A Book Review, Prayer Project and Some Thoughts

I have read this book before but I decided to pick it up again as part of my morning devotionals. It’s amazing how much you can forget is in a book. I knew I loved this wonderful encouragement that Gloria Furman wrote, but I forgot just how deeply these truths she shares hit my life!

I recently created a “control binder” as per Fly Lady’s instruction to help manage house work. At first it was just chores and a meal planning section but then I decided to add a “Faith” section.

Enter many YouTube videos and blog post researches later and this lovely binder became a catch all. I also do my planning it it- until the 2019 calendar year starts and I’ll use my Simplified Planner by Emily Ley.

The sections I have are:

  • Praise Him
  • Confession
  • Intercede
  • Grow
  • And other

I haven’t completed this project as I count working on it as part of doing devotional time. What is seen above are the chapters in Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him. I have been wanting to meditate on God’s character so that when I feel overwhelmed by my shortcomings I can instead turn to how great God is.

I have some bible verses and quotes here as well.

In confessions I have some prayers printed out. “Biblical Prayers for Inperfect Moms” by Maggie (I don’t have any more info than that but it’s from Pinterest)

And then I have intercede- which is prayer. I have a group for every day of the week and one of those days includes the 2 Plus Prayer card my church is working on- praying intentionally for an unbelieving friend in our life.

I also included a Valmarie printable- she has lots of awesome free printables on her blog. She makes prayer journals as well.

I don’t do all of these things every day. I try to of course but these are mostly used as prompts. And since they sit on my kitchen counter I see them all day long.

I flip to my calendar and to do list and chore charts and meal plan- and then remember to flip to prayer too. I really like having it all together. It reminds me that as a wife and mom I cannot neglect my great salvation- that prayer and studying God’s character is work I must attend to and need to prioritize.

The grow section is kind of whatever I have time for it to be. I intend to practice meditating on the Word by writing it out and also by using this Risen Motherhood printable to inductively study the Bible when morning or nap time allow for it.

As a mom with littles I can’t get caught up in the world of “always and only” ways of studying and devotion. I need to be flexible but always show up. And this has been a great encouraging tool for that.

I love what Gloria wrote when she shares:

“The Gospel stands above and beyond all the most practical, family friendly, and cost-effective philosophies of motherhood. The good news of Jesus Christ is superior to our to-do list and metaphorical mother of the year trophies. This is because the greatest problem a mother has is not a lack of creativity, accomplishment, or skill, but her inability to love God and others as Jesus loves her.”

Page 20, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, Gloria Furman

This was a timely thing for me to read as I have been battling understanding my role as mother mixed with my personality. Comparison to others only discouraged and condemned me, and yet turning only to my own strength and desires distracted me. But the truth is that I am neither bad or good.

Never good enough and never bad enough.

I cannot even walk the simplicity of only loving my children. I struggle with it and sometimes I even knowingly choose not to. Sinner, through and through.

And that is where the truth of the Gospel swoops in to save the day.

“Jesus saves, and the fruit of the Spirit is far sweeter than the fruitless flowers of mere moral living. God transforms us from the inside out.”

P. 21

I am looking forward to working more on this Faith Project. One of my plans is to go through my previously completed bible study by Priscilla Shirer on the armour of God.

I intend to start with the book and then add in my notes from the Bible study to create a specific plan for praying over my personal spiritual development. Things like my mindset and not turning to idols for comfort and having emotional stability in God.

I hope this encourages you in your walk with God- to either press on in the grace of the Gospel or to go back to the drawing board and use creativity to inspire remembrance of your great salvation.

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Loving The Way I Make our House a Home

After my rant filled blog post the other day about not doing chores and squishing my self into boxes, I’m here to tell you about how I mix being a creative AND a momma who seeks to love God and others through homemaking. Not that they have to be two different things. More so that at the heart of each way of being are often clashing priorities.

God gives me the freedom to create my own standards so long as it loves God and others.

Sometimes this means a season of disciplining myself. Sometimes I need to make myself do chores before I allow myself to enjoy a lengthy “quiet” time. And while I do those chores I pray that God will help me to put my desires in the right order. That I won’t let the care of our home fall to the wayside just because “I don’t feel like it”.

Sometimes it looks like stirring up desire to be a servant hearted mama by using a creative project to inspire me. Making a sign to hang by the door with scripture. Re-arranging furniture to give myself a renewed appreciation for my space and things. Going on a “prayer walk” through my house and praying over each room while decluttering. Rather than just allowing myself to sit and study, sometimes I need art or movement.

And sometimes I need to sit and remind myself what my duty is as a follower of Christ. Sometimes I need to ask God to turn my heart and to write his law upon it. Sometimes I need to war against my flesh by memorizing scripture or turning on a podcast while doing dishes to remind myself of the grander narrative. Worship music dance parties are helpful too.

All this to say that I can’t tell myself there is only one way to be a godly wife and mom and home maker. I need to allow myself to be creative as I do these things.

I’m the kind of person who reads multiple books and works on multiple projects at once. I pick things up and then lay them aside. My hobby is collecting hobbies. I thrive off of new and also returning to favourite thing.

What helps and inspires me as I embrace my creativity in motherhood?

Making the rooms I clean beautiful.

Making cleaning into my workout time by adding a timer or weights or stretches.

Music during those hours my temper and the kids patience are at the lowest.

Planning it out and trying new methods when things don’t seem to be going smoothly. There’s nothing I enjoy more than going back to the drawing board. Probably why I enjoy bullet journaling so much.

Completely walking away from it to give myself perspective and rest. This is what I talked about in the previous post. Sometimes work does need to be left undone.

In one of my favourite books Tech-wise Family by Andy Crouch, he introduces a new way to view work. That some work is the futile sin wrecked kind. Took. It doesn’t add to our purpose. And that as a western society we tend to make time for leisure while neglecting rest.

For me that would look like cleaning my house to impress company and complaining when my children try to “help” because I want efficiency. These reasons for cleaning don’t add to my purpose of restoring order and loving others or glorifying God.

Or on the flip side if I was to choose leisure over rest it would be watching YouTube videos of someone doing art instead of having a quiet evening of using watercolours and journaling my thoughts. Consuming creativity rather than stepping into it.

More ways I use creativity to be a joy-filled homemaker:

Having my kids join in- this requires me to change the pace and to make it safe and do-able for their ages. And it always warms my heart to see them delight in things like a spray bottle and finishing a task.

Asking my husband to take over a task. Sometimes my shoulders are heavy laden and I need to partake in the rest that Jesus provides. Sharing the burden of house work with my partner in crime sure helps. It requires being humble in admitting I cannot do it all and also gratitude even if he does it differently. This goes both ways- sometimes I give my husband space to recharge. It’s a wonderful way to love him and it always feels good to see him excited and fresh again.

Surprising my husband with a very clean house and favourite meal. Sometimes I don’t want to clean. But I do love giving my husband the gift of a tidy home. Only because he so enjoys an orderly space. Not to please him. Only to show him love and kindness. Half his heart lives in his stomach 😉

I’ve recently found a new “method” to cleaning that has been very inspiring. It’s called Fly Lady.

Perhaps I’ll make a separate more in-depth post later but here are the basics I’ve come up with so far…

So that is the way that I am bringing who I am into my homemaking.

One of the things that I’ve come to learn about this role and stage of life is that my biggest work is constantly revising and changing with my circumstances and surroundings. I have a hard time with this because I love control. I like knowing what to expect and being able to fulfill my own expectations.

But laying these things aside always helps me to enjoy my role as mama much more.

Embracing My Need to Be a Creative

I have always had a passion for projects and art and making things. I have always loved notebooks and pens and all things stationary. Before becoming a wife and mama, these things fit into my life without thought. And afterwards…it takes a lot of thought to remember these parts of my soul!

That was why, after all, I started this blog.

As a space to create. A place to just be messy and try something different. To document my journey through being a mom.

Somewhere along the way I got a little lost.

I thought to be a good mom, the only crafting I could do was with safety scissors and crayons. I thought that I had to only pursue projects that had to do with our home. And while I definitely love those things, trying to push myself into a box was not a good plan.

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It took me a while to set up this desk in our back entry way closet. It works well because I can keep my kids out of my piles of things and my husband…doesn’t have to see my piles of things. Haha! I am not messy or neat. I both organize and let things go for a while. I enjoy changing things around even if I do keep it all tidied up. And sometimes I have to dump everything on the desk to feel inspired.

But the biggest problem was that I wasn’t even using my desk.

Even after I went out and got new file folders to sort all the legal/ financial/ important-y papers. Even after I got little bins to sort all the little things.

I kept holding back because I kept making rules for myself. 

Rules like…

  • no using the desk for wasting time, it’s for organizing the family calendar
  • or: you must do your 15 minute devotionals here before you make a list for the day
  • or: you can’t use your desk until it’s clean
  • and: you’re a mom, you don’t have time to play with water colours
  • and: your children will turn into delinquent pumpkins if you don’t spend your spare time entertaining them
  • and: if there are chores to be done then you are not allowed to organize your growing pile of papers or write in your journal or be a human

Basically, I was trying to squash out everything that made me who I am. I sometimes really enjoy just working on the house. Actually. I love especially to make things all white again- which is why my kitchen is one of those mostly white kitchens. I enjoy sorting things and trying new systems of organizing and I love to cook and bake.

But other days I have no spark for these things.

Other days I want to curl up with my kids and read books and then make art messes at the table and not clean them up until just before a boxed mac and cheese dinner. Sometimes I even need space from them altogether and I put the baby gate over their door (which is literally beside this desk closet space) and I let them tear a part the bedroom for an hour or so. And sometimes my dear husband lets me run away to starbucks to pretend I’m 21 and free from all things tiny for a while.

I always felt guilty for this weird ebb and flow of motivation. I wanted to just be one way. To always love being a homemaker or to always be in the mood to make things.

But I am not that kind of woman.

I have five projects on the go at any given moment. And they all overflow and feed into the other and spark and enliven my heart.

It has come down to knowing what things must always be upheld.

And for a while I would say that things like dishes and laundry always must be done. But you know what? That’s not true. My to-do list doesn’t define me. My productivity doesn’t keep the world going. I am a limited, finite, needy woman. And I can leave the existing thing to God.

And in fact, as per my calling, all that must remain in each day is love. Love God. Love the people God places in my day/ life/ season/ place/ mind.

So that looks like- of course I feed the tiny humans that live with me. And I truly try to remember to make sure my husband has a “crispy” bed to fall into. (Seriously a tiny thing that he absolutely adores.) What simply loving God and simply loving others looks like is freedom. Freedom to use my actual personal “gifts”. My talents.

My love for art and reading and writing and re-ordering and chatting and thinking and all those things…can be used to glorify God. How do I glorify God with thinking? By using those thoughts to serve others for His name. I suddenly think of a friend- and turn it to a prayer. And jot it down in my notebook. And later that month in a time of monthly reflection, praise Him for how he worked in that situation. I can artfully love people by taking time to send snail mail to others. To give my sons the gift of quiet water colour painting. By passing down a love for books through modeling. Modeling reading outloud, modeling reading my Bible, modeling the enjoyment of discussion, passing on lessons learned to my husband, using books as an excuse to cuddle.

See, I am not a good Mom because I have learned how to do certain things. I am never going to be good enough- or bad enough. Jesus died for both my trying and failing.

However, I am still purposeful. God designed the woman that I am to be the mother my sons need.

Maybe (probably) my once dream of being a home-school mom will fall- but perhaps what will happen instead is we will all be in school one day and I can show them what it is to love learning. For example if I get some kind of degree in english which often entails how to communicate- then perhaps I will pass those lessons along to my sons. Three men who know how to talk? I mean, that sounds like a good outcome to me.

I have been wrestling with these things for the better part of this year.

And finally I am just tapping out. 

And embracing that despite what I thought- I can’t think myself into some ideal mother. God holds those things. God knows and plans and works for those things. And my job?

Love.

birthday

Pregnancy Journals 3.0 #2

How far along? 18 weeks!
Total weight gain/measurements: whoops, I haven’t kept track of this yet… next appointment will measure fundal height. I can only wear one pair of jeans and all my bras are waaay too tight.
Maternity clothes: I got these nursing tops from old navy that I like to wear around the house because they have a sort of built in bra. And I love my over sized mighty from la senza to sleep in. The waist on my normal pants were bothering me. My motherhood maternity from my 1st pregnancy are still amazing. Best purchase! (This is my 3rd)
Stretch marks: Nothing new but lots of old! Occasionally they itch a little.
Sleep: It’s pretty decent right now! I like to take a power nap most days. But praise God for second trimester energy.
Best moment this week: love feeling those tiny little movements. Hearing the heart beat at each midwife appointment never gets old. And I love preparing my two older boys for the baby!
Miss anything? Being able to bend down without worrying I’m going to send my back into a spasm. And my hips feeling like they might fall off at the end of a long day isn’t very fun either.
Movement: not often and usually in the evening when I am still enough.
Food cravings: olives!!! Rye bread with butter. Green beans with Parmesan. So much water! And weirdly enough I really love the smell of beer 😂
Anything making you queasy or sick? The smell of hot sauce. Lol.
Gender: we find out next week!
Labour signs: Nothing truly however I can feel my uterus harden when I am active which I know is a good and helpful labour ready thing! Haha and my hips being more spread. So uncomfy. But mostly just growing right now.
Symptoms: 
Energy- cleaning random things, yay nesting.
Emotional.
Very ready for bed in the evenings, up to pee usually once.
Bloating after meals.
Sore muscles at the end of the day.
Belly button in or out? In
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or moody most of the time: happy most of the time- but a violent swing into moody here and there 😂
Looking forward to: finding out he gender next week!! And then collecting a welcome home outfit and crib sheets and such 💕

On Waiting for Fall

Tomorrow it is the first official day of fall. And I have been watching it quietly creep in all week.

Not by the pumpkin flavoured things for sale or the start of the school calendar or even the month. But by witnessing the leaves. By the scent of the air. And today as I sit on my porch I am enthralled by the heat of the summer fighting with the winds of change into autumn days. There is a sprinkle of yellow. The sound of crispy leaves dancing across the pavement. It’s that change my summery weary soul craves.

Do you know that smell of sharp cold air? It is my beloved. I never feel more at peace when the air bites at my face.

I’ve been compiling my book list for the coming season. I always choose some and they never stay the same. But I love having a theme to begin with. It feels like I am naming my days to come. It feels like I am owning where I am at and also matching braving on.

I was greatly inspired by a book I stumbled across not long ago through a podcast. Listening to Sarah Clarkson was like hearing my heart out loud. And reading Sarah Clarkson was like understanding parts of myself I couldn’t yet see or had forgotten about in the midst of the uproar of marriage and children and death.

I’m so happy to return to my favourite classics. Though I still anticipate the release of some fantasy books from a recent favourite series… I am hoping to allow myself to return to my love of all things literature.

If I could do anything with my life it would be to study literature – Children’s too. And mix it with art. And then teach people to use both to learn about story and all it’s glory.

Honestly life has been despairing some days. But only the days I forget. The days I forget I am a pet of God’s story. I do have a place. I belong.

Sometimes I need the quiet dropping yellow leaves to remind me of little blessings. And other days I need the dramatic mix of heat and wind and change to call my heart to attention.

All of creation whispers His story.

Thoughts From The Garden: Grief

I lost my Dad this year. In January. Which feels far away. And so did the sorrow and pain of losing him. It felt far away that is. But then I have days…happy days. And I realize that I wasn’t happy. I was surviving.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s been a time of healing. But also an unexpected time.

I have been angry a lot. Mostly with myself. But of course that comes into play in a lot of ways. And I think, after pruning in my garden today, I have seen why.

I didn’t just lose my Dad this year. I lost a part of myself with him. I never wanted to feel flattened by his death. I wanted to be strong. So I covered up those feelings. Perhaps I “weeded” the vines but I never dig up the roots.

Aside from being overly shaded, my garden suffered from my neglect this year. As did my heart. I made sure I had the careful appearance of okay. But truly I mostly ran and hid and escaped. I gave in.

I mean, I managed. We are all still alive. We still did things. But those closest to my every day life can probably attest to the fact that I let myself disappear. A little. A lot. I dislike my anger. I got it from my Dad.

But I’m finally done with ignoring it. The pain of staying the same is finally more than the pain of change.

Perhaps some of you will know that I planted my favourite Dahlias in the front garden this year. Before they even had a chance my well meaning neighbour weed-whacked them. And I thought they were lost.

And so with me. I’ve dropped the ball on a lot of things. My health, every day up keep, piling closets and paper work and tossed aside hobbies and dirt in all those places you’re supposed to wash every other week. I made it through this season, but not without a lot of weight. I just did not know how to navigate falling a part inside while being responsible for others on the outside.

I didn’t know how to recover from being weed-whacked.

But that picture above? My dahlia did. And there are more blooms. It’s almost dead because I didn’t take the time to really notice it growing.

And the cosmos I planted. I planted too many. They were all choking each other out. I wanted to keep them all but my husband wisely advised me – “Just one Bell. Just save one and you’ll get to enjoy it. There is always another year to plant.”

I love that man.

And it has been exploding with blooms ever since. And the rose beside it? Finally has the sun light it needs and the dirt space to stretch. I didn’t even think of the Rose.

When I finally gave up on my vegetable garden, I let my boys play in it. And they played hard. Hours were spent collecting green cherry tomatoes. Digging. Planting cherry tomatoes. Haha. And I’m glad. It was Better than my plans.

I carry a lot of guilt for the mom and friend that I have been these past few months. Withdrawing from life was sometimes the only way I knew how to cope with all the things I could hardly even name.

I carry a lot of anger at myself for not handling things as well as I could have. For not being the home maker I wish I could be. For not being as amazing as all the Instagram moms and perfect people. But mostly I’m angry at myself for believing all those lies.

I didn’t want to be broken. I mean who ever does? But maybe my mistake was believe I was ever whole to begin with. Maybe if I let myself be more like stain glass. Fragments. Pieces. Glass sections that have been welded to make an image. A painful process of chunks of life being used to display…the truth.

The truth is, I’m being made new. In this life. Through death. Death to myself, every day. Death to myself- my selfish angry hard self. My hurting self. And death of those I love. And the death of Jesus over all.

Things are getting better over here. I’ve really learned a lot in these years of mothering and wife-ing. Human-ing.

And there is also a lot left to do. More rocks and weeds.

I’m not perfect. I still don’t know how to actually talk to people about all of this. It’s easier to write this out and remain safely behind the screen. I don’t know how to be broken when I am supposed to be a mom. I’ve always equated being a mom with being strong.

The more I let myself look into my heart, the more I see that needs change. It’s not a lovely thing but…

Redemption isn’t pretty. It’s hopeful.

Third Pregnancy: Pregnancy Journal # 1

Well this has been a long time coming but our little family is adding another!!

At this point in time I am 17 weeks pregnant. With my other two pregnancies I was better at keeping these little online journals haha. But both busy times and outside circumstances have kept me from sharing just yet.

My husband and I thought for a little while we might be done having children hehehe. It was honestly a lot of things though. My Dad passed away after a long battle with cancer and our second was sick often and we had a million back ground things happening- kitchen renovations and work related transitions and just an overall burn out feel.

However we began to talk more and more about how big our two boys were getting and that we felt our little crew was incomplete. Though the thought of another newborn phase still seemed daunting we both began to pray over the desire we felt for another. And soon enough God answered us both. I especially loved what wisdom my husband brought home after a church men’s retreat. He asked many of the other fathers there how they managed more than two. And one mans response stuck heavily with him- that it taught him to lean on God’s grace. That put all our possible fears of “not being able to handle it” at ease. We weren’t meant to!

I had my suspicions about being pregnant- my first sign was a craving for ice water. Which I legitimately hate except when I’m pregnant. Soon to follow was a missing period- but I was going to hold off testing for another week. Just in case it was a faulty cycle you know 😉

My husband had other plans. And I am laughing still as I type this story out-

My husband was about to hop in the shower when I told him I needed to pee quick. So he supervised the boys and I didn’t flush as the water was running. And so my dear sneaky husband saw an opportunity to test out “science” as he says and dipped a pregnancy test in the toilet water. So gross… but it worked! Lol! For real…

so anyways, he didn’t tell me then. He offered to take the boys to pick up groceries and when they returned my oldest had a shirt on that said “the original” and my younger had “the remix”. Confused, I asked if he thought this was how we could announce if I was one day pregnant. And he handed me this shirt and said “you are pregnant!”

Shock was all I felt at first. And then disbelief. And I googled if it was possible- yes. And took another test- yes!

And thus was how my husband announced my pregnancy to me. Still laughing about it!!

When I was 14 weeks I announced publicly.

And then we took that baby bump on a hike…

I’ll do a little symptoms diary soon but I wanted to start with that fun little story as well as the real heart behind our family expansion.

We are honestly so excited. Excited to feel more prepared by experience and prepare by anticipating grace from God. We know the hard nights and days to come, yet we are emboldened by a good God who provided new mercies every morning. Truly needed when adding new life!

It’s interesting to me how much my desires for family have changed as I am in the middle of it. I had many opinions and ideals before being a wife and mom. And now reality and eternity have taught me other wise. I no longer say that I plan on having a certain amount of children. I no longer want to be a certain kind of mother. I no longer strive to be that mom with it all together.

I think I’d like to write more about all that in another post, but for now I’ll leave with this.

My husband and I are creating a family one beloved child at a time. We don’t wish to squish our children into a number that comes from our desire to control life. I see now that I don’t know what tomorrow holds. There is always a chance of losing a pregnancy or even a child later in life. There is no way to say how life will go. But there is accepting each gift as it comes with true gratitude. Not looking to the next thing or next phase or completion of worldly dreams to fulfill. But rather letting go and humbly listening to God’s prompting for his way better hope for your life.

I’m letting go of numbers and dates and ideals. As if they are what makes my life purposeful and complete. These things are worldly treasures. Instead I am seeking to adopt a Jesus kingdom building mindset.

This child is a gift to me. He or she is the moment I chose to start hoping again. Their conception signifies the moment I chose to trust God would carry me through my grief and sorrow and struggles and sleeplessness and fears. This child is not just a number behind me arriving at my goals but rather the culmination of my love of others. I desire to be changed by this person God is bringing into my life. This person and all that they are being formed into has great and beautiful and hard lessons to share.

After all, that’s what family is for. Family is the stomping grounds of becoming a better follower of Christ. It is in family we find inner growth and a working out of our faith!

We can’t wait to welcome you into our arms little one 💕