An Appropriate Repost

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 9 Comments A+ a-

After a few recent conversations, there is no doubt that this marriage study wasn’t an accident.  And very much needed right now.  These conversations have brought up my own need to check-in with Jon and the state of our marriage.  I never want to be blinded to the weak areas in our union, nor take it for granted.  And it brought to mind this post that I wrote almost three years ago.  It seems an appropriate time to post it again…

I Never Said It was Easy – October 22, 2008

As the idea tumbled around and around in my head, I felt myself getting almost giddy at the prospect of a date with Jon. No kids… no kid meals… no pleading with Hudson to sit still or not throw food… no cajoling Devyn to eat more bites… no puzzled looks from Jon as he tries to decipher what I’m saying over the din of two kids. In other words, complete bliss.

I pampered myself for this date, much like I did when we were in a dating relationship. I shaved my legs, got out the best-smelling lotions, I took an unusually long time with my hair and make-up, and tried on several different outfits. It felt good to take that time to get pampered, knowing that Jon would not only notice, but would appreciate the effort.

Eleven years we’ve been together; eleven years ago today was the first day we started this relationship. I’m in awe of how far we’ve come, the memories we’ve shared, and the fact that for the most part we actually still like each other. Oh, we have our moments, our family and friends can attest to that. But at the end of the day, he’s my best friend, the one that I think to call first with good or bad news, and the one that I know will always have my back.

Marriage has been on my mind a lot this past week. Maybe it was our date-night; maybe it was the fact that we saw “Fireproof” after going out to dinner; maybe it was Courtney and Jeremy talking about their experience at Family Life’s marriage conference; maybe it’s the conversations Jon is having with friends… one is trying to decide if he’s ready to propose marriage and the other, a newlywed who had no idea that marriage was hard work. My husband’s response? “I said marriage was awesome, not easy.” Regardless, I feel led to write about this idea of marriage.

Do you remember your wedding day? Do you remember the months of preparation leading up to the wedding day? I do. Jon and I were engaged for 15 months, a l-o-n-g time frame that I would not encourage to anyone else, and so I was able to spend 15 months obsessing over every detail of that day. The dress, the flowers, the colors, the venues, the photographer, etc., it was so important to me to get that day right.

And then we were sent to the Family Life “Weekend to Remember” conference. For three days, we sat in seminars about marriage. During certain sessions of the conference, the engaged couples were taken out of the room and given frank talks about marriage. No words were minced, no hands were held, no warm, fuzzy feelings were given. They were brutal, or so it seemed to us at the time. In reality, the speakers were just being real. Marriage is hard work; if it were easy, then many of the couples at that conference would have no need to be there. It was obvious that many couples at the conference were close to the end of their marriage, feeling as though irreparable damage had been done. It was a wake-up call.

The last seven months of our engagement was spent in pre-marital counseling… TONS of pre-marital counseling. We did an eight-week course through our church and we met on separate occasions with Jon’s cousin and his wife, then my aunt and uncle. Both men married us on the day of our wedding and wanted to be sure that we knew what we were getting ourselves into. While we still had (have) our moments, we were given so many tools to start our marriage and I shudder to think what would have happened without them.

I wonder about our society today; a society that believes in tit for tat, a society that believes in putting yourself and your needs above everyone else. And then that same society wonders why the divorce rate is climbing steadily. There are days when my needs aren’t being met, just as there are days when I’m not meeting Jon’s needs. And trust me when I say this, when our needs aren’t being met, those are the days that can, and often do, lead to some really bad fights.

However, there are two things that keep Jon and I moving forward, instead of apart. One, we went into this marriage knowing and agreeing that divorce was not an option. Let me repeat that, IT IS NOT AN OPTION. No matter how bad the fight, no matter how hurt the feelings, we have two choices. We can either seek forgiveness or to forgive, or we can live in a silent, hurt world that only we’d created. Two, we’re constantly reminding ourselves that this marriage is not about ourselves. If I’m having a particularly bad day, I often have to ask myself when was the last time that I put Jon’s needs above my own. Sadly, the answer often makes me hang my head in shame.

Jon and I don’t have the perfect marriage, my parents haven’t done it perfectly, and surprisingly, neither have my pastor and his wife. I’m finding that marriage is a constant work-in-progress; I doubt I’ll ever have it completely figured out. However, I do know this. My marriage is the most important relationship in my life; Jon is one of my greatest blessings. He is my best friend, the father of my children, and the man that I’ve chosen to spend my life with. Yet, so often, he is the one that I take for granted the most. It’s so easy to assume that he’ll always be there, that he is infallible, no matter how I treat him.

These spouses of ours were once heroes in our eyes; there was once a time when just the sound of their voice or glimpse of their smile is all we needed to get through a rough day. What happened to that? What happened to our promise to “have and to hold, to cherish in good times and in bad times”? What would it do to their spirit, to their person, if we reverted back to the days of dating and put their needs above our own? So often we forget to treat them as we’d like to be treated. I’m more than willing to continue on the plan that God designed for marriage; which means putting in long hours and hard work to ensure that our marriage is as fulfilling and meaningful as God intended the marriage relationship to be.

We actually did it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011 16 Comments A+ a-

So after numerous takes, we finally, finally have a vlog fit enough to share with you all.  Now we answered maybe half the questions, because we didn’t want it to get too long.  And you’ll hear our friend, Annie’s, voice in the background a couple of times.  We tried to get her on camera but she was having none of that.

So without further ado, our vlog.  And if nothing else, fast-forward to the bloopers at the end.  There are no words.

Sisters vlog… and laugh… a lot.

Sacred Marriage It Is

Thursday, August 25, 2011 27 Comments A+ a-

41 MwDIy 8L__SS500_

Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply… Scores of books have been written that offer guidance for building the marriage of your dreams. But what if God’s primary intent for your marriage isn’t to make you happy… but holy? And what if your relationship isn’t as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?

Well, the masses have spoken and Sacred Marriage it is.  I’m really excited about this for two reasons.  One, it’ll allow us to have a broader audience this time around.  And two, I’m always looking for a way to make my marriage stronger. 

So I guess, we’re ready to start.  Please bear with me as we iron out details as we go along.  I’ve never imagined doing a Blogger/Twitter bible study before, so I’m sure there might be some bumps along the way.  I appreciate your patience in advance!

Just to recap…

  • We’re going to read one chapter every two weeks.  This book has 13 chapters, so we’re looking at 26 weeks or 6 months.  That’s a long time, and I certainly understand if its too much of a commitment at this time.
  • Every other Tuesday we’ll post our thoughts on the chapter, and link back on this blog so we can all read each other’s posts.
  • The following Thursday, we’ll hold a discussion about the chapter on Twitter. 
  • I will also be creating a private Facebook page so we can interact there too, as well as share prayer requests.

If you’re interested in joining us on this adventure, please do the following.

  1. Buy a copy of the Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  I have a list of sites where its available below, and I’m sure its available at your local Christian book store too.
  2. Either leave a comment on this post, or send me a private email at biggest_blessings (at) yahoo (dot) com.  In the comment or email, please give me your name, email address, and/or Twitter handle.
  3. Have the 1st chapter read and your thoughts ready to post about by Tuesday, September 13th.

Whew.  I think that’s it!  And if you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, I’m impressed. 

I’m praying that in the midst of us learning together, growing closer to God and our spouses, that God will also be glorified in this body of women.  I hope you’ll be able to join us!

Blogging Bible Study?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 18 Comments A+ a-

So I saw this study in my email box and tweeted that I’d love to this study and ventured forth an idea of doing a Blogger/Twitter bible study.  I really had no clue what that would look like and am just starting to flesh out the idea.  But here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

  • All participants could read one chapter every 2 weeks, and post their thoughts about the chapter every other Tuesday.  I’ll provide the linkup and we could all visit each other sites and read each other’s thoughts.
  • Then those that are on Twitter could gather for a Live chat that following Thursday to discuss questions from the chapter.

I am really liking this idea and would love to have anyone who’s interested join us!  I am in no way an expert on all things Bible or parenting or marriage or whatever we decide to study, I’ll be learning alongside all of you.  But I’m happy to mediate and organize the study.

My only concerns are a) I still think we can all benefit from studying and having fellowship with other women face-to-face, I don’t think this should replace that at all, and b) sharing prayer requests.  I haven’t quite figured that one out yet…  I welcome thoughts or opinions on this.

So moving on to study ideas… I originally wanted to do the above study, but it is pretty limited to only those with sons.  So I’m putting forth a selection of study ideas for those interested to place their votes.  Majority rules.

You can place your votes on the left…  You can read more about each study by clicking on the links below.

Saying Goodbye

Monday, August 22, 2011 8 Comments A+ a-

The hardest part of loving is saying goodbye.

Devyn (18 months) and Zeus

I woke this morning with gritty eyes.  The kind where your eyes throb and feel about 100lbs heavier, the kind that itch and ache.  The kind born of a good cry; a good indication of how I spent my Sunday.

Its been an emotional weekend for my family and for those that know us in real life, know why.  After 12 years, my mom and sister made the hard decision to put down our loyal, devoted, and loving dog Zeus.  Its nearly impossible to describe all that Zeus meant to us, and I couldn’t even begin to do him justice. 

But Courtney could.  And she did here.  (I’m warning you, have the tissues handy.)

I woke to this moving post yesterday morning and the tears started falling.  And kept coming throughout the day.  I had to stop and ask myself why this was affecting me so badly, after all, he really belonged to Mom and Courtney.  But then as I let myself stop and ask that question, I realized.

  • Saying goodbye to Zeus was saying goodbye to a time in our life.  A time that was hard and scary.  And he represented the start of something new and good in our family.
  • It brought up some old wounds, a lot of old feelings and emotions.  Things that while they’ve been dealt with and healed, are still tender and difficult to remember.
  • It was the day before Devyn started 1st grade.  My baby, in all day school, for the first time.  My heart ached and mourned as I realized this was just the start of allowing her to grow into her own person.
  • And how true it is that “the hardest part of loving is saying goodbye.”

Yesterday was a hard day.  I was a mess of jumbled thoughts and emotions, crying over what was, what is, and what will be.  How Courtney said goodbye to her best friend, I’ll never know.  How my parents were able to drive away from Remuda Ranch and their sick daughter for months, I can’t begin to understand.  How mothers can be happy for their children on high school graduation day, while their own heart is aching, I’ll someday find out. 

I realize that it would be easy for one to close themselves up and protect their heart from such losses, and I can’t say that I would blame them.  There are times, in the midst of heartache, that I’m half-tempted to do such a thing.  But then I’d miss out on all the joy that life has to offer. 

A joy that comes with watching your 6-year-old daughter find her name on a desk, the excitement in her eyes of setting up her desk with new school supplies, putting pencils and erasers under the lip of the desktop.  A joy that comes with watching her greet classmates and her teacher with exuberance and delight. 

Yes, I’ll take the goodbyes that come with loving because all the good far outweighs the pain. 

1stDaySchoolCollageHappy first day of 1st grade, Devyn Paige!

A Sister Vlog

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 6 Comments A+ a-

SisterVlogButton

My Littles and Jon get a lot of face time on this blog o’ mine. And that seems appropriate since they’re my family and I, oh, live with them day-in and day-out.

But once upon a time, I shared four walls and a roof with another family.  A mom, a dad, and three girls that have helped shaped who I am, whom I’ve fought with, cried with, laughed with, and who have turned into the best friends a girl could ever want.  And I want to introduce them to you.

Christine, Allison (who doesn’t have a blog… yet), Courtney, and I have decided to do a vlog.  Together.  Oy vey.  None of us want to do a vlog separately, but thought we’d all be a little braver doing it as a group. 

We have no clue what we’re going to vlog about yet.  But hey, if you have any suggestions or questions for us, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Next weekend the guys are all going on a Bachelor camping trip with the future brother-in-law, so what perfect time than to congregate at our parents house with a glass of wine (or two) and do our first vlog together?! 

This could be very entertaining…

Closet Hannah Montana Fan?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 4 Comments A+ a-

She’s recently become a lover of all things music.

Family Fingers Are Crossed*

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10 Comments A+ a-

*alternately titled “Why I’m Certain I’m Losing My Mind… And What I Intend to do About It” (Obviously that was a run-on sentence and way too long to put in the title field. Ha!)

And completely random fact for y’all, this is post #1,201. Yikes.  That’s a lot of posting in almost six years, but I digress.

My mom’s been on my case lately. A lot. It turns out that my laid-back, go-with-the-flow attitude isn’t working for me as it once did.  My lack of organization has gotten me in some trouble.

Case in Point #1: On our way to meet some friends for dinner, it was discovered that I’d left the debit card at home. We had to turn around, go home, pick up the debit card, before heading back on our way.  We were about 15 minutes late.

Case in Point #2: A couple of weekends ago, we came down from the family cabin for our pastor’s retirement reception. We came down early with the intent to get dinner beforehand. But I’d left the debit card at the cabin. Yeah. My parents bailed us out with dinner.

Case in Point #3: We made plans with friends for dinner, only I thought we’d agreed that we’d text each other during the week to confirm. My friend understood it that we’d already agreed to dinner. Good thing we connected before they showed up and we weren’t there.

There have been lost keys, forgotten shoes, missed parties, unpaid bills, etc. Both Jon and Mom have taken to picking up after me, double-checking packed suitcases, and overall, babysitting me. Its awesome. Mom and I discussed many ways that I could start getting organized, and I realized that I could no longer afford to NOT write things down.

And that’s where Erin Condren comes in…

I’d been on the lookout for a day planner that was fun, colorful, easy to use, and most importantly, I wanted it to be personalized. I checked out the MomAgenda and while I’d been eyeing their products for years, I just wasn’t feeling it. 

Enter Twitter and Erin at Blue Eyed Bride.

I read her post on her Home Organization Binder, and while I thought it a wonderful idea, its just too big of a task for this Mama.  But I did happen to notice the little link to her day planner of choice and I clicked on it.  I fell instantly in love.

Soon Twitter was all abuzz about the new planners, everyone checking it out, and mentioning their favorite patterns.  And normally I avoid all things popular and trendy.  (You can read about my weird aversion here.) But it was too late, the colors, the fonts, the patterns had already drawn me in.  And when Plum District happened to be selling vouchers to Erin Condren at half-price, that’s when the life planners went viral. I grabbed a voucher and got the planner at a steal!

I won’t bore you with the drama that unfolded after a hacker erased her orders, nor will I tell you about my stalking the FedEx shipping site to see when I could expect my new best friend. But I will tell you that it finally arrived today.

Its beautiful…

2011-08-15 23.29.222011-08-15 23.29.43One must have beautiful pens to go with a pretty new planner…

2011-08-15 23.34.07I have already entered birthdays under the Special Dates section. Note to family. Let’s avoid any more March birthdays, mmm… kay?

2011-08-15 23.43.262011-08-15 23.44.552011-08-15 23.45.36I’m loving the tabs, the pocket folder to keep track of important paperwork, and the zippered pouch that stores my pretty pens and the extra goodies Erin Condren tucked away. All so pretty.

2011-08-15 23.53.12Oh look… I was even able to use one of the included Wedding stickers to mark a special date. Its approaching fast, Alli and Brian!

So essentially, all of my family has their fingers crossed that this planner will actually do its job and help me get organized.  But no one is more hopeful than I because its truly exhausting work being disorganized all the time.  Its time to give organization a try.

PS If you want to see some other pretty life planners, head over to Meredith’s site for other links.

An Offer I Did Refuse

Friday, August 12, 2011 9 Comments A+ a-

When I quit my job of 10+ years, I was in quite a bit of shock.  Even now, almost 15 months after the fact, I can remember what an emotional day it was for me.  As hard as it was to leave, there was also no doubt in my mind that the right path had been chosen.

But 10 years is a long time to be with one employer, and some relationships have withstood the passing of time.  I’ve stopped by the old office on occasion, showing off Ashlynn, seeing how everyone is doing, catching everyone up with us, etc.  And while I love seeing everyone and there’s a bit of nostalgia when I step through the office doors, I still have nothing but peace about our decision.

However, two weeks ago I got the surprise of my life.

My former boss had contacted me about some web/blog design work for a personal event and I agreed to meet with her in person to discuss it.  So we hugged, and chatted, and caught up with each other and the office.  It was then that she asked if I’d be interested in working for them.

From home.  Letting me choose how many hours per week.  And at my own pace.

I sat there in stunned silence, a million thoughts running through my mind.  None landing in any one place for too long.  Until I was finally able to utter a coherent sentence.  “Let me talk about it with Jon and I’ll get back to you.” 

And talk we did.  And prayed.  And discussed.  And sought advice.

It was, after all, any stay-at-home-mom’s dream job.  Working from the comfort of home, choosing your own hours, and doing it all at your own pace.  I’d dreamed of being offered a position like this during the last few years at that job.  Something that would allow me to earn money, while at home with my Littles.  But I’d long since resigned myself to the idea that it simply wasn’t an option. 

I considered taking it, I really did.  I wondered how it would work, how I could make it fit into my schedule.  I debated with myself if I could logically find the time to fit in 10-15 hours a week.  I thought about asking if I could wait until Devyn and Hudson started school in a couple of weeks.  I was tempted by the idea of a steady paycheck again.

And then reality set in…

I’m already stretched too thin.  I’m barely treading water between being Mama and Wife, trying to stay on top of laundry and bleaching the bathroom… again (What? Hudson’s a boy. And kind of gross.), trying to schedule appointments and play dates, etc.  Not to mention, maintaining design deadlines.  I couldn’t possibly find the extra hours that they wanted.

More importantly, I enjoy watching God show up each month.  As I told Jon, I have been awed and humbled each time He’s provided extra work just when we needed it.  Some will think that we were crazy to turn down such a steady paycheck, but I love allowing God the opportunity to meet our needs.  And trust me, no one is more surprised than I that I feel that way now!  Losing my steady income last year has done nothing but increase our faith in God, and I’m all the more richer for it.

I gave my former boss our decision earlier this week.  And while I felt slightly sick to my stomach afterwards, I’ve had nothing but peace since.  It was the right decision for us. 

Even if it was a position that I’d once desired.

Wordless Wednesday*

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

LostTooth

*Alternately titled… A Big Week For Our Family!

One for the Books, err, Blog

Monday, August 08, 2011 7 Comments A+ a-

Its been a while since I last updated this ‘ol blog of mine.  I even joked last week on Twitter that it was gathering dust and spider webs.  But as I told a friend, since I blog for myself, its nice to not feel the pressure to blog every day.  I can take breaks whenever I want, and although this last break was unintentional, it felt good.

Truth be told, I just haven’t felt up to posting.  I can’t decide if its because of summer or just feeling overwhelmed by life in general, that put this blog on the back burner.  But we’ve had a number of things happen lately and I must document it.  We could talk about why I’m positive I’m losing my mind… or why I chose to turn down the dream job for a stay-at-home-mom… or our recent weekend trip to the cabin… or the plans I have for Munchkin Land Designs… or getting not just one, but two, Littles ready for a new school year… or how I feel about Devyn and Hudson taking a small vacation without either parent… 

But there is one more important than all the rest…  it’s the day we as parents all pray and hope for… the privilege of bringing our young ones into God’s family.  And we had such the honor with our Little Man on Saturday night.  A night that will forever be imprinted on my heart as one of the top moments in my life.

It’s a topic that’s weighed heavily on my mind lately.  I wondered when Hudson was going to start asking questions, questions that Devyn had already been asking for some time at this age.  I prayed that God would grant me wisdom and insight into Hudson’s heart, that I would take advantage of the moments when Hudson expressed interest in Jesus, Heaven, or God.  And over the past couple of weeks, he’s asked more questions, been a little more inquisitive, but I believed his salvation was still a ways off.

Imagine my surprise when on our way back to the cabin, after a goodbye reception for our pastor and his wife, that Hudson made the decision to ask Jesus into his heart. 

We had WAY FM playing in the background, I was sitting in the backseat between Devyn and Hudson, while I tried to hush a crying Ashlynn.  We talked about Collins (the child we recently adopted from Kenya through Compassion, another story for another post) and whether or not he knew about Jesus.  We talked about Heaven, we talked about God, and then Hudson asked the question I’ve been waiting to hear, “How do you asked Jesus into your heart?”

I literally felt my own heart turn over in my chest.  This was it, I knew it.  We discussed Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, that we needed to ask Jesus for forgiveness for our own sins, and invite him into our hearts and be the master of our lives.  It was a fine balance between explaining it in a way our 4-year-old could understand, but not diminishing the importance of the moment.

And I expected, he asked me to help him pray so “Jesus can live in my heart”.  I asked if he wanted to wait until we got back to the cabin so Daddy could pray with us, but Hudson was not to be deterred.  And so we sat there… in the back of the dark van, bumping along the dirt road, and prayed one of the most important prayers of his life together.  From the moment we said “Amen” his little face shone with excitement and pride.  Praise you, Father!

Its these moments that I’m completely overwhelmed and awed that God has allowed me the privilege of bringing these little ones to His feet and allowing them to make that decision for themselves.  It’s a moment that defies words and one that I’ve prayed for from the moment I saw those 2 pink lines. 

Welcome to the Family of God, Hudson Jonathan!  Your daddy and I are so very proud of your decision to follow Jesus Christ.  We pray that we’ll guide you and example for you a Christ-loving life until the day you can claim your faith as your own.  You, my son, are an amazing little boy, and we know He has big plans for you.