Relevant Highlight #2 – Connecting with Kindred Hearts

I’m still savoring all the wonderful connections I made in the halls and comfy corners made available for the attendees at Relevant. One of my favorite memories is meeting Angie and getting to talk and pray with her for nearly an hour on Friday night. She was so encouraging and such a ‘relevant’ contact for the Lord to send my way – she and her husband have a ministry to entrepreneurial couples – wow! That describes my husband and I, and we definitely need coaching and encouragement as we balance our relationship, parenting, and various businesses.

So, I was delighted to meet Angie, and even more delighted to connect with her after the conference via email. She sent me the link to her new site, Leaving a Legacy - check it out, it’s amazing! And then she went and awarded me the Liebstar Award. OK, now I’m totally overwhelmed!

The word Liebster is German meaning “dearest, friend, or love.” This award is shared and given to up-and-coming blogs that have less than 200 followers. I’m very honored to receive the award, but the best part is that I get to pass it on to 5 other bloggers that are dear to my heart.

So, here’s a list of some of my dearest bloggy friends — be sure to visit them – they are lovely gals, each one! (oh, and I’m totally breaking the rules on the follower count for two reasons – 1) I don’t know how many followers some of these gals have, and 2) I know they each think of themselves “less highly” and “esteem others as better than themselves”. They’re totally not into the numbers, and neither am I!)

Katie has a driving passion to help others find their true identity in Christ. She is a long-time friend and I’m so proud of how she is following God’s lead and developing her writing so she can reach a broader audience with her beautiful passion for God. She also writes at YLCF.

From Kateri’s lens…

Kateri is also a long-time friend who writes soulfully and poetically about her past, yet is living fully and gracefully in the now. Her blog contains some of the most gorgeous nature photography I’ve seen, as well as great gardening tips.

Persuaded was one of my Relevant Roomies – I am so blessed to have a growing friendship with this wise, lovely woman. Oh, and her blog is a true joy, with her laugh-out-loud funny writing voice and honest, whimsical approach to recording her life.

Gretchen was my other roommate at Relevant – so exciting to meet her in person last month! I’ve benefited so much from our friendship and from her blog, which is written from the same season as I am in — busy mommy of three with so many plates spinning — yet she finds time to weave words and share some great tips for everything from home to Facebook management! (She is also the founder of Young Ladies Christian Fellowship or, YLCF)

Hayley made my Relevant experience with her awesome per-conference series on how to define and rock your own personal style. (I don’t need to explain to you how it was just a teensy bit important to me to feel pretty during this weekend hanging out with a bunch of other beautiful women, do I?).

It was so cool to have the inner, heart transformation I experienced at Relevant correspond with the outer ‘reformation’ my wardrobe had undergone thanks to Hayley’s encouraging guidance. Then I got to meet her in person – woot! Needless to say, I’ve become an avid follower of her blog, and you will, too, once you visit! (She has the coolest about me page I’ve seen yet!)

Thank you, ladies, each one of you, for being a part of my life and my blogging experience. You have each become ‘Liebster’ to my heart in the past month.

Of Tea and Seasons

I made Kombucha Tea today for the first time since Seth was born. Why, when I believe so strongly in the health benefits of this and other fermented drinks, would I quit making it for over a year?

The answer is the same reason as it was in this post – “Seasons”. I was in season where extras like something to drink other than water or milk, especially if they required preparation, just weren’t happening. Also, Seth didn’t seem to like the caffeine or to much acidic stuff in the first months of his breastfeeding. Oh, and did I mention I didn’t drink it when I was pregnant, either? Yeah – almost two years without this awesome super-beverage in my diet. Why was I OK with this?
Because I have learned to accept seasons in my life.

There is such freedom when you recognize what seasons mean in life. It goes back to Ecclesiastes – in which the Preacher tells us there are times
to be born, and to die
to kill and to heal
to break down and to build up
to plant, and to pull up
to weep and to laugh
to mourn and to dance…

We know and understand seasons of a garden – planting and pulling. We know in life there is a time to be born and a time to die. We accept this. Then why do we chaff against seasons in life and motherhood? Why do we resent a season in which we do not get enough sleep? If we recognize it is a season and it will not always be this way, can you see the peace that would come in that?

Let’s get back to the tea again – and why I didn’t stress about skipping it for a time. I’ve come to realize that eating as healthy as I know how to takes a lot of time and energy - two resources that have many other draws on them in this season of my life. Stressing about my inability to achieve all my goals in the area of nutrition will only add more stress to my life – which itself is as unhealthy as munching a candy bar for breakfast. Resting in the season I am in is much better for me and my family.

Perhaps you are trying to eat healthier, and learn more about good nutrition. I would encourage you not to obsess about it, as I have done in seasons. Unless you have an urgent health issue that makes major diet changes priority, give yourself grace. Try one new recipe or technique at a time until it becomes familiar and routine, before adding another thing to your plate. If you just can’t get the hang of a recipe, or can’t find a source for something you’ve come to think of as essential (like raw milk), or you can’t afford to purchase coconut oil in bulk right now – relax. Take a deep, cleansing breath, and do what you can do in this season.

For me that means committing to a bit more planning and effort in the kitchen this week, to prepare some refreshing summer beverages to take on our road trip at the end of the month. (I’m going to make Kefir Soda and Fermented Sun Tea, too!) Taking my own treats will keep the temptation at bay to eat too much junk on the road. Now that Seth is less sensitive to acid things in my diet, it’s time for me to once again focus on my goal of regularly supplementing each meal with a little something cultured or fermented to aid digestion and nutrition. 

What about you? Is there something you need to pick up in this season? A skill you need to grow? Or is it time to lay something down and embrace a season of rest in an area that is stressing you? Let it go, honey. There will be a reverse season at some point in which you can tackle that goal – Scripture assures us of this. Do what you can where you are and rest.

Seasons to Create, or, What I dropped while I wrote a book

Some people have expressed wonderment that I wrote a book in two months. In light of this, I have decided it is high time for another dispel the pedestal post. (For more glimpses into just how human I am, check out these posts, please!)

There are seasons in life, peoples. Please remember this. Especially you mommies. Remind yourself every day – every hour, if necessary. Seasons are different times in your life that require different grace in different areas – letting some things go while you focus on other things. Your seasons are determined by priorities.
For mommies of young children, we don’t have much else that fits on our list after feeding, changing diapers, and keeping the children relatively content and clean. (Operative word here: “relatively”).

The past two months were a unique season in my motherhood. I have a 2 year old who I am not yet potty training and who still takes a long afternoon nap. My 10 month old is almost sleeping through the night, as well as taking two large naps a day. He is also not quite crawling yet. My 4 year old is just now old enough to amuse himself happily and safely without requiring constant surveillance. For a few weeks we are enjoying a season of slightly less maintenance on the child-rearing front. I say slightly less because you KNOW there is still a ton of stuff to do even if they all behave like angels and take their naps.

Thus, I had a window of opportunity.  I chose to write a book with it. I worked 1-4 hours a day, 6 days a week, and sacrificed any and all ‘free time’ I might have otherwise enjoyed. I did no sewing, crafting, and even fasted from my favorite inspiration blogs. I reviewed the schedule I created for myself when reading Tell Your Time and made sure I kept my online time focused. I read no novels (I’m in withdrawal here, peoples, and now open for suggestions for summer reading!), watched no TV and maybe two movies in the entire two months. That’s how I found the time to write a book.

There were also some other things that I let slip that you may or may not be disposable on your list. I just wanted to share them with you so you could see that I am human, just like you. To remind you that there are seasons in which you may not have all your ducks in a row, and that’s ok, ’cause art is being made, passions are being pursued, relationships are in a high-maintenance, deepening mode, or your just in survival mode – just for a season.

  • The paper towel roll ran out in the kitchen sometime last month and I didn’t refill till a week after the book was published (the new rolls are all the way down the hall way in the bathroom, dontchaknow)
  • We did not have kefir smoothies with breakfast 4 times a week. More like, once a month. We had our eggs or oatmeal went on with our day. 
  • I did not make my bed (oh, wait, that’s never been a habit!)
  • I did not clean the toilets as frequently as I might have. (gross, I know, but you feel better now, don’t you?)
  • I lost my laundry routine and reverted back to using my dryer. The laundry often got worn again before I had a chance to put it away.
  • We did not do school. (Jesse is four, and not yet ready for this full-time anyway)
  • I did not keep my desk organized and the papers are beginning to spill off and decorate the studio floor. 
  • gave up (temporarily) on my quest to make my own mozzarella cheese.  
  • My homemade wipes ran out and, instead of simply making a new batch, I lazily just whetted down a paper towel every time I had to change a diaper. Not really any easier. Just to busy with other things.

Now that the book is published, though, I feel a great desire to take a deep breath and clear some space on the desk, in my schedule, and on the couch so I can sit down and read a book once in a while (after I get caught up on the laundry.) I also want to make a batch of fermented sun tea, try some new recipes, and take my kids to the library.

What do you have the grace to let go of in this season? It’s ok – you can put it down. Embrace, and make the most of the season you’re in.  I’m right there with you.

Of Squash and Peace Regardless

The early morning air reconciles me to being sleepless since 4am. I walk out to my yard with my Bible to meet with my God, already tasting the sweetness this quiet morning promises. . . and that’s when I see the giant squash leaves torn and shredded, strewn on the ground near the compost. My faithful husband, in his zeal for keeping the lawn tidy, chopped down the two most promising plants in my tiny garden, simply ’cause they looked out of place amongst my garlic plants.

My spirit Plunges into grief and frustration. I thrash for the surface, trying to regain the peace I was reveling in a moment before. I mourn the promise of a delectable zucchini in just a few weeks – and that tomato plant, a foot tall already! I turn to my journal, seeking solace in writing.

As I write, detailing the things to be grateful for (morning air, tidy yard, faithful husband) my perspective comes in focus and I see the love behind this destruction. He thought he was doing me an immense favor, to angle his weed-wacker carefully between the plants to rid his wife’s garden of that lush, invasive-looking weed. He thought he was blessing me.

What do you do with clumsy love? The toddler’s sticky embrace that means you must wash your hair again? The prize blossom plucked from the garden, already wilting and slightly crushed, proudly presented as a gift for mommy? The small, willing hands in the kitchen, spilling more ingredients on the floor than in the bowl?

What does God do with our love? Our grasping, selfish, short-sighted, clumsy attempts to worship Him and love those around us?

He accepts it. His heart is so big, He can take pleasure even in our feeble, human attempts to interact with the God of the universe. Our mistakes do not ruffle His feathers, or ruin His plans for the universe. He is so much bigger.

And He created us in His image, allowing us to tap into His heart and His perspective.


Lord, enlarge my heart. Fill it with your love and peace so the brokenness of this life doesn’t steal the joy I can have in Your presence. 

Epilogue: A second squash plant is quickly filling in the space the first plant occupied. And the yard really does look amazing. It’s like a park!

What Love Looked Like at My House Today

Gypsy Mamma’s writing prompts help my sanity because, for just 5 min. a week, I tap into the artistic and pretend I really am a writer. Today’s prompt hit me right in the middle of analyzing the kind of love I offered my son today, and how miserably it compared to the Love God showed us when He gave His Son…

The Hard Love

The Hard Love…gets up off the couch to address a sibling squabble when the feet just wanted a moment’s rest.

The Hard Love…gets down on knees and prays for peace instead of demanding the tantrum stop.

The Hard Love…puts aside agenda, to-do lists, and deadlines such as the postman, the Easter dress, and yes, even meal time, to love. To love slowly, patiently, sacrificially. To love as long as it takes until love wins. To sit back down on the couch and cuddle a wounded little soul, exhausted from his tantrum and truly sorry, until the chest stops heaving, the tears have dried, and his cry for “Mommy Time” is answered.

This is the hard love – the Love the Father gave to us. He didn’t go for the quick fix, He had no agenda but us – we WERE His agenda. So He did whatever it took, as long as it took…33 years of sowing seeds…hours of agony…3 days of hopeless distance…Until Love Won.

Stop

Join me in Five Minute Fridays.

Grand Canyon

Five Minute Fridays Writing Prompt – On Distance

photo taken on our honeymoon – Grand Canyon, October, 2005

The distance between…two souls can seem so, so far. The space vast, as the thousands of gulps of air between the South and North cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Every breath, sobbed, whispered, used for prayer or tears, filling up the space. The empty space. Filled with…emptiness. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. For a wind rushing, for a water roaring, for warmth and life and spring and blossoms. Waiting for God’s breath. Meanwhile, let us gaze at the awesome beauty of a crack made by God’s own hand, punctuation in a life. Purple, brown, blue, orange thread in a tapestry. Monument to faith in a Beautiful Designer. Who allows us to see the beauty in a canyon.

Stop.

 I’m practically out of breath. Wow. I love Five Minute Fridays – a chance to “just write and not worry if it’s just right or not.” Join the fun! It’s exhilarating and exhausting and amazing!

If you, one of my readers, participate in Five Minute Fridays, I really want to know so I can come over and get to know you better! Leave me a comment that you’re joining the fun! 

Also, I’ve turned off word verification at Lisa-Jo’s suggestion, to make it easier for my visitors to say hello!

Seasons of Hospitality

In my childhood home, hospitality was both an art form and a well-developed science. With up to 4 teenage daughters at once, my mother could host dozens or just a few with style and grace. We were quite a team – one daughter loved to prepare gourmet meals, another’s specialty was homemade rolls. My younger sister – bless her! – loved to clean and do laundry. When company was expected, Mom called out, “All hands on deck!” and we’d all pitch in with our skills and passions. As cloth napkins were folded into artful shapes and delectable dishes filled the house with mouth watering aromas, Mom would go around writing inspiring quotes on her collection of chalkboards to provide soul food and conversation starters for our guests.

I hope to offer the same type of hospitality from my home some day – when I have my own army of well-trained daughters! However, I am in an entirely different season of hospitality now. I’m lucky to get a simple casserole on the table before bedtime some days, and no, the house will not be spotless but I hope you will feel welcome anyway! 

Speaking of ‘guests’ – I’m delighted and honored to be guest posting today at one of my favorite blogs, Passionate Homemaking, with tips for exercising hospitality in this season of little ones, laundry mountains, and too-little-time. The good news is, if you’re goal is to “bless, not impress”, you CAN open your home in whatever season you are in!

Check out the post here, “Hospitality, To Bless or Impress?”

(There’s also a cute picture of Jesse learning to set the table for me when he was 2 – too cute! Reminds me that I need to keep involving Claire in the kitchen so she will learn to be as helpful as he is now! Read my tips on Little Ones in the Kitchen if you need to brush up in this area like I do!)

Encouragement for Moms who Fail

So, there I was, crying out to God in the shower. I turned from ranting to Him about how I didn’t have enough time to meet with Him, to ranting about what a failure I was. I was so tired of failing, so tired of not being the mom I wanted to be, of yelling at my children and so often responding with anger rather than patience at their childish mistakes. I was full of despair at the furture I saw if I was not able to change, and yet I repeatedly failed at my attempts to be a perfect mother.

That’s when God interrupted my ranting and asked, “Why do you want to be perfect?”

(Now, let me just interrupt here and explain how God speaks to me. It’s not an audible voice, but rather a thought that enters my mind that, if I’m honest and humble, I realize came from the Spirit of God and not from my weak flesh. If you wonder whether a thought is God speaking or not, you can compare it to the list of Characteristics of God’s voice in the previous post. In this instance, I didn’t even realize He had begun talking with me until halfway into the conversation. I thought, at this point, it was ME that had the idea to analyze my desire to be a perfect mother as a way to perhaps reach that goal. The question was actually, “Why do I want to be a perfect mother?” and only later did I realize it was God’s Spirit prompting the line of thought)

Well, back to the question. I had lots of good reasons I wanted to be a perfect mom – mostly centered around the dream of my children having a happy childhood with a peaceful home, always feeling secure and loved, never a cross word or a verbal attack to scar their tender little hearts…

God interrupted my day dreams with another question, “Why do you want your children to have a perfect childhood?”

“Well…” I thought for a moment, really not sure, and remembering all the times I myself have preached that God often uses pain to bring fruit in our lives. Just as I began to see where this might be going, God spoke these words of love and comfort to me in my place of despair:


“If you never failed, your children would never learn how to repent.”

Instantly I flashed back to a moment in the dining room just that morning when I had knelt on the floor (silly as it felt) and genuinely apologized to my son for losing my temper with him (humbling as that was.)  It was the only thing I had figured out to do when faced with my failure, and I felt it might be the right thing simply because of how hard it was to be that humble!

I thought about all the times in the past week when I had paused mid-sentence, mid-task, mid-rant and responded to the Spirit’s nudge in my consinece to repent. To turn from what I was doing and go the other way. To stop yelling and to humble myself before my child and ask his forgiveness. To kneel and pray together for patience, joy, and good attitudes for both of us.

If I never messed up, if I lived up to my self-glorifying dreams of being a perfect mother, my son would never learn how to repent. I, as his primary caregiver and biggest influence through the most informative years of his life, would miss the opportunity to show him what to do and to Whom to go when he sins.


Now that would be a tragedy – that would be a deprived childhood. 

How grateful I was to my heavenly Father for His comfort and encouragement to me. For assuring me that thought I felt like a failure, He was still capable of blessing my children through me, and had a purpose even in my weakness.

I was so glad I had given Him those two minutes in the shower.

Are you too busy to meet with God? He always has time for you. I have found so often when I simply turn my heart toward Him, directing my thoughts toward prayer and dwelling on Him instead of my lists and worries, He faithfully meets me in that moment. You must simply cultivate an attitude of listening. While in the shower, driving in the car, folding laundry – these are all the moments I have in this season of my life, but God has been real to me and met me here!


Please share your story of how the Lord has spoken to you lately, to encourage us all to seek His face…

Two Mites Is All I’ve Got, God!

It was the first 2 minutes I’d had to myself all day. 

I’d been racing around all day, getting the kids ready to go to Grandmas and myself ready to go out with Jeremy for the evening and trying to leave the house in some semblence of order – oh, and cooking breakfast, lunch, and a dinner we could take in the car. Yeah, hectic.

I knew I needed to connect with God, to get His perspective on my life, to give my soul a breath of fresh air. But I just didn’t have time.

Finally, with two children napping and the third in front of a movie, I snuck in the bathroom to take a shower. As the hot water sprayed over my face I tried to relax, but instead found myself ranting at myself, life, and God. Frusterated that in a season of my life where I KNOW I need to connect with Him on a regular basis, everything seems to fight against that – busy schedules, so many little one’s needs, lack of sleep – need I go on? I know you all can relate.

That’s when God’s Spirit nudged mine with the suggestion - “Why not use these two minutes to meet with me?” Kinda reminds me of the widow’s two mites…

“Hmmm – good idea – just might work,” I thought. “I’ll give Him these few moments I have to myself and see if He can do anything with it.”

Well, believe it or not, the Lord spoke to me, there in the shower, filling my heart with joy and peace and His love. He is so faithful. I wanted to share with you what He said to me that day because I think it will be an encouragement to all of you who have long days and little children to care for. But with the rest of this post I want to share my notes from yesterday’s sermon which, of all things, was on the topic of hearing the Spirit’s Voice. (Thanks to my awesome pastor and father-in-law, Mark Holden, for this great teaching)

Often when one tries to listen to the Spirit’s voice, so many other thoughts invade. It’s helpful to know these characteristics of God’s voice – what it is and what it isn’t.

God’s voice is…

  • the voice of Truth – what He speaks will never contradict scripture.
  • the voice of Love – always based on a foundation of love
  • the voice of Healing – He desires to restore and build up and make whole
  • the voice of Wooing – It’s winsome and attractive, He wants to embrace and console.

God’s voice is…

  • NOT Condemning -” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1
  • NOT Angry – “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” James 1:20
  • NOT Rejecting – He is a God of mercy and grace who invites us in!
  • NOT of the flesh -  He does not speak things to us that would build up our flesh.

If you have been trying to hear the Lord’s voice in your heart lately and have been confused and unsure what He is saying and what might be coming from other places, try comparing it to this list. Then you can discern what is truth and you can toss out what is lies.

His words to me in the shower the other day were full of love and compassion – I hope to share them with you tomorrow.

This post actually fit in with last week’s post over at Faith Barista so I’ve linked up over there. Visit her blog to find more inspiration for seeking God’s voice in her White Space series.  FaithBarista_Rest2JamBadge




How do you find time with God in your busy day?