Our Christmas Count Down

DSC_9463ccI love the Christmas season!  The smells of cinnamon and cedar, the decorated homes so warm and inviting.  I love how the spirit of giving comes out and is evident everywhere.  It is such a beautiful time where people come together and reflect on the goodness of the season.  But there is also so much commercialism, busyness, and crazy expectations that I can get caught up in too.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to find a way to be intentional about the things that mattered most to our family.  I found that if we weren’t intentional it was easy to get caught up in being far too busy to enjoy things and spend way too much money buying things we don’t need.  I searched Pinterest for ideas and found so many great ones but nothing exactly like what I wanted, (it may be out there but I didn’t find it then!) so I created something for my family!

Before I dive into the details, I want to say this- I created this for my family and I am sharing it because it has been a blessing for us.  What works for us may not work of you, so if you read this and have any kind of guilt about what you are not doing, just stop!  I have done that to myself so many times and it is not worth it.  You loose too much feeling guilty and miss out on all the goodness that is right in front of you.  And if you read to the end, you will see we don’t do this perfectly!

When we talked about what was most important to us in the Christmas season we decided it was Jesus, family, & giving.  Each day there is something in our envelopes that reflect those things.

DSC_9413ccInside each envelope there is a piece to the Christmas story.  We read it, reflect on it and discuss what it means.  I love hearing what my kids have to say about it and reading it in sections really helps us focus on each part! I found my free printable Christmas story here.

The second part of this, is focusing on family time.  Each day we have a family fun activity.  These are things we enjoy doing together.  They range, anything from watching Christmas movies to looking at Christmas lights, minute to win it games, to decorating my Poppy’s Christmas tree for him.

And last but not least, we have an act of kindness each day.  Some of these things don’t require us leaving the house, like mailing a hug to someone or writing letters to everyone inside our home telling them what they mean to us.  These acts of kindness range in price too.  Some of the things we do are take hot drinks to people working outside, leave an extra big tip, donate blankets, and shop for the angel tree.

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When I plan our December and the count down, I look at all I know we have going on and I try to plan each days activities on that.  I know we will go out to eat after church, so I plan to leave a big tip on a Sunday.  Our church does a gingerbread house competition so I made sure that I made that our family fun activity that day.  Although when I plan it I don’t know everything that will come up so we are flexible  with it.

Our kids get so excited to open the envelope and see what we are doing that day.  They love the surprise!

We go into this knowing we will not fulfill each act of kindness and every family activity.  We set the expectations for this up front, letting the kids know that we will not be perfect in this.  Some days we end up doubling up on acts of kindness because we missed the day before and sometimes we just don’t do it at all.  The last thing I want to do is add unneeded stress to a busy season, so we do our best and don’t worry too much if we miss it.

I know that this is not for everyone but if you want to know more, feel free to ask!  This is something you can modify to meet your families needs/desires/schedules.

Let the count down begin- 24 days until CHRISTMAS!  We are excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas!

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Suicide still hurts

dadToday is an anniversary I wish I didn’t have to remember.  It has been 3 years since I walked up to my dads door, waited for him to answer, but he never did.  3 years since my sweet husband bravely walked inside to find him.  3 years since he walked outside to tell me the heartbreaking news.  “He’s gone.  He took his life.”

It is still crushing to even think about it all.  To remember the pain of the day and wonder what happened.  Suicide leaves questions that will never be answered.  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  I am someone who always looks for answers.  I want to understand everything.  But this one, no matter how much information I seek, I will never fully understand it.

Suicide leaves behind so much.  It leaves pain and what if’s for all of those left here.  It leaves grief and tears.  Sometimes it leaves anger, hurt, or frustration.  3 years later, and although I have done so much healing, there is still healing to be done.  I don’t get anxiety when I drive past the community where he lived any more.  I don’t cry about my dads death every day.  But there are days that the grief just comes out of no where.  Days where I am just sad he isn’t here.

This topic is still something that not everyone is comfortable talking about, but it is one we need to talk about.  I have learned of 2 suicides this week and even though I din’t know either person, I have mourned over them.  My heart is broken for them.  For the pain they were in.  For the hurt they felt.  For the fight they fought.  My heart hurst for the their friends and family as they wrestle with all of the emotions that come with suicide.  My prayers for them are pleas with God to hold them together as they process.

Friends, our country needs support, encouragement and love for those who are hurting.  Depression is real.  Emotional pain is real.  Lets search our hearts and find compassion to see others.  To really see them.  We are all human and we all struggle!  If your struggles don’t look like someone else’s, thank God, then ask Him to help guide you as you reach out to those in your life who you know are hurting.

Be a friend.  Ask questions.  Offer your shoulder to cry on.  Don’t judge.  Just love.

And if you need a friend, let me know.  If you are looking for community to love you through your pain, Celebrate Recovery is the most incredible place to find people who truly love and accept folks just as they are!  I would love to help connect you!

1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Call them if you need them.

Other posts on this topic:

My Truths about Suicide & Depression

When God Fulfills His Promises

My Next Adventure! {Alice’s Table}

In the spring I announced I would be letting go of my photography business after 12 years of capturing memories for my wonderful clients.  It was a choice I didn’t take lightly and it took a lot for me to let go of something I had loved so much.

I needed a break and some time to just be.  During these last few months I have realized how much I have missed having a creative outlet.  I love to create.

One day I was online looking for something and I stumbled upon a business I had never seen before- Alice’s Table.  The little blip I saw said something like “Getting women together to learn flower arranging in a fun social setting”  I was intrigued.  I started researching and quickly decided this looks like my DREAM JOB!

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If you know me, you know I love floral, entertaining, and being social!  A “job” where I would get to teach others to arrange flowers, host events, and get to hang out with new people all the time, I am in!

Over the course of a few weeks, I went from interested to excited, to becoming an Event Exec with Alice’s Table!  I am so excited to bring this fun experience to our area!

Events are held just about anywhere- restaurant, winery, brewery, boutique, coffee shop, your home or office- the possibilities are endless!  At the events I will be teaching groups of friends and acquaintances how to design beautiful bouquets. Each guest will have the chance to craft an exquisite arrangement that they take home in a stylish vase.  If you are interested in hosting a private event, please let me know!

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Details for my first public event will be coming soon!  You will not want to miss it!

Thank you to all of my friends and family for always supporting me!  I can’t wait to share Alice’s Table with you! AT_Image-6

Please don’t judge my social media feed

IMG_7960 copyHow many times have you decided everything you think about someone from their social media feed?  I am guilty.  I see how happy someone looks or how much fun they are having.  How perfect their house looks. Are they lying in their feed?  Are they really that happy?  Are things in their life really always that perfect?

I am a pretty open sharer.  I like to share my life and do it fairly often on social media.  For me personally, my social media sharing is to serve several purposes.  The first one is to share our life with family and friends that wouldn’t get to see whats going on with us other wise.  The second is as an opportunity to encourage others and share Jesus’ love.  Third is to document our days in my chatbook series. (if you don’t know what chatbooks are, look them up!  so wonderful!)   So if you look at my Instagram feed, you are going to see lots of regular, every day life pictures.  Most of what I post is happy, although I do try to be transparent about the hard stuff too.

Something that I have realized, is how often people make opinions about other peoples lives, solely on their social media.  When we only have a portion of the story it is easy to use the little bit we know to start setting expectations for ourselves.  I have done this so many times and I have even heard other people say things about me like “you have it all together, you are super mom!” When that is the furthest thing from the truth.

I have looked back at what I post.  I wanted to see if I am regularly posting things that aren’t reality.  The truth is, I don’t stage my photos (I might move something out of the frame) or my moments, but my social media certainly isn’t giving the whole story.

So here are 6 reasons you shouldn’t judge my life on my social media.

  1. I don’t share every second of my day.  You may see the sweet sleeping toddler but you sure didn’t see the fit he threw right before he fell asleep.
  2. I enjoy documenting my life in photos.  It truly makes me happy.  When I see an opportunity for a picture, I usually take it.  I don’t post them all.  I currently have 10,088 photos and 534 videos on my phone.  That is normal right?  My point is this, You don’t see it all.  At the end of the day, I hand my husband my phone and we look at the pictures from the day as I recap all we did.  I have photographed fights, fits, messes, just as much as the hugs, smiles, and snuggles.  But I reserve sharing the details.  Not posting them doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
  3. I save some of my raw emotions, deeper thoughts, and stories of trial for a more personal place.  I blog some of my crazy life experiences and stories of trials and over coming but if you really want to get to know me, lets do it in person.  I will share and open up about most things in a face to face conversation.  Social media isn’t the place to tell all.
  4. I don’t want to focus on the negative.  I have to fight the urge to only see the negative in my life so posting the good stuff helps me to remember those moments.  I don’t forget the bad, but it helps me to still see the good.  I have had someone say “looks like you had a great day” based on what I posted, but the reality is, I faced so many difficulties that I certainly didn’t stick that day in the great day category BUT I posted the good stuff, despite the bad, because I struggle to see the good when I recap my day.
  5. I have insecurities.  Some of my insecurities keep me from sharing on social media.  OR sometimes those insecurities are behind me posting.
  6. Sometimes the hard parts of my day aren’t mine to share.  There are difficulties I face that include other people and sharing that on social media would be telling someone else’s story that isn’t mine to share.

I know that this isn’t the truth for everyone’s social media but I wanted to give perspective as to how dangerous it is to form opinions solely on social media.  All of us have reasons why we post what we do, but rarely do we get the whole picture from a post. Before you form an opinion from social media, remember that the person posting is a flawed human, who makes mistakes, faces trials, endures hardships, and is probably just trying to survive life just like you!  No kid is perfect, no marriage is perfect, no life is perfect and when we see something that we feel reflects that on social media we can take comfort in knowing we aren’t seeing it all!

 

 

 

You, me, & coffee- just invite her

IMG_5226A busy mom with several children is sitting at home struggling.  She is lonely and would love more than anything to connect to others who share common interest and who are in the same season of life.  Reality is, she would love to connect with anyone.  She feels a little forgotten.  She starts evaluating herself and looking for reasons why it seems like no one reaches out to her.  She finds herself unsure why, but realizes she is feeling self conscious wishing she could figure it out.

In a house across town, another busy mom has been invited to a luncheon but has no one to go with.  She wants more than anything to put on makeup, fix her hair, wear that new dress, and have a kid free lunch with friends.  She scans the contacts in her phone.  She concludes that most everyone she knows is far too busy to go.  This friend probably can’t get a babysitter.  This one seems to have so many friends and always busy, I doubt she has time for me.  One by one she answers for them, without asking.  Before she knows it, her excitement about the luncheon has turned into sadness and she decides she won’t go because she doesn’t want to go alone.

Have you ever been either women?  In this season of Motherhood I can find myself being both women at times.  I have been the lonely mom, wishing someone would invite, call, or text me.  I have longed for meaningful relationships and wondered why I don’t have them.  I have also been the woman who didn’t even ask because I  thought they were too busy or I feared feeling rejected if they said no.

Through talking to other women, trying to figure out a solution to loneliness in Motherhood, I have heard over and over again that a lot of moms don’t invite out of fear OR they don’t invite because they assume someone is busy.  I have also heard moms saying they just feel overwhelmed by all that they have going on and truly feel too busy to reach out.

If you are the overwhelmed mom, but long for some girl pal time, here is a question for you- What would it look like to determine a set amount of time for this?  Do you feel that even with your full plate, carving out some time to hang with other moms might actually help you be less overwhelmed?  I know that taking time out of my normal crazy to drink coffee and chat with other moms it helps me feel human again!

If you are like me and often assume other moms are too busy OR fear rejection, lets ask anyway!  You never know when another mom may need the invite, just as bad as you want them to say yes!  And lets remember that a no isn’t personal.

Just invite.  Reach out.  Make new friends.  Love on old ones.  Have coffee, lunch, dinner.  Go play at the park.  Find ways to connect and don’t let things stop you.  Relationships are far too important to allow fear or busyness get in the way!

I do not have a full proof solution for the lonely mom, but I do know if we don’t ever take a chance and just invite, we will miss out on so many opportunities!

Happy Monday Friends!  I hope it is fabulous!

 

Excuse this work in progress

IMG_4780 copyIt started with a text from a friend letting me know she would be in town and wanted to grab lunch.  I glanced over at my 3 year old who is still just a week post op- tonsillectomy.  He is a little unpredictable generally, but recovery has left me not knowing moment to moment his mood.  It has been over a week since I did anything that resembled fun and lunch with adults sounded wonderful but I knew I couldn’t load up 5 kids and go.

I looked around at all the unfinished things at my house.  I have no kitchen faucet, the island is without a counter top, trim isn’t finished, light fixtures need to be installed, closets aren’t done…. The list is long.  But I really wanted this opportunity to visit.  I responded  “I can’t got out for lunch but you are welcome to come here!”  She responded with excitement to see the new place but I felt the need to disclose, “just so you know, it is a work in progress, excuse the mess and unfinished state!”

I couldn’t help but feel like that could be my life hashtag #excusethishotmessimaworkinprogress

Jesus is still working on me y’all!  I mean it!  Everyday I feel like I discover a ways I need to do better.  I can want to hide my face and run away at some of the mistakes I make.  I get embarrassed and insecure knowing I have so much to work on.  I can easily let my work in progress state keep me from things, knowing I am flawed and imperfect.

Today I made lunch for friends in my unfinished, work in progress, no where close to perfect house.  We laughed, dreamed, and enjoyed our few hours together. I could have missed out on this chance if I let the fact that we are still working on it bother me.

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The truth is, we are all a work in progress.  There isn’t one of us that will ever arrive at perfection and be able to say “I do not need to work on me any more!”  But how often do we let the work in progress state we are in keep us from things?  From my own experiences, I have found that perfection isn’t always inviting.  Sometimes it is down right intimidating.  When we allow ourselves to embrace the work in progress, knowing it won’t always be this way, we can lovingly invite others into our story, on our journey, and share our life!

Lets be brave enough to show our real, imperfect, work-in-progress lives to each other, so when Jesus makes new of what is a mess, others get to see that transformation too!  Can we all love and extend grace to one another so can be a community of brave women, sharing our journey?  Join me friends!

When God fulfills His promises

IMG_4298 copyOn October 4, 2014,  I got my kids up and ready for a soccer.  My oldest son had a game and we were headed out early to grab my dad and get to the field.  He knew we were coming, he had the schedule, and we came every week.  I had been trying to call him for 24 hours with no luck getting him and my imagination had me nervous.  It wasn’t like my dad to not answer, although it wasn’t even ringing- just going to voicemail.  My imagination said worst case….. My sound mind said his phone stopped working.  The battery had been refusing to charge off and on for months so surely that is the case.

We arrive to his apartment.  I hop out of the car to go get him. My heart is racing.  I actually feel sick as I walk to the door.  I knock.  I wait.  I try the handle and the door is unlocked.  I yell “dad……dad”  I quickly pull the door to and run to the car.  “The door is unlocked but he isn’t answering.  I can’t go in.  I just can’t.”  Joel unbuckles and assures me it is going to be ok.  I follow him as closely as I can without stepping on his heels.  I stop just outside the door and wait.  Moments seemed like years.  I won’t ever forget the look on my sweet husbands face when he had to say the words I feared.  “He’s gone, he died”

The whirlwind of emotion will never leave me, I don’t think.  I can recount the moments after he said that and remember the feeling in my heart that hurt so badly.  I remember calling to tell my sister…. my brother…. my mom.  I remember calling my friend and asking her to come get my kids.  Every single detail feels so fresh.

When I finally got home, I drug myself up the stairs and found myself on my knees in the closet, crying.  I cried out to God.  “Lord please let me wake up!  Please do not let this be part of my story.  I just don’t want suicide to be part of my story”  Broken, hurting, confused, desperate for answers, I felt peace rush over my body.  A peace that can only be explained to be the Holy Spirit.  I had to look up because I felt it so deeply that I had to make sure my surroundings were the same.  In that instant I felt God saying to me “It is ok.  You will be better equipped for what I have for you on the other side of this.  Your pain will not be wasted.  I will use this.”  I had no idea how, but I stood up confident and at peace.  Still broken, hurting, confused, and desperate for answers, but confident that the peace I felt would get me through the coming weeks, months, and years.

Today, it has been 2.5 years since my dad died.  Over the past 2.5 years I haven’t really wondered how or when God was going to use me and honestly I was ok with not knowing.  But a few weeks ago, I got an unexpected message from someone I didn’t really know.  She wanted to talk to me about the blog I wrote on suicide.  I was nervous to talk about it, mostly because I was caught off guard by it- it had been over a year since I posted the blog.   I wrote the blog out of obedience- it wasn’t fun.  Suicide is a tough subject to bring up because it makes people uncomfortable so it took God prompting me for months before I finally did it.

The weeks leading up to the phone call had been hard for me.  I had been in a place of loneliness and I had been wrestling with God- asking Him where He was and begging Him to show up for me.  I remember confessing at life group on that Sunday, that I longed for the relationship I had with God during the biggest trials of my life, He felt so present.  I wouldn’t want to be back in the trial, but wish the richness of the Holy Spirit was present now.

The conversation started by getting the awkward, I know we don’t really know each other…. out of the way.  It quickly followed by explaining she read my blog post on suicide and decided to share it.  At the time she wasn’t sure why, but just felt the need to share it.  Recently a friend of hers urgently wanted to meet her.  During their time together, her friend explained the darkness she found herself in and had decided to take her life.  But she saw the blog on Facebook and decided to read it.  After reading it, her heart changed and instead of taking her life, she went to rehab to get the help she so desperately needed.

I am listening on the other end, sobbing.  I keep hearing God’s promises in my head. I remember days before crying out “where are you?”  I remember doubting what he asked me to do years ago when I was seeking His will so intensely “share your life, open and honestly, encourage others”.  But Lord, what do I have to give?  And as I listened to my new friend talk, I heard Him saying “your story”.

Friends, God is good.  He took my brokenness, my words of pain, and he used them to help someone see a different perspective.  That is good enough, but he didn’t stop there.  He knew I needed reassurance.  He knew I needed to see His work, so he was good enough to let me see it.  His work happened, He used my pain, even if I didn’t know it, but He let me in on it.  He is good like that.

Sometimes I wonder if my story is worth telling.  I wonder if my life is worth sharing.  The truth is, everyone’s is.  Yours doesn’t look like mine.  And not everyone will share the way I do, but everyones story is worth telling.  Do not underestimate the power of your story.

I have learned that God will fulfill His promises.  He will.  But we have to be willing to let Him.  Let Him use you today- whatever that looks like for you.  For me, it means sharing and giving.  It means being vulnerable enough to let you all see the not so great parts of my life.  It means giving my life to Jesus and praying every day He uses it!

As I proofread my words I realized how much pain there is in reliving the day my dad died.  I tried to figure out a way to show God’s goodness in this story without sharing all the pain.  The truth is, I can’t.  If I take out the pain, there isn’t really a story.  Today is Good Friday.  The pain surrounding this day is unimaginable and it hurts me when I think of all the pain Jesus endured, but without Friday, there is no Sunday.  Without the pain, there is no resurrection.  Friends, Jesus paid the ultimate price so he could share Heaven with us.  Sometimes we have to share our pain with others, in order to let them see how truly good God is.  God didn’t cause my pain, but He was with me through it all and He is using the pain for good!