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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

#12prayers for you and your kids

Photo via Rachel / Sarah

Moms, if you are like me, you a) don't have hours to pray throughout the day, b) would love more resources to teach your kids about prayer, and c) love Instagram.

Enter Rachel Baxter from Being Made Beautiful. This woman is a mom of five and also an amazing woman of prayer. She started an online community of women who pray (not just moms!) with her #12prayers movement. Twice a month, Rachel and her team write 12 prayers surrounding one topic, and this community of hundreds of women pray Scripture-based prayers throughout the day. Rachel posts the prayers on Instagram, and the idea is to take just 3-5 minutes each time one of the 12 prayers pops up, to pray on the topic.

Today the ministry that I work with and absolutely love, Thrive Moms, has teamed up with Rachel and the #12prayers community to pray through 12 Prayers for the Armor of God. Rachel has written some beautiful prayers based on Ephesians 6, in order for us as moms to pray over ourselves and our kids that we might put on the full armor of God. She's included prayers we can pray with our kids, to teach them about God's armor and also how to pray through "putting on" that armor. What a great resource.

Will you hop over to Rachel's Instagram (@makesomethingbeautiful) today, or to Rachel's blog, and take a few minutes throughout today to pray with us? The easiest way to follow along is on her Instagram account, or searching #12prayersforthearmorofGod on Instagram. We'd love for you to join us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

a little october recap

If you visited my blog last month, I wrote solely on one topic in October, for my Settling Down & Looking Up series. It ended up being a challenge, joy, and inspiration to write! But I missed sharing about other parts of my life, too. So I thought I'd give a little Byersdorf family recap with just a few fun pictures  of what our month held. And a heads up - you're about to see the cutest dynamic duo you've ever seen.

Our October:

A day at the pumpkin farm with Central Community Church!

Nick enamored with construction by our house, such an almost 3-year-old boy.
Brian and I went to see Ryan Adams in concert! SO good.

Baking together has been so fun this month, Nicholas loves "cones!"
And our hearts were STOLEN on Halloween by Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody.
Find their costumes here and here!

This was such a fun month! November is already off to a speedy start. I'm praying that I can continue to find joy and life as I obey the Lord in His callings in my life. He is GOOD.

*Affiliate link used.

Friday, October 31, 2014

the "yes" is for our good, the "yes" is worth it :: the final post in this series (day 23)

Well, today this journey is officially over. I'm still on day 23 and technically the whole idea is to write for 31 days...but I'd say for having two small kids and being involved in two different ministries and enjoying brushing my hair everyday, I did pretty good! :)

Oh I'm so cheesy, but though this #write31days series ends today, I know that this idea the Lord has placed in my heart to look to Him as I settle into this season, and say YES to Him - it's just beginning.
And at the end of this whole thing, I feel like my heart has been brought right back to where I was on day one: my utter, real, desperate need for Jesus. To do anything good. 

Guys. Self.
I cannot say yes to anything the Lord asks me to do. Not without Him.

I am actually NO BETTER than I was the beginning of October.
I might have searched my heart and God's Word more than I had before, but myself? I still try to find ways to get around really having to say yes to Jesus. I'm still feeling like I'm standing on the edge and feeling too scared to just jump.
I'm not 100% "settled down."

But this month I have also seen God be really good.
Even though I'm a scared, tiny woman, in those moments that I quietly nodded my head and whispered, "Okay, Jesus" - He was there. He was faithful.
He gave me more and revealed Himself more than I ever though He would when I uttered that feeble word.

At the end of this month, I know that He is with me when I say yes. (I mean, He's with me when I say no too, but what I mean is that He is ever present and doesn't leave me hanging when I step out to obey Him.)
I also know, just a little more than I did before, that saying yes to Him is totally for my good, and for the good of other's too. When I said yes to Him in regards to my family, I was so darn blessed. And so were they. I said yes on some new ministry opportunities, and it has brought me life and dreams that I am so excited about.

He is good. He asks. We, very scared and feebly, say yes. He stays the same, good and faithful as always. He continues to be present, we mess up and sometimes say no and sometimes say yes. And still, He's faithful, present, and good. Saying yes is worth it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

what makes the work worth it? (day 22)

This week I attended an Influence Network class on business and giving back, and one of the gals teaching posed the question above. "The work doesn't end; so what's going to make it worth it for you?" 

I feel like Jessi took the first part of that question right out of my mouth. The work never ends. 
Over the past few weeks (ok, months), I can't tell you how many times that thought has crossed my mind. I feel like there is never NOT a time where I don't have something I could be doing or finishing. At night I'm getting the dishes in the dishwasher and 17,000 Matchbox cars into Nicholas' toy bins, while simultaneously thinking about what time I'm going to get up in the middle of the night to feed Rainier. As soon as one of the boys falls asleep, the other seems to wake up. When I reply to one email, I realize that I've got several more to answer and a blog post I've been hankering to write for days. In motherhood, marriage, ministry, internet life, friendship, and just plain trying to eat and go to the bathroom - life doesn't slow down, does it?

Life doesn't slow down. This often leaves me really, really overwhelmed. I'm NOT into the whole moniker of "sleep when you're dead." I believe in rest and being a whole and healthy person who slows down in regular intervals because I can't do the work if I don't; but it's true, there is probably always going to be something else I can get down to work on.

I love the 2nd part of this. What's going to make it worth it for you?
What is my motivation, my "why?" that I do all the things I do? (From scrubbing sweet toddler skin in the bath, to managing Thrive Mom's prayer team, to chopping veggies for my family's dinner.) 
In all the work that I do - why does it matter?
What motivates me to say yes to the Lord on the days when the work feels like TOO MUCH and I want to shut 'er down?

My answer is probably different than yours. And I have a few different answers for different areas of my life. But since Jessi asked this question, I keep thinking about that WHAT. And I want to really make sure that I know that answer. 

What makes so little sleep and 1,000 reminders to go potty and singing silly songs while we drive those million Matchbox cars worth it?
What makes edits and online meetings and dreaming and clicking away at the keyboard worth it?
What makes saying no to more work and snuggling up to my husband under a blanket worth it?
What makes shuffling around schedules and having Sunday be a "work day" and feeling heartbreak with those who feel heartbroken worth it?

For me, today: it's worth it to obey the Lord. It's worth it to use what He's put in my hand for His glory and to love people like He does. (As flawed and sarcastic and potty-mouthed as I am. I know, I swear a little bit too much for someone in full-time ministry. My friends can attest to this.) 
It's worth it to do what I love, to pray for people, encourage, write, help with details and make the behind the scenes stuff happen. 
It's worth it to do anything I can to raise two boys who will become men so that they fall madly in love with a Savior who madly loves them. 
It's worth it to make my husband shine and feel like he's the most supported man on the entire planet and that he fulfill his dreams, too. 
It's worth it to know Christ, in the good, the hard, the busy, and the mundane.

What's your "worth it?" Why are those hours and days and moments worth it for you?

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To read each post in this 31 Day series, Settling Down and Looking Up, click HERE or find me on my Instagram and search the hashtag, #SettlingDownLookingUp.