Tuesday, December 9, 2014

5 Simple Ways To Show Love, Support & Encouragement On A Daily Basis

I'm a big believer in supporting and encouraging people. I'm a believer in uplifting one another. And I can't imagine a life lived that doesn't need some sort of encouragement to face the next day. To know what they are doing matters to someone else. Whether it's kisses from our babies, words of appreciation from our spouse, or people just showing up for or celebrating something we are passionate about. Those things matter. 

I think sometimes we like to think we believe so much in ourselves and our passions that no matter what anyone thinks, we are doing this to make us happy or to honor the Lord, etc.  But the truth is, the support of people helps us make that next move. I believe God created us with the desire for someone to believe in us. That's why he didn't leave Adam alone in the garden. He gave him Eve.

In a world of selfies and instagram photos of everything we do, it seems that the desire for human admiration is evident. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I think it becomes a bad thing when it's all about us and we have nothing to give to others. It becomes a bad thing if we can't see through the fog of human approval and see how much the Lord loves us and how much He desires to give to us, work through us and fill us with his abundance of good things.

But the need for support from others is human nature.

With that said, I wanted to share some tips in supporting and encouraging others. Part of our job as humanity is simply to show kindness, respect and love to people.

Listen closely.
This one is easy for me, yet hard for me at the same time. I love listening to people's stories. I love hearing where people came from. I love giving people the opportunity to talk about themselves. A friend and I were talking about women's ministry a few weeks back and we were talking about how we need to give more women the opportunity just to talk about themselves, their kids and their lives and have people really listen. But when it comes to one on one conversation, in my head, I'm always thinking of my response or what I want to say. Sometimes people just need to talk and they need you to listen and hear them. I'm not a fan of when I'm telling somebody something and they interrupt with their thought before I have even finished mine, so doing it to others is something I really have to work hard at. Just listen...

Put down your phone.
I was watching a cheezy ABC Family Christmas Movie the other day, "Holidays in Handcuffs" with Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart. They had this scene where all the cell phones were collected during Christmas Day. The phones were all locked away. And I thought to myself, we need to do that. We need to be present more. I was talking to my hubby the other day, telling him a story while he was playing a game on his phone and he sort of chuckled at the end of my story and said, "Oh really?" I could tell he had no idea what I said. I asked him to repeat back to me what I told him (yes, I did that) and whatever he thought he heard was not even close to what I told him. We are all guilty of this. Scrolling through our instagram, or playing a game, or editing a photo while someone is trying to talk to us or watch a movie with us. Leave it at home. Lock it away if the temptation is too great.

Surprise someone and show up.
We all get invited to a lot of everything, probably. Especially with facebook and the 'event' maker. Suddenly everyone is our close friend and wants us to come to their event. We can't always do everything. We don't want to neither. We'd rather sit home. We finally got the kids settled, we finally have our house clean and the last thing we want to do is get dressed and go somewhere. We have better things to do, like watch netflix or read a good book. But people need you to be there for them. I was invited to a party recently and I was tired~ let's face it, I have 4 kids so I'm always busy. But my mom called me and asked me if I was going and I said "I guess I can go." My mom and I showed up. That's it. My mom and I showed up. And we are glad we did. It's a bummer big time when you have an event everyone is too busy or lazy to come to or people just don't think it's important. Even if it's not important to you, it's important to someone. I'm not saying we all have to go to everything we are invited to, but make an effort to get our of your comfort zone occasionally and be there for someone else. It means a lot to them. Put yourself in their shoes. You will probably be glad you did.

Share it.
This is easy. Social Media. I'm not exactly sure how much good it does, but it means a lot to the people involved. If you have a friend that owns a shop, writes on a blog, makes music, plays in a band, etc or if you go to a church that you believe in and they are having an event open to the public, or even if someone you love shares something passionate or moving in a status, don't just like it but share it with others. Let that person know you believe in them enough to share what they are passionate about with others. It's easy to share our passions and thoughts, what about someone else's?

Look beyond the noise and see the person.
We all have people we love, people we admire, and people we esteem highly in our lives. But that doesn't necessarily mean we agree with everything they say or everything they do. Sometimes it makes it difficult to find ways to support them or encourage them, but it's those times when it's the hardest for you to voice encouragement, that God will mend those feelings of bitterness or irritation or discontent. Step out of your feelings about what they are doing or saying for a moment and ask the Lord to see them how He sees them. People are not perfect. We all need compassion, forgiveness, understanding of where we are in life and we need to be merciful to others. I'm with everyone else. I get just as frustrated as any other person with people some days, but I ask God to help me overcome these 'feelings' and I can always find a way to bless someone who hurts me, bugs me, or frustrates me.

During the Christmas season, I think a lot about this incredible gift God gave us.
We didn't deserve Jesus. We didn't deserve redemption. We didn't deserve a second chance. But he gave us his only son because HE loves US. The best gift we can give to others is love and one of the best ways we can show it is to be encouraging. The little things really do matter. The things we say or do to love and support one another.

I'm so incredibly grateful for those who have encouraged me in my blogging and writing journey. I've not always felt like I was making any difference and at times I've wanted to believe it was just for myself anyways, but the truth is, it's those emails and comments where people encourage me that helps me continue.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


In my last post (yes, over three weeks ago) I talked about being a quitter. About how everytime I sought to find a way and a reason to quit, I was reminded (no doubt by the Holy Spirit) that I am not an island unto myself. It's not all about me and what I want to do in that moment.

Lately, I feel so many of us have fallen prey to the lie that says "Me and Jesus have our own thing going on and nobody can say anything about it."  While, yes, it's true that our relationship with the Lord is and should be one of intimacy. The quiet moments with Him are in fact just between you and Him. When He speaks, you should be listening. And when you cry out to Him, His ears are open to you. However this doesn't mean that you can do what you want, where you want, how you want, say what you want and it bares no relevance to anyone else, nor does it affect anyone else.

Because it does. You and Jesus don't have your own thing going on. Nor do I. Because if we are not living a life that sets up a path for others to follow Jesus, then we are not doing at all what He needs us to do in this life.
And that is to be a light for the world to see. Be a light for our children, our friends, our co-workers, our family.
It's not just about me loving Jesus and Him loving me. It's about surrendering my all to Him. It's about leaning on Him and Him alone. Finding strength in Him.

But mostly, it's about being bold to speak. And when we are so bold to speak, we don't speak up about our freedom and human rights to do this and that, but it's about our freedom and deliverance from the bondage that was brought on by this or that. Because it was Jesus that brought us through.

Our entire purpose to even maintain a relationship with the Lord is that so we can let others know of his goodness. Salvation isn't just for you and you alone. It's for you to show forth the goodness of God so that they will know too. If your goal in this thing with 'you and Jesus' is just to superficially love Jesus and do what you want, then it's simply not a relationship at all. Because in any relationship, true love always produces actions. So does true faith.

More and more our world is becoming one where we feel like we have rights and we (humanity) can dictate and reason what we think is right and wrong above and beyond the Word of God. And it's infiltrated our churches and the people of God. Our standards for living life have become lower and lower.  We justify our actions on the example that someone else has set.

So we see someone else do it or say it or maybe someone offended us... so what... ??? It doesn't give us a human right to dot dot dot...
It just proves that that persons actions have affected you. That persons example of a relationship with Jesus has affected how you see what a relationship with Jesus is.

It wasn't just about Him and Jesus. It is now about Him and Jesus and You.
Do you see?

No, we are not an island unto ourselves.
My relationship with the Lord isn't just about me and Jesus.
I so love my moments when it is just me and Him. But my life and your life has the ability to domino affect on so many other lives.

We either believe the God of the Bible or we don't. But if we say we do & YES, HE is my Lord,  then let's grasp ahold of His EVERY truth like it is our breath. And let's not use it to stand on our soapbox and  revel in selfishness while we proclaim freedom. Because it's not freedom. What this world thinks is freedom has the ability to bring destruction, hurt, pain, torment and so much more bondage.

What we need is freedom from the bondage and addiction and sickness and hurt and immorality and depression and pain and all the other things the enemy brings~Let that be the freedom that we live and speak of. It's the freedom that GIVES the abundant life.

I want to be a vessel fit for my Masters use. I want to give and live and shine.
I want to be reminded every day that it's not just about ME & Jesus.
But it's about Me & Jesus & them...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

{i'm a quitter}

I'm a quitter. I mean, I'm an almost quitter. I'm a "but I have good intentions." So that's ok, right?
I have shiny ideas and big dreams. I have vision. Vision that sometimes seem more than I can handle.So instead of trying to handle it,  I throw in the towel. For like a day. I get overwhelmed and I quit everything. You name it, I quit it. Extra curricular activity, social media, writing, church...out the window it goes! In my head anyways.

Anytime life seems to shift and change a little too uncomfortably for my liking, I put the kabosh on everything I had been working towards or dreaming about. It suddenly feels too overwhelming. I suddenly feel too under-qualified. That's it. I've had it. I quit. 

Anytime my feelings get remotely hurt or people come off sounding snarky at me, I throw my hands up in the air and I surrender everything I wanted to be to their snarky comment. I roll my eyes with a heavy sigh and a "Whatever!" and I place my destiny in their lap. And they don't even know it.

When life feels less than graceful and filled with rhythms of chaos, shouting my inability to gather my thoughts and structure well...pretty much anything.... it overtakes me and everything I am working so hard for, I tell myself "You know what? No one will notice if you quit." So do it. Just quit. Sit quietly. Cower a little. You've got plenty of purpose and meaning right in your house. 4 kids is more than you can handle anyways. Your plate is full. So just quit. C'mon. Everyone else is doing it.

And suddenly I remember it's not about me.
And suddenly I remember, it's not even supposed to be me going at this thing alone.
It's not about my hurt feelings or lack or qualifications. It's not about my ability to carry out this vision with complete and total dignity and  graceful beauty.

It's about HIM. 
And it's about looking at who I am and seeing someone else. 
Seeing Jesus. 

Lately every time I feel like throwing in the towel because I just don't have what it takes, He reminds me "It's not by your might. It's not by your power. It's by my Spirit anyways. Together, we've got this, girl. Of course YOU can't do this. You weren't supposed to do this. You are supposed to be willing to let me do it through you.

And I breathe. Ok, Lord. I take two steps forward.

I think about all the people I have come across or read about these past few years who "almost quit" because life got hard. People that have spoken volumes into my life and thousands others. And I wonder "What if they would have quit like they were tempted to do? What if they threw in the towel when they felt broken or depressed or overwhelmed?" I might not be where I am today. I may not have the drive in me to keep going.

But I am where I am because they didn't quit. And it reminds me~Neither should you.

Don't do it.
God needs to use your mouth. People need you to speak into their lives. Whether you think it or not.
You are where you are because YOU are needed. You are valued by people and you are honored by God.

So I am asking you, whoever you are, please DON'T QUIT. 
Whatever it is God has you doing. Whatever he is asking of you...
Don't throw in the towel. 
Life may seem bigger than you can handle right now. But HE needs you to rely on HIS strength so HE can become big and strong through you. So He can climb into your hands and your feet and speak through your mouth. HE needs you to stop believing the lies that no one will notice.
Because someone out there will notice. He needs you to stop relying on yourself so much...
IT's all him, Girl. Just let him get this one. 

Sit tight. Be Open. And enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Your One Stop Shot For Perfection

"There is no such thing as a perfect mom. There is a loved mom. And a needed mom. And if you are there, that's perfect enough for them."
Those are the words I found myself writing earlier today when asked "What is something unexpected you've learned from being a mom?" It slipped off my fingertips with all the grace and dignity in world. (She says sarcastically).

I remember when I was around the age of 14 and getting into a scuffle with my mom (not an actual physical one) because in our Sears (or JC Penny, maybe?) 'family photo' I was not smiling. Back then you only got one shot to make your family look perfect, and I apparently ruined it. I was the oldest, so obviously I was to blame.  As soon as we got home and re looked at said photo, it was discovered that I was in fact smiling.
It was just a crappy picture in general (and I needed braces), so I don't blame anyone.
I'm not bitter...

Back then you had your one shot at perfection. 
Fast forward 20-(5) ahem years later and it seems our complete identity is somehow summed up in the perfection of our perfectly perfecto photos on our perfectuous Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter) feed~
Our adorably and perfectly cute kids (I mean!) with their cute outfits (You guys, I can't!) making cute (and not messy at all!) crafts. Today, we've taken away the JC Penny backdrop and have replaced it with the current definition of being a perfect mom with a perfect family. We plop it into our photo editing program and suddenly, we are "Perfecto Mom!"
Yes? Um, no.

I've got news for your friends. Our perfect Instagram feeds are not an indication of what a great mom we are.
It merely indicates what a great photographer we are. And even that's sketchy in this day & age because apparently anyone with a camera can have their own business.
My sister truly has a great eye when it comes to photography, particularly fashion photography. At least I think she does. She doesn't just have an eye for the picture taking, but for the photoshoot and style as a whole. She follows these super adorable Instagram feeds of these kids all decked out in the cutest kid swagger that can be and she always asks me if I "follow them" and "why not?"

Well, because I have kids. It's not reality .

Although, it makes for a cute kid photo, there is very little real about that photograph. It just doesn't inspire me as one would hope. What does inspire me is real life moms in the trenches of nitty gritty dirty momdem (that's not a word, I know) finding God's grace to wipe boogers and calm fevers and raise teenagers and eat old macaroni and cheese they find caked in the cushions (is that stretching it?). Moms who have special needs kids. Moms who want to have more kids. Moms who have too many kids (I know that's not possible, but you get what I mean). Moms that are probably tired of their kids, but Moms who still sacrifice their world for their kids.
Of course, they manage to mess it up, but they aren't afraid to admit it.

Moms that have to get up 6-7 times a night with their baby who won't sleep.
(Me. That last one was me. I inspire me.)

I'll admit. 
I get a ting of jealous of the perfect Instagram feeds. The one's that everyone follows. The ones that have perfect photos of how stylish and white and clean life must be on the other side of ...the midwest? Accessorized in balloons and stripes and chevron. With colorful quilts and mugs and quotes. I think we all get jealous to some degree. (Unless we really do have it all together.)

I LOVE those photos. I do.
But what I love mostly is truthfulness. And if I find an Instagram feed with both those things, it's pretty much the best day ever. However to compare myself to one of those feeds (highlight reels), because my photos don't always have the best lighting or I haven't gotten around to redecorating my living room in 5 years or my kids hair hasn't been brushed in two days (and even so, I still want to take AND post a picture) is where I have to draw the line. We all do.

Because our Instagram feeds are not an indicator of what a great mom we are or what a perfect family we have. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to humanity. Technically.
Unless of course you are looking through the two little eyes who look up to you. Than you just being there makes you entirely perfect. Perfect to my 5 month old is buckling his bouncy seat seatbelt apparently, because that is what I just had to take a quick break to do, and he thought it was HILARIOUS!

It's a sad day if we we ever become too embarrassed to post pictures of our lives or our kids because the picture in itself doesn't match up to the creative, bright and colorful, 'we have so much fun together' stamina of someone else's family pictures on social media. Are we trying to show off how much we love our kids and celebrate our lives... or just show off? I dare say our social media activity some days can actually be an indicator of where we are lacking, because we are too busy trying to present the perfect image to everyone else.

We have all heard it said before. The thought isn't new in this day and age.
And Steven Furtick said it best when he said "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scene's with everyone else's highlight reel."

The struggle is real, friends. Isn't it? We tweet about it, blog about it, preach about. Yet we still do it.
We compare. We let our identity be wrapped up in big bulbs on our deck and trendy banners on our fireplace and in a seemingly perfect presentation of who we really are. Awhile ago, I tweeted something like this "A Pinterest Girl is not the same thing as a Proverbs 31 Woman!" and it was one of my very few tweets that had a decent feedback. Achieving perfection in the eyes of the public is completely different than in the eyes of our Children...
and certainly different than in the eyes of God.
It's unfortunate. Because when we see someone, we should see the very thing He sees in them.
And it is who we should see in ourselves~ just the same.

Charm is deceptive. 
Beauty is fleeting. 
A woman who fears the Lord 
is to be praised. 
Psalms 31:30

We probably breeze past this scripture too often because we hear it so often and attribute it to modesty, yet what about the charm and beauty we so often put on display for the world to see in the other areas of our lives?
Is that what we are to praise?

My hope and prayer for my life (as a woman) is that I find my perfection:
~ In the eyes of my creator & redeemer. That everything that I do in my life is glorifying to Him. That it's not a false sense of charm or beauty of any kind that deceives others or even myself into wishing, thinking, hoping that my life is better than theirs/ or should be as good as theirs...

My hope and prayer for my life (as a mother) is that I find my perfection:
~ In the eyes of those little precious hearts that matter most. That my perfection isn't found in perfect social media photos or non messy craft days found on Pinterest only, but my being "perfect" is just being Mom to them when they need me to be. Perfect to them is being there. That's it. Nothing fancy or pinteresty about it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Room 610 ( My 5 Day Visit to the Hospital)

On Monday, September 22, this was me at a motives makeup party...all fancied up right before bed. Two days later, I sat in the ER looking a little less and feeling a lot less becoming. Oddly, the Saturday morning before this I woke up, took myself to the gym for the first time in about a year. I was gung ho, ready to go. I still have 25 lbs of  pregnancy weight to lose and I figured since the kids (most of them) were in school, it was about time to get in gear. On Monday morning, I head back to the Y, but something was different. It wasn't just pure exhaustion from lack of movement for a year. I got on the elliptical for 10 minutes and I couldn't breathe. So I left. Great way to start a fitness goal.

Tuesday Morning, I woke up, met my in-laws for breakfast feeling kind of flu-ish. I was achey and my nose wouldn't stop running, so I laid down the majority of that day but felt like I was Ok to have company over later than night. And I did.

Wednesday Morning, I woke up, still feeling flu-ish, achy, runny nose,slightly congested...but I felt I could handle it and Jeff went off to work. Within an hour of him leaving, I was almost completely unable to breathe. It was extremely sudden, so I called him home and asked him to bring me to urgent care. My main concern was that I had pneumonia or bronchitis or something, and I didn't know if it was contagious or safe for me to keep breast feeding. I have dealt with asthma my entire life, and the major asthma attacks have been few and far between. I seriously don't remember having anything major in probably 10 years or so...and most minor attacks could be controlled with a rescue inhaler. Or so I thought.

I got to urgent care and the doctor said I had absolutely no air going through my lungs so he gave me a breathing treatment and a shot of prednisone (in the rear) and I was able to at least catch my breath but in no condition for anything else. He sent me by ambulance to the ER...and after 2 more breathing treatments and 6 hours gone by, I was on my way home.

Wednesday Night, I knew when I got home that taking care of my kids (and bathing them for their school pics the next day) was impossible. Thank you Dry Shampoo! I felt worse than I did in that morning. I couldn't even feed Wyatt properly, because the angle that I had to hunch over non stop to even breathe was not a good angle to breastfeed. The entire night I laid on the sofa next to him, trying to gasp for breath. I knew I should have went back to the ER in the middle of the night, but I had four kids was I supposed to manage this? SO I waited. Waited.

Thursday Morning. By Morning, I couldn't take two steps alone without help. I had to get out of my house because I didn't know if there was something in my house causing this. So Jeff had to drive me over to my church so I could sit in there with the windows wide open. I couldn't even carry my own purse, because the amount of air I had to even walk to a room to sit down was all I could get. I sat there for about an hour, while he kept Wyatt, brought my kids to school (as well as the little girls we watch in the morning) and I called my doctor who told me to go back to the ER and when Jeff finished with all the kiddos, he brought me back to the ER. After an hour long breathing treatment, I was admitted to the hospital for 24 hours of steroid injections, breathing treatments, etc.

Friday Morning & Saturday Morning. Well to say I felt better is an understatement. When you can't even carry you're own purse and you have to hunch over with an aching back for days just to get a breath, anything feels good. So I felt good in comparison. But it was determined to stay another couple of days, because I was still wheezing and getting short breaths and low oxygen, just sitting in a bed alone all day. What would happen if I were to go home to my messy house and 4 kids and 2 animals all wanting attention? So, even on Saturday, I was yet given another 24 hours to stay...

And today, Sunday. Today, he said I am still wheezing... and don't sound great. But it's up to me whether to stay one more day and take advantage of treatments or go. I'm taking the day to rest in here, but plan on having my husband pick me up tonight to go home to my family. I miss them. But am a little nervous to go home to the chaos that awaits me. I don't know how Jeff did it alone with 4 kids, one of them being a breastfed baby, but he did...and he deserves some major props!

I just wanted to give an update for those of you who were offering your help and prayers and visits and whatnot. Thank you all so much. I had read of a respiratory virus HERE going around that started off like a flu, but suddenly changed into a major inability to breathe, especially with already asthmatic patients. We can only assume that is what was going on. The things we take for granted some days is beyond me, especially when you lose it. I was in so much pain, just from hunching my back to breathe. I am thankful to be mobile, breathing and at 94% oxygen. Haha.

I sat in my room all week watching the Influence Conference feed on Instagram as well as the Kindle the Flame Conference feed on Facebook, wishing I could be at either of those places, but mostly I just wanted to be feeling better and home. I also sat watching my newsfeed of other people (kids mostly) in hospitals needing prayers far more than I probably did, and lifted them up to the Lord. And I took heed to the warnings of the doctors to stop living on my inhaler and get this issue under control.

Thanks to my mom for stopping by several times, bringing me goodies and taking me home from the ER the first night, picking up groceries and diapers and dog and cat food...and letting Jeff use your truck. Thanks to my friends & family for bringing meals, offering breast milk, taking my kids out so Jeff could get a break. Thanks to my brother in law for cleaning mold out of our house ( a possible suspect in the asthma attack). Thanks to my sisters and brother in law and dad for stopping by to say hi and chat with me for a bit! And thanks to everyone for your prayers and encouragement.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Update: Wesley (one year later)

Seriously! Is this happening? How is he a 5th grader already?
It's funny because when I (or anyone else) looks at Wyatt, we immediately see Wesley when he was a baby. 11 years goes by so fast Mommas. I wish someone would have told me. I'm sure someone did, I don't think you don't really get it until it's gone by. You are in the smack dab in the middle of learning about raising this kid. Not just kids in general, but *this* kid and suddenly this kid is a big kid. When we say every kid is so different, wow, is that true.
Last year around this time, I wrote about how Wes was tested for Aspergers and he was *diagnosed* with anxiety and depression in this post Aspergers & Emotional Disability or Fearfully & Wonderfully Made ?. I talked about how I knew that was not Wesley's identity. I knew we had things to deal with, obviously, otherwise he would have never been tested but I also know God has a plan for Wesley's life and those words aren't included. Over the course of his 4th grade year, he was also tested for ADHD in which the results came back borderline.

Let me just say something about this, for all the parents that struggle with faith vs diagnosis. I know for some of us, we feel that if we find out whats going on that we are not standing in faith concerning the issue. But for our family, it has helped us so much.

Clearly, over the course of almost 11 years of life, we had our struggles. In and out of the principles office he went. Meetings with teachers every year since pre-school. In the beginning, we just all thought "Wow, he has a temper or boy is he emotional." Everyone else thought "Wow, you need to discipline him better or Boy is he naughty." Until the ending of 2nd grade, his teacher recognized something familiar and just made mention of it. Once we started testing, therapy & diagnosis process, he has only progressed. There has been nothing negative in the process. We are, as his parents in full control what we have him do. No one is forcing us to do anything. And we (especially I as his mother) go to the Lord about everything. If I ever needed the Lord's help, it was in this area of parenting. Seeking his wisdom concerning each of my kids individually is on my agenda-DAILY!
Wesley has had lots of prayer from my family too over his life and I am so thankful for that.

But as a mom, I appreciate just knowing I am not alone. I also appreciate knowing he is not alone. And I am learning daily how to communicate with him. It doesn't hinder my faith in God to know what I'm dealing with because I know where we stand. And I know that He is greater and lives inside of us. It doesn't help me to pretend that we haven't struggled with things. What helps us and him is knowing what is going through his mind and how he interprets things, so that I both know how to pray with and for him and also know how to communicate with him.

He is getting older, so with the territory comes eye rolling and attitude on occasion, but my biggest and main concern is that Wesley knows he can talk to Jeff or I about anything as he grows into a teenager. I make sure to sit down with the kids. I go to their rooms and talk to them about their friends, their classes, what they like and dislike. Not every day, but I do it because I want them to be able to confide in me. All of them.

Wesley is so completely different from Jada. And Jada is so completely different from Leila. It's seriously crazy how different these kids are, but I love their differences and I can see God using them so much in their lives and futures.

This past year, he was moved to public school after being in private for 6 years. He has been able to take advantage of special education and school counselors, which were not available in private. But he has not had one single issue where he even needed major intervention since switching schools. The only thing the special ed teacher has helped him with is remembering his homework each day.
He was feeling rushed at the end of the day and he would get distracted, forget his homework, which in turn would cause him to get in trouble and was creating a lot of anxiety for him the first few months of his new school. So we remedied that. And since then, he almost always is joyful, loves school and has a good attitude concerning it.

If you have ever dealt with similar issues, you can't imagine the relief we had at the end of his school year as everything turned around for him. Not a single principals office visit all year. Not a single out of schedule meeting with the teacher. And after we dealt with the homework issue, he was in a better mood, he started making friends at the end of year and he is happy. So I am happy.

Towards the end of his 4th grade year ,we received an email and had a meeting with his former principal at the private school he attended, in which he welcomed Wes back for 5th grade this year. I don't know why, but even though we had been praying for this to happen, I just didn't feel it was the right fit for Wes yet. I kept talking to the Lord about it, but something didn't feel quite right. Maybe he wasn't ready, I don't know. But I just followed that quiet voice inside me. So he is back in public. Next year he is off to middle school and we have another big decision to make, obviously. Do we keep him in public or put him back in his old school where the kids knew about some of his shenanigans. I wonder some days if he still has a reputation or if he will be accepted because the Wesley they knew caused quite a commotion some days.

As the year progresses, I am keeping the middle school situation in prayer obviously. I see so much improvement. I am so thankful. He is so full of love. And he is so smart. And I push him a little socially & physically to do things that he doesn't always want to do (because he'd rather be on the computer in his room), but he is always happy afterwards and wants to improve even more so.

This year has been a defining year for me as a parent. I have never thought more about intentional parenting as I have this past year. And I love it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Good Is The Internet?

Some days I really struggle with the internet. I struggle with the good and bad of it.
Let's face it. There is a lot of bad. There is greasy, dirty, whiny, angry, gossipy & downright sleazy all over the place.  It's gross. It's meant to suck people in.  And it accomplishes what it sets out to do. All we have to do is see a pretty picture or a catchy title and suddenly with the click of a mouse or tap of our phone we are engaged in what so and so thinks about so and so and the 7 reasons why.

And if we are not careful, we begin to feed our hearts with trash. It may not look dirty, but it makes our hearts dirty. We read it. We involve ourselves in argument and debate over it. We dwell on it. We infuriate over it.  And suddenly, Jesus is not first and foremost. This thing is. This issue. This debate. This gossip.

So why do we fall for it?
Why do we spend our time accommodating the patterns of the world? That's not who we are.
Romans 12:2 says  Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing & perfect will.
We are called to be more. We are called to protect our hearts. Do you want to know why?
Because everything we do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23) 
Are we protecting our heart with every click of our mouse?  Are we allowing the life of God to flow out of us?  Or is what flows from our mouths and fingertips something else? 
It's something to think about.

1 Peter 2:9 -"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
What I see here is that God has chosen you. You are prized. You are precious. You are holy and royalty. And you are different. And because of that, you are called to show the goodness of God. That is your purpose here on this earth- to show others his goodness. Whatever you do, whatever you speak, whatever you share, let it bring glory to God alone.

The thing about the internet it has given anyone and everyone a public voice. This can be a good thing if the right people are using it, but more often than not it's doing the opposite. Some people don't know when to keep their mouths closed. Some people entertain idol argument too quickly. And some people just just want to tell the world what they think.
But as a man or woman of God, that is not what we are called to do.
That's not who we are supposed to be.

Yes, we are to defend the gospel, but we should allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into doing so with the right words.

The internet can be an excellent tool if you use it correctly~If your intent is to honor God with your words and not yourself, if your intent is to honor God and not dishonor others. There are certainly very talented speakers and writers and debaters and actors and politicians that have the ability to captivate us and persuade us and entertain us. But talent & persuasion don't equal truth.
Let's not take every word out of every great writer or speaker and cut it up and swallow and digest it as truth just because it's said with eloquence. On that same not, let's not take every word and throw it out just because someone is imperfect. 
If we renew our minds daily with God's word, and ask him to open our eyes, we will know the truth inside of us.  We just will.    And that is what we should be sharing. That truth that brings glory to God. We shouldn't let ourselves to conform to the thoughts and patterns of the world we live in.

Our voice, if we should decide to use it publicly (which most of us do to some degree nowadays if we own any sort of social media account) is to be used to breathe the life of God into any given situation. If we are not using the online voice we have, (however little or big it may be), to bring God glory, what are we using it for? If we are speaking up on this or that, we need to be sure our heart is close to God's heart and our voice is guided by Him. Because when it comes down to it, our opinions are not what matter. We can certainly have them, but they aren't what matter. What matters is bringing God glory. And bringing people to see Jesus.

And likewise, let those who do wish to glorify God, be brave enough to do it publicly. We need more brave people online pointing people to Jesus, not just away from things or people. Give people somewhere to look, not only something to look away from.

Let's ask ourselves this question before we speak, 
"Will they see Jesus in what I am about to say?"
And if the answer is no, maybe we should lay that thought quietly down for awhile and let God work in us what HE wants us to say. Or we can say nothing at all. Sometimes that is better, ya know? It just is. I hold back a lot of my initial thoughts. Because it's just that, it's my thoughts and my reaction to other peoples thoughts. That's all.  And I want to be sure that when I speak it's not hasty and when I speak, it's really very simple, I want people to see Jesus.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you  have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you  have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 4:11

The internet isn't going away anytime soon. But as we engage ourselves in it's use, let's not get tangled up in the grossness of it. We need to learn to recognize when what we read or what we say is a ploy meant to shift our focus onto people or ideas rather than the Lord.  Instead, let's use our voice on the internet to boast about the NAME that is far above every other name that calls out to us.
The name of Jesus.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

11 Ways We Turned Our Family Fun Day Into The Apocalypse

the photoshoot in which Jada would not stop teasing Leila
This probably won't sound intense, but it sure felt like it.

In that moment on that day (Saturday) when anticipation filled the air.
Anticipation for what you may ask? Family Fun Day of course.

I will admit it. I set my hopes high. I think we all do when it comes to Family Fun Day. We have some sort of delusion of grandeur that everyone will be as well behaved and anticipate this day as much as we do as a parent.

But if you have a truck full of kids like I do...(or if you have a toddler who is very particular like my friend, Lisa, does) you start to ask yourself 'why do I bother?' Because Family Fun Day just isn't very fun when you the fun is sucked out by the kids who should be having the fun. Let me clarify. Sometimes the kids actually ARE having fun as they antagonize and instigate. But Family Fun Day for us this past weekend ended in a near melt down.
I wanted to take the family to celebrate our heritage and culture, so we started getting ready for Indian Summer Festival!
It started bad and just got worse. I should have known.

1) Leila's comb-over. I tried to fix Leila's hair in french braids. She has a huge clump of knotted up hair that she will NOT let me brush through, so for a week now I have been brushing 'over' it in order to hide said clump. This wouldn't work with french braids. A lot more hair separating is needed. SO I get lots of wiggling, yelling and crying instead. We ended up with regular braids brushed over clump (as shown above). This is how our day began.

2) Photoshoot gone awry. So the braids were necessary for my little native girls. If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen I was pretty excited to go. So I got the girls all braided up, clump comb-over and I wanted to take some pictures. The better portion of them were of Jada pretending to be picking her nose and wiping it on Leila and Leila was getting mad (as shown above). And there was a lot of me saying "JADA! KNOCK IT OFF!"

3) Leila wants chocolate milk. We are driving away from the house and she starts yelling and crying that she is going to puke if she doesn't get chocolate milk. I tell her I am not stopping for chocolate milk and whining and crying is not the way to get her way. She keeps whining in hopes I will make a stop for her. I didn't, obviously.

4) We got lost. How on earth we could get lost in a city we have lived in our whole lives pretty much, I will never get. But we still manage to do it. A trip that should have taken about 12 minutes ended up taking about 30. And the last 20 of those minutes was spent in a 2 mile radius trying to find a parking lot.

5) We got there late. We left later than planned. We drove longer than planned. We parked farther away than planned so we had to walk longer to the main entrance than planned. Everything just takes longer with kids. A lot longer. You would think I would know that by now and plan better. But as much as I plan better, I never plan for kid fights and last minute announcements of "I NEED chocolate milk or I will puke" as we are driving away. And when we finally reached the gate, there was a line that was way longer than I expected.

proof that we actually did make it to Indian Summer for the 25 minutes I claimed

6) There were 'bees.' Bees are not a friend of our family. Really they are wasps, but you get the point. My oldest child is terrified of bees. He runs (like Phoebe on Friends) and he screams. Well, if there are a lot of bees, there is a lot of screaming and running. He knows people are watching. He doesn't care. He panics and cries. I feel really bad for him, I do. I seriously have no clue what to do to help him.  He never enjoys anything outdoors in the summer, which means neither do we. But the whole 25 minutes we were at the festival, he didn't stop screaming and running. Yes, I said 25 minutes. That is how long we lasted.

7) Jada wanted to take a nap. First let me say, Jada is 9. She isn't 2. We finally get to the festival late. Wesley is crying. Leila has  matted comb-over hair and a booger on her arm from Jada. Jeff and I are irritable from the extra long drive and getting lost. We hadn't even made it to the pow-wow yet and Jada starts crying and whining (oh that whining) because she has now decided she wants to go home and lay down and take a nap. Her words, not mine.  I told her to lay on a bench and she said 'No. People put their butts on there.' Okay, I can understand that so I told her to lay on the ground with Wyatt's blanket. But that wasn't acceptable either. Home was the only place she wanted to be.

8) War breaks out. At this point, Jeff had finally decided that he would take Wesley to a safe haven (a place free of bees) and come back later and pick me up. The panic Wes was dealing with was more than it was worth to try to push through it, for any of us. So we decided we would swallow the $19 we paid for Jeff's ticket and parking so he could get Wesley to safety. The girls both decided they wanted to go with Daddy. I had a feeling that was a bad idea, but hey, it meant I could get a break. Just me and the baby. Not really. Within 2 minutes I saw them all walking towards me and Jada was crying and Jeff was ticked because the kids were already fighting with each other.

9) We give up. 25 minutes into the gates of Indian Summer and I hadn't even met up with my family yet who was saving us a spot, but we couldn't deal anymore. The entire day thus far was a bust and I couldn't see it getting any better. I prayed for strength. Seriously, I did. I breathed the heaviest breath ever along with a loud sigh and said "Lord, give me strength to do this."

10) The kids are 'sorry.' Wesley and Jada are both crying now because they don't want me to be sad. Of course I was upset. They were whiny and misbehaving and we had to end up leaving because of it. And Leila was now crying as well, but because she wanted to stay. So now $33 is wasted instead of just $19.  I made sure Wes knew with his repeated "I'm sorry mommy" that it was not his phobia that got him in trouble, but it was the fighting with Jada. Although the phobia is stressful for us, of course he can't help it. I am trying so hard to get him to understand the screaming has to stop though. He holds it back just fine in front of his friends when he sees a wasp. He just runs away like any other person, so I know he can do it. But for some reason, when it's just him and us (and the general public) he has no problems with making a scene.

after we left the festival and before the apocalypse we stopped to stare at water?

11) The Apocalypse. Or what felt like it anyways. So on our way home, the kids are told to not speak to one another. Not a peep. You know how that goes. Jeff and I decided to treat ourselves to WINGSTOP-(because that makes everything better.)  And we have to stop at Target and grab some easy quick food and drinks for the kids. As soon as we walk into our house, it's like everything that can be shaken is shaken.

It's that moment when you have a million bags, cameras, diaper bags, purses, the baby seat and your food of course and you are trying to bring it all in. The baby is crying and wants me to feed him. I have to go to the bathroom. The dog needs to be let out. Leila is crying about chocolate milk (again). Jada is asking for cookies before dinner and complaining about what dinner is and teasing Leila. Wes has calmed down but is talking a lot and digging in the fridge for the 'pre-dinner food' that he always seems to need. Everything is going on and no one is calming down, and we can't even hear ourselves think. We told the kids to go upstairs to their rooms, (both because of the fighting and because 'Jada needed to lay down and take a nap') and we told them 3 or 4 times with no response. They acted like we didn't even say anything. And that was it. The apocalypse happened.
I almost felt bad for Wesley because he was just talking at this point, but it happened to be when everyone else was doing everything else, so he probably couldn't even hear us tell them to get upstairs. But enough was enough.

I told a friend of mine that I felt like my hopes and dreams for a perfect family fun day were shattered. I was joking of course but it was one of the top 3 most chaotic days out with my family. Sometimes, I seriously don't know why I try. Ever feel like that?. My kids are much happier and well behaved at we save money. It's just more work than it's worth. I'm learning little by little to plan better.

What goes wrong this time, I will try to remember next time... if there is a next time.
Depends how brave I am.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Phew! This week has been LONG. And tiring. I have so much going on in my brain right now, I can't even begin to go there.

In this season of transition for the family, I have been learning (EVEN more if that's possible) to rely the grace of God to carry me and give me strength.

Don't get me wrong. I like getting back to a schedule, but that also means getting to bed earlier, getting dinner on time + all that. Granted it's only been a couple of days of the fall line up here in the Smith home (so I should give myself a little grace as well) but I already feel like I'm falling behind. Or at least I just haven't gotten ahead yet like I hope to do while the kids are in school this year.

I've been in my car almost non stop traveling back and forth to schools and home, etc. I am trying to teach Leila the ropes of how to take the school bus so I had to put her on the bus and drove out to her school (25 minutes) so that when she arrived, I was there for her.  I did the same thing after school. I drove out there (and when she saw me she start sobbing by the way), I made sure she got on the right bus okay, followed the bus over to Jada's school to make sure Jada got on the SAME bus that Leila was on and then met them both at home. Tedious, but not trivial. School is a semi new experience for her, then you add on taking the bus for a LONG bus ride (partially without big sister) and we have a girl in tears traumatized and scared. I had to do something.

I really hate it. I hate that I am part of my daughters traumatizing experience.
And I really miss my kids already.

Plus my husband has been really busy at odd hours so I'm left doing a lot of the stuff alone that he normally helps me with. More pics next week. School. Vacation. Summer.
I'm just behind in general.

Am I the only one who hasn't printed out photos in like 8 years?
This is my plan this year. (random thought).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Because I Told You So

Proverbs 31:26
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.

As a parent, I question myself a lot. 
I question my husband a lot. Our tactics. Are we carefully parenting? Are we mindful of how our words or actions can affect our children long term? I scrutinize my own words once they hit the air. And I judge myself. Perhaps sometimes too harshly, I don't know.
Those times when I lose my patience.

I really think about the future a lot as a parent. I think about their future.
If I am honest, I would say it is an area where fear has crept in and I have to continually ask the Lord for wisdom,
"Am I doing this right~this mom thing? Am I really the best mom that he (or she) could have?"
My kids tell me all the time that I am the best mommy in the world. Of course they think the world of me, but I want more than that. I want everything for them. I want to teach them to think about the future. Not in 'what do you want to be when you grow up' kind of way. But more of a 'WHO do you want to be when you grow up' kind of way?
And I want them to WANT to be a person of integrity and character. I want them to WANT to love Jesus. I want them to WANT to treat others with respect and kindness. I don't know that I was ever really challenged with that question-who do you want to be? I don't know that it would have mattered to me at such a young age.

Is everything 'because I told you so?'
Is it? Seriously? Is it? Is that just how it is with kids? At what point do they decide to start treating their siblings nicely just because they love them? I mean, DO they love them?  At what point do they decide to do their homework because they are simply motivated to do so on their own? Okay, that second question may have been reaching, because I don't ever remember being motivated to do homework, but I know their are kids more ambitious than I was. How do I make my kids be one of those kids? How do we get our kids to think about their future?
I read this incredible post by Lysa TerKeurst called Before They Go To School...Have This Conversation  and it spoke volumes to me. It was all about teaching our kids to pre-decide who they want to be. Who do you want to be when your friends are making fun of someone? Who do you want to be when you come across drugs? Who do you want to be when your mom asks you to clean your room? It's all about WHO you want to be...Decide right here and now what you will do when you come across this, this or this... Decide right now what attitude you will have no matter what when this happens.

(By the way this is just as good for us adults. I'm all about pre-deciding lately)

Does that make sense? Our kids are young. We make them do what we (our family) do, of course. And we will continue to do so. But I also want them to one day choose for themselves to do it because we are instilling it in them to do it the right way and it's something admirable and it's truth. Not JUST 'because I told you so.'  I want to get it into their heads now to choose the right attitude before they become teenagers and choose the wrong one. Make a decision NOW who you want to be and start working on that person. Don't wait until your life is filled with mistakes that you have to go back and try to fix, patching up scars and broken hearts. I want to shield them from the mistakes I made. I want to shield them from hurt. And the only way I know to do that is to teach them to decide WHO they will be in 10 or 20 years and start making their choices now to be that person.

It's so hard to do though with kids. Their world is NOW.
They can't seem to comprehend that choices we make today affect our tomorrow. Their laziness about their messy room may not seem like its a big deal today, but it is the attitude about it that may very well affect their life tomorrow. It's a daily prayer of mine as a parent to get this right. I love the word intentional. It means I do things on purpose. I don't want to parent by default. Some days we can't help it. Toddler meltdowns. Newborn cries. Pre-teen attitudes. Teenager drama. Life doesn't always go as planned. But I can always intentionally look to the Lord for wisdom. And in between all the ins and outs of a sometimes messy momma's life, he can give me the words to say with the patience to say it (not scream it).

I was thinking about this today on our exhausting car ride home from our mini vacation today. One in which ended with my oldest son being grounded from the computer after his complaining followed by disrespect for me followed by public defiance. He kept asking and crying for another chance after we had given him several already. My mind was exhausted. I cried silently "Lord, I don't know what to do. What am I doing wrong?"

I heard this.  You are more.
You are more than a strict mom and more than a too permissive mom. You are more than a mean mom and more than a not enough mom. You are more than a mom that yells too much and more than a mom that doesn't discipline enough. You are more than an exhausted mom and more than lazy mom. You are more than a tired mom. YOU ARE MORE. I gave you THESE children and I gave you the ability to handle them, care for them, nurture them, teach them, discipline them, instruct them, love them & play with them. YOUR kids were given by ME to be blessings to YOU. I trusted YOU with these precious lives because I knew with my grace and my strength you are MORE than what you see or feel.
You have ME living on the inside of you to guide you and lead you through their different life transitions. Keep asking me and I will keep instructing you...and don't be afraid of their future. My word says "Start children off in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not turn from it." `Proverbs 22:6

The Lord just reassured me that its not by my strength, but by his strength that lies in me. 

As parents, we should never ever hesitate to ask God for his wisdom. Cry to him & reach up asking him for a refreshing of strength each day. Commit your day to him before it even begins. Commit those little lives to him each day. If they are more His than ours, then He will be there to instruct you how to love them. Being a mom is hard. It's lots of work. It is a life of selflessness and patience, endurance and never giving up. We should never have "had enough" of them, nor should we give up on ourselves. We can do this.

Linked up with Mommy Moments.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chasing After God's Heart

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart 
be pleasing in your sight, LORD, 
my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalms 19:14

If you would have asked me 5 years ago what my favorite books of the Bible were, I would have answered with confidence "The Epistles."  What I love about the epistles is they are chalk full of instruction on how to get things right in life. Everything from marriage to friendships to parenting to church structure to respecting leaders to loving others to obedience, you can find pretty defined answers of what we should do to live this life gracefully. Sometimes we need structure and definition. Some of us don't like it and we want life to be a free for all, but as for me, a little (or a lot of) instruction is helpful. Life is chaotic and hard enough without always trying to figure out what to do on my own. I gleam from the wisdom of God's word. I want to know what I can do to honor God. Not what I can get away with in dishonor to him. He deserves more. And frankly, so do we. Instruction is better for us...and He knows that.

But something interesting changed in me when I started writing 2 years ago. 
I became more about the heart.
I seem to connect with Gods word with my heart now more than ever before.
Something deep inside me grabs a hold of each word and intently & carefully listens for the heart of God. Where is his heart in these words? His heart is to love me, to give me a better life.
However, I don't just want instruction to want to get my life right for me. It's not all about me. But I want  to live my life for God's glory. Why? Because I love him so...

With me, His word doesn't seem quite so point blank. It's so much more than that. Sometimes I hear people quote or debate scripture and I wonder where the heart is in all those words. Without having intimate fellowship with Jesus, those are just words. Religion. There are certainly guidelines and commandments and such, but if you are a loving participant of your relationship with him, suddenly those things which he asks of us aren't just rules. It's not only about instruction on how to live, but it's communion.
Every act we do in this life as a Christian is (or should be) in response to our love for our Savior. Respecting our spouse is suddenly an act of love to our Heavenly Father, instructing our kids or spending time with them is now an act of love to our Savior, honoring our leaders is honoring the Lord.  Every act of obedience is an act of love and intimacy. And the list goes on. 

Which brings me to say this. I love love love the book of Psalms. I love David. The heart felt in his words get to me. His cry is so desperate and dependent on the Lord. 
I love his honesty with himself and with the Lord. He was honest in his fears. Honest in his failures. Honest in his hurts. Honest in his questions. AND he was honest in his assurance in the Lord. He knew there was hope above and beyond what looked so real and felt so hard to him. And he voiced both to the Lord. There is something about authenticity that invites the reader or listener to grab a seat, sit on the edge and want more. You know what I mean?

It is interesting that when God placed David in the seat of a King, He called him a man after his own heart. He said 'he will do everything I want him to do. We all know David made some big messes after that. Yet he was all about heart.
It was both his love for God in an intimate way and his obedience to 'do what God asked him to do' that made him the man after God's own heart. When you are all about heart, you are all about being candid and genuine. David spoke & loved from his depths. And least that's what I get.

The Bible isn't a mountains of words to memorize or rules to obey, but it's an affection between the Lord and his children.  (And included in every affectionate parents heart for their child is instruction. Yes? Because we want more for our kids. The best in fact.) And I love that place with the Lord. That candid place. That place of genuine love for Him. That place where instruction and obedience is synonymous to intimacy between us and him. It brings life and refreshing.  He is the ultimate person + creator of authenticity,creativity + reliability. He is the King of Kings. He is the life giver. He is the lover of my soul. He's not words we memorize. He is so much more.

If we chase after his heart as David did, we can understand who God is. When we can begin to get real with God, when we get down to the nitty gritty and unmask ourselves to Him (He knows us anyways), his heart is revealed in return. It's not that He doesn't reveal his heart through the Bible or his spirit with us, but so many times we don't understand it. Not really. Even in all our study, if there is no fellowship, it still is just words or rules.

I want to be more like David. A girl chasing after the heart of God.  I want to chase after God's depth like he did. When I talk to God, I try to be candid. I try to be honest with myself about what I am feeling and fearing and loving and disliking so that I can be honest with God. I have fears and questions and failures, yes~ right here and now, not just 5 or 10 years ago... but when I lay them at his feet, He is able to reveal to me each time afresh that He is more than it all.

His heart longs for ours to beat side by side with his. To know him more.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls
all your waves: and breakers have swept over me
By day the Lord directs with his love-
At night, His song is with me
a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalms 42:7-8

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Doing Life With You

When we started dating, he was just 23. I was 19. I remember that summer, asking my mom to pray with me about finding a husband. Now when I see newlyweds who are my age then... it just seems so young. But that was the truest desire of my heart. Simply to find a husband. Each new guy that showed up at church I kept my eyes on and my heart open. It was the summer before I was supposed to go away to college. I had taken a year off after high school and decided I wanted to do "something." But I really had no idea what that something was, so college it was. On a whim that summer, I went on a month long missions trip to Albania. It was there, the girls I was bunking with kept talking about marriage. I came home with a changed heart. Yes. Marriage was what I wanted. I broke up with my boyfriend, who I knew wasn't "the one."
And I prayed....

A few months later our church opened a venue that was to host christian concerts every weekend. My parents, being the pastors, had asked long time friends of our family that were attending our church to manage the place. It was then, in preparation for it's grand opening that the unspeakable happened. We were reintroduced and sparks flew.

Our families had known each other since I was about 6 years old. When people ask me when we met, I never know what to say.  As a little girl, I remember spending the night at his house after church with my family because of snow storms + their house being near by. But we moved away to Michigan. And that was a long time ago. I'd see him occasionally in passing as a young teenager when we moved back. But he usually nodded at me & that was it.

He didnt attend our church at that time, but that summer,  he swung by the "light club" to help his mom prep for the grand opening.  I was there helping my parents, as they were the pastors of the church opening the place. And as Jeff & I painted, the jokes and giggles between us were obvious. He was a tight jeans, mullet sporting, duster wearing cowboy and I was a baggy jean, purple hair wanna be skater girl.
Clearly we were not meant to be.... or were we?

Long story short, we flirted. I got scolded by my parents to not break his heart since they were friends with his parents.
I got mad at my parents & I tried to avoid him to punish my parents, I guess. But our feelings for each other were undeniable clearly. So one day, he asked me if I could be his girlfriend. To which I said 'no.' To this day, I still can't believe I did that. I was so young...and stupid. I had a hard time getting past his style. It just wasn't "me." And I guess I couldn't get past the fact that I sorta "knew" him basically my entire life.  But I am so glad God knew me better than I knew myself. Eventually (like 3 days later) I told him I made a mistake and I had changed my mind and said "yes." We got engaged 2 months later. Married 13 months later...
And a year after we got married we left our families in Wisconsin and headed to Bible college together,  both majoring in supportive ministries.

Jeff is exactly the person I needed... not just needed, wanted.
We have been together for 19 years now. 18 years married in November. We have had our shares of ups and downs. Mistakes made. But we have grown from them. We are not always hot and heavy. I mean, we have our moments. But we are always best friends. No one can make me laugh and roll my eyes ( in a good way) as much as he can. He is the perfect mixture of annoying and funny and loving.  I can't imagine my life without him and I am so thankful to have celebrated 18 birthdays with him.

Today is my husbands birthday and I want to wish him a Happy Birthday...
Jeff, I love you. You have made my life so happy. I am so thankful for you and our 4 wonderful crazy kids that God has entrusted us with. I look forward the the chaos, the adventure, the love, the tears & the laughter with you for the rest of our lives.

I'm so grateful I get to do life with you...
Love, Julie

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5 Intentional & Mess Free Ways To Spend Time With Your Kids

Sometimes as a mom, I just need a day where the mess is minimal but the smiles are still big!
Dividing my time among the kids isn't easy and feels almost impossible when I am constantly cleaning up after them...and as I clean, they mess right behind me. I try to go with the motto, oh well, because their happiness (& fun) comes first. But their happiness doesn't always have to mean messes.
Really, I think in this day and age we underestimate the good old fashioned quality of just spending time with our kids. We want to make sure whatever we do with our kids is picture worthy for our instagram or pinterest accounts, but more often than not our kids just want to be with us. Messes can be made at times, but it's not always necessary. So I wanted to give you a few of my favorite activities (and theirs!) to do with my kids. Without the mess and without the cost!
And they LOVE me for it. Everytime.

MONSTER DRAW MIX UP-(a piece of paper and 2-3 crayons or markers)
Ok, I just made that name up. But my kids love it. All you need is a piece of paper and some crayons or markers, etc. One kid starts by drawing a part of a body. It usually ends up being a head. Then they pass it on to the next kid, who adds their body part (eyes, lips, antenna, whatever) and then they pass it to me, the Mom. All we do is we keep passing the paper round and round and we keep adding body parts/clothes/accessories. It usually ends up coming our looking pretty odd, which is why we call it a monster. The kids LOVE it. And it usually only works well if I play the game with them. One piece of paper, 4 markers, 3 kids, one mom...not much of a mess at all.

WALKS & CONVERSATION- (legs, free time & willingness to listen)
This is probably my son's favorite thing to do with me. I'm not kidding. He just told me before I wrote this that he is not like most kids so I guess give it a try and see. You really just have to be willing to not be too busy to really listen to them intently and have conversation with them. It works best with my son, because he loves to talk. He will yammer away for 45 minutes straight about Mario and Minecraft and I try hard not to let my mind wander. I really have to listen to because he asks me my favorite this or that so I can't get by with just a "uh-huh" or "oh yeah?" It's usually a one kid activity so that he/she isn't interrupted by siblings and feels special. But every single time, he tells me this when we are done "I love talking to you. You're not like most adults. Most adults don't listen. You listen to what I'm saying."

DANCE PARTY-(energy & music)
The girls especially love this one. Wesley will join in too once in awhile. But it's really brainless, fun activity to do with kids. Kids love to dance. Just watch them at weddings. They love it even more if you are taking video of them dancing or if you dance with them. So that's what I do. I dance with them. I get tired, take a break, find a new favorite song and go at it again. They still aren't too old to hold hands and go round in a circle.

GO FISH-(plain deck of cards)
Why must we complicate things? Everytime I go to the store I see those kids decks of cards, you know, Go Fish, Old Maid and such. I always tell myself to buy them and teach them to my kids. But for some reason I never did it. And recently, while we were camping, my son got stuck without the internet or 3DS and he couldn't sleep. I pulled out the deck of cards I brought along and played Go Fish with him. Super easy. Then I came home and taught it to my oldest daughter and my younger daughter walked in. Next game, she had to play... and now they ask me to play ALL THE TIME. Really? Go Fish? Yep. And the deck of cards has been sitting in Jeff's sock drawer for a very long time.

WATCH A MOVIE WITH THEM (a movie & free time)
It seems like such a simple thing to do and yes, we probably do it from time to time anyways by default or we pay $40-$50 to take the whole gang to see a movie. But my kids are extra cuddly, extra cozy and extra happy when we can either a) Have a family movie night or b) I just sit in their bed or they sit in mine and they say "Mom, you want to watch a movie with me?" and I answer them "Sure." They seem so disappointed or just sort of turn and walk out if I'm unable to or I tell them "Go watch a movie with your sister." It's intentional time with them (and put your phone away too!).

Here is one of our monster mix up drawings. I hope you have a sense of humor, because this one made me laugh and I can't ever get rid of it.. I never told the kids what "the problem" with it is. They will figure it out, one day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Community: Why It Made Me Nervous

I've been thinking about community for a long time. There have been moments where my heart wanted to dive in fully into building my online life, friendships & ministry. But more often than not, being shy and feeling fearful has led me to shrink away from the world wide web. I've tried bits and pieces of throwing myself out there, but those moments of not feeling completely accepted or welcomed caused me to hold off all over again. I wondered, is it really necessary?

I think that growing up a preachers kid has kept me a little bit guarded. I struggle with the idea of making friends because the majority of my friends over the years were within the church. Within our church. And one thing I've learned is that most church people don't stick around forever. They move away. They find new churches. They find new friends. And if I'm being completely honest and wearing my heart on my sleeve, it hurts. I'm betting most pastor's kids can relate to some degree. Because most of us aren't going anywhere.
We kind of just stand there like the little kid who watches in tears as their dad drives away after their parents separate.
After almost 30 years of being a preachers kid (and being older now), I've realized I don't necessarily have to lose friendships, but it's a bit harder to maintain. And then there is always the awkward 'big elephant in the room.' I hate that elephant. And I tend to avoid it until it approaches me. Or I tend to climb over it so I can still be facebook friends with everyone on the other side. I mean the ones that don't defriend me upon their departure.

As for school, I was never part of a group. I could get along with anyone. But I was more of a loner.
The group I did finally wiggle my way into during my junior year, I could never fully be a part of because although they liked the same music and had the same style as I did, (the alternataive, grunge, skatergirl 90s thing) I was unwilling to participate in some the things they were doing so I somehow got the unofficial boot from the group. We parted ways naturally, I guess you could say.

And that is pretty much how I've always lived my life. I've been accustomed to having short term friendships or just being a loner. I got used to it. And I am still pretty comfortable with walking into a room full of people and just sitting alone. I truly don't feel like an idiot. Do I wish someone would come talk to me? Sure. But I never felt like I needed a table full of girls next to me to feel okay. I have a few close friends, whom I rarely even have time to talk to anymore, but I've been comfortable with it most of the time.

That was why when I attended the very first Influence Conference in 2012, I wasn't scared. I had somehow managed to find three roommates, whom I still love to this day. That very first night at the "Stripes' party, I had several girls walk up to me that recognized me from online and they said "Hey, You're Julie!" It thrilled me to have people recognize me and to have girls that I felt 'got me.'
When I first started blogging in January of 2012, it took me several months to get it, to get the idea of community. I had no idea community (friendships) even existed through this avenue. People knew me as the snarky, funny and sometimes inspirational one. I changed the name of my blog to From Awkward To Art after that because I felt like it matched my heart. I was an awkward girl who had went through a season of depression, never feeling completely comfortable with a group or with myself and somehow God changed me to see myself in his image. He took me from ashes to beauty, from awkward to art.
But then, I got worn out. I felt like all my time and energy was put into this blog, because I wanted people to like me.
In May of 2013 I stepped back from the blog and from most online community and since then I've been slow to find a place back within.

It's been a slow process because I don't want my identity to be wrapped up in people and how they see me, or in being a part of a group. I want to be sure my "popularity" within networks or groups isn't what drives me. It's a place I don't want to be in because like I said in my last post, it's a place we set ourselves up for disappointment. And to be honest, sometimes I feel like I just don't have the time. The little computer time I have is set aside for writing or church volunteer work and before I know it my kids are complaining that I am always on the computer or on my phone, even though I've spent little to no time connecting or making friends or visiting forums, chatting on twitter, etc

I've tried to tell myself that I'm okay with it, that I don't want to live online anyways. And I try to tell myself that all that matters is that I am sharing my heart with people and reaching just a few people. I've told myself that it's okay to be a bit of a loner, as long as God is using me to speak into even one life.

But... and this is a BIG BUT... there has to be something said for having personal relationships with people, for speaking more directly into their lives and leaning on them for support and encouragement. Afterall, even Jesus had his crew. He had 12 men and a few women even that supported him, traveled with him, loved him, boasted of him and learned from him. He had close personal relationships even though he healed and spoke to thousands.

I wanted to find out what the Bible said about community and friendship because maybe if I could see that the word of God encourages it, it would push me a little hard to build community in my life.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is what God is speaking to me right this very minute.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.
But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.
But how can one be warm alone?
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated,
but two can stand back to back and conquer.
Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

And this is the reason God has build humanity for community. To hold each other up.
We may not connect closely with every person. We may not connect closely with the most popular people online, but if our intentions or heart is in the right place, that won't matter anyways. The point is we all need someone, someone that gets us. And lets face it, not everyone gets this online network of friendships we build. People will laugh at us, make fun of us for using it so much to connect to the outside world, and that is why friendships within it are needed.

I fully intended earlier this year to buy my ticket to Influence Conference with the money I had from my income taxes. Partial fear and partial laziness to sit down and actually do it caused me to miss my opportunity while I had the money.
I believe God can still provide a way if I am supposed to be there. But either way I do want to make more of an effort (especially once my kids are back in school and they can't scold me) to connect better with more of you all...or y'all, however you say it. If you notice me slacking off, send me a virtual slap in the face, would ya?

I pray that whoever makes it to the conference and whoever doesn't, that we would find our people. That we would take the initiative, the get up and go to show ourselves friendly... to find our people we love and that love us back. Our people that get us and that God brings into our lives to be our support,
our cord that cannot easily be broken...

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