Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bring on the Bucket List

Every year (especially since we started homeschooling) we plan out a bucket list for the summer.  Not sure if it's the need for change, excitement, or just the thrill of checking things off a list. Regardless of whether we accomplish everything or not, I pray for rest, for new memories, for rekindling summer traditions, and to look back with no regrets.  

Here's our 2016 Summer Bucket List!

Go:  To the Soda Shop in Pittsboro

Try:  Drive-in movie theater and $1 summer movies

Read:  At a different library or bookstore each week
Play:  At a pool or park that we've never been to
Eat:  Smores a lot!
Explore:  Two museums

Make:  Mini Water blobs
Ride:  Kayaks with Daddy

Send:  Watercolor postcards

Cook:  Healthy recipes on Thursdays 

See:  Baseball game (Mudcats or Bulls)
Create:  Canvas Art
Do:  More rollerskating and bowling (on Mondays)
Give Back:  Donate & sort books for WLFJ or Dorcas Ministries
Grow:  Flowers or herbs from seeds
Travel:  To Williamsburg & Charlotte 
Watch:  And learn about the Olympics

Even though this list was made over a month ago and it's fun to check things off, doing the impromptu or someday's nothing at all is ok too.  Water balloons & ice cream with Daddy, picking blueberries at a local farm, and day trips to the beach have already filled our summer days with memories 


Friday, June 3, 2016

What I've Learned from Ma, Mary Poppins, and Marmee

Reading aloud with my girls is probably one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling.  Over the last several months, we have been reading Little Women (very slowly... it's deep!), Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear, listening to the Little House series in the car, with a sprinkling of poetry in the midst of all that.  Within these books are lessons galore!  But this post is focused on the three main women in these books and what I've learned from Ma, Mary Poppins, and Marmee.  

In boarding school, we were only allowed to watch one hour of television a week and that usually consisted of an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  It was during this weekly hour that my admiration for Ma began.  She reminded me so much of my own mother.  Ma always seemed so patient, desiring the best for her girls, rarely raising her voice, fully supportive of Pa and affirming him as the head of the family.  She was resourceful, knowing how to make or use items found with the little they had, always willing to learn new things, and thoughtful of family and neighbors.  I honestly can’t remember if I ever read the books as a child.  But when my girls were really little we read through the series in the evenings and I think I loved the books more than they did.  Now as we listen to them in the car, the wisdom and courage that flows from Caroline Ingalls amazes me! 

Mary Poppins… It’s a name that has always brought a smile to my face, not sure if it was the British accent or the disciplined way of doing things.  But I realized this year that it stems from my view of the movie and not from the book.  I have always thought that the book is better than the movie, except in this case.  I read Mary Poppins (for the first time) to my girls last month and was truly disappointed.  I hope this is not a spoiler for others, but Mary Poppins taught me all the things that I desire not to be:  prideful, quick tempered, arrogant, distant, and unapproachable.  She would care for the children only as a job, not with a sincere desire for them to grow.  There was very little grace within her.  I find myself often acting a lot like Mary Poppins: always wanting to be right in the eyes of my children, impatient, and unkind.  Oh, how I wish to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger... 

Marmee...  Once again, I realized that I had never read the entire unabridged version of Little Women.  I have always loved the movie, but in this case, the book is even better!  We are still not finished with the book, mainly because it is 777 pages long (seriously!) and is not an easy read.  The tears that have been shed (from an unnamed mother) from reading the wisdom of Marmee who was such a strong and independent woman.  She learned the gift of having an even stronger husband, one who could be her team mate, friend, and protector.  She was honest, yet kind to her little women.  She gave correction, but not without examples and transparency of her own previous struggles.

This is such a short summary of my opinion of these women. Others may view them differently.  So often I feel that I have to read the self-help books to challenge myself, but there is so much to learn through the classics, children's literature, and even poetry. But none of this can happen unless we read.  Read aloud with delicious food near by, read in different places, read books that inspire and encourage, and try to focus on quality literature.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When Your Baby is no Longer a Baby...

I write this a week after my littlest's 6th birthday.  With each new season, I give up a past one.  A few years ago, I no longer had toddlers, then the preschool years were gone, and now as she turns 6, my baby is no longer a baby and my heart hurts.  

I write this with less raw and much more peace.  When we first started our little family almost twelve years ago, I thought we would have four children (all boys!) and even after my third little girl was born, I constantly had this feeling that someone was still missing. But God has not allowed us to have another one and for years, it has left an ache within me. Month after month of "no." Yet, how can I complain with three beautiful, healthy children?  I must daily choose joy and count His blessings.  How blessed I am!

So I write this as a tribute to my baby who will always be my baby and to other mamas out there who may struggle too.

To the mama who has yet to hold her first baby...
The desire is so strong, so consuming.  Don't stop holding on to hope and to His promises.  Remember the man beside you may be hurting too.  Let nothing cause a wedge to come between you. When the words and pictures of others hurt, try to remember it's not their intent to rub it in, they simply don't know, nor understand.  I can say this because I once was one of them and may still fall short.

To the new mama...
I know it's tough, it's lonely at times, and you think this season will never end.  I know you're tired of hearing the wiser ones tell you to cling to the moments, that the days are long and the years are short. It's true.  But my advice is to see that baby you hold in your arms, the one that wakes you countless times in the night, that exhausts you beyond anything you could have imagined... see that little one as your first blessing and possibly your last.  Don't just assume you'll have another baby and you can enjoy cuddles more with the next one.  Savor every moment you can.  

To the mama of preschoolers...
They will learn it all eventually.  Every color will become its own one day and not always blue.  The ABC's and 123's will sound less jibberish and they will graduate from kindergarten without pacifiers.  Let them play, really play!  Read good books, even when there is laundry to fold and dishes to wash.  They'll one day stop asking and that to-do list won't seem as important.  

To mamas like me!
Let's give some grace.  Let's encourage each other when we are discouraged.  Let's stop competing and start completing each other. Let's find ways to be inspired and challenged (especially in God's Word), but not at the expense of our families.  Let's look for the fringe hours to fill up our tanks so the primary hours of our day can overflow with goodness to those we love and are surrounded by.

To the mamas with children all grown up & to women who are like mothers to us...
You are so important!  Us mamas in the thick of motherhood still need you.  We need your wisdom and your advice, even if you think we have it all together.  Google and YouTube can't teach us everything.  How blessed I am to have a mother who continually invests in the lives of me and my sisters!  But there are many who still need such motherly figures to speak the truth in love. 

To all the mamas...
Take notice of the little things.  Count the freckles and capture the quiet moments in your mind (and on camera), so you'll remember them when life seems chaotic.  Praise that man of yours every single time he steps up and leads your family as God has called him to do.  And if he doesn't, then just keep on praying.  

"If I cannot give my children a perfect mother I can at least give them more of the one they've got - and make that one more loving. I will be available.  I will take time to listen, time to play, time to be home, and time to counsel and encourage." - Ruth Bell Graham

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Things that saved me in February...

February was a difficult month for many of us.  The weather was cold, school work seemed tedious, the schedule refused to stop, and sickness seems to be around every corner.  Finding things that made life a little more livable helped me to get through this season. March is now here and we are enjoying the outside with more walks, porch sitting, and open windows.  But here are just a few of the things that got me through the last couple months...


Running outside has not been an option recently due to the weather, Marty's schedule, and let's be honest, I simply haven't felt like it.  So bundled in Marty's old sweatshirt, hoodie in place, I pump a good 20 minutes out in our garage while catching up on some reading.  I just finished my second book this year, thanks to my elliptical!  Win, win!


I love almond butter!  As a vegetarian, I'm always looking for protein options and something to satisfy my sweet tooth.


Judge away if you must, but Sunday's are one of our most stressful days of the week.  Thinking of what to fix for Sunday lunch could easily send me over the edge, so discovering "Kids Eat Free" at Tijuana Flats on Sundays has helped us spend time together as a family and hang out with other families.


Getting away for just an hour or two makes such a difference in my week.  As an introvert that is surrounded by people 24/7, taking some time to refocus really helps me keep going.

There are gobs of other things that I'm loving right now... JJ Heller's newest music, feta cheese, essential oils, my Bible study on Thursday mornings, the list could go on.  

But as my small frame beside my kitchen sink constantly reminds me, I need to choose joy, whether there is feta cheese in my fridge or not, I must choose joy.  The key word is "choose."  There will always be someone who seems to have it better and others to have it worse, so instead of living the comparison trap or floating the waves of guilt, I pray to choose joy, to find the glorious in the mundane.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's a new year...

It's a new year...

New years resolutions, new goals, new desires, new books...

I love the reset of January 1st, looking back and learning from the previous year, yet looking forward to the upcoming one with renewed hope.  New years resolutions can get a bad reputation and honestly this year, I've wondered what's the point?  Every year I try to get to bed earlier and it never seems to happen.  Every year I try to do this and that, and it may get done until about half way through the year, if that.  

Over the past couple weeks, I've taken some time to assess my life using this printable as a guide and really seeking what the Lord would have of me this year.  I really enjoyed looking back at my favorite moments of 2015 (lot's of travel and change!) and yet was challenged by the things lacking in my life - better health and exercise! 

Some of the areas I desire to improve upon are:

 - prayer - My prayer life has been lacking for some time now.  A friend gave me a great spiral journal for my birthday and I've loved filling the front of it with prayer requests, verses on prayer, and literal prayers as I feel the need to write them out.  

- health & exercise - With traveling to two continents last year and moving houses, exercise & eating naturally were put on the back burner.  So this year, they've got to become more of a priority. Specific desires include less carbs & sugar, run two races, and more green smoothies.

 - books - I love to read!!  Yet why do I struggle to finish books? Part of the issue could be due to the fact that we read throughout the day as a homeschool family, but I think one of the biggest culprits is my phone that travels with me everywhere.  It is huge temptation for me to quickly check Instagram, spend who knows how long scrolling through Facebook, read that email really quick, and just browse Pinterest because I'm bored.  I've felt more and more convicted about this.  No concrete ways to remedy this issue yet, but where there's a will there's a way.  

Here is a Reading Challenge put out by Anne Bogel with Modern Mrs. Darcy that I hope to follow and use for accountability.

For those of you with kids, Sarah Mackenzie at Amongst Lovely Things and the Read Aloud Revival podcast has really inspired me and my girls to read aloud more during the month of January.  Just 15 minutes a day!

New books from Amazon always give me a thrill and I'm looking forward to getting to these titles over the next couple of months. 

- Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
- You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan
- The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner 
- Finish The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
- Currently loving Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman

Lastly, I'll leave you with the words of one of my new favorite songs, This Year by JJ Heller

This year I'm not looking back to who I was
Because I'm going to be someone I've never been
This year I'm not focused on the cracks in the walls
Not keeping tract of all the times I fall
This year
So long to last year
It's all becoming so clear
There's no use living in regret
Let's fight a good fight
Train our eyes to see the light
And make this year the best one yet
Starting right here, Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Life after Africa...

It's been exactly a month since my trip to Ghana.  Leaving my family, whether it's just for the weekend in the mountains or across the Atlantic to Africa, is hard!  The older the girls get, the more I miss them, and not having my best friend by my side when I travel is just not as fun.  But this last trip was one without a single regret, with peace through it's entirety, and a week I'll never forget.

Walking off the plane in Ghana felt as though I was walking into a sauna.  Immediately, the differences in culture became obvious as I stood in line waiting for customs.  Nervous feelings arose as I prayed that my luggage would arrive safely and that someone would be there to greet me outside the airport as I knew my sister had just had her baby while I was traveling.  But my worries quickly faded as two blond boys, their daddy, and my sweet mama stood out among the crowd waiting to take me to the hospital.

What a blessing it was to see Joy and my brand new nephew, Enoch Graham within hours of his birth!  To see the happiness in the big brothers faces as they too met their littlest brother for the first time! My admiration and respect for my sister only sky rocketed as I took in the conditions of the hospital (which was one of the best in the area).  

My main purpose in visiting Joy & her family was to spend some quality time with them, meet my new nephew, and to help entertain Joy's oldest two.  What fun they were!  I was nervous before going, wondering what to do with boys, as girls are what I'm familiar with. But they were such a blessing to play with!  Blankets, super heroes, forts with couch pillows, chalk drawing, and "football" outside were just a few of our daily activities.  

Eating coconut, fresh from a local seller

Spending a week with these little guys did amazing things on my heart.  Quality time with Titus at 4:30 am some mornings made me want to kiss those cheeks all the more.  Listening to Ezra's stories of super heroes, defeating the bad guys, and protecting his mama made me a proud aunt.  Sharing one of my favorite picture books, Roxaboxen and watching the movie, Home, with him multiple times will always bring a smile when I see them again.

The smell of a new baby.  There are no words to describe it.  Tears fill my eyes as I gratefully praise our Lord for allowing me the privilege of holding my newest nephew.  God's timing still amazes me!  My plans are certainly not His plans, but how much better His are!

Having my mama in Ghana was a God-send as well.  Anyone that knows her realizes how incredible she is.  To travel around the world to witness the birth of her 8th grandchild (as she hasn't missed a birth yet!), she is quick to step into any role (cook, dishwasher, laundry lady, story-teller, playmate, and so much more). 

One of the trash trucks

A man carrying three bundles of water sachets

Ghana is like no country I've ever visited before.  The poverty, the dirt, the heat...  Pictures and even videos can't even begin to cast a glimpse of life in Ghana.  Even my stay there couldn't accurately show me the day to day life my sister and her husband have been living for the last year.  While staying at the guest house, I had the luxury of warm showers (even though sometimes I chose the cold water), a washing machine and dryer, constant electricity when every other street around that block has scheduled power outages, and not a single mosquito bite!  Everything we did was an "experience."  Riding in a car or taxi was an experience.  Ryan has adapted so well to the traffic there.  He does such a great job maneuvering through all the cars and people! Shopping is an experience.  Bartering in the market was quite thrilling (and sweaty!)  Even attending church was an experience.  Hearing the sermon in two languages, both of which were difficult to understand, and the length of the service made that Sunday one that I'd never forget.  

The yard outside the guest house

Typical housing

Pounding out fufu

You buy just about anything on the streets.

As I mentioned earlier, life as a missionary in Ghana cannot be fully comprehended unless you observe it first hand.  Washing dishes must be done with boiling water, first in the wash bucket then in the rinse.  None of this "quick rinse" under the faucet due to the lack of sanitation.  Same goes for brushing teeth.  Water sachets are always beside the bathroom sinks.  Even buying local eggs involve a process before eating.  Because the eggs are most likely carrying bacteria, they must be dry scrubbed before rinsing under water as egg shells are porous and will absorb the bacteria with water if it's not removed first.  Things we never even think of here.

Dry season arrived while I was there, which was a blessing concerning the lack of mosquitoes, but it also brought with it a haze across the sky due to the sand coming off of the Sahara Desert, and constant dust that covered furniture in the house.  These are only a few of the day to day tasks that are so very different from what we experience in the states.

The time I had with Joy will never be forgotten, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  She truly lives out her name (even when life seems unbearable).  Daily, the Lord showed me ways to pray more specifically for Joy and her family.  Life as a missionary is hard. You can't soften it or really describe it.  It's just hard, yet God is still good.  When He calls, He will equip, even if it only seems on a moment by moment basis.  God taught me more than I thought possible through this trip.  He opened my eyes to my own selfishness, to my complaining heart, to my petty desires, and my need for pure contentment in Him.  

P.S. These three girls were amazing while I was away!  
So thankful for Facetime!