Intentional

The last time I did any sort of resolution for the New Year, I said I was going to lose 5 pounds. I ended up gaining 7, so you can see how well that worked out.

Somehow, something feels different this year. I don’t mean the weight (as of this morning those 5+7lbs of extra fluff were still waiting to greet me). What’s different is that for a month or more, I’ve had a word plastered across my mind and heart. I believe it is the word God has given me for the coming year.

Intentional.

I’ve heard of people choosing a word to define their year, but I’ve never done it. The words always felt too forced, so I never let the idea go past the initial thought stage. This time I can’t get the word out of my head.

It mostly stems from a realization that I unintentionally waste a lot of time. No judging here y’all, but sometimes I spend way too much time playing Candy Crush. Or scrolling Facebook. Or taking a nap.

These aren’t bad things, but when I let these simple little indulgences eat up my time, they get in the way of the bigger goals I have. Goals like, connecting with Jesus, writing consistently in my blog, updating my website, keeping up with household responsibilities, being a pillar for my children and my husband, serving my church, being available for my friends, etc etc.

None of that can happen while playing Candy Crush.

My other problem is that I haven’t been very good about writing things down. Say, for instance, both children are happily (!) working on their school during our homeschool hours. I usually have quite a lot of things I could accomplish, but because I haven’t written any of it down, I spend this unexpected free time trying to figure out the best use of the free time. And suddenly, my free time vanishes like my money in Target.

So far I have intentionally done two things to help me be intentional with my time this year:

  1. I enlisted a friend to read one book a month with me. I like to read, but sometimes I get distracted by little what-nots on my phone, and before I know it my time to read has vanished. I’m already 75% through my first book, and we haven’t even officially begun yet. Just knowing someone else is doing this with me helps me stick to my goal and gives me a desire to see if I can accomplish even more than my original number.
  2. I bought a planner. This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve owned a planner, but I never seem to know what to do with them. I tend to record appointments each month, and then just glance at it every now and then. Not very helpful. What I’m excited about in this planner is the goal tracker. Each month I can write down specific goals and record whether or not I’ve met them. Knowing myself, I’ll be much more intentional with my time knowing it’s going to be recorded in ink.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t find time to write, but the truth is, I may just have to buckle down and write in the less convenient moments of my life. I’m not saying it will be easy, or perfect, but I do believe that by being more intentional with the cracks*, I’ll be able to make headway on the greater purpose I believe God has for me.

What word would you choose for this coming year? What strategies have helped you be intentional in the past?

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Phillippians 3:12-14 (The Message)

*writing in the cracks is a phrase I’ve seen used in my hope*writers group. Can’t claim that one for myself!

About that Christmas Puppy

Christmas puppy caught getting into the Christmas tree.

I’m pretty sure that by this point you’ve already done it. You’ve selected the puppy and you are eagerly awaiting the moment you can bring that sweet little ball of fluff home and video the delighted squeals of your children. You will be the hero of the day, you bringer of the Christmas puppy.

That is, unless your child distraughtly bemoans, “I wanted a cat!” Not that I know this from experience or anything.

But do you really know what you are getting yourself into?

It will all work out okay in the end. I can say these words because I absolutely ADORE the dog we got for our girls two Christmases ago. He snuggles in my lap every morning whilst I have my quiet time. He’s the happiest, softest, fluffiest, sweetest dog I’ve ever met. He treats the girls like they are his puppies and he doesn’t think twice about the way they grab and hug him all over. 

However, heed my warning before you bring your little guy home: it took us a full two years to get to this point.

He was SO tiny!

Alright, so let’s face it. The timing was not ideal. The girls were 4 and 2 at the time. I knew this would mean potty training a child and a dog simultaneously. I did not anticipate quite how difficult that task would be.

I think, deep down, I knew it wasn’t the best time for us to get a dog. But you see, the thing is, my husband HATES dogs and getting one for Christmas was HIS idea!!!! Please understand, when your husband of 10 years suggests getting a dog for the first time in your marriage, you push aside any logic and you go write a check.

Due to hubby’s deep aversion to all things canine, I gave him full reign over the type of dog we would get. He requested the same breed as our neighbor’s dog, a shih tzu, since it was the only dog he had ever halfway tolerated.

I mean, who wouldn’t love this teeny, fluffy guy?

Shih Tzu’s are notoriously hard to potty train. I’d say it took us a good year and a half before I felt really comfortable calling him potty trained. Even now, I have to leave him in his crate when we leave the house so that he doesn’t have an accident.

But do you know what it’s like to potty train a puppy in the middle of winter when you have a toddler???

First, notice just how small this puppy was. Rule number 1 of potty training a puppy is to lavish love and praises and treats whenever they tinkle outside. However, the grass was taller than he was! It was very difficult to tell if he had accomplished something worthy of such grand celebration, or if he was just fascinated by the nearest leaf. We spent a lot of time outside and it was cold.

Also, keep in mind that while I was spending all this time outside praising and watching puppy, my kiddos were back inside the house. Think about this for a moment. My choice was to either leave my little ones, inside, by themselves (bracing myself for impeding disaster), or wait the half-hour it would take to get them ready to come with me. By that time, puppy would have an accident. No matter what I chose, the two-year-old was often in tears.

Potty training a puppy also meant getting up in the middle of the night to take him outside. It was like having a newborn all over again, except I didn’t have to nurse him and I could shove him in his crate when I went to bed. So, not really much like a newborn at all except for the lack of sleep part.

And did I mention, the dog would eat his poop? Yeah. There was that. His favorite thing to do was sneak off, poop when I wasn’t watching, and clean it up himself, which was so considerate of him. I still have to monitor this.

Your Christmas puppy may or may not like to dig in the yard.

And potty training was just ONE of the issues we dealt with. Before buying your Christmas puppy, please consider all of the following:

-puppy chewing up your children’s toys
-puppy chewing up your children’s pants’ legs (there was a while there when every single pair of pants had holes in them)
-puppy having random bouts of diarrhea or vomiting
-buying special food to avoid the diarrhea or vomiting 
-puppy running away when outside without a leash (avoidable if you have a fence)
-puppy greeting every single guest by jumping all over them
-vet bills
-paying for training sessions that may or may not be successful
-accepting that training your children how to work with the puppy may be even harder than training the puppy how to deal with your children
-boarding/dog-sitting fees when you are out of town
-etcetera etcetera

But of course, you’ve already met that sweet little puppy, haven’t you? And he or she is SO cute and you’ve already picked out a name. 

In that case, ignore everything I just said and ENJOY your sweet little house mate!! And please, show me the Christmas video!

As obnoxious as he could be at the beginning, he certainly made up for it in adorableness! 

Breathing Amidst the Busy Season

Closeup of motherhood figure

Life is full of seasons.

First, and most obvious, are the four seasons of every year: winter, spring, summer, and fall. I love living in North Carolina because we get to experience all four seasons, but my favorite is summer. I can’t stand being cold and I love never having to wonder what the weather is going to be that day. The forecast? Hot. End of story.

There are major life cycle seasons. Grade school, college, dating, first job, newlyweds, new home, first baby, etc. Each of these seasons teach us something new about ourselves. I’ve noticed that when I transition from one season to another, I’m likely to gravitate toward other people in a similar season. Is this true of you too?

Other seasons are much less obvious and often unexpected. This can look like a season of job searching, moving somewhere new, fighting health issues, or perhaps being a primary caretaker of a loved one. These seasons can be hard, rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, or exhausting. They push us to our limits and beyond. How we handle these seasons can make us stronger or leave us stagnant. Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond our control, and other times it’s a result of decisions we have made. No matter the cause, we have the opportunity to let the season change us for the better. Are you in one of these seasons right now? Have you come out of one recently?

The holiday season is upon us currently. This one comes every year and some of us love it, while others dread it. Personally, I love it, but I’m ready for a breather when it all comes to an end. Where do you fall on this line? 

My current season is one I have brought upon myself, despite feeling like I finally figured out how to conquer it. A season of busyness.

Why do I do this to myself?

This past spring and summer was a breathing season for me. I said “no” to a lot of great things I would usually have gone out of my way to do. But by the end of summer, I felt a surplus of energy and proceeded to add everything in all at once.

It was too much. So, you know what happened? The pieces of that schedule that I was most excited about took a back burner. The things that would bring me the most life and energy, were the ones that got neglected.

For me to be the best version of myself, I require time away from my kids. I’m a stay-at-home momma. My children are my job, my life. I love them to bits and pieces, but sometimes I want to strangle them. I’m learning that for me to be the best momma I can possibly be, I have to incorporate regular time that has nothing to do with my kiddos so that I don’t all of a sudden blow up and fall to pieces in front of them.

I don’t know about you, but I require rest. I require breaks. I need time to breathe, to think, to be still.

My season of busyness will be ending after Christmas, so I’m currently evaluating what I can truly say “yes” to. And as we enter this Christmas season, I’m reminding myself of what is important. What actually matters. All my commitments are positive and good, but what are the things that fill me in such a way that I can continue to pour out to others?

I hereby give you permission to take a break. Maybe that means you get store-bought rather than homemade for that cookie exchange. Maybe it means throwing gifts in a bag instead of wrapping. Maybe you can hire someone to clean your house or simply decide to let your cleaning standards slide for the time being. In this incredibly busy holiday season, choose what’s best. Focus on what matters. 

How will you give yourself a chance to breathe? Will this allow you to then breathe life into someone else?

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:5-6

The Invasion of the Bees

The Invasion of the Bees

I tend to be a rather serious person. I research all the things before making significant decisions. I take the simple moments of life and evaluate them under the lens of Biblical significance; wondering how I can learn and grow in the midst of whatever might be happening in any given moment. I overthink every possible thing, including, but not limited to: packing, conversations, social media interactions, clothing, dinner menus, and what book to read next.

It can be quite exhausting to live this way.

Which is why, in today’s blog post, I bring you a light-hearted story. Because sometimes we need a break from the serious things in life. I’m taking a break by writing it, and I hope you get to take a break by reading it.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I had decided to do a little task to serve my husband (this task, in no way, doubled as an opportunity to count more steps for my fitbit). On that fateful September day, in an act of complete humility and servitude, I decided to take the kitchen trash and actually place it in the outdoor trash can. Usually, I just leave these things by the back door.

Upon exiting our home and heading down the steep flight of stairs on our back deck, I experienced a sudden, and extraordinarily painful, sensation on my right arm. I dropped the trash and screamed as though my arm had been completely severed. 

My mind caught up to the moment and I realized I had endured a bee sting. Thank goodness those things die after stinging someone. I looked down to evaluate the damage, just to realize it was still there, wiggling it’s butt into my arm in order to insert as much venom as possible and cause my utter demise. There was nothing to do but scream again, in an equally dramatic fashion, while flailing my arms around in attempts to extract the bee.

My method worked, the bee disappeared, and I cannot remember whether or not I finished taking out the trash. When I made it back inside the house, my first job was to let my children know that they were safe and mom had not gone insane. “A bee stung me, and I was so surprised!” I shakily explained. They laughed because mommy is so silly. I ran upstairs to change my pants.

A few minutes, clean pants, and calm children later, I looked out the window to see if I could figure out why on earth that bee was so angry with me. What I saw was terrifying. Hundreds of yellow jackets were flying to and fro a nest in (yes, IN) the side of our house, right next to that back door. I decided to only use the front door henceforth, or at least, until the first freeze killed those stinging pests.

We coincided peacefully for a time. Myself and the bees, I mean. Them flying. Me avoiding. Until, Monday of last week, it reached a point when I could ignore their presence no longer. They had begun entering our home uninvited.

I texted my husband my concerns and proceeded to research. Remember how I overthink all the things? The following paragraph is an attempt to show my thought process upon completion of said research:

“I am terrified of these things and they have to go but I don’t want to waste money on an exterminator because it’s so late in the fall and they will die when the weather gets cold enough and that should be really soon. The only reason they are here now is because the weather has been warm. We don’t need to call an exterminator. But the internet says not to treat this ourselves because yellow jackets are extra mean in the fall and if we spray a nest in the side of our house they will just find another way out and that means inside of our home. But the exterminator is expensive. We have to get an exterminator. The internet says when yellow jackets sting they DON’T DIE. I’m so freaked out right now. Time to call Eric.”

My phone call to my husband likely sounded similar to how that paragraph reads. 

His thoughts, “she’s overreacting.”
My thoughts, “I’m overreacting.”
Decision: self-treat the yellow jacket situation.

Friends, should you ever find yourself in a situation where yellow jackets have built a nest inside the walls of your home, do not, I repeat, do not treat it yourself.

He sprayed them Tuesday night, but ran out of spray before they all died. I was suppose to pick up more spray on my way home from a girls’ night, but neglected to do so. This was my biggest mistake.

Wednesday morning, they were EVERYWHERE.

Now, I feel it is also quite important to note that my brother was getting married that weekend. In Kansas. And we were scheduled to take our two children on their first flight at 5:30 Thursday morning. I had quite a to-do list to accomplish, and as the bees had already been messing with my productivity that week, my anxiety was mounting. It was all I could do to remain calm.

My husband killed no less than 20 bees during his quiet time Wednesday morning. When he left for work, I counted 10 on the windows by our kitchen table. I knew of a handful upstairs in our room. I found a few on the floor. I went to feed the dog, and there were several crawling on the food container and in his bowl. I could hear them buzzing in the light fixture above the table. 

With or without yellow jackets, it was imperative I pack my bags for our flight to Kansas. I was certain I could handle this. Give them their space and they would give me mine. I pulled out my suitcase from the small storage closet in our room, only to discover a yellow jacket was sitting on top of it. Two more flew from within the closet.

At this moment I completely lost control. I called my husband and the first words out of my mouth were, “I’m trying not to hyperventilate.” I broke down in tears. I legitimately could not handle the thought of any more yellow jackets. They had invaded my home and who knew where I would find the next one? 

When he found space to speak, hubby instructed me to leave the house. “But I have all the packing!” I sobbed. 

“Leave the house.”
“Packing!”
“I will find a solution.”
“How?!?”
“Just leave the house.”
“But…”
“Leave the house.”

I told the girls we were going to go eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A. 

I dropped the dog off at the boarding place (because what if he tried to eat a yellow jacket and got stung in the mouth?!?), and settled in to an unknown amount of time at the CFA play area.

It wasn’t that long before I received a text from my knight-in-shining-armor, “The bees are all dead. Inside and outside.”

Hallelujah!!! Those words were music to my ears. I could breathe again! I gathered up the girls so we could head home and finish packing.

He was right, those bees were dead! But slowly, as the day continued, more would find their way into our home. I have no idea how they did it. I have even less of an idea how I slept that night.

Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t sleep. Yellow jackets, and dreams about missing your flight with a 3am wake up will do that to you.

Thankfully, due to poison overtaking their bodies, there was no yellow jacket activity when we left our house the next morning. (How we managed to get all four of us packed and dressed, with all of our stuff, at that hour in the morning, is beyond me at this point. Especially in light of the dramatics the previous day.)

Our trip was a great one. The girls were fabulous on their first flights, performed their flower girl duties flawlessly, and we were all able to celebrate my brother’s union with his bride, my new sister.

As for the yellow jackets? When we got back home Sunday evening, there were a few dead ones lying on the floor. I’ve seen a few here and there around windows, but they all end up dead at some point. When it gets cold enough, we will plug the entrance hole to their nest so they cannot return to that area next year.

And should I witness any yellow jackets near my house in the future, you better believe I’m calling an exterminator.

Bloom & Grow

Bloom & Grow

One of my girls thrives on verbal affirmation while the other seeks out lots of snuggles.

It is my absolute favorite to see a smile climb up the cheeks of my older child. She is much less likely to outwardly reveal when something touches her inwardly, so when I see the evidence, I soak it up and store it in my heart. This usually happens at bedtime, when I whisper words of life over her and she thinks it is too dark for me to see her delight.

A few nights ago, I read the girls a library book about the process of planting flowers, watching them grow, and seeing them spread their seeds for new flowers to have a chance to bloom. I turned off the lights and whispered to my word-loving daughter, “You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

My favorite smile spread slowly across her face and I knew she would drift to sleep that night feeling loved and having purpose.

I turned to my snuggler to say the same thing, but her response was to giggle, “Mommy! I’m not a flower!” Perhaps she isn’t old enough for metaphors just yet. I made sure to squeeze her tight so that she too would feel affirmed and loved.

I’ve since been thinking quite a bit about flowers and their seeds.

Notice the seed. Before a flower can bloom, its seed must succumb to the process of transformation. When a seed is planted, it goes into the soil never to look the same again. 

It’s not an easy process. The germination (sprouting) of the seed requires the nutrients of the soil, the moisture of water, and just the right amount of sunlight. Each seed has its own needs for life to form.

The hard shell of the seed melts away as the greenery of the plant reaches through the dirt and stretches to find light. In the right environment, the plant will begin to flower and feed the life around it.

New flowers will have the opportunity to bloom and grow as fresh seeds are scattered to the ground.

Did you know that your life resembles that of this flower?

For us to bloom into our greatest beauty, we must die to ourselves. We must succumb to the process of transformation so that our hard shells can melt away. It isn’t easy, is it? Sometimes we feel pressure, maybe a bit of loneliness. It may feel like we are drowning, that we are too hot, or too cold. But when we allow ourselves to submit to the process, we realize that our Gardner knows just what it is that will bring blossoming flowers in our lives.

There will be seasons when we feel the ache of our growth, and also seasons of rest as we wait for the sunshine to warm us again. But the result of these seasons of growth and rest, is the season of beauty. At our peak, we are beautiful flowers offering nourishment to those who come near. Our scent is alluring and our seeds spread with the promise of new life to come.

Whatever season you are currently in, do not forget this truth, my friend:

“You are a beautiful flower. As you blossom and bloom, you spread your seeds so that other flowers have the chance to do the same.”

Stay close to your Gardener. He will give you what you need, when you need it. Remember that the difficult moments will not last forever. New growth is coming.

“…When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed.” 1 Corinthians 15:36-38