Saturday, February 7, 2015

One Last Thing

Hey friends, mamas, biased relatives:

It is bittersweet to share my last post on this page. Thank you all so much for the journey you've taken with me over the past four years: for your patience with my ramblings and your encouragement when something resonated with you. For holding my hand when our little family left home and found so many things. Selfishly, I'd like to ask for you to join me in a new journey as the writing takes on a slightly different and hopefully more regular tone. If you'd like to come alongside me for this season, please head on over to the new site:

God bless, sweet readers, hope to see you there!!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

A life less ordinary.

This is another anniversary filled with busy. You just kissed me bye and ran back out to get some part of a uniform you forgot the first time we went. I am supposed to be packing our suitcases, another big change just days away, but I had to write. I had to talk about twelve years, the ones that started with two kids who giggled through their vows.

We had no clue, did we? 
But we learned. We continue learning. We have already beat lots of odds. We have fallen apart and come back together again. Sometimes I think maybe we didn't really miss all the heartache that your 20's promise you; maybe we've just been all of those relationships for one another. I've hurt you. You've hurt me. We've been hurt by things and people outside the bubble of us.

But we've also loved so big. And we've learned how to fight for this, and we are really good at it. You've taught me never to settle and to compromise, and you taught me the difference in the two. You've taught me that I am a pain in the ass sometimes, but you've made me feel like I'm worth it. You've taught me to laugh at the difficult and you've let me cry at the silly. You've taught me that God's gifts don't always come neatly wrapped. I've learned that I am capable of living without you and that I never want to. I've learned that we can hold hands and leap out of our comfort zone and come out closer for it. I've learned that all the best things in this life have to be kept and maintained with effort, not just lovely feelings.

Branden, you are an amazing husband, father, son, friend, sailor, and person. Thank you for growing up with me, doing life with me, and raising these crazy babies with me. Nowhere is as good as right next to you. I love you with my whole heart. Thank you for making this life so extraordinary. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Many thanks.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and Branden and I will be surrendering our electronics to our kid-decorated box that is electronics jail (okay, this is more my struggle than Branden's, but he's a good sport), so I thought I'd write my thankful post today.

Firstly, I'm thankful for Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for a joy that doesn't lie in my circumstances, because my, how those change. I'm thankful for the heart God gives me for others, and the chastisement I need more often than I even get it. I'm thankful for grace and mercy and that there is no such thing as a lost cause. I'm thankful to worship the ultimate Hope.

I'm thankful for my marriage. Branden is my best friend in the world. We play hard and laugh hard and sometimes fight hard and love hard. I cannot imagine doing life with anyone else, I'd never want to. I'm thankful for silly texts and forehead kisses when he gets in at 3 am from working so, so hard for our family. I'm thankful that he can magically cook all the things I fail hard at making. I'm thankful for the freckle right below his eye and his hilarious grouchy face (sorry babe). I'm thankful to love big and be loved big back.

I'm thankful to be a mother. I'm thankful for Bay, who I will always share the bond of ridiculous humor with, who still shows affection and is just the most incredible big brother. I'm thankful that my sweet Jo has a knack for curling into me in such a way that she always just fits perfectly. I love that despite her inner skeptic, she finds good in the most unlikely places and shines light on it. I'm thankful for my wild little E, who makes sure my days are exciting, who makes sure I know how needed I am. Who falls asleep with both arms around me and our noses touching. I'm thankful for Bay teaching his little sister to skateboard, for Jo letting E give her a "chup up" (check up. Doc McStuffins is kind of a big deal in this house). I'm thankful that they all three still snuggle up together when we watch movies or say night time prayers.

I'm thankful for family- all "sides". They keep me in check, call me out, and love me unconditionally. They remind me of who I am and who I want to grow to be. They are my past, present, and future. I'm thankful to be back with them full time soon.

I'm thankful for my girlfriends. I genuinely do not know what I would do without them, and I pray that my kiddos are blessed with the kinds of friends I've been blessed with. They challenge me, laugh and cry with me, and have wine with me.

There is so much more I could say, but I want to really leave this with one more thing: I am glad that many years ago, I made the intentional decision to be practice gratitude not just during the holidays, but every day. It has changed everything, even though everything was still much the same. I became aware of just how rich and full my life really is. I wish the same for you, sweet friends.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

1 Thessalonians: In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why I hesitated, and why I won't again.

I couldn't help but stare at her.

Standing there in the dollar spot of Target, a mama carrying/murmuring to what I assume was a brand new baby all criss-crossed and swaddled close to her chest, a tiny head barely peeking out. At her side, a little boy, probably around 4, happily checking out each bin (I feel you so hard, kid. This section is joy.) and running his hands over things with all the self control that a child that age old can possess while she chatted with him.

It wasn't anything special, necessarily, but it was just a sweet moment to catch.

I was close by and trying to decide how many votive candle holders one person needs (all of them), I wanted to give her a smile, tell her that her babies were precious, comment on her patience, maybe? Just something. Just an, "I see you, fellow mom, and you rock."

But I didn't. I grabbed 400 candle holders and left. Why? Maybe she could have used an encouraging word.

I think sometimes we hesitate to compliment fellow moms for one reason: we don't feel like we can. I know that isn't always the case, but occasionally the voice in my head says, "Who are you to tell anyone they're a good mom? What are you, some expert? Aren't you the one who only just a minute ago noticed that your toddler was nibbling on some random metal object?"

Yes, that was me, and heavens/hahahaha NO I am not an expert. What I do know, though, is that I need to quiet that voice, because we all recognize good when we see it, whether we perfectly apply it each day or not. I don't need to let my personal hang-ups prevent me from lifting up other mothers that I encounter through my day. In theory, I believe God puts people in our paths for a reason. In practice, I'm failing.

So this holiday season, I'm going to take a spin on the incredible RACK (random acts of kindness) that so many big-hearted people do, and I'm going to practice random acts of mom encouragement. If I see a mom holdin' it down, I'm going to tell her so. If her kids' manners are awesome, I'm complimenting them both SO HARD. I'm telling y'all this so I'm accountable, so I can't back out when I'm feeling unworthy of noting the good. We can always note the good. Also, please don't let me buy anything else for candles, because this is getting stupid.

Anyone with me, or am I going to be the only crazy lady talking to strangers at Target?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

I sort of dreaded putting up today's journal:

"What was your very worst 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day'?"

I wondered what my bigs would write. I could think of so many times I have contributed to a day like this. Those kinds of days where all your good intentions are left in a crumple around the wastebasket; the kind you couldn't even dispose of correctly.

First Jo, then Bay interrupted my guilt-filled thoughts.

Jo: I've never really had one of those days.

Bay: Yeah, me either. Can we just make up what a bad day would be?

Me: Yes, that's fine. You really haven't had any of those kinds of days? Not ever? Your life is just sunshine?

Bay: Basically. I'll just make one up, though.

Jo: Nope. I can't think of one. I'll just write about getting eaten by a shark.

It's so crazy to me that I could have named five for each of them right off the top of my head. Days when I was grumpy, days when I lost my temper, days when our plans fell through. Days when I missed the mark of showing compassion and cringed for hours after at the opportunity I let slip by. Days of guilt hangovers.

But they can't think of one. Not one.

 Kids are funny.

I learned something today, Mamas: We are not doing as bad at this mothering business as we tell ourselves we are. I'm going to make a concerted effort to be kinder to myself about these shortcomings, and I hope you'll join me. I will always strive to do better, but when I stumble, I will remember this moment, pick myself up, and move forward. Next time you feel like things are going miserably, stop and consider that it's not as bad to them as it feels to you.

And whatever happened, at least they weren't eaten by a shark.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The day I stopped sharing.

"Keep Calm And Love Your Husband."

"A Happy Marriage Is The Union Of Two Good Forgivers."

"A Good Wife Makes A Good Husband."

I used to share this sort of stuff on social media all the time. Branden and I got married as teenagers; we've come a long way, and we fought like hell for it. I'm proud of us, and I have some truths that I cling to and believe- particularly concerning the myth that a good marriage doesn't require work, but that is for another post. I rarely, if ever, posted about what a husband should be doing, simply because I was only relating to the things I could change in my marriage. I had friends who told me that it encouraged them to see my posts in a sea of husband-bashing. It made me feel good.

Until I realized that perhaps I was unintentionally sending the wrong message to some women that mean a lot to me.

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. This abuse may come in physical, emotional, or mental forms. Do you realize what this means?

Someone in your life is very likely a victim, whether you know it or not. Maybe they don't even realize it, or they tell themselves they don't. They tell themselves it isn't that bad, they tell themselves it's different.

Worst of all, they tell themselves that it's their fault, and then well-meaning people, people they love and trust, post and say things that only drive that point home. If they worked harder, tried harder, weren't so very flawed human, they wouldn't bring this upon themselves.

I never, ever wanted to perpetuate that message. I never will again. Seeing those so dear to me be kicked and then kick themselves some more broke my heart and lit a fire in me at the same time.

We have got to change this conversation from being so heavy with victim blaming to full and unconditional victim support. We have to be one another's champions. We have to stop telling women if they'd be less, or be more, or just try to figure out how not to make him so angry, that things would get better. We have to reach our hands out and pull each other up. We have to raise our boys to have nothing less that the utmost respect for the women their lives. Nothing is going to change unless we change it.

1 in 4 women.

The remaining 3 of us need to be their voices and their safe havens.

***Here are some resources for victims and those wanting to help.***

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Voice Unsilenced

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Legacy of Lovely

I was combing Jo's hair after her bath tonight. She was warm and soft and sweet with scents of her shampoo, conditioner, and coconut oil: a combination I'm quite sure is exactly what Heaven smells like. I smoothed her damp hair and tucked it behind her ear while we talked.

"Why does my hair swoop this way?"

"That's your natural part. It's just the way your hair falls."

"I kind of like it."

"I absolutely love it."

"You do? Why?"

"Because it's one of the many things God did to make you YOU! And I love you. I'm crazy about you."

"Mama? Do you love yourself?"

"Yes! I'm awesome! Do you love yourself?"

*giggles* "Yes!"

Let me tell you something about my oldest baby girl- she is razor sharp. She is an excellent study of people. She can read me, and everyone else, like her father can. I find it both fascinating and intimidating.

She would have seen right through me if I had lied to her when she asked me her question. Her question so important she had to pause before she asked it.

Maybe years ago I would have answered that differently. Or in a way that she knew wasn't genuine the minute it fell out of my mouth. But over the years, I have grown to love myself, truly, and I believe it's one of the best things I could ever do for my kids, perhaps especially for my girls.

It is not new information that a child's same-sex parent is the most influential role model in their little lives. It's hardly groundbreaking for me to say that telling her to love herself as is and then turning around in the same breath and picking yourself apart- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - falls flat.We know that seeing us confident gives them permission to be confident, to be bold and take risks and go for what they want. But knowing and doing are two different things, and I just don't think this is something you get to phone in. It's too important.

You really do have to find a way to love yourself, and it doesn't have to, can't, shouldn't be pretend. You can own your truth, whatever that is. You can look at things as they really are, or really are to you; but you also have to acknowledge and embrace the loveliness there, too.

It is lovely the way you take care of your babies.

It is lovely how you pray for others.

It is lovely the way your mind works.

It is lovely the way your hips move when you're in a hurry.

It is lovely that you were uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe.

It is lovely the way your eyes light up when you get an idea.

It is lovely the way you cared for your mother when she wasn't well.

It is lovely when you laugh a deep belly laugh with your head thrown back.

It is lovely the way you fight to make your world a more just place.

It is lovely when you rest.

It is lovely how you play.

It is lovely how you work.

It is lovely the way the wind grabs your hair.

It is lovely that you have the power to heal a boo-boo with a kiss.

It is lovely the way you have so much hope.

It is lovely when you're vulnerable.

It is lovely how you have grown strong through difficult times.

Maybe you allow yourself to see one thing lovely in you. Start there. Tend to it; root it deeply, see how it grows; see how it branches off and wraps itself around every part of you. Maybe when you shift your focus, you find more each day that you love about yourself. I pray that you do, and I pray that you allow that light to shine outward on those around you. Especially on your little ones. Our sons and daughters both need to see that womanhood is beautiful and bountiful and varied. And wonderful. Knowing this, letting them know this about us as fact would be such an enormous gift to give them. Because the day will inevitably come when they look up and ask you, with or without words:

Do you love yourself?