Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Blessings in Disguise???

Wait…what?  It’s only Tuesday???

This has already been the longest week…ever. I was coming off the high of a wonderful, fun-with-my-kiddos, relaxing, house-in-order, everything-right-with-the-world kind of weekend on Sunday evening.  It was about 10:30 (which came too soon with this wicked ‘spring forward’ time change).  I realized that my husband had never returned my keys when he had moved my car into the garage that afternoon.  Trying to be sure I would be ready for the rush to the door on Monday morning, I decided to check with him, “Where did you put my keys?”  He had thought he had set them on the kitchen counter.  He was wrong.

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An intense search ensued; we looked for my keys until midnight.  We never found them.  This shouldn’t have been a big deal, right?  I mean, I can always pull out my spare set, right?  WRONG!  My spare stopped working about six months ago (darn computerized cars) and I never got it fixed.  Ugh.  Hind sight really is 20/20.

That was Sunday and it is now Tuesday.  Still no keys.  Still no car.  My car has been towed to the  mechanic’s.  It’s been there since Monday around 3:00.  I have realized a lot of things over the last two days while not having a car.  a) It’s stressful…planning for dropping my kids at school and childcare…getting to work…coordinating car seats with those who are kindly willing to help you out.  It takes a lot of planning.  b) You never want to go anywhere until you can’t. c) I’m glad I live two blocks from my work.  d) You are really happy when it’s sunny out when you don’t have a car!

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I also woke up late on Monday (most likely due to the late night search party Sunday night and time change) and I missed my workout entirely.  Tuesday I also woke up late and only got in half of my work out.  Things are super crazy at work and I’m working as hard as I can from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave.

These things…these little things are what have made me feel undone this week.  These are the moments I said to myself “You have got to be KIDDING me!!!”  And now I sit back and gain some perspective and I realize they are nothing.

You see, my son has to be at the hospital tomorrow at 9:30 to register for his first surgery.  He is having a tonsillectomy.  I fought having this done for a while but after six separate strep infections over the last year, I gave in to seeing an ENT.  When the specialist shared with me that the real danger of strep is that the infection can pass to a heart valve and it can then be deadly, my heart skipped a beat.  I shared with the doctor that Jace actually has a heart valve defect and he responded that Jace’s defect is all the more reason to move forward with this surgery.  So here we are, three weeks later and tomorrow is THE DAY.

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As I spent this evening with my son, I let him play a little longer outside before making him come in.  When he asked to go for a bike ride, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  I brought him to the movie store and let him pick out all of the movies and games he wanted (these should come in handy during his recovery).  I surprised him with a walk to the ice cream shop and I listened intently as he jabbered to my husband and me all the way home.  And now at this moment, up past his bedtime, he’s playing a video game and I can’t muster the courage to make him go to bed.  I know I don’t want him to lie in bed and think of tomorrow the way I will when the lights go out.  So I’ll just let the bedtime thing go for tonight.

I know Jace will be fine tomorrow.  There are risks anytime someone is put under for a surgery and I don’t take that lightly.  Jace’s heart defect and the fact that we have to have a letter from his cardiologist before the ENT will perform surgery on him, makes me uneasy.  But honestly, if Jace’s heart was perfectly formed, I would still be nervous.  No one wants to see their baby in pain.  I’m nervous and my heart hurts just thinking that he will have to endure the fear of the unknown and the pain that I know will follow (I had my tonsils removed when I was seven…I know!).

As I reflect on my stressful week, on all of the moments I wanted to pull my hair out and didn’t, as I think about all of the quirky things that have happened this week to keep me distracted, I am starting to think that this chaos was a gift.  I didn’t have time to think about Jace’s surgery, about tomorrow.  I didn’t have time to focus on my troubles.  I was kept on my toes by one twist in my week and then the next.  Have you ever thought that?  That maybe the adversity you’re facing is a blessing in disguise…that maybe without the misfortune you wouldn’t make it through something even more challenging?

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In the moment, I didn’t think that my week could get much worse.  And then, just like that, I was strolling down the sidewalk with my son, ice cream in our bellies, and my heart was so full that I couldn’t even recall what I had been stressed about before.  I’m so thankful for my son.  He is my first born.  He’s so different than I ever expected him to be when I became a mother…he’s so much better, more beautiful, more amazing.  Tomorrow we will go through another new and, most likely, unpleasant experience together.  There are no words to express how I wish I could shield him from this…but I can’t.  So instead, I will be there for him.  I will hold his hand.  I will pray for him and anxiously wait for the doctors to return him to me safe and sound.  The past two days were challenging, but none of that matters.  If you have your health and the health of your family, you have everything to be grateful for…tonight, even with no car, even with slacking on my workout routine, even with getting a little behind on my housework, I am the luckiest woman in the world because I have this sweet little boy by my side ready to watch a movie with me.  Looks like we’ll be missing bedtime by quite a bit tonight!

 

 

 

Chew Like Crazy

I’ve always heard people say “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” This phrase creeps into my mind on weeks like this week…weeks of pure panic and stress. I’m a young mother of two who works full time and loves to be involved…so of course my life is INSANE. I knew this month would be a rough ride and it hasn’t disappointed.

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My week thus far has gone something like this:

 


Every Day:

5:00 a.m. – Workout

6:00 – 8:00 a.m. – Shower, hair, makeup, dress the kids, morning chores, drop daughter to  the sitter, drop son to school and get to work praying not only that I’m not late, but also that I’m early enough to get a decent parking space.

8:00 a.m.- 5:20 p.m. – WORK.

5:20 – 9:00 p.m. – Dinner, Homework, Piano Homework, Bath time, Bed time stories, Laundry, Dishes….Husband

Monday

5:45 – 6:45 p.m. – Daughter to gymnastics

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Son to batting practice

Tuesday

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Tiger Cub Den Meeting

Wednesday

6:00 – 8:00 – Church duties for Lenten Season

Thursday

5:45 – 6:15 p.m. – Son’s piano lessons

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Scout Committee Meeting

For better or worse, this is a typical week in the Hafele House.  We live full throttle and most days I love it.  But this week has been a mess.  Last weekend was even crazier than usual, jam-packed with activities and I didn’t get to prep for the upcoming week.  My prep time is vital to surviving this modern day lifestyle.  Prep is essential to “having it all”.  So by Thursday morning when I discovered my husband was down to his last pair of underpants, my kids had no matching socks, we were out of fresh bath towels, there were dirty dishes by the sink and loads of laundry sitting in baskets staring at me…I knew that all of this chaos was a direct result of not prepping properly for my week to come.  Someday I will learn that above all other important things, I must make time to prepare myself. 

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my pointers with my readers.  These are the little things that save me from weeks like the one I just had.

Here goes…these are my rules for biting off more than I can chew:

  • How are you spending your time?  Are your activities ones that center around your interests and those of your family/children/friends?  If you find yourself devoting a lot of time and energy toward something that just isn’t something you love, don’t feel guilty for moving on.  The fact is that we’re all busy and our time is limited, so my advice is to be selective with where you spend it.  Today I do not volunteer for any organization unless it is related directly to my family and/or my children.  It’s a win/win when I get to volunteer and spend extra time with my little loves!
  • Plan ahead.  This is one of the biggest factors for  determining the kind of week I’m going to have.  I can expect to not come directly home any night of the week.  I can expect to be spending my lunch hour running my preschooler back and forth to school or planning for our next scout den meeting or Sunday school class.  So on Sunday, I take the time to plan and prep as much as possible for the upcoming week, starting with my meals for the work week.  I have a meal plan which my husband is aware of and can step in and help out with depending on who makes it home first.  I prepare as much food as possible ahead of time to make week nights just a little easier. I also prepare and package all of my lunches for the week.  In addition to being handy, this keeps me healthy and eating right even when I’m stressed for time.
  • Plan ahead – Part Deux.  I set out my workout clothes the evening before in my bathroom.  It’s harder to skip a workout when you know your clothes will be taunting you after you’ve slept in and decided to be lazy.  I also hang my outfit for the next workday in the bathroom so it’s ready to hop into directly after my post-workout shower. And I’m less likely to crawl into my frumpy, old, go-to outfit when I plan ahead.  I mean who really feels like wearing a pencil skirt at 6:00 in the morning.  Not me!  But at 10 p.m. it always feels like a good idea for the next day.
  • Buy a planner (a paper planner) and use it.  Yes, an old fashioned, pen and paper, prehistoric, like the kind your grandma uses, type of planner and write everything down in it.  I wouldn’t know if I was coming or going (seriously) without mine.
  • Ask for help.  Yes, when I need help, I ask for it.  If that means asking my mom to watch the kids for an extra 20 minutes or asking the husband to pick up an extra chore or household duty, I ask for what I need.  I’ve found I have to be direct about what I need.  Shocker…but no one can read my mind.  It took me a while to figure that one out.
  • Sit out when you need to. Tonight was that night for me.  I had to cancel out of my Thursday night Scout Committee Meeting…I hate to not make it to a meeting, but when my household has exploded around me, I always try to remember to put first thing first.  And my family and my home always come first. Always.
  • Lastly, CHEW.  Yes, I said CHEW.  Chew like hell.  I say bite off more that you can chew, have your drink nearby just in case you need help washing it down, have a good friend on hand that knows the heimlich maneuver (you know, just in case), AND CHEW, CHEW, CHEW.  A full, busy life is a happy life for me.  Sometimes it is overwhelming but it is also rewarding.  So I choose to chew.

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So these simple things are what help me survive being a working, volunteering, crazy mom.  What are your secret weapons of survival?  Share them with the women in your life…goodness knows, we all need the  help.  You never know what will work for you, so be flexible.  I will be back on the ball this weekend, prepping and planning and hopefully having a smoother week next week.  But all’s well that ends well, and I survived!

 

 

Stress Mess

I’m heading out of the office for the day…I must make it down two flights of stairs, through three sets of doors (one which I need to enter a passcode to open) and across the parking lot to my car all while carrying :

  1. my planner (aka “my life in a little leather book”)
  2. a few emails I have printed so I don’t forget to do task a, b and c later in the evening…or week….or month…or whenever I get to them
  3. a carton of cookies I will be delivering to my mom
  4. my lunch bag still filled with lunch (since I forgot to grab it from the fridge as I headed out of the office on break)
  5. a ziplock bag with two hard boiled eggs (don’t ask about my odd eating habits…I’m currently eating “clean” or something like that).
  6. 2 lbs of raw ground beef that I picked up from the grocery market over my lunch break (taco night…woot woot)
  7. hanging awkwardly from my shoulder is my purse… with my shaker cup hanging dangerously out of the top
  8. hoisted against my shoulder and leaning on my forearm is a box filled with summer sausage, cheese and crackers.

This is me. This mess, this crazy amount of chaos, this balancing act is me…all the time…every day. Did I mention I’m wearing 3″ heels???

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So I rush to my moms to pick up my kiddos and I’m down one box of cookies, but I’ve been raised one backpack and 3- and 7-year old bodies of pure energy. We pull in at home and it’s unloading EVERYTHING from the car, making supper, practicing piano, homework, stories, bedtime and I. AM. BEAT.

I’m thinking of my coming week and I know I have a Sunday School class to prep for, a Boy Scout meeting to plan, a holiday party, a wedding, my son’s first day of bowling…and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sound familiar? You can relate, right?

As I was leaving work today, hands full, looking like a hot (hopefully at least halfway decent 😉) mess, a friend of mine followed me out of the building. She just eyed my struggle and smiled…she’s been there. I shared with her that I feel like I’m constantly feeling like I’m swimming in chaos. I see these other people go to and from here or there and they’re hands are empty. They look relaxed. How do they do that??? My friend looked at me and said “You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Whether I like it or not, I know she’s right.

I tend to walk a very fine line between blissfully active and anxiously overwhelmed.  At times I’ve slipped right off the edge and landed square on my rear. These are the times that I start to count my burdens, my worries, my anxieties. I start to count and recount, I begin to list, I can’t sleep and I can’t move forward and somehow I can’t seem to get a single thing accomplished. Stress is like a thick fog. If you let it surround you, you can’t move in any direction with confidence. You’re stuck. The good news is I’ve learned something along the way. I’ve learned a new way to carry my load. A way to turn bricks to feathers and it all begins with gratitude.

Today I’m overwhelmed.

So I begin to think of what I have to be thankful for. I’m so thankful to be healthy today, for the ability to move and be active, to not be limited in my energy and capabilities. Sometimes being grateful starts very simply. The more stress I feel, the simpler my gratitude list needs to start. Sometimes it’s the air in my lungs, my feet on the floor. When I start with the simplest things that I normally take for granted, I can gently roll into the bigger, more obvious things in my life. That small bit of gratitude can grow into a warm, glowing, large sense of thankfulness for my children, my husband, my family and home. The realization comes to me that all of these blessings come with responsibility. That feeling I was previously interpreting as stress, I can now see as my privilege. How fortunate am I that these are my problems?

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Gratitude is an amazing gift. Developing an attitude of gratitude is like removing a blindfold and seeing the sun for the first time. When I am focused on the stress and the to-do list, I’m wandering in the dark. But when I start to focus on gratitude, I am able to not only handle the stress…I am able to be thankful for it. Because after all, these things are not stress, they are my greatest blessings…my children and their activities, my church and my growth in and with God, my home and my household, my career and my professional goals. It is truly a matter of perspective. And I have decided I will be thankful.

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What do you have to be thankful for? Consider what is stressing you right now. Can you look at those stressors from a perspective of gratitude? Can you transform your brick into a feather? I encourage you to give it a try. Trust me when I say it takes some practice. But once you get it, the first time you remove the blindfold, you’ll gain a true understanding of the power of gratitude.

 

Make Your Husband a Cup of Coffee (and other essentials for a happy marriage)!

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So my husband and I have been together for a while now; we have 14 years under our joint, blissful belt. Take a look at us here…this is the beginning. We’re so skinny…we’re so tan…we’re so young. Sigh! A couple of hot little numbers…it’s no wonder our start was so passionate and exciting.

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I hate to get ahead of myself but let’s jump ahead four years. We have a lot of ground to cover and you don’t have all day. Phil popped the question  on Easter in 2005. We were lying in bed, pigging out on massive amounts of Easter candy like a couple of kids (which we were). The next thing I knew, he was holding a ring and saying “Do you want to get married to me?” Spoiler alert…I said YES. And that was it. In all honesty, the day he first stepped into Kouch Potato Video to return his mom’s movie rental, and I, earning my keep as a video store clerk, laid eyes on him, that moment, that was IT. The rest is history, as they say.

This year marks ten years of marriage for me and my husband. After reading my last blog, a friend asked me, “How do you do it; how do you and Phil find time for each other?” At first I wasn’t sure how to answer. I thought about my marriage and how my relationship has changed and evolved over the years. I thought about how deeply I love my husband today and how different that love is in many ways than the love I felt at 17. I started to think about why. Why am I so devoted to this man? Why do I love him so much?What is it that makes me so happy in my marriage?And the answers began to roll in.

I hesitate to hand out marriage advice. Do I qualify??? Does ten years give me the stamina to really talk about marriage???? As cliche as it may sound, I can honestly say, if I could go back, do it all again, I would choose him all over again (in a heartbeat!). I choose him every single day and I am HAPPY to do it. And I have full faith that, God willing, I will still be choosing him 50 years from now. So yes, I’m going to dish on what makes my marriage happy in the hopes that maybe it will bring a little extra happiness to some of yours.

I think love is pretty simple so I’m going to break it down to the basics:

  1. Touch each other. No, not like that you little pervert!! Okay, yes, like that…but in other ways too! Every single day there should be hugs. Real hugs, the kind where you just stop for a moment and squeeze each other, breath each other in, take a moment to physically connect. My favorite time of the day to hug my husband is when I get home from work. It is my way to say, “I missed you today.” It sets the tone for the rest of the evening. It’s so simple but so meaningful (P.S. inserting a little kiss here doesn’t hurt either 😘) Also, very important, don’t just pass each other by throughout the day. Take these little meetings as opportunities in the hallway, squeezing through the bathroom, passing on the stairs, to reach out and touch each other. For example, a touch on the arm, a hand on the small of her back, the holding of a hand or even a little pat on the back end. It’s just a playful, sweet, quick way to be physically close when you’re going 100 mph in opposite directions. My daughter has picked up on the “pat on the rear” move from my husband and now smacks me on the bottom randomly in public (not nearly as endearing!) But seriously, let’s get physical! Reach out and touch the one you love, often, all the time, every day.
  2. Work for a living and appreciate that your spouse does the same. I work hard. I do it because I want to make a better life for my family. When I come home to my worn out husband, who’s had a long day at work himself, I remember that he is working to provide for me and our children. I appreciate all that he does for us financially and around our home. All of the ways he helps me with the house work. All of the ways he cares for the kids. I tell him thank you as often as I can and I mean it. I am thankful for all that he does. I appreciate that he puts so much of himself into this life we created together. I feel so blessed that he is my partner. Don’t forget to appreciate what your spouse does every day to make your world go round. Be thankful and appreciate them.
  3. Make your husband a cup of coffee. Draw your wife a bubble bath. Put a note in each other’s lunch box. Do you see where I’m going with this??? It is in the little things that we make each other feel loved in my marriage. The small considerations for one another. We’re busy. We’re can’t-stop-won’t-stop-break-your-neck-or-maybe-your-back kind of busy. It’s so easy to not think of each other. So when we do stop, take a minute out of the busy day, and just do something nice for each other, it reminds us not only that we’re loved, but also that were on the same team. So every morning, when I wake up and my husband is still pressing snooze, I make his coffee with way too much sugar and two ice cubes (just the way he likes it) and I hope that when he grabs it on his way out the door, he feels loved.
  4. Give each other a break. Sometimes I think I love my husband the most right after I get back from a run. How lucky am I to have this wonderful man who stays with the kids so I can get out and get my feel-good going??!!! I like to think he’s thinking about how much he loves me when he’s out on the golf course too. He totally is, don’t you think?! But yes, one vital thing that makes my marriage strong and happy is that we support each other and give one another the opportunity to follow our separate passions. We are stronger individually for this and we are stronger as a married couple.
  5. For goodness sake, put your kids to bed. Give them a decent bedtime. In their own beds! This is a win-win. Kids need sleep. Parents need a break. Take this time, this tiny sliver of time between being super parents and catching your zzz’s and make it your husband/wife time. Put down the phones and do something together. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are tucked in by 9 every night and I’m usually snoring by 10 (noooo….I don’t snore, I’m just writing creatively 😉). In that hour, my husband and I are usually tuned in to a 48  Hours Mystery but we’re tuned in together. And this miraculous thing happens. When no one is yapping “MOMMY” in my ear or “DAD, GUESS WHAT?” in his, even with the TV on, we talk. It is so nice. There are no words to express what that hour of non-competed for attention is like. You might be thinking, “Why put the phone down if your just going to be watching TV.” Being distracted on a phone is very isolating. You’re doing your thing on your phone and your spouse is completely on their own. At least when you watch something together, your focus is on the same thing at the same time. But hey, someday if you’re really feeling adventurous, you could even shut off the TV!

So that’s it. So simple. I left something pretty important off my short list. I thought about adding a #6 for “Get a Babysitter”. Alone time is so important. My husband and I do occasionally get a sitter and spend some adult time together. But I leave this off my list for a very specific reason. If we wait for these special occasions to make each other feel loved, we’re going to end up very lonely. Kids, work, hobbies, friends, family, volunteering, etc., etc., this is life. You have to, YOU MUST, stay focused on your marriage during and throughout all of the chaos. You can’t wait for a break, wait for quiet time, wait for a perfect opportunity, to show your love to your partner. For example, I had to go back almost two years to find the photo below of just me and my husband.

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Most of our pictures look more like this…

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Which just reiterates my point. When we start a family, alone time, the perfect opportunities, the right mood or setting, those moments just don’t come along. We have to create those loving moments whenever, wherever.

Some of you might be in a rough patch in your marriage and you’re thinking “If only it was really as easy as she says.” Just know, we’ve been there too. No relationship is immune to struggles. We’re imperfect human beings. In a marriage, you’re going to be thoughtless, you’re going to get lazy, you’ll hurt one another and you’ll go through pain in life that will change and transform you as a person and in turn, you’re marriage will change too. As long as your partner isn’t doing anything in your marriage that risks the safety of you or your children, I challenge you to hang in there. I really believe it is the bumps in the road that make your marriage stronger in the end. Remember that this is the person that God put in your life. You are where He wants you to be. As painful as that can be at times, have faith that your life is in the middle of a transformation and brighter days are ahead. Be quick to forgive.  Do the little things that make your spouse smile, appreciate them, be filled with gratitude. Do this without expecting anything in return. Marriage is not tit for tat. Show your love to your partner because you want to, not because you expect the same in return. You’ll be surprised by what happens. When you put love out into the world, it will be returned. You’ll take the first step in building a stronger, more loving marriage.

That is it. At this point in my life, these are the things I have learned about marriage. I’m sure my perspective will continue to change as the road that my husband and I travel together twists and turns. But today I’m so grateful for my marriage and regardless of what life brings us, with my husband by my side, I’m ready to face it.

I am the Tickler of Toes…Among Other Things

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After my first blog, I was talking with a friend who also blogs. She said to me “I’m not a writer”…to which I responded “I’m not a writer either.” That sentence, that thought, that discredit, stuck with me. Why do we do this to ourselves? True…blogging, practicing my writing, exercising this rarely used art form of prose, is very new to me. But what would I have to accomplish to make me a writer??

I came across this same quandary when I began running 3 years ago. I’d repeatedly tell people “oh, I’m not a runner…” What I was thinking and feeling is “please don’t judge my running…I’m not fast…it’s not pretty…I look and feel like I’m dying when my feet are pounding the ground…so don’t call me a runner and don’t measure me by this high standard.” Today, I’m still not the fastest and I can’t run the farthest. Look at me in the pic below with this fancy little medal (…I still didn’t consider myself a runner even at this point). I was still discrediting myself saying “All of the good runners were participating in the half today…that’s why I was able to win the 5k.” When I look at myself and know those thoughts run through my mind, I can’t deny that’s it’s disappointing. We have to believe in ourselves. Love ourselves. Today I consider myself a runner. So what has changed???

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I began thinking (super scary, I know). The primary thing that has changed in my running is my perspective. I have the same tiny frame, the same slender muscles, the same excruciatingly pained face (lol)…but my perspective has changed. I haven’t  changed; my mind has changed.

Who would we be if we stopped discrediting ourselves and discounting our abilities? If our minds stopped telling us what we can’t do? I decided to try an exercise and list everything, every single thing, that I am. This is what I came up with:

  1. a Christian
  2. wife
  3. mother
  4. daughter
  5. daughter-in-law
  6. sister
  7. sister-in-law
  8. friend
  9. Godmother
  10. aunt
  11. niece
  12. granddaughter
  13. employee
  14. executive assistant
  15. ….this is where I started to have more fun with this exercise…you’ll see
  16. Runner (YES!)
  17. Writer (really…I changed my mind on this one)
  18. cook
  19. financial guru
  20. motivational speaker
  21. church council member
  22. scout den leader
  23. volunteer
  24. dog mommy (to my Rusty-Roo)
  25. carer for the sick
  26. tickler of the toes, arms, bellies, underarms, necks…you get the idea
  27. dancer (in my kitchen at least)
  28. singer (also in my kitchen/sometimes shower)
  29. music enthusiast
  30. bath lover
  31. love lover 😉
  32. Over-sharer (refer to #31)
  33. cleaner
  34. bedtime tucker
  35. Reader of stories
  36. Hair obsesser
  37. smile giver

And this is where I ended. I’m really quite terrible at some of these things (totally referring to singing). But these things make me feel alive. These things bring me joy. What if I start focusing on all of the things that I am and stop discounting myself by stating what I am not? You don’t have to be the best at something to BE IT. You just have to do it. From your gut, do it and love it. And there you are, the writer, the runner, the singer, the [enter the thing you desire/fear here].

That’s it. It’s simple really. Forget “I’m not”….it’s a pretty useless statement. Let’s be what we set out to be. Let’s challenge ourselves and love ourselves. I challenge you  to get out your pen and paper and make your “I Am” list. When you do it, ignore the fear. No one is seeing this list but you (unless you decide to blog about it!). You’ll be glad you did it. My last piece of advice, once you’ve written these things on your list, be them. Don’t step back, don’t discount, don’t discredit, and don’t be modest. Get out there and take life by the reigns. BE IT.

Living by Design

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The New Year has got me thinking…as it often does. Thinking of my goals, my wants, my needs…and with the assistance of some fantastic podcasts and a fancy motivational dvd, I had an epiphany. At 31 years old (or years young if you ask me), I had lost my way a little. Not in a living-in-the-streets-type-of-dramatic kind of way but in a I’ve-been-so-busy-getting-by-that-I’ve-stopped-giving-it-my-all kind of way. Whew, that’s a lengthy description but true.

In my teens and early 20s I had this belief that I could step into the adult world, marry the man of my dreams, work the job of my dreams, live in the big house, buy the new car, have the perfect children, etc., etc. Then I graduated college. I married a great man and got a good job and have been blessed to have two beautiful children. But other things have been harder. I discovered making a life, digging in and creating the life of your dreams, is hard. Like really hard. I suffered some terrible losses. And somewhere in the struggle, somewhere along the way, I started to doubt myself.

My blind faith that anything is possible left me. When did that happen. When did I decide to settle? That my dreams were too big? That I didn’t deserve the things I wanted? I don’t remember the moment. It was a lot of moments. The moment I was told I miscarried my first child, the moment I didn’t get the shining review I wanted at work, the moment I lost a dear friend to suicide, the moments I faced addiction in those around me, so many moments that chipped away at who I am…who I thought I could be.

So what? We all have hard times. I know that this is life on life’s terms. So, this epiphany I had, it woke me up. It gave me the kick in the rear and the slap in the face that I needed. I remembered that I have been created. I am not here by accident. Because I was made with purpose, molded, designed…shouldn’t I be aiming for my greatest potential? Why not me?

So going forward, I will try my hardest ALL the time. At work, with friends, at church, but especially in my home. I will put positive thoughts forward and send them out into the world. I will not dwell in the negative; I will not worry. I don’t know how I’m going to get to where I’m going. But that’s the fun of the journey. I’m taking a leap of faith and giving this life (this absolutely beautiful life) I’ve been given everything I’ve got.

I hope you will too. Do YOUR best, not your neighbor’s best. In the words of my 4th grade teacher, do your personal best. We were all made with purpose. It’s our responsibility to dive in and discover what that purpose is. We won’t find it while we idly wait. Purpose won’t come to us. We have to seek it out…I think it’s time. 2016 holds tremendous things.