#MoreThanAMom

I think it was the day after June was born, I noticed an invitation to join a Facebook Group for Mom’s who work in Student affairs. I thought the colleague who invited me wasn’t wasting any time–turns out, it had just been formed.

The group has quickly grown to over 4,000 members and I’ve been able to see the amazing women out there in my field and connect with other NICU mamas who work in Student Affairs.  I’ve gleaned wisdom from some pioneers in our field sharing their journey of motherhood.  And I was intrigued when the founder encouraged folks to share how they’re more than a mom–what are the other things you do to help bring balance and boundaries to your life.

Since balance and boundaries are a favorite topic of mine, I thought about what I’ve learned in motherhood in these 6 weeks (now 7). After writing, I realized what often happens after I write–that the writing has been cathartic for me; apart of my healing and growing process.  I hope my sharing can bring you some peace today.  And regardless of what role you’re filling–Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Caregiver, Employee–know that there’s more to you than just that.  You know it.  It’s okay to let those other parts shine.  We all need them to make this world brighter. And if you are a parent, a mentor, a friend, a neighbor–let those folks see all the wonderful facets that make you YOU.

I’ve been a mom for a little over 6 weeks, but I’ve been a caregiver for quite some time as I was the primary caregiver for my Mom for many years.  Her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis and several other health concerns ended this past November.  One of the biggest things I learned as her caregiver is that I can’t be there for her 24/7 and if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of her.  She taught me a lot about being a mom.  My daughter is in the NICU at our university hospital and I came back to work on Monday to have 6 weeks with her once she’s released. I’m taking advantage of a super supportive office and supervisors by coming in early and making the 15 minute walk to the NICU a few times a day.  It’s been a challenge thinking about how I’ve been #MoreThanAMom since June came into our lives. But then I think about the ways in which I had already implemented boundaries and balance and desired to place presence with others over perfection. I still love my friends well, enjoying hosting in our home even though it’s rarely perfect (especially in the remodel phase) and enjoying taking care of myself holistically—mind, body and soul.

Here’s how I’m sensing that I am #MoreThanAMom:

  • Being present where I am. When I’m in the office advising a student—I do my absolute best to be fully present (even if I’m a few minutes late if June has had a milestone or I need to chat with someone at the hospital). When I’m in the NICU with June, I do everything possible to not let my mind wander to what students are on my calendar that afternoon.  Walking to the NICU each day—that’s my self-care time.  And I’m learning NOT to basically run even if I’m running late. What am I thankful for?  What will I fix for dinner? What’s the schedule when I get home? What laundry must be done today? I literally flip a switch when I go through those rotating doors of the hospital—what questions do I have for the nurses, is there anything I need to address while here?
  • When I realized after a walk to the NICU that my neglected toenails were literally causing me pain on my increased walks, I immediately texted a friend to see when we could get a pedicure next week after I leave the hospital one evening.
  • I’ll take the time to S L O W down and grab a Starbucks (Thanks to the generous gift cards from friends)
  • I’m doing my hair and putting on make-up each day. Even before coming back to work, this made me feel human (at least the make-up part—a top knot was my BFF until Monday!) Plus, a good concealer helped with the bags and dark circles!
  • We are still planning on hosting supper club in May for our friends.
  • Agreeing to go with a friend to Cincinnati a few weeks ago to see Newsies when her husband unexpectedly had to go out of town and she had an extra ticket.

Sometimes being #MoreThanAMom is almost a state of mind rather than things we do. Seeing all these posts has made me think hard about how I want to parent our daughter. I want her to know that she can do lots of things and that so can I.  I’m her mom, but also an Academic Advisor, friend, worship leader at our church, theater buff and lover of coffee and good meals around the table with those I love.

fnc

One month of being a mom

I’ve been a mom for over a month now. It seems so odd since I’m currently sitting in my bedroom alone, the beau at work, pumping to give my daughter breast milk to make her strong. No cries in our home. Nursery still isn’t done. Heck-we haven’t gotten the first bit of furniture. But I’m a mom. 

But what I know-and what I was taught by experience-is how to be a caretaker. To call the hospital to check in every night. To build relationships with the nurses and doctors. To know sometimes sleep and self care is just as important-and necessary-to survive. 

I learned all those things from my mom. She was teaching me about motherhood all along. 

What I also know is that God has given me more than a glimpse of his faithfulness in sweet June. Not only has she been a rockstar growing in the NICU, but she gives me a little glimpse of my mom every day. Countless Friends and acquaintances–some who only knew her through social media pictures- have commented on how June resembles my mom. 

  

Her wide set eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her little delicate eyelids and those sweet little forehead wrinkles all scream my mom. 

What I also hear them saying over and over is that God is real. I’ve always been a believer of God when I look at creation. The trees, wind, mountains and waves of the ocean beckon me to believe that God is real and he is who he says he is. But looking at these pictures,  I have to believe even in those moments when I doubt (and believe me, I still have those moments) because I can’t look at those faces and say God doesn’t exist. God is tenderly carrying me through this season of grief and celebration. Fear and faith. Questioning and belief. I’m clinging to belief and faith and celebration. God has been too good to us not to believe. 

Maybe you’re in a season of grief and fear and questioning. It’s ok. Just know beyond it all God loves you. 

And if you want to dive more into who God is and why we believe,  join me for. Study of the Nicene Creed with the new IF: Gathering app. www.ifgatheringapp.com

  

7 months

The last seven months have honestly been a blur. I’m sharing this as apart of my own healing, journey and testimony so please don’t think this as a pity post. This is a celebration of what we have overcome with God by our side. 

The Beau and I were walking down the hall to the NICU to see our daughter the other day recollecting all the has happened since late July and it was like each event was a sucker punch to our life that still leaves us reeling at times. But as we’ve stood and caught our breath, we also realize just how fortunate we are to still be standing. Even if we’re walking down this hallway.

   
We decided last spring that it was time to grow our family. A steady nursing job for the Beau had been secured, we were making progress on house renovations so we decided to keep moving forward on those hoping that we would be well finished before a little one would come along.

On a steamy Friday in late July we got the call that Lew’s Granny had a massive stroke with a bleed on her brain. She passed away about 24 hours later.

In August, Lew took me on his dream cross-country road trip. We drove to Seattle and back in 10 days. We got home on August 12th and I took a positive pregnancy test. We could not have been more thrilled.

  
September brought the start of school and the first trimester. I was so fortunate to not be sick, just a lot of weird stomach cramps, food aversions and exhaustion.  But we could not have been happier. We told our parents on Labor Day weekend (fitting right?). Taking his parents to eat at the Smokey Valley Truck Stop before it closed and visiting with my Mom in the nursing home that Sunday afternoon over ice cream. They could not have been more ecstatic!

We shared our news publicly on our 6th wedding anniversary–October 2nd– and were flooded with well wishes from family and friends. It was real. I had made it through the first trimester and had no concerns or complications. We continued to work on the house, start dreaming about our little babe whose gender would be a surprise and move toward the holidays.

  
Late October my Mom went to the ER with some complications in her legs from swelling.  I stayed the night with her as she was admitted and slept in a somewhat comfy chair in what I think are the smallest hospital rooms in the city.  For the next three weeks, we spent nearly every day and several nights by her bedside seeing her health decline, her legs and toes worsen and conversations about amputation of her toes, feet and possibly legs.

  

Three weeks later, on November 13th, the beau and I were headed back in to try and get her moved to UK hospital because we felt there was more going on that we were able to really see. We stopped for a quick breakfast knowing it would likely be a long day and I got the call that her white blood cell count had risen overnight and she was being moved to the Critical Care Unit. We rushed to the hospital and spoke with several doctors, chaplains and a resident from UK that the beau has worked with before. Her body was shutting down. We were able to have clarity on her wishes and I thank God for that daily. She did not want surgery. She did not want to be revived. She did not want to be vented and have a machine breathe for her. Around 4:30 that afternoon, she received complete healing as she went to her eternal home. While we were so sad, there was also a sense of relief that her pain and suffering had ended. The next few weeks were a blur as we traveled to Virginia, made funeral arrangements, coordinated her transport from KY to VA, went through the motions of Thanksgiving and eventually headed back to work. It is still hard some days for me to believe she is gone.

  
During this time, I had some increased blood pressures at my OB visits.  I went on medication and we monitored it, but knowing the stress I had been under, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

As I processed grieving, Christmas approached.  My family in Virginia had planned a shower for us so we headed to the Beau’s parents Christmas Day and were planning on leaving early on the 26th for Virginia, Baby Shower on the 27th and then back to the grind the following week. Our Gracie pup was going to make the trip with us.

10 minutes away from their house, we were hit head on as we went through an intersection.

 

I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. All I remember was screaming “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” After an ER visit, lots of time laying on the couch, a vet visit for Gracie, lots of bruising from the seat belt, a visit to UK’s OB Triage, a 4 hour heart rate monitor on the Bebe, some panicked moments, and an additional ultrasound, we were SO fortunate to find out that the babe was fine.  And certainly a fighter.

  
The new year came with lots of insurance paperwork and phone calls, car shopping for a new ride, and navigating back to work.

Before we knew it, we were in the third trimester came and we realized that with all that happened with Mom and the car accident, all our renovations had been put on hold and we had 12 weeks before Bebe would arrive! We got to work and in the midst of all this I was prompted to host a small IF: Gathering in my home the first weekend in February.  At first, I had signed up to host this back in October but only 2 gals had registered so I contemplated cancelling.  However, the day I was going to do so, another 3 gals registered. So we went forward with the plan to host in our imperfect home and 10 of us crowded around our TV to hear amazing truths.  Presence over perfection. My takeaway –who will my domino fall into to impact for the Kingdom?–was threefold.  My word for the year is SAVOR and this ties directly in–I need to STOP doing things.  I need to focus on JESUS and his word and truth, not a million other (all the while GOOD) voices out there clamoring for my attention.  And I need to focus on my little FAMILY and discipling them well–investing in my marriage and our little babe.

  

On February 1st, my OB appointment landed me a really high BP reading so my OB sent me to UK triage to be checked out. After 2 hours, my BP was in the normal range, all my levels came back clear as a whistle. We did some additional testing over the next 24 hours and had a follow up on February 11th with my OB.

On the 11th my pressure was up again and my OB sent me back to triage and wanted a 24 hour overnight observation of me to figure out what was going on.  As I left her office, I asked, “So what happens if my Blood Pressure doesn’t decrease?”

“Well, you’ll be having a baby sooner than you thought.”

I walked back in to the room where Lew was and immediately burst into tears. We had 9 more weeks before her due date. Our nursery was nowhere near complete. I hadn’t had my baby shower. There was still so much to do.

At 1:39 am on Saturday, February 13th, our little June Parker Cracraft was brought into this world by an urgent C-section delivery.  I’ll share more about her entrance into this world here in the days/weeks/months to come when I’m ready to process and share more publicly.

She was 2.2 lbs and 14.3 inches long. She was immediately rushed to the NICU at UK where she’s been hanging out and growing for the past 10 days. She is amazing. Our brave little fighter.  

And her name. We were able to get away for a little baby moon 2 weeks before she arrived and the main agenda was to come up with a name. We had a boy pool and a girl pool and wanted to see how the little nugget turned out (gender and personality wise) before attaching a name to it. June Parker was at the top of our girl list.  After her birth and knowing all she had come through the 7 months in utero–and all that we had come through in that time as well–June Parker was the perfect name.  June after my Mom who was born in June and Parker after the Beau’s best friend Michael Parker who was paralyzed in a kayaking accident in 2007. Two of the strongest people we know. And she’s certainly living up to her namesakes. And my takeaway from the IF: Gathering is coming to fruition a lot sooner than we had anticipated. I get to pray and sing and love on my daughter the way our heavenly father does with us. And it is amazing. Heartwrentching. All-consuming.  Just the way our Father must feel about us.

   

 

2015 Reads

One of my goals for this upcoming year is to spend less time in front of the TV and more time with my nose in a book.  As much as I do love a physical book, I’ve seen several folks I hear and see  out there in blogs, Instagram and podcasts -(Emily, Jessica and others) talk about the ease of a kindle and how it’s really helped them to read more–especially being super busy gals, wives and moms. After using the app consistently on my iPad in the fall and actually making it through several books, I was grateful to receive the Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas.  I’m excited as it’s much easier to use one-handed than the iPad (which will come in hand when the Bebe arrives!) I also love taking the kindle to bed because I’m much less apt to browse social media when my only option is the book I’m reading.  And it automatically updates to Goodreads which I’ve re-started using to keep track of my reads (you’ll see a nifty new little widget down there on the right side of what I’m currently reading). I will say I am still a fan of a traditional paperback for non-fiction especially and love the kindle for fiction, but it’s hard to pass up a great Kindle sale on some of the books on my wishlist when they are $1.99!

Goodreads has a yearly reading challenge each year which I’ve never “officially” participated in. My goal this year is 26 books, which seemed really lofty.  The beau did it a few years ago and warned me that it was challenging. Granted his book selections are quite different than mine, I felt up to the challenge.  So far I’m ahead of my needed pace and have already finished 3 books–ALL on the Kindle!  One additional thing I love is that two of the three books were checked out from our local library!  One challenge is only having 7 days to finish them, but I’m making it work and it’s keeping me on pace.  I plan to update each month with my books read the previous month, so be on the look out for that post soon!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the 11 books I read in 2015.  I have logged them on Goodreads but hope to do a better job of sharing a review on there as well this upcoming year. These reviews are MUCH shorter than the upcoming ones will be!

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have-Annie Downs

I met Annie a few years ago at Allume and it felt as if we were instant friends.  Reading this book was like catching up at her favorite coffee shop. Fantastic read!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette-Maria Semple

Super duper fun fiction read!  Highly recommend.

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life-Shauna Niequist

Shauna is probably my favorite voice right now speaking right into this season for me.  This, her first book, was no different than her more recent works. I love the short story-ish format.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful-Myquillyn Smith

Not your “typical” book, but a great illustrated example of how I hope to create our home as we’ve journeyed through a year of renovations (the end is in sight!) Love reading her blog and this book was no different.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon-Sophie Hudson

This was purchased on a kindle deal and it was a great fun read.  Definitely one that’ll make you laugh!

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption-Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

This was our Common Reading Experience book selection at UK this year and although a difficult read, an important one.

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul-Jennie Allen

I had purchased the previous version on a kindle sale, but after Jennie updated this with a bible study, I jumped in with two feet with a group of 20-ish other ladies at 6:30am this summer (YIKES!) It is such an important book with an amazing take-away.

Big Little Lies-Liane Moriarty

After a heavy year and hard season I needed some more fiction.  I heard a lot of great things about Liane for several guests on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast and found this one at half-price books on the discount bin.  I’ve read several more of hers since then (some in 2015, some in 2016 already) and this one is still probably my favorite.

The Husband’s Secret-Liane Moriarty

My second Liane read–another great one!

 

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards-Jen Hatmaker

Read this book.  I took it with me to Virginia when my mom passed away and Jen’s truth and humor were a balm to my saddened heart.

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World-Emily P. Freeman

This book. I slowly savored this book since the fall and didn’t finish until right before the new year. It was released the same day as For the Love–which everyone seemed to be guffawing about at the time–and rightfully so, but my heart was in this message. Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. There were nights I’d read this before bed and just be in tears (It could also be that pregnancy had something to do with that). I can’t wait to go back through this with a pen and highlight my favorite parts. The first go through just wasn’t enough for me.  Looking forward to a long weekend with nothing to do but just devour this after savoring it.

What reads do you recommend I add to my 2016 list?

Looking ahead to 2016

As I look back at 2015 and think about what I want to do differently or live into with more intention in 2016, I came up with quite a list as you can imagine.

2016-01-13 19.50.00

But when I really dug deep (Thanks to the Powersheets for a lot of that) I realized that there are two big things I want to do in 2016.

  1. I want to be a better steward of what resources I already have. I am certainly fortunate and so grateful for all the good that I have. But I don’t always steward it well. Often when we think of stewardship it’s in regards to money and while that is certainly apart of my goal, I’m thinking of a broader view of stewardship. Stewarding my time. My talents. The things I already own. The things that we might purchase this upcoming year (hello Baby Registry madness). How can I honor God, our own family goals and also be able to have the margin to give back (and give away) our possessions. I want to be reminded that this is not our eternal home and to hold loosely to those material things that I can often hold with a clenched fist.
  2. I want to S A V O R every moment of this new year.  I don’t know what to expect as a new mom. I don’t know how I’ll feel about returning to work this summer. I don’t know what I’ll need. I don’t know how becoming a mom will stir up new grief emotions of losing my own mom this past fall.  What I do know is that I don’t want to miss moments. I know (from all my friends, family and voices I hear through blogs and podcasts) that being a mom of little littles is hard. And while I’m buckling my seat belt to prepare for that hard, I don’t want to be so caught up in the hard that I wish it away.  I don’t want to wish away time spent. That’s the paradox I’ve found grieving loss and celebrating new life this year simultaneously. Taking the hard and knowing it’s only here for a season and readily embracing what comes with it. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

So what do these two things mean for me practically? 

Slowing down.

Saying no to things.

Eating clean meals at home around the table with people with I love.

Giving things away.

Reading more.

Watching less TV/Netflix.

Writing more (both here and in my journal).

Being intentional about time with those who matter most.

Taking long walks.

Getting as much sleep as possible.

Enjoying a weekly bath.

Doing my own nails every Sunday night to wind down our Sabbath.

Joining with Supper Club monthly for a great meal, laughs and maybe even a few tears.

and one of the biggest ones…..

Not feeling guilty for doing any of these things over something I SHOULD be doing (things I said no to, date nights out vs. at home, a super clean house, etc.).

I recently read somewhere that our “shoulds” never bring us true happiness. While I completely recognize that life isn’t all about being happy and that there is a lot of life that is unhappy and there’s a true difference between happiness and joy, I do see the truth in this statement.  What are the things that fire me up? That only I was created to do? What do I do with the ease of falling snow? That’s what I am going to do this year.  (Thanks Shauna for this amazing reminder). I’m realizing those things are different than they were 10 years ago.  5 years ago.  Even 2 years ago.  A lot of my “shoulds” are those former things.

I’m no longer the gal that wants to be orchestrating the details of an event or casting vision for a huge long term project. While my job requires me to do that on occasion, I’d much rather be meeting with someone one-on-one in a coffee shop, writing or teaching/leading a small group over the masses.  I think that came out in my goals and what I want this upcoming year to look like. Say no to the things that used to fire me up that now leave me depleted. I’m walking away and won’t feel guilty at all because I’ve got a whole new list of things that feel like the ease of the falling snow. That’s where I want to live in 2016.

So as you lean hard into your 2016, what are the 1-2 things that you wish to focus on? What feels like the easy of the falling snow for you? For me, it’s savoring each moment and doing the best with what I’ve already got. If I can do those two things, 2016 will be a winner. 

 

 

2015 in Insta-Review

Hey Hey Hey!!! It’s me again!  Excited about the turning of the calendar page and moving forward with an exciting 2016.

But before I can do that, I have to go back and review all that was 2015. Reflecting back on this year it’s easy to look at the challenging moments and forget the joyous ones. I’m so fortunate to be reminded of just what a fantastic year 2015 was even though there were a fare share of dark moments. I loved Annie’s format of an Instagram review, so here goes my attempt!  My #2015BestNine said I took 292 posts in the past year. That’s a lot to filter through, fyi!

January 2015….

{Our goal of community dinners around the table Friday Night Meatballs style was realized!}

1_January

February 2015…

{Served women in our community by hosting the 2015 IF: Gathering in Georgetown}

2_February

March 2015…

{Technically February/March, but after IF: Gathering took a Sabbatical.  No email or social media and nothing on our calendars. It was amazing!}

3_March

{Except we did have our framily over for Friday Night Meatballs and an amazing Caprese salad}

3_March2

SPRING

{Highlight moving into Spring/Summer was starting major renovations on our house!  And this guy. Just say no to all highlight reel posts friends.  I wanna see your messy top-bun silly posts too!}

Spring

April 2015…

{More Friday Night Meatballs.  This was probably my favorite of the few we hosted.  A toddler and a grandmother. A teenage boy and his mom whose husband was on the west coast for a month for business. Friends who were just dating and friends who’ve been married for 10 years. This is true community y’all}

4_April

May 2015…

{My birthday–Friday Night Meatballs in the backyard style with our people and their kiddos. All boys. Dirt. Fire pits. Amazing.}

5_May

{No birthday is complete without a trip to see the Cincinnati Reds with my love}

5_May2

June 2015…

{Renovations continued.  Amazing progress.}

6_June 2

{And when renovations continue so that you’re displaced from your home for 3 weeks and 90% of your belongings are in a POD–you take a long weekend and drive to the Emerald Coast. A quick trip, but two days in the sun, sand and waves did our hearts and souls so much good.}

6_June

SUMMER

{Jennie Allen’s Anything study with these gorgeous gals at my new favorite Coffee Spot in Downtown Lexington. Such a rich summer with these gals.}

Summer

July 2015…

{Experiencing part of the All-Star Game Festivities with the Celebrity Softball Game! So fun!}

7_July

August 2015…

{WAAAAAY too many photos to share here, but check out some from this post.  Cross-country road trip in 10 days took me all the way to Cannon Beach and the pacific ocean for the first time. Life changing trip.}

8_August

September 2015…

{Joining 500 other IF: Local leaders in Orlando to be equipped even more so to share the good news with our communities.  And loved meeting these fellow Kentucky gals!}

9_September

FALL

{How could we get so lucky??? We were blessed with this sweetie.  She came at the perfect time and brought us such joy in what we didn’t realize would be such a tough season.}

Fall

October 2015…

{BABY CRACRAFT ALERT!!!  Remember that life changing trip? Yeah, we found out the night we got home that we were expecting. So excited to welcome our cub in April!}

10_October

November 2015…

{Mama D got sick. Three weeks in the hospital were tough but I truly savored every moment with her. One of my favorite nights ever as we watched Friends on TV and I saw a bit of her sass return.}

11_November 1

{Bittersweet. Mama D went to be with Jesus–from this life to her eternal home. I miss her so, but can only imagine she’s having a blast–playing piano, walking and running on her own, having lunch with her dad and birthmom who passed when she was 6 months old. So grateful to have been raised by such a wondeful lady.}

11_November

December 2015…

{My favorite views of the year– twinkle lights and Fireplace on Netflix with a pup on my lap–and we flipped our dining and living room!}

12_December 1

{A scary Christmas day car accident had us all shaken up. Thankfully all of us–including Gracie and the little cub) were all okay. I tear up every time I look at this photo. Just like our little one to be reminding us that they’re okay and to just trust God–he’s got it handled.}

12_December

WINTER

{Advent.  Waiting.  Trusting.  Anticipation.  Expectation.  Learned a lot in this tough season. }

Winter

 

So that’s 2015 in a nutshell.  We started the year well living into community and hospitality by opening for home for Friday Night Meatballs. Then we realized renovations had to happen ASAP and so things got a little crazy, but that’s life, right?  The fall and winter were tough, but we’ve also had a lot of silver linings and things to celebrate.

I also read 10 books, watched several series on Netflix (Or re-watched) and had lots of coffee dates with people. That’s the day-to-day.  The stuff we don’t always Instagram.  I’m sure there will be more on all this in the weeks to come. I’m excited about all that 2016 will offer and hope to be around these parts much more often sharing about all I’m learning, loving and being.

 

 

Day 13-You Never Change

Y’all, I’ve been smitten.

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Ivey’s Happy Hour podcast for a while now and this week’s episode…my oh my.

If you aren’t familiar with Jamie, she and her husband Aaron live in Austin, TX where Jamie runs this amazing Podcast, speaks and writes and Aaron is the Worship Pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church.  The Ivey’s also have 4 adorable children! 

This week on the Happy Hour, Jamie interviewed Jalessa McCreary another worship leader at The Austin Stone.

So of course, I’m almost in tears listening to her story (it’s eerily familiar to my own and I want to be her new BFF now) and then come back to the office and check out all the upcoming music from the new Austin Stone album coming out tomorrowThis Glorious Grace. 

So when I heard this one–I knew it was coming right to this page.

I mean, really.  You Never Change.  How perfect for my 31 days of change series. I can’t even begin to process all my thoughts and emotions about this song.  I’m sure there will be more on this soon.

Day 12-Feeling behind

So perhaps you’re feeling behind today. Like I could since I’m posting the 12th entry here on day 15. But I’m learning more and more that God has us right where He wants us in this moment.

This summer on our road trip out west, we got up early to see the sunrise at Arches National Park. We left the hotel around 4:30 am not sure how long it would take us to find the Windows section of Arches.  We found it pretty quickly but had to sit and wait.

2015-08-10 05.52.46

We weren’t sure if we were in the best spot once we got to the top of those stairs. We sat for a while, questioning as more and more cars pulled into the parking lot to get a spectacular view of the sunrise.

We decided to venture around an unbeaten pathway and ended up where we landed.  You’ll see a photographer getting what I’m certain was a much better photo of that sunrise that I did below.

2015-08-10 06.36.15

After we took in this beauty, we went back to our initial spot after checking out a few other things along the way and it was still gorgeous.

Lesson learned-sometimes we may think we need to move, shuffle, be busy and we may question if we’re in the right spot–right job, relationship, role or season in life–or if we’re behind. But what I’m learning is that the sun will still rise and set each day regardless of where we are.

Even if we’re behind.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 11-Rest…in it’s practical form (Part 2)

After hitting “publish” yesterday I kept thinking of a few other things that have been helpful throughout this everyday Sabbath journey.  Some of them are actual “to-do’s” but many of them are mindsets that are helpful to transition into.

Check out Part 1 here! 

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  1. Plan your evenings to plan your mornings. This has been really pivotal for me.  When I was working hard to establish an early morning routine, I learned from Hello Mornings the impact of planning your evenings has on the success of your morning routine. I still do my best to have that early morning routine, but what it taught me were some tangible things that you can do in the evenings to make the most of my mornings. Set a bedtime alarm just as you would a wake-up alarm.  This gets you in the habit of going to bed or putting down devices/screens/turning off TV, starting the bedtime routine at a certain time. Being that we live about 30 minutes out from where most of my evening activities might be, I know that generally I need to be leaving an activity by 8:30 pm in order to make my evening alarm a possibility.  And on Tuesday nights when I have the early morning Wednesday meet-up and am leaving my house by 6pm, I do my absolute best to not schedule anything the night before, making it a perfect “Home Night” of the week. And if I am out later and end up in bed later, then I adjust and get up later the next day.
  2. Practice saying “No:. Much of what I’ve mentioned has alluded to some sort of boundary. Sometimes we can think of a boundary as a way to keep something in or keep something out. I’d like us to frame it as a way to protect something. Saying “no” is a boundary of protection. As parents and caregivers we want to protect those we love but often we neglect to protect ourselves from things that are draining, time sucking, life-pulling activities. Saying no is a way to protect yourself from that. And those who love you most will be absolutely thrilled that you’ve said no. They might be disappointed at first, but they’ll get over it eventually and hopefully understand when they see the tangible difference in your life and countenance. Remember, you owe no one an explanation in your No. Only you can control is what you say Yes to, and there’s only time for so many yes’s in one day.
  3. Know you’re gonna miss out on some stuff. When you say no to things, yes, you’re protecting something, but sometimes, practically that means you’re missing out on some things. Good things. But let’s shift our perspective. We are gaining some great things. More time to take in our surroundings. An opportunity spend quality time with your family. Being home to cook more–likely a savings on the budget and our health. Focus on the positive rather than what you may be missing. Also know that everything is a season. Things change. You may be able to say yes to that as seasons change. And that’s more than okay.
  4. Stop the comparison game. This one is tough, I’m not gonna lie. It’s so easy to look at the Jones’ and see all that they are saying yes too. Volunteering in the community. Hosting friends over for dinner in their home. Always looking energized at school pick up. Serving on that school or church committee. But we never ever know what is going on in someone’s heart. Moreover, God created you individually as YOU–no one else can serve the roles that only you can.
    Only you can be the employee, spouse, parent, friend to those people in your life. What are the roles only you can fill–go do that and forget the rest. And yes, I know it’s easier said than done.
  5. What you are giving your own life, soul, family and VIP’s is worth it. Comparison, saying no, missing out, having to go to bed early–it’s all worth it. What are the the priorities in your life? What are those roles only you can fill? No amount of regret or despair or frustration can come from missing out on something big in a family member’s life. Let’s not forget our own life and soul. So often, especially as women, we are always the last on the priority list. I’m learning more and more that I must take care of myself in order to better take care of those I love.

So a few more practical tips on how to make this lifestyle change to one of margin, self-care and space.  All things that I’ll take more of these days!

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 10-Rest…in it’s practical form (Part 1)

So this rhythm of rest that we’ve adopted–what does that look like actually? I thought I’d share just a few things that have helped me change on this journey to being over-busy to being intentional and creating space for physical, mental and emotional rest and health. Yes, we do our best to Sabbath each week, but I’ve found that it’s just as much the day-to-day that makes me feel I’ve experienced rest or not. Sabbath isn’t just something that was intended to be practiced weekly, but daily, in small ways.

Please know I am not an expert and many of these are still a work in progress.  

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  1. Create breathing room-I don’t schedule things back-to-back in one night. A few years ago, my Wednesday nights went from 5pm-10pm with three meetings after being at work all day.  Although the meetings were energizing, I was so physically exhausted I couldn’t follow up on any of the things that I was to do, or process the good work that was happening in these meetings. Even now if I I have more than one thing on the calendar in one evening, I don’t schedule them back to back. I leave space to breathe. To pay attention to the sunset as I drive. To arrive early. To run by the half-price bookstore or Target. To make a phone call. This has been truly monumental and I’d say that it’s been the most long-standing change made.
  2. No more than two activities in an evening-this might seem impossible for you, but just as I learned that the breathing room was important, I’ve learned that the more I pack into my schedule, the less present I am with those things. Even good things. Or seemingly mindless things. For example, I may have a chiropractor appointment, a meeting and need to visit my mom all in one night. To be honest, the thing that probably would get nixed is visiting my mom. Or I would go and be rushed or not fully present. I liken it to a piece of a pie. If I have 4 things to do every day–I can give the best of my attention to those four things. So with the above example, I also add in work and personal/home care and I’ve got a pie 5 things–each slice is a little smaller and my attention is lessened.  If I cut one out, then I’ve got 4 pieces and all is well. Sometimes it’s the small changes that make the biggest impact.
  3. One weeknight with nothing on the calendar– this has been hard.  But probably the most necessary.  This is the night that is open on my calendar other than the note that says “Home night”.  That day (or sometimes the one before), I can decide how I want to spend it. That’s the key–it has to be something I want  to do.  Sometimes, I’m in a state of wanting my house more clean or wanting to have no unfinished laundry hanging over my head. Sometimes the want is a bath. Or Call the Midwife. Or a walk. Or water aerobics. I also try and make this a night that Lew is working.
  4. Balance of productivity and rest on the weekend. When you’re renovating a house and you and your spouse both work full time (one working shift work at night) sometimes you have to take what you can get. I will say that I think balancing out the productive and rest is key.  It can be quite easy to see a fully open weekend and already have a huge list of all that you want to accomplish on whatever project you may be working on. Or perhaps it’s work outside. Or cleaning the house. Or prepping for the school project. Or even good, fun things–going to the orchard, the football game, dinner with friends, birthday party, etc, etc. The list can always go on. And even the good things leave us exhausted. So maybe it’s one day of work on the house and the next of rest, family time, celebrating, etc. Or mornings of productivity and fun evenings.  There has to be balance though or else I come straight back into the work-week flat-lined.
  5. Sabbath-So that Sabbath state. In the traditional Jewish sense, Shabbat was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. In doing a little refresher research to make sure I had my facts straight, there is even a Sabbath app that will tell you the exact Sabbath times for your location. I’ve read several book on Sabbath over the years (and hope to do a refresh soon) on some of my favorites. One of the books that resonated the most with me was Sabbath in the Suburbs, by Rev. MaryAnn McKibben-Dana. It was practical. And talked about how to observe Sabbath with a family and soccer and church responsibilities and friends and all those fun things we listed above. So how do I even define Sabbath? Her definition has stuck with me:

    Am I making forward progress on something?

    Now, we can over-analyze this to death.  Your knitting or coloring or even playing solitaire is making forward progress, but it’s also relaxing and probably something you don’t do every day.
    So in a nutshell, my definition of Sabbath (traditionally) is from sunset one day until sunset the next (sometimes longer) and includes not making forward progress on anything. I’ll get even more practical about what our Sabbath looks like later today! (And yes, I took yesterday off from forward-progressing this 31 day series for Sabbath).

Books I’ve enjoyed on Sabbath:

I realized I had more to say on this topic so check out part 2 here!

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