Delighting in the days

delight-2 In January, I chose delight as my word for the year. I'm never very good with followthrough and this one word exercise is usually no different. But recently as I thought about how I was feeling these days with our lovely summer and our new fall rhythm/schedule/day-to-day life, I realized that things had been quite... delightful... and that without particularly trying, I had in fact been delighting.

Last spring was hard. I felt like a chicken with my head cut-off with three kids doing three different things school-wise, plus sports, church, and other activities. It was crazy. I felt like if I could just make it through till summer; it was a season with little delight in some ways, but it was also a season of embracing my writing life right where it is, and pressing on and moving forward intentionally, which is in its own way, a form of delighting.

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Through the chaos, and then into the peace of summer, my delight in the Lord has been strong though. This year I've taken on a Bible reading plan that my church recommended and it has kept me in the word consistently. My prayer life has been lacking still this year, but in reading the word I have felt a growth which is powerful.

Summer was beyond delightful. Beach days, camping trips, long days, family camp (ahhh-mazing!), swimming, barbecuing, reading, baseball, relaxation, concerts (Coldplay!) time with family and sweet friends-- it was all the lovely things of summer that I adore-- the very definition of delight, thank you, Jesus. I was incredibly sad to see it go, as much as I always love the start of a new school year.

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And as we've entered the new fall season, a season which can bring with it chaos and busyness, I'm delighted to say that things have, amazingly enough, not gotten out of hand, and in fact, I'm quite delighting in our days and enjoying the rhythm of things right now.

We now homeschool three days in a row (Monday through Wednesday), and then, the kids all go to school all day on Thursday and Friday, a gift to this mama that has brought blessings galore in just the first month. Lunches, brunches, coffees, mama outings, peaceful errands, days to clean and prep, writing time, and moments of quiet have been amazing.

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I'm relishing this time and trying my best to use it wisely and keep it from getting over-scheduled. And just like I expected, it actually has me looking forward to our next homeschool days... and despite all the solo-time benefits, even missing my kids a tiny bit. ;)  For our family, and for me, it is the perfect fit.

So all this to say, even though many days I'm still tired (from knowingly burning the candle at both ends) and there are still overwhelming moments and feelings of inadequacies and frustrations with schoolwork and parenting challenges galore...

There is amidst it all a strange feeling of r e s t.

There is p e a c e.

There is d e l i g h t.

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And there is gratitude. I'm very thankful for this season, and for the ways the Lord, in His grace, has orchestrated this time. May I use it for His glory.

The weight of grace

the weight of grace propels us forward with conviction A week ago, there was a scary incident in my neighborhood. You might even say it was right in my backyard.

I have felt the anxiety palpably. I can think of two other times when I felt the weight (physically) on my chest like that: when my family was evacuated from our house during a wildfire (that my dad was fighting), and when I approached the intersection where my bad car accident was.

Time did indeed heal those feelings. I can drive through that intersection now and feel nothing (except extra caution). When fires rage anew, it brings back that feeling a little but it passes as the fires die out.

The more I learn how I'm wired, and how I FEEL ALL THE FEELS (hello, fellow ENFPs) helps me understand how I process things, and this tendency I have toward this PTSD-type anxiety. It has never been debilitating, thankfully, but more of a dull nagging. (This personality stuff, by the way has really helped my ESTJ thinker husband understand how I'm processing all this.)

This most recent experience was different I think for one main reason: I'm a mother now.

The anxiety I have felt was not due to a fear of our safety as we move forward (it was an isolated incident that is over).

It is an anxiety of the could-have-beens. It is a deep sensation that tingles down to my fingertips, as I think of so many aspects of this situation that could have played out differently. I think of this on behalf of my own family--my dear children-- and of so many beloved neighbors.

But the more I have processed (and listened to wise friends who direct me to the Truth and help me get out of the downward spiral of FEELS), the more another word has emerged from all of the anxiety.

GRACE.

On the other side of the could-have-been coin is the brazen truth of God's sovereignty.

It weighs on me heavy when I think that He still has a plan for us to walk this green earth. I see His grace in every aspect of this situation. I see it in angles, and timing, and plans for the day.

I see His grace in the innocence that my kids still walk in, as they have been completely covered from the knowledge of any of this. While it breaks my heart to see the broken world around them, that they will gradually come to know and experience, I take a little comfort in the grace that their bubble of naïveté hasn't quite been broken yet.

It feels weird to think of something so wonderful as grace as a weight, but sometimes that's how it feels. Not in a bad way though. Weight is a word that has a negative connotation, but that's not what I mean.

Sometimes weight ensnares us and restricts us. But other times, doesn't it propel us forward faster? When I think of a small child and large adult sliding down parallel waterslides --gliding in the bliss and freedom of water-- who reaches the bottom first?

Pardon my rough physics explanation (I did a little research here but I'm definitely not the engineer of the family): The heavier person slides faster because they have less drag/friction. Doesn't that sound paradoxical?

So to extend the metaphor, maybe the more we are weighted down with grace, the less we will experience the drag and friction of the world.

I'm no theological physicist but it just makes sense in my heart. When we feel the weight of grace, we are propelled forward to love God and love others with more conviction.

if His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking

I think these lines say how I feel better than I ever could:

He loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

And we are His portion and He is our prize Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes

If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking And Heaven meets Earth like an unforeseen kiss And my heart turns violently inside of my chest

{How He Loves, David Crowder Band}

It's Good Friday today. In light of everything, I'm taking more and more comfort in knowing that IT'S ALL GRACE. I don't deserve anything but because of His love, I am sinking in His ocean of grace. My heart turns violently inside my chest because sometimes grace just feels overwhelming.

It is finished! He has done it! Let your weary heart rejoice Our redemption is accomplished Raise a shout with ragged voice

And go bravely into battle Knowing he has won the war It is finished, lift your head And weep no more

{It is Finished, Dustin Kensrue}

On Katniss, The Hanging Tree, and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus-- a manifesto for the new year

on katniss, the hanging tree, & fixing our eyes on jesus David and I went and saw Mockingjay Part 1 the weekend it came out. I can't really explain my love for Katniss-- the Hunger Games books aren't really my usual cup of tea. They're a bit dark, and definitely intense compared to what I usually enjoy. But there's something about them.

And there's something about her character-- brooding and bold, she's an unlikely leader thrown into the limelight--to heroine status-- by apparent circumstance, and it's there that her true calling comes alive, and we see her living out her purpose (hmm,that sounds like a book I'm reading), whether she likes it or not.

We both enjoyed the movie (but I'm a bit miffed that I have to wait a whole year for Part 2 though). There's one scene that, two months later, I can't stop thinking about. And It's not just because I love it when actors who aren't known for their singing voice sing in movies (See also: Keira in Begin Again).

It's the scene where Katniss sings The Hanging Tree and we see the rebel forces rising to fight the Capitol.

(this video isn't the whole song but I like this clip because it actually shows a bit of the scene it's from. You might have to click over from email to watch.)

A week later, one of our pastors taught on a somewhat obscure passage in 2 Chronicles 20. A story with a vaguely-familiar character and a story of which I had no real memory. You might want to go read it now (I'll wait here).

I know these are two very different battle scenes-- we've got the rebels storming a dam to take out the Capitol's power supply and God's people up against a great "horde" of the Lord's enemies-- but I read the passage with the image and the haunting beauty with which Katniss sang The Hanging Tree running through my mind.

That movie scene helped me visualize the battle scene where Jehoshaphat and his men are praising God before they've even won the battle, confident that the battle is His and that He will give them victory. It's an unlikely juxtaposition of singing and a fierce battle.

Of course for the Israelites it wasn't just "singing;" they were praising their God for His sovereignty in the midst of the battle.

The story starts with the enemy coming up against God's people for battle.

"Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." (vs. 3-4)

Pushed to the edge, Jehoshaphat doesn't let despair overwhelm him, instead, he immediately goes to the Lord in prayer, gathering others to join him.

He pleads for God's intervention, recalling what God had done for His people in the past and how He was always present with them, and then as "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children (v. 13)," the Spirit of the Lord answers through a prophet.

"You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (v. 17, emphasis mine)

So what happens? Jehoshaphat (and his people) immediately worship God, and then they obey: they go out the next morning and enter the battle (still worshiping), and God, He gives them the victory just like He said He would. In verses 21-22, we see that salvation came when they went out to worship.

And through all of this scene we see this: it plays out in the context of community.

We see this in Katniss' song, too. She starts singing it and it's quiet, haunting, just her voice, and then gradually, the music builds powerfully and we hear the chorus join in and get stronger and stronger. The districts will never have victory until they come together with their various gifts, resources and skills and fight the enemy together.

The phrase that has stuck with me, engraving itself into my heart is from verse 12:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Before God had answered, Jehoshaphat and his people came together to fix their eyes on the Lord, remember His past work and provision, and seek His guidance.

When we walk through the trials and challenges of life, we need to surround ourselves with people who are helping us keep our eyes on Him.

This year, for 2015, I didn't choose a word like I did last year. Instead, I'm picking this verse and this phrase to guide me through the year.

Our eyes are on You

So often (okay, basically every day) I find myself at a loss, not knowing what to do. In motherhood, in community, in my calling, in marriage... in LIFE.

And herein lies the answer: I'm not in this alone, and my best weapon isn't the battering ram that knocks out the Capitol's power.

It's the God of the universe, who created everything, and stands boldly to fight all of my battles for me, giving me victory over sin and over my enemy... all while I worship Him right where I am. It's the gospel-- that's my greatest weapon, and my greatest comfort.

 

Affiliate links included, thanks for your support!

From infertile to fertile: a letter from an adoptive mom who got pregnant

tired boy A dear friend of mine just had a baby. Not only is she one of the prettiest little babies I've ever seen, but she's also a real miracle baby, born to two people who were told there was basically no chance of getting pregnant. After a period of grieving, researching, and praying, this couple had moved forward with the adoption process, not unlike David and I, after I experienced secondary infertility.

Before their portfolio could be shown to any birthmothers though, my friend Sarah found out she was pregnant. God opened her womb! And while she was thrilled, it was also a bit of an adjustment to shift her heart from adoption mode to pregnancy mode. The response from those around her didn't help this challenging heart shift.

Those of us who have experienced infertility (even after having a baby), made a plan and moved forward with adoption, and then were surprised to get pregnant and deliver a biological baby, have often been met with comments from people who seem to think that it was inevitable to get pregnant because we were relaxed, or our minds were off it, or because it just seems to happen.

Sarah wrote this letter as a response to those people (often strangers or acquaintances), reminding them that it is God alone who opens the womb. Infertile people who adopt are not bound to get pregnant. It does happen, but I've also seen him open the womb of friends who were infertile and went through years of IVF to have their first babies (rather than adoption), only to have a surprise pregnancy later. I've also seen people who adopt, and never conceive again.

God is bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine. I hope my thoughts and Sarah's letter help you to better understand the heart of those who have both adopted and conceived a baby. We don't love those babies any differently, they are both ours, and they are equally special parts of our family.

a letter from an adoptive mom who got pregnant

An open letter to those with friends who got pregnant after adopting, or starting the adoption process:

I have been putting off writing this because I am worried I won't get it right. But I need to say it. This is from my heart as someone who has dealt with infertility and has gone through the grieving and letting go process.

It may seem strange that I still identify with infertility now that I am pregnant but it doesn't go away. Not when you have so vividly gone through the heartbreak of being told how unlikely it is that you will become a parent biologically. Not when you have gone through months of grieving and giving it up to God after hearing said news. Those months don't just disappear when you get pregnant (or adopt.)

What I want to write to you about is the phrase that people think is helpful or comforting or that is somehow gives hope to those in the midst of infertility or adoption. That dreaded phrase of, "Oh, you'll get pregnant once you adopt," or, "Once you stop trying you'll get pregnant"-- there are many variations to this phrase. It's meant as an off-hand encouragement, but in reality, it's not.

I want to try and bring some light as to why this phrase is oh-so-unhelpful and in fact, sometimes hurtful.  I did not ever plan on writing this before I got pregnant but since I did I suddenly worried people would use our story on their friends struggling with infertility or going through adoption.

I wanted to instantly forbid anyone from ever saying, "well, our friends Rob and Sarah thought they couldn't have any kids and as soon as they were approved for adoption she got pregnant-- you'll totally get pregnant!"

I'm glad I didn't write this letter when that's all I had to say. Because I know now that that is just another post called "What not to say to…" And as helpful as those can be they don't always try to explain the heart of things. 

I had this happen to me when we decided to not pursue fertility treatments but instead pursue adoption. A well-meaning friend told me of a story of his friends who got pregnant after adopting and pronounced that we too would get pregnant. Although most of what I want to say is from the heart I will give you one statistic; only 5% of couples who have dealt with infertility and have gone on to adoption have gotten pregnant. So why does it seem like it happens to so many more?

Because no one goes around telling the other stories. "I had this friend who struggled with infertility and went on to adoption and never got pregnant." It's not sensational and for some, it seems sad.

I had come to a place in my heart where I was okay with this becoming my story. In fact when we found out we were pregnant I was so confused and even let down a little. I had come to peace with plan I thought God had set before us and then He changed it on me. I was annoyed, too, because now I was going to have to hear over and over that which I have heard many times, "Oh, that always happens!"

Here's why this response hurts and why I hope you choose to say something else next time. I won't try to speak for other women or couples so I will try to just pull from my own emotions (not hard I am pregnant after all!) For me it was two things.

First, this response says that adoption is second best. When you say "adopt and you'll get pregnant" it seems to insinuate that pregnancy is the end goal. Can't get pregnant? Try adopting and it will cure all your infertility issues and then you'll get the child you really want. This hurts me because I was passionate about adoption before we even had fertility issues. I knew someday I wanted to adopt. I am also passionate in the belief that love for a child is the same no matter what; adopted or biological. 

Second, this response gives a false hope. This is the one that in my grief probably made me the most mad. I wanted to scream "YOU don't know if I'll ever get pregnant. YOU don't even know all the fertility issues we have! YOU don't know the plan God has for us!" It was like everyone wanted me to keep holding out hope for something that really might not ever come.

For me there was no closure in that type of thinking. Yes, I had to trust that if God wanted to open my womb He could, but in that hard time, I could not just keep on hoping. I need to move on and look to a new future. And when I did, I loved that future!

I didn't want people to keep bringing up what I had used to envision for us. That was old news. God had a new and exciting plan for us and I wanted to focus on that. Why couldn't everyone else? When I said, "We're adopting!" why couldn't people say "Wow! That's so exciting! Tell me all about it!" Or "How is that going? Can I help in any way?"

I loved it when people would focus on our new future with me. When they would ask me for updates regularly. Cheer with me when paper work went fast. Hug me when I realized how long our wait might be. These people didn't focus on the future that couldn't be but on the one that was right in front of us! Those people rock!

encourage you to do that for your friends. Be with them in their current situation. Help them focus on the future that is.

If someday they do become pregnant by the grace of God celebrate with them but don't focus on what could be or might be.  Rob and I still plan on adopting. In fact I may have cried a few tears that we wouldn't get to meet "Little T" (our future adopted child) as soon as I thought.

I continue to anticipate May 2015 when we can get back on the waiting list. Not because the child growing in me now is less than, but for a long time Little T has been more real to me. I worry that in the excitement of the child due to be born soon, people will forget about our other child that will grow inside another lady.

I pray that my friends and family will continue to support the future we see before us, not the one that might be.

In love,

Sarah

I'm so thankful for my friend Sarah communicated what was totally on my heart after I got pregnant with Hallee when Brody was just five months old. My story and my infertility was a little different as I had had four miscarriages before Hallee (I always say that getting pregnant wasn't our problem so much as staying pregnant). But now I always say that that was just the road God took us down to bring Brody to our family. You can read all about our adoption journey here.

Related: when your friends do adopt, use this awesome video as a guide of what not to say to them.

Photo of Sarah by Alexander Pavone.

Finding grace in the chaos of motherhood

Is it possible to pursue spiritual disciplines during the trenches of motherhood?

This is a valid question, and one I've often wondered. Motherhood is so all-consuming. It's not a job we go to and then come home and forget about; it's a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week kind of gig. As our kids get older and we add more to our brood, we see our personal me-time get squeezed out to the margins more and more.

One of my biggest takeaways from the Embracing Self-Care series, was how important my spiritual self-care is though. The better I tend to my soul, the better mom I am and the more at peace I feel. I wasn't surprised by this revelation-- it makes sense to me-- but I was encouraged to make my relationship with the Lord more and more of a priority.

Mom Seeks God: Practicing Grace in the ChaosLast week I shared a few books that have been teaching me about self-care more and one of them is Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller, which documents the author's journey of pursuing ten different spiritual disciplines over the course of a year. I went into it knowing that God had been pressing on my heart the need to be more disciplined and consistent in my prayer life.

"When Julia Roller discovered that her spiritual growth had been stunted by the busyness of life with her toddler, she embarked on a yearlong journey through ten spiritual disciplines: prayer, fellowship, submission, study, simplicity, silence, worship, fasting, service, and celebration. As she focused on each discipline, she discovered practical ways to observe them—even in the chaos of her every day."

I knew God wanted to grow me in the area of prayer, so I wasn't surprised when He spoke to me through Julia's book:

"So many of us spend more time feeling guilty about not praying that we actually spend praying. What if, every time we thought about God or prayer, instead of feeling guilty about not doing it more, we just prayed?"

So that's something I'm trying to incorporate into my days. More falling into prayer in the rhythm of daily life, and more praying and less thinking and talking about praying.

The thing I loved the most about Mom Seeks God was how real Julia is with her readers. She lays it all out there. It's not a book that documents only her successes and lessons learned well, it's a testimony of someone who's broken, who fails, just like me, someone who swims along with me in oceans of grace, and embraces that this motherhood thing is a journey where God shapes us.

motherhood as a spiritual tool

As I read through her book, I felt like I was having an authentic conversation with a fellow mom friend. I wasn't being preached at; I was walking alongside the author through her ups and downs, through the real life stuff of seeking God in the midst of life.

And of course, the biggest takeaway I had was that it's not just about adding spiritual disciplines to our life, bogging ourselves down with more than we can handle or restricting ourselves from everything "fun."

"Motherhood is a privilege and in itself a way of enriching my relationship with God. If I sit around all day worrying about not having enough time to study the Bible or to pray in a quiet place, I completely miss the point. My spiritual life is right here in the dirty diapers and the school lunches and the sleepless nights. God is using all this stuff to form me, and motherhood in itself is about as effective a spiritual tool as I know."

Ain't that the truth? I know for me, God is definitely using the challenges, and the blessings, too, to draw me closer to himself. It's always nice to know we're not alone. If you're in the trenches of motherhood and trying to find space for your relationship with God, I'm with you, mama, and so is Julia, in her book Mom Seeks God.

The wonderful thing about God is simply that He meets us right where we're at. We don't have to clean up our act (or our house) before we invite Him over. He's right with us, with His ministering truth and His abundant grace.

How has motherhood affected your walk with God? Has it challenged your spiritual life? Made you stronger? I'd love to hear a snippet of your story.

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 Affiliate links included. Thanks to LitFuse for the review copy of this book!

Embracing Self-Care: Personality & knowing your needs

I loved the great response last week when I wrote the intro for this series. Not only do blog comments make me happy, but the truth is that it really helps knowing that I'm not alone in my need for taking a good look at how well I take care of myself. Today we venture into figuring out what our needs are, based on our personalities and the season of life we're in. I hope you'll join me in this valuable self-assessment.  ESC_GGH

Only in the last few months did I discover my Meyers-Briggs personality type. It has been eye-opening to say the least.

I can distinctly remember a time when my childhood best friend bringing a book about personality types to the campground where my family was staying trying to quiz everyone on their personality types. This was probably during our college years, and I was thoroughly uninterested. I took Psychology 101 as a general ed requirement, but literally don't remember learning anything that I found valuable.

I glossed over personality types like most science-related topics-- I just didn't care enough to see what it was all about.

Fast-forward 10-15 years, one marriage, and three kids later, and I can't get enough of analyzing the personalities of myself and my family. It's not about feeling pigeonholed or claiming my weaknesses as cop-out for responsibility or valuing psychology and science over God the Creator.

No, it's quite the opposite actually.

Figuring out my personality has allowed me to embrace how God made me, identify strengths that I can embrace and weaknesses that I can work around and through, and praise Him once again for His amazing creativity and the intricacies of the human mind that He spoke into being.

So, what personality type am I, and what does it have to do with self-care?

A huge part of taking care of myself so I can take care of others is knowing my own needs. Being aware of what makes me come alive, what drains me, and maybe why I'm wired to react or respond in certain ways equips me to be able to set boundaries and take better care of myself.

personality and self-care

I myself am an ENFP. Here are a few ways I've been learning about how my personality relates to my self-care needs:

  • Supposedly, I know how to relax. So now I just need to embrace that, and not feel guilty about "scheduling in" some down time for myself (like my friend Stacy did, and my friend Anne, who schedules in an hour of reading for herself each day).
  • Saying yes. ENFPs are very sensitive and care deeply about other people’s feelings. This can cause them a lot of stress sometimes: people often look to them for guidance and encouragement, and the ENFP cannot always say “yes.” This probably contributes to my bad case of FOMO. I never want to miss anything and I want to make sure everyone else feels good. I probably need to try saying "no" a bit more often.
  • Difficulty with follow through: this is the biggee. I chose my word for the year before I even knew this was a known issue for ENFPs-- I've always known that I'm a procrastinator with lots of unfinished projects-- but now I feel a bit better better, knowing this is just a part of who I am. Now I can be more intentional about fighting against that.
  • Of course, related to that is: I'm curious, enthusiastic and full of ideas. I just need to harness those, and implement doable plans to keep going with them, and to keep things interesting. Accountability is good for me, too.
  • Routine (with margin!)People with the ENFP personality type lose interest quickly if their project shifts toward routine, administrative matters. They may not be able to stop their mind from wandering off. ENFPs loathe being micromanaged or restrained by rules and guidelines. They want to be seen as highly independent individuals, masters of their own fates. Even though it's hard for me, I need a schedule routine rhythm that keeps me on track but also leaves room for spontaneity, and creativity, and rest.

Practically speaking, here's how I'm going to focus on meeting my own ENFP-ish needs:

  • Usually, I can fill up my rest tank by reading. That means giving myself 30-60 minutes of reading time during the day energizes me to persevere through the afternoon/evening witching hour.
  • Really consider whether I want to say "yes" or "no" when opportunities present themselves.
  • Along with that one, I need to create/stick to a doable rhythm that leaves room for margin so that I'm not overscheduled-- I'm in a pretty good groove with this type of framework right now, just need to be more intentional about the margin part. I borrowed Managing My Day to Day from the Kindle lending library and I'm hoping this is a good tool for me.
  • Write down ideas and goals- I'm loving the WorkFlowy app, and I also use Evernote to keep track of things. Recently I started Voxing myself verbal notes, although I need to go back in and revisit those, rather than forget about them.

Also of note, I'm an extravert for sure, but motherhood has pushed me more towards the middle of the spectrum, and I definitely need alone time to chill (and take a break from the needs of those little people in my life). For this reason, every afternoon includes naps for the little ones and "quiet play time" for Gigi where she spends some time occupying herself alone (in my room usually), and I get to tidy up, eat in peace some days, rest, read, or work.

*I learned about SMART goals from a book I'm reading, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine-- SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.  This book is really timely for me, and I'll share more about it when I finish.

If you don't know your Meyers-Briggs personality type, you can find out here for free in 10-15 minutes.

You can visit the other Embracing Self-Care hosts today, too!

Their individual posts for today's topic will be linked up in the linky, or you can view their whole series by clicking the links below.

Beth at Red & Honey

Emily at Live Renewed

Erin at The Humbled Homemaker

Krissa at More Than Mundane

Mindy at This Crazy Wonderful Life

Stacy at The Delightful Home

Leigh Ann from Intentional Grace

Taking a little while to analyze how God made you, and how to best meet your own needs does not mean you are purely navel-gazing or being selfish. I'd love to know in the comments what your MB type is if you know it! What's one thing you've learned about yourself recently?

And now it's your turn! I can't wait to see what you guys share about knowing yourself and your needs.

Affiliate links included. Thank you for your support!

Embracing Self-Care

Soaking up the sun... Having some snacks... Watching Kershaw warm up... It's almost game time! The season of life I'm in is an exhausting one.

I might have thought I was tired back in college when I was writing a research paper late into the night (I've always been a procrastinator), but over the last couple of months, I've experienced for the first time that I can remember the actual feeling of my eyes burning with exhaustion (by about 9:30pm) after just a normal day of mothering, homemaking, and community-ing.

I'm a night owl who loves the mornings. A morning person who can't seem to get in bed before 11pm.

My kids are emotionally and physically draining.

I long to write but constantly either fight to find time or motivation to do so regularly.

My books are stacked, waiting ever so patiently to be cracked open, or to be read in more than two-page increments.

My toe nails have month-old chipped blue paint on them.

I haven't picked up my guitar in weeks.

Moments of free time flit away as I eat the bread of idleness.

I love my family and this one wild and crazy life I've been given and the kids that refine my character every day. But I'm tired, in more ways than one. And it's catching up to me.

ESC_GGH

Seeking community motivation for taking care of mama

Some friends and I recently found that we could relate well to each other on feeling burnt out in life and motherhood and blogging. We talked through the truths in the clichés like "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" and "you have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others."

With the arrival of Spring, we all felt it was high time to come out of this wintery season fighting, and with fists pumping, seeking to make some changes in our lives together to embrace what we need to more effectively serve our families and communities.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be tackling a few areas of our lives where we could stand to up the level of care we are giving ourselves. We hope you'll be encouraged as you read along and that you'll even consider joining us in this project.

living intentionally

Approaching self-care with intention

I recently read my friend Tsh's book Notes From a Blue Bike, a memoir that chronicles one family's journey to live a slower life amidst a fast-paced culture. The phrase that most succinctly sums up Tsh's book, and way of life, is simply living intentionally.

Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. You can grab a copy of it here.

As I dive into this realm of self-care, the only way I can think of that I will be able to accomplish anything is to be intentional (and lean on the Lord's strength and wisdom along the way, of course).

I've known for a while that I tend to be a type of renaissance woman-- someone with many passions-- but there's an aspect to that characterization that I think I've missed. It's not just liking many things that makes a renaissance person but being "skilled and well-versed in many of the arts and sciences" (according to the dictionary).

How can I be skilled and well-versed when I waste hours on social media and lack motivation to do what inspires and fulfills me? 

I need to be intentional about my time so that I can be the best renaissance mother that I can be for my family and the most effective ambassador for Christ that God wants me to be, while also embracing the God-given passions and gifts I have.

Self-care is not about sitting around and eating bon-bons every day because it makes me happy. That might be a nice treat, if we're being honest, but self-care at its foundation is being the best that I can be so I can serve others better.

I want to welcome you to explore this theme over the next four weeks with my friends and me. 

Join us as we embrace self-care together

If you'd like to write a blog post, we'll be hosting a synchronized linky-- if you link up on one of our blogs, it will show up in the linky on all of them. This week, you can read a bit of why we've each decided to jump in on this project (a couple of these will be updated a bit later).

Beth at Red & Honey

Emily at Live Renewed

Erin at The Humbled Homemaker

Krissa at More Than Mundane

Mindy at This Crazy Wonderful Life

Stacy at The Delightful Home

Leigh Ann from Intentional Grace

Dear reader, the Lord made you with specific gifts, purposes and passions. Don't hide those. Embrace who He made you to be. Let's work on this together over the next month.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click them, you help support what I do here at GGH-- thank you!

Why I haven't quit homeschooling yet

IMG_6585 I've had many days where I want to quit doing homeschool with Gigi.

Some days are just harder than others. If it was just me and her, that would be one thing, but with a three-year old and a two-year old, it makes things that much worse on those days. Usually, we battle because she sees them playing and just wants to play. Other days it's because she wants to play with friends. And some days, let's be honest, she just wants to be defiant.

Lots of people think homeschooling in general is crazy, let alone in my situation-- with two little ones, minimal space and a very strong-willed, extremely social, easily-frustrated student.

Why I haven't quit homeschooling yet

Last month, I had another one of those days where I was at my wit's end (this is not uncommon). After a few days of research, David and I ended up visiting another charter school in our town, one where students go four days a week and have one at-home project day. We liked it for the most part, and while we could see Gigi liking it, too, it just didn't feel like the right answer for us.

I thought I might tour the school and suddenly feel convicted that this was where we were supposed to be. But the truth is, with all the research I've done, the only thing that gives me that feeling is still... homeschooling.

Visiting another school option simply strengthened my convictions and resolve to keep homeschooling (even if I didn't want that to be the answer).

It's not a coincidence that the word I chose for the year encourages me to press on in this area of my life. In fact, partly why I chose perseverance was because I knew that this was one of the areas where I needed to be steadfast, put my head down and power through, even when it's hard.

It doesn't help that since I've felt this stronger conviction, two of my close homeschooling-mama friends have decided to make a change for their families in the future. Knowing that they won't be homeschooling anymore is really hard for me. But I know that the Lord places on each of our mama hearts what is best for our own families. So I'm praying to connect more with other homeschooling families near us so I feel like we have that community support around us.

Beachschooling for the win.

Here are the main reasons we are still homeschooling.

1. I adore the classical education philosophy. I have a lot of thoughts to share on this topic in another post, but the point is that since we don't have a classical school nearby that we could put Gigi in, I feel like I'd be letting go of a methodology I really loved if we stopped homeschooling. I'm sure she'd still become educated in another educational system, but I feel like this is the best education I can give her. And I love learning along with her, too.

2. We don't feel like she's ready to "go out in the world" yet. One of our big concerns with Gigi is that her extremely extraverted personality puts a way bigger emphasis on social interaction than on doing what's right. What I mean is that she hasn't developed a way of filtering social situations through our family's (and God's) value systems yet. We do want to send her out in the world, but we want to establish a strong foundation for her first. That doesn't mean we are sheltering her and keeping her in a bubble, not by any means (that would never fly with such a social butterfly anyway), but that we are working on building her foundation and exposing her to the world in smaller chunks, as opposed to in an all-day-every-day kind of way.

3.  We really love the flexibility that homeschooling offers, and the family time, too. Taking days off to travel, doing school at the beach, choosing our own curriculum, bringing Gigi along to CBS bible study-- there really are so many benefits to not having to take her to school everyday. And of course, as hard as some days are, we're all together. It's truly an honor to get to be the one who teaches her on most days and spend all her mealtimes with her and enjoy those rare moments, quiet and sweet, with her.

James  5:11

This week our pastor preached through Genesis 26, where we see Isaac, up against the opposition of the Philistines, build well after well. He persevered until finally God not only gives him victory in the sense of having land to live on and water to drink, but also coming to an agreement with the opposing king, who saw that the Lord was with Isaac through all that strife.

Isaac's wells go from Esek (contention) and Sitnah (enmity) to Rehoboth (room, spaciousness) Shibah (oath). Throughout this journey we see that while God tests the faith of the believer, he also comforts and guides. Isaac's witness for the Lord is strong, and God's purpose for him is fulfilled.

So I'm moving forward, digging my own wells, and persevering where the Lord has called me for this time. I want to get to a place where we feel like we've won our kids' hearts for the Lord and we can send them out to do His will.

I want to feel confident, like Edie (she has been encouraging me in all sorts of ways through her blog), who said it beautifully:

If I did anything right, it was the courage I had to stay and tell the truth, for as long as she needed me.  I stayed until I knew that she knew she was loved.  She’s sure now and the weight of it crushes my doubts.

That's when I'll know it's time to stop homeschooling.