Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in 12 Photos [Link-Up]

So even though we're still in the midst of the Christmas Octave and liturgical season, and I'm doing my best to stay in a celebratory and relaxed mood this week, there is definitely part of me that's so ready to start my New Year with lots of cleaning out, organization, and nesting for this little one!

But since we're not yet to the New Year, I think it's good for me to take some time today to reflect on this past year...the blessings, the challenges, the growth. To remember the past before looking ahead.

So without further ado, I'm joining Bobbi's link-up at Revolution of Love. Here's a little of what our year looked like:


I resigned from my position to start staying home full-time with this girl. So bittersweet
to leave my work family and a job I loved, but so peaceful to be intentional in my motherhood and follow what
I believed God was calling me to.


We had some crazy warm weather in February and took lots of walks and even played basketball!
G developed a scary side effect after one of her vaccines and it took many doctor visits and tests and treatment to overcome it. Definitely a rough month for us, but the sunshine helped!


I bought donut baking pans and decided this was the coolest thing ever. They have since been brought to many family/holiday gatherings and are fast becoming a fun tradition!


Lots of warm weather and realizing I could effectively hike and let the baby nap on me at the same time. I enjoyed exploring new metroparks with friends!


I began developing a deeper friendship with one of my neighbors (and baby G with her kids ;) ). C has been such a blessing in my life, with her heart for God and her passion for Christian marriage and motherhood. And the best part? We live a couple streets apart and can meet in the middle at the park. :)


These lovely flower baskets were such a triumph for me! I got them on clearance when they were scraggly and was able to nurse them back to health and beauty! We finally started transitioning G to the crib for naps instead of wearing her and I had more time to sit on the porch and enjoy the gorgeous weather and flowers!


A month of many "firsts"-- swimming, blueberry picking, picnics, traveling,
and HER FIRST BIRTHDAY! This was probably my favorite summer month, filled with family and friends and fun memories (except for our transition from cosleeping to crib).


We found out that G was going to be a big sister! We were immediately thrilled...she took a little longer to adjust. ;) 


I do love fall in the Midwest...we enjoyed bonfires, an apple orchard, decorating, picking out pumpkins, and more.


I started crocheting again and made these washcloths to go with some homemade soap for Christmas presents! I'm still going strong and have learned some new techniques as well! I added ear warmers and infinity scarves to my collection and hope to start a baby blanket soon!


We took an EPIC mini vacation to Amish country and brought along P's mom "Nana". You wouldn't think a vacay to Amish country would be epic, but it was!! We enjoyed swimming in our hotel pool, shopping, amazing Amish food, touring an Amish chocolate factory, and finally a huge Amish 'farm' that included giraffes, zebras, and buffalo that roamed free and CAME UP TO OUR CAR for food!! My husband fed a zebra, y'all, and we will never be the same. ;)


This isn't the best lighting, but this picture means so much to me. A movie night with the husband watching "It's a Wonderful Life." We got interrupted by a sick toddler who couldn't sleep, but even that just added to the reality that we have a wonderful life. We love and are loved. The mantle holds some greenery and the many Christmas cards we received from family and friends far and near. The three stockings are for our three babies-- one in heaven, one on earth, and one in the womb. Our hearts are so full. 


My sweet neighbor captured this one. We ended up not using it for Christmas cards because the lighting was too bright, but G's expression is priceless!

I couldn't resist adding this one of little G at the manger in church on Christmas...a family tradition that started when I was a child myself. 

It's been a beautiful year. I've entered more fully into motherhood and found a more comfortable, peaceful place with it. I'm less concerned if I'm doing it 'right' and more concerned if I'm giving it my heart. I'm less concerned if she's meeting her milestones and more concerned if I'm mirroring God's love to her. Our community of church and friends has grown and deepened this year and I'm incredibly grateful for them, especially since we do not live near family. Yet I'm also so thankful for the many visits we had from and with family, the traditions and memories we've started and made. Life became simpler, smaller, and richer this year. I suspect next year will challenge me as we add our little babe to this side of the womb but I pray that the grace and growth I've received this year will help me rise to the occasion. Thank you, Father, for all these good gifts.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas blessings to you!

May each one of you prepare Him room and experience the wonders of His love this Christmas. Do not be discouraged if your holiday is less than perfect...focus on the perfect gift He gives us-- His very self. You are deeply loved. Thank you so much for reading my blog and journeying with me. Here's to the New Year!

Rejoicing in hope,


Part of our Christmas card this year

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My Plan, His Plan

When my days get messy or crazy (which happens pretty often), I tend to look around and think, "I should have planned better." I'm a planner. I feel better making plans and having plans. (My husband is the opposite and it makes for an interesting marriage...but that's another story.)

Yet every once in awhile when I'm going through a rough time, I the answer really that I had planned better...or that I need to let go of my plan? What if planning is not the same as preparing?

Two thousand years ago Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem with Mary being nine months pregnant. I don't know about you, but when I'm pregnant, I am all about the planning-- for the birth, the postpartum period, even learning the gender so I can plan ahead! If I were Mary and had been pregnant with the Son of God, I can only imagine the way my mind would have been spinning with plans to have the best birth ever!

But God was born in a stable. 

As I sat contemplating our manger scene the other day, I wondered what Mary had thought on her journey to Bethlehem. Did she have plans for her birth? Did she struggle with the way it seemed to be turning out? Jesus, the Messiah, being born away from home, in a stable with animals and only a few visitors.

Honestly, I don't think so. Because when I think about Mary's life and her 'yes' to God, in her mind it was always all about His plan anyway. She knew that preparing for His birth wasn't necessarily about making plans.

God wanted to be born in a stable. He wanted to show us humility, poverty, simplicity. To turn our views of success and holiness and salvation upside down. He wanted to become like the least of us so that every single one of us could be brave enough to get to know Him as Friend and Redeemer.

Instead of planning the perfect birth, Mary simply lived her days open to God's plan. Perhaps that's the answers to my days as well. While planning has its place in life and homemaking, too often I measure the success of my days with how much they corresponded to MY plans. What if instead I simply lived each day the best I could, but with an openness and eagerness to see God's plan for it unfold? It might be messy, it might be chaotic, it might not be what I hoped for. But it would be beautiful and peaceful, just like that Christmas night in the manger when Emmanuel was born.

God-with-us. God with His plan for us.

His is with us this day. Do you see Him?

Friday, December 15, 2017

7 Quick Takes: Holiday Updates Edition

1. Ten days until Christmas!! Which means ten days left of Advent! It's been a good one. I'm sure it could always be better, but it's honestly just been really good. We have loved our new tradition (thanks, Cordelia! ;)) of lighting the Advent wreath at night and singing a verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by the light of it. Even G tries to sing, it's so precious. These books have each played a part in my Advent as well:

So, so good! If you're thinking you don't struggle with anxiety or depression,
know that most of the book was actually more about being intentional with
your holiday season in order to stay peaceful and Christ-focused. 

Quote coming soon from the book on the right. Love me some Ann Voskamp.

2. I've had just enough events to enjoy the season without feeling too overwhelmed. It's been lovely. We went caroling with a few other families at a nursing home. Last night I went to a festive moms' group Christmas party. I hosted my book club's Christmas brunch. And last weekend we went to a "Friendsmas" party with several other families. This coming week has NOTHING planned, which feels like the perfect schedule for the last week of Advent. Extra time to slow down those last few days as this all-too-short Advent season winds down.

3. My brother came over yesterday and helped me bake holiday goodies. I froze most of them to eat during the "real" Christmas season, but I have to admit I kept a few in the fridge for naptime snacks! ;) We made Chocolate Toffee bars, Almond butter cookies, and Spritz cookies. Earlier in the week, I made Thin Mints to give to our neighbors...they are so easy (but a little messy!). You simply dip Ritz crackers into melted chocolate chips mixed with peppermint extract!! Then sprinkle a crushed candy cane on top for looks and some extra crunch. Tada!!

Yes, yes. I am THAT corny with the label: So glad we're was "mint" to be!

4. There's something very special about being pregnant at Christmastime. Here's a little bumpdate of me (from a few weeks ago...definitely getting more of a bump/blob since then! ;) and here's our little one's precious face from my recent ultrasound!! I still occasionally worry when the baby doesn't move much some days but overall I've tried to be better about entrusting this babe to the Lord and knowing every day with him/her is a gift, however long God gives us!
I love that gorgeous sweet niece let us sleep in her room for our Thanksgiving travels. ;)

That tiny nose and perfec

5. I'm still crocheting a lot and am so proud of myself for actually completing my homemade Christmas gifts! ;) Most people got a crocheted washcloth with homemade coffee-scented soap, but I also made a couple infinity scarves and ear warmers. On the subject of crafting, my mom knitted these GORGEOUS stockings!! They are for our miscarried baby I and for little G. She's working on one for the new baby as well as ones for me and P. Can't wait to see them all hung on our shelf!

My first ear warmer

hashtag goals ;)

6. Can't be remiss about this little girl. She is so darn sweet lately. She's been sleeping better through the night, which helps too! She has learned to bow her head and pray before meals with her little hands clasped (and then we all sing Amen and Hallelujah), she "blesses" people on their heads with her hands (daddy taught that one), and she has learned to "feed" her stuffed animals with bottles. She responds to so many questions and commands but still only speaks a couple words. I'm overwhelmed by what a gift she is. So grateful.

She loves to smile and laugh like her mommy.

She has been extremely good about the Christmas tree but can't resist the Nativity. ;)
Some friends of ours recently gave her a Little People nativity, though, and that has helped. 

7. And that's a wrap! (pun intended, of course). I hope you all are staying warm and cozy this month and drinking all the hot chocolate. We currently have about an inch of sparkling snow on the ground and clear roads...if only if could stay just like this for awhile (except maybe a little warmer so we could go out and play). Happy 2nd week of Advent!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

When You Have Little to Give

I had planned my day carefully so that we could be ready in time. We were going to go as a family to a nearby "Presence for Christmas" event with Eucharistic adoration, speakers, and time for prayer as a family. I had been to one before and it was so beautiful and powerful. I was looking forward to going again.

But the evening found me and the toddler dressed up with nowhere to go. My husband had rushed in for a quick dinner with us and instead of going as a family, we decided for me and G to stay home because the snow was coming down thick and blinding, and warnings were all over about the slick roads. I'm extra cautious when pregnant because the smallest car accident can hurt such a fragile babe inside. I wanted my husband to stay home too but he had to be at the event for work.

So it was just me and G at home, and if I'm being honest, I was exhausted, bored, lonely, and frustrated. We made the best of it with early jammies and a movie, but after she went to bed, I sat on the couch and cried. It was silly, looking back, my little pity party. But it had been a long day at home and I had so wanted to go out for a nice prayer service and fellowship with others.

So I cried a little. And I prayed in the stillness with the light of the Christmas tree in the room. I prayed through my silly tears, telling Jesus that I had wanted to go to the elaborate event but that this prayer was all I could give-- at home in my pajamas, with a hungry tummy and a tired body and a grumpy mood. In the oddest way, it was sweet and healing and authentic. I was honest and vulnerable in my prayer. And I felt peace.

I couldn't help but think perhaps this was what the widow felt like when she gave her small coins in the offering (Mark 12:41-44). She gave from her heart and she gave all she had. She knew it wasn't much, but she gave it anyway.

By no means am I comparing my pitiful human weakness to true poverty...but perhaps we can all relate to feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, exhaustion, or loneliness. Perhaps we all know what it feels like to feel like you have nothing left-- physically, or even emotionally or mentally or spiritually. That what you have to give is not what you planned. The widow in the Gospel reading gives us hope that whatever we give can be more than enough. It can be exactly what God wants if it contains our very heart in total surrender.

Where in your life is God asking you to give? Prayer? Financially? Time for others? Fears or worries? Let's hold nothing back from Him this Advent but give from the deepest parts of ourselves, knowing that His loving hands will not only receive our gift, but will receive us in love and restore us to joy and peace.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

To Be a Womb

My precious baby is an active little one. I love feeling the movements and growing closer to him or her each day through that connection. My love deepens every day and I'm so grateful to be carrying this child beneath my heart.

But physically it's hard some days. I'm short of breath, I still feel sick at times. My energy level is just less, especially keeping up with a growing toddler on the move who still doesn't sleep well and loves to be held by her mommy. This week has been exhausting with a different appointment each day for one of us. My house shows it, with three piles of folded laundry still on top the washer and dryer, with dirty dishes along the countertops, with toys strewn along the floor amidst some last boxes of Christmas decorations.

It's hard for me to ignore it all, but no matter how hard I work, it's never finished...and sometimes I just have to sit down.

So I did. And despite my internal resistance, I prayed. I read my Advent devotional. And you know what it was about?

How we choose performance over recollection. We feel the need to do instead of be, even (or especially?) during the holiday season. Yet God calls us to the opposite.

Jesus observed, 'Without me, you can do nothing' (John 15:5). Yet we act, for the most part, as though without us God can do nothing. We think we have to make Christmas come, which is to say we think we have to bring about the redemption of the universe on our own. When all God needs is a willing womb, a place of safety, nourishment, and love. [...]we crowd Christ out with our fretful fears.

We are afraid to be still. We are afraid to be unproductive. We are afraid of "doing nothing," when the truth is often God is only able to do anything in our lives when we stop and allow Him the space through prayer, silence, and contemplation. 

My own body is teaching me this. My natural drive is to do and accomplish and it's so hard for me to sit when there are things to be done all around me. But in order to grow my child within, I have to stop and rest. Even when I'm doing nothing, so many amazing things are going on in my body to grow this little babe.

In the same way, in order to allow the Christ-child to grow within me, I need to pause and be still and give Him room. I need to be a womb for Him-- trusting the beautiful reality that by me 'doing' nothing, He is doing something.