing about daily life might help me to re-establish a new rhythm. I thought it might help me to counteract the reasons I haven’t blogged consistently for quite some time—reasons like:
1.) The blogging and social media world have changed so much in such a short period of time that I haven’t known how to respond to it all.
Ten years ago blogs were more often about daily life and that was ok, even the norm. 

However, in the last few years they have become so much more—they’ve become platforms (to use a publishing term), they’ve become soap boxes, ways to make money, ways to promote people, places and things. 

It seems that the media powers that be (perhaps the readers) have demanded that blogs be more service oriented, meaning they should be meet a need for the reader either in a tangible way (by offering a product) or an emotional way (by offering encouragement or a solution), and while I think that can be a very good thing, I personally don't have a product or a solution to offer you at the moment...just my life...that's all. 
So, from a place of confusion and overwhelm of not knowing what my message or my “product” is (friends, I’m not a product peddler…I’m just not), or even what my proper niche actually is…I pulled back rather than jump in. I’ve been quiet, and not blogging, but I've missed this format as a simple form of sharing life and so I decided that since I have the freedom to actually say whatever I want here, I'll just talk about life again...for now. 
2.) Life has felt challenging in the most mundane ways for quite some time and I didn’t really want to talk about it. Because I’m a transparent person I would have talked about it, but I didn't want to bore you with the details, or, if I’m honest, I didn’t want to bring you down with my questions, struggles and honest accounts about how some of the pieces of life haven’t made sense—
I also had a couple of people private message me in the last couple of  years and tell me I shouldn’t talk about all of the “negative” stuff in my life so much. Ugh. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, or how to feel about it, and so it simply became another source of silencing my voice for some time…
I’ve kept a list of things I deemed good blog topics along the way—things like finding hope on hard days, how running is my natural antidepressant and how finally having all three of my kids in school hasn’t suddenly opened up as much free time as I thought it would.
I’ve been reading great books about identity, faith, spiritual healing and motherhood and I’ve wanted to share them all with you, but I lost my rhythm and my blogging way and so it’s all just jotted down in pen in my bazillion journals, and on post it notes, and index cards, and scraps of paper in the backseat of my car.
I’ve started posts dozens of times, but when you haven’t talked to someone in a while—you, my friends and scattered audience—I haven't been sure where to start. 

The weather? A good book I’ve been reading? Some thoughts I had during my prayer time this morning?
So, I figured I’d start by just re-inviting you into my  daily life. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and in the process I figured I’d see what feels like it sticks and where inspiration rises  in my spirit.
I may not get around to posting every day, but I will write a little something each day and when I do post (most days), you’ll see my posts marked by the date(s) on which the thoughts were written—kind of like a diary, or journal.  So, for example, if I don’t post on 5/21 and 5/22, I’ll put something up on 5/23 that has all three dates within the same post with a few thoughts from that day. 

Make sense?!

I'll leave you with one more thought, a quote I came across recently from a book called Everyone Has a Story (I haven't read it, but would like to). In the book Savi Shawrma, the author, says this, 

“...everyone has a story. It might or might not be a love story. It could be a story of dreams, friendship, hope, survival or even death. And every story is worth telling. But more than that, it’s worth living.” 

On that note, here we go...a little writing about living...we'll see where it goes (: