Have you ever had preconceived ideas about something new or unknown? I had a lot of ideas about California before we moved here. I was sure I was going to get a fine for not recycling correctly. (I don’t think that is a thing). I thought all people I met would be fake and superficial. (Not all of them are). I was convinced I would never get anywhere because of the traffic. (This actually happens). I’m happy to say that my views of California have changed, thanks to our community and friends.
I have also realized some people have their own ideas about the Midwest. I have heard numerous Wizard of Oz jokes, asking me if my name is Dorothy or where my red slippers are. Some people think Kansas City is a small town. There was the time when I met a fellow school mom at the park one day. (She ended up being one of my dearest friends) As we talked, it came up that we were new here and I told her I was from Kansas City. A couple of weeks later she introduced me to some others as being from Kentucky. When I corrected her, she asked me if there was a difference between Kansas City and Kentucky.
Weather is always an interesting topic, like the time when it was hailing outside and my friend said, “It’s snowing!” She tried to convince me that hail and snow are the same thing. No, no they aren’t. Or the time someone told me they wished they could live somewhere where there was a real winter, including snow. I chuckled and thought to myself, “Spoken like someone who has never endured a real winter”.
I now laugh at the silly ideas I had in my head before we moved here. And I just want to say, “Sorry I judged you, California. I will try to lay aside my bias in the future.”
Acaí berry bowls are at the top of the list of my favorite things. Most people say “huh?” when I tell them about them. They are fruit blended for a base, like a smoothie. Then they are topped with fresh fruit, granola, honey…delicious! There are 2 places close to me that make them. But I make them regularly at home. All you need are frozen acaí berries (they come in the freezer section). Blend those with other fruit you like, strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, along with some liquid (juice or coconut milk). Pour that mixture into a bowl. Top with your favorite things. I usually do fresh fruit, granola, coconut and honey. Try one, you’ll thank me!
I have a bad habit of skipping lunch. I get busy and by the time I think about eating, I’m starving and grab junk to eat. My friend and I started making Bento Boxes for each other. We take turns and alternate week-to-week. One variety we made had apple cinnamon bread, a hardboiled egg, apples and peanut butter. Another one was taco salad and salsa. We also did beef and broccoli over rice. Whatever we choose, it’s nice to have something prepared and it keeps me from eating junk.
I now have a new-found love for yoga, thanks to the best yoga instructor, Ginny Washburne. Ginny is a great friend who convinced me to try yoga last year, for the first time. I am hooked. I was surprised at how much of a work out it is, and relaxing at the same time. Sadly, she is moving away and I know I’ll never find anyone as good as her to teach me 😦
When it comes to make-up, I’m a minimalist. I never spend a lot of time applying it. Right now, my favorite eye shadow is Bare Minerals. There are several fun colors and I love the shimmer that it has. It is easy to dress up or down and super easy to apply
When I have the chance, I try to listen to podcasts- I like to think it makes me smarter. Two of my favorites right now are The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and Mom Struggling Well . Both do a great job of interviewing people who are interesting and relevant. They are great to pop on during a workout or housework and they make the time pass quickly while learning something.
Those are some of my favorite things right now. I’d love to hear some of your faves!
For spring break this year, my friend Tatiana and I decided to take a road trip and visit our dear friend Kathy. Shortly after we moved here, Kathy was the first friend I made in SoCal and she made this place feel like home. She immediately invited me to a Moms in Prayer group she hosted and was very instrumental in helping me feel settled. Kathy, Tatiana and I all have boys named Levi, who are the same age. We quickly grew close and were soon known as the Levi Moms. Sadly for us, last summer, she moved up to Northern California, back to her hometown to be closer to family. We decided to use our time off school as a chance to visit her. We were amazed how well our 4 kids did on the 6 hour ride up there.
Kathy was the queen of hospitality and welcomed us into her home. She had an amazing dinner waiting for us when we arrived.
We all picked up right where we had left off. The next day, after a delicious breakfast prepared by her husband, she had several fun things planned. We took a hike along the river behind her house. Next, she had arranged a babysitter to come for the afternoon and evening. We were all giddy as we drove away after the sitter arrived. We were free!
The cutest, tiniest vineyard
She took us to a neighboring town where we enjoyed cute wine tasting rooms, delicious restaurants and many antique shops. We dove into deep conversation, laughed hard and ate well. We arrived home to find her husband watching all 7 kids! The following day we embarked on a walk to a wild flower field and let the kids get their fill of nature.
Matching outfits photo shoot
The Levi Tree
After another fun lunch together, we reluctantly said goodbye. It was great to visit her, step into her new life, and hopefully encourage her. I definitely walked away feeling encouraged and uplifted. A sign of a good trip is feeling emotionally energized when you leave. After another smooth car ride, we were back in Orange County. The visit reminded us how much we miss Kathy and wish she lived closer. But it also makes the time spent with her even sweeter.
It’s just wood, glue and screws, there’s nothing magical about it. But when I look at my dining room table, I see much more. It was a dream I had had for years, when I would finally have an actual dining room table. When we finally had a house with space for a large table, we began searching for the perfect one. After ordering it, and waiting months for delivery, it arrived. It arrived just before Thanksgiving and I wasted no time decorating it for fall. It fit perfectly in our dining nook, as if it were made specifically for that house. When we found out 5 months later that we were moving, I gave specific instructions that the house we bought HAD to have space for my table. My husband laughed. A few people even encouraged me to sell the table and buy a new one once we got settled. No. I had hopes and dreams for this table. It functions as a visual reminder and it goes much deeper than a piece of furniture.
My table serves a daily reminder of how important hospitality is. I know God wants me to be open and giving with everything He has blessed me with. Too often I make excuses why I can’t open my home to others. But I have been reminded several times over that it is a heart issue, not a home issue. Just like God always has room at His table for us, I always want to have room at my table for whoever needs to be there.
When I look at my table, I can’t help but think of all the fun that happens around it. Obviously, many meals happen there. We have family dinners as often as we can. Countless times friends have gathered together around the table and enjoyed the food as much as the company. My kids also use it as an art hub. Very often it is covered with construction paper, glue, markers, and crayons. Sometimes there is play dough there. Frequently after dinner, it becomes a family game table. Many Uno and Zingo games have happened there. It is also homework central. My table is a creative safe space.
I can’t help but think of God’s blessings when I see my table. The blessing of friendship, of prayer, of community, of creativity, of nourishment, of provision. I am humbled by how God cares about the little things. It made no difference if my table fit into our new house or not. But God knew it was important to me. I know it’s just a piece of furniture and it won’t last forever. But I’m thankful for the memories that have been made there and the ones still to come.
A new year provides a perfect opportunity to reflect over the past 12 months. In 2016, I spent a good amount of time in self-discovery mode. I learned it’s okay to be choosy with who has access to your time. I learned I may or may not ( definitely do) have boundary issues- trouble saying no, trouble accepting help from others, unrealistic expectations. I learned I have grown cynical of prayer. And I learned I am not good at setting goals for my life. (Just writing all these issues is evident I should probably seek professional help.) But the most important thing I learned is I can work to change these issues. I’m not stuck living this way. With God’s help, I can become a better version of myself.
My word for this year is confidence. Confidence fully represents the changes I want to make and the direction I want to head. First and foremost, I want to be confident in Christ, confident to be who God made me to be, not changing for anyone for Him.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him” Jeremiah 17:7. If I get that right, I won’t be concerned with what others think or worried about what others say. I will have the courage to live my life for Him alone.
I also want to pray bold prayers and believe He will answer them. I have never doubted that God could answer our prayers, but I have grown to question if He will. I believe our Father wants us to pray giant prayers and expect giant answers. That requires confidence.
Lastly, I am learning how important it is to have big dreams for your life. In general, I’m not a dreamer. If it sounds too crazy to happen, count me out. However, just like bold prayers, big dreams require me to give God control to come through and show up big for His glory. So I’m working on thinking outside of my safe, very grounded box. I’m tired of letting fear make me miss out on opportunities God has for me. In 2 Corinthians 3:5 it says, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.” That gives me the confidence to know if God calls me to do something, He will give me the skills to accomplish it.
I’m ready and willing this new year to see what God has in store and how He gives me the strength and confidence to carry out what He asks of me.
Christmas is a time for traditions, maybe more than any other time of year. We all have rituals and customs that we grew up with, which signify and mark Christmas for us. When we start our own families, we add in more personalized traditions we hope to carry year after year.
Growing up, I remember taking cookies to our elderly neighbors and singing Christmas carols for them (I did not continue that tradition as an adult). I also remember sleeping on the dining room floor in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve.
Once I got married and we began to move around, it began to get a little harder to keep the same routine every year. I fought hard to maintain those traditions, mostly because I don’t like change and those traditions were a sense of normalcy. But rarely does each year look the same as the last. You have kids, you lose loved ones, you move.
During the past few years, I have really began to embrace each year as a new opportunity. We can keep traditions from the past, if they work out. But if not, we can modify or start new ones. I have released the guilt and frustration of every year being different. We can capitalize on being in new places and exploring new things specific to that area. I have come to realize the only thing I need is Matt, Levi and Ellie. If I have them with me, it feels like Christmas. Everything else is just a bonus. So Merry Christmas to you. May you enjoy your traditions and embrace new opportunities as they arise.
A few years ago I noticed my expectations surrounding Christmas had gotten out of control. I blame it on one too many Hallmark movies. I was chasing after this magical feeling promised to me every December. Slowly, the most wonderful time of the year had started feeling like my emptiest time of the year. By the time January 1st rolled around, I suffered from a Christmas hangover. So I started looking deeper into my expectations surrounding Christmas and I realized I was putting too much pressure and weight on the activities I had planned. I was building them up too much. And in doing so, I was moving further and further away from the Reason for Christmas.
As I took a step back from the chaos that can happen during the Christmas season, I was able to discover and reflect on the season of Advent. Up until that point, Advent had been a chocolate-filled calendar you opened each day. It had been a candle you lit at church each Sunday during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. But as I pressed in, I began to learn so much more about it. It is a season of waiting. A season of anticipation. A season of preparation. When Jesus was born, the Jewish people were longing for their Messiah. They were waiting with great anticipation. We should be doing the same.
I had grown numb to the Nativity Story, having heard it retold hundreds of times. As I looked again, with new eyes, I saw real people. Real people who were asked to obey. A young girl and her fiancee were asked to put their reputation on the line for God’s glory. Shepherds were asked to abandon their sheep and worship a tiny baby. Magi were asked to travel a great distance to bring gifts to a new King. Had they not been listening to God and willing to obey, they would have missed out on the greatest experience of their lives.
Our schedules are packed full and even more so around Christmas. And in the busyness, we miss the Baby being born. I didn’t want to miss that. And I was done with the empty feeling from chasing after superficial things. I began to try hard at being intentional in seeking Jesus around Christmas. There is power in quieting ourselves and taking in the magnitude of Jesus taking human form and stepping into our world. How great our Father must love us to send His Son. When I focus in on these things, there is a much better chance of feeling full and hopeful when January 1st rolls around.
I swear I had just been on a mountaintop. Matt had been travel-free for 4 weeks. I felt full and able to handle the busy travel season coming up. Then, in what seemed like an instant, I felt myself spinning in a downward spiral. Matt had been gone 6 of the last 7 days. And it didn’t look like it was going to slow down. I was having a full-on pity party for myself. I felt alone and isolated. I was grabbing at branches and rocks on my way down the mountain. Friends. A good book. A new project. Kids. Anything to fill this lonely feeling. The branches would hold for a short time before they broke and I was sent careening down again. The anxiety I had dealt with several times, threatened to break through again.
One day, feeling I was about to hit bottom, I forced myself to go for a run. It felt like there were weights on my legs and weights on my heart. But I turned on music that would reaffirm the promises of God and forced myself to move. With each pound on the pavement and each song, I could feel the truth breaking through, like the sun shining bright after a day filled with rain. God loves me, He is for me, He is my strength. But more importantly, He wants to be number one in my life. Too often I get busy with other things and slowly crowd Him out. When things are moving along smoothly, I being to think too much of myself and my ability to handle things. I become too confident in myself. The truth is, however, I can do nothing on my own. And God uses the moments when I reach the end of myself, to remind me of how much I need Him. I was reminded how important it is to check in with Him each day, to ground myself in what He says. Then I am less likely to believe the lies the devil is telling me.
I was grateful for the humbling I felt and even more grateful for a loving, gracious Father who didn’t shame me. He gently pointed me back to the truth I already knew but so often forget. This time, instead of a flimsy branch to grab onto, I saw a hand reaching down for me. And as I took hold, I knew I could rest assured it would hold firm.
Autumn is officially upon us. As we transition into a new season, it is evident everywhere that fall is here. The watermelons have been replaced by pumpkins at the grocery store. There is a crispness in the air (at least there should be). New flavors emerge to signal the change. I love fall. I love the return of structure with school starting and the promise of the holidays right around the corner. I love the opportunity to pull out fall clothes. As temperature gets cooler, I feel a lightness in my step.
It is hard for me to believe that a year has gone by since I started this blog. I am so thankful for the encouragement of friends who urged me to start it. If I go back and read the first few posts, I can remember the loneliness I felt after moving. I can see God’s hand in putting us in just the right neighborhood, the right school, the right church. Often times I am just like the Israelites, who forgot all the miracles God did for them. I face another trial and cry out, wondering where God has gone.
In Joshua 4, God tells Joshua to take stones from the Jordan River, where they are standing, on dry land. He tells him to place the stones as a visual reminder of the provision God made for them. “When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan- stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.”
We need permanent memorials for ourselves too. Reminders of His faithfulness even when He doesn’t feel near. Encouragement that God hasn’t brought us this far just to leave us. Some helpful things for me are keeping a journal, writing a promise on a stone, putting a sticky note on the mirror. Those are visuals I can see on a daily basis and be reminded I’m not alone.
I want to say thanks to all who have been following me during this journey. Your encouragement and kind words mean so much. I hope your fall is off to a great start!
I dropped both kids off at school and hopped into my car. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the 4 glorious hours I had to myself – go to the beach. In the time we have been living here in California, the beach has become my happy place. And I had yet to go by myself. I was giddy! I tried to appear like I had it all together as I walked from Starbucks to the sand, even though burning coffee was running down my arm. (I guess I can’t blame the kids for all my messes.) I finally found a spot to sit, as close to the water as I could be without my chair getting wet. I just sat and listened.
I was reminded this week to Be Still, which I heard actually means to be calm. So I calmed myself and I took time to reflect. And I realized how my life had gotten out of rhythm. As I listened to the waves crash, I observed how the ocean has perfect rhythm. It is never rushed yet always constant. It doesn’t matter what else is going on, the waves always come in and break in their perfect timing. I thought about the last time I had been still, really still, and I couldn’t remember. I had been running on empty for a while and the sound of my complaining was drowning out God’s voice. Even when it was quiet around me, I was too loud. So I sat and just listened. And when I quieted my pity party, I could hear His truth. I could hear the truth that parenting is worth it, even when it is really hard. I could hear the truth that raising godly kids is my greatest mission right now, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I could hear the truth that God had placed exactly the right people around me, to come along side me and encourage me during this season.
And as I sat and listened to each wave come in, I could feel God’s truth wash over me, bringing healing. Because sometimes we get so wrapped up with our own issues it causes the truth to become clouded and distant. But it is still there. Always there. We just have to be purposeful in finding a healthy rhythm in our lives, one that allows us time to listen to God. We just have to Be Still.