Thursday, October 29, 2015

True Confessions: Ice, Ice, Baby

I'm not talking about the diamond kind. I'm really talking about the frozen water. It's my favorite. I'm totally obsessed with it and have been for years. And I know better. It's horrible for your teeth. Don't even talk to me about vitamin deficiencies or iron deficiencies... I LOVE ICE.

I'm convinced it's somewhat genetic - several women on my mom's side crave crunchy things. That's totally me. At least ice doesn't have calories - right?! But it's annoying and I totally know it! I have to make myself not do it when I'm with people, but I forget...lots of times...because it's a habit and I can't help it. Oh and those restaurants who are all classy and "we don't do ice in our awesome water?" Not cool.

I also love temperature extremes. One of my brother-in-laws was horrified to learn that I ordered fancy coffee drinks extra hot. I don't anymore because I had one too many that had scalded milk issues - his point precisely.  But I digress..

Ugh! Guys, this is a real thing. My husband even gives me a coupon for store-bought ice in my stocking - he totally know this makes my year! It's unnatural and a little weird and a lot awful. I've tried to break the habit, but the cold and crunch is totally my thing. I can't even explain how happy a glass of ice water makes me. And I am somewhat of an ice connoisseur if I do say so myself. All ice is NOT created equal.

Anyway, to sum up: I'm sorry if I crunch ice near you (except you,'re stuck with me), it takes every bit of self control for me to concentrate on not crunching it - so, it was an accident. I'm only a little sorry, though because ice and cold is awesome.

Did I mention my husband orders light ice in everything and does not like temperature extremes? We're compatible like that.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Sleeping Bag

He was there. Dirty, disheveled, dejected. Surrounded by what appeared to be all of his earthly
possessions, he sat on the median in front of the shopping center.

She parked and walked toward him with a large red object. A red sleeping bag, I soon realized. It was a brisk fall morning in October, one of the first marking the coming cool weather. I sat at the red light watching the scene before me - intrigued.

The middle aged woman in sweats and a ponytail crossed to the median and knelt in front of the man with a gentle and compassionate smile. She gave him the sleeping bag and spoke to him, looking him squarely in the eye. He received the sleeping bag, shuffled his belongings and turned back to her. To my surprise, I watched him wipe his eyes - tears evident even from a distance.

She continued to kneel at his level, kindly speaking to him, and finally joining him in tears. Tears filled my own eyes as I witnessed this humble moment. His pain so evident, her compassion so apparent.

The light changed and I reluctantly continued on my way as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. In that moment I realized, my life had been changed. It was, in fact, one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed.

This simple act profoundly impacted my thinking on mercy ministry and on seeing people. She could have rolled down her window and passed the sleeping bag out to him, she could have easily driven by without doing anything, she could  have walked over and handed it to him and walked away, but that's not what she did. She KNELT at his level, acknowledged him as a person, looked him in the eye, spoke words of kindness, listened to him, wept with him, and met a basic need he clearly had.

It was obvious she did not do this for recognition or glory. She saw him. She saw a need. I'm certain it was not convenient or even comfortable and yet she met it anyway.

The compassion that poured from her face and through her actions spoke to my heart. I haven't stopped thinking about it. The hands and feet of Jesus, the heart of the Gospel, a part of the mission of the church were all wrapped into that moment for me.

I wept. I pondered. I shared. I made a plan to be more prepared to serve people in need in my city.

Compassion. The Gospel. Mercy. Loving People.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Does It Mean?

I'm pro-life. I've spent a lot of time considering the meaning of that statement. It's much more complicated than being anti-abortion to me. I wrote about this topic once before many years ago and stepped on some toes (which was not my intention). My heart aches for the children lost and for the great tragedy that is abortion. And I am thankful for those serving on the front-line of this important issue.

When we were first married, I became a crisis pregnancy counselor. It was hard. I learned a lot. My commitment to adoption was strengthened through that work. I also saw the absolute necessity of supporting a woman beyond her decision to parent. 

I believe being pro-life goes way past a decision to give birth. It speaks to the preservation of life throughout life. 

We can't truly be pro-life without asking ourselves some really difficult questions. How will we be involved beyond birth? How will we support women and children and families in need? How will we reduce the number of children in foster care? How will we serve the marginalized in our society? 

I'm still figuring this out myself. What does it really mean to be pro-life?

A few ways to be pro-life beyond the anti-abortion movement are:
- Be an organ donor. 
- Be swabbed for the bone marrow registry.
- Give blood.
- Support families who are fostering, involved with Safe Families, and adopting.
- Consider being one of those families. 
- Start a clothing closet for children in need. 
- Donate to your local food pantry and work there.
- Be a mentor for kids aging out of foster care. 
- Be a mentor for Safe Families.
- Volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister.
- Volunteer at your local hospital.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Collect items for shelters.
- Love your neighbors. 

Perhaps at the heart of it all is compassion. Seeing, loving, and serving all people. It most certainly will take us out of our comfort zone, it will be hard, it will be inconvenient, and it will stretch us. But I submit that to be truly pro-life, we must support life from conception to grave. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being Enough

I don't know about you, but I majorly struggle with mom guilt. I feel like the worst mom ever at least once a week, day, minute... I'm weary. I'm in the trenches. I feel guilty for not getting everything done in day, guilty if I sit down without laundry or something else productive, guilty if I serve cereal eggs for dinner, guilty about not being and doing enough, guilty about not enjoying every minute... The list is endless. It can be paralyzing. It can make me second guess everything. And people have lots of opinions about what moms should be doing, what educational choices we should make, how we should discipline, and what success looks like. You know what? Some of those opinions and expectations are spoken and some are really only my perceptions. I'm really bad about the latter.

I'm a people pleaser. I am definitely more sensitive than I would like to admit. I am careful about feelings - not hurting others and not expressing my own. I re-play all situations including parenting ones over and over in my head from every angle. It's exhausting.

The thing is I know I am far from perfect as a mother. Sure, sometimes I nail it (ha!) - I'm patient, kind, loving, nurturing, crafty, funny, silly, and spend lots of quality time with them. But sometimes I sin by yelling, sometimes I'm unreasonable, sometimes I'm grumpy, sometimes I'm lazy, and sometimes I don't enjoy being a parent....

Yet, God chose me to parent these kids no matter what. And He is enough. In the mundane and the dramatic and the hard, He is enough. He works through me to make me enough. I am what my kids need and they are what I need. And I DO love them, enjoy them, treasure them, care for them, learn from them, celebrate them, and feel thankful for them! They make me laugh and smile and wonder how in the world I got to be so lucky. (They also disobey, annoy, fight, argue...but that's another post. ;))

I'm here to say:

You are enough through Christ.
You are not perfect and you won't be (spoiler: your kids aren't either) - keep striving and seeking first His kingdom.
You need to take time for yourself - don't feel guilty about it - we must recharge. Whether that's a Netflix show, glass of wine, good book, fancy coffee drink, dinner with a friend or all of the above - just go for it and enjoy!
It's okay to have a bad day - tomorrow is a new one -  "I'm sorry,""I messed up," and "I forgive you" teach many lessons. We are being sanctified through our parenting.
You don't have to enjoy every second of parenting - those well-intentioned ladies who admonish this really do mean well - but the truth is that not every minute is enjoyable (I mean who ENJOYS cleaning up vomit, disciplining kids, sleep issues, scraping poop off cribs and all. the. things.?!).

It does go fast. And we will remember and laugh and forget and treasure and miss. And we will be the blue-haired little old ladies swapping stories which have been enhanced over decades of happy, selective memories. And we will probably stop young moms and tell them to enjoy every minute. And they will roll their eyes and think we just don't get it, but the good will so far outshine the previous day-to-day struggle that we won't even care or remember.

We need to stop believing the lie that we are not good enough. In this day and in this moment, you are enough. 

So in love with these cuties!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
Ephesians 3:14-19

Thursday, September 17, 2015

On Doing Mornings

First day of school treat!
I'm sitting here on my deck listening to the wind ripple through the trees and thoroughly enjoying the quiet. It's the 45 minutes on Thursdays that I have by myself - 3 kids are at piano lessons and one is at school. It's glorious. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and am thankful for each one of my children, but I need these moments of peace - they carry me through the chaos. And these moments mean I have a chance to write.

I'm not a morning person by nature. This is no secret. It's just not my favorite. However, I've been reflecting on ways to make our family more successful and a change in our morning routine was exactly where I felt we needed to start. (School starting always causes these ponderings.) And so, I have been purposefully rising earlier - nothing crazy - just earlier. It has been hard and it has been wonderful. I'm getting more done, having a chance to plan for the day, enjoying time in the Word, making better breakfast, and interacting with each member of the family in a more meaningful way. You better believe the coffee pot is my first stop, though. :)

We changed our school schedule so that the older boys don't start their online school until 10. This has been an amazing change for us. They start their homework earlier (7:30 or 8) and we have our Bible time all before they have to start class. It's been awesome and has made a world of difference in our school day and morning routine. Emmi still attends school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the schedule change has made her drop off easier (she attend 9-2). Titus is traditionally homeschooling with me this year and it's working well for him.

We have a child who has struggled with ADD/ADHD and we have purposed to incorporate more protein into our mornings. This requires more planning for me, but really helps him and is good for all of us. So, I've been cooking breakfast most mornings. May not seem like a big deal, but it's been a change for us. After trying to make everyone happy, it seemed prudent to just have 3-4 breakfasts that we regularly rotate through. So far, no major complaints. (Cereal is very popular at our house, but not something I want to have very often, so Sunday is cereal day.)

These are our current regulars:
Eggs, Sausage, Whole Grain Toast w/all-fruit jam
Greek Yogurt w/Granola & Fruit (we love the new recipe)
Build-Your-Own Oatmeal Bar (I provide a variety of toppings like fruit, nuts, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup and they can make it how they want - they like the control and I like that it's healthy, cheap, and no longer a battle)

Loving our new backyard.
Dinners have been a challenge and I've taken a pretty hard look at ways to make it easier. 4-6p. is zero hour at our house and I do not enjoy trying to come up with dinner then. :) Planning  in the morning, prepping ahead, and doing a crockpot meal (curried red lentils tonight) occasionally is definitely helping. I'm being more intentional with my shopping and in keeping track of what foods we have, so less goes to waste. It's been good. I also keep a few convenience items on hand like chicken sausages that can be thrown on the grill or used as a soup base. Having dinner together is a high priority for our family - it's a chance to share about our day and take some time away from the hectic. We've really enjoyed eating on our deck this summer. The mornings have been key to successful dinner for us.

So thankful for positive changes. I'm still a night person, but I'm making myself get up earlier no matter when I go to bed. It may translate in to an earlier bedtime...eventually. :) Doing mornings has made for a decent start to our school year and has helped to create a lower stress environment in our home.

Mornings...I'm starting to welcome you. Shhh...don't tell nights.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love + GIVEAWAY!

For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker - release day + GIVEAWAY! 

Giveaway is now closed and the winner is according to Random Generator is... HEATHER!

 For the Love Book by Jen Hatmaker

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love" Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other talented and inspiring bloggers! To learn more or join us, click here.

Way back in March, on a whim, I signed up to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book...with 5,000 other people. I have long been an admirer of Jen and have very often been inspired by her words. Somehow, I was among the 500 chosen to be a part of her team, to review the book, to write an endorsement, and to promote her book. An awesome honor and a distinct privilege.

Now today is the official launch date of a book that I definitely recommend. For the Love is a collection of essays for women. Community, parenting, fashion, difficult people - she's got you covered plus so much more. The subtitle? "Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards."

Do you feel like you never measure up?

Do you feel like you have to hide the real you?

Do you struggle with feelings of imperfection?

Do you have a "spicy" family?

Do you find it challenging to have meaningful relationships with other women?

Do you have trouble finding balance?

 Do you like to laugh?

This book is for you. Whether you are single or married, young or old, childless or juggling a houseful of cherubs, working outside the home or staying at home - whatever you're calling and place in life - this book is for YOU. This book is about grace - grace for others and grace for our ourselves and knowing the grace of God - GRACE.

If you have read Hatmaker's previous books or if you follow her on Facebook, then you already know how hilarious she is. This book is no exception. From "Thank You Notes," to dolphin sandwiches, to fashion advice, to real life stories, she will entertain you while speaking truth, encouraging women everywhere, and challenging the norm.

What I didn't know way back in March was that I was about to become a member of an amazing community of women. A community that truly lives out the message of this book. We have laughed, prayed, cried, and celebrated with one another. We come from different generations, different backgrounds, different locations, and different political/religious/theological/social views - yet there is a spirit of love and grace and friendship that goes beyond shared life experience. It has blessed and comforted me and challenged me in my local relationships.

The incredible opportunity to be a part of this beautiful book and community came at an incredibly difficult time in our lives. As the storm of life encompassed and confused us, I found solace in the pages of this book and in the prayers of women who had never met me. What a tremendous blessing and just a small way this book made an impact on my own life.

I was truly sorry for the book to end. I'm also pretty sure Jen and I would be best friends in real life. She is easy to read, easy to relate to, painfully honest, likes to cook (yes, she includes some recipes!), has a dry wit...oh, and coffee ('nuf said).

So, I encourage you to go and buy this book! Even my husband laughed when I read parts of it out loud to him. :) Let it minister to your soul, challenge your relationships, encourage your heart, and make you laugh out loud.

My officially official endorsement:
This poignant, timely, and hilarious book is a must read! Truth spills from the pages providing encouragement, challenge, freedom, and restoration. It is a breath of fresh air that will make you equally laugh, cry, nod, and think. ~ Alaina; Mama of a Spicy Family, Blogger, and Chef Wannabe. Indianapolis, IN

 For the Love Book
In honor of the release of this book, I am giving away 1 copy of FOR THE LOVE by Jen Hatmaker! Just comment below with your favorite coffee (or otherwise) drink and whether you have read anything of Jen's before (1 entry/person, please!). I will randomly select a winner on Saturday, August 23!

** A special thanks to MUCH more graphically talented individuals on the launch team than myself for all the quote images in this post! **

Disclaimer: I received an early copy of the book to read and review, but received no compensation for this review. This is my honest endorsement and opinion of this book. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I do not agree with Jen Hatmaker on all things. This book is not a Bible Study, but rather a collection of essays. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015


We enjoyed a fabulous trip sans kid to Montana this past weekend. It's been YEARS since we have been away for more than a night or two. Andrew had the chance to participate in a colloquium for a group out there and they invited me to join. We were treated to fabulous dinners and even a tour of a ranch. He had a great time, but I had the best time. ;)

While he was in sessions, I drove to Yellowstone National Park. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it felt like a crime to enjoy it by myself! It was a delightful drive, though and I really enjoyed the alone time. What a treat to see a black wolf (rare even for those who live locally, I guess), bison, elk, longhorn sheep, and so much more. I had never been west before and it quickly became a priority for vacation in the next few years with the kids.

What a welcome trip. We have had such a challenging and confusing year and feel like it will never let up (we welcome your prayers). We were so thankful for the time away in a beautiful area of the country!

This ended up being a full rainbow with a partial double - gorgeous!

The view from where we were staying! 

The Lodge - a boutique inn known for their fly fishing.

Yellowstone River

I loved the texture of these. 

Hot springs - so remarkable and smelled like sulphur (ick!).

Bison crossed the road in front of me.

Beautiful waterfall - close to where the wolf was spotted. It was too far away for me to successfully photograph, but it was awesome to see!

A herd of bison roaming free in the park.

Another waterfall - about a 1/2 mile hike off the road - totally worth it.

On the drive back to the Lodge.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Being an Introvert

My sweet man gets me. 
There is no surer way to have your introvertedness confirmed than to be completely intimidated by a new Facebook's online for crying out loud. I have the privilege of previewing and reviewing Jen Hatmaker's newest book (coming out in August) and with that came a fb group of other reviewers - there are 500 of us. I have to laugh that even online, I want to hide in the corner. :) Not because I'm uninterested, not because I dislike the lively conversations, not because I feel left out...because it's just too much socialness. (Of note, I have now used two 'ness words that have failed to meet with spellcheck's approval. :)) But seriously, I am so THRILLED to be a apart of the Launch Team!

My tendency towards being introverted has only solidified and deepened over the years. Even with people I've known forever, I sometimes find it hard not withdraw. We had a fabulous women's retreat with my church a few weekends ago and I enjoyed it, but I was so tired afterwards because, well, it's just a lot of social. When I walk into a room, I tend to go towards someone who I know well and who feels safe to me. It's not a reflection on anyone else in the room, it's simply my coping mechanism.

I'm private, I'm easily intimidated, and I don't have a high need for social interactions. I'm working on this because I know I come off as standoffish sometimes. I'm better one on one, but even that can be challenging for me. I also despise conflict and aggressive disagreement - they make me extremely uncomfortable and I will frequently escape or shut down in those situations.

The thing is...I love people. I care deeply. I am committed.

So, if you see me quiet or alone or talking to my family, it's probably because I'm feeling insecure. Be assured, I love you, I care for you, and I will happily talk to just might need to initiate sometimes...or maybe a lot. I'm a work in progress - aren't we all? My life experience has only intensified my tendency towards privacy and silence.

The truth? My extroverted children exhaust me. By the end of the day, I need to be alone for a little while. My ears are tired and the constant interaction is exhausting. But I love them with all of my heart and I wil get up and do it all over again. My husband is also an introvert, but less so than me. He is so good at being sensitive to my need for alone time and I'm thankful!

I'm okay with being an introvert - I think it takes both introverts and extroverts for the world to go 'round. :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Sport

In the fall, the older boys decided to pursue Taekwondo. (We typically allow the kids to choose one sport and they have previously played soccer and flag football.) We were happy to find a great program that uses our local Y for their lessons. C & P have been participating twice a week since September. We really love that it focuses on self-discipline and self-control. Their instructor is a great remodel and someone the boys respect and appreciate.

In December, they tested for their yellow belt:

Yellow Belt Test
 They were super nervous at their first test, but they survived and we were so proud of them!

And this month they tested for their yellow and green stripe belt:

Green Stripe Belt Test
They were confident, knew what to expect, and demonstrated excellent skills as they proceeded through their forms, kicks, punches, and sparring. We were so impressed and bursting with pride! They were AWESOME!