A New Perspective on Christmas

So this is our first Christmas with a baby....a baby boy...our only son.  

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.


 God *gave* His ONLY son.  He wasn't taken or manipulated, He gave him.  And it was His ONLY son.  Not that one child would have more significance than another, but there were no other children. Just Jesus.  And God gave Him up; sent Him away from the riches of Heaven to the poverty of this world.  He sent Him to die.  

In a small small shadow of a way to relate, somewhat like me sending my son away from the beautiful life we have here in America to live in a third world village somewhere, knowing he would die of hunger or AIDS or some other horrible disease.  But knowing that in doing so, his life would save everyone else's.  He would be a hero. But I would be alone.  I would lose my son.  But surely his one life would be worth the sacrifice to save the world, right? But it's my son, my heart outside my body.  Could I love *other people* enough to allow my son to be their hero?  

And yet God's son wasn't a hero, He was a servant. And He was hated and mocked and ignored.  And He continued to love and serve and die anyway.  

God's sacrifice for us, for me, sent in love.  He gave His only Son.  My sweet, beautiful, smiling boy...so innocent and pure and precious. So very loved and adored.  

God gave His beautiful, smiling, innocent boy to us.  On a quiet night in a lowly manger.  No crowds, no friends, no trumpets, not even a midwife to help. But there He was...God's son, God's love, in the flesh, for us. 

What a heavy, beautiful truth in John 3:16.  Thank you Lord for Your Gift. My gratitude and love has fallen short of the magnitude of your sacrifice.  It is truly an indescribable gift. 

What a new perspective of Christmas for me, that my husband and I will celebrate with our sweet son.  Thank you Lord for this indescribable gift as well.  

Merry Christmas...tidings of comfort and joy that God is With Us. If we believe, we will never die. Not believe in Santa, not believe in the "Christmas Spirit"...but believe in Christ. The baby. The king. God's love poured out for us.  May you believe with all your heart this Christmas and always.    


Something Very Magical

I have been reading to the little one since day one. Mostly Psalms and Proverbs in the beginning but in the last couple months we've been reading all kinds of books. Most of them are way above his level but we read them together anyway.  When people asked during pregnancy what to buy for baby, books was always a good answer. I even had them on my registry. I received some questions of why I wanted books that he would not read for possibly 5 or 10 years and my answer was that I wanted to read them TO him, and it makes no difference to me if it's Dr. Seuss or Hardy Boys or the King James Version of the Bible. I just want to read to him.  And the more I thought about it, the more books I have come up with that I want to buy him and the list keeps growing and I get SO excited.  To read Frog and Toad (a childhood favorite) and the Monster at the End of This Book and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...man...SO FUN! I can't wait for him to enjoy these like I did and have and DO still enjoy them.  And think of all the books he'll get to read as he gets older-Charlotte's Web and Choose Your Own Adventure books and all those fun pre-teen level books? And then one day he'll get to start reading *novels*...oh man. How awesome to read the Count of Monte Cristo for the first time. Or the Hunger Games trilogy or Catcher In the Rye...or a million other books! 

It occurred to me that I do not remember books well.  I have read a lot of books, and most of them I cannot tell you anything about (crazy and kind of scary LOL) but I remember how they made me feel.  I think so very fondly (or NOT fondly hahaha) about books and really about reading in general and that is what makes me love it so much and want to share it with my child.  There is just nothing like the feeling of being wrapped up in a good book.  Staying up way past bedtime and getting lost in another world...hours and hours gone in a blink as you just hunger for the rest of the story...man this is making me want to go read a good book!

Baby is just now starting to interact with our books-touch them, really look at them and pay attention. It makes me so happy!! I hope that he will love reading as much as his dad and I do. God gives us such a gift to have language, and the ability to record that language and use that language for such wonderful experiences. A good book can be a journey, a friend, a mirror, a vision and so much more.   

To read more about giving the love of books to your children, I highly recommend "Honey for a Child's Heart".  Now go find a good book for yourself!! We have quickly come to love "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"  at our house...:) What are some of your favorites??


How Painful Are Labor Pains?

So we had a baby a couple months ago (thus the shortage of blog posts lately) and while preparing for labor I asked God to give me a word of encouragement that I could meditate/focus on during the delivery process.  I expected a standard "I can do all things through Christ" verse or a great quote about strength or peace etc. But what He gave me was Romans 8. And I prayed about it a lot and it was very clear: memorize and think on Romans 8:18-25.  So these are those verses:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Now I will spare you the long drawn out birth story, but I was in non-medicated labor for 30 hours. And believe it or not, there were actually a couple times where I was lucid enough to call these verses to mind and in those moments God gave me such insight into these truths which I thought I would share.

So think that God tells us "all of creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now". Flowers that fade and mountains that crumble... parched deserts and weary lands... animals that starve and humans that hurt. Creation feels PAIN, the kind of pain as a woman giving birth. That is how much we need and are longing for Christ.

Being in labor is extremely painful, yes. There came a point where contractions were every five minutes and we were 24 hours into it and I seriously wanted to give up. It was too much pain for too long and it hadn't produced any results: still not dilated, still no baby.  However, call me crazy,I would say I have had migraines that have been worse pain and this is why: Labor pains never made me cry. It never created pain that brought me to tears because I KNEW it had a purpose.  It wasn't just a straight miserable pain like a migraine or what I imagine breaking a leg would be, but it was working towards *something* (an adorable baby!) Unlike when I have had really bad migraines, migraines HAVE brought me to tears, because they seem purposeless and I feel beyond miserable, seriously have thought I might die, wretchedly unhappy and pretty much hopeless. [Note: I now know the best medicine to take and when to take it so migraines are not this severe for me anymore in case you were worried about me ;-) ] So what does this teach me about God?

 Well, I think it has application when we think of cancer and hurricanes and genocide-these are horrible and painful and it is helpful to think they are serving a purpose. These are labor pains needed to produce a New Heaven and New Earth.  But one step further-think about it in context of good things! All this time where we live here on earth in our happy little lives thinking what a great job or house or family or hobby we have-this is birth pangs too. All the breathtaking sunsets and beautiful snowfalls-this is groaning! Isn't that crazy to think?  Because really, if you dig deep into these things, aren't they all broken on some level? A great job has it's crappy days, a beautiful house deteriorates, a family has strife, a sunset fades and the glistening snow melts. They are evidences of aching...teaching us to hope for what we do not see.

  And at the end of the day what is so great about this analogy is that it's saying life is not a purposeless pain but rather purposeFUL. We are not being tormented and suffering needlessly, but our suffering is producing perseverance and hope (Romans 5) and at the end, like the reward of a newborn baby produced from labor, our reward will be adoption into God's family and the redemption of our body. 

I've just never thought about life on earth as the equivalent of groaning and birth pangs. I tend to see the bright side of things and I get caught up in the idolatry of loving my life on earth sometimes.  And now that I've experienced birth pangs, it's kind of amazing to contemplate.  I know that not everyone will experience childbirth in their lives so I wanted to try to put this in words to hopefully share an insight that helps you see something new and cool about God's amazing plan.  

And here's a gratuitous baby picture to remind you of God's purposes :)


Lessons From A Coldplay Concert

Believe it or not, the night before I went into labor Husband and I were at the Coldplay Mylo Xyloto concert. (He took me on the condition that I would not give birth to our child at the show and thankfully I held up my end of the bargain. barely! haha) 

First of all, it was SOOO awesome.  It has been awhile since I've been to a concert and the technology and visual effects were incredible.  I know it is not a great photo but below is a picture from our phone. Kind of an "HTBT" thing (Had To Be There) but hope you get the idea.  
But I am blogging about it because of what the lead singer said when he started the show.  He walked out on stage and greeted everyone and said something along the lines of

 "Not only is this the last night of our US tour, but we have now performed 776 shows as a band and tonight is our 777th show and we think that's pretty special.  So we just want you to know that we intend to play the best gig of our lives tonight.  We know you could be a lot of places tonight and we just thank you so much for choosing to spend your evening with us."

So polite right? The humility and gratitude was very genuine, or at least came across as so, and I was just floored.  But what really stuck with me was 777 shows. They have played 777 performances, and when you add in how many times they practice their songs you are talking in the thousands of times they have sung the same songs over and over and over.  And they are standing before us with the earnest intention ( maybe I'm naive but I really believed ) of making this their best performance. Or if nothing else at least giving it their best energy, best effort. 

Now I have no idea of the religious background of any of these guys but this work ethic came across as so Christ-like to me.  If Jesus was a musician, I think He would say something like this, and mean it, every time He performed.  I was so convicted of things in my own life that I do day in and day out, roles that I perform-being an employee, being a wife, being a friend, 777 days and then some. If my Husband asks me to make him breakfast for the 777th time, am I still grateful and joyful to do it? Because I was the first time, and I was the 50th time, but somewhere along the line it got repetitive.  But so what? Does that make it any less special or less important?  777 times. Sounds a lot like how much we're called to forgive too. (Seventy times seven...aka over and over and over.)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for men.-Colossians 3:23. Whether it's cooking or cutting hair or changing a diaper or performing a concert-are you doing it with gratitude? Are you giving it your best? Is your heart still in it the 777th time?

Thank you Coldplay for an incredible show and an amazing attitude! 


Life and Death

In the quiet dark of an early Tuesday morning a loud cry bursts forth and welcomes new life...our  first son. He has a full head of dark hair and deep gray eyes alert to all the world and he is beautiful.  My eyes tear up as I write this in gratitude for this gift.

The next day, in the quiet dark of an early Wednesday morning, a gentle breath exhales and takes away life...our grandmother.  She has a thinned head of once dark hair and dim eyes fading away to the world and she is beautiful too-for all that she is and has been. My eyes tear up as I write this in gratitude for this gift as well.  

The trite words "circle of life" come to mind...trite but true.  One of the last things she was told before she died was that she had a great grandson. I am so glad.  I did not get to say goodbye as I would have liked but I hope this news was a measure of joy and peace to her in her last moments.  

She was born of Italian immigrants and represents the heritage in me that loves big family get togethers, talking excitedly with my hands and of course good food.  I hope our son will have this "italian" in him too. I never lived under her roof or worked with her or knew much about her daily life because she was just my gramma. My memories and moments with her are mostly from younger days-baking bread, getting our hair done and of course ballroom dancing. Though towards the end she was so tired and weary of life, I will remember her as full of life-a great smile, a happy countenance, quick on her feet in white dancing shoes as she waltzed gracefully around the room in her seafoam green dress and pearls around her neck.  She was married for over 30 years, she raised eight amazing strong children, and she lives on in her 14 grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren.  

Gramma and Grandpa and their eight kids, bottom left. She is also the bride in the small picture in the middle.

It is hard to have a moment of sadness mingled with such a moment of joy in my life...and yet there is a quiet peace about it.  This is life and death as God intended.  Ecclesiastes says the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth, the end of a thing better than the beginning. Why? I cannot say it more beautifully than Matthew Henry does:

That, all things considered, our going out of the world is a great kindness to us than our coming into the world was: The day of death is preferable to the birth-day; though, as to others, there was joy when a child was born into the world, and where there is death there is lamentation, yet, as to ourselves, if we have lived so as to merit a good name, the day of death, which will put a period to our cares, and toils, and sorrows, and remove us to rest, and joy, and eternal satisfaction, is better than the day of our birth, which ushered us into a world of so much sin and trouble, vanity and vexation.  We were born to uncertainty, but a good man does not die at uncertainty.  The day of our birth clogged our souls with the burden of the flesh, but the day of our death will set them at liberty from that burden.

Gramma leaves behind a good name and enters into eternal holy joy-hopefully full of ballroom dances in the arms of her beloved Father.  Luke is born into a good name but enters into a world of unknown. Hopefully, we pray, he is soon called into the arms of his beloved Father and knows a life on earth of certain grace, that one day a long time from now he can look back on a good life like Gramma could.

Goodbye Gramma. We will miss you and know you are so loved.  Hello Luke. Welcome, and know you are so loved.  


"MTV Cribs": Baby Mathews Edition

I hope I'm not aging myself with my blog post title...do you know what MTV Cribs is? Hopefully you do. I couldn't pass up the play on words ;-) So this is a tour of our nursery including information about where we bought a lot of items or how I made them and some lessons learned in the process.  Enjoy!

Theme/Inspiration: When we found out we were having a boy I spent hours looking through bedding sets and was pretty sold on this one which I think has a great classic modern look to it.  I showed it to Husband and he said "It looks like it's for you, not for baby."  Shoot. Ok so while I was disappointed at first, I took his words to heart and felt like he was right.  He suggested something more fun and playful, perhaps leaning towards animals, and so eventually I found the one you see here, Sunny Safari by Carter's, and my sophisticated mature self was able to acquiesce that it was very cute and Husband loved it and so we had a winner. Turns out the animals have been SO fun to work with and I highly recommend having a 'theme' versus just a 'color scheme' as it makes everything easier.
Lesson Learned: It really is a blessing to have a husband (or wife, or best friend, etc.) who sees the world differently to offer a different perspective!
Color: Along the same lines as the above paragraph, I was leaning towards a light pale yellow and Husband again encouraged me to think "Fun" more than think "Mature" and thus the result is Sherwin Williams 6674 Jonquil. (I do work at Sherwin Williams btw so am rather biased towards their colors!) I was pretty nervous about it because it was such a strong color, so I had my samples up for over a week, in all different kinds of lighting, etc. and finally I felt that it would be ok. Turns out I am very happy with it-the first time we've ever had a yellow wall and it really is cheerful and lovely to walk into.
Lesson Learned; This is a freebie lesson because I work at a paint store: ALWAYS get a sample, ALWAYS look at it in different lights on different days. I've worked with color for seven years and I STILL get samples for my own home. Even if it just affirms your decision, it can never be a bad thing just to make sure.

Space: We live in a 2 bedroom 1 bath duplex and when we found out we were pregnant we thought we would need a bigger space to be able to have our room, a nursery, an office and a guest bed.  We spent a LONG time looking at other living options and couldn't find anything that fit our requirements so we decided to stay where we are and we just said "we'll make it work." I didn't have the highest hopes but seriously, some furniture rearranging and creative thinking and we have PLENTY of space.
Lesson Learned: You can always make it work. Sometimes expectations may need to be adjusted but God always provides exactly what we need.

Crib/Dresser: I was REALLY close to ordering a set online, when I happened to be walking through BabiesRUs and saw this crib set on sale.  It never even occurred to me to look at their furniture because the one or two I had glanced at were very expensive.  But it is BEAUTIFUL wood, very sturdy and the sale price was better than expected.  Setting up did however take a lot of help and I will tell you it took Karl the Canadian to carry it in the house, Uncle Josh to assemble the crib (AND help us move furniture AND paint) and Just Wes to assemble the dresser (he came after work in his dress clothes btw).
Lesson Learned: It took a village to help set up a nursery, I can only imagine how many people it will take to raise a child! We don't have family here and it is amazing the family of brothers and sisters God has provided with such loving servant's hearts. As hard as it was to ask for help (I felt really bad for all the manual labor favors) we were so blessed in the process and hopefully we can return the favor one day. And actually it made things fun to have friends involved...so it really does never hurt to ask!

Framed Artwork: Turns out the Carter's set had coordinating stickers I could order of the animals and this was SO great.  I am a scrapbooker and so I loved being able to make my own artwork to hang over the crib.  It was VERY easy and VERY fun for about $20.  Then it came time to frame them and I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. 12x12 frames are very limited color and style selection, prices tend to be rather spendy, and I was super frustrated.  I spent maybe an hour and a half making the artwork? and probably almost 6 hours figuring out the frames (for real.) I went to multiple stores, spent a ton of time online, bought some frames and tried spray painting (which did not work), came really close to buying custom paint color at Sherwin, and was moments away from spending like $75 to buy some frames online when I realized that was ridiculous. So on the verge of tears I stopped and said "this is stupid." and I went to Michael's and bought the cheapest easiest 12x12 frames I could find (it cost me about $10 for all three of these after my coupon) and guess what? I love them. Figures.
Lesson Learned: Know your limits. Be smart enough to step back when you are getting frustrated and ask yourself what is really bothering you and what is really important.  And know that 12x12 artwork limits your framing options!

Rug: This is actually a carpet remnant! We got a smokin' deal on it and it is very soft and plush.  It's not necessarily the ideal color I had in mind but the other factors outweighed the color issue and really the brown looks fine.
Lesson Learned: Definitely check local carpet distributors for remnants next time you need a rug. No great profound wisdom here, just a good tip ;-)

Chair: After much debate on rocker vs recliner vs glider I found this beauty on Craigslist (brand new with tags!) for a great price.  It is actually a "rocker recliner" and it is *amazing*.  It's made by Lane and I highly commend it to you.
Lesson Learned: I did not think we could afford to buy my ideal chair and God provided it at half price. Amazing how He cares for us, even in the little details of life like a rocking chair.  He is truly able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we think or ask.

Prayer Books: I have started praying for our son and these books are SO helpful.  I have been struggling to know what to pray about as I haven't technically met him yet, so my prayers have been pretty general of praying for his health and God's hand on his life etc. but it is so great to be specific and to have scriptures to refer to. And it's a nice reason to sit in our comfy recliner and put my feet up for a few minutes :)
Lesson Learned: I think being "good" at prayer is a learned art and discipline. There are so many great resources available to us in our modern day I would encourage you to take advantage of.  And know it is never too early or too late to start praying for someone. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. -James 5:16

Mobile: Our bedding set does offer a mobile but it is $50 and I thought this was way too much for something I wasn't completely sold on having anyway. So with some inspiration from my great friend and new mommy Dr. Benjamin who had made her own mobile, I went to Michael's and bought craft sticks and little wooden animals and made this for $3. It's not exactly a piece of art but it works. It kind of reminded me of doing a science project and the balancing stuff was a little tricky but totally worth the money saved.
Lesson Learned: I am a recovering perfectionist and this mobile is definitely not perfect LOL.  But you know what? It accomplishes it's purpose and it was only $3 so I checked it off my list as "good" and "done". This was better than being "perfect".

Wall Art: I was pretty set on buying this wall decal and super excited about it, but when I went to order it realized that different sizes were different prices and what I wanted was going to cost like $175. Holy cow! So I started brain storming how I could make it myself, and I came across this awesome blog about ironing on wall art and ta da! A vision was born. This project cost me about $10 in fabric from Jo-Ann's and was actually easier than I expected (always a pleasant surprise).  
Lesson Learned: "Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw was from the hand of God." -Eccl. 2:24 
My soul very much enjoyed this labor...it was cool to force myself to think outside the box and plan everything from start to finish-the fabric, the layout, the font etc. and have such a nice finished product.  

Changing Table Basket: So I've been obsessed over what is supposed to be in the basket on the changing table.  I looked at a million baskets, not sure what would be the best height, size, color etc. And then I talked to some friends and read a ton of blogs on what exactly goes in this basket. (I'm not sure why this was such a big deal but I just wanted to have a bunch of good stuff in here!)  So if you're a first time mom and you're wondering this too...this is what I came up with as a result of my research:

Lotion, Cotton Balls, Qtips, Nail Clippers, Pacifier, a Toy, Mustela cleanser, Desitin, Wipes

Everything else I put in the top drawer of the dresser: diapers, thermometer, nasal aspirator, brush and comb, changing pad covers etc. I may end up moving some of this stuff around as I figure out what I use more often, but this is the starting line up.  Any other suggestions or advice? 
Lesson Learned: I understand why moms talk so much about mom issues. I do not have all the answers and in fact I feel I have very few answers when it comes to all this baby stuff! SO helpful to have advice from other moms. Not that I have to adhere to it, but great to have and then pick and choose what works.  And what on earth did our parents do without other parent's blogs on the internet??

Laundry Hamper: I was SOOO excited to find this little guy at Target.  It's not part of the Carter's set but I think it totally works and it's one of my favorite items in the nursery.  I was worried it would be too small, but my best friend is a professional mom (three going on four kids) and she said it's actually the perfect size for baby clothes so that the laundry doesn't overwhelm you.  This makes a lot of sense as I could see how one could probably fit close to 50 or 60 onesies in an adult laundry hamper (and trust me, we would put it off until it was full!) and who on earth would want to fold 57 onesies in an afternoon?
Lesson (in process of being) Learned: Go do laundry. Keep doing laundry. Then do more laundry. *sigh*

Scripture Artwork: My last arts and crafts project of the nursery.  Turns out painting is VERY tedious when you are trying to paint a million stripes and create a "handwritten font" look with a paintbrush.  I can't take credit for the design though. Found this great inspiration from Sweet Pea and Pumpkin blog and just used my own colors and Bible verse.  If you are interested in attempting this, I recommend NOT getting the "professional canvas" as it is very textured and makes painting stripes and letters VERY difficult.  Look for a smooth canvas texture. I DO recommend getting a very good fine tip professional paint brush.  This took me a *really* long time to paint fyi. Poor Husband was neglected for a good 10-12 hours I would say. BUT, I'm very happy with the results and hopefully it's something we'll have in our house, one place or another, for many years to come.  I narrowed down about a dozen favorite Bible verses and then read them to Husband and asked which one he wanted to be "the verse" for baby and when we came to this one he said "That's it!". And so it is.
Lesson Learned: We both actually remember plaques/artwork that hung in our rooms growing up with little sayings on them-which I think is pretty amazing.  Our pastor has spoken of a plaque that hung in his house growing up and how the words still resonate with him today.  We really do take in the pictures and words that are around us everyday. Scary when you think about the power of advertising but encouraging when you think about the power of Scripture. God's word does not return void and we pray that these truths will resonate with our son for a lifetime. Just for myself, seeing this every time I am in the nursery has already begun to implant these truths in my heart more than ever before. Such beautiful promises...

So that's our nursery! We started with the idea that we may not have space to have a nursery at all and to see how God has brought everything together and given us so many amazing little details has been awesome. He truly has given us Grace and Glory and we are so humbled to think that soon He is giving us Luke. For those of you looking for information or ideas, hope that you found this helpful.  For friends and family looking for the little details, I hope you feel like you are here with us! As always, thanks for reading :)


There's a Monster Under My Bed

There's definitely a monster under my bed. And in my closet, and in my drawers, and in my car.  His name is Clutter and he is scary.  Despite being a fully grown mature adult (most days), I find myself struggling to face him, much less admit that I created him.
P.S. He's not as cute as this guy. (image from Lynnie Pinnie embroidery designs)

  I like to think of myself as a smart, fully capable woman who is excellent at all kinds of things, and it is true when you live alone all your faults go away. But in recent years (aka since I got married!) I've realized there are some things I am just not good at.  Cleaning is one of them.  Figuring out cable wires, playing chess, running marathons are other things, but those are for another blog.  But ya, I'm terrible at cleaning/organizing/throwing things away. I just don't like it and I kind of have it in my mind that I'm bad at it and it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.  There is generally a method to my madness in the clutter monster but that doesn't really do anybody any good. So I read that old quote recently "A place for everything and everything in it's place" and I thought "Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea."

I knew my husband would appreciate any effort since A-he hates clutter (specifically MY clutter) and B-he can very rarely find anything since I'm the only one who knows where the Monster has hidden things.  So I thought I would attempt to organize our linen closet.  

I didn't even take a "Before" picture partly because it was so messy but partly because I wasn't so sure it'd look any better when I was done.  I was not so confident I could successfully kill or even tame the Clutter Beast.  So let's just say picture a super messy scary linen closet something along these lines...

(seriously it was a mess. just trust me on this.) And strap your boots on...would you believe it...THIS is the after picture!

Does this not look like the linen closet of a very clean and organized housewife who has it all together? I mean, man! She's a beauty. No more monsters in *this* closet! 

In fact, I was so psyched about it I went ahead and killed the clutter monster in the JUNK drawer too! Isn't that shocking? I mean..the JUNK drawer?! That is super advanced monster killing skills right there. 

I only spent about $20 between the two projects-mainly for the "Junk Drawer Organizer" (Brilliant by the way) that I got at Target for $6!! And then to buy those glass canisters for the cotton balls and Q-tips.  Pretty spiffy huh? 

So these are my thoughts about this adventure: 

#1-It's ok not to be good at something and really amazing when you're married to someone who loves you despite these weaknesses. But it's very cool to face your fears (seriously, organizing the linen closet kind of scared me) and force yourself to do something you aren't sure you can do and then actually do it. And it doesn't have to be climbing mountains or conquering your fear of heights, but even just little things! I think as we get older we tend to label ourselves as being a certain way and it gets harder and harder to change.  But who says you ALWAYS have to be that way? Now surely there are people who could have done a better job with this closet (my best friend being one of them no doubt!) but I am so proud of it because I did it and am super happy with the results.   

#2-One of the reasons I'm so happy with it is because in both places I implemented a system that could work long term.

 Seriously, this is such good advice. I wasn't going to make the labels because I thought "that's cheezy, I'll know that all the hair stuff goes on the bottom and the jewelry goes in the middle etc." But I went ahead and wrote on little pieces of paper with a sharpie marker and made the labels anyway and I'm so glad I did. 
 Not only does it help Husband find everything without asking me, it *keeps me accountable*. It's ridiculous but I'll be running late and tempted to just throw something in a drawer and sort it out later and those little pieces of paper keep me accountable. "Dang it...I better put the jewelry with the jewelry or the sign will be wrong".  And it's good :) Keeps the Monster at bay.  

-I know it's not Biblical that "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" but gosh, it sure is amazing when the house is clean and organized-despite how much I do not enjoy the process of getting it to that point.  But I'm so grateful we have a God who is "not a God of disorder but of peace." 1Corinthians 14:33 (Also translated "God is not the author of confusion". ) I'm normally not one to go to the New Living Translation but I love how they word Isaiah 45:18 "For the Lord is God and He created the heavens and the earth and put everything in its place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos." Isn't that great? Other versions say "He did not create it in vain".  God has a purpose and plan and place for everything. I just love this truth made real to me in my junk drawer.  

So here's hoping you can tackle the monsters in your life! I think this process took me maybe two hours.  And three weeks later it looks exactly the same. THIS IS AMAZING. Now the clutter monster in my car is much bigger and scarier...we'll see if I can get to him next month ;-)


Love and Fairy Tales

This weekend we attended our first childbirth education class and we were asked to introduce ourselves and answer "Besides the obvious of meeting your baby, what are you most excited about?" My husband answered "I'm looking forward to us transitioning from being a 'married couple' to being a 'family of three.'"  And it was one of those moments where I felt like I fell in love with him again. So it isn't our anniversary and it's not his birthday or anything like that, but I just wanted to take a minute to be sappy and talk about how much I love my husband and encourage you how awesome a good marriage can be. 

 The new Maroon 5 song "Payphone" sings "All those fairy tales are full of it, one more stupid love song I'll be sick." And as much as I LOVE this song, I hear these words and realize we are blessed beyond measure to REALLY love each other and enjoy one another's company, day in and day out, almost seven years married and close to nine years together.   It's not like a "fairy tale" prince rescuing a damsel in distress but an even better than a fairy tale of a man and woman becoming one flesh: loving, cherishing, nurturing, respecting one another.  We don't sing duets in the forest or ride magic carpets together-we run errands, take walks, watch movies and play with our cat-but somehow those things become really special when it's with someone you love.  

Our marriage hasn't always been like this so yes, I understand there are difficult seasons.  And some people might say "Well you two are just lucky enough to find your soulmate" etc. My response to both of those is the same: We are "soulmates", and we have made it through difficult seasons because we have honored the covenant of marriage- by the grace of God and to the glory of God. 

When things have been hard, or very hard, what sustained our marriage some days was purely a commitment to the covenant we made to each other and to God.  Being in love, being happy, having things in common, this stuff does NOT survive the fires of marriage. It's great when it's there, and when the foundations are solid these things ARE a huge part of marriage, but they're not the core. They change with feelings, circumstances, seasons etc. But a commitment, a covenant, is a sacred promise that says "No matter what, we're together." And when you have that perspective, your outlook HAS to change, because it makes you a different person. And this is the whole "two become one" idea.  It is my best recommendation for a happy marriage.

And as far as the word "Soulmates"...I believe God created my husband and I to be married, for such a time as this, in His sovereignty.  I think we love each other because we have become one flesh, not the other way around.  

An excerpt from "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis, which take note, is written from one demon to another, teaching his apprentice how to encourage humans away from God, speaks of love like this 

"Humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call 'being in love' is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy...The humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something (God) really promises as its result.  Humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves 'in love', and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion."

I find this to be very thought-provoking.  All this to say, I hope if you are married this encourages you to be the best, most committed spouse you can be. Not only so you can experience the joy and sweetness a happy marriage brings, but so God will be glorified in your honoring of a covenant that truly is sacred, and truly is between you, your spouse and the Holy God of the universe who created you two and brought you together by His grace.  And if you are not married, I hope this encourages you that you don't have to be perfect and you don't have to find someone who's perfect, you simply have to find someone whom you believe you can commit to "do life" with, whatever it takes, and commit it to God and know that all the good stuff will follow.

I wrote the following awhile ago, when people would say stuff like "Yeah, you feel that way because you're newlyweds." But I affirm I still feel this way, and really feel it more deeply and truly than I did then, and I literally thank God every night when my head hits the pillow, for the amazing man who lays down next to me.

Journal excerpt 2007: "I absolutely adore my husband.  He is so grounded in faith and funny and handsome and strong and sweet and pensive and playful and smart and sexy and *sigh*…he is all I ever dreamed of and more. God has given me so much grace and love and joy in the form of this man that walks beside through all of life and I wish everyone could experience love like this. It is the greatest privilege I have ever been given second only to Grace."


How I Changed the World

Many years ago (aka in college) I felt convicted that I wanted to change the world, but as one measly college student I wasn't sure what impact I could make on any of the monstrous problems that exist in our society.  Well God put it on my heart that maybe I wasn't going to save the world all at once but I could certainly make a difference in the life of one person at a time if I would make the effort. 

 This led me to Compassion International, a Christian based child sponsorship program where I found Roxanne, a cute little six year old living in the Philippines who had the same birthday as my mom.  I have now been sponsoring her for almost ten years, and additionally Husband wanted a "son", so we started sponsoring David from Africa a couple years ago.  We pay $76 a month for the two of them ($38 each) and this is less than our cell phone bill, less than our cable bill and less than what we spend eating at restaurants every month (usually). That being said, there is no way in my mind I can ever justify NOT being able to afford sponsoring them.  If we can spend $38 for a beverage, an appetizer and dinner to provide sustenance for ONE night, then we can spend $38 to provide food, medical benefits, school supplies and access to Biblical teaching to a child in poverty for a MONTH. Do you know that we sent David a little extra money for Christmas and he used it to buy sugar, rice and soap for his family and for himself he got a BALL. Like one of those generic plastic balls that would be 99 cents at ToysRus. This was so humbling to me, I just cannot put into words how I felt when I read that in his letter.  Which yes, these sweet children write us letters and probably pray for us as much if not more than anyone else in our lives (except maybe our moms).  

Roxanne graduating from middle school! 
David in his new birthday clothes...SO cute

Here is a link for Compassion if you are interested. There are plenty of other organizations out there as well but I commend Compassion to you because it's very well organized, they are genuine in their efforts and your money is going where it's supposed to.  And here is an excerpt from one of Roxanne's letters...  

(from June 2007)
"...I am your sponsored child Roxanne who writes you because I know already how to make a letter to both of you and in fact I will be in grade 4 this coming June.  With regards to my health, by God's mercy I am very okay, not like before when I always got sick.
As I grow older, I grow also more closer to God and in fact I've learned a lot about the Word of God.  And in home, I always help my mother doing chores. 
We would like to ask your prayers for us here that God gives us always good health and give my father a permanent job.
....From the bottom of my heart thank you so much for still helping me in many ways, especially with my studies. May God be with you always. "

Does that melt your heart or what? I seriously don't know of a better way to spend $38.  Compassion did not ask me to write this and I know it is not possible for everyone but I feel so grateful to sponsor these kids. I just wanted to share this because it brings me that much joy.  
You can change the world! We do every month and it is a privilege.


What To Do With 29 Candles

Today is my 29th birthday! 
 I have to say the late twenty-something years have really been great. I will share a “secret” with you… my birthday wish while blowing out candles for as long as I can remember has always been “I wish for a beautiful happy family and a wonderful life ahead of me”. Through the years it became a prayer, and it really wasn’t just on birthdays. This has been the desire of my heart that I have consistently asked God for for so long, and I was lying awake last night thinking,” I need a new birthday wish because God has so amazingly answered my prayer”.  I remember so many years of so many fears that I would never get married, or I would get married but I wouldn’t be happy.  I feared we wouldn’t be able to have children or that some vague “bad thing” would just pervade my future.  In reality, it’s just been a deep down sinful anxiety doubting God would be good and do good in my life.  But here I am, with an amazing gift of a husband that I love more and more every day, a super awesome cat that is our sweetest companion, and an adorable baby that is just too cute on the way (even in the black and white ultrasound, our baby is so cute, for real).  We live in honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen-the skyline at night, the blossoms in spring, the lakes in the summer, the snow covered hills of winter-I just constantly have to catch my breath as I drive through our city.  I have a great job, a super loving and supportive family and some of the best friends I could have ever asked for.

Now if you were to zoom in with your macro lens of life, you’d also see plenty of sorrow.  Marriage hasn’t always been easy and family hasn’t always been happy. We have debts to pay and stubborn sins to fight daily. Some of my family and friends are not Christians and some nights my heart is so heavy all I can do is cry. I have prayed “Lord, change their hearts. Show them Yourself, show them Your truth” over and over for years, but God’s timing is not mine, and I am waiting.  I have health and fitness goals yet to be met, life goals yet to be accomplished and there are still days where I just feel I cannot get it together for some reason or another.

However, in the big picture, all these things tend to fade away and I really see and live “a beautiful happy family with (God-willingly) a wonderful life ahead of me.” So what to pray now?

“More. More Grace, More Joy, More of You, Lord.”

 Pastor John once shared the analogy of asking for seconds…as in when I attempt a new recipe and my husband not only tells me he loves it but asks me if he can have more. This makes me super happy. (see sweet and sour chicken for one of our new favorite dinners we just discovered last week. Lots of requests for seconds and fighting for leftovers!!) The compliment of the meal is one thing, but asking for seconds not only verifies the authenticity of the compliment but doubles my joy.  On an even greater scale, when God blesses us and we ask for more blessings, it affirms who we believe God to be –generous, a joyful giver, unlimited in resources and simply GOOD. God is GOOD (Matthew 7:7-11).  My husband can only ask me for more sweet and sour chicken so many times until it will be gone, I will have none left. If you ask a restaurant for more food they will also ask you for more money. If you ask a clothing store for more food they don’t have it at all and they never had it. But God never runs out of good things for us (Eph. 3:20), He never asks us to pay for it (because Jesus already has, Romans 5:6-9) and these gifts are part of who He is and He is the one who created them (Romans 11:35-36), so we are asking from the right Source.  So asking God for more is one of the most God-glorifying, Christ-exalting prayers I can pray. And as John Piper would say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

And that’s all that I know to ask for this year.  God has been SO good, and SO gracious, and SO kind and brings me *so much deep down heart-fulfilling joy*, all I can do is come gratefully and boldly before the throne and pray/wish “More Grace, Lord!” Or as the Psalmist would say

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the Lord.”
 (Ps. 116:12-13)

 I find I am “drinking from my saucer ‘cause my cup has overflowed.” And to all of you who are part of what fills my cup, you truly do bless my life and today and always know that God gives me such joy in and through you.  Cheers to 29!


The Gaps

More and more studies are coming out that social media status updates give us a distorted, unrealistically positive view of our friends' lives and this in turn negatively affects how we feel about our own lives.

(this photo cracks me up by the way...profile pic anyone? hahaha)

When all we see are posts about engagements, job promotions, babies, new houses and new cars, it can definitely leave us feeling depressed, jealous and/or unsatisfied after just a few minutes on Facebook. (see full article here at http://news.menshealth.com/facebook-self-esteem/2012/02/12/)

But I guarantee if you were to pick up the phone and talk to that friend or co-worker, a new puppy and a tropical vacation are not the only things going on in his/her life. They have crappy stuff going on just like you and I do.
But "Headache all day. My cat puked on my couch and I got a speeding ticket for $200"  just doesn't tend to make for a great status update that people will "like" or want to keep in touch with you about.

Photos and status updates can skew our perspectives of our own reality and our friends realities. There's a quote from the movie Just Married that says "You never see the hard times in a photo album, but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next." THIS IS SO TRUE.

While you are conetmplating this, I want to share with you about "The Gaps".
(this is the Gap logo and I altered it just for this blog article, original photo credit goes to GAP.)

 I attended a conference a couple years ago where the speaker ( I can't remember her name unfortunately) put forth the idea of "The Gaps" of life and it has stuck with me ever since. The premise is this:

We have a plan for our lives... a "script"...full of expectations and goals for ourselves that we think are surely the way things should be.  We tend to treat God like an actor in the script we've written and tell Him how we think He should act and what He should do to fulfill His part in our story. (Dear God, Please do "abc" and make "xyz" happen. Amen) Our script, more often than not, is based on a collaboration of movies, fairy tales and unrealistic expectations and Jesus is an extra as needed. (You know the idea- college degree at 22, perfectly in shape and happily married at 25, at the top of my career in a job I love at 27, amazing house and dream car at 28, beautiful brilliant children and dog by 30 etc.)
(from The Joneses movie)

  When God doesn't stick to our script a.k.a. life doesn't go as planned, we tend to not understand and be angry, depressed etc. We find ourselves stuck in the space between our desires and our reality and thus we are living in the GAP. And the thing that struck me most about this is...
The Gaps of our lives are Holy Places.
 God is in the Gaps and His Grace is sufficient for us, His power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, rather than trying to push through or avoid the Gaps, if we embrace living in this place then Jesus can become our Hero...not just an "extra" in the Script of your life. For truly, He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith in the first place.  He is writing the greatest story ever told.

So with all this in mind, I have been hesitant to post much on Facebook lately, and specifically I have held off on our pregnancy announcement because I wanted to share all these thoughts here first.  

I know so many of us are living in The Gaps. I have friends that thought they would be married by now and aren't, that wan't to have children and can't, that had a career all planned out and are sitting home unemployed.  We get lost in status updates about vacations, marriages, promotions and pregnancies while living in the GAPS of divorce, infertility, unemployment and loneliness.  We have financial burdens, emotional heartaches and physical ailments that are hard, and real, and I just want to acknowledge these realities to you my friends that I know our lives ARE hard and they ARE real.  My life is not perfect. I have been in scary, horrible Gaps of life and I thank God everyday He DID meet me in those places and carry me through.  And Husband and I are grateful to be in a sweet chapter of our lives where by the grace of God we are healthy and our marriage is strong and we are expecting our first baby in the fall.  But just know that if this is bittersweet for you because as much as you are happy for your friends joys, you feel so alone in a Gap that you never wanted to be your reality, my heart is with you, and my prayers are with you, and I can promise you, it won't always be this hard.  Your story may end up looking different than you planned, but it has been filtered through God's hands
and He TRULY does work all things together for good for those who are the called according to His purpose.  Trust in His goodness and His purposes and may you have new perspective as you walk in this chapter of your life. I pray that you will find living in the Gaps to be Holy Ground for you.