Singing the Background

She sings bold notes, belting from her soul, loud and clear, deep and full, ringing through the acoustics into people's souls. She's young. A beauty pageant runner-up, straight-A student, former cheerleader, and vocal talent. Oh, and it seems important to mention that she has blond hair, big like Texas.

From my older and wiser lips, I sing softly, delicate and feminine, barely heard. I am the girl with hair that's destined to live out its days straighter and flatter than a memo sheet pinned to the wall, but I flutter a high-noted harmony that blends into her voice, elevating it. The background.

I am singing the background.

Without going into a long drawn out Amanda's Vocal History lesson, let me summarize it like this: I have always wanted to be a singer. I have never been all that great of a singer.

Time and experience have left me with a usable voice, but I will never be the Nora Jones or Adele that I dream of sounding like. In fact, the other day I was singing over suds and plates and spoons, and I decided to record myself with my camera. Friends, if you want to deflate your ego, record yourself singing. I could hear Randy Jackson saying to me, "Like, yo, dawg, it was pretty pitchy. Like I had trouble listening to it." Yeah.

In spite of my vocal shortcomings, years of trying to sing and playing the guitar have also left me with an ear that can pick out a harmony. I can't explain how I do it. I just do. I hear it in my head.

I don't have the voice that was made to shine. I was not made to be a soloist. I have the voice that was made to be in the background. It may seem un-important, but having been around bands and music teams for a long time, even leading one myself, I know, those background people cover the mistakes of the foreground people. They keep the melody reeled in tight when a young voice hits the power notes out of control. They cover the sharps and flats with the grace of their harmony.

All this got me thinking about parenting.

My son just started walking a few weeks ago. His walk is still a bit like Frankenstein--stiffed-kneed and arms out. While I was watching him walk, I had myself a moment. Tears. My baby is a toddler. He's turning 1 in a few days. {I am crying again writing this. Life is so fleeting and precious and changes so fast. From being the girl that wanted 4-6 kids, to having the hard pregnancies and a delivery that made me say "Maybe I am okay with 2," to now longing for another baby; can I just confess my sentiment: God, you are a tricky one, you are.}

Here's the truth about babies learning to walk: They walk when they are ready to walk. We, as parents, need to do very little. We stand in the background encouraging, arms out-stretched to meet their first steps. We wait and we watch and we are there to catch them should they tumble.

It seems like a lot of parenting is like this. We, the parents, are in the background singing the harmony helping our kids find their melody while they walk, then talk, first day of kindergarten, making friends, losing friends, first crush, first broken heart, discovering Jesus for themselves, wearing make-up, spiking hair, first dance... {I think I need to stop there. I don't want to be in tears again over this whole my-kids-will-be-grown-up-one-day thing.}

God made our kids wonderful and unique and special. He gave our kids talents, personalities, and a different way of seeing life and relating to God. He grafted onto our kids' hearts purpose, potential. As parents, we watch our kids' personalities come to life as they grow. We see their struggles. We see their strengths. We may not know exactly what they will grow up and do, but we want to see them get there (well kind of, I am pretty sure there is part of us that wishes our children could stay young forever). We want to see them walking in their purpose and in their dreams.

We want to see them belting out the melody of their life's song.

We want to be there to reel them in should they find themselves a little out of control.

We want to help them find the Grace that covers all their mistakes.

And because of this, there is a subtle harmony each parent was meant to sing over their child. We sing it as we watch those first steps. We sing it as we prepare them for their first day of school. We sing it as we tend to their broken heart. We sing it as we show them how to apply make-up or do their hair. We sing it even when they don't want to hear it, when their eyes roll, when they think they know more. We sing that soft, subtle harmony that lifts their voice, guides them to their melody. It's quiet, but it's wise. It never outshines the melody, but it is important.

No matter where your kids are in life, they need your harmony. They don't need you to sing melody. They don't need your will, they need you to lead them to God's Will. They need you to sing harmony, the background, the guiding role rather than the leading role. They need your prayers and your support, your grace.

{Side Note: I think this analogy translates well into church leadership too. The best kind of leaders are the one's that can sing the harmony so that those who follow can find their melody.}

What do you think?


Write it girl
Life In Bloom

"What's Your Capacity?"... and the First Giveaway Winner

This morning, I woke up, ate my Cheerios, drank my coffee, and then plugged in the numbers to my first ever giveaway. (Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say I drank my coffee and then woke up.)

And the 22nd Comment belongs to:


Who said...
You Rock! I haven't read the book either, but it seems like a great one. I'm thankful for a certain 2 year old running around the house at 7:30 screaming "Morning Daddy! Morning Bru-Bru!" Too cute...
 Yeah Katie! You win! Happy for you! Expect a forthcoming email with all the details.

And now for today's post: It's not a "Made Monday" because, to be quite honest, I haven't had time for recipe experiments or crafts lately. I don't want to post something just to post something. But I have had a whole lot of inspiration going on in the way of encouragement. It's time to start posting them.

So, here it is:

I got a word for you that I have been thinking on a lot lately.


I have a BA in English. I graduated with honors. I taught 5th and 6th grade for 2 years. I left my teaching post and worked part-time as a substitute so I could pursue full-time ministry. I was a children's pastor for 5 years. I led a thriving midweek program that reached out to kids in the community. I mentored up-and-coming leaders in the church and helped run an intern program. I was important. 

I am now a stay-at-home mom. My big accomplishments are when I manage to get the laundry cleaned, folded and put away on the same day or when I get my husband fed and out the door on time for college. My days consist of cleaning juice spills, picking up toys only to pick them up all over again, answering the constant cry for more... more snuggles, more milk, more attention, more snacks. I rarely wear make-up anymore. 

It's been my dream for as long as I can remember to raise children and to stay home with them. I wouldn't have it any other way. BUT... It's an almost thankless job. My great passion in life has nothing to do with cleaning toilets, picking up toys, folding laundry, meal planning or grocery shopping, yet that's how I spend most of my days. I led children to Christ on a weekly basis, I ran a thriving ministry, I was "on top of things," I raised up leaders, I was important! And now I cook, clean, wipe dirty bottoms, remind a little girl to put her toys away, and somehow find time to write a little.

I have a feeling I am not the only one who's ever felt like this. 

So here's where the word capacity comes in.

You are still you. Your talents haven't changed, though you can probably add "able to feed a baby, dice your preschooler's food, and get food into your own mouth all at the same time" to your list of talents.  Your call hasn't changed either, though it now entails motherhood.

Who you are and what you were made for hasn't changed.

It's been added to.

And because of that, your capacity has changed.

Every person has a fire-marshall required sign posted over their abilities.

God is that Fire Marshall who determined long ago what your capacity would be. Everyone came with a unique capacity (so don't compare). And each person came with a maximum capacity (so don't overload yourself). You can only do so much. And when you enter into motherhood, you are adding more weight to your metaphorical elevator. You may have to let some things off the elevator.

As your kids get older and more independent, they will get "lighter" and your capacity will increase. (Though I think it should be important to note, they will be seasons in your life that are "weightier" and will shift your capacity).

So, when you are up to your eyeballs in mundane laundry to fold; when your are tired of your constant nagging to lift the lid and aim straight, to pick up the toys, to eat the vegetables, to do the homework; when you feel seriously under-appreciated and not so very important... know you are doing the most important job in the world. And you are still you. And your capacity to do the other things will return.

So, if I follow with my analogy, there is a certain order to what takes up our capacity:

1. God (Time with Him. You were made for relationship with him.)

2. Husband (You want your marriage to last through the crazy child-raising years, keep him before your kids. This may mean, putting a baby safely in the crib, a movie on for the kiddos, and locking the bedroom door for a short while.)

3. Children

4. Your Job (If you stay home, this is your job)

5. You! (Time to yourself, time for soul refreshing... i.e. friendship)

6. Your Ministry (This is often the thing that you most enjoy and is definitely not limited to something inside of church. For me, THIS is it. It may even be the job you left to start a family.)

It is important to know, the weight of each of the items on the list is in a constant flux and there is often a fluidity to their order... like keeping up your house is actually a way of serving your husband and children. I am finding that for whatever reason, I am starved for friendship so I am currently adding more weight to that item. You can best love your children when you are at your best, so sometimes you need to add weight to the things that refresh you. This list is not exact or perfect, but it definitely helps me keep the most important things, the most important things.

And here's the thing I learned from doing children's ministry for 5 years: I could build a team of teenagers and young adults. I could bring in bouncers and games and slime and water fights. I could put together the most interactive lesson that eloquently broke down the deep things of God for a child. I could lead children in the sinner's prayer. But I could never be the most important influence in a child's life. That's YOU. YOU have THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB. YOU have the greatest impact on your child. You might feel under-appreciated, insignificant, and like you used to do important things that mattered. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

You have the most important job. Right now.


It's time for me to hop to that important job. Right now.

Wishing you wonderful weeks!


I would love to hear from you! Do you ever feel this way? How do you deal with it?

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!

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!


A Pink Sock Covered in Cheerios

Two days ago, my day looked something like this:

My husband returns home from work. I hear the jingle of keys, a familiar deep voice calling down to someone from the stoop, the turn of the dead bolt, and then the sound of tromping boots... man has entered the abode.

"Hey, Amanda, do you mind if Martin uses our bathroom to change before we go study?"

"Um... sure... lemme just, uh, grab some stuff out of it." And by stuff I mean, picking up a pile of clothes complete with bra and underwear, shoving all things on the counter into the drawers in one mad sweep, and throwing a fresh roll of t.p. onto the back of the toilet just in case the current one runs out. I glance at the pile of bath toys and the baby bath I haven't used in months but haven't had the time (or memory is more like it) to put in storage. I choose to let them stay put. It's not ideal, but I only have so much time before Martin makes it up the stairs.

I exit the bathroom, my eyes peeking over the top of laundry pile in my hands to see not just Mike's classmate but his cute, young wife as well. My eyelids expand to take in the extra bit of reality while my nostrils widen to breathe in that same reality and let it back out.

My house is a disaster.

I have two doe-eyed newlyweds standing in my disaster.

I walk back into the room and try my little heart out to be warm, welcoming, conversational, but it's almost as though my brain turns into a camera seeking out messes in autozoom:

I see the baby's snack tray on his jumper crusted in browned avocado slime from the day's lunch.

I see the car seat that for some reason is in the middle of the living room and upside down.

I see the pink Disney princess blanket haphazardly lying over couch and floor.

I see every single one of my pillows I just made to make my seating "warm and welcoming" warming random places on the carpet.

I see every toy from Elmo to the play broom scattered on top of the office desk, on the recliner, on the dining table and sprinkled across the carpet.

And then, I look down and see, in all of it's glory, one pink little Addy-sock covered in gooey Jed-cheerios lying in the middle of the room... right below the black leather boots of my new acquaintance.

Don't look at the mess. Don't clean it up. Stop apologizing for the mess it just draws attention to it. Stop feeling uncomfortable you'll make them uncomfortable. Focus on your  mess  guests. Focus on your guests. Focus on your guests. I know. These are the first rules of being a good hostess with surprise guests. I couldn't help it. I cleaned. In my own defense I was cleaning when they arrived. I had been out of town the day prior and out of town a few days before that. I had only gotten my daughter's room picked up, organized, wiped down and vacuumed... if only we could have hung out in there. I see the vacuum cleaner that is out in the living room and waiting for order to be restored to the great room so it can be used. Maybe they will know that I am in the middle of cleaning. My mind continues. I am really not a messy person, well, not this messy anyways. Can I tell them that I have been out of town? Maybe they won't notice. Stop thinking your the center of everyone's mind, they probably aren't thinking of you or what kind of housekeeper you are... right?

And the deep underlying thoughts: They won't think I am a bad mom/housekeeper/wife, will they?They will know that I am enough, right?

I sometimes wish I had seen a few more cheerio-socks in other women's houses before I had kids. I have these dang expectations that somehow I have to be able to do it all because the hundreds of women's houses who I grew up going to, scrambled to shove their short-comings into their "mess space" (you know, the room, the drawer, the closet, the under-the-bed... everyone has their last minute cram space). I know some people are immaculate housekeepers and some are the polar opposite, and, as I get older and wiser, I am finding that most people are somewhere in between. Living happens in their living spaces.

So, here's the honest, hard, cold truth of it. That pink sock might want to speak to me and tell me that I am not enough. Why can't you love on your kids and your husband, cook dinner, do laundry, keep the house clean, make time for God, friends and yourself, keep up your writing, do the little projects, wear the make-up, do your hair, never wear pajamas past 9 am, and return from out of town without missing a beat? And how in the world does one end up with a hot pink sock covered in Cheerios in the middle of the flow of traffic in their living area... and on the one day they have surprise company?! But...Everyone lives in their living spaces. Cheerio-crusted pink socks are just the beautiful evidence that God blessed me with a little girl who is free-spirited and comfortable enough to run through our house barefoot, and the evidence of a healthy little 9 month old boy who has gotten the finger-thumb-to-mouth down and is crawling and cruising all over the place...and taking his Cheerios with him. That pink sock covered in cheerios is a monument (albeit one I will quickly clean up) of God's blessings on my life.

I have two small kids. They are healthy. They are active. They make messes. I am blessed.

I am blessed and I am enough.

I can't do it all. But I am enough.

I am enough whether my new friend, Mrs. Martin, thinks I should win housekeeper of the year... or not. I am enough even if she visited and made a mental list of the things she "will never do" when she has kids. I like to think that one day Mrs. Martin will have small mess-making machines for children (I am convinced most kids just come that way), and she will remember that pink sock in my great room and know sometimes messes are reality. She is still blessed and not any less of a woman/housekeeper/mom/wife for having them.

Your welcome Mrs. Martin! I am linked up at

Quiet Revery in Pictures and Kids

I needed some pictures to stick in some wondrously gaudy (no that doesn't have to be an oxymoron. Sometimes gaudy can be wonderful. At least I think so...) frames I bought for the top of my new cabinet in my dining room. I wanted some sepia toned prints. So I took the kids to the park...

But there was kids playing at the park, so Addy was not at all interest in taking pictures when there were friends to be made. Jed, well, he just wouldn't cooperate.

Still determined, I took the kids to the back balcony of our apartment and decided to try taking some candid shots there. I tried shooting in manual. I have been trying it since my friend posted this tutorial on pinterest. I never really understood what ISO and shutter speed meant. This blog helped me. Thank you friend (also for your inspiration... you have been taking such gorgeous pictures!) and thank you blog! Still have so much to learn, but kind of fun learning all that my little digital camera is capable of doing.

I love looking at pictures that so encapsulate my kids personalities. They make me happy, no even deeper than that... they make me joyful. They remind me what a blessed momma I am.
They remind me what it's like to be child-like. The world is full and beautiful and unexplored. God gives good gifts.
Like Addy's smile. Like her daring little person that welcomes people with open arms.
The slightly serious little brother whose smiles must be won, but, oh, are they worth it!
 Good gifts like neck squeezes by little arms that can't quite make it around your shoulders.
 Like off-key, mis-worded singing by a three-year old: "Yeah, JesUS loves ME..."

Like scrunchy nose baby smiles that look as though joy cannot be contained in just the mouth's smile but must also be let out of one's nose.
Like dancing eyes that truly say what even an 8 month old is thinking.
This one ended up being my favorite. Doesn't it seem to need a "Hey Mom"caption? Something like "Hey mom. You know that quiet time of awesome revelry before God. Yeah, you should do that." Either that or "Hey Mom. See those boogers up there. Stop picking at them." ha ha!! Am I the only one that catches herself constantly picking at her kids cruddy faces and misplaced hairs much to their annoyance?!
Like the sound of quiet in the rare moment the kids are sleeping at the same time and I can pause and take God's beauty in.

Life is so good.

Why do I always forget to pause and reflect on God's goodness?

I need to do that.

Way more often!

By the way, I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. That book totally inspired this post's gratitude for beauty. It's a really REALLY good read.


"... 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!

I Conquered the Turkey!

I don't know what it is about 14 lbs of dead turkey that is so intimidating, but cooking one is something that I have wanted to do but have avoided for 6 years like the girl who wants to watch the horror flick but covers her eyes through the entire movie. When I was first married I got a turkey from the grocery store for free. I was so excited. I was going to be SUPER Housewife: able to cook a delicious turkey, keep a clean home, and sew curtains too! The turkey sat in my freezer for 6 months before I finally gave it away to a family down the street. I had no idea how to cook it, I could ruin it, what in the world would I do with all that meat, and stick my hand up into the cavity of the bird to pull out the neck and gizzards...pass.

This Thanksgiving, I bought a turkey because they were super cheap and I decided I was finally going to conquer this thing. It sat in my freezer for almost 2 months before I worked up the needed courage to make it. I didn't do anything too crazy to it. Put a couple strips of bacon on it like my mom always does, stuck it in the oven, and pulled it out every half hour or so to baste it. I accompanied my first ever turkey dinner with my first ever gravy,  no-box sausage stuffing, and home-made cranberry sauce. I kept everything simple, way too many firsts here!

It all turned out good. Turkey was a bit dry, but still good. With the leftovers, I have made turkey enchiladas (just subbed turkey for chicken in a simple chicken enchilada recipe), have plans for turkey and dumplings, and just finished off a piece of delicious turkey sandwich brilliance.

Toasted multi-grain bread. Cream cheese. Cranberry sauce. Spinach greens. Turkey. Stuffing. Brilliant.

I know this is nothing new, the Thanksgiving left-over sandwich is a classic. But do try adding a little cream cheese and cranberry. It's fabulous. (And by the way, if you have ever been intrigued by picture of the ex-con playing the guitar telling you to "Say no to bread on drugs" on the package of "Dave's Killer Bread" while grocery shopping... I finally gave into my curiosity and bought it. It is really is Killer... and I mean that in the "wow, this is the best sliced sandwich bread I have ever had" kind of way.)

Thinking I should never let 14 lbs of dead anything intimidate me again. Ha!

Hope it's okay if I end this post with a shout: I conquered the turkey!

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!

Thanksgiving Traditions: Kite Pie

My fondest Thanksgiving tradition is found during the pie baking. Of course, my favorite tradition would be found there. I do love pie!

It all started when I was around my daughter's age. My mom was busy making pies. I am guessing, only because I now have a daughter of my own, that I was all over her and her pies and asking her a million questions. Perhaps, she, in an exasperated effort to not snap at me, took the leftover pie dough scraps and let me play with them. However it began; when I was a wee pre-school aged kid, we invented "kite pie."

Don't ask me about the name. I was 3 or 4. It's called Kite Pie because I named it, and I had a vivid imagination, and beyond that I really have no clue where I thought that one up. Apparently, I liked kites? It's still the running joke at the Thanksgiving: How did Amanda come up that that name? Whatever. Truth be told, I like family inside jokes, even if they are at my expense (it just gives me permission to pull out of my memory vault other family inside jokes on my siblings and parents.)

Kite Pie is really simple. It's all the leftover pie dough rolled out into something rectangle-ish shaped (perfection is not important). Spread the entire top side with butter, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and a whole lot of sugar, and roll into a log. Pinch at the ends and cut slits across the top. Place on a piece of foil and stick in the oven alongside your pies. It's done when the crust is golden brown.

Seriously, as an adult, I still have to have Kite Pie with every Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving could not be complete without it. Of course, the whole point of Kite Pie is that you can eat it during the seemingly endless and mind-numbing hours of preparation (at least it seems that way when you are a kid... heck, sometimes it seems that way as an adult!). Nothing in this world quite beats the simple goodness of pie crust, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. YUM! And nothing quite beats being able to dig into the baked Turkey Day goodies early when you are a kid (or an adult).

By the way, this has lots of room for variations. The other night during an intense chocolate craving episode, I put butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a little sugar inside my dough... delish! Chocolate craving subdued! I recently visited my aunt's house and she had made beautiful little tartlets with her leftover crust by folding dough over, cutting into squares, and filling insides with jam. A perfect tea or coffee treat!

I am so looking forward to getting into that kitchen and creating Kite Pie with my daughter. Nothing like having your little munchkin help you prepare a family feast (well, if you can keep them occupied, hence the Kite Pie). Our family time doesn't start at the table; it starts in the kitchen. It hurts my heart to think how thankful I am for those two little hands that seem to get into everything, the smile that is constantly covered in the evidence that she has been into momma's baking, and those million inquisitive questions that indicate she wants to be just like me. Joy visits me in my kitchen all the time going by the name of Adelaide; let's hope I don't miss Her out of sheer busy-ness.

So, on this day of Thanksgiving preparations, I am thankful for my mom. Thanks Mom for letting me stand next to you, though perhaps underneath you at times, and helping you bake. I have never gotten over my love for baking and cooking. Pretty sure your ingenious idea of handing off the pie scraps to me is where it all started. I wouldn't be the mom I am today, if you weren't the mom you were and are to me. I LOVE YOU MOM!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family and curious readers!

I would love to hear about your favorite tradition!

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!

Treat Yourself: Ain't nothing sexier than believing you are sexy

Yep, I just went there. I said sexy on a mommy blog. But then maybe that's the problem... not thinking sexy and mom can go in the same sentence or be on the same blog.

Let me first take a moment to clarify my definition of sexy. I am not throwing this word out there in some bawdy, hyper-sexual sense of the word and merely meaning to have sex appeal. To me being a sexy woman infers confidence, desirability and all things beautiful and feminine. To further my point, The World English Dictionary defines it as "interesting, exciting, and trendy." I want to be that kind of woman (and, of course, I want to be, as in the simplest definition of the word, sexually appealing to my hubby... you feel me on that one?!)

Sure in the process of becoming a mom, your belly expands beyond recognition, your bladder stops working like it used to (no one tells you before you embark on the journey called motherhood that 36 weeks pregnant combined with one strong, unexpected sneeze can be incredibly mortifying), and dignity, well, that just heads right out the window when the need to get the baby out combined with sheer pain overtakes your body (plus, hello, in trying to breastfeed, your boobs become a doctor/nurse/helpful-aunt free-for-all). As a mom, you deal with more poop and pee than you care to realize, you lovingly spoon feed spinach only to have it raspberried back in your face by that darling baby who just learned a new sound that he can make, and your primary fragrance is not "Euphoria" by Calvin Klein but rather "Spit Up" by Jed.

Because don't you know, every woman looks and feels super sexy after labor and delivery... to that I say, HA!

Being a mom is tough work. I can't help but wonder why Mike Rowe hasn't done that episode on "Dirty Jobs."


You are strong. You nurture. You love. You have have more curves than a winding mountain road, and they are appealing. You are the queen of your castle. You are deep and passionate. You are sexy.

Okay... so maybe after taking your recently potty trained daughter to the restaurant bathroom to try to go peepee only to discover she has in fact gone number 2 in her pants and it is now everywhere and you don't have a change of clothes or a single wet wipe and you have to somehow improvise with only toilet paper on a big mess and drag her out with only (and I mean only) her skirt on to avoid complete mortification (can you tell I have been here?!), you straight-up do not feel sexy.

You are sexy!

Maybe you need to do a little something for yourself to help you believe it. Maybe the budget is tight and maybe you sacrifice your wardrobe needs to doll-up your kids (I will be the first to say I WAY prefer shopping for my kids than myself. It's easy to get them looking good, me... well, that takes some work), but you still need to treat yourself. Splurge every now and again on the trendy, good-for-one-season-only top that makes you feel pretty and current. Invite a friend out for coffee and leave the husband home with the kids for an hour. Spend a little time blogging (that is my treat to myself... I love to write!). Do a craft project for yourself. Fill the bathtub, light a few candles, and lock the door for 5 minutes. Stop complaining about the state motherhood has left your body or how tired you are. Eat better, exercise more, and make SLEEP a priority. Treat yourself. Do what you need to do to feel a little sexier.

I treated myself to some pink peek-a-boo highlights a year ago, and apparently my daughter was overcome by the same need to feel pretty since she covered her lips in my pink lipstick. Haha!

I am a history nerd. Confession: I watch history documentaries for fun, and everytime I watch a movie or television show based on history, I fact-check every detail. I love the stories of Anne Boleyn and Cleopatra--two women who were not beautiful by their cultures' standards, but still managed to change the course of history by turning men's hearts. They were SEXY. Why were they sexy? Because they were confident. They were not the insecure teen girls at the dance constantly visiting the bathroom to double check their make up. They didn't obsess over their flaws. They confidently believed they were worthy of the men they obtained.

Anne Boleyn... pretty sure if these women can be considered sexy; there's hope for me!

Maybe you aren't inclined to rule Egypt or break Catholicism's grip on the English monarchy, but, I bet, (and this is me speaking for myself here) you want to manage your own house, raise up strong children to the best of your ability, keep your other half happy, and change some piece on your end of the world. You want to pour love into all you do. You want to accomplish your divine purpose on this planet, be the woman that you were made to be, and not allow yourself to be perpetually lost behind your children and husband. That is the heart of the matter, the reason I say this. You NEED to feel sexy.

And, at least according to my husband, there ain't nothing sexier than a woman who believes she's sexy.

So, Treat yourself and OWN IT girl! If you believe it, so will that spouse of yours. And if you happen to be hacking it as a single mom, all the more important because you don't have that significant other helping you believe it of yourself.

And as a brief aside, for all the married mommas, I firmly believe that sex is the glue that holds a marriage together. And let's face it, in the midst of adjusting to life with children, marriage can be difficult and sex can be become, well, rare. Sometimes sex isn't just for making babies and it isn't just for fun... it's the battleground upon which you fight for your marriage. Don't always use the excuse that you are tired, even though you truly may be... keep your man satisfied, keep yourselves on the same page, as Nike advertisements used to say: "Just do it." And so, for the sake of your marriage, as well as more frequent love-making, I say allow yourself to feel sexy. (And if that logic doesn't cause the husband to hand you $25 for a pedicure, I don't know what will! Haha!)

Buy the pretty top, take the bubble bath, get that pedicure, lose the couple pounds, eat the (1) piece of chocolate, enforce a one-hour nap time regardless of whether your kids nap so you can have a little peace and quiet, do what it takes to feel good about yourself. Please don't use this as justification to blow your budget, max your credit card, neglect your children or pick up unhealthy eating habits. That is not point. It can be simply working into your budget $20 a month of "Mom's Spend it on herself and only herself" money and not feeling bad about actually spending it on yourself.

As a reminder, this is merely my own pep talk to myself that I hope encourages some other moms. This may be full of the pronoun "you" but trust me my finger is pointed at myself as I say this. I need to feel sexy.

So, now I sign off with a "here's to US!"

Here's to us bold, courageous, strong, passionate, curvy, nurturing, beautiful, SEXY moms!

It's All in the Details: "2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup"

I sometimes wonder, if I were to die today, what would my kids, husband, and friends remember about me? Morbid thought, perhaps, but my legacy is important to me. I don't want them to remember the times my patience COMPLETELY ran out, or how if you get me a drink I can forget to be appreciative and instead get all anal-retentive about my ice-to-liquid ratio that varies depending on the beverage (I am quirky, what can I say?), or how sometimes I can be completely lazy when it comes to laundry (Not the cleaning-it or the folding-it part, for me, it's the putting-it-away part. Confession: Stacks of my folded laundry sometimes will sit on my dresser for 2-3 weeks at a time. Who needs drawers when you can just dig through a pile of clothes, right?). I want to be remembered for how I loved. A legacy of love--awe, *deep sigh*, sounds romantic and worth striving for. And, as I am sure is very apparent from this blog, one of the chief ways this girl expresses love is in her cooking.

Nothing says love quite like a Yummy Breakfast!

But one can only be so fabulous.

Sometimes out of necessity, this is my motto. I could run myself into the ground "pouring love" into my cooking. But one can only be so fabulous.

Fortunately, I think one only needs to be so fabulous. Love is in the details. The little bit extra. It's the extra that has the most potential to be remembered (unless of course you managed to set your food on fire or seriously over-salted it; in which case, sorry, that's what's getting remembered! But on a positive note, those are precious, great-for-a-few-laughs moments that family members will cherish forever. Kids/Husband/Friends all want to know you are HUMAN and make mistakes every now and then!). For example, I think of the women's conference I went to: women left raving about the details--things like the pretty menu sticker on their boxed lunch that in scrolled writing said what was inside and the small amount of homemade dill-cream cheese spread for their relatively simple turkey sandwich.

Little details!

So this girl takes really simple things and does something a little extra. In this case, I make boring, simple and best of all EASY Bisquick pancakes for breakfast, but I make a raspberry syrup to serve over it. Instantly Special Bisquick Pancakes (almost an oxymoron) with only two minutes of extra work.

My raspberry syrup says "Family, I love you!"

So here's my 2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup:

By the way, this is easy. REALLY EASY. So easy I am almost embarrassed to think its worth being posted on a blog. But, you know, I have learned and as this blog post points out, one should never underestimate the power of raspberry syrup or the power of just a little bit extra. So if you are some kind of sauce guru/kitchen ninja, it might embarrass me for you to read further. However, if you are still learning how to get fabulous in your kitchen, please keep reading...

Take about a cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen). Wash them and Toss them into a sauce pan.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. (This is really based on your tastebuds. I add very little because I like my raspberries tart and I like a little regular syrup on my pancakes too.)

Add about 1/4 tsp of lemon zest. (Once again, this is based on your tastebuds... I love lemon zest in my raspberries so I tend to be very generous in my zesting.)

Heat over medium heat until it is bubbling.  I let mine bubble for half a minute or so. The longer it bubbles the thicker it will get and the more broken down the raspberries will get. So, once again this can be done to your preferences. I happen to like some raspberry chunks in a thin sauce.

That's is! Boom! Your done! This can be served on your Pancakes, waffles, fresh toast, or whatever else might please you. It can be served immediately or it can cool down a bit if you happen to have timing issues like me and have yet to master the art of each part of your meal being ready to serve at the same time.

Bisquik pancakes, 2 minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup, a sprinkling of powdered sugar for prettiness's sake, scrambled eggs and sausage. Happy Husband. Happy Kids. So, of course, Happy Mom.

Happy Cooking! Happy Loving! Happy Fabulousness! All wishes for you :)

The recipe in printable format:

2 Minutes to Fabulousness Raspberry Syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2-3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest

1. Put raspberries, sugar and lemon zest into a sauce pan on medium heat.
2. Stir occasionally.
3. Heat untill bubbling. Turn off heat after 30 seconds.
4. Serve

Serves 4.