4.21.2015

Surviving (and thriving?) in the 3rd trimester.


//32 weeks with little Mister//

    It is another summer of babies, with a few I know expecting their little bundles any day now, a few of us (including myself) due in a couple of months and a few more due later in August.  I feel like each of my children so far has been born in a wave of little ones among my peers, and it is so sweet and special to share this sacred time of growing new life with others.

   I cherish pregnancy a little more each time.  That is NOT to say it is "better" each time, because rather I have found the opposite to be true.  My first was my "easiest" (as easy as pregnancy can be), the second a little bit harder, and this third one, a little harder yet.  But I say that I cherish it more each time because, truly, I do.

   With Jocelyn everything was so new and foreign and I sort of floated along in a magical fairy land and didn't really take the time to appreciate it.  I was just getting started and with your first it feels like you will be pregnant for 1,000 more times and you just don't really take time to savor it.

   Jocelyn was only 9 months old when I discovered I was pregnant with Charlotte, and so "taking time to savor pregnancy" was the last thing on my mind, needless to say.  I was a little bit whirling from surprise and "what have we dones" and slight embarrassment at having two so close together.  I didn't tell tell people for a really long time for some reason, and so that helped the pregnancy fly by and before I knew it?  She was here.

   But this time, it's different.  With a long break in between this pregnancy and my last, and the realization that I will be turning 30 this summer and will not be young forever, and also with the realization that no, I actually won't be pregnant a thousand times like it seems at first and my days of carrying life in a womb are numbered......I find myself cherishing it.

  That doesn't mean that the nausea was any less awful in the first trimester or that sleeping in the 3rd trimester is any more comfortable or that I want to be done and meet my baby any less.  I still feel like I'm waddling through Costco and I carefully estimate the value of any item I happen to drop to see if it is even remotely worth picking back up.  And so it doesnt mean those things don't bother me, it simply means that I am trying to embrace the process, because I know it simply will not last forever.

   June will come, our precious son will arrive, and who knows if/when/how many times I will get to experience that magical, MAGICAL moment again in my life again.  Plus I need to write a post like this to look back on and be a gentle reminder to my June self, to not go completely bat-crazy.

   And so, without further ado, here are some of my simple survival tips for the 3rd Trimester:


  • STAY BUSY.   
      I have discovered that nothing helps the time pass more quickly than a full calendar.   Some days I definitely overdo it, like the day that I decided to plant my flower beds on the same day of throwing a birthday party and hosting 12 people and cleaning my house....and I always pay for that later.  But like I said, it still makes time fly!  So say YES to things.  I have made a few simple changes to our schedule that have helped the weeks zip by.  I babysit twice a week and clean the mill where Randy works once a week. I attend a Bible study once a week and a small group of women 1-2x a month.  These things will obviously look differently for everyone, but the key is to just say YES to things.  Then of course you add in all the other activities and events a month can bring, and it fills up fast!  I am hoping I won't have to endure much time "overdue" with this baby, but if he's anything like his sisters, I can expect nothing else!  And so staying busy during that time is even more critical in preserving one's sanity.  I surprised Randy with a date to a college baseball game on Charlotte's due date and it was (and still is) such a fun, special memory.  I assure you, the worst you can do is sit around at home going crazy!
  • BUILD COMMUNITY.
    We've all heard the saying "It takes a village" in reference to raising children, and I have found that to be completely and totally true.  Unfortunately, some of us don't have a village.  Some women I know are lucky enough to have built-in community and never have to work hard at finding one.  They grow up with moms, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandmas, in-laws, and friends from childhood, in a wide-spread network all around them.  They never have to look much farther than their front door for help with pregnancy, children, and life in general.  And while that looks completely dreamy and ideal, (and some days I drive myself crazy idolizing it) those are not the cards I was dealt.  And so I have learned (slowly, but surely) to stop pouting in my corner about what I don't have, and get out there and build community.  And sometimes I have found it in the most unlikely of places, and it has been such a beautiful thing.
  • PRAY.
   This, I certainly have not done as much as I want to/need to, but I am striving to do better, and so maybe writing this down will help keep me accountable!  It always amazes me how praying for others lifts me out of my own pit.  You would think that the deeper I have sunken, the harder I would need to pray for myself, but I have found the opposite to be more effective.  Praying for others takes the focus off of myself, and for those lovely moments I forget all about my aches and pains and how desperately ready I am to be done with pregnancy, and my mind is able to rest.  And obviously, praying for the baby growing inside you is so important.  I have found so much comfort in knowing that God knew our little guy long, long, LONG before we even knew he was a he, or that he existed at all.  And so who better to talk to than the One Who knows the beginning and the end?
  • TAKE PICTURES
   Most of the time, you won't feel like it at all, or you will kind of hate it when you do, which is how I felt about this picture.  Regardless!  Take them.  You will cherish them later, and you will be so glad that you captured these precious stages of your little one's life.  I would love a whole BOOK of pregnancy photos of my mom, wouldn't you? 

  That's all for now.  I warned you, I was going to keep it simple!  I feel like the third trimester, much more so than the other two, becomes all about your state of mind.  It is easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed with how uncomfortable you are getting and how far you still feel you have to go.  But it really doesn't take a whole lot to change our "frame of mind" and I've found that a few simple steps can go a long way.  

And now I'd love to hear from you!  What are some pregnancy survival tips of your own?  

4.14.2015

Easter blessings.




A quick recap of our Easter this year, and just for fun, Easter posts from 2012, 2013, and 2014

   Two things that jumped out at me after looking back over those posts?  1---Obviously I love hats.  And 2---Easter is finally getting easier.  For a time in our lives, the getting out of bed early for the sunrise service, rushing around dressing everyone and fixing hair and throwing together diaper bags and preparing for Sunday school lessons seemed so chaotic and exhausting, it seemed no amount of time would ever improve it.

   But so I am relieved to realize that yes, it DOES get easier!  With the passing years we learn and grow and our little ones can actually somewhat help with getting their little church bags together and even put on their shoes and walk out to the car.  They get potty-trained, can survive without a full sippy cup of milk for more than 4 hours, and sit through an entire service quietly playing beside us.  And just like that, Easter Sunday doesn't seem so impossible anymore.  Of course, this is all just in time to start all over again with all the newborn craziness, so maybe I'm speaking too soon.:)

   One thing that DOESN'T seem to get any easier with the passing years, is managing to get a few good pictures of them dressed in their Sunday best.  With their hair disheveled and shoes long forsaken, they are usually tired and hungry and grumpy by the time I drag out my camera, and snapping even a few good ones for the albums usually just doesn't even happen.  But bad pictures are better than no pictures at all!  At least I think so.



Easter is always such a special time, for many reasons.

   We get to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, and rejoice in the hope of new life.  We get to fellowship with our church family, and worship Him together with people that are so dear to us, and have invested in our lives in such meaningful ways.  We get to spend time with family and enjoy good food and time together. 

   And a special part of this Easter?  Jocelyn attended Sunday school without a meltdown, for three times in a row.  Big deal around this house!  Sticker charts and Frozen pajamas may have been used as the ultimate motivation, but you know what?  I don't even care!  

  Jocelyn has such a beautiful God-given personality, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for her tender heart.  But that degree of sensitivity often comes at a price.....situations can be easily overwhelming and intimidating for her, and she is just not able to process them without experiencing a lot of anxiety.  I hesitate to label her "shy" because in different situations she is completely confidant and self-assured and outgoing.  When friends visit our home she is animated and talkative and interacts with other children wonderfully.  However in public, others' homes, or any large-group setting, it's a different story.

   Like any mother, I just want her to be courageous and strong and experience fully all the wonderful things this life has to offer.   I see her missing out on simple pleasures like group games, Sunday school, and making new friends and I worry....what am I not teaching her?   What am I not modeling to her, or affirming in her that might help her tap into that confidence?  

   Anyway, I always hesitate talking about this because I don't want to make it more of an issue than it already is.  I always try to reassure her that it is OK to be scared. I don't want shame to be attached to those feelings.  But the suggestion for the sticker chart resulted from opening up and talking with some other moms, and so I have since realized the value in being willing to share about our struggles.

   So now it's your turn....any advice for dealing with this?  Either in yourself or your children?  Things you would do differently if you could go back in time? I'd love to hear. 

4.10.2015

6 years and counting.


   The month of April is always a double-whammy for our little family with celebrating Randy's birthday and then our anniversary just 3 short days later.  And June will soon be that way too, with Charlotte's birthday on the 18th and this baby boy due (somewhere in the vicinity of) the 14th!

  So spring always comes roaring in for us and there are plenty of pleasant distractions until it is truly summer, which happens somewhere around the middle of July out here on the West coast.  We need to work on our timing though, because I like to spread out the goodness.  And with Jocelyn's birthday just days before Christmas, it kind of feels like we're always just lumping everything fun and exciting together.

   Oh well.  I think we've established by now that our timing does not always sync with what God has in mind. ;)



Tomorrow, it will be six years since that sunny spring day in April when we exchanged vows.

   Sometimes I think of it as the "wedding that wasn't supposed to happen".  And what I mean by that is, if it had been left up to our own fallen humanity, it wouldn't have happened.  But for the grace of God!  He orchestrated every moment leading up to that day, and continues to orchestrate still.

   For those of you who don't know our story, I will try to sum it up in the shortest way humanly possible.  Basically, we started dating quite young (I was 18, he was 19) and I still had a LOT of growing up to do.  He was always good and kind to me, I was not to him.  I was flighty, indecisive, and unsure of everything in my life.  I was easily distracted, fearful of commitment, and gave away my heart far too freely.  I made some bad decisions, and we broke up.  We spent the next 3 years going separate ways in life, traveling, meeting other people, and God teaching us both a LOT.  It seemed the door to our story was completely closed.  But God had other plans!  He brought us back together after all that turmoil and pain, and we married when I was 23, and Randy had just turned 25.

I am so grateful God didn't give up on us, and Randy didn't give up on me.



  I will never forget that magical day.  The bleak Iowa landscape was just beginning to wake itself from its winter hibernation of snow, sleet, and mud, and everything was brown and gray.  The sky was a brilliant blue, as if it were apologetically trying to make up for the sad state of everything else.  The sun shone warmly, the breeze blew softly, and all was quiet and calm.

     I too, remember feeling strangely calm and composed, a stark contrast to the frantic, hyperventilating brides they always portray in books and movies.  But we'd made it.  We reached the Big Day, and so whether or not decorations were completely perfect, or there was a misprint in the program, or not enough food or some other disaster....it really didn't matter.  It was too late to do anything about anyway.  All that was left was for us to get ourselves ready and try and soak up each beautiful moment of the day.

I remember details, both big and small, and thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

  I remember meeting in the basement of the church to pray.  I remember the church swelling with hundreds of voices singing "In Christ Alone".   I remember our fathers giving their blessings.  I remember nervously singing a song that I re-wrote for my groom.  I remember our reception, how much fun it was, and all of the beautiful tributes from friends and loved ones.  But the thing I remember most from the entire day?  

  Never before in my life had I felt the presence of God so closely.  So intense and real and so near to me.  I hardly wanted it to end.



I remember feeling invincible that day.  

   Like nothing could ever come our way that could thwart our plans.  Nothing could ever be bigger than the love we felt for each other in that moment.  Nothing could ever distract me from my focus on spending the rest of my life with my love by my side, and serving our God together.  

   And something I had never anticipated, was how desperately the Enemy would try to attempt just that.  Thwart us.  Discourage us.  Distract us.  Defeat us.  Trip us up and make us stumble and fall as we journey through this life together.  Because what greater victory could he have?  

   I never expected to go through some of the battles we have had to face.  Next month it will be a year since my husband's family business burned to the ground.  And yet even a trial like that pales at times in comparison to some of the inner turmoil the Enemy has tried to drag us through.  

    Sometimes I'm blindsided by something completely ridiculous, like the Enemy attempting to diminish the holiness of our day with petty comparison and jealousy.  I planned my wedding pre-Pinterest, and so if you're a woman, I don't even have to explain what that means!  The devil can take the most glorious, God-honoring day of your entire existence, and try to taint it with a spirit of discontent.  The "I wish I would have done ___________" whatevers start to pile up until all you can think about when you think of your wedding day is wistful regret.  



   But it's not always over silly little surface things.  Sometimes it's much, much, much bigger and deeper than that.  Dark, inner wrestlings with doubt and fear and wondering if you will ever be free from the battle.

The Enemy doesn't want us to have strong marriages.
He doesn't want us to have a legacy to leave to our families.
He doesn't want us to find victory over temptation.
He doesn't want us to live in freedom.
He doesn't want us to keep our vows.
He doesn't want us to remain faithful.
He doesn't want us to honor, love, submit and respect.

   He is fully and wholly devoted to tear down, kill and destroy.  And he unleashes himself with full fury and power on a Godly marriage.  Because if a Godly marriage can fail and crumble, a testimony to the grace and power of God fails and crumbles right along with it!

   And so each anniversary, whether it is a "milestone" number or not, is a pretty BIG DEAL.  It is a testament, not to our own strength or determination or skill, but to God's faithfulness.  His mercy.  His grace.  His provision.  His love.  And with each passing year of marriage, you are adding brick and mortar to that altar, that emblem of what God has done and is continuing to do in your lives together.

What an incredible, incredible thing.

Happy 6 years love.  I pray for many, many more. 

4.08.2015

31 years of awesome.


I am one of the lucky ones.

   One who married a man who seems to understand me just a little bit better than anyone else.  Better than my family, better than my friends, better than myself.

   One who can talk me off the ledge faster than I managed to climb up there.  One who sees me even now, not just for who I am (thankfully) but for who I'd really, really like to be one day.  One who manages to overlook my glaring faults, ragged scars, deepest flaws, and truest weaknesses, and see the beauty deep within, especially when I can't see it anymore.



   Seems strange to me that we've only shared 6 years of his 30+ life now in marriage.....seems like it should be much longer that that.  Because I can hardly remember the time before it now.  

It hasn't all been easy.  

   We have had to wrestle with huge, impacting, life-changing decisions, and trust God to lead us when we couldn't clearly see our way.  We have had to (or rather, HE has had to)deal with pregnancy hormones, intense emotions and the marathon of labor and delivery twice now, and are somehow crazy enough to be going through it a third time together.  

We've seen sorrow and loss, stress and discouragement, but also intense joy and love and peace.

   We have seen dark days, both for me and for him, and held each other up through them.  I have seen him fight his own battles......gaining strength and wisdom and maturity only to have to turn right around and hold my hand as I face my own. 



And thank goodness he's more than just a handsome face and great hair.  

   He is a leader, a protector, a provider, a lover, and a friend.  And I knew all that before I ever even knew him as a father.  But getting to watch him become "daddy"?  Hands down one of the best experiences I will ever have on this earth.

   He is the kind of Dad that makes me just want to pull up a chair and watch for a while.  The kind that makes me what to have 27 babies just so I can watch him get to be that Dad to one more lucky, lucky kid all over again.





   He's not perfect, and would never claim to be.  I wouldn't put that label on him either, because, news flash....he's not!  He likes to let his alarm clock go off about 15 times because he likes the feeling of being able to sleep "just a little bit more".  He forgets things and isn't always the most organized human being.  (But then I guess we were meant to be together, because I'm not organized either)

   But flaws and all, every day when he gets home from work I get a front-row seat to some of the most crazed fan-girls around.  One Direction's got nothing on this guy.  And seeing my daughters unfailing, relentless, desperate love and admiration for him always makes mine grow a little more.

   And I don't take lightly the privilege of resting in the security of knowing someone will always have my back.  Always persevere, always be faithful and true.  And so who needs perfect when you have all of that?



    We recently found a new family car after ours kicked the bucket, and our girls' excitement over the whole situation was so contagious.  I had told them Daddy was coming home with a new car, but they would be sleeping and could see it in the morning.

   The next morning Jocelyn ran to the window and exclaimed, "Daddy brought us a car!  A new car!  Oh Daddy gets us such nice things."  And suddenly it was about so much more than just a car.  It was about the fact that our 4 yr-old already has the peace and security of knowing that her Daddy will take care of her.

That he will provide for her and that he wants the best for her.

   And I don't take that lightly.  The privilege of raising my children with a father who will always be there for them, when so many countless, countless children will never know that luxury.  They will never know the simple blessing that is a GOOD DAD.

   Even now, it is already shaping their view of their Heavenly Father.  Whether they realize it or not, it is molding and shaping the picture they will envision when they learn and hear about Jesus.  And that is no small thing.




  And the reason it is no small thing is because the kinds of questions they carry in their small hearts today, they will carry for a lifetime.  These are the questions they ask first of their Daddy, then one day of a potential husband, and they are the same questions that they ask of Jesus.

Does he love me?
Am I enough for him?
Will he ever leave me?
Will he protect me?
Can I trust him?
Will he be faithful?
Can I count on him?

   And while no man (and this one is no exception) will make it through the entirety of his childrens' lives without making mistakes, my heart rejoices that they will get to witness their Daddy following the One who never will.  Jesus will never let them down.  He will always be truth and love and life.  And hopefully, by watching their Daddy love Jesus and love their mama, they will want to love Him too.



And so we celebrate him today, on the day of his 31st birthday.

   And in a few months I will turn 30, effectively eliminating both of us from the 20s category forever.  I am a little wistful and nostalgic, as our 20s held so much joy, love, change, growth and excitement.  We dated, broke up, dated again, married, traveled, had babies, bought a house, and so many other major, life-changing milestones.  It feels as if we are closing a chapter to our lives that was such a whirlwind in so many ways, but of the absolute best kind, and I am sad to see it go.

  But I can't think of a single better person to be facing this next, new decade with.  And it's so exciting to think of what our 30s might bring!  Yes indeed, I am one of the lucky ones.  Thank-you, thank-you, for choosing me to do life with.  

Bring it on, thirty-one!  And hopefully many, many, more to come.

4.06.2015

Quiet time in a noisy life.


I woke up this morning restless, anxious, and not ready to face this Monday.

   Thoughts of identity, purpose, and who-am-I and what-am-I-doing stole in during the night and took up residence, trying to evict peace and reason.  I can't tell you how often I find myself floating...desperately seeking that affirmation and sense of belonging in relationships, family, friends, skill, talents, even my children...when it can only truly be found in Christ.

   For too long now, I've reasoned that I just can't seem to fit my quiet time into this stage of life.  Having two under two threw most of my normal routines and habits out of the window, and one of the ones hit the hardest, was a focused, leisurely quiet time or devotions each day.  But let's be honest, it wasn't at an ideal place to begin with, and so when the babies came along?  Yeah, pretty much stopped happening altogether.

   But as time has passed, and I am no longer in the crunch time of nursing a newborn and taking care of a barely-walking 18 month-old, I am starting to realize some of that for what it was.....an excuse.  Because guess what?  With a 2.5 yr old and 4 year old, somehow, it's just as hard.

  The truth is, prioritizing and maintaining a consistent quiet time is NEVER going to be easy.  Not when you're in high school, not when you're single and working a job, not when you're newlywed or having babies or watching them grow up or entering retirement.  It is just never going to happen on its own.

   I was forced to ask myself....what even is my ideal situation for a meaningful quiet time?  A sunlit balcony overlooking a tropical paradise as the birds wake me from my slumber and I sip on a mango smoothie in my hammock with my Bible and journal? Surely then quiet time would be its most idyllic and worthwhile.....or maybe not. Because even then, let's get real....I'd probably just want to sleep in and then hit the beach.

   So we need to stop waiting on the "ideal" and just make it happen where we're at, wherever that happens to be.  For me personally, that isn't necessarily first thing in the morning.  Or at least I'm sure it could be, if I would only get in the habit of waking before my kids.  But as that has not been happening in any sort of regular fashion, I have had to make some adjustments.

   I usually get up around the same time they do, and I just don't even think about sitting down for some quiet until after the whirlwind of getting dressed, combing hair, eating breakfast, etc.  But after that, they seem to settle down into a sort of temporary lull, content to find things to play with and self-entertain for an hour or so.  And that my friends, is the window of opportunity.

  It's pretty easy to blow right through that time frame, if I dive into the laundry or daily to-dos or get sucked into email or other things.  Sometimes I try to accomplish too much and I try to work out, shower, get ready and start some  before attempting to have quiet time.  But you can't overextend...if you just go straight to your chair, crack open your Bible and dive in, you will have your quiet, they will play happily not even noticing you, and it will be crossed off your list before you even realize what happened.

And just because lists are fun:

1. Carve out some time, at any time of the day.

2. Try not to "idealize" what you'd like it to be (quiet, distraction free, etc.) and just STEAL that time.

3. If it's hard to focus, take a sheet of paper and quickly jot down everything floating around in your brain.....grocery items, reminders, people you need to talk to, etc.

4. Don't get discouraged if it's not a long amount of time, or overwhelming emotional or anything...you still took time to invest in a relationship! That is worthwhile.

5. Tomorrow is a new day.  Don't let the past rob you from a fresh start.

   I hope you all know how much I do NOT have it all together.  Consistent time spent in the Word and prayer has been one of my biggest struggles since.....forever?  And so by talking about it the last thing in the world I want you to think is that I have it mastered.  Rather, I talk about it so that I can sort out my own thoughts and feelings, and hold myself accountable in some small way.

  So now I'd love to hear from some of you...what are some ways you make quiet time happen even during this busy stage of life?

***Side note*** I've had the honor of being published with my thoughts on comparison over here  and with my messy kitchen (eek!) over here at Heart magazine.  I just love the work they are beginning over there!  They have such a heart for authenticity and sharing hope and inspiration with everyone around them.  Check them out!  

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