Tuesday, January 29

What in the World Does Phil Phillips Have to Do with Marriage?


     Alright friends, I KNOW this is my second post about Phil Phillips within a month...

     I know...I'm a cheese ball. 

    Here's the thing, I told you all in that last post that my almost 4 year old daughter LOVES the song "Home" and that we were listening to it in the car on her way to preschool last month. Well, it's gotten to the point where she asks me to play it every time we drive to preschool. And she sings along at the top of her lungs, which just cracks me up, so I always oblige when she asks me to play it. 

     (I must confess we also love the third song on the CD, "Gone, Gone, Gone", particularly the chorus where he repetitively sings, "Like a drum baby never stop beating" and we play our air drums and sing loudly and make silly faces at each other...I can't believe I'm confessing all of this! Haha.)

      So this post is in part a proclamation to let go of the fact that you probably look ridiculous to all of those watching from their cars passing by, and you may even look ridiculous to your children. Sing at the top of your lungs and play that air guitar...at least for the next couple of years until they are old enough to realize that they are actually embarrassed by your ridiculousness. Encourage your kids to play theirs to and fill the car with coordinated craziness (hey, it's better than listening to fruitless arguments about who gets to watch what on television later!). 

     Here is my other confession...besides the fact that Ella loves to sing along I have actually grown to really love the lyrics.  I rarely listen to current pop music for many reasons, including it's complete lack of relevance to my  life and the superficiality of it all. 

      That said, don't you remember those days when you were young and free and dating? Perhaps it was your now husband or a boyfriend, but there was a song that somehow became part of the playlist of your relationship and life: An artist you both loved, a concert you saw, a CD you listened to ad nauseum during a particular season or on a trip. The music elicits emotions and the emotions connect to your reality and you briefly feel like you are on top of the world, or like everything is going to be alright after all. 

       That's what happened when I was listening to this song the other day. It made me consider my relationship with Scott, at least momentarily, on a deeper level.  It took me simultaneously to a more youthful time in our lives when we had time for silly pop love songs and then back to our day to day reality and served as reminder about the beauty of our marriage...the most important component of our "Home". 

Here are the lyrics...

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home
     I promise not to get too mushy and deep here, but does parenting ever feel like that unfamiliar road to you? Like a wave dragging you along?  It does to me sometimes! There are days when I feel like it pulls us both down. Like it's dragging us along so quickly and has caused us to be so distracted that we forget what brought us to this place in the first place-- the fact that we love each other, that we want to do life together, that we wanted to encourage and uphold and support each other in all things. 

     At the end of the day "home" is much more than the physical space that we live in. It is the safety and the encouragement and the support that we create in our relationship together. By remembering to be considerate, to do something sweet for each other, by listening to each other and rooting each other on in life and work and other pursuits.  It is the safety that after 12 years together (9 married!)  I can tend to take for granted and forget to be grateful for. 

     I want to be all of those things for Scott...He is very often all of those things for me. 

     The song is a reminder that we are in this crazy thing together...That the place where we are right now, the craziness of our lives today, the details and the responsibilities we have on our plates at this very moment...we are in it together. We are home. 

     Don't you love that?! I do. 


     Alright, alright, I'm done with my sappy confession. I almost didn't write this post because  I was imagining you all now fully knowing what a sappy cheese ball I can be...but I decided I'm ok with that!  

    All that said, sing a song with your kids today. Listen to a new or old tune that reminds you of your hubby and why you love each other. Relish in the silliness and the beauty of it all. And if you need an excuse, you can tell yourself that I told you to do it! 



Friday, January 25

5 Minute Friday- It's Cold...Again!


     The last few days have been bitterly, staggeringly cold...again...

     Here in Buffalo, N.Y. that is not a complete suprise. Sometimes I imagine that places like North Dakota or parts of Colorado, or at least Alaska are colder more often (Yes, imaging that someone is actually colder helps me to feel better!). Yesterday the outdoor temperature gauge in the car read 5 degrees. The day before 11 degrees. I'm not sure it matters what the temperature gauge really says when it dips that low. It might as well say -53!

     So we bundle. We wear hats and gloves. Big jackets and boots. The cars are grimy, my four year old laughs about the dirty snow and how it looks like mud to her.

     "Yes, honey. Mud. That's about right."

     I've been doing the cold winters for 35 years now and somehow, I must say, I feel as if I have become more resilient. Several years ago, one of my first with young babes to bundle, making the challenges of long frigid winters...well...more challenging...I remember giving in to a restlessness and frustration in my spirit about it all.

     I don't go there...well, not as often as I used to anyway. It's not worth it.

     I've come to realize that Northeast winters are a time for rest. For slowing down. For not moving as quickly and I'm learning to be ok about it.

     When you do something again, and again, and again...you build resiliency, perseverance, a grit and eventually a peace about it. And while I'm not a lover of cold Buffalo winters (and sometimes dream of moving to places like sunny Arizona or North Carolina!), I am thankful for the way they have taught me to adapt and be grateful...even when it is 5 degrees!

This post is part of the 5 - Minute Friday Link-Up...A weekly offering to take one offered word and write, unedited for just 5 minutes! You can check it out here! 

Tuesday, January 22

Letting Go of Ideal

     Has the image of the ideal woman ever etched itself into your creative imagination? The woman you would be “if only”...

     If only…you had more time.

     If only…or when…the kids are all in school, or out of the house.

     If only…your husband received a sudden and unexpected raise and your annual income increased significantly.

     If only…your house were bigger, cleaner…nicer.

     If only…if only…if only!

What would you do? Who would you serve? Where would you volunteer? What types of dinners or play dates or get-togethers might you host at your house…if only.

What might you finally get around to creating or organizing or investing in (emotionally and tangibly)?

I sat in Tim Hortons last week on Saturday morning with a bag full of books and notebooks, my uncombed hair hidden beneath a baseball cap, sighing at the stains on my sweater (that I was just now noticing under the very bright lights) and trying to make the most of the two hours I had.

It was an early 6:45 a.m. Let’s be real, that’s a sacrifice (in my world!) on a Saturday morning when your husband and children are sleeping in and you would like to be as well!

But we had a busy weekend of house projects and kid stuff ahead of us and I was determined to squeeze in two hours of writing and journaling before it all began.

There was, unfortunately, a newly installed television blaring local news in the front corner of this Tim Hortons. The plastic seats were cold, the lights too bright, and the older man and his wife who eventually sat next to me spent several long minutes trying to figure out why they hadn’t gotten the muffin they ordered and then the employee hollering that their muffin was up on the counter. There was a dirty gas station next door and it was 16 degrees outside.

The space was anything but ideal…

I literally aloud laughed to myself as I sat down and tried my best to concentrate. I typed the word “ideal” into an online dictionary.

i·de·al [ahy-dee-uhl, ahy-deel]
nouna conception of something in its perfection. -a standard of perfection or excellence. adjective-conceived as constituting a standard of perfection or excellence: ideal beauty.-regarded as perfect of its kind: an ideal spot for a home.-existing only in the imagination; not real or actual: Nature is real; beauty is ideal.
It got me thinking…the morning, this un-ideal space for writing, that definition.

There might have been a time in my life when I was shooting for perfection…for a higher standard of excellence…in the tasks of my life.  Like when I worked for a publisher and we needed to make sure the manuscript was in tip-top shape to move into production. Like when I was grading mid-term exams for 11th grade English students and there was a right or wrong answer to questions like, “What is the main character’s name in The Scarlet Letter?”

But in our day-to day-lives?

Taking care of a house and children and trying to work through the joys and challenges of a marriage and life in the midst of it all. It is SO much less straightforward than a test question, deadline or marketing report. Sometimes I find myself floundering to figure out what to do with that.

What happens to “ideal” when the realities of life kick in?

How about that idea to volunteer at church or a soup kitchen that sounded so good…ideally. Or those relationships that you want to invest more time in (neighbors, friendships, family members)…ideally. How about the exercise? The pursuing of passions or interests outside of the daily responsibilities? The get-togethers full of laughter with friends around a table…all things you want to fit into your life…ideally.

Things are so much less straightforward in our adult lives, in the “real” world, where ideal sometimes feels like an unfair expectation that always hovers far enough in front of me that I can see it, but never touch it. Ideal can make me discouraged.

I jotted these words in my journal after I read that definition of “ideal”:
“My life is not ideal…there is no time for ideal. That does not mean I am not happy, and that I cannot experience joy and gratitude…it simply means that I need not look at my idea of “ideal” before arriving at joy, or gratitude. I don’t mean to be cynical…I feel that this is actually part of maturing in our lives…part of become more “realistic” than “idealistic”. 
 What if we never have more time? More money? Those house additions or updates we’d like? Then what? Will you never write that book or that poem? Will you never try, even in the smallest way to pursue that dream you’ve tucked deeply away?  Will you never engage with that family member or friend more deeply? Will you never start to do the things that you know, in your heart of hearts, matter to your kids and family: just being with them, praying with them more, laughing with them?"
If the “if onlys” never come true…does that mean the rest of it never comes true either?

I determined on Saturday morning to make the most of what I have...those two hours in an un-ideal fast-food coffee place. The house we live in. The wonderful man and beautiful children that beckon for me to see them, be with them and love them EVERY day. I determined to start letting go of my "ideal" and embracing the life before me more fully. 

I’m currently reading a great book on writing called “The Right to Write”, by Julia Cameron (also author of The Artist’s Way). That morning, after I settled in and opened my coffee stained book (un-ideal for the woman who likes clean book pages, but after finding coffee spilled in my purse what was one to do?!) and read the title of the next chapter, “The Time Lie.”

Hmm. Interesting.

Here’s what she said…truth that applies to all of life, not just the writing life.
“The myth that we must have “time”—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. If we are forever yearning for “more,” we are forever discounting what is offered…My life—and all the work I have made from my life—has been more like making a patchwork quilt than unfolding bolts of  limitless serene silk…Years as a single mother, full-time teacher, and full-time fiction writer taught me to grab for time to write instead of wait for time. Grabbing is what I am doing right now. Grabbing works.”
So friends…I implore you…grab and create. Grab the scraps of time that are left over at the end of the day or in the early morning. Grab the moments in the car with (or without!) your kids and around the dinner table…Grab and try, in whatever little way you can, to do the things that God has placed on your heart to do.

Let go of the ideal and “if only” statements that are running through your mind. The same goes for me!

At the end of that journal entry I wrote a statement to myself…

Let go of the ideal and make the most of what you have. Chances are you will find yourself happier in the process of life as you make the most what is in front of you rather than biding time frustrated and restless as you wait for your “ideal” to arrive.”

I think I might have to write that one down on a 3x5 card and post it on my fridge.

Friday, January 18

Pregnancy Update: 25 Weeks

I haven't written much about my pregnancy here, so I figured I'd offer a quick update and a couple of...gulp...photos.

I NEVER share pregnancy photos.

It's probably because I was so big and puffy in my first two pregnancies that A) I didn't want photos taken and B) If I didn't see puffy photos of me it helped to keep me in denial that I was in fact big and puffy.

I had women stop me in grocery store and doctor's offices when I was 6 and 7 months pregnant and say, "Any day now, huh?" or "Wow! Are you carrying twins?" My favorite was the lady in the ob/gyn's office who looked at my belly and said, "Ha! Good luck with that delivery!"

And how about the man in the grocery store that offered to carry my groceries 4 weeks AFTER giving birth to Ella because he thought I was STILL very pregnant.

Now I can't promise that none of that is in my near future...we're just at the beginning of the sixth month now and I felt that belly a-stretchin' after dinner tonight (remember that feeling?!).  However, for the most part I have felt really great up to this point, so I'm thankful for that! And please don't hate me when I tell you this, but to date this has been my best and easiest pregnancy. Praise God. Truly.

I share that in part to encourage any of you who are on the fence about being pregnant ONE. MORE. TIME (like I was!). It's been fun to watch the girls react to my expanding belly...Ava LOVES to hug it and say "Hi Baby!" and so far  it's been pretty manageable even with two other kiddos at home.

Ella got to feel the baby kick on Friday morning...that was probably one of the highlights of my week. The look on her face was priceless!

So as for trying to stay healthy and fend off pregnancy pounds that I always have a terrible time shedding afterwards, I have been doing my very, very best. Lots and LOTs of good stuff (fruit, veggies and lean meat) much, MUCH less of the not so good stuff is really what it comes down to.

I should add that prior to this pregnancy I did a lot of work in regards to changing my diet around to be much more healthy-- I was in decent shape (running or going to the gym 3-4 days a week), I was seeing a homeopathic practitioner who has helped boost my immune system and "reboot/rebalance" my other "systems" (digestive, hormonal, etc.). I feel like all of that has really been a key component to me feeling as healthy as I do right now...I'm very, very grateful because I know a lot of women have very difficult pregnancies.

The biggest difference for me this time around...

I'm eating better....When I tell you I used to consume carbohydrates in large quantities, I would not be exaggerating. Mac n' cheese, pasta casseroles, rice, enchiladas, massive bagels with cream cheese (oh yum!), white potatoes, big sandwiches and LOTS  of milk and milk products were all quite typical for me. I did eat a LOT of salads and veggies as well, but there was too much of the other stuff to be healthy.

I feel like I've found a way of eating that is much more balanced for me now. I will still eat all of that stuff occasionally, but when I do it is in much smaller portions (I might have 1/2 a bagel, or a small bite of the girls macaroni and cheese). I've also significantly increased my raw fruit and veggie consumption...instead of fruits and veggies being an after thought or side dish in many meals I now load up on them first and then eat the other stuff. Also more brown rice, Ezekiel bread, small whole wheat wraps and pitas.

I've significantly decreased my milk consumption...there is a lot of controversy about this, but I don't miss it, my homeopathic lady tells me it's bad for me and honestly my tummy has felt much better since reducing the amount of wheat and dairy I eat. I still have a latte, some yogurt or cheese if I want it, but it's not daily like it used to be. I use Almond Milk in my shakes and on cereals and my belly is happier for it!

In all honestly, I feel like my diet has been a more significant piece in my health than ANYTHING else. I'm still going to the gym 3 days a week...yes, with my big ole belly...and yes, some people smile (the women) and some give me funny looks (some of the men!), but things are significantly slower there...I'm down to 15 minutes on the elliptical and another 15 on the bike and then some VERY light weights for toning. I'm a big advocate of listening to your body and so far so good...I slow down when my body says slow down (giving up Zumba, for example and I haven't run since September) and all seems good.

So that's about it!

Here are the promised photos...

Front Shot

Side Shot

Just to prove I am actually still dragging my pregnant behind to the gym! 
These were all taken earlier this week and I swear my belly has grown several inches since then! According to one source, the baby is about the size of an eggplant right now.

I would love your prayers for continued health, a healthy baby and delivery...If you're lucky I'll post one or two more pictures of my belly (it's sure to be quite large by the end...I always tell people, "I'm short...where else is the baby supposed to go but out!") in the next couple of months.

Due date is April 27th!!

I'm taking girl name suggestions too!!!

P.S. I almost didn't post this because a)I'm not a fan of posting pictures of myself and b) I'm not usually a fan of sharing boring details about my food consumption...However, I do feel healthier and am excited about that so thanks for listening!

Tuesday, January 15

Isn't it time for a Coffee Break?

     In the midst of our hectic lives (that seem to move at a quicker clip with the addition of each child!) it seems easy to find excuses for why we can't engage with others in more meaningful ways and on a more regular basis.

     I know this reality all too well. I've been meaning to invite several of my neighbors over for a potluck for over a year now! Scott and I regularly talk about other young families in the church we'd like to get to know better and how we should have them over for dinner...we have the same conversation every six months or so and never make plans! There are women in my MOPS group that I'd love to host for a playdate for or invite out to coffee...but alas, life seems to perpetually get in the way!

     That is why this book, Isn't it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of World (great title, isn't it?!) by Amelia Rhodes is so important and wonderfully convicting to read. It is relatively short  and easy to read (quite suited for us busy women!), but FULL of insight, wisdom and encouragement. It was a much needed reminder that when we don't make the time to connect with others we are missing out on some of life's most important ingredients...fellowship, friendship and community.

     Amelia happens to be a friend, which is the other reason I'm SO excited about this book (her first!). The beautiful irony is that a connection that started on whim when we were standing in an author line to get books signed at a writing conference grew into something deeper over time-- first through our online Facebook relationship (yes, Facebook does have some virtues!) and then when she so graciously invited me to stay at her house for four nights at that same conference two years after our first meeting!

Amelia did not just write a book about doing life together because it seemed like a worthwhile topic (which it is!), but because it is something that she strives to authentically do in her own life on her own and with her family.

     Even funnier is that my short stay at her house ended up offering a humorous anecdote included in her chapter on Hospitality (yes, I have a short cameo in the book!) when, after all of her thoughtful and intentional preparations, her feisty cat continuously decided to paw it's way through my suitcase and jump onto the table looking for leftovers while I was eating breakfast...she muses that no matter how much preparation you put into preparing for these things there are often details we cannot predict!

     In her introduction Amelia says, "God did not design us to live our lives alone. In a world increasingly busy and focused on self, doing life together as God intended sometimes seems as impossible as getting chewing gum out of a child's hair. We can have a thousand "friends" online, yet no one to call up and share our hearts with over a cup of coffee." 

     The book is broken down into six chapters each highlighting an essential "ingredient" for friendship and connection; Love, Generosity, Hospitality, Forgiveness, Unity and the creative acronym H.E.L.P (Honesty, Encouragement, Love and Prayer...the essentials to a good friendship).

     Woven creatively throughout the book is a well crafted coffee metaphor, many relatable life examples, appropriate and well chosen scripture references and well written discussion questions which lend this book to being great for a small group study.

     I'll leave you with two (of many!) favorite quotes from the book...

"As we purify our relationships with each other through a double filter of love for God and love for each other, we find our differences and divisions are screened out leaving Christ at the center of our lives together."  

"If we can truly grasp what it means to  love each other and inspire each other to fully develop and utilize our gifts within the body, the world would be a different place. We'd have love instead of lines drawn in the sand. We'd have a beautiful body instead of one bruised by each other. We'd have the world's attention."  
(Both quotes taken from Chapter 6, "Unity") 

      If what I've shared resonates with you at all, do consider picking up a copy of this book and supporting Amelia! She a wonderful momma with two elementary school aged children, married for 15 years to her high school sweet heart and about as real as they get. She blogs regularly over at


You can find her book on...

Christianbooks.com (best retail price at $8.19, though not sure about shipping...)
Barnes and Noble

Saturday, January 12

A Winner and Saturday's "RMJs"

Hi Friends!

What a glorious day here in Buffalo. It's 55 degrees and sunny on a random Saturday in January...it's quite unseasonal (and perhaps a bit disconcerting if you worry about things like global warming!), but I'll take it. My windows are open and fresh air is blowing through our stuffy and stagnant house after weeks of being buried in snow.

We're in the middle of all of the hustle and bustle that is Saturday mornings. Kids wanting to play, breakfast being made, cleaning up some of the messes from the week, finally taking our Christmas tree down (yes, it was still up until this morning! Intentionally, for the record!).

I don't have much time to write here, but wanted to announce the winner of the Desperate book giveaway and share some of my RMJ's (random moments of joy) from the morning.

So, the winner first...

                      Lovely Abigail from Traveling with Love

Enjoy Abigail! I'll get in touch for your mailing address!

I must say, I love doing giveaways because they are fun and I'm always SO thrilled for the winner (I've been on the winning end from time to time myself!), but I hate doing giveaways because I know all of you mommas could use the encouragement in this book and I wish I had a copy for each of you!!!

That said, you can order it on Amazon (here is the link to Desperate) and I said a prayer for each of you this morning that God would bless you each in your mothering journeys in some unexpected way this week.

My biggest RMJ this morning...There were actually so many it's hard to have just one (coffee, pancakes and an omlette all lovingly prepared by my husband...the little hands that delivered them to me in my bedroom as I typed this post and did some journaling...I felt like a princess, truly!), but this one took the cake...

My sweet five year old is really embracing the art of writing words and notes (as she learns how to spell and write in kindergarten) and took a scrap sheet of notebook paper and left this next to me on the bed...

My heart is full (as is my belly!).

We're off to make the most of our Saturday here. Blessings to all of you!!!

Thursday, January 10

Random Moments of Joy

     As usual, Ella and I were in a rush as we drove to preschool this morning! Such is life, right?! 

     Ava gets on the bus at 8:25. In theory I would be dressed, Ella would be dressed, I'd have anything packed that I need to head to Starbucks to write (which I do on some preschool days), or run errands, or be ready for my MOPS meeting. Ella's backpack and anything she needs for school would also be packed and ready to go. We'd be prepared, jump right in the car and easily make the sometimes more than 25 minute drive out to her preschool which is 25 minutes away at our home church. (Sometimes I think we're crazy for making the long drive, but that's another story, and it is our church and we love the people, so we do it...every Tuesday and Thursday.) 

    So, in "theory," we'd be up, moving and ready to go...

    But it's the morning and there are a lot of moving parts, and teeth that need to be brushed and bites of food to be eaten and ponytails to be created (I always think boys must be SO much easier to get ready to get out of the house!) and therefore we never are ready to leave right away and our drive is rushed. 

    This morning, after Ava's bus picked her up, I ran back in the house to grab tissues for my runny nose, my breakfast sandwich (now sitting on the counter for almost 1/2 an hour!), my cold coffee, Ella's bag, threw some foundation and blush on my face and then ran out to the car. 

    The traffic was heavy as usual at 8:40 a.m. and my mind was already preoccupied with the tasks of the day. I was checking them off in my head when Ella said, "Look Mom, two birds at school!" 

     I was momentarily confused. Birds? School? What in heavens name is she talking about? She is my child who likes to make up fake planets with names and creatures that live on them and tell me all about them. That said, sometimes I legitimately have NO IDEA what she is talking about! 

     "Birds? Huh? Oh Birds!" 

    I looked up on the power line out the right hand side of the car where she was sitting and sure enough there were two birds sitting there basking in the sun. The "birds at school". 

    You see, at some point I was in the car with the girls and we all looked up and saw what seemed like a hundred birds nestled closely together on a power line.  Someone, myself or Ava, decided that it was as if they were all sitting at attention in school for their teacher, ready to learn. From that day every time the girls, Ella in particular, see birds sitting on a power line, the pronouncement is made, "LOOK, birds at school." 

    And so on this particular morning Ella's proclamation about the birds thankfully jolted me out of my somewhat anxious, preoccupied mommy brain. Initially it caught me off guard and then I looked up and engaged in her world with her. 

    "Yes babe! Look at that! Those birdies all ready for school this morning." 

    She smiled. I smiled. My mind felt lighter. I felt thankful... For the birds, for the blue skies that I finally noticed when I looked up at them, for the mind of a 3-year old with ample space to stop and notice the birds and for her little voice in my life reminding me to stop and do the same. 

     At that moment I realized this is the beauty of being a mom with small children. These are the things that will so quickly pass. Some day I will not be rushing kids around to preschool in the morning anymore, and the car will be quiet...on some mornings I might appreciate that immensely, but it will be then that I will also immensely miss the random moments of joy brought to me through the noticing eyes of my toddler. 

     This morning I've decided to start calling these little moments, moments that happen EVERY day if we watch for them, RMJ's (Random Moments of Joy) and to be more deliberate about both being present to them and thankful for them. 

     They're things that are a little bit more random and whimsical than what I would have initially considered adding to my "1,000 Gifts" list (I wrote about my starting to keep track of all of the little blessings in my life last Saturday and have enjoyed doing so), but they are exactly the little moments that Voskamp was talking about in her book. I'm realizing that now and I'm grateful for the blessings. 

     I have to tell you about one more quick thing from this morning...We had the new Phil Phillips CD in the car (he's the guitar playing guy who won American Idol last season) and were playing the very over-played song "Home" that is all over the radio stations these days (click on the hyperlink if you have no idea what I'm talking about!). I told Ella how much I liked the song, she asked me to turn it up LOUD. I laughed and did. 

     The song ended and she said, "Mom, could you please play that same song again?"

     "Sure babe."

    The song ended the second time...

    "Mom, that is SUCH a pretty song. Could you play it again?

     Haha. "Of course sweetie!" 

     We rocked out to Phil Phillips LOUDLY, for the last quarter of our journey to school. 

     I was so full of joy by the time I arrived to drop her off...completely unexpected and unanticipated smiles and joy.  I love that! 

     Have you had any RMJ's today?! Leave a comment with one below...I'd love to hear what "little" thing has brought a BIG smile to your face today! 

P.S. Speaking of finding joy in motherhood I am giving away a copy of a wonderful book I'm finishing up. It's called "Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe." 

To be entered to win, click here to read my review of the book and simply leave a comment below...or a comment on my Little Writer Momma FB page if that is easier for you! 

Tuesday, January 8

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe a Book Review and Giveaway

        Do you ever have days when you doubt your ability to be the mom you want to be? The mom your children deserve? The mom you know God created you to be if you could just....get it all together?

      Confession...I often find myself concocting scenarios in my mind of my children sitting in therapy 20 years from now and what they might be saying to their therapist about their crazy mother!

      "She was SO emotional!"

      "She should have given us more structure."

       "You should have SEEN our house some days...it looked like a tornado ripped through and she just let all that stuff SIT there! What a slob!"

       Well, I'm happy to report that if you have doubts about being a mother you are not alone! I'm right there with you and just finished reading a book that speaks directly to those doubts and insecurities. Desperate was  co-written by a momma with three young children who is at the same stage and age as many of us (Sarah Mae) and her wonderful mentor (Sally Clarkson) who has years of wisdom and experience to share about motherhood whose children are all almost in their 20's now.

Ironically (or perhaps not so much!) I started this book on a day when I was feeling empty and am finishing it feeling quite full. In part because motherhood just seems to ebb and flow that way-- one day you are flat on your face surmising a survival plan to get you through to the end of the day. Three days later you are back on top of the world feeling like you're rockin' this mom thing never to flounder again.

In between we need books like this!

Honest accounts of the days flat on your face (thank you Sarah Mae) and oodles of wisdom garnered from years of mothering experience and learning to trust God in ALL of the details (thank you Sally Clarkson).

This book is unlike other parenting books I've read (and I've read a LOT of them!) because of the team approach-- younger, inexperienced mom and seasoned, wiser mom. Sarah writes from her experiences as a young, overwhelmed mother who finds many of her days at home to be tedious and challenging, often leading to bouts of depression.  Sally responds to Sarah's experiences and questions with wisdom, grace and encouragement as a mom on the "other side" of many of the issues and challenges Sarah is dealing with.

Each chapter starts with a question from Sarah and an answer from Sally.
"Dear Sally, I'm really struggling with being a mom today. I feel overwhelmed and underprepared. What if I fail my kids? Can I really do this motherhood thing well? Can I really love my children the way they need me to?" Sarah asks in Chapter 1.
Sally responds,
"Sweet Friend, Almost all mothers I know started out overwhelmed and eventually found their legs and began to create a rhythm in their lives. Please do not allow the guilt or inadequacies you are feeling to overwhelm your life...You see, the process of learning how to nurture our children usually always ends up crafting a bigger and more generous soul within ourselves and becomes a grace and beauty to our souls."

There are SO many quotable passages in this book that it's hard to just give you one or two, but if I had one main take away from reading Desperate, one theme that really struck a chord, it is that as both Sarah and Sally remind us...motherhood is NOT easy. When we think it will be we walk around feeling frustrated and disappointed. When we change our perspective, almost to that of approaching motherhood as a "battle" of sorts, we can train ourselves, prepare ourselves and equip ourselves to attack the days in a more prepared way.

Take Sally's words in Chapter 4:
    "Many of us start our roles as mothers with a "Cinderella syndrome," thinking that life is going to magically work out happily ever after. I know I did, and boy was I in for a tough ride. Hollywood movies in today's world tend to create the illusion that life is romantic, things work themselves out in the end, and a happy home is easily won. But this is a lie, completely detached from the reality of our lives." 
    (and at the end of the chapter...)
   "All soldiers are trained to expect and anticipate war, so they are not surprised when the battle starts. Moms need to understand this is the reality of life with children in a fallen world. Getting angry and upset for children being selfish and demanding creates tress and havoc in the mind, emotions, and body of a woman. Prepare yourself and accept the limitations of your husband, children and home-- and of yourself. And then determine you will, in time, subdue your home, overcome in the fight for the hearts of your children, and find God's joy and blessing through your obedience." 

In addition to the wonderful content the book also includes thought provoking discussion questions, applicable Bible verses, and great action suggestions.

If you ever have days when you feel desperate as a mom this book was written for you and I would highly recommend you picking up a copy.

Also, visit the Desperate website for free downloadable study guides as well as to enter to win some FABULOUS prizes (coffee, massages and a weekend away!):

You can read what other moms are saying about the book on their own blogs by clicking here:

To buy the book click here (or go to your favorite book seller!): 

And lastly, because I have enjoyed this book so much in my own mothering journey and one of my heart's desires is to encourage you all in your own mothering journeys I have purchased an extra copy of the book to give away to one of you!!! 

All you have to do is: 

1. Leave a comment below about why you'd like to read this book (1 entry)

For extra chances to win you can: 

2. Click on the FB logo at the top of this page and "like" the Little Writer Momma FB page (1 extra entry)

3. If you have a google account click on "Join this site" on the right hand side (where you see all of the little head shots) (1 extra entry). 

If you do #2 and/or #3 just let me know in the comments section below, or on my FB page so that I know! 

The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday and I will announce the winner on Saturday morning! 

Saturday, January 5

Practical Thoughts on a New Year

Hi Friends,

I'm back!

     Yes, it has been more than five weeks since my last post! I've missed you. I've missed blogging. And as much as my blogging has felt inconsistent in the recent past, often lacking the clear direction I would (ideally!) like it to have, it is a meager attempt at scratching out words, to connect with all of you, and to capture some of these wildly hectic, busy days in a more tangible way...Days which, even though I have the best intentions of capturing through journals and pictures and baby books and mental notes, often just fly by.

     When I stop writing I also start to get restless.  Emotionally restless. Us crazy, intuitive, artistic, writing types must always be writing our lives onto paper-- in journals, on napkins, on the back of the church bulletin-- something, somewhere. I write to process life and blogging and journaling are the best avenues for me to do that during this busy season of raising little ones.

And so I'm happy to be back to blogging...and thanks for stopping by to share this space with me.

Last year in January I set out to start a second blog (to write more about family life) and promised to post here two times a week...at least! This year I'm being more realistic. My goal is to post here once a week (possibly more on some weeks, but I'll be lucky to eek one post out in the early months after the baby comes!). I figure that once is a week is reasonable for me and for you (I don't know about you, but I can't keep up with those blogs that post 3+ times a week anyways!).

The year here in Buffalo is off to a bitter, cold, blustery start...the wind is knocking at the windows and blowing snow drifts all over the roads as I sit typing away. The only silver lining at this time of the year for me is that the days are no longer getting shorter. That's right, as short as they seem, they are now actually getting longer (woohoo!). Seriously, that's a BIG deal for me. The older I get the more frequently I wonder why I live in this place that is crazy cold and GRAY for at least a third of the year!

I know the reason...it's the same reason we came back to Buffalo in the first place...to be closer to family. And we are. So that my girls can have a closer relationship with their cousins. And they do. So that our parents can more easily come to events like Ella's preschool Christmas concert. And they can. So that I can take some chicken noodle soup over to my grandmother's house when she is sick (like today). And I will.

So family, if you're out there...know that I am putting up with these crazy, cold, gray winters for YOU! That means I love you a lot, even if I don't always show it in the ways I'd like to!

Now onto things other than the weather...Because it's still the first week of January, the time when we all think about (even if we don't put them into writing) goals and ideals for the upcoming year, I'll share my big picture thoughts about the year with you.

First and foremost, I'm not creating specific resolutions this year. That's right, no New Year's Resolutions for me this year. I like to think I'm being practical...sensible...realistic.

I'm a woman with two young girls with a third on the way. My days already feel crazy, messy and unpredictable and the third one is merely bopping around in my belly (I can feel her as I write this!). She's not yet out and about keeping me up at night, needing to be nursed, plunging me back into the world of diapers (not sure if I'm ready for that again!), and sending out shrieks to be held as I try to make dinner and break up fights between the older two!

I'm a woman who needs to be practical this year.

I set all sorts of goals last year...they were a little bit vague, but I had a great, structured plan in place to bring some discipline and control into my life in 7 DIFFERENT AREAS!

Here they are...um, were...(This was from a January blog post last year).

I have seven key areas in my life that I am trying to bring some more order and structure too...that I would like to be a part of the blueprint of my life...they are as follows:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Writing/Professional
  3. Physical/Health
  4. Marriage
  5. Parenting
  6. Relational (family, neighbors, friends)
  7. Home management

I had big plans to set goals in all 7 of these areas...manageable, practical, goals.  I meant it....really. I still think this list is a good and very accurate snapshot of the most important components of my life...areas that all need to be tended to, and worked into the balance of everyday life in a way that each of us finds sensible and manageable.

However, by the 3rd week of January this is what I wrote about trying to set goals in said 7 areas of life...

Then I sat down and started writing my goals. Then day to day life started coming at me like it always does-- just the normal stuff; the kids, the meals, the house, the running around, the commitments (mostly good ones!)...the stuff of life. 
Then...I got really overwhelmed. 
I started thinking, Lisa, you're nuts. You can't manage all of the stuff of life and add new goals or commitments...you can hardly manage what you have going on in your life right now. How are you going to improve yourself spiritually, professionally, physically, relationally, in your marriage and in your home all in one year...No. Stinkin'. Way.  
These are the conversations that go on in my mind...the little red guy and the little black guys sitting on my shoulder...Yes you can. No you can't. Yes you can. No you can't.
And so it goes...
          And so I started to pray...
Oh my...the prayers were like a glass of water, after a run on a very hot day...I had been striving, running, chasing all sorts of things without the most necessary element...water from God via prayer. Every day. 
  I have not been very consistent in my prayer time lately. December started off really well, and then life got REALLY busy (the irony of that gets me every year, but that's a whole other post all together!) and my prayers became fewer and fewer.
I wasn't praying for direction. I was staying up late and not getting up to read my Bible in the morning. I had forgotten, in my busyness, to ask God for His input.
So, when I started praying on Saturday morning, after feeling like my thoughts were spinning and I was never going to gain control of my life again, God very graciously spoke to me very clearly. He said..
Lisa, my daughter, you are looking at this all wrong. You are right, it is quite overwhelming to stare at a list of seven different areas in your life to which you'd like to bring order and structure. You are also probably right to fear that left to your own devices this year will move by as quickly as the last and you will find yourself discouraged that yet again nothing has changed...

Instead of staring at seven potential areas of change I want you to look at one...Me. Pray more. Ask Me what plans I have for your life. Ask me to bring peace and order to your anxious heart. 

That verse came to mind. The one we sang in Bible camp when I was a young, insecure teenager...

So, I am back at square one with one goal for this year. Pray more. Seek Him more. Ask more. Knock More...and I am certain that as I focus my energies upwards instead of outwards theremight be hope for real change. 
I am still hoping for change, progress, growth and some new structure in all of those areas, but I'm asking God for His take on it...daily.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness and all these things shall be added onto you... Hallelujah (Matt 6:33).

So this year, instead of setting out to make all sorts of plans for my year I'm rereading this post and realizing it's truth and relevance for me as much today, as it had a year ago. Except, with a 3rd baby on the way, perhaps even more so.

My "goals" this year: Pray consistently. Read my Bible daily. Practice gratitude. Enjoy these moments with my young kids as fully and as well as I possibly can, despite the craziness. 

I've been a crabby, grouchy, momma more days than I'd like to admit this last year and I'm beginning to realize, more and more, that Ann Voskamp hit the nail on the head in "One Thousand Gifts"...joy, peace and patience all start with GRATITUDE.

More on that (and other ways I'm working to develop those characters into my busy life) later this month. In the meantime, I'm doing something I haven't tried before even though I LOVED Ann's book...I'm starting my own 1,000 gifts (only 18 months after reading the book!)...Here it is:

How about you? What is on your mind for 2013?!

I also have two great books that I'm reviewing right now that I'm REALLY excited to share more about next week.

The first "Isn't It Time For a Coffee Break" was written by Amelia Rhodes, a friend of mine from MI (a story about my staying at her house earlier this year is actually included in the book!). I'm SO excited to tell you more about this encouraging book and so proud of Amelia for writing this!

The second is titled "Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe" by Sarah Mae (co-founder of the Allume blogging conference I attended last Fall) and Sally Clarkson (an amazing woman, Bible teacher and SO full of seasoned wisdom about motherhood) and SO fits the story of my life right now that I feel as if I'm reading words penned from my own crazy momma mind.

More on those next week along with a chance to win copies of each!