Monday, October 16, 2017

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Fall is finally here, which means that it's Muffin Season.

Ha! Who are we kidding? Every season is Muffin Season!

Although, I think we can all agree that one of Fall's best personality traits is how welcoming and undiscriminating it is towards baked goods. 
While Summer says "Eat a salad. You have a swimsuit to look good in.", 
Fall says "C'mon, it's sweater season anyway. TREAT YO' SELF."

Fall loves you for who you are. Fall does not judge you.
Fall is the friend we all need in our life.

So in an attempt to be a similarly good friend, I present a delicious muffin recipe that will be warm and comforting to your soul.
I actually ended up creating this recipe because I was looking for a muffin WITH oatmeal AND banana AND chocolate AND the right amount sweetness AND without random, unnecessary ingredients that you can only get at Whole Foods, but I couldn't seem to find all of those things in the same recipe.
And sometimes when the exact thing you want isn't available, you just have to roll up your sleeves and make it yourself.
(It might have been Fall who encouraged you to do this.)

I love the heartiness and texture that the oatmeal brings, plus the combination of bananas and chocolate is always a winner.
Also, their ability to be breakfast, a snack, or dessert is a quality I admire and respect in food. 
(Just like cake! And tacos!)

These are comfort food, plain and simple. 
I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing a bunch, which will feel like a reward to your future self.

Slather these puppies with butter, and enjoy them over coffee with friends.
Or skip the butter and throw them at your children in the backseat, while you're speeding down the driveway, because you're late for school.

Either way, they will not disappoint.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
3 large bananas
1 cup sugar
1 cup traditional oats
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips


-First melt the butter in the microwave, so that it can start cooling. 
-In a bowl (in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one) mash the bananas and mix the sugar in until dissolved.
-Add the oats (adding them at this point is so they can soften a little.)
-Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

-In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. 

-Go back and add your melted AND COOLED butter to the banana mixture. 
(You don't want the butter hot, because otherwise it could scramble the eggs. Gross.)

-Once it's blended, add the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips to it and ONLY mix until it's combined. 
(This is a balancing act of making sure that there aren't any visible clumps of flour, but also making sure the batter isn't completely smooth. This will make your muffins fluffy instead of sunken and overly dense.)
(This rule also applies to pancakes by the way. If your pancakes are thin and flat, you've overmixed the batter. )
(Baked goods can be so selfish and high maintenance. They are the divas of the food world.)

-Add your perfectly not clumpy, but not smooth, high maintenance batter to greased muffin tins, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until they're golden and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Fall will approve.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Homeschool Room: First Edition

This week, we officially started our second year of homeschooling.

About a month ago, I started the planning process of getting all of our curriculum ordered, put together, and organized, along with trying to refresh the space we use in the basement as our "homeschool room".

We bought the house with our basement unfinished, but as we've had both the time and the money (why does it seem like those two things are rarely available simultaneously?), my husband has been working really hard at framing, hanging sheet rock, wiring the electrical, taping and mudding, etc., and even though he's a total rockstar for being able to do all of this, he is only one guy. And we've had other priorities in life that have kept us from pouring our heart, soul, and bank account into this.
Saying all of that to say, our basement is sloooooowwwwwly, but surely, getting finished. 
But it's still mostly unfinished.

So until it's done, I just have to make due with what we have.
 Even when its dark and unpainted and has concrete floors...
But hey, as the old saying goes:

When life gives you sheetrock...
you make lemonade with a bunch of cute decorations from Target!

(Maybe I'll put that on a T-shirt.)

(And make millions.)

(So we can hire professionals TO FINISH OUR BASEMENT.)

I started off by painting our craft table downstairs and recovering all of the chairs in different patterns and fun, bright colors. 

(Speaking of lots of bright colors, how drastic of a heart attack do you think this room would give Joanna Gaines if she saw it? Poor Jojo.)

Anyway, the kids totally love the chairs and I do as well, particularly because I also covered the seats with plastic material over the fabric. 
(See how they're kind of shiny and ABLE TO BE EASILY WIPED OFF? Yes please to that.)

Both the darling little colored pencil banner and that fun map of the U.S. came from the Target Dollar Spot back in August, along with the lined strips that I wrote the alphabet on. 

Which are useful for my more visual child, who on a daily basis will randomly ask while writing something "How do you do 'E' again?"
To which I go "Honey, it's the third letter in your name. See? You write 'Vienna' like fifty times a day, you goofball."
And then she giggles and rolls her eyes at herself and goes back to trying to remember how to start E.

The days of the week signs are literally just words I typed up, printed out, and glued on scrapbook paper. I wanted to give my kids a simple (AND BRIGHT!) visual of what we consistently have going on during every week and on which day. 
Co-Op! Discipleship Group! School! Church!
My goal is that by the end of this year, no one will be asking me every Wednesday night if Dad is staying home tomorrow. 

Our Verse of the Week is also just typed and printed, and then put on scrapbook paper and hung on a frame that I stapled chicken wire to the back of. 
(I probably have too many of these throughout my home but I love them and am obsessed with chicken wire and am not sorry.)
(...also, let me know if you want me to make you one, because I totally will. I can't stop...)

Even though I knew having a Verse of the WEEK sign might end up being a little too ambitious for our actual pace, let's face it, it was shorter than putting Verse of the Month or Verse of THE ENTIRE FALL SEMESTER on there.
Verse of the 2017-2018 NFL SEASON!

Ok, I'll stop now.

Either way, I'm not worried about how long it takes us on each verse, or even how many we accomplish for that matter. I would rather work on one or two verses the whole year and see their hearts actually getting it, rather than have a bunch of nicely put-together kids who have the whole bible memorized but whose souls are cold and black.

Can I get an Amen?

We have this fun, skinny Ikea bookshelf for our school stuff.
The blue, metal bin is our "Morning Basket" as they are sometimes called, where all of the books for that day go into, so that I can feel somewhat prepared, instead of flustered and disorganized when the kids are all hyper and excited to get their learn on.
I came across that 3-drawer plastic bin at Aldi last month and snatched it up immediately. 
It gives the kids a little ownership over their workbooks and folders, even though August's drawer is a complete lie and pretty much just there to make him feel involved.
(He is not even three years old and I refuse to teach math to someone who still poops their pants.)

Last, but not least, I hung up this little chalkboard to a remind myself of what I seem to be constantly needing to hear these days.

Don't forget to enjoy them.

I am on a mission right now to not get so hung up on all of the millions of things that my job as a mother entails, that I forget that they are my job.

I'm making an effort to not get over-focused on all of the things we're going to do or get done (even if they are good and important things), so much so that I turn into a hideous stress monster trying to accomplish them. 
I am simplifying and giving myself permission to CHILL.
And the way I am chilling out, is by trying to only pick the right battles and just going with the flow.

I am like Emily Gilmore after reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up.
"Does this bring me joy? ...No. Toss it!"

Example A: Oh, are none of my kids paying attention to the book we're reading and I'm getting frustrated because they are NOT ABSORBING ALL OF THIS RICH EDUCATION plus they are also tearing apart the throw pillows on my couch like bored, feral children?
Guess what? We're done!
This book is not bringing us joy right now. 
We're closing it and going outside to dig for worms.

Example B: Has my son resorted to repeatedly breaking his pencils in half out of frustration because his perfectionistic self CANNOT EVEN HANDLE the lopsided 'Z' he just tried to write?
Guess what? We're done!
Z's are not bringing us joy right now.
We will pick them up later, because Z's aren't going anywhere, and right now we just need to move on to the next thing or go have a snack.

Recently my wise friend, Stephanie, was telling me about the math curriculum her kids use and she said, "I put a timer on for 15 minutes. They work for that whole time and then are done. Because otherwise, if I told him to just do six math problems, it could either take 20 minutes or 8 hours, and I don't want to waste this precious season with my kids, fighting with them."

This is what I'm talking about.
More than 15 minutes of math does not bring Stephanie joy. Hence the timer.
(But for the record, Steph also says that they end up working faster and more efficiently this way.)

Obviously, there is a certain level of structure that I still plan around, I am way too Boy Scouty at heart to be a total willy-nilly unschooler. We use Sonlight, which is a christian literature-based curriculum, and I really do enjoy the structure it gives us and how the whole year is planned out for me with a weekly and daily schedule. It's a great spring board to go off of, because there are so many amazing books and activities involved that my kids completely soak up and genuinely love.
And then the ones that don't bring us joy? Gone!

One of the biggest factors I'm trying not to take for granted right now, is how young my kids still are. They're not teenagers who reeeeally need to figure out this whole algebra thing or they won't get into college.

They're 5. 
And 6. And 3.

If there was ever a time for minimalism, it's now. 
They don't need to be feeling spaced out and overwhelmed at this stage of their life, and neither do I. My heart is to use our home education to develop in them a complete, head-over-heels LOVE for learning. I want them to be encouraged in their curiosities and giftings, and definitely don't want to stomp that out by forcing stuff on them that they hate or just aren't ready for yet.
 They will be doing some level of formal education for probably the next couple of decades, so why should I be all gung ho about it now when this is really their only time to have the freedom to just be a kid? 

To be a kid.. in a ridiculously bright colored room! With an unfortunate drywall situation and their craft projects hanging on cinderblocks! With chairs that they can spill Elmers glue on without making mommy cry and lots of fun books to explore whenever they want!

So as of now, our homeschool room is a cute, weird mess of a space. 
Which is exactly what it should be for this season. 
Hopefully someday I'll be able to post a second edition and we might even have paint on the walls and (gasp) carpet! 
And MAYBE I'll even be able to report that my kids know what day of the week it is!
(Let's all pray and intercede that both of these things happen soon-ish.)

We started reading The Boxcar Children this week, which was the perfect chapter book to start them with because it's awesome and they totally love it. Every time I close the book, they've asked me to keep going (which I, of course, do.) 
After we read the chapter when the children find the boxcar and have their first meal in it, we went outside to our playhouse and sat on the floor, eating blueberries, milk, bread, and cheese together. 
Just like Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny did.

Does this bring me joy?

Yes, it does.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Women with Empty Nests, This is Your Time to Shine.

Empty Nester {noun} : a parent whose children have grown up and left home.

You bore children. 
You raised them. You loved them. 
Worried for them. Fought for them.
Laughed with them (or at them).
Cried with them (or for them).
Supported them. Challenged them. Encouraged them.
Celebrated them.

...and then they were off.

As a mother, you gave your heart and soul to nurture these babies of yours, and you sacrificed your life to raise them into adults.

In case no one has ever told you this - you're amazing.
You probably worked through blood, sweat, and tears to do the best you could at the time, and for that, you're a rockstar.

And now The Raising part is over, and you're on to still green, but different-looking pastures.
You get to enjoy your grown kids and the grandchildren they've given you, and you also probably get to be apart of other young mothers' lives in your community.

I am here to encourage you in how important you are right now.

As young mothers (young meaning any women who still have children living in their home, for the sake of this conversation), the value of having older, seasoned women in our life is immeasurable.

If you are part of any family or community, you most likely have women in your life, a daughter, daughter-in-law, friends; who are smack dab in the midst of The Raising and are quite probably exhausted and sometimes discouraged, whether they look like it or not.

These relationships are your opportunity to do some beautiful and important work.

Do you realize the power you have to breathe life and hope into another woman's heart with just a few words of encouragement?
And do you remember how badly you needed that at the time too?

"Take a deep breath. This is REALLY hard work. But you're doing a great job. And God has got this more than you ever could."

Words like these are light in what can sometimes be a dreary and dark place.
And YOU have that to give!
You are gifted with a grander perspective. 
To see which of the little things are important, and also the value of the big picture. 
To have experienced that a lot of the things you worried about would eventually turn out ok.
To know now which things at the time you WISH you would have made a priority.

This is wisdom worth sharing with the next generation.
But it must ALWAYS be shared in love and gentleness.
Otherwise no one will be able to hear it.

Don't waste this season of your life posting articles on Facebook about what parents should or shouldn't be feeding their kids, or how you think they should be disciplining, or whatever methods or traditions you deem to be The Right Way.
I understand the temptation, when you've been through and seen a lot, to wish that all the people around you would stop ACTING A FOOL and to just be as in the know as you are.
But I'm sure you can remember being in the trenches like it was yesterday. 
How you were just doing the best that you could, and that you definitely were not perfect by any means.
Don't make the sad mistake of forgetting
Forgetting how much grace you needed and now not giving any to the young mothers around you.

Instead, love on them!
Love on these women, lift them up with your words and your support, in the same way you needed when you were wearing these shoes.
Instead of blowing an airhorn in their face with all of your opinions and criticisms, put your arm around them. Catch these flies with honey, not vinegar.
Be a safe and positive place, earn that trust, and they will most likely be begging you to share your wealth of wisdom and counsel.

If you are doing a lot of advice-giving (whether in person or on social media), but you don't have many women coming to you seeking your counsel first (or at all), is it possibly time to consider a new approach?

This season you're in, being an Empty Nester, will be just as much part of your legacy as was The Raising. Maybe even more. 
Your work is not over. You have so much to offer right now.
So go for it!
Invest in other women. Invest in your friends and next generation of wives and mothers around you.
Build them up. Encourage them.
Ask them how they're doing. Give them the Atta Girl's that you know they probably need to keep going, just like you needed (and still do!).
Remind them, over and over again, how sweet God's amazing grace is.
And how His grace is more powerful than their kid's exhausting tantrums or how much sugar is the cereal they buy.
Speak beautiful truth to her. And help her find freedom in the Gospel.

What a blessing this will be to her life and to yours.

You, sister, have power.
Power to build up or tear down.
Wield it carefully and selflessly.
 Leave a legacy of shining a light into dark and hopeless places, and breathing life into every room you're in.
This is such a simple way to be like Jesus.

You are so important. This time in your life is so important.
And we need you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tractors and Miracles

Last year we went camping with some of our best friends, and all of our kids. We were up at their parent's property, about 3 hours north of home, where they have a cabin, some hunting blinds, a couple four-wheelers, a tractor, and a pantoon for the river nearby.
It's one of those little slices of heaven out in the middle of nowhere, a place we all love to go.

In the afternoon of our first day up there, after we came back from swimming in the river, our friend let some of the kids (their two older ones and our two older ones) ride in the front bucket of the tractor. (This had been done a million times before on this tractor, and this bucket had been used for years for heavy-duty jobs like lifting men on ladders to build deer blinds and hauling ridiculous amounts of weight.)
It was a fun little experience for the kids and it was very slow, so there wasn't much to worry about.

So while the four kids were enjoying this fun, little tractor ride, my friend and I were off a few yards away, having a beer and chatting about life. I was looking off at the tree in the distance, when right next to me she let out a blood-curdling scream.


She had seen the latch of the bucket on the front of the tractor give way, dropping all of our kids to the ground.

The bottles had flown out of both our hands and we were both screaming and running toward the tractor. Luke and our friend's parents started running from the porch of the cabin.


Eric, who was driving, hit the brakes right away, but huge vehicles like that don't stop moving immediately, so while the tractor worked on slowing down, we ran towards it and watched as four little bodies didn't have time to crawl out of the way before getting run over.

The tractor was finally still when we hit the ground and starting crawling under the middle to pull our shrieking babies out. 
All I remember of that moment was my loudly beating heart over the deafening screams in the air and a horror I had never felt before.
And none of us knew if who we were pulling out would be alive or not.

But somehow..they all were.

They were all alive and screaming hysterically. 
They were screams of fear and pain, and we had no idea what damage was done. 
I held my 4-year-old son, Boaz, on the ground and looked for blood or broken bones sticking out. 
All I felt was wet. He had soiled himself, and I started weeping.

Our friends' two kids who were in the bucket had thankfully sat in the middle of it, so they crawled out of there with only some scrapes on their backs from the undercarriage. My kids had sat on the far right side, so they got the brunt of the damage from the tire they had sat directly above and that eventually ran them over. 
Luke and Eric carried our two kids into our pop-up camper so that we could try to figure out how bad they had been hurt. They couldn't stop screaming from the shock and the pain, and we did our best to carefully and quickly look over them. Vienna's wrist was bleeding and missing skin, and she couldn't walk on one of her legs. Boaz laid there stiffly, with tire tracks imprinted on the side of his face, and cried that his neck hurt.

His neck could be broken. He could still die from this.

My heart hadn't stopped racing yet as we delicately loaded them into our truck and got directions to the nearest hospital.

The ride to the ER was twenty excruciating minutes long. 
During which the kids continued to bawl hysterically and then would start falling asleep, at which I kept having to shake them and keep them awake in case they were concussed. While Luke broke speed limits down those country roads, I prayed with them, sang to them, and promised them all of the ice cream in the world once this was over. In the back of my mind, hoping that we would still have all of our kids to feed ice cream to by the end of the day.

We parked out front of the ER and each cradled a kid in our arms as we ran inside to the front desk.

"Um hi.. our kids got run over by a tractor about 40 minutes ago."

The nurses behind the desk dropped their jaws and sprang into action. 
They immediately led us to a double patient room, separated by a sliding glass door in the middle. We put each of them on a triage gurney and answered questions about the incident. Within seconds, each of our children had half a dozen doctors and nurses surrounding them; changing them into gowns, putting neck braces on, and taking their vitals. I stayed with Vienna on one side of the room and Luke stayed with Boaz on the other. They both laid there looking overwhelmed and in shock at all of the commotion. All of the staff worked so quickly and effeciently, and were so kind and gentle to me while I stammered and teared up as they asked me questions about their medical history and the accident. A neurologist came in to test them for cognitive impairment, and cleared them for any symptoms of concussions. Luke went with Boaz as he was wheeled away for his first set of X-rays and CT scans. 

A nurse came in from his side of the room and I asked her how he was was doing. She said that they were worried that he might have internal bleeding from the way his stomach was hard and distended.

My eyes filled with tears and she gave me a hug. 

Oh dear Jesus, please don't let my baby die.

I wiped my face off and put my happiest smile on for Vienna as the nurses cleaned and bandaged her wounds.

"Oh Sweetie, how cool are all of these doctors and all of their awesome tools? Oh my goodness, look at these cute stickers they have for you! How fun is that?!"

While this type of enthusiasm usual made my happy 5-year-old girl even happier, the fact that she was in shock made her just sort of look at me blankly. But I knew that the only thing I could do right then was to be confidant and reassuring, no matter how terrified and afraid I was on the inside.

Two geared-up paramedics came in the room and told me that they had their helicopter fired up and ready just in case Boaz needed to be medevaced up to a hospital in St. Cloud for surgery.

What? ...Is this actually happening? 

I shakily signed whatever was on their clipboard and watched them take their place in the hallway, waiting to jump into action.

It was Vienna's turn to be rolled away for X-ray and CT scans. I went with her and tried to channel Mary Poppins as much as I could, while secretly fearing for my son's life. 
I hated that I couldn't see him.

When they were done and had determined that thankfully her ankle wasn't broken but just severely sprained, and that she didn't have any internal injuries, we wheeled her back out. In the same moment, Boaz was also wheeled out into that hallway and I immediately looked at Luke and the nurses for answers.

"He's fine," they said, "he has a broken collar bone, but that's it. No internal bleeding."

"Hey Buddy! Thats great!" I said and gave him a big kiss while he happily showed off the lollipop they had given him.
I stayed behind in the hallway after they all went back into the room, put my hands over my face and broke down.

Thank you, God. Thank you for saving them.

A nurse came out, I pulled it together and wiped my face again and she gave me a hug. 

"He's going to be fine. You guys are such awesome parents." 
[I'm sure I laughed at this point]
"Seriously!" she said, "You guys have stayed so positive with them and you've let us do our jobs, and we just really appreciate you!"
Those words and all of their kindness was just another mercy we didn't deserve that day. What a ridiculous amount of grace at such a vulnerable time.

The medevac paramedics said goodbye (MMK THANKS BYE!) , and they moved us into a room where we would wait to be discharged.
I finally had the resolve to call my parents, now that we knew they were out of the woods.
I called them crying, and told them what had happened but that they were ok. As would be expected from loving grandparents, they were emotional and relieved.

Getting discharged was slow-going, because Vienna needed to show that she could walk before we could go. They had re-done her x-rays a couple times, because the sprain was bordering a fracture, so she was in a good deal of physical pain, compounded with the emotional trauma and sheer exhaustion from it all. 
She eventually did walk a step or two and we went on our way to get them some well-deserved ice cream.

We went back to camp and put the kids down for some much-needed sleep. We had a beer and probably did a little more crying with friends who were happy that everyone was okay.

The next day we packed up and drove home. We called more family on the way down and stomached re-telling it so that they knew these beloved children were okay and that God was good.

For the next few days, we hung out at home and made sure they took it easy.
Luke and I stayed pretty busy; helping them hold things, go to the bathroom, get food, change movies, adjust pillows, etc., and we were overall in good spirits.
The busy-ness of taking care of them kept us happy and relieved and thinking about other things, right up until they would go to bed.

And then we were left with the quiet stillness that we had come to hate.
And it would eventually hit us again.

They should have died.

We would go into their rooms at night and sit by their beds together, stroking their hair and staring at their peacefully sleeping faces while tears rolled down ours.

We were still in shock. We were traumatized.

Wrestling with Why would God save these babies of ours?
..But why also let this happen? weighed us down with confusion and grief.

And then we would go to bed, and cry some more together.
We were parents of these small, vulnerable people that we made together and watch take their first breath together.
And then we ran and screamed together, from opposite directions, to a tractor that we expected to pull pieces of the skull out from under.

But our kids were alive.
And our son had tire tracks on one side of his face, and grass marks on the other side.

We saw them get literally run over by a tractor..and survive. 

It was a miracle that was hard to wrap our heads around.
Part of us was now marked by this deep relief, but it was the fear and terror that would leave a scar to this day.
At that point though, it wasn't a scar, it was an open wound, that left me with painful anxiety as a mother, every moment of the day, for months after the accident.
When a fun, peaceful camping activity can lead to such heart-stopping, freak accident just because a metal latch decides to give can make you a lot less trusting of the seemingly 'fun and peaceful' world we live in.

I lived in constant, paralyzing fear, and I hated it. 
I remember asking for prayer for it in our church small group.
"I want to stop feeling this way." 
(was I'm pretty sure the exact words that came out of my mouth.)

But even when I said it and thought it, I knew deep down that that's just not how life works.
Painful feelings do not instantly go away. They never have and never will suddenly disappear just because we don't like them.

Within the next week, I was organizing a cupboard and happened to pick up a stack of bible verse memory cards we have, and the very top one read:

"Have I not commanded you? 
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
-Joshua 1:9

I stood there and stared at it for maybe 5 minutes. 
I wrote it down on a notecard, and then taped it right above our coffee pot. 
I needed to see this every day.
This was The Truth I needed to cling to, to memorize, to preach to myself.
 Over and over again, moment to moment, of my anxiety-ridden days.

This beautiful, challenging Truth.

That God had never promised that this broken life would be easy or superficially prosperous or even anything less than heart-wrenching for us.
But most importantly, that in this broken life, He will be with us wherever we go.
That this mighty King of Kings, Author of Creation, Prince of Peace, and Lord of Lords...would also be my close comfort in time of need.

What I eventually had to realize was that I was never going to "recover" from the fear that had seemed to constantly surround me. 
That the fear that comes with being a parent was never going to wear off on its own.

But that I needed to learn how to speak Truth to this Fear.

I needed to come to grips with how little control I have over my kid's well-beings, and find peace in the fact that God has all of that control.
I needed to learn to trust in Him as a better parent to my kids than Luke and I could ever be.
I needed to remember that He formed my babies in my womb, and He was under that tractor with them when they were scared beyond belief.

And I needed to trust in His faithfulness.
 That even if I had lost my babies, that He would still be with me wherever I went.

This is a control that I hate relinquishing, and a trust that I hate giving.
I want to be the captain of my soul, and the lord over my future and my children's and their children.

And..I mean.. DON'T WE ALL? 
At the root of ALL sin, don't we all just want to be in control? 

But my hope has to be (and gets to be!).. Christ, alone.

Who we are, as Christians, should never be known for how hard we try to be perfect and in control.
Quite the contrary, when we claim to be In Christ, we need to be marked as people who are PAINFULLY and HUMBLY aware of how imperfect and out of control we are.

And that no matter what sin we deal with or heart-breaking circumstance comes our way, we have a hope in trusting the One who is perfect and in control.

This accident made me hurt in raw and vulnerable ways, that I pray I never have to relive, but at the same time, I'm so thankful that the Lord walked us through it.
Because this life lasts just for a moment. 
And during this moment, I want to sing and cry out to the world of the glory of our merciful God and His steadfast love for us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Which is one of my favorite verses, because I've always been sort of a hot mess and appreciate that many things in life actually turn out to be "a precious blessing from Jesus in this garbage dump of a situation" (as Allison Janney wisely says in Juno.)

The gist of which is that He gets all of the glory for the hope in our lives.
Whether it's the moments He gives us strength and success or the moments we are completely weak and desperately out of control,
both show our complete and utter need of Him.

The fact is, all of us are alive right now by nothing other than the grace of God.
And what a gift it actually is when that reality is made obvious. 
For it to so completely terrify us that we fall on our knees and pray to the ONLY One who is in control. To save us and keep us and give us hope.

We seek His Truth, and we preach it to ourselves.
Over and over again.
Moment to moment.

Because He has promised to be there with us.

Without that, what other hope do we have?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Will My Daughter Know She's Beautiful?

Prior to becoming an adult, I don't remember many things more mesmerizing than watching my mom put on makeup. She was already absolutely gorgeous, so watching her get dolled up was completely enchanting. The way her mouth stretched open like a fish while she applied mascara, how she dabbed on lipstick and then smacked her lips to blend it together.
...Pure magic.

If we are raised in at least somewhat healthy homes, we all tend feel this way about our moms, especially as little girls.
Back then, we didn't measure their looks or fashion sense against any societal standards of beauty, our criteria for them was much more pure and far more accurate.
Their warm bodies had given us life and lovingly held us.
Their gentle faces had smiled at us and whispered words of affection to us.
To each of us, these women held the title The Most Beautiful Woman In The World.
They might as well have worn a sash and tiara, World Peace style.

And as many mothers do, they would regularly beam at us and say, "You are so beautiful!"
And we didn't have any reason to doubt that.

But what happens when time goes on and our bubble bursts and we are exposed to their insecurities? It's a fairly common tale that little girls eventually start hearing The Most Beautiful Woman In The World say things that don't quite make sense.

"Ugh, I'm so fat right now."

"Don't take a picture of me, I don't have any makeup on."

"I look so ugly in this."

Maybe someone tells them they look nice and they roll their eyes and laugh.

There is something about seeing our heroes and role models hatefully self-deprecating themselves like this that is deeply confusing.
The painfully obvious question any girl is forced to ask once she has witnessed The Most Beautiful Woman In The World call herself fat and ugly is... "Then what does that make me?"

Suddenly it's hard to believe any of the affirmation they gave you, because they don't even believe it about themselves.

Of course it doesn't take long into female adolescence to develop these same kind of insecurities about our looks and our bodies, with or without someone setting an example for it.
Whether our insecurities deepen into adulthood or we push past them with confidence as we mature, the opportunities for self-criticism will never end.


Especially after...*drumroll*... becoming mothers ourselves.
Our bodies change as we go through pregnancy and childbirth. Our weight shifts, our bodies stretch, and nothing will quite ever be as it was. This can be hard to adjust to and a major downer.

We have to be able to see something past the grief of our long-lost bodies and our aging faces.
More importantly than how we feel about ourselves, now there are these little girls of our own who think that WE are The Most Beautiful Woman In The World.
Little girls who watch US do our makeup and ask, with a twinkle in their eye, if they can try some lipstick just because they want to be like us.
Little girls who would never think that we're fat and ugly, and would be hurt to even hear it suggested.
Little girls who right now BELIEVE US when we tell them how precious and beautiful they are!
We have to realize what a sacred trust that is.
It is not a trust that we should take lightly just because sometimes we see Jabba the Hut when we look in the mirror.
It is a trust that is worth putting them first, and our self-centeredness last.
It is a trust that will make the difference with how they see themselves.

Because ultimately, beauty isn't actually the point, Truth is.

We were created by a God of beauty. This God made us in His image and He called it good.
He fearfully and wonderfully made us beautiful. And then He died to save us!
That will always be the most important thing that they need to trust us about.
We can't ask them to believe that what God says about them is true, if we are not willing to believe the same thing about ourselves.

Our daughters won't just believe they're beautiful because we tell them often. They'll believe they're beautiful by watching us genuinely believe that we are too.

So whether my daughter decides to tell me how beautiful I am when she's watching me "get fancy" with makeup in front of the mirror or when I just woke up with bad breath and greasy hair, I will always smile with appreciation and say, "Thank you! Do you know why I'm beautiful?"

"Because God made you that way!"
"That's right." I smile. 

Because as weird and arrogant as it feels to claim myself as pretty, I see in her eyes that she trusts me. So I will say it as often as it takes. 

"What about you, little missy," I say as I tickle her belly, "why are YOU so stinkin' beautiful?!"
And she giggles, "Because God made me that way!"

Thats right, He did. And who are we to insult The Creator's creation? Isn't that what actually is arrogant?

This next generation of women we are raising up will always have the same infinite amount of opportunities to criticize themselves as the rest of us do. 
If we can show them what it looks like to be kind to ourselves, then maybe they can give themselves permission to do the same.
I'm not at all worried that this will make her grow up to be shallow or vain. Quite the contrary. The less she is distracted and worried about how she looks, the more free she will be to love God and love people with her whole heart.

All of us are someone's Most Beautiful Woman In The World.
Whether we have daughters, granddaughters, sisters, or nieces, it is never too late to praise God for how creative He is, stand up a little straighter, and wear our tiara proud.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Blog + Kitchen Update

Hello! Welcome to my new blog!

I've had approximately 158 different blogs in my adult life (isn't flakiness adorable?), all of which I just kind of grew out of as the seasons in my life were changing, so when it came time to come up with a name for this new one (that I sort of hope will last a little longer), I literally could not come up with anything cute or smart or charming that I knew for certain I would never get sick of. 

So heres what I finally conceded to. My name. 
I assume I won't be growing out of that any time soon, so here's hoping for some permanency.

THEN AGAIN. When my little brother, Shawn, was in 4th grade, he completely out-of-the-blue decided that he wanted an entirely different name, and let me tell you what a hassle that was. Here I am dealing with my own problems, like waiting for the next NSYNC album to come out and learning where not to apply eye liner, and he just drops this "From now on, call me 'Harry'" bomb on our family, adding one more stressful change to deal with during puberty. THE NERVE.
I did eventually adjust, learn how to use eye liner, and have become quite flexible and open to all of my brother's life changes. I love you, Harriet.

(Just kidding.)

Anyway, I obviously wouldn't want to put myself through another big life adjustment, so for sake of complacency, I'll going to ahead and plan on keeping the name and the blog title.

But, speaking of change (the non-traumatic kind!), I updated my kitchen recently and snapped some cute before and after pics to share.

Here's the BEFORE.
This is one side of my little galley kitchen. 
And the whole thing really isn't too bad, I love all the cabinet space I have and the window above the sink looks out to our beautiful little slice of country paradise. At some point we'll update the appliances, and those delightful UFO lights will have to go (sad, right?), but other than that, there's not anything too scary or hideous that made me want to never go in there. 
(Which is good, because Hi, that's where my life the food is.)

So overall, it's an okay room, BUT those classy gold cabinet knobs and the whole palette of mis-matched neutrals were driving me a little nuts, so it was time to give it a little makeover.

We're not talking a whole episode of Fixer Upper here, but giving it a little personality with a couple inexpensive changes couldn't hurt, right?

This is the AFTER.
Like I said, HGTV isn't calling about our own potential reality show (do we even have enough kids for our own reality show? I'm pretty sure the bare minimum is like, 12.), but it's enough of a change to make it feel like a whole new room.

We looked long and hard for that perfect teal-ish light blue paint, and it turned out perfectly.

(Pro Tip: Get on the Google and type in "What kitchen paint color will make my oak cabinets look less like Donald Trump's complexion?" and this beautiful shade of aqua will come up. All I have to say The interior design geniuses of the internet do not disappoint.)

(Also, maybe someone should share this magical color palette tip with whoever picks out our President's ties? Could be a game changer.)

The new oil-rubbed bronze cabinet knobs I found on Amazon for only $45 for a pack of 50!
If you have done any home renovating recently, then you know how jaw-dropping that number is. Decent knobs usually run around 1.5 million dollars each.

(By the way, I feel like I've mentally exhausted all of the DECENT KNOBS jokes that there are, but feel free to throw any originals my way if you feel so inspired.)

Anyway, here is the link to the HARDWARE (*snort* I can't stop.) if you want to get in on the good find.

And like I said, at some point I'd like to get a cute, rustic hanging lamp to replace the U.S.S. Enterprise that's currently lighting our kitchen, but I assume this one will just fly off on it's own back to outer space someday, so....after that I'll replace it!

Finally, the big Farmers Market sign is really the statement piece that this room needed, and I absolutely love how it turned out.
And when I say 'big', I mean BIG. 
Believe it or not, it's 10 inches tall and over 7 FEET LONG.
But obviously that awkward above-the-cabinets space needed something that huge to fill it up.

I used the tutorial over at the Little Glass Jar blog to make the sign, which was very helpful. The only thing I did differently is that instead of buying pricey chalkboard paint, I bought a cheap sample of white interior paint in an eggshell finish for $2.97. 
And I regret nothing.

It was a lot of detail work, which is tedious for those of us who God made with an 'Eh, good enough.' mindset about things, but it was totally worth spending the time and energy doing such a precise job on it, because I don't completely hate myself every time I look at it (which I've found to be an important quality that any DIY project needs.)

Plus I would have had to spend half of our yearly income on a sign this big anywhere else, and you know...that can be hard to justify and/or talk your husband into.

Anyway, I love my kitchen's little farmhouse style makeover, considering how little we worked and paid to make it look a little more updated.

And now that that's done, we have to work on building another chicken coop for our BABY CHICKS that came in this week..

...or should I just set up a Pack-n-play and keep them in our room?
Because look at this thing.