Thursday, October 22, 2015

start with generosity

This is one of those pieces of my life that I haven't quite known how to share on the internet. The two months Brian and I spent in Iraq in early 2009, they are some of the moments I treasure most in my life. What a privilege. What a crazy thing to do. I can't look at that photo, can't write these words without a giant lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, because the people and the memories are still so, so sacred to me.

I think that's why I've never written about in on my blog, never shared it on the world wide webs - it feels so sacred. And I feel so humbled. I recognize that this isn't the most typical story, that it's not what most would expect from this tiny American housewife who doesn't like to drive on the freeway. I SO want this story to be about Jesus, and not about something great I did once. And in light of the recent horror that's been happening in Iraq with ISIS, my words feel small. There's a bigger story going on than just what I learned from a 2-month visit. So all of those feelings - not wanting to exploit the incredible people of Iraq in order to gain accolades for myself, not wanting to tout something "brave" I did  - those things have led me to hold this story close.

Until a few months ago - when I got the opportunity to write a piece for a multi-author book on generosity. The book poses the question "What does it look like to live a life full of purpose? How do we live a meaningful life?" and answers with, "Generosity. Living a life where you're generous with your actions, your words, your tender compassion, your resources, your time." And so 27 other authors and I shared our take on this idea.

It was a lightning-bolt-to-the-chest kind of moment, when I heard the book's prompt; I just knew this was the time to share a bit of this story. I felt this was the right way to share what God showed me about fear, obedience, and following His passionate love - even when it requires us to do something really, really scary. I've never been an adventurous type of gal, and yet somehow I boarded a plane to Iraq, sat in the homes of the most amazing people, heard their stories, played soccer with their sons and daughters, and had my worldview shifted and changed FOREVER.

Through my time in Iraq, I began to learn the joy of being generous with my "yes." To say yes to Jesus, to obey Him, even when I'm incredibly scared at what that "yes" requires - all because His passionate love trumped my fear. Because I knew that the people, their stories, and sharing Jesus with them, was worth every possible unknown.

Today I'm still learning to follow God's love, instead of following my fear. Being generous with my "yes" isn't about going to a war-torn country; it's about letting God's love move your feet, instead of obeying your fear. So today, if you're a mom, or a student, or a neighbor - you can be generous with your yes. In your home, in your neighborhood.

Thanks for letting me share a bit of my story.

You can find the book and download it for free here: Start with Generosity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

finish lines, fresh beginnings, and the beautiful, hard, redemptive gift of walking through life with one person

My husband's 28th birthday is rolling around this coming Saturday. And I realized that this is the 10th birthday of his that I've celebrated with him. (This happens when you meet in high school. Feels kind of crazy that we've known each other for so long!) Out of all of those ten birthdays, I've never been so proud of Brian as I have been for number 28.

27 happened right on the heels of the church we planted having it's inaugural service. 27 came after a year of hard. We had moved states and then moved within Washington several times. We learned how to be a family of four, how to have our family's breadwinner be bi-vocational and work well over 40 hours a week, learned to live in the heart of a bustlin' city, how to seek out friendships...I know for both Brian and I, his 27th birthday felt a little shaky. It felt a bit like a finish line at the end of a marathon, where you can't believe you actually made it and your entire body is throbbing and you feel like throwing up, but still, you made it. Not that I've ever run a marathon. Or run more than three miles. But I assume someone running a marathon feels those things because that's how I feel after my most recent attempt at ab workouts.

By God's grace alone and all to His glory, this year we're rounding the corner to Brian's 28th birthday - and instead of a finish line, it feels like a delivery room. There's the acknowledgment that the work isn't over yet, not by a long shot, but the anticipation is evident and obvious. And there is so much hope. You know that you're not far from seeing what the pain and the hard work will bring, and that brings determination and hope. More on this in a minute. I gotta talk about my man real quick.

I am just so proud of this man of mine. He's about to turn 28, and this year, he worked so hard. He's shown up as a husband and as a Dad, he's rolled with the punches of several job changes and gone after it to provide for our family. He's shown up early on Sunday morning church and then been one of the last to leave along with our lead pastor's family. He's dated me, he's been a friend to his bros, and he's turned down guy's nights so that he can take our boys to ice cream instead. He's done some hard heart work, and he's walked humbly and boldly with the Father. Holy crap, I'm just gonna high five the air right now because I'm so proud of you Brian!

Back to the hope part.
It's a weird, sacred, sometimes freakishly hard, wonderful gift to truly walk alongside of someone else for a long time. I've already gotten to walk alongside my husband for 10 of his birthdays (some before we were married) - and it is a crazy joy to watch what Jesus has done in my husband's life. Maybe this is one of the icing-on-the-cake reasons that God intended us to choose a partner and stick with them for life: we see God's work, through the extremely difficult years where you're barfing at the finish line, and you weep tears of grateful joy together when you've walked through redemptive seasons together, seeing God's goodness played out in your partner's life.

Brian James, I'm so grateful that you're my guy, that you're that partner.
You da man. For reals. Happy 28th birthday, I am OUTRAGEOUSLY proud of you.
Let's go make out.

Friday, May 29, 2015

an apology to my second child, and 6 ways he makes our hearts melt

I started this blog when my Nicholas was 3 months old -- now he's 3 and half! It was "back in the day" when Instagram was not a huge deal, and people blogged a few times a week. So Nicholas had letters written to him, monthly updates, and the whole mommy blogger shebang.

Fast forward three years, and my poor, sweet little second child is pretty much non-existent on this blog. I'm sorry Rainier! You're 13 months old, and you have 5 blog posts about you. FIVE! So it goes with the second kiddo I guess, and with the fact that blogging as frequently as we all used to has become a way of the past.

But, the lack of blogging about you, Rainy Roo, has nothing to do with your status in our family. This Rainier of ours is the cuddly, joyful, big-eyed joy of a little brother and all of us, including Nick, adore him. So to sorta make up for your serious lack of real estate on my blog, here are:

6 Ways that Rainier Makes Our Hearts Melt

1. YOUR EYES. Those BIG, wide, blue eyes of yours have got some magic in them. It is not an exaggeration whatsoever to say that we get stopped in public almost every time we go out, by someone commenting on your eyes. They also happen to melt hearts everywhere, with how expressive they are. Those eyes are going to get you in trouble with the ladies someday, my boy -- and I guess your Dad will have to teach you how to fend the ladies off, because those eyes of his are what got me, too.

2. That raspy voice of yours. You've always had a low little coo, and now your first words are coming out a bit gruff and raspy, and it is stinkin' adorable. As of this month, you YELL "DaDa!," and you growl "Grampa." You're taking your time with "Mama," but that's ok because I know I'm your favorite.

3. Please never stop cuddling, ok? The feeling of your chubby, dimpled hand, softly stroking my chin and grabbing the hair on the nape of my neck as you nurse - I wish I could bottle that up. Your favorite "move" right now when we're holding you is to throw your arms to your sides and nuzzle your head into our necks and just lay there limp. It's funny and sweet, just like you.

4. Your fake cry is ON POINT. It's both hilarious and a little terrifying.

5. The giggles and exciting, stomp-y walk that comes out of you when you see your Daddy. There's nothing else like watching you walk to him when he gets home from work. The raspy babbles come out, your feet pad down our hallway with your arms up in the air, and you cling to him like you'll never let him go.

6. You and Nicholas are thick as thieves, and I pray to the Lord that this never changes. You're happiest when your big brother is in the room and the giggle-filled wrestling matches have begun. It's a JOY to watch you guys love each other!

We love you Rainer Caleb. Watching you become who you are is a gift from God, and we simply cannot imagine our family without you. Thanks Jesus for letting me be this boy's mama.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"all or nothing," I'm calling your bluff

I'm beginning to wonder if having an "all or nothing" attitude is actually the opposite of walking in grace.

You're either one way, or you're another. I'm an awesome mom, or I'm seriously the worst because I had a crabby few hours and yelled at my 3-year-old again. I'm going to exercise EVERY DAY! or, I'll just watch another episode of Netflix and lay on my couch because I just never exercise and I'll probably never change. (Imagine me saying the italicized part in a super dramatic voice, with my hands flinging around in the air.) And when it comes to making goals -- I tend to either a) aim really high, try it, fail, and then scrap it all, or b) I quit before I even start, because my (self-imposed) standards are too high and even the idea of failure makes me feel like a failure.

You're welcome for the peek inside my neurotic brain. Brian, you win for the husband of the century.

"All or nothing" leaves no room for error. If you're on the "all" side - where you've experienced a little victory in your life or you're hopeful about something new - "all or nothing" leads you to the frantic charade of keeping those plates spinning, because God forbid you can't keep that good thing going. And if you're on the "nothing" side, well, you should probably just stay there because you're going to screw it up again.

Do you see how enslaving this attitude can be? We can't truly live this way. We may try new things, but with a constant fear of "what if I fail?" We might recite to ourselves that "God's mercies are new every morning," but then we end counting the minutes until we (even minorly) blow it, and then it's all "See, self?!"

I'm starting to learn that grace is the antidote to "all or nothing."

Romans 5:8 says ,"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We were loved at our worst. I'd say then, that we're pretty safe to fail.

Because of grace, I am free to fail and I am free to succeed. I can fail because there's no need to earn my way back to being in God's good graces; I'm still there. I've always been there. And I can succeed, because my identity isn't in jeopardy either way; I'm loved by God and my actions have never changed that.

So I'm beginning to see that I feel the most free to grow, to experiment with new things, and to work towards making changes in my life, when the target is wide. When I make my margin of success a little bigger, when I get comfortable with the fact that messing up is often part of the process -- I'm actually able to follow through. And though this often feels counter intuitive to the shoot for the stars! kick ass and take names! accept nothing but the best! mantras we feed ourselves, I'm calling a bluff on "all or nothing." I'm not settling for extremes anymore; I'm going to let Jesus handle being perfect, and I'm going to walk in the freedom of His grace.

When I walk in grace, I'm not settling for less; actually, I'm freeing myself up for more. More joy, more life. More truly experiencing, and hopefully handing out to others, the freedom that comes with being loved by an unfailing God. And actually, with grace, I now feel totally free to shoot for the stars. I can ask God for His power in me to be all that He created me to be, as a wife and a mom, a friend, and all the other dreams and roles that He's given me. Because with grace, if I stumble, I can learn and get back up - instead of just throwing in the towel, which is where "all or nothing" usually leaves me. Grace compels us to be who God really made us to be, because there's no fear in being perfectly loved. Grace gets us to stand back up after we fall. Grace says, "You don't have to be an expert! Just move forward in the power of Christ." Grace takes the sting out of weakness, because the standard of perfection has already been fulfilled by Christ.

Oh how glad I am that we don't have to be slaves to "all or nothing," because of the every day, every minute reality of God's steadfast grace.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

my first honest company purchase -- and why, on a tight budget, I'm a regular customer 13 months later :: an honest story

Don't let the giant belly scare you. Because honestly it scares me.

In March 2014, I was 8 months pregnant, and my then toddler pranced around our living room and unknowingly kicked over an entire mug of coffee - all over my cream-colored carpet. I quickly (can women who are 8 months pregnant do anything "quickly?") sopped up as much of the liquid as I could, but it was obvious that the carpet was going to hold a strong reminder of my latte. So like anyone wanting to remove a stain before it becomes permanently imbedded into your carpet, I ran to my kitchen cupboard and grabbed a carpet stain remover.

It was probably a sight to see my swollen belly grazing the floor, as I bent down on my hands and knees, alternately spraying carpet cleaner and then blotting with a rag. After less than a minute of working to get the stain out, I was incredibly dizzy, completely nauseous, and legitimately close to passing out. It wasn't just the big belly; the smell and fumes from my carpet cleaner were so strong.

I slowly sat up, stopped spraying, and looked at the bottle in my hand. We lived on a VERY tight budget - but did that mean my only option was a stain remover that quite literally made me sick? I'm not a healthy-living extremist and at that point I owned maybe one natural cleaning product, but I knew in that moment I needed to find safer alternatives to what was currently sitting under my kitchen sink. The idea of my babies crawling around on that carpet - yikes.

That same afternoon I made my first Honest Company purchase -- their Stain Remover.

Now, that sweet baby is a year old (eep!), and during this past year I've tried quite a few of the Honest Company's products. To be perfectly honest (pun so not intended) there have been one or two products that I've felt a little meh about -- but I've loved every other product - and I've been so impressed by the helpfulness of their customer service whenever I've had an issue. So if I share about the Honest Co. from time to time, you can know that I'm not a robot; I'll be honest. (Another's hard to avoid that!)

I love that I know what's in each bottle. I love that when Nicholas "helps" me wash our windows, he's not inhaling a bunch of fumes. I super love that while we're still on a pretty darn tight budget, I can actually afford organic baby Shampoo + Body Wash and Oxy BoostI love that these products work really well. And hello organic Toothpaste that doesn't taste like you're sucking on plain baking soda.

So that's a bit of my Honest Co. story. I'm a regular customer, not because natural living is trendy, but because I can keep my babies and my home clean, in a safe way, and on a real person's budget. And for the record, the stain remover kicked that coffee stain's booty.


This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission - but there is no extra cost to you! I genuinely love these products, and I've shared about them quite a few times in non-affiliate posts because I'm such a fan :) So these opinions really are my own.