For Everything There is a Season

I’m sure you already saw this coming, but after much thought and even more prayer, I have come to an ultimate decision. This is a miracle in and of itself because I usually can’t make a decision to save my life.

I’m grateful to each of you’ve who’ve been led here for one reason or another, and even more grateful that you’ve stayed through my silence.

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I’ve pondered the idea of only writing once in a blue moon, when time allows or my fingers ache or my heart cries out over a revelation or an injustice.

I’ve also pondered the oversharing- not of my soul- but of my children’s photographs and their quirks and their stories. I suddenly have this overwhelming urge to protect them (not sure where that feeling was all the years before, but it’s just come upon me and fast).

I’ve pondered the idea of a new site, where my stories are similar, but my children are more invisible. I’m not sure how to do that, though, when my most real and gut-wrenching lessons are typically centered around my children. How can I be authentic and transparent, but still protect my children? I don’t think I (personally) can.

I’ve pondered all that I might lose and all that I might gain.

I’ve pondered what it is that God wants of me. I know for certain that He invited me to share my soul here on this blog. I believe this was my ministry. My opportunity to share His love and His lessons with others.

He’s humbled me, stripped me of my pride, and reminded me that this space and this life are not about me. It’s all about Him.

Life Happens When has helped me to mature as a person, a follower of Christ, and a mother. Some of the things I’ve written are downright embarrassing when I look back on them. Yet, other things encourage me and challenge me, even months and years after I wrote them.

I’ve said before, every time I think I’m ready to call it quits, something always happens to change my mind. A comment from a reader, a message on Facebook, a friend of a friend telling me how much they love my blog.

I’ve been getting gentle nudges from different people and places, but the feeling in my heart is no longer guilt.

I haven’t written in awhile for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I’m really busy with my kids. I still have time I could deliberately use to blog, but honestly, I usually end up mindlessly surfing the web. Parenting in this stage of my life is emotionally and physically draining even when I don’t do much of anything in a given day. I can’t seem to find the mental or emotional capacity to formulate profound, let alone coherent, thoughts.

As I’ve waffled back and forth about what I should do for several months, I believe God answered my prayers and my worries with Ecclesiastes 3. I didn’t intend for that to be the passage I read from the Bible the other day, but it was. And as I read, so much emotion passed through me.

The more I read it, the more I knew it was speaking to my heart straight from God.

For everything there is a season.

I believe with every fiber of my being that it is time to say good-bye to you and to Life Happens When.

I could write occasionally when the opportunity arises, but having that in the back of my head at all times would drive me crazy and bring me anything but peace.

I could write in ways that make my children more anonymous, but as I mentioned above, I don’t believe I could still be as authentic and real.

I could start fresh with a new blog, but I don’t believe this is the right time. Not now. Maybe in the future, but maybe not.

I am deeply saddened to lose my amazing readers, especially those I’ve built online friendships with. I wish I could say I’ll keep in touch or I’ll keep following on your blogs, but honestly other blogs are an even greater distraction than my own. They steal my time, but worse, they sometimes steal my joy.

I am excited by what I will gain. More focused time with my family- free from the worry and guilt that comes with spending too much time online. Oh, new worries and guilt will creep in and fill the spaces, I have no doubt, but I’m still ready to start anew with my family.

I’m curious where God will take me now. He certainly works in mysterious ways. Writing here started out as a flutter on my heart and it grew to something greater than I could have imagined.

Thank you so much for being part of my journey. Thank you for your encouragement, support, and love. Thank you for your comments, messages, and e-mails. I treasure them and I treasure each of you.

I hope you feel the flutters on your own hearts and have the courage to do what God asks, even if that means giving up something you love. Even if it means saying no. Even if it means good-bye.

I will continue to pray for each of you, and I truly wish you all the best.

Life happens when we say good-bye.

The Memory Maker

Family memories have always been important to me.

But, marriage and motherhood changed me.

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Suddenly, I wanted holidays and birthdays and little moments to be even more special.

Unfortunately, the harder I tried to make something fun or special or memorable, the more defeated and deflated I felt when things inevitably went wrong.

My mom said to me this past Christmas, “That perfect holiday you’re looking for doesn’t exist except in the movies and in your imagination.”

I was taken aback, but there was an element of truth in her words. I do have this image in my mind of what the holidays and special occasions should be, but they never quite end up that way.

My sister offered another opinion. “We are the ones planning and doing. We don’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling because we’re making it for everyone else.”

“Do you think everyone else feels it?” I questioned. We both agreed that they probably do, at least most of the time.

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A few years ago, my parents, my sister and her family, and my family began ringing in the new year at our lake house. It’s such a cozy, fun way to celebrate and has become one of my most favorite family traditions.

This year, I decided that we were going to have a fancy dinner and we were all going to dress up for it. I painstakingly planned the menu, spent most of the day in the kitchen cooking dinner and preparing desserts, and working hard to make everything perfect.

And it really was a great dinner. Everyone dressed up and kept their complaints to a minimum. Everyone ate their dinner and even came back for seconds. We put on some music and danced around for a little while and once I gave my approval, everyone made a beeline to put on their pajamas.

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After the little kids were in bed, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my husband, my oldest niece and nephew, and I sat together in the family room. Everyone was talking and laughing about silly things.

But, I was stewing about some of the things that hadn’t panned out at our party. The little boys refused to “clink” their glasses and “toast” each other with their sparkly ginger ale (a favorite tradition from my childhood). We forgot to play this one game I’d really wanted us to play. My pies were good, but not perfect. The list in my head went on and on.

With only a few minutes to spare, I asked everyone to tell me the best thing that happened to them in 2013. I listened with tears in my eyes as my family shared of their successes, joys, adventures, and new beginnings.

This moment, I thought, is perfect.

I’m not sure if anyone else took notice, but those few moments just before 2013 ended will forever be in my heart. And I suddenly realized that sometimes the best memories happen on a whim. I have a feeling if we’d played the game I wanted to play it wouldn’t have been as magical.

The next morning, I was back in the kitchen preparing a special New Year’s Day breakfast. I was a bit overwhelmed (read: cranky) when my husband said to me, “You don’t have to go through all this trouble- 9 of the 12 people in this house can make their own breakfast.”

I pondered it for a moment and replied, “Yes, I do have to do this.”

I am the memory maker.

I got asked more than once:

What are we having for breakfast? Is it ready, yet? When will it be ready?

When my five year old came up to me and asked if we were having pancakes (we weren’t!), I almost lost it. I shooed him (and all the kids) to the basement with instructions not to come up until I called for them.

Finally, everything was finished! I pulled the last of it out of the oven and called for everyone to come eat.

My five year old came clopping up the stairs. “Mmmmm,” he said, “I smell Mommy’s coffee cake!”

My eyes flooded with tears. It wasn’t what I was going for, but it occurred to me that my son linked special occasions to Mommy’s coffee cake. I suddenly realized that everyone sees the world differently. What makes something memorable for one person might not even register for someone else.

I can’t begin to describe the warmth (and fuzziness) that washed over me in that moment. Perhaps one day when he’s grown (and making special memories of his own), he will call me and ask for the recipe. I sure hope he does.

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This particular holiday changed and defined me as a memory maker. From here on out, I’m not going to worry if the moments aren’t perfect.

Things will go wrong. More often than not, nobody else will even notice. There is no need to beat myself up over it. Sometimes things will go horribly wrong, but often the things that went wrong are the most fun to remember down the road.

I’m cutting myself some slack.

And I’m going to take the time to make my own memories, too. I am going to stop my crazy, behind the scenes running/doing/cooking/making and actually participate and spend time with my family. I will pause and savor the moments, even when they look entirely different from what I envisioned.

Are you a memory maker, too?  I stand in camaraderie with you. We have a tough and tiresome job. Often our efforts go unnoticed. And no matter how hard we try, things sometimes go awry.

It’s okay, though. We don’t need elaborate plans or lots of money or all the stars to align. We don’t need much at all, really.

All we need is our loved ones gathered together at a special time (or an ordinary one) or a special place (or not) and the memories will take hold in hearts and minds.

All we need is laughter and affection, sometimes even tears. All we need is a game or a conversation, an outing or quiet day at home.

And sometimes, all we need is coffee cake.

Life happens when we make memories.

Does It Bring Out Your Best Or Your Worst?

I have this funny little thing I do. I see a blog post or an article or a news story that I know will fire me up.

And you know what I do?

I click on it. I read it.

I get fired up. I get so piping mad my blood starts to boil. I start calling out obscenities to my computer screen.

Occasionally, in the midst of my fury, I write (or comment) about it. And I’ve learned time and time again what a terrible idea that is.

When I read and especially when I comment on something that I sorely disagree with, it brings out the very worst in me.

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Now, I do like to be challenged. And I like to understand varying opinions. But, those aren’t the articles I’m referring to.

I was going off about something I read recently to my dear husband. I really, really, really wanted to write about it on here, too. But, as usual, Mike stopped me in my tracks.

He reminded me that a lot of people use the Internet these days to deliberately find something to get a rise out of someone.

And I’d taken the bait. Again.

I’ve come to realize that I have a choice. I can pursue things that bring out the worst in me or I can pursue things that bring out my best.

This doesn’t only pertain to my life on the Internet, either.

I have the tendency to be a night owl. I’ve always enjoyed the quiet of the night to work on projects or write or read. As a mom, this is often the only time when the house is quiet and still.

But, I have three little ones who wake up before the sun.

The days after I’ve stayed up too late, I am always more irritable and moody. I snap and fuss more often. I have a hard time getting motivated. In fact, I have a hard time getting out of bed.

On the flip side, if I get a decent night of sleep and get myself up and out of bed before the kids wake up, the day runs much more efficiently. I’m happier. I have more patience. I get more accomplished.

As the clock strikes midnight (or really, 10 p.m.), I have a choice. I can do what will bring out the worst in me or I can do what will bring out my best.

When I hear a tidbit of gossip. When an estranged family member leaves a message for me to call back. When I can’t decide whether to go for that run on the treadmill or not. When I really, really, really would prefer to sleep in on Sunday morning.

When I start to complain about this or that.

Or compare myself to others.

Or cast judgment upon someone else.

When I sit and stew (and pout) about things I can’t control or change.

Or wait for someone else to apologize.

I have a choice.

I can continue to do what brings out the worst in me or I can do what brings out my best.

Avoid the things that will cause me to rage.

Go to sleep at a decent hour. Reflect on my blessings. Keep my mouth shut. Get out of bed and go to church. Worry about myself and change my own shortcomings. Say I’m sorry.

Those are the things that bring out the best in me. And it’s time to start choosing those things.

I’m guessing there are some things that bring out your best and your worst, too? Isn’t life so much better when we choose to be at our very best?

When we let go of the anger and resentment. Forgive. Think positively. Welcome others with open, loving arms. Give generously. Pray. Hope. Encourage. Put others first. Make that phone call.

When we don’t take the bait.

Every moment of every day, we have a choice. We must ask ourselves, “Does this bring out my best or my worst?”

And deep down, we know what we must do.

I hope to make smarter choices about my bedtime and how I handle my interactions with others. But one thing is for certain: I’ll definitely be ignoring those blog posts, hiding those status updates, skipping over those comments. You know the ones. I’m pretty sure you’re better off doing the same.

Life happens when we’re at our best.

Let It Go

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve listened to the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen in the past month. My kids are obsessed, but especially my sweet little girl.

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She has Elsa’s hand motions down pat and belts the song out with so much passion it’s hard not to laugh (and sometimes cry, she’s so serious and so cute!).

Best of all, it comes out “yet it go” because she can’t pronounce her L’s. It’s almost too much to handle.


Disney’s Frozen “Let It Go” Sequence Performed by Idina Menzel on Disney Video

Though I’m so, so, (so!!!) over listening to the song, I can’t resist belting it out, either. I almost always end up tearing up at some point because I’m ridiculous like that.

I get emotional in part because Idina Menzel’s voice always moves me, but also because I can relate. Even though it’s Elsa’s story, it’s easy to find myself in there, too.

When I first started dating my husband, I was pretty fresh out of college and searching frantically for a job. I was stressed out and overwhelmed over silly things all the time. Then, I finally landed my first real job in the marketing department of a big law firm in town. Suddenly, I was stressed out and overwhelmed for a million more reasons, but none all that important.

Between my new job, moving into my first apartment (with roommates), and learning to navigate the choppy waters of adulthood, my future husband had the pleasure (ha!) of witnessing many emotional outbursts (and married me anyway!).

In the midst of my rantings, Mike would make his hand into a fist, lift it into the air, and then open his hand as if he were throwing my “problems” into the air.

“Let it go,” he’d say to me.

It became his trademark. And soon enough, it became our trademark. Suddenly, I was doing it back to him.

As we grew in our relationship, we found ourselves telling each other to “let it go” quite frequently. Life was so much more enjoyable when we let the little things go. When we refused to get worked up about things that didn’t matter.

As the kids and I were rocking out to “Let It Go” in the car the other day, I realized I have forgotten what was once my trademark. I’ve started to let the big things and the little things pile up on me. I get overwhelmed easily. I complain and worry and stress a lot.

I haven’t said, “let it go” in ages. And I haven’t let it go in ages, either.

After making that realization, I cried and cried. In the scheme of life, most of what I’m upset about isn’t all that important.

It’s time to let it go.

I suspect you need to let it go, too. Maybe you are as guilty as I am of sweating the small stuff. Ask yourself if it will matter a year from now or ten years from now.

If not, let it go.

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I recently made an incredibly tough decision to let something go. I’d been holding on to it like a security blanket. But the more I clung to it, the less I trusted God and His plan for me (and our whole family).

It was a dream of mine I wasn’t entirely ready to let go, but through a clerical error (and some poor follow-up on my part), I was suddenly forced to make a hard (and fast) decision that would affect my family of five either way.  After a great deal of pouting and sulking, I finally had a good cry about it. Mike and I had several very difficult conversations about it and I spent lots of time asking God what I was supposed to do.

When I finally let it go, I felt a wave of peace wash over me. I also felt freedom that wasn’t there before.

And I quickly realized that letting go of one dream didn’t mean a door slammed in my face. I had to let go of that dream in order to open the door to new dreams and possibilities.

As scary as it was to do so, it was time to let it go.

Is there something you’ve been holding on to as I was my dream? A dream of your own that you can’t really follow through right now?

Perhaps you are holding on to a fear or a regret or even an actual thing. Is it holding you back from living?

Let it go.

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And still, there’s more to the story (or song), and it gets me every time.

When I listen to the song, I think of all the ways I could be sharing my gifts and talents, but don’t for a variety of reasons. Most of it boils down to fear. What will happen when I really do put my full heart behind my talents and let them go? Will I be rejected? Will it hurt? Will I be criticized? Judged? Or worst of all, ignored?

I’ll never know unless I try.

Think of the unique gifts and qualities you’ve been blessed with.

Have you been hiding from them as I have? Are you afraid of what might happen when you finally put them to use?

It’s time to let them go. Share them with the world and see all the beauty that comes from it.

Life happens when we let it go.

That’s What Friends Are For…

Okay, this is a bit of an unusual post for me, but I have to do it.

Some might say I’m meddling (ahem..my husband). Some might call me crazy. But, I’m sure most of you would say, I’m just being a friend.

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I’ve been following a blog called Kelly’s Korner for years. She has been doing a series called, “Show Us Your Life” for quite a while. It is a link-up with a different themes: favorite recipes, family traditions, rooms in your house, etc. One year, she casually decided to do a “Show Us Your Singles” link-up.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. And over the years, the link-up has matched NINE couples together (that’s NINE couples either engaged or married). Take that eHarmony.

So, you know me, and you know that I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. The last time Kelly did the link-up, I wanted to link my best friend up to it, but I didn’t ask her in enough time, and I didn’t think it was something I should do without asking.

But, she said I could do it!! So, I’ve been waiting and waiting for the next “Show Us Your Singles,” which is today. And I’m linking up my friend, Brandy.

Because I’m a meddler. And a bit crazy. And (hopefully) a good friend.

Now, Kelly lives in Arkansas and people link-up from all over. And that would be fabulous if someone out there were interested, but I’m sort of putting a call out to all my local readers. Or even those of you in surrounding cities or states. Indiana? Ohio? Kentucky? Tennessee? Do you guys have a single brother, cousin, co-worker, friend who sounds like a match for my Brandy? Please let me know!!! You can comment here or you can send me an e-mail at lifehappenswhen@yahoo.com.

So without further ado…Meet Brandy:

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We have been friends (and sorority sisters) since college. We met when I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. I took one look at the spunky girl walking into the Pi Phi house on bid day and knew we’d be friends. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but she is definitely a friend for life.

Brandy is 30 years old and lives in Louisville, KY. She is 5’9 and has brown eyes and brown hair. And a really big, beautiful smile.

brandy5She pursued her life-long dream and became a nurse two years ago. In March, she will embark on a new journey as a travel nurse, but she’ll be back in Louisville before we know it (right, Brandy!?!).

She is vivacious, bubbly, and energetic. She is full of laughter and fun, but is also very sensitive and tender-hearted.

She cares about the world (sometimes too much) and tends to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, too. All of these qualities combined make her an amazing nurse and a great friend!

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Brandy is adventurous, active, and athletic (and a bit competitive). She currently plays in an adult volleyball league and has also played in an adult softball league for many years. She is a die-hard University of Louisville fan (Go Cards!). She also likes the Red Sox and the Reds, but loves sports in general and is up for watching and attending most sporting events. You could possibly even drag her to a University of Kentucky game, so long as you don’t try to convert her!

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She is very family oriented and spends a great deal of time with her parents, siblings, and extended family. She is the best aunt in the world to her nieces and nephews. She takes them on all kinds of fun adventures. And her family is awesome, by the way!

There is so much to love about Brandy, but here are my top 5 favorite things that make her so special and unique. These will be great first date conversation starters!

5. She is awesome at styling hair and doing makeovers. Seriously, pretty much any occasion where I’m wearing makeup and have my hair styled, it’s because Brandy did it. I know that might sound silly in a top 5 list, but the way I see it, she brings out the best in everyone.

4. Brandy got run over by a tractor during a hayride. And lived to tell about. Her perseverance through difficult times is admirable. And now she can even laugh about it (sort of). Her ability to laugh at herself and not take life so seriously is refreshing.

3. She has been the maid of honor in 3 weddings, including mine. She’s been a bridesmaid in many other weddings, too (kind of like 27 dresses). I think this tidbit is central to her personality. She is a friend to everyone.

2. She “stars” in a local television/radio commercial. And even though we tease her about it, the reason she was chosen to represent her nursing school is because she is dedicated, hard-working, and incredibly enthusiastic!

1. A few months ago, she decided on a whim to drive to Florida by herself to visit a friend. And now she’s accepted a position as a travel nurse. She’s not waiting for her life to begin, she’s living it and living it well!

Brandy is a great catch, and I pray for her every single day. I know God has an incredible plan for her, but I still pray that includes someone to share her life with.

Do you know someone who would be a great match for Brandy? Please let me know! Again, you can comment here or e-mail me at lifehappenswhen@yahoo.com.

A word of warning, you (or the single you have in mind) will have to be screened by me first before I’ll send any information on to Brandy. That’s what friends are for!

Life happens when we (try to) help a friend.

Yes, You Can

I started training at the beginning of January for my 4th half-marathon. As impressive as that probably looks on paper, I don’t consider myself a “runner.” For starters, I’m slower than molasses. I usually end up walking a mile or two (or more, depending on the route, the day, the weather). I typically cross the finish line with a brace around each knee and sometimes one around my ankle.

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Thankfully, I have a lot of people who support and encourage me every step of the way. There’s my sister, who held my hand during my first race and will hold my hand again. My husband, who could run circles around me, yet cheers me on whether I run one mile or five. My sister-in-law, the experienced marathoner, who runs a mile in half the time it takes me.

I also have friends both near and far-flung who always have my back. And, of course, my parents.

But, there’s one person who doesn’t believe in me.

She’s always telling me:

You’re too weak.

You’re not good enough.

She laughs and says, “You can’t do it!”

Yesterday, there was finally a break in the weather- no rain or snow, plenty of sun, and temperatures above freezing. I don’t enjoy running outside, but my body needs to get accustomed to the air and the pavement, so I headed out for a 30 minute run through my neighborhood.

My training has been slow and every mile has been a challenge. Fear, doubt, and discouragement are never far away.

As I ran up the steady (but brutal) slope of the street, I heard her again.

“You can’t do this,” she said.

My heart pounded. My knees twitched. My chest ached.

For a moment, I believed her.  But, I rallied myself and continued to put one foot in front of the other.

“Yes, I can!”

I ran harder. I sprinted faster around the corner. I ran an extra half mile.

I am strong. I am good enough. I can do it. And I will.

The disbeliever who lives inside me rears her ugly head more often than I care to admit. She destroys my confidence and my will power. She makes me lose faith. I beat myself up, berate myself, and believe her lies.

But, I won’t believe those lies anymore. She won’t get the best of me.

Perhaps there’s someone like her in your life, too?

Don’t believe her lies. Don’t let her get the best of you.

The good news for all of us is there’s someone else in our corner. He’s stronger than a whole army of disbelievers. He’s stronger than our most negative thoughts and our greatest fears.

He wants us to be the best we can be. He wants us to be healthy, make smart choices, accomplish our goals, and follow our dreams.

He wants us to tune out the naysayers (especially the ones inside us) and believe that we can…

Lose the weight.

Eat better.

Get the job or the degree (or both).

Quit the bad habit.

Get out of debt.

Whatever it is, we can do it. We are strong. We are capable. We are good enough. We were made by a God who believes in us.

We might have to work harder than we’ve ever had to in our life. We might have to remove ourselves from situations or places or people who bring us down, tempt us, or discourage us.

We’ll face temptations and frustrations and many setbacks along the way.

We’ll have to give ourselves a heaping of grace in the times we shove the handful of chips in our mouth, take the day off, fail the test, gain the pound, swipe the credit card.

When the doubt and the fear and the discouragement creep in, we must run harder, sprint faster, go the extra mile.

We must ignore the voice that says we can’t.

We can. And we will.

As you journey on, keep the faith and don’t give in. Pray to God for strength. Seek guidance and encouragement from others. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Put one foot in front of the other.

Your finish line awaits.

Life happens when we believe that we can.

The Life I Lead (These Days)…

Lest you wonder where I’ve been all these weeks, below is a snippet from a phone conversation I had with one of my best friends the other night.

Best Friend: So, what are you up to?

Me: The kids are in bed, so I should be cleaning, but instead I’m looking at Bed Bath & Beyond online.

Best Friend: Exciting Friday night!

Me: It’s Friday? I had no idea.

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I could sit here and type a dozen reasons and excuses for my absence, which I’m sure you’ve already figured out or haven’t even wasted precious time pondering, but really, the above conversation sums things up quite nicely.

Fact: Half the time, I don’t even know what day it is.

Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas (which I hosted for the first time ever) and a very happy New Year (which I also took (some of) the reigns on, as well), so between that and the fact that I have three darling little ones who are constantly, constantly underfoot (or in my arms), I think I’m off the hook. Don’t you?

Oh yeah, and our computer died at the end of November and we just got around to replacing it. Merry Christmas (and Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday) for the next six years to my husband and me! I’m only slightly kidding on that one.

The holidays (and my holiday from the blog) have given me lots of things to ponder and consider, though.

Here are a few that pertain to the blog:

I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on. Because every time I really think it’s time to stop writing here, something always happens to change my mind.

I’m going to refocus Life Happens When back to what I’ve always intended it to be- my personal reflections on faith, family, and finding happiness to encourage you on your journey through life.

I’m going to (attempt to) post 2 days a week. I know that’s not a lot, but this season of my life is overwhelming and tiresome. Sometimes I can’t get to the computer because I’m too busy. Sometimes I can’t get to it because I’m too tired.

Other times, I write just because I feel like I’ve been absent for too long and I don’t want to be forgotten. And usually those are my least read posts.

I’ve come to terms with the fact(s) that I might be forgotten and that I won’t be climbing any blogging ladders of success. At least not right now.

But, there are so many people who have encouraged me and insisted that I continue writing. In some strange way, I think I might actually be making a difference in my teeny, tiny corner of the world. For each and every one of you who’ve commented or called or e-mailed or told me in person or passed word through my sister, I write for you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your encouragement.

I can’t promise that I’ll have something for you to read every single week, but I can promise you that when I do hit publish, I will believe in every word.

But for now, I really must get back to cleaning the kitchen (and all the other things that come with running a household filled with young children). I’m sure you understand.

Life happens when we make peace with the life we lead.

A Season For Love

I wanted this Advent to be different.

I wanted to prepare my heart for the coming of our Savior. I wanted to teach my children the true spirit of the season.

And I wanted to build upon our family traditions so that our children would look back and remember with fondness all the ways we laughed, loved, prayed, served, and lived, especially at Christmastime.

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In spite of it all, I found myself growling at my children while we decorated our Christmas tree.

“Don’t touch that one! It might break!”

“Stop pulling all the ornaments out of the boxes! Let me get everything organized!”

“That’s not a toy!”

Thankfully, I realized early on that I was ruining the moment and the memory by barking at everyone. I let go a little, relaxed a little, and took the time to enjoy the first of many activities we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.

The following day, I took some time to run on the treadmill. My running time is a special prayer time for me. My thoughts get jumbled with my prayers, and I often feel closer to God. So, I prayed and I pondered as I ran. And I truly believe God spoke to me and pressed an important lesson upon my heart.

I clearly heard Him say, “You have a lot of good intentions, but you don’t have love.”

It was a cold, hard, painful slap in the face, but one I certainly needed.

Suddenly, I heard 1 Corinthians 13 from a new perspective.

If I have a Jesse Tree and an Advent Wreath and an Advent Calendar and an Elf on the Shelf and the Truth in the Tinsel and Advent Acts of Service, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And my children have gained nothing.

I truly feel that God has called me to take a different approach this Advent. We’re not doing a Jesse Tree, though I was so hopeful to start it this year.

I never bought an Advent Wreath (for shame, I know) that’s been on my to do list for the last 5 years.

After waffling back and forth about it, I decided against the Elf on the Shelf. Not for any belief about it, but because it is just too much for me right now.

I purchased and downloaded the Truth in the Tinsel (which is fabulous, by the way), but decided not to incorporate it this year.

I’m not even pressuring us to do an act of service each day of Advent. We have a few tried and true projects and I’m letting the rest go.

Instead, I’m going to put all my heart and energy and focus into love.

Love is patient.

I’m going to remember that my children are little and the world is still quite large and foreign to them. I’m going to be gentle with them when they spill something, ask for something, test me and disobey. When they need help or when they want to play, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and show them love.

I’m going to remember that my husband works hard for us and makes many sacrifices for our family. I’m going to be patient with him when he’s cranky and tired after another 12 hour shift.

I’m going to remember that everyone is up against one battle or another. I’m going to be patient with the world around me. 

Love is kind.

There are so many people who need kindness poured upon them. This Advent, my heart and my eyes are open. I want to radiate with kindness to all who come in contact with me. I’m going to remember, though, that doesn’t mean bending over backwards and running myself ragged in the process. Kindness is simple and doesn’t have to cost a thing.

It does not envy.

I will not get worked up about what so-and-so is doing at her house for Advent. I’m not going to feel inferior because I am incapable of doing what someone else masters. I will not worry or fret over how much or how little this person or that person spends, gives, or serves.

It does not boast, it is not proud.

Nor will I boast what I do or don’t do, spend or don’t spend, give or don’t give. I will do what I can with patience and kindness. And God will be my only witness.

Love never fails.

I wanted this Advent to be different. And boy will it ever be different. This might be the hardest Advent I’ve ever faced. The tasks before me are difficult. Love isn’t easy, but I want to have more than good intentions.

So I’m also forgiving myself if this Advent is a little quieter than normal. If I say “no” to something I’d usually attend. If, at the end of the day, the only “thing” we’ve done to celebrate is played a game or watched a movie or said a prayer. 

I want my children to look back and remember with fondness all the ways their mother laughed, loved, served, prayed, and lived.

But, the greatest of these is loved.

Life happens when we love.

Interview With A 5-Year-Old {Free Printable Included}

Birthdays are incredibly important to me. They always have been, but once my children came along, birthdays took on a whole new meaning.

Celebrating my children on their birthday means the world to me. It is a time to:

****Thank God for the precious life he bestowed on us.

****Create a special memory for the birthday boy or girl.

****Make the birthday child feel extra special.

***Take a snapshot (photograph and some written notes) of the birthday child for the memory books.

This year, I decided to include an interview with my birthday boy so I could have a snapshot of him in his own words.

I came up with a list of 15 questions to ask him. I took a video of him answering them and then wrote the answers down on the questionnaire. I plan to make this a tradition from here on out for all of my sweet babies. I can’t wait to see how they each grow and change through the years.

We only did one take because I wanted his responses to be un-rehearsed. I was shocked by some of his answers, but that’s what I love about this new tradition in our home.

I tried not to give away too much emotion. I didn’t want him to change his answers, and I wanted to capture his spirit (not mine). But, I mean, he really threw me for a loop. Broccoli? Going to the playground? Jumping?

Also, he got a Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel DVD for his birthday. I promised him he could watch it when all of his party guests left. Clearly that’s what was on his mind. He can already check the ONE thing he hoped to do before his next birthday off his list!

If you are interested in starting this tradition in your home, click here for a free PDF of my Birthday Interview. Enjoy!

What are some ways you celebrate birthdays in your home?

Life happens when we interview a 5-year-old!

One, Two, Three, Four…

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He’s five today, and I’m still a bit in shock.

Words cannot quite capture all he is and all he means to me.

He’s smart, funny, creative, silly, stubborn, loyal, curious, and observant (most of the time). He’s helpful, kind, generous, and incredibly sweet. He’s sensitive and loving. He’s patient and obedient (most of the time).

He has a mind of his own, stands up for himself when necessary, and is increasingly independent. He’s daring, yet cautious. He can be brazen and bold at times. He’s developing a pretty hysterical sense of humor.

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Here are three stories to illustrate my Lucas in this moment.

*****************He’s observant and incredibly sweet**********************

I recently got my hair chopped off. When I came home from the salon, Lucas was the first one to greet me.

“I love your haircut, Mommy!” he exclaimed as he gave me a big hug. I thanked him and hugged him back.

“Did you put him up to that, Mike?”

“Nope,” Lucas and Mike responded simultaneously.

**************He’s helpful, kind, generous, and incredibly sweet*************

All five of us were driving to the grocery store a few days ago. From the backseat, Lucas gasped and said, “Oh no! I forgot my money from my piggy bank!”

“Why did you need your money, Lucas?” I asked.

“I was going to buy the stuff.” He responded.

“What stuff? What did you want to buy with your money?”

“I didn’t bring my money!” He said again, getting frustrated.

“Lucas, I’m asking you what you would’ve bought if you had your money. Mommy and Daddy could loan you the money if there’s something you want to get.”

“No, I was going to bring my money to pay for our groceries.”

********************He’s patient and obedient**************************

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We’ve held out for years, but we finally decided to get Lucas a Wii for his birthday. He’s been asking for one since his birthday last year. The main reason he wanted a Wii was to play Skylanders like all of his friends and cousins.

Knowing we were getting him the Wii, my mom wanted to get him the Skylanders starter kit, so she took him to the store last Thursday to let him pick it out with her (he also knew he was getting a Wii). My mom let him keep the gift at our house, but we told him he couldn’t open it until his party yesterday.

He didn’t cry or throw a fit or make any kind of request to open it. He stared at the box and held it with excitement for hours every day and patiently waited until we let him open it at his party.

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****************************************************************************

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Each age and stage has brought its share of joy, love, laughter, tears, pain, and frustration, but I’ve absolutely loved watching him through the years.

I’m not quite ready for him to grow up (and five seems SO big), but time won’t stand still. His birthday is (and will always be) so bittersweet for me, but I am grateful to God for blessing me with his precious life. The last five years have been a spectacular journey. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my boy this year!

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Happy Birthday, Lucas! I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Life happens when we celebrate a birthday!