3 spheres of influence and calling

3 spheres of influence and calling Sometimes it's hard to try to summarize and recap a powerful experience. I want to try to give you a succinct summary of my trip to Portland last weekend, but I'm struggling to put my finger on the right words. Which is ironic, considering the main purpose for our trip was a writing conference.

It was a weekend of beauty and friendship and encouragement and kick-in-the-pants inspiration. Of good coffee and the best donut I've ever had. Of virtual friends made real and reconnecting with dear old friends as if no time had gone by at all, that is to say, of oh-so-kindred spirits.

Jumping back into regular life has honestly made it hard to try to process all that I learned, both in conference sessions, and also in heart-to-heart conversations.

I have twenty pages of notes in my Moleskine journal and a million thoughts swirling in my head, but this is what I'm most concretely able to pin down right now. As I process this, it feels a little like a manifesto, and maybe it is.

As a believer, my main goal in life is to glorify God and live out the gospel. But as an individual, I believe I have a few specific spheres of influence, areas of calling and responsibility.  I can't deny any of these or I will not be living fully as the person God created me to be. The more I invest in these areas, the more fully I will become myself (which, it turns out, is a pretty darn good definition of success, according to Emily).

1. My family. I have been gifted with the wonderful responsibility of being a wife, and a mom of three. It is my job to, in the grace of God, put forth my best effort in these relationships. A weekend away with my husband was a darn good way to invest in my marriage (but so is making his favorite dinner and sacrificing a Saturday so he can play golf).

Discipling my kids and training them in education and gospel living is my primary quotidian job. Parenting is really the hardest job I've ever had, and it refines me more than I ever wanted to be refined. It also teaches me more about my relationship with God than any other experience has.

2. My community. I believe that the sovereign hand of the Lord has put me exactly where I am for a reason, and that my family is right where he wants us to minister at this time. I love opening my heart and my home to others and I take the hard with the good because I wasn't created for isolation but for community.

My church family (and our community group and the music ministry), our extended family, friends, neighbors, school, sports teams, my local Community Bible Study group, even my long-distance friends and our farther- away extended family-- God has me right where I am to live out the gospel and connected to the very people to whom I am meant to be connected. I'm thankful for these people and for the privilege of doing life with them.

3. My words.

Two weeks after I graduated college I married David. This stage of life of marriage and raising a family and being a veritable grown-up seemed to start that day in June. Since then, those first two spheres have become such an integral part of my daily life and who I am.

The third one I have wavered in. I always felt called to words. A voracious reader, one who loved to write stories and poems and essays, a student of language and languages. I have bounced around in figuring what I felt like I was supposed to do in addition to those first two areas, but I've always known it had to do with words.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to not have a third sphere of life-- no calling beyond family and community-- but then I feel that I would not be living out true to who God made me to be. And I don't want to miss out on any of His plan for me.

I don't have this one nailed down yet--I don't know when it will fully emerge or what it looks like-- but I'm getting more and more inklings and feeling more of that heart-thumping pull to releasing the art I was meant to create.

In the pre-conference retreat day, we were asked in one of workshops, "How will this realization/lesson/experience change what you do on Monday after the conference?"

And so that's where I've started. I've started with words, with continuing to read, and with just plain ol' writing. I'm craving more consistentency in exercising this craft that I feel called and pulled towards. Because I've been waiting for inspiration and time, but time is just an excuse and "inspiration follows work" (Madeleine L'Engle).

There is beauty and glory in the world that needs to be translated into words, and our goal as writers is to show that the beauty of the kingdom is breaking through here on earth, and to show that to others. (Thank you, Seth and Nish, for articulating that for me).

So that's my calling, my third responsibility in life. I don't want to shy away from it even though there are a million fears that want to drag me down and away from it.

I have so many more thoughts from my experience at the conference that I'm sure will come out in one way or another as I process them. But for now, I leave you with this little manifesto, and I guess, I'd love to know if you've nailed down your own spheres of influence and calling. I know this life isn't the be all end all by any means. But I still want to make it count, and I want to be all who I was created to be.

The day I let my kids in on my dream

ready to fly Today I sat down with my kids to have a little chat with them over a cherry smoothie and those veggie snacks that taste like greasy air (oh, is it just me? my kids love them, but ew.)

I don't always sit down with them to eat during the day because I'm usually doing like five other things while eating or drinking. But today, I sat. I think they all knew we were going to talk about something because they looked at me expectantly.

"What do you think I wanted to be when I grew up when I was a little girl?" I asked them. They were a bit dumbfounded by this question actually and I had to help them out a bit.

"Do you think I wanted to be a mommy?" They nodded enthusiastically. "Yep, I did. Do you think I wanted to be anything else along with that?"

They  mumbled a few answers (I think Gigi mentioned teacher, which was a pretty good guess, and I think Brody mentioned cowgirl. Okay then.) and then Hallee, 3.5, said, "Work? Like on your computer?"

I smiled. "Do you know what I do on my computer?"

Gigi knew this answer. "Blogging?"

"And what is blogging?" I asked her.

"Talking to people? And writing stuff?" I think she gets the basic gist. ;) But I tried explaining it a bit more, and then I went on to tell them that, guess what! Mommy actually always had a dream of writing something else... books! So when I blog, I do it both to encourage people (hopefully) and also to practice writing so that I can someday (hopefully) achieve that dream of writing books.

letting the kids in on my dreaming

And then I went on to share a little more of my heart with them. It went something like this.

I'm trying to work on being more present with you during our days together. To really focus on you guys and be there when you need me or when you want to show me something or talk about something. I want to do my best to really be with you when I'm with you, ya know? {Nods around the table.}

We do lots of fun things together, right? The beach, the park, school, playing outside, reading books, having playdates etc, etc, etc. But sometimes I need you to occupy yourselves, right? Be creative, read a book, play with toy, stuff like that.

And since I'm trying to be more intentional about this, I'm also going to ask that you give me some time to work on my writing dreams too. When do you think I do this? Yep, early in the morning, during quiet play time, and sometimes (when I'm not too tired) after you're in bed. So when I ask you to occupy yourselves for some afternoon play time after we've done lots of fun things together all morning, does that seem fair?

They nodded again and answered affirmatively. It was a good conversation.

I'm hoping that laying this foundation will help them see that as a mom it's okay to have dreams still and to work towards those. I'm also hoping that during this season of Lent I can die to myself a little more in my parenting.

I didn't give something up for Lent, but instead I'm digging in here, trying to be more intentional and more available in my mothering. Be all there, and then not feel guilty when I take some time for myself as well.

During the season of Lent, we try to give things up to train our raw fingers to let go of old ways. But to reconcile with God and to breathe in the springtime, we have to do more than just let go. We have to replace our icy vices with the good, warm things of God...

This lenten season, let’s do more than suspend our vices—let’s run to Christ. Let’s be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him. ~SheReadsTruth's Lent study, Day 3

The day I let my kids in on my dream

I scratched out this post on February 19th and since then I've gotten into a good groove of intentionally leaning in with my kids while also carving out time to work on my own writing. I don't feel like I've "arrived," but I do feel like the days go smoother when I intentionally decide whether I'm focusing on the kids or my own work (whether that's writing, housework, communication with other adults, or whatever) for the time being, rather than always trying to multitask.

Last week I submitted my first short story for a writing contest, and it was really cool to be able to share with my kids this little milestone and know that they are along for the ride on this dream journey of mine. 

The (rare) wonderful silence {31 days of The Life Poetic, day 25}

sweet silent moments Motherhood doesn't offer us a lot of quiet moments. We steal them here and there, and even though I'm an extroverted person, I've come to relish in the moments when the chaos is stalled.

I get up early so I can make my coffee to the sound of the refrigerator's low rumble alone, and watch the sun come up above the tree line silently.

I stay up late so my husband and I can finish our thoughts and have a complete conversation.

Of course, the silence is perfect only in small doses for me. Too long in the quiet and it actually becomes deafening to my untrained ears that are so accustomed to loud.

The best quiet moments are the most fleeting-- I treat the littles to chocolate almond milk, and while they munch on their snacks we all gaze out at the fountain down below. We're just together, and I take it all in, reading a few sentences and catching the napkins that almost blow away.

Moments later, of course, they're off and running, both their feet and their question-filled minds. That's fun, too. But it's certainly special to soak in the rare moments with them of sweet silence.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” 
― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

the life poetic

This is Day 25 of 31 Days of the Life PoeticView the other posts in this series here.

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Music and beer, even with kids {31 days of The Life Poetic, day 24}

music & beer under the lights A night out, a bit late (kids asleep on the way there-- oops!)

Good music under lovely strings of lights

Good beer, fresh on tap

Babies dancing, kids twirling, friends chatting

Supporting friends, supporting local business

Succulents chilling in friendly style


Worth the 3-year old's meltdown.

Worth the 20-minute drive.

Worth the cost of 2 beers.

Worth the late night out for 3 kids.


Live music, outside, on a warm night, complete with friends? Yes, please. Parenthood, you can't keep us down.


the life poetic

This is Day 24 of 31 Days of the Life PoeticView the other posts in this series here.

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Life from their perspective {31 Days of The Life Poetic: Day 3}

life from their perspectiveIt's quite convenient that when locked, you can slide up the phone screen to reveal the camera, right? It makes it easier to quickly capture a funny moment on the spot. But...

Space is at a premium on my phone; it's only a 4s after all (old school!)... almost daily I open my camera roll to see an entire screen of finger-in-front-of-the-lens snapshots. Some renegade photographer (of the three-foot and under crowd) has snagged it again and taken aim at life.

Usually, I select the whole lot of the day and delete these by the batch. They are generally blurry and unrecognizable... but sometimes?

Sometimes, I look a bit more critically, and see something that's actually quite beautiful, a blur of color, like a rainbow, or simply, a different perspective, or a random look at life around the house.

I had this revelation last night as I scrolled through my photos. Sometimes we love technology; sometimes we curse it. But the easy access for little hands to snap photos gives evidence of something we wouldn't otherwise have... their perspective.

Usually, I reprimand-- I don't want them thinking they can grab my phone whenever they want without permission-- but secretly, I'm starting to appreciate their little snapshots more.

the life poeticI'm finding beauty in the perspective of my little photographers, how they see life, and what they view as worthy of a capture.

This is Day 3 of 31 Days of the Life Poetic. View the other posts in this series here.

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3 little things I want my kids to know about me {a guest post}

3 little things Editor's note: On many Fridays I like to share 3 little things that I love or are making me happy in one way or another. Today's post is a bit of a twist on that, as you'll see. I'm excited to welcome Katie, founder of Gadanke journals and blogger at Making This Home. Katie and I got to meet years ago at a blog conference and we both write for The Art of Simple. I'm thrilled to have this new mama here sharing her heart with you today.

I want my kids to know about me

When I became a mom, I felt like I was prepared for the physical toll of it (as much as any of us can be!). You hear it over and over – sleep when baby sleeps. Say good-bye to any time to yourself and a clean house.

What I truly didn’t understand was the depth of the emotional experience of becoming a parent brings. The love is something fierce, isn’t it? I would do anything for my son, and my husband and I can’t believe how differently we look at all the aspects of our life these days. Our son’s happiness and wellbeing weigh into everything now.

Our son, Niklas, is 9 months old. When he looks at me, he thinks mom. He doesn’t think of the gal who gave a TEDxTalk about self love or the woman behind the Gadanke writing prompt journals. He just thinks Mom. And I love that!

But fast forward 30 years.

What do you want your kids to know about who you are right now? What do you want them to know about you besides that you’re Mom?

1. You’ll want them to know what you looked like.

When you close your eyes and think of your own parents, do you see them as they are now or as they were? It’s photographs that give us a glimpse back before the wrinkles and graying hair that we’re so familiar with today. If you’re like me, you’re taking all sorts of photos every single day. But I don’t know about you. If I look in my Instagram feed, I see plenty of pictures of my son, my creative projects, and Montana… but I don’t see me. I’m not stepping in front of that camera enough. Are you?

2. You’ll want them to know what made you jump out of bed in the morning.

Yes, the fact that they are up physically requires you to be up out of bed. But what’s deeper than that? I actually made She. – Gadanke's introspective writing prompt journal that addresses this very thing. The She journal helps you explore and document your inner self, your secret wishes, and your hidden hopes. It has easy-open rings to tuck in meaningful letters and photos. It’s a place for documenting who you are and what makes you feel alive.

3. You’ll want them to know how much you loved them.

One thing I remember about my mom is that she always told us, “You are going to have a good day.” Niklas can’t understand me yet, but I tell him this every morning as I lift him from his crib, too. You see, I used to think my mom just meant “You’ll have a good day at school,” but now I know that she meant more. We had her love, and if we fell, she was there to hug us and encourage us. She was our biggest cheerleader, the warmest lap, and a listening ear. Find a phrase that you can tell your kids every day, and slowly make it an encouraging habit.

The title Mom – it really is the best job ever, isn’t it?

If you like the look of the She. journal that Katie mentioned, you might also check out Seeking Grace, which I have, and these sweet mother/daughter (My Mom and Me) and mother/son (Between Mom and Me) journals-- I would love to do them with my kids when they're a bit older. Gadanke journals are unique and special! ~Nicole

Affiliate links included. Thanks for your support!

Nothing stays the same

nothing stays the same Parenting advice can be annoying, right? But one thing I'm never afraid to share with new moms (and remind myself about) is this:

Just when you get comfortable with a rhythm, routine, stage or phase, something changes.

(The same goes for rhythms, routines, stages, or phases you're uncomfortable in, too, They usually don't last forever.)

Some regions have a similar mantra for the weather: If you don't like the weather here, just wait five minutes. 

The weather is much more steady here where I live. It generally ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, all year long. Parenthood, on the other hand, sometimes feels like an ongoing series of transitions, and those steady plateaus in-between often feel too short for comfort.

I'm in one of those transitions right now. I had recently been extolling the glories of afternoon quiet time to some friends of mine. Summer had been great, an even more productive time for me than normal for writing and blogging stuff. We would play all morning and then after lunch the kids would each go in their separate rooms (Gigi in mine) for naps or Quiet Play Time. I would have a couple of (mostly) blissful hours to myself to do things like eat a complete meal in peace, surf Instagram, read a few chapters, or do some writing.

Then. We finally took Hallee's paci away last week (cue music of doom: duh-duh-duh).

Let's just say on the first day, after a pretty good night (surprisingly) when Daddy made the The Call, I texted him with the desperate, and dramatic, words: You killed naptime. 

I knew it was time. I wasn't blaming him per se. But seriously, my afternoons as I knew them, seemed OVER.

We've had lots of crying. Poor Hallee is hoarse (I think she and Gigi are naturally prone to a raspy voice, especially during bouts of lots o' crying). And I'm praying her through this, and trying to focus on the nice, cuddly moments, instead of on the throwing-board-books-at-the-door moments.

psalm 27

It's been a week now. We're still in transition. But things are improving. I may or may not have bribed my kids to have a good quiet time today. Desperate measures, I'm telling ya. Because my kids are different people when they get the rest they need. And today we needed a restful reset.

(I keep telling myself that if I had to suddenly alter the way I'd slept for my whole life, it would be a bit of a shock. That helps me be more compassionate and have more grace with her.)

So here we are, coping with the new normal. Which will, naturally, change again soon I'm sure... probably in the next few weeks when we go camping and road-tripping, or in a month or so when school starts.

Of course, we all know how fleeting childhood is, so none of this is really surprising to me. It's just another one of those reminders to take a deep breath and remember it's just a season, which, in turn, reminds me that the sweet, beautiful moments are fleeting as well.

So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. ~Robert Frost