becoming what our children need

becoming a bridge for our kids

Dear husband, please don’t take it personally.  When you get home, later than you thought might I add, and I don’t- can’t- greet you in the way you might imagine your homecoming to be, it’s not because of you, really.  When you are walking in the door, right as I yawn at the kitchen counter, trying to rally the energy to make dinner, please know it’s not about you.

Husband, when I had planned to make pork chops, baked potatoes and a salad for dinner and what we ended up with were chocolate chip pancakes, please know that I tried today, I really did.  Pancakes were my capacity today, it was the best I could do.  Please notice that I at least made them in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

When you walk in the door, and all three of us are in pajamas of some fashion and you ask “Is she in her pajamas because you got her ready for bed extra early or… was this from… earlier?” please, I ask you not to judge us for our state of affairs.  I shower most days, I do.  Today was just not one of those days.

Today was one of the days that holds All Of The Things.  Every single one.  We didn’t sleep last night and then they screamed at each other and then they screamed at me and I took deep breaths and walked out of the room to eat nutella by myself in the kitchen.  And right after that they played chase and then they dressed up in princess dresses and then they twirled.  And the littlest is perfecting the art of walking backwards and pride cascades down her body as she shows off her skill.  And the oldest is learning how to draw and the fridge is covered with her art.  And they hold hands and they spin and my heart is about to explode.  And then they tackle and scream and I am a referee once again.  Their moods and their emotions and their bodies fly around like a kite in a storm and it is my role to keep them grounded.

everydaybeautiful

And so husband, when you walk in the door and my hair is in a top-knot and it looks like we had a day, it is because we did.  If it looks like I don’t have anything more to give, it is because I don’t.  Please know that I tried.

Because all day long I shifted into role after role after role and I am tired.  I have learned that being a mama forces you into adaptability whether you like it or not, whether you are tired or not, whether you are ready for it or not.  We’re not adaptable because we like to morph from referee to chef to preschool teacher to counselor to janitor to wife to consoler to round-the-clock nurse to midnight-back-rubber and monster-chaser to referee all over again.  We adapt because it’s what is required of us and we grow into what the moment demands.

We’re adaptable because when faced with something difficult, you do what you have to do to survive the moment and be what you need to be to help train these little people how to live and how to love in this world.

And so I become what they need me to be in any given moment.  I am like a bridge covering the canyon of our days, helping them make their way across, flexing and wobbling as we navigate this uncharted territory.  Because really, that is what it is, right?  Uncharted territory each and every day.  I’m not ever sure I really know exactly what I’m doing and if I ever do it’s only because I’m faking it confidently.

But see, here’s the thing about a bridge.  It can shift and flex and carry the weight that it needs to in any given moment.  We might bend but we don’t break.  We might be stretched but we don’t shatter.  They walk on us as they learn their way through this world but that’s okay because we have a strength that they don’t have yet.  They need to borrow ours until they discover their own.

So husband, I appreciate your look of concern, really I do.  I thank you for wanting to make my days easier.  But really, know that I am fine.  These days, they shift and flex and so we shift and flex depending on the needs of the moment.  Sometimes that involves chocolate and grace and reminding to do it better next time and sometimes that involves sheer delight and joy and it is light and easy.  And so we do these moments and we are their bridge from one day to the next and one feeling to the next.  They fly through the air and we keep them grounded and we feel all of the things.

One more thing about a bridge, though?  In order for it to work, it must be anchored to something.  Something stronger, something immovable, something unchanging.

We have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7

So friends, as we do these heavy and busy and demanding and light days that contain all of the things, lets be their bridge and lets become what they need to cross through their unknown and sometimes scary days.  But lets never become so sure of our own strength that we try to do these days on our own.  Because that is when we will break, that is when we will shatter.  So lets continually seek this great power that is not from ourselves and that is how we will adapt and be strong and become what our kiddos need us to be.

xoxoxo~

birthday love letters: a gift for my children

the letters i write

I’m not the mama who makes first year baby books.  I’m not the mama who scrapbooks and chronicles and organizes major milestones, events, and pictures.  I love those mamas; I wish I were one of those mamas.

I’m just not.

But I love remembering.  I love taking note of life and those I love and treasuring what we have together.  I love the art of paying attention.  {I wrote about a time I did that with my husband here, and here is a letter I wrote for Brennan on her 3rd birthday.}

And so I have a tradition that I do on each of my girls’ birthday that I want to pass on to you in case you want something special to do for your own. {And it’s okay if you don’t/didn’t start at the 1st birthday!  Grace here, friends.  Begin where you can, it will still be special.}

Because you see, this one turns four today.

4th birthday

And it has gone by in a blink.  And I know it will only continue to speed up because that is what time does, especially when it is precious.

And so each year I write them a letter on their birthday.  I talk about what I see in them, ways they grew and changed that year, my hopes for who they become.  My plan is to keep it close to my own heart and then on each of their 18th birthdays give a whole binder full of love letters written especially for them and about them and to them.

And they will be able to look back and read about who they were, how they changed, what we saw in them.  I want them to know how very much we have adored them from the very start.

Again, I’m not much of a scrapbook-type mama, so the best I could come up with was a binder that I found at Hobby Lobby with plastic sheet protectors.  Because the last thing I want is for the ink to get smudged or wear off through the years.  Classy?  Probably not.  Practical?  Absolutely.

The first page is all of her birth day stats that I might forget over the years but it would be neat for her to know: she was born on a Friday, height, weight, etc.

birth stats page

And I intentionally hand-wrote the notes rather than typed them out for her.  Won’t it be so meaningful twenty, thirty years from now to be able to look back and see her 32-year-old mama’s handwriting?

And I can commit to this.  I can commit to loving my girl each day, noticing who she is and what she loves, and then on her birthday writing a letter to her telling her what I see.  I can do that.

{And just in case you’re like me and your creativity is sparked by anothers’ and you need a jumping off point for your own letter to your kiddo, here is what I wrote in her 4-year-old letter:

You’re growing up too fast, my girl.  But I sure do love life with you.  You’re not in preschool yet, and I get to be home with you and Ellie all day so we get a lot of quality time together.  We know each other completely and just today you said that Ellie is your best friend.  Truth be told, my love, your 3-year-old year was a bit of a rough one for us.  Our family went through a lot of transitions and we asked a lot of you.  And you are learning your independence just as we need to train you how to live and how to love in this world.  But as you turn 4 years old, I still see the passionate, adventure-loving, social girl that we love.  But I also see you become a little shy at times, I see you choosing safety over risk, I see you needing time to warm up.  And that is fine, I want you to feel free to always be yourself and know that we love you no matter who you are.  You love artwork, riding your scooter throughout our house, and singing.  You love to play with your sister and be silly- your favorite game right now is crawling around on the floor like different animals.  You love to organize, direct, and help, truly independent and a good leader.  You, my girl, are a gem.  Happy 4th Birthday!!! }

xoxoxo~

on learning to be with my kids

living right here, right now

We were at the park.  The one so close to our home with a perfect walking trail that loops around a lake, a view of the mountains kissed by the Colorado blue sky.  The one with trees blooming so lushly along the route it looks like a million snowballs cover the branches.  And the afternoon was beautiful and the girls were laughing and the sun was good for our souls.

And I was on my phone.

See, it had been a tough day.  It started before I was ready, Lane was gone, I never felt like I had it together, a child was hanging on me every moment… so easily I threw myself a pity party.

So while they played, I deserved a breather, right?  This time at the park could be my sanity saver, right?

So I sat on the bench while they climbed and they laughed.  I surfed Facebook and then I surfed Instagram and right when I was about to move to Pinterest, Brennan called out to me to push her on the swing.

My gut reaction?  Annoyance.

My child wanted to interact with her mama and my first instinct was that she was a disturbance.

See, life happens so easily.

I have noticed that in those moments and in those days where I feel so disjointed or so stressed or so frustrated, I tend to turn in.  I think that I need a breather, a sanity-regainer, a time-out from real life, and so I turn inward to my phone.  I scroll news sites, I surf social media, I glance through pictures and quotes and life in 140 characters or less.

Because I deserve it, right?

It is so easy for life to become lopsided.  For the tyranny of the urgent to dictate how the rest of the day will play out.  Because when you least expect it emails happen, or errands happen, or a laundry disaster, or an ornery 3-year-old or a dish that slips to the floor sending the meal flying everywhere.  Or a 2-year-old who refuses to put on shoes which makes you late for the appointment and you hit traffic on the way there.  Or you’re working on a project but any moment of silence is immediately interrupted by all of the animal noises two little kids can create.

Life happens so easily.

But here is what I know about it all: My girls are not an interruption to life.  The are my life.

And so when one calls out to me, I don’t want my gut reaction to be annoyance.  I don’t want to see them as a disruption to what I am doing.

Two things have been going over and over in my head since I have pinpointed this tendency in myself:

: Be with my kids when I am with my kids.  This time is precious and they are a gift.  There are absolutely difficult moments and difficult days but that does not negate the truth that they are a gift.  And so this means not grabbing my phone when I play with them in case I get bored.  It means not trying to multi-task because I have learned they always get the short end of the stick.  It means putting boundaries on my social media downtime to twice a day- once when I wake up and once as I am winding down for bed and not a single time in between.  It means being protective of my mind and my heart and my time.

: I ask myself the question What does love look like right now?  In a moment of disobedience, I ask myself this question.  In a moment when I am exhausted, I ask this question.  In a moment when they are loud and I am frustrated or when I am discouraged, I ask myself this question.  I try to view my moments within this way of thinking and it reframes how I see and how I interact with them.  It looks like taking a breath.  It looks like a prayer, shaking it off, and participating in their world.

Even if it can’t happen 100% of the entire day, I at least make an effort for some dedicated portion of the day to be with them while I’m with them.  It looks like playing with them, asking them questions, getting on the floor for a tea party, working on letters, spontaneous dance parties, running through the backyard barefoot.

And when I think this way- being with them when I’m with them and asking myself what does love look like right now- I notice my girls and I see the gifts in the day.

And I feel my soul soften.  I no longer feel brittle, ready to shatter at any moment gone awry.  I remember to breathe through a frustration, a broken decoration, a spilled bowl of cereal.  I notice moments again: the springtime flowers blooming on the tree, the 2-year-old running up and down and up and down the hallway, her hand so gently resting on my forearm when she sits on my lap, their creative and imaginative play that can only be formed between two best friends.

Yes, life happens.  But I never want them to feel like an afterthought.  I don’t want to be distracted through the course of these years I have with them.  I want to have my priorities right and have the most important things be the most important.

Here I go, learning how to slow down and be right here, right now.

You with me? ;)

xoxoxo~

carry on, mama

carry on mama

You are doing a beautiful thing.

Do you need to hear that today?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that what you do matters, that the multitude of unseen hours add up to purpose, that your words are slowly softening that hard heart, that it all really is a beautiful thing.

But it is.

It might not seem like it: you might be in the trenches with a child or with a sleepless newborn or with your own mind.

Because this parenting thing is hard, and there will be a thousand reasons to make you doubt yourself.

But I need you to believe this and remind yourself again and again and again.

We arrived at Target at the same time the other day, she was strapping in her toddler just as I was putting my two in the cart next to her.  Both of us with a messy bun, neither of us with makeup or any attempts to get dressed beyond yoga pants and a workout top.  It’s Target after all, the safe place of all moms everywhere.  No words were exchanged between us but we did meet eyes for just a moment.  A moment of solidarity, a look to say “Here we go.  May the odds be ever in your favor.”

And as my girls and I meandered through the kids section and over to the decor and over to the beauty and office aisles, we passed her several times, each time I saw her nerves become more and more ragged and her resolve more frazzled as her daughter required more and more.  She was trying to keep it together, but I knew that look anywhere.  I have been that mama more times than I can count.

And I didn’t stop her or say anything to her because sometimes you just need to stay in the zone and do your thing and she was there with her kiddo.  But I felt this solidarity with her, I was cheering for her.  Mamas are amazing, everywhere.  We put our kids first and take care of ourselves later.  We find patience when we are threadbare.  We find whatever creative solution we can to invent and reimagine and to make learning fun.  We dig through our purses and combine two completely unrelated objects into a toy that will give us 5 more minutes of sanity at Target.

And this mama that I saw?  In her yoga pants and her messy bun and her deep breaths before talking to her daughter?  It was beautiful.

Because we are all doing the best we can, we really are.

And so I need to tell you something: You are doing a beautiful thing.  All of the corralling the chaos, all of the putting them first, all of the showing up in public in yoga pants, all of the fixing lunches, all of the washing hands, all of the redirecting, all of the craft times, all of the breaking up fights, all of it.

Just take it one day at a time.

Better yet, take it 15 minutes at a time.  You can do anything for 15 minutes.

Because what you are doing is a good work.  It is a beautiful thing.

So do your thing.

And carry on, Mama.

xoxoxo~

free springtime printable

Hey sweet friends!

Isn’t this a wonderful time of year?  I love the crisp Spring air, the freshness and new all around, and I absolutely love the hope and promise that we celebrate on Easter.

Yesterday the girls woke up to special Easter baskets, we went to church in their new and darling dresses, and then straight on to my parents house with our extended family including an egg hunt and them sneaking rolls and cookies off of the counters all day long, chocolate dripping all over their new dresses that were by then smudged with dirt from playing outside.  It was a great Easter.

To bring the lightness and the new and the beauty going on all around into our home, I created a little springtime printable that I wanted to share with y’all:

life of love printable

I wanted to keep it beautiful and simple with the flowers, but I also love the words live a life of love from Ephesians.  Because isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?  Just live a life of love.  That’s the only thing that matters.

This is an 8×10 printable that you can download and print as many as you’d like for your own home, or to give as a gift.
{one word: if you print it to put it in a frame like I did, before cutting with scissors, measure against the glass in your frame and cut based on that… I learned that the actual 8×10 print needs a little more on the edges to fit into an 8×10 frame.}

I design and create my own printables, but just wanted to let y’all know that a lot of the actual graphics I use I get from an incredible designer you can find at angiemakes.com. She has darling creations and some great grapics and clip art available if you want to check her out!

::: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE LIFE OF LOVE FREE PRINTABLE :::

hope you all are well

xoxoxo~

on why i wake up early

Most mornings these days, I have my alarm set for 5:58am.  Most mornings these days, I actually wake up to my alarm, stretch, and walk out to the kitchen while the house is still quiet and the world is still dark.

on waking up early

I start a pot of coffee.
I grab an apple.
I put on my glasses.

I assemble my assortment that keeps me company in these first few minutes of the day: my computer, my bible, my journal.

Sometimes I begin with my bible and flip to whatever book, chapter, verse strikes me that morning.  Sometimes I’ll listen to a few worship songs.  Sometimes I’ll write.

Sometimes I will just sit in the quiet and think.

Sometimes I have an entire half an hour to myself before one stirs and I even make a to-do list for the day and a grocery list for the week.  Sometimes they inch so beautifully near the seven-o’clock hour that I can celebrate so much time to gather my thoughts and my heart and my sanity before the day begins and I can even start a load of laundry.

But sometimes there are those mornings when my alarm is set to go off, and at 5:55 a certain 3-year-old stumbles into my bedroom, finds her way to my side of the bed and begins to tap my shoulder: Mommy.  Momma.  Goodmorning mommy!

But more often than not, I choose to wake up early and the house is mine and I can begin the day on my own terms.

Because something significant happens in those early hours where the earth is still sleepy, the house is still quiet, nature is waking up.  Those early hours where the sun hasn’t quite risen, the day has only just begun.  Something significant happens in those hours.

When I wake up and start my day in this order, my days seem to go much more smoothly.  Not easier, not perfectly, but more smoothly.

I’m not reacting to the crazy that happens once two littles wake up and begin the race of the day that very same second.  I’m proactive in gaining an element of control to my day, an element of peace in my heart, an element of wholeness in my home.

CS Lewis talks about the first and second things:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.

When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of first and second things.  My first thing is my relationship with Jesus and how {and if} my heart is turned toward him or if I am trying to get through my days on my own.

And this morning routine helps me to keep my own first things first.  It brings so much rejuvenation, so much healing, so much life.  It creates space in my heart in the midst of an oh-so-busy world for these first things to have the space they need.  Because I have learned over and over and over again, that when my life is not in the order that it should be it feels off-kilter.  I feel like I am leaning a little too heavily on my own ragged self.  It feels like I put too much emphasis on Lane filling my needs, or focus on body image a little too much, or don’t have the patience that a preschooler and toddler require, or feel one step behind the entire day.

But on these mornings, I have had the quiet and the space and the time and the love for myself so that I feel whole and ready to pour into those that need it.

It is much more energizing than I imagined it would be so now it is time that I fight for, it is time that is precious.  It is time that reminds me of what is most precious.

What if you tried waking up early every now and then?  How would it change the pace of your days?  Would it help you to keep the first things first?

xoxoxo~

courage, dear heart

courage dear heart

I see you everywhere.

You’re there in the store, attempting to try on maternity clothes with the toddler climbing underneath the door, spotting her window of escape.

You’re in your driveway at 7am, already dressed and getting in the car and heading to work and starting the new day.

You’re next to me at the stoplight, resting your forehead in your hands as we wait those few moments for the light to turn green.

You’re exhausted and in the cold and flu remedy aisle and a pajama-clad, equally exhausted preschooler holds onto your leg as you read the symptoms and directions and dosage requirements.

You’re there in the library, walking in late to story time, hand firmly wrapped around the wrist of a stubborn heart that is dragging his feet.

You’re sitting in your front yard, watching the kids play in the cul-de-sac and stealing glances at Pinterest, trying not to get caught.

You’re there in the kindergarten pick-up line, ball cap and yoga pants, rubbing your temples.

You’re there, pregnant belly and little kids all around, moving so slowly.

I see you.

You wonder if you will make it through the day.
You wonder how you lost your temper so quickly.
You wonder if your husband will ever start to help raise the kids.
You wonder how to rally for another busy day away at work.
You wonder if you should have tried another solution.
You wonder if you’re capable of raising another child when you already feel at capacity.
You wonder if your very best is good enough.
You wonder what other methods to try with the one who tests every ounce of authority and pushes every boundary laid down.
You wonder what triggered that epic meltdown and if you should have tried a different tactic.
You wonder how you can entertain and engage and contain that toddler’s energy.

Maybe today, in this moment, you feel alone, you feel not good enough, you feel tired.  Because I know how your days go.  I know the thoughts that you have, I know the questions you ask, the fears you battle, the worries you chase down.

But dear one?  I need you to know something.  You are enough.  You already have what it takes.

But no one except Lucy knew that as the albatross circled the mast, it had whispered to her
COURAGE, DEAR HEART
and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s

~CS Lewis

My friend, listen for that small voice in those moments that you need to hear it.  In the car, in the pick up line, in the grocery store aisle, in the backyard.  When everything around you seems to be demanding more of you and when you might not know where the road might lead and when you question and doubt and are just plain tired…

COURAGE, DEAR HEART.

And know that right here, in our little space right here, we are in this together.  As we go through our worlds and our lives raising these people, I say to you, “Me too.”

Because do you want to know something that I’ve learned along the way? One of the best ways to become stronger than you are is to invite others into your journey with you.

They carry you when you can’t find the strength and offer up words of love and truth when you are taking your brave steps.

So take that deep breath, gather your strength

AND COURAGE, DEAR HEART

You can do this.

xoxoxo~

Favorite Toy List

{Friends ::: this is a list that my sisters compiled for me and guest-posted here about 2 years ago.  But really, it is a gold mine so I am reposting it for more eyes to see these great ideas.  Maybe you need ideas for what to stick in Easter baskets, maybe you have a friend’s birthday party coming up, or maybe you are so on top of it and buy Christmas presents little by little throughout the year to avoid one massive bill in December.  Whatever your story is, this is a fantastic list of toy ideas for kids. xoxoxo ~Sarah}

Here are toys/games that have been a hit in our home.   I was very picky when making this list; for every toy that is listed there are five that didn’t make the cut.   They get the green light from a kids and parent’s perspective.

One word of caution, keep things simple.  If you already have a killer K-Nex collection – don’t go crazy with Legos. Or Playmobile. Build with what you already have and fight the urge to own a little of every single toy line out there. That said, these are some of our favorites.

GAMES

Zingo:  Our two year old loves this game and our seven year old hasn’t tired of it either.

Quirkle:  Great strategy game which is fun for kids and adults.  My daughter started playing at age four but that would be on the younger side to begin.

Sequence:  Another game that works for our 2 year old as well as older kids.

Blockus: GREAT family game! Think Tetris in the form of a board game. Our 5 year old can hold his own and our 9 year old plays with understanding basic strategy.

Card Games: Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Go Fish, UNO.

HOBBY

Buddha Board:  This has been in our kitchen since the day we got it a few years ago.  I keep it on a shelf the kids can reach and they constantly paint on it.   My 7 year old uses it as much as my 2 year old.   Highly recommend.

Jacks:  We just introduced this classic to our seven year old and she is hooked.

Duplo Legos:  we began a collection of these when our kids were toddlers.   It is a toy they have never grown out of and our 7 year old continues to get lost in building new creations.

Rainbow Loom:  This is all the rage in some cities but completely overlooked in others.   The only downside is you need to continually buy replacement rubber bands when you run out.   Takes some coordination so it is difficult for our five year old but a breeze for our seven year old (and difficult for mom).

Melissa and Doug Fashion Plates:   My girls love designing outfits then coloring them in.

Usbourne Sticker Dolly Books:  This is probably our favorite gift to give because we love it so much ourselves.   There are over a dozen different themes which has been a fun collection to build.   It is a perfect gift for birthdays, easter, stockings, etc.   My girls will spend hours filling up the pages with the stickers.

100 things for children to do on a trip:   Our favorite way to use these cards are at restaurants.   They are adorable and spark lots of creativity.

Straws - At first glance, one of those “do I really want to spend money on straws, I should just DIY this toy” and the answer is NO! It is totally worth it to shell out the money for this creative building activity. Best for ages 7+ to do actual building, but 5+ can enjoy just sticking the pieces together.

EDUCATIONAL

Spend Share and Save Banks:  They are not the cutest piggy bank on the market but they have been a great tool to teach the practice of saving, giving and spending.

Quarter Collection Map:  This is so fun.

JUST PLAIN FUN

Stomp Rocket - the VERY best birthday present for a 3 year old (BOTH genders).

RAGE Fitness Supply gymnastic rings (purchased at Sports Authority): We have these rings connected to a basic pull up bar in our home and they are CONSTANTLY being used by a kiddo to flip, swing, and monkey around on.

Slack Line: popular on many college campus’ and indoor rock climbing gyms, this is basically a giant piece of webbing tightly stretched between two anchors (usually trees) and used as a balance beam.  Much harder than it seems and provides great hours of challenge and exercise.

Hula hoop

Is there anything you would add?  Any favorites or major hits in your own home?  

xoxoxo~

how i talk to my daughter about makeup

talking to your daughter about makeup

She walks into the bathroom as I am getting ready for the day.  Her three-almost-four-year-old eyes and heart intently watch as I intentionally put concealer on certain places and not on others and as I apply eyeliner before the two coats of mascara and the blush but then also the bronzer.

“Mama… what is that for?”

“And Mama?  What about that one?  What does that one do?”

And then she grabs my powder and her little fingers hold tightly to the makeup brush, dusting it all across her face.

“Mama LOOK!  Now I am beautiful like you!”

And immediately I get down to her level so that we see eye to eye.  She needs to understand this.  I cup her chin in my hands and say “Baby girl.  You are ALWAYS beautiful.  No amount of makeup that you put on your face will change that.  No matter if you are wearing your fancy dress or if you have food smudged across your cheeks, you are ALWAYS beautiful.”

And I tell her that I put on makeup because it helps to enhance our natural beauty that God gave us.  I tell her sometimes it’s fun.  But I also tell her that there are days that I don’t put on makeup because I think that it’s important to be comfortable in our own skin.  Because the way she was made was perfect and she is beautiful and makeup doesn’t change that.

And then when she sees me working out, she joins in alongside me, jumping up and down and moving side-to-side.  And I never say a word about trying to keep my weight down or fitting in certain clothes or wanting to look good in the mirror.  The word I use over and over again is Strong.  Because I do want to be strong and I do want to set an example that our bodies are to be used and enjoyed and taken care of and it is a good thing for women to be strong.  I want her to know what it feels like to be strong and brave and powerful and confident and that can only come from pushing yourself past limits you thought you had and using what you’ve been given.  That can only come from trusting your body and using it in such a way that calls forth its strength.

And while she jumps next to me I say “Baby, Mommy exercises so that my body stays healthy and strong.  This way when I need to climb stairs or pick you up or hike a mountain I know that I can do that.”

We have these conversations now because earlier and earlier still, girls are getting the message that they are Less Than.  That they need to diet and dress a certain way and they need to alter their body in order to be perfect, in order to be whole.  When these messages start hitting my little girls’ ears, I want our message of love and beauty and perfect-just-the-way-she-is to be so ingrained in her little heart that she can confidently quiet them because she knows the actual truth.

Granted, my child is THREE.  And my other is ONE.  But… when she asks me questions about life, no matter her age, I want to set the precedent that I am her safe place.  That I am her trusted resource that she can come to whether it is about makeup or friends or a hurt heart or questions about her changing body or heavy emotions.  I don’t want her to turn to other sources about truths that I want to be the one to instill in her, so yes, she is three but we are starting these conversations now.

I want these conversations to happen so fluidly and consistently over the course of our lifetime that when the time comes that it really matters and really hits home to her sensitive and weary teenage heart that we have the relational and conversational capital built up that she listens.  And that I listen to her.

And so when my three-almost-four-year-old looks up at me in the mirror and asks why I put on makeup, I pause and get down on her level and explain it to her.  I make sure not to dismiss it with a “We’ll talk about it when you’re old enough to wear it,” because by the time she’s old enough to wear it, my window for impressing upon her her natural beauty and inherent worth might be closing.

I make sure to tell her every chance I get that her body is beautiful and I love to see her use it doing the things she loves and that she is perfect just the way she is.

I tell her that I love to see her creativity.  That when she said hi first to her new friend it was very kind and it is so important to make others feel loved and she does a great job at that.  That when she tried that new thing even though she was a little scared, I saw how brave she was.  That when we went on that long hike, her body was strong and she was courageous as she did something difficult.

I want her to know because she knows because she knows that she is beautiful.  I want her to know and know and know that she has much to offer the world.

And so my baby girl and I look in the mirror together and we make silly faces and we put on lip gloss.

And I look at her and brush her bangs out of her eyes and say Baby girl, you are DARLING.

And she wipes my hand away and looks at me just like she will when she is thirteen years old.

But she hears it.

And a little grin spreads across her face as she looks in the mirror again.

Because she believes me.

xoxoxo~

when your very best doesn’t feel good enough

best not good enough

Friends, we’re on Day Eight over here.  Eight days of sick kids.  Eight days of sick mama.  Eight.  Night after night after night of midnight summonings, three-hour spurts of half-sleep, rocking and rocking and hushing and singing and consoling when I am so very tired myself.

Because that is just what you do.

Eight days of survival, of go-mode.  Eight days of “What are you thinking for dinner?” questions at 5:00 pm that I can only meet with a blank stare and a glance at the cereal boxes once again.  Because grocery shopping and meal planning and prepping and cooking?  I can’t even.

Eight days of no laundry, no cleaning, no “learning time,” no educational activities, no play time outside of the house.  Because we are surviving.  Eight days of questioning myself, feeling like a failure of a mother, a less-than wife.

Because where else does your mind go when you feel like you’re not giving your everything to anything?

Or even harder still, what about when you are giving your everything, and it’s just not good enough?

Because I am at capacity.  I am tapped out, this is the absolute best I have to offer right now… and it still just isn’t cutting it.

Do you know what I mean?

I don’t know where life has you right now, what your hard thing is right now.

Maybe a new and fussy baby, maybe a sick kid, maybe a new house, or a big move, or a new job, or maybe you’re actually doing good in the middle of familiar and comfortable days, or maybe you just had a fight with your husband or a health scare or something wonderful happened or something bigger and beyond you with huge challenges are ahead.  Maybe it is a mixture of all of the bitter and all of the sweet.

I’ve found that life seems to contain a little bit of both at most moments.

But in those bitter moments, those moments when you have to do that hard thing, what do you do when your very best doesn’t feel good enough?

I keep my mind in check and repeat my mantras:

I can do hard things.  This is hard.  But you are strong.  You can do hard things.  
Keep going. Just take it 15 minutes at a time. One day at a time. Don’t give up. Keep going.
I am enough. God made me just as I am to be right where I am to mother these children and do this thing and I have what it takes because he says that I do.

And I whisper my prayers:

Hold this together, please, hold this together.  {Colossians 1:17}
Keep me from falling.  I feel like I’m falling, like I’m losing my grip, like I don’t have anything to hold onto.  Keep me from falling.  {Jude 1:24-25.  David Crowder and Shane & Shane sing a beautiful version of this, we sing it over our girls every night before bed, listen here

Because so many times, it is a mind game.  It is a strength battle, seeing which thoughts you let win.  So when I catch myself in a spiral of pity or worry or doubt or questioning or fear or unbelief… I stop the free fall with these thoughts instead.

One step at a time.  One day at a time.

Because we can do hard things.

And God won’t let us fall.

And he holds it all together.

{this is all, of course, paired with a healthy helping of chocolate chip cake with gooey vanilla frosting, hidden in the kitchen while the girls watch Curious George.  I mean, if I’m being honest with y’all.  A girls’ gotta survive.}

xoxoxo~

indoor kid activity ideas

indoor days kids activities

Friends.  This week has been crazy!  We are on Day 5 of being home bound- most of which has been because sickness has hammered us this week- the dastardly pink eye finally hit us alongside some fierce colds and stomach bugs.  But along with that, Colorado has been hit pretty hard with some consecutive storms, leaving romping in parks a distant hope.

Is anyone else stir crazy?  Well, I gathered together a few kid activities that I have either posted here before or are just winners for us so that y’all can have them in one central place when you are in need of some inspiration.

Go have fun with your people!  And eat chocolate!  And stay sane!

:1 Make a fort.  Always a winner.  I think that we spent the entirety of our Monday in this fort.  The girls are so entertained by it!  We even did normal, typical things in it- color, eat, read books, drink hot chocolate, repeat.  But having all of our furniture pushed together and a cozy creation over our heads brought a sense of novelty.

building a fort

 :2 Fake snow.  Mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of hair conditioner and you have this awesome dough to play with.  Less moldable than playdoh, but can stick together, and it looks like snow (especially if you use white conditioner).  I kid you not, they played with this for probably 40 minutes today.  {I do things like this while Daddy is gone… the mess does not freak me out like it does him.  It’s an easy sweep job.}

playing with fake snow

 :3 ArtForKidsHub.com. Such a cool website.  It’s an artist dad who brings his kids in alongside him and teaches them how to draw basic pictures.  So the professional is on one side, the kid is on the other and he guides you step-by-step.  Right here, Brennan is drawing a mermaid, and it was so incredible to watch it come to life as she followed the instructions!  She was so proud of herself too.  They have an area for kids under 5, but also more advanced tutorials too if you have older kids.  Check it out if you don’t know this site already! {www.artforkidshub.com}

art for kids hub

:4 Learning Dance Party.  We have so much fun when we do this.  Read this post for more directions.

toddler learning activity

 :5 Homemade slides.  Brings me right back to my own childhood.  This one is great because it helps to get some energy out when they’ve been cooped up all day.  We just laid some mattresses down and they laughed and laughed and laughed.

playing with your children

 :6 Moldable Sand.  Mix 5 cups flour with 1 cup baby oil and it becomes this neat consistency that feels like sand that is completely moldable!  The girls use measuring cups, spoons, any kitchen gadget really- and get lots of entertainment.  It also can be messy, but easy to sweep up.

moon sand

 : 7 Shape Dice.  Wrap two boxes {we used old square tissue boxes} with paper, and cover each side with different color shapes- with the other box having all of their matches. Have one person roll the dice and see who can get the most matches.

shape dice

 :8 Drum Set.  This one requires grace from the mama, but entertains them so heartily for so long, that sometimes I let them just go with it.  Get out whatever kitchen bowls you have, flip them upside down, and let them have a jam session with their hands and kitchen spoons.

makeshift drumset toddler play

 :9 Rice Bowl. Grab a big container and a big bag of rice and this creates a great sensory activity.  Again, be warned- it definitely has a tendency to spread out and get messy.  Nothing a little dustpan and broom can’t fix, but I am not the type of person that this annoys- if you are, just move on to the next activity! :) You can add in pasta noodles for extra texture, too.  But she just runs her hands through it, letting rice fall through her fingers, stirs, pours from one cup to the other.  It’s so fun to watch how much they love activities like this.

easy activity idea for toddlers

 :10 Yogurt painting. How often do we tell them to not get messy and not play with their food?  What if you poured some yogurt on their tray and let them just express their artistic side.  Finger paint that is edible & entertainment for them, while also being contained if you need some free time.

yogurt playtime

 :11 Baking Soda & Vinegar.  We did do this over the summer, but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work inside too- it doesn’t get too messy, and you can just lay a towel down or do this at your kitchen table.  Pour baking soda into any large dish and divide vinegar into separate bowls (I found a muffin tin works perfectly).  Add a few drops of food coloring to each container of vinegar and use a dropper, straws, or small spoons to to drop the vinegar onto the baking soda and watch the colors bubble up.

experimenting

 :12 Painting with whipped cream.  Again, another summertime activity, but I see this easily transferring to the bathtub.  Just grab some whipped cream {or even a can of shaving cream might be fun} and let them use brushes, spoons, whatever utensil along with their hands to “paint” all along the bathtub.  An added bonus- they are already stripped down and ready to be cleaned off!

summer activity for kids

And just in case you need an extra bit of entertainment and are looking for something to read, here is my second piece on Huffington Post. ;)

xoxoxo~!

I’m not sweet, I’m just truthful.

using our words for encouragement

We didn’t sleep on Saturday night.

The one-almost-two-year-old woke up at 1:40am and once I am up it is hard for me to fall back asleep.  I see the promise of rest fade before me as the clock reads 2:15 then 2:44 and then 3:10.  It glows 3:45 when my eyes look to it one last time before slipping into slumber for the few more hours I have before the kids wake up, ready to start their day.

And then the day begins, more abruptly than it should after a night like mine, and we get ready to go to church.  It takes me longer than usual, moving slowly and pinning my hair up praying that my days without a shower and my night without sleep don’t betray to the others how tenderly I am carrying the pieces of myself with me into the building designed to put me back together.

And she walks up to me during greeting time, she who is one not to be messed with, whose authority and word you trust and she who you don’t talk back to.  And she grabs my arm and looks in my eyes and says You look darling today.

I kind of laugh and say, “Well, you’re sweet…” mostly brushing her words aside and away from my pregnant body and my unwashed hair and my big questions and my big fears and my little pieces spilling over.  I dismiss her words without outright dismissing her.

And she looks me in the eyes even firmer than before and says, No, no I am not sweet.  I am just truthful.

We chatted a bit more about why I am tired and how we are doing and what she thinks of us.  Kind words.  True words.  Because now I know that she does not say what she does not mean.

As she walked away, just for good measure and just to make sure I believed her she said once more: You Look Darling.

And her words went over and over and through my mind all day: No; No I am not sweet.  I am just truthful.

And so I have been thinking about words a whole lot lately.  Because I am a writer and I pay attention to words.  I pay attention to the things around me and how I can translate them into something that makes sense to me and maybe sparks a new way of seeing for you.

And this is what was getting my attention the most over this exchange:

Words are a two-way street, we need to handle them with care.

When we are the speaker, we need to be careful to say what we mean and mean what we say.  We need to tread lightly upon each other’s hearts but we also need to know when we need to call out and encourage and call forth and rise up and shake the dust from each other’s weary load and carry it when they can’t.  We need to not simply be sweet but to be truthful so that others know that what we say is trustworthy and true.  Our tribe and our neighbors and our not-yet-known strangers need our words to stand in the gap when they don’t have the energy to make it on their own.

Sometimes we feel alone and we feel doubt and we feel Less Than and we feel not enough.  Sometimes others feel that way too.  What if we could step into that space intentionally, with love, with encouragement?  What if our words could give her enough to keep going for that day?  What if we could tell each other You are enough.  Keep going.  

And there is the speaking of words, but there is also the hearing of words.

Because my friends, we need to receive the words we hear.  Why do we as women have such a hard time receiving?  Why did I dismiss my friend at church with an Oh, you’re sweet… but not really letting it sink in, not really believing that she could mean that for me, not really accepting the foothold upon which she was offering me to stand upon?

Let’s accept each other’s encouragement.

Let’s speak words of life and of hope and of truth and of power.

Because words can change things.  And you can change things.  So let’s get in each other’s court and cheer for them and stand in the gap when they lose their strength and encourage and love those that need it because really, we all need it.  It can look like a word in the grocery store checkout, a phone call, a note in the mail, a short text message.  It can look however you need it to, but let’s use our words for each other.

And by the way~ you, my friend, are darling.

And I’m not being sweet, I’m just being truthful.

xoxoxo

what we’re eating this week

For our new friends around here, I have a habit of taking Sunday afternoons to look ahead to our week, see what our nights look like {if Lane has a meeting and will miss dinner, if we have dinner plans out, etc.} and come up with a meal plan for each night of the week.  Then on Monday mornings, I go grocery shopping for our entire week, which hopefully becomes my only trip to the store for the week.

It does take some effort on Sunday to coordinate all of this, but I have found it such a source of sanity during the week to have a meal plan charted out for me already.  If you don’t do this, I highly suggest you give it a try!  And if you need some inspiration for your meals this week, this is what we’re eating:

{and if you’re wondering, our girls get the same meal we do.  for some of the weirder ones… ahem, salmon cakes? that’s a newbie so we’ll see how it goes… I’ll add in something more kid-friendly to their plate like string cheese or carrot sticks or crackers & peanut butter, but alongside what we eat.  Trying to teach them I’m not their short-order cook and to expose them to new foods.  They do pretty good with this, but do what works best for your family!}

: Breakfast

easy breakfast casserole 

: Lunch

Make on Sunday for lunches to have on hand:

Crock pot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana soup {<— this soup is ridiculously good.  like, I would entertain company with it good.  my one-year-old had seconds and in Lane’s words: It is a MAJOR keeper} & Mediterranean quinoa salad

For lunch, the girls have something like: hot dogs, greensicles, and a yogurt

: Dinner

Monday: buffalo cauliflower & chicken casserole

Tuesday: salmon cakes, green salad {spinach & arugula mix, cucumber, peppers, sunflower seeds, & goat cheese}, sweet potato chips

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: sweet potato hash with eggs & bacon

Friday: bbq chicken drumsticks {slather drumsticks in bbq sauce, bake in a 375 oven for about 1 hour- flip over about halfway through the cooking process, add more bbq at the end}, baked potato wedges, kale chips

Saturday: leftovers

There you have it!  Cheers to meal planning, friends!

::: xoxoxo :::

be strong & courageous {free printable}

Sometimes being brave is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Sometimes being brave is listening to that still, small voice inside of you instead of the loud noises all around you.

Sometimes it is doing the exact opposite of what others want you to do, because it is in being true to yourself that you discover that it is always brave to be yourself.

Sometimes being brave looks like doing the thing that makes you scared, stepping out even though you feel the nerves, trying something new, doing something that you have never done before.

Sometimes being brave is re-writing the destructive narrative that your minds plays on repeat for you and replacing it with loving truth.

Sometimes being brave looks the same and different all at the same time.
Sometimes being brave is exactly what you would think it is and sometimes being brave surprises you.
Sometimes being brave is defined by the person and the situation and the moment and your yes might be brave while their no is their bravery.

Bravery is fluid, shifting to fill the mold that any given situation requires.

But still, it’s all the same, isn’t it?  Being brave is finding our strength.  It is finding our courage.  It is stepping out or stepping back in or risking it all or setting your boundaries.

You know what needs your strength and courage.  If you don’t, take some time to ask those questions.  What does it look like for you to be strong and courageous?  What do you need to step into… or maybe step out of?

I think bravery is daringly living this life and not waiting for it to happen to you.  It is living your life, doing your thing, and fully walking in what that means in your neighborhood, with your people, surrounded by your tribe.  It is being true to yourself, not to what others want you to be, or what you think others think you should be.

So in celebration of this year of wholehearted living and loving and daringly being brave and strong and courageous, I made y’all something.

Maybe you could put this by your nightstand, or framed in a picture gallery, or even in a child’s room to remind them that they too, can be brave.  However you use it, I hope it serves to remind you that we can step into this truth!

strong & courageous

{click here to download the 8×10 pdf}

I so appreciate you guys.  I’m cheering for you.  Now, go get ‘em.  ;)

my favorite parenting books

favorite parenting books

The longer I parent, the more I realize that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.  And as soon as I do begin to feel like I understand my child and I am winning at parenting, she changes, and I am left trying to decipher her all over again.  It kind of constantly feels like I am playing catch up in the world’s very most important game.

I think before we had kids I felt like I would find one philosophy and stick with it.  I thought that I would find something that I could align myself with 100%, it would be our thing, and that is how we would parent.

I am discovering it is much more like a salad bowl: keep what you like, throw out what you don’t, imitate their recipe when you can, and toss it all together.  It’s a mishmash.  It depends on the kid and the situation and the age and what worked the previous time and what didn’t.

In my {relatively short… 4 years} journey of parenting, I have gathered a pretty decent arsenal of parenting books.  Some have been recommended to me by friends or family, some I have stumbled upon and taken a liking to.  I would say that all have helped to provide a framework within which I want to parent my kids, so I offer them to you.

Feel the freedom to look them over and do my same process: Keep what you like and toss what you don’t.  The caring for and raising of tiny humans is a deeply personal, significant, sacred, and exhausting task.  What works within one family might not work within another.  You are doing a good job with wherever you land, know that.

 :::Parenting Book Recommendations :::

{click on each title to be taken to its Amazon page}

The Story of Me (God’s Design for Sex) book 1, ages 3-5: This is book one in a four part series in how to approach the “facts of life.”  It’s written like a story-within-a-story format (conversation between parent and child) and very non-threatening, designed to help parents begin to weave these topics into early conversations and establish themselves as a trusted expert, rather than react when the topic is potentially awkward once their kids hits 13.  It does address adoption, but not necessarily other family situations: single parent homes, non-traditional guardians/parents.
::: The rest of the series :::
Before I Was Born, book 2, ages 5-8This book centers on how our bodies were created, but has a fairly direct approach to sex.  I am not at this stage of parenting yet, and am so glad! ;)
What’s the Big Deal?, book 3, ages 8-11: Reinforces the points of the first two books. It also walks the tension of not sheltering our children too much from destructive messages of the world but making sure that we have given them a firm foundation on which to stand as they encounter difficult realities of our culture.
Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You, book 4, ages 11-14: This book helps to prepare the child for puberty.

Your {____} Year Old series: This is a series of parenting books based on 40 years of research observing children and talking with parents.  They help parents to better understand their children through all of the different stages {the books go from Your Two Year Old, Terrible or TenderYour Three Year Old, Friend or EnemyYour Four Year old, Wild and Wonderful… all the way up to fourteen year old.}  Really, these books are so comforting and normalizing, honestly.  I feel like they are writing the book for Brennan and Ellie.  It is so helpful to know what to expect for each stage and that what we are going through is normal.  I could not recommend any book in this series highly enough.

Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, and Young Children:  Any essential oil mamas out there?  You need to know about this book.  It is the most helpful oil book for pregnancy and baby issues.  The entire book is an alphabetical list of different ailments (crying baby, diaper rash, dry skin, headaches, lactation, poison ivy, vomiting, and on and on and on) and what oils to use to treat it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have already opened it up for a little consultation.  It’s so helpful if you use essential oils.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Buy this book.  It’s a NYT bestseller, and for good reason.  It’s tagline is Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children and it is fantastic.  The author takes typical parenting problems and looks at them through the lens of important Jewish teachings to help parents raise children who are compassionate, respectful, and generous, and hard-working.  I love the no-nonsense style of the author and wherever you fall on the faith spectrum, it is still relevant parenting advice and the tradition of Judaism that the book is based upon gives such richness and depth to parenting.  Lots of gems in this book- nearly every page is highlighted for me- and it has lots of good practical examples.  I will warn you- it is very wordy.  It’s not a book to skim through as you are exhausted at the end of the night.  But it’s worth the effort.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Development: Another one I feel like every single parent needs to read.  It has helpful tips for 2-year-olds as much as 13-year-olds and is relevant no matter your parenting stage.  It is very accessible and gives parents very clear and usable strategies to help parent our kids.  It helps us to parent our children with their whole brain- the emotional as well as the logical.  It has given me some new ways to think about how my daughter responds to a situation and the best way to respond to her in turn.  Lots of practical advice… so, so, so very helpful.  Really, cannot recommend this one highly enough.

Bringing Up Bebe: I just like this one a whole lot.  How’s that for an endorsement?  You’re not necessarily going to find researched, practiced, hands-on advice for what to do in any given moment in this one.  But it is a great read.  An American journalist mother was living in Paris and noticed that French children ate quietly at the dinner table when out at restaurants, looked strangers in the eye and said hello, and spoke respectfully to their parents while still retaining that childlike playfulness and curiosity.  She wondered how in the world did French parents do it?  It is a fascinating read on parenting, and it did make me think quite a bit about our cultural norms as well as my own parenting style.  Fascinating book, engaging,  and very well written.

Last thoughts: One day I called my sister {who is my parenting sensei} when I was completely at my wits end with my three-year-old.  Her top two, and immediate, recommendations were The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and Your Three Year Old {I bought a whole heap of the series at once though!}.  For what it’s worth, I think those two along with The Whole-Brain Child are the very best for actual parenting advice.  And they come on her recommendation, which you need to just trust.  :)

Final bit: I am not an Amazon affiliate, just in case you were wondering. :) Just making it helpful for you to get these books in your hands because they have saved my sanity in so many moments!

Are there any books I missed that you think must be added to this list?  I would be so curious to know what you think!

~xoxoxo~

{recipe} one ingredient ice cream

one ingredient ice cream

If you are looking for a little way to indulge your sweet tooth without totally falling off the bandwagon, look no further my friends.  I have a trick for you that one of my girlfriends introduced to me several years ago.

Did you know that you could create “ice cream” at home with just one single ingredient?  I kid you not, this is all you will need:

one ingredient ice cream

Yep.  A frozen banana.

It is the absolute easiest recipe you will ever create, I promise you that.

Simply:

: Take a banana that is fairly ripe, you want some of the sweetness that comes with the brown spots.
: Unpeel it and pop it into a baggie in the freezer. Some people slice it up before putting it in the freezer, I just put it in whole.
: Let it freeze for at least 2 hours, or it can be one that has been in there for a few days.
: Use some device to blend it up {I have found that a simple blender didn’t work as well for me. A food processor works great, and my magic bullet has never let me down on this one}
: This will be your process: Blend, scrape down the sides, blend, scrape, blend, scrape.
: And then, suddenly, your banana will transform from big chunks, to more like ice chips, to gooey, to this beautiful dreamy soft-serve consistency.

Plain really is delicious, but you can also add toppings! Here are some that I have tried:

A sprinkle of cocoa powder with about a tablespoon of honey
A tablespoon of peanut butter
Chocolate chips
Cinnamon

The peanut butter/chocolate chip combination is my favorite:
one ingredient ice cream

So if you need a quick little treat on game day, or any day, to get over your sugar cravings- try this!  It does the trick and is pretty delicious.

Have a great weekend~!
xoxoxo

a letter to my husband on his birthday

letter to my husband

My husband, Lane, turns 32 today.  We’ve been together since we were 18 years old- in a sense, we have “grown up” together, meeting when we were still practically babies!  What a ride it’s been.  Here are the words I can gather together for this man that means so much to me on his birthday.  If you want to read about the best gift I ever gave to him, find it here.

Lane, this is what I know about you:

You are adventurous.  So many of my favorite memories with you involve the outdoors, from you teaching me how to rock climb in college to you encouraging me to jump off of the “cliff of courage” in Mexico this past fall, from climbing 14ers to backpacking in Utah, from us climbing the Manitou Incline to teaching our girls to embrace getting dirty in nature.  You parachute.  You surf.  You shoot guns.  You backpack and rock climb and hike and run.  You help me be brave.  You get into the wild and love a good {but calculated} thrill.

letter to my husband

You see people.  Yes, you care about people but it goes deeper than that.  You see them.  You see their stories because you take the time to ask them.  I don’t even know the number of hitchhikers you have picked up any more… if someone is in need, you stop to help.  And the stories you have gained from those rides!  Sometimes you need to remind me to take a step back and have some grace… They must have a lot of wounds in their life to respond in that way… you tell me.  You have grace and love and compassion and love and grace and you act on it.

You are strong.  The physical and mental toughness that it requires to become an Army Ranger boggles my mind.  What you put your mind to, you accomplish.  What you wish to excel at, you do.  Not because everything comes naturally to you {though so much does it is completely annoying} but because you work hard and you train your mind and your body to do what you want them to do.  What you have encountered in training and in war has turned you into a warrior.  But you believe in justice and you believe in peace.  You defend the defenseless and protect the hurting.  But it’s not simply physical strength that I see in you… your passions, your convictions, your integrity, your dedication, your discipline… you will not let yourself be compromised.

letter to my husband

You love Jesus.  With passion.  Anytime a speaker asks the audience to think of people that have impacted their faith, I don’t think of a mentor and I don’t think of a college roommate or friend or coworker… I think of you.  You make me better.  You show me a better way to live, to love, to think, and it is based on your love for Jesus and how he has changed you.  And it doesn’t end with me.  In Iraq and in Afghanistan and in the halls of the local high schools and on the soccer field with your players… you make us all better.  We all think of you when we need to think of someone who impacted their faith.  So many could echo my words.

You are fun.  When we’re shopping, you throw in a bag of candy “just because.”  You make blended margaritas on Saturday afternoons because “why not?”  We went laser-tagging for your 30th birthday.  You don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure we have a good time.

letter to my husband

You are an amazing daddy.  You are the light in our girls’ eyes.  And they don’t know it yet, but you will become their standard in what they look for in a boyfriend and a husband.  All men will be measured against you because you love them so well.  A request to dance?  You turn on Disney music.  Daddy will you play?  You’re on the ground building a tower or finding the best hiding place in the house.  You sneak them chocolate chips when I’m not looking, make sure they know they’re beautiful whether they’re wearing a princess dress or pajamas, but also made sure they know how to climb a tree and how to hike the Colorado mountains.  You’re already planning your first snowboard trip with Brennan, when you can start coaching their soccer teams, and wondering how early is too early to teach rock climbing.  You are a good Daddy because you are involved, but more so because they know because they know because they know that they are precious in your eyes.

letter to my husband

You are my rock.  You reel me in, you keep me grounded, you are my solid ground when I have none.  You are the steady to my waver, the logic to my passion, the details to my dreams.  You are the anchor to my ship, the encouragement to my doubt, the love to my fear.

In this picture here, the night we got engaged on top of a mountain at sunset in 2004, I had an idea of what I was getting in you… but I had no idea.  As Helen Keller said, Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all, and you, my love, are taking me on the very best adventure I could have ever asked for.

a letter to my husband

what i want my daughter to know

{ as a side note, friends ::: in the last few days our sweet community has grown more than I ever anticipated.  I wrote for (in)courage and then for MoneySavingMom, and am so so grateful for those of you who have found a place here at thejellyjars.  so: welcome!  SO glad that you are here, I can’t wait for us to get to know each other.  I thought this post would be a good place to start. }

what I want my daughter to know

Fairly soon after having a baby, you begin the dance of feelings between absolute love and absolute anxiety.  A sense of responsibility hovers, beckoning you to mold this life into one that is hard-working and caring, one that walks humbly and loves mercy.

Absolutely.  It is a gift.  But also, absolutely it is hard and overwhelming and enormous.

As for my role in the process of building a life, this is what I want our two girls to hold onto:

: How to change a tire: both on a car and on a bike.  There might come a time when you simply cannot be the damsel in distress.  You’ll be late to a meeting or you’ll be in the middle of a triathlon and you’re going to need to buckle down and do it yourself.  It will instill confidence within your soul that you are strong and capable.

: Offer help to others.  Pick up the toy that the baby dropped at the store for his mom.  Sacrifice time on a Saturday to mow your elderly neighbors’ lawn.  Get outside of yourself and your own world.  Show others that you are with them in this… and then be with them in this.

: You have much to offer this world.  There is nobody else in the entire world like you.  You are unique, you have perspective that no one else will have.  Know that your voice matters; what you think, what you say, who you are, matters.  So learn how to speak your mind.  If you disagree with a situation, explain why in a loving way.  If you have this really good idea, say it.  Your words have value.

: Express gratitude.  Don’t be entitled.  Recognize the shoulders of those on which you stand.  Say thank you to your high school teachers.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The person holding the door for you.  Recognize your fellow human beings; we’re all in this together.

: How to summit a mountain.  Or how to backpack in Utah.  Or walk along a river.  Get out into creation.  Step far away with it, where the noise is stilled, where you can see for miles, where you feel most at peace.  Use the strength and grace and agility of your body to get dirty and get tired.  Stare up at the stars in the sky in the evening and recognize just how beautiful it all is and just how tiny we all are.

: Know who you are, know what you want to be about, and be sure of it.  The world will try to tell you otherwise, and it can be all too easy to let the allure of those shouts drown out the still and small voice of truth.  Be who you are, be true to your identity- don’t be what you think others want you to be.

: Move your body.  In whatever way best suits you.  It will speak to your soul and will make you feel strong.  Whether it’s dancing, rock climbing, running, or gardening.

: Create.  Whether it’s photography, writing, painting, or knitting.  Bring something to life that wouldn’t have existed had you not taken the time, the skill, and the love to bring it forth.  Find what is the most life-giving to you and then go do that.

: My baby girl, you are beautiful.  Beauty is not defined by magazine covers or the number on the scale.  Be comfortable in your own skin- don’t listen to any other messages you might receive.  Let me and your daddy be your mirror; remember what we tell you about your beauty.  Real beauty is being comfortable in your own skin and then living firmly within that identity.  You are exquisite, my girl.

: Life doesn’t always go according to plan.  Learn how to lose gracefully- it will be noticed and speak volumes about your character.  There will be bumps in your journey.  But I promise you this: hold tightly to grace, do not let go of what you know to be true.  Sit in the tension, sometimes beauty shows up where it’s least expected.

: Spend time with those who are not like you.  It will expand your thinking, show you different experiences on this same earth, show you that there are many different ways to live this life, and mold you into a more loving, more compassionate person.  Things aren’t always what they seem; go get out of your context.

: Play your note in this world.  Figure out what you love, what makes your heart beat, what you have to offer this world.  Sing love into this world.  Step into the places of need, the places of heartache, the places that need you.

And you, my darling, will live this life well.

the thing about being brave

living a wholehearted life

Let me tell you guys a story.

Last week I talked about how I’ve been sitting with and processing and turning over this word wholehearted.  To live with everything I’ve got, even when it might be hard, even when life might not look the way I imagined, even when it hurts.

Even when I have to do scary things.

Even when I have to be brave.

Because I don’t want to look back on my life… or even simply on this season… and have to say She lived mostly… but not with her whole heart.

Since I have put the word out there to y’all, I have been thinking: Sure, that is a great word.  But what does that look like?  Things are great in theory, but until you move it is just a word.

What does it look like to live a wholehearted life?

I think it looks like diving in.  I think it looks like offering a word to someone who needs it even though you feel unsure. I think it looks like taking that deep breath and going for it even when you don’t want to because there just might be something amazing on the other end.

I think it looks like the exhausted mama running on 3 hours of sleep, still playing puzzles with her kids.
I think it looks like walking up to someone and striking up a conversation because you need a friend.
I think it looks like listening to that little whisper of passion inside of you to follow that crazy dream.
I think it looks like fighting to be all in to your moments and not fast-forwarding or wishing for the next.
I think it looks like being brave and doing scary things.

And that was me last week.  See, we’re new here.  I have not a single friend to my name here.  I know people, sure.  But friends?  Not a single hang-out, not a single play-date, not a phone number exchange, nothing.  It has not been awesome.  And there was a bit of craziness added in to our move in early December with Christmas season, Lane getting used to a new job, family stuff to pay attention to, mama exhaustion, etc., but before I knew it we have lived here for 6 weeks and I was throwing myself a good month and a half long pity party.

But that just gets old.  I was not being a good mama.  I was not taking care of myself or my heart.  I’m sure I wasn’t being a good wife.

So I decided to do something about it.

There’s a great MOPS group that meets near me that I decided to go to.  200 women.  I knew not a single soul.  I’ve never been to MOPS before.  But I figured if I was going to change my story here, I had to start somewhere and the onus was on me.

So here is where it gets really cool.

No matter how extroverted you are, it is just hard showing up to a room of 200 people that you don’t know, by yourself.  It just is.

But I did it.

Because I was going to live wholehearted this year and that means stepping out and seizing the moment.  It means doing scary things.  You never know what a moment might hold if you don’t grab on to it.

Before I went I whispered a little prayer: Jesus… I just need a little bit of grace today.  I need a little bit of strength.  If you could show up today at Mops, I just need to know that you’re in this. 

I walk in the room and one of the leaders guides me through the process, helping me with the girls and setting me up with what I needed to know. And then:

Hmmmm… let’s see… what table should I put you at?  Let’s sit you at the Red Table”

It felt very random, but I followed her to the Red Table, to a group of darling gals similar age and stage as me and they said hi.

The girl I sit next to says “No way.  You were at the gymnastics class on Tuesday, weren’t you?!”

Once again, in my effort to Get In Our Groove here, I enrolled Brennan in a toddlers tumbling class.  Her little boy and my little girl became total BFF’s at this class so we interacted that previous Tuesday as we laughed at how cute they were.  But that was it.  And she goes to Mops and was my Table Leader?  I took a breath… it was going to be alright.

And then.

My gymnastics mom friend was asking me my story, I mentioned the church we attended in the Springs and when I said the name, another gal at our table leans in closer: Oh, hey- you went there?  You don’t happen to know Anne ___ do you?”  

Um… Anne is my sister.  How do you know her, new friend?

Turns out that they were good friends in NC, were in small group together, and completely love and adore my sister and her husband.

And I was randomly placed at her table too?

I took another breath.  It was absolutely going to be alright.  This was the table I was supposed to sit at.  Almost like my exact prayers were being answered.

These girls and I hung out last Saturday night.  It was incredible.  Threads were being woven within my story that I didn’t even know about.

So here’s my point friends: It is hard to step out and do scary things.  It is uncomfortable to do something new, something unknown, something brave.

But look at what I would have missed out on if I had just stayed comfortable?

Look at what I would have lost if I hadn’t embraced vulnerability and done this hard thing?

But because I knew I wanted to live wholeheartedly this year, I knew I had to back it up with my actions no matter how scared I was, no matter how uncomfortable it was, no matter how much easier it is to just stay home with my two kiddos.

So now here is my challenge to you:
Go out and do that scary thing.
Make that phone call.
Send in that application.
Invite them over for dinner.
Wake up early to take care of your heart before the day begins.
Volunteer in that class.
Devote yourself to playing with your kids.
Apply for that internship.
Begin that new hobby.
Have that conversation.
Show up as the new girl.

Whether wholehearted is your word this year or not, embrace your minutes and embrace your moments.  And do that scary thing… You never know what is on the other end.  

So go be brave: it just might be worth it.  

~xoxoxo~

finding one word to guide your year

one word

Here’s the thing: we’re 14 days into this year and I’m just now thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and Words Of The Year and how I might intersect with what is ahead of me in 2015 and what umbrella I want to cover it all.  I never said I was a Type-A, details-driven, plan-ahead kind of gal, so let it be no surprise that I am just now tackling this topic!

I wasn’t going to assign myself a word this year, hence the delay.  Have you seen these words of the year?  A word you claim over yourself and your year, revisiting and reawakening and remembering as the months tick by?  A focus to your thoughts and energies and days?

See, Words of the Year are kind of the thing right now.  They’re all over.  Hope, Anchor, Continue, Trust, Faith, Content, Dream, Fearless, Purpose, Brave.  But I wasn’t going to join in, I think because 2014 made me a little gun shy.

See, the year began one way: simple, expected, ordinary, tame.  And then, about January 16th, it took a giant and forceful and unexpected turn, and our entire year, from January until December 31st, was defined by transition.  We changed life plans, we sold our house, we gave away our dog, we said goodbye to our best friends, we lived in a friend’s house for 6 weeks, we then moved away from the city we thought we’d retire in, then we lived with my parents for 5 months, Lane’s job- the reason for all of the moving- went haywire on us, then his parents revealed he has a long-lost brother we didn’t know about, and then we moved again.  Transition, transition, curveball, transition.  None of which we were anticipating in January.

So I felt a little hesitant in claiming a word over my year because I’m still recovering from a year that knocks you to your core again and again and again.  And so with no idea what this year, 2015, is going to hold, can I really choose a word?

What if the word I choose right now is Dwell but I realize I actually need to be Brave?  What if I choose Gentleness but I actually need it to be Thrive?  Doesn’t it all feel a bit futile?

And it’s not like we’re in the clear with transition- are any of us?  2015 holds just as much unknown for us as 2014 did- and the stakes are a little bit higher now with Lane’s career.

And so it is hard for me to put a blanket over all of 2015 without knowing.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever dealt with this?  What do you do when life is supposed to go one way and it goes another?  How do you reconcile a word with your year that might not fit?  Do you give up on words and hope and an umbrella to cover your days just because you had a bad year?

I don’t think so.

Because that is life- unknown and transition and days that go well and days that don’t and curveballs and emergencies and smooth and peace and uneven ground.

See, I think that there is something significant in reclaiming a new year.  I think that there is a lesson to be learned in the process- whether it was an easy process or not.  I think that if I weren’t to choose a word this year that I would be letting the hard year win.  I would be saying that God isn’t big enough to still be at work, even when I can’t see him.

Because sure, choosing a word over our year is about the word and the intention behind it and how you interact with your moments.

But it is also an act of hope.  It is about staring at all of the new that a fresh year holds and saying, I think this one can be better… I think I can be better.

At it’s core, choosing a word is about grace.  Because our years ebb and flow, our days moving in and out with the shifting tides of 3-year-old emotions or stressful travel schedules or new babies or horrible bosses, and a word can flex to match the weight of each, holding us steady as we find our footing.

It can center you as you feel your world unraveling around you… brave.  Or it can reel you back in as you revisit it after a month of forgetful whims… anchor.

It is a frame over our year, a way to view what we encounter.  It is the focus on our camera, tightening our perspective as we see our days through its filter.

And if you are like me and haven’t dared yet dream of a word over your year yet, there is grace here, friends.  I challenge you to think ahead and place a word over you year.  It just might give you a little freedom along with the dose of hope.

Just in case you’re curious, the word I have settled on is Wholehearted.  It has actually been a theme of my life for about the last 6 months and has been so impactful that I’m not ready to release it yet.  Every single thing I do, whether expected or not, whether graceful or not, whether easy or not, I want to do with my whole entire heart.

Not longing for another moment
Not wishing for another hour of sleep at 6am
Not wishing to be somewhere else
Not counting down the minutes
Not counting down the months

But being right here, right now, with my whole entire heart.

If you feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear what your word of the year is!

xoxoxo