It has been awhile since I have shared some of my favorite things, so this Fall Friday seemed Fit to do a Favorites post!
This is my favorite lippy ever! Not only does it do an excellent job preventing chapped lips, but it also has a little bit of a pretty shine to it when it is applied, which always feels fancy to me. I have only ever found it at the Big R farm stores in Colorado of all places, so I make sure to buy them out whenever I visit. I just did a search and found they are available to order at https://cvc4health.com/products/superior-source-lip-healer-lip-balm-3-pack.
These little caramel cremes or “bullseyes” pack so much decadence into one bite. I never have the self control to only eat one. Don’t go through life missing out on these!
My new favorite shoes. This may mean I officially dress my age, but I don’t even care because these babies make me happy every time I wear them. Amazon sells this for $50-&60, but I found mine on sale at Kohl’s for $35!
At first I thought these were just an Ohio thing, but I have now traveled and seen these in other states, so run, don’t walk to get yourself a bag of these. Hands down the best pretzel I have ever tasted! Their other flavors, not so much, but I do like their version of Cheetos as well.
I rented this book from the library thinking to read it to my youngest, but it turned out I was the one caught flipping through it for the second and third times. Funny title, but the words and pictures scratched across the pages are so tender and real and encouraging they speak right to the heart. Easily one of my favorites.
I have something a little different to share with you. For the past couple years I have been wanting to open an Etsy shop to sell some of the crafty things I do and be able to help offset some of my medical bills that take from my family’s resources. It did not seem like it was ever going to happen, but I worked hard over the summer and was able to open my little shop in September.
It is small and growing, and I’m hoping you all will help me out with making it grow! One of the ways to increase my ship’s visibility is for people to “like/follow” my shop. I have purchased a couple of my favorite Etsy finds, and each person that follows my shop will have a chance to win one of my favorite finds!
Click the link to find my shop and follow it and then email me a screenshot of your “follow” and I will enter you into a random drawing to receive something from my shop, or one of my favorite little gifts from Etsy. Feel free to share with friends and family as well, or anyone you think would be interested in what I offer in my shop.
This week was the end of me. I felt like the last drops in my cup were sucked dry and I had nothing left to give. Frustration over my exhaustion and inability to keep up in the midst of daily hardballs left me convinced the best thing for me was to quit fighting for well, anything. Least of all myself.
As my body does, it decided another shut down was in order, and my digestion came to a screeching halt. This led to constant discomfort, and frequent vomiting even though I wasn’t eating anything. For three days I was in bed burning through barf bags or clutching a big metal bowl while at the same time trying to single parent my little people and see that their needs were met. I was not able to get up and feed them one meal, so they did without or got by on bowls of cereal and Halloween candy. It is heartbreaking to not be able to do the things I want and need to as their mom, and the volume gets turned loud on all the voices telling me I’m failing at motherhood… and everything else.
This is a lonely season of trying to build community without always having the strength to do it. This means long hard days scraping by and simply doing the best I can usually at the minimum amount. I long to be in a place again of having community to surround us and pick us up and meet us in the messes, because doing it alone is awful.
Despite my grumpy attitude and dismal outlook God showed up in the flesh of a friend who saw my frantic social media post asking for help and dropped everything to pick me up and not only see that I got back and forth to a small surgery, but while I was under she shopped for meals for my kids and stocked my freezer with things they could make in my absence. The “Just Show Up” mantra that I’ve tried to make part of my life song was so beautifully expressed in the serving kindness of my friend that day.
It is embarrassing now, but I felt so helpless I texted another friend and told her I had nothing left to give and she deserved better than me. I basically told her she needed to drop me like a sack of rocks because I did not have what it takes to be a good friend. Instead of stepping back she pushed in. She responded, “I’m not letting you break up with me. You can’t get rid of me.” I don’t know what I was expecting, but her response cracked a small grin across the weary furrows in my face, and the brick wall I was trying to build started to crumble.
Thumbing through the pages of my Bible I was brought to 2 Corinthians 10:5, which reminded me I am to take each thought captive in obedience to Christ. I heaved a sigh heavy with burden, gathered all my thoughts of overwhelm, anxiety, and defeat, and imagined placing them at the feet of my Heavenly Father. Peace washed over me; relief that these heavy weights are not mine alone to carry.
I was reminded me that I cannot control everything that comes my way, but that I can decide if my life will be marked by defeat, or by a patient trust in a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows where I am at every moment.
I cannot help but wonder who else is finding themself at the end of their rope this week. I wish we could all gather in solidarity and speak truth to bolster each other in our capacity to carry on. It always seems easier to encourage others than to encourage yourself sometimes. If you are in that spot this week raise your eyes up; remember that the hairs on your head are numbered and the birds outside the window are under the Lord’s watchful care. As we reflect on Him it is easier to be assured of His strength and less intimidated by the size of our problems.
God has promised us abundant life. I don’t want to miss that because I am tangled up in worry and frustration over circumstances that are not mine to control.
Here’s to the ending of a hard week and the beginning of a fresh one, Saturday sports games, Sunday morning donuts, and knowing that we do not have to be strong enough to carry our own burdens. Jesus has us on the hard days just as much as the easy days and beckons us to take up His yoke which is easy and His burden which is light, and he will give us rest for our souls.
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Before my brain cells even had the time to process the thought, my hand reached for my phone. I thought, “I need help. I will just make a post real quick asking if anyone can trade me shoes.” And then as the final neuron fired to let the thought become whole, I crumbled. Reality caught up. No one can trade shoes with me. These are MY shoes; the shoes I was trusted to wear. They are worn to the shape of my feet, and even those painful blisters they caused have been allowed because it was known that my feet would withstand the wounds.
I peek in on drowsy faces and memorize the tufts of hair and spatters of freckles that move with the rhythm of innocent peaceful sleep. Sleep is such bliss because you forget, and right now they are sleeping peacefully, hopefully dreaming of some beautiful far off land, or another enchanting adventure. Right now they have found solace from reality.
My light burned dim next to my bedside as the night hours stretched one into the next. The quiet of the house invited me to slumber, but the heaviness of my heart would not allow. I thought again on my shoes. This unflattering, beat up pair that I would have never chosen for myself, and yet they are the ones I find myself wearing most often. Even the times I have thought I am done with them, and slipped them into the donate box or the outside trash, they always seem to find their way back to my closet. That’s how I know I cannot simply ask someone to trade with me. No, they are mine to wear.
My mind is wild as I run through all of the possible scenarios for how the day could unfold. There is definitely no thought of sleep. I grasp empty air and plead with my Maker, begging for mercy, for grace, for pardon. He turns my thoughts back to my shoes and how as uncomfortable as they are they have always carried me to my next destination. They have provided shelter from sharp shards meant to slice tender soles, and they have kept me dry when my footsteps skirted troubled waters. These shoes have not always been easy to wear, but He reminds me that He has always given me the strength to do it. He has always filled me with enough to wake up and put on those shoes each next time, and make it each day walking a path I want to run from. His reminders bring peace, and my heavy eyes sleep, escaping the pinching narrow toe of my shoes, and running barefoot along a sandy paradise.
The next morning reality hangs in gray strings of fog from the tree limbs, but I confidently don my shoes. I step toward the hard thing, knowing it’s coming ready or not. That’s when I noticed across the way from me a young woman with frazzled hair and deep pockets of purple beneath her eyes. Her thin body seems to tilt back and forth as if it might fall and shatter at any moment. I almost dismiss her, but I happen to catch a glance beneath her long, dusty skirt the shape of a pair of shoes like mine. The same pinched toes and blistered spots, and while her shoes are not exactly like mine, they are similar enough to know she has been walking a lonely and grueling journey, just like me.
I smiled knowingly at her, and gave her a small fist pump in the air, as if to say, “stay in it! Keep going forward! You’ll get there soon.” And I thrust my pointy toe forward to show her; you were never alone.
Today it has been 11 years since we snuggled our little girl close and held her tiny hands as she took her last breath on this earth. Sometimes I am still so angry that I could not make her better. That’s what mamas are supposed to do; make things better. I had one big important job, and I could not do it.
Then I remember that WASN’T my job. I /wanted/ it to be my job; the job of being a mama that could fix things. Instead I was given the job of opening my hands wide of my own control. I was given the job of looking into the teary faces of three sweet, grieving siblings and teaching them to trust that God is still good, even in our hurting. I was given the job of white-knuckling a marriage that the statistics were stacked against because of the big trauma we went through. I was given the job of learning to grieve with hope; the hope of knowing that someday all will be made right again.
As I look back over these years I can see where I have been given the grace to grieve, the bravery to lament, and the courage to heal. I have learned that grief is not the absence of faith, tears do not negate our trust in God, and pain does not mean we are not saved.
Wrestling such a deep pain is so intimate. For me it has required clinging, grasping, watching, communicating. It has meant digging my heels in and standing firm on the truth of God’s word. Grieving with hope still hurts, but as I have clung to the unshakeable hope I have in Christ Jesus, and fixed my teary eyes on eternity, I have been given the freedom to wrestle and lament, and with it a deep-seated peace that I could have never found on my own.
Our precious Ellie Grace will always hold a part of my heart. I will forever wonder over who she would have been, and will ache for the warmth of her in my arms again. As these years tick on however, I will rest in knowing she is whole and complete; that she lived every single day here that was planned for her beautiful life, and that I’m surely the luckiest for getting to be her mama. 💜
This hot summer has been brimming with opportunities, and through my delight in seeing my littlest having grown into shoes big enough for some life-changing new experiences I did not even realize that the very thing that brought so much joy and revival for him would be the thing to send my head swirling under the tepid waters of another grief wave unexpected.
Finally old enough for church camp we excitedly rolled tshirts and shorts into the duffel bag as big as he is, and lingered in the aisles of the dollar store choosing just the right snacks to share with the other campers who would become friends. We watched videos of what to expect, and excitedly counted down the days to when he would set out on his big adventure. My heart bubbled with anticipation for him as I prayed over the days ahead.
Finally it was time to drive him the 40 minutes out to where camp was being held, and he was ready as ever. As I heaved his bag into the back of the car I felt a surge of emotion I could not put my finger on. I pushed it out of my mind and slid into the car to see him grinning in the back seat. He looked solid and strong, a maturity I had seen blooming in the preceding weeks. His face was already tanned from days spent playing in the sun; a smattering of freckles beneath his fluffy shock of dark blonde hair. His eyes were bright with enthusiasm, and it was the smile he flashed at me that poked that emotion I had pushed away, and sent it raging to the surface. It filled my insides with gravel and sent my thoughts spinning. I knew exactly what had me feeling a little “off.”
Looking over my shoulder into the back seat I was staring at the carbon copy of his older brother, blonde and freckle-faced also at the age of 9 going off to his first faith-based summer camp. When we dropped our firstborn off for a week at camp we had the same joyful anticipation for him, but that week was the one that changed our lives in the most painful way, tearing from us something so sacred. The last time I picked my 9 year old up from camp I had to tell him his little sister had died unexpectedly, and I watched his whole world turn on its axis and shake every foundation he had believed in.
Somehow, without me even realizing it my subconscious had put all of these signs together, and the unease I had felt was a full blown terrifying fear that when 9 year olds go away to camp, terrible things happen. I was in fight or flight mode; my memories having strung together a warning of perceived danger.
I prayed silently across the stretches of tar specked pavement that cut through swaying wheat fields and sleepy towns. I prayed for protection, for freedom, for healing. I knew my thoughts were just tricking me, so I pushed them down and smiled as I helped my littlest man choose the top bunk and unpack his belongings for the week. As he stood tall for the obligatory first day of camp photo, I could not believe how grown up and how tender and small he looked all at once. We prayed again as I hugged him goodbye and all the way home I sung loud with the truth on the radio to drown out my anxieties.
Each night that I got to talk to my boy that week was such a balm to my soul, and this time I was the one counting days. Camp ended on a sweltering Friday morning, and I arrived right on time, fiercely ready to pull my little bird back under my wing. The parents all waited in scattered patches in the burning sun until we heard it; the low buzz of a large group of children walking toward us, smiling and skipping and hugging each other. It took me a minute to pick my boy’s face out of the crowd, but as soon as I did I let out a huge exhale I had unknowingly been holding; perhaps all week? I tried to control the tears that swelled at the rims of my eyes and pricked at my throat. Some part of me had still been waiting to know that everything was going to be ok.
I talked with my counselor about these events this week, and she shared something so enlightening with me. She put it this way: If you walk by a blue house and a dog comes out and bites you, it’s going to make you leery of blue houses. The next time you see a blue house you are going to feel afraid, palms sweating, anticipating the ferocious beast you met before. But not every blue house has a dog that bites. We can learn to pick out those blue houses, call them what they are or are not, and confidently walk by with our heads high because we know; this blue house is different.
Glancing in the mirror at my suntanned and thoroughly exhausted 9 year old, I thanked God to be bringing him home with joyful celebration, and I thanked him for the lessons of the last blue house, and the blessings of this one.
After wrestling with some tough emotions yesterday, this wordless Wednesday brought such sweet affirmation of how loved and held I am, and how very many things I am still able to enjoy. Fully living and drinking deep these days of many gifts.
With summer break upon us I’ve been feeling terrible for all the things I cannot do with my kids. I want to go hiking with them. Instead they get stuck at home all the time watching too many screens. I want to take them to the pool almost every day, and explore the national parks around us. Instead I’m puffing walking up the stairs to tell one of them goodnight. I want to have all their friends over for late night fires and s’mores on the deck. Instead I’m exhausted by dinner time and asleep hours before the rest of my crew. I want to plan an exciting vacation getaway and surprise them. Instead I’m having major surgery that will take all summer to recover from.
I want to scream. And a little teeny part of me wants to quit; wants to give my family the freedom to live unchained. This mess is not living up to my well planned out expectations, and I’d like a redo please.
My friends, I know so many of you live joyful and exuberant lives in spite of much pain. You live the story that you did not sign up for, and yet you receive that cup so graciously, with kindness and contentment that I long for. Please share your wisdom… what is it you do when you want to throw in the towel on your own race and trade for a different one?
Jesus, please help me live for /your/ expectations. Help me to be thankful for what I have instead of mourning what I do not. Help me to make the most out of my time awake, and not have guilt for the times I need rest. Help me to have meaningful time with my children, regardless of what we are doing. And Jesus? Help them understand. Let their hearts become soft instead of resentful. Let their disappointment develop deep character. Help all of us to trust you with our story and to use it to bring you glory.