Expectations

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Always coming down to expectations.  That’s been my challenge for years.  If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling with expectations lately. What expectations should I have of myself as a working mom?  What expectations I have for my marriage? What expectation I have to how my evening will play out? That’s where it gets real. How do I navigate being organized and living into the way I’ve been created–the color-coded, futuristic, visionary self–and not hold to a particular expectation? Because when the rubber meets the road, my desire to plan is tied to the anticipated outcome.  AKA: Expectation.

How do I set a financial goal and hold loosely to the expectation that I’ll meet it but not be overwhelmed if it doesn’t happen?

How do I navigate things when the expectation is that it’s the night I need to wash bottles so that my child has food for the next day and all she wants to do is be held?

How do I respond when plans change? The dinner is cancelled, someone has to go out of town unexpectedly, the event gets rained out.

How do I switch gears when things at work or church or your volunteer organization end up going a completely different direction and all of a sudden you wake up one day and everything seems different–your coworkers, team mates, company, boss, leader, everything?

What happens when things don’t go the way you thought they would with your family? Someone loses a job, moves, has a crisis, gets divorced, has a falling out?

I’m sure we all have found ourselves in one or more of the scenarios listed above. Transition is hard.  And there are expectations going on inside of us every day. Every minute. And when things change, expectation is buzzing around like that annoying fly that you just can’t quite smack down.

I’m still figuring this all out.  I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know though is that so much of the things I struggle with come down to control. Expectations are my desire to have things play out a certain way. That my friends is a control issue. And as much as I can plan and forecast and look at data to predict outcomes, in my personal life, I have to trust that I’m not the one in control.  And when you’ve experienced so much of life that seems out of control, holding closely to things you know are true just seems right.  Safe. Controlled. Familiar.

But we weren’t meant to live a safe and controlled life. There is risk involved. The unknown. And when you take a risk, there is beauty beyond your wildest dreams. Relationships restored. Sunsets you’d never imagine if you’d gone home early because it was safe. Throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous has resulted in some of my most favorite memories with the beau.  The freedom and ability to fall into the unknown clinging to the only thing that is true and known is pure bliss.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I want to listen. To process. To respond. And to live with arms wide open, chin up, eyes closed, wind blowing on my face tuned in to what is out there waiting for me that I might have missed otherwise.

Creating my Reality

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past ten years teaching time management.  Ten years of teaching college freshmen and trying to navigate my own calendar and responsibilities have taught me a few things. Some things stay the same–put the big rocks in first, figure out what time management system works for you, create an ideal schedule and do your best to stick to it, track your time and see where you time wasters are.  I’ve taught it all and done it all. And I’m always learning more.

And if I’ve learned anything as an adult-in this most recent season-it’s the art of saying No. Not just for creating boundaries and margin in my schedule which are both so important, but for helping me to foster some much needed discipline and true peace.

Discipline means saying no. Peace means being able to open up to the feeling of being able to truly take a deep breath from life on a consistent regular basis.

And in every no, there is also a yes. And sometimes we don’t want to face the yes.  We don’t want to face that there isn’t money in the bank for that coffee date. Or time in our schedule for that weekly commitment (yoga class, bible study, book club, etc.).

And sometimes in that silence–alone with the iced coffee I make at home tending to those things that present in this current season–a tear may fall grieving what once was. The ability to be spontaneous. To run a quick errand. Joining your life with someone else’s makes you ponder these things. Add another human being who literally cannot function without you providing their sustenance and that only amplifies thinking about the choices you make-every single one and the life you’re creating in a different way.  Not necessarily the life smiling back at you but the one that you’re walking out, living out in the pages of your calendar, and more importantly, the one that you listen to the thoughts and emotions and realities swirling round and round each night when you try and leave behind one day and move into a new one.  That’s the life and reality we each get to create.

My favorite author is coming out with a new book.  It actually released today.  I have’t read it yet, but it should be waiting on me when I get home from work.  Shauna’s voice has been a healing balm to my soul in some very trying waters over the past few years.  I listened to her share last week on the IF: Gathering screen cast and at her launch party.  I think it was on the IF: Gathering screen cast I stopped and went back and played this quote multiple times…

“I’m creating–and recreating– the busyness and chaos because I don’t want to face what I find in the silence.”  Shauna Niequist

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’ve had a lot of silence lately. More than I’m used to or comfortable with. And it’s having me face things that I don’t really want to face. Saying no has allowed that to happen. Discipline is coming in multiple areas of my life because of saying no. Looking at the tribe my life had been surrounded with in this season and those folks who have moved on. What choices am I making in regards to food and spending in addition to my time. The silence has made me look at these three things deeply. And the silence has taught me some things.

Silence has reminded me that I need to see food as fuel 90% of the time. Even though I’m a foodie at heart my body needs good foods to function properly. My body thanks me when I treat it with kindness.

Silence reminds me that right now my priorities are my daughter and husband, pursing a peaceful and simple life, and not forgetting the importance of self-care.

One of the biggest things I’m learning is that silence reminds me I love and need people in my life. Physically. I need to be able to share a hug, put my hand on someone’s shoulder look across the table into someone’s eyes and really be able to hear so much more than what the words coming out of their mouth are saying. This is hard for me in this season. So many of my relationships are based on text messages and Google Hangouts. But I’m listening to the silence and prayerfully considering how I need to respond.

So looking forward to what else Shauna’s words have to teach me through this book.

 

{Snip-its of Motherhood}-Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

{Disclaimer: I know there is much controversy around “breast is best” and those who desired to breastfeed and may have had to take other avenues.  Please know I subscribe to “fed is best” and celebrate all moms and babes on their journey. This is just a small snapshot of my story}

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Since June was born 9 weeks early so many of the ideas I had about my journey into motherhood were thwarted by a C-section, rushing our girl to the NICU with just a passing glance at her and staring numbly at the hospital grade pump my amazing nurse and lactation consultant wheeled into my room the next morning.  I had 2 more months to prepare for motherhood, finish our house renovations, prepare the nursery. I never imagined having to start my journey of nourishing my child through hand expression and  pumping around the clock 8 times a day.  Two of my best girlfriends came to visit right in the middle of my nurse educating me on how this all works.  True friends right there.

While I was still in the hospital I pumped and the beau navigated cleaning all the parts. I remember always being discouraged & concerned–is this enough? has my milk come in? I need to do this because it’s so important for preemies.

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Once we were discharged, not only were we traveling daily to the NICU to see the babe, I was trying to figure out how this new part of my body worked, remembering to wash (and bring) all the parts with us and waiting in line to use the pumping rooms. It was emotionally taxing to bring in your milk back the NICU nurses and trying not to stare when the other moms would bring in 2 entire 2.5 oz bottles full (about 80 mls each) and I would maybe have 30ml’s total.  I also experienced the reversal of that later in our journey.

Thankfully I was producing enough that donor breast milk was not needed, but she was still being tube fed and until she was able to come down off the C-pap, we couldn’t try bottle feeding or nursing her.

When she was 47 days old on March 30th, I was able to nurse her for the first time.  The beau who was back to working nights 3-4 days a week was there and the lactation consultants were busy and unable to come assist. Our amazing nurses put up curtains for privacy since she was still on oxygen.  And little June did her thing.  Just like I know babes fresh out of the womb can latch right on, she did that same thing.  And I couldn’t help but cry.

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There was so much that didn’t go the way I’d hoped but I was so thankful that this worked.  The following day the lactation consultant came over and said she had a perfect latch and our anatomy worked perfectly together.  Again, tears flowed.

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I went back to work the last two weeks of her NICU stay so that I could enjoy more time with her at home.  I would get to work at 7am, take shortened breaks and head over the to nurse her every morning. Those were very special moments.

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Coming home with her on oxygen and a monitor was tough, but I continued nursing and pumping even though her small size requires she be on some high calorie formula to help her growth. I’m grateful that our team recognizes the importance of the 19 calorie breast milk in addition to her 27 calorie formula and supports my decision to continue nursing her. That does mean that I’ve got a freezer full of milk that may be donated at some point as I’m still pumping to keep up my supply, it is worth it.

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And for all you moms out there feeding your babes–You rock.  Yes, nursing has been a great gift to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s challenges.  Just like everything in parenthood.

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Love Your Spouse

I was tagged in a post last week ago by one of my dearest friends and proponents of marriage to participate in the 7 days of Love Your Spouse/Significant Other Challenge! I was challenged to post a picture with my beloved to Facebook everyday for 7 days and to challenge 2 people each day to keep the celebration of Love and Marriage going.

I’m normally not one to participate in these types of things, but if I’ve learned anything in this season it’s that marriage has to come first.  I’m so grateful for the wonderful teammate and partner that I get to share the day-to-day with.  The past 7 months have been tough and we’ve been hanging on by a thread it seems but we have really worked hard in the past month to pull our crap together and work harder to be the best team we can, to show June the best marriage and family we can and to be the best friend, coworker and family member to those we love.

That starts with us individually and is only amplified by your closest partner.  I’m so grateful to have such an awesome teammate.

Since it’s a certain someone’s birthday, I just had to share here those sweet photos that I came upon over the past week.  Very grateful every single day to know this one has my back and my  heart.

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Tending

As I have been on this journey of motherhood for the past five months I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I wanted to share.  However the thoughts in my head as I’m doing laundry, nursing June or at work don’t equal out to time it would take to actually put pen to paper. The time spent on those things that are most important trumped the time that I would have spent getting those thoughts down. But now I think I have a routine and some tools in my toolbelt that will allow me to share these things.

One of the best books that I have read recently has been The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (I also have a N. middle initial and love she always uses hers as well!). This book was queued up in my kindle long before June arrived, however it was not the right time for me to read it. I love it when God has a plan even down to the timing of when we read a particular book. The Cliff Notes version of this book is essentially a way for women in particular to grasp the most out of the little moments that pass by in life. It’s not necessarily multitasking but being more intentional with those moments in time that are somewhat wasted because we are scrolling on our phone or aimlessly doing things that are inconsequential. Since finishing her book I have read more books and accomplished more things than I thought possible with a newborn at home EVEN after returning to work.

So with that said I have realized that this space is something I want to tend to. I know that writing is very cathartic for me through all that I’ve experienced over the past year.  I feel that this is something I need to do. I realized in looking back that through the encouragement of my counselor and even my chiropractor that this space is important and healing for me and need not be neglected. Even if it’s a discipline for me as time can be hard to carve out to tend to this. But that’s just it…tending is a daily effort–not something done all at once.  You don’t magically go out once or even once a week to your garden and magically have a harvest–it takes small bursts of time and effort–along with some large bursts! And I’ve learned to use the tools necessary–I may be sitting here right now dictating most of this post via voice-to-text on my phone (ps-this is a new/nursing mama’s BFF!).

So with that I am hoping to share (at least) weekly on a combination of faith, parenthood, wellness, community and practical tips I’ve learned along the way as an encouragement to all those who may find their way to this place. I’m finding my niche in the intersectionality of all of those things and I want to share what I have learned as well as hear from you on your tips advice and wisdom on all of those same things. The past 5 months (and let’s face it–year) has been challenging and isolating at times but it’s also allowed me to really determine what I’m made of and how to best steward the time and resources I have on those things that are life-giving to me and necessary in the multiple identities that I hold.

And let’s face it, there’s bound to be some cute pictures of our sweet June Parker from time to time.

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#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.

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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.

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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.