Summer Lovin’

I have approximately 25 more minutes before I have to leave to pick up the kids from their last morning of gymnastics camp (<–an intense term…they have gone three mornings in a row to do gymnastics for a few hours.  No one is sleeping in a cabin, and I haven’t seen a lanyard yet).

Anyway, you’d better believe I’m going to milk every one of those quiet moments…and what better way than by blogging?

When I last posted, I was 8 days into summer, and wondering if I could survive the summer intact.

Every night, I was going to bed completely exhausted, wondering, “can I do this tomorrow?” We were having a blast, but my kids were physically wearing me out. 

David kept reminding me that every time we take a break from preschool, I wind up loving having the kids around 24/7 and end the break questioning if we should even send them to preschool at all.

I remembered those words coming out of my mouth on multiple occasions, but wondered how I ever got to that place, because I was feeling so exhausted!

Then, around day 11 of summer…something magical happened.

IMG_4204I remembered the pool.  

It turns out that if you promise your kids that if they behave well in the morning, you will take them to the pool that afternoon…then they behave well in the morning to earn the pool, you have a fun activity in the afternoon when it’s hottest anyway, AND they are so tired after said activity that they don’t have energy to get into mischief!

IMG_4407 Too tired to move = SUCCESS

We have been loving the pool, and I’m SO thankful to have stumbled upon this magic recipe for great summer days! This is the first year that I have felt confident that I can supervise both of them in the pool, so I’m also thankful that we committed those years to swim lessons.  Moms with little ones…keep at it!

Other things I have been loving lately:

Making everything into a picnic

Every meal is more fun when it’s served picnic-style…whether the picnic is actually outside, or just on a blanket in your living room.  This has been a favorite trick of mine for a long time (popcorn picnic with a movie! dinner picnic when daddy’s working late! snack picnic when you’re cranky!) but it’s even more fun in the summer.

We have also been enjoying a variation: the reading picnic (basically, cuddling on a blanket on the floor, eating a snack, while I read books to them).  Zoe has been obsessed with chapter books lately, and we are working through the American Girl books.  It’s so fun to read books with an actual plot! I read all of these books when I was younger, but have forgotten most of the stories. Sometimes I find myself reading ahead to find out what happens, which is funny after years of Goodnight Moon-esque plots. 

Working in my garden

If we aren’t texting friends, be glad—because if we are, you are likely sick of me sending you gardening photos. I can’t help myself.  I AM GROWING THINGS, PEOPLE!!!

(And pruning things after I take photos.)

The previous owners of our house planted some beautiful perennials and fruit trees, but there were still a few empty beds.  SO, I asked a master gardener from our new church to come over and help me make a gardening plan.  She gave me a few plants, and my Mother’s Day present was a Lowe’s gift certificate and two days of planting help from David. This jumpstarted my new hobby/obsession!

I love caring for the garden and spend anywhere from 15 to 75 minutes on it every day.  It’s so great to have an excuse to “have” to be outside every day, work with my hands, and enjoy God’s creation.  The girls “help” me most days, and it is ridiculously invigorating to watch things bloom and grow as the result of my care and dedication.  Zoe has fully embraced the joy of gardening along with me, and we have been having so much fun looking for fresh stalks and blooms, pruning, tending, watering, and watching our garden change!

IMG_4418.JPG

I would still consider myself a total “beginner,” but I’m excited to learn more through trial, error, and education!

My new romper

Sorry for the double selfies, but I had to tell you that if you have thought, “I’m just not sure I can pull off a romper,” you should reconsider.  I have spent several seasons ignoring rompers.  I’m still brokenhearted by the rapid decline of non-ironic overalls in the early 2000s (RIP) and didn’t care to repeat the mourning process.

But then I saw this one in a consignment shop, fell in love, and decided that maybe I’d risk the pain of attachment.

IMG_4414Bought it, love it, won’t take it off.

It feels like PJs, but you get style points.  It’s breezy like a dress, but you don’t flash people when you lean over to pick up your small children.  The only potential pain point is a more complicated bathroom process, but I am used to going to the bathroom with 1-2 people touching me, watching me, and asking personal and invasive questions, so adding a few buttons isn’t much of a strain.

Podcasts

Man, maybe I should retitle this blog post, “Sarah Finally Hops on 2016 Trends.”  I got my first iPhone in 2017, sort of by accident, thanks to my growing frustration with my continually breaking dumb phones, the generosity of my friend Leah who reads this blog, and the lies of a Verizon employee who told me adding data would be $5 a month indefinitely.  I now pay far more than $5 a month to take photos, use emojis, not get lost, and LISTEN TO PODCASTS.

My favorites (you will notice a theme):

God Centered Mom

Mom Struggling Well

Chrystal’s Chronicles 

Coffee + Crumbs Podcast

I will also listen to random business/marketing podcasts, but overall, the area where I feel like I need the most support and encouragement is in my journey with faith and mothering.  Through podcasts, I get the opportunity to learn from those who are wiser and more experienced than me (sort of like one-sided mentoring) and I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn and laugh as I garden, walk, wash dishes, and fold laundry!

IMG_4529.JPGA scene from this morning’s walk…and podcast listening session 🙂 

Do you have a favorite podcast? What is it? 

Advertisements

Day in the Life: Summer Edition

Hello again!

Thanks so much for your enthusiasm about my last blog post.  I loved all your nice texts and comments, and I really enjoyed sitting down and writing, so here I go again! 🙂

I used to write “day in the life” posts every three months when Zoe was little.  I stopped writing them when Riley came along, because I couldn’t figure out how to take pictures without someone dying.  Now that Zoe is no longer attempting to murder her sister every 20 minutes, I thought it would be fun to capture a “day in the life” in our new context.

So without further ado, here’s a Thursday, 8 days into summer break (but who’s counting?! #me), with an almost-4-year old and a 5.5 year old, in a semi-rural suburb in North Carolina!

PS…I never got a chance to do my Bible study on this day, but I certainly reflected on scripture throughout the day, which I have included.

5:36: “Her children arise and call her blessed.” (Proverbs 31:28). Actually, they arise and immediately demand things, but some day…some day…

I make Zoe a bowl of oatmeal and myself a cup of tea, and begin reading the latest Kylie Jean book out loud.

Within 15 minutes, Riley is awake.  We go through our daily ritual: she tells me that she peed in her Pullup, she asks to watch a show (denied every time, but points for persistence), and she reminds me that she doesn’t want milk in her cereal.

6:30: We have finished two chapters of Kylie Jean.  Zoe and Riley have “finished” “eating” and scampered off to the playroom with their BFF, Daddy, for some Anna and Elsa play.  I seize my moment and plate two hardboiled eggs, a piece of toast, and some strawberries, reading a few pages of my book as I eat. Then I clean up everyone’s food and sweep the kitchen.

7:15: “Meaningless! Meaningless…Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? All things are wearisome, more than one can say.” (from Ecclesiastes 1). It’s laundry time!

7:20: David begins running on the treadmill in the garage. I’m folding laundry. “Mom! You want to hear us play.” MORE THAN ANYTHING.

IMG_4068Zoe also insisted that I take a video of her performance, but mercifully I do not know how to insert it into this blog post.

I fold and put away laundry for about 25 minutes, strip the beds, make them with new sheets, put MORE laundry in the washer/dryer, then help Zoe and Riley clean their rooms.

8:30: I’m trying to preserve my sanity throughout the summer by exercising for some length of time most days. Today, I have time for a 30 minute, 2.6 mile walk through our neighborhood (which is hilly, beautiful, and safe.  I LOVE walking here)!

IMG_4071.JPGI listen to a podcast on being multi passionate and enjoy BREATHING. (David has the kids.)

When I get back, Zoe wants to go for a bike ride. David is heading into the office later than usual today, so I take her for a ride.  Halfway through, she finds snails that she wants to take home as pets, so I end up walking a few blocks pushing two bicycles, while she skips ahead with three snails.

IMG_4072.JPGI take a lightning fast shower. When I get out of the shower, Zoe, Riley, and the snails are all in my bathroom.  Everyone watches me get ready (David has left). Privacy at its finest. While I get ready, I group text with some local friends about one of their bad haircuts and a possible playdate. I’m so thankful to HAVE local friends!

10:00: I’m taking the kids into the city for the first time by myself today.  I have really been missing the energy and diversity of a city, and want to get there every week this summer. This week, we’re going to a puppet show…and then we’ll see what else we find! I pack lunches (grocery day is tomorrow, so the content of the lunches is fairly questionable), shove an energy bite in my mouth, and get the kids ready to go. They insist on packing their own backpacks. Totally necessary.

10:25: OFF WE GO! The kids request Taylor Swift in the car, so we rock out for the next 30 minutes. Zoe eats a cheese stick and Riley eats peanut butter crackers from their backpacks.

11:00: We made it! The kids are pumped.

IMG_4075We meander over to the theater, climbing on benches and statues and making a bathroom stop along the way.  The theater has display cases full of props from past shows, so we enjoy looking at them and talking about the plots of those shows.

11:30: The mane event. (You’re welcome.)IMG_4078The puppet show is incredibly cute and interactive. The puppeteers act out three stories, and lead the kids in movement songs in between. Afterwards, the kids have a chance to play with puppets in the puppet theater.  It’s a huge hit with both kids.

12:15: “Again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!'” (Numbers 11:4b). The kids are hungry, so we find a lovely picnic spot across the street. One of my favorite parts of being in a city is meandering and stumbling upon awesome places to hang out. I’m so thankful to be here!

IMG_4079We actually didn’t have enough bread for me to make myself a sandwich, so I brought peanut butter crackers along for myself and figured I’d eat the kids’ leftovers. The jokes’s on me because they both drop half of their sandwich and have no leftovers. Oh well!

The park has a large splash pad, and I happen to have extra clothes along, so I let Zoe go in the water after lunch. She quickly makes a friend and has a blast scampering all over the multi-level park.

IMG_4080Riley prefers to cuddle. IMG_4081After almost an hour in the park (which has no shade), I’m beginning to feel sunburned and Riley is telling me she is “sweaty.”  I tell Zoe it’s time to wrap it up and change her into the spare set of clothes.

We are having so much fun that I don’t want to leave the city, so I ask the girls if they want to walk to a coffee shop.  I plug Starbucks into my phone and we take off on a 5 block walk.

1:35: The Starbucks is located almost exactly in the “center” of downtown, which means prime people watching! We are across from a HUGE skyscraper, and there are people on scooters and bicycles, golf carts, and police cars. There are people of all kinds, doing all sorts of things. The girls have a grand time staring out the window and asking tons of questions while eating cake pops.  (I have an iced soy latte.)

IMG_4083.JPGI love this time.  I want the girls to be comfortable around all kinds of diversity–people of different ages, sex, ethnicity, races, professions, abilities, languages, and subcultures.  I want them to feel comfortable in an urban setting, to understand city safety, and to be curious.

We have enjoyed about 25 minutes of people watching when Riley suddenly screams out at top volume, “I have something in my private area.”  I pretend not to notice the business people trying not to stare at us as we head to the bathroom, where Riley learns the word “wedgie,” Zoe screams in abject terror about the automatic dryer, and a construction worker tries to hit on me as I leave the bathroom with my two children.  Maybe that’s enough of city life…

2:05: Zoe loves photography, so I give her my phone to take some photos as we walk back.  She asks Riley and I to pose on a bench…

IMG_4085.JPGand in front of a wall with “neat texture” (Instagram husband, anyone?) Here are a few of her photos from our walk back.

IMG_4091

IMG_4097

IMG_4112

IMG_4126I love her eye.

On our way back, I take the girls into a neat historic church.  They are very concerned that we will be arrested because it isn’t Sunday.

Riley’s legs also stop working, which I had expected, and I wind up carrying her the five blocks back.

2:45: I drive to the gas station to fuel up for our trip back to the ‘burbs. Zoe is writing a story and Riley is drawing. I can tell they’re going to fall asleep, so I turn on a podcast on branding. IMG_4130.JPG3:30: We arrive back at our house.  Traffic wasn’t bad until I began following a school bus for the last two miles of our trek. The girls each enjoyed a 20 minute nap in the car.  They are very cranky and hungry when I wake them up.

We usually do an afternoon quiet time followed by 1 hour of TV, but I can tell they just need to zone out, and I have a work phone call I need to make, so I make the kids a snack of strawberries, chips, and cheese and summon my favorite babysitter, Sofia the First.

3:40: I throw some laundry in AGAIN and chat with my Florida friend and colleague for about 20 minutes about her new branding and a project we are working on together.  She confesses that she is one week into summer and forgot how little she can get done with her children around, so can we push our timeline back? YES WE CAN.

It’s the last day of the month, so I do my monthly client reports and invoicing.  I’m also hungry since I never ate lunch, so I make some tuna salad and have a few crackers. Here’s a glimpse into my office…IMG_4134I planned to take the kids outside and do the water table around 4:30, but it begins thundering, so I just let Sofia continue to work her magic, switch some laundry, start the spaghetti, and keep working on a foundation research project for a client.  Sofia is the most reliable babysitter I have found in our new town, so I’m not teaching this semester (just continuing with ongoing client work).  I’m really glad I didn’t take on more.

I also briefly text with a friend to a) plan tomorrow night’s happy hour and b) congratulate her for showing up in Joan Garry’s weekly email!

5:20: I serve the kids spaghetti, which Zoe complains is “too pasta-y.”  I make myself a salad with craisins, feta cheese, and almonds because I ate so recently.  During dinner, we FaceTime a family member who has had a rough week, and enjoy catching up.

6:10: Bath time! 15 minutes of water play and 5 minutes of cowashing/hair detangling!

IMG_41406:45: David walks in the door carrying a hummingbird feeder and homemade muffins from a congregation member (totally normal) and helps me read, sing, find transitional objects, and coax girls to sleep.

7:00-7:20: I run upstairs several times to fix various emergencies like “my blanket fell off,” “you forgot to say my words” (I said them), “I’m not tired,” and “I’m scared.”  I finally issue the trump card: “if I have to come up here again, you won’t get a muffin in the morning.”

7:30 “…She found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left” (Mark 7:20). The girls are asleep.

I plate David’s dinner, clean up the girls’  plates and places, do the dishes, switch the laundry once again, pour a glass of wine for each of us, and talk briefly with David. Then I work for 45 more minutes.  I also get an email from a friend who is running for the Florida House of Representatives, and marvel at how awesome and accomplished my friends are!

8:40: Connect and hang with David.  Keeping it real, we get into an argument slash relationship growth opportunity.  I also eat a muffin.

10:00: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” – Psalm 3:5 Bedtime! I think I fell asleep in less than 5 minutes.

I’m realizing that this summer, I will really need to pray for “daily bread” in the form of energy and patience to keep up with my kids’ energy level.  I am also remembering that last summer I began a “two shots of espresso at 1 pm” habit…

But still…I know that I am very blessed to be able to direct the fun and coach the girls through their daily emotions and experiences.  I’m excited for the rest of summer!

Changes

So, we moved to North Carolina.  I feel like I should punctuate that with an exclamation point, because shouldn’t I be excited about this big change in my life?, but that feels a little false.  I could also punctuate it:

So, we moved to North Carolina?

Or:

So, we moved to North Carolina…

Perhaps the ellipses is the most accurate, because I don’t know what’s next!

We have been here about nine weeks, and a lot has happened during that time. So, upon several requests, I am bringing the blog back (at least for this update).  IMG_3840.JPGSome of this story is just David’s, but in short, he has been wrestling with his call for a while.  We both absolutely loved our church in Florida, but he was feeling restless.  When he was first approached about applying for a new position, I was in one of the hardest seasons I have ever been in and flat-out told him NO.  You cannot disrupt our life right now; it is hard enough.  I cannot cope with more.  If you are gone any more, if we have any fewer resources at our disposal, if I have to implement one more change, that will be the straw that breaks me.

Although I told him no, it began an almost two-year conversation about what a new call might look like.  What would make us leave the people we loved and the important work we both did in our community? What would be “worth it?” Every few months he would hear from a church wondering if he was interested in an interview.  We said no every time.  We both acknowledged that we would likely move at some point so that David could advance in his career track, but you don’t leave a job when things are going well (or so we thought).

Things got easier with the kids.  Last spring, I was offered an exciting job opportunity.  The position would require me to stay in our area for the next three years.  David told me that I should take it–then told me three days later over tacos and my tears,  “I don’t think I can commit to staying here that long.”

This timeline was new to me.

(I want to pause here and say that marriage is a growth opportunity.  It’s easy to say the vows; it’s harder to make choices that prioritize another person’s happiness over your own.  Deciding, ok, your fulfillment is more important than mine—I’ll figure it out is SCARY. Yet I believe it is what we are called to, and I believe that God will bless us when we are obedient.

There are, of course, more complex layers to this decision involving long-term finances and health insurance and childcare–and in some of those decisions, David has laid down some of his happiness for us.  So don’t interpret this as my martyr story.  Healthy, loving families sacrifice for one another; marriage generally works best if you do, too. Moving along…)

I didn’t commit to the job opportunity.  But the conversation had shifted something anyway.  I noticed that David began to say “when we move” instead of “if we move.”  Things were going well for him AND for me professionally and personally, and the kids were thriving, so I pretended I couldn’t hear him.

In November, David went on a weeklong retreat for pastors.  I sent him away somewhat rudely, telling him he needed to figure out why he was so restless.  I assumed they would tell him to try harder to have a positive attitude, or something.  Instead, the vocational coaches told him he was restless because he was ready for a senior pastor position.

He came home and had barely updated me on the retreat when two churches contacted him to set up interviews for a senior pastor position.  Two in one week.  And here is where I sort of lost my mind, because THIS WAS MOVING SO FAST, and when I said, “figure out your restlessness” I didn’t mean, “move our family in the next few months.”

Yet just eight weeks later, I found myself in a tiny rental car, driving towards a a small town in North Carolina.

Over a long weekend, I learned that this church wanted and needed my husband’s exact skill set.

I could see the opportunities in front of the church and the growing community; I could see how his gifts would allow this church to expand their ministry and share God’s love with more people.

But I was so comfortable in Florida. I was happy.  Life was running smoothly(ish)—finally. 

IMG_3404As I spoke, journaled, prayed them—these objections disturbed me.  I used to want to be a missionary in another country—and now I wouldn’t BE MISSIONAL because I was too comfortable? Since when was my comfort a good decision-making standard? And was my happiness truly contingent upon being in a 5-mile geographic radius, or was God big enough to fulfill me anywhere? Could I trust God to help me handle the transitions that would come with a big life change, or not?

Long story short, through lots of prayer (mine were mostly “DON’T DO THIS TO ME PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO ME CRAP I THINK YOU MIGHT WANT ME TO DO THIS”) and with the help of wise counsel and a good offer, we decided to take the job.  I still wasn’t totally jazzed, but the logical part of me saw how all of this was good, and I didn’t want to hold us back with my selfishness.

Mechanically, I got ready for the move.  But my heart wasn’t in it.

IMG_3063About a month later, just before we announced our move, I was perched on my kitchen bar stool, reading and journaling and doing my best to work through all this when I got to Romans 10:

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

And for the first time, I could picture more than my comfortable life.

I pictured the small town, growing by the day.  I pictured the church–which has been ministering to the community since the 1700s.  I remembered the search committee’s description of the church: their sincere desire to share good news with their community, and their longing for someone to equip them to be the best messengers possible.

I realized that while I was begging NOT to be sent, they were begging TO be sent.

And then God hit me over the head with this thought (from my BSF lesson):

IMG_3070What if I stepped out—and something amazing happened in someone else’s life because of it? What if someone found Christ because I agreed to move? That would be worth it. 

And here, I found a vision that compelled me more than my comfort.  I still wasn’t (and honestly still am not) happy to leave my friends and community, and man, it has been a lot of work, but I feel purpose in this transition.  David is doing a great job.  The church is thrilled to have his leadership.  The community is responding.

We have a new house, in a wonderful school district.  I have six new friends’ names and numbers in my phone.  I even got here in time to plant a garden…and it’s growing!

IMG_4026I didn’t picture this.  I didn’t plan this.  But once again, I find myself “journeying with Him.”  Surrendering to the mystery of the journey.

Even enjoying the journey.

Maybe I’ll blog about the journey?

Spring Thoughts

I’ve been a horrible blogger this year.

Working part time instead of “very” part time has killed my desire to spend any extra time behind a computer screen. Additionally, Zoe stopped napping last year (June 13, 2016 is basically my personal Pearl Harbor Day), and having a constant companion makes it hard for me to even know what my thoughts are, much less to process them in prose.

Also, as a writer, I typically draw a lot of inspiration from the world around me (that seems so adorably retro now, like carrying around a CD case in your Honda Civic and paying for your gas in a mixture of dollar bills and quarters…a sweeter, more naive time).  I’ll spare you the political talk but man, it’s bleak out there. I also draw inspiration from my faith, and 2017 has been weird spiritually as I attempted to “read through the Bible in a year.”  Who knew that the layout of the One Year Bible would suck all joy out of my spiritual life as I came to dread each day’s reading? I got almost two weeks behind with everything going on with my grandmother, and tried to catch up, but the layout of this reading plan had me reading essentially the same stories and laws for two months.

I didn’t want to catch up.  I wanted it to end.

By late April, I was only reading it because I felt like it was a chore I “should” get through, and that I “should” finish what I started out to do.

But as Shauna Niequist puts it, “should is a warning sign,” and as a recovering perfectionist, I am really sensitive to how quickly “should” can corrupt something good for me.  So this week, I quit.  I want my relationship with God to be a soft place to land, where grace can be given and accepted, where my heart is glad and free and knows it is loved. Life is hard enough without creating burdens for ourselves. God tells us to be diligent about knowing, remembering, teaching, and living the Word—but He did not say we have to read through it in a year.  🙂

67648901

(I made it further than this, but basically, yeah.)

I’m trying to be more sensitive to the “shoulds” in my life—which, when combined with the other reasons listed above, is why you haven’t heard much from me this year.  I don’t want to blog because I “should.”  I want to blog as a natural outflow of my inspired, reflective heart.  My heart isn’t quite there right now, but despite the lack of self-reflection, I’ve been enjoying life! I’m in a good place in so many ways.

Zoe has been doing so well with managing her emotions over the last few months, which makes an incredible difference in my energy level and my own emotions.  She just gave me a Mother’s Day present that she made at preschool that includes a photo of her from the beginning of the school year.  She was so uncomfortable with many situations then, and was dependent on me to help her figure out coping strategies.  The progress between then (left, the best picture they could come up with because she was so uncomfortable…it was like a photo shoot of misery) and last week (right…joy-filled as she enjoys African dance with her class) is visible.

Praise God that she has come so far. I have learned a lot over the last year about how to advocate for what my daughter needs, but have also learned that I can only take her so far and then have to trust God, the community He has given us, and herself to take her the rest of the way. God has been gracious to continually remind me that He is my partner in raising my children, and that it’s not all up to me. It is not chance that the church we “happen” to serve at has an inclusive preschool program that “happens” to be the best place possible for her. I got her on the waiting list when she was one week old; I had no idea we’d need or benefit from the inclusive services. But God did.

Sally Clarkson writes about learning to trust God with her “different” child:

“If you accept this child as a gift from Me, I will use him as a blessing in your life. Let go of your questions, fears, and guilt. If you submit to My will with a humble heart, I will carry this burden for you so you can find peace…

A sense of freedom filled my heart when I understood that I didn’t have to solve all our problems at once or even understand them. God would be with me every step of the way. He would fill in the holes of my inadequacy with His grace” (p. 23).

I am finding this to be so true—the surrender, the peace, the freedom, the gift. And yes, I should probably just hand over the keyboard to Sally Clarkson and let her write this blog.

Maybe because of this freedom, my work/life balance has felt mostly on point for several months.  I’ve been stepping into rest more easily than in the past.  I’ve been vocalizing the things I want to do to have fun, and enjoying my city, my family, and my friends (I’m trying to do one new thing per week, which is a great challenge if you want to up your joy a little bit). Daylight Savings Time added two hours of daylight to my life and some serious pep to my step.

I’ve been quitting things that came from good intentions but didn’t feel quite right, like the reading plan and my monthly cleaning checklist…I’ll just live in filth, thanks.

I’ve been adding joy to my life through podcasts and exercise and reading and buying the expensive hummus (just do it—it’s amazing).  I’ve set up some fun rhythms with the girls, like watching some of The Voice every week when David works late (my final four predictions: Lauren, Chris, Brenley, and Hunter.  Lauren, I’ll buy your album.  Hunter, would it kill you to emote?!!)

One of my favorite podcasts talked about how truly stopping work can be impossible when you have young children, and how a more appropriate goal for Sabbath may be to “play.”  Instead of “resting,” focus on doing what you love and enjoy.  I’m so on this train.

This year has me traveling more than any other year in recent memory, which I am so excited about….I’ve already been to Philadelphia twice and Watersound, Florida once, and I’ll be making trips to North Carolina, Texas, and Minnesota in upcoming months, each with a different combination of family members. Pray for our ten hour car ride next week…

IMG_0337I’m not doing any type of regular formal ministry at all right now (for the first time in 7+ years) and a few of my high school girls (who were then my college girls, and are now my POST COLLEGE girls…what?!!) are coming back to town to start big-girl jobs.  I’m excited about the possibilities for continued mentoring and friendship, but cautious about committing. If God leads me this direction and opens this door, I would be very happy to step into a new chapter of mentoring young women.  But He may just want me to keep taking care of my little ones, and that’s okay too.

So, I’ve been a horrible blogger, but I’ve been a great live-r of life! I just wanted to write a little post to share that I am happy and healthy.  I will be back when I have something of greater substance to say (or when summer break drives me to sarcasm), but until then, I hope you all are enjoying your lives as well!

And Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms!

Celebrating

I haven’t written for a while because my Nana died, and I didn’t know how or what to write about that.  I was able to travel to say goodbye to her, and I have to say that I know God is real when you can sit at your Nana’s kitchen table, silent and jumbled-up and with an aching soul—and simultaneously knowing and feeling that He is at the table with you, not because you’re doing or saying or thinking anything good, but because He is good and He loves you.  God has met me in some very interesting places over the years, and this is one I’ll always remember—not because a miraculous healing occurred or because my heart was overcome with joy or because I heard a clear message or suddenly felt equipped to do the hard thing in front of me, but because He was there, and that was enough.

IMG_0121

I could talk for a long time about the experience of saying goodbye to someone, but Nana directed our feelings when she shared with us, “Don’t be afraid. This was easy.  I know where I’m going, and I’ll see all of you there.”  It was a sweet time, and I’m so, so grateful I got to be there.

A few weeks later, I was privileged to join my entire family to celebrate her life.  There was fresh snow, a freezing graveside service, a beautiful and inspiring church service, tears, laughter, wine, coffee, and unexpected train rides, so the entire thing felt a little bit surreal-ly balanced between happy and sad.

IMG_0197

After saying goodbye to Nana and beginning to reflect on her legacy, I have a clarified outlook on what really “sticks” at the end of your life, and I’m freshly aware that I am responsible for living now as the kind of person I want to be.  Sifting through Nana’s life made me realize that I want to be more intentional about being a good friend, making family memories, and doing the things that I enjoy (instead of thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to…” and then shelving the activity for some unspecified date).  

Thus…

Zoe and I went on a breakfast-and-sunrise date last week.

IMG_0282

IMG_0283

I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful weather and taking my girls to the beach with friends.

IMG_0146

When we leave the beach, we often stop for a sweet treat.  I’ve decided it’s just going to be an official, regular thing now.  I want my adult children to say, “remember when we were little and we’d go to the beach, and we’d always get ice cream/a chocolate muffin?!! That was the best!!!” 

I went on a beach weekend with my own friends, too (and we left the kids behind)!!!! This should also be an official, regular thing. 🙂

I went to an international fitness dance expo with two similarly dance-crazed friends and danced for two hours.

IMG_0274Clearly, we looked just like the lead dance instructor. #not

I’ve been enjoying a walk or two on our treadmill each week once the girls are in bed.  I wear Zoe’s toddler headphones (which don’t fall out of my ears like the dumb iPod ones) and praisewalk/dance like a loon to random Christian music playlists.  IMG_0262

I have thoroughly been enjoying my little ladies and the daily adventures they bring into my life.

IMG_0213

IMG_0295

IMG_0330

IMG_0324

IMG_0170

IMG_0331

I am trying to find the humor and universality in the little annoyances of parenting.

IMG_0134

And I am trying to soak up the little moments…because they add up to the bigger picture of my life.

IMG_0300

Thank you, Nana, for all you taught me, and for all you keep teaching me.

 

Little Lessons, Big Impact

I just walked through my house, turning off lights in empty rooms, and a mental light turned on at the same time as I realized: I do this because my dad taught me to. 

There was a point in my adolescence where my dad explained that electricity cost money, and began fining us 25 cents for every unnecessary light we left on. We rolled our eyes and thought he was being ridiculous, but quickly adjusted our behavior when we had to hand over our precious quarters.

DSC04576.JPG

BECAUSE I NEEDED THOSE QUARTERS FOR GAS MONEY.

And now, 16-or-so years and some blessed maturity later, I’m walking through my own house, turning unnecessary lights off.

I am in such a training phase right now with my kids.  I am constantly giving direction, redirection, praise, coaching, and enforcing do-overs.  My girls recently started fighting with one another for the first time; dual time-outs are a daily occurrence.

Ideally, I’d like to be promoting values and proactively teaching my kids, but I have to respond to behaviors so many times per day that it feels hard to move out of reaction mode and towards any “bigger picture” ideals.

I was listening yesterday to an interview with Sally Clarkson in which she said:

“A lot of women give up [on a certain ideal they want to have for their family] when they really are making progress, and their kids really are listening—they just haven’t gotten old enough to own it for themselves and to verbalize back to you how important it was to them.  I see so many people giving up at the wrong moment.”  

She explains that the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) doesn’t say your child will go the right way immediately; it takes time  and maturity for that training to sink in. When he’s young? He needs lots of coaching and reminders!

I loved these back-to-back reminders that all of this training is a process—a process that can, occasionally, develop habits and thoughts that last for a lifetime.

So here are three things I’m trying to intentionally teach my girls right now, knowing it might take a lifetime to soak in:

(1) “God made you so, so special.  He loves you just the way you are.”    

One of my girls is beginning to realize that she is different from others, both in how she copes with things (“why am I more sensitive than them? I wish I was brave like her”) and in her appearance.  Additionally, she has been dealing with some teasing from her preschool classmates about her beautiful hair, to the point that she asks for a ponytail every day that she goes to school so the attention to her hair will be minimized (this is where I want to cry a little bit, because seriously, 3 year olds? I thought we had a few more years).

We have spoken with the teachers about the teasing, have brought in books that celebrate black hair and read them to her classmates, and (already) read these books at home.  We also got her a doll with natural hair for Christmas, as this perceptive child pointed out that all of her black dolls had relaxed (straight) hair, which I hadn’t even realized.  This was her face when she pulled the wrapping paper off and found a natural hair doll:

IMG_5423.jpg

IMG_5426.jpg

img_5428

The first thing she said was “her hair looks just like mine!!!” I can’t help but think that seeing this beautifully-wrapped, fancily-dressed doll made her realize that she must be beautiful if someone would design a doll to look just like her.

I want my girls to know deep in their core that they are created on purpose by a master creator, loved for who and how they are, and wanted.  So I’m reminding them at every possible opportunity:

When they’re good at something: It’s because God made you special, and part of His special plan was to make you good at this particular thing.  

When something’s hard for them: It’s because God makes everyone special and different, and He made you good at something else, and likes to watch you try and try and get better at this! 

When they aren’t like a friend: It’s because God makes everyone special and different.  He didn’t make any two people exactly alike, but you’re both special.    

When they don’t like something about themselves: God still made you special, and He loves you just the way you are. 

(2) “Let’s talk to God about that. He loves to hear our prayers.”

Prayer has never been my strongest spiritual practice.  I can praise God easily, but I like to bring my problems to God as a last resort, after I’ve pro-con-listed different solutions, maybe worried over it a little, and talked about it with a friend.  (I’m working on this.)

It occurred to me about six months ago that if I never show my children how to talk to God about their problems, my children will see me as their god.  If Zoe tells me, “I’m scared of being alone in my room!” and all I do is give her a list of suggestions to be less scared, I’ve taken away her power and His.

When I talk with her about her fears and then lead her to share them with God, I’ve taken myself off the throne and instead empowered her by giving her the tool to finding peace—and the chance to trust God and watch Him work.

img_0034

So I’m reminding all of us:

Let’s tell God that we’re scared and ask Him to help you calm down and sleep well.

Let’s ask God to help us not get so frustrated.

Let’s tell God that you’re nervous about going to school and ask Him to help you feel brave.  

 

(3) “There’s always a Plan B.  Let’s think of some ideas.”

I’m the queen of rigidity.  It’s really annoying, and I’m trying to spare my kids from having this be part of their personality.  So I’m trying to train them to think of a list of possible solutions and alternate ideas when their first idea doesn’t work, instead of freezing and/or melting down in frustration.  I want them to know that there are always lots of options if they can just get enough outside of their feelings to think creatively.

We don’t have time to go to the park because the sun is setting soon, but we can ride our bikes in our driveway before it gets dark, or do some water play in the bath tub. What are some other things we could do? 

She didn’t answer the way that you wanted her to.  What are some things we could say next?  

It is very frustrating when things break. We could hit our sister in anger and go to our room, or we could try to fix this together. Which do you think we should try? 

 

These are just a few of the “ideals” I’m holding up every day, and to be honest, sometimes I’m not sure I’m communicating them well or enough.  I’m not sure my kids are listening or watching.  I’m also not sure I’m the best messenger for ideals that I myself struggle with!

But I can tell you this: last week, my stroller broke while I was on a walk with Riley.  It was not my Plan A to sit on the sidewalk with Riley watching stroller repair videos on my phone before realizing that I needed a wrench to fix it, and then having to walk eight blocks carrying a 30 pound child and a stroller that I was holding in a perpetual wheelie.

img_0067

I felt all kinds of frustrated.  Plan A was good! A walk! Exercise! Why is everything so hard? This is exactly what I’m talking about—how can I create a strategy for communicating these big-picture ideals if I’m always responding to emergencies?! 

But later I saw what Riley was doing with her toy stroller.

img_0068She’s trying to fix it on the side of the road.  She’s doing what I so imperfectly modeled.

And now I know: in 16+ years, my little girls might find themselves turning off a light, or thinking of a plan B, or talking to God in prayer, or (I hope) smiling at themselves in the mirror knowing God made them.  So I’ll keep going with the training and the ideals, even in the imperfect moments. Because it does add up to a better person.  And one with a lower electricity bill.

And to my parents: thank you for parenting us so intentionally. I am only now beginning to realize how much energy and thought that must have taken! You are my role models! 

2017 Goals / Powersheets Review

We’re 19 days into 2017 and I have to say, so far, I have liked this year, minus the news that someone close to me is sick.

I usually do some posts about goal setting around the New Year, but this year, I took it offline and went through Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system.  Powersheets are not for everybody—my mom said “this is a NIGHTMARE” when I showed her the book, and David kept karate-chopping the air and saying “POWERSHEETS” dramatically whenever I would talk about it—but I’m really enjoying the way the system encourages you to break down bigger goals into small action steps.

I’ll keep my 55 pages of “whys” and “what I want to cultivate” to myself in case you’re on Team My Mom and all of this make you want to barf, but I still wanted to share a few of my goals, in case they encourage anyone else!

My big goals for the year are: 

  1. Establish a pattern of intentional action, celebration, & rest.

  2. Infuse my life and work with more creativity.

  3. Develop a deeper awareness of God’s presence and voice. Live with awareness of spiritual reality.

  4. Keep cultivating a fun & flourishing marriage.

  5. Embrace and enjoy this season. Engage in the little moments and enjoy them as gifts. Use what I have now instead of looking ahead/behind.

  6. Be proud of how I use my energy.

img_9373
Through the Powersheets process, I created small action steps that let me see that I am making progress on these goals. It’s really energizing and encouraging.  Here are a few of my daily goals for January that fit into the big goals:

Read the Bible/have quiet time every day.  I’ve been waking up whenever my first child wakes up (usually between 5-5:30) and giving them a little bowl of dry Cheerios to eat in their bed with some books.  Then I go out to the kitchen and journal and read with my tea until 6 am when the kids are allowed out of bed. I’m using the One Year Bible and so far, I’m keeping up!!! At one point, I got three days behind and almost gave up because every day is a lot of content, but I spent two nights catching up and I’m back on track! Whoohoo! Since I have committed to this goal, I am also going to bed earlier, so I feel better rested in general.

Complete one cleaning task per day. I made a list of all the “once a month” cleaning tasks, and am doing one per day. (For example, today, I washed our windows, mirrors, and appliances.)  This way, I don’t have to strain to remember what should be cleaned—I just consult the list and see what seems like fun not awful to do that day.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.

Have “present lunch.” I’m trying to sit down and engage in conversations with or read to my girls during lunch time, instead of shuffling through the mail, cleaning up the dishes, scanning my e-mail, texting a friend to coordinate afternoon plans, etc.  Mealtimes are hard for Zoe and she often doesn’t eat lunch on Riley’s schedule, so the bonus of living out this goal is that I often end up getting 1×1 time with each girl.

Sit down for 1×1 reading time with each girl each day.  We usually do a bedtime story, but I want to do more reading with each girl.  So far, this has been the hardest goal because my children do not sit still for long!

img_9330My weekly (non-work) goals this month are:

Take a Sabbath each week–celebrate and rest! I started this over the fall, and felt the desire to continue to grow in this area.  I am reading an amazing book that is deepening my practice of and commitment to Sabbath.  One great idea from the book: make dinner easy on your Sabbath day.  The last two weekends, I have picked up a prepared meal from our grocery store on Sabbath, and it really lets me sink deeper into relaxation when I know that dinner is already taken care of and there aren’t any dishes!

Work out four times. I have been in a steady routine of 3x/week for the last year, but I was ready to challenge myself! Having this goal “forces” me to exercise one evening or weekend day each week, which builds on my weekly “Sabbath” goal since I find exercise really fun and recharging!

Listen to a podcast each week. This encourages my creativity and can also encourage me spiritually and/or in my marriage, depending on which podcast I’m listening to!  My favorite podcast is The God Centered Mom, but I also really enjoy Creative Empire, Coffee & CrumbsInspired to Action, and just about anything Lara Casey puts out.

Complete weekly life planning. Figure out what our obligations are, what we’re eating, who’s buying the groceries and when, what the girls and I will do during our time together, when David and I will work out, what my work projects are and when I’ll do them, and what needs to be done around the house.

Speak my people’s love languages. Looking at this goal each week helps remind me to speak love to my family members in the way they receive it, not just the way that is easy/natural to me.  For Riley, my cuddler, I seriously just have to remember to sit down throughout the day and make my lap available to her.  It’s a simple way to love her, but I’m not the “sit down” OR “cuddle” type, so I have to remind myself to do it. Within ten seconds, she’s usually on my lap, so I know it’s filling her little love tank.

img_5274(Fun fact: Zoe took this photo!)

With the Powersheets system, you check in every day and every week and indicate with progress bars and check boxes how you’re progressing towards your goals.  I have found that it is really easy to remember to do this, and it’s so motivating to see that I am actually making progress on goals that otherwise feel abstract.  I love looking at my week with the goals in mind and deciding when I’m going to take small steps that add up to meaningful goals, instead of just hoping that I have time to take the steps.  I also really enjoy the Powersheets philosophy of setting meaningful goals, pursuing progress over perfection, and taking small steps that add up to your big goals.

Basically, if you’ve been on the fence about Powersheets, I either just convinced you to purchase them, or run far, far away, depending on your personality type.

This weekend, I’ll be checking out a potential future kindergarten for Zoe, organizing our storage room with David while my in-laws watch the girls (we’re turning it into a home gym space!!), meeting a friend for coffee, and skipping church and taking the girls to the beach to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday.  I’ll also be starting my friend Brittnie’s new book.  I can’t wait!

What are you up to? 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Late November

We just got back from our annual Thanksgiving-ish beach trip, which is always one of my favorite weeks of the year.

This fall, I had worked ahead so I didn’t have to take any work along and the trip could be a true time of rest. I decided to prioritize listening to my body and get as much rest as it told me to.  It turns out that my body is very tired.  One night, I went to bed one night at 7:45 pm and slept until the girls woke up at 5.

When I’m at the beach for the week, lazily reading books and taking walks and pushing my kids on swings, it’s hard to remember what tires me out at home and why I never sit down before 8 pm.  Then I come home and remember–oh, we have friends and family members that want to speak with us, clothes that need to be washed instead of stuffed back into a suitcase, a house that actually needs to be maintained, clients who need responses to questions so we can afford to live, children who need more nutrition than french fries and mac and cheese provide, and long-term goals we need to advance towards.

Oh yeah, that.  All of it good. All of it a blessing.

But it’s also a blessing to walk the beach, drink a glass of red wine at 4 pm, throw everyone in the car without brushing anybody’s hair, and drive to a restaurant with “Crabby” in its title, before coming home and going to bed early without doing a single dish. Amen?

1123160818(Zoe was feeling the vacation too…I walked into her bedroom in the condo one morning and found that she had quietly drawn this sweet picture of the four of us smiling on vacation!)

Other fall updates: 

Sabbath – As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m making a concentrated effort to take a weekly Sabbath again.  Getting started “resting” will always be hard for me, but I noticed over the course of the fall that I become more comfortable with Sabbath and begin enjoying it sooner in the day each weekend that I practiced it.  Here are some things I/we have done with our Sabbaths:

  1. Ripping out hideous bushes in the front of our house and replacing them with cool plants  (gardening is not part of our usual work week, so this totally felt Sabbath-y)!
  2. Decorating our house for Halloween.
  3. Visiting a “pickers” market and indulging in my love of antiquing/vintage furniture (I bought a new light fixture for the kitchen…when I finally get an electrician out here to hang it, I’ll report back)!
  4. Having a friend over to teach me more hairstyles for Zoe’s hair.
  5. Planning and hosting our block party.
  6. Having lunch and visiting a garden center with my mother-in-law.
  7. Working out while I left everyone else at home.  🙂
  8. Meeting a friend for coffee.
  9. Reading a book! I’ve been averaging 1 per week.  My best reads this fall were Present Over Perfect and Hungry Heart.  I typically don’t critique other people’s art in writing because I like to encourage the expression of the human spirit, but life is short, so I’ll tell you to save yourself a weekend and avoid Commonwealth. 
  10. Visiting parks with the girls.
  11. Serving as the purchasing coordinator and childcare support for a very important back yard project: A SWING SET!!! Thanks to my awesome and talented dad for planning and building an amazing swing set for our girls! (Unpictured due to privacy concerns…but here is a picture of Zoe swinging elsewhere!)1121161652a

Work – Work-wise, the fall season has been exactly what I hoped for: I was able to explore new clients and new types of work, and gather information about what my ideal client mix looks like.  I’m not on “holiday cruise control” yet, but I’m getting there. My students are one assignment and one exam away from the finish line of our fall course.  I’m done with one grant writing contract for the year; the other two extend through part of 2017, along with a new client (a local children’s museum). This fall, also I helped a new nonprofit get set up, did some copyediting (having a critical personality is annoying but lucrative), and fell in love with helping high school seniors write college admissions essays (if only this was a year-round need…the intersection of empowering adolescents, helping them understand their stories and tell them well, and persuasive writing is totally my sweet spot)!!

Keeping these balls in the air is thrilling, but also stressful, and I realized at some point about two months ago that I am often moving too fast to celebrate my successes.  I am honestly more excited sometimes about checking something off of my to-do list than I am about the thing that I did MEANING something.  That’s weird, and seems like a ticket for the Burnout Express.  So, I have been training myself to pause and celebrate the successes.  Here are two: the last two months, I won $44,000 in separate grants for a grant writing client, and one of “my” high school seniors has been offered over $28,000 in scholarships so far! Par-tayyy!

img_5265

Potty training – We finished Z’s potty training in the spring and figured we were done for the year, but Riley initiated her own potty training about 7 weeks ago.  If I have accomplished nothing else this year, I have taught two people bladder control.

Identity crisis – After 12 years of starting my morning with a mug of black coffee, I switched to green tea in September. Who am I?!  (Answer: less caffeinated.  Also, less prone to a midday crash and GI issues that had crept up.)  I debated sharing this because I have a coffee-loving image to uphold, but this is what qualifies as “news” these days.  Consider yourself informed (and invited for your post-lunch latte, which is still a thing, because I need to recognize myself in the mirror/make it through the day).

Halloween – In a wildly unpredictable costume choice, Zoe was Elsa for Halloween.  She was also very eager to get trick-or-treating, so this family photo was the best we could do of the four of us:

dsc08416(Not pregnant – just phoning in a costume).

Christmas tree – has been chosen.

1125161117aNothing says “Christmas cheer” like Crocs, a Minnie Mouse Halloween costume, and a thin layer of sweat from the 80 degree weather.

Also, check out Zoe’s cornrows.  I have to say, I’m becoming a bit proud of my black hairstyling skills (when Zoe will sit still enough for me to use them).  Here’s a more basic two-strand twist:

IMG_5132.JPGTo other mamas attempting to learn styles: I would highly recommend the book Better than Good Hair,  and finding a friend who works for a nonprofit organization designed to help black girls celebrate their culture.  The latter may be a little more difficult to find, but amazingly, God has gifted me with such a friend! I am so grateful.  I actually have another hair story to tell you, but this post is getting too long, so I’ll share it another time.

Off to decorate the tree…

My First-Ever Political Post

Over the last year and a half, I’ve had many spirited and friendly conversations with friends and neighbors about politics, but writing my views out has always felt too pointed.  In a conversation, you can tell if you’re stepping on someone’s feelings and can quickly change the subject or address the miscommunication.  In a blog post, you can’t.

I haven’t want to hurt anyone in my family or church community by sharing my political views. I haven’t wanted anyone to feel that I don’t respect their intellect, judgment, or life experiences.  I haven’t wanted to engage in a point-by-point argument with anyone, because I enjoy simply swapping experiences and learning from one another, and don’t enjoy participating in conversations designed solely to “convert” someone to their or my point of view.  I respect others’ rights to their own beliefs and conclusions.

And so I have been silent on this space.  Actually, to be accurate, I wrote several blog posts that I didn’t post, because I value my relationships.

Behind the scenes, I read Zoe and Riley books about the political process.  I took Zoe with me when I voted a few weeks ago, so I could tell my daughter someday that she was with me when I voted for the first woman president.  Because surely he wouldn’t win.  

This morning, I had to explain to my daughter that he won.

“But Donald Trump’s not nice,” she said.  “Why is he the President?”

I don’t have an answer for you, baby.  I don’t, I thought.   

“Tell him not to be the President,” she said.  I told her that we couldn’t do that—he had won the vote.

“He’s bad!” she said.  No, I said.  I think that he’s a sad and confused man who makes some wrong choices.  And now that he’s our president, we can pray that he makes good choices.  

All morning, people have been texting me, wanting my take on what’s unfolding.  I’m not sure why, except that many people feel hurt and confused, and maybe as a pastor’s wife they expect me to be able to distribute nuggets of wisdom and comfort.  Wisdom? Comfort? It’s hard for me to feel these things about our earthly home right now.  But I do feel a responsibility, maybe, finally, to share my perspectives and a few things I’ve learned during this election season.

Here goes.

-This fall, I did not put a sign up in my yard.  However, I did plan and host our neighborhood’s first-ever block party. Twenty-six people ranging from the age of 9 months to 90 attended.  Everyone stayed past the stated end time, sitting in mismatched chairs on my lawn, chatting and laughing.  And then no one on the whole block put up a political sign.  We built bridges instead of a wall.  I am proud of my street.  I want to look for more ways to do that, and I hope others in our country take on this charge as well.

-I felt that in this election, it was more important to vote against something, than to vote for something.  It was also the first presidential election where I actually felt fear about the candidate I was not voting for, instead of thinking “I have idealogical differences from this person, but still respect him.”  I hope that our next presidential election offers more inspiring choices.

-I was surprised when men were so shocked and appalled by the sexual assault-related content in this election season.  As men denounced Trump’s actions and statements, all I could think was, where has this outrage been for my whole life? How are they surprised by his language and attitude, when dealing with this type of language and attitude has been part of my experience and the experience of every woman I know? The vast majority of the men in my life have been outstanding men who treat women with respect, but the way that Trump acted—and the fact that he was a presidential candidate—did not shock me.  My lack of shock was horrifying to David.  His horror was surprising to me.  To me, it was locker room talk—not locker room talk I CONDONE or PRAISE, but talk that was, very sadly, in line with my experiences as a woman.  It is sad to me that I was not more surprised.  We have to do better.  But sadly, I don’t feel that the outcome of this election will contribute to an advance in the way that women are treated.

-I want to thank Democrats for the fact that my daughters will never know a world in which someone who looks like them cannot be a serious contender for the role of president of the United States.  I do not share every belief your party espouses, but I am grateful that you champion underrepresented voices.

-I want to thank John McCain, Mitt Romney, and other Republican leaders who denounced Trump for taking a leadership stance within their party.  I feel badly about the situation that you—and other Republicans of similar conscience—found yourself in.  I hope you examine your role in creating this situation, and your responsibility in fixing it if you continue to attach yourself to this party.

-I have always considered myself a moderate, and have not registered or affiliated myself with a party. Although I tend to lean Democrat, I evaluate the candidates and vote for people on both sides of the aisle.  However, moving forward, I plan to register with the Democratic Party.  While I will continue to evaluate each candidate, there is no way that the greater Republican Party as it stands right now can represent my vision for America.  Numbers inform decision-making in politics, especially when you live in a swing state, and I want to make it clear that this +1 is going to a different set of ideals in hopes that this sends a message.

Plus, since our short-sighted state has closed primaries, I can now help select the candidates moving forward.  I do not think that that my newly-labeled party is perfect by any means, so as I attach myself to it, I will look for ways to use my voice to improve it. I don’t think a two-party system is perfect, either, but I feel like maybe I need to start trying to work within an imperfect system instead of trying to make a statement about its imperfections and having little voice.  We’ll see what happens.

-I want to thank Hillary Clinton for taking this job interview seriously.  You were not a perfect candidate by any means (although none of us are perfect anyway), but your debate skills and clear passion for policy have inspired me and reminded me that I can keep growing and learning for my entire lifespan, if I make the choice to stay engaged.  Thank you for supporting a peaceful transition of power.  I hope you get some time to relax now. Also, I would suggest that you avoid using e-mail moving forward.  It doesn’t seem to go well for you.

So.

When I woke up this morning at 4:20 am (for the fourth morning in a row…Daylight Savings Time, can you be outlawed in the first 100 days of a Trump presidency?? I could actually get behind THAT), someone close to me asked, “what do we do now???”

Here’s what I did: I read news, until I decided—enough.  I made breakfast for my kids.  I gave them hugs.  We had a dance party.  I did some laundry.  I went to Jazzercise.  I talked to someone who was upset by the election and let her cry for a few minutes.  I bought an expensive latte to remind myself that fear of economic changes does not control me.  I took my kids to the park.  I smiled at strangers at the park.  I reminded myself that we still live in a free country.  I reminded myself that this tiny place I live on this tiny planet in this big galaxy is just a temporary home—that God is still on the throne.  I decided to pray for our president-elect, as I have been doing throughout this election season already.  I texted with friends, listening to their feelings, trying to offer support.

I’m not thrilled by this new beginning.  But I also recognize that disengaging isn’t the answer.  So here’s my engagement.  Here’s my voice.

And here’s what I take hope in: the president is not America.  WE are America.  We work to make it what it is.  And ultimately, each of us has another, far more true identity than our nationality—and that is our identity as a child of God. I pray that we all begin to see, embrace, and work from that commonality, for when I see God in you and live like the God who is in me, this country and this world will become a better place.

Four Thoughts For The Times When Parenting is Hard

This week, I got a report from Zoe’s preschool teacher that left me in happy tears. The little girl whose preschool transition I worried about so much is a leader in her class.

I do not need my children to demonstrate any of the traditional indicators of success—as long as they are kind, happy, and doing their best, I’m overjoyed—but I saw Zoe’s natural leadership emerge when she was just fifteen months old and wondered what it would turn into.  For the last fifteen months, this potential has largely been overshadowed by her behavior, and I wondered what other qualities were being hidden by the difficulties she experiences.

I’m so glad she is learning the skills that let her be her true self.

At the same time that she has been demonstrating her abilities in school, we’ve had a hard week at home—think lots of tears, screaming, scratching herself and others, biting herself, throwing things, hitting, spitting, letting herself out the door, strange sensory-seeking behaviors, and arguing about everything. I don’t believe that these behaviors reflect her true self, I don’t judge her for them, and I don’t give up on trying to help the girl underneath come out—but I do get tired.

I’m trying my best to be honest about my parenting journey with her without throwing her privacy under the bus and without writing anything that might make her question my love for her if she ever read it. It scares me that I might do something wrong as I write about this. But at the same time, I want to be honest because I yearn to connect with others who are experiencing similar things and let them know that they’re not alone.

The truth is that parenting the child whose name means “life” has been both the joy and challenge of my recent life.  I have done harder things, but they were, like, REALLY hard things (recovering from an eating disorder) and I had plenty of professional support. (Not to mention that when I was in ED recovery, all I had to manage was myself—and now I have to manage 3 people!)

During the first few months of Zoe’s behaviors, I would feel God’s love and presence so strongly in approximately 4% of my moments, and then there would be 96% of the moments where my toddler was drawing blood from my infant’s eye in the shopping cart at Trader Joe’s and the cashiers were fluttering around with a first aid kit and concerned looks and I was asking Him WHERE HE WAS because gosh, I felt alone.

And I’d pray, and feel a little better, but then they’d wake up at 12:30 and 3 and 5 am and need so much from me, and by 3 pm my faith that God was with me through all of this would fizzle a little. If He was with me, wouldn’t He be teaching me to do this better and wouldn’t I have more energy?!

My recovery from an eating disorder took years of slow, plodding progress.  Similarly, God has not chosen to snap His fingers and make my parenting journey easier (although He just gave me in-laws six blocks away, which definitely counts for something)! 

But as I constantly remind myself, just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean I’m alone—or that I’m not learning and growing with every step.   For example, my ratio now is more like 80% “cool, you’re with me, God, thanks” and 20% “what the ACTUAL heck do I do in response to this?” Growth!

This week, I felt compelled to write down four thoughts that God has been stirring in me—four reminders for the times when my child is having a hard time, when I feel like I can’t do this right, and when I need a reminder of His truth and design.

I thought I’d share them today, even though they’re a bit of a departure from my usual blog content. If you don’t like Bible study (or if you’re not a parent), feel free to skip everything else in this post, but studying these ideas has really blessed me, and I thought they might help someone else!

img_2698

(1) God made my child, and He calls her good.  She was knit together in the image of God and is fearfully and wonderfully made; His eyes saw her unformed body and all the days ordained for her when she was still in the womb. “Your works are wonderful; I know that full well” (Genesis 1:27,31; Psalm 139).

(2) God gave her to me to parent.  “Children are a heritage from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” My daughter was placed into our family “with the help of the Lord,” and was the answer to our prayers for a child to love. He places each part in the body just where He wants it to be, according to His design (Psalm 127:3, Genesis 4:1, I Samuel 1:27, I Corinthians 12:18).

(3) I am not alone in this job. He wants to help me. He is “my rock of refuge, to which I can always go.” I am never alone; I have an advocate to help me and be with me forever. When I pray “let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me,” I can rest assured that “He is faithful to His promises” and will help me (Psalm 71:3,; John 15:26; Psalm 71:18, 22).

(4) My job is to seek and love God, and to let His love flow through me to my child.  All outcomes are up to Him. We are told to teach our children to “love God with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our strength.”  These commands are to be on our hearts, to be talked about, and to be lived “as we sit at home, as we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.”  This implies active pursuit of God in my own life. Teaching Zoe about God—and teaching her the skills she needs to be successful—are both important, but loving the Lord myself is the most important thing I can do for my children. Apart from Him, I can do nothing; fruit comes only from abiding in Him and loving as He has loved me. I can plant the seeds and water them, but in the end, only God makes things grow (John 15:12-13, 5; I Corinthians 3:7).

To recap, and make it personalized for you (if you are still reading):

God made your child and He calls him/her good.

God gave him/her to you to parent.

You are not alone in this job; He wants to help you.

Your job is to seek and love God, and to let His love flow through you to your child. All outcomes are up to Him. 

I hope these thoughts encourage you today!