Showing posts with label Blessings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blessings. Show all posts

Why I'm Glad My Blog Didn't Grow

 


Well, another one bites the dust.

Yesterday I was browsing through my Bloglovin' feed, and I saw that another one of the bloggers that I follow has decided to call it quits.  I won't link to her post here, because it was a fairly new-to-me blog, and her site will be set to private in the next few days anyway.  Every time I see a blogger decide to step back from blogging, it makes me a little introspective.  It's a good thing to periodically reflect on my blog thus far and evaluate my priorities, I just wish the trigger wasn't always a negative one.

(It's still July, so that means I can still use sparkler pictures in this post, right?)

Regardless, I was thinking over this blogger's reasons for quitting, and thinking over my own reasons for continuing to blog over the years.  My reasons for blogging now are really the same as when I started it in the first place.  I like to write.  I like to create something pretty, either with words or photographs, and I like to share when I do.  I like to have this creative outlet for myself, this place to think things through, or stretch myself, or reflect some bit of my life that I don't want to forget.  I like to make friends with people who may be very different from me, but also kind of the same.

The blog has gone through stages, morphed a bit to fit whatever phase I was going through in my life, but it always comes back to these reasons.  I'm just very thankful that it remains a safe place for me to do those things, that it remains functional for my purposes.  I don't think every blogger can say that.



That Time I Tried To Grow My Blog

There was a period of time when I was actively trying to grow this blog and earn a little money from it - partly because the extra income was helpful at that time, partly because everyone was doing it.  And didn't I need to monetize and professionalize this blog to be taken seriously as a blogger?  When I realized that trying to make this into a job was making the whole thing a chore for me, I reevaluated then too and came back to my original purposes.

You know, the funny thing is, during that period of time, I wasn't quite sure what I was doing wrong.  Why wasn't my blog growing the way so many others were?  Why did it feel like I had to fight so hard for each new follower?  It honestly was a discouraging thing to me.

But now that I am successfully past that stage and fully over the desire to grow for growth's sake, I'm actually really glad that my blog didn't grow.  Ultimately it was God's grace to me to keep this space small.



Graces Of Staying Small

Grace #1: I've had limited nastiness to deal with.

I don't worry about a lot of the things bigger blogs have to deal with as a matter of course.  I haven't had the stress of nasty comments because I have only encountered a handful of trolls in my eleven (!) years of blogging.

My husband sometimes asks me not to write about a controversial topic that is weighing on me, because he knows that I am not built to handle alot of conflict.  While I have strong opinions that I am willing to share, and I never write anything that I am not willing to stick by, often handling the discussions, even when they are good discussions, is emotionally taxing on me.  I am blessed that I haven't had to deal with much meanness, and that even when we disagree, almost every discussion I've had with people on this blog has remained respectful.

I can't claim anything I did as a strategy for a positive blog environment, I fully credit it to the Lord keeping my blog mostly in a bubble, keeping it small, and only bringing the people who needed to read it.

 Grace #2: I am a terrible receiver of glory.

A couple of months ago I read something in a book that immediately made me realize anew that it was the grace of God that my blog didn't grow.  This is what I read:

"Being glorious is for God. Giving glory is a human task....We bring glory, we give glory, we reflect glory. But we are terrible receivers of it. We cannot hold glory because it was never meant for us. We are given glory to give it to our Maker. This is our task. This is our purpose. If a pipe has no outlet for the water, it is pointless and it will burst. When a person receives glory and has no place to give it, they will burst. When they have only a little glory that they don’t know what to do with, they go sadly stagnant...I only have a little, and I am doing nothing with it. Or, I have much, but it has destroyed me. These are not good options."  -Rachel Jankovic, You Who?

This passage resonated with me so much, because I know in my heart that if I received too much glory, I wouldn't give it all over to God.  I'd hoard some of it for myself, and in the end, I think it would ruin me, and it would ruin this blog.  I know myself well enough to say this one thing: I don't need any help being prideful, and I don't need something else to be prideful about.  The Lord knows that too, and I think He saved me from some rather serious humbling by keeping me from the opportunity to be puffed up by my blog in the first place.

Grace #3: I am still writing to friends.

I remember in my first year of blogging, I told my mom that I hoped I never got more than a certain number of followers, because then it would be hard for me to respond and keep up with everyone else's blogs.  And while more people read this blog now than my original (very small) desired number, somehow the spirit of that thought has held steady.  I haven't had a conversation with every person who reads this blog regularly, because some people never comment.  But I personally know (in an online, virtual sense) a good percentage of the people who are reading this right now, and I love that I can say that.

I am thankful for everyone who reads my rather unpolished, small-blogger thoughts, thankful for those who have stuck around through the years.  And if you're reading this, I am thankful for you.  I'm glad this blog is still small and cozy and perfect for me.  It is a beautiful thing to still feel as if I am writing to friends.

As long as I can say that, and as long as I still need to get my thoughts out into written words (which will probably be forever, let's be honest), I don't plan on going anywhere.



So there's another periodic blog evaluation in the books!

I guess you're all still stuck with me. *wink*

Any thoughts about writing, or blog size, or unexpected graces?  I'd love to hear what you think!

How I Stop Comparing On Social Media





I'm sitting down with a bowl of salad and scrolling through my Facebook feed.  I have carefully curated my feed to make sure that I will only see updates that I want to see - updates on what my good friends are doing, pictures of their cute kids, interesting articles.  I have blocked all complain-y posts and I'm not friends with anyone who annoys me, so it's about as harmless as a Facebook feed can get.

But as I scroll, there is a small knot in my stomach that twists a little.  

Oh, she got to go to Hawaii?  How fun is that?  Why can't we afford Hawaii?  

Oh my goodness, look at her adorable baby.  Perfectly styled, no less.  I need to buy new outfits and take new pictures of the kids.  

Oh, the newlyweds are on another date night.  I think they've had about five date nights since Derek and I went out last.  Was that three or four months ago?

Suddenly I am feeling a little jealous and much less content with my life.  

And you know what, I can't even blame my Facebook feed - it's carefully curated, remember?  I want to see this stuff.  No, the problem isn't with social media or anything else.  It's with me.

I have a comparison problem.

I know I am not the only one who struggles with comparison - this is a hot topic.  But no matter how many articles I read on the subject, no matter how much I am reminded that I have it pretty darn good too, it is still hard not to let that knot twist me into a discontented mess.

(Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.)


I was excited when I saw a book available for review called "I'm Happy For You . . . Sort Of . . . Not Really" by Kay Willis Wyma.  Don't you love that title?  I'm not going to lie, I have secretly had those feelings in that exact order.  Many times.

This book was so helpful to me in this struggle with comparison.  As I was reading through it I was more aware of comparison than I normally am, and I realized just how much it affects my day-to-day happiness.  When I am so focused one what everyone else is doing, it's harder to be happy for the things I have, and this book brought sharply into focus for me.

The chapters addressed different areas of comparison and reasons why this is such a struggle in our modern culture.  One thing that stood out to me in this book is that comparing to others is the way we can be sucked into the sin of coveting.  Whenever we desire something that someone else has (often through comparing what we have to what they have and coming up wanting), we are coveting.  Comparison doesn't just "steal our joy", it is also a gateway into sin.

I love the solution this book offers to the comparison problem - to say "I'm happy for you" and mean it.  Without a hint of sarcasm.  It's not easy to do, but the book made me realize that being happy for someone isn't just something I feel, it is something I actively choose to do.  

It's hard to pick a favorite chapter because the whole book was so good, but I really appreciated the chapter on the need to belong.  This chapter was a good wake-up call to me that people want to feel known.  It should have been obvious to me, because I know that I want others to notice and encourage me - so of course other people want the same.  I felt challenged to look at those around me with fresh eyes, notice what makes them unique, and maybe even tell them.  I want to be the person who can make someone else feel noticed and special.

Since I started reading this book I have been trying to truly be happy for those around me.  So when I scroll through my Facebook feed, my goal is to turn off the train of thought that will lead me to be jealous of my friends, and instead smile to myself at their blessings. 

And the one thing that has helped me most in overcoming the comparison game? 

I like the status update and comment with something encouraging.  

It is really hard not to be happy for someone when you focus on crafting a non-sarcastic, truly happy comment.  It's the perfect solution because it encourages them, and I feel my own heart changing in the process.  It's a chance to slow down and remember that I do really care about this person, and I am really happy for them, regardless of my own situation.  It takes my eyes off me, and puts it onto others - and maybe even directs my mind to God as I shoot up a "thanks for blessing my friend" prayer.

So the next time you find yourself feeling a little jealous as you scroll through your social media feed?  Type out a nice comment and mean it.  I know it's made Facebook a lot more fun for me!

Do you struggle with comparison and jealousy on social media?  What do you do to overcome it?

Note:  I received a copy of "I'm Happy For You" for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.



(Also, yes, I didn't paint my toes for this picture.  (1) It's the dead of winter, and (2) no time.)

Seen




The other day we went to pick up our van from the shop.  This year, December seems to be the month for things to break. Both of our cars have broken down, Derek's computer crashed, my iPad died a sudden death, and Harvey had a horrible ear infection that resulted in his needing surgery.  Then everyone got sick right before Christmas, but that is another story for another day.

Anyway, Derek jumped out of the car to get the keys to our van and walked around the corner, but in the next instant he was back, his phone pressed to his ear.  He waved at me from the front of our car, pointed to his phone, and mouthed something to me.

And just like that, Derek got another job!  We are starting this New Year with Derek no longer unemployed!  I didn't want to say anything until the official paperwork went through, and Derek got the job offer in print a few days before Christmas!

We feel so blessed right now.  The Lord has taken care of us and helped us make ends meet during the last few weeks, and now Derek will start his new job exactly two weeks after the last of his unused vacation pay comes in!  His new job will be as an accountant with the state, and it sounds like it is going to be a great fit.

I can't even explain how loved we have felt over the last few weeks.  From my mom buying us grocery, to my sister helping us with some expenses, to a mysterious person paying the fees for my spring semester of MOPS, I have never felt so . . . seen.  Like people care about our family enough to see where we are and meet the needs we had without our even needing to ask.  I totally broke down and cried the other day, just because it is a good feeling - to be seen.

I want to thank you all for your encouraging words and prayers since I posted about our situation on the blog.  Sometimes I wonder if I should share some things, but I am so glad I did, because everyone's support has meant the world to me.

I just want say that through this short (Praise the Lord!) time, you all have inspired me to make sure that I am looking around me for those who might need encouragement.  Sometimes people try to hold it together when they are really incredibly worried and stressed, so you might not even realize someone needs kind words or a little help until you offer it.  Even if someone doesn't let on, those little gestures of love you give to someone have the power to turn a bad day into a knowledge that they are cared for - that someone sees them.  That is being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you - a reminder of His love to those who know Him, and a glimpse of His grace to those who haven't met Him yet.  And that is a beautiful thing.


5 Thing I Want My Kids To Be Thankful For



With Thanksgiving coming up (tomorrow!), I've been thinking about how I want to teach my kids to be thankful to God for their blessings.  There are so many creative ways to do that, and maybe I'll compile a list of ideas at a future time, but today I just wanted to write about some things that I want my kids to be thankful for.  I think when we consistently demonstrate gratitude and talk to kids about specific blessings, they are more likely to be thankful for those things as they grow.


I want them to be thankful for Jesus, and what He did on the cross for us.  I think it is so fitting that a holiday all about being thankful to God falls right before the season where we celebrate the birth of His Son.  It is so important to me that I teach my kids about Jesus's sacrifice in coming to earth and dying for our sins (and rising again!), and I think Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to refocus on that right before the Christmas craziness!

I want my kids to be thankful for living in America.  I still believe that America is the greatest nation on earth, with more opportunities and freedoms than any other place in the world.  It is an extraordinary blessing to be born and raised in such a country, that recognizes our God-given rights and has a rich heritage and history of being founded on biblical principles.  They also have the opportunity to control their own government, and not very many people can say that.  Only a small percentage of people in the world have what we have in this country, and I want my kids to know and appreciate that.

I want them to be thankful for their family, including their extended family.  For some it may be hard to be grateful for family, because although family members can be a source of some of the greatest blessings, they can also be involved in some of the deepest pains.  But God placed us in families for a reason, and it is a blessing to have living family and good family relationships.  Families are messy, but they are also priceless, and I want my kids to know how blessed they are to have a family that loves them.

I want my kids to be thankful for material blessings.  This is probably one of the most common categories of things that people might be thankful for on Thanksgiving, but it's important.  I heard a statistic that if you make more than $34,000 a year, you are in the top 1% of wage earners in the world. That is for individuals, not families, but it still puts things into perspective.  I want my kids to know what a blessing it is just to be warm and filled, because so many don't have even that.  Gratitude also promotes generosity, so I hope knowing how blessed they are in material ways will prompt them to also give to others.

I want them to be thankful for God's Word.  I wrote about this earlier this week, but the Bible is such a gift.  God's written word is what allows us to know about Him and to know Him personally.  I can't imagine not having it, and I want my kids to grow to love and be thankful for God's Word.



The first step in helping kids become grateful for the things that matter is to show that you are grateful for them.   It is so important to give thanksgiving to God for the things He has given us throughout the year, not just on Thanksgiving.  When we give thanks to God for our blessings in front of our kids, that genuine gratitude will rub off on them as well.

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What are some things you are thankful for, and what do you want to pass on to your kids?

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

My June Cleaver Moment

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It was late afternoon, and I had the windows rolled down.  I could hear the birds chirping outside the window, and the leaves were rustling with the breeze in that ever-so-slightly dry way that signals that summer is winding down.

I had just finished whipping up a batch of cream cheese frosting for the carrot cake I had made.  I had chili simmering on the stove.  Clyde was positioned on my hip, and I managed to get the beaters off the mixer with one hand.  I took a lick of the frosting to taste it, and then I called Wyatt and Gwen over and gave them a taste.

They bounced up and down while I let them lick the beaters dry, and then we heard Derek's truck pull up the driveway outside the window.

"Daddy's home!"

Little feet running toward the door.

Happy squeals and shouts of "Hi Dad!", as I followed the kids to greet Derek.

And I had one of those moments.  One of those "I can't believe this is my life" moments.  My mind flashed back to several years earlier, and a guest post I had written for my blog friend Anna where I talked about a June Cleaver moment like this.  Greeting my husband with the sound of little feet and a baby on my hip.

And suddenly it didn't matter that my June Cleaver moment included me in sweatpants.

It didn't matter that Clyde had been crying all day and that was the reason I was holding him while making frosting.

It didn't matter that the rolled-down windows had led to a shortened nap time when a thunderstorm woke up two of the kids.

It didn't matter that the chili and cake had been my sole accomplishments that day.

Because in that moment, I remembered.  I remembered how much I wanted a moment just like this in those early days.

I think as moms it can be easy to get so caught up in the daily tasks that we forget to look around and see what we have.  We can focus so much on all the things that are going wrong that we forget to notice the things that are right.  In moments of frustration we shoot up prayers that the Lord would just let our day go smoother, and we forget to shoot up prayers of thanks for frosting faces, babies that just want to be with mama all day, and husbands that work to make it all possible.

The light turned on in that moment, and I looked around and saw that I had the things I most wished for all those years ago.  Any remnants of frustration melted away, and instead of feeling like crying because I hadn't even had time to get dressed properly before Derek got home, I felt like crying because I remembered.

I remembered that I didn't always wish for perfect days.  I always wished for these sweet little people that fill my crazy days now.

I stopped right then and thanked God, because I remembered that I have what I always wanted, and it's okay if it's not picture perfect.  It's a beautifully blessed life that He's given me, and somehow the imperfections make me like it even better.

All About Three



I was told before we had Clyde that the transition from two to three kids is the hardest.  I tended to just brush that off.  People told me going from one to two was hard, but that transition went pretty easily for me, so I wasn't going to worry too much.

Well, now, I have to say that they are right.  But they are also wrong.

On the one hand, I feel like three has been much easier.  I remember all of the new baby stuff from my other two, and the recovery and settling in after baby has gone much more smoothly.  I feel like we have fallen into a nice rhythm with Clyde's feedings and sleep schedule, and it doesn't seem as hard to get up with him in the middle of the night as it did with the other two.

Derek was just saying the other day that he feels like going from two to three hasn't been hard at all, that it seems pretty much the same with the two of us handling all the kids.  And I have to agree - when it's Derek and me, I feel like we've got everything really under control, and it hasn't been a hard adjustment.

On the other hand, Derek isn't always here, and I've found that the transition has been hardest when I've had to take care of all three by myself.  Somehow I didn't feel overwhelmed by two kids (maybe because I have two hands?), but three leaves me feeling outnumbered.  It's just tricky to balance the needs of all three when they all three need something from me at the same time.  Wyatt is the easiest right now, because he is older and he is able to do more things by himself, and I feel bad because he doesn't get as much attention/help as the other two who can't do as much.

When Clyde was about a week old, I took all three kids to MOPS and the grocery store.  By myself.  It was probably a little nuts to try that so early, and honestly I'm not sure we would have even made it out the door if Derek wasn't there to help get us going.  But it went okay.  We handled MOPS alright, and then I somehow managed to get all three kids in and out of the store, picking up a pretty good load of groceries in the process.

By the time I got home I was exhausted, and I decided we'd wait a while before trying that again.  But all three kids went down for a nap, and I joined them, and our afternoon ended up being quite nice.  I think that's how it's been mostly - chaos, chaos, chaos, followed by sweet moments of harmony.

Overall, it's only been two and a half weeks.  I'm still figuring it out.  Give me another month and I'll probably have more constructive things to say.

But I do have to say one thing now - that quote I shared a while ago still holds true.  My hands are full . . . but my heart is even more full.

When Clyde passes out on my shoulder, his little nose tickling my neck - my heart is full.
When Gwendolyn picks out a book, crawls on my lap, and looks so intently as I describe each picture to her - my heart is full.

When Wyatt brings me the play doh or his paints, and we set him up at the table while he asks me to say "Humpty Dumpty" with him one more time - my heart is full.

I look over, and I see the sun streaming in the windows, shining on my two little toddlers lining up their toys so seriously, while my newborn swings and looks at the sky.  It's moments like those when it hits me that all the work and tears and chaos are nothing in comparison to these incredible little blessings.

I don't deserve them.  I thank God for the chance to be a mama to all three of them.  There is nowhere else I'd rather be, and nothing else I'd rather do.

I Don't Sleep Like I Used To

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I push the hair out of my eyes and squint at the clock on my bedside table, barely registering a number starting with 4.  A little voice comes squealing through the baby monitor, and I bite back a sigh.

I flip the covers back and climb the stairs, the dog following close behind, thinking about how soundly I used to sleep back in the day.  I open the door and turn on the light and she gives me a squinty-eyed look and desperate little whimper.  I go pick her up and hand her a blanket, ready for screams when I tell her she's fine and she needs to go back to sleep.  

But before I can say anything she tucks her head into the place between my chin and my collar bone, eyes closed, sucking away on her tiny thumb.  I melt a little and forget what I was going to say.

All of a sudden I can't put her down, so we stand there and rock for a few minutes.  I think I could stay there forever, but I know I better get back to bed myself, so I lay her quiet form down and tuck her back in.

I collapse in my own bed and fall asleep again almost immediately, but a couple hours later I hear a familiar, thump, thump, thump, coming down the stairs, the signal that my rest is almost over.  I roll over and open my eyes, and two little brown ones stare back at me over the edge of the bed.  

I ask if he wants to climb in bed with me, and he nods his head - this is our routine.  I hoist him off the floor and deposit him into the spot next to me where he always sits after his daddy has gone for the day.  I settle him against the pillows and pull a blanket up to his chin, but he isn't satisfied because he "f'got blanket".  His favorite blanket isn't in sight.  I tell him I'll get it and climb the stairs again in the dim beginnings of morning light.

Once he has his blanket he settles down with his toy car, his balloon, and his thumb in his mouth.  This is our time together before the day begins.

As I close my eyes with my son curled up next to me, not all is quiet - another son of mine tosses and turns and kicks, trying to get comfortable inside my womb.  Only I know, his movements and habits our secret for now.  

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He settles down, and I settle down, and the house is quiet until the sun bursts through the window a little while later.  One little voice calls from upstairs again, one little voice jabbers about brushing teeth, and one little kick greets me with "good morning, Mama".

No, I don't sleep like I used to.  But I wouldn't change a thing.

The Greatest Thing

Today is Thanksgiving.  A day when people all over the country take time to reflect on the things that they are thankful for.  I love making lists of things we are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but I think it can be easy to focus so much on the things, especially material blessings, that we forget about Who gave us these things.

This day isn't about the turkey, or football games, or even spending time with family.  This is a day to give thanks to God, not only for the blessings He has given us, but for who He is and what He has done.  It should be a day not only of thanks, but also of praise - not just for listing blessings, but for reflecting and remembering what a great God we serve and thanking Him for everything that He is.




One of my favorite passages of Scripture around Thanksgiving and Christmas is Mary's song in Luke 1:47-55:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.

 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.

 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

The lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Magnificat on Todd Agnew's Christmas CD, is based on this passage.  You can listen to it here. I feel like it presents Mary's song so beautifully, but it resonates with me so much because of how it focuses on God and His work.  

He has done great things for me, and for you.  Even if you have nothing but the clothes on your back, this is true.  We are entering into the Christmas season, when we celebrate the fact that He became a man, so he could die for us.  So He could rise from the dead and save us.  That is a great thing.  It is the greatest thing.  

God and who He is right at the top of my list, right along with this mighty thing that He has done for us. I'm so glad to serve such a strong, holy, and merciful God as this.

Minivan Mom

Introducing our new car!

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Yes, it's a minivan!

When we found out we were expecting a third (actually even before that), we realized that my little Ford Escape could not fit three car seats in the back seat.  We probably should have thought that through before we bought it last year.  Originally I thought that Wyatt might be in a booster seat before we had a third baby, and we might be able to make it work - but since he'll only be 38 months old when the new baby comes he won't meet the age or height requirements for a booster.  

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So we looked at a few different options, and in the end we decided a minivan was the way to go.  We were looking for something that could seat seven, and not only are minivans much cheaper than any other car with the ability to carry that many passengers, they get better gas mileage too.  Plus there is lots of room to carry around a potty chair, since lots of potty training is in our future.

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Minivans have a reputation for being one of the dorkiest cars you can have.  That used to bother me - I used to say I never wanted a minivan.  

I changed my mind though.  Whenever I tell anyone that I have a minivan, they go on and on about how they used to have one and they loved it.  And you know what, I rather like it too.  It's so roomy, it feels luxurious, we have a ton of space for the mounds of stuff we have to bring with us everywhere, and there is the potty training thing.  Derek put in a nice radio and bluetooth for me, we have a DVD player for the kids, and it only had 79,000 miles (less miles than any car I have ever owned) when we bought it, at less than blue book value.  I kind of love it.

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I figure if I, a twenty-something, fairly-fashionable girl, can happily drive her minivan, anybody should be able to drive one without feeling weird.  Cars are not a fashion statement.

Are cars a reflection of who we are?  In a way.  But do you know who I am?  I am a mom.  I don't feel like I've lost my identity in motherhood, but being a mother is a huge part of who I am.  If someone asks me about myself, one of the first things out of my mouth is about my kids.  I love motherhood, and I happily accept it as part of my identity.  I am so thankful for the blessing of bearing that title.
So if driving a minivan says "mom"?  Then that fits me perfectly, and I'm proud of it.

And you see these three?

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They are so worth a minivan.

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This post is part of a new Friday series I'm starting, in which I'm going to try to bring a little more of my "real life" back to the blog. Real life stories, real life happenings, real life struggles, real life lessons. Because these are the things my kids will want to read someday, and these are the things I will want to remember.

White-Knuckle Grip + Printable

Since we got back from vacation, the thing that has been weighing on my mind is that I don't have much time before Derek starts traveling for his work again.

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It's been a year sine he got this job.  I feel like going into it I was so naive - I thought it wouldn't be too bad when he was traveling, that we'd have plenty of time to talk in the evenings and when he was home on the weekends, and then his months of working from home would be this great time of getting to spend more time together than we would get to in any other job.

In reality it's a lot different.  I miss him like crazy when he's not here, and by the time we get to talk on the phone in the evening I'm usually in the middle of getting the kids ready for bed and I'm exhausted.  He usually has extra work or studying to do in the evenings when he's on the road, so we simply can't spend as much time talking and catching up on our days as I would like.  Then when he comes home on the weekend it's this mad dash to squeeze as much quality time together as we can in between all our other obligations, and it's hard to really feel connected when you are rushed.

The months when he's been home have not been how I expected at all.  I don't think I thought about the fact that even though he's working from home, I have to still act like he's not here for eight hours during the day.  It's been a struggle for me to learn that I need to let him get work done, and any interruptions are just going to cause him to have to work later in the evening.

Complicating matters is that just when I think I'm getting it down, it switches on me.  He spends three months on the road, three months at home.  I don't have enough time to really get good at learning how to handle everything when he's gone.  I don't have enough time to learn how to balance the day when he's working from home.

I'm not saying all this to complain so much as just to explain that this year has been hard for me.  Before Derek got this job we both prayed about it, and it seemed like this is where the Lord wanted us to be.  But then it was so different from what I thought. I'd be lying if I said that I don't wonder sometimes if we misunderstood God's will, because why would He put us through this season of demanding work schedules and time apart when He knew it was going to be so hard on me?

But then, nowhere does it say that if you follow God's will everything will be easy.  In fact, the Bible says just the opposite.   We are guaranteed trouble in life, which is why I'm glad this isn't all there is.


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I've been studying James lately, and James talks a lot about trials.  As I was reading I realized this situation, with Derek being away so much, is a small trial in my life right now.  It's also a trial I would much prefer to the alternative trial of having him be out of a job, so in reality I should be thankful!  

It has been a struggle, but I can choose to complain and gripe about how rotten it is and how much I hate having him gone, or I can take this as a chance to let God grow me.  I can practice being supportive, find ways to show Derek I'm proud of him and the work he does, think of special things that kids and I can do for him when he gets home.  I can practice encouraging him, I can pray for him while we're apart. I can use the extra time I have when he's away to think of ways I can be a better wife and mother, and I can do them.  I can be a blessing to my family through this time, or I can make everything harder with my attitude.  

I so want to choose the better path and be a blessing.  But I'm definitely not there yet.  I feel like I'm constantly failing in my attitudes and actions in this season.  But with every failing I think I've been recognizing it more and more for what it is, and I have more of a desire to change, to do better.  And change only comes through God's help.

For the first time I think I can see a glimpse of what God is trying to do.  I think He's trying to refine me.  Now that I can see it, it's becoming easier for me to let go of my white-knuckle hold on how I want my life to be and let Him do His work.

Six Ways Infertility Has Changed Me


I'd first like to clarify that I use the term "infertility" loosely, because as those of you who have been following for a while know, I never officially hit the 12-months-of-trying=infertility mark (got pretty close, but we were blessed to get our positives before we had to wait a whole year).

I know so many girls who have been through (or are going through) so much more than I have to get their babies.  "Fertility problems" probably more accurately describes my situation - I'm just not a very fertile woman, and my body doesn't like to function properly.  You can read more about our trying-to-conceive stories here and here.  

I'm not "infertile" by the textbook definition.  However, I suspect it would have taken much longer for me to get pregnant had I not sought help when I did, and it's just easier to use the word "infertility" than to explain all that.

I know you ladies who have been reading a while know my heart on this.  I'm not trying to be melodramatic or claim to know what it would be like to be medically "infertile" - but I relate so much more to ladies who have struggled than to those who have not.  Since I'm in an uncomfortable middle place, I just lump myself into the side I can relate to most.

I hope that makes sense and my use of the word "infertility" doesn't rub anyone the wrong way, because my heart truly is with all of you who have struggled or are struggling to conceive, and I pray for those of you I know who are struggling whenever I think of you!

I did have trouble getting pregnant both times, and the months of waiting and agonizing for a positive pregnancy test did change my outlook.  I was pondering all the ways that I think differently now as a result of having fertility problems, and these are some of the things I came up with.


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1.  It completely amazes me that some people can get pregnant right away, or without even trying.  

I realized this the other day after someone I know announced she was pregnant and that it was a surprise.  I think I've come a long way, because hearing news like that would have felt like a stab in the heart in the past (and it might again, depending on how trying for #3 goes).  I didn't feel that pang this time, but I couldn't stop thinking all day about how amazing it was that she got pregnant so fast!  It's just something I've never experienced, and I think it makes me realize what a blessing that is.


2.  I wince a little when people pretend to be pregnant as an April Fool's joke.  

I can't get too upset, because if a person has never had any fertility problems they probably wouldn't even think about how this would come across - I don't think I would have thought twice about making a joke about being pregnant if I hadn't had any problems.  But knowing what I do now, I wouldn't joke about something like that.  You just don't know the situation of those who are listening or reading.  I know from personal experience that when you can't get pregnant, you're still happy for your friends who are, but the initial reaction to a pregnancy announcement from someone else is usually pain.  I would never want to cause someone unnecessary pain, even momentarily.


3. Sometimes I get an uncontrollable urge to pee on a stick.  

I think this might just be withdrawal, and it'll probably eventually go away (right?).  I think I've just gotten used to taking ovulation and pregnancy tests all the time.  The other day I went and grabbed one of my dollar store pregnancy tests left over from when we were trying for Gwen, and I took it. Even though we aren't even trying for another baby right now.  I knew I wasn't pregnant - that it'd be pretty much impossible for me to be pregnant.  But in a weird way, I kind of missed taking the tests, and I felt like if I am not pregnant, I should be testing . . . right?  This probably makes me sound psycho.  Surely this will eventually go away after the last kid.


4.  I cry randomly at songs on the radio.  

Now I know this happens for alot of women anyway, especially moms.  But when I hear the songs that brought me comfort or meant something to me while we were trying, or songs that talk about God's faithfulness?  I start thinking about everything God has brought us through and what He has done for me, and I turn into a blubbering mess.


5. I pray more fervently for my friends who are trying.  

I haven't been through nearly as much as some people have, but I still know that the months of waiting hurt.  And my heart aches for those who are having trouble getting pregnant, because whether they've been trying for months or years, I feel like I've had a tiny taste of what they're going through.  I don't think I would have cared so much, or prayed so much for my friends, if I hadn't had problems too.


6. I'm more aware of what a miracle a baby is.

I'm especially aware now of what miracles my own babies are, because I know what it took to get them here!  For us, it took months and months of tears and disappointment.  It took some help from medical professionals, and it took more prayers than I can count.  Struggling to conceive has made me think more about what a gift each and every baby is - whether their parents tried for years, or not at all.  Whether wanted or "unwanted".  So much can go wrong - for a baby to be successfully conceived and born?  That takes a little bit of miracle in every case.  And I think I hold my kids a little tighter and I'm more intentionally grateful for them than I might have been, because I really know that now - not just with my head, but with my heart.



Having fertility issues has changed me in many ways, probably even more than I listed here, but I wouldn't want to change it.  In the end, those months of waiting taught me to trust God with this most precious part of my life, to trust that He knew what He was doing even when I didn't see it.  He revealed Himself to me in ways that He hadn't before through our difficulties in trying to conceive. I've come out better because of it.  

Will He have more growing for me when we start trying for Baby #3?  Maybe.  Or will He teach me something entirely new by letting it be easy next time?  That might happen too (you never know!).  But I know that He has a plan, that He's had a plan this whole time, and that He's walking me through each step.  I think learning to trust Him more has been the biggest way I've changed.  And that makes the whole thing worth it in the end.

When I Don't Blog

I have a confession . . .

Sometimes I just don't want to blog.

 

Sometimes I want to take a long bath and make my hair look all pretty and paint my toe nails.

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Sometimes I want to sit down and read a good book.  Like these:

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Sometimes I want to sit out in the sunshine and try to get my legs to tan.  I don't usually tan - I burn.  But I slather on the tanning oil and sit out in the sun anyway in the hopes that I can at least get enough color to not look like I never leave my basement.

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Sometimes I want to chase my kids around the house with a camera, tickle Gwen to hear that belly laugh just one more time, or jump around the house with Wyatt pretending to be Tigger. 

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Sometimes I just want to hang out with this guy.

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Sometimes I want to clean and organize my house, and I feel so much better when I do.

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Sometimes I want to go do something with a friend and get myself and the kids out of the house.

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(My friend Ashley - we went to the pottery studio last week!)

 

So sometimes, when I don't blog . . . that is why.  

Sometimes you have to give the blog a back seat to this lovely thing called life.

Letter To A New Christian Mom

To A New Christian Mom,

Congratulations!  You've just endured multiple hours of extreme pain, exhaustion, and possibly medical intervention, or perhaps months and months of paperwork and waiting, but now you have your prize - you are a mom!

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If you are a normal person, you've probably already had that moment of sheer terror, wondering if you can do this.  Your life has changed in a way that few other things besides a baby can change it, and it's normal to feel scared.

Take a deep breath.  Look at that sweet face while your baby sleeps.  Those microscopic eyelashes.  Those plump cheeks.  Those tiny little rosebud lips.  That is your baby. That is your gift.  Children are a reward and a heritage, and God chose you to be that little reward's caretaker.  He knows what He's doing.  You can do this.

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In the next few days you'll take your baby home, and then your life will start.  It's going to seem overwhelming at first.  And it is overwhelming - you've just added a whole new life to your family!   That's huge.  It's going to take a little while to settle down and get into a routine.  

You'll feel exhausted (a lot) over the next few months.  You'll probably cry (a lot).  You'll agonize over every little thing, jump at every little sound, examine diapers like it's your job (well, it is, actually), worry more than you should, and google ridiculous phrases.  

Welcome to the new mom club.

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When you have a new baby everyone says you should sleep when the baby sleeps.  While that's not bad advice, don't worry about it if you don't want to sleep.  

Personally, I like to read, or watch TV uninterrupted, or take a long bath, or blog when my babies sleep.  Or sometimes I just want to hold them, feel their little chests rise and fall against mine, study that hair swirl or tiny nose again.  

The point is not what you do, it's just to take some time to relax and recharge.  Take some you time.  Whatever that looks like.  But don't do chores (uness that somehow relaxes you).

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When you have a new baby, everyone likes to tell you their opinion on . . . well, everything.  Sometimes this is a good thing when it's a supportive opinion.  Other times it's one little word from some lady you don't even know in the grocery store and you're questioning your mothering skills. 

Don't.  

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Most of those times people are just trying to be helpful, but you should know that you are the person who knows what works best for your baby and your family.  

Nod and smile.  Let them know you appreciate their interest and care for you and your baby. Say the magic words "Oh, I'll have to keep that in mind," if applicable.  Then take the advice you want and forget the rest.  Trust your instincts - you know your baby better than the lady in the grocery store.  

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When you have a new baby, everyone also tells you that it goes by too fast.  You may be tempted gloss over those words, even roll your eyes, because how cliche is that?  

But you know what?  Things are usually cliche for a reason.  And I hate to tell you, but it is true.  

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That little bundle of squishy newborn-ness won't be that way for long.  And while you may be longing for the day when your baby sleeps through the night, when they smile, when they can start solid foods, when they can play, crawl, walk . . . slow down.  Look at that baby.  Memorize every detail, every little murmuring noise, every sweet newborn smell.  

And then the next time a white-haired lady gets misty and tells you to enjoy it because it goes by too fast, you tell her you are soaking in every second - and then make sure you do.  Because one day you'll blink and your baby won't be a baby anymore.  In that moment you don't want to wish that you hadn't wished it away.  You want to know you cherished every second.

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Enjoy your baby.  Pray for your baby (every day).  Pray for God's guidance as you start this new road of motherhood, and for wisdom as you raise that child and teach them about Jesus.  That is your greatest task.  

But for now, when you look into that sweet face, just remember to thank the One who entrusted you with that precious life.  Then soak it up.

Sincerely,

Another Not-As-New Christian Mom


(First four pictures are of Wyatt, last four pictures of Gwen, all taken at the hospital when they were brand-new.)

Linking up with Kaitlyn.

Anniversary Countdown

I recently found a new blog that I've really been enjoying, The Williams Post.  So many of the posts that Kerri has written lately have been challenging to me.  As I was reading through some of her posts, I came across one of her "marriage letters".  

(Periodically Kerri will write letters to her husband and post them on her blog.  I love this idea, and I'm thinking of implementing something similar on my blog too - I think Derek would love to see a letter for him on here, since he stops by once in a while to see what I've been posting!  So this may be added in the future, keep an eye out.)

Anyway, in the marriage letter post I read, Kerri listed some questions that they discussed recently at one of their groups, and as I read through it I was thinking about what I would say to answer those questions for me and Derek.  And it got me thinking about my marriage.
These are the questions/prompts that she posted:


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I'm not going to lie, the last couple months have been tough for me. Derek has been gone almost every week for work, and when he's home he's had to study so much for the classes he's taking (Derek is working toward getting his CPA right now).  I miss him when he's gone, and I'm struggling with not getting to spend as much time together as I'd like to right now.  While there is an end in sight, it'll be another year and a half until things really calm down, and that seems like a very long time.

However, I think I have to take some ownership for the way I'm feeling disconnected.  Sure, I don't get to spend as much time with Derek right now.  But my attitude has not been great.  I haven't been making the best of the time that I do have with Derek.  

In my defense I've also been adjusting to having a new baby the last couple months.  But we're adjusted now.  It's time to focus on my marriage and spend more time thinking of ways to build it, instead of just pining away for a day when Derek won't have to study anymore or won't have to be gone so much.

So I decided to borrow Kerri's list and answer one question a week for the next 12 weeks.  I think this is perfect, because in 12 weeks Derek and I will be celebrating our 5 year anniversary!  I want to record these types of things for my kids to read someday, and I'm thinking that this will be an encouragement to my hubby and also a challenge for me to focus more on how I can work to improve our relationship.

The 12-week countdown begins next week.  Stay tuned!
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Why I Don't Mind My Stretch Marks

The other day I was scrolling through one of my social network feeds, and I came across a photo of a postpartum belly with stretch marks.  

The caption on the photo is what caught my attention - it said "For every woman who is unhappy with her postpartum marks is another who wishes she had them."

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that it wasn't easy for me to get pregnant with either of my children - and I loved this quote because it is so true, and it's something I have thought often about similar pregnancy and postpartum "complaints". 

I read through some of the comments on the photo, because I felt it made such a good point - and many of the comments were from people analyzing this poor girl's stretch marks - how far postpartum was she, her habits during pregnancy, and those "thank goodness I didn't get stretch marks like that" type comments.

I was a bit taken aback.  First of all because her belly really didn't look bad - my stretch marks are worse, at least at the moment.  But secondly because it seemed as if these people were completely missing the point.

Yes, pregnancy can be uncomfortable, even painful.  And yes, your body will never be the same afterward.  But to have a child, to carry them in your womb?   It's a privilege to be able to experience any of it at all, even the unpleasant sides of child-bearing.  There are women out there who wish more than anything that they could have a few stretch marks on their bellies.

I feel so blessed to have the stretch marks, even as bad as they are.  They are a reminder of what I once thought I might never have - my greatest earthly gifts, my children.  

There is no way I would change any of it. 

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I wanted to share this poem I found as well, because it is beautiful, and it fits in nicely with my feelings on the subject of stretch marks . . .




"When I put on my bikini,
I get all kinds of stares.
They don't know how I can act
like they're not even there.
They once were red as fire,
and although they'll slowly fade
They'll always remind me of
the life that we once made.

I've got a mark for every worry,
and trust there were not few.
One for each and every time
you kicked me while you grew.
A stripe for each chubby cheek,
10 fingers and 10 toes.
Another for the times I've held you tight
and kissed your nose.

I watched my body swell so large
while you grew big inside
and I couldn't care much less about them, 
blinded by my pride.
Now they remind me of your smiles
and the hairs atop your head,
And someday they'll remind me 
of the funny things you said.

They're my zebra stripes, my stretch marks,
my war and battle scars,
And I'll never be too bothered
because I know that you are ours.
They may not be too flattering
to my midsection, it's true,
But I'd get them again all over
if it meant that I'd get you."



-Poem by Caitlyn Blake, shared with permission.


Originally posted here and also shared on Birth Without Fear
(and I think this is Caitlyn's  blog)






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Also, linking up this post here.

To Treasure

It's the new year, and lots of bloggers have been picking their "one word" for the year.

I've been watching the "one word" trend for the past several years, and I have liked the idea but have never participated by picking my own word for the year.  I'm not sure why, I guess I could never come up with a word that I felt I could apply to an entire year.

I'm not sure what is different this year - maybe it's because I just had a baby, and that combined with the New Year has put me in a reflective mood.

2012 started out with me having a sick feeling in my stomach - we had been trying to get pregnant again for several months, and I was worried it was going to take a lot to make it happen again.  I hoped beyond hope that we would have another baby by the end of the year, but I wasn't overly optimistic.

For some reason, despite my worrying, the Lord chose to grant my most treasured wish for the year - and we became a family of four before 2012 ended.  I think back over the past year and I feel so blessed.  I look forward at 2013, and it looks so bright.


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No one can know what a year will hold - things can change so fast.  But as we enter 2013, my heart is bursting, full to the brim with gratitude.

 I look at my sweet boy and I can't believe how much he has grown and changed since last January - what a joy he has been to me through the months of trying to conceive last spring, and the months of anticipation as we waited to make him a big brother.  


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I look at my sweet daughter, and I think about how last year at this time I was longing for her existence, longing to feel her little kicks in my womb, and to see her sweet face.  And now I'm looking right at her tiny features, and I'm amazed.  


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I look at my husband and think about how much change we've gone through this past year - two job changes, a new baby.  And I think about how glad I am to be going through all that with him.  I can't imagine being with anyone else.


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Though I don't know what is going to change again in 2013, I enter this year so aware of my blessings.  

And so my one word for the year?

It would be to treasure.


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I want to treasure each precious moment this year.  The cuddles with Gwendolyn, the newness of having her here, the excitement of seeing her grow.  The adventures with Wyatt - learning new things, enjoying his sweet personality and fun sense of humor, teaching him about Jesus.  And having Derek by my side - figuring out how to parent our two children, growing our relationship, seeing what the Lord has for us this year, and just having fun together. 

Things will change this year - things always change.  But I want to treasure it all, each gift that the Lord grants me this year, and not take any of it for granted.

I know through the whole year, there will be moments to treasure, no matter what else it might bring.  My goal is to look for those moments, even when they are hard to see.  And in looking at 2013 as a year to treasure?  The future can't help but be bright.


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