I took these photos the day Mabel turned 11 months old and had full intentions of posting them later that evening. Then life happened, and here we are 9 days before my sweet girl’s first birthday, and I’m still playing catch-up. Isn’t that the story of our lives though? She’s changed even from these pictures! But I love them. She has so much spunk and personality these days! Growing so much more into the little girl and woman she’s going to be. Man oh man, I can’t believe I get to be her mama.
Happy Sunday morning! It’s snowing here . . . Again. SO there’s that.
Just in case you can’t tell, I’m not impressed, I’m thoroughly over snow, and I can’t wait for winter to be over. If anyone needs me I’ll be hibernating, dreaming up grilled salads and planning my garden on paper and waiting for the ground to thaw, again. RANT OVER.
Thanks to all who read my last post. I’ve been in a weird place lately, and I’m just trying to suss it all out and figure out how to be me again. The snow doesn’t help, but I’m trying not to let that call the shots.
But I’d rather not blather on about my melancholy state, I’d rather talk to you about what we’re eating this week! I’ve had so many people ask how I meal plan, where I get ideas, how I stick to our budget, etc. I ever had the privilege to meet and chat with a few ladies and we got to chat about our lives and how we plan for our families. It’s so fun! Seriously, if there wa a way to make money doing this, I would do it in a heart beat. So if you or if anyone you know wants someone to meet with them and create a personal plan and budget for them, let me know. 🙂
But in the meantime, I’m going to share what we are eating! I have it written out on my planner so I can see what the day holds as keep in my sight what we are eating, so if there is any prep or anythng that needs to be done (pull things from freezer, start dough, etc) it can be done and I’m not stuck come 5pm.
Tuesday (communal small group potluck): Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (baked sweet potato boats stuffed with sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions, & spinach, topped with avocado & cilantro after baking)
Wednesday: Fried Buttermilk Chicken Biscuits wth Pickled Vegetables & Smoked Sea Salt Pecan & Bourbon Butterscotch Ice Cream Cake
Thursday: Carrot Ginger Soup & Bread (or leftover biscuits)
Friday: Chicken Salad (romaine, spiralized zucchini, grated carrots, chicken)
Saturday: Pantry Pad Thai (rice noodles, almond butter chili sauce, veggies)
On one hand it may look like I’m making a big dinner every night, but I’m not. We are only having meat twice this week (two days of chicken) and there are only two-three nights that I have to use recipes. If every night has me peeking into a cookbook while I have a small child wrapped around my legs while I’m fixing dinner, then even I wouldn’t be able to enjoy that every night! ANd that’s coming from someone who loves cooking. 🙂 Stir frys dont require a recipe-they are chopped veg into a pan, meat or chickpea/bean/lentils added, add soy and coconut milk if you’re in the mood, and season to taste. There you have it-mindless meal. 🙂 Stuffed sweet potatoes are just what they sound like, and they can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven on a baking try before people arrive. Soup needs a recipe sometimes, but carrot ginger is a classic that needs little explaining (sauté onion and garlic, add carrots, add broth and spices, blend, add coconut milk, blend again, season to taste). Plus, the soup can be made ahead of time, which is great because Matt will be holding down the fort with dinner and putting mabel to bed while I go to worship practice. Chicken salad is self explainatory. The only nights I will need recipes are Wednesday and Saturday! Wednesday night is our date night, and we go all out (as you can see!). We eat after Mabel goes to bed, and I have prep for the evening lined up a few days before hand so I’m not overwhelmed the day of (I have a wonderful book called “Date Night In” which I’ve mentioned before, but its worth mentioning again, because we love it!) On Saturday night I’m pulling a recipe from “Everyday Detox” by Megan Gilmore; everything I’ve made from this cookbook has been stellar so far! Can’t wait to try this new recipe and new sauce.
This is a snapshot of my meal plan and grocery list-it’s my brain when it comes to food for the week.
Can I be frank? I have not been the best version of myself lately. In fact, I haven’t even been a good version of myself, or an average one. I feel as if I have been barely eeking by, somehow managing to pull off being an ok member of society, and ok just meaning I haven’t robbed a bank lately or mugged anyone in an alley. Other than that, I haven’t been nice. I haven’t been myself, the girl who finds the glass half full and sunshine in the details, but rather a dark, scowling creature who someone has a resting b*tch-face rather than a contented one. I feel like I used to have some kind of sparkle, and I’ve lost it somewhere along the way.
And I have blamed many things, seasonal depression, delayed postpartum hormones, first trimester new baby hormones, sleep deprevation, and the list goes on and on. And while indeed those many things added up may be to blame, I still feel helpless as to how to fix it. And what is frustrating is I know the line that comes next from all the do-gooders out there that will want to say, “It just a change in attitude, then everything will be better!” Believe you me, I have tried/am still trying my hardest to have a better attitude about everything. Gritting through my teeth at the snow storm while everyone is “oohing” and “aahing” at the mounds of fluff, mustering up the words, “Yes, it’s beautiful,” all the while thinking how long it’s going to take to melt, how icy and gross everything will be until then, and the cold. Trying to tell myself that spring and summer will be here soon, but I know in reality that REAL spring is just more rain, and summer doesn’t arrive until mid-June or July, and even then there is a good chance it’s not going to get crazy warm. Maybe I should buck up? Just embrace it? Oh how I’ve tried on countless occasions, and it leaves me dreaming of a real spring (the kind with warm and sun and a handful of rain storms and garden planting and the start of sun-kissed shoulders and cheeks) and a real summer (the kind that get wonderfully hot and all you want to do is hike and swim in the lake and sun bath while reading and grill all your food outside and camp and never be inside again). I know those really don’t exist here, and that leaves me a bit dreamy and sad.
In the midst of this, I open up my Bible and study book in the morning to have devotions in the morning, searching for something that will be a hopeful balm to my soul. I have read and re-read through scriptures that I know by heart, prayed through prayers that are familiar, and also tried to read passages that I haven’t ventured into studying before, and writing out frank, honest prayers. It usually ends up being a plea of some sort, in the nature of “Ok, I’m here, and I’m trying, and I’m stuck, and I don’t know how to fix this so . . . help? Please?” At which point Mabel is usually done with breakfast and needs to be thoroughly wiped down from her oatmeal or peanut butter costume which she has painted all over herself. I clean her up and take her into the nursery to get ready for the day, feeling stuck in the same funk I woke up in, a sort of fog where there is no promise of sunshine beneath or above the clouds.
I say all this from a place of deep vulnerability. I don’t like being in tears regularly because I don’t know how to fix this. I am trying to be better, and that quickly spirals into a semi self-loathing chant of “Be a better person, be a better person . . . ” whic isn’t really what I am going for either. I don’t have an answer. And I very rarely share this with anyone, because if I share snippets, I start welling with tears, and I get the pity stare. You know the one, the stare of someone who doesn’t really know what you’re talking about, but feels bad for you, but doesn’t really know what to say either. They just look at you with sad eyes and wait for you to say something else, or say something that will wrap up your confession with a neat little bow. Bad news, guys: no neat little bow, just the hard truth from an honest lady.
It’s safe to say that it its fairly miserable over here. We have had a few winter storms in the past few weeks, causing there to be an overwhelming abundance of snow, but now the temperature is hovering above freezing and pouring rain, causing the world to be filled with slush and puddles galore. My tendency when this weather persists is to growl at everyone and hole up, searching for something to take my mind off of the persistent cold and lack of sunshine. I’m trying to be better, trying to find small joys throughout the grey days. Especially with a small person who is at the age where she will mimic what I am doing and sometimes what I am saying. She may be small and young, but she is so curious and observant, and I just know she is soaking everything in and will regurgitate it when we least expect it.
And her heart is just so, so sweet. She is curious and empathetic, and clearly becomes concerned when something is awry. Even if I just need some extra lovin’, she can detect it and will flash a toothy grin or attack me with a snuggle. Today, after a full afternoon of swimming at the pool then running a couple errands, I picked her up to take her into the bedroom for her nap. She promptly grabbed my face with both of her hands, and gave me several big kisses on my chin, then came in closer for a big, squeezing hug, slightly patting my back with her hand. Um . . . ! My mama heart just about exploded. We then proceeded to go into the bedroom to nurse for a few minutes before her nap, then I usually have to lie down next to her while she is still awake and sing to her, making sure she doesn’t try to stand up and just play. But this time, after I nursed her and carried her to the crib, her head snuggled into my shoulder, clearly tired. I gently laid her down, expecting her to start whining and waking, but she just laid down, snuggled into the mattress, and fell asleep. I quietly backed out of the room, shut the door, then started to tear up. I mean, this is what we’ve been working towards, her being able to just settle in and fall asleep, but I just didn’t know when it would start. This may have been a fluke, but I know we are moving in that direction, the direction of her growing and learning and becoming more independent. I am so proud of her. This has been such a big step in the way we sleep and our daily routine, and she has shown how strong and capable she is. I can’t help but type this with tears running down my face because I am acutely aware that she is, indeed, growing up. She is still a baby, but becoming a little girl, who will grown into a strong, fierce, gentle woman who will without a doubt change the world and everyone she meets. It is such an overwhelming responsibility to raise her in this crazy world, but more than anything, it is an honour and a privilege.
Happy January! We had our first Christmas as a family of three and it was so much fun! Mabel took things very seriously, but she really did enjoy herself! She loved the little rocking lamb we got her (ok, its actually a bunny, but c’mon! It looks like a lamb with floppy ears, so we’re going with lamb.), even though it sings “You Are My Sunshine” in a semi-creepy tone! We just won’t press that button that often, even though Mabel likes it! We had our Christmas Eve service, then late dinner of tourtière at the in-laws house. Back home for some sleep, then Christmas morning we woke up to open a couple of Mabel’s first presents! The lamb from us, and some blocks from Gramma & Grandpoppa in Missouri (my parents). We stayed in our pjs, packed everything else into the car, and headed up the hill to the in-laws to open the rest of the presents and have brunch. It was a peaceful day filled with family, and it was amazing! Now I will bombard you with cute baby pictures. 🙂
This picture is from our family photo shoot on Christmas Eve morning- I cant get over how cute these two are. They have my heart!
I got to lead worship for our Christmas Eve service-so fun!
Christmas morning . . .
Clearly, she was over presents an needed a nap asap! haha
If you stayed until the end, bless you. And I hope your Christmas was great!
Merry Christmas Eve! I had the opportunity to share my testimony in the local paper this month, and it was such an honour to share the ways that God has changed my life so radically! I thought I would post the article here for you all to enjoy as well. I hope it encourages your heart.
Also, here’s a picture of somewhere sunny, just in case you forgot what it feels like to be warm. 😉
It was supposed to stay a secret. It wasn’t a big deal, really, I tried to tell myself.The world slowly spun around me as I confessed my past to a friend on a sticky, warm summer evening. The street lights burned yellow as I told him of the suppressed memories, years of sexual abuse that I still believed at 19 years old were my fault. This was the first I had spoken of it, feeling shame burn hot in my cheeks as I tried to play it down. I didn’t want to talk about it, but I was desperate for someone to know; it had affected so many areas of my life and become a burden I knew I could no longer carry on my own.
I grew up in the Midwest in a Christian family; church-going, homeschooled, carefully watched over, and what some may describe as “sheltered.” My parents are amazing, loving people and did the best they could to protect us and love us with their all, but sometimes life happens, and an extended family member has the chance to take advantage of a small, vulnerable girl. Because of these years of abuse, I had very skewed ideas about myself, what it meant to be beautiful, how to catch the attention of men, and my identity as a woman but also as a Christian, a daughter of God. I held this secret shame until I couldn’t stand it, then shared it with a few close friends. At this point in my life, I felt no connection to the values I was raised with, fed up with Christians who seemed to say one thing and live out another. I felt I couldn’t share with people who constantly pretended to have their lives together, a shiny veneer on top of whatever was really going on inside them. I have a very clear memory of sitting at my university, talking to God and telling Him I was done; done trying to be a perfect, fake version of myself so I could fit in with others who were also faking it. I was just done. In that stillness that came after I had ranted and cried and given up, I heard God speak to me. He gently brought to mind the ways I could help others, who have less, but also, the ways I could help others with their pasts because of the past I had. I wasn’t sure how I could help people, but that evening I signed up to go to Guatemala with a group that was going to build a hospital for a village. Then a couple months later, I went to Mexico to help build a school for a small town. During these times, I was still wrestling with how my past had anything to do with these people, and though I could offer a helping hand, I still wasn’t sure how my past could affect them.
A few months later, after struggling and figuring out why I believed what I believed, I decided to sign up for a six month Discipleship Training School through Youth With A Mission. Three months of lectures and training in Maui, three months of outreach in Southeast Asia. During these lectures I expected to deal with cross-cultural communication, introduction to the language, and what sort of outreach we would be doing in each village. While we did cover that, we mainly studied through the Bible, learning more about the goodness of God, His holiness, His love, and His Father heart towards us all, as well as our purpose here on earth: to know Him, make Him known to others, and to bring Him glory in all we do. As I studied and grew closer to God, I felt my past creeping in, and the uncertainty of how to believe that something like this could happen to me and believe in the goodness and love of God, believing that He is good all the time. I confided in some of the staff and continued to believe that I was there for some kind of purpose.
During one of the weeks of teachings, we focused on our past hurts and the ways our hearts have been wounded, or ways we have been scarred. We were encouraged to move through the hurts, forgive, and release it, letting go of the baggage we had been carrying on our own. The abuse shot to the front of my mind and clouded everything. Let it go? How was I to do that? It had changed the way I thought about myself, about everything, and I couldn’t just ignore it because what kind of injustice would that be? I cried through gritted teeth as I prayed, telling God that I had to take care of this, I had to be the one to search for justice, because I didn’t trust anyone else to do it for me. I couldn’t let it go because I didn’t believe that I would actually be taken care of if I released it. Hot, angry tears continued to come, and I clenched my fists in refusal. But God, in His faithfulness when I was stubborn, gave me the words from Isaiah 41:10:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
This was a promise. I was scared out of my mind, having believed I was alone in this for years. I didn’t believe that I could ever work through this and be restored, but here was a promise from God that He would be with me. He wasn’t going to let me flounder and figure this out on my own, but He would strengthen me, help me, and uphold me. With Him and through Him, there was a wholeness I hadn’t imagined was possible. He would be with me as I searched and sifted through the lies I had believed about myself, and He would be there to speak His Truth into my heart, reminding me of who I was in Him, as His beloved daughter.
Since that moment ten years ago, God has worked in my heart and in my life so greatly, and I am thankful every day. There are different seasons, times of growing, stretching, and learning more about how to trust and be who I was created to be, and times of rest when I am able to bask in His intense love. It is a journey of healing, and I am now able to see how my past can help others. There are many who may have experienced similar abuse and are lost, feeling shamed and broken, but there is wholeness that can be found in Christ alone. I am forever grateful for His love and the way He changed my life.
Merry Christmas Eve, all. xo
I started to write this post several times, not knowing what words to use, trying on titles such as “Not Enough” and “When I Just Can’t.” But with titles like that, words that have already been over used too many times, and didn’t even accurately describe what I was feeling in those depths, the closed closets inside me. I was getting angry, partially raging hormones, partially frustration of expectations not going as planned. The immature tantrums of a child not getting her way. They never lasted long, just rose unexpectedly and fiercely.
Why would I get so angry at a small being who needed my love and attention? I cringe as I type those words, admitting the growls that rise from within. They seemed to happen when I was just trying to take care of myself, and then it would come again. The need. I was just trying to take care of myself! You know, the whole “self-care” craze that is going on right now? Why was I being punished for trying to take care of myself? Not even anything crazy, just a moment of sleep or the space for a deep sigh. In one of these banters of inner chaos, I felt a word slither our, like a snake revealing what was below.
Stinginess. There was a stinginess in my soul.
My perspective had been skewed by all the chatter of the need for self-care. Mind you, I believe in self-care quite a bit, and I am not ragging on you if you do as well! I’m merely confessing the way my brain took it out of context and made it something it’s not. I had taken self-care and used it as a shield, a way to protect myself from giving with all I have. I had this mental picture of me, holding tightly to some object that wasn’t even that important, refusing to give it up because I felt like it was all I had left. With the realization of this picture, I see that I had bought into a lie, a lie that stated, “There is only so much to go around.” When you believe that, it makes sense to ferociously protect. But the reality is, there is more than enough.
There is more that comes at the end of yourself.
I that picture, I can see myself giving in and releasing what I am holding, then running towards the direction of whoever has pulled it from my grasp and diving headlong, spinning and relishing the joy of overflowing abundance. In many cases, it is towards this small, precious little girl who craves my love and attention in this season of her life. How dare I be stingy with my love for her? I hate the temptation to build a wall between us in the name of protection. I would rather be on the same side, on the same team, living in each others moments and gobbling up every sweet memory.
I write this out as a confession, something I have and continue to struggle with. My tendency is to be selfish because I am human, and I will fight that everyday to live in the overflow of love that comes after I spend all that I think that I have.