Sunday, May 28, 2017

Afraid to Love

(Originally written March 2016)

What's the greatest thing that holds you back from experiencing true love?

A deep, dark sin? 

A busy schedule?

A spell from a poisonous apple given to you by a Disney movie witch?

Though it could be (almost) any of those, I'm going to guess none of those are actually the greatest stumbling block to love for you and for me. 

You know what is, though?

Fear. 

Throughout my life, I've seen fear hold me back time and again from loving fully, loving freely, and loving...well...fearlessly. 

My husband and I were privileged to hear Matt Hammitt (former lead singer of Sanctus Real) speak at my workplace fundraiser this past week. We were both powerfully impacted by the story of his son Bowen, who was diagnosed with a rare heart defect at 20 weeks in the womb. Matt and his wife, though advised to abort little Bowen and end his life, chose life and continued with their pregnancy. Little Bowen had open heart surgery at just 4 days after birth and the recovery included an episode when Bowen's tiny heart stopped beating-- a doctor did compressions on his bare heart in his open chest while Matt and his wife cried and prayed and held on to the blue toes of their beloved son. 

But God has plans for Bowen. And we saw the adorable five-year-old this past week as he helped his dad sing a song on stage that was written around the time of Bowen's birth. 

Matt shared with us that he struggled to become attached to Bowen after that tragic prenatal diagnosis. The pregnancy became a time of fear and uncertainty and even detachment. As his song states, Matt was "afraid to love something that could break." Yet God continued to move in his heart and mind and showed him that he could love Bowen in the way God loves us-- with all that was in him. Without reserve. Without condition. Without fear. Yes, there might be sadness or struggle or even loss, but freely and fearlessly loving-- being all in-- was worth it. He learned to "trade the fear of all that I could lose for every moment I share with you." ("All of Me," Matt Hammitt)

My husband and I had tears as we listened to his powerful testimony and our little one kicked inside my own belly. Though our baby had a healthy heart at 20 weeks, this pregnancy has been rocky with bad blood level results and our own fears due to our previous miscarriage. We have struggled with detachment at times and being afraid to love this precious child too much in case we lose this one, too. 

But God continues to work in our hearts and we, too, are learning what it looks like to love freely, fully, and fearlessly. Despite lab results or increased medications, we are learning to rejoice in every moment we spend with this incredible gift from God growing inside me. 

Fear creeps in to every relationship and circumstances because the devil is always trying to keep us from experiencing the rich love of the Father and the love He desires us to have with each other. Where might fear be holding you back?

Are you sharing your deepest self with your spouse--physically, emotionally, mentally-- or are you holding back because you're afraid of feeling inadequate or unloved?

Are you diving deeper into your relationships with family and friends, or are you afraid of losing them to distance, disagreements, or even death?

Are you tithing, giving, and sharing with others or are you afraid of financial insecurity?

Are you sharing God's truths with other or do you fear misunderstanding or being made fun of?

And here's the biggest one: is fear holding you back from throwing yourself into your Heavenly Father's arms? Whether you're afraid of your mistakes and sins or you just feel ashamed for not living up to your potential, know that He will never reject you and is always ready with open arms, abundant mercy, and the grace to start fresh. He loves you with all that He is, and wants to teach you to do the same. 

Let's experience that freeing love together this week. God is an expert at breaking the chains of fear. All we need do is ask. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quick Takes Friday // Let's Catch Up

1. I'm crouching on the floor in our bedroom so that G doesn't see the light of my laptop. We are working on crib napping this week and though it's mentally and emotionally exhausting but we're slowly getting somewhere-- she's currently sleeping in the crib right now. And probably only will for 25 minutes, but hey, one step at a time.

2. It's Memorial Day Weekend! What are your plans?? I pretty much just planned to go grocery shopping and wedding gift shopping for a friend until I realized it's a holiday weekend and we need some fun plans! haha! We are talking about having some friends over for brunch or dinner on Sunday. And of course I'll pull out all the red/white/blue for outfits...G has the cutest little patriotic dress for Mass. (shallow, I know. Don't worry, I also deeply appreciate the significance of Memorial Day and all those men and women who have defended the freedom of our country. I just can't resist celebrating patriotic days with food and colors and clothes, too...)

3. We also bought dirt and manure (my city boy husband could NOT believe that you can actually BUY manure in a bag at a store, it was hilarious) to make a little herb garden for me along the side our shed. I'd love to get that finished this weekend-- or at least the digging and dirt. I'll probably buy the herbs from a farmers market. What are your favorite herbs to grow? I'm thinking rosemary, basil, lavender, and mint.

4. Ever since our book club / Bible study last year, I tend to pay more attention when "God speaks twice" to me through recurring themes, verses, etc. in my prayers and devotions. Lately I've been reading/seeing a lot on friendship and really investing in a small circle of people and going deep with them rather than just having many acquaintances or, shall we say, Facebook-friends. ;) I'm not sure what God is nudging me towards, but it has definitely made me reflect on the relationships in my life and how I'm cultivating them, as well as a handful of women I'd like to go deeper with.

5. I got six inches cut off my hair last night. It's quite a bit shorter, but with the warmer/humid weather lately, it just wasn't holding curls and felt heavy and dull. I'm always somewhat sad to part with locks, but I feel much lighter with this shoulder-length style! I'm also in a wedding in a few weeks and I know it will be easier to do an updo without all that length! If I was on top of my selfie game, I'd share a picture, but alas...

6. I'm reading this book and this book on parenting and they're fascinating. A lot of interesting psychology on how children need time, space, and calm to grow and develop-- pretty much the opposite of our culture's busy, full, fast-paced lives. The Popcaks' book is full of excellent advice on growing in your personal relationship with God as well as fostering that with your kids so that you not only hand down the 'external' faith of Catholicism but also the deep-knit relationship with God that Catholicism is meant to draw us into. Good stuff. Good stuff.

7. And last but not least, some baby goodness...



Happy weekend, friends! Linking up with Kelly, who had some great ideas for celebrating Memorial Day as a Catholic!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Bucket List



It's almost June!! We have some friends who are due with their baby in June and last night as we were chatting with them, I kept thinking how she'll have her baby in a couple months...and then realized it will be June in one week!!! Even though summer doesn't officially start for several weeks, I tend to think of June as the beginning of summer, so I've been having fun compiling a bucket list for one of my favorite seasons! (My other favorites are fall, spring, and winter. haha.) You can check out my spring bucket list here. We were able to cross off most of the items, but some of them got pushed to the summer list. What are some of your plans or hopes for the summer? Here's to sunny weather and great memories!!

-Go to the zoo
-Plant an herb garden (and cook with them?)
-Pick local berries
-Go to a farmer's market
-Baby G's first swim
-Go on a mini vacation
-Buy a gas grill
-Go out for ice cream
-See a hummingbird
-Create a rotating summer menu
-Make popsicles
-Host an ice cream social
-Make lemonade from scratch
-Celebrate the 4th with patriotic food and decor
-Grill kabobs (with that new grill, of course!)
-Have neighbors over for dinner
-Go on a hike at local state parks
-Play volleyball
-Neighborhood garage-saling (oh how I love thee!)
-Sit around a campfire

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What I've Learned About Motherhood

The bad news: You are not in control.

The good news: God is in control, and He loves your children even more than you do-- and He loves you, too.

The end.

Haha! I was going to make this a long post and as I sat down to write, I felt like these two 'news pieces' just summed it all up! ;)

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas-- including the spiritual ones, the grieving ones, the yet-to-be ones, the lonely ones, the perfect ones. Oh wait, not the last one. There's no such thing. ;)

Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift of motherhood, for my child in heaven and my daughter on earth. May I become more and more like you through it and lead my children to you.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Balance

Ah, that elusive word. Balance. Truly it's as hard to achieve it in daily living as it is on the tightrope.

How do I stay in the present moment while also being prudent in planning for the future (meals, schedules, goals, etc)?

How do I pour myself out for my primary vocation-- my family-- while sustaining myself with self-care and other friendships?

How do I invest in those friendships without spreading myself too thin or being resentful that I have less time for friends with family life?

How do I enjoy the community of social media without getting addicted or using it in place of other more worthwhile endeavors?

How do I meet my baby's needs without sheltering her or smothering her?

How do I choose a healthy lifestyle without going crazy and getting obsessed about all the health dangers in our world?

How do I learn from others without comparing myself to them?

How do I learn and grow from books and articles and research yet not become too dependent on them to leave room for surrender, grace, and originality in my spiritual life, marriage, parenting, and relationships?

Oh, balance. I try so hard to find you but sometimes it feels like I'm always swaying to one side or the other in the attempt.

Sweet friends, where are you seeking balance in your life right now? And how are you finding it?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: In Which I Use Several Hashtags #justbecause

1. It's Fri-yay!! But to be honest, so many times I completely lost track of the day this week. There's some serious #sleepdeprivation going on this week as I try to gently encourage G to nurse a "few" times less each night. ;) So goes my love/hate relationship with Attachment Parenting.

2. We're getting #alltherain here lately. And the cold. Like April flowers brought May showers. So depressing but I'm trying to light candles and clean and bake and all the cozy stuff until the sun comes back.

3. I had a great time on my coffee date with a new friend and the play date with the other friend (G enjoyed her time playing with her new little friend's toys as well). I'd like to invite both of them to my book club this fall. Even though it's months away, I've already started thinking about what book we should read. Any recommendations? We have a beautifully diverse group of singles, engaged, married, and mommas. Last year we read this amazing book and the concept of my 'predominant sin' still resonates with me and helps me in my spiritual life (not that it was all about that, that sounds so negative, ha!).

4. We're having a priest friend over for dinner tonight and I'm attempting pan-seared/oven baked steak from the good ol' quarter of a steer in our freezer (thanks to my brother-in-law we have cheap steak). I've tried it once before and it turned out fabulous but can't remember the temperature or timing I used, so #heregoesnothing! (Tired of the tags yet?)

5. Anyone remember Brio, the Christian magazine for teen girls? My sister and I read it for YEARS and it seriously shaped my teen years for the better. I generally love anything from Focus on the Family and I was thrilled to see they were bringing Brio back! We bought it for my niece's 13th birthday this year to help her navigate the wonderful teen years. ;) I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

6. I took a "9 months in, 9 months out" picture with G when she turned nine months (although still blurry after multiple takes! ha!)...this stage is so. much. fun. Her personality is just blooming and she is so aware and excited about everything. My hubby and I sometimes just look at each other and say "She's just so cute" several times a day. ;)



7. I'm continually searching and discerning better prayer patterns for my days in this season of life. Lately if I'm home for the day (or at least the morning) I've gotten back into having a cup of coffee and devotional time since G plays quietly on the floor for fifteen minutes in the morning by herself these days. I still get distracted but it has helped somewhat. It's hard to focus in general (remember #sleepdeprivation?) but I really desire to go deeper with the Lord and I realize how much I need Him. P has been encouraging me to get away to Adoration once a week and we've been able to make that work for at least a half hour at times. What are your prayer routines/disciplines/advice, even if not a mom?

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! Linking up with Kelly for the Quick Takes!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Wine, Art, and...Feet

1. No fancy numbering for me tonight. Just the good ol' fashioned numbers. It takes too long to center, use hyphens, etc. and ain't nobody got time for that. ;)

2. But what I did have time for was a relaxing (steaming, sauna-like) hot shower and a little pedi-care while the hubby watched the baby. My poor feet. I've been a barefoot country girl most of my life and my feet are showing it. What do y'all do to care for your feet when you can't afford pedicures? I tend to use a pumice stone, some lotion (or petroleum jelly-- thanks, grandma!), and wrap them up in socks for the night hoping for some soft, gorgeous feet in the morning. At any rate, my toes are a cute spring pink color right now. Okay, did I really just spend a whole number on feet?? Moving on...

3. I'm sipping wine right now and it's sooooo good. I've only drank a handful of times since having the baby, mostly out of fear with breastfeeding, but I'm starting to get the hang of a glass of wine and how little it affects my milk supply. Cheers!

4. This is the first weekend in a long time that we haven't had anything on the schedule. And they're calling for rain and storms. Go figure. This month has been so busy and May is looking similar! But I spent the last two days home all day and it was wonderful. If you follow me on IG, you saw the awesome book I have from the library right now: Little House Living. It's fascinating and chock full of DIY ideas for beauty and hygiene, baby/kids, and cooking. Today I made pantry mixes of cake mixes, cornbread mixes, bread machine mixes, and more. I love that they are chemical free, frugal, and convenient-- total win.

4 (and a half). Dinner tonight was supposed to be spaghetti with some delish sauce I had gotten out of the freezer yesterday to thaw for tonight...but when I went to boil the noodles I realized I was out of them and only had lasagna noodles and a handful of rotini. Into the pot they went, with the lasagna noodles broken up into bite size pieces!! What I thought was a fail turned into a win-- the texture reminded me of ravioli!

5. I finally tried out the Baby Tour at our local art museum this past week and it was fabulous! (Despite a major diaper blowout from baby G on arrival...never fails.)  They gave each baby a board book filled with pictures of paintings and sculptures at the museum, so if you read the book to your baby a lot, they might recognize some of the things if you come back to the museum. So cute! My friend and her baby joined us, and many of the other moms seemed so friendly and open. Great place to meet new mom friends.

What do you think of this painting, mom?


6. Speaking of, next week I'm going for coffee with a new friend and having a play date with a different new friend and her girls later that week. I'm so thankful for the wonderful women God continues to bring into my life. I feel really blessed with all the friendships I've made here since marriage-- and that my old friendships are still thriving despite the distance.

7. My wine is gone and the baby is fussing...so I'll quickly just mention that I took up a temporary job with a crisis pregnancy center that needed some transitional help. It's a half day per week and they are letting me bring the baby (pro-life all the way!). It's been nice yet challenging! I definitely could not work with a baby permanently but I'm happy to help them out for the month and am so grateful for their flexibility.

Have a beautiful weekend, friends! I hope yours is less rainy! (Or that if it's rainy, you can get all snuggly with books and movies and warm drinks!) Let me know what you're up to with some comment-love!