Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Busts and the Christmas Message

Sometimes, the most annoying-not-as-we-planned-it moments in the holiday season best tell the true meaning of Christmas.
 
Here’s what got me thinking about this. I was editing these photos thinking: These are lovely. I love Christmas.
 
I almost forgot about the kiddos juggling ornaments, breaking ornaments, and the sobbing because for whatever the reason, our dare-devil son got scared when his dad lifted him up to put the angel on the tree. (That picture didn’t turn out as planned.) Usually decorating is one of our favorite things to do. But this year, we were off. Grumpy, off. Not much fun, off.
 
But, do you know what? Even though I can get in my head how perfectly I want our holiday, memory-making moments to play out, this holiday bust didn’t bother me.
 
Lately, I haven’t minded all of life’s everyday bumps and imperfections. Maybe because I've noticed that no matter how many lists, conversations, or prepping we do, most things don’t ever go fully as planned. Flawlessness is illusive. Impossible. It can’t be accomplished. There might be a message in that. Perhaps that’s our everyday proof that God means what He says:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9
All of the everyday, unavoidable bumps remind us that perfection is not God’s message. Instead, we are held in the palm of His hand because of His grace. When we stand in front of Jesus and say: Please God, I need you. Walk this life with me. He always says: yes. We are loved by Him simply because He created us. Oh, sweet grace.
 
So, bring on the photo worthy moments of Christmas. But also, bring on the holiday busts. The moments that remind us grace is needed abundantly on this earth. Because those moments too can remind us of the kind of grace we already have. Free. Bountiful. Gifted to us through a baby in a manager by a God who deeply loves us.
 
May you have a wonderful Christmas. I hope you really enjoy it. Every single bumpy and wonderful moment of it.
 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fairy Tale Hope


Fairy Tale Hope. 
 
A phrase I just made up so let me define it for you. I told my boys to put the last of the dinner plates and cups in the dishwasher while I finished getting ready. We all needed to leave. I’m upstairs for just a few minutes when I hear laughing and screaming and running and chasing. I’m sure the scene downstairs is not of angelic boys completing a chore, but of a frenzied scramble to find a Nerf gun, a pillow from the couch, a sword, a shield or something to dominate each other. I hear the thump of a take down, the cry of victory, the call of revenge…. And yet, there is a part of me that really truly thinks they did obey. Maybe they are just having a lot of fun lining the dishes in neat rows. I am sure pillows aren’t strewn about and no one is tangled in a wrestling move. The dishes are not teetering awkwardly on each other facing the wrong direction from being hastily thrown in.
 
No, that is not happening.
 
Okay, so it probably is happening. The downstairs has erupted into a den of untamed lions and the dishwasher probably won’t close because of the ridiculousness.
 
And yet...
 
...the hope is still there. A little part of me still thinks - really thinks - they just might be doing what they are supposed to be doing. And if they are not and I stall for a few more minutes before going downstairs maybe - just maybe - they will pull it together and get the chore done correctly.
 
Fairy Tale Hope. Have you been there too? #momproblems
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rediscover Your Everyday Miracle

Every day you and I get to be a part of a miracle.

But I don't always see it. (Do you?)

It's undeniable when we see a beginning. A sweet newborn: we celebrate, we cuddle, we photograph. The miracle of life captures our attention and we pause to marvel at it.

But then our vision blurs. (My vision blurs.)

My schedule becomes hectic, and I find myself yelling like a madwoman for my family to hurry up, find their shoes - any shoes, matching is overrated - so we can get out the door and be almost on time somewhere. (Why can even the ordinary be stressful?) A phone call tells me my beloved grandma is in the hospital. (Oh, my heart. Why do people have to get sick? Why does pain exist?) My elementary age son is upset because a classmate pushed his lunch bag off the table to the floor and told him that was his seat. (Why do kids face stuff like that? How should I best handle this?) I get frustrated and tired....

...and I can't see the miracle.

But then, there are moments that stir my heart and remind me the wonder is still there...
In the middle of the night, our youngest son makes his way into our bed and fits his little body into the curve of mine. His lips pucker into steadfast breathing; I wrap my arms around him and cherish his smallness. Or I hear our three boys playing. They battle their toys with great animation and the sound captivates me. So much everyday love, I am lucky to be a mom.

With fingers laced around a warm drink, I look out the window and see the golden hues of the sunrise.
Man, it's beautiful. I linger. I feel the hope and fresh start a brand new day brings. And God gives us that gift every morning. Mind blowing.

My phone buzzes and I smile. It's a quick hello text from my mom and picture of my little niece wearing a paper bunny mask she proudly made. She's calling herself, "Carrots." Those pretty eyes and big grin, she is charming. People enrich my everyday life. Amazing, wonderful people. So blessed.


Yet, what do we do when we can't see the miracle? How do we mentally shift our focus from worry, pain, doubt, discouragement and fear to see the miracle of life and all the joy, love, hope and peace it holds?

Each morning, I fumble around for my glasses near my bed and I don't think about what makes me able to see - the lens that bends the light so it hits my eyes just right and the frames that holds the lens in place. I also don't always think about what sharpens my perspective on life. 

Gratitude.

God breathes a holy quality into it. Because the more I stop focusing on life's messiness and start focusing on my blessings, the better I see.

Everyday busyness can be stressful, but there are so many great activities to be involved in. Life is full. (And we can always say no if it all becomes too much.)

Yes
, my grandma was in the hospital, but I still got to hear her sweet voice on the phone. She is one of the most incredible people I know and I get to be her granddaughter. Blessed, again.

I want to guard my kids from all challenges, but that is not how they grow. And parenting is hard, but I get to be a parent. What an awesome privilege.


With each positive thought, I can find another thing to be thankful for. You guys, it’s working. I can feel the light bending and hitting my eyes, my heart, just right. I continue to list: the good I saw come from the bad, the obvious things to be thankful for, and the blessings I take for granted. Discouragement is fading and I am wrestling back my perspective. My focus sharpens until I am only looking through the lens of gratitude. Then I can see – really see – where I am.

Where we all are…

…in the middle of the beautiful, breathtaking miracle of everyday life.


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Coolest Operation Christmas Child Video

We filled Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes the other day. After we packed markers, notebooks, toothbrushes, toys…etc…each box had a little room left. I got all excited and was like, “Yay, boys – how fun would it be to fit a few more things into these boxes! Let’s dig through your excessive amount of toys and pick out some that are done playing with but are still nice!” (Cue let down music.) Apparently, they still play with all of their toys at all times and couldn’t part with any of them. Even the neglected ones. (Boys 1, Mom 0)
Then, I came across this video. That reaction? Wow. Just, wow. Someone hand me a kleenex. 
So, I showed this to my boys. It moved them too. They immediately went downstairs and came up with an impressive amount of toys to top off the boxes. 
God, thank you for stirring my boys’ hearts on this one. (Boys 0, God 1) 


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Photography

The other night, I sat on the floor with my computer on the coffee table, editing family picture. Then – get this – my oldest son wandered over, sat behind me on the couch, and started playing with my hair. (Ahhhh!) He never does that. Take his brothers down? Yes. Gently run his fingers through his mom’s hair? No. So I tried to act all chill while freaking out inside. This kid is almost a tween. This might never happen again. I knew I could ruin it all with one you-are-such-a-sweet-boy comment, so I sat as still and nonchalantly as possible. And then I had a moment. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I happily worked on a favorite hobby; my blessings smiled back at me from my computer screen. My oldest played with my hair. (Seriously, I can't get over it.) My husband relaxed and watched basketball. (His version of heaven.) Our other two boys giggled and played. Nicely, together. (Did I forget to mention that key fact?) The room came alive with joy and love and contentment. It hung thick in the air. It dominated. My heart swelled and I didn't want to blink. How did I get so lucky to be sitting right here, right now in the middle of all this love? This must be what people mean when they say they see the fingerprints of God.
 
I learned how to add rain on Photoshop from this awesome tutorial.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

I will be running from these dinosaurs all night. Heaven help me. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sweet Babies, You get to Help Mama Clean...

Teaching my boys one way to a woman's heart...;) 
Life skills, right?
I have to share something that is working for our family.
See this fabulous chore-chart/incentive-program/how-my-kids-earn-their-allowance thingy?

I think it is working. 

Usually, I just pin crafty ideas from Pinterest with no intention of actually doing them. (Which one of my friend's assures me is pretty good. She says she just listens to me talk about what I pinned on Pinterest with no intention of actually doing any of the ideas. Love.) But this I saw and thought it would motivate my kids to do their chores with a more cheerful heart and make my life easier. (Really love.)

It took me about ten minutes to make. I already had the chalk board. I stapled some twine across it, printed out the chores I wanted done and glued them to the clothes pins, and then added the money.

Now let me get one thing straight: my kids are not paid for every little thing they do around our house. They have to clean their room and help with the dishes as their expected contribution to being a part of our family. But once a week, we clean the house as a family and they get paid for the chores they do. Then, if they go above and beyond on another ordinary chore, or notice something and clean it without being asked, they can get $1 for that too. On average, they earn about $4-$5 a week.

I love it because it more accurately represents how earning money in the real world works. (I am not in favor of just giving kids money for simply existing. I mean, don't get me wrong - these little people I love so much they take my breath away. But still, when it comes to money...they need to learn reality or it's just going to be tough for them as young adults.) I also like that they can see the clear expectations we have for them. And if they are saving up for something they want, they can decide if they want to work harder and earn more money. It's nice that they can immediately pay themselves and experience that satisfaction you get when you earn your income. (We all remember getting our first paycheck? It was a little bit intoxicating, right? I was definitely ready for my next pay check, and my next one...)

This is all my attempt to instill a work ethic in these sweet babies at a young age. I think it is working... (Fingers crossed.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Your Words {And Your Story} Are So Important

She greeted me with a warm smile, like we were old friends, even though I barely knew her. Impulsively, I hugged her as I came through her door. She showed me around her lovely home: her cute kitchen with the pop of turquoise paint, her barn wood floors, a beautiful table here, a handcrafted shelf there, all built by her husband. I could tell she loved her home the same way she loved people. I was instantly glad I came.

She offered me homemade peach cobbler drizzled with cream and a hot cup of tea. We ate and chatted. I had a lot on my mind and heart. I was feeling pulled in different directions with my writing and public speaking, and I felt a little lost. I longed to talk to someone who has traveled the road before me. I needed advice. I needed the wisdom from a woman ahead of me in life.

I had thought to ask if she would meet me out for coffee, then dismissed it. Surely, this woman had better things to do. She is busy with her grandkids, her professional life, her personal life – she doesn’t need me to creep in on her time. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to meet with her? I would love to know her thoughts.

So in a moment of bravery, I asked her if she would ever want to join me for coffee. But, what she offered was even better. She invited me over to her house. She made me treats. She made me feel like she had been waiting for me. She gave me such great advice. I needed to hear her words, her story, her wisdom….

The lovely evening ended, and I climbed in my car and began my drive home. The floodgate of tears opened. Tears of relief. I had prayed for direction, peace, wisdom, and comfort, and God had given me all of that through this beautiful woman.

This woman was the hands and feet of Jesus for me.

I think that was God’s intention. He created us to need each other.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”(I Thessalonians 5:11)
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”(Hebrews 10:24)

It's such a beautiful thing. And I am not above asking for help. I know who to go to for encouragement. I know where to find wisdom. I know who will wrap their arms around me and love me. I know who will speak hard truths into my life. I know God uses the wise, honest, loving, and godly people in my life to speak to me. And I am not afraid to find those people and go there with them.

I know that people and relationships can be hard. But people can also be amazing. This shouldn’t be surprising, because we are created in His image. (So cool.) And we get to choose to follow Jesus. And the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us, which means that His truths, His wisdom, and His love is inside of us at all times. (Unbelievable.) And then we get to share this with each other. (Just awesome.)

And if you think your story, your encouragement, and the words God has pressed upon your heart are not needed and important, think again.

Because what if the lovely women who invited me into her home and spoke wisdom and direction into my life had been too busy or dismissed me? Her couch became a safe haven. The steamy cup of tea was therapy. The warm food fed my soul. The welcoming atmosphere allowed me to be vulnerable and honest. Her story spoke wisdom. Her advice gave me peace and assurance for my next steps in life. A small amount of her time made a big impact on me. I needed her words. I needed her encouragement. I needed her.

Because that is how God created us…

To need each other.

To make an impact.

To be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and noticing the everyday sacred. What to join me on Facebook or Pinterest? Or sign up for my once-a-month inspirational newsletter and I'll send you a free printable with one of my favorite quotes.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Master Bathroom Remodel

You know how you start a project, get 90% done, then put off the finishing touches for like a year? This is the story of our master bathroom remodel. Our hang up? What to do with the mirror and windows. But here’s what my husband finally came up with. It’s a curtain rod with a sliding mirror. I have to admit I am pretty impressed with his creativity. So, now we are 98% done. The last 2%? Well, notice there is no toilet paper holder. Which really was no big deal because for the entire year we successfully set the roll on the back of the toilet. I’m not sure why now, but in the past week our boys have knocked a complete roll of toilet paper off the back of the toilet into the water…three different times. Which also wasn't a big deal, until the last time. It was the last roll of toilet paper in the house, it was late, and I was so tired there was no way I was making a Target run. I came in the bathroom and saw the last roll sitting sopping wet on the back of the toilet. “Noooo!” Why, boys? Why? They shrugged it off like, “this is not really a big deal, mom, you’re over-reacting” (which I sometimes tend to do). Oh, my little boys. They can have a serious conversation about whether a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton could actually fit in our living room or not, but not understand why a sopping roll of the last of the toilet paper is a big deal to me. As a peace offering, my five-year-old did go get a roll of paper towels for me. (You are sweet, little boy, but – ugh.) Girl problems in a house full of boys. So, that toilet paper holder will be hung up real soon. It’s a must. :)


Before:

We completely gutted the bathroom:
 
After:


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