Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sharing My Life

I married Boss right after my junior year of college and promptly dropped out of school. I remember arguing with my dad about that choice. He seemed disappointed. I cried on my bed just days before my wedding, wishing that people, my parents, the world would understand that college was not what I wanted for my life. I had (and still have) nothing against an education. I am very thankful that Boss has both of his degrees and a good job that supports our family. I just wanted something different for myself.

 I wanted only to be a mother.

Many asked what I planned on doing with my days once I left school. They wanted to know my plan. My dad wanted to know the very same thing. Not because he was controlling, simply because he was caring, though it took becoming a parent myself to understand the difference. A decade ago I was not sure what my future days would hold, but I was sure they would be good. And nine years in to my job as mother, I can assure you that my days are indeed very, very good.

Even though I am a mother of (soon to be) four children, yesterday I spent the day with just one. A rare treat. My daughters went to serve at Matthew 25 Ministries with Boss, so Jack and I had the day to ourselves.

















Our day started with frozen waffles and blueberries. Minus the frozen part, it was the breakfast of champions.

With bellies full, we cuddled on the couch and watched cartoons, because there was no one there to tell us that we couldn't.

As we were snuggling Jack fell asleep, so I went with it. Back to bed, just the two of us. It was glorious. Jack slept, but I memorized. His soft hair, the suck suck of his mimink. His syrupy breath and his sticky fingers in mine. My son is perfection, and I drank him in. He may not be my baby for much longer, but he will always be my baby. You know? If you are a mother, then you know.

When he woke up, we hopped in the bathtub where my son pointed out every single flaw on my body that he could find. But I told him that some of those flaws were because of him. Love flaws, which makes them not really flaws at all. More like beautiful marks of motherhood. We played whale and duck and made soap bubbles, and when our toes turned wrinkly we got out.

And then I announced that it was time for an adventure, so off to the bookstore we went. What better place to lose ourselves than in the land of stories? We drank chocolate milk, and played with trains, and filled our minds with exciting tales about baseball and fast cars.

And I fell more in love with my son, as if that was even possible. Turns out it was.

When we were done adventuring we drove home. The rest of our family returned and life was just as it should be.

And that was my day.

I may not have made any money, and I may not have worn a trendy suit and heels, but the work I did was important. My day mattered, because my son matters, and there is nothing more rewarding than investing my days, and my time, and my life in him. In all of my children. So the world can think it strange to enjoy spending my days with small ones, and they can scoff at the mama who dropped out of school with only one year remaining, but I know in my heart that I am right where I should be. Sharing my life with the ones I love most.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YES

(here is the LINK for this project)

I love this. I really do. Another way to shine the love of Christ in a dark world. Because Christ? He offers the gift of water, too. To the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). To me. To you. But he doesn't just offer water. He offers the gift of living water, so that all who drink of it might never thirst again. And if all of us who already know what it is like to never thirst (physically or spiritually),  if we all partnered together to offer a village in need the gift of drinking water, perhaps that very village just might catch a glimpse of living water in the process? Perhaps, because of you and me, they might catch a glimpse of the very One who saves?

Can you imagine going from feeling a physical thirst on a daily basis, to your very soul never thirsting again?

It seems impossible, but that is exactly what God does. He makes the impossible possible.

Yet even still, I must confess that this is hard for me. And I hate that. I hate that mint green and coral dresses were already calling to me from the aisles at Target (silly Target, always trying to trip me up). And I hate that I actually feel like I might suffer a small bit if I don't get to buy those dresses. Because in reality, I know NOTHING of suffering! My babies are hydrated. My babies are fed. My babies will look beautiful, whether dressed in mint green and coral or not.

So why is it so hard? Why do we cling so tightly to the luxuries of this world when our brothers and sisters go without the most basic of necessities? Why is it so hard to let go, to live fully for Christ? I yearn for the day when it is not so hard for me. When living for Christ comes as naturally as breathing. So this challenge? If you are like me and struggle with the laying down of self, this might be a good place to start. Because if Easter is all about Christ, about his sacrifice and ultimately his resurrection, can't I sacrifice even something small of myself? I think I can. I know I can. And I can't wait to share this challenge with my children tomorrow morning. Our family will be joining in.

And always remember.

The point of everything is to point to God in all things.

Even in the small things, like the (not) buying of a new dress, no matter how beautiful the color of that dress might be. Because the laying down of self for a brother or sister is more beautiful than any mint green or coral dress ever could be.

When you are radically grateful for being blessed — you are radically generous to the oppressed. - Ann Voskamp

Monday, February 25, 2013

Speaking Up

(source)

It started in junior high. There were cruel classmates, a brother that left home too soon, grieved parents, and a young girl who thought it was her responsibility to hold everyone in her life together. A young girl who believed that if she could only be perfect, then everything else wouldn't fall apart.

That young girl was me.

And then there was that Lifetime movie. The one with Tracey Gold. For the Love of Nancy, I believe it was called. Did you see it? I watched as the girl on the screen lost more and more weight, and instead of seeing the pain, and the hurt, and the body destroyed, I saw only answers. If only I could be thin, then classmates would not be cruel. If only I could be thin, perhaps my brother would find me fun and come home. If only I could be thin, maybe my mom would not be so sad. And most importantly, if only I could be thin, perhaps everyone would be okay again. Including me. So I began to practice.

I practiced learning how to have an eating disorder.

Before I had reached thirteen years of age, I taught myself how to count calories, and how to measure portion sizes, and I did not allow myself to go over five grams of fat per meal. And then came the vomiting. Truthfully, that took lots of practice. It was not as easy as it appeared in the films. But I kept practicing until it became easy. And over my remaining years at home I practiced these learned behaviors and my life took on a pattern. When life was good, I ate and allowed the food to remain in my body. When life became overwhelming, I took control of the only thing I knew for certain that I could control. My body.

And then came college, and new amounts of stress, and more people and feelings that I could not control. And without parents around to notice, my eating behaviors began to completely consume me. Food consumed me, where I was going to eat, and what I was going to have. The scale consumed me, sometimes weighing myself every hour on the hour. And the extra weight went away and clumps of my hair went away. And my heart continuously raced and I was sure I was dying. And I was, if only on the inside.

I knew that I needed help, but I did not know where to find it. So I began to pray and God faithfully answered. At a retreat during my sophomore year of college, a girl stood up and bravely shared her story. She talked of the place where she had finally found healing, and I knew that I wanted to go there. I knew that I needed to go there. Because my only dreams in life were marriage and children, and if I could not learn to love me, then how could I ever love somebody else? And if I wasn't living whole, was I really even living? So I asked my parents if I could go to this place of healing that she spoke of, and seven days later I landed in Arizona. And Remuda Ranch became the place where I got a second chance.

Treatment was hard. The entire first week I cried. I cried because they made me finish my plate at every meal, and I cried because they would not tell me what I was weighing each day. I cried because I did not want to face the feelings that were behind the food, and I cried because I felt as though I had failed. The only thing I had ever wanted was to hold everyone together, but in striving for that I had torn myself apart.

But even in the darkness, God was there.

As I sat and daily read his Word, and began digging deep with my counselor, and learned how to just be, I felt him there. And I knew that this was my chance for healing. My second chance at living the life I desired to live and becoming the person I desired to become. I found healing in the friends I made at the Ranch, friends who finally understood the real me and liked me anyway. I found healing in writing out the words I could never seem to say. I found healing in learning to let go of the grip of the scale. Remuda Ranch taught me that I was more than a number, and that I did not have to be perfect to be valuable. I learned there, that while often painful, life could still be enjoyed, and that the only feelings I was responsible for were my own. And in the healing I finally found the freedom I had been looking for. Freedom to let go of the past and to move forward towards my future.

I found the freedom to be me.

A decade has passed now. I am a wife and a mama just as I always dreamed of being. Life is not perfect, but it is good. And I can honestly say that I have not restricted or purged in ten whole years. But some of the scars still remain. I still let food consume my mind if I am not careful to take captive every thought. I still struggle to be in the kitchen. I still struggle with the thought of dieting, knowing full well that there is a quick way out of the extra weight I now carry. But my biggest struggle of all is knowing how to raise my own two daughters to love themselves for who they are.

I learned many lessons in treatment that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I learned that nobody is perfect, even if they appear that way on the outside. I learned that eating disorders don't discriminate. I was in treatment with women of every shape, size, age, and background. I learned that keeping silent is the very worst thing that you can do. Whether it is silent about your own struggle and story, or silent as you watch someone you love suffer.

Several months ago I was asked to share my story with a young girl who was suffering in the hospital with Anorexia. Her mother had hoped that if she could talk to someone who had overcome, if she could see that there is beautiful life on the other side of addiction, that perhaps that would help her daughter to heal. And I really wanted to go, to sit with that girl and hold her hand. To tell her that I understood. But I didn't. I was too afraid. I was afraid that girl would look at me, would look at the shape I am now, and think if recovery brought on extra pounds then she would want none of that! I let my old fears of not being good enough return. I told myself that I needed to be perfect before I could share my story with others. So I kept silent, and I have often regretted that.

This week is National Eating Disorders Week, so I decided to speak up. I decided to share my story. It's not a perfect story with a perfect ending, but it's the story I have. The slogan for National Eating Disorders week is EVERYBODY KNOWS SOMEBODY. So in case that is true, or in case that is you, please know there is hope. Healing can be found. And with that healing comes freedom. Freedom to be the very real, beautiful you that you were meant to be.


(source)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

God IS Working

(Image found HERE)





















It's fitting that I recently wrote about trusting God's providence, because right after I shared those very words, our family was stretched. Our finances were stretched like never before, our faith was stretched, and even our hope was stretched a small bit. I do realize that even our greatest problems are still first world problems. When all we can see is loss, another still looks at us and sees luxury.

So even when I can't see straight for all the stretching, I can still see the blessings that abound .

And I really do believe that this stretching is for a reason. We have simply yet to see it. But that doesn't change the fact that the growing pains still hurt.

When we left the children's home last year and moved into our little cottage on Fieldcrest Lane, I thought that surely we deserved it. Deserved a nice home, more free time, more of 'us' (our family), and less of serving others. After all, we had been houseparents for nearly seven years time and we were tired! We deserved a break, right? And while I thought that our motives for leaving were good, and they mostly were, a small part of me got caught up in desiring a piece of the American Dream. And while I thought that we were being wise with our choices and our finances, and we mostly were, therein lies the problem. They were our choices and our finances. We did not include God in our decisions. At least not in the way that we should have. It was all about us, what we wanted, our dreams, and our finances. Because we deserved it. And so, we have been stretched. Stretched this year in the way that one is stretched when they try to do life on their own.

But God is faithful, and he is working, always working to draw us back to him. To set our feet on his path for our lives once more. And I told Boss last week, that even though many aspects of this past year have felt like a giant FAIL, if the only two things I do well this year are birth a beautiful new son and know God more, then the year is still a SUCCESS.

So our family is working. Working our way back to where we belong. Working on our priorities, making sure that all of our choices align with God first, family second, ALL else third. Working on our finances, asking God to show us how we can live on less in order to give away more. Working on desiring God's ways more than we desire the world's ways. Working on teaching our children the concept of less of me, more of Thee. And these lessons are hard, because they are completely opposite of all that we know.

But God is working.

We know things must once again change for our family. Life is a consistent pattern of growth. And while it is scary to lay your life before God, to ask Him to do his will, we know it is the only way. And so we lay, and we pray, and we ask God to intervene. To set our feet on the right path. And we trust, even though we can't see today how our story will end, because we know that God is working on behalf of our family. And for today, that is enough.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Making Muffins



(Image found HERE)

































A decade ago, food consumed me. It didn't consume the insides of me, I would never have allowed something like that back then, but it consumed my mind, and it consumed my heart, and it consumed my days. Eventually, intervention was needed, and my parents gave me the gift of sending me away to Arizona to find help. But I found more than help in Arizona. I also found healing. And now, a decade later, I can honestly say that food no longer consumes all of me. So many other things now consume my heart and my days.... my husband, my children, my love for God, friendships, homeschooling, adventures. But my mind? Food sometimes still has a hold there. Probably more of a hold than I would care to admit. And I know it really is not about the food (trust me... I know), but since I don't care to delve into my feelings further at this time, we will go with it being about the food.

Ironically, I no longer have a problem consuming food. Want to eat out? Perfect! But kitchens? And preparing food? Well, some problems remain. And unfortunately, this has greatly challenged my role as mother. Because Boss and the children need to eat! And there is something so beautiful about the family table. About loved ones gathering around and sharing a meal together. And it's just not the same if that meal is take out. So, in my recent efforts to master all things 'mother' (I have been finding inspiration in the form of my beautiful friend), I have been tentatively working my way back in to my kitchen. I want my children to remember Mama baking goodies, and chopping fruits and veggies, and even better, I want them to be in there doing it with me. We have not had enough kitchen togetherness in this family. And it's a shame, because we have a really cute kitchen!
 
And so, my efforts began. I started with a couple of hot breakfasts last week. Kate and I made those delicious muffins pictured above on Wednesday. Add some fresh blueberries and a glass of orange juice and I had three happy children! I also tried a couple of new recipes for supper (one found HERE), and Boss was a happy husband, too. And while I won't deny that it was not a struggle for me, I can absolutely say that this journey into the kitchen will be worth it. My children thanked me for the meals we ate this week more times than I could count! And so I gave myself a pat on the back and considered it a job well done. Or a start well done. Because I still have a long way to go. But every journey must start somewhere, and my kitchen journey started with a batch of warm muffins. And I know it really is not about the muffins. It's about the time spent together, and the memories, and the atmosphere, and the love of home. It's about consuming the beautiful things of life, hungering after all that is good, and letting go of the rest. One meal, one day at a time.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

God Provides

(Image found HERE)
 
Our land on Fieldcrest Lane has many trees. Many big, old, beautiful trees. Trees whose branches often need trimming. And tree trimming is expensive. Five hundred dollars, expensive. I am not ashamed to admit that Boss and I live paycheck to paycheck. It is the season we are in. Or perhaps it is the season we will remain in. Most days I am content. Some days I panic. Like on days when the trees need a good trimming. When they are towering so close to the house and the power lines that something must be done. So we hire the workers, and we agree to pay the money, and then in my humanness, I fret about the cost. Because Emma needs new tennis shoes, and Kate wants to play spring soccer, and Jack has been eating like there is no tomorrow. And then there is that new baby who is coming soon. And so I panic about how we will pay for it all. Where will the money come from? Which child will we say no to? The baby must be born, and Jack must eat, so that leaves the saying no to the soccer or the shoes. And sometimes I feel like our old tree swing out back, blowing in the wind. Barely hanging on through the every day storms of life, afraid my rope will snap at any moment. But Boss? He doesn't panic. He prays. And the men come, and they trim the trees, and we pay them the agreed upon five hundred dollars. And you know what happens right after they leave? Right after they have pulled their red logging truck from our drive? Boss checks the mail. And there in the mail is a check for five hundred dollars. Exactly. Addressed to us. A refund we did not know was coming. And I am reminded once again, that in all things, God provides.
 
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Last Leg of the Journey

Luke and I have begun the last leg of our journey together, where he rests under my heart and I hold him close within. And it's funny, because meeting him still seems so far away, but life has taught me that these days are fleeting. And I wonder, how do I store these days up in my soul? How do I memorize the feel of his kicks, the way my body feels heavy with child? I don't have the answers, but I try. For moments each day, I close my eyes and try to soak the blessing of pregnancy in. My miscarriage last year taught me that we don't always get to pick our own paths. Our days and seasons sometimes have a mind of their own, so we must savor the good ones.
 
Truly, I have nothing to complain about. Our boy is healthy (praise God they finally laid eyes on his four chamber heart after several attempts!) and strong, weighing in at around two pounds. And aside from tired feet (which Boss lovingly rubs each and every evening), aching hips, and bouts of Braxton Hicks contractions, I am feeling well each day, too. More relaxed than in my previous three pregnancies, more sure of my mama skills and what is to come.
 
I do feel the emotions building. There is just something about growing another soul that sends a woman's emotions swirling. There is so much that I dream about for our family, so much that needs to happen in the coming weeks before Luke enters our world, and I can't yet see what God is going to do. But I know that God is good. And I know that Luke's life is part of his perfect plan. And I know that he will knit all of the pieces perfectly together in his own time. So for now, we wait. And we thank God daily for the life growing within. And we do school, and we babysit cute children, and we teach Bible classes, and we keep going with life, knowing that soon, the days will slow down. Little by little, in the coming weeks our plate will empty, and then it will just be family, and home, and a new brother to love. And that is what keeps me going.


Family is Forever

We cannot destroy kindred: our chains stretch a little sometimes, but they never break. ~Marquise de Sévigné

Papaw and Kate
Yesterday, we celebrated Papaw's 60th birthday. For sixty years now he has walked this earth, leaving marks on the lives that surround him. My children know him as the man who blows up the air mattress so they can sleep over, and who sets up the colorful little table when it is time to dine. My children know him as the man who lets them style his snow white hair with ribbons, and bows, and anything else they can get their hands on. My children know him as the wrapper of Christmas presents, and the sender of Valentines, and the giver of birthday cards. My children love him, and my children love well. They love him because he is their Papaw. They love him because he is family.
 
I thank God for it every single day, for his beautiful creation of family. I am so thankful he did not leave us to navigate this dark world alone. Instead, he gave us others to walk with us. To cheer us on when we grow weary. To hold us up when it feels as though falling is all there is left to do. And when family fails? Because sin is all around, and sometimes families do fail, he sends others to stand in the gap. Everybody needs somebody.
 
Boss and I are blessed. In our immediate families we have four parents who still stand behind us. Or beside us. Or wherever we need them to stand in a particular season. We have brothers and sisters who make us laugh. We have aunts, and uncles, and some grand parents still on this earth who make our lives all the more rich. And we have four beautiful children. We count our children as our greatest blessings on this earth. And we have so many friends, countless brothers and sisters in Christ who fill in the gaps all around us.
 
Our families are not perfect. The family we have created together is not perfect. Our chains stretch more than a little. But even after all of these years our chains have never broken completely. Because family is family. You don't get to choose it. It chooses you. Family is opinionated. And family is messy. Family can be loud, though sometimes the silence during a stretch is louder. Family is colorful, and in your face, and sometimes you are begging them to just see your face. To hear you. To understand your heart. But family is also fun. And forgiving. And a soft place to land. A place to be the very real you and know that you are loved in spite of it all. Family is flawed, but family is forever.
 
Family, no matter what that looks like for each of us, is to be celebrated. So reach out your hands to the important people in your life. Grab on tightly. And though the seasons, and the years, and the sin will stretch you, never let go. Because family is a gift.

Cousin Claire and Kate

family turned friends

Jack

Cousin Madi and Emma
 
Papaw

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Love, Lent, and the Laying Down of Self

Yesterday, our nation celebrated Valentine's Day. A day of giving and receiving love. As our family gathered around the supper table last night, I asked my four Valentine's to share with me what love meant to them.

Emma, age eight, said that love was spending time with her family.

Kate, age six, said that love was God loves us and we love God.

Jack, age two, said that love was a girl named Holly. (true story, but a story for another day.)

Boss thought before answering, but finally told the children that love was the laying down of self for the good of another. Beautiful words from a beautiful man (though it's entirely possible I am a bit biased). And I have been thinking on his words ever since, on what it means, just exactly, to lay down one's self.
 

children at the orphanage in Haiti
Two days ago, many in our nation participated in the tradition of Ash Wednesday, otherwise known as the start of the Lent Season. Having never before participated in Lent myself, I was unprepared for the questions asked of me by my daughters as we were around town this past Wednesday.
 
Mama, what is that black stuff on that woman's forehead?
 
Mama, is that dirt? Why doesn't she clean it off? Should we tell her it is there?
 
I shared what little I knew about Lent with my children, that the black ash represented Christ's cross and the sacrifice that he made for each of us, and that the people who had the ash on their foreheads were going to sacrifice something themselves to be more like Christ. I told my daughters that the ash was like a symbol, something to set those people apart. Something to show they would be laying down something of themselves in the coming days.
 
That's a good idea, Mama, to give something up for God, my girls told me. And I assured them that I agreed. Especially if my husbands words were true, that the giving up,that the laying down of self is true love.
 
Then what better way to show God our love by laying down something of ourselves for him?
 
And I decided that I needed to know a bit more about this practice of Lent.
 

Mama talking with a new friend
Lent: The period before Easter in the Christian calendar: the period of 40 weekdays before Easter observed in some Christian churches as a period of prayer, penance, fasting, and self-denial. This period, starting on Ash Wednesday in Western churches, commemorates the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the wilderness. (definition from bing.com)
 
“Okay… Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.” - Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience)

"Part of the idea behind Lent is to take a look at our lives, to do an honest assessment of our journey to/toward/with God and to repent of the things that are distancing us from God, to turn away from those things. Considering how many things, the distractions, the obstacles, we have in our lives today which get between us and our ability to follow the teachings of Jesus, I can't help but think Lent may actually be more needed now than it has ever been." - Mark Sandlin (The Huffington Post)
 
a picture of poverty
Three weeks ago, my mama boarded a plane bound for Haiti. Because she was willing to love another, to lay down some of herself to serve another, she now has new stories to tell. She now tells the story of extreme poverty, but of people who smile anyway. She now tells the story of tiny children with big eyes, who scarf down their meal to the very last grain of rice. She now tells the story of orphans who (although they need love and new shoes) are no longer in need of hearing the Good News. Because people who were willing to lay down something of themselves and go, just go, have shared the Good News with them. And I am proud of my mama for being brave enough to go. For having love enough to share with others. For laying herself down as she traveled to Haiti to serve.


 
Mama and the boy she sponsors
And all of these thoughts have me thinking that love, and Lent, and the laying down of self are really all the very same thing. It doesn't matter one bit what we call the sacrifice we choose to make for Christ. We could call our sacrifice love. We could call our sacrifice Lent. We could call our sacrifice the laying down of self. It doesn't matter the words we use. 
 
All that matters is that we sacrifice.
 
Really, God wants us to sacrifice all that we have for his sake. Everything. But a good place to start is by sacrificing something.

sweet boy doing chores
So I started to think about what I could sacrifice. Where does one who has everything even begin when she wants to give up something? I thought of Haiti. I thought of how much we have in this country. I thought of how little they have. And I thought that yes, I could love these people enough to give up something that I love in order to serve them in a very small way. And in loving and serving them, I would be loving and serving God.

little girl working hard
So I decided to give up soda until Easter. Sounds too simple, right? Silly, even. But if you know me, you know that I seriously love soda. I sip it daily like it is going out of style. And not that there is anything inherently wrong with soda (other than it is terrible for you), but there is something wrong with spending more money on soft drinks each year then you spend on helping God's people who are in need. There is something wrong with loving my wants, more than loving anothers needs.
 
Mama and the girl she sponsors
So my very basic plan is to drink water. But I will carry a notebook with me. And when I am out and would have normally bought a soda, I will jot that down, jot right on down what I would have spent. And I will think of those around the world who have nothing, not even fresh drinking water, and I will thank God for the water. For his many blessings in my life. And at the end of this time of love, or Lent, or the laying down of self, I will add up that money I would have spent on soda and I will send it to Haiti. Such a small, insignificant thing to do, but it is a start. And you have to start somewhere.

sweet thing
I am sure at some point I will fail. Fail in the drinking water only. Fail in the not thanking God. Goodness knows I fall, and fumble, and fail every single day. But Mark Sandlin said it best when he said, Let's be real. If the thing you are giving up, if the thing that gets in the way of your relationship with God is marginalizing people in need out of fear of losing your own comfortable lifestyle, you are going to mess us. You just are. Isn't that all the more reason to try? Isn't that all the more reason to be okay with messing up some, to begin to be more aware of it and to move toward the life that God desires for you? Because the messing up is not the point. The soda is not the point. The point is, like Ann so eloquently said, Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice. That's really the point of any of this, is it not?
 
can I take her home?
So what about you? Have you ever thought about the way that you love others? The way that you love God? Have you ever given up something that you liked, or even something that you loved, in order to become more like him? Are you in the lifestyle habit of the laying down of self? If not, then I would encourage you to think long on these things. To ask God what he might have you let go of in order that he might draw you more fully in. It doesn't matter the sacrifice. How simple or how small.
 
All that matters is that we do it.
 
And we have to start somewhere.
 

housing in Haiti

* all pictures taken by my mama during her time in Haiti last month*



Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hello VALENTINE

Hello Red Vintage Chairs

Hello My Biggest Valentine
 
Hello Yummy Goodness
 
Hello Red And White Polka Dot Chain
 
Hello Chalkboard LOVE Letters
 
Hello Beautiful Bedroom


Hello Sweet Girl On A Swing


Hello Love Birds
 
Hello Precious Gift From The One I Love
 
Hello LOVE

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One Year Ago Today

(Photo by Heather Matthews Photography)
One year ago today, I was told the baby I carried inside of me had died.
One year ago today, my heart crumbled into a million tiny pieces.
One year ago today, the tears fell freely.
One year ago today, I had to let go of my dream.
One year ago today, Boss held my hand as we exited the hospital.
One year ago today, we told our other children that they would not be getting a new baby to love.
One year ago today, I hated the week of Valentine's Day.
One year ago today, I wanted to crawl into bed and not crawl out until my heart found healing.
One year ago today, I asked God to not let me walk through this miscarriage unchanged.
One year ago today, I asked God for new eyes to see his plan.
(I specifically asked him to give me a light for my darkened path.)
 
(Photo by Heather Matthews Photography)
Today, there is a new baby growing inside of me. A boy. Our Luke.
(His name means light.)
Today, my heart is so full it nearly bursts.
Today, tears still frequently fall, but they are tears of gratitude.
Today, our family is in the midst of a new dream.
Today, there were no hospitals. Only school, and lunch, and beautiful every day life.
Today, my children kiss my belly and tell little brother they love him.
Today, I am so thankful for my Valentines.
Today, I crawled out of bed with a smile, thanking God for the new day.
Today, I KNOW that my miscarriage changed me.
(Life has never been more precious).
Today, I see with new eyes. God is good. All the time.
 
(Photo by Heather Matthews Photography)
A Time for Everything
 
 
(Ecclesiastes Chapter Three)





 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I LOVE to Love You

(Couple's Valentine Dinner 2013)

I have always been a big fan of love. I tell my children almost daily that I LOVE love. And I do. I love the way love makes my heart feel, all bursting, and full, and warm. I love love letters, and romantic movies, and grand gestures. I love intimacy, and sharing secrets, and stolen looks across the room. And holding hands. Holding hands is my favorite. I love building a life with my best friend. And I love the way that Boss still knows how to make me feel beautiful, even though a decade and four babies together has changed my body significantly.

But love isn't always easy. In fact, it often requires much hard work.

We live in a self centered society. Or perhaps, it really isn't even about the society that we live in, though I do believe that plays a part. Perhaps we are self centered because we are sinful beings and selfishness comes naturally to us. I may not always like me, but I always love me. I love having things go my way. I love doing things on my own time. I love being right. I love having alone time, time to focus on my goals and my dreams.

But really, that's not love.

Love is not selfish. Love is selfless.

Love is less of me, less of what I want, or think, or feel, and more of others. My sweet husband is so good at loving me. He shows me love in the way he rises early with our early birds, so that I can rest longer. He shows me love through forgiveness, always humble in offering an apology if he feels he has wronged me in any way (trust me, 'sorry' is not always an easy word for me to say!). Boss shows me love by helping out around the house, rubbing my tired pregnant feet, and by listening to my dreams.

We forget that true love is most often best displayed more through the doing and less through the feeling.

Love letters and grand gestures are nice, but love must also be present in the day to day. In the little ways that too often go unnoticed and unappreciated.

For Valentine's Day this year, I decided that I wanted to show Boss some love. A bit of a grand gesture combined with serving and doing. An evening set aside to cater to him, to meet his needs, and to make him feel special. I got some girlfriends on board (who also wanted to pamper their hard working husbands!) and we set the ball in motion!


(The Table)
We had our men meet up at one of the houses, while we went to a different house to prepare for our romantic evening in.Then we sent our guys a text message that started them on a scavenger hunt. Their first assignment was to purchase bow ties to wear to the dinner we were preparing for later that night! Can you even imagine three men in their thirties holding up bow tie after bow tie to see which one best coordinated with their outfit? Hilarity!

(Studly Husbands in Bow Ties)
While the men were out scavenging, the ladies were preparing them a meal of steak, homemade mashed potatoes, and asparagus.

(My Talented in the Kitchen Friend, Kristin)
(Cute Heather Rockin' Her Apron)
 And we each took special care to prepare our husbands favorite dessert. It was a beautiful evening of a delicious candlelit meal, laughter, friendship, and serving the great men that so often serve us. There was also plenty of sweet stolen looks and much hand holding. Did I mention that hand holding is my favorite? The evening was a beautiful combination of grand gesture meets everyday love.

(Boss, My Forever Valentine)
I am so thankful to have a husband who is so very patient with me. It has taken me many years to figure out this thing called love. This thing that is less about feeling and more about doing. This thing that is less about me and more about him. I don't always get it right. But I'm working on it, every single day, in all the little ways.

Boss - I love you! I will always LOVE to love you! Happy Valentine's Day!

P.S In case I forgot to tell you, you looked incredibly studly in your bow tie!

(Boss Speaks my Love Language)

Monday, February 11, 2013

From Ladders to Lessons

(Mama and Luke)

Last Friday night, Boss and I got fancied up to attend a benefit auction for the children's home where Boss is employed. Boss is the principal of the school that serves many residents from the children's home, as well as children from surrounding school districts that are bused in each day.



























Many moons ago (do people really say that?), Boss worked for corporate America. Before we met he was an insurance salesman, and during our months of dating and early marriage he was a retail manager for Champs Sports. So I suppose you could say that being a boss (literally) and a salesman have always been in his blood. He was good at what he did. Very good. He won many awards and much recognition, and there was a time when we dreamed about his career in retail management going far. All the way far. All the way to the top! In our minds, he was climbing the corporate ladder one rung at a time. It didn't matter that he worked sixty to eighty hours a week. No pain, no gain! Right?

 But then we got pregnant.

And suddenly that silly old ladder didn't seem nearly as important to us as it once did. If I was at home with the children while Boss was at work 'climbing' away, if he left the house before the children woke in the morning, came home after they were already in bed for the night, missed worship services, and dance recitals, and ball games, would it even matter to us once he reached the very top of the ladder? Would it even be worth it? For our family, we decided the answer to that question was a resounding NO. Because more than likely, in the end, he would have been be standing at the top of that corporate ladder alone, while the children and I were at home going about the family life that we had created without him. So just like that our focus shifted. And we decided then and there that the only type of ladder we ever wanted to climb would be one that we could climb together. So Boss, with my input, began to pursue other lines of work.

Looking back, Boss and I can honestly say now that we wished we had pursued some sort of family business or trade when we were looking to make a change in our lives. Something that we could have worked together, side by side, including our children as they grew. But we didn't even think to head in that direction at that early point in our marriage. Instead, we focused on his pursuing a career that would allow for as much family time as possible. Boss obviously had to make a living, but our first priority was to be together as much as we possibly could be. Boss' second priority was working a job that 'mattered'. Not that most jobs are not necessary in the world that we have come to live in, but if Boss was to be away from us for any length of time each day, he wanted to feel good about how he was spending that time.

Eventually, after several months of prayer, Boss decided on the field of education. At that time there was a shortage of teachers in certain states and alternative certification programs were available to anyone who qualified. So, Boss hopped on board, and after one summer of hard work he was a teacher! And I think he would tell you that was one of the best decisions he has ever made. He no longer climbs a ladder, but he spends his days investing in the lives of those who may one day climb. And he is still a salesman. Only now, instead of selling insurance or shoes, he spends his days selling children on the idea that being all that God created you to be and making something of your life is important! He is home early most afternoons. He is off on weekends, holidays, and for the entire summer each year. He is active and present in our home and in our children's lives. And I couldn't be more proud of him.

It isn't always easy. Trying to raise a family on one income, and a smaller income at that, is often a difficult task. We have to work together to pinch pennies (Boss is far better at this than I am), I help out with taking on other small jobs when I can, and we don't always know how we are going to make ends meet. But God has always provided. He has always been faithful to open doors right when we needed them opened the most. And I know that God will continue to be faithful.

We have no idea where our path will take us. Sometimes I dream that God still plans on using Boss in big ways for his kingdom, like Boss' journey has only just begun. Sometimes I am content if what we have is all there ever is. Sometimes we still dream of starting that family business and working each day side by side. But I do know that no matter what, family will always come first. And to us, that is more important than any ladder ever could be.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Castle in the Air

(Two of My Children, for Whom the Castle is Being Built)























If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. - Henry David Thoreau

When you choose to live life a bit differently than the rest of the world, sometimes that life can be lonely. Some days it feels as though it would just be easier to choose the broad road, to walk along with the rest of the world, to blend in a bit more.

We began homeschooling our children four years ago.

Homeschooling wasn't something that we set out to do. In fact, it sort of found us when we weren't even looking for it. At the time our oldest child was to begin Kindergarten, I was working a 'job' that required most of the afternoon and evening hours of my day. I knew that if I put my tiny one on the bus, she would arrive home each afternoon right when my 'job' was to begin. When would I help her with homework? When would we snuggle? When would she have my undivided attention? So our homeschooling journey began.

And somewhere along the way, our family fell in LOVE with it.

I LOVE that I am the main influence in my children's lives.
I LOVE that my children are each other's greatest friends.
I LOVE that I am in charge of what goes into my children's heads and hearts.
I LOVE that my children are relaxed, without the weight of the world pulling at them.
I LOVE that my children are free to be children.
I LOVE that I can teach my children about God, just as I can teach them how to read.
I LOVE that for my children, family comes first and friendships are second.
I LOVE that my children can learn real life skills, just as they can learn academics.

So many things to LOVE. And now I can't imagine schooling my children any other way.

Until I lose focus, and my eyes start drifting towards another's path. I see women dropping their children off at a school building before heading to the gym and think that would be nice (except for the gym part). I see women heading to jobs where sometimes they simply earn 'fun' money for themselves and think fun money would be nice. I see women sitting quietly at Panera Bread, sipping a latte, while reading their Bible (all while I am cleaning up spilled milk, spooning soup into little mouths, and trying to train three children how to be quiet and appropriately behaved in a restaurant) and think ahhh, quiet sounds nice. I see women who have time to devote themselves to their passions or hobbies and think what's a hobby? I think no differently of these women who have chosen to do life differently than I have, as we each have the right to choose our own path, but sometimes looking at another's path begins to make me doubt my own.

But then I remember. I began building a castle in the air a long time ago. Long before Boss was by my side. And in my castle there were many children, family unity, a strong faith, a full table. A bond so strong that nothing could break through the castle walls. And I know full well that I am right where I should be. And these years of constant training, and children all at home, and the teaching and the learning are all part of the foundation of my castle in the air.

We are on the right path. Even on the lonely days, the days where being different feels too heavy, we are still building. Working towards something greater. Building, together, the very castle that I have always dreamed of.





Saturday, February 2, 2013

Snow Day

(LOVE my two boys!!)
(Jack LOVED the snow! For about 15 minutes..)

(Kate did great until her sled landed her at the base of a tree!)
(Who ever said DIVA'S do not like the great out of doors?!)
(Emma is my brave child! No hill is too steep, no sled fast enough!)


(LOVE those grins!)

Happy day two of the month of LOVE! And there is nothing my children
love more than a good snow day!