31 Days of Writing Again: Expiration Date

The first taste is always the best. Whether you are sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning, or taking your first swig of a sparkling water in the afternoon. That first sip is always the best. Most weekday mornings, I return home from dropping my kids at their schools and make myself a second cup of coffee to enjoy in the quiet.

I fully admit, I’m one of those types of coffee drinkers who enjoy their cream with a splash of coffee. This morning when I was returning the half and half to the refrigerator shelf, I noticed the expiration date on the carton and the date on the back up carton on behind it. (I told you, I was serious about my cream!) And even though both containers have a ways to go before they expire, it got me thinking.

What if we had expiration dates? I’m not talking about the day we die, I’m talking about expiration dates for our usefulness in life or for tasks we are assigned to do in order for them to have maximum impact. What if there was an invisible date stamped on us that only God could see where after that date passed, we were no longer useful and he just tossed us aside or said, “Never mind, I’ll just use someone else.” Isn’t that an awful thought?

I sat and pondered this for quite a while as I sipped my coffee this morning. I’m so thankful that we serve a God who never gives up on us- even though we might give up on ourselves from time to time. He never tosses us aside if we make huge mistakes in life and refuses to call us hopeless or useless. Basically, as long as we are drawing breath, he has a use for us in His Kingdom and his Word repeatedly tells us that it is never too late to begin again. He has a purpose for our lives and a future he wants to bestow upon us.

I’m thankful my passion and desire to write did not “expire” when I allowed it to sit idle for several years. I’m grateful that my life story did not “expire” when I thought I would never get married or have a family. I’m so happy that God continues to challenge and grow my experiences and interests even though it often feels like my “adult brain” has “expired” from too many games of Candy Land or episodes of Chuggington.

He is the renewer of our hopes and dreams. He never wants us to give up hope or just “expire” and be or feel tossed aside.  Our God has purpose for us every day even as we get old and gray. There are people around us and generations behind us who need our wisdom, our shared experiences and our enthusiasm for living to be passed down.

Thankfully we serve a God whose purposes and plans for our lives never expire. As I’m working on emerging from a difficult season in my life, I’m so grateful that I do not have an expiration date on my usefulness in life and that it is never too late to get started- again.  God’s timing is always perfect.  His goodness and grace towards us are forever, and thank goodness forever never expires!

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31 Days of Writing Again: Finding Your Tribe

As I stood on the porch of the beautiful log home in the mountains I could not help but smile. There were dozens of people just like my brother and beautiful new sister-in-law gathered in groups talking and laughing. I was looking at their tribe; the family they have chosen for themselves and it was lovely. They were an intentional community of friends who had many shared interests. These people’s lives were bound together through epic adventures, shared stories, holiday celebrations and lots of time spent together.

My brother lives an adventurous life out west. He climbs mountains, floats rivers and snowboards with the best of them. The life he lives now is not the lifestyle in which he was raised.  However, after hearing many of his stories and finally getting to meet the faces of his dearest friends, I can easily see he is truly at home and extremely happy.  He has found his tribe of like-minded people and made them his family.

As I sat across the table from a new friend a few weeks ago, I was struck by how thankful I am for her presence in my life. She is a fellow writer and frankly, I do not have many writer friends. It was a blast to catch up with her.  As writer-y types, we speak the same language and it was so fun to be able to share triumphs, struggles and fears with a fellow creative who understands. I left feeling inspired and wanting more of that type of connection in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many wonderful friends in my life, but not many who can truly speak into my writer soul the way only another writer can. It is one of my personal goals as I get back into writing, to truly invest time in developing and cultivating friendships and relationships with other writers.  I want to not only discover my tribe but celebrate them as well.

Who is in your tribe? What are your passion areas that could lead to connections with new faces.  Whose stories can you blend with yours? It is easy to stay in our same “ruts” with the same wonderful people because that is easy and requires little risk.  But God calls us to a life of adventure, challenge and deep connection. I’m convinced that it takes intentional effort and risk to build our tribes, but I’m also absolutely certain it is always worth the effort too.

31 Days of Writing Again: Control

I love my sleep. Growing up, I was widely known in my family for my sleeping skills. Deep, restful, heavy sleep came easily for me. It was an area where I never struggled. Typing those words today, feels like I’m writing about a long ago hero of legend and lore. Becoming a new mother naturally re-wires your ability to function on less and lighter sleep. I expected that.  And it’s fair to say, I also expected a return to my normal sleep patterns when my children began sleeping through the night.  However, I’m recently discovering that it’s shockingly (not really when you think about it) that simple.

For weeks now, it seems that a solid night of sleep has alluded me, and my inability to recapture rest often leads to long nights of anxiety wondering why I’m not sleeping.  My mind skips topics at rapid rates as I think about world events, war possibilities, violent tragedies, lists of cities in alphabetical order, fears, my family, milestones, home projects, my to-do list and grocery list (to name a few topics). On and on I spin.

Last night as I lay awake and my mind started its inevitable middle of the night spin, I began to remind myself over and over again that I have no control over these things, but God does.  With every concern that popped into my scattered thoughts, I practiced taking that thought captive for Christ and chose to trust Him with it.  Doing this did not bring sleep, but it did bring peace.

I cannot control the horrible wild fires burning or the choices made by criminals loose in society. I cannot change less than stellar decisions made in my past or the choices my children will make in their futures, but God can and He is sovereign. He is the Author of our stories, not us.

It is in those moments when life feels like it is spinning out of control the most, that we can choose to place our trust and surrender our illusion of control to the Most High God.  It’s the only answer.  I’m willing to bet my sleep on it!

 

31 Days of Writing Again: Worship

I am a house-lover. We live in mid-west suburbia and I’m always on the hunt for ways to add character to our home and make it feel cozier. My Instagram feed is packed with creative people who love to post pictures of their homes and seeing what they come up with makes my heart sing with possibility.

I possess zero DIY skills and even less confidence in that area, but I have my dreams and ideas and a healthy desire to learn.  I LOVE to rearrange furniture and move things from room to room. It may sound ridiculous, but a pretty shelf or vignette can boost my spirits and a lovely space causes my heart to swoon.

We do not have money trees growing in our yard, so my hobby/passion is always a slow work in progress and an exercise in respecting our budget.  But I actually think that is a good thing.  For me, beauty is often found in figuring out new ways to see, love and use the things we already have.  I’m not an artist or a trained creative by any stretch, but I am slowly rediscovering how much I truly do love using the creativity that God has given me.

We are God’s handiwork, designed with intention to connect with Him through the use of our creative giftings.  Doing this with the right spirit, can feel like worship.  For so long, I neglected this part of my God-given design.  I left my camera on the shelf, I stopped writing and collected hundreds of home ideas without taking any action.  My relationship with the Creator suffered as a result. I allowed images of perceived perfection, comparison and whispers of doubt to sneak in and speak lies loudly into my heart.  I stopped believing that I had anything to offer and my trust in my God-given identity as a creative began to waver.

Honestly, working to re-awaken my creative muscles has felt a bit like waiting for Lazarus to emerge from the tomb. Even though I am far from where I want to be, there is progress being made, and for so long I feared that kind of change was impossible for me.  I am thankful that we serve a creative God who delights in restoring possibility and beauty in our hearts. Good gifts which can then spill into our homes and the lives of those around us.  He is the giver of life and the re-newer of our hopes; forever deserving of our worship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Writing Again: Try

As a mom, I’m always encouraging my kiddos to “try”  again and again. I want to see my children put forth efforts to conquer challenges in life that feel difficult, whether that is pulling up your own pants after going potty, or working to craft the perfect lower case ‘q’.   In a perfect world, my children would willingly try new things without complaint.  They would practice and attempt repeatedly without frustration.  I know, dream world right?  Who likes to try and fail on a regular basis? Last time I checked, not many kids and even fewer adults…actually, no one does.

Especially adults.  I am the pot calling the kettle black.  My kiddos are on a steep learning curve in pretty much every area of their lives due to their ages.  Me, as an adult, I can kind of coast most of the time without crashing into too many feelings of “failure” in my every day life.  So when I do encounter feelings of failure, I find myself struggling and shrinking back and being unwilling to try. Especially when I try and do something “technical.” My feelings of inadequacy flood everywhere and I feel hopeless and useless and like a complete failure.

Recognizing and owning these feelings for myself and how difficult it is to try (and struggle to find success in) new things has been useful as I work on navigating these feelings expressed by my children.  My own struggles have grown my empathy and compassion in a really powerful way. As much as I dislike camping out in frustration, it helps me to be mindful of how my children feel when they cannot tie shoes, ride a bike or accomplish whatever new activity they might be attempting.

Sometimes I get caught up in the accomplishment side of things and feel frustrated at my lack of “mastery,” giving myself no credit for progress.  Not the way to go. Our real victory lies in celebrating progress made and for the courage to keep trying.  So today I’m choosing to celebrate some baby steps I’ve recently taken and I’m sending this message out into the world as I need to hear it the most myself:  Keep trying. Keep pushing forward.  Celebrate the small victories along the way and remember- you only fail when you stop trying.

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Writing Again: Embracing the New

I sat outside the bar in my car trying to convince myself to go inside. I really wanted to be at home in my jammies reading my book or watching TV. I validated all of my points in my mind about how it had been a long day, there would be other opportunities, I had not been sleeping well and going to bed early might be beneficial, on and on my thought pattern went.  I texted my dear friend who lives out of state and told her how I was lamely sitting outside alone trying to muster the courage to go inside.  She knows my introverted ways and is always in my corner.  She replied with a funny text and the silly reassurance that she was in my corner, and that was all I needed. On some level, I needed to be reminded that even though ‘new’ was knocking (new life stage, new friends, new experiences) the ‘old’ (people who have walked with me through so many life seasons before) would always be there.

I eventually got out of my car, and went inside where I was greeted warmly by some friendly and a few familiar faces. I’m in a stage of life where I am constantly meeting new people.  There has been a lot of “new” in my life over the past year, and honestly at times, I have felt overwhelmed by all of it.  But it’s getting better.  Faces in the crowd are becoming familiar, relationships are being built and friendships formed. My history with these new women is short, but our futures together are long. These are the new faces who will be in my corner as I raise my kids and help them navigate through school and beyond.

I’m thankful that everyone I have met has been warm and friendly and open about the fact that we are all in this ‘new’ stage together of trying to remember names and whose kid is whose.  I’m trying to embrace the challenge of putting myself out there in effort to make new friends. I realize that my “new” friends that I’m making here during elementary school will eventually become my “old” friends as we move forward into middle school and beyond.

We are wired for connection and as women, wives and mothers we always need the support of one another. Even if its as simple as texting your pal when she is sitting in her car needing her friend. Old friends are the best and always will be.  But the greatest part about investing in new friendships, is when you give them time and effort, they eventually turn into beautiful old ones.

31 Days of Writing Again: Thankful

If you are new around here, one of the things you might not know about me is that for years, I used to blog on another blog.  You can click over to it here if you are interested.  I started writing there when we found out half way through our first pregnancy that our son would not survive more than a few hours after he was born.  His name was Luke and he was perfect and precious and lived in our arms for several beautiful hours on a day that we will forever cherish.

I started writing because of Luke and I’m forever thankful to him for helping me unlock this part of my identity. I wrote and wrote and wrote our story of becoming a family as we eventually welcomed two more healthy children, our rainbow baby and one through the blessing of adoption.  As life got busier and busier, I stopped making the time to write and now, years later, here I am attempting to get my writing muscles back.  Only I’m trying to figure out what to write about if I’m no longer focusing on writing solely about loss, grief and struggle. Strangely, its been more of a challenge than I expected. A good challenge to be sure, but a challenge all the same.

On my old blog, one of the things I wrote frequently about was gratitude. It is something I cling to in my life and I one hundred percent believe that nothing can shift my perspective faster from scarcity to abundance; which is a channel switch I often need to help myself make.

So here on this blog from time to time, I’m going to dedicate a post or two or a few to the practice of gratitude.  The simple counting of blessings.  When we stop to count and take notice enough to record them, they are not only recorded on “paper” but forever in our hearts as well.

Here’s to counting many more.  I remain so thankful.

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495. the sounds of a marching band in the fall

496. love notes from my sweet girl

497. Oprah’s podcast

498. an easy drop off for my little guy at preschool (tear-free)

499. an organized pantry and freezer

500. A quiet field of hay bales on a foggy suburban morning

501. a missing front tooth on a happy face for picture day

502. listening to podcasts while I work

503. triple shot in a venti cup over ice+ extra ice+ a carmel Premier Protein drink

504. our home organized after a month of complete chaos

505. fall decor out and scented candles burning

31 Days of Writing Again: Feeling Seen

In my day to day life, I feel mostly invisible to the outside world. Typically the majority of my day takes place inside my home.  I’m doing laundry, picking up toys, tying shoes, making and cleaning up meals…(all things that go unnoticed until they do not get done).  Despite the fact that my kids are with me and want to play with and climb on me most of the time, there are amazingly still moments where I feel unseen.  The real me. The person inside the “mom” who still has hopes and dreams and opinions of her own.

That is why what my husband did for me a couple of weeks ago will be one of my favorite things for a very, very long time.  I was away for the day and my hubby was in charge of the kids.  He took them all the way across town to one of my favorite stores where they shopped for me and bought me a vase.  They then went to Hobby Lobby and shopped for supplies and returned home where they proceeded to paint and create the most perfect present for me.

A little bit of backstory, one of my favorite movies of all time is Nora Ephron’s, You’ve Got Mail. I could spend the next three weeks explaining how much I love it, but I will spare you.  The high points are: Tom Hanks, Nora Ephron, Meg Ryan, fall, books, book stores, witty dialogue and reading.  In one scene, Tom’s character tells Meg’s character as he is falling for her, that he would buy her a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils. It is every nerdy, school supply loving girl’s dream- and that is what my dear hubby and kids made for me.

They spent their afternoon making watercolored flowers and attached them to freshly sharpened colored pencils.  They then arranged the “flowers” in my new vase from my favorite store and left them on the counter for me to discover when I returned home.  Later, I walked in the door and immediately noticed the “flowers” sitting there in the quiet kitchen. It was when I looked closer and recognized the personal underlying loveliness of the gift that the tears began to flow.  I felt loved.  I felt appreciated.  I felt known and most importantly of all, I felt seen by those whom my heart loves the most.

31 Days of Writing Again: Change

When I used to work with children and families dealing with trauma, we used the analogy of the inner workings of a clock to describe the change they were experiencing in life.  I would encourage them to imagine the cogs, gears and interlocking wheels turning and clicking inside of a clock.  Helping them to see how when one moved or changed, it automatically moved and changed all of the others connected to it as well.  It is an analogy that helps me to remember that when things are changing, we are in this together.

Nothing feels stable in our world right now.  With the 24/7 media coverage of every disaster, storm, mass killing, and breach of national security, it is next to impossible to escape or feel that good things are happening anywhere. Even the sports world has become political with the controversy over protests. Our movies are violent and every television show seems to feel its necessary to slip in some kind of political angle or slam.

Lately my escape has been watching people’s instagram stories.  At least there, it is normal (non-celebrity) people talking about every day things like what they made for dinner, the books they are reading or their selection of paint color for their kitchen cabinets. It is mindless and non-essential and I love it. I think the reason I’m so consumed with it is because my spirit is craving a change from the everyday media bombardment of ‘ugly’ this world is dishing out these days. I long for simple, wholesome and beautiful. Good people, doing good things, making their small corner of the world brighter and better for others. People loving their families and homes who are passionate about helping others along the way. THAT is who and what I want to be surrounded by.

Last night things got even better. I stumbled upon a local, amazing grass roots group whose entire purpose is to offer various service projects you can do as a family or with your kids or by yourself. I was brought to tears by the beauty these women are building into the generations before and after them through their acts of kindness. The group’s message of compassion, empathy and service to others is a radical 180 from the message our world is sending. I cannot wait to get involved.

Incorporating more kindness, empathy and compassion is what I want to be about. I want to make my corner of this world a bit brighter and better for those whose paths I cross. It’s the currency I want to offer my children as they move forward into this world.  I was so encouraged to discover such goodness and it underlined for me the truth in the familiar saying that we must – especially in this day and age- be the change we want to see in the world. It is up to each one of us and I’m ready to do my part. I hope to see you along the way.

31 Days of Writing Again: Drifting

Years ago, I remember reading an article in Oprah’s magazine about the importance of doing the little things in life well.  Simple tasks such as making your bed every day, and putting away your laundry can add up and make a big difference in how you perceive your home and proceed with your day.

I do not remember the specifics of the entire article, but it’s premise has remained with me all these years.  Oprah used the phrase “personal drift” when explaining how when we allow the little things in life to slide, the big things will follow.  When we choose not to take positive action each day in certain areas, we eventually come to realize that we are in effect choosing to drift off course in the opposite direction. Our patterns of behavior are established in the hundreds of little choices we make each day.  Our choices determine our path. So simple, so basic and so true.

For example, on the days where I have not practiced the discipline of making my bed in the morning, shockingly, it is pretty easy to let the dishes stay in the sink too. Eating out of control at one meal often leads to poor eating choices later in the day because I’ve already blown it.  Action begets action and laziness begets laziness.  I find that when I spend the 30 seconds it takes to make my bed, I’m more inclined to open the curtains and straighten the bedside table.  When I eat a healthy breakfast, I will likely choose to exercise and treat myself to a nutritious lunch as well.

I’m not talking about cultivating a life of perfectionism, but more about living a life of intention, where we build habits that help push back against the easiness of “drifting.” Everyone has their own personal drift areas they need to work on- whether its finances, grooming, TV watching, yard work, eating or something else entirely. I certainly know what mine are (yes, I have multiple!) and I’m sure you can think of a few for yourself.

The most important thing we can do after identifying our areas requiring change, is to chart a course correction and take action.  I did this just this morning when I made a second lap through our upstairs to make all of the beds after dropping off kids at school.  Earlier this morning, haggling over making beds did not seem worth it to me.  But upon further reflection, I didn’t want to set the tone for the week and start Monday off on a “drifting” course.

Course correcting may be as simple as making beds or it might be a bit more complex. I have found that ultimately life is so much sweeter when we choose to act in a proactive manner versus when the consequences of our inaction catch up with us. I think we can all agree that for awhile, drifting feels easy, fun and free. However, the reality is, after drifting for too long, you often end up lost and tangled in the weeds.