Confessions from a Tired, Whole30 Mama Who Needs to Tweeze Her Eyebrows

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So I typed out that title and laughed a little because it’s totally and completely 100% true. The tired part AND the Whole30 part AND the part where I tell you that I have largely ignored my eyebrows for my entire life.

But I’ll get to that later.

First we must sit down with something to drink, preferably coffee since I can still drink that on Whole30…thank you, Jesus…and talk about the tired. 😉 I kind of wish we could chat it up in real life because, let’s be honest, for most of us it’s been way too long. But since this is the best we can do today…well, let’s get to it. :)

I was telling the sweet, fellow-mama cashier at Walmart yesterday, as she rang up my…AHEM…eyebrow mascara, that there will be a day, again, when we shall sleep. I don’t know when that day is, and it may very well be in heaven, though I’d like to think there’s hope of it happening before then. Now don’t go getting all theological on me. If God is creating a place of pure and absolute joy for us, then I have to believe there will be naps. (Uninterrupted ones with fuzzy blankets and just the right amount of darkness and rain on my mansion rooftop to accompany them.)

But, enough about heaven. For now, I’m tired.

When we had Mae, I didn’t know how good we had it. She was an instant sleeper and slept through the night, EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT., from 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., at FIVE AND A HALF WEEKS.

Let’s just let that sink in.

I thought it was normal and surely a result of reading (sort of) and implementing (kind of) this book.

Easy peasy stuff.

She has continued to sleep like an absolute champ, and while there are other things we struggle with, sleep is not one of them. Bless it all and her, forever and ever, AMEN.

Mae 7 years final(Isn’t she SO grown up? I just adore this girl.) :)

And then, there’s Mac…probably, and by that I mean absolutely, the happiest kid I’ve ever seen. He’ll give a smile to anyone, and he’s full of cute words and giggles and kisses and love. But sweet little smiley boy that he is, sleep is NOT his gift.

Here are the facts: I’m over-the-moon lucky to get one good nap from him a day. And nights? He almost always maxes out by 5:00 a.m.

Oh, dear Lord, I pray as I hear him whimper each morning. Aroused from sleep and aware of my insatiable need to pee, I refuse to move even the slightest. (This is helped, not at all, by the fact that he is in the alcove attached to our room. I CANNOT WAIT for our addition to be finished and for there to be a DOOR. on. his. ROOM.)

Hallelujah and another amen. 😀

Once in a very great while, he’ll have a cup of milk and go back to sleep until 6:15 or so. But not always.

And so there have been many early mornings and a tired mama often. Always, perhaps?

I am blessed by this sweet face. He is pure joy, and it’s a good thing because I would like a nap pretty much every single moment of my entire life, currently.

Mac laughing finalAnd let’s be honest. He may be the cutest little boy ever.
(In my incredibly unbiased opinion.)
😉

The other day, I was examining the crows feet that have taken up residence in the corners of my eyes. I sort of wanted to cry as I realized that we are here, and next year my age will not begin with a three. No, no it won’t.

And while I’m planning to celebrate with a huge party of epic proportions, it’s all kind of sinking in right now.

And then there are my eyebrows, which are really close to those crows feet.

To be honest, I’ve ignored them pretty much my entire life.

Oh, I’m a makeup girl. Not a ton, but you’d better believe that there’s powder, mascara, and eyeliner involved before 8 a.m. every day. (Except Saturday.) But my eyebrows have never bugged me too much, so I just kind of left them alone.

Except now. NOW they’re changing to grayish. What on earth?!?! And I’ve been dying my hair for years because hello, genes, but eyebrows? What does one do with those?

So off to Walmart I went this week. Mac and I wandered the makeup aisles and finally found a little tube of the right color of eyebrow mascara (I. KNOW. RIGHT.) I’m probably the last person to know it existed.

And so I bought that tube, and we came home, and I tried it out, and HOLY EYEBROWS. They exist! And my daughter told me they look weird, but I’m going with the opinion of the girl who actually knows how to. use. makeup. 😉 So I think they don’t actually look too terrible, except now I can see every hair, and NOW I am going to have to tweeze them.

Yikes.

Should I wax them instead? Please send help???

And also, it would be a total injustice to my current existence to leave out the part where I also confess that it’s Whole30 time again for this girl. Friends, my jeans don’t fit. And out of all the eating plans I’ve ever done, this one helps them fit the fastest. (Even though it’s not technically a weight loss program. But let’s be honest…when you remove sugar and dairy and grains and beans and alcohol from anyone’s diet, they’re gonna lose weight.)

So, while I wait to recover my lost sleep and long for some dark chocolate and tweeze my eyebrows, you can most likely find me with a cup of black coffee and a bowl of cauliflower rice which, contrary to what everyone says, is NOT an acceptable substitute for the real thing. It tastes like…Cauliflower. Blech.

But I do like the part where I can eat bacon. So there’s that, too.

Life…it’s just a beautiful mess, isn’t it? Every day.

But then, every day, too, there are always reasons to smile. It’s September (one of my favorite months), fall is on its way…and hellloooooo to all the hoodies and boots and things that can be made pumpkin spice, even if they shouldn’t be. 😉 Why can’t we just live in September all the time?

The kiddos are growing, changing, becoming even more of who God made them to be. Hubby and I…we’re good, too. Still growing in Him and in life and in marriage. Perfect, no…but He’s not done working on us yet.

Community still continues to be a precious gift…a beautiful one that is sometimes a challenge but always a blessing. The roots for our family are being dug even deeper, and the joy that comes from anticipating a lifetime in this place is good. He’s good.

And I’m thankful that, despite horrible sleeping patterns and funky eyebrows and a bit of a pudgy belly that spills over the top of my jeans…that God meets me anyway.

He loves me despite those and in spite of me and the way I run ahead of Him often and try to do things my own way and, instead, just end up making a mess of things.

And I wasn’t really planning on ending up here today, but I did. And so I’d like to share this with you.

One of my dreams is coming true this year.

AMTB_PreOrder_Square final

I’m over-the-moon humbled and so very grateful to be included in this book as an author. :) And there’s a part of me that does an inner, WOOHOO!!! scream every time I see the cover, but honestly, letting it sink in makes my eyes well up with tears, too. The happy kind. 

It’s one that’s for people like me…the ones who want to follow Jesus and make him their all every single day, even in the middle of the mess.

You can pre-order it here, and if you do, you get that super cute mug FREE from Dayspring, too. (Ummm…yes, please!) :) I feel like you kinda can’t lose with extra time with Jesus and another cute mug to drink coffee out of. (And mine will have creamer in it in 25 days, too!)

You know what? You all bless me, just for taking the time to read the random words that spill out of my heart through my fingertips. I may not ever author a published novel or be a storyteller who goes viral, but I’m a writer, and it’s very much a piece of what defines me. I’m learning to speak that and believe it.

And so it means the world when you read my words.

Blessings, hugs…and may you go eat a piece of chocolate for me today since I can’t. 😉

Happy Friday!

Sig

Wandering Home

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I had determined that so much time would not pass before I wrote again, but six months happened anyway.

Six months of life and joy and ups and downs and all the things that come from what happens when less and less time is spent at a keyboard.

I miss it, often. Most days, really.

But I also see the gift in giving myself the freedom to breathe away from screens and, instead, sit on the floor and play with bristle blocks. I didn’t even know they existed until my little boy came along.

Somewhere in the last six months…

…we went from first to second grade.

…we went from seven months to thirteen, six to seven, 38 to 39, and someone, who shall remain unnamed, found his 40’s. 😉

…we went from fourteen years married to a milestone. 15.

…we laughed and cried, fought and rebuilt, hurt but chose love.

…we built a thousand plus more memories.

…we turned a two bedroom to a working-on-becoming-three-with-an-extra-family-room thrown in there. Hello, awesome construction and MORE space. 😀

And so much more. (Including miserably failing at anything related to writing.) 😉

I’ve never been the type to stick my roots down. I think insecurity and painful childhood memories have a lot to do with that. When I actually did fall under the title of nomad, I reveled in it. The freedom to go and see and do…

And leave.

Yet, here we are, and the house at #127 has the deepest roots we’ve found so far. I’m not sure they’ll ever really be yanked up, and that’s oh-so-good.

And hard. Some days, really hard.

The July day we broke ground was the day my Indonesia heart broke a little, too. No one knew because I masked it with a big smile, but I knew that, most likely, an Indonesia life wasn’t in the plans for us anymore. My heart has always longed to return, somehow. Short-term, probably, but long enough to love again. But God has to move in all hearts, not just the emotional one.

And so, above dragging my family across the world and tearing us from a place we all love, I choose to honor God’s calling for us in this season. I press into the relationships and hang on to those that need a little extra hanging-on-to. They’re precious, and friends like this don’t walk into my life every day. I cover our lives in prayer because we always need it, but I think we all need it a little more right now. If that even makes sense.

I choose to invest, even on the days when it hurts; I smile when I sing a praise song because even though the act of praising is sometimes bittersweet, the God I’m singing to is unchanging. Always the same.

And we breathe silently and deeply, the kind of breath that catches in our throats because another year has passed…and we walk our girl to her second grade classroom, where she flits off and gets ready to fly just a little more. And tears pool in the corners of our eyes as we watch it all. But then the stories of recess and art-creating, of singing songs and learning math spill out of her at the pick-up line, and I know to the depths what a blessing this all is.

But my wandering heart is still learning to stay anchored to the One Who holds me.

And so I stumble out of bed every single morning, a bit earlier than I’d like thanks to the baby boy who enjoys those early hours. I sip a little extra coffee, find some time and space for my Father and what He has for me that day, and then she rises so we can really start the day. It’s routine…it’s our becoming.

The kind of becoming that teaches us, again, that no matter where we go, He is always with us. But the part of that verse I never see there, and maybe He just meant to imply it because we should already know it, is that wherever we stay, He’s there, too.

I’m finding myself again slowly, in the most close-to-Jesus way possible. I know he’s my everything, and so I lack nothing.

But sometimes I still wander.

Away from my blog, away from what I should be doing, and even, at times, away from Him.

I’m so, so grateful He doesn’t wander from me.

There’s a lot of life not shared here anymore…and I miss that part. I was half-joking, kind-of bragging to friends the other night that when it comes to words, I’ve still got it. 😉 But the truth is that sometimes He asks silence from us so He can quiet us and teach us more than we’d learn if we were making noise all the time.

So that’s our season. For now.

Seasons definitely change, and I don’t know what the next one will look like. But I do know Who tells every leaf where to fall.

And so I’ll wander a little bit more, looking for His next plan…but I’ll always wander back to Him.

I’ll always wander back to Him, because in the end, He’s Home.

Sig

Stepping Back

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I was so close to quitting it all. SO close.

Sometimes life has a funny way of telling us that’s the best thing, right?

Things were getting overwhelming and I felt, often, that I struggled to even keep my head above water. Between being a wife and a mama and now a NEW mama, six years later, who was re-entering the infant stage…let’s just say it was all becoming too much.

My house looked like a tornado had ripped through it, the dishes continually piled up, I couldn’t remember to actually finish a load of laundry in one day, and let’s not even talk about how many times I didn’t cook dinner…

AND? I was doing good to keep the kids (yes, kidS…plural now) fed and alive.

That’s how life felt two months ago when I messaged my dear friend, Alecia, and told her I needed a break from God-sized Dreams.

I was taking that oh-SO-much-needed break…but in the back of my mind, I wondered if it was a step toward being done with the site, too.

Between an extremely difficult pregnancy and, now, a brand-new baby boy…and trying to give everything I could to my family and life here, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer to other dreamers.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a little about life lately and where I am now. I hope you’ll join me here:)

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Sig

About a Year…and What’s to Come

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Ha ha…I’m getting pretty good at writing on the last day of the month and no other days. I guess that’s just life right now.

I’m honestly still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2015 is hours from ending, and I’m not exactly sure where it went. (I’m also wondering if this blog post is actually going to make it…it’s 11:45 and I still haven’t posted.) 😉

I mean…there were milestones. There were lots of things that happened. Lots of good. Some bad. Probably a few things I’ve blocked from my memory, too, and that’s ok.

There were sweet family moments and vacations…hello great, BIG, I-love-you, New York City! There were friend moments and lots of coffee and chats at a picnic table I actually built. I know. 😉 There were laughs and giggles with my girl as we rang in the big FIVE (really? how did this happen???) and so many memories that I can’t even really begin to count them all. Oh, and I ran a ridiculously long race that I will probably never do again. And I got a tattoo.

And there were challenging moments, too…days of marriage that required surrender and forgiveness and humility. Times we wished for different circumstances. Sickness and disease in people we love…and those brought us to our knees and forced us to give thanks both in the healing and in the dying.

Whew. There was a lot.

But despite all of that, I’ll look back at this year as a good one. Read on. :)

NYC family final

So a year ago, I chose a word.

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Open.

I was determined to be open to whatever it was that God had for us, especially me, in 2015.

I thought I knew what that was, and it included adoption.

So I was open…but with a plan for those doors that would open.

And then…it just didn’t happen. We had some good conversations and prayed, and it didn’t seem that, in this season, adoption was right for our family.

I was content with that and content to move forward as a family of three.

God was definitely working on me when it came to being satisfied with what He gives.

And so, instead of grief, we embraced the milestones. The first day of Kindergarten and her first time wearing a school uniform. (Cue the cuteness.) The first lost tooth, followed by another. The fact that Mae seemed to grow inches overnight and we had to keep buying new clothes. Her first season of soccer. Her first Christmas service.

Oy…I could keep going forever. So many firsts. Wonderful ones.

And we embraced them, knowing that most likely, those firsts would be onlys and lasts, too.

In October I flew out to New Jersey/New York to see some friends. During my time there, I had a pretty intense conversation with a friend where I told her, We’re done. And I’m ok with it.

And I was.

And then there was this morning in November. I’d wondered for a couple weeks before because I felt off. On a whim, I peed on a stick.

Yep. God has a sense of humor…and a plan so far greater than anything I could ever plan for myself.

2016 is going to bring a lot of things…included in it, a new baby in July.

I’d still be trying to wrap my mind around it all except I’ve been so dang sick that I am obviously pregnant (well, and we’ve gotten a heartbeat…), and at 10 weeks, have already just about exhausted all of the medication possibilities available to me. One has kinda worked, so we’re going with it for now. And, in between, I sleep and try to survive (and, yes, puke) a lot.

Not how I would have pictured it, but I tell myself continually to give thanks.

God is good, even when we don’t see it.

And I know without a doubt that this is good, too.

I’m not choosing a word for 2016.

I never really thought of one or felt like there was something specific God was putting on my heart. I suppose I could choose baby 😉 but I think I’m just going to go with taking the year as it comes and waiting on Him each day for what He has for my heart.

He’s continually making things new, and that’s a pretty awesome promise to cling to.

My family…we’d appreciate your prayers. While this is the second time I’ve gone through this…it’s tougher this time around. I’ve been sicker, and I’ve also got an active five year-old to keep up with, too.

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By the way, she’s completely over the moon and can’t wait to change all the diapers.

Golly, I love her. :)

So I’m not sure what all we’re looking at this coming year. Lots of changes, definitely. 😉 I’d like to keep up with the blog. I’d like to keep writing for the two sites I contribute to. I hope that will happen and that this online space won’t completely die off, too. Because I love it…and it’s special.

But no matter how often…or not…I check in, I think I’ll be around. There will be too many fun things I’ll want to share with y’all.

So here’s to a great year…and to 2016!

Happy New Year, friends. XO

Sig

When Your Days Don’t Look Like Dreaming

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This is the morning, I tell myself, as I pour the coffee and head out to the picnic table.

It’s the morning I’m going to sit down and write those words, the ones that will be so profound, the ones that will inspire dreamers and push them to chase down whatever it is that’s burning in their hearts.

A smile creeps to my face as I take a seat at my little, yellow-and-turquoise-with-a-flower, table and begin to pound out the words.

And I’m not too far into it all before I feel the honest need to confess something.

I’m a writer at God-sized Dreams, and sometimes I feel like a big fake.

The truth? Is that, lately, I haven’t been doing much, if any, dreaming. Or writing.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a little honesty. 😉 My dreams have definitely changed in the last years…and I’m learning to embrace that. Join me?

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Sig

Just Life on a Friday

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I know myself well enough to realize that when the blog has been quiet for too long, I just need to write.

Something.

Anything.

Well, not exactly anything…but at least sentences that tell a story or two.

The truth is that the last few weeks have been full of writing for myself…but not for anyone else. I think I intended to share more than I actually did (which would be No.Thing.) but life just got in the way, I guess.

But words felt necessary today…and so here are some. They’re random, but it’s been a random week, so I’m just gonna roll with it.

😉

My girl finished PK this week, and I honestly have no idea what to even do with it all.

I cried because who doesn’t cry when their sweet kiddo reaches a milestone? Plus, Kindergarten? How is she old enough for this???

And then the two of us went out for frappuccino minis, which really translated to I-needed-to-go-to-Target-for-shampoo; how-convenient-that-Starbucks-is-here-too. That kind of thing, you know?

And we smiled and laughed as we walked through the store, and I thought about how awesome it is to have such an amazing little girl to share my days with. (I just wish those days didn’t fly by quite so quickly.)

A few days ago, it was a gorgeous, sunny day. It was also 46 degrees, according to my iPhone. I didn’t really believe my phone because Mae and I were both outside in tank tops and we weren’t cold AT ALL. And also, my shoulders turned a shade of red that I don’t usually see until that day mid-July when I forget to reapply the sunblock.

Yeah, I got fried in May. IN. MAY.

And also I’m pretty sure the weather app was broken because No. One. Burns. In. 46. Degree. Weather. (Just let me be right here, ok?) 😉

I am more than ready for warm weather to make an appearance for longer than a few days at a time.

And if that randomness doesn’t scare you off… 😉

I spent three days eating red meat for every meal this week. (As in, to the point that it was becoming gross.) Before you start thinking that I have weird eating habits, let’s just say I wanted, in the worst way, to get my iron levels up so I could donate blood. Because, yeah, they stink, no matter how much steak I eat. You know it’s bad when I walk into the room and tell them to do the finger prick part before I sit through all the paperwork.

And also, I failed again. (My husband asked me if I was ready to give up yet. Never.)

And after my last few end-of-the-month blog posts…you know, the ones when I share all my favorites? Yeah, I decided I needed to read more books. So I’ve been reading a lot.

I laughed my way through Sophie Hudson’s A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. I cracked open A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the second time…I didn’t finish it the first, and I’m actually almost done with it. And then a few days ago, I finally opened Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, and an hour later I looked up, and I was almost on page 100.

So I think it’s safe to say I’m doing just fine in the reading books department. And also, yay for expanding my reading horizons. I feel proud of myself. :)

And I’m also really looking forward to summer with my girl. 

We’ve got a whole summer, friends! It’s been fun to hear her talk about the things she wants to do. Parks, picnics, play dates, swimming, froyo, birthday celebrations…she’s an easy (and fun!) kid to please.

She’s not asking for the moon, though if she did, I’d probably try to find a way. 😉

So I’m praying that God will give us an extra wonderful few months together…and also that He’ll redeem last summer.

It feels like we’ve lived a lifetime since last July. And, maybe in some ways, we have.

We’ve seen loss and walked grief. We’ve found joy on the other side of it…and days that still hurt and pinch in painful ways.

I suppose it might be how this life looks from here on out.

We’ve found ways to surrender dreams and keep walking with Him. And Trust.

That’s been the hardest part of it.

But in the midst, there’s been so much good. And He has been good.

The other day my girl was picking “all the pretty yellow flowers” in our yard, giving them to me one by one. And I thought about how God has been so good about giving us those pieces of tangible beauty despite the pain of the journey…a verse, a text, a prayer, a flower, a surprise coffee from a friend, sweet time with my hubby and girl, friends who have loved us so well.

We’re really blessed…even if there are days when it’s hard to see purpose.

And I hope this Friday morning finds you counting your blessings, too. Thanks for being here, even when I take huge, bloggy vacations. 😉

Sig

April Friday Favorites {+ a GIVEAWAY!)

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Well, given that I’ve barely written a single word this month, I figured I’d better get my word quota finished in one post.

Sorry about that…this one’s pushing has long passed 1,500. (But I think it’s worth reading, just for the giveaway at the end!) 😉

Some months are like that…and, honestly, there’s been a lot of processing going on…just not a lot of sharing the words. I’m finally good with that, I think.

But I really love this end-of-the-month post…the chance to update and just share my faves with y’all. And there were a ton this month because, between Easter (helllooooooo, cute dresses!) and a crazy-busy, FUN week of vacation for the three of us, there are just lots of stories to share.

So let’s get to it?

OH. And I’m throwing in another category…EAT. Because…NYC and Philly. 😉

I’ve also got a few fun things to share and a giveaway and the end of this post. Because one cannot travel and discover so many awesome things and NOT share them with the rest of the world, or at least her ten readers, ya know?

I know! (And also, I just love presents.) :)

I bring you the April faves…there are some goodies!!!

Read

So I finished The Hardest Peace. There were a lot of tissues involved…it was one of those books. Heart-wrenching, painful mixed with absolutely beautiful. I recommend it. Read it.

This, too…a friend shared it with me last week, and it’s spot on. Plus, I had a conversation with another friend before she even sent it to me that was basically the same thing. Will you pray for me, friends?

Right now…I’m a mama. And I want to love it completely without wishing for more. My more will come someday.

Also…I’m dying to read the latest Shopaholic book. Just because I haven’t read it yet, and she is stinkin’ FUN. NY.

Watch

My hubby and I have been sorta-kinda-addicted to Flip or Flop on HGTV. Seriously…I have no idea why watching a couple buy houses in absolutely disgusting shape and transform them into stunning beauties is so enthralling, but it is. (Psst…Netflix has the first season available for streaming.) I mostly-seriously said to my husband earlier this week, I think you should quit your job and we could flip houses! Wouldn’t it be fun?!

He didn’t go for it.

Ahem.

Also, with the loss of my childhood TV crush last week, Jonathan Crombie (aka: Gilbert Blythe), Anne of Green Gables has been on my TV a lot this week while I’ve drowned my sorrows in red currant wine. (Ok, not really. But someone tweeted that, and I thought it was insanely clever.) 😉 I totally bought the DVD trilogy back when…I don’t even know. When it first came out on DVD. Gotta admit that I’m a little devastated. I loved him. I think we all did. :( Rest in peace, Gil.

jonathancrombiephoto credit: IMDB

Wear

I’m still rockin’ the earrings. (At least I think I’m rockin’ em.) Golly, where have I BEEN? Now my ears feel naked without them. I’m loving this pair from Work of Worth, an awesome fair trade company. They’re huge, and these Might. Actually. Take. Over. My. Head.

But I don’t care because they’re so cute. (And I also realized that you can’t see them too well here, but it’s late and I’m lazy. But I did manage to take this in my kitchen. Really, Mel?! OY.) :)

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And, this dress. So, funny story. I ordered it from Maurices a week before Easter, which is a lot in the ordering-online-from-Maurices, world. (They are usually up there with Amazon Prime in terms of shipping. Yep.) But it didn’t even ship by Thursday night, even though I’d ordered it Sunday. And so I dashed…dashed…out of the Maundy Thursday service and sped (just a little) my bum over to the closest Maurices, skidding in the door ten minutes before they closed.

Aaaahhhh…breathe. They had it in stock. In my size. And, I LOVE it. It’s my new favorite dress. Maybe forever. :) Also, if you want one, you should buy it pretty fast because it’s selling out quick. I’m a 6ish, sometimes size 8, and I bought a medium. It was perfect.

Here we are on Easter. We’re cute, I know. And also, these two are my favorite favorites. :)

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Eat

Ok. I’m a world traveler, and I love…LOVE…seeing new places. But my husband and I have confessed, many times, that while we’ve seen the world, we haven’t exactly seen our own country.

And so we added a couple new places two weeks ago…and the whole vacation deserves its own post, which it’s going to get…but I couldn’t not mention how much I now love the East Coast. Philly was fun, the bit of it we saw, and the friends we saw it with were even better. My introduction to the city happened at Reading Terminal Market in the form of this donut.

And, really, there’s a REASON there’s already a bite out of it. Warm, gooey, cream filled, salted caramel-ly…it was beyond delicious.

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Go ahead. I’ll wait while you clean the drool off of your keyboard.
😉

That was the best donut ever. I’m still thinking about it. Often. (The coffee there was pretty awesome, too.)

And when we decided to do NYC for a day, I knew I couldn’t go there without getting a bagel with lox. Dude, I’ve read about these forever, and I had to try one. Had To.

And so when we stopped in a little deli for lunch, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. $3 for a bagel and cream cheese…and I added some smoked salmon. Never even LOOKED at the price.

I figured I’d get a slice or two of salmon, eat my bagel like a real New Yorker, say yum, and call it good. Bucket list, check.

Nope. Tobin comes over to the table with our food. Um, Mel? I’m not even going to tell you how much that bagel cost.

Huh? It’s a bagel with cream cheese AND. SOME. FISH.

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Nope. Apparently, adding TEN INCHES OF SALMON to my bagel shot the price up FOURTEEN DOLLARS! Dude, we’re not poor, but really?! And so, the saga of Mel’s $17 bagel began. (And ended rather quickly because there’s no way I could eat all of that. Or even half.)

It was good. Not the best thing ever, but it was good. And if it happens again, I will specify…how about $2 worth of salmon instead of $14? 😉

But there was plenty about New York food to love, and the roasted cashews at Battery Park were a favorite, too. But I’ll get to that all next week. Aaahhh, New York, you now hold a piece of my heart forever. And, also, I need to come back for your pizza. I ran out of stomach space for that one.

But I’ll be back in October, and I can’t wait!!! (More on that one later.) :) :) :)

Listen

God gave me a gift while we were in Pennsylvania…the chance to attend Winsome, a retreat that is the God-sized Dream of a dear sister, Kim. It was a God-thing that the timing and location worked out, and being there was such an amazing gift. I got to reconnect with dear friends, share heart chats and LOTS of coffee, go deeper with friends I didn’t know as well, worship with my hands raised, listen to Truth from women who are doing such incredible work for God…

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The tears are running down my face right now because I just want to go back and do it all again.

One of the moments that weekend that meant so much was when a friend just asked, How ARE you? And she listened while I went on and on. 😉 And she had no idea how much I needed that. And now I miss her like crazy, too.

I also need to write more about the weekend.

So clearly, I have a lot of writing to do. Someone please make me do it? 😉

And how ’bout a giveaway? Golly, I love to give presents. :)

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Last week, I was exploring a little town in Iowa when Mae and I made a quick visit there to see some family, and I wandered into a little store, The Silver Spider. I fell in love with pretty much everything there, and it’s a miracle that I walked out without more treats. But I did discover Blue Q bags, and am now carrying a messenger one that I adore. (I also have the bicycle print one on my please-buy-me-this-for-my-birthday, list. Just fyi in case that’s important information for any of you.) 😉

But because I loved the bags so much, I bought this zipper pouch for one of you to win! Because, hello. Bicycles = SO. CUTE. and this pouch is awesome. It would work for makeup or a Kindle or your chocolate stash. (An iPad mini fits in there, too, if that gives you an idea of the size.)

And I’m completely on an earring kick lately, in case you haven’t noticed. 😉 These are from ViBella, one of my favorite fair trade organizations, and I think they’re adorable…as is pretty much ever piece of jewelry on their site. I hope you’ll give their facebook page a like and then hop over to the site to do a little shopping! Seriously…there are some gorgeous pieces there, and your money is going to provide jobs and education for people in need. Win-win. :)

And because it’s spring (YAY!!!!!!!) and that really deserved more exclamation points, but I’m trying to show some restraint, and because Dunkin’ has their any-size, 99 cent iced coffee between 3-6 pm back…a $5 gift card, which will cover your caffeine fix for a week. (Grammar people, please don’t pick apart that last sentence.) 😉

I’m throwing caution to the wind and using Rafflecopter for this one. (Rafflecopter and I have a love/hate relationship.) Click the link below and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck! And I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning.

I’ve missed you all. A lot. Thanks for being here. :)

The happiest of weekends to you. May you find some sunshine and a quiet spot to enjoy it all. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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When Doodling Brings You Closer to God {and a GIVEAWAY!!!}

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This is a hard thing to admit, but I struggle opening my Bible some days.

Many of the days.

It’s been a struggle for years, and I attribute-without-blaming it to the fact that I attended a Bible college for five years, where the Bible inadvertently became more of a textbook than a gift.

I’ll never forget the first week of my freshman year…the one when we were required to read the entire book of Genesis. I caught myself audibly grumbling as I stayed up well past midnight to finish the required reading. While I’d never been super-crazy-Bible-reading woman, I was pretty good about reading my Bible…and I sure wasn’t enjoying any of this.

Plus, it was a total “On Your Honor” system…did I read it? Yes or No. Circle one.

Oh, goodness, there were days when I was tempted to fudge…but who lies at a Bible college?

And so I squandered sleep and fun and many other things in order to tell the truth about my Bible reading.

And while the whole required reading thing isn’t what this post is about, I know it’s a lot of the reason why I still don’t always view reading the Bible as an enjoyable activity.

It’s just that I don’t always crave God’s Word like I should.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing about a surprising way I’ve learned to enjoy reading the Bible again. Will you join me there?

And, P.S. There’s also a giveaway you won’t want to miss!

😉

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On Coming Out of Hiding… {and a GIVEAWAY}

fair trade friday final(Ok, so I wrote this yesterday. Words are still good a day later, right?) 😉

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the urge to just sit down and write.

Write with no plan, no agenda, no pressure of publishing something.

It feels really good.

I think part of it is that we’re hunkered down on a below-zero day with no school (I think this is day FIVE in 2015?) and there’s not a lot to do. We’ve built a fort and played games and it’s already the incredibly late hour of 8:30 in the morning. I finally talked my girl into finishing her breakfast inside the fort while watching a movie. (Don’t judge.)

And, in a strange way, I feel like I’m coming home when I sit down at the keyboard and tap out thoughts. I’m not sure where we’re going with all of it exactly, but I’m good with that. Sometimes coffee and a few free moments is all I need to just…be.

The truth is that I’ve hidden myself somewhat in the last month or so. I’ve made it to the blog on Mondays long enough to dash off a few thoughts and copy/paste a chapter of my Indonesia story. By the way, thank you for reading. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart. It brings tears to my eyes when someone tells me they’re enjoying my words. This process has given me a whole new kind of respect and admiration for authors who hand chunks of their heart on paper over to people to critique. Scary.

So it’s been easy, in this season, to hide and pretend a lot of things. So many of my dear friends know me more through computer screens than they do in real life…and so I can easily share what I want to and leave the rest buried somewhere, probably under a pile in my messy house. (Why is it that with a four year-old, my house is never clean?)

😉

I don’t necessarily want to hide…I just want to figure out when it’s ok to share and when it’s not. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last year. Pretty sure I’m still in the figuring-out mode.

But, in no particular order…a few things. An update. And maybe a giveaway because I love you all…just for being here and reading my really, really random ramblings. 😉

Maelie is growing up so fast. People warned me, and I always knew it in the back of my mind. But, seriously. I’ve got an almost-five year old on my hands, and it’s wonderful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Seeing her become the person God intended is awesome…and knowing that the years are flying makes me cry. Right now, we’re just trying to soak up the sweet moments and beauty in the normal days. She’s wonderful. Well, most of the time. Let’s not forget that she IS four. 😉

Our hearts are finding a new normal. Not gonna lie, it’s been a rough year…yearish. Whatever. I’m not even sure what constitutes a year anymore. Our house is just a lot quieter now. It’s amazing the change and silence that two dogs to one brought. Oh, we miss our Andre boy and the way he loved winter and snow…and life. His doggie dish still sits in its place in the corner, and I sometimes wonder if it’s time to put it away. But it hasn’t been that time yet, and so we just leave it and smile at the memories when we see it. The tears are fewer now, and while that hurts, it’s right. He wouldn’t want us to cry forever.

And along with loss, her due date is coming up. Too soon, and it’s always on my mind. I find myself wishing for a hugely swollen belly and the hope that would have been here so soon. It’s hard when there are so many reminders of what would have been…and instead we still try to wrap our minds around what won’t ever be, at least here on earth. It’s a tough season and the tears really aren’t fewer right now. Not when it comes to the little one we ache for so much.

And yet there’s still joy…truthfully, it’s been tough to believe that God is good this year. It feels like His goodness has been wrapped in pain and we’re struggling to see purpose. The one thing we do still see is the little joys He brings…through a silly-sweet girl, a doggie cuddle, words from a friend, a moment that brings a smile. We’ve had to be intentional about finding joy…and maybe He wanted that for us.

Our family is doing ok. Even better than that, most days. Sometimes I think Tobin and I are at a better place than we’ve ever been…and I have to be careful saying that because I know we will always…every single day…have to work at this thing called marriage. It’s not easy, and neither is this journey of parenting. But it’s a tough kind of wonderful, and though life doesn’t look at all like we’d dreamed, we’re finding some pretty incredible beauty in what God has given.

Finding the gifts in today…that’s what we’re trying to do.

And I just feel like giving away a gift. Because I’m Mel, because it’s what I do, and because this is really, really beautiful. (I’m not sure why I’m not keeping it for myself, but I’m not.)

About a month ago, I ordered a box from Fair Trade Friday. I ordered the trial box (just a one-time), which you can find here…and then I loved it so much that I signed up for the monthly subscription (which is even cheaper with free shipping!), so you can bet that there will be more goodies on their way to me! For $35 + shipping, I got a bag of fun surprises. (Picture at the top of this post.) :)

The yellow and white key fob, I gave away to my dear friend. :) The little bracelet I kept for myself. The necklace…I have to confess, it was a little funky for me (which is surprising because I breathe funky) but I adore the beads and the colors, so I’m restringing it so I can wear it and be reminded of some amazing women around the world and how God is reshaping their lives and teaching them that they have value.

And the last thing? This gorgeous, gray hat with a flower…seriously, I adore it. But since I crochet, I also have A. LOT. OF. HATS. And so I’m going to give the hat away, along with a $10 Starbucks card, because it’s cold right now, and all I can think of is being warm and drinking coffee.

fair trade friday hat final
To enter…leave me a comment. Tell me something that brings you joy. I’ll pick a winner on Monday and email you. And that will be that…cute hat and a gift card on its way to you. (U.S. residents only, please.)

I hope this mass of words finds you all well…sending virtual hugs. Thanks for being here. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

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Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

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