Thursday, January 22, 2015

17 year olds, butterflies, and choosing each other 10 years later

Photo from the first day we met, at a church winter camp - 
taken with a disposable camera, because those were all the rage in 2004.

A funny little milestone passed a few weeks ago: 10 years since the day Brian and I met. We were both 17, he was the new boy in the youth group (I know, I know), and I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on him. His dark curly hair and those clear blue eyes, you guys, I was a goner. He was charismatic and charming, and when I came home from that church camp (again, I know), I wrote in my journal about how I wanted to marry him. So many cliches and high school hormones. The joys.

The memories feel magical. Boy did my heart beat fast when he asked me to be his girlfriend, and then two years later, his wife. The first time we kissed, yowza! (That's actually a pretty funny story.) But today, with a few more years of real life under our belts, I wouldn't trade places with that young, slightly naive, head over heels version of myself. I'm so happy to be where we are, right now.

Ten years later, we're 27-year-old Brian and Mackenzie, who've experienced incredible highs and some valleys, too. We've fought, we've traveled, we've started a family. We've championed each other and we've been selfish. We've cried, we've clung to each other for dear life, we've prayed desperately and prayed gratefully. I've been at my worst, and well, I'm sure he has too, but 9 times out of 10 he's just a better human being than I am. Through the late nights with our boys, and the laughter with beloved friends, the rejoicing and the grieving- there is nothing like staring into the same pair of eyes, day after day, and continuing on together. It may sound all kinds of cliche but man do I ever mean it: commitment - is there anything more sexy, more "makes my heart beat fast" than that? No, I don't think there is.

Being chosen, day after day, even though I have giant bags under my eyes because our chillens never sleep, and even though I forget to fold the laundry, and even though I can be a big jerk - being chosen in the middle of all that, that's love. Butterfly-stomach, passionate romance is awesome - and there are definitely moments that Brian and I feel that way towards each other. But even those fun feelings pale in comparison to when I watch Brian choose me again, day after day. He knows my dark, he knows my worst - and yes he still chooses me. "Grateful" doesn't even begin to cover how I feel. And even when its hard, and even when I would rather be right than be nice to my husband, and even when we hurt each other's feelings - I am incredibly humbled and grateful for the power of when I keep choosing Brian, and he keeps choosing me. Our marriage, this choosing kind of love, is a gigantic, beautiful, GRACIOUS gift from God. He's makes it possible, because He started that choosing kind of love. He came up with it, and He continues to choose us day after day. We just look at Him, and try our feeble, messy best to do the same.

I'm a floored-in-awe kind of grateful for the gift of looking into that same pair of blue eyes, still ten years later. And can I just say, Brian, you've got even better looking with age? I can't wait to keep choosing you, and I'm so incredibly thankful that you keep choosing me. High five.

Friday, January 9, 2015

january goals

I do have a "word of the year" - actually two of them - but I want things to simmer in my heart just a bit longer before I write them for the world to see. (Because the whole world reads my blog, didn't you know that?) Jokes. Joking.

So I'm doing things slightly backwards, in the blogging world, and sharing my monthly goals before the "big picture 2015" post. My blog, I do what I want. (That came out sassier than I had planned. I meant that in a nice way.)

Anywho - goals for January! I realize I'm starting the year off by being late in putting up a "January goals" post - after all, a week of this month has already passed. But better late than never, right? My family was hit with a cold, and it's decided to stay for 2 weeks, so I'm behind on most things in life. The blog is following suit. :) Ok! If you've made it this far and have read the jumbled mess that is my sleep-deprived, stuffed up brain, you win a million friendship points. Onto the actual goals:

Finish my Powersheets:
I've felt a nudge from the Lord over the past few months to prayerfully, and realistically, set some goals. He has given me a few dreams for this year and I really want to follow through on them - with His grace and His power fueling me.
Lara Casey's Powersheets are in incredible tool to set goals, with real life in mind. I've barely started these babies and I want to finish them this month. 

Read & work through "Make It Happen" by Lara Casey
I'm a few chapters in, and this book is already life changing. No exaggeration. Like Lara writes, I want to make WHAT MATTERS happen this year. I want to love God and love people, and obey the Lord in the specific ways He's given me to do that. This book is another amazing tool.

Plan & go on a vacation with my family!
The past few months have been crazy. And the past few weeks have been EXHAUSTING. Brian has had to go into work every day for different things (including weekends), and we've been so sick. With church plant stuff on top of that - we need some real time off as a family. So we are going on vacation at the end of the month, and we CANNOT WAIT. Never been on a real vacation 

Date night with Brian before our vacation
Whether it's a date night IN or a date night out, we need some mommy & daddy time!

Try yoga twice
This both terrifies and excites me. Being VERY realistic in choosing to try this just TWO times. Oh, and I gotta buy a yoga mat...

Daily goals that I want to become daily habits:

- Read my Bible
This seems to happen daily if I do it right away in the morning. Get kids and myself breakfast, sit down right away and read. Even if it's 10 minutes and the kids are playing 5 feet away.

- Write in my "Gratitude Journal"
I printed this "Gratitude Journal" and it's in a binder with my Powersheets and monthly calendar. I've already written a few things, but I want to fill that baby up! Daily, at least 2 things. The Bible talks a lot about gratitude being VITAL, and I want to make it a habit.

- Turn my stress/worry into prayer
Someone smarter than me once said that "Worry is putting your faith in the wrong kingdom." I want to practice daily taking thoughts that typically cause me to spiral into worry or stress, and instead turn them into a conversation with the Lord. And then LISTEN and see what He says.

::        ::        ::        ::        ::        ::

Linking up with Haley for "Goals with Grace."

Do you have any goals for the month? 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What I want to remember about 2014

2014 was a bit of a doozy. There were moves (ohhhh the amount of moving boxes), there were a handful of new jobs, there were many pregnancy aches and pains, a new baby (yay!), adjusting to life as a mom of two, a surgery to recover from (my c-section), helping to plant our church, my continued role serving with Thrive name a few pieces of the chaos and continual transition.

As 2015 dawns, I gotta tell you, I am so tired. (And so is my hubby, he's such a hard worker and I'm so grateful for him.) But I don't want to look back on 2014 just as a "hard year." Or as a year that made me exhausted. Yes, those both describe what happened. But God also did something deep and hopefully lasting in my heart.

When I look back on 2014, what I want to come to my mind more quickly than the amount of moving boxes or the tears I cried trying to juggle two kids and a very sore belly is that where I was so, so weak, Jesus was so, so strong. He was incredibly present. I had so many moments of "I can't," but the Lord continued to show me that HE can. 

When I look back on 2014, I want to remember:

- The first time I held Rainier in my arms and his giant eyes and crazy hair that make everyone laugh.

- Nicholas' funny and eccentric monologues, the pride on his face when he learned new skills like being potty trained, and his mushy, gushy baby talk voice when he loves on his baby brother.

- The INCREDIBLE family and friends who supported us. Babysitting, cleaning our house, bringing meals, praying...I am humbled and grateful.

- The first sounds of worship at Central Community Church. Grateful, humble tears.

- How much fun Brian and I had on our babymoon before Rainier was born. 2 fancy hotels, great food, flirting like teenagers. I've got a good one.

- That it was a year full of learning, over and over again how loved I am, TODAY. Not as the "better" Mackenzie. Not when I perform well. Nope, the exhausted, crabby Mackenzie is just as loved, just as much of a daughter of my Father. My actions will NEVER change my position with Christ.

I'm excited and expectant for 2015. But I'm not going to muscle my way through, feigning perfection just because it's a new year. I want to rest in my never-changing status as a daughter, enjoy and steward well the people and responsibilities God has given me, and let Him show me that though I can't, He can.

Monday, December 15, 2014

nicky james is three & what I'm so glad i know now

A week and a half ago, this funny, loving, energetic, creative little boy turned 3. 

When I met him in a little hospital in Montana three years ago, I knew that I loved him.
But I didn't know how much that love would grow.
I didn't know what it would sound like to hear him say, "Mama, I love you." 
I didn't know what it would be like to watch him make his little brother giggle like no one else can. 
I had no idea how much he'd make me laugh or that he'd love to "make jokes."
I couldn't imagine the incredible JOY I'd feel when I heard him sincerely praying for the first time, when he was afraid (and as I eavesdropped outside his bedroom), asking Jesus to help his little heart.
I didn't know that he'd say, "You look like a ballerina!" when I wear an apron, or how sweet it would feel to have his big, 3-year-old self crawl into my lap just for a snuggle. 
I certainly had NO idea how much I would know about planes, cars, trains, and dinosaurs.
(Or how much I'd read about strong-willed children and how many deep breaths I take per day.) :)

This feisty, hilarious, smart, beautiful, dramatic, caring, particular, friendly boy has changed my life in the most incredible way. HE IS A GIFT. Thank you Lord for the joy and privilege of being Nicholas' mama. Three years of discovering delight, and my own deep need for Jesus, all because I get to be his mom. God is the giver of good gifts.

I love you Nicky James.

From this:
Sweet, 1-day old Nicholas and I

To this:

Nicholas James, you rock my world little man. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

to my friends who are new wives and new moms this holiday season

If you're celebrating a "first" this holiday season, your first holiday as a wife or as a mom, this blog post is for you.

I come from a family that is all about Christmas and traditions. Not in an over-the-top way, but growing up we really looked forward to the holidays. I knew that my mom was going to put up beautiful decorations that made our house feel like, well, a Christmas card. I knew that on Christmas Eve we ate homemade clam chowder, sang Christmas hymns and opened our present-laden stockings. My parents found a wonderful way to make the holidays about Jesus and family, and it felt magical. Some of my favorite childhood memories are wrapped up inside this holiday.

My first Christmas as a wife?
We ate lunch meat ham served on top ramen noodles.
Talk about some major holiday disappointment. Let me back up a little.

Brian and I were 21 and we'd been married for just over 8 weeks. We'd recently moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to be on staff with a missions organization, and were preparing to go overseas for a few months - so we were not rolling in the dough. We lived in a dorm room, complete with termites and lime green carpet, and I don't really need to say that it was definitely NOT cozy winer weather; a balmy 78 degrees was pretty average for a December day in Hawaii. My only Christmas decorations were from a box that my mom so lovingly shipped to me, including a "make your own stockings kit," which we never got around to (sorry Mom!) - so I had a row of knitted mittens hung on our wall, and not much else in the way of Christmas cheer.

Newlywed babies in Hawaii

Brian and I woke up on Christmas morning and exchanged presents. He opened a new flashlight, and I opened an odd, ill-fitting dress (think mustard yellow, pink-tie-dye, eyelets, and a bow, all in one dress - he's a much better gift giver now!). We spent time with friends during the day and Skyped with our families. Then, when it was time for Christmas dinner, we headed to our kitchen where all we had left was lunch meat ham and top ramen. So my sweet husband, the caretaker and provider that he is, heated up that ham on a frying pan and served it to me over some salty top ramen.

Can you guess how much I cried that day?
This was not the sparkly, cinammon-scented, newlywed Christmas I had imagined. I didn't bake Christmas cookies while wearing a sexy Mrs. Claus apron (still haven't done that, for the record). There was no Christmas ham, unless you count the lunch meat. There was no tree. I felt like I had failed as a wife and ruined our family's future holidays, with no cutesy traditions or magical stories to tell to our someday children. I was not my mom, and this was not Christmas.

You know what?
We laugh so hard now as we retell that story. God has written some unique, and honestly funny, chapters of our family's story.
Since that first Christmas, we've spent holiday seasons in our parents homes, in cozy dorm rooms and apartments, and one Christmas in Guatemala - complete with a tiny Christmas tree we packed in our suitcase and watching our Guatemalan friends light off gigantic, slightly terrifying fireworks.
Our first Christmas as parents consisted of flying home to Washington with a 2-week-old Nicholas.
I was recovering from a c-section and was wonderfully postpartum chubby and lethargic. Christmas Day I had a cold and took a nice long nap - don't remember what else happened besides trying to fit a tiny Nicholas into his stocking for a photo.  :)
Last year we lived with my mother in law and I didn't even get out our Christmas decorations.

Christmas in Guatemala  |  2-week-old Nicholas
1-year-old Nicholas  |  2-year-old Nicholas

To my friends who are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas as new wives or new moms - it's ok if the day isn't perfect. It probably won't be. If it's poo blowouts in your baby's special Christmas outfit, or opening a very small stack of presents inside of your meagerly-decorated newlywed home, or top ramen and lunch meat for dinner - let yourself enjoy it. This is part of the unique, beautiful, funny story that God is writing for your family.

Let Him write your story.
Let Jesus be present with you, because He is.
Whether your day consists of moments you'd never want to share on Instagram, or if it ends up being totally dreamy - don't despise the small beginnings.
This is a beautiful part of your story, whether it's a hard chapter or a warm and fuzzy one.

You will probably look back one day and laugh.
And if it's not a funny story, but instead a painful one - I bet one day you will remember this time with a humble gratefulness, thanking God for all He taught you and for how faithful He has been through the hard stuff.

Here's to humble holiday beginnings, letting the Lord write our stories, and enjoying the reality and beauty that comes with new babies, new experiences, and the ever-shifting stories God is writing into our lives.