Approaching Advent

Advent: Time of Expectant Waiting and Preparation for the celebration of the Christ child.

As we move into the holiday season, polishing off the last of the turkey and sweet potatoes and start pulling out the storage bins of Christmas decor, I hope we can slow down.

I’ve been busy lately.  Not just on my calendar but in my brain.  Moving 100 miles an hour or more.  Lots of exciting projects at work & at church, a new job for the Beau, a sick toddler who is now on the mend and in the into-everything-not-listening-doesn’t-know-the-meaning-of-no phase.  Oh yeah, and the holidays.

I’ve been thinking and swirling on this for the past week prompted by a friend who posed the question on Facebook about thoughts on Cell Phones.

As I processed my response and wrote back (95% sure from my iPhone), this idea of waiting and preparing came to mind.

Cell phone useage is something I’m constantly trying to improve upon. Not using it when in the presence of another person is my goal but so much easier said than done.
I struggled this year teaching and telling my students not to use it when I was updating attendance and following along with my powerpoints on my phone as I walked around the room.
It’s all about time and place and function. Too often all are abused. (Preaching to the choir here!)

I also think it’s easy when someone brings out their phone to do the same. We’ve lost the art of sitting in the silence. Thinking. Being still. We don’t ALWAYS have to know the latest or what is going on in the lives of others. There’s something to just being single minded and paying attention FULLY to what’s going on right in front of your eyes in your own life. ~My thoughts on cell phones.

How many of us are comfortable with silence? We constantly have TV or music or both going. So when we are really waiting and preparing for something big–say, the coming of the Christ-child–would we really be glued to our phones? Modern society has changed this for sure, but for those of you who have had babies–particularly speaking to the support person–did you have your phone in your hand or were you focused on supporting your wife, daughter, BFF as she labored to bring a child earthside? We don’t want to miss those big moments, but yet every moment we are given on this earth is big and we’re choosing to miss them because we’re more entranced with what’s going on on the other side of that phone.

I know that connections to other humans are important and loneliness can be paralyzing and oh so isolating. I totally get it. Our phones can give so much rich connection, but not at the expense of paying attention to what’s right in front of us–or inside us.  We must be attentive to caring for our souls, connecting with our creator and making space for that silence which can be enlightening (and also terrifying).

As I mentioned, in sharing about my recent car accident that totaled our second vehicle in just as many years, we live distracted lives. Minds buzzing with all those things mentioned above. And now that we’re approaching the holidays, the list continues.  Literally in the past hour, I’ve looked at our calendar and the already scheduled things and then added a post-it to our white board of the “bucket list” things that I hope will happen–Visiting Santa, seeing the lights at the Zoo, our family Christmas date, Christmas shopping for the less fortunate….

But instead of being overwhelmed or look at what might not get checked off the list, I’m going to joyfully add things to our calendar with gratitude–even if it’s just one or two of those things.

I’m not going to be glued to my phone looking at everyone’s gorgeous holiday pics knowing ours have been pushed back a few times due to scheduling conflicts and sick babies.

I’m not going to compare someone else’s decor or meal or girls night out.  JOMO, right?

I’m not going to watch the holiday season pass by by staring at my phone when we are celebrating the arrival and birth of Jesus.

So, how am I gonna do this?

  1. Accountability–sharing these goals with you, my lovely friends whom I hope will join me, or at least call me out if you see me with my nose in my phone.
  2. Purchasing this-going to dock my phone once I come home.  Turn the ringer on (it’s constantly off) and respond to the urgent. Because when the ringer is off, I’m more apt to check it to see what I missed that I didn’t hear a notification for.
  3. Go to bed early. I’ve been feeling ick for a while and I know lots of it has to do with lack of sleep.  I constantly feel like there’s more to be done.  Guess what? There always will be. I get to choose however if I want to take care of me or have an empty sink and clean dishes.  I need to choose me.
  4. Using one of these wall-papers (NSFYM)- Enough said (scroll down to the second set of wallpapers)
  5. Doing more things where I can’t have my phone in hand. Meet up with a friend for coffee and talk to rather than stare at my phone. Be present with June.  Play. Run around the house. Clean. Cook. Do the dishes. Not watch TV. Schedule Zoom catch up with friends. Read a book. Decorate. Work on Holiday cards and gifts.

Advent begins in a week.  I’m desperately wanting a slow December. My body and soul and mind and spirit need it. I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse–it feels that way even writing these days–but this is just where I am and I know I’m not the only one. Think about joining me. Let me know if you wanna meet up for coffee–in real life or virtually. December is busy, sure, but my home is always open for a cup of tea under the twinkle lights….

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Working Mama Diaries: Soul-Care

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I by no means have all the answers in my 19 months of motherhood.  But what I do have is my experience of 19 months of motherhood. I’m not here to compare, raise up or put down any type of mama–let’s be honest–we are ALL rockstars doin’ our thang.  But what I know is being a mama who works outside the home 40 hours a week with a commute. And a partner who works outside the home.  Stepping back into reality after my Family Leave experience was shell shocking. 6 weeks of NICU life. 2 weeks of going back to work and trotting to the NICU three times a day to see June, pump, change diapers and then back to answer emails and hopefully I remembered how to do my job. 6 weeks being home with June.  Then back to work full time!

I’m not here to discuss the difference in leave policies or benefits, although that’s a subject I’m quite passionate about. What I want to share is what I did to take care of myself.  And still do to take care of myself as a working mama.

  1. Figure out what my options were.  When I realized that I was only going to have 6 weeks with June once she came home rather than the 12 I had expected, my brain and fingers got to working.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have the option for Reduced Seasonal Hours in the summers.  That meant I went back to work 4 days a week for the first three months.  That was a huge blessing with all the doctor’s appts and follow-ups JP had. We could easily schedule everything for Mondays and I could adjust to being back to work with a three day weekend every week. If you’re in a rough season–see what options you have! Maybe it’s not going back after a baby but just going through a different season of parenting. Or mental health.
  2. Take care of my body. Yes, I had follow ups with my OB, but I also followed up with my primary care doc who was amazing.  We shed tears together, she’s given hugs on almost every visit and helped remind me that I have to take care of me physically to be the best mama, wife, employee, friend and human.
  3. Not feel guilty taking care of my body. That meant more than the doctor’s office. It meant continuing my regular chiropractic care and implementing monthly massages. Does it take us looking intentionally at our budget and prioritizing certain things? Absolutely! But I also know that I’m helping out my massage therapist friend by giving her some extra income.
  4. Taking medication. Not for everyone, but I have increased anxiety since our car accident and am on a low-dose anxiety medication. I wanted to think that I could be okay without meds. Eat well. Take vitamins. Get sunshine. Use essential oils.  And while all those things help immensely, so does my medication.
  5. Is there anything that could be outsourced? Lawncare. Done. Check. Honestly, this was more in the beau’s wheelhouse, but once he started working nights we had to figure something out and it’s been a lifesaver and helping someone else in their business. Win-win. I’m trying to figure out if there are other things that might be outsourced that could help us and help my anxiety.
  6. Seeing a therapist. Another huge benefit through my employer is work-life counseling sessions.  Each employee is given 5 per calendar year and I use mine up! I’m grateful to have a third party to share my journey with, to share perspective and share tissues.
  7. Schedule regular family days, date nights and girls nights.  Now when I say “regular” I just mean, be intentional, not necessarily every week or two weeks.   Surprise, surprise coming from me, right? I just make a list of the people I want to see/invest in, things we want to do each month as a family and any fun event that we want to do as a couple. Having some things and people’s names written down helps me not go three months without seeing folks.  Sometimes it’s a phone call to a mentor out of state, or a google hangout with a long-time friend or coffee or a target run with a soul friend. Regardless, it’s time that fills my heart and up.
  8. Spend time outdoors and disconnected. There’s something magical about the fresh air, smell of the leaves, grass and water. We’ve been so fortunate to go to Couples Camp last spring and this fall to get away from the noise of life, leaving our cell phones, watches and all reality in our cars, hiking in and building our marriages and our relationship with God. The reminder that Nothing Worth Doing is Easy is a constant and great for us to prioritize our marriage but also incredible just to be disconnected and have some space in my head.
  9. Water my own grass.  Remember this is a season where I’m going to be home more and that’s where I’m meant to be.
  10. Give myself grace. Again, and again, and again. Dishes will pile up. The house will be a mess. Hosting friends for dinner will mean picking something up and putting it on fancy plates.  It’s okay.  You’ve kept yourself and another human alive.  Kudos.

I’ve heard three different sources and podcasts this week alone discuss self-care. Many of them mentioned some of what I experienced.  Others mentioned yoga, baths and reading. It’s a buzz word these days.  For me, self-care is actually soul care. I love Emily P. Freeman’s tag line –“creating space for your soul to breathe.” That’s what I crave these days. And I hope by taking care of my own soul and it’s ability to take some deep breaths, I’m creating space for others to do the same.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

 

Finding Self

When I first started running, I was a mess.  My breathing was off, I couldn’t really find a good pace that was more than fast walk where I wasn’t entirely short of breath, I could never figure out proper fueling–before, during and after a run.  And man, my legs hurt.

But the more I ran, the more I found my own stride. My own rhythm.

The same has been true in these last two years.  Coming back to “real life” after experiencing some traumatic losses and extreme highs is really hard to do.  The pendulum has been swinging back and forth emotionally for months.

Losing Granny. Finding out we’re pregnant. My mom getting sick. Sharing publicly our news. Mom’s hospitalization. Hearing a heartbeat. Advocating for mom with doctor’s when it was apparent she was deteriorating.  Feeling kicks. ICU. Being surrounded by loving friends. Making the hard decision to let mom be at peace. Feeling incredibly supported by visitors to the hospital the night she passed. Walking through navigating her arrangements from KY to VA. Feeling support from friends near and far during that season. Dealing with increased blood pressure from all the stress. Plans for baby showers. Holidays. Amazingly supportive co-workers and friends continuing to be there as I grieved. Singing at the Christmas Eve-eve service. Head on collision on Christmas Day. No major issues. Postponing baby showers. Facetime with family. Visit to UK Triage. Lots of sleep. Incredible bruising. Grateful. Lunch dates with friends. More blood pressure issues. Babymoon in the mountains. Stress about the blood pressure issues. Rescheduled baby showers. Fear. Baby classes. Anxiety. Date nights. Tests to rule out preeclampsia. Good test results. More high blood pressure reads. Confidence in my doctor. Overnight stay in hospital. 48 hours later…..June Parker Cracraft.

Life is full of these nuances that make it brutiful. This is a snapshot of the brutiful pendulum that happened from July 2015-February 2016. 7 months. I could go on to share how that pendulum continued for the next 11, and maybe I will, but needless to say, the past two years have been fraught with a back and forth. One of the biggest back and forths was going back to work for 2 weeks when June was still in the NICU.  Another came when I went back to work 6 weeks after we brought her home. And then first full fall semester as a working, pumping mama whose brain was still in the postpartum fog but also still grieving losing my Mom less than a year prior and sad about what might have been and all  of “what if’s” with our daughter.

What I hope to share is that through these past 19 months, I’m finally finding myself. To all the working mamas out there-I see you. To those with children who may not have or had a typical entry into this thing called life-I see you too. To those navigating opposite work schedules with your partner-I got you. Wondering if you’ll ever feel normal in your job-Yup, been there too. Wondering if you even want to continue working because you feel as if someone else is raising your child? Amen.

But I can also share that I feel like the fog is finally lifting. It took 18 months, but the grief and hurt and emotional pain is starting to rise where I feel like me. Not making oversights and forgetting things that were oh-so-common before at work on a daily basis. But actually feeling energized by the work I’m fortunate to do. Having some perspective about the life I get to lead and share with JP about being a strong working woman who has multiple roles and identities other than “mama.”

Maybe it’ll take 6 months for you. Or maybe it’ll take 6 years. Or maybe it’ll take longer. I don’t know your story or your timeline. What I do know is that you aren’t meant to do it alone.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

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Pace

redd-angelo-14423We’re closing in toward the end of the first quarter of the year.

Seriously? Where has time gone?

I’m looking back at my last post truly wondering. But here we are.  Smack in the middle of Lent. Still looking back at the remnants of a 1st Birthday party held in early February that still make their presence known in our dining room. I’m right in the middle of my busy time at work. And JP is just busy–into everything.

And what I’m craving is slow.

I’ve been paying attention to my pace.  I’m not as in shape as I’d like to be so when I walk fast, I’m short of breath. But also when I walk fast, my mind is also tracking at that same pace. When I slow down my walk, I’m able to catch my breath, pay more attention to it and I’m more aware of my surroundings.  The flowers starting to bud. The shape of the clouds.

We’ve had a few conversations lately about being connected and what that really means.  To be honest, many of my connections are online and through the apps on my phone.  But I want to be most connected with my people–the ones who live in my house and I see every single day. I don’t want to be distracted by an Instagram post and miss staring into my daughter’s blue eyes.

So I’ve cleaned up my phone.  Deleted some apps.  Installed a few others that I hope to be my primary focus.  Found that some of my goals and Lenten observances were too far reaching or ill-willed in their motives so I’m adjusting.  And giving myself grace in that adjustment.

I want to pay attention. I want to be focused on others words and stories. I want to leave space for my soul and heart to breathe, to not feel overwhelmed and to be connected with things and people that matter and willing to walk away from that that brings stress and overwhelm and comparison.

I want to invite people into our home for a meal again.  Sit across the table at coffee and be able to give people a warm hug rather than scroll, scroll, scroll on my phone.

I’ve got some ideas on how to put this into practice but I’d love to hear yours.

And don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter on the scrolling place but you’re hearing more from me here.

Hello 2017

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2017 Goal Defining Process

2017-I’m sooooo glad to see you! As are many others this year who typically aren’t a fan of the calendar page turning.  I know many who shame New Year’s and all the “Fresh Starts” we see this time of year.  But for me it’s  the one time I get a week off work AFTER the holiday to rest.  To reflect.  It’s certainly different with a babe-the rest is coupled with nursing, changing diapers and wrangling our ever-curious babe.

I always love a fresh start. New planner.  Fresh page in the notebook. New set of pens and freshly sharpened pencils. I’m especially excited about this year. After June arrived and we had adjusted somewhat to her in our lives, we sat down and talked goals. Family goals.  BIG goals.  Exciting dreams and how they would become reality rather than just a shared Google Doc. 🙂

Now that those goals are set forth and we have a time-table to them, we now get to set the plan in action. It’s kind of like knocking over a domino and seeing the ripple effect–although this will certainly take much longer than it takes to knock them over. Perhaps this is the preparation–the setting up of said dominoes that will be knocked over in several years. But even in a 5 year timeline, discipline and faithfulness are the two BIG things that are going to make these dreams a reality.  My verse for this year is going to help me stay focused.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much. Luke 16:10

While 2016 was tough (and let’s face it-2015 was tricky too), I’ve got so much to be thankful for.  And as my girl Shauna always throws out those great ideas, here is my list of 10 things I’m grateful for in 2016.

  1. A healthy baby girl delivered at 31 weeks!
  2. Renovations on the house progressed-lots of drywall hung, painting and a more finished house.
  3. Amazing support from Lew’s parents–from making sure we had plenty of food when our NICU journey began &  when June came home to doing a TON on the house.
  4. The ability to work 4 days week this summer.
  5. Supper club! Such a fun, needed group for our souls this year.
  6. Prioritizing date nights became a reality.
  7. Gaining such great (continual) support from our NICU family.
  8. The ability to nurse June starting at day 47 to now–11 months!!
  9. Joining an incredible company with a mission-Beautycounter
  10. The most incredibly supportive partner and the ability to get away for an overnight just the two of us.

Bonus–This. Is.  Us. Enough Said.

I’m really stoked for 2017 and the new momentum we’ve found so far.  I was having a conversation with a friend this week and her New Year’s Goal was to just do grown-up things. Act like an adult. I love that. I think that’s where so many of my goals are as well-and each move us toward achieving our long-term goals. But really are just simply aligned with the kind of person I want to be in my mid-30’s. I want to eat healthy as I know my body needs, work toward becoming debt free, grow together in our marriage, increase my depth, understanding and commitment to the Word, and keep my eyes on that long-term goal.  If every decision we make this year stems out of faithfulness to these things, it’s gonna be a good good year.

Expectations

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Always coming down to expectations.  That’s been my challenge for years.  If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling with expectations lately. What expectations should I have of myself as a working mom?  What expectations I have for my marriage? What expectation I have to how my evening will play out? That’s where it gets real. How do I navigate being organized and living into the way I’ve been created–the color-coded, futuristic, visionary self–and not hold to a particular expectation? Because when the rubber meets the road, my desire to plan is tied to the anticipated outcome.  AKA: Expectation.

How do I set a financial goal and hold loosely to the expectation that I’ll meet it but not be overwhelmed if it doesn’t happen?

How do I navigate things when the expectation is that it’s the night I need to wash bottles so that my child has food for the next day and all she wants to do is be held?

How do I respond when plans change? The dinner is cancelled, someone has to go out of town unexpectedly, the event gets rained out.

How do I switch gears when things at work or church or your volunteer organization end up going a completely different direction and all of a sudden you wake up one day and everything seems different–your coworkers, team mates, company, boss, leader, everything?

What happens when things don’t go the way you thought they would with your family? Someone loses a job, moves, has a crisis, gets divorced, has a falling out?

I’m sure we all have found ourselves in one or more of the scenarios listed above. Transition is hard.  And there are expectations going on inside of us every day. Every minute. And when things change, expectation is buzzing around like that annoying fly that you just can’t quite smack down.

I’m still figuring this all out.  I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know though is that so much of the things I struggle with come down to control. Expectations are my desire to have things play out a certain way. That my friends is a control issue. And as much as I can plan and forecast and look at data to predict outcomes, in my personal life, I have to trust that I’m not the one in control.  And when you’ve experienced so much of life that seems out of control, holding closely to things you know are true just seems right.  Safe. Controlled. Familiar.

But we weren’t meant to live a safe and controlled life. There is risk involved. The unknown. And when you take a risk, there is beauty beyond your wildest dreams. Relationships restored. Sunsets you’d never imagine if you’d gone home early because it was safe. Throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous has resulted in some of my most favorite memories with the beau.  The freedom and ability to fall into the unknown clinging to the only thing that is true and known is pure bliss.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I want to listen. To process. To respond. And to live with arms wide open, chin up, eyes closed, wind blowing on my face tuned in to what is out there waiting for me that I might have missed otherwise.

Creating my Reality

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past ten years teaching time management.  Ten years of teaching college freshmen and trying to navigate my own calendar and responsibilities have taught me a few things. Some things stay the same–put the big rocks in first, figure out what time management system works for you, create an ideal schedule and do your best to stick to it, track your time and see where you time wasters are.  I’ve taught it all and done it all. And I’m always learning more.

And if I’ve learned anything as an adult-in this most recent season-it’s the art of saying No. Not just for creating boundaries and margin in my schedule which are both so important, but for helping me to foster some much needed discipline and true peace.

Discipline means saying no. Peace means being able to open up to the feeling of being able to truly take a deep breath from life on a consistent regular basis.

And in every no, there is also a yes. And sometimes we don’t want to face the yes.  We don’t want to face that there isn’t money in the bank for that coffee date. Or time in our schedule for that weekly commitment (yoga class, bible study, book club, etc.).

And sometimes in that silence–alone with the iced coffee I make at home tending to those things that present in this current season–a tear may fall grieving what once was. The ability to be spontaneous. To run a quick errand. Joining your life with someone else’s makes you ponder these things. Add another human being who literally cannot function without you providing their sustenance and that only amplifies thinking about the choices you make-every single one and the life you’re creating in a different way.  Not necessarily the life smiling back at you but the one that you’re walking out, living out in the pages of your calendar, and more importantly, the one that you listen to the thoughts and emotions and realities swirling round and round each night when you try and leave behind one day and move into a new one.  That’s the life and reality we each get to create.

My favorite author is coming out with a new book.  It actually released today.  I have’t read it yet, but it should be waiting on me when I get home from work.  Shauna’s voice has been a healing balm to my soul in some very trying waters over the past few years.  I listened to her share last week on the IF: Gathering screen cast and at her launch party.  I think it was on the IF: Gathering screen cast I stopped and went back and played this quote multiple times…

“I’m creating–and recreating– the busyness and chaos because I don’t want to face what I find in the silence.”  Shauna Niequist

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’ve had a lot of silence lately. More than I’m used to or comfortable with. And it’s having me face things that I don’t really want to face. Saying no has allowed that to happen. Discipline is coming in multiple areas of my life because of saying no. Looking at the tribe my life had been surrounded with in this season and those folks who have moved on. What choices am I making in regards to food and spending in addition to my time. The silence has made me look at these three things deeply. And the silence has taught me some things.

Silence has reminded me that I need to see food as fuel 90% of the time. Even though I’m a foodie at heart my body needs good foods to function properly. My body thanks me when I treat it with kindness.

Silence reminds me that right now my priorities are my daughter and husband, pursing a peaceful and simple life, and not forgetting the importance of self-care.

One of the biggest things I’m learning is that silence reminds me I love and need people in my life. Physically. I need to be able to share a hug, put my hand on someone’s shoulder look across the table into someone’s eyes and really be able to hear so much more than what the words coming out of their mouth are saying. This is hard for me in this season. So many of my relationships are based on text messages and Google Hangouts. But I’m listening to the silence and prayerfully considering how I need to respond.

So looking forward to what else Shauna’s words have to teach me through this book.

 

One month of being a mom

I’ve been a mom for over a month now. It seems so odd since I’m currently sitting in my bedroom alone, the beau at work, pumping to give my daughter breast milk to make her strong. No cries in our home. Nursery still isn’t done. Heck-we haven’t gotten the first bit of furniture. But I’m a mom. 

But what I know-and what I was taught by experience-is how to be a caretaker. To call the hospital to check in every night. To build relationships with the nurses and doctors. To know sometimes sleep and self care is just as important-and necessary-to survive. 

I learned all those things from my mom. She was teaching me about motherhood all along. 

What I also know is that God has given me more than a glimpse of his faithfulness in sweet June. Not only has she been a rockstar growing in the NICU, but she gives me a little glimpse of my mom every day. Countless Friends and acquaintances–some who only knew her through social media pictures- have commented on how June resembles my mom. 

  

Her wide set eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her little delicate eyelids and those sweet little forehead wrinkles all scream my mom. 

What I also hear them saying over and over is that God is real. I’ve always been a believer of God when I look at creation. The trees, wind, mountains and waves of the ocean beckon me to believe that God is real and he is who he says he is. But looking at these pictures,  I have to believe even in those moments when I doubt (and believe me, I still have those moments) because I can’t look at those faces and say God doesn’t exist. God is tenderly carrying me through this season of grief and celebration. Fear and faith. Questioning and belief. I’m clinging to belief and faith and celebration. God has been too good to us not to believe. 

Maybe you’re in a season of grief and fear and questioning. It’s ok. Just know beyond it all God loves you. 

And if you want to dive more into who God is and why we believe,  join me for. Study of the Nicene Creed with the new IF: Gathering app. www.ifgatheringapp.com

  

Looking ahead to 2016

As I look back at 2015 and think about what I want to do differently or live into with more intention in 2016, I came up with quite a list as you can imagine.

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But when I really dug deep (Thanks to the Powersheets for a lot of that) I realized that there are two big things I want to do in 2016.

  1. I want to be a better steward of what resources I already have. I am certainly fortunate and so grateful for all the good that I have. But I don’t always steward it well. Often when we think of stewardship it’s in regards to money and while that is certainly apart of my goal, I’m thinking of a broader view of stewardship. Stewarding my time. My talents. The things I already own. The things that we might purchase this upcoming year (hello Baby Registry madness). How can I honor God, our own family goals and also be able to have the margin to give back (and give away) our possessions. I want to be reminded that this is not our eternal home and to hold loosely to those material things that I can often hold with a clenched fist.
  2. I want to S A V O R every moment of this new year.  I don’t know what to expect as a new mom. I don’t know how I’ll feel about returning to work this summer. I don’t know what I’ll need. I don’t know how becoming a mom will stir up new grief emotions of losing my own mom this past fall.  What I do know is that I don’t want to miss moments. I know (from all my friends, family and voices I hear through blogs and podcasts) that being a mom of little littles is hard. And while I’m buckling my seat belt to prepare for that hard, I don’t want to be so caught up in the hard that I wish it away.  I don’t want to wish away time spent. That’s the paradox I’ve found grieving loss and celebrating new life this year simultaneously. Taking the hard and knowing it’s only here for a season and readily embracing what comes with it. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

So what do these two things mean for me practically? 

Slowing down.

Saying no to things.

Eating clean meals at home around the table with people with I love.

Giving things away.

Reading more.

Watching less TV/Netflix.

Writing more (both here and in my journal).

Being intentional about time with those who matter most.

Taking long walks.

Getting as much sleep as possible.

Enjoying a weekly bath.

Doing my own nails every Sunday night to wind down our Sabbath.

Joining with Supper Club monthly for a great meal, laughs and maybe even a few tears.

and one of the biggest ones…..

Not feeling guilty for doing any of these things over something I SHOULD be doing (things I said no to, date nights out vs. at home, a super clean house, etc.).

I recently read somewhere that our “shoulds” never bring us true happiness. While I completely recognize that life isn’t all about being happy and that there is a lot of life that is unhappy and there’s a true difference between happiness and joy, I do see the truth in this statement.  What are the things that fire me up? That only I was created to do? What do I do with the ease of falling snow? That’s what I am going to do this year.  (Thanks Shauna for this amazing reminder). I’m realizing those things are different than they were 10 years ago.  5 years ago.  Even 2 years ago.  A lot of my “shoulds” are those former things.

I’m no longer the gal that wants to be orchestrating the details of an event or casting vision for a huge long term project. While my job requires me to do that on occasion, I’d much rather be meeting with someone one-on-one in a coffee shop, writing or teaching/leading a small group over the masses.  I think that came out in my goals and what I want this upcoming year to look like. Say no to the things that used to fire me up that now leave me depleted. I’m walking away and won’t feel guilty at all because I’ve got a whole new list of things that feel like the ease of the falling snow. That’s where I want to live in 2016.

So as you lean hard into your 2016, what are the 1-2 things that you wish to focus on? What feels like the easy of the falling snow for you? For me, it’s savoring each moment and doing the best with what I’ve already got. If I can do those two things, 2016 will be a winner. 

 

 

IF: Gathering 2015

It’s been almost two weeks since the IF: Gathering 2015 took place.  I’ve been swirling for what to say in this space and hope to do some justice to the work God has been doing in my head and heart since.

IF: Georgetown, KY

My gal Shannon and I weren’t sure what our IF: Local event in Georgetown, KY would look like. Our group of women from our church who journeyed through Jennie Allen’s Restless study were still Restless at the close of the study. Folks seemed too busy and intimadated to open up their homes to their neighbors, co-workers and friends for a local gathering in their own place. The “Her Knight” event was taking place that same weekend which meant a lot of folks would be preoccupied getting their daughters dolled up for a date with dad right smack dab in the middle of the event. I was doubting that we’d made the right call back in September when I quickly decided that we needed to have our own event in our community rather than partner up with IF: Lexington. Even though it was a mere 30 minute drive–the point was to have a conversation with women in your own community–THIS was our community. So why did we feel so Restless ourselves in our planning efforts? We were still asking this question when we decided in early December to drive to Cincinnati to meet up with other IF: Local leaders and hear from Jennie Allen. Our planning seemed in vain. We couldn’t settle on what to do.

It was in that meeting of introducing ourselves and hearing what other folks had done previously or were planning to do that the answer came. We were sitting right next to sweet Robin from Cincinnati who said last year, they simply opened the doors of their church and invited folks to come and go as their schedules allowed.

IF: Local Leader Meeting-Cincinnati (Sweet Robin in the front to the far left beside Jennie Allen)

IF: Local Leader Meeting-Cincinnati (Sweet Robin in the front to the far left beside Jennie Allen)

That was our answer.

Shannon and I began to work on creating this environment. We invited folks in our own church community and beyond. I shared on social media the beautiful graphics the folks at IF provided. I sent emails to and had conversations with friends whom I felt God was tugging for me to invite. We had an incredibly supportive church staff and community that showed up–from printing programs, allowing for space in the service to announce, men showing up to move chairs and make coffee–they showed up. We created a community on Facebook of registered folks to get to know one another prior to the gathering and share about the speakers and IF leaders as many were unfamiliar all-together with IF. We set up a soup potluck for Friday night so folks who had to work or wouldn’t have time to feed themselves as well as their families could eat (another idea from Robin). I have a supportive spouse who cheered me on and bought me beautiful flowers that reminded him of all the IF graphics he’d been seeing.

flowers from the beau

Thursday night we decorated and tested the live-stream.

Friday I left work early, Shannon’s husband made it home early and we met at the church to finish our prep. It’s come and go so we have no idea how many will come. Around 50 had registered. We were starting at 6pm on the dot. At 5:30, not a soul was there to share a meal.

Shannon and I stepped into the parking lot to clear our heads and pray. We closed our eyes and spoke out-loud prayers of faith–pushing away the doubt that had entered in months before and for me were still present. We believed that God was up to something and had invited us not to be spectators but participants. We opened our eyes to see cars rolling in. My co-worker whom I had invited. Women from our church community. A mentor of mine who showed up with her teenage daughters. More crock-pots of soup and bread and veggies than our tables could handle.

All these seats were filled and then some.

There were barely any seats remaining. We had a few glitches with the Livestream as Austin ended and we had to readjust our feed. It took some time to warm up to worship not being live, but we got there. I stalked the IF: Local tumblr page where the time-stamp lived like a hawk. Conversation breaks were rich and loud. This was our call to believe. I was encouraged when we closed the night at the end of the first session to hear Shauna speak about their meal break and Susie speak so passionately about IF: Table which is right near this hospitality gal’s heart. We left after 9 that night hopeful that folks would return but knowing that Saturday was a such busy day for so many folks, I have to admit that doubt crept back in. I just wasn’t sure how many would make it back.

That night, I stayed at Shannon’s and her girls let me have their room as they slept on an air-mattress in the next room. Saturday morning I cuddled up watching cartoons next to her middle daughter (I’d slept in the eldest’s bed, so I knew that EJ deserved some extra attention–I might be an only child, but I do know a thing or two). We scarfed down eggs, threw on some mascara and ran through Starbucks to arrive only 30 minutes or so before the gathering was to begin. We had barely gotten the technology up and in walked a couple men from our church to assist with coffee and whatever else we needed. A box of donuts from a favored donut shop arrived. Fruit.Trail Mix. More boxes of Kashi granola bars that I’d ever seen (Thank you Kroger for putting them on sale!). And bearing all these treats? Women. Women who said they’d be there the entire weekend. Women who said they’d only be there Friday night. Women who had JUST registered on Thursday. My doubting was in vain. Why don’t we believe?

2015-02-07 12.10.22

Saturday was beautiful. Women came and went. I saw more and more faces of women who said they would only be there Friday and stayed for most of or in some cases the entire day. They left to do little girls hair and were back ASAP. They went home for a bit and ended up watching the Livestream while and home and came back sooner than expected. They jetted off to a little league game and came rushing back. We sang loudly even when there was another glitch with the Livestream. They heard some of their favorite speakers and soaked up truth from women new to them.

For our dinner break, around 15 of us gathered around the table at a local Mexican restaurant and had great conversation. It was an IF: Table. There were no cards present but we talked about the topics that had stirred our hearts. Racial Reconciliation. Why it can be so hard to connect with other women. Breaking down generational walls regarding these topics. What are our thoughts about the uproar regarding yoga pants these days. How do we model our faith to our own daughters? How to we be a light in our workplace that can be quite dark? What is next? How do we believe?

Our "impromptu" IF: Table over Mexican

The last session brought us to our knees and allowed us to think about our next step of faith. Shannon had rocks in glass jars at the front of our space and we each took one and thought about how we would mark this day. What would be our statement of faith? What could happen if we believe?

What could happen for our community if we believed?

This was not the question I was to answer.

No Faith–what could happen for YOU if YOU believed.  

journal

I’ve been rolling around some big prayers in my life lately. I’ve allowed a state of busy-ness to mask dealing with my response to these prayers  A “sabbatical” of sorts was my response. I had the answer to my next step of Faith after IF weeks before the gathering actually occurred. For me to be able to respond in obedience, I needed to be quiet. God had been stirring my heart that I needed to listen. I spent the week between the IF: Gathering and when the Hebrews IF: Equip study began reviewing all the notes I’d taken in my journal. I refused to just write a bunch of heart piercing truths in my cute journal and not apply any of it. Here’s what jumped off the page for me from my notes:

Am I going to live by Faith or by sight? –Jennie Allen

Do I stop valuing the gifts God has given me because they don’t look like others? –Angie Smith

He has no intention of letting me go. His hold on me is stronger than my hold on Him. –Jo Saxton

“How about we start with you?’ -God’s question to Rebekah Lyons

Faith is a struggle.  Am I confident in God or my understanding of God? –Jen Hatmaker

What is the next humblest version of me?Bob Goff

We are only looking at a small portion of our life. God is creating it–even in the parts that do not make sense–all apart of the big picture. –Shelley Giglio

He will prune away things that are getting in the way -Debbie Eaton

My freedom is not just for me but for other people.  “Help my Unbelief!”Margaret Feinberg

Convict me for my full plate.  Do I desire a calling bigger than my character? We have fallen into perfectionism instead of Grace.  HE is the holy restorer. –Ann Voskamp

At the threshold of every transition, we (in our human nature) will have a spirit of fear. The believing life is not about us. Service prepares you for the battle. The call of God is inconvenient. Pursue character. Key to a believing life? Faith which comes by hearing the Word of God.–Hang on to the TRUTH of the word of God.  Don’t waste time on a fight that’s not worth fighting. –Christine Caine

Suffering is a channel of grace into the world. –Laura Sobeich

It’s okay to struggle with faith and show it. Reclaim your true self. Some woman is watching me. They need to see me struggle. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. –Shauna Niequest

I absolutely love Shauna and her mom Lynne.  Her words were soothing ointment to my weary soul.

I absolutely love Shauna and her mom Lynne. Her words were soothing ointment to my weary soul.

Walk it out even though it’s not working out. Just because your progress isn’t obvious doesn’t mean your faith isn’t working. There is no white flag; don’t quit when you are so close to the finish line. You don’t have to feel it or like it to do it. Results are God’s responsibility. Response and obedience are mine. –Bianca Olthoff

God calls us to the scary and uncomfortable. –Esther Havens

Faith without works is dead.  At the end of my life, do I want to see a slideshow of what I missed? Jennie Allen

Grateful for my teammate Shannon who has welcomed me into her life and this woman who so richly invests in her people.

My next step?  I’m heeding to the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “The devout life…is the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.”

God is calling me back to the rich simplicity of being me.  The one He so delicately and carefully created. My “devout life” is cozying up in His word and camping out for a while. I want to be confident in God alone. I don’t want anything of my hands to get in the way of what God is doing in me or in others. Yes, Faith without works is dead. But complete reliance on works is paralyzing.

I want the women who came to our Gathering to walk away astounded and drawn to God for no other reason but that they feel the yearning to believe.

A piece of my gifting of hospitality is grounded in the ability to create environments and spaces that are welcoming and allow for people to be their true selves. I believe that is one reason I was so drawn to what the the IF: Gathering is about. IF: Equip, IF: Table and the gathering itself creates an environment. And while creating these environments might be apart of the work I am to do in my own place and in my own home, no amount of creating can substitute for the tug of the Holy Spirit on one’s heart.

So with that, the day after the gathering ended, my sabbatical commenced. No more creating. No more doing. No more facilitating conversation in the Facebook group. Resting. Believing. Listening. Getting cozy in the word. Responding with scripture rather than frustration or fear or hurt.

My next step…

Trust and Obey that the Lord is Good.

Trust and Obey that the Lord is Good.

I hear the chains falling…