Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Simple Indulgence - Review and Giveaway for The Simple Soap

I don't know about all of you, but I am jacked up about school starting today. Sure, I only have one kid heading out today and I have to figure out how to get his two brothers to their two respective completely different schools at totally different areas of town at the exact same time I'm supposed to be at work, but ohyeahthatsright....they start on different days.

Just another dose of fun around here, friends.

But we made it. Summer is in the books and I'm shipping these boys off to school. In my book, that deserves a glass of red wine and a little extra fist bump to my fellow mamas out there who also just barely held on by their fingernails for these last couple weeks.

We deserve a little pampering at this point, don't you think?

I'm there for ya.  Now, if you've been around here for a while you know I'm not exactly the organic-obsessed granola-crunchy type, but I'm going to go ahead and admit that this little treat I've got for you today is very simple, organic, and indulgent all at the same time.

Website - www.thesimplesoap.com 

I don't do a lot of giveaways around here.  It's just not really my thing.  But when Emily from The Simple Soap contacted me about offering up three of these delicious soaps to you and I thought about the summer we've had doing ALL THE THINGS with the kids and work and playdates and pool days and sunscreen and late nights and early mornings and everything else....I decided it was a great idea. 

My vision for you is that you actually indulge in a shower of a full ten minutes someday so you can fully enjoy this soap.  :)

Here's how The Simple Soap describes their products:

The Simple Soap is made from the finest organic ingredients.  We combine natural palm, coconut and olive oils with herbs and essential oils to provide long lasting, fragrant and luxurious feeling soaps.  Our soaps are not made with perfumes and additives that tend to dry out and irritate the skin.  When our customers use The Simple Soap they can be confident that they are making a healthy choice for both their families and the environment.

Got it? Organic, natural, healthy. Oh, and it smells good.  :)

Now, here's what I think of this stuff.


When I opened up the box, I was struck by how yummy the soap smelled. Not overpowering, just indulgent. I was especially excited about this Organic Creamsicle bar. It has a light citrus scent that convinced me it was the one I wanted to try out first. 

I have super-dry skin. So dry that I often take off black dress pants and have to shake out the dead skin that coats the inside of my pant legs.  Sexy, huh? Welcome to my life. I'm very skeptical of soaps and body washes and stuff because the last thing I want to do is dry my skin out even more.

To test out this bar, I put on my exfoliating shower glove that I use about twice a year when I actually remember that I own it and lathered it up with this soap. It rinsed clean and didn't leave any filmy residue, but I was most impressed by how it didn't dry out my skin at all! My skin felt soft all day and I could still detect the subtle scent hours later. 


In addition to the Creamsicle soap, I also got bars of Organic Lemongrass and Organic Fresh Aloe.


The Lemongrass is definitely the strongest smelling of the three soaps, but in a good way.  My husband really loves lemon desserts, so I think this one will be a hit in our house. By contrast, the Aloe is very very subtle. It's very close to having no scent at all, but instead just smells.....soft. Does that even make sense? 

When is someone going to invent smell-o-blogging?

Get Me Some Soap!

The Simple Soap is offering their products via a new subscription service that sends out a box of three organic, handmade bars of soap. With over 20 amazing scents, each month's soap is sure to surprise you. A single bar of soap will usually be enough for one person for an entire month. The attractive soaps are perfect for everyday use in the shower or by the sink and also make an amazing gift idea. There is also an option for a 2-bar per month box. Go get signed up here

Giveaway!

Let's be honest...this is the best part. One lucky winner will score their own box featuring three bars of these hand-crafted organic soaps. Sweet, right?!  Enter below to win!


Disclosure - The Simple Soap provided the product for my review and for the giveaway, but all opinions are my own.





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Surrounded



I dropped the ball recently.  Not just a slight miscommunication, forgot to send the birthday card until a day too late, tossed a red shirt in with the whites kind of misstep.  No, this was a feelings hurt, tears shed, angry words spoken kind of mistake that had me hanging my head in disbelief that I could be so brainless and inconsiderate.

Ever had that moment?

It feels like a ball of lead dropping into your stomach followed by an immediate choking sensation followed by a panic attack.

My first impulse is to go into damage control mode.

I picked up the phone, admitted my mistake and apologized profusely, but it didn't take long for me to understand that the problem doesn't really lie in my error.

I've been studying the idea of greatness for a writing piece I'm working on.  The central Scripture of the piece is Matthew 22 where Jesus responds to the Pharisees and their question about which commandment is the greatest.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  -Matthew 22:37-39

Love God.
Love people.

Seems simple enough, doesn't it?

By loving people, we demonstrate our love for God.  If we truly love God, we will love on his people. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Our family has been going through a time of transition. I have gone back to work at a day job which has brought about a whole new set of childcare challenges.  My husband is on the brink of another trip to China. All three kids are about to be in school, at three different schools, on different days and times. I started doing more work from home.

In a way, it's felt like standing in the eye of a hurricane. I can see all these things swirling around me and I'm very much entrenched in the middle of it, just trying to keep focused and centered to avoid being swept away.

My problem isn't that I can't manage the storm. My problem seems to be that I don't have anything left of myself to give to people.

I forget to make phone calls to chat with family.
I fail to make time to text someone just to check on how she's doing.
I don't drive up for a visit as often as I should.
I completely space on inviting someone very important to my son's birthday lunch.

So this is my call for grace.  This is my plea for forgiveness and for patience. This is my attempt to humble myself, to admit I'm a massive failure in this area, and to ask you to bear with me. You see, Jesus made it clear that we are called to serve others and that's what I've been trying to do...I need you to believe that. Where I've gone wrong is that in the process of trying to work hard to serve my family, my friends, my church, my job(s), and my community, I have struggled to maintain healthy boundaries that keep me from stretching myself too thin. Jesus had a much more hectic schedule than I do and he modeled how important it was to rest, to recharge, and to not allow himself to drain everything out to everyone for everything they felt they needed.

This morning I read the story in Mark 5 about the woman who pushed through the crowd surrounding Jesus just to touch his clothes, believing that it would heal her. Jesus is being pressed on all sides by throngs of people with illness and diseases, people with sick loved ones, people with needs too numerous to mention. They all wanted a piece of Jesus and they were literally putting the pressure on him to pony up. As he maneuvered his way through the sea of people, he stopped and turned to find the one person who had reached out and touched his garment and dropped everything he was doing to hear her story and call her Daughter. At that moment, she was his priority and he put everything else on hold to attend to her in her crisis.

But Jesus wasn't just out for a morning stroll when all this took place - he was on a mission, already heading on an urgent trip to Jairus's house where his daughter lay dying. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to have been Jairus, a father desperate for anything that might save his beloved child's life. What despair he must have felt when Jesus' attention was diverted to this woman, delaying him enough that his daughter dies in the meantime.

Can you picture it? I can see Jesus, who had the power to heal every single person in that crowd with a word, choosing the priorities from among the crushing collection of needs that surrounded him. Do I think it hurt him to make the conscious choice not to do a sweeping solution to everyone's issue? Yes, I do. And then...he reaches the home of Jairus, where he is about to do the most incredible miracle of his ministry to date...and he tells everyone except his closest disciples to wait outside.

My point is this: I am not Jesus.

Shocking stuff, I know. If there is anyone who has ever walked this earth who could have handled all the pressure of handling all the people and all their things, it's Jesus. He's God and last time I checked, he can do everything. I am about the furthest thing from Jesus possible and there are times, like now for example, when I feel all the things pushing in on me, clamoring for my attention and my efforts and I simply cannot do it all. I am so very imperfect and flawed.

There will be things that have to wait.
There will be needs that are so acute, so urgent, and so significant to me that I will divert my attention from other things, important things, to attend to them. Feelings will get hurt.
There will be people who don't get exactly what they are looking to get exactly when they are looking to get it.
There will be important matters that I forget to attend to simply because I am human and I mess up....a lot.
But there will also need to be time when I just need to ask people to wait outside while I focus on doing something that is really requiring my undivided attention.

That's the place that I'm in right now.

I realize that all this probably made way more sense in my head than it does in these ramblings, but I just had to run outside in my bare feet to capture a toddler who escaped from his bedroom during what is supposed to be naptime and in the process I stepped wrong and ripped a chunk out of my big toe causing me to have to carry a screaming, flailing little boy back to his bed while limping and leaving a trail of bloody footprints in my wake. As I write these words, he is still screaming from his bed, railing at me for disappointing him, for ruining his fun, for not giving him exactly what he wants exactly when he wants it.

And that's ok.

Because right now, my priority is to change the Band-Aid on my toe because it's already bled through the first one and to get myself ready for work.

And to the one who I hurt, who I know is reading this, I again want to tell you how sorry I am that my forgetfulness hurt you. Please believe me when I tell you it was not my intention and I fully accept responsibility for my mistake. I definitely need to be more considerate of your feelings in the future.
I promise to try to do better in making you feel loved and important in my life, but I am asking you to extend me a little grace and understand that if I ask you to wait outside for a bit, it's not because I don't love you.

I hope that makes sense.

Now, I'd better get off the computer and go clean up the blood before work.  Love you guys.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nothing Will Stand


I just took this one shopping for school supplies.  For first grade.

He is currently loving listening to his Daddy read aloud from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  The cartoon versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (circa 1977) have become his new favorites.  He will do whatever it takes to hold the attention of two six-year-old girls long enough to explain to them how Bilbo managed to steal the Arkenstone from Smaug.

When his tummy feels weird, he still wants to cuddle.

Jonathan Lucroy is his favorite Brewers player even though he can't remember what position he plays half the time.  

Tonight in Target, I overheard him refer to something as a "hot mess."

Lord, I love this child.  What a blessing it is to be honored with the opportunity to be his mama.  

Last Sunday our church scrapped the plan to have worship service as usual in favor of dedicating the majority of the time joining together as a church family in prayer for the people affected by the horrible violence taking place in Iraq.  My boy bowed his head and listened as we prayed for the mothers and fathers who had lost their children, for the families fleeing for their lives, for the children who had to watch their parents be murdered.  We prayed for the Christians who refuse to recant, who "stand firm" as Paul has called us to. We prayed for the members of ISIS who persecute them, that somehow they too might come to understand the grace and mercy that can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We didn't use specific language.  We didn't vocalize details.  We didn't have to.  The tears that rolled down my cheeks during prayer let him know something was wrong.  He came with me after church to go pick up balloons for his aunt's birthday party and he was unusually quiet.

Before we went in the store to pick up party decorations, I sat in the car with my six year old and gently explained the concept of genocide and told him that it was happening, right now, to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  I told him that people were being killed, grown-ups and kids alike.  I told him about the people who fled to the mountains to escape persecution and death who were left without food and shelter...but not without hope.

Many may believe that I was wrong to tell my son about these things, even to such a minimal extent.  In the moments that I watched the understanding and fear wash over his sweet face, I will admit that I thought I may have made a terrible mistake.  But I don't want him to think this "Jesus thing" is some sort of free ticket to a life of ease and sunshine and entitlement.  He needs to know that the world we live in is broken and in desperate need of rescue.  He needs to at least get a glimpse of the darkness to understand how he can be a source of light.  

Sin isn't just about the guilt he feels in his tummy when he lies about smacking his brother over the head with a light saber.  Sin is so much more dangerous than that.  So much more destructive and deadly. 

But.

We have hope.  A sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, we have a hope that will not fail.  When my Facebook news feed is covered with updates about genocide, riots, beloved public figures taking their own lives (O Captain, my Captain....) and everyone is standing around with fingers and guns pointed at one another it makes perfect sense to lose hope.  When my phone blows up with text messages and voice mails from a dear friend whose life is turned upside down in a matter of days and suddenly she is left wondering how she can even do life in a way she recognizes anymore, it seems so sensible to blame and rage and resent.  It makes perfect sense.

Thankfully, grace doesn't make any sense at all.

It doesn't make sense that the Son of God would humble himself to die a slow, excruciating death out of abundant love for the very people who hammered nails into his hands.  There is no logic in it whatsoever according to the ways of this world.

How grateful I am that my Savior doesn't play by the rules of this world.  No, he has overcome this world.  No addiction, no hate, no violence, no vengeance, no atrocity, no betrayal is unknown to him and he has crushed them all. Not somewhat, not a little bit, not sort of.  Complete. Finished. Overcome.

It's fine by me if my son realizes the evil that exists in this world.  It makes his God that much more powerful and necessary.  That's the kind of strength I want my son to come to understand that dwells within him.  For if God is for him, who can be against him?  Not ISIS. Not drugs. Not even the mean kid on the playground who calls him names. 

Not even death.

Nothing will stand. 


 






Monday, August 11, 2014

Where I'm At


I know, I know.

The blog has been quiet.  Crickets, really.

This is one of the reasons that I have never hopped on that "Let's use this blog to earn a ton of money" bandwagon.  I just don't have it in me.  I write what's real, what inspires me, and what stresses me out when the words are ready to appear.  Sometimes that doesn't happen every day.

Sometimes it takes two weeks.

Especially on weeks when plans change, nights get later and mornings get tougher, when consuming a total of five cupcakes within a 24 hour period seems like a fantastic idea. 


Not that I did that or anything.

Three of them were those mini cupcakes, so those only count as one and a half. 

I'm overwhelmed by the days of transition ahead - when Camp ends and along with it, my days as a stay-at-home mom.  I'm stumbling my way through the search for a caregiver for my kids without even knowing the difference between a nanny and a babysitter, worrying that I'm going to find someone I love only to discover I can't afford them or that they turn out to be even crazier than me.

In a related matter, next week is my first week at my new job and the coffee shop is closed.  I also have no idea what to wear.  

We ran out of toilet paper.

As in, not a single square to be found in the entire house.  This delightful development took place while our middle son, who has "bathroom issues," was perched on the potty in a rather precarious predicament.  (Couldn't resist the alliteration potential on that one.)

Nothing.  NOTHING will send a morning routine into Code Red faster than running completely out of toilet paper.


I went to a Lady Antebellum concert on Saturday and came about as close as I ever have in my life to getting into a fist fight.  Now by "close," I mean that the mean women in front of me started picking on my friend I was with and my mouth fell open in shock and my brain was racing with thoughts of how to provide them with a much-needed attitude adjustment while avoiding behavior akin to something you might see on an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians.  Fortunately, my quick-thinking, level-headed friend handled herself beautifully and we only had to put up with these obnoxious women for the duration of the entire concert, but at least nobody got punched or thrown out.

My kids are currently watching The Wizard of Oz and asking me tons of questions as they try to reconcile the events and characters with what they already know to be true based on the soundtrack to Wicked.  My middle kid still hasn't come to terms with the fact that Elphaba isn't really evil despite her pursuit of Dorothy with her creepy flying monkey minions and my oldest is more concerned with clarifying that the Scarecrow is in fact the Wicked Witch's secret boyfriend.

Maybe tomorrow we should stick to Frozen and Veggie Tales.

It's been a week of disappointments, celebrations, long days, late nights, sunburns, and puffy eyes.  I'm kind of in a place where I have so much that I want to write about that I feel paralyzed about even where to begin.  A long overdue Stitch Fix post?  A recap of the fattening food we ate in Savannah?  The tale of the tattoo contest at the Wisconsin State Fair?  All are dancing around in my brain, just waiting to be given the words. 

But right now I'm feeling way too fat from all those cupcakes and way too tired to even try.  Must be the sugar crash.  Thank goodness Woodmans sells those ginormous jugs of Starbucks iced coffee now. 

So that's where I'm at.

How are you? 




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Gift of the Girl Pig


I have this friend I call a girl pig as a term of endearment.

It's so fun to start posts with sentences like that just so I can imagine all of you reading it and going, "Wait.  What?!" and then scrolling back up just to make sure your eyes weren't playing tricks on you.  Fun for me.

But yeah.  I call her a girl pig.  Love her to death and I rarely use her name anymore.  See, Heather and I were reading The Book Thief at the same time and the step-mother character uses the German term "Saumensch" to refer to the main character, Liesel, a little girl who she takes in during World War II.  It loosely translates to "girl pig" and though it is initially used as a gruff sort of insult, the word eventually becomes coated with love as the novel progresses.

Heather and I both became engrossed in this book and it just sort of happened.  We call one another Saumensch.  It's going to be a hoot sometime when a German speaking customer overhears us and wonders what the heck is going on and why the server just called her co-worker a pig!

All this to say that I love my Saumensch and I also love that notebook she gave me as an early birthday gift.  It was packaged neatly in a blue polka dot bag along with a travel coffee mug that said "Keep Calm and Drink Coffee."  In case you haven't noticed, that's what I do.  I drink coffee and I blog.

I don't post every day and I don't make any money here.  I don't have a calender on my counter with posts planned out a month in advance.  Half the time, I'm making this stuff up as a go which is why it seems like I write about poop a lot.  It's not my fault that my four year old's hands seem to always smell like poop, even if he just washed them.  I mean, I could go in there and personally scrub his hands with industrial strength soap and he still would cram them into his brother's face ten minutes later just to hear him scream, "Miiiiicah!!  You're hands smell like poooooop!!!"

See what I mean?  Always comes back to poop.

This is why I'm excited that my girl pig gave me this notebook.  I can carry it around with me and jot down all the genius ideas I get for non-poop related blog posts.  It's going to be epic.  I can use arrows, bullet points, and other fancy punctuation to get my super-blogger crap together and write the kind of stuff that blows your mind.

Or I can just keep writing about blow-outs.  And not the fancy salon kind either that costs you $60 without a scissors even touching your hair, oh no.  I'm talking about the kind that make you breathe through your mouth and stifle your gag reflex.

At least I write about the Bible and stuff in between the posts about poop, food, how tired I am, how messy my house is, and how I sometimes think babies resemble serial killers.

How's that for variety?

Glad you're here.  Grab a coffee and stay a while.  You're among friends.

(By the way, that's an affiliate link I used on the book's name so if you were to buy it after clicking that link I would earn like a third of a penny or something, rendering that entire middle paragraph of this post a total lie.  Just though you'd like to know.)



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Deep Breaths.



I'm breathing.

The breeze is blowing through the windows and the patio door while the big kids play outside with the neighbors and Thomas naps in his new big boy bed complete with train bedding.  I'm pretty sure there is a a Styrofoam plane stuck up in a tree in the front yard and the kid from down the street already came inside and had me looking for the tiniest screwdriver I own so I could open up the remote controller for his helicopter so he could change the batteries.  The dog is napping next to me, his belly turned skyward.  A bit of a headache knocks at the back of my eyes, but I'd rather stay put and enjoy this moment than get up to rummage through the medicine box that resides all the way in the master bathroom which would require me to wade through the chaotic clutter in my bedroom. 

Nope.  I'm just going to stay right here for a bit.

And breathe.

Type....and breathe.

It wasn't so long ago that I wrote about feeling suffocated and how the craziness of our schedules didn't allow for much time for writing, reading, or much of anything at all.  All it took was for God to start doing that crazy God-thing he does and I found myself with two new jobs, submitting a new availability sheet at the restaurant that cuts two shifts out of my schedule to allow for more family time and more time built in for writing.

Freelance writing that can be done at home.
Assisting in the administration of a global men's ministry.  

Both jobs that will utilize the gifts God has given me in a way that brings Him glory and allows me more time to breathe.

There is no way for me to find the words to express the depth of my awe at God's provision in this moment.  I've been saying to my husband for months now that somehow I just knew that I wasn't going to wind up in a public school classroom when the time came for me to go back to work.  There was no doubt in my mind that God was leading me to something else.  I could go through all the crazy details of how this whole thing unfolded and how I initially turned down even applying for the assistant job because my schedule wouldn't allow it only to find out that it was still available weeks and weeks later.  I could tell you about how the freelance writing opportunity was literally dropped in my lap with no warning, no application, no interview. 

I called my husband and told him through happy tears that I had just been hired for my very first paid writing position.

He brought me flowers to congratulate me. 


Next comes the challenging task of trying to coordinate my new work schedule with the school schedules of all three boys and finding childcare that I can afford.  As soon as I told my mother-in-law the news of my jobs, she advised me that it wouldn't be long before things wouldn't look as promising.  She told me that I would start to look at the numbers and find that they didn't add up and that the income probably wouldn't account for all the expenses.  It would appear that it wasn't going to work.

Trust God, she said.  Trust that if he brought you to this place, that he will follow through.

I remembered her words as I calculated the cost of childcare and the loss of income that reduced shifts at the restaurant would bring.  The panic started to rise in my throat and the anxiety immediately began to attack me.

Trust God, she said.

I'd be willing to bet that the Israelites were pretty stoked when they got the email that Pharaoh had finally relented and was going to let them leave Egypt.  I'm sure they tweeted all their pals and "liked" the heck out of that Facebook post before packing their suitcases and strapping on their hiking sandals for the journey.  But God led them directly into an impossible situation, trapped between an advancing army and an impenetrable sea.  In all honesty, I would have lost faith at that point too.  So much for good news!  So much for freedom and blessings!  God didn't finish what he promised! 

Wrong.

So wrong.

So my prayer now is that I will continue to trust that God will finish what he started, that he won't abandon me with the way blocked.  A dry path will appear and I just need to be ready to keep walking forward...taking deep breaths with every step.

(The kids have migrated inside and are now engaged in a round of Hide and Seek that I'm sure is going to wake up the baby.  Time to kick 'em out, pop some Aleve to ditch the lingering headache, and blow off dinner prep to take a quick cat nap.)




Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, Mid-afternoon

Me:  I need to sit down and write a blog post before I leave for work.

Sick Me:  Know what you need to do?  Take a nap. 

Me:  Sure, sure.  And after the nap I'll go to the bathroom uninterrupted and then walk barefoot to my spotless kitchen without stepping on a single Lego and drink an entire cup of coffee while it's still hot.  As long as we're dreaming, why not??

Sick Me:  I'm sensing your sarcasm, but my throat hurts too much to snipe back.  Consider this coughing fit my snarky retort.

Me:  Knock that off.  I have to work tonight and I can't be coughing on anyone's food.

Sick Me:  Oh frick.  I work in food service.

Me:  Duh.

Sick Me:  I quit.

Me:  Buck up, Buttercup. 

Sick Me:  I want to punch you. 

Me:  Quit bugging me.  I still need to come up with something to blog about before work.

Sick Me:  Fine.  If you need me, I'll be asleep on the couch.  Wake me up when you've gotten over your Crazy.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Photo Stream Malfunctions

I totally realize this falls under the heading of First World Problems, but I'm getting really fed up with my Photo Stream not working.  I thought it was just an issue with my old iPhone 4s getting worn out since it was starting to show some other signs of fatigue on top of it, but I guess I was wrong.  It had been working just fine for months and months, but out of nowhere and without changing any settings the photos from my phone just stopped being pushed through Photo Stream onto my PC.  I had to periodically hook my phone up to the computer and manually move them over via a USB cord which, I admit, isn't that horrible of a thing.  Just annoying.

So, I just got an iPhone 5s a couple weekends ago and I hoped that would solve the issue.  No good.  The photos I take still aren't showing up on Photo Stream, which now is just starting to infuriate me.

Yes, I've tried to Google this problem and I've attempted pretty much every solution I can find.  Nothing has worked.  Any tech geniuses out there have some sort of secret iPhone wisdom I can use to solve this problem?

In other exciting news, I discovered mystery poop on the floor of my classroom today while we were teaching the gospel.

Good times. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

It is In Vain (The True Side of the Story)

Praise God for birthday parties at the pool that double as cheap babysitting, nearby Starbucks with free Wifi, and a husband who suggests I bring along the computer "just in case" I don't need to stay at the party because I might be able to do some writing.

Hallelujah.

Quite honestly, I don't really know how these "real writers" do it.  It's an incredible feat just for me to carve out the time to write the occasional blog post, let alone chapters and pages that make some sort of cohesive sense.  If I think too hard about all the obstacles that stand in the way of my bucket list dream of publishing a book.....well, let's just say that I suddenly feel like I'll need something stronger than this Shaken Peach Green Tea Lemonade.  (Which is delicious, by the way.)

I owe you a lot of posts - a recap of the food of Savannah to supplement the run-down I gave you of Tybee Island, the story of how we took our kids camping for the first time, a review of the last few Stitch Fix boxes that I have sorted through and then haven't had the time to write about, my decision whether to get another tattoo or not, and finally some sort of open call for advice on how to get my four year old to quit crapping his pants.

Like I said, lots to write about.

Today I want to take full advantage of the kid-free time I've been gifted along with the Venti Iced Peach Tea that I got for free because the barista forgot to put the lemonade in it the first time and write about something that has been really important to me over the last several weeks and to give you Part Two to the topic I introduced last week.



PSALM 127.

Remember how only a few days ago I wrote about getting up earlier in the morning so I could make the best use of as much time as possible for writing, working, reading, studying, exercising?  I got sick and tired of feeling like I didn't have enough time to do ALL THE THINGS and decided to do something about it.  I set my alarm for 5:10 am and rolled out of bed with a "suck it up, Buttercup" mantra. In the efficiency department, I felt like I was killing it and I was so thankful that God had given me a way to find more time to do all the things I was committed to. 

It was great....until my body caught on to what I was doing and started to revolt.  I struggled to keep my eyes open when I drove to my second job, found myself tripping over my words because I was too tired to speak to my students during small group, and overreacting to everything because I didn't have the patience or energy to endure it. 

A couple months ago, I was wrestling with the same question I am now - How am I supposed to find the time to do all the things I need to do and still live my life in a way that is healthy and fulfilling?

Already exhausted, already burning the candle at both ends, already stretched thin, I agreed to taking on a summer job, more hours at another job, plus accepted an additional volunteer commitment at church.  I had no clue how I was going to pull it off.  I prayed and begged God for help.  I asked for more time, more energy, more endurance, more wisdom, more efficiency, more dedication.  As hard as I was working, it wasn't good enough. 

On the brink of my busiest summer ever, I sat down to blog one morning before lunch.  A notification went off on my phone from Instagram and I grabbed it to check it out.  Someone had "liked" a photo I posted on the #lampandlight Bible study hashtag and for some reason, I clicked on the hashtag and started to scroll through some of the latest photos.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a photo of Psalm 127 even though the photo only showed a couple of the verses.  I paged through my Bible until I found it.



Friends, I don't know that I've ever been smacked so hard in the face with Scripture as I was by Psalm 127.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early 
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127: 1-2) 

Over and over I read it, thinking about the late nights, the early mornings, the worry I felt if I had to ask off work for one day, or the fear I feel every day that I'm not working hard enough.

It was MY LIFE.  Right there on the pages of Scripture.  And God was telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I have been managing my work life and my time has all been in vain.  All of it.  Pointless.

I have often made the joke that when I am dead the epitaph on my headstone will read, "At least she worked hard."  What I desperately wanted was sleep and rest and peace and I was choosing to sacrifice it.  For what?

Just stop it.
Unless you trust me to build the house, your efforts are wasted.
You cannot do everything, be everywhere, please everyone.  Trying to is pointless.
Staying up just a little later, waking up just a little earlier is only leaving you exhausted.
Instead of trusting me to provide, you worry and fret, feeding your anxiety with fear.
Just stop.  Sleep.  Rest in me, my beloved.   
You don't need MORE.  What you need is LESS so there is room for ME.  

I wrote those two verses up on my cute little "Scripture of the Week" board that hangs on the wall in my kitchen.  Each day as I slammed my coffee, I looked at it, read it, and rushed out of the house.  That was nine weeks ago and I haven't been able to bring myself to wipe those words off the glass and change them because I honestly don't think it's sunken in to my thick skull yet.  I've memorized it, repeated it to myself while rolling silverware, underlined and marked it up in my Bible, read and re-read it over and over and over again.

Only to decide what I really need to do is to start getting up at 5:10 am so I can get more done.

*insert face-palm here*

Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for my stubbornness, my disobedience, and my pride.  I get some sort of vain pleasure in the admiration I get from people when they praise me for all I do and proclaim, "I just don't know how you do it!"  I soak up their amazement like a sponge and wear it like a merit badge.  Have mercy on me for my unwillingness to surrender to what you have made so clear to me, for my tendency to display my sin like a trophy for others to admire.  Could it be that I am simultaneously worshiping busyness as an idol and looking to others to worship me for my ability to manage it?   

How could I have let this happen?  How did I let my pride take such a strong hold on me? 

Someone once warned me that to sincerely pray the last two verses of Psalm 139 was incredibly dangerous.  I've known for months now that I was too busy, too stretched, and too tired to give what you were asking of me, but I never would have thought it had gone this far.  Thank you for your enduring patience, your steadfast love, and the forgiveness that I know I have in Christ.  It is only though Him that I can ask you to turn your face away from my sin and guide my steps forward on a path that you have determined, helping me to trust you above all else.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to rise early in the morning to be efficient with the time He has given me, but the motivation behind my "anxious toil" is where I have gone horribly wrong.  Just in the last week, this Psalm has been heavy on my heart and God has started to open a door that maybe....just maybe...could provide the opportunity for me to find some balance, toil in vain a whole lot less, and lean into my Savior a whole lot more. 



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Early in the Morning (One Side of the Story)



Mornings and I don't really get along.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that there have been many mornings where the only thing that could get me to emerge from my grumpy blanket cocoon was a cup of hot coffee being thrust directly into my hand.  Sometimes even that didn't cut it and I would fall back asleep in defiance of the snooze function on the six alarms I usually set on my iPhone.

But....as I type this it is currently 5:52 AM.  And I've been up for nearly an hour already.  My first cup of coffee is sitting directly in front of me and will need a refill in just a couple of minutes.  The decision to start setting my alarm for 5:05 AM was not an easy one for me and I'd be lying if I said I didn't not-so-silently curse to myself that first morning when my phone woke me up.

I just needed to find more time.

Now, I know my family and some close friends are going to read this and some will roll their eyes, others will lightly bang their fist on the table, and still others will send me a thoughtful yet concerned email about how I'm pushing too hard.  And you know what?  They'd be right.  I'm not going to sit  here and claim that getting up in the 5 o'clock hour is easy nor is it the ideal situation for me.

So why am I doing it?  Why have I dragged myself out of bed with the golden dawn for five days in a row now?

Because I've been feeling suffocated.  Writing is like oxygen for me and I haven't been able to find time lately to breathe.  When an opportunity was presented to me to do some volunteer writing at church, I felt like a window that had previously been locked with the shades drawn had been thrown open in front of me, an invitation to take long and deep breaths.  I said yes when the offer came, without any sort of consideration for how I would actually pull it off.  I just wanted to breathe again.

I asked God to help me find a way to write.  My prayer for some time now has been that God would place opportunities in front of me that would help me identify my gifts and figure out ways that I can use them for his kingdom.  All too easily I can fall into the trap of feeling useless and get stuck asking myself, "Why would God want to use me?  What do I even have to offer?"

Every. single. time. I have asked God to draw me up out of that pit of uselessness, He has delivered into my lap an opportunity to serve in a way that allows me to put his handiwork on display and celebrate some of the gifts that he knit within me in the dark and secret places.

I brew my own coffee now.  Most mornings I sit in front of my computer with my Bible open and either work on a new piece for church or for something to post here.  Other days I leave the computer closed and just sit on the couch with my journal and allow the Lord to just speak quietly with me.  Even though it seems like my youngest son somehow caught on to my little plan and has started to wake up and fuss from his crib the second I start the coffee, God has already blessed this time I have borrowed from the wee hours.

Now.  There is a problem to all of this.  I work....a lot.  In addition to the mornings that I spend working at Camp, I work somewhere around thirty-five hours a week during the nights and weekends waiting tables.  Most nights, I don't even leave work until after 10:30 at night, sometimes even later.  The math doesn't really add up to very much sleep and this is something I have been struggling with for a long time now.  I'm not so naive as to think the lack of rest isn't going to affect me.  In fact, I already felt the effects yesterday when I sat down with my students to talk about the raising of Lazarus only to find that I struggled to form the words and felt like Lazarus probably had more energy than me.

My prayer is that I can find balance.  I need to be able to do the things that make me feel alive while still getting the sleep that actually keeps me alive and able to function.  I'm working on it, I promise.  In the meantime, I need to make sure to keep my coffee cupboard well-stocked.

Coming up soon - My thoughts on Psalm 127, how it's been on my heart for weeks now, and how this entire post was all wrong.  

(I never said everything on my blog would make sense.) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Moment in Madison Square

My feet pounded hard into the pavement as I turned the corner onto Bull Street.  My camera slammed against my hip over and over again as I hurried toward the south, anxious to beat the rain that threatened in the distance.  As I approached Madison Square, I was slowed by the gaggle of teal-clad women ahead of me, tiptoeing with trepidation across the street so as to not dirty their shoes or, even more importantly, drop the handfuls of white wedding dress they carried.  Coming back to myself, I watched them delicately and carefully carry the bottom of Bride's dress over the bricks as her crinoline crinkled around her with every step.  Reaching the square, I crossed to the other side to continue on my way.

That's when I saw him.

There was Groom, standing with his back turned in the middle of the square, looking down squarely at his shoes.  He stood perfectly still, hands clasped, his eyes turned down and shoulders locked.  Like a soldier at the ready, he waited for her.

All at once, I was overcome with the weight of the moment and I found I couldn't take another step.  Suddenly very aware of my frizzy hair and rumpled t-shirt, I scurried to a more conspicuous spot to make sure I didn't inadvertently wind up in someone's living room photo album.  I retreated to behind a tree, my destination all but forgotten, and watched.


In mere seconds, I was undone.  Under the canopy of the Savannah oaks, the gravity of the moment came barreling into my chest and before I knew it, the tears had started to drop from my cheeks.


Bride, you looked absolutely breathtaking.  I could go on and on about that mermaid style dress and how it was perfectly suited for you, how the simple pearls you wore around your neck danced a bit as you took deep breaths.  But my dear, it was your eyes that held my gaze.  Your bridesmaids fluttered about you, arranging your dress, tucking a small lock of hair behind your ear, spreading your veil out perfectly behind you, but you didn't really even notice they were there.

Your eyes never left him.  


Groom, you were unmoved.  Resolute to fight the temptation to wheel around to lay eyes on her, you stayed.  Hands clasped and eyes locked on the ground, you waited as the anticipation filled the space between you.  She continued to gaze at you, watching you as your mind swirled with thought of her.


Then just like that, you saw me.  Groom, you lifted your head and your eyes came away from your shoes and fixed on the woman on the bench with the teal iPhone lifted in your direction.  At the very same moment that your eyes met mine, Bride's eyes dropped for an instant to compose herself before taking her first step toward you.

For that split second, it was just you and me.

I wanted to tell you so many things.  I wanted to tell you how beautiful she looked, how she gazed at you with such joy, and how I could see how much she loved you even from behind a tree across the square.

But I also wanted to tell you that this moment doesn't last forever.  I wanted to tell you about the unmet expectations you are guaranteed to struggle with, the confusion you will experience, the late night arguments, and the frustration when she just doesn't understand.  I wanted you to know about the incredible blessing of children and their uncanny ability to simultaneously strengthen and break you.  I wanted to tell you about the shift that happens inside of you when that ring goes on your hand.  That suddenly your life is no longer about you, that it must become about her.  That gorgeous creature behind you is looking to you to carry her, to cover her, to lead her, to hold her, to protect her. 


Her eyes lifted and she took that first slow, purposeful step toward him.

Do you know why I was in Madison Square that day?  I was on my way to Forsyth Park to see the fountain and walk the oak covered path.  I wanted to ask a kind stranger to take a photo of my husband and I in front of the fountains, one I could frame and hang on the wall to commemorate our trip to Savannah to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

But he wasn't there.

I sat in that square alone that afternoon because we had a fight.  I wanted to go to Forsyth Park right this very instant because the clouds in the distance were threatening to rain on my parade, so we needed to get a move on.  After a three hour walking tour of the city in the morning and more walking on the agenda for the evening, he was more interested in taking a bit of a rest in between so as not to burn out before dinner.  I was unwilling to relinquish my hold on my precious itinerary, so I stormed off in a huff, determined to just go by myself thankyouverymuch.

I entered Madison Square angry, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed.


But you, Bride and Groom, helped remind me of what was truly important. God brought me to that exact square, at that exact moment for a very specific reason.  He wanted me to see YOU.

He wanted to remind me of the slow, purposeful steps that it takes to sustain a marriage over a lifetime.  He wanted to make sure that I remembered that he was the one who joined us together ten years ago and no matter what struggles, betrayals, unmet expectations, and disappointment came our way, he would never leave us or forsake us.  He wanted me to remember the way that Evan looked at me on that day, ten years ago, full of the same love and adoration I saw on the faces of Bride and Groom.  I realized that I still catch him looking at me that way, even now.  He wanted to gently tell me that ten years was only the beginning for us, that he had some fantastic things in store for us and many more memories for us to make, maybe even some to photograph and hang in a frame on the wall.


Bride and Groom, I wish you abundant blessings.  I hope your wedding day was everything you dreamed it would be and that the rain that drenched us later as we walked through Bonaventure Cemetery didn't disrupt your celebration too much.

I'm grateful to have been privy to this moment between you even more thankful for the things it gave me to think about as I continued on to Forsyth Park on my own.  I took a super-lame fountain selfie and returned to the hotel where Evan and I talked about our disagreement that afternoon and moved past it.  We laced up our walking shoes to go grab a coffee down the street and I told him all about the magical moment I experienced in Madison Square. 

My super lame fountain selfie.  :)


 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On Tybee Time


The delightful food of Savannah isn't confined within the city limits.  Think Hilton Head, but more Jimmy Buffet.  Laid back, friendly, affordable, and exceptionally delicious.  This island rests a short drive from Savannah down Hwy 80 and is well worth checking out.  We spent three days here and could have easily lingered much longer.  Here are just a few of Tybee's gastronomical highlights.

The Crab Shack


This joint is enormous.  Tons of seating, both indoor and outdoor.  We ate out on a huge patio with a wooden floor constructed surrounding gorgeous mature trees, right on the banks of the water.  The wind blew across the deck, causing the lanterns to gently sway from the trees.  Be sure to walk around The Crab Shack and really explore all it has to offer; maybe even say hello to the several cats wandering around the parking lot.  Live alligators (yes, you can feed 'em!) add the final touch to this tourist stop, but all the over-the-top decor would be useless without good food.  And believe me, the food is GOOD.


We saw this on another table as we were being led to our seat and immediately we knew it was what we wanted.  This is the sampler platter for two people.  It has crab, crawfish, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn, and mussels.  We didn't use forks.  Like, at all.


This was the first time I had crawfish and it was a teeny bit of a learning experience.  I tried that whole "suck the head" thing for a whole instant and immediately regretted it, but I can vouch for the tastiness of the tail!  The rest of the platter was killer.  My hands were coated in crab shells and butter by the end of it and I walked away a very happy woman.

The Breakfast Club


Don't miss out on grabbing a great diner breakfast at this spot on Hwy 80.  Drive toward the beach and look for the line of people waiting to get in.  We waited about 20 minutes to be seated and it was well worth it.  My favorite part was when our server made sure to clarify for us that our grits and toast would come with butter.  It was clear that the butter was not optional and it made me smile.



Evan got the shrimp 'n grits with sauteed spinach.  At first, he couldn't even get his head around the fact that this meal could even be considered breakfast, but after he took a couple bites there was little convincing needed.


As for me, I went with the mahi mahi with grits and eggs simply because this is not a meal I would ever see on a menu in Wisconsin.  I skipped the toast and tartar sauce (ain't nobody got time for that) and still only managed to put down about half of this colossal plate of food. 

Tybee Island Social Club


I'm going to make this simple - Social Club had me from the first sip of the mojito.  Evan got a traditional and I went for the strawberry version.  The food came very quickly and we were swiftly transported to Food Heaven.


Pictured here is the Chorizo Burger (with chipotle mayo and bacon), crab stew (heavenly!!!), black beans, and fish tacos (OMG).  Part of me wishes we would have gone back here for a second meal because there were so many other things on the menu I wanted to try, especially the shrimp and crab nachos.  Don't skip this one!

Sting Ray's Seafood


I know it probably sounds like I have nothing bad to say about any of the places we ate and that everything was too delicious for words, but that's actually the truth. Sting Ray's was no exception.


Evan got the crab and shrimp platter and I got the low country boil. For the record, he happily gave up that enormous stack of crab legs there because he loves me so much.  (Whatever, I totally stole them, but I definitely gave him a handful of the sausage you see there.)  The margaritas here are RIDICULOUS.  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw a photo I took after more than a couple of them and for that.....I apologize.  :) 

If you stop in to Sting Ray's, try to sit outside and ask for Marissa.  Thank me later. 

There are plenty more options out on Tybee Island for your tummy to enjoy, but these are the ones we are able to hit in our limited time there.  I'd love to hear your feedback, experiences, and comments!  If you are planning a trip down to Tybee, I'd love for you to pin this post on Pinterest and check out them out for yourself.  





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Leaving the Beach Behind


As it turns out, transitioning back to normal life after vacation is no walk on the beach.  (See what I did there?)

Within 24 hours of walking back through the front door and dropping our suitcases on the floor, Micah dropped a deuce in his pants....twice.  We struggled to let the dog out because the mosquitoes swarmed around him as if he were some sort of magnet and I would up swatting at the buzzing little demon for the next twenty minutes.  Instead of the sand between my toes, I stepped on a stray Lego. 

And the laundry.  Oh my word, the laundry.

But I quickly became intoxicated all over again by Thomas' giggle when I tickle his belly.  The way Micah's cheeks get all red when he gets frustrated is equal parts infuriating and adorable.  And then there's my Isaiah, my little mini-me.  He's attached himself to me tighter than I've seen in recent memory.

But gracious, am I exhausted.

I have a ton to write about our vacation, from the beautiful sights to the food that caused me to gain seven pounds in a mere five days.  Oh yeah, you heard me right.  Seven pounds.

Totally worth it!  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hey Y'all - Greetings from Georgia

Panoramic shot of the beach and pier on Tybee Island, GA

There are a few things Georgia has already taught me.

1.  Southern accents are contagious.

Despite my hardcore Wisconsin ya der ey that permeated every word that came out of my mouth on the plane, I swear to you that I wasn't even through our first meal here and I had already thrown out a "y'all."  I mean, I know I'm half southern on my mother's side, but it came out smooth and easy.  Within 24 hours, I could already hear the vowels in my voice changing to sound more akin to the smooth tones of those uttered south of the Mason-Dixon line.  By the time we leave, I'll have a full on drawl.



2.  Grits come with butter.  Period.

We went out for breakfast and Evan ordered the shrimp & grits immediately after the waitress agreed with me that when eggs are served with shrimp & grits, it becomes a legitimate breakfast.  I ordered mahi-mahi with grits and eggs because I knew that is a breakfast option I would see precisely NEVER on a menu in Wisconsin.  Our waitress, bless her heart, didn't even give us a choice in the matter, but sweetly cooed, "Now y'all's grits n' toats are gunna come with buttah, okaaaayyy?"  Yes, ma'am.  You don't argue when it comes to butter on grits.

Don't let the photo fool you.  I've been having a really hard time relaxing.  Yeah, that's a bunch of crap.  It rocks here.

3.  Southern hospitality is a very real thing.

Y'all, we haven't even set foot in Savannah yet.  (See what I did there?  I slipped in a "bless her heart" and a "y'all" like it's part of my normal vernacular.)  We have yet to walk on the streets of the city known as the "Hostess of the South" and already we have been made to feel more than welcomed.  Every single person we have encountered has been super nice, down to the random dude I called on the phone to ask about if we would be able to see the fireworks from the beach by our condo.  It's incredible.  We were locking up the door to our condo on the way to the beach one day when a neighbor insisted we take all the leftover food they had that they wouldn't be able to bring with them.  Suddenly we had a mega-sized tub of instant mashed potatoes and more Totino's Pizza Rolls than we would ever eat in a lifetime, but the gesture was there.  And it was adorable.


4.  I am madly in love with Tybee Island.

Picture Amity Island from the movie Jaws...except without the shark.  That's Tybee.  Spending only one day on this beach with perfect weather has absolutely slayed me.  It was 93 degrees or so, but the breeze off the water paired with the schools of dolphins romping nearby and the alabaster sand was a combination too powerful to resist.  My Kindle and I had some quality time on that beach.  Oh, and I enjoyed hanging out with Evan too.  :)  Add in the close-knit community and the delicious food - forget about it.  I never want to go home.  Or at least, I want to come back every year. 


For the record, I ran my whole "Tybee is like Amity Island from Jaws" analogy by a local and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree before she promptly announced that I was absolutely right.

Everyone say a prayer that we don't get eaten by a shark, okay?  Thanks. 

P.S.  A few moments after that top photo was taken, a police officer drove by on the beach and kindly informed us that glass bottles weren't allowed and that it would super suck to get a ticket for it.  I marched my butt back to the condo for a couple red Solo cups pronto, partner. 



Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Last Ten Years


 The last ten years have been the hardest of my life.  Ok, so the last ten years have been the last third of my life and those years have brought me three babies, so I suppose that isn't all that surprising.  But this is supposed to be the "anniversary post."  This is supposed to be the day when I write all kinds of mushy and flowery things about the man I married and about the incredible journey we've taken together, how I'd marry him all over again, and how I love him more every day.

But that's not the post I want to write.

I want to write about the struggles we've had and the mornings I've woken up with puffy eyes, the evidence of the tears that kept me awake the night before as I sat with my back turned to him. 

I want to write about the hurtful words I have said to him and the wounds they have left behind.   

I want to write about how the expectations we both had on the day we got married were completely out of whack and how the reality of marriage ended up to be nothing like either of us imagined. 

I want to write about the fights, the slammed doors, the heavy silences.

I want to write about the days when I wondered if he even really loved me or if I actually loved him at all, the days that I asked myself out loud if we had made the biggest mistake of our lives by getting married. 

I want to write about the terror I felt on our wedding day and the apprehension that plagued our marriage for years. 

I want to write our story.

Our story is not the kind you will find in a paperback novel at the airport and it certainly isn't the story we thought we would be writing.  It has been filled with heartache, betrayal, disappointment, addiction and resentment.

But our story is also a story of incredible healing and grace.  Ours is a story of redemption and the power God has to rebuild what has been broken and to resurrect what is dead.

Ours is a story of how love isn't enough.

I want to write the story of how a marriage on the edge was rescued by the overwhelming love of a Savior, who is very much still in the business of restoration.  Page by page, our tale is being re-written by the Author of creation.

I want to write our story, but I'm just not ready yet to put it all out there.  To push the Publish button and have it in black and white for all the world to see.  To not be able to pull the curtain back over it ever again.  Soon, but not yet.   

For now I am going to say how grateful I am for the man who has dug in his heels and refused to yield when things got hard, give praise to the God who did the work of softening our hearts so that healing could even be possible, and write how thankful I am to be given the chance to continue to write this story.

Evan, there are no words I could use to fully express what you mean to me and after the ten years we have experienced together, I can safely say that I am so blessed to be doing this life with you.  You have stood by me and believed in me even when I couldn't bring myself to believe it possible.  Thank you for your devotion to me and your surrender to your God.

I couldn't ask for a better partner in this life.

Happy tenth anniversary, my love. 

 
     



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