Life went 90 Degrees in Another Direction

Here’s the latest thing on my brain – plans mean nothing to God. Specifically – my plans (probably yours too!)

Okay I’m not angry about it, but it’s so true – I plan, I take action, I do.. and things don’t end up like I intended.

My last moment of “keeping in touch” “on the grid” I shared a life update. That was about 5 months ago, and life is completely different now. How crazy is that? It’s actually normal apparently, as I have an unplanned life change about every year – whether good or ‘bad’.

Let’s list everything in that post that no longer applies:

When I last posted, I had my Dream Job as a Hotel Manager. I now am working for the family tree business (again) but this time in the office – so no woodchips and very little sweat. Too many hours, even at a dream job, wasn’t worth it while my kids are so young, and I shared I wasn’t really making the money I could’ve elsewhere. Instead of taking another hospitality job (I was offered one other job while there, and another when I switched jobs), I chose to use this season of young-children-raising to help some other people reach their dreams. Ziglar says that’s how you’re successful, so I’m taking his word. I’m actually really glad to have had an amazing career experience, and see what it took, and then be offered an easier position. It’s like now I know what I could have, and what I’d sacrifice for it, and I don’t really need it in the same way as I did before. More on this another time, because there’s a lot to unpack in that decision that I haven’t even mentioned!

Having people over for dinner every week was my 2019 goal. I did this for about a month, and while I did get to see a lot of people I missed seeing all the time on social media, it still wasn’t enough. I still wanted to know the people at my table more than 1 dinner could give me. So I abandoned the plan all together!

Social Media Hiatus for a second year. I haven’t officially plugged back in yet, but I am thinking about it more and more – and I think in tandem with my disappointing efforts in having people over, I’m really on the verge of coming back online. I’ve scrolled a few times this year and still get angered easily, but I’ve heard there’s some great new people screening filters for that now, that I might just try out!  Perhaps I’ll just delete the current accounts and start over. Sort of Phoenix Rising style? Hmm. Still on the fence – because I know I’ll start sleeping less if I download the apps.

At the end of 2019, we had a wonderful nanny. Because the cost of this ate up all our extra debt solving and savings focused income, this was another reason I chose to take another job, working for my dad. Part of the benefits package includes bringing the kids to work! And while admittedly this means 4.5 hours of guaranteed screen time a day (only a fraction of it is educational), it has been better for the kids to have me around more, and it’s the perfect balance of work and life for this season for us. I’ve also gotten super into supplementing our Epic curriculum for both kids this fall, so evenings and weekends are just filled to the brim with kindergarten/preschool “extras” that you may have seen all over Pinterest. Honestly I can’t believe I’m into homeschooling, but Epic has really made it easy for a non informed mom to become informed, and have a plan!

I was on the fence on if I would be able to finish my Bachelor’s degree or not in 2019, because of the $$$$ I owed. However a family member graciously loaned the money to me, and I’m enrolled in my last 6 (not 4, like I thought) classes to finish! Oh praise God, I want to put that degree in the books and be done so badly!

We didn’t go to Africa! In fact weeks after I posted we quit the Antioch Training School altogether, and while that’s a huge bummer – it was also right for the season. The additional time commitment in addition to the hotel job cut deeply into our family’s time together, and it was not working. I will whole heartedly anticipate doing ATS again this year, so there will be a mission trip next year because of that!

As for what else has changed since my last life update, well that’s it!

I’m sure I’ll change some more, and then some more, and actually I’ll never stop! That just seems to be what God does with me, and I’m open to whatever He wants.

Like I’ve said, my love for Earl Grey and Jesus are the only thing that stays the same.

Until next time!

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Life Update: 2018 and Beyond!

The year 2018 – full of flying cars, and trips to space. Not really, but our phones have new emojis and the Kardashians almost all had kids… so I’d say we’re getting close.

What were myself and my little fam up to this year? What are we up to now? What will we be up to in the future?

If you could care less, I don’t blame you, thanks for checking in, see you when I see you. If you’re family you probably already know. If you’re mindlessly scrolling, honestly what do you have to read that’s any better than this?

Past and Present-

This year was truly a whirlwind, as they seem to always be.

Work

I started the year at January 1 working at Starbucks.

I’m fuzzy on the timeline after that, but Christian started working at Hobby Lobby as an industrial engineering clerk… yep. I try, but I can’t fully explain what he does. It’s not in the store front, it’s all behind the scenes stuff near and somehow related to the warehouse. I picture him in a wizard hat, hunched over a keyboard, furiously typing things with speed that could either keep things afloat or crush Hobby Lobby’s existence with a single mistake. That’s probably accurate. He’s proving to be totally in his element, and it’s a great company to work for.

I quit the Bux after 3 years of free school and free drinks, and started working for my dad’s business. He’s in the tree biz, so this job involved being covered in sweat and woodchips. I honestly wasn’t a good fit here, but shout out to my sister who hauls trees and runs chainsaws on the daily like it’s no thing! She’s SUCH a boss, Hoss, and should be everyone’s feminist hero. She’s worked for him something like 5 years, probably longer! I was done after maybe 3 months, honestly I’m not sure. Quitting your dad is not fun, cause it’s like “hey dad, I seriously love you, and thanks for the job but I’m never doing this again, but I love you…” awkward.

Then over the next 3-4 months I did the gig economy jive and delivered groceries with Shipt. And man that was really working!! We made plenty of money, didn’t work weekends, didn’t have childcare expenses, and it was totally flexible! I honestly loved that.

I’ve been in school for my Bachelor’s degree in tourism from ASU for the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve changed my major in that time, and also went to school years ago at OU, so it’s been a LONG time coming to graduate. I’ve been in school full time for the last 2-3 years, (timeline is SO fuzzy) and at one point I was in school full time and working 4 part time jobs.. no joke. I was working towards a dream, so it didn’t matter what it took. I want to be in the hotel industry, and the ultimate dream is to have a resort of my own for couples to grow their marriage. There’s so many more details I have dreams for/about, but this is what all the work was/is leading up to.

I have exactly 4 classes left to graduate (still, as of December 2018). That’s exactly one semester. OH MY GOSH – ONE. That’s insane to think about, as I’ve been working towards a single piece of paper on and off for 7 years. And it’s not even like medical school or any other STEM field, just a simple business degree in Tourism. But I know our society values it, and so I just want it! OKAY?!

So as I was taught at OU in career services, you can apply for jobs in your industry when you’re one semester away from graduating. Of course nothing about my path is traditional, so I don’t know why I decided to heed this advice as if it was totally true for me, but who cares.

I applied for several hotel manager jobs in the Oklahoma metro online. This was just for fun, as I have no formal management experience (but let’s be honest I’ve been bossing people around effectively for years) and I only had 1 year in the hotel industry on my resume. HUGE shout out to Residence Inn in Bricktown – an amazing place to learn about life working for a hotel! I had an AMAZING management team there and feel lucky.

Well what do you know, first round of applying, and I get a call for an interview for a brand new hotel in Yukon. It’s a Sleep Inn & Suites, which isn’t necessarily a glamourous brand, but if you saw this place (the official pictures of the property are still being processed), it’s got the brand new design and the owners spared no expense making it look awesome, and you’d also feel like a lottery winner for getting this kind of interview with these kind of dreams. It’s NEW and GORGEOUS and I was not qualified for this job, so the interview was just laughably cool!

Well what else do you know, but a few days later I got the job!! You guys, I’m still shocked, but I get to run a hotel! Like I mentioned, running my own resort is the dream, so this job is pretty close to that, and every day on the job I realize more and more that this is seriously a dream job. I’m in LOVE!! It’s been about 3 months so far. And if I screw it up, I really liked delivering groceries, so I’m all set, nothing to lose, EVERYTHING TO LEARN!! It’s such a blast having this level of challenge and opportunity. The hotel isn’t open yet but is opening THIS WEEK!!!! Wow.

Family

I lost the kids at the park one day, and just said to myself “You know, we had a good run. I think they’ll make it okay in this world on their own. They have each other.” and never looked back.

JK!

We had an amazing year growing as a family. I think this is because of two things…

  1. Our new home is amazing, and also my personal version of a dream home. Shout out to our realtor, Elenore Hutton. We bought my grandma’s home (in Nov. 2017) that she originally built. It had been wrecked from tornado damage, and then sold to someone else who fixed it up and remodeled it (with some crazy awesome modern features), and I bought it! It still has the original fire place and ALL my childhood memories. Swoon. It’s by no means extremely large, or anything like a celebrity home, which for some reason I have a distinct need to clarify… But honestly with all the modern touches and sentimental value, and I’ve decorated it to fit my preferences perfectly, it’s my dream home and I’m in LOVE!! But also my kids love it here, and that was what I was originally trying to say.
  2. We started attending a new church that focuses on discipleship, and Christian and I have become accountable for some pretty serious sin we were hiding, and we’ve met people we can truly relate to, who have been through hard things and still emphasize and glorify God, and who understand the struggles of working/parenting/living life.. etc. It’s been a game changer for our family. It was not easy to leave our old church, because I’ve spent my whole life there, and the church it was when I was growing up was absolutely invaluable to me. But Christian and I were trapped in some lies and sin and couldn’t reach out to anyone without concern of some kind of reputation. We needed a place to be real and we’ve now found it, and we are growing again. And it feels so good to grow!!

There’s so many other things our family has done this year. Roman started preschool, we tried EPIC and LOVED it!! We have a nanny whom we LOVE! My kids now know a lot of sign language and that’s insanely cool, and I can take no credit for how smart they are this year, as Christian was Roman’s main teacher, and the nanny (our amazing Allison!) is the second biggest teacher, honestly probably more than even Christian is doing. The kids discovered play doh videos on YouTube, and this is now a significant part of their child hood. All  of that is equally important..?

Failures

In the spirit of being honest and real, I feel it’s important to highlight the whole picture.

Christian and I both dealt with a lot of cynical mindsets, and are still not totally free of this.  Bitterness is hard battle we constantly fight!

One of our biggest struggles is in not having more biological kids. We didn’t agree on this decision to shut down the baby making machine, and I’ve longed for more kids via pregnancy. To the point where I became bitter towards Christian, and I’ve spent most of the year in this state of mind. Someone (from church) called me out on this as being judgmental towards my husband and you know what, I was really glad she did. That was a conversation I’ve probably needed to hear for years. I’ve released some, maybe all, of that and I feel better, and I think our marriage will start to heal from that wound!

We did invite more people than ever into our home this year, but not nearly as many people as we wanted to do.

I’ve suffered more mom guilt than ever this year! Having a nanny for most of the year was a new thing for us, and I’m so thankful I was able to do this as opposed to traditional day care. However, I struggle with this EVERY time I’m home at 6:30, and need the kids to be in bed by 8. Two hours a day to fit in a meal, cleaning, AND quality time, five days a week feels wrong, and even though I love my job SO much, it’s very hard to know if it’s right or wrong when they are so young. I’ve struggled with this for a while, and when I did stay at home with Russell, I didn’t like not working, so I guess the grass is always greener. I also know God took ALL the credit for this job, so in that I rest. The pressure is real, but God’s grace is sufficient.

I ate so few vegetables that aren’t potatoes this year, it’s truly shameful. I barely cooked non processed meals and that hurts my heart. Because of the arteries I most definitely clogged over the year.

We amassed more debt than ever this year, because I started paying for school instead of letting Starbucks foot the bill. And with the new job, childcare expenses are indeed hefty, and we even got fortunate enough to have childcare on the cheaper side. While we make just enough money to just barely cover all the bills (praise God!), We currently don’t have enough to put anything in a savings account, and I actually can’t complete my last semester of school until I pay $6,000 which is not even a part of the student loans! Yikes it’s expensive, and very very sad that debt is all that stands between a 7-years-in-the-making bachelor degree, and me.

Social Media

This past year I took a sabbatical from all social media. It was honestly amazing. I’m going to do it again, possibly forever (until Periscope is cool again… shout out to everyone who was as obsessed with Periscope as me!). There were a few times I got on Insta or FB through the year for event info I had apparently missed out on, or to check the spelling of people’s names, but I didn’t scroll while checking for whatever. That was actually the hardest part, being on and not scrolling. I would see the top thing on my feed, and it would take all my will to click away! But I have to say it was worth it.

I’m back on the grid for the last 10 days of the year, and then I’ll head off again. I think the break was worth sharing, and so here we are.

A few things I learned…

  1. I had FOMO for about 1 day, and after that really didn’t care. Of course, I left with the heat of Trumptopia being fresh on people’s minds, and am sad to discover that it’s still fresh on peoples minds. However the last few days my personal network hasn’t seemed to care as much as SNL or NPR would have me think, so that’s a relief. So when it comes to missing out, I wasn’t concerned about missing out on that.
  2. I found an intense desire to bring people into my home. I think I always wanted this, but I think being on social media makes it easier to kind of not do anything about it. We definitely invited more people than ever into our home this year.
  3. One year is long enough for people to get pregnant, engaged, and then have the baby or get married, and I never even knew it was happening! That was probably the craziest thing I hadn’t considered before when I started scrolling feeds again. Like… WHO is that baby?! Ha!! It was so bizarre that I hadn’t considered that before getting back online, and I was shocked.
  4. Lastly, I think the thing I GOT from this experience was time, and emotional energy. For some reason, I get angry when I scroll too long. I think I get angry because I don’t like how someone did something, or I get angry because maybe I didn’t post about something and get ‘credit’ for it, and someone else did, and I get so mad, which is SO silly. While I’m sure not everyone has pure anger when scrolling, I did, and I needed the break to restore my emotional energy. Also the TIME!! I got so much time back – and I mostly spent it on more sleep. I indeed slept more this year than ever. Praise God!!

Future

There’s a few things we haven’t told many people, but plan on doing at some point in the future. God always has free reign to change our plans, but we think this is what’s up.

We will adopt more children. We’ve decided it will be through DHS, because the need is so great. We were waiting until our kids were older so that the older kids could be in our home, and we’ve decided that the time is now. We’ve started the application process this month, and estimate it will be a year before anything final happens.

We will be taking a trip to South Africa next year with the group of students we’re a part of in Antioch Training School! Just like everywhere, there’s a big need in South Africa for practical help, and spiritual revival. The group has decided to go and we’re going with them! We’d love to take our kids with us, to show them what overseas ministry is like, just like we show them what ministry is like locally, so that will all be up to the budget and God.

We will move to Alaska. This will not be next year, but it will be our forever home, Lord willing. We don’t have any plans, except to keep our home here, and get rid of debt before moving. So we’ve got a while to wait and see what happens on this front!

This year, I want to open my home for dinner every week. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I will open our home to someone for dinner. Please come over!!

 

See you next year!!

Hey, I think I Love you…

Today, August 13th, 2016, is my 5 year wedding anniversary. I’ve been a married woman for 5 years! Holy cow, I never would have even thought this was a real thing.

This last year in particular was the one where I feel like I finally have figured love out. Love has always kind of confused me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. But this year, I think I learned what it is.

But instead of boring you with the definition I’ve come to understand, I’d rather just talk about my best love of a human of all time, Christian Hodgden.

We started dating when we were just youngsters… and spoiler, we’re still young. But we’ve certainly come a long way from being these people… 29672_386363735825_658625825_4547838_1455570_n

I mean… that hair

This picture was taken on an Easter Sunday when we were dating. We hadn’t quite considered the possibility of marriage yet, but knew we were really into each other. Being young and a couple makes people ask you a lot of questions, and this made me constantly ask myself – why Christian Hodgden? It really was a different kind of guy than I had ever even known, much less dated. It really would have been easy to answer my own question with because he’s crazy intelligent (different than I’d ever experienced), or because he’s respectful (again, quite a change for me). But that’s not what makes Christian the guy for me.

What made Christian my main-squeeze-4-lyfe was this simple statement: He knew what he believed, and he knew why he believed what he believed. For him (and for me as well) that means that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, and that God is all powerful, and provides all we need. We serve God because that’s what we believe, and we know there is a fulfilling and true Love (and grace) that comes with that.

All the single ladies, please know that this trait in a man is absolutely invaluable. If your man knows why he believes what he believes… I think that is the definition of a solid foundation. And if your foundation is solid… you are unmovable.

I remember articulating this to my BFF Hannah when I first realized I liked Christian. I had been through a series of weird guys, and I had finally decided I’d just be content with God, because I had actually taken the time to let Him fill me up in a real way. So it was a new twist on my life when I saw this long-haired, half-homeschooled, nice-guy from across the room at church a few times a week. The fun part for me was just how much hotter I was than him. (It’s probably the opposite now…)

Christian and I dated for a year, got engaged, and got married 8 short months after being 18. We graduated high school, got married, honeymooned (a.k.a. learned how hard it is to travel when you aren’t old enough to rent a car), moved out of our parent’s homes, and started college all in the same summer. I also had my first job that paid regularly scheduled paychecks.

It was an awesome precedent to the theme of our marriage – fast and furious, and sometimes hard. But the excitement those who love us had for our marriage and future, and the God we knew was on our side made us feel invincible.

IMG_0528
Weirdest pic I’ve ever taken. This was the most fun thing we did on our honeymoon to Maui.. a tour of the pineapple fields. Young and dumb much?

I went on a mission trip to Cambodia for two weeks right before our first anniversary, and had this crazy sickness, that we later found out was a baby growing inside me. The day we found out we were pregnant was a classically terrible response. We just cried and blamed each other. But then we rose to the occasion, and went on with our lives. Yet another trademark of our marriage. When you have a purpose and a sense of greatness inside, it’s easy to accept and adjust to new realities.

year1

First Anniversary Picture…

By year two, we were having a much better time. Some of the best times we’ve had so far. I’m looking forward to topping it, but for now, suffice it to say that things were as they should be.

Russell (our first baby) was perfect, we were moved away from home, which was actually a good thing in that time. We were able to discover who we were as a family, and we really liked what we had found. Christian was working as an intern at a job he really loved, and although I was staying home, I was really making some choices on who I was going to be as a mom. That’s something I recommend every parent do – decide what kind of parent you are going to be, and stick to it.

year2
Year 2… the wonder kids. Bliss is the word I think of.

And that ‘going on third’ year was the year, as many know, that tragedy struck, and we only got to live 11 months with our first born son, Russell. It was also the year we had decided to pursue our first adoption, and ended up receiving our amazing baby Roman.

These people in this picture above are really strangers to me now. That feeling of being invincible, is not as strong as it once was. By no means would I say we think of ourselves in any different way. God showed himself even more real amidst our loss, and our loved ones swarmed us in an unbelievable way. But our speed and fervor for what lies ahead got reigned back, and it’s been an interesting journey along the way. It seems, at times, we are navigating uncharted territory. To be so full of life and to have the wind knocked out in a few different ways is something not many were prepared to guide us through.

But that foundation… it’s really something. Our core beliefs have remained unshaken. Our feelings, those are something I gave up relying on a while ago, and I’m glad for it. No matter what things looked like, we always knew why. Our why isn’t something I plan on articulating, because it looks different for everyone, and I wouldn’t presume to think that my “WHY” on what I believe will be something that speaks to anyone but me. But I do know that it is a necessary thing to seek out in order to build a strong foundation. If I can stand on a truth that I have cultivated a strong and bullet proof belief for – FOR MYSELF – there is nothing that can deteriorate it. Not death, not uncertainty, not fear- not anything.

My husband is a man who knows what his truth is. If it weren’t for that, I would’ve chose someone hotter. (Just kidding).

Year 3 brought in our 3rd baby, the girl who will go down in history as the only thing who can repeatedly stress me out. Renee is a princess, and the silliest of princesses there ever were.

Year 3 was also the year of healing. We had to put that wind back in our sail, and we are still in some ways doing that. We did a lot of self discovery, only to go back to the fact that we really won’t ever understand everything.

year3
3rd Anniversary Pic.. Excuse the Instagram filter.

And this past year, we really became best friends. I look back at our first year together, and we barely knew each other. I think having more kids, for us, made us have to swim through late nights, lots of diapers, emotional ups and downs, lots of dishes, and just a lot of poop (from the children) to find each other, and when we did, it was so much better.

I realized that no matter how hard I try to be friends with other people, I’d rather spend an hour saying nothing to him than I would a whole day with anyone else. Unless we were kayaking – I really like to kayak.

Our kids noses never stop leaking snot, our house is apparently on a strict mess-only protocol, our families are both amazing and ridiculous simultaneously, and who knows what our bank account looks like (please can someone figure that out for me?) But at the end of the day, there is nothing a little snuggling and falling asleep watching Netflix can’t do to infuse our souls with the connection we’ve spent over 5 years developing.

4years
Last year (2015) our 4th anniversary.

I’m really excited in writing this post. Christian is notoriously un-romantic (a fact I’m finally at peace with, and also still hoping will change). So it’s hard to spotlight him. But he really is the kind of guy who needs to be celebrated. Unfortunately the Facebook status “OMG Christian plugged my phone in for me AGAIN…. like he does every night. I just love knowing I’ll never run out of battery first thing in the morning. (50 heart-eye emoji’s follow) #blessed.” It just doesn’t get as many likes as it should.

But that’s my guy. Consistently heroic, in the small and important ways. And man – is he rational. (swoon).

I want to end with one more picture from our dating years. I find it ironic, that even though it’s probably the cutest thing we’ve ever done, I don’t think that at that time I really connected to what we were doing. I think I was actually focused on drinking the shake (pictured below). But now, that it’s year #5, and our kids are finally going to be older than infants (a long awaited victory), I feel like he’s been my best friend forever. I feel like that picture really depicts who we are now, way more than who we were then. How crazy is that?

335rd

Moral of the story.. haircuts make the heart grow fonder. Happy loving, everyone.

 

And then she came along…

Ah to be a woman.

What a powerful advantage to have. I look at my life as a woman, and am constantly inspired by who I am, and the restless power within all woman-kind. I could call out all the cliche’s related to woman-power, like building, feeding, and nurturing humans all simultaneously and usually while wearing other hats, but that’s too boring. You already know that’s amazing.

The women I know can lead a room full of people to their greatest victories. They can defeat the greatest of obstacles with grace, strength, and a pair of heels. They can meet every goal just because they want to, but they do it because it’s attached to purpose. They are unstoppable forces, that have been there all along. They are full of passion, and value the men in their lives immensely. They know exactly who their sisters are, and they build them up as if it were themselves. These women are innovative, and will take things to the next level. They are driven by intuition and love, and are freaking smart. Need a heart surgery? To go to space? Ask my girl – she knows whats up. My ladies are shaking the very earth you are standing on, because of the fire that lies inside of them. That girl is on fire.

I don’t buy into secular feminism, because I think the Bible is clear on what is inside of women, as well as men, and it’s not the same things you will hear feminists speaking of. While the Bible was written in a time where the culture demanded silence on the women, the authors still were able to sneak in a glimpse of what women really are – a Force.

Esther saving a race, Ruth pioneering a society, Mary birthing a savior.. Don’t even get me started on our ancestral accomplishments.

These truths have been known to me since I was young. I’m grateful that I’ve never had to question the authority my gender holds. Thank you Jesus for a new age that respects me and my girls in a way that is unprecedented.

But fast forward to September 2014, and let me tell you what kind of fear I let into my head.

After Russell passed away, we were very unsure of what to do on the question of having more biological children, because the disorder Russ had was genetic, and we knew there was a 25% chance we could pass it down again.

Christian and I honestly didn’t see eye to eye on this topic, and I believe both of us had valid reasons for how we felt. We knew we would adopt again, and so we weren’t worried about Roman being an only child, but something inside me wasn’t ready to be done with using my body to produce a child. I had a terrible birth experience with Russell, and I wanted to rectify that. I wanted to experience natural childbirth so badly, I wanted to breastfeed one more time, and I just couldn’t face the thought of giving that up without feeling uneasy.

But we had lost Russell just a year before, and the wound had not completely healed. We were sore and not yet fully at peace with the idea of God doing the miraculous. We wanted to believe that God would divert another child bore to us from the disease, or even that the diseased genes in our body would somehow disappear, but our faith was not quite at the level it should have been. Although we knew He does perform miracles, because that is evident in the Bible, we didn’t fully feel that way. But lucky for us, we don’t rely on our feelings very much.  And we aren’t very good with birth control.

And so July of 2014 I discovered I was pregnant for the second time in my life. This pregnancy was a drastically different experience than the first.

With Russell, in the first days of discovered pregnancy, I was unsure of how my life would look after the baby came. I now knew exactly what it meant – I would sleep even less, and be even more physically demanded from, and I would have no choice but to simultaneously process and accept that reality.

Before, I was worried about things like having twins- I was deathly afraid of twins with my first pregnancy, as they run in the family and I was afraid of being what they call “overwhelmed”. Now I scoff at myself for even entertaining the concept of being overwhelmed, because that is my new normal. I was worried about setting up car seats right, or having a highchair. (Now my kids regularly eat cheerios off the floor.)

But this time, I was worried about my unborn child having a disease that would end her life prematurely, or at least was worried that that was what others were worried about. I knew I had a responsibility to be the voice of faith over my family’s situation, and that everyone was aware of what the outcomes could be.

It was also our 3rd kid in 3 years, so there weren’t as many baby showers or people getting excited about my growing belly. It was more like “Oh look, it’s spring, and you’re having a kid again”. Which was slightly disenchanting.

And then we found out we were having a girl – and all the things I knew were amazing about women vanished, and I began to fear the reality of being charged with raising one.

First and foremost, I was worried about her teenage years. I hadn’t ever had a solid grasp on why purity was important as a teen, and had bad habits because of that. I was terrified that she would make the same mistakes, and have a different outcome because of it.

I was sick over the fact that 90% of the women I know have hated (or strongly oppose) their mothers at one time or another in their teenage years, and I don’t consider myself someone who could possibly be hated (I know.. I hear how silly that sounds).

And I just didn’t know what raising a solid girl with my outlook on life would be like. I was scared senseless about all these things for about the entire second trimester of my pregnancy.

But finally, I started to deal with it instead of just being scared.

Women – I want to ask you about your issues, your baggage. One of the greatest gifts God graced me with was this unquestionable ability to process and deal with my issues quickly. I don’t understand why it’s so easy for me, but it always was. I remember even as a kid, deciding I wasn’t going to be insecure anymore. I was like 10! and I’m not saying I handle(d) it all perfectly, but I saw great value in moving forward, and I always strived to achieve that.

What are you dealing with today?

I believe that if you don’t deal with your issues as soon as you recognize them, you have handicapped yourself. Jesus came to bring life abundant, and you can’t live in abundance when you’re weighed down by struggles.

And if you are in the midst of something that you have not yet passed, I don’t think this concept applies to that. I’m talking about those issues we’ve had for years that we are aware of why and how they came, that we don’t give to God, because it’s hard.

I looked at my core issue with being fearful of having a daughter. I didn’t understand what caused me to stumble in my formative years, and a lack of understanding has always been a point of frustration for me. I evaluated what was important in child raising. I spent hours meditating on what the Word said, and researching what I wanted to really focus on as a parent. And then I wondered why I hadn’t done this the first time.

I reflected on something my youth pastor had once said, “Your parents only have 18 years to teach you how to obey God.” And that had settled it in me. All I have to do as a parent, if all else fails, is teach my kids how to have a relationship with God. It’s that simple. There are a lot of things I could add to the list of “I should teach my kids this…” but if I fail at all of those, that is okay. I trust that if my kids know the God I know, the way I know Him, they will be able to thrive, no matter what else they know. Even if they are dumb as a thumb, or homeless, I know that God will still have them.  Of course I probably won’t let that happen, but that’s not even something I should spend energy thinking about.

And to further this peace (especially on the part about purity), I needed tools.  I did some research. I decided to find a stance on sex that I would feel great about teaching my kids. Mary Flo (I know – sounds made up) has a philosophy on teaching kids about sex that I just find brilliant, and we have already started to incorporate it.

And that was it. I had let go of my concerns and equipped myself with the tools.

So with that out of the way I was able to begin to focus on the amazing thing that was going on – I had been charged with raising a woman. The excitement when I say that is full on! I feel like my daughter, Renee, who is now 1, is going to be a true force to be reckoned with.

I’ve known my life was meant to be great for a while, but a long time ago I got a word from God that told me that it wouldn’t be my actions that change the culture of America, but it would be the repercussions of my actions. What that means I still leave room for interpretation, but I often think that will specifically apply to my children. And I just HOPE my daughter could become the fulfillment of that. She’s already shown herself to be a fighter (literally- with me and my husband… sigh) which is actually a great quality, and an independent thinker, and as beautiful and as interesting and as smart as a girl can be.

I’m still not sure what’s going to happen to us when she becomes a teen, but I’m pretty excited to embrace what comes.

Ah to be a woman…

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Every Step is on the Way

I have always believed that I will live to be 120. I don’t know why that number is so important to me, but I can’t wait to reach it. I literally can’t wait to be that old. People of course look at me like I’m crazy when I say that to them. They always want to remind me that I’ll be uncomfortable, maybe sick, all my friends will be dead… etc. But I honestly can’t wait!

I have this vision in my head. It involves a beautiful gigantic backyard, with umbrellas, lemonade, and sunshine. And all my grandchildren (no pressure Roman and Renee.. but I’m expecting a lot of grandchildren. I want a sea of grandchildren). I want them all to be surrounding me and Christian, and I want to tell them about all the things I have done in my life time. I want to tell them stories of bravery, stories of deep emotion, and I want them to know what it means to be a leader, what it means to live on purpose and what it means to unapologetically follow Jesus. Mostly I want to look back at my own life and know I lived a completely full life, that left an impact. That’s why I want to be 120. I just need a lot of time if I’m going to live that kind of life. A life packed, FULL of greatness.

But then  I think of my surroundings. Right now I’m eating a turkey sandwich in the ridiculously small break room of the Starbucks I’m working at. I’m deciding whether or not to go back out there for a refill of my drink with the last 7 minutes I have on my break.

I mean really, thinking about where I’m at, i cant help but think, “what am i doing here?” I have dreams of leading a nation, raising children to lead the world, and i’m spending my days cleaning old milk out of the drains on the floor of a starabucks?

It seems unlikely. It can be frustrating. Maybe you feel this way too.

It can feel as though we have all of this potential, all this willingness to step into the greatness we were created for. There is so much giftedness in us that no one even knows we have. And sure, in a perfect world we could use that ball of amazing-ness (amazeball, if you will) and really make something happen. We could spend all our time and energy solely focused on making our mark on the world.

But lets be real here- sometimes i dont have the enrgy to get off the couch to get my own cup of water after a crazy day. And how in the world can i pay my bills just “being awesome”?

Again, seems unlikely.  

We are in a culture that values outcomes. Generally speaking, we do not live in a place that values rest, or allows the time for development. We dont get the opportunity to round out our understanding of how to balance life. If you arent producing results, you don’t count.

How frustrating. I know what’s inside of me,ready to burst out, and I know that I need this season to grow and learn and rest, but as far as anyone else is concerned, I don’t count. Why is our world like this?

What if we, as a culture, put the spiritual and emotional success of an individual on par with career and physical success? What if the journey was as valuable as the destination in actual, day to day reality?

What if everyone wanted to live to be way too old, because they knew they needed every year. They needed all that time to develop themselves, develop their families, expand their vision, and then learn their way to results?  None of these things don’t require time.

What would that look like for you?

I would encourage you to take a moment to think about that. Close your eyes and imagine it.

Chances are you are bored with that visualization.

Because again, the reality is you still have to make a living, take care of your chores and tasks, and so on. And vision casting and personal development end up looking like the blank stares of deep thought. In our world, that doesn’t count as productivity. 

Some people are actually blessed to have careers or day to day lives that support these time consuming methods of “the journey”. Perhaps they obtained this lifestyle/workplace through perfectly executed strategy, or divine opportunity. But some of us don’t, and this is who I am speaking to.

I would like to encourage those who have had twists and turns to the original “plan for greatness”. Maybe you got laid off from that awesome job that was going to propel you into the next great thing. Maybe you were hit with a serious depression and missed a valuable window of opportunity for the next big move, and now its too late. Maybe your family isnt living up to your expectations, and you feel held back. The list could go on for your specific circumstance, and please know none of those circumstances are insignificant.

But can we still be great, when our strategy for greatness has failed?

I think we can. I think that every step in our journey is on the way to greatness, when we are intentional to make it so.

2 thoughts on this-  use what you have in front of you, and realize that it is going to be hard, and that is okay.

The journey of being and doing great is hard in itself. History is proof of this. But when your particular strategy fails, you may be subject to a greater difficulty than you ever knew was possible. But the sooner you embrace the incredible difficulty, and learn how to function in the sweat and pain, the better off you will be! There just isn’t a way to sugar coat this, but the reality is jsut that. It’s hard, and it sucks, and sometimes hurts. This is the price of greatness.

Lastly, know this. Just because you are off track, doesnt mean your track has ended. You may not have the resources you expected, and that can stop a lot of people from moving forward. But if you choose to, you can become your own resource.  You can take what you don’t have and re-invent what you need. Where there is a will, there is a way! This is especially true when you have nothing, or have lost too much. Become resourceful, and make the absolute most of what you do have. Don’t waste a thing, and become incredibly observent of what is available. And never take for granted that God always provides.

No matter what, don’t let your situation, and the fact that it isn’t what you expected, stop you. You have been inspired by God for greatness, you are created to be great. Circumstances are much smaller when you live fully, for long enough. Every step is on the way.

 

The Juggle Struggle.

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Today I felt the weight what my immediate future holds.

I woke up well before my eyes opened, to two tiny baby feet in my face, and the unsettling sound of a dishwasher and vacuum going. I was immediately aware that my day off would be yet another one full of challenges. My husband was awake, cleaning everything in sight. He likes to do this on my days off, because normally he stays at home with our children, and due to the demands of babies, he is rarely able to spend focused time cleaning. So when I’m not up at the butt-crack-of-dawn to open the Starbucks store, and am able to care for our 2 babies, he gets all too giddy to vacuum those floors.

Thirty minutes go by, and I’m able to be a sneaky ninja just enough to reclaim my bed space, and to keep my son – 1 and a half years old who had a fever all night – from waking up.

Just as we get comfy and snugly, I hear the faint cry over the baby monitor as my younger 7 month old daughter wakes up, hungry and a diaper well above capacity. The dishwasher is still going, and seems to be much louder the earlier it is in the day. This is my alarm. This is my day off.

We get our kids up and fed. The quiet peace that surrounds breakfast time is amazing. Unfortunately it only lasts about 10 minutes, and at this point I haven’t even really woken up yet. My hair was all knotted, my face still dry and smeared with the make up I forgot to take off as I crashed to sleep the night before.

I always resent myself for not using that first 10 peaceful minutes to infuse my body with the caffeine it so desperately needs. I chose to shower instead.

I only have one mission on this day off, and that is to finish my online Starbucks College Achievement Plan orientation.

In my head this seems do-able, but in real life… hmm.

My husband is at his wits end dealing with my constant messy style of living, and our children who have been in and out of sickness, test his patience with their sleep deprived outbursts. I decide this is the morning to pop open that $1.98 can of happiness – cinnamon rolls. This lifts his mood, and I decide to seize the opportunity to jump online.

I get about 1/3 the way through the first assignment at hand, when that tiny little baby girl comes crawling fast towards me. This can only mean one thing for her – she wants to eat from mom. As much as I cherish her cuddliness, I know that I don’t have the energy to sustain focus on what I’m doing with multiple interruptions.

My husband sees the need, and with his tummy happily full of buttery cinnamonny goodness, he shares the magical word that make everything better. “Outside”. To an infant, this means sleepy escape. To a toddler, this is a nirvana of unexplored wonder. To me, this meant 20 minutes of hard core ‘study’ time.

Upon them leaving, I nearly finish everything.

Decent ending to a decent morning.

But this gives me a glimpse into what my immediate future holds. This was just the orientation.  I haven’t even started actual courses yet. What will it be like when it’s Poli Sci 500, and 20 page research papers are due, and I’ve got a week of over time ahead of me?

I have yet to do school successfully after an 8 hour shift at work. For starters – my legs can’t move for a full 10 hours after work, so how could I even make it to my computer? Impossible! And other than that – just no. So I know my days off are my best chance at getting through this coursework. Bigger chunks on less intense days. It’s honestly my only option. My children will never stop needing me, and knowing what it’s like to stay at home, I KNOW my husband needs a break too.

So how can I do this? How can we do this? Maybe you have a different day to day. Maybe you substitute the word child for “sick grandma” or “second job”. How can this be done? How can we improve our quality of life while simultaneously swimming (drowning) in responsibility?

First of all, we can never sacrifice what’s ACTUALLY important. If you look back, and your family doesn’t know who you are, it is in fact, not worth it. But you can balance this concept by choosing to be truly present.

Sometimes, that means spending 5-10 solid minutes of me staring into my daughters eyes, telling her she is loved and valuable, instead of spending 2 hours “watching” her play. If 2 hours isn’t what you have, do it better than you ever have in 5 minutes.

That means instead of unwinding with 2-20 hours of TV (which I previously thought were absolutely necessary), I take myself and my exhausted hubby off the couch, and we eat cereal in bed and marvel at the videos he snapped of our kids that day.

(Correction – I eat cereal in bed. He doesn’t like the mess it makes.)

And second, if we can just remember that long term reward can take short term sacrifice, it makes it so much better. If it’s hard now, it’s okay, because a better future is ahead because of the difficulty. Don’t let the challenge be what stops you. Take it, master it, and win.
Lastly, work smart. I am in online school because of how I live my life. I’m not at all interested in being 40 and having my first child. We got started young, and I do not apologize for that. But that makes it a little more tricky to balance in a culture that doesn’t respect that method of family raising. I had the University experience when I was first married, and they did not understand that I had other things going on. I am truly thankful that the Starbucks College Achievement Plan really gets it. I found what works for me. No excuses any more! Master your time!!

In the words of Shia LaBeouff “Just DO IT!” Let’s go!!

Tea Time: You Get Out What You Put In

I’d like to start by mentioning that after several experiences of putting together events in which I put my heart and soul into, I have become something of an event planning ninja. A novice ninja, perhaps, but a ninja nonetheless.

I heard a story about the concept of what you put in you get out in church this weekend, and it reminded me of the Thanksgiving we had last week.

I spent months planning Thanksgiving. Months.

It was that important to me.

I will give you the cliff notes version of my Thanksgiving: 3-D pumpkin pie invitations in the mail, 25 place settings of real china, homemade everything (the most important part to me), a B O M B turkey, photo booth with props, and leftover bags including homemade cranberry jelly and take home “thankfulness” activities.

I had a BINDER. 3 rings that held the master timeline, the 18 recipes that made up our menu, shopping lists, and to do lists that would make this event be what I envisioned.

I wanted it to be more than just eating- it had become something of a drag for our family, and I wanted to make it special- something to remember.

I wanted it. And so I prepared.

It was work. I really realized that on Thursday morning around 3 am when I finally finished all that prep I had started at 10am the morning before, so that on the day of I could seamlessly swap things in and out of the oven, without missing any family time.

I put my heart and soul into that, and all the other events I’ve ever done that were important to me.

But my pastor shared this concept with us on Sunday in a sports metaphor (of which I only understood a third of) and then it dawned on me.

What if I put this amount of preparation into something truly meaningful?

By meaningful I mean more than just it made my family happy, more than just it was memorable, more than just ‘awesome for a day’.

Something that could really change the world- what if I put that kind of heart-and-soul preparation into that?

**Cue a series of questions for your reflection**

What goal are you pursuing? What are you trying achieve, put on, or accomplish? Whether it is small or big, meaningful or just for fun, what is it? Can you identify it?

What kind of preparation are you putting into that?

When is the last time you passionately and meticulously thought through every detail for the thing you wanted, and then began to execute that plan?

When I think about this concept, I’m incredibly inspired.

My pastor was pretty spot-on with his sports metaphor. In fact this concept is often amplified in sports movies. When the underdog knows he is going to be put in for the big game, he practices harder and better than ever before. He studies every film the film room has of that opposing team so that they can know exactly what they are up against. And when the game time comes – they almost always emerge victorious because they were fully ready – despite the numerous odds that were stacked against them.

The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 really reminds me of this principle. The metaphor Jesus is using is for us as Christians to always be on guard, as we don’t know when He will come back. But that has little to do with what I’m thinking. I like to think that the 5 wise virgins also had a 3 ring binder, like the one I had for Thanksgiving, which was filled with the details they needed to remember for their trip – like the extra oil that made them so famous.

But truly what is it that we can put that kind of energy into? What is worth it to you?

Perhaps it is building an organization. Maybe you have dreams of a better world for foster children, and you want to do something about it. What kind of heart-and-soul preparation are you putting into that dream? Is every waking moment spent obsessing over the plans for the building space you will use? Have you spent hours thinking through the programs you will put in place? Have you read every document you can get your hands on that speaks to the field you are in? Do you know what you are up against? Will you defeat the opposition, despite the odds? If you become an expert on what your up against, you will know exactly how to win.

Often times fear, lack of resources, or even something like having “a steady job” interferes with this kind of preparation. That kind of preparation is usually saved for special occasions because it is so difficult. But why would you let difficulty be the end point of your great work? If you aren’t living to make the world different, is what you are living for worth it?

Think bigger than just being comfortable. When you do, I believe you will find an enormous amount of fulfillment, you will teach your children (and your children’s children- and their children’s children) something that will last forever – and that is that we are here to not just be, but to be great.

Don’t have resources? What do you have? There is no way that a true winner will be stopped because they didn’t have everything in a row in front of them. Don’t have the building space for your organization? Well your backyard it is. Don’t have money for that project? Get on Pinterest – DIY until your thumbs fall off. Kids taking too much time away from your dream? Find a way to include them in what your doing. Bring the pack n play to a few meetings. You can figure it out, if the cause is important enough.

Honestly, my Thanksgiving was awesome for my family, but one look at the Kardashian Thanksgiving table-scape put me to shame instantly. (Dang you Instagram!) But those memories made were so precious, and the vision of family togetherness that I had really did come through. It may not happen like you think it should always – but with the kind of heart-and-soul preparation I’m talking about – you will win.

I’ve been meditating on what that means to me, and I haven’t fully discovered what it is that is worth that kind of excellent preparation for me. But when I do, I will be sure to share.

Please share with me what this means to you! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(Also for all those who are pin happy – the rest of this post is all about Thanksgiving! Feel free to share and check out all the ways you can improve your holiday get together’s! )

The most important part was the menu of course! I didn’t get many good pics of the food, but all of these links are pretty close to what mine looked like!

Appetizers:

Puff Pastry Tarts

Loaded Sweet Potato Skins

Skinny Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Sides:

Roasted Garlic Sage Pesto Pumpkin Soup with fried Pumpkin Seeds

“Pumpkin” Rolls (Mine turned out less than pumpkin looking)

Crispy Autumn Kale Salad

Green Bean Casserole (Non processed!)

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan

And Grandma’s Stuffing (Grandma on both sides!) No recipe for that yet…

Meats:

My AMAZING turkey! I use a combination of Anne Burrell’s brine and turkey prep, and I use Alton Brown’s cooking method for a super flavorful and super juicy turkey!! It’s amazing.

Prime Rib that my mother in law cooked! Delish!

Desserts: (other than pies on pies on pies that family brought)

Cranberry Parfaits with Sparkling Cranberries

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cinnamon chip biscottis with French Hot Chocolate

And of course, a cocktail: The Rummy Pumpkin

And now, please enjoy a slideshow of the pictures that were taken! (I wasn’t able to get everything photographed, sadly 😦 I need a photographer to follow me around I think.)

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