Friday, January 9, 2015

On Life...

One year ago today, I had just found out that I was pregnant---just over seven weeks pregnant, to be exact.  A better title for this blog would be "Living the Unexpected Life."  If you're anything like me, you've probably had moments when you thought you had your life perfectly planned out.  God ALWAYS has other plans for our lives---maybe it's a similar plan, with a different timeline.  Perhaps you thought you knew EXACTLY what you thought you'd be doing at this point in time.  I'm here to tell you---I haven't learned yet that God is the one who is deciding my path, and I'm along for the adventure.  I think there are times when I've started to loosen the reigns, only to try to manipulate them back in my favor.  This past year has been revelatory for me in a number of ways.  I've had friendships end, relationships strengthen, and blinders removed.  What I thought was most certainly a path I'd be following for several years ended up deteriorating very rapidly before me, and along with it, a friendship that caused me many a night of tears, anger, and frustration.  As God has been revealing to me, while I may not always understand it, He will always have my best interests at heart.  He is intentional about the people He is placing in my life---whether it's fleeting or more permanent---and I am learning along the way that there are "heart friends" and there are "surface friends."

Suffice it to say that this blog has never been something with which I've pursued with much consistency; however, something about becoming a mother has really impacted my heart and my head and I'm feeling more and more like I have a lot to say and nowhere to say it.  Well, dear audience, here I am.  I'm certain that some days I'll have more to say than others.  I'll have moments to share, books to review, cakes to reveal, truthful and honest entries about marriage, and life, and everything in between.  Life is messy and exciting, as a new mom.  There are days that I feel as though I could conquer the world, but there are just as many where I just want to cuddle our sweet Dashiell and memorize every single part of him so I don't forget these moments in time.  I have spent many a moment, gazing at that sweet face---but now, I know, that as he is growing and becoming more independent (and napping with some consistency!) I have time to myself.  Time where I can put down, into words, what I'm feeling or thinking.  I'll have the opportunity to share what's happening in my life---a book that resonated with me, a date William and I had, or something exciting Dashiell did for the first time.  And sometimes...there will be days when a sentence is all I have in me.

I tend to use my Instagram account often, to share about the changes in me since I found out I was pregnant last year.  The biggest change is my need to be perfect.  I am far from it, and it's been very freeing---almost as though a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulders---realizing that I have been trying for years to attain something that wasn't attainable and simply left me feeling exhausted and incomplete.  I think Arianna Huffington says it well:  "The fastest way to break the cycle of perfectionism and become a fearless mother is to give up the idea of doing it perfectly - indeed to embrace uncertainty and imperfection."

I want Dashiell to see me as a fearless mother.  I want for him to see that it's okay to NOT be perfect, that to experience life completely means trying new things.  Making mistakes.  Approaching life with the attitude that anything is possible.  Loving this little boy has changed me in so many ways, ways in which I'd never thought possible.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are You True?

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
---Proverbs 12:26

I mentioned in the last post that 2013 was a challenging year for our family for several reasons.  Now that I've had some time to look back on the year, one of the things I've realized is that the people who I considered my friends were, unfortunately, friends of convenience.  That is, when I could no longer be the person they thought I was, or refused to protect and guard some very nasty and detrimental issues that were unfolding in our home, I wasn't really worth pursuing as a friend.

I thought I had true friendships.  I cherish the few that I have maintained, and appreciate those more than they will ever realize, because sometimes, a true friend is someone that you never would have thought in a thousand years would be there for you.  I will admit, I have been wrong about people I'd originally thought I'd never begin or maintain a friendship with, and to this day, these are the friendships I value the most---because God was intentional about planting those people in my life, and nurturing and growing those relationships.  They don't disappear.  They'll send a message out of nowhere, and I know I can and will do the same.  They'll tell me the truth in love when they feel I'm not acting according to God's plan, and they'll own up to their errors and shortcomings.

So, then...what makes a true friend?  Do your friends make you feel needed and encouraged?  Make you want to be a better person?  More confident?  Or do you feel worse after being around them, even when things are going well in your life?  Do they put you down or make you feel worthless?  Do they root you on and encourage you?  Even if they don't necessarily agree with what you're doing, or understand, do they provide support, or better yet, share the truth in love?  Push back on you when they feel you're not doing what they believe God intends for your life?

What about being a good listener?  This is a HUGE part of friendship, and one that I feel has been out of balance for me, especially last year.  Don't get me wrong---I think there are times in friendships when we give more than we take, and that's just the nature of things.  But last year?  I felt like a dumping ground for people's problems---in fact, it pushed me over the edge and deep into the pit of despair.  Several months, I was under that muck in the pit.  The depression was like a wet blanket, so heavy I couldn't breathe.  I didn't guard my heart.  I forgot to put on the full armor of God.  Those arrows from the Enemy?  Right where it hurt.

It's not just about being a good listener---it's about being an active listener.  Put down your phone.  Silence it, turn it off, do whatever you have to do to FOCUS.  Make eye contact.  Nothing feels worse than feeling like you're a burden---unless, of course, it's feeling like you're unimportant because your "friend" is constantly looking over your shoulder or checking things out around you, all with the intent of finding someone else with whom they HAVE to connect.

How is your communication?  The key to all relationships is communication, and if you're as great of friends as you believe to be, you should be able to share your feelings and maintain levels of open and honest dialogue.  I'll admit, right now there is an area of my life that I don't feel like I'm doing a great job with a friend of ours.  I disagree, on so many levels, on a situation in this person's life, and my disappointment in them as a person is paralyzing.  I've lost so much respect for this individual, but I realize the responsibility is mine to communicate to this individual the fact that I don't agree with the detrimental choices being made.  I know that after removing myself from being so close to the situation, I will have the perspective I need to respectfully communicate my feelings and thoughts.

What about gossip?  Do the majority of your friends gossip about other people?  Guard your heart, because there's a good possibility that if your "friend" spends a majority of the time talking about other people, those other people aren't the only victims of your "friend's" gossip.

Finally, MAKE time to nurture and grow those friendships and most importantly, STICK TO YOUR WORD.  I have always said that I don't want to be someone who says I'm going to do something, and then backs out.  Are there circumstances sometimes that we cannot control?  Life gets in the way, and interrupts our plans.  Regardless, if we say we're going to do something, then DO IT.  Re-schedule.  Include your friends in your life---don't isolate yourself.  Don't make promises you can't keep.  Don't say things you don't mean.  Most importantly, don't say things you can't take back---because even if that friendship doesn't survive, those words still will and have the power to destroy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Creating a Life Story

Is your life a story worth telling?  I re-read these words this morning when I was completing today's assignment for Priscilla Shirer's "Jonah:  Navigating a Life Interrupted."  I have had plenty of experiences in my life that are worth sharing, but at the end of the day, what sort of legacy am I creating?  Is this life one I'm proud of living, and sharing, and most importantly---telling?  Will I be proud to share this story with my family and friends, my babies?  And finally, if I'm not there yet, what will it take for me to create a life that has a story worth telling?

The last year has been quite a roller coaster ride---we have had a few long term houseguests, unemployment, a new company created, a pro card earned and professional competitions entered---and at the end of the day, one thing has been constant.  God has never turned his back on me, even when I've hit my breaking point.  In fact, I believe that it's at my breaking point that God has been able to do the most work with me.  One of the things I shared last week in my women's group is that I don't feel as though we should be ashamed or scared to tell our stories about how God has transformed us, precisely at a time where we felt the least useful to Him.  In fact, if someone had shared how God had used her during a time of crisis, I feel like I would have found encouragement in this rather than despair.  

What are you doing to create a story that is worth telling?

A few years ago, I created a list of 52 things I wanted to do in one year's time, which set some pretty unrealistic expectations on myself---a perfectionist who holds herself to such high standards that anything less feels like a failure.  About a year after that, while crossing some items off the list---learning how to surf, swimming in an ocean, making homemade preserves, and going to Build-A-Bear to name a few---I came to the realization that rather than try to accomplish these experiences at a frantic pace, it would be better to continually add items to the list throughout my life.  Some items won't always stay on the list, and some I'll discover aren't really priorities or desires of my heart.  Some may be unrealistic, and others may come to fruition thanks to the grace of God.  Regardless, these experiences are going to be creating MY story---a story worth telling.

Because I want to be completely honest and transparent, I'll share a few of the items I do plan on accomplishing this year.  I believe in accountability, to myself, to God, and to my family and friends.  With that being said, here are a few of my wishes to accomplish in 2014:
  • Establish a yoga practice---attend or practice at home at least once weekly
  • Read the collection of Jane Austen novels that's been taking up space in my bookcase for years
  • Make S'mores with William---baking the graham crackers, making the marshmallows from scratch---for his first S'mores experience
  • Visit family more often
  • Rekindle my love of crafts, especially sewing
  • Read the remainder of the Harry Potter books and watch the movies (this is something William and I have decided to do together)
  • Read three books I loved in high school (okay, so a lot of the items so far are about reading...)
  • Restore or repurpose a piece of furniture, using Pinterest inspiration
  • Join a Bible study
I'm thrilled that I've already been able to accomplish one of the items on my list---joining a Bible study.  I had visited the website for a nearby church more times than I can count on one hand, and was thrilled to discover they were offering a study on the book of Jonah.  Priscilla Shirer is such an inspirational and well-spoken leader in women's ministry, and I'm fortunate to be studying both Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted, as well as Gideon: Your Weakness, God's Strength.  I know His timing on these two were perfect, as we're in a season where I feel as though these studies were written for me, personally.  Isn't that how it always is?

As I go about my week, I want to imprint these verses on my heart.  I want to create a life that is worth sharing my story, and I know I cannot (and do not want) to do it on my own strength.

 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
---Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year, New Me

Resolutions:  the act of determining upon an action or course of action.  I used to make New Year's resolutions.  I'd be pretty consistent for a short time, and then I'd forget about it.  I wasn't ever one of those people who resolved to lose 10 pounds, or quit smoking (because it's not something I've ever started!), but I have made resolutions to change attitudes, or lifestyle, or adopting certain behaviors.

One thing is consistent:  I repeatedly vow, and fail, that I'm going to blog consistently.  I do everything else consistently---pray, train, eat, bathe, love on my puppies, communicate with family and friends, attend church, volunteer---but sometimes the blank canvas and the vulnerability with which I try to put myself out there is MUCH scarier than making a lifestyle change.

I know it's not a contest.  I'm not going to have 18,000 followers, and run contests, or even ever become sponsored.  And I'm pretty okay with that.  Instead, I'm going to focus on the things that I love---baking, reading, praying, volunteering, my puppies, and my friends and family.

2013 is going to have lots of fun and exciting things going on.  New and scary and big adventures.  Lifestyle changes, family changes, fitness changes.  I'm going to have success in some areas, and areas for improvement, and hopefully enjoy the process.

I can promise complete honesty and transparency, but I don't know that I'm ever going to be one of those people who can blog five times a week, or at least until I have some new and exciting things to write about. :)

Until the next time...which may be tomorrow, or may be next week?!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hanging On

Most of us have a tendency to hang on to one thing or another---I'm guilty of it.  I've kept jeans long past the point where they should have been worn, several sizes too big with holes in inappropriate places, held together by threads.  They were what I referred to as my "sweatpant jeans."  The denim had grown so soft that instead of the denim they originally were, it felt like brushed cotton.  Those jeans were my adult security blanket.  Not surprisingly, I disposed of those jeans when I bought my home, ended a relationship, and essentially became an adult.

I'm bringing up the topic of "hanging on" because I spent the past hour or so going through our master bathroom cupboards.  With a garbage bag.  Tossing make up that was purchased several years ago, old contact cases (if I told you the number of cases W has collected over the years, you wouldn't believe me), half used travel toothpaste/mouthwash/fill-in-the-blank---you name it, we had it under those cupboards.  I've been inspired by Pinterest.  Not so much to make over my bathroom, but to get things cleaned up.  We're hoping at some point in the near future to move into a larger home, and it's easier to get rid of things sooner rather than later, right?  I'll keep telling myself that.

While none of those items I collected today had any sentimental value, I know that sometimes, the things we hang onto are our versions of security blankets.  Maybe it's clothing that's too big for you, but disposing of it makes the fact that you're a slimmer version of yourself that much more of a reality.  And that can be scary sometimes.  It could even be something as trivial as a friend on Facebook, someone with whom you no longer have any desire to maintain a relationship with, or simply need to dispose of that false friendship to move on with your life.  I've gotten rid of both, past and present, and initially it feels scary but what I've been teaching myself is that I'm constantly trying to grow into a better version of me.

What are you hanging on to?  What would it take for you to let go, and be okay with letting go?  I challenge you this week to clean house---literally or metaphorically---and get rid of something that's holding you back from becoming the best YOU that you are capable of becoming.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Making Time

Schedule:  what is it?  According to a definition I found online, it's: A plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times. In other words, it's something I need to create for myself when it comes to this blog.  I'm carving out an hour each day.  Yes, one ENTIRE hour, Monday through Friday, to think about the direction in which I want this blog to go.

Tomorrow, I'll start posting on my latest adventures and another pursuit I've been more diligent about:  One New Thing.  In my 30th year, I decided to create an ongoing and constantly expanding bucket list.  While I did try a lot of new things last year, with a full-time class schedule and work, I simply ran out of time to do the things I'd set out to do.  

In the new year, I revisited this list.  I revised it, removed some items, added others, and have been really consistent about trying One New Thing a week.  Some of them will be ongoing, while others will be a one time thing. 

Another thing I've been considering is moving this blog over to WordPress.  Many of the bloggers I follow also use WP, and I think it may be easier for me to learn and do some of the many fun things I've been wanting to do over there.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, March 10, 2012

One New Thing...

One of the things I vowed to do last year was create a bucket list---at the time, I thought it would be fun to try and pursue completing this bucket list within 2011.  When I started checking items off that list, though, I realized that I enjoyed trying new things.  It took me outside of my comfort zone, and I had some really memorable experiences in the process.  Rather than have "The Year of 52" which is what I'd originally set out to do, I've turned it into a lifelong bucket list.  I have revised that list, removing some items and adding others.  A few of the items I'll get to experience in the next few months include using my passport, another activity to help me with my fear of heights (that will hopefully NOT result in broken digits), a few creative projects for other people (which means wiping the dust off my sewing machine, finally!), and trying out some new spa treatments.  I'd love to say that I'm going to take pictures of all of these, because another thing on my bucket list is to get comfortable with staging photos, etcetera; however, this won't be the case for some of the items. :)  Trust me on this one.

I foresee a photography class in my very near future, as I've always admired photography as an art form.  While one of my bucket list items was to run a half or full marathon, I've realized that my body is not cut out to do that sort of work---I know I can train for it, and that just because I don't think I'm a runner doesn't mean that I can't do that sort of intense physical activity.  I truly believe that my feet aren't cut out to endure that sort of repetitive punishment.  After suffering two broken feet in as many years, I'm vowing to run a race, any distance...and my friend from culinary school, JF, invited me to join Team Glitter for the Diva Dash here in Austin near the end of April.  THIS is totally out of my comfort zone.  It's an obstacle course, but not crazy like Tough Mudder, or some of the other obstacle courses out there that you're lucky to finish alive.  

One of the things I'd like to do here on this blog in the next year is share my "One New Thing" that I've tried during the week.  It may not be earth-shattering or monumental, but it will help me with my commitment to continue challenging myself on a personal basis.  

I'm thoroughly bummed that I didn't post pictures of our soup buffet feast from last Saturday night.  I had a periodontal laser therapy treatment twice last week, putting me on a liquid diet for about two weeks.  Most of my friends and family know that I've been trying to live mostly animal-product free, and I had the opportunity to experiment with smoothies and soups.  I came across a fabulous soup website last weekend, , and we tried a few of the blended soups.  I hadn't had lentil soup in over 20 years, and the recipe I used was so amazing that I ate it the next day.  Cold.  Straight from the refrigerator.  We also had a Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup that was so yummy that my mouth is watering all over again.  The third was pretty unremarkable---but there's not much you can do to perk up Cauliflower and Potato Soup, amiright?

I baked W a loaf of Homestyle Whole Wheat Bread from the King Arthur Flour website that apparently I found a while ago, because I can't seem to find it on their website now!  It utilized mashed potato flakes, dry skim milk, and fresh orange juice.  It was a hit with The Husband, and I figured because I had the supplies that I'd bake another loaf while he was traveling.  Instead, I perused my cookbook collection and came across a Hearty Country Bread that starts with a sponge and is a labor intensive project...but one that I believe he'll thoroughly enjoy.

If you have a stand-up mixer and haven't yet challenged yourself to baking yeast bread from scratch (trust me, once you've made yeast bread with your mixer, you won't go back to using your hands), please do!  It's so simple, and the smell of fresh bread baking in the house is definitely worth the work.

Until next time....which will happen very quickly, as I've had a few other "one new thing" experiences this week! :)