Wednesday, November 21, 2018

MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY LIFE | AS A MOM AND WIFEY

Last night I was so extraordinarily happy to realize that life has gotten to a much simpler place. Probably the simplest place it's been in three years. No day is typical. Never. Not one. But it's a steady line of untypicalness. No deep plunges of calm roused by leaping flames of temper.

Thank you for normal. 

Thank you for two in diapers who love to play together.

Who tear apart cabinets together.

Who chase each other around the couch, screaming with laughter together.

This day. Full of so much, but really only one, simple thing: togetherness. All the way togetherness.

The kind that bawls for more milk at supper.

And sounds like hard, flying footfalls that pound into my lap when I sit down.

It feels like tiny arms flung around my neck; like the whispering breath of them when they fall asleep on my shoulder.

I would have happily paid a thousand dollars to skip here to these days, ten months ago as I stared at the ghost of a woman that I beheld in the mirror. All stretched out, and pale, with deep, horrible blue circles under both eyes.

I had hemorrhaged in the hospital after birthing Hope, and the days that followed were no picnic. The soft weight of her against me paid for everything, but every day I promised myself that it would get better soon. The wild crying of my confused 18 month old. The aching, exhaustion. The hurting. The wanting to cry and not being able to.

And it all did. It all always does. Joy in the morning.

Thinking back, I realize that this year has really been pretty crazy for a ton of reasons (not just having two kids), but here on the other side of the waterfall, I know that me, and Ethan, and God, and these two kids are closer than before. Stronger. Deeper in love.

So many happy times have completely overwhelmed and outweighed the others. Too many to count. Probably too many to even remember correctly.

What a gift that is.

It's amazing to be so loved by two little people, that they can't leave your side for a second. To be so needed until they have to come searching through the house when they just need a hug, or a quick game of "peek-a-boo."

Thank you for normal.

And Thank you for chaos.

And hurting times.

And weeping times.

Because they're all TOGETHER times. 

Nothing can separate us from the Love of God. Pulled into a strong hug from my logger man, I feel that. In the plaintive MOM?! from the other side of the house, I hear that.  Resting here for two seconds, in this messy house with so much to do...I have to realize that all this mess and crazy is all wrapped up together into a world that I would never want to be without again.

 How happy to be totally happy. How wonderful to be loved.


















Monday, October 15, 2018

THE REFUGE | & DESSERT RECIPE

We practically fell in the door last night; exhausted, grateful.

Tiny children don't understand that staying in hotels is fun. So it's not.

It was an awesome weekend though. So many people, and smiles, and good food, and happiness. I loved every second of decorating until midnight, and laughing over nothing waaaay past bedtime. Our souls were fed, our spirits lifted...

And then we came home.

And that's pretty basically, the very best part.

It amazed me, watching our exhausted, fussy little girls settle almost as soon as we all stepped in the door. I could see the relief washing away their stress. Smiles crept over sleepy faces; angry tears dried.

Their safe place. Their happiness; our home.

It made me so grateful and nostalgic to realize that my goal had been met so completely. Decorating, cleaning, cooking, making it all ours, and theirs ... it paid off for me in that moment.

Tonight my mind wanders quietly over the imperfectness of the unorganized corners; the finger smears on the windows, the floors that I didn't mop today -- and I smile a little, knowing that "perfect" doesn't create "home." Love does. Every day comforting, and snuggling, and struggling here in this one place does. Has. Will always.

Home is an atmosphere.

__ BUT ANYWAYS __

Here's the recipe that I promised on our latest video (You can find that right over HERE if you haven't seen it yet)

CHEESECAKE TART

3, 8oz Blocks Of Cream Cheese, Softened

Heavy Whipping Cream (Just a generous splash or two)

1 1/4 Cups of Powdered Sugar (More or Less)

Fruit of your choice.


Directions: Mix cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add a few splashes of heavy whipping cream. (To make sure your filling isn't too thick and chalky. Maybe a quarter of a cuppish.) Mix until smooth again. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy.

Scrape into a prepared, fully baked pie shell and smooth with a spatula.

Store in the refrigerator until time to serve, then add your topping of choice.

Enjoy!







Monday, October 1, 2018

SATURDAYS WITH ETHAN | SUNRISE MUSINGS





LOL! Her sleepy eyes...


He's so full of surprises. A few weeks ago, Ethan was home on a laid-back type of Saturday. We had a full "to-do" list (as is typical) but there was nothing imminently pressing us to get out the door. 

He suggested taking me out for breakfast. 

 "I'd rather not." Said no busy mom, ever. 

We decided to try a "hole in the wall" type of place. I had heard really good things about it, so we stopped in. 

I vetoed the diet plans and tried a donut. And an Iced coffee. #worthit

Everything was really good, and super cheap! We took our To-Go cups and left very pleased, and ready to hit the ground running. 

I love sporadic. Life with Ethan is very sporadic. We never planned it that way, (*har-har*) but I think owning a business is what usually throws a bucket of "unexpected" over my "unsuspecting." Well, not just that, actually. Motherhood does that. And the Fire Department does that. And, ultimately, God does that a lot in our lives. 

 But reflecting on that, while the sun streaks down our porch and over the yard, I realize that I TOTALLY LOVE IT. Some days it means long hours and keeping supper hot a little longer than expected, other days - well....actually, I have a vlogger video coming up on Thursday that is a prime example of the "good" version of unexpected. 

There's so much happiness when you can let go, and just let everything happen the way it's supposed to. I heard someone quoting a friend the other day. "If you knew how much of your life was predestinated, it would probably scare you."

No such thing as coincidence, guys. 

Sorry for the rambles. These are just a few happy thoughts while I'm sitting here, babysitting the wifi while todays vlog video uploads to youtube. You can click right over HERE if you'd like to see it. (IF IT WILL EVER ACTUALLY UPLOAD....)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

CAN'T BELIEVE I'M DOING THIS | INTROVERT STARTS A VLOG

You’re not that type,” I said to myself. “You have a nasally voice,” I added to myself. “You have too quirky of a personality,” I slammed myself. 

But the idea kept nagging. 

It all started when I was sick in bed. (Or sick in the chair, really, watching my kids…) I happened upon a mommy vlog. 

It so encouraged me to see somebody else doing the same things that I was doing, and holding the same values as I was holding.. It gave me SUCH a boost to watch her chatting away about the baby, and the routine, and what she had learned lately -- and I really needed that right then. 

"NO, ANNA."

To many reasons why I shouldn’t  do it. Waaaay too many. 

Over time the idea kept nagging and bothering and itching in the back of my. brain, and I couldn't make it stop. 

A Vlog channel, as an extension of Southern Charm.

So I tried making a few videos... and ... I LOVED IT.

It takes a lot more work and a lot more time than I thought it would, but I still love it. 

So a new chapter in my life begins: 

Because I want to help people. Maybe seeing someone else holding a standard, and holding the baby, and loving every second of her beautiful, wonderful, crazy-messy life will give a heavy dose of reality to the "picture perfectness" that is so fake and carnal, and intimidating to real-life moms. 

Because I want to create a safe, real space where moms can come together to laugh, and cry, and share with me. Lets just be real, and honest, and draw strength from each other. 

Because I love "heart-to-heart-ing" with people through the day. Two year olds and nine month olds don’t quite understand the weightier matters of Homemaking. “Sunday Morning Lifehacks” or my excitement over a “Modest Clothing Haul” might get an adoring gurgle, but that’s about it;) #YAYFORADULTCONVERSATION

In short, I feel like this is going to be a good thing. A good, good thing. 

I've cringed a million, billion times while editing my videos, and I die a thousand deaths thinking that everybody who knows me will be able to see them, but I'm pushing through all of my introvert reservations to try and be a help. Praying to be a help. 

So. 

Get ready guys! I'll be vlogging on Mondays and Thursdays every week, beginning today, along with the routine Monday morning blog post. (Because I would wither up and die if I couldn't write. Writing's easier.)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DXNI4tR2Nb0

^^^ Here’s ^^^ the link for the promo video, if you’d like to take a peek. Please leave me a comment and a “like” if you enjoy! Feel free to hit the “subscribe” button if you’d like to follow along. (I would be elated to have you.) 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

THE FIFTEEN YEAR MIRACLE

I was five years old that day. I saw the sign in our yard, not knowing what it meant or comprehending the significance. A car slowed beside our country driveway. It was a strange car. Not anyone I knew.

A few days later everyone was at our house. It was empty. The blue and white linoleum floors were gleaming quietly as the last few belongings were pushed outside to Dad's straight truck. I thought the lift on the back was incredible.

We all had a big picnic before saying goodbyes. There were tears. Why?

Dad let me and Kara ride in the sleeper part of the truck, with all the curtains closed. I looked outside, down into the car that followed behind us. The baby swing was stuck sideways in the back seat. Mom waved from the window.

It would be years later before I understood the full story - How God had so burdened my Dad for the people in Wisconsin. No rationalizing, or struggling could quiet the pull in his heart. He fasted and prayed for an answer. God gave him one;  a dream. Still trying to be sure, he put a "fleece" before the Lord. If the house would sell within 30 days, he would go.

30 days to the date we pulled out of our driveway with everything we owned.

A new house. New family. A new library, and town, and church.

All of a sudden, there were people in our house on Sundays and Wednesdays.

One family. Two. Three.

It grew slowly. I grew as well; understood more, felt more.

We rearranged the house and cleaned all day before services.

Dad turned down better paying jobs so he could have more time for studying and counseling.

Goodwill clothes. Unfinished floors. Tired furniture. Warm meals. Shared stories. People in and out, constantly. It became the life I loved. It shaped me.

Years passed. Mom was pregnant. She threw up a lot, but acted like she was fine. Complications, a C-section, God-given strength. His faithfulness, new every morning.

I remember happy songs, and clapping, and laughter.

I saw Dad and Mom more discouraged than I'd ever seen them before.

I felt anger shiver over me. I felt God quiet my soul. I watched forgiveness and learned it myself.

I heard Dad and Mom praying in their bedroom; door closed. "Is it Your will for us to stay here? Is our work finished in this place?"

A scripture verse: "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." God had answered.

Then there were smiles and quiet determination. Quiet forgiveness. Quiet pouring out, and surrendering, and loving anyway.

My hands were helpless to give them what they needed; to be anything that could give them strength. "Why so long, Lord?" I wondered, "Why do we have to wait to have a building?” His ways were perfect. His strength was enough.

"Anna," Now her voice comes over the phone, a thousand miles away. "Can you write our story."  It all comes flying back to mix with the present. Tears overwhelm me.

I grew to know what all those moments and conversations meant. I blessed every word of encouragement that came to my Dad and Mom. My heart broke inside me with every unkindness.

Oh, the hundreds of times I’ve seen their tears. The hundreds of times I heard the courage come back to their voices, saw the strength return in their steps.

 God tarried. Still, they trusted; knowing that He had called them; “His will be done.”

The church members faithfully pushed into the cramped quarters with eager hearts. Folding chairs. One bathroom. Sunday meals that spilled out into the lawn, and crept upstairs into the bedrooms and office... All for love of Christ. All for love of each other.

And then, one day... It had been fifteen years of serving in that house. It was enough.

A church building was listed for sale in a nearby town. A quick call to the pastor. A visit scheduled.

It came fully equipped; stained glass windows, pews, pulpit, a kitchen, fellowship hall, nursery, it was handicapped accessible...everything that was needed.

It was like God had planned for years and years, every tiny detail of this place. He foresaw all the needs - every possible scenario that might come up - and guided the owner to make provision for all of it.

As if that wasn't enough, the owner also proposed an incredible offer: he would lower the purchase price by over half, if they could pay him cash. Everything would be given over completely. It would be theirs.

We watched, almost breathlessly, as God worked. Days passed. Days of prayer; I clung to a hope that seemed afraid to grow, but grew steadily, nonetheless. God could. Was it His will?

The church vote. The building inspection. Pledges of monies available. A text from a brother wanting to know how much they still needed after the pledges were made. A phone call to tell them that anonymous brothers would cover the rest of the cost - brothers in Christ who had never met them. Another brother offered to pay for the insurance. Jehovah-Jireh, our provider.

Then came the official closing, the moving in, and the cleaning of the church.

Finally, the realization sunk heavy, and hard, and deep: It was all God. He provided miraculously: the building, everything in it the money -- all because He wanted us to know that it was doubtlessly HIS TIME, and HIS POWER, and HIS GRACE. He was reminding us that not one, single word of those honest prayers went unheard, though He tested us greatly. 

Tomorrow morning will be the very first time that my Dad gets up to preach there. The pews will fill with the family and friends that I’ve loved all my life. The same songs they've sung for fifteen years will rise up like they always did before, only now, this time, with fifteen years of answered prayers all around, and above, and behind them. It doesn’t get any more real than this.

And so, the next chapter begins.

Monday, September 17, 2018

OH BE CAREFUL LITTLE EYES | WHAT THEY SEE







It's seldom that we order pizza. Usually it means I've had a significantly awful day and just want to sit on the couch and bawl to Ethan until I feel better. Those days don't happen very often, so pizza doesn't either; but when it does, I want chips and Pepsi to go with it. Always.

Ethan raised his eyebrow from across the table. "You're eating chips?" Normally, I'm a salad eater in the face of more interesting food choices. Carrots over Cheetos. Hot tea over Cake.

"Yeah. You can't have pizza without chips."

Looking back, it's obvious to me where this tradition came from. Mom always needed Pepsi with her pizza. Dad always needed chips. So now, I need both.

Hand reaching further into the crinkly bag of Aldi's pseudo-cheetos, I admitted to myself that it was a simple a matter of childhood influence. Habit, maybe?

And while I chewed on my <favorite> Dominoes Spinach and Feta pizza, not caring about the calories at all, I wondered what little things my kids were picking up from me?

And more than that: What habits did I not want them picking up from me?

It got me thinking.

My oldest is only two... but I dare to think that two is one of the most impressionable ages. It's the time that their upbringing starts to burn itself into their very DNA, almost.

One of my earliest memories involved making my mom a special surprise breakfast...with quite a collection of ingredients. Yogurt, mixed with a raw egg or two, coconut flakes, walnuts, sprinkles, vanilla, and chocolate chips - because they were very, very grown up. Mom ate them for fun sometimes. We couldn't have them without permission, but Mom could get them whenever she wanted.

Today, I realized with surprise, that I keep a little bag of chocolate chips in the side door of the freezer - exactly where she used to keep them.

I remember a lot of other things from my childhood, too; like how she read silently sometimes. I only knew how to read out loud, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how she did it; but I wanted to learn. OH but I wanted to learn. 

I noticed how, on bad days, when Dad was at work and everything was a mess, and we hadn't started school yet, she sat down on the steps, with the baby on her lap and prayed out loud until tears came dripping down her face.

It seemed like she prayed forever. When she finished, I could always hear the relief in her voice with the final "Amen." She would stand up, wipe the tears away and direct everyone to their next task with the strength she hadn't had fifteen minutes ago.

There were so many things that emblazoned themselves into the "me" that I am now, without either of us ever realizing it.

But now, to the present. What am I showing my girls in the natural and spiritual?

I want them to see a lifestyle that will keep them victorious in whatever circumstance they find themselves.

I want them to notice that Mom only has unhealthy food for special occasions and "going out." (With friends, on Sundays, for birthdays)

I want them to know how to pray; to know that it's more than words...an actual presence that changes everything.

I want them to see what a happy marriage looks like.

I want them to grow up to know how to save money.

I want them to know how to be generous.

I want them to see that Mommy and Daddy find comfort in opening the Bible and listening to a sermon every day.

So much. So many things.

They say that being a Christian means living for others. They say that being a mother means living for others. It's true. Our simple choices don't only affect us, but also those innocent, onlooking eyes that are quietly searching out everything we do.

What life do you want to give them?

We can't just automatically fill them with the Holy Spirit and make them perfect: but we have so much sway over the habits and ideas that they will have all of their lives. This is so huge. It's worth thinking about.




Monday, September 10, 2018

USED UP | WHEN GOD RESTORES

When I tried to think of words that could describe the way I felt, just trying to make sense of my own self, the only ones that came to mind were, "broken," "used-up," and "dry." 

If my life were a room that you could look inside, there were piles of blessings, heaped up over everything that day. Grace poured out in reckless beauty... over the crevices and corners, seeping out under the door...but somehow it was all gray.

 I couldn't understand it.  So many reasons to say "I'm good. My life is good. I'm happy." But such a shadow; such a weakness prevailed.

I missed my Mom. I missed my family. I missed being needed. I missed my strength. I missed feeling close to God. I missed resting in His presence.

"Ashamed" was an understatement. Oh, was I ashamed.  Why this struggle? I hadn’t expected it.

Days passed and I prayed for strength - just in the split seconds when I had a chance; when I felt the mental exhaustion pull me under again. Just a sentence or two, when I could, a half hour when I found the luxury.

And then there was another Wednesday night: Me making sure we weren't late. Me stuffing all my feelings back inside to smile like nothing was wrong. Me ironing clothes and dreading the thought of pacing in the lobby with my fussy child until service ended. Me, hopeful that maybe I could hear at least part of the sermon. And overall, Me: still ashamed of struggling, ashamed to admit the silent aching of my heart.

We made the hour drive to church, got there on time, sat down in our usual seat, and sang all the songs that were to be sung. Then our pastor got up to introduce the speaker for tonight; a man from South Africa. Turns out he wasn't even supposed to have come, but for some reason, God directed him to us, tonight.

I don't know what happened. That man didn't know me, I never even got a chance to shake his hand after service, but it was like he had listened to everything I had prayed to God in the last month. Nothing was left out. Not one thing. And as he preached, I felt God changing my heart and filling it with the life I had been begging to have.

Almost as miraculous as everything else: my baby sat quietly in her carseat, cooing softly to herself for the entire service. That doesn't happen.

I had been trying my hardest to be the "joyful" mother of children talked about in scripture. I had been trying my best to not be lonely away from my family. I was trying to find my place so far away from them. I had been trying to be a woman of God.

I was an overcomer. By the skin of my teeth.

 I was "flourishing where I was planted" on a cliff's edge, slowly losing my grip. 

It was sheer will that kept me putting one foot in front of the other. 

Depression crept in.

By the time I walked out of the service, everything had changed. Peace fell in calming heaviness over all the clamor that had strangled my thoughts before. There was strength. There was love. There was more grace to give out. There was a freedom that I have never felt before.

And I couldn't believe that God would stoop to strengthen such a miserable excuse of a child. But he sent someone all the miles from South Africa to answer the desperate cry of an ashamed, lonely, girl who couldn't hold it together anymore.

I'm still embarrassed to admit the way I was feeling, but my hearts cry is that others who feel like they just need another portion of strength to keep going would hear this story of grace and seek His reality.

There really is a holding power that comes from an experience with Christ. There is a joy that's more than a pained smile. God has a practical application for mercy. It's not a heady, "book-knowledge" kind of thing when He really sets you free from depression.

His freedom means waking up with pure thanksgiving in your heart. An encounter with Him means that the fears and troubles are put to rest, knowing that He has all the answers. His strength means that you can smile in the hurry, and the dishes, and the unseen, unsung ways that you serve your family at home. It means you can be strong and happy again. It means you see your purpose, and all you want to do is serve Him in it for the rest of your life.

That's what He did for me. He'll do it for you. 

Put down your phone. Open your Bible. Pour out yourself in honesty before Him; show Him what you don't show anyone else...And keep knocking. And knocking. And knocking: because He promised to open the door, if you would.

You'll be amazed what happens when heaven comes down. Hold on.