Beautiful Everyday Life

Ordinary days hold so many beautiful moments. 
The hard moments only highlight the lovely ones. If you have had a day with some beautiful moments embedded in the chaotic ones, call it a success.  Enjoy your beautifully imperfect life.

we rejoiced that such a man lived...

My grandfather passed away a few months ago, but because our family is so spread out we help his funeral/celebration of life this past weekend.  My favorite line about him said in the service:

"He will certainly be missed, but mourning over his loss is greatly superseded by rejoicing that such a man lived."

My grandfather was a wonderful husband and dad, family-man, adventurer, traveler, photographer, craftsman, artist... It was my privilege to know him and to be his granddaughter.  I know my grandpa would have been pleased with how we celebrated him.  All of his family came from all over the country and we had a great time.  Here are just a few pictures:

joy starts with gratitude...

It is impossible to experience joy without gratitude. This thought popped into my head a few weeks ago.

Blame it on the late spring or our busy schedules, but there was an excessive amount of complaining going on in our home.   Things that don't go right, chores that have to be done, places we have to go that we don't feel like going, low patience with each other...and that's just the things that have been bothering me.  I haven't even started with my kids, toys, school, homework...each other.... 

It is so easy to focus on what went wrong, despite all that goes right.   I was reminded of this when I overhead my youngest telling his brothers about how, "Mommy yelled."  Honest to goodness.  He didn't mention my incredible patience with them as one of my school age boys couldn't find his baggy book and we had to search the whole house before we could leave for school.  He didn't talk about how I helped one of my son's mop up his spilled drink.  Or how calm I was when I carried my youngest son, who was throwing a huge tantrum because he couldn't get a toy, out of Target.  (My husband said he could hear our youngest screaming all the way from the back of the store.)  Or how I sat patiently with my older boys as I did their homework.   He didn't mention how I had read them books far too late into the night, cutting in to the very small moment of alone time I get every day. son talked about when I lost my patience and raised my voice.

But, I do the same thing.  I will stew over something that went wrong and ignore the vast amount of blessing God showers on us.

The more we complained, the more the joy seemed to slip between our fingers.

We needed a family time out.  We needed to do something that would shake up our home and redirect our hearts to the massive amounts of blessings that God showers on us every day...blessings that we often take for granite.

I knew our situation was bad when after the kids complained about food, my husband proposed spending a few days eating only rice and beans for dinner and talking about what we are grateful for.  My husband hates beans. 

My husband's suggestion got my head spinning with of ideas of how to make this gratitude lesson amazing and pinterest worthy.  I thought of creating a cute big paper where we write everything we are thankful for. My head told me we would really make this point effectively if we only ate rice and beans and nothing else. But, in reality, I have to do what works for our family and still effectively teaches the lesson.  So, we ate rice and beans and the fruits and vegetables in our fridge that would have otherwise gone to waste.  I never spent the time making the big sheet of paper to write what we are thankful for, instead we went around the table and told three things that we were grateful for that day.  And of course, I originally thought bigger was better and we should try this for a week, but I knew we wouldn't stick with it that long and found that three days was enough.

We didn't completely solve our problems of ingratitude, but we had some sweet family moments that steered our heart towards thankfulness.

One of my favorite things about parenting is as I teach my children lessons, I learn from them too.  I had a really frustrating parenting moment today and I thought about this blog post I had been working on and mentally listed the things to be grateful for about the situation.  The good outweighed the frustration fizzled and I felt better about things. I felt more joyful.

Today, I did something big...

I did something big today. I submitted my book proposal.

Yes, I wrote a book.  It took my seven years total.  It is a faith journey, of things I have learned over the years.  I spent five years journaling, one year to write the book and one year to edit it. (Which I am technically still working a little bit on editing – is one truly ever done editing a book?)
I had been active in MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) and had two articles published in their MomSense magazine. I had seen on the MOPS website that they were accepting book proposals, so I decided that at the end of my intentional faith journey, I would write a book and submit it to MOPS. 
Last fall, after I had finished my book but was still working on revisions, I looked on the MOPS page to find the guidelines for a book proposal so I could officially submit my book. They had taken the guidelines off their website. 

Gasp. I don’t think I could breathe for a few minutes straight.

I emailed the generic MOPS email account asking for the guidelines and was told they were not longer accepted unsolicited book proposals.

Gasp. I am still trying to find breath.
Simultaneously, I had emailed the person I worked with at MomSense magazine when my articles were published.  She. Was. Awesome.   She told me there indeed were not accepting unsolicited book proposals, but she gave me the direct email of their publishing manager.

Hope.  How I love hope.
So, I sent it off.  Today.  Right now.

I feel nervous, scared of rejection, and incredible proud of myself.
But mainly, I feel grateful that God lead me on this journey.  It has changed my heart.  I feel closer to Jesus. I can better hear his voice speak  daily to my heart through ordinary life.  I have grown tremendously. I am a healthier person. And in writing this book, I have found myself praising God more. This book has been a way for me to worship my Creator.

I will keep you posted on what happens.
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this feeling of accomplishment.

my beautiful mom-moment

I had a really amazing mom-moment on Mother's Day.  The busyness of life paused and the joyful moment unfolded in slow motion.

I had gone away for a relaxing and refueling girls weekend at one of my good friend's cabins.  Over the years, I have learned the importance of having me-time to rejuvenate my soul and give me a fresh batch of energy and renewed positive perspective so that I am a better person.  But even though my head knows this, as I was about to leave for me weekend, my heart felt a prick of guilt and I doubted if I really wanted to leave my family for a couple of days.

But the weekend was just what I needed. My friend and I drove home Sunday morning feeling refreshed and renewed.

I beat my family home by about 5 minutes.  As my friend pulled into my driveway to drop me off, I saw sitting in front of the garage a vertical planter my husband had built me.  It was full of hand written letters from our boys telling me what they loved about me.  I was taking pictures and reading the letters when my husband pulls up with our kids. Our boys little noses were pressed against the car window, their excitement clear. 

The next moment was a reunion of complete joy as each boy clambered out of the van to hug and kiss me and give me their homemade Mother's Day gifts.  I loved listening to my husband tell me how his inspiration for making me the planter. There were smiles and laughter and cake and joy.

I never want to forget Mother's Day this year. I felt deeply loved. The moment will be etched my heart forever as one of my favorite mom moments ever.

Once a Month - April

It can be so hard to teach kids about the importance of giving.  We can all so easily be sucked in to the desires of the world – a culture of always wanting more. 
Last fall, my heart was stirred to reflect on what it really meant to say that you are a Christian and follow Jesus.  I read two books that challenged my thinking: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt.  My husband and I decided we needed to make some changes in our family life.  One of them was, we needed to make giving a priority each month.  As a family, we wanted to honor God through giving and serving and meeting other’s needs.  We needed to steer our focus away from us always wanting more to us helping more.  So, we decided to start this once a month journey.   (If you want to read the first post in the start of this journey, click here.)
This month, the high school where I teach was participating in a school-wide food drive to help stock a local food shelf.  Perfect.  We took our boys shopping and we filled our cart with food.  I thought this would be a great way to teach our children about sharing our resources with local people that need food and also a great lesson for my students to see me giving so generously.  I hoped my students would catch the giving spirit and want to give themselves. 
No such luck.  Not one student brought food to share.  Not one.
When I received an email saying my class had won one of the food drive days for bringing the most food. I had to quietly email the teacher back that my students didn’t bring any food at all, and to give the reward to the next highest class of food donators. 

I have to admit I felt discouraged.  I had success with my one kids, but it is easy for little kids to get enthusiastic about giving when their parents are making it a priority and paying for it.  I had secretly hoped my students would be inspired too.
But, I have learned that success isn’t always measured in results. There is a value in a seed of generosity being planted.  For my students, maybe next time the seed will sprout into the action of actually giving.  (And how well do I really know some of those kids’ stories?  Some could be the ones needing the food.)

I set an example for both my kids and my students.  This month, we followed God’s call to feed the hungry. That is enough for me to call declare April a success. 


I was just reading some sad stories on a couple of blogs.  Reading those type of stories and experiencing the frustrations of life make the following words even more precious.  I am not sure who wrote this, but it is something I need to remember.
You will never have this day with your children again.
Tomorrow they will be a little older than they are today.
This day is a gift.
Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet.
Pay attention.
Relish the charms of the present.
Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it.