Nothing Worth Doing is Easy

I stepped out onto my porch –cup of hot coffee in hand–in a stupor. Although the alarm had gone off and I had plenty of time before having to leave the house this am, Gracie Lou wasn’t about to let me lie in bed.  Her little four legs ran to the end of the bed, pacing back and forth looking for the perfect dismount for her little miniature poodle frame to land easy.  Once she did, the “chuh, chuh, chuh” of her paws wouldn’t let me continue my rest.

Once the cup was full and a fleece jacket was on, we stepped out into the cool, brisk air of our front porch. Downtown living even in our small town is quite loud even at 5am. I’m always amazed at the number of cars passing by.  I may be up at 5am but I’m certainly not out and about. Gracie trots into the wet grass and I not so gracefully gulp the black coffee down–partially for warmth, partially for the energy I’m hoping it will bring.  One too many episodes of  Call the Midwife had me up far too late.

Standing in the brisk fall air, I was struck with a reminder that hit me this summer as I worked through Shauna’s Present Over Perfect Study. One of the most spiritual practices I can do is to go stand on my porch in the early morning and late evening and breathe in and out the day. Even with cars whizzing by, there is something calming about that. My mind drifts to each of the women who gathered at my house this summer for that study. Our lives so randomly interconnected for this season of the study, but not really sure what else. We live in four different towns here in Central Kentucky–each one making a major sacrifice to be present. But that is the gift–presence. Striving to live into the day-to-day in the most authentic and intentional ways. And I think of each of them standing on their own front porch with me in spirit on this cool October morning.

My mind is brought back to reality as something glimmers in the streetlight. A spider web in the streetlight. So common this time of year. Even if the temperatures are not fall-like, the spiders still do their thing, trapping  (what is hopefully!) the last of the mosquitos and flies of the summer. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, they are still there doing their job at the same time of year.

ruben-marques-378741.jpg

Photo by Rúben Marques on Unsplash

Yesterday, the beau and I celebrated our eighth year of marriage. In the midst of busy seasons at work, a busy toddler, pending job transitions, a very full September, it was still our anniversary yesterday.  Thanks to busy lives and cancelled plans, we had a impromptu date night Friday to celebrate and will squeeze in breakfast today during 3 days straight of 12-hour shifts for the beau.

Even when we don’t feel like it, we commit to our marriage.

And “feeling like it” in this season doesn’t mean that we’re not committed to marriage or that we don’t want to celebrate. It just means that we’re tired. The to-do list is long. There are dishes always waiting to be washed or put away. Same with clothes. The list of friends I want to connect with always has one that’s not checked off at the end of each month. Our lives are so full.

What we have made the decision to do however, is put our marriage at the top of our priority list. That means date nights. Often at home. Time together with the TV off.  Walks out of the house so we can have a conversation and not be distracted by dishes and laundry. And regular time away a few times a year.

I know that last one is a kicker for most. Childcare. Disconnection from the kid over the weekend when the weekend is the only time you have to see your child as working parents. Money. Cost. And for us–getting out of our comfort zone.

Pre-kids, we did a lot of travel and it was common to do a few overnights a year to local spots–cabin in the mountains, nearby city, you name it. Now–that just isn’t feasible. And when we have done that, often, we find that we are so tired, we zone out, fall asleep way to quickly on a bed we’ve paid too much for, eat way too much and don’t have near the time we had hoped for intentional conversation.

Enter Couples Camp.

Campsite 12: Sponsored by Cabellas and Maxwell House

2 days. Not too hard on the budget. Hiking in 1.5 miles with all your gear on your back. Sleeping together in a tent. Camp coffee. Time alone without a cell phone or a watch. Time to focus on your spouse and your marriage. Getting to know other couples in similar or not similar at all stages of life and marriage. Seeing the commonalities we all have regardless.  Being reminded of the goodness of God even in hard times.

It’s not easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. And our marriage is all the better for it. Every time we get out of our comfort zone and come back to reality, we are a little sharper. A little more attuned to our spouse. A tad more aware of what God might be speaking and growing and doing in our own lives and how that impacts our marriage. And a little more awakened to the fact that our society does not build up and support marriage. And being committed to make our marriage a priority in spite of that.

We’re going back in the spring. We want other married couples to experience this. We believe in this. We know it’s going to have hard moments again. But we’ve seen the fruit of what doing difficult things together can do for our relationship.

Life is about real moments. Camping for 2 nights in 90 degree weather gives you a photo like this when you’re leaving. I’ll be honest–I’m not a fan of this pic–but it’s real life.  It’s hot and sweaty; grimy and bug-bitten; sunburned and sore. But there is joy in my face and a sparkle in my beau’s eye that I can’t deny.

22089429_983068227743_8727948606586773345_n

Nothing worth doing is easy. If I’m honest, posting a very unflattering photo of us isn’t easy, but it’s our present being WAY over anything resembling perfect in this season. And that level of authenticity is always valued in my book.

I step back inside to refill my coffee. A busy, full day awaits me. But I know that I get to start across the table from my beau. And a week later of being back into the swing of reality, and after a long night of work for him, I’m pretty sure I’ll get a hint of that sparkle.

PS-we’d LOVE to have you join us for camp in April. I promise–you and your marriage won’t be the same!

Advertisements

Working Mama Diaries: Soul-Care

maria-shanina-38582.jpg

I by no means have all the answers in my 19 months of motherhood.  But what I do have is my experience of 19 months of motherhood. I’m not here to compare, raise up or put down any type of mama–let’s be honest–we are ALL rockstars doin’ our thang.  But what I know is being a mama who works outside the home 40 hours a week with a commute. And a partner who works outside the home.  Stepping back into reality after my Family Leave experience was shell shocking. 6 weeks of NICU life. 2 weeks of going back to work and trotting to the NICU three times a day to see June, pump, change diapers and then back to answer emails and hopefully I remembered how to do my job. 6 weeks being home with June.  Then back to work full time!

I’m not here to discuss the difference in leave policies or benefits, although that’s a subject I’m quite passionate about. What I want to share is what I did to take care of myself.  And still do to take care of myself as a working mama.

  1. Figure out what my options were.  When I realized that I was only going to have 6 weeks with June once she came home rather than the 12 I had expected, my brain and fingers got to working.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have the option for Reduced Seasonal Hours in the summers.  That meant I went back to work 4 days a week for the first three months.  That was a huge blessing with all the doctor’s appts and follow-ups JP had. We could easily schedule everything for Mondays and I could adjust to being back to work with a three day weekend every week. If you’re in a rough season–see what options you have! Maybe it’s not going back after a baby but just going through a different season of parenting. Or mental health.
  2. Take care of my body. Yes, I had follow ups with my OB, but I also followed up with my primary care doc who was amazing.  We shed tears together, she’s given hugs on almost every visit and helped remind me that I have to take care of me physically to be the best mama, wife, employee, friend and human.
  3. Not feel guilty taking care of my body. That meant more than the doctor’s office. It meant continuing my regular chiropractic care and implementing monthly massages. Does it take us looking intentionally at our budget and prioritizing certain things? Absolutely! But I also know that I’m helping out my massage therapist friend by giving her some extra income.
  4. Taking medication. Not for everyone, but I have increased anxiety since our car accident and am on a low-dose anxiety medication. I wanted to think that I could be okay without meds. Eat well. Take vitamins. Get sunshine. Use essential oils.  And while all those things help immensely, so does my medication.
  5. Is there anything that could be outsourced? Lawncare. Done. Check. Honestly, this was more in the beau’s wheelhouse, but once he started working nights we had to figure something out and it’s been a lifesaver and helping someone else in their business. Win-win. I’m trying to figure out if there are other things that might be outsourced that could help us and help my anxiety.
  6. Seeing a therapist. Another huge benefit through my employer is work-life counseling sessions.  Each employee is given 5 per calendar year and I use mine up! I’m grateful to have a third party to share my journey with, to share perspective and share tissues.
  7. Schedule regular family days, date nights and girls nights.  Now when I say “regular” I just mean, be intentional, not necessarily every week or two weeks.   Surprise, surprise coming from me, right? I just make a list of the people I want to see/invest in, things we want to do each month as a family and any fun event that we want to do as a couple. Having some things and people’s names written down helps me not go three months without seeing folks.  Sometimes it’s a phone call to a mentor out of state, or a google hangout with a long-time friend or coffee or a target run with a soul friend. Regardless, it’s time that fills my heart and up.
  8. Spend time outdoors and disconnected. There’s something magical about the fresh air, smell of the leaves, grass and water. We’ve been so fortunate to go to Couples Camp last spring and this fall to get away from the noise of life, leaving our cell phones, watches and all reality in our cars, hiking in and building our marriages and our relationship with God. The reminder that Nothing Worth Doing is Easy is a constant and great for us to prioritize our marriage but also incredible just to be disconnected and have some space in my head.
  9. Water my own grass.  Remember this is a season where I’m going to be home more and that’s where I’m meant to be.
  10. Give myself grace. Again, and again, and again. Dishes will pile up. The house will be a mess. Hosting friends for dinner will mean picking something up and putting it on fancy plates.  It’s okay.  You’ve kept yourself and another human alive.  Kudos.

I’ve heard three different sources and podcasts this week alone discuss self-care. Many of them mentioned some of what I experienced.  Others mentioned yoga, baths and reading. It’s a buzz word these days.  For me, self-care is actually soul care. I love Emily P. Freeman’s tag line –“creating space for your soul to breathe.” That’s what I crave these days. And I hope by taking care of my own soul and it’s ability to take some deep breaths, I’m creating space for others to do the same.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

 

Finding Self

When I first started running, I was a mess.  My breathing was off, I couldn’t really find a good pace that was more than fast walk where I wasn’t entirely short of breath, I could never figure out proper fueling–before, during and after a run.  And man, my legs hurt.

But the more I ran, the more I found my own stride. My own rhythm.

The same has been true in these last two years.  Coming back to “real life” after experiencing some traumatic losses and extreme highs is really hard to do.  The pendulum has been swinging back and forth emotionally for months.

Losing Granny. Finding out we’re pregnant. My mom getting sick. Sharing publicly our news. Mom’s hospitalization. Hearing a heartbeat. Advocating for mom with doctor’s when it was apparent she was deteriorating.  Feeling kicks. ICU. Being surrounded by loving friends. Making the hard decision to let mom be at peace. Feeling incredibly supported by visitors to the hospital the night she passed. Walking through navigating her arrangements from KY to VA. Feeling support from friends near and far during that season. Dealing with increased blood pressure from all the stress. Plans for baby showers. Holidays. Amazingly supportive co-workers and friends continuing to be there as I grieved. Singing at the Christmas Eve-eve service. Head on collision on Christmas Day. No major issues. Postponing baby showers. Facetime with family. Visit to UK Triage. Lots of sleep. Incredible bruising. Grateful. Lunch dates with friends. More blood pressure issues. Babymoon in the mountains. Stress about the blood pressure issues. Rescheduled baby showers. Fear. Baby classes. Anxiety. Date nights. Tests to rule out preeclampsia. Good test results. More high blood pressure reads. Confidence in my doctor. Overnight stay in hospital. 48 hours later…..June Parker Cracraft.

Life is full of these nuances that make it brutiful. This is a snapshot of the brutiful pendulum that happened from July 2015-February 2016. 7 months. I could go on to share how that pendulum continued for the next 11, and maybe I will, but needless to say, the past two years have been fraught with a back and forth. One of the biggest back and forths was going back to work for 2 weeks when June was still in the NICU.  Another came when I went back to work 6 weeks after we brought her home. And then first full fall semester as a working, pumping mama whose brain was still in the postpartum fog but also still grieving losing my Mom less than a year prior and sad about what might have been and all  of “what if’s” with our daughter.

What I hope to share is that through these past 19 months, I’m finally finding myself. To all the working mamas out there-I see you. To those with children who may not have or had a typical entry into this thing called life-I see you too. To those navigating opposite work schedules with your partner-I got you. Wondering if you’ll ever feel normal in your job-Yup, been there too. Wondering if you even want to continue working because you feel as if someone else is raising your child? Amen.

But I can also share that I feel like the fog is finally lifting. It took 18 months, but the grief and hurt and emotional pain is starting to rise where I feel like me. Not making oversights and forgetting things that were oh-so-common before at work on a daily basis. But actually feeling energized by the work I’m fortunate to do. Having some perspective about the life I get to lead and share with JP about being a strong working woman who has multiple roles and identities other than “mama.”

Maybe it’ll take 6 months for you. Or maybe it’ll take 6 years. Or maybe it’ll take longer. I don’t know your story or your timeline. What I do know is that you aren’t meant to do it alone.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

0001-9725881

You are good

There’s a time in which you can look back at your life and feel you can finally take a deep breath. Life is somewhat relaxed and at peace and you have grown in wisdom that you can’t even really put your finger on.

As I’ve thought about the last two years of my life, there has been extreme pain and sadness right in the midst of some of the most indescribable joy I’ve ever experienced. And I’m just now finally processing and absorbing some of that. Go figure, I’ve just recently re-read Bittersweet so my fingers are finding their way back to the keyboard.

With that, I’m going to do what people today just aren’t known for doing.  I’m going to start blogging more consistently. That’s right. Just like my friends Annie and Sophie said last week, “who blogs anymore?” Ha–it’s true. I don’t even read blogs like I used to. I listen to podcasts and scroll Instagram and that has replaced reading blogs. There are a few people and voices that make it to my inbox weekly, but with the passing of Google Reader went the passing of my eyes to most of the blogs I used to frequent.

So here I am intending on blogging regularly. Even if no one reads it. And that’s kinda the point. There are things that have come to the surface over the past few weeks and I can’t deny it any longer.  I’m being pulled to share my story. If for nothing else, as part of my own healing journey.

Most of you who might venture to actually read these words know most of my journey. If you happen to be new around these parts, welcome.  This may or may not make sense, but I know this is the next step to allow for continued healing and growth. And my prayer above all else is that this would point you to the one who can make all things new–Jesus.

And with that….

It’s coming up on two years ago that I was newly pregnant  and leading worship fairly consistently at our church’s downtown campus. I’d been leading worship for years at another campus and been singing most of my life, but I was having some growing pains in this new community.  It was the normal stuff–nothing major, just adjusting.  Adjusting to the worship leader. The campus pastor. Being in a traditional church venue. Becoming more pliable if you will.

So when I was asked to lead this new song, “King of My Heart”, there were lots of feelings.

Side note–I re-took my MBTI this past year for work for those of you who are familiar with that. I was literally as strong a “feeler” as one could be.  Carry on…

I was just out of the first trimester and just honestly didn’t know how I could physically sing such a song that demanded so much of me vocally. Beyond that, this was right in the midst of when my mom had been hospitalized. More feelings. Little did I know she would never leave that hospital alive. Little did I know still two years later that song would be my anthem.

I remember tentatively accepting the request to lead and listening to the words over and over and over. I pulled out a blank journal gifted to me by a friend and wrote and wrote and wrote the lyrics out. As a visual learner, I needed to not just read the words but see them, feel the ink pour them out to truly absorb them. Tears fell to the pages as I let the words penetrate my sad, confused and scared heart. Being a caregiver for an ailing parent is always tough for anyone. Being the sole person making decisions, being far away from family and being pregnant? Oh, and did I mention a feeler? Yeeaaaah. Lots of emotions happening.

When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.

Still to this day, I cannot sing that line without completely tearing up and being overcome with emotion.

Little did I know that I was about to walk into one of the most challenging seasons of my life. My mom’s death, the car accident that lead to our daughter being born 9 weeks prematurely and her 58 day NICU stay. were ahead of me.  I won’t lie-it wasn’t easy. I certainly felt as if the night was hold on and was not about to let go.

But God’s hold on me was stronger.

The Front Seat

One of the things that drew me to Lew when we first met and were dating was this love of adventure. Travel. Camping. Road Trips. When I thought about the potential for adventures and travels we had together, my futuristic self was geeking out.

Almost 10 years later we have been on a lot of adventures and I’m so grateful as I look through our past photos, recall memories of when we decided to live in the moment and leave the camera behind. And I think forward to some of our long-term goals that include more travel with our family and I get really excited.

2015-06-08 11.58.05

One of my favorite authors, storytellers and podcasters, Tsh Oxenrider’s new book At Home in the World released this week and I’m SOOOO excited to dive in this weekend. She has asked her readers to think about where we each feel most at home in the world. As I started thinking about this, my place isn’t anywhere we’ve traveled to or is super exciting. While I would love to be able to share an exotic location, I have to say, I feel most at home in the front seat of a car.

The front seat was how we entered married life as we navigated highways and curvy roads on our honeymoon through the south.  We wound our way through Savannah and Charleston and Asheville and came back to Kentucky as one.

The front seat was the place for spontaneous road trips that led us to Toronto for long weekends and Tennessee to visit college friends and across the state of North Carolina the summer before we got married visiting friends and family going from mountains to beaches and back again.

10409360_708885372383_6393533887087566217_n

360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada

The front seat was the support we needed to have great conversations when we made trips to Virginia when my mom was still living there and dealing with lots of health issues, hospital stays and eventually time in a nursing home. I cherish those days and conversations with the soundrack of the Beau’s iPod getting us through those curvy West Virginia roads.

The front seat was where my mom made her way from Virginia to Kentucky in the summer of 2013 so that we would be closer to her to help with her care.

2013-07-08 08.10.37-2

Enter a caption

The front seat afforded us a lot of amazing views on our road trip out west in the summer of 2015. Most memorable was driving into Canyonlands at sunset and being so overwhelmed with the beauty of creation the beau and I both teared up.

On that same trip, I experienced incredible stomach cramps and had to lay the seat down as we wound our way through Washington and Oregon.  Little did I know those stomach cramps were a precursor to something big.  We came home to a positive pregnancy test.

In November of 2015, the front seat was once again the support needed as we made our way back to Virginia to lay my mom to rest.

Christmas Day of 2015 at 24 weeks pregnant my love for the front seat was wrecked. Literally. We were hit head on and ever since then me and the front seat have been at odds. But I’m coming around.

2015-12-25 15.32.27

The front seat supported me and held my tears when I left the hospital empty handed after 6 days in the hospital and our daughter stayed in the NICU for 8 more weeks when she rocked our world 9 weeks early on February 13th, 2016.

The front seat held my secrets as I figured out my new body and how to feed my girl who was thriving on my breast milk. It was my companion as I pumped daily in the car as we drove to see our girl every day.

The front seat was empty that day the beau drove home ever so slowly with JP and me in the backseat embarking on this new journey of parenthood.

2016-04-11 14.25.12

June Parker leaving the NICU

I’m learning to love the front seat again.  The past 16 months have seen lots of flinches, grabbing of the door handle and closed eyes when in the front seat.  Being hit head on and knowing that impacted the premature birth of your daughter will do that to you. I’ve used my phone more as a distraction when traffic is bad in a big city or on those curvy roads.

But I’m trying to live in the moment and change that.  Even if it means facing my fears without my head in my phone. I don’t want to miss the view. We are planning more long term travels. And I know that I’ll be in the front seat again.  Releasing control.  Trusting. Living.  All things I want to lean into.  The front seat isn’t a destination but a place that gets you to your destination.

For me and these past 18 months, the front seat has gotten me THROUGH.

When we are driving around town, through the Red River Gorge and on the backroads to and from Lexington, I reach over and grab the beau’s hand and look back at our beautiful, healthy and perfect 14 month old and am full of gratitude.  The front seat longs to be my protector and comforter and adventurer seeker. I’m slowing learning to let it be so and let go of the fear.  Letting go has gotten me through this difficult season but is gently calling me TO more adventure, TO more road trips, TO less fear and TO courage.

Thank you Tsh for helping me remember that I am at home in the world in the front seat.

 

 

Pace

redd-angelo-14423We’re closing in toward the end of the first quarter of the year.

Seriously? Where has time gone?

I’m looking back at my last post truly wondering. But here we are.  Smack in the middle of Lent. Still looking back at the remnants of a 1st Birthday party held in early February that still make their presence known in our dining room. I’m right in the middle of my busy time at work. And JP is just busy–into everything.

And what I’m craving is slow.

I’ve been paying attention to my pace.  I’m not as in shape as I’d like to be so when I walk fast, I’m short of breath. But also when I walk fast, my mind is also tracking at that same pace. When I slow down my walk, I’m able to catch my breath, pay more attention to it and I’m more aware of my surroundings.  The flowers starting to bud. The shape of the clouds.

We’ve had a few conversations lately about being connected and what that really means.  To be honest, many of my connections are online and through the apps on my phone.  But I want to be most connected with my people–the ones who live in my house and I see every single day. I don’t want to be distracted by an Instagram post and miss staring into my daughter’s blue eyes.

So I’ve cleaned up my phone.  Deleted some apps.  Installed a few others that I hope to be my primary focus.  Found that some of my goals and Lenten observances were too far reaching or ill-willed in their motives so I’m adjusting.  And giving myself grace in that adjustment.

I want to pay attention. I want to be focused on others words and stories. I want to leave space for my soul and heart to breathe, to not feel overwhelmed and to be connected with things and people that matter and willing to walk away from that that brings stress and overwhelm and comparison.

I want to invite people into our home for a meal again.  Sit across the table at coffee and be able to give people a warm hug rather than scroll, scroll, scroll on my phone.

I’ve got some ideas on how to put this into practice but I’d love to hear yours.

And don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter on the scrolling place but you’re hearing more from me here.

Hello 2017

IMG_9207.JPG

2017 Goal Defining Process

2017-I’m sooooo glad to see you! As are many others this year who typically aren’t a fan of the calendar page turning.  I know many who shame New Year’s and all the “Fresh Starts” we see this time of year.  But for me it’s  the one time I get a week off work AFTER the holiday to rest.  To reflect.  It’s certainly different with a babe-the rest is coupled with nursing, changing diapers and wrangling our ever-curious babe.

I always love a fresh start. New planner.  Fresh page in the notebook. New set of pens and freshly sharpened pencils. I’m especially excited about this year. After June arrived and we had adjusted somewhat to her in our lives, we sat down and talked goals. Family goals.  BIG goals.  Exciting dreams and how they would become reality rather than just a shared Google Doc. 🙂

Now that those goals are set forth and we have a time-table to them, we now get to set the plan in action. It’s kind of like knocking over a domino and seeing the ripple effect–although this will certainly take much longer than it takes to knock them over. Perhaps this is the preparation–the setting up of said dominoes that will be knocked over in several years. But even in a 5 year timeline, discipline and faithfulness are the two BIG things that are going to make these dreams a reality.  My verse for this year is going to help me stay focused.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much. Luke 16:10

While 2016 was tough (and let’s face it-2015 was tricky too), I’ve got so much to be thankful for.  And as my girl Shauna always throws out those great ideas, here is my list of 10 things I’m grateful for in 2016.

  1. A healthy baby girl delivered at 31 weeks!
  2. Renovations on the house progressed-lots of drywall hung, painting and a more finished house.
  3. Amazing support from Lew’s parents–from making sure we had plenty of food when our NICU journey began &  when June came home to doing a TON on the house.
  4. The ability to work 4 days week this summer.
  5. Supper club! Such a fun, needed group for our souls this year.
  6. Prioritizing date nights became a reality.
  7. Gaining such great (continual) support from our NICU family.
  8. The ability to nurse June starting at day 47 to now–11 months!!
  9. Joining an incredible company with a mission-Beautycounter
  10. The most incredibly supportive partner and the ability to get away for an overnight just the two of us.

Bonus–This. Is.  Us. Enough Said.

I’m really stoked for 2017 and the new momentum we’ve found so far.  I was having a conversation with a friend this week and her New Year’s Goal was to just do grown-up things. Act like an adult. I love that. I think that’s where so many of my goals are as well-and each move us toward achieving our long-term goals. But really are just simply aligned with the kind of person I want to be in my mid-30’s. I want to eat healthy as I know my body needs, work toward becoming debt free, grow together in our marriage, increase my depth, understanding and commitment to the Word, and keep my eyes on that long-term goal.  If every decision we make this year stems out of faithfulness to these things, it’s gonna be a good good year.

2016 Review

So 2016 seems to have been a tough year for a lot of people.  Whether you had personal heartache, were saddened by the events happening in our country and world or were dismayed and brokenhearted at the election results, I think most of us can say that we are ready for the calendar page to turn.

I’ve tried to re-frame our own year which certainly had it’s hard parts, but also to celebrate all the good that occurred.  And as in last year’s 2015 review, you’ll get to see some of the visual representation of all our goodness from 2016. Thank you Instagram and Google Photos.  And full disclosure (this may go without saying) but a certain someone stole the show in 2016.  So glad you joined our family JPC.

January 2016

One of my favorite pics ever.  From our Babymoon at Butterfly Gap Retreat. So sad to hear they’ve sold the property due to family illness, but hoping that another owner will reopen. This place holds a lot of special memories.  Good thing we settled on a name for Bebe during our time here.  If we’d only known what would transpire two weeks later.

img_6152

February 2016

June Parker Cracraft came catapulting into our world on an early Saturday morning, February 13th at 1:57am.  Stay tuned for more of her birth story as we approach her first birthday.  (Seriously…birthday?!?!?!?!) 2 lbs 2 oz and 14. 3 inches of pure sweet and spiciness! Our lives haven’t been the same since! This is one of my favorite pics–3 days old here.

img_1406

March 2016

This was one of the biggest milestones for me as a mother.  On her 47th day of life, I got to nurse my sweet JP.  Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to continue for as long as I could, so when our journey didn’t take near the path we had planned, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be able to nurse June.  And I’m proud to say we’re still going strong 10 months later! We also celebrated Easter together as a family.

img_6763

April 2016

April 11th.  Taking our girl home from the NICU.  Zoom in and you can see the look of excitement and fear on the beau’s face. He was terrified of the drive home. Oxygen tank, monitor, and two folks who were oh so excited but oh so scared.  What a mix of emotions.  I’ll never forget that day.

img_6904

May 2016

My 35th birthday.  Our first date out after June came home.  Thankful for amazing in-laws who have stepped up in so many ways that I can’t begin counting.  And thankful for an amazing dinner at Distilled that night.  Sweet Sweet Snuggles after we arrived home that night.  Also very thrilled to celebrate my first Mother’s Day although it was somewhat bittersweet.  2016-05-11-22-19-30-1

June 2016

These two. What a bond they have. I cannot imagine this year without this guy by my side. We celebrated his first Father’s Day and also what an incredible support he has been. He worked 4 nights a week while June was in the NICU (because we had decided that him picking up extra shifts was a good idea before the baby came).  I also went back to work 4 days a week in late May and we celebrate and remembered my Mom on her birthday.  Quite an emotional month–he really earned his keep in June. We had our first house guest as my Aunt Ruthie came to visit for a few days and some good friends stopped in from out of town!  Also JP was able to come off oxygen this month! Yay for no more tubes!

img_7342

July 2016

July brought our first big road trip as we went to Virginia to see my family.  I will always treasure this sweet picture of my Grandma and June.

img_7733

August 2016

June spent a lot of time with Gigi and Pops this summer once I went back to work.  This was her first trip to the Disney Store and can we say someone has her Pops wrapped around her little finger?

img_8104

September 2016

Big milestones for June this month–sitting forward in her stroller and sitting up (assisted). We spent a LOT of days getting out of the house when June first arrived home taking walks around our small town and enjoying time with the girls at the coffee shop. The summer was a bit hot, so we got out on the town quite a bit in the fall.  June really enjoyed the ArtWalk, although she was asleep for most of it.  She also started physical therapy this month, but like the rock star she is, only needed two sessions! We do lots of work at home with her and she’s continuing to make big strides! I also got to celebrate my favorite season with my favorite redhead!

img_8196

October 2016

We took our first little vacation as a family of three. The beau and JP were able to tag along to a work conference in Atlanta, but first, we hit up June’s first Cincinnati Reds game. Although they lost, they lost to the Chicago Cubs so June got to see the World Series winners! How exciting! We also got to meet Aunt Tammy on the way to Atlanta and try out the pool at our hotel. October also brought starting solid foods, drinking from a sippy cup and enjoying Halloween.

img_8535

November 2016

Turkey Turkey Turkey!!! Our little Turkey LOVED Thanksgiving at her Aunt Walene and Uncle Donnie‘s! It was her first big family gathering and she was quite the center of attention.  She enjoyed turkey, sweet potatoes and peas herself! I also went with Mama to vote in this historic election.

img_8912

December 2016

Holidays.  How magical through the eyes of a child, right?  June got to meet Santa, enjoyed lots of love from friends and family, tag along on Mama and Daddy’s Christmas date and we had a lot of quality time together–the BEST gift.  June is sitting up on her own, army crawling and into EVERYTHING.  We were grateful to get an overnight in Cincinnati to reflect on our year and set some goals for the upcoming one.

img_9134

Truly as the year has come to a close, we are just so grateful for all the wonderful things brought our way through June Parker.  We have a lovely, healthy girl, sweet puppy, wonderful partnership in our marriage, two great jobs and a house over our head.

Expectations

screen2bshot2b2015-09-142bat2b10-01-092bam

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.