The Best Kind of Days

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” (Anne of Avonlea)

cooking

My faithful helper.

lunch

Going through a “picnic lunch” phase.

lunch

Trying to be just like her big sister: reading a book while eating lunch. Too bad her books are just a bit larger…

supperEverybody’s favorite meal.

stories

Telling some stories.

pastaOh, delicious lunch. Put some nuts in your stir-fry. It’s my latest obsession.

Kaylia

It’s always more fun to play under a table.

What makes an ordinary day the best kind of day for you?

An Invitation to Live

I bought Ben an awesome Christmas gift. I’m not sure who likes it more – me or him. Maybe me. But it’s so good!

It’s the book Love Does, by Bob Goff, and I completely loved reading it. It’s a book full of stories and examples of all the ways in which we need to stop saying we want an incredible life, and actually run out the door to start living it – going out and having adventures, finding people who need help and love, and just doing the stuff we sit around dreaming about.

I’ve never been invited to the Oscars or to Paul McCartney’s birthday party or to a space shuttle launch. I’m waiting for my invitation to National Treasure 3. If I got an invitation to any of those things, or for that matter, to the real White House Easter egg hunt, I’d definitely go. There’s nothing like feeling included.

There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distraction yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited — every day, all over again.

If there is one thing I want to learn from these years of being a mom at home with my kids, it’s to accept the invitation, and be fully here, with my girls, every day.

reading

Sometimes I need to slow down and remember that the big, beautiful life I’ve dreamed about is actually happening right now, even though it may look a little small sometimes.

Sometimes I need to be reminded about that invitation to fully live, and I need to really think about the fact that these girlies of mine are the most important part of my adventure, even when the everyday stuff starts to feel repetitive.

The little things are actually the big things.

We remember that, and then we keep going, fully present and alive, ready to experience the next adventure together.

I’m sure there will be many more amazing adventures when our girls are all grown up, and there’s no one continually hollering for Mommy, but I bet I’ll look back on this time and think it was my favorite. What is ordinary and everyday right now will someday be a very beautiful memory, but I don’t want to wait until then to see all the beauty.

I don’t want anything to stop me from showing up and being all here.

Motivation To Do This All Over Again

Most of the time, I like being a stay-at-home mom. I love taking care of our girls, and I’ve made myself learn to like cooking and taking care of our home. And I’ve always just loved being at home.

But there are always times when I get frustrated or discouraged about things being so repetitive, or when my work feels so useless.  Why wash the floor when it will get dirty the very next time someone comes in the door? Why try to teach the girls how to communicate better when they’ll just start fighting again in about two seconds? Why fold all the laundry when it will just get used up again?

laundry

Usually, these feelings mean I need to get out of the house, and have a break so that I can remember why I’m doing all of this in the first place. I need to remind myself why it all matters, because otherwise, my life starts feeling very, very small.

But this week, I started reading an incredible book, and I’m being reminded all over again that the small things, done faithfully, make a big difference in the long run. All the ways in which I’m trying to create a home for my family will impact them in some way, even if they don’t know exactly how.

Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes. (Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne, p.98)

When I was growing up, my mom always did laundry in the same way: she sorted all of the clothing into similar colors, and then she spread out a shirt or a towel over the pile, to make it look neat and keep it together until she threw the pile into the washing machine. That is just how it was done.

Did it impact my childhood in any way? No, except that it was normal and predictable. I would have noticed if she hadn’t done it. Something would have been off. It wouldn’t have felt like my mom doing the laundry.

Or I remember the way she answered me when I called. I would yell out, “Mommy?” And she would, without fail, call back, “What-y?”

One day, I guess she thought I was old enough to move past this tradition, and she answered my call with “What?” And then I cried.

Even when I started referring to her as “Mom” instead of “Mommy”, when I called out for her, I would still say “Mommy”, just so that she would answer with her rhyming “What-y?”

Such little, little things. Family jokes and traditions, like my dad always being late for lunch on the days when we were having fried potatoes. He had no way of knowing, it just always worked out that way. My mom would be frying the potatoes at the stove, and we’d all say, “Oh, Dad will be late for lunch! It’s fried potatoes!”

Or popcorn balls for night lunch, while we all watched Brady Bunch episodes together as a family, convincing my dad to let us watch just one more before we had to go to bed.

And the decoy ducks that floated in our pond every year, long after my mom figured out the joke, and learned they weren’t real.

Or sitting on the big swing with my mom on a spring evening when the lilacs or apple blossoms were in bloom, talking until it was so dark that we could hardly see my dad coming across the lawn to join us after his long day of work.

Oh, those were the happy days.

And now Ben and I have the chance to create our own happy days. Listing “Favorite Things of the Day” at supper each evening. Family walks. Reading stories in bed. Saturday morning pancakes and “happy music”.

pancakes

The other day, Kaylia said to me, “Tomorrow morning, I will do a play with the Barbies, while Daddy makes breakfast and Mommy exercises.”

Because that’s what we do, and she knows it. If the girls get up in the morning, and I’m not stretching on the living room floor, they’re a little lost, and have no idea where to find me.

I wonder what things my girls will remember the most. I’m sure my mom never thought I’d remember the laundry piles covered with T-shirts and towels. Or her red kerchief over her hair on baking days.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Some things we do intentionally. We try to build a good home, and good memories for our children. We carefully create family moments and times of bonding.

But some things just happen. And because we are creatures of habits, we do the same, quirky little things that give predictability and comfort, just because the quirks belong to the members of our family – the people we love.

I think the best family moments are a mixture of both. Plan to have fun, but also embrace the way things just are. Notice them. Remember them. Soak in the every day things, the normal stuff.

And then wake up tomorrow, and do it all over again.

Meaning hides in repetition.

Different Kinds of Good Weather

There are cold days in winter when getting outside is about the very last thing on my list of stuff I want to do.

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And yet, on those frosty days when we force ourselves outside, and come back in with rosy cheeks and cold, stiff toes, I never, ever say to myself, “I wish we had NOT gone outside!”

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It always feels better to get fresh, cold air in the lungs.

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It feels better to remember that winter can be beautiful.

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It feels better to play a little bit, and to be brave about the cold.

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“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” (John Ruskin)

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I hope your week includes some exhilarating moments of “good” weather!

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And I have a book winner to announce on this lovely Monday morning. The Resolution For Women goes to my dear friend Sarah, who lives just a few doors down from me, so delivering it should be very easy!:)

Thanks to everyone who contributed a comment. I loved reading about all the amazing women of faith out there!

 

One Emotion at a Time

Ann Voskamp claims you can only feel one type of emotion at a time.

When you feel thankful, you cannot worry or feel afraid.

That thought annoyed me when I first read it. I think it rubbed me the wrong way because it seemed too easy. I kept seeing those lists of thanksgiving everyone was making all over the internet, and I kept resisting from joining in, without even fully understanding why.

Looking back, I think it was because I didn’t believe I could have suffered through so much anxiety and fear, only to arrive at such a simple solution.

It just couldn’t be that easy.

And was it really true that you can only feel one thing at a time?

I finally gave in to the thankfulness list after reading One Thousand Gifts, and I started making my own list.

It’s been changing me, but it didn’t get rid of the fear in my life.

Where was my cure? I knew it had sounded too simple.

There has been no doubt in my mind that counting blessings makes a difference. It changes my thought patterns. It helps me to stop and notice the little things, the gifts I receive every single day.

But always, the fear remained.

I do not get worried and anxious about just anything. With me, it’s usually health-related. I first started experiencing health problems when I was 21 years old, and at a young age, I lost the ability to think I was invincible. I look around me, and see so many people who seem to think, “Those kinds of bad things don’t happen to me.”

But it does happen sometimes, and so at 21, I started to fear, because it all became real for me. For many years, it was the worst-case scenario for me, and I seemed to get stuck in the habit of expecting it.

But one spring day, I realized how unhappy and pessimistic I had become, and slowly, things started to change.  I decided to choose joy, no matter what. My mind changed, and my body changed, and very slowly, I saw answers to some of those prayers I’d been praying for years, begging God for healing.

But always, the fear remained. Always expecting the worst.

My thankful list didn’t fix it.

I’ve kept on listing my gifts, and I’ve added more joy to my life, and experienced more of Jesus, but this “taking every thought captive” has been slow in coming.

Then, a few nights ago, I joined my Bible study group at church, and I was reminded all over again of the idea that we can only experience one type emotion at a time.

This time it stuck. (This time it didn’t annoy me!)

The next day, I tried the idea out. Every time my mind wanted to go down a worried, anxious path, I mentally shouted out, “One kind of emotion!” I grabbed the nearest positive thought I could find, and hung on.

Over and over, I flexed my mind muscles, stopping the bad, and hanging onto the good.

By the end of day, I was mentally exhausted. It is hard to keep things on track!

But this “one emotion at a time” idea is making sense to me right now. I think it’s what I’ve been missing as I’ve listed my one thousand gifts.

It reminds me of forcing our girls to say “thank you”. I can make them go through the motions, but I can’t make them feel true feelings of gratitude, deep down. That’s up to them.

I was going through the motions of making my list, but I was still choosing fear instead of thanksgiving.

I’ve written about my attempts to control my thoughts, and fight back fear and anxiety, many times before. Things go good for awhile, but somehow, I get off-track, and need to be reminded all over again.

That could be discouraging, but every time, I think it goes a bit deeper. I learn and understand a bit more, and get a little farther along on this journey.

So I’ll keep taking one step at a time, one thought at a time, one emotion at a time!

It seems so small – how does one make progress when inching along like this?

But with perfect timing, I come across these words:

“Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

Slow is still progress. And small is okay.

I think it’s supposed to be small. Jesus says to think about today. Today only. Staying focused on what is right here, happening right now.

Oh, that is my challenge and my prayer.

Don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Replace worry with worship. Fear with thanksgiving.

Obviously, I don’t do this often enough, because when I tried singing today as a way of focusing my thoughts, and choosing to worship, Kaylia looked over at me, and said, “Stop singing, Mommy. I don’t need music right now.”

Little steps, right?! We’ll get her used to it.

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What are your small steps? Do you think it’s possible to experience fear and thanksgiving at the same time?

34 Days of Favorites: Quote

Seeing as there are almost endless amounts of great quotes in the world, it’s hard to choose one as a favorite.

There is only one quote, however, which made it to my fridge door and remained there most of the year. It even survived our move, and found it’s way to our new fridge door:

That quote kinda sums up what I learned this last year. I’ve shared about how last spring, I realized I was not very happy with my life, with no good reason, and decided to do something about it.

This last year has been about reading fantastic books to gain new wisdom, and developing new habits and ways of thinking. It’s been about praying and memorizing Scripture, and working at this thing until I can honestly say I feel completely different about my life today.

I still mess up, and have a lot of work left to do, but life is different, and I am so thankful.

So what does this quote have to do with it? Well, on that spring day last year, I realized I was waiting for my life to change. I was waiting for annoying dilemmas to disappear, and dreams to fulfill themselves in my life. I had somehow slipped into thinking that my emotions were at the mercy of my circumstances.

In my head, I knew this was not the right way to live, but I got mixed up somewhere along the way.

I had to make a choice. I had to decide what to do when hard things happened in my life. I needed to know, right down to the bottom of my heart, that I believed God was in control, and joy and peace were possible in the midst of any circumstances.

When I saw this quote in a magazine, it hit me in exactly the right spot. It sums up much of my journey – I will choose for today what kind of life I’m going to live. Today I start to change bad habits. For today, I cannot control what issues will come into my life, but I can control how I react to them.

And that is what makes all the difference.

I want to write my story on purpose. I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to happen. I would like to make good things happen, and fully embrace the everyday blessings I might have overlooked before.

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Any favorite quotes you want to share? Or how about ways in which you are choosing to write your own story today? Please share! Because I’d love to hear about it, and…..because you might win a prize! (Get the details here.)

Enjoy Life

found here

Maybe I shall frame this, and hang it someplace where I’ll see it all the time!!

I feel like there is a constant struggle going on inside me right now to try to stay in this moment – to enjoy right now, because time is flying by. Before you know it, moving day will be here, and I’ll leave my beloved Red Rock Bible Camp behind, and it will be the end of a very special chapter in our family’s story.

Moving kind of sucks. I don’t like good-byes, and I don’t like a chaotic house.

Good-byes and chaos pretty much sum up life right now, however, and it is hard not to wish it away.

But these are the days to embrace it all – to live fully present and enjoy it, before it’s all gone.

And you know what’s funny? So often I look back, and I can’t remember the hard stuff very well! I love it that it’s possible to look back on something hard, and forget the negative stuff.

My favorite example of this happened on our wedding day….

It was a cloudy day, raining off and on, and we weren’t able to take pictures in my parents’ yard like we’d planned. So we headed off to our indoor back-up location, and took most of our pictures there.

But the rain stopped, and our photographer suggested we get a few shots outside. It worked out well for awhile, but then it started to rain again, and we all headed for shelter.

My dress was huge, my heels were high, and getting anywhere quickly wasn’t the easiest endeavor. As we tried to make a run for it, our photographer spotted a bench in a beautiful little spot, and stopped us to say, “I know it’s starting to drizzle, but I’d love to get a shot of you on that bench.”

I was not impressed.

I had absolutely no desire to get my hair, make-up, veil, and dress wet in the rain. But I clearly remember standing there thinking (grumpily), “Well, I guess we’d better let him take the picture, because just watch – it will end up being my favorite.”

And it was! It was the photo we chose to use for all of our thank-you cards, and it’s the one I still choose to have up on our wall.

It is by far my favorite.

Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the choice I made that day, and try to renew my commitment to making that same choice in the future!

Because  you know what? Right now, this chaos and these good-byes could end up being among my favorite memories. I want to do this time well.

I don’t want to wish it away.

P.S. For anyone who’s sick of moving posts, just think – at this time next week, we will actually be moving! Then you’ll get to read “Settling In” posts…Or maybe “I Miss the Lake So Much I Can’t Stand It” posts!

Slow Down For Spring

Happy First Day of Spring!

I’m kinda glad it’s “official”, aren’t you?! Anika sincerely believes that the weather (and life in general, really) will be dramatically different, now that the calendar says it’s spring.

We’re celebrating.

We went for the first stroller ride of the season.

We played on the play structure, and Kaylia ran through a snow drift in her flip flops.

And we ended up at the lake.

We decided to truly celebrate spring by practicing the fine art of jumping pictures.

And I’ve been thinking about soaking it all in. Oh, that smell in the air. It smells like spring, and evergreen trees. The sun is so warm, and Kaylia’s toes are so bare. These days, it’s good just to be alive.

I am so, so thankful that my “job” involves teaching my girlies to love spring. We play in the sun, and I try to teach them to notice. To slow down, and notice the little things, like the smell and the way something feels, and all the little things that are so easy to take for granted.

I loved this post about learning to slow down to notice, and to fully live:

“The frogs have returned, the frogs and their song.

 Why does the trilling in the throat of a frog do this wondrous thing inside of me?….

That sound. 

A symphony of sound, trilling low and deep, fills the spaces between the trees, lifts us too.

It is like the water, a looking glass of trunks and limbs, like the water itself croons.

With the everyday eyes, I can’t see the singers at all. It takes time for eyes to adjust to stillness, and only the slow really see….”

I want to have eyes that adjust to stillness. I want to truly see spring with all of its wonder and beauty.

It’s time to go slow, and leave behind “everyday eyes”!

How Do You Feed Your Soul?

I’ve been feeling pretty depleted lately. We’re nearing the two week mark since Ben’s been gone, and I’ve been disappointed in myself. I wanted to “rise to the occasion” a little more than I have been.

My parents kindly gave me a much needed break yesterday. I needed to do some laundry, clean up our stuff, clear up the clutter,which usually ends up clearing the clutter in my mind, as well.

When that was done, I was left with one hour to become sane once more.

How do you do that in an hour?

Countless times, I’ve heard about how moms should take a long bath to relax.

I hate baths. If you want to torture me, make me take a bath. I love showers, but not enough to take one in the middle of the day to relax.

I love reading, and journaling, too, but somehow, I just wasn’t in the mood for anything.

So I prayed about it. It went something like this: “God, I need you to fill me up, very quickly. I’ve got one hour. What can I do that will feed my soul, and get me ready to be a good mom again? How can I truly see You in this next hour?”

And then it came to me.

I went out and did this:

I found Jesus outside. I know He’s everywhere, but I’ve always been able to connect best with Him in nature.

And when I bring my camera, I’m forced to find what is always there.

Our perennial spiritual and psychological task is to loom at things familiar until they become unfamiliar again.

-G.K. Chesterton

After wandering around, really seeing everything again, discovering again how little I know about beauty and God and nature, I also became ready to see my girls again.

Oh, to find joy and unfamiliarity in them. To never take them for granted, and to find joy in mothering, even when there’s too much fighting and whining and missed potty training attempts.

Beauty in everything.

The unfamiliar in the familiar.

Food for my soul, and joy for my heart!

How do you go about finding it in your own life?