See Ya, 2014

2014 heart final 2
It’s safe to say, almost-a-million times, that I’ve put off writing this post.

I’ve been aware for several weeks that I needed to sit down and, somehow, find a way to put 2014 into words.

Words that are honest but also bring hope. Words that remember but also look forward.

It’s proven to be much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

But that’s ok. Today I’m finding you and my blog dashboard after an embarrassingly-late sleep in and two large mugs of coffee…and I think I’m ready to share.

So let’s get to it. Though I am extremely tempted to refill the coffee mug yet again before I chat. We’ll see. 😉

When I look back a year and read through some of the things I shared with you all, I realize something. I had so much hope for 2014.

That hope looked like a lot of things. Restoration in relationships, especially my marriage. Hopefully an addition to our family. Topping it all off with a book deal.

I like to dream big. :)

When I make that list of things, there is a certain semblance of failure that threatens to creep into my heart. And while I won’t let it creep in, the tears are definitely creeping toward the corners of my eyes, and I have to blink them back.

There’s so much I wanted from 2014…so much that wasn’t just NOT given, but was also taken. It’s easy to dwell on those things and let them define a year.

A year. The truth is that we had a packed year. A crazy one. A difficult one. And there was a lot of good in the middle of it.

This was the year we finally got to take our sweet girl to our second home. I still can’t stop the tears of joy when I think of the first time we introduced her to strawberry juice or she rode on a motorbike or she gave our beloved pembantu a hug. We had dreamed of being back in Indonesia as a family, and I still have to pinch myself when I remember that we actually got to go.

IndoMotor
There were also some pretty sweet reunions with some of my favorite sisters.
To steal a line from Logan…or was it Sarah Mae? 😉 It still blows my mind that the internet gave me some of my best friends. They are truly a gift, one I am so grateful for.

Allume 2014-1221(2)
And part of me wishes I could just stop there so you could all see the good…but I know I need to keep going and keep it real. :) Because there are other pieces of the year that need to be shared…

And they SHOULD be remembered because they’re forever-pieces of the story He’s writing.

The hope our family had of another child broke to shards on a sunny July morning, and it has taken months to even begin to pick up the pieces. Our hearts still ache and the tears still fall, and while I will make no apologies for those things, I also know that I need to hold onto Hope and continue to walk forward. It’s there, even when I don’t see it, and I need to claim the promise that His plans for me are good ones.

We said a heart-wrenching goodbye in September to a beloved member of our family. It was a sudden, painful blow, and while there are so many good memories of the wonderful 11 years with our sweet boy, we just hurt. Still. And we accept that He gives and takes away, but that isn’t without tears. And those tears just have to be part of life for this season as we move forward and love the ones we hold in our arms.

family-final
And maybe a silver lining in all of this loss is that God has knit us closer together as a family and especially in our marriage.
We have clung to each other as we’ve tried to cling to Him. God has deepened our marriage, forcing us to walk with Him together on the many, many days we don’t see. We love each other more deeply (though we can still argue with the best of them!) and we choose to walk this life together, now, more than ever…even if there are days when it’s tempting to throw it all away.

And we also hold on a little tighter to our girl, too…though she did give me a reminder the other day. Mommy, soon I’ll be too big for your arms! Never, my girl. Never. 😉

Mae&Mommy final
I’ve also watched Him take the book-writing dream and say a firm, No.
That one…it’s hard to swallow. Writing and publishing a book has been so much of what I’ve let define me as a blogger…and yet, it’s not what He’s calling me to.

That makes me cry, kind of a lot. And yet, through so many things, I know He is just saying that it isn’t what I should be doing right now. I’m being called to a season of depth and connection, not building and branding. I’ve needed to let go…for awhile now. And as I’ve slowly accepted that and loosened my grip, I can’t tell you how much peace it’s brought. How much pressure it’s released.

And it’s also confirmed something in my heart.

You see, I want to tell my stories. I don’t want to sell them.

And so…you’re all going to be getting them this year. On the blog. Every Monday, I’m going to share one. Unedited, raw, heart-stories that come from a tender place in my soul from an unforgettable time in my life. Stories He gave me that I want to share.

I lived them, and so it’s time to tell them. I hope you’ll be back every week to read them. :)

Honestly, it’s easy to read all of this and and wonder how on earth so many paradoxes can coexist. In some ways I’m shaking my head…but mostly, I have to remind myself that I don’t see the whole picture. Oh, I’d love to…but alas. 😉

If I’m being completely honest here, it’s tempting to say (audibly AND loudly), See ya, 2014. Don’t let the door smack you too hard in the #!* on the way out!

Brutal honesty here, folks. 😉

And yet, I want to walk away from this year, knowing without a doubt that none of it was wasted.

I see it so much already…in the prospect of sharing my words for the simple fact that I can tell my stories, in expectantly looking forward to the good He holds for us, in the ways He is taking the heartbreak and making something beautiful from it.

It’s what I hope for in 2015.

Which brings us TO 2015…at least tomorrow. Will you come back? I want to tell you about the word He’s given me for the year.

It holds Hope, a different kind. One that I think He might be using to knit our hearts back together.

I truly love each one of you who have spent even a few seconds here. Thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

Goodbye, 2014.

(And have a Happy New Year, my friends!) :)

Photo Credits: Kim Deloach Photography, Alan Levine

_______________________

I’m linking up at God-sized Dreams today as part of our One Year Celebration…seriously, can you believe it’s been a year?! We’re all sharing stories and updates from what God has done this year…so hop on over and join us. :)

GSDLinkUp

I’m also linking up with my sweet friend, Kristin, for Three Word Wednesday. :)

TWWbutton200x200_zps62610d74

Sig

Pieces That Make a Story

worldinpieces
Fifteen years ago…and I can’t believe it’s been that long…I hopped a plane with some friends. Our destination was the country of Peru, a place that, at the time, seemed about as far from home as one could possibly be.

And it was great…it was three plus weeks of laughing, learning, memory making…and most of all, getting my first glimpses into the heart of my Father and how He was at work in another place.

I’d grown up with missions…at least from the perspective of missionaries who’d visited my church. I’d come to understand that missionaries were people who planted churches, preached sermons in another language, and started Bible colleges. Therefore, I knew I’d never be one.

But Peru changed that.

It was on that trip that my Father began speaking to me and opening doors in my heart that had always been closed. It was during those weeks God told me that if I was willing, He would give me a place. Somewhere.

Where that was, I didn’t know, but I was sure that God was calling me to be a teacher, and I made plans, almost immediately, to return to the place that had captured my heart.

Enter: a year and a half later and a boy. 😉

His name started with a T, he had an amazing smile, and I fell head over heels within minutes. (That’s kind of embarrassing to admit now.) He was settled, had a good job, and there was no way missions was even on the horizon for us. Oh, yeah…us. We became an us pretty quickly. 😉

There was a part of me that was devastated to give up Peru…but by then, well…love. I was heart-deep in it.

A ring followed, and then a house…before the wedding, even. Don’t worry…he was the one only who lived there. 😉

In the tiny part of my brain that is logical, I knew. His job was stable, we’d just bought a house…we were staying. Or so we thought. 

So we said our I-do’s, ate pie, and jetted off to Jamaica. We came home from our honeymoon, I started a new job as a nanny, and BAM. He called me on a Wednesday morning. Mel, I got laid off.

Total shock. We had not expected this…especially not to him. Tobin is good…and he’s good at what he does. And there’s a whole lot more to the story, and it has nothing to do with his abilities and talent and everything to do with his name being randomly chosen from a list in order to downsize.

But, really…that was the door we needed to close in order for more doors to open.

For the next nine months, he searched like crazy and interviewed like crazier. The job market was horrible, money was tight, and we started to wonder. More, if that’s even possible.

We prayed over it before emptying our bank account to purchase two plane tickets for Nicaragua and Honduras. Two weeks in March were spent with missionaries we knew. We were hoping…praying…wondering…was this it? Was God calling us to something else?

We came home from that grand adventure…and we were confused. There were no strong pulls for either of us to Central America, we were teetering on having about no money, and we were starting to lose faith.

And then came a job offer that would at least pay the bills. Buy us some time until we could figure this out.

But by then, we knew. We knew the call, and we knew that saying no wasn’t even an option.

And so…we prayed. And waited. Pushed on a few doors. Cried when they slammed back in our faces.

Finally, two years later…His answer. Indonesia.

Really, God? A country that really IS about as far from home as we can get?

After locating it on a map 😉 and praying it through, we knew our answer was an overwhelming YES. Less than six months later our house was sold, our cars about to be sold, most of our belongings were gone, we’d sent our dog on ahead to Jakarta (yes, yes we did…), our bags were packed, and the monsoon of goodbyes began.

And we went…and it was life-changing. It was the best and worst, it was life-altering and felt strangely like a piece home…it was His plan. I don’t paint a picture of Indonesia that is all sunsets and beauty…though the sunsets were spectacular and the green about as beautiful as anything can be.

Indonesia was a paradox of joy and struggle, of hope and heartbreak, of embracing and longing. It was all of those things, often all of them at the same time.

And like any good piece to the journey, it ended, and we said goodbye to people and a place that had embedded themselves so deeply into our hearts that we were forever changed.

And now we sit in the middle of what came next. Ok, ok, so maybe we’re not exactly sitting…who has time to sit with a toddler running around?! 😉 We’re doing our best to trust His plan and embrace each moment as it comes, knowing that our Father always, always has a far greater plan than we can ever imagine.

Tobin and I will celebrate twelve years in just a few weeks, and as I look back, I see so many pieces. I see pieces that didn’t always make sense…

And yet…He took them. He is still taking them. And He is writing our story with them.

And I might not know what He’s making out of the pieces of the now, either…but I know it’s going to be good.

Because He is good. And He writes some pretty incredible stories.

Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass

Sig

A Lesson from Qatar + A Bucket List

So a couple months ago we took a trip to Indonesia. This post has been a long time coming…and it took awhile to write, so we’re going back a couple months. 😉

Doha.

That’s in Qatar.

Here you go…a map, just so you don’t have to go and look it up. :)

qatar
So we layed-over in Doha, Qatar, both going to and coming home from Indonesia. When we first booked our flight with Qatar Airways, I had to look it up on a map. Where is this mysterious country? Is this even a country? (Ahem…clearly, geography was not my strong suit. Actually, it was, but I missed out on this one.)

So I located it, a little peninsula of a country sticking out into the Persian Gulf and, in my opinion, just a bit too close to the country of Iran, but whatever. A motto in my life is to embrace the world, and so I at least try to do that.

So I can’t really tell you, probably due to my lack of coherence (and sleep) at that point in my day, exactly what my first impressions of Qatar…or, at least the airport, were. I remember that we took stairs off the airplane, boarded a big bus, and took a ride to the actual airport, where we went through security again and then made our way to a lounge for eight hours. (Hubby and a guy from Britain decided to strike up a conversation about the missing Malaysia Airlines plane at this time. Gee, thanks…just what I want to talk about as I’m traveling. by. PLANE.)

But the lounge was nice. It needed more beds…really…but comfy chairs, showers, food, and the coolest coffee maker ever more than made up for the lack of places to ACTUALLY. LIE. DOWN. 😉 (And I tried to take a picture of the coffee machine and got yelled at…yep, apparently using my iPhone in the food area of the lounge was a big no-no. Though the woman who scolded me had no argument to back up her scolding. Just trust me…it was cool.) 😉

QatarCoffeeBut I DID sneak this picture of my COFFEE. IN. THE. LOUNGE. (Hand slap.) 😉

Anyway, back to my purpose in telling you all of that. 😉 Since the food was all-you-can-eat, we chose those hours to make up for the less-than-stellar airline food we’d been served, which had gone mostly uneaten. (Except for the bread, the cheese, and the little KitKats.) 😉 And, oh, the food. It was a spread of yummy deliciousness…pastries, breads, sandwiches, fruit, and hummus.

I swooned over that hummus. (And ate as much as I could without feeling physically ill. Or maybe I did feel a little sick. A little.) 😉

It was while I was munching on, yet another, triangle of pita doused in hummus that I realized it…Eating hummus in the Middle East should have been added to my bucket list. You know, the bucket list I’ve been saying I would write for years and never actually HAVE?

Yeah, that one.

The reality is that I probably should write it soon before all that’s left is for me to go skydiving. Because I will never go skydiving, so there.

If you’ve had a conversation with me regarding the trip we took, you may know that really the only negative thing I have to say about our trip to Indonesia involves laying over in Qatar…probably something we will not choose again. (Though the hummus was good.) But there was a takeaway from our time there, and for that I am thankful. (Oh, and I also bought a mug and a little stuffed camel, so I guess I took those things away, too.) 😉

I took away the inspiration to write a bucket list for us. Me in particular, but I’m hoping Tobin and Mae will jump in, too. They’re invited, and so are you. :)

So here it is…the beginning of it all at least, complete with my happy little commentary.

And, of course, subject to additions for the rest of my life. 😉

Skills

1. Learn to play another instrument and actually play it somewhere. (If anyone will let me!)
2. Sell a piece of my art.
3. Publish my book. (Finish it first, I guess…and then find an agent, too!)
4. Become fluent in another language. (I seem to have a good head-start in Indonesian…) 😉
5. Learn to roast coffee beans.
6. Speak at least once at a writer’s conference.
7. Build a coffee table.

Travel

1. Visit the pyramids in Egypt.
2. Take a boat ride on the Nile and maybe even swim there. (I know, I know. Let’s not talk about the crocodiles, k?) 😉
3. Shop the markets in Turkey. (Must. Buy. A. Cute. Bag.)
4. Take a mommy/daughter trip to another country.
5. Do an overland safari in Africa.
6. See Machu Picchu in Peru.
7. Visit Australia and hold a koala. (Except for Antarctica, it’s the only continent we have left.)

Personal/Parenting/Family

1. Adopt a child.
2. Visit an orphanage with Mae.
3. Read 100 chapter books aloud with Maelie.
4. Return to Indonesia as a family for an extended period of time to serve.
5. Spend a year as a family doing acts of kindness for others.
6. Let Mae choose any adventure she wants to take for her 10th birthday and just go.
7. Do something wild and unexpected for a friend.
8. Do something wild and unexpected for a stranger.

Crazy

1. Buy plane tickets, pack our suitcases, and just go…all in the same day.
2. Buy a home in Bali for retirement someday.
3. Take our friends on a crazy, other-side-of-the-world, getaway for my 40th birthday.
4. Buy a motorbike/scooter in the U.S. (T made me add U.S. ’cause I had one in Indo…) 😉
5. Go a month without using a car at all.
6. Get a tattoo.

Physical

1. Break 27:00 on a 5k.
2. Run a 10k in under one hour.
3. Run a half marathon.
4. Do CrossFit for six months.
5. Learn to do yoga.
6. Run a 5k as a family. (All of us. Running.)
7. Complete a triathlon. (Shakin’ in my Nikes already…)

Spiritual

1. Read through the Bible in six months.
2. Memorize the book of Philippians. (I’m 3/8 of the way done. At least I used to be.) 😉
3. Lead an overseas mission trip.
4. Spend a year volunteering for Mercy Ships in Africa.
5. Go to Uganda with Sole Hope.
6. Learn to love like Jesus.

Did I miss anything? (Of course I did…every time I proofed this list, I kept adding to it!!!) 😉

What would you add?

Here’s to a beautiful life…join me? 

Sig

Less Words…

This might be the kind of day when I heart-spill a little too much.

So if I do, forgive me. :)

It’s 5:45 in the morning, and I’m up early because…well, because I’m trying to get into a good routine, and as much as I’d love to sleep much, much longer, this is my time to get things done.

I have to admit to you that I wish I were drinking coffee right now. We’ve got a big ‘ol container of Bailey’s Mudslide Coffee Creamer in our fridge right now (it was the only size they had) and OH. Yes, it DOES make me want to drink coffee all day. (As if it takes creamer to do that…) 😉 But, alas, I am not drinking coffee.

YET.

See, I’m also trying to be better about getting up to run early in the morning. I’ve been good during the last few months about doing lots of strength training and cardio/strength, but I need to get back to running more often. And my rule? No coffee til the run is over.

I know. Oh, I know. ‘Tis a bit brutal. 😉

I’m pondering life and love and the fact that my sweet three, almost-four, year-old finishes PK3 today. It has been such a good year for her, and I’m finding myself thinking back to the times when I would finish a year of school; especially when I was younger, I would always be devastated to say goodbye to my teacher. Clearly that emotion has been passed, straight on, to my girlie.

She cried yesterday when she told me she had one more day. I don’t WANNA leave Mrs. H! Or Mrs. B!

And, oh, how there is that piece of me that would gladly let her remain there forever…but we go forward anyway.

And with a few tears because that’s how a lot of us roll, I think, whether we’ll admit it or not.

And along with the whole finishing PK3 thing comes other milestones to remind me that my little girl is growing up so fast. A ballet recital on Sunday in a sparkly costume with her hair all pretty and MAKEUP. So not ready for this one…

Maeballet
A real, kid birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate the BIG FOUR. Not ready for that one in a completely different way…

Swimming lessons to come. That one I’m excited for…she’s been asking, and I want it for her.

So many changes every day…the pants get shorter and the cute little shirts don’t cover her belly anymore. Her aqua toenails peek over the edge of he flip flops, and I realize it…

…I wasn’t looking, and she grew up.

So time marches on, and while the snuggles and kisses remain, the I-love-you’s are a daily thing, and we laugh and dance together because it’s just what we do, I know it’s going to change.

That’s the part I don’t want to come.

I think back to the things I’ve always wanted so much for her…

To know that she’s loved so much…

…accepted as she is…

…and beautiful. SO beautiful.

Those things…they start with me.

And God has been doing some things in my heart when it comes to my daughter.

I was in Houston a few weeks ago with some pretty awesome sisters, and during our time there, a friend and I took a little break outside for a bit to sit by the pool in the glorious, Texas sunshine. (You know, that thing we haven’t seen much of in FOREVER here? Yep.) 😉 We were chatting up life…the two of us are in different parenting seasons…and I was soaking in all she had to say. The mama of four daughters, she gets this…

And I admitted to her that I felt like the blog was wearing me down and all I wanted to do was just be mommy. (But please, my readers, don’t run away.) 😉

As we continued to talk, I confessed that I felt like the time and energy I’d spent trying to build and comment and connect had depleted me more than filled me. That was a hard confession because I love…LOVE…this community. I want to be here…writing, sharing, doing life together.

And God isn’t saying to give that up…but He IS saying to step back a little.

That’s why it’s been so quiet in this space. It’s been a word battle anyway lately, but I also haven’t spent as much time at the computer. The majority of my day is spent with my girl…how it should be anyway. And nights are a little different, too…I used to spend them commenting and answering comments and reading blogs…and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But you see, I have a husband, too. He and I are desperately trying to find our dance again. We’ve both kind of forgotten how that looks, but it definitely doesn’t involve computer screens.

It’s such a confusing place to be…knowing I’m meant to be a writer, but being aware that to everything there is a season. And I think it’s my season to write less. A lot less.

I miss connecting with my community as often. I miss the twitter parties and late nights…and while I may show up once in awhile, it’s no longer the commitment I sprint out of praise team for. It’s an added blessing when my day allows it.

And so, for this season, the rough draft still sits. The blog is a bit quieter. And the words flow through my heart more than they do through my fingertips.

But I’m good with that because it’s where I need to be.

And now I need to go…because four miles, a pot of coffee, and a sweet, three year-old princess await me.

Life is so incredibly beautiful…and I don’t want to miss any of it.

20130820_082827

 

Sig

2014: Restore

Warning: This turned into an intense, heart-spill. Thanks for reading.

Hi, friends! Happy New Year!

And, yes, I’m blogging three days in a row…which hasn’t happened since, like, 2012.

And now that you’ve picked yourselves up off the floor… 😉

Restore. My word for 2014.

OneWordRestore

I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s one that has caused more wrestling and wondering and tears before I even chose it as my word for the year.

But let’s back up and talk about Dream for a minute.

It was my word for 2013…and, in every way, the safe choice for the year.

I was already part of the God-Sized Dream Team.

Already in the thick of dreaming and surrounded by so many other dreamers.

It just made sense.

Oh, there were parts of it that were challenging, definitely, and I don’t regret my choice at all. In all of the dreaming, and the hard part…doing, God did incredible things…opened doors and opportunities. 2013 was definitely a dreaming journey, one that has changed my life forever.

But, today…and this year, Restore.

It was supposed to be Create.

You see, that’s the word I wanted. It’s something I love. A word I had planned on making my focus for the year because it’s so easy for me.

To pull out the paint and a canvas and splash art.

To pick up my hook and yarn and make something cute that I’d rather not pay $30 for in a store. Or to make a cute hat for a friend. :)

To frustrate myself through the roof with my Rainbow Loom, but somehow make a cute bracelet. Yes, I bought one. It’s fun. And completely addicting…and, yes, I promise I am 35 years old. 😉

RLbracelet

Creating…it comes naturally. And it’s easy.

But God said something different this time…and, ironically, He said it through a painting. (And a whole series of events that make up an incredible account…I’ll be sharing that soon, but not today.) 😉

He said it through this.

restorepainting

Restore.

I will restore you. Your marriage, your heart, your emotions, your confidence, ALL of it.

You see, I paint a word mural in this space.

While I keep it real most days, unless you know me intimately, you don’t know the brokenness that resides in this heart.

Some of it is my own doing, some of it isn’t.

But regardless of the source, there are pieces of me that need to be restored. Not fixed completelybut at least brought back to a place of being able to shine Him again, even if it’s through cracks.

Our marriage…it’s hard. We are night and day, sunshine and rain…and looking for the rainbow. I know it’s there, and I remind myself of that daily as, sometimes, we try desperately to hold on. The Truth is that we are working to make Him first again. I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere in the last eleven plus years, we became more me-me-me, and less Him-Him-Him.

Pray for us? Please?

My mommy heart needs to be restored and reminded daily of the blessing I have in my precious daughter. Most days I know it and feel it and the two of us dance it out like the crazy, fun girls we are. 😉 And others…the ones when my period is late or I’m cramping horribly…well, I focus on what I don’t have. Will you pray that God will restore my heart? And because I believe in being real…and also because so many of you are my family…here’s the deal. Really.

And I want you to know it.

We’re focusing on us and our sweet girl. There’s no trying right now, and I’m ok with that. We are hoping a few months down the road that we’ll be in that place again, but today, we’re not there. It’s been a source of me needing to let go of my perfect family ideal…which didn’t include kiddos who were four or five years apart. (If that.) And yet, here we are.

And I long to be ok.

And there’s also a deep desire for freedom and restoration of my past…situations that left me broken, empty, and almost unable to go back to the place that was my home for so many years.

The truth is that, right now, I can’t go back without a pit in my stomach, a hardness to my heart, and tears brimming on my eyelids.

I hate that it’s that way. Hate it.

And I know that ONLY HE can Restore it and somehow glue back together the pieces that fell apart so long ago.

I mean it when I say that it’s almost become easier to live broken than to live Restored.

But I long for it…and He has spoken it.

Now, I need to obey it.

So, Father, please Restore…whatever it is that needs to be restored in me. Make my heart new, make it long for You, make it shine You again. I know You can and You will.

God gave me a verse recently…and, ironically, it popped up as the verse of the day yesterday. But maybe it’s just another little whisper from Him that He’s got this.

This…THIS…it’s my prayer.

My hope.

My promise from Him for 2014.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Restore 2014. He Will.

And, thank you…to each of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being willing to walk this journey with me.

That makes you my friend, and I love you for it.

***Linking up at Circles of Faith and the One Word 365 community today.

Sig

Behind the Scenes: My Heart and an Invitation

1006038_10151542842202312_1152342446_n

This picture has popped up on my blog a few times lately.

Yeah, I think she’s pretty adorable. :)

A couple months ago, we took advantage of a Groupon deal and hired a photographer to come out to our C’ville stomping grounds and take some family pictures.

Let me tell you, friends…with a spunky toddler like we have, this was a tall order to fill.

But he rocked it, despite the fact that she was constantly on the move.

And? He managed to capture this gem.

To say that I. Completely. Love. It. is just scratching the surface.

Because what this is…it’s me and my girl and my passion and my heart all miraculously captured in one, beautiful photo.

For years, I have dreamed of writing. Of blogging, of publishing, of making a name for myself. (I didn’t say all of these were noble aspirations.) 😉

And during those years, another dream of mine has been dancing around my feet, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes spinning on her own.

This girl.

Maelie girl.

She’s fabulous.

And she’s my calling, my dream, my heart.

She is who I want to be my priority every second of the day.

Even over writing and blogging and publishing and being all that those things bring.

And so this picture…this snapshot of our moments…it represents so much.

Because I love my daughter to the moon and back. (Plus infinity…just ask her. ;))

I still love to write…

I still want to publish a book…

I still dream of being a contributor on a blogand that one is happening soon, so stay tuned!

But my point?

Is that I want moments like the one in this photo all the time.

I want her all the time.

And so…I’m redefining.

Making mommyhood, marriage, a follower of my Father, a friend…priorities.

Oh, I’ll still write…’cause a writer still needs air sometimes. Plus, I just love to write…I can’t give it up.

But I’ll do that when she’s in bed. Or having her quiet time. Or watching her hour of tv (hour, not hourS).

😉

And I’m not perfect. I’ll fumble, I’ll fail, I’ll write a blog post while she watches yet another episode of Sofia the First or Doc McStuffins.

But where my heart is now?

It’s in that place where I don’t want to miss a single moment.

Ever.

And, friends?

I’ve been given a great opportunity, one I am incredibly thankful for, one I didn’t plan on…but one that God was weaving into His plan all along.

598791_10200516442694471_1054439666_s

I am completely blown away by the opportunity to be an (in)courager.

Squeeeeeeeee! 😉 (Plus, imagine a little happy dancing, too.)

I am so excited to encourage and invest in the lives of other stay-at-home mommas like me…ones who, I have a feeling, struggle with many of the same things I do.

(In)courage has a new session of (in)courager groups kicking off this week, and registration is open! If you’re looking for a small group, a place to connect with women in the same season of life, a place to be encouraged…this is exactly for you.

You can go here to read the heart behind (in)courager groups AND to find one that is the perfect fit for you. Of course, I’d love it if you joined my group, but look for the one that best meets you in your current season. (And as of tonight, my group is full…but there are TONS of groups…go find one! ;))

You will love it. I promise. :)

It makes me smile to look back at the last few weeks…to see how He is weaving together pieces of my heart and writing another part of my story. Pulling back on a few things, but still filling my life with amazing blessings.

And reminding me of the ones I already have.

**************************

Happy Tuesday, friends! Today is the day when I join some sweet friends at Crystal’s space for Behind the Scenes.

Social media and online relationships can make us feel like everyone else has it all together. We’re edited, proof-read, Pinterest-perfect versions of ourselves (or so some might think!) when – in reality? There is an unfinished pile of laundry around the corner. That cute toddler smiling for the camera just had a massive meltdown seconds ago. That yummy breakfast-for-dinner you just showed us on Instagram? It’s because the cat licked the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner.

“Behind the Scenes” is a fun link up where we show those photos – but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

I hope you’ll take some time to pop over and read the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-tear-jerking, just-fun stories that go on behind the actual photos. :)

crystalstine.me

Sig

Behind the Scenes: On Anniversaries and Selfies

Anniversary2013

Just throwing this out there…

I’m not a selfie taker, typically.

I’ve got nothing against those of you who can magically hold out your iPhone and, almost instantaneously, snap the most perfect, flattering, photo of your gorgeous face and hair and then post it to facebook for all the world to see.

I’m just not that person, usually, but it’s all good.

I can appreciate your gifts.

Anyway. 😉

So we went out on a date to celebrate our 11th anniversary on Sunday night. (A day late…BOO on migraines. Yay for babysitters who can do a last-minute switch on nights.) 😉

As most of our anniversary dates tend to be, this one didn’t turn out quite like we envisioned. (If I told you some of the unique ways we’ve spent our anniversary…let’s just say it would be an entertaining series of blog posts. ;))

However, that’s ok…we’re learning to embrace the surprises that come along.

So we started our big night out at Costco.

Yes, we did.

We got ice cream and then walked around and bought some cleaning supplies that we needed because, let’s face it, the key to a happy marriage is making sure the bathrooms are clean, right? 😉

Then we made our way over to a restaurant we’ve driven by a hundred times. And every time we’ve driven by, I’ve said, We need to go there for dinner sometime.

So we did.

It was this little Mexican place, El Molino, and while it’s not in my top ten, the green salsa was pretty awesome, as were the enchiladas. I’d go back. :)

The service was super fast, and after dinner, we were faced with almost two hours before we told the babysitter we’d be home.

What to do, what to do?

Hmmmm…remember that time three years ago when we had a four week-old and were looking for a place to live and we saw a bunch of houses, some that were in slightly sketchy areas of town? Let’s go find them!

Guys, we totally did.

Pulled the GPS up on the phone and drove all over town. (Technically, all over two towns.)

We managed to find the first house we looked at, and the sight of that one only made me breathe thanks over and over that God had other plans for us.

We think we found another one (but the new owners had painted it rusty-icky-brown…really?!), and we’d liked this one a lot, but it didn’t work out. That’s more than ok…we love where we are. :)

And after that we were kind of over the whole, let’s-go-find-the-houses-we-didn’t-end-up-renting, thing. (Especially because I felt like a total creeper… ;))

So we went to Dunkin’ Donuts. We wanted coffee because we just did.

Or, maybe I did.

That’s because I’m breathing. 😉

Our mistake was that we went INTO the store instead of just doing drive-thru. So, of course, we walked out with donuts, which we totally needed after ice cream and too many chips-and-salsa-plus-dinner.

It is a good thing we went in, though, because it gave us the perfect opportunity to document our adventure-filled, so-not-predictable, anniversary date With. A. Selfie.

Complete with a very-slight, sneak peek of my, in-my-husband’s-words, psychodelic vest.

The same vest he went practically-to-the-moon-and-back to get for me. (Thinking that might be another post in itself, though…come back next week?  Trust me, it’s worth it. ;))

In all of this, selfie-pic-taking-included, I smiled.

We haven’t had an easy road. This marriage thing has been a lot of things…and easy hasn’t been one of them.

But the smiles in this selfie? They’re real.

For all of the hard moments, the days when we wondered whether we should even keep doing this anymore…this year.

This moment.

I’m thankful.

We know it’s worth it and that it always will be.

I love this guy, I do.

I’m so blessed to walk this thing called life with him by my side.

And I could gush and gush here, but I hope the smiles say it all instead.

Here’s to selfies that document what words often can’t.

**********************

On Tuesdays, I link up at my friend, Crystal’s place, for Behind the Scenes.

Social media and online relationships can make us feel like everyone else has it all together. We’re edited, proof-read, Pinterest-perfect versions of ourselves (or so some might think!) when – in reality? There is an unfinished pile of laundry around the corner. That cute toddler smiling for the camera just had a massive meltdown seconds ago. That yummy breakfast-for-dinner you just showed us on Instagram? It’s because the cat licked the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner.

“Behind the Scenes” is a fun link up where we show those photos – but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

Take some time and stop by for some of my favorite reads of the week written by my sweet, blogging sisters. They’ll make you laugh, cry, and remind you of how good life is and how fun the stories can be behind the camera lens. :)

Thanks for stopping by today, friends!

crystalstine.me

Sig

My God-Sized Dream: How I Live

What’s a typical day in your life like right now? How can you see God’s hand in the middle of the “small” and ordinary too?

When I first saw the topic for this week, I smiled and started singing a song.

One that, for reasons unknown to me, somehow made it onto my running playlist about a year ago and became a favorite. I especially love the chorus.

Turn up the music, turn it up loud
Take a few chances, let it all out
‘Cause you won’t regret it
Looking back from where you have been
‘Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did, it’s how you live

“How You Live” Point of Grace

Though it may sound a bit flaky, I try to live my life in this way…with the music cranked up (sometimes literally), looking for the adventure in every step, and dancing throughout my days, too. (As long as there’s coffee. ;))

On a perfect day, I start with a run.  I usually do between three and four miles, but  I only did 2.4 this morning…on Monday nights I work out with friends, and our workout went late last night and was topped off by a frappuccino and a chat with my dear friend :), so I didn’t push it. I’m not Super-runner Woman, either (though I would look good with a cape, huh?!)…it’s something I became intentional about in order to shed those baby pounds and turned into something I enjoy.

When I get home from running (before 7 am) I get the coffee going and get ready for the day.

Key word here = coffee. I drink a ton of the stuff. True confession. But not black…always with creamer. Bailey’s Creme Brulee is my favorite. Mmmmm.

I’m a stay-at-home-mom, and it’s the job title I wear most proudly.

I’m mama to the most incredibly wonderful, spirited, sweet girl, Mae. Ever the non-napper, she almost always gives me a wonderful night’s sleep, so she usually isn’t awake before 7:30. (Unless we’re in time change mode. Ugh.) I love that it gives me time to hop through the shower and get ready somewhat before she’s up.

Once Mae is up, it’s the usual. Breakfast, sometimes-playtime, sometimes-Sesame Street. If she goes the tv route, I use that time to do some Bible reading and blogging. It’s when most of my daytime writing gets done. A lot of people start their mornings early. early. early. with spending time with God. I have found  that it  simply doesn’t work well for me.

I love Him.

But my mind is not coherent enough before my run to focus. Instead, I crank up a pretty sweet playlist of praise songs for my run and worship Him in that way. I love it, and I usually sing along. 😉

The  rest of our day varies, depending on the day. Some days we head to church for Bible study or to help with Feed My Lambs; the other days we’ll chill at home and  do art projects or read stories or play princesses or bake. (She’s a huge play doh fan right now, too.) We save errands for the afternoon, usually, because my ever-so-sweet girl mostly-dropped her afternoon nap last summer. (She takes about one a month.)

It’s a simple day, usually, and sometimes there will be more writing or catching up online interspersed with what we do.

MaeMommyPumpkinDays

My main goal as a stay-at-home mama  is to simply enjoy her and be the best mommy to her that I can be. The days are already passing too quickly, and she’ll be off to preschool in just five short months. Tear. 

My hubby usually gets home around 5:30, and  we’ll spend a little time together as a family,  eat dinner, and then it’s off to bathtime and bed for the non-napper girl we have. :) She’s usually in bed and asleep before 7:30 which gives us some time to unwind. Sometimes T and I will play a game or watch a movie; sometimes we’ll do our own thing…me, usually write; him, catch up with his favorite blogs or watch a TV show. Fun fact: we really love playing cribbage. I know it’s an old-people game, but it’s fun! You should try it. 😉

Being a SAHM was not something I ever thought I’d be, but I love it. I’ve realized, too, that it’s something I should never take for granted. My husband works hard so I can be with my girl, and I know there are a lot of mamas who wish with everything in them that they could be home with their kids, too. I am extremely blessed, and so thankful I can spend my days with Mae. :)

family01

One of the things God has over-and-over convicted me about is my prayer life. I grew up always thinking that to pray, I needed to stop what I was doing, fold my hands, close my eyes, and talk to Him in that way. And while there are times for that, I try to make prayer part of my lifestyle…and I talk to Him throughout the day. Sometimes in a sentence, sometimes longer. While I’m washing dishes, vacuuming, or even changing a diaper.

I love that He hears me…and that He listens no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

I also love that my daughter is learning the value of speaking to her Father, too, no matter where she is in her day. Often, we’ll pray for Putra, our Compassion child…his picture is on our wall in the kitchen, and she likes to look at it. Mae knows that we can talk to God about him, and that we can do it while we’re playing princesses, too. :)

In relation to my dream(s) and pursuing them in daily life, my biggest goal is to place them in His hands each day and pray for opportunities. Right now, my sweet friend is reading through my book, and I’m good with that…in some ways, it’s a break I can use to reflect on what He’s asking of me and what could potentially be next. As for my other dream of writing for a bigger blog, I talk to Him about it…and just keep doing my thing…

…writing  in this space, which I truly love. I really do, even if the number of blog posts a week has dwindled a bit. (I’m trying to focus on content more instead of word count. Please don’t count the number of words in this post. ;))

I’m trying to be faithful with the smaller things…and trust that He’ll bring the big things when it’s time. His time.

More than ever, right now, I’m content with that, and it’s a good place to be.

Just living the life He’s created for me, following Him in obedience, and trusting that His plan will happen.

And it’s Tuesday! Hop over to the lovely Holley Gerth’s place to read more stories of what God is doing in the lives of my dreaming sisters! We’d love for you to join us. :)

God-Sized Dreams

Sig

My God-Sized Dream: Joy Surrounding Me

JOY

What brings you joy, especially when it comes to your God-Sized Dream?

I love this question and am so very overwhelmed by it all at the same time.

Joy.

JOY.

JOY.

The word has such a different meaning now than it did just two years ago.

My husband and I were in the midst of one of the hardest seasons of our marriage. It was a daily struggle to move forward and to choose love and joy in spite of the challenges that seemed to overtake our days.

Around this time, I had gotten into the groove of blogging, and my writing was definitely something that brought joy…a place to release and be…no matter what I was feeling that particular day.

As I slowly started to become connected online with some different bloggers and friends, I came across a blog.

The writer is someone many of you may know at least through her words. And I became privileged to know her through them, too, even if we never exchanged an in-real-life, friend hug.

During those days of wondering and waiting and unknown, I found myself drawn into her story, inspired by her words, and taken by her heart for our Father.

Someone asked her the question, “How do you manage to stay so positive? So happy? Don’t you ever just get really mad?”

And her reply, specifically this part of it, changed me.

The thing I try to remind myself of, as I am without all the things that I wish I had to make me happy, is that my biggest need is Him. More than I need to be outside in the fresh air, more than I need to move without pain, more than I even need Dad… I need His will to be done in my life whether it is comfortable or not. There is not one thing that feels comfortable about my world right now, but I need Him more than I need to change my circumstances.

It’s still brutally hard. I have to remind myself of these facts every day. It doesn’t always come easily.

But it doesn’t make the truth any less true.

And the truth is that I can choose the joy.

So I do.

From this post at Sara’s blog.

Knowing Sara for the few months I did changed my perspective. Reading her words taught me how to Choose Joy, even on the days that were hard.  (Hard to me, nothing compared to what she endured.)

And I share this with you to tie it back into my answer to the question…

What brings you joy, especially when it comes to your God-Sized Dream?

Honestly, it’s the beauty He brings to each of my days.

Sunshine in the form of a little girl I am privileged to love and raise and spend my days with. I love her so much it brings tears to my eyes.

My husband and the way he loves me through each day, never settling and always striving for something more.

Heart friends…those near me and those so far away that heaven will be our reunion…who bless me with love and laughs, encouragement and prayer.

A new community of women who have inspired and blessed me along the journey to a dream.

Words…and the little gift He has given me in being able to use them to encourage others.

The sunshine streaming through the windows today.

A text or prayer of encouragement from a friend.

Printing off my rough draft and giving it to a friend. :)

A cup of coffee on a cold winter morning.

What I learned, and am continually learning, through my friend’s life is that there is JOY surrounding me.

It’s everywhere.

And it’s my choice…despite my circumstances, I can choose to find it in each day.

Maybe this is somewhat of a generic answer…I hope you don’t see it that way.

I hope that, whatever the dream God has rooted deeply in your heart, you’ll always find joy along the journey of realizing that dream.

I truly can’t wait for the day when my book is in print and I hold it in my hands.

Or for the day that I’ll hopefully have the chance to write for one of my favorite spaces.

But, today, I am embracing the joys God has given along the journey to those dreams.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.
Psalm 63:7 (ESV)

As we do each Tuesday, a bunch of us are linking up with Holley Gerth and sharing all God is doing when it comes to our God-Sized Dreams! We’d love to have you join us!

God-Sized Dreams

Sig

Five-Minute Friday: What Mama Did

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama for Five-Minute Friday.

Join me!

The rules: Write for five minutes. No editing, revising, overthinking, or backtracking. Just write.

Today’s Topic: What Mama Did

It’s a day I have waited for…and dreaded at the same time.

That day when I cross the line, officially, from child to adult. No, not my eighteenth birthday, but I rang that in a few weeks ago.

I’m leaving for college.

It’s time to go…time to get out of here, or more like high speed it out of here on I-35 in my awesome ’85 Olds.

And I know I don’t do goodbye well…or see ya later…or even hello, but what the future holds for me is bright. I just know it.

And I leave behind the place that started me…and the people who were the pieces of that beginning, too.

She was one of my biggest influences, my mom…and life turned out much differently than any of us had ever planned. Circumstances were unfair, the consequences of decisions affected us to the core, and when I packed my bags on that sweltering August day, we knew that I was leaving as a much different person than I had been before they ended.

Her and my daddy.

And my last two years there, it was just me and her. She was strong and did what she had to do, but the situation changed us all forever.

And now I’m me…not the same as I was, but still pieces of it.

Sometimes stumbling, faltering…and I learn again to rest in His grace and remember that there is always a brand new day coming where His new mercies abound.

Almost seventeen years later, I think about the new journey that day began.

I kiss my husband.

I love on my daughter.

I thank God for the many, many blessings He has so graciously given.

Included in those blessings, are those pieces from my beginning. My daddy. My mama.

And now, I continue on in her shoes.

And I hope that, one day, when my daughter is asked to reflect, she will write of me with thankfulness and love for all we shared.

Five Minute Friday

Sig