Wake up, You Sleepy Head

sleepI love this picture of Rowan as a tiny baby. He looks so peaceful, asleep in my mom’s living room. Amazing that he could do that with everyone sitting around him, staring at him being adorable just by breathing.

God is always asking me to get out of bed before I feel ready. This has been going on for years, and sometimes I’m very diligent about it, whereas at others I hit snooze or forget to set an alarm in the first place.

But over the last week or so I’ve been getting even more of those messages from Him. At church this week the pastor made a passing comment about rising early, and then later that day I read it somewhere again, not even in connection with God, but with the same message of getting my butt out of the bed before the last possible minute.

Now, I’m an early riser anyway. It’s not as if I’m throwing on a sweatshirt and grabbing the kids a granola bar for the road as we leave for school each morning. I always get up, get ready, put on makeup, make them a good breakfast. Each and every school day. On days off my oldest and I may snuggle a bit, but the little guy generally demands milk, so I’m not sleeping in.

But what does all that sound like? It sounds like me. I get up early so that I can look good. Preparing the kids’ breakfast doesn’t take that long, really. The majority of my morning routine is spent in front of the mirror if I’m really being honest.

So Monday I tried something new. Nothing groundbreaking, but a test-run of sorts. I got up when my husband’s alarm went off at 6am, leaving me about 45 minutes of quiet time before my oldest came running into the room. I didn’t put on makeup or change out of pajamas. In fact, I only brushed my teeth and then got back in bed with my bible and devotional.

But listen, Monday was a GOOD day. I didn’t have any meltdowns or moments of huge stress. I was even able to take the kids to Target, come home and make lunches, and put them down for naps without too much fuss on their part or mine.

Did God give me some kind of epiphany for taking the time to rise and meet him, as I was? Not in any lighting bolt, dramatic fashion. But I think maybe he did in a “gentle whisper” kind of way. This is what your days can be like if you give them to me. This is how you could mother if you allow me to nurture you first.

But guess what? Each day has been more and more of a struggle to grab that time. Monday was easy – I didn’t have to take the kids anywhere. I didn’t have to put on my mask so that humanity wouldn’t freak out over a bare face. But the world tells me I need to cover these dark circles and blonde lashes, so I do it.

Today I read 1 chapter of the bible while nursing my son. Griffin back-talked me after breakfast for one of the very first times, and I didn’t respond as I know I should have.

Would the outcome have looked different if I had gotten up with enough time to start my day with God? I’m not sure. But maybe I need to do more than a 1 day experiment to find out.

 

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Present over Shopping

Here’s a fact about me. I’m always on the hunt for something. I love to research, whether it be our next vacation, an updated leather jacket, or a new home. And all that researching usually amounts to absolutely nothing.

Most of the time, I can spend hours scrolling the internet, walking up and down aisles, or driving down neighborhood streets, and I don’t make a single decision. I’ve just wasted time.

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, though. Specifically, memoirs by authors like Glennon Doyle Melton and Shauna Niequist, two people with wonderful – albeit very different – writing styles. But the common denominator of both is this: As women we must learn to be fully present where we are, how we are created.

love-warrior

Something I’ve realized through all this nonfiction therapy is that my researching is an addiction. An addiction wrapped in the guise of shopping, or planning, or bettering my family. Especially in the last few weeks, I’ve even felt the binge and purge as it’s happening. While looking for a new pair of boots online I spent hours and placed numerous shoes in my shopping cart (the binge). Then they just sat there without ever purchasing (the purge). I would wander into a store with the intention of finding a gift for someone else, and then I get this manic feeling, like I’m running out of time or someone is going to take everything away from me before I can get to it.

I need these things. I deserve to have this. This is what would complete my closet.

This is the binge. The purge is that I buy it and then return it the next day. Or I keep it but purge by vomiting my guilt out to my husband as I tally up what I’ve spent.

present-over-perfect

But this is in no way limited to shopping for clothes. I binge looking at vacations rentals. I binge birthday party ideas for my children. I binge on researching what book I’ll read next. And sometimes I either forget to purge, or think I can handle all this consumption. This is when I become sick.

When I become sick, the binging no longer works. I can tell I’m spending too much time looking up information or cities or black jeans because I’m doing it while nursing my son, or feeding breakfast to the kids. I feel a thrill when I begin a new hunt, and then get an anxious feeling moments later; a nauseous feeling like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be.

That nausea is the holy spirit, gently guiding me back to the present. I have to learn to be in the here and now – not planning the future, or my wardrobe. The spirit has me lay down my phone and look into the eyes of my baby. The spirit asks me to enjoy my coffee while the children giggle about milk mustaches and jelly kisses. The spirit guides me to meditation instead of spending nap times searching for the perfect Halloween costumes.

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom.

That nausea is my invitation to a better way. It’s a wake-up call to get out of my head and back to what makes me truly come alive.

Today I’ve come up with a new plan for my life. When I find myself slipping into research mode – whether that be shopping for kids costumes or vacation homes – I will either read or write. If the children are present, I can either read to them, or we can play a game.

There’s no room in my life right now for anything other than today.

Revisiting Minimalism as a Mother of Two

The more I acquire, the more I seem to want to simplify. Now that I’ve acquired another child and we’re a family of four, this has hit me with greater force than ever.

BrothersThe need to declutter goes hand in hand with my need to destress as much as possible. Is that even possible in this season of life? I’m not sure – at least about the stress level. But what I can control are my family’s possessions, and that doesn’t just mean the tangible “things” all over the house.

Our possessions have also shown up in the form of anxieties, frustrations, over-abundance of food and convenience products, and unnecessary cultural expectations (decorating the house and keeping it immaculate for any unexpected guests that may arrive).

This past weekend was Griffin’s third birthday, but it was his first that I didn’t allow the party to completely take over my life. Yes, it was still a great party with tons of food and everyone having a great time. But I didn’t go all out like I have in the past. This could be partly due to the lack of brain cells needed to do that – having a two-month-old hasn’t allowed me to focus entirely on any one thing. But the decor was much more scaled down than in the previous two years, and I didn’t worry as much about topping myself from previous years.

I compare myself to myself more than anyone else, always attempting to one-up the previous me and what her accomplishments were.

Griffin's BirthdayI’ve found it interesting that on the days when this need to simplify really strikes me the most, I will have a mental relapse and find myself shopping online for something frivolous, or going to the grocery store and loading the cart with pre-cut fruit and vegetables. I can certainly cut a sweet potato myself and save us money in the process, but the allure of having the produce guy at Whole Foods do it for me is too strong sometimes.

I also want to cultivate a minimalist wardrobe for myself – an overhaul of my current closet, to be replaced with quality pieces that are interchangeable and can be worn over and over. But that would require alot of time and money to get started, and I fall into that trap, telling myself I’m simplifying when what I’m really doing is online shopping.

These things are all an ongoing process, just like everything else where simplification is concerned.

It’s all about this idea of experiences over “things.” Having our family spend our time and money on what is lasting – on memories we will share and always have, versus things that are merely meant to be looked at or compared with someone else’s. Franklin, Tennessee is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, and we constantly have to watch ourselves from falling into the comparison trap. I want my sons to grow up knowing other cultures, other ways of living.

I never want them to belong to this entitlement society, even if they do live in it.

BeachSo I’m trying something new, and with a new year approaching I think it’s coming at the perfect time. We will not be spending a lot of money on things to make our new home more magazine-worthy; rather, we will be spending our money on experiences, starting with a two-month cultural immersion experience in Dublin, Ireland this summer.

More details on that to come!

 

 

Happy Easter! + 16 Weeks

He is Risen! A heartfelt Happy Easter from our family to yours – what a beautiful day for a Jesus-centered celebration!

Family EasterUsually Easter comes with lots of cloudy skies and rain, but today was just gorgeous. We had to get outside and take some family photos to commemorate it.

Easter

Easter 2Yesterday we did the same, even if it was slightly colder. Griffin participated in his first Easter egg hunt, and met the Easter bunny, as well.

Easter 9Although we have never really discussed the Easter bunny much, he was excited to see a costumed character, nonetheless – I’ll attribute that to lots of interaction with characters at Disney World!

Easter 8There was also a musical petting zoo, put on by the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was everything I had wanted our own attempt at Griffin’s birthday to be. A banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, and many  varieties of drums and bells were all available for small hands to touch and try out. The instructors were wonderful with Griffin and highly encouraged us to start giving him formal lessons soon.

Easter 4

Easter 5

Easter 6As far as Easter morning went, Griffin awoke and immediately headed downstairs to dig into his Easter basket.

Easter 3We then made our way to church, where we allowed Griffin to be in the sanctuary for worship service. He loved it, as he has in the past, but this time there was also a children’s choir – he made the announcement afterwards that he wanted to sign up.

Easter 10We came home and had the family over for a true Easter feast. We have leftovers to last the week!

As for myself, here’s a belated pregnancy update:

16 WeeksPregnancy Stats:

How Far Along – 16 Weeks

Size of Baby – An Avocado

Total Weight Gain – Still -3 pounds

What I miss – Cocktails at my favorite restaurants

Cravings – I would love just one Cadbury egg, but have sworn them off since they contain nothing my body would recognize as food!

Symptoms – Migraines have gotten worse in the last few weeks. No amount of pregnancy-safe medication seems to relieve them, and they last 2-3 days at a time. Luckily, sipping on some caffeine has actually seemed to help.

Maternity Clothes – No, but I’ve been on a bit of a rampage looking for flowy dresses and skirts for summer.

Worst Part of Pregnancy this Week – Definitely the headaches.

Best Part of Pregnancy this Week – Talking to Griffin about baby brothers and sisters. We haven’t told him yet, but are warming him to the idea!

One Month of Simplicity

Simplifying my life hasn’t been as simple as I had hoped.

For starters, Griffin is a 14 month old. Although many clothes have been packed into boxes and stored, replacements have had to be purchased. I just couldn’t allow for him to wear high-waters – not just as a fashion faux pax but for the practical reality of cold temperatures on bare skin. We also went ahead and purchased some springtime things for him since we’ll be traveling to warmer climates in the next month.

There is also the not-so-small issue of my migraines. I’ve gotten a few new pillows to try out, hoping that one of them will help me to sleep better and eventually get better. No such luck so far. I guess in that regard it was a wash, because the new pillows will be sent back.

However, I can honestly say I haven’t gotten anything new for myself this month other than the headache accessories! And while that may seem like a trivial statement, it feels like a fairly large accomplishment to me. I really hope that the first month was just a training period, and February will be even better.

The more I think about this project, the more passionate I become about it. I want to clean out my closets, my drawers, the dusty back corners of each room. I would love to see some bare space – space that represents a step away from the main stream and a step in the right direction. Against the grain.

Consumption.

Why do we spend our money – 0ur hard earned money – on all this meaningless stuff? Stuff that will mean even less a year from now…perhaps even a month from now.

SatisfiedGrad school and its accompanying reading load leaves me little time for personal reading. Because of that, I’ve only been able to make it through one chapter of Jeff Manion’s Satisfied – Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption. But that one chapter is dog-eared, underlined, and has frequent notes scribbled illegibly in the margins. I’ll leave you with just one:

Contentment is the cultivation of a satisfied heart. It is the discipline of being fully alive to God and to others whatever our material circumstances. Contentment is not achieved through getting everything we want but by training the heart to experience full joy and deep peace even when we don’t have what we want.

Migraines…Again

I’ve been silent in the blog world lately, and not for no good reason, either. The monster that constantly lurks in my shoulders, neck, and head has come out in full force, attacking me on a daily basis. What I’ve come to realize though, is that I have been unwittingly feeding it for quite some time. And all that food has made one heck of a beast.

Stress is what gets me. Tension. Worry. Anxiety. You name it, I start doing it the moment I wake up. But instead of letting all those little niggling fears and worries roll off my back, I dwell on them. I allow them to sink in, telling me who I am and what I’m not (a good mother, wife, daughter, friend).

Sounds melodramatic, huh? It is. But it’s something that happens automatically. Here’s an example:

This morning I was making breakfast for Griffin and Jeremy. We were all in the kitchen, having a relaxing Saturday morning. Two pans were going with different styles of eggs, the kettle was just beginning to boil, and Griffin was squealing with delight at some type of kitchen utensil Jeremy was letting him explore.

But I didn’t see the joy in it.

I was stressed because one pan was cooking too slowly, and the other was beginning to burn. The kettle was whistling but Jeremy hadn’t yet cleaned out a cup. I still had to wipe down the high chair from yesterday, and Griffin’s screams were translated into frantic calls for food. I couldn’t take care of it all. Internally, I was telling myself that I couldn’t handle all the noise, the activity, the stress of a Saturday morning breakfast with my family.

What lies!

It came to a boiling point (the situation, not the kettle), and my wonderful husband sat me down at breakfast and talked to me about it all. We discussed the fact that my shoulders and neck were now aching, threatening a migraine (which would be almost 14 consecutive days of headache). I knew, of course, that part of the problem was my allowing Satan to get into my head and feed the monster massive amounts of the food it liked best.

Now certainly there are times when a migraine comes on for no apparent reason. Many times in the last two weeks, in fact; no amount of massage or medication has been able to prevent an afternoon of solitude with ice packs and darkness. But by and large, it’s gotten out of control because I’ve allowed Satan such a foothold when it comes to fear.

I fear that I won’t be able to do enough, be good enough, be smart enough.

My migraines are tension/muscle related. The tension is caused by stressors, and the stressors are caused by types of fear. That fear is certainly not of God. With this in mind, these migraines can be healed!

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That’s not to say I’m not going to specialists and getting to the bottom of this serious problem. God may be able to heal it, but I have to be proactive. It’s effecting every aspect of my life, including school and motherhood, my two “jobs”. On Monday, I have an appointment with someone that works for the Tennessee Titans – he knows all about serious muscular conditions. I’ve also resumed going to Acupuncture each week, and have visited a Neurologist (although I’m still in the market for one that would like to resolve the issue and not simply medicate me).

But the thing that worked the best today wasn’t any of the above. It was yoga. The volume on my computer got turned down as I did one of my favorite online videos, and worship music was cranked up full blast. I took a que from Mandy over at She Breathes Deeply, and allowed God into my tight places. As I breathed, I consciously thought of my neck, shoulders, and head, asking him to work there and rid me of this debilitating fear – the root of the problem.

And you know what? Today is the first day in I can’t remember how long that I haven’t taken a migraine pill.

Simplify: A Goal for Life

By anyone’s standards, I have too much stuff. The doors of my closet barely shut, laden as it is with clothes and shoes I never wear. I wrestle with dresser drawers in an attempt to force sweaters and jeans to fit together – not because they all get worn, but because I have accumulated too much.

SimplifyI’d love to say I’m low maintenance, but my surroundings would call me out on that lie every time.

It’s not just me, however. While I’ll boast a bit by saying that Griffin doesn’t have quite the toy collection of other children his age, he does have way too much. So much, in fact, that after taking some of it out of the living room this morning, I witnessed a much more content child playing for long stretches of time. The sole reason? He could actually concentrate on the few activities surrounding him.

We’ve lived in this house for just over 2 years, with a little more than a year of that spent with Griffin. During that short span of time it seems we’ve been collecting stuff. Lovely stuff. But still just…stuff that fills each crevice. A home I had once stood in and marveled at the size, wondering how we would ever make it look less than sparse.

I wish the consumer within me would be taken over by contentment. But looking around, it seems like we as a culture are grown to be consumer-driven practically from infancy. After all, there’s a reason toddlers recognize those golden arches. And while advertising still effects me as an adult, I think I’m a part of a generation that acquires mindlessly – I see therefore I buy.

Or maybe I want because others have.

While doing yoga recently, the instructor said something that has continued to resound in my head:

Discontent is the thief of joy.

To me, this constant echo is a whisper from God, asking that I be content with what I have. A whisper telling me to simplify in order to free up space for thinking and living, allowing my family freedom of movement in a life less culturally relevant but more family-oriented. To allow Griffin to grow into creativity by surrounding him with nature and not store-bought gadgets.

This is a life lesson, not something I can change overnight. But my goal is to not purchase anything new for two months, and see where that takes me. Cleaning out closets and drawers so that they only include the items I actually use will also allow me to see what I have in a new way. To be forced to get creative.

Simplify. Perhaps that’s my mantra right now. To simplify will be to allow more space for what actually matters in life.