Joy! Journal AND...

There are a thousand ways a mom can feel overwhelmed.

A thousand things to accomplish.

A thousand worries.

A thousand hours of missing sleep over the course of 4 years years of parenting.

There are a thousand things to drag a mom down.


But there's this crazy hope inside of me, that I could live fully. Here. Now. Amongst diapers, grape juice stains, cheerio bottoms, whiney voices, and temper tantrums. (And later amongst wardrobe battles, rolling eyes, boyfriends, and attitudes). Because I truly believe motherhood is a gift, even when I feel exasperated and so very tired... I know these children are my blessing. I want to live on purpose and not so "half-there" because I'm tired and I can't figure out any other way to be.

I want to fully live.

I want to instill in my children how to fully live too.

I stumbled across the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp a couple months ago when a friend invited me to her church's study. I know I've mentioned the book here at least 20 times, but it's good, and it's changed me. It's a simple idea. It's really just about slowing down a couple times a day and counting the gifts you've been given. It's about finding the joy in the messes and beauty everywhere. It's inspired my Thankful Thursday posts and now a journal I keep super handy in my kitchen.

I count gifts and all the precious and fleeting moments with my children, because they're gifts too. I count the beautiful things I see and record things like my daughter trying to take Jed's "tensaber" (temperature, for those of you who aren't fluent in Addy). Things that perhaps only I will appreciate, but maybe Addy and Jed will one day as well. I try to write down the hard things too, like that the mess of cheerios is really just evidence that I am blessed with active children or how even when I was rushing Jed to the emergency room with a punctured ear drum, God was there and He gave us peace and kind doctors and an unexpected friend's visit who happened to be on her nursing shift.

My children are learning to be thankful. I am even writing love notes to my husband thanking him for all he does.

This simple act is changing my life, my family, and my marriage.

I may sound like a complete thankful fruit loop, but it's worth the risk if it helps change someone else.

Couple of notes if you want to try "Joy Journaling" or "Gift Counting" out for yourself:
1. Make the journal handy... like wherever you most often find yourself in your home. For me, it's the kitchen. And don't just put it anywhere... make it prominent--where you are very likely to see it and be reminded by it.
2. Quick notes, sloppy notes, poetic notes... it doesn't matter. It's the stopping, the seeing, the gratitude... that's what makes the difference. It's not about the list. The list is the tool that helps you live a grateful FULL life.
3. If it helps you to have a guided way to count your gifts: visit Ann Voskamp's blog. Every month she puts up a printable with suggested items to count (They are always towards the bottom of page on her Monday posts). Actually, just check out her blog. It's good.
4. The book is awesome, but I found it to be a little like wading through oatmeal. The poetic language makes it thick. It's packed with revelation. The truths it exposes are weighty. It's a little difficult to get through (at least for me). But it was worth the "wading," definitely worth it, especially when I got to Ch. 8. That was the life-changer for me. So, while I strongly urge you to embark on this joy dare, I think it is a highly recommendable idea to read the book too (and to know if you find it a difficult read, don't beat yourself up. You are not less-spiritual or the only one.) :)

To make the journal:

I made myself a journal out of a good old fashioned composition notebook... wide ruled so it's easier to make fast notes. They are less than a $1.00. I covered it in scrap fabrics, a family picture, scrapbook paper and modge-podged it all on.

To Modge-Podge: paint a thin coat on wherever you are adding something. Paint a thin coat over the top to seal it. Just a note: you will battle wrinkles should you choose thin paper. Choose thicker paper (close to cardstock-quality thickness). Also, use thinner more cotton-like fabrics.

I got myself a letter-holder-type thing to hold my JOY journal in my organization station. I had tried just sticking the journal to the wall, but it fell off. Also, writing on something that is upright makes your pen get air in it... and that makes writing difficult. I still like the journal on the wall though (hence placing it in a letter holder). I see it every time I walk into the kitchen, and it reminds me to stop rushing, stop stressing, and be grateful.

I made a couple more journals just for fun. They are seriously easy... like half-hour-with-some-drying-breaks-in-there easy. This one is bright and cheerful. Addy loves it. I am thinking I may let her use it.
This one below is my favorite. I made it with a ribbon and velcro clasp that I embellished with an easy fabric rose. I love the quote I found amongst my scrap-booking materials. Seemed very appropriate.
"The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life."


Since I liked this journal so well and this book has changed my life...

...well... are just going to have to click the link below to see what this conquering housewife has brewing.

{Click here to find out about The CCHW's FIRST-EVER GIVEAWAY!!!! (I'm excited, in case the 4th exclamation point didn't clearly demonstrate this to you.) You will want to see this even if you aren't into reading anything longer than a page or writing in homemade journals. Wha-hoo!} 

Hope your Monday is MADE and your life is FULLY lived, Friends!

Dreams: 5 Things Every Farmer Knows About Farming that Every Dreamer Needs to Know Too


The farmer goes out. Tills the soil. Plants the seeds. And waits. He waters. He waits. He watches for pests. He watches for weeds. He gets to drive around on a tractor (the most romanticized part of it all... "She Thinks My Tractors Sexy" anyone?? That song... it makes me smile big). He waits.

The farmer works and does so much to try to bring in a great harvest. But really, the farmer knows that he does his part and the rest is up to God.

I think it's like that with our dreams.

A dream is placed in your heart... maybe it's something you've always wanted to do, maybe it was in your yearbook next to your picture "Amanda, most likely to... be a meteorologist" (True story), maybe you stumbled across it while casually doing something you fully intended to do for just a short time or just for fun, maybe you are stuffed full of a thousand things you feel compelled to do before you leave this planet, or maybe you still haven't had your "A-ha! This is what I was born to do!" moment... whatever it is, I truly and fully believe with ever fiber of my being that you have a purpose. I believe God made you with a wonderful, awesome, needful way that you can impact your world. Maybe it'll touch the lives of thousands, maybe it'll touch the lives of a couple children and one handsome husband, maybe it'll change a city, maybe it will encourage those in your circle. No matter the impact, You were made to dream. AND You were made to be a dream-fulfiller.

Dreaming is all fine and good, but means nothing until you put it into action.

Having a pocket full of seeds is all fine and good, but it will mean nothing until those seeds are put into soil.

And God made the seed for the harvest.

{Do you know what seeds you have to plant? Your talents, your passion, your gifts... the things God places in you that forms into a dream so that you could bring glory to your Maker... these are your seeds.}

Embarking upon a dream is terrifying. You could fail. The fear of failure would like to keep your seeds in your pockets... and God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline. 2Timothy 1:7, NASB.

A thousand "what if" scenarios may want to rack your brain, keep you from setting out, make you want to shrink back... but we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:39, NASB.
Thing is, even a farmer knows, that there ARE a thousand things that could destroy the crop, and failure may happen. A farmer knows he has no say so in the weather, the locusts, the birds, disease... a lot can cause a crop to not produce, but one thing is certain... a field will not yield a harvest unless the seed is put in the ground.

A dream will just be a dream until its put into action.

I compiled a list of some things every farmer knows about farming that every dreamer should know too:

1. Know the season- farmers put seeds into the soil at the right time of year. You may need to know that it's not time yet. The best way to figure out if its time? Fasting and prayer. Farmers know to look for the signs of the season... look for the signs in your own life that it is time.

2. Know you may fail- farmers know that some years yield a lot of fruit and some years do not.  You may do everything right, but it may not work out. That does not mean you should stop.

3. Know that it will be hard work- farmers know that just preparing the soil is a lot of work. And so is the daily upkeep. And so is the harvest. A. Lot. Of. Work. Yeah. So is putting a dream into action. Expect this. Anticipate it. Plan for it. When you are frustrated because it is so hard, remember... it's SUPPOSED TO BE.

4. Know that it will take daily work- Farmers don't plant a field and then sit back and watch it grow. They work hard daily. There are daily problems. Daily chores. Your dream will require your day in and day out stamina.

5. Prepare for the harvest- A farmer may not be able to plan for the exact size of the harvest, but he can't collect the harvest unless he's prepared for it. If you are working towards a dream, would you be ready for it if it came to pass?

I may have just caused you to let out a big huge sigh... work. hard. failure. not time. planning. But here's the beauty of this:

I till. I plant. I water. I tend. But it is God who gives the increase.

I can't predict the weather. I have no say-so in the million "what-ifs."

But at the same time, I just do my part and I get to leave the rest to God. I don't have to strive, grind myself into the dirt trying to make this work. I do my part and let Him decide how much fruit I will bear. And truly, even if you are able to touch the lives of even a couple of people, isn't it worth it?

I bet you are with me in saying, yes it is!

So dream.

Dream big. Work hard. Trust God.

Let Him take your beautiful dream-field and work it into a great... or a small... harvest.

You were made for the harvest.

Alright, now, go, pray, and seek God, and get to fulfulling those dreams!


Comparison: Dream Killer, and 3 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive

The other night, I participated in my first ever “twitter party” in an effort to get out of my comfort zone and meet some other women who are doing the same thing I am. A twitter party is essentially a glorified chat room, with a host, a topic and a bunch of people madly carrying on conversations simultaneously... all using # and @ to identify topic and person. You blink and you could miss 20 tweets. I felt overwhelmed... like sick-to-my-stomach, I-have-no-clue-what-I'm-doing overwhelmed... or, to bring a whole new definition to the word of one wise old owl, “twitterpated”... extremely and completely twitterpated.


What came out of it was this incredible sense of self-doubt. I was amongst twitter-pros, blogging giants, women with experience, know-how, and followings greater than my own. Women who not only maintain a blog but write books as well... and raise a family.

I felt defeated, miniscule, silly, like the 7th grade girl in the bathroom whose nightly prayer is for boobs and a period amongst girls all complaining about their times of the month and their bra straps. I am clueless, but so desperately want to be in the know. (Side note: Why, why, Amanda, did you pray so fervently for those things? Ha!)

Have you ever been there? You have a God-given dream in your heart and desire to pursue it. You pray, you fast, you step out... and then you find others with a similar dream doing what you want to do and doing it 100x's better. You can't help but look at them and wonder what in the world you are doing here. And maybe you even go so far as to wonder why God didn't give you the same measure of talent and overall awesomeness.

The day after the Twitter party, I made the blessed mistake of leaving my Bible within the reach of my son... the son with lightening fast reflexes who can clear a side table with the swipe of one arm. I came running as I saw the boy reach for the Bible, and by the time I got to him he had already made quick work of three pages. 

As I was putting the torn pages back into the Bible, my notes in the margins from ages past struck me. Big time.

God talked to me in my mess.

So let me give you a frame of reference for the notes:

Saul was the current and anointed King of Israel, but because he was disobedient God had appointed a new king to take his place, David. In this passage, David is running for his life from Saul who wants to kill him. My little revelations are from how David conducts himself when he finds Saul (who wants to KILL him, mind you) unarmed and completely helpless on two different occasions. Instead of killing Saul, David attempts to prove to Saul that he means no harm.

1 Samuel 24:6 “So [David] said to his men, 'Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to [Saul], the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed'.”

my notes: It even bothered David to cut a piece of robe off of the one who was trying to kill him. David allowed God, who anointed them both, to be God.

David led by following God. He was NOT a man-pleaser. He didn't do what his men encouraged him to do... he sought God. Followed God.

1 Samuel 26:9 “But David said to Abishai, 'Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?' David also said 'As surely as the Lord lives, surely the Lord will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down in battle and perish'.”

my notes: Once again, DAVID ABSOLUTELY TRUSTS GOD. Be patient, honor God's way.

David knew that he was anointed to be King... that God had a plan and a purpose for his life. And David trusted God enough to bring it to pass.

In the pursuit of my dreams I have gotten worried
-that I am not enough
-that others are better than me
-that I don't know enough
-that I need to go about everything a better way


It's like the track runner who looks into the lane of his competitor and begins to accidentally step over into the other lane. A sprinter has to keep his eyes focused forward so that his foot-steps are sure. A sprinter has to run his own race... in his own lane.
Ultimately, comparison will dis-qualify you from your God-dream. And reminder: it is God who does the qualifying in the first place.

David knew that God had chosen him to be king. He knew that Saul was still king. He knew he had to wait. He knew that God was going to work it out. He knew that he could trust God.

And there it is.

He knew that he could trust God.

He could trust God to destroy his enemy (by the way in case you are following the parallel of my circumstance or even yours... other women bloggers are not my enemies. Those with similar dreams are not your enemies. But if there is an obstacle, know that God will see you through it).

Three things to learn from David about God-given dreams:

David knew that he could trust God's word for his life. He was called. Anointed. He never questions this.

David knew that he could trust God's timing. David might have wanted it to be time, instead of running for his life. But he waited. He didn't try to rush God. Be patient and honor God's Way.

David knew that he could trust that all the waiting was full of purpose and just as important as the dream itself. David grew so much in that time of running for his life. He might not have seen it at the time, but he became a sure-footed, strong leader who trusted God fully. Also, during this time God gave David allies in his hiding places, a smoking hot wife named Abigail, children, and mighty and faithful men whose loyalty and friendship stayed with him during his reign as King. This time of my life may not be the most productive in terms of writing and pursuing the God dreams in my heart... but they are important, wonderful, purposeful, needful... and who am I anyways to determine what productive is? Is it not a God-dream that I pursue? This husband, these kids, this home, all that I am here and now IS the dream, don't miss it by looking at what other people are doing with their lives. Different people. Different times of their lives. Enjoy the NOW. Live in the NOW. Thrive in the NOW.

And Trust God.

No really, Amanda, TRUST GOD.

Run YOUR race. Be the woman you were called to be. Trust God, His Word and His timing. Know that HE will make a way.

I've got a post, maybe a couple, in the works about pursuing dreams... somethings God has totally downloaded into this brain. If you want to know how to pursue your dreams, do return!


What Doubt is Really About

Have you ever felt left out... or forgotten? Have you ever felt like you didn't quite fit... you know, the whole square peg, round hole thing? Maybe quirky (which really is just a nice word to describe strange and downright weird)? Unrelated to? Awkward?  Have you ever felt insignificant or severely under-appreciated?

I know I have. A lot. Especially lately.

A couple nights ago I was struggling with that very thing: feeling like I didn't belong and had no friends. The feelings begging the question: what is wrong with me? Why don't I fit? My mom happened to be leading our women's Bible study that night. (Side note: My mom is pretty much awesome. I LOVE HER!) She spoke on "Doubting Thomas." I had never in my life heard the story told quite like she told it.

Thomas was one of the 12 disciples. Jesus chose him. He had a place. After Jesus died and rose again, all of the disciples were hanging out and Jesus appeared to them for the first time. Their casual get together became an amazing time with the Lord. He blessed them. He shared with them.

Thomas wasn't there. He didn't get included. The disciples later run up to him and gush about the amazing time they had, how Jesus was there, and how Jesus did and said all these incredible things. Thomas's response was something along the lines of "I won't believe it till I see it." Thomas crosses his arms and his heart defiantly refusing to be apart of the "Jesus is Alive" club that he felt rejected from. When he finally does see Jesus, Jesus calls him out on his doubt. (John 20:19-29)

But here's the thing. Perhaps it is that Thomas didn't doubt that Jesus was the Christ, but rather that he had a place in Christ. Perhaps, he got all upset at being the only one that was left out, that he was ready to throw the whole Jesus-is-the-Christ thing out... all because the disciples forgot to include him. Perhaps he felt like the one disciple that just didn't quite fit, didn't deserve to make the cut, the one always over-looked, under-appreciated and constantly forgotten.

Perhaps Thomas really doubted God's love... that God made him wonderful, unique and with a specific purpose... that God saw him, flaws and all, and loved him.

Perhaps, my nobody-likes-me, what-is-wrong-with-me pity party is really me full of doubt and disbelief. Perhaps I doubt that I have a place. I doubt that God loves me. That He made me like, well, me for a specific reason.

I doubt. And instead of trusting that God loves me and has a plan for my life, I want to throw it away and be like someone else.

I can't believe I missed this! As a teacher and children's pastor, I was a pit bull about each child knowing that God loved them and had a specific plan for their life. I am a pit bull now for the same cause with my children. You want to make me super angry? Try sending a message to children that they are less than because they learn a different way than most kids, or by sending a message that the only way, or the best way to serve God is inside the church in a position of vocational ministry. RAWR! Yep, I will rawr at you. I know that God made each one of us unique. He gave us a different way to process the world. Some we label extroverts, some we label introverts, some we labels ADD, some we label free-spirits, some we label type-A, some we label slow... we have a lot of labels. But regardless of the label, God has a specific plan. He sees the evangelist in the extrovert, the deep-thinker in the introvert, the tireless-doer-of-many-things in the person with ADD, the outside-the-box thinker in the free-spirit, the get-things-done-and-get-others-doing-them-too in the type A... God has a plan! YOU HAVE A PLACE IN GOD.

Amanda. You have a place in God.

You. Just the way you are.

I love Jesus' response to the disciples on the matter (Matthew 28:16-20). Instead of getting on to the disciples and telling them to play nice and play fair ("Boys, you really need to make sure you include Thomas."), He sends out His great commission, "Go into all the world making disciples..." Stop worrying about what people think and whether you fit and how included you are, and go make some disciples. Instead of worrying about who isn't texting you, be the one texting that person who is struggling words of encouragement. Instead of worrying about who hasn't invited you to the play date at the park, grab some people and invite them out yourself. Be a disciple-maker instead of a pity-party thrower.

And as it turns out, when you get busy doing God's work, you find you have a place after all.

He loves you! You have a place in HIM!

Crap Happens

True Story:

It had been one of those crazy, stormy days. I have become this wild, hungry God-seeker. I want to see Him, know Him. My tired, mother heart is worn out by the end of the day, but I want to fully live. I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and am taking her up on her challenge to live the fullest life.

Mike took the kids to his parents, and I had the house to myself.

But I had been in this house for 3 days straight, and I am ready to emerge from my tomb. (I am laughing at my bad analogy... no, though some days may feel like it, my home cannot be compared to the tomb where Christ laid). I grab my camera and decide to chase Beauty. Become the modern painter with a digitally-edited, photo-paper canvas. Try to hold Beauty within my lens. Grasp it. Capture it. Even for but a moment.

"'The glory of God is the human being fully alive and the life of the human consists in beholding God.'... Don't I give God most glory when I am fully alive? And am I most fully alive beholding God?"
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I am behind the steering wheel, making way for vineyards and empty fields that open the world wide to the horizon. The tempestuous storm that had pelted our front door with little hail stones had given way to the most glorious sunset. Gold-lined clouds against a blood-red sky. I chase after this Beauty, desperate. 

I find a spot off the road. Pull-over. Grab my camera. I adjust my settings as I hastily walk toward the vineyard. 

It's cold. The breeze runs through my hair. Soft rain drops dampen my skin. I feel a large, warm rain drop thud against my shoulder and hand.

Wait... Warm?!

Raindrops are not warm. This was definitely not a rain drop.

One brave bird flies off towards the night. I got crapped on.

In the midst of my soul's revery--my wild Beauty hunt--chasing God, I got crapped on by a lone bird on a wire... when all other birds have taken to their storm shelters.

I am disgusted. I want to throw my fist up, angry with God. How could You let this happen? I am here to worship and You let me get pooped on?! Really?

For a split second I stop my rant. In the time it took my heart to beat one time, I try to embrace the gift of that moment. Surely this moment does not contain a gift, but still I try to find it. And in the next heart beat, something even stranger than the gritty waste product on the back of my hand happens: Peels of laughter rip through the anger and inconvenience. I laugh.

I capture one picture and return to the safe haven of my car in search of tissue and Purel. I laugh some more.

Crapped on while capturing Beauty.

I crap-tured beauty. 

I am roaring now. And the laughter feels good. And God is in this moment too. 

I went out seeking Beauty... seeking a full life... seeking to know God... asking for Joy.

I found the beautiful sunset. I also found the lone, human-loathing bird on a wire that would dare to take aim at the innocent God-seeker. 

But still, I found Joy.

I could have allowed the birdy-poo to ruin my evening. I could have tried to find some deep meaning in the warm substance resting on my hand... Why would God allow this? Why would God let me get crapped on when I am trying so hard to be full of Joy? Doesn't He love me? Doesn't He supposedly give good gifts?... Or I could take the gift in the moment and laugh. I laughed with my Creator. I received the Joy in the moment.

Crap Happens.

In this beautiful, God-created world, crap happens... The diaper of the darling baby explodes and leaks onto his poor mama's pants who didn't think to bring a change of clothes for herself... The life-giving, bonding, and waist-trimming experience of breast-feeding can occasionally offer up clogged milk ducts that rack a body with feverish aches (Hi, this is where I am right now!)... temper tantrums from the sweet one, friend turned gossip, great day abruptly halted by the crunching sound of your own car's metal against another car's rear end... crap happens.

I cannot pretend to know the answer to the why.

It is a mystery. And even though I was able to find Joy in bird excrement, I am only just scratching the surface. There are far more crappy things that could happen in a life. I just have this strange sense that God is allowing me learn how to live Joy-Full in spite of circumstances.

Could it be that one could really keep their Joy every day, not just the good ones?

I know it involves trusting God. I know it involves taking each moment, easy or hard, and receiving it as a gift. It's like the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness. Each day, God miraculously covered the ground in little wafers. It baffled the Israelites:
"God's people daily eat manna--a substance whose name literally means 'What is it?' hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. 
"They eat the mystery. 
"And the mystery, that which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips" 
 Ann Voskamp, Ten Thousand Gifts
Sometimes life is baffling. Sometimes painful. Sometimes wonderful. Sometimes it's offerings lead us to question God, "What is it? It doesn't make sense!" Our minds can't comprehend how all things can be a gift. But in taking the mystery, eating it, allowing it to nourish, we might just find that somehow it's like wafers of honey. Somehow it's sweet. Somehow it's Joy.

Taste and see that the Lord is Good.

I am not sure what it means. I do not know how to make sense of it all. But I did discover Joy in the most unlikely of places.

Joy in crap.
Imagine that!


Holy Week: "Spring Cleaning"

It's Holy Week...

I know, no shocking news there.

But it always makes me think of the obvious things: the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the Cross, and the Resurrection...

but especially the Last Supper.

The Passover Meal.

The first Passover marked the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery, from Egypt. They were instructed to pack their bags and eat with their shoes on their feet. They placed the blood of a spotless lamb over their doorposts and ate the lamb. Then the angel of death passed over them and wiped out the first born sons in Egypt.

After that first Passover, the Israelites were instructed to observe the Passover every year as a memorial of what God had done for them. They were instructed in the days leading up to the Passover to rid their homes of "chametz" (leaven). They were to search their home from top to bottom and get rid of anything that could potentially have the presence of leaven. For seven days the Israelites were commanded to not have leaven... no where with in their borders. Then they were to partake in a special meal called the Seder, each bit of the meal reminding them of some part of their time in Egypt. They were to retell the story of the first Passover. They were told to remember. They were told to celebrate. I was curious as to what this looked like today in the Jewish community. If you are curious too, here is a link to an article I read.

Leaven represents sin. Just as the smallest bit of leaven can cause an entire batch of dough to rise, the tiniest bit of impurity can skew the way we think, the way we talk, and the way we live. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened" (1 Corithians 5: 6-7, NASB). 

In reading up on the Jewish customs for getting rid of "chametz" in preparation for the Passover, I was struck by the thoroughness of the search. Homes are to be "spot-free" from leaven. Not a trace. Do I even have a measure of that fervency in seeking out sin in my life? I realize Jesus gives me Grace that is sufficient to cover my sins and shortcomings. But doesn't He call me to a life of Holiness? (1 Pet. 1:16) I think of John 3:16 and Ephesians 3:18-19 and know that I am loved by God with such a great fervency...especially in the light of the approaching Good Friday. I need to take time to be fervent.

Since it is Spring (spring cleaning) and Holy week this week, I am doing some cleaning in my own heart.

It is long past time to clean out my heart. I need to find the unforgiveness I might hold against another that creeps out when I feel overcome by the urge to share with someone who has no business knowing what kind of wrong was done to me (gossip). I need to find the selfishness that causes a volcano of yelling and snappy words to erupt when people (namely my kids and my husband) don't do what I want them to. I need to find the pride that causes me to think I deserve more... Hmmm... I think I could go on a while... Spring cleaning in this temple is definitely past due!

My Prayers this week:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. 

                                 -Psalm 139:23-24, NASB

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.

Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. 

                              -Psalm 51:1-17, NASB

By the way, I have some other stuff on my heart to share this Holy Week. So do look forward to more tomorrow.

Searching for Spring

Today, armed with a camera, magnifying glass and sunglasses, Me and the kiddos headed to the park in search of spring.

Addy and I had a nice little discussion earlier in the morning over Google images about seasons. We talked about some signs that would indicate spring was here.

Let's go find spring!

 We found it in little tiny white flowers sprinkled across the grass...
In pink daisies...
 In red and purple lilies...
 In sun-kissed periwinkle...
And fully opened tulips. (Mom loves bulb flowers! Who wants to visit Daffodil Hill with me?!)

We found spring in snowy blossoms--the dead of winter unable to keep new life from springing forth.

Spring is in freshly dressed willow trees wearing the bright greens of this season.

Spring is reflected on the canvas of water. I stand in awe of God because creating the world and breathing new life into it every spring simply wasn't creative enough for God, He also decided to leave paintings of beauty on the water's reflection. And we dub Claude Monet the Father of Impressionist Art??

 We discovered the culprit to the "rat-ta-tat" sound in the trees.

We were hoping to see some baby wildlife, but we still saw evidence that love is in the air.

 Spring is in the shimmering gold-haired little girl beside the glistening waters,
In wildflowers amongst the not-yet-awakened vineyards,
And in the the intoxicating aroma of mustard-flowered fields (ah-choo! Just kidding...).

Spring is the beautiful days that require the windows rolled down and I discover how natural it is to stretch out hands in worship to the Lord... to delight in each day... "This is the day that the Lord has made...
...I will rejoice...
...and be glad in it!"

 I will take off my socks and let my toes feel the sunshine...
I will take my Claritin and forget that it's allergy season, forget that I have a million things to do, forget that yesterday I kept getting frustrated and yelling at a child who refused to listen, forget that I got a grand total of 4 and a 1/2 hours of sleep because a baby's gums were swollen with moving teeth... I will rejoice in the day! I will be child-like and my hair will be wind-blown! I will discover new life and new days!

Happy Spring to you!
Do take a day off to enjoy it!

Appropriate Worship

Have you ever had something that someone said just stick in your head. It replays over and over again. It lingers in the space of your mind waiting for the opportunity to be applied to your life. It's like your kid's jacket that you keep finding on the floor, and it just needs you to find it a hook to hang it on.

Last week, one of those things got spoken, and, after one week, I finally found the hook to stick it on.

Jesus shows up for the inappropriate.
                                               -My Pastor

I don't know if you are like me. I could be one of a few. I have a feeling I am one of many.

I care about what people think.


I know that there is a serious down side to this quality of mine, but I know that sometimes our greatest weakness is our greatness strength as well. I am attentive. I can sense others' discomfort. I like to think it makes me a good hostess--always aware of drink refills, who is not engaged and could use some introducing, and when to serve the next course. This "gift" has been useful and helps me be all about others. On the other hand though, it can inhibit me because I worry what people will think of me. My mind is constantly thinking through how what I am doing will be perceived. I feel like I am getting better everyday. I am becoming more okay with who I am. The more I like who I am, the less I require other people to like who I am.


I have found this issue popping up in worship and church and the way I respond to God.

There is a hunger and a desire inside this girl for God. I want to know Him. I want His touch. I even feel desperate. But something seems to stand in my way:

The fear of what others will think.

I want to be proper. I don't really care to be judged. I definitely don't want to be seem weird. I find myself conflicted as I try to operate inside some kind of set guidelines.


The Bible is full of inappropriate people, people who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.

The woman with the issue of blood: She should not have been in that crowd of people. She was marked unclean. She shouldn't have touched anyone, least of all a teacher. But she was desperate. She knew Jesus was her answer. She knew if she could just touch Jesus's clothes her problem would cease. She would be healed, changed, better. Her desperation was greater than her desire to be "appropriate."

The woman who washed Jesus's feet: She should not have been at that dinner with religious leaders. She was a prostitute. She shouldn't have bought a gift from her pro money for the Son of God. But she was desperate. She wanted to express her love. She poured out her tears and her costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She used her hair (a woman's mark of beauty especially at that time) to clean his feet (the dirtiest part of a person's body at that time. Think: heat, dirt and sandals...ew!). She was inappropriate. She was offensive (to the Pharisees). She knew that if she could just express her love for Jesus everything would be alright. He could heal her heart. Her desperation was greater than her desire to be "appropriate."

The short-statured, ruthless tax collector. He should not have been in a tree. He should not have been amongst people whom he had cheated. The people hated him. But he was desperate. Something in him said that if he could just see this man called Jesus, maybe something would change. Jesus should not have picked him out of the crowd. He should not have gone to his house. Zacchaeus was a lying cheater who had become rich on the backs of the already down and out. But Zacchaeus had a desire for something different... a desire to see if he too could be changed. His desperation was greater than his desire to be "appropriate."

The men who lowered their sick friend through a roof. They should not have cut a hole into someone else's roof. They should have waited in line... waited outside... waited for a different opportunity. They cut a hole into a roof! Of someone else's house! But their friend needed a touch from Jesus. They knew if they could just somehow get him to Jesus, he would be healed. They were desperate, and they used desperate measures. Jesus didn't condemn them for ruining the house. He healed their friend and saved him from his sins. The desperation of these men was greater than their need to be "appropriate."

These people were inappropriate. The stood outside of what was acceptable. But Jesus saw their hearts. He looked at them, and He saw the desperation of their need and the desperation of their desire to have that need met, and He went to them. He met their need. He forgave their sins.

Sometimes I feel inhibited by what's expected of me. It could be the first-born child in me, but sometimes I feel I live under this weight of expectation. I try so hard to get it all right. I worry what my behavior should look like when I am at church, and not really in a way that I always recognize. It's subtle. Sometimes it's really simple things like not going to the altar to pray because people on either side of me are already in prayer, and I would risk interrupting their God-moment (that would be rude, right? Isn't "thou shalt not interrupt the ones in deep prayer" somewhere in the Bible?). Or not wanting to kneel because even though God is dealing with me, I worry that I will draw attention to myself (That would be making a show, right? Aren't we supposed to not do that?). I worry I might offend someone who is a "non-believer" (Is that not the greatest offense of all? Shouldn't we be "seeker friendly?"). I know. I think way too much. I worry way too much. And you know, not only can worrying what other people think be unhealthy, not only is it a form of pride, it can also be a form of idolatry! It is setting the thoughts and opinions of man ABOVE God. It is setting religion and appearances as more important than what God is doing in the heart. It is limiting God. Ouch!

I was thinking on this, and it reminded me of a particular time in my life. I was a teenager. I was naive. I began a relationship with a super hot, super popular guy. Only problem, he already had a girlfriend. Oh, he led me to believe that we had this deep and great connection. I don't really care to go into the story because it's really not the point. I bring it up because I remember what it felt like when I would see this guy in halls and he'd wink at me... when no one else was looking. He'd call me or talk to me... when no one else was around. He'd take me to a party... that only the adherers to the sacred "bro-code" were at. What I thought was a great friendship that was leading to a great relationship, was a sham. I was the notorious "girl on the side." I was a thing best kept hidden. I wasn't worth being the real deal. It was painful, hurtful.

I think, perhaps, this is a glimpse of what God feels when we hold back out of fear of what others will think, when we hold back because of what the "church norm" is or out of fear of being "inappropriate." God doesn't want to be our "god on the side." He doesn't want to take the back seat to appearances or what is "the right thing to do." He wants to be claimed. Recognized. Pointed to and pointed out like in my relationship with my handsome prince for a husband who, in stark contrast to my secret high school affair, loves and cherishes me. He makes an effort to say in all kinds of different ways, "This right here is my woman. She is a priceless treasure. And I love her."

God honored the inappropriate not because they were inappropriate. He honored them because He saw their hearts. He saw their need. He saw their desperation. He was deeply moved by their willingness to look ridiculous just to get his attention. I think of the movie Ten Things I Hate About You when Heath Ledger's character plays the song, "I need you baby, and if it's quite alright, I need you baby for all the lonely nights..." over the loud speakers as he dances in the bleachers for the one he loves. It's ridiculous. But it's moving because he made himself so vulnerable.

God isn't looking for weird for weird's sake. He is looking for hearts that are fully towards Him. He is looking for actions that match the desperation of the need and the belief that He is the only Way, Truth and Life. He is looking for demonstrations that match a heart of love for Him. "This right here is my God. He is a priceless treasure. And I love Him."

God doesn't want to take a back seat to religion.

So what is the proper way to worship or express one's love of and need for God. I don't know. And I think that's the point. The Bible does talk about crying out, musical instruments, singing, raised hands and falling to one's knees... but I don't think a set of rules can be made for it. In following hard after Christ, there isn't really room for religion and rules. "It was for freedom that Christ set you free" (Gal 5:1). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17).

The Way doesn't make sense to the wise, only to the foolish (1 Cor 1:20-21). It is offensive (Matt 10:34-37). The Way looks strange--not of this world (John 15:19).

Jesus was improper. He was judged. He was considered weird. He definitely operated outside of the religious guidelines that were in place. He offended many, but He came to save the world. He brought life and life abundant. He left behind his Spirit to guide us into truth and to allow us to operate in the same power that He walked in. Jesus even warned his disciples to not be surprised when the world thinks you are strange and when it hates you (John 15:18-20). And I can't be so naive as to think that "the world" doesn't live in the church, that Pharisee's aren't present in the church, and that I myself don't struggle with the same spirit that was on the religious leaders that Jesus spoke out against (Matt 23).


But oh God! How I long for you! How I long to see you move. How I long to see the needs of the desperate met by the power of God working through his people. How I long for miracles. How I long to worship you in spirit and in truth.

I am desperate. I am a housewife in need of my Savior. I am in desperate need of a touch from God... of the patience, perseverance, faith and love that comes from walking in the Spirit... following hard after God and His Ways. I long for freedom. I long to cut loose

I can't help but think of David in all this. I want to be like David when people scoff at my response to God. "Yes, and I will come even more undignified than this..." (2 Sam 6:22).

"Letting go of every mistake
Throwing off the chains of restraint
All that will remain
A passion for Your name
Running as we run this race"

                     -Hillsong United "Running"

Watch out world, this girl is throwing off the chains of restraint and running after Jesus. It might just get all undignified up in here. Haha!

"... As Yourself"

I am still alive!

I have been working on a bunch of projects for the last 2 weeks. I made 4 pillow covers, one bench cushion, finished my bench/toy storage, and completed my beautiful-enough-to-sit-in-my-dining-area-but-full-of-all-my-crafting-sewing-and-preschool-stuff-and-best-thing-I-have-done-since-birthing-my-kids cabinet (um, I have no idea what to call it. Cabinet all by itself just doesn't say enough... and after 5 weeks of hard work and a wrecked house, cabinet all by itself might just offend me. Ha! It's awesome!). I have also been studying 2 topics that I need God to speak to me about. I can't wait to share all this stuff with you!

Today, though... I just wanted to share a simple thought.

I had a rough week and a half. I think I shall share main reason why another time, but also because my husband's schooling is in full-swing and I am tired. Exhausted. I have gotten the hang of the routine, the ironing, the extra laundry from his extra uniforms, the rushed dinners during the week, the "I am really tired from the week and need easy dinners" during the weekend. In spite of the adjusting, I suppose some weeks are just simply going to be harder than others. This is a harder one.

Last night, I went to a women's Bible study. It was led by a pastor's wife of another church in town. I adore her. I got to work with her for a couple of years doing community vacation bible schools and I fell in love with her and her husband's passion for the church, for unity, and their "life of action." They don't just talk about it... they do it.

She had a fairly simple point that was simply something I really needed to hear. Christian has become a ugly word with negative connotations. It has become synonymous with the words hypocrite, bigot, and occasionally self-entitled jerk. I sometimes hesitate to call myself one. Not because I am ashamed of Christ. I will gladly claim Him... it's just all the people walking around pretending to follow Him that I don't want to claim. I could probably trail off here, but I shall attempt to stay on topic and share the simple point.

The Bible sums up what we are to do in 2 simple commandments: Love God. Love others as yourself.

As yourself.
Love others as yourself.

Perhaps it is, and as my friend pointed out last night, that many Christians simply don't love themselves enough. For how can you love others well, if you don't at all love yourself?

When you don't love yourself, your reaction to someone's good news looks more like jealousy than true rejoicing and your response to someone's talent looks more like competition than appreciation of diversity. We become the notorious middle-child in the family, acting out because we are completely unsure of our role in the family and our parents love for us.

As a reminder, God loves you. All of you! You are his creation. You are beautiful. You need to take care of you. You are worth it. You are worth the agonizing death of His son so you could know Him. You don't have to wonder if He loves you... HE DOES! You don't have to wonder if you have a reason for being on this planet... YOU DO!

Perhaps it sometimes takes great faith to see that you are beautiful and that God loves you. Perhaps it sometimes takes great faith to know that God could use a flawed person and to know that those flaws are perfect for what He has in mind.

Pray for an increase in faith. And dang it, woman, love yourself.

This world, your family, your husband, NEEDS you to!

Confidence is attractive, confidence draws people, a confident person can offer the best kind of love because a confident person isn't worried about being replaced. They can show the love of the Father to others--without holding back--because they know how much the Father loves them. They are secure in His Love.

Love others... AS YOURSELF

Start by loving yourself better.

That's my pep talk for the day. (If you need a little more pepping up on this matter, see this peptalk from a few months ago. I know I am the one that wrote it, but I totally pull it out every now and again because it totally boosts my confidence.) And after this demanding week, this girl is in need of some love. I think I shall do my make-up. Ha!

Temple Tending

Mornings have been rough. Addy is waking up earlier than I like. Um, sweetheart, didn't you get the memo that mommy wakes up early so she can have time with just her and Jesus? Please go back to bed. (Ha! As if that works!) Jed is staying up too late and waking up in the night... still! I am tired and SO wanting prayer time... ALONE.

This morning did not go as planned. But that's okay. I determined in this heart of mine I WILL read my Bible and I WILL pray even if I have to go into my daughter's room to do it.

This morning, I read Haggai. I thought I would share a little bit of what God spoke to me.

First of all, it's important to note the history. The Jews had been taken into Babylonian exile for 70 years and then some were allowed to return to their homeland to rebuild the temple. The Jews were excited. They had God's favor. They began building the temple. Then, the people in the area surrounding Jerusalem did not like their presence, and they persecuted the Jews and their efforts. And after laying the foundation, spending 2 years laboring over the temple, the work stopped. The unfinished temple sat there for 16 years.

Then the word of the Lord was spoken through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. What God says through Zechariah is AMAZING. It's got to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. But today, I read Haggai. 2 little chapters. And God spoke to me. I love when that happens.

God tells the people:  "Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over. You have spent a lot of money, but you haven't much to show for it. You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you're always thirsty. You put on layer after layer of clothes, but you can't get warm. And the people who work for you, what are they getting out of it? Not much— a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that's what" (1:5-6, The Message).

I think sometimes I feel that way. I work hard. I try to keep a clean house. I try to nurture my kids. I try to do fun activities with them. I try to keep this blog going. I try to keep my family fed. I try to carve out time for me and my husband, time as a family, and time for just me. I try to keep myself feeling pretty. I try to keep this house feeling warm and welcoming with my little projects. I try to record our memories in scrapbooks. I try to maintain friendships. I try to do what I can to love others. I try. I try. I toil. I toil. And sometimes it feels as though I get nothing done really. My efforts seem to get me nowhere. I clean the house only to have to turn around and reclean it. I work hard and realize I've neglected friendships and my children. Sometimes it seems like the harder I try, the less I accomplish.

Ever feel like that?

Here's what God says in Haggai: "'You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?' declares the Lord of Hosts, 'Because of my House which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house'" (1:9, NASB). In the Message: "Because while you've run around, caught up with taking care of your own houses, my Home is in ruins. That's why. Because of your stinginess."

It's a house matter. God saw that the people were tending to their own houses and completely neglecting His. They were content to leave the Temple half-built and a mockery to all who saw it, while they went about putting decorative finishes on their new homes.

I too worry about my home. I am in the midst of decorating and reorganizing, attempting to make this a cozier and easier place to live. I am bogged down in paint samples and faux finishes for a fabulous cabinet that will hold all of my preschool, sewing and scrap-booking stuff. I think that if I could somehow get it done, peace would come back to my home. But I have neglected the most important home...God's home.

When Jesus died on the cross, he rent the temple curtain. God's presence left the building. God's temple is now in the hearts of those who believe in Him (1 Corinthians 3:16). My heart is God's home.

I hate to just say it like this for all to read, but God isn't first.

My temple needs tending.

I toil. I work hard. I keep my family, my marriage, my friendships, my time, and my home before God. I think that somehow if I could just get all those things right, time with God would be easier.


If I could just spend time with God, all those other things would be right.

God first.

Principle of the axe again. Spend time with God getting sharp and you will cut through the many things you need to work at with great ease. You will accomplish much with little effort.

God first.

I don't know about anyone else. But I am tired. I am hungry. There is this ache deep inside me that longs for more of God in my life. I want to be undone. Filled up. And somehow I know that the rest will fall into place. We've been singing it at church. My pastor's wife blogged about it. It keeps going through my head.

Come away with me
Come away with me
It's never too late
It's not too late It's not too late

I have a plan for you
I have a plan for you
It's going to be wild
It's going to be great It's going to be full of Me

Open up your heart and let me in

(youtube link to song here)

He is jealous for my affections. He is jealous for your affections. He may be patient and gentle, but he is like the young lover who gets deeply hurt when he discovers his dear one has other lovers. He wants you. He has a plan that is wild, great and full of Him... just for You. He won't take any place but first place. So stop neglecting His House, His Temple... Your Spirit (wo)man.

God! I want You!

Applesauce and Insecurity

My daughter and I need way more fruit in our diets so I got this brilliant idea this week: Homemade applesauce! My thought was that I could make it for us, and then thin it down with some water and have baby food for Jed. So 2 days ago, I made it. I put my cored and halved apples into my cast iron pan, filled with an inch of water. I added some cinnamon sticks. I set the temperature to high just to get the water to boil.
Not sure if this picture indicates the sheer difficulty I have coring an apple.

Looks promising, right?!

My Christmas present from my in-laws. Porcelain-coated, cast-iron skillet. Ain't she a beaut!

I then sat down to the computer to do some "research" on pinterest. (I did a little thrifting yesterday for some furniture pieces and wanted to be prepared with an arsenal of design ideas). I kept thinking, "Wow my house smells amazing. I think applesauce was a great idea..." Forty-five minutes and 20 pins later, it hits me, my apples are on high heat! I pulled off the lid to find mushy apple soup still somewhat contained within their half apple shell. The apples were too broken down to be good for a grown woman's palate (probably even for a 3 year olds... yep it was bad). On the bright side, I added a banana and some blueberries and made some babyfood... and did not have to add any water. The apples soaked up enough of that on their own. Also on the bright side: my house smelled amazing and I was reminded to be humble.
Apple soup+banana+blueberries=great baby food

Store baby food by freezing in ice cube tray and then storing cubes in freezer bag. Also a great idea for fresh herbs and pesto sauce!
Lesson learned: Pinterest, while loads of fun to collect great great ideas, is a bad place to be while cooking a meal. Something could get hurt.

For some reason this got me thinking a little deeper than my Pinterest lesson though...

Ever come across someone that you think "has it all together." Or maybe in the blog world, you stumble across one of those blogs that is full of amazing ideas... from an amazing woman... with an amazing family... who takes amazing pictures...and has amazing amounts of time, and you can't help but feel like less of a person because you don't make your own recipes, craft for 2 hours everyday, and knit in your spare time, oh and also blog about it all (not to mention just struggling to do all the mom-have-to's like keeping a clean house, spending time with your children, nurturing their boo-boo's and the carpet that they just left yet another mess on, and finding time for yourself, ha.) Anyone else ever question, who is this "Pioneer Woman" really? And how in the world does she do it all???

And maybe some of you think that of me. My nose may be pointy and I may have some "crunchy-granola" passions (like cloth diapering, repurposing/reusing furniture, and homemade and healthy food) but not only do I not think I am better than everyone, I KNOW I am not. If you know me outside of this blog then you should also know I am much better in prose than I am in person. I am an introvert and sometimes struggle with small talk. I often embarrass myself with my awkwardness. But my quietness and my pointed nose is not snubbery, it's me. I often don't know what to say and can write almost a novel but can't come up with small talk. (I know, I don't get it either.) I struggle to get all I need to get done. My house is a mess 6 days a week, I go thru the McDonald's drive thru at least once a week (and some week's it's more accurately 3 times), my running routine has fallen off the map because I am too lazy to weather thru the cold, I rarely put make-up on except for special occasions or when I am overcome by the sudden need to feel pretty, and some days I am the least qualified person to talk about Thriving. I talk about it, because, well, it's where I am and I love to write. That's it. I write what I am going thru and what I have been thru. I have not arrived, just writing about the journey.

While doing youth ministry I noticed this phenomenon: a "normal-looking" (or even homely) girl shows up for youth and she is bombarded with warmth from youth and leaders a like. But when a "beautiful-looking" girl shows up, next to no one welcomes her. Youth avoid her unless they already know her. EVEN leaders, those who are five or more years older and supposedly wiser, avoid greeting her. (I only say this because I know youth ministry; this is not a bash against it, for I fear this phenomenon happens everywhere.) In fact, you could probably measure your own security and confidence in yourself by how you respond when you are in the presence of someone who has greatness or beauty that you perceive to be greater than your own.

I recently had some new people enter my life. I tried my hardest to welcome them, to get to know them, but I have caught myself analyzing and re-analyzing their every move. I catch myself saying sarcastic jokes and critical statements to my husband at their expense (when they aren't around). And which person is it that gets to be at the brunt of most of my cruelty? The person whose talents and personality is most like mine! I suppose it is that deep down I feel threatened by them. They could replace me, they could be better than me... INSECURITY! It has reared it's ugly head in my life yet again. Kind of like the pair of jeans that makes your butt look big or muffin-tops your belly, I do not like what insecurity is doing to my character. Jealousy, sarcasm, meanness, criticism, comparison... you do not look good on my character! I shall kindly take you off now and find something else to wear.

The Biblical angle I keep thinking of is that God loves me just as much as He loves everyone else. To quote my pastor from the church I grew up at, "There isn't anyone that God loves more than you, Amanda." He said this to me constantly. Apparently I need to know this, and remember it often.

"There isn't anyone that God loves more than you."

Also, the Bible is very clear: God made us uniquely and differently and with different gifts and talents and different measures of each. Point: people simply are going to be better than me and people are going to be worse than me. But God doesn't compare. Each one is His prized creation. He didn't get lazy while you were in your mother's womb. His creativity didn't dull. He made you wonderfully unique with a wonderfully divine purpose, no matter the abundance or seeming lack of talents you have. You have something. You have purpose. You have "a reason for."

People will be better than me. People will be worse. But I was made to be ME and no one can do that better than ME.

So, I shake off the insecurity. I will like who I am. I will Love who I am. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am quiet. I am perceptive. I am introspective. I am funny. I can write. There is no need to compare my talents and passions to others for I am a masterpiece. I am made in God's image with divine purpose... that no one can shake from me. I seek to take all that I am and make a sound with it loud enough to echo beyond my lifespan however long it may be, echo through my kids' lives and their kids' lives, and hopefully echo into eternity. And I will NOT muffle my voice by comparing who I am, my dreams, and my abilities to someone else!

Take that Insecurity!

Hear me ECHO!

Funny the journey this post took me on. I occasionally ruin applesauce. I am imperfect. Please don't compare me to you. Please don't compare yourself, Amanda, to anyone else (Insert stomp on insecurity in my life). So let me leave you with one final thought that I couldn't get to fit anywhere else:

"You don't always have to get it right, just be willing to try.

And there is usually something salvagable in the trying."

Apply that to applesauce, child-rearing, or your dreams.

Now... Put on some metaphorical horse-blinders to keep you from comparing yourself to others, and go TRY and go BE who YOU were made to be.

I feel ready, do you?

Eat My Words

Sometimes, I judge.

As of late, I feel as though someone has gone through the buffet line of every careless word of judgement I have ever spoken, picked a few choice ones to pile up on the plate, and now I get to eat my words.

Ever had that kind of moment? You are casually going about your business and catch yourself doing something you at one time judged others for doing? Or maybe someone says something about you that you once said about someone else? Or maybe you've caught yourself doing something that you once said "I will never...," like from your younger days before you had kids when you thought you could parent better than your mom. Right now, it feels like God is tapping me on my shoulder and gently reminding me of times past. I don't consider myself judgmental, more like idealistic or maybe even opinionated. But no matter how I choose to color it, I still judge. The past 6 months or so has contained a plateful of reminders of this shortcoming of mine.

A few months back, a girl I knew made a remark about a woman who had her 4ish year old peeing into the bushes outside of a shopping store. Her comment was something along the lines of "Seriously?! Why would anyone do that? That's unbelievable. I will never..." As a mother who has survived potty training and has a busy daughter who waits to the absolute last possible second to head to the bathroom to relieve herself, I know that sometimes allowing your child to urinate outside the store is simply a matter of survival. It's not ideal. It's not what anyone dreams of when they think of motherhood. But sometimes, on the rare occasion, motherhood simply requires some pretty "interesting" and often embarrassing duties from us. I did not say anything to my friend, for some things are better learned on one's own. God is a great and gentle teacher anyways.

We are all guilty of such things, though I suppose I shouldn't speak for you; I am guilty of such things. Lack of experience causes me to look at the choices other people make and question them. And I suppose if I am to be very honest, sometimes I am just downright rotten. A little piece of me that still struggles to know her value wants to compare myself to others so I can feel a little better. But that's an entirely different conversation for a different day,

I am learning that people and life are a sum of choices we make. Different situations challenge what is most important to us, and we make our decisions accordingly.

Being a stay-at-home mom has been something that I place great value on. But its a choice that has come at a high price. Circumstances have demanded that my husband and I make some really tough decisions to keep me at home, decisions that I know not everyone would make. We've had to look at two things we value greatly and decide which one is more valuable. It's kind of like the woman at the store who has to choose between the value of public decency and the value of not allowing her child to pee in his/her pants. I am sure it's not that public decency has no value. I am sure it is a value she wants to instill in her child. But she made a choice, and the value of dry pants won. Perhaps not everyone in that situation would do what she did. Perhaps there could have been other options besides the bushes outside. How can she be judged though, for I haven't lived her life, and I am clueless about her values?

Please don't think this blog is a rant about my judgmental friend. I wouldn't even say she's judgmental, and I also wouldn't be able to say that she's not judgmental; I really don't know either way. I have absolutely similarly judged. For example, and this may show my suburban, small-town upbringing, as a 20ish year old I had this thing about apartments. I looked at apartments, thought it looked lame to live amongst a parking lot with strangers so close by, and thought to myself, "I will never." I didn't want to rush out of my parents' house as a young woman and end up in an apartment. I am not quite sure what my thing was, guess it was just idealistic youth, but I totally thought people who lived in apartments were lame. I now live in an apartment. It's not a big deal. It's a desicion that I made because, well, I've grown up since then and because it's one of the choices we've had to make to keep me at home. Sure, if I could have my cake and eat it too, I would stay at home AND have a house with a backyard. But both isn't an option. So we made a desicion about which one we valued more. We choose me at home. (And by the way, this is NOT me saying everyone should make this desicion in a similar situation. I do not think that. I am only saying what desicion we made for us.)

Even though I am fine with our apartment choice, I will never forget sitting at dinner surrounded by friends and having one person, who happened to be planning for her wedding and her life with her significant other, say, "Yeah, I just don't think I could live in an apartment. There's just something about them." It hurt. I suddenly felt like I was less than. Not good enough. Coach class at a table of executive class people. Apartment class sitting amongst house-with-a-groomed-backyard class people. I thought of the fact that not only did I live in an apartment, but I had also moved back in with my parents for 2 years and after that lived above my church in a tiny studio apartment before moving into our current apartment. They were my husband's and my choices as much as we would like to play the victim-of-a-bad-economy card. And what did all that say about me? Is there "just something about me?" I know I am a little sensitive, but it hurt my feelings. She didn't say it with that intent, she was just communicating her future plans with her future husband ignorant of my living situation. And as I was getting upset, I realized it bothered me so much because I WAS THAT GIRL. I ignorantly judged apartment living and now I was being judged by my same system of measurement. Ouch!

I am sure this is a familiar passage from the Bible: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:1-2). In light of what I have been thinking on, I think I understand it a little better. I guess I always skimmed over the "standard of measure" part. I looked at the whole passage and thought "Ok. Don't judge. Got it. Next passage..." Standard of measure refers to weight. It's like going to the grocery store and pulling out a bunch of tomatoes and placing them on the scale. Do you measure in ounces and pounds or in grams and kilograms? I think God is essentially saying that if you pick people up, put them on the scale of your values and determine their worth; by that same scale and by those same values, you yourself will be measured and your worth determined. You yourself will get to eat your words.

The Bible promises God sees us as valuable, a treasure, it speaks of Him seeking after us, pursuing us like a man seeks after the woman he desires above all others. But when we bust out our scale of values and begin to place people on them, Matthew 7:1,2, implies that God now must look at something he sees as valuable, priceless, and wonderful in his perfect eyes and look at us through our imperfect lenses and place us on our imperfect scale. I am thinking I definitely like the way God's sees me better. I am thinking I definitely need to ditch my scale!  

Part of my struggle has been learning to live knowing that I am being judged by others. I find it incredibly hard to know that someone is standing with their nose upturned at me, even though I know I made the best decision for me and my family. Shame. Judgment. Uck! I am finding it incredibly hard to live under that burden, but I haven't quite figured out how to live without caring. Try as I might I DO care what other people think. I know; it's pride, and I need to care more about what God thinks of me. Can I just say, at least for me, "THIS IS HARD!" I know I have come a long ways. Learning to like myself is part of it. Learning to make the desicions that I can live with helps. But its hard. I haven't quite figured out how to further navigate my way out from under the weight of people's judgment. I am learning, but I have a ways to go.

The bright side to eating my buffet plate of careless words is that I am learning compassion. I might have considered myself compassionate before, but I am also learning compassion is something that one can always get better at. My depth of understanding is increasing because my life experience is increasing. I can better understand others. And I can better understand that I don't need to understand others. I am learning because I absolutely hate eating my words, to not just keep my opinions to myself, but to stop forming them all together. I think that is a better form of compassion anyways.

While I may not not be much of one for resolutions, I do love how the new year draws that line on the track for me and lets me run in the direction I choose so that when the next year draws close I can look back and see how far I have come. So new year, I am going to try to keep my mouth shut more often, form fewer opinions about others, and focus my attention on how God sees me instead of others.

"Truly he taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace."
-from "O Holy Night"

I think these lyrics pretty much sum it up for me. God gives us perfect love and perfect peace. And He calls us to live that way with others.

Making Christmas "Monumental"

Read a couple chapters from Exodus through Deuteronomy in the Bible (or the Torah) and keep a look out for the words like monument, memorial, sign and the like and you may notice that God has a whole lot to say to the Israelites about doing things for a sign or as a memorial. Maybe you aren't to keen on the Bible or at least not what many consider to be the driest passages in the Bible, but I think there is a principle to be learned here. So track with me for a moment.

If you read this passage of Scripture, in addition to words synonymous with memorial, you will also find that the Israelites complain A LOT. God does something major for them like miraculously part the Red Sea and obliterate their enemy and two chapters later they are complaining to the same God. To their credit, while they may sound like major complainers, those two chapters contains the span of 30 days. Not long, but having had terrible bouts of morning sickness, it can definitely take me less than 30 days to get over the miracle of conception and the wonder and awe of holding life in my belly to the point where I loathe pregnancy, my husband, and all the putrid smells that surround me (I exaggerate, but I do definitely begin to complain after 30 days straight of puking.). I suppose I imagine this to be somewhat equivalent to life in the wilderness with limited resources and with the same people day in and day out. However, it seems that in most circumstances the better I remember the blessings and the overcoming of past obstacles, the easier time I have getting through my present circumstances and the easier time I have holding on to Joy. Complaining, in addition to making you terrible company to be around, sucks the life and Joy right out of you.

I think God knew how difficult it would be to not complain when He numerous times tells the Israelites to make monuments, turn a day into a celebration and do things as a sign or for a memorial. He knew they would want to complain. He knew they would need to remember. 

My Christmas tree has become my Monument. When I first got married, I wanted a Christmas tradition that was all my family's own. I decided that every year we would pick out one ornament as a family. It's really a simple tradition, but I love it. Every year, we set out to find THE ornament that best says what the year has been about. Sometimes it's a day trip, sometimes it's just during a mall trip, and sometimes it's found on a family vacation. While the finding is fun, my favorite part is pulling out the ornaments from past years and remembering and sharing with my daughter what each ornament is from. Each ornament has a story. Each ornament is a monument of what God has done for us.

Our first Christmas together, we found our ornament on our honeymoon. It reminds me of the beginning, the first, and my love for my husband. I remember the memories my husband and I made on our honeymoon.

This year's ornament celebrates the biggest event of 2011, the birth our son. We call him Jedi sometimes so Yoda seemed very appropriate. "When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not." --Yoda
Everytime I see this ornament I can't help but burst into song "There can be miracles, when you believe... Who knows what miracles you can achieve..." Not the biggest fan of Mariah Carey so this ornament drives me slightly crazy (actually to be more accurate it drives my husband a little crazy, don't know of many men that want Mariah stuck in their head), but it so says what our 2010 was all about. We had wanted a second child so badly but knew we couldn't afford it, nor had much room for it in our tiny studio apartment. God got onto me for not trusting Him with my life, my husband and I prayed and felt like God wanted us to try even though we had no idea how we would afford another child, and a month after the "plus" sign appeared on the stick, my husband got a great job flung onto his lap out of the blue and a month after that the perfect apartment became available. We trusted God not knowing what the future would hold and God did a miracle for us. I think keeping this in mind is what kept me full of joy during the second pregnancy as the toilet and I became close companions for the second time.

I think its so easy to get caught up in life happening: juice stains in carpet, birthday parties, meal planning, and the debate of how to best discipline your child to name a few. I think it's important for our kids and for our own sanity to pause and reflect every now and again. I know I want my kids to know me and who I am day in and day out and the Joy and Love that I attempt to carry with me at all times (or at least most of the time), but I also want them to get that the art of gratitude isn't a just a daily desicion it is also found in the monuments I make... the ways that I set time and items aside for God and His Glory. I have a much easier time keeping keeping Joy and Gratefulness a way of life when I pause every now and again and reflect on the many things I have to be grateful for.

I love that Christmas falls so close to the New Year. For me, it ends up being a season of reflection and gratitude. I love looking back and remembering just as much as I love looking forward to the next year. Perhaps you haven't experienced God like I have, but this girl knows with every fiber of her being that God has been good to her and with much or with less in good times or bad I will be Joyful. I will make monuments of the obstacles I and my family has overcome, the blessings we have received, and pray God gives me a tree with 55 ornaments and great grand kids to tell of God's goodness throughout my life.

Wishing you a MONUMENTAL Christmas!

Pilgrims and Preschoolers

I suppose it has a lot to do with the way I am wired or the fact that I spent 3 years as a teacher and 5 years as a children's pastor, but something in me can never just allow a holiday to be a holiday. It's always an opportunity to teach my children!

Thanksgiving is no exception. I cannot just allow it to be about eating turkey and spending time with the family. We must learn about WHY we celebrate Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving, to me, is more than just a chance to list off our "Thankful For's" and enjoy family and eat. The first Thanksgiving involved a group of people who set off looking for a place to worship God as they wanted, an adventure, or an opportunity to make money. It also involved a group of people who out of the kindness of their heart became the answer to prayers by teaching the Pilgrims everything they knew about the Pilgrim's new home. The Pilgrims sacrificed much for the freedom they craved, they lost much, and at last they found their prayers answered. I love the story. Just a reminder from your 5th grade history books, the Pilgrims lost 1/2 their numbers to starvation and disease. In their bleakest hour, the Indians helped them, one of whom, Squanto, just happened to be able to speak English. They taught them how to work the soil, how to hunt, and how to survive America. The first Thanksgiving was a great big "thank-you" to the Indians by sharing from their bounty, and it was a chance to reflect that even in the face of great loss, God is still good and God still provides. I can be thankful for my abundance, but I can also stand in the face of loss and difficulty and know that God is my provider. With much or with less, I am thankful.

Alright, so I want to pass all that down in one preschool sized bite to my daughter. How do I do that?... Stick puppet show!

I happened to have a pilgrim foam craft set. Addy and I worked on the pieces last night.

Then this morning we made our puppet show back drop and "Mayflower" out of construction paper.

I happen to have metal slated chairs so I taped the backdrop the the chair and put my arms through the bottom opening. Addy watch my show from the other side of the table. Perfect!

I did the show for her. She demanded an encore: "Again! Again!" So I did it again. Then it was her turn. She didn't get the concept of putting the stick figures in front of the backdrop.

She got from my little Pilgrim Stick Puppet Play that they came in a boat for Jesus, the winter was cold, and they ate. They got in a boat, sang "Jesus Loves Me", said "Brrrr, it's cold," cooked, and then pounded their faces into the table as they scarfed their food. My version had much more to it and no "Jesus Loves Me" song in it, but I will watch Addy's re-telling any day... over and over again. (Good thing too, because I may have to watch it over and over again.) PRECIOUS! I am thinking she will be doing her encore for her grandparents and aunts and uncles tomorrow.

Here's my final thought for you:

Rejoicing and Complaining

This morning I had an "Ah-Ha!" moment. I love those moments. I thought I would share this one.

I decided to read my Bible while feeding my son this morning. I am in Philippians 3. I would love to be all high and mighty and just say Philippians so you might think I read a couple chapters at a time. But I am committed to being real here. I read just one; sometimes half of one; sometimes none. I often read while I breastfeed because I have to sit (or at least it's a really good idea to sit, ha!). God gets my first feeding of the day. Sometimes, when I am up extra early He gets me reading His Words without a kid attached to me.

Anyways, sorry for that aside, I just felt the need to make sure you knew the person you are reading. I may be many things; but I am definitely going to be REAL. So here's the "Ah-Ha" moment:

"Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith." Philippians 3:1

As I read this, I am not going to lie, I suffered from what I am going to call "eye-glaze syndrome." My eyes glaze over sometimes when I read. My brain wanders; my eyes scan the words, but I forget to actually read them. So this morning I missed the first sentence, but then I got to "I do it to safeguard your faith" and I realize I have no idea what it is Paul, the author, does to safeguard the Philippians faith. So I went back and re-read it, and this time make it a point to actually read the words. "Rejoice in the Lord." Paul tells the church at Philippi that rejoicing in the Lord safeguards their faith.

(By the way, this revelation is brought to you because of my "eye-glaze syndrome." I may have missed the simple truth I am about to share had I not needed to go back and reread it. So whatever your short-comings are; know that God can use them =])

Rejoicing in the Lord safeguards our faith. I looked up the word safeguard in the original Greek and it means to keep our faith unable to fail. So, the opposite of this statement would also be true: complaining causes our faith to fail.


Paul knew that if the Philippians kept complaining and kept a negative attitude, they would lose their faith. He must have been really concerned for them because he tells them 4 times in one letter to rejoice in the Lord. I think he was almost a bit obnoxious about it too: "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. Apparently the Philippians needed it pounded into their skulls.

I think I do too.

I think of the pair of my husband's chonies I pick off the bathroom floor EVERYDAY because he never remembers to put them in the laundry bin. I think of the pieces of food I pick off the floor because my daughter is not only a picky eater, but she also plays with the things she will not eat. Our house is almost fully carpeted save but the bathroom and kitchen and I gripe about that too as I clean up the food in the dining area, because I also have to scrub the mess out of the carpet. I think of long lines, stupid drivers, crowded parking lots, bad weather, bills, messes, and the crayon I left out that my daughter found and used to create her latest artwork on the wall. I think of the stairs I climb everyday with a baby in a car seat in one hand, trash from the car in the other hand, the diaper bag on my back, and the daughter in front of me that acts like she doesn't understand the simple instruction, "Go up the stairs" especially if she manages to find a lady bug or snail nearby. I begin to think of the serious complaints: the job losses, the miscarriage, and the stuff I am afraid to type because I desperately fear it happening to me and worry that you are perhaps going through it or have already gone through it and, though I may try, I just simply cannot relate.

Complaining: it's really easy to do and wealth of subject matter to do it over.

But, according to the Bible, it kills our Faith.

And, according to Limp Bizkit (whatever, they were totally cool...), you "gotta have faith."

Faith fills our deepest of hopes and the dreams we barely dare to mention with the substance to happen. Faith gives us the wings to fly over difficult circumstances. It's the navigation system in the crazy storms. It gives us a reason to live. Faith gives our lives purpose. It makes us want to be better and do more good. It is one thing that actually SHOULD define us. It keeps us from getting lost in the crowd; from getting lost behind the million things a mom needs to do, and from feeling like the K-mart blue-light special rather than a unique and special one-of-a-kind garment. Faith is precious. Faith is guaranteed to, alongside hope and love, last beyond death into eternity. Faith (I almost even hesitate to write this because I know someone may be reading this going through or having gone through something so difficult or painful) keeps us from blaming God or others for our struggles and difficulties.

You gotta have faith.

Rejoicing grows it. Complaining kills it.

I think I better remember to Rejoice.

I shall rejoice in the underwear I pick up off the floor for they are evidence that I have a man who works hard, loves me, and showers daily (can I get a "woot woot" for good hygiene here?!). I shall rejoice in the food my daughter puts on the floor for I have been blessed with two beautiful kids and food to feed them with. I will practice ignoring irritations or laughing through them. I may even choose the longest line and call a friend, pull out my phone to check my Facebook, or sing silly songs with my kids, and remember that I have money in my checking account whereby to buy the things I stand in that line for.  I will choose to think about the time I had something or someone rather than that I lost them. I will know that a miscarriage will never let me forget how precious and miraculous life really is. Instead of trying to explain the loss, I will rejoice that I got to hold for but a moment the unexplainable mystery and treasure of life. In difficulties, I will dig deep into my faith and trust that it will all work out someway, someday. I will think back on the difficult times and be thankful for the strength I acquired through them and the miracles I got to see because of them. I do not have all the answers and really no matter how much my human brain would like to make sense of things... sometimes they just don't make sense and that's okay. That's what faith is for.

Assignment: Because I would love to know you better and because I think it could be fun and maybe even funny, I would LOVE for you to write in the comments "a rejoice through a complaint" statement. Men are welcome to chime in too. And... even though this entire post is pretty much a rejoicing through complaints, I will start us off. =]

Keep Pressing!

After having brought 2 children into the world and coming to terms with the “fluffier” state my body was now in, I decided I had complained enough about my weight; now it was time for action. I decided to take up running. I have always loved running. There is just nothing quite like the feeling of going somewhere with your own two feet, nothing attached to you (except for a couple extra pounds, hence the running). It's just you and nature. It's your willpower up against your bodies limitations. I hadn't ran in at least 4 years, and after bringing 2 children into the world... out of shape is a severe understatement. Not only were me and “shape” not in the same town, we probably were not even in the same hemisphere! So, with the greatest of intentions and full of weightloss hope, I started running. First day... not so bad. I got farther than I thought I would be able to, according to my car, 0.7 miles of solid jogging (you better believe I went back and checked the distance!). Second day... all right. My body was stiff, and it was much harder than day one, but I did it. Third day... somebody shoot me because I am going to die! I think I got the length of block, I am guessing 0.1 miles maybe, and my entire body gave out on me. Sore muscles, stiff joints, and stomach ready to hurl. Alright, so I realized my dream of a tight figure and becoming “Fitness Woman,” was going to be much harder to achieve than I had realized.

The process of getting back into shape and the exercise of running got me thinking. Every long distance runner knows this secret: Endorphins. The word endorphin literally means “the morphine within.” Very simply, endorphins are a chemical the body makes when it is put under a great deal of physical stress or pain; it “raises the pain threshold.”1 When you run, your body reaches a certain point when it must begin to push through soreness, stiffness, fatigue, cramping, pain... (depending on how out of shape you are this may happen 3 miles in or it may be tragically instantaneous). A wise runner knows when to stop and rest, walk a bit, or drink some water and when to keep pressing onward. As the difficulty of the run is pressed through, something amazing happens... a new found source of energy and strength wells up... the runner has wings! Endorphins!

If you don't happen to be a runner, but have brought a child into this world naturally, then you too have most likely experienced endorphins. You see, when you should have passed out from the sheer exhaustion of shoving something the size of a watermelon (also lovingly referred to as a baby) out a hole the size of a grapefruit (fully dilated to a 10) and instead of exhaustion, you felt this overwhelming sense of euphoria, excitement and wonder over the miracle of life and the triumph of overcoming to bring something so precious into this world... yep, you experienced endorphins. Gotta love those things!

Okay, so I really don't want to actually talk about endorphins, and I am no marathon runner or trainer. But, I have been through some grueling times as life seems to be famous for. Motherhood, particularly beginning when Addy turned 2, has brought and will continue to bring challenges. I just survived 9 months of potty training—and that doesn't count the time when we just had the potty chair and talked about poo-poo and pee-pee and where it should go. No, I am talking about 9 months of panties and putting her on the potty daily. I have a feeling that's a long time, maybe not, but I really don't want to compare it with any other child's experience (so kindly keep your “poo-poo wonder child” stories to yourself! Ha!) My nine month potty-training marathon taught me to be consistent, taught me that sometimes you got to take a break especially when big sister is adjusting to baby brother and so is mommy, and taught me that sometimes you just got to keep pressing even when the OxyClean is almost out because it has been used on countless accidents and some “accidents” that you could swear weren't accidents at all but rather your strong-willed child exerting her will to go in her pants. (Can I just take a moment to say “Thank you OxyClean! You kept my house smell-free and stain-free through potty training!”?!)

It seems long distance running and child-rearing have a lot in common: they both take consistency to be successful and the art of pressing through difficulty, and, yes, sometimes the occasional rest is needed. I don't know about you but part of me wants to just claim to “need” to be in a state of rest all the time. Has anyone else noticed how in disciplining your child it is really you that seems to learn to be disciplined more than your child?!

But here's the thing, the reason I brought up endorphins: When I run, I always start off with some stretches and warm ups. I try to set myself up to be successful by making sure I am hydrated and ate the right food the meal prior. And when I start my run, eventually this out of practice girl has to dig deep. I run, and the cramps begin. I feel the shin splints. My knees ache. I try to keep at the same pace; sometimes I have to slow down. Sometimes my run looks more like a putter. But I press onward to my mark. I keep going. I don't give up. I know that eventually I will be in shape, and my mile will increase to 5 miles. I know that if I keep running eventually those God-given endorphins will flood my body and give me a new found energy to finish my race.

I think parenting can be a lot like running. We as parents need to warm our kids up to the changes we want/need to make in their behavior or routine. We as parents need to set ourselves up to be successful by making sure we get sleep, proper nutrition and time to ourselves. Addy refuses to nap most days, but I still mandate that she lay in her bed for one hour. She needs the quiet time; and so do I! We as parents need to expect parenting to be rough. Making sure my kids eat right is much more difficult than just running thru the drive-thru or turning to easy mac (not that I am saying never do this, just that perhaps everyday isn't the best idea). It is hard to get Addy to eat her vegetables, but nevertheless I enforce that one bite rule and keep enforcing it no matter how big the fit. Eventually we will arrive at the vegetables that she likes. I maintain that I am Mom; Dad is Dad; vegetables ARE good for you; and if you aren't willing to try your vegetables, you can take your time-out. I keep pressing.

I have heard this promise of the Bible quoted my whole life. In fact, I remember it verbatim, because I grew up singing it in a song.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like an eagle. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

When I was contemplating endorphins, this verse just seemed to continuously run through my brain. Perhaps a crazy thought here: I think God is like endorphins. We press and press through the difficulties of life; and at the exact moment that we feel we can go no further, have given all we've got, we somehow manage to keep going. We are filled with a new-found energy. God gives us wings. The thing is, though, you gotta press through first. According to Isaiah, you gotta wait. By the way, I looked up the word wait in the original Hebrew. It means to “wait, look for, hope, expect.”2

So, girlfriend...

Keep pressing.
Keep pressing through temper tantrums, poo-poo accidents, sassy talking-back, vegetables spit onto the floor...

Don't give up. Don't just live with the things you know you need work on with your child.

Be consistent. Or at least start practicing at consistency.
Take a break if necessary. Pick one or two battles at a time.
Don't be lazy. Don't become complacent. Be the kind of parent you want to be.

Know that maybe every one else has it all together, but, at the very least, you and I do not. And that's okay. Love your kids, do your best and expect that God will fill you with the strength you need. Maybe not when you want it, but definitely at some point, in His perfect timing. You can expect that!

By the way, in case you are wondering. I am two months into my running routine. My running goal is now set at an attainable 2 times a week. I am now able to run 1 mile solid and I power walk another half mile. Sometimes I struggle to get out there. I just took a 2 week break unintentionally, because, well, life happened and I got lazy. But still I putter along. I shall do this! I can do this! I press forward!

Also, in case you are wondering, in the battle of food, I have successfully gotten Addy to decide she likes carrots and I have learned that if I puree squash and put it in homemade macraroni and cheese, she has no idea it's there. Shh... don't tell her. I have yet to convince her that anything green is worth eating. But still I putter along. I shall work at having healthy kids! I can be the woman of my house! I will rule my roost! I press forward!

One of my first attempts at getting Addy to eat her carrots. Silly face didn't work, but, after faithfully enforcing the one-bite rule on carrots for 3 months, she one day turns to me and says, "They're not too bad, Mom."


This morning in the shower, I had an epiphany. (Is it just me, or do most "ah-ha!" moments seem to happen there?) While showering, I was able to put into one simple statement the purpose of this blog: "My Little Bit to go from JUST SURVIVING to THRIVING." This blog isn't about crafts or cooking or mommy tips, though this stuff is here; it's really about the little bit I do to Thrive. There's just nothing quite like knowing your purpose and being able to state it in one sentence. Thank you blogging for helping me find it!

A few hours after my epiphany, I was off to visit my parents. Accompanying me on the drive was Switchfoot's new album, Vice Verses. It is an AWESOME album. When the number 7 track came on, "Thrive," I felt like my mind had been read. I love it when a song can do that to you.

"I'm always close but I'm never enough
I'm always in line but I'm never in love
I get so down but I won't give up
I get slowed down but I won't give up

"Been fighting things that I can't see in
Like voices coming from the inside of me and
Like doing things I find hard to believe in
Am I myself or am I dreaming?

"I want to thrive not just survive."

I struggle with depression, laziness, and this overwhelming urge to throw the comforter over my head and go back to sleep because I worry I don't have what it takes to face the day. I worry that I'm not enough, that I don't have what it takes as a mom and wife to help my kids and husband flourish. I only have two hands and twenty four hours, and sometimes that just seems inadequate.

But I have determined in this heart of mine that I will not back down. I will not do the bare minimum. I will not just bathe my kids, brush their teeth, put whatever food into their stomach, and call it a day. I will not just tune out the things I don't care to deal with. I will not just have sex with my husband once every two weeks because I am tired and that's what psychologists say is the minimal amount needed to keep a marriage together. I will not throw myself into vices like alcohol,  television, or all the other ways a person can metaphorically throw the comforter over their head. I will not just survive.

I want to Thrive. Sure life is rough, and sometimes I haven't the slightest idea what the "right" thing to do is. Jobs fail, people suck, kids scream, bills are due every month, but I want to find the ways to Thrive. I want to make love. I want to enjoy my kids. I want to play my part in the molding and shaping of my children into the adults they were made to be. I want my cooking to taste good, and I want it to nourish my family. I want to create. I want to enjoy life. I want to triumph over difficulty. I want when God looks at me for Him to be able to say "Good job, Daughter!"

I am finding there's only a little bit of difference between surviving and thriving. It's the times of meditation, seizing the little teaching opportunities with my daughter, stopping long enough to dance with my daughter and "zerbil" on my son's tummy, waking up 2 hours before my kids do, making sure to run twice a week, planning a budget, and writing down my grocery list. It's an organized cupboard, a chat with a friend, my morning cup of coffee, a healthy treat, Saturday morning breakfast, and a project that saves me money and lets someone know they are loved.

I want to be a woman of purpose, full of love and grace. I want to thrive. I want my husband to thrive. I want my kids to thrive. And you know, I can say from experience that circumstances and checking accounts have nothing to do with thriving. I think thriving is a God-thing... my ability to thrive is directly related to my ability to depend on Him. I think thriving is a "carpe diem" kind of thing... seizing every moment and opportunity, good or bad, and searching, no matter how desperately, for the positive in it and the ways that I can teach my children (and myself) through it. I think thriving is a "making the most with what you've got" kind of thing... not looking at what you don't have, but looking at what you do have and working it into it's absolute best.

My favorite verse in the Bible is Hebrews 10:39. "We are not of those who shrink back... but of those who have faith and are saved." It's found in a letter written to arguably the most persecuted group of people, the Christian Jews. They were persecuted by the Romans and their fellow Jews. They experienced the loss of their possessions, insults from all sides, imprisonment, and sometimes torture and death. (Hmmm... and I have a hard time when my 3 year old goes number 2 in her pants...) And here they are told to not "shrink back," to not pull the comforter over their heads, to not just survive. 

So RISE UP Woman! Wake up. Pull off the comforter. Seize your day. Seize your opportunities. Do what you do to love others. Don't shrink back. Don't just survive. 

For you, woman, were made for so much more!

You were made to THRIVE!