Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year of "Rest"

2016 was the first time I chose one word for the year. 
It wasn't even that I had planned to but that Holy Spirit continued to impress upon my heart the word "rest", so I decided that was something to pay attention to and focus on. 

Initially I focused on physical rest.

Clearing my calendar. 

Learning to say "no" to things that weren't essential. 

Doing less. 

That was hard. I'm a person who enjoys being productive. I enjoy being involved with community and yet I was feeling called to give up so much of that. Pouring into my own family (mainly my children) more than others became a primary focus. But still slowing down is hard. 

Then things began to shift. I've mentioned before that we have faced a very difficult year and in February when things started to unravel the focus of this "rest" shifted from only physical to deeply spiritual. God was asking me to rest in Him. To simply "be" and allow Him to fight my battles. Allow Him to provide for me. Allow Him to protect me. Allow His plan to unfold rather than plowing through with what I thought the plan was. 

I snapped this picture a couple of days ago. 
My tiny girl completely at rest in the arms of her Papa. 
It completely captures the way God wanted me to rest in Him. Though I did not always have full trust like a sleeping babe in the arms of her Papa, I did learn to be more still and to wait on Him. 

And He proved faithful...time and time again. 

This Christmas wasn't what we expected. 

Our son was hospitalized for several days during the month of December and we still don't fully have a diagnosis as to what exactly was and is wrong. But that's another opportunity to rest in God's goodness. 

Just six days before Christmas my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. 
Two weeks in a row was were hit with very hard things. 
It definitely made for a difficult Advent and Christmas season. 
But again, it was an opportunity to rest. 

Despite all the hardships we have walked through this year, our family feels hopeful. 

God is proving faithful over and over. He is answering prayers. He is leading us. 

He is even allowing us to dream again.
Dream of the things He might have for us in the coming years. 

Just talking through a lot of hard things this week my husband referenced my word "rest". He said, "Don't you feel like its morphed so much this year? And now looking back at the end, we can see how so many of the things that held us captive, held us back from really running hard after God, have all been LAID TO REST."

Wow! Yes!
Until that moment I hadn't seen it, but that is true! 

So many of the things that kept us comfortable and kept us from fully pursuing dreams and callings (even good things like a community of people we love) have been laid to rest. They have been removed from our lives. And yes, we grieved. Oh! How we grieved the lose of so many things this calendar year! Death of relationships. Death of the vision we thought we were pursuing. Death (physical death) of loved ones (we lost my mother-in-law and also our family dog that had been with us for 8 years). 

So hard. So many tears.

While we still grieve some of those losses, there is hope in the grief. 
We are free from some of those things that were holding us in captivity. They've been laid to "rest". 

The work God has done in our hearts this year was excruciatingly painful. 
But now...NOW...looking back and looking forward--
all we see is redemption. Hope. Vision. Excitement. 

With the turning of the calendar we sense a turning of the tide. 
We are excited for what God has for our family this year.
We've spent hours over the last few weeks dreaming of what it will look like. Who knows...maybe we really have no clue what God intends for us this year, but its fun to dream! After several years of not having the freedom to dream our own dreams, we are reveling in the joy of dreaming God's dreams for us. Living loved. Following HIM. 

Thank you Jesus for 2016. 
For the hard ships and the glimmers of joy. 
For being a year that was painful...
for birthing so much out of that pain.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

She Believed She Couldn't...

I'm sure you've seen this quote floating around Pinterest...
or heard someone say it...

It's kind of inspiring, right? 
Don't get me wrong, I love the strength that God gives women and we seem to live in a culture (even within the church) that lives this belief out. Its a "boot straps" mentality. 

I recently heard someone challenge this quote with another...a better...a more accurate one. 

"She believed she couldn't, so God did!"

Several months ago during a time when my husband and I were being questioned regarding our call to pastor and plant a church, I was asked, "So do you think you're ready to be a pastor's wife?" This question with it's tone came as a shock to me. A fellow Christ-follower was the one asking...and asking with a hint of "I don't think you're ready" inflection. What shocked me wasn't the question it self or the tone with which it was asked. What shocked me the belief system behind that question. The belief that I could actually "be ready" for something that huge. 

If I had answered yes, I would have proved that I indeed was not ready. I would simply have proved arrogance. 
How arrogant would it be for me to say, "I'm absolutely ready! I've got this under control" because that's basically saying, "I don't need God for any of's all me. I got it"

My answer
"No. I'm not ready. And I'll never be ready. That's why I need Jesus! It isn't faith if I don't need Jesus...if I can do it all myself." 

Do I believe I'm ready for the challenges ahead? 
Do I think I've got it under control? 

Absolutely not. 
But that's the beauty of the kingdom of  God. 

We can't. He can. 

His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

It's His work...not mine. I'm only called to obey His call and He will fulfill the rest. 

I've thought many times about answering that same question again.
If I'm ever asked again, I'll say the same thing and maybe add a little. 

"If you're asking me if I'm ready to plaster a smile on my face each Sunday, make sure my children's hair is perfectly combed and they behave in an acceptable manner, respond 'I'm fine' when asked how I'm doing, live in fear of what other's expect or think of me as a 'pastor's wife' then NO...I'll never be ready. BUT, if you're asking me if I'm ready to stand beside my husband, walk alongside fellow believers who are hurting, empathize with the lonely, walk out my own life without fear of man, show my weakness because its how others come to see the power of the gospel in my life, imperfectly yet intentionally seek to raise babies who grow to adults who love Jesus, and give my heart to those I serve as we walk imperfectly together, sin against one another, and worship at the foot of the cross...then my answer is YES!" 

I'm not "ready" because I can perform. I'm not "ready" because I can say the right things or do the acceptable thing. I'm not "ready" because I've mastered the art of life in a fish bowl. 
I'm only "ready" when I can recognize my brokenness and take it to Jesus. I'm only "ready" when I see that out of my deepest pain can come my greatest joy. I'm only "ready" when I'm walking with Holy Spirit toward the freedom and healing He is leading me toward...surrendered to Him. 

You may not be called to a man who is in ministry. You may be called to be a mother. To be a friend. To be a writer. To be a teacher. To be a nurse. To be a loving neighbor. To be a barista. To be an encouragement to someone. To be a light of the gospel in your workplace. Whatever it is you are called to, you aren't ready. You aren't capable. But if you're a Jesus follower, you know the one who is. His power lives in you. Rest there. Rest in your inability and His ability. When you know you can't you are in exactly the right place for seeing Holy Spirit take over and move in ways you've never dreamed. 

Ladies of the church, may we not buy into the "boot straps, believe in yourself and you can conquer anything" mentality of the world...but may we embrace the truth that we are broken, weak, and in desperate need of Jesus daily. 

Let's stop standing on the stage of performance 

Let's lay at the foot of the cross...

because only then will we have power...
only then will we be "ready" for what God has called us to. 

*This post was birthed after listening to The God Centered Mom Podcast with Lara Casey. The quote was hers and it settled deep in my heart and caused all of these thoughts to spill out. I want to be sure to give credit where it is due, so please take a moment to listen to this episode if you resonate with these thoughts." 


Monday, December 12, 2016

He Who Breaks the Silence

Psalm 40 is not typically what you think of when you think of Scripture that references Christmas or the Advent season. But God placed these verses in my path last week and they have ministered so much grace to my soul! 

Advent--the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The beginning of the Christian church calendar year,  advent is the season (including four Sundays) leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ--Christmas. 

In my mind Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting on the arrival of a very notable person--Jesus. 

While he has already come, taking time out each year to wait for the celebration of his birth is important. The anticipation. The inward longing. 

As a child I waited to open gifts. That was the "notable event"! 
As an adult, I'm seeing more and more the joy in simply savoring Jesus--THE Gift. 

This Advent season has held highs and lows, ups and downs. Many are the moments I have longed to just hear Holy Spirit or see Him move in situations that I cannot control. I have prayed and begged to see Him. To hear Him. To deeply feel and know His love. This has been a very different Advent season. It hasn't held the same things that the last several years have held. We have experienced a lot of physical sickness and much soul grief. Yet there is joy. There is joy in the promise that Jesus is coming. Joy in knowing that He goes before us and makes our steps secure. Joy in believing that He alone is our rock. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord..."

I can't guarantee that I have or am waiting patiently! That's the hard part! 

"He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure"

How many times this season I have thought about the Jewish people. The ones who didn't hear God for 400 years. The ones who wondered where He was! The ones who longed to hear His voice or see His good works. 

And there my heart resonates...and is convicted. 

I feel that longing that I'm certain the Israelites felt. The thing is, they felt it for MUCH longer! 400 years is an immensely long season of waiting. The last few months have felt like an eternity for me, but I simply cannot imagine 400 years. No wonder hearts grew faint in the waiting for the Christ. No wonder there were doubters. I understand in a deeper way the doubts and fears in the waiting for the Rescuer! 

From this side of the manger, it should be easier to wait well. We have seen the life of Christ through the account of the Gospels and we have Holy Spirit with us continually. The Jewish people had neither of those things to rest on. But they clung to promises...promises like Psalm 40. They clung to stories of God's provision, protection, and faithfulness as told to them by their grandparents....great grandparents. 

Yet we are still humans with tendencies to doubt what we cannot see. Waiting requires great faith. Great trust in what we cannot fully see at the moment. 

All He asks is for us to wait on Him and He will do the rest. 

May we each experience the groaning and agony of the silent waiting season because only then can we experience the full joy of arrival of Jesus--the seeing, the hearing, the knowing...the end of the waiting. 

Our Rescuer has come. 
He breaks the silence.
He shines light in darkness.
He redeems. 
He fights.
He directs.
He protects.
He defends. 
He has won the war against humanity. 

The waiting may seem dark and silent...but the hope is that the Light is coming for you and for me. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A single red leaf

Walking up the sidewalk to our house this morning was like any other morning after pre-school drop off. Typically I don't pay much attention to anything around me except for what is next on the list. Today was different. 
Right in front of our porch steps something caught my eye. A beautiful red leaf. With it being Fall and November and all, this is to be expected. Leaves are all over our yard and our sidewalk and my porch steps. I sweep them and step on them almost daily. But most of the leaves are brown and yellow, not a vibrant red like this one. 
It stood out. 
It was different.
It was beautiful.

As I walked past, I noticed it and it became a passing thought. I unlocked the door with a baby in my arms who was ready for a nap and heard a still, small voice say, 
"Go take a picture of the leaf". 
Weird, right? 
I almost didn't do it. 
Thankfully, I'm learning to do even the weird things that still, small voice is telling me to do. 
I captured a picture on my phone and went on to put the baby down for her morning nap. 

Driving through town later in the day thoughts started pouring through my mind regarding that single red leaf surrounded by leaves that all look different from it but similar to one another. 

Isn't it eye-catchingly beautiful when we see that single red leaf amidst a slew of yellow and brown ones? Sure, the yellow and brown are beautiful on their own but that spark of red just does something for the human eye and mind. 

God gently told my soul (as I was microwaving my coffee at 3:30pm...hello, mom life) that if I saw that single red leaf as beautiful in its diversity, then why do I try so hard to look like the others around me? 

Girls! It hit me so hard! We, as women of the church, we strive so hard to have the same gifts, the same calling, the same jeans, the same loves, the same "picture-perfect" family as everyone around us...and that is so boring!

There have been seasons of my life when I felt like the only things I was allowed to be "gifted" in was cooking food (a service for others) or babysitting kids (nursery at church or offering services to another mom "in need"). Neither of those give me life. Neither of those things make me come alive! They drain me. But that's what everyone else's gifting looked like. That's what others told me "I should" be doing. So, I did. 

No longer. 

There is so much beauty in being that single red leaf. 
In pursuing the gifts God graced me with. Graced you with! 

If we all pursue the same things. If we all look the same. Like the leaves in my yard we become dead and unnoticeable. But, if we are a spark of life like that single red leaf...if we use the gifts that bring us life then how much more can we bring life to much more can the work of Holy Spirit be noticed in our lives! 

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Varieties of gifts, services, and activities. But all given for the common good (the sake of building the church! and sharing the gospel to an unredeemed world!) by the same Spirit! 

We so often look around and feel as if we are not enough. Everyone is better. We should be doing what "so-and-so" is doing because it gets her affirmation and applause and isn't that what we all want? 

Here's a new perspective--
God is already applauding you.
He is already affirming you. 

So go with him.
Don't follow man's applause and be those boring yellow leaves that are abundant simply because everyone wants to be the yellow leaf that's getting applause from men. 
Follow Holy Spirit.
Follow the life giver...the gift giver. 
Be that single red leaf in a swirl of yellow ones.
Be the woman living her calling, pursuing her gifts, and serving others the way God calls you to for the sake of His kingdom. 
Don't despise your gifts and strive for those you don't have. 
Lean into your giftedness and seek God's face as to how He wants you to use it in whatever season you are in. If you ask Him and earnestly listen, He will tell you. And when He does, run after it with everything you have. 

Our time on earth is too short to be a yellow leaf.
Our calling from Scripture is to use the variety of gifts God has given us 
NOT to long for the ones we don't have. 

God needs each of us women.
God needs each of our daughters.
He needs our daughters to see us using our gifts rather than despising them and speaking life into their gifts (even the ones we don't understand...or maybe even ones we don't like). 
Be that spark of life.
That eye-catchingly beautiful single red leaf. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Seeing God on the Road (Part 1)

“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.” 
--Amit Ray

I'm sure many of you are curious about the details of our journey over the last year. In my previous post, I made mention of it being difficult year--full of ups and down--and while I'd never want to walk that road again, I'm thankful we have because it has brought us to where we are now. 
Seeing God lead down a path we couldn't fully see was hard but beautiful, and I want to give you a glimpse of how He led us. We are broken people asking God to use us...He shines through our brokenness which is what I hope you see so that you will not say, "Look at the Ervins!" but so you will say "Look at how great our God is!" 

There are so many details that I cannot include them all, but I'll hit the highlights and give you the best glimpse of God in our story that I can. 

In early 2016 it became apparent that we were not going to be able to church plant in the way we had been envisioning. So we began to pray and just ask God to lead us wherever he wanted us--we didn't know if that would even be church planting/revitalizing and we were open to whatever He had for us. 

On June 10 we were just finished up rehearsal for my sister's wedding when my mom "happened" upon a gentleman and his two grandsons walking down the street in front of the wedding venue. In her typical fashion, my mom struck up conversation and came to find out that one of the boys was around the same age as G-man. She encouraged him to find G and play with him. 

I was sitting on the porch and up came a little boy who asked me if I had seen G. Though I didn't know him, I figured it was okay to point him in G's direction...Michael had taken him to our cottage for a few minutes. I glanced over a few moments later and found Michael talking to the grandfather of the boy (typical of him to strike up conversation with anyone in his path). I honestly thought nothing of it until later that night when Michael informed me that the grandfather was a local pastor. As they continued talking Michael found out that he had a vision to train young men and send them out to revitalize or plant churches in the Appalachian region. Seriously?!? A "chance" meeting that led to that discussion. We were both shocked.

The next day Michael ran into him again and they talked briefly but made plans to have lunch soon. 
That lunch meeting proved to be pivotal. As they met and Michael listened it was as if this man shared the same if he had been inside Michael's head and heart. He was speaking words Michael and I had spoken in our own private conversations regarding church planting. The thing that totally struck us was when he mentioned that he could really see our family planting a church in a town like Clarksburg/Bridgeport, WV. Maybe not significant to just anyone, but that was the first town we had really looked at when we first began dreaming of church planting several years prior. We had loved the area and just could never get away from it. For him to say that he could see us in that exact town was another confirmation that we needed to follow Holy Spirit's leading and continue walking this road. Michael made plans to preach at his church the following month to just see how God would lead. 

The day came for us to load up the car with our three littles and drive the hour commute for Michael to preach. It was a horrible morning. The spiritual warfare was evident in each of our hearts. The closer we got to the church the worse it got. Our children were acting out, throwing tantrums in the car. Maybe that doesn't sound like a spiritual battle to you, but in my life my enemy knows how to get to me and its usually through my children causing chaos. That pushes my buttons like nothing else. Michael prayed over our family while we were in the car and once we arrived at the exit we pulled off to pray again and talk with the kids. Praying had an enormous effect on the chaos and brought peace to the entire situation. We were well received by the people at this small, Appalachian church. Lunch afterwards with the pastor and his family proved to be another confirmation. 

The discussion over lunch was simple. Nothing earth shattering to the casual on-looker, but without having to bring up the topics and questions we had already discussed, the pastor brought up each one of our concerns and thoughts. He even spoke to wounds in my heart that had developed over the past year...he spoke truth to them.
He asked us to take two weeks to pray about whether this was God's leading. We agreed.

We got in the car to leave and looked at one another. 
We both knew we didn't need two weeks. 
This was God's leading. 

To be continued...


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Around the curve

You know when you're driving a curvy road and you can't see what's around the next turn? You can see the turn, but nothing beyond that? 

That is the best way to describe our life for the last year. 

Last September we said "No" to a very good opportunity to come alongside a church and help them grow/replant. If you've been around here anytime at all, you know that is our dream. Our calling. 
Saying no was hard. But the events that followed were even harder. 

Without going into too much detail, we faced a critique from leaders in our lives that was difficult to hear. After praying through their thoughts and recommendations as well as seeking counsel from mentors and people who know us well, we recognized that we disagreed with them. God was telling us to continue our pursuit of church planting/re-planting despite recommendations to do the opposite. It was extremely difficult to go against those in our lives whom we love, but we also knew that we could not forsake God's calling in exchange for man's wisdom. 

Throughout the process we were questioned. Our maturity was questioned. Our calling was questioned. Our gifts and skill sets were questioned. The health of our marriage was questioned. Our friendships were compromised. 

But through everything, one thing remained the same...

Our faithful Father. 
He continued to lead us around that curve. 
We could see nothing in front of us. Those in our immediate line of sight were telling us to turn around. But God kept pressing us forward

Throughout this process Holy Spirit has continually brought me to meditate on Exodus 14:14 

"The Lord will fight for you
You need only to be silent."

How hard that has been! To keep silent when I want to defend. But, how beautiful it has been to see Him defend us. When others try to defame by going to friends and trying to spin our story in a different light, He has stepped in and stopped it. He has been fighting battles that we were not aware were waging until after the fact. Which causes my heart to rejoice and affirm that we are indeed not fighting against flesh and blood. That truth allows me to forgive the humans that have hurt us, because I know that they are not the real enemy. The real enemy is Satan, and he will use whoever he can to wound us. He will cause division and cause man to war against man so that the gospel is hindered. I refuse to allow that. My only enemy is Satan. I heard someone a few months ago say, "What Satan can separate He can dominate". Truth. This is all taking a little rabbit trail, but sisters let's join together against the real enemy and stop warring against our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

All of that to say, we have made our way around that big, long, hard turn in the road. Where there was fog we now have clarity. God has lead us to join with the Southern Baptist Convention in West Virginia to plant/re-plant a church in our region within the next year. Currently we are working with another SBC church doing an "internship" and hope to launch into a new work within a year. It has all been such a crazy process. Feelings of excitement, pain, loneliness, anticipation, and rest have accompanied us on our journey. We are beyond excited to see what God has for us as we pursue this dream that he has placed in us. This calling that He has lead us in. There are tons of things to still figure out, but we know that He will continue this work that he started and all of our questions (How? Where? When?) will be answered in time as we follow Him. 

We're around the curve and moving forward, onward, and upward. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Evie's Birth Story

I want to introduce you all to the newest member of the Ervin clan...

Miss Evie G 

She's now three months old so the introduction is a little late, but I couldn't let another moment go by without officially documenting her arrival here in this little space! You know, based on other posts, that I adore birth stories...but my own babies' birth stories are always my favorite. They have each been so different and Miss Evie did not disappoint! 

Actually, it started a little earlier than planned. Back in March Evie (or my body...not sure which) decided that 31 weeks we a good time to deliver a baby which landed us in the hospital for about a week while they stopped labor (twice) and made sure we were okay to head home. Then after that, things went perfectly and she stayed growing inside of me for another 7 weeks. It was definitely a scary experience, and maybe one day I'll write it out here for you, but let's keep the focus of this post on her actual arrival. 

Many of you read G-man's birth story of how we barely made it to the hospital before he was born. I was worried this time that we wouldn't make it. We actually prayed that God would allow us to make it before it became another stressful situation, and while I really wanted another birth center birth (like E's birth) I wasn't so set on it that I would risk birthing a baby in the car on the 30 minute drive there. So we were totally open to a hospital birth this time around. 

Friday evening, May 6, we went to Chick Fil A for dinner to celebrate a cousin's birthday. I was grumpy (ask Hubs or my mom...they'll tell you). I simply wasn't in the mood to be around screaming kids (two of them my own) and trying to coerce them to sit and eat chicken nuggets while they desperately just wanted to play in the play area. Braxton-Hicks contractions had become a norm for me with this pregnancy. Every. Evening. They weren't painful, but I could feel the tightening of my belly and it was simply not comfortable. All of that combined with being "done" with pregnancy and hormones...made for a perfect storm for a grumpy momma. 

After dinner my mom took the kids for a little while so Hubs and I had a quiet ride home where we talked about how we were SO ready to meet this little girl. Kids came home and went to bed while I sat on the porch with my mom and her roommate and just relaxed. Mom commented on how hard my belly looked...and she was right! Those Braxton-Hicks were still coming and going. It was totally normal. As I went in to go to bed, I didn't think much of my continuing BH contractions because honestly every night when I went to bed I had them. But then I woke up to go to the bathroom around midnight and was still feeling them. I woke Michael up and told him that it wasn't normal for me to continue to feel them, but I did not want to be one of those women who went to the hospital in "false labor"...but I didn't want another almost-unattended-unplanned-homebirth! We decided to call the midwife on call. She knew my story and basically told me to come get checked. She'd rather send me home than me birth a baby at home alone. I agreed! 

We got to the hospital (a couple miles down the road) around 1:00am on Saturday. They knew I was coming so they were ready for me and she checked my cervix. She had checked me on Wednesday at my office visit and I was 3cm 80% effaced. At this point, I was 4cm and 90% effaced so she decided to monitor me for an hour or two to see what happened. Some friends who were out late (and who knew what was happening) brought Michael much needed coffee. Both of us had only slept about an hour. Around 3:00am I was dilated to 5cm, so they admitted me. We were definitely having a baby. 

Our doula came once they admitted me and around 6:00am I was at 7cm. Progressing pretty quickly but really feeling no pain. I know. Its crazy. You hate me. But seriously. I was shocked too. With E I felt serious intense pain during transition so I was ready to have it hit me at 8cm. It had been so easy up until that point and thinking of the pain coming made me sick to my stomach! I was scared and unsure I could do it...again. At 8cm I still only felt mild cramp like contractions. Not painful but definitely could feel the muscles tense up. The nurses were astounded that I was still walking the halls at 8cm! But, despite the walking I stalled at 8cm. Maybe my body was tired but I wanted to birth this girl before the midwives switched shifts. So she broke my water and we kept walking and doing other squats and such to get baby girl in the best position. 

Let's be doula and Hubs were bored to tears. Hubs actually fell asleep multiple times because we were just sitting around waiting basically. There wasn't much for the doula to do because I wasn't in as much pain as I expected and I didn't really need any "support" at the time. It made the time really drag by.

Several hours later I was still at 8cm. The midwife I really wanted to deliver had left and the new one started talking Pitocin. I had heard horrible things about it so I declined at first. Finally after another hour at 8cm I decided I would do it. I honestly expected the worst. Really hard contractions that were unbearable (after going to 8cm with hardly feeling much at all). I braced myself...but it never came. The contractions picked up, yes, but they were only slightly more intense. Definitely still tolerable. within an hour or two I was at 10cm and fully effaced. Ready to push! 

That's when the pain hit. 
And it hit hard. 

Hubs said I pushed for 12 minutes but it felt like an eternity.

Then she was born. 

My beautiful Evangeline. 
All 6 pounds and 2 ounces of her.

I cried and just keep saying "she's beautiful". 
I don't know if it was the pre-term labor and all that stress around her possibly being born too early and what that would mean for her/us or what it was. She is the only baby I have delivered and cried upon seeing. It was precious. 

It was the day before Mother's Day...and adding another little one to our family was the perfect way to celebrate! 

Looking back to G-man's birth...I think it was similar. I was in active labor but didn't feel anything until it was time to push and I was still at home. Thankfully this time around, God gave me that gut instinct to go ahead and go get checked because even though I wasn't in pain I knew something was different with (what I thought were) the BH contractions. 

**These lovely newborn photos were taken by our friend Anna**

*Our amazing and patient doula and hospital photographer was our friend Andrea*


Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Frugal Valentine

Alright...I understand that the word "frugal" doesn't typically equal "romantic". But stick with me hear! If you are like me, you want to celebrate Valentine's day with your spouse (or significant other) but maybe your budget is a little tight. How do you swing a decent Valentine celebration with little extra cash when things like a simple bouquet of flowers go up in price significantly for that day alone? 

Valentine Mantle decor from our little apartment 4 years ago.

The last few Valentine's days we have skipping the fancy restaurants and expensive meals, flowers, and gifts and opted for something a little simpler. 


Yes. We ate at a fast food restaurant on Valentine's day. But there was good reason! 
Qdoba has a special promotion on Valentine's day--

If you kiss at the register you get a buy one get one free meal!

So we have basically gotten our meals on Valentine's day the last few years for half price! How great is that? isn't the most romantic location, or the most exquisite food. But its a date that isn't expensive. 

It looks like Qdoba is offering this promotion again this Valentine's day! If you have a local Qdoba you should look into whether or not they are going to have this promotion going on. 

We typically follow up our dinner with a movie, dessert, or wandering the mall with coffee for a little while. I prefer something where we can talk because with two small children at home, talking uninterruptedly is a rarity! 

I'd love to hear how you celebrate a more frugal Valentine's day. 
You can leave your ideas in the comments! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February Currently

February is now in full swing! The ground hog didn't see his shadow, so we are hoping for an early Spring! Today I'm linking up with Gold and Bloom to share my February "Currently"! This is always a fun post to think through, write and share with you! This month I'm sharing what I am -sending-eating-dreaming-smelling-hearting. 

sending... emojis. it seems like almost every time I send a text message I am tempted to put a little smiling emoji in it. I've been trying not to do it too often that annoying for there to be a smiley with every text? yes. I think so. 

eating... less sugary treats. more fruit. blueberries in particular are my favorite right now although they are a bit more expensive than in summer months. I splurge a little every few weeks and pick up a pint for myself. 

dreaming... about Spring. This winter has been nice--warmer with one major snow. Just how I like it. Now we can move on to warmer weather and sunshine (and baby's due date)!

smelling... my morning coffee. candles (I've been lighting more around the house lately in attempt to bring a little cheer to the dreariness of winter). fretting falling rain.

hearting... Sally Clarkson's new book The Life Giving Home that I got on my doorstep yesterday. Spotify playlist Hymns for Hipsters (check it out). 

I pray you are enjoying this first week of February and looking forward to what God has in store for you and your family this month! Don't forget...its LEAP YEAR! 
Happy February!


Monday, February 1, 2016

What I Learned in January

How is January over already? Does anyone feel like the ball just dropped and the confetti has barely been cleaned up? Yep. That's me. But amazingly enough, it is over and we are all moving on into February!

One of my favorite pictures of my littles. He wanted to dance with
his big sister. 

Before I move on, I like to take time to reflect on what I have learned over the last month. Not that I can really take any credit for. It is God who has been graciously opening my eyes, showing me areas where I need to grow and blind spots I didn't know I had.  

1. REST has been so good. You'll recall that "REST" is my word for 2016 and to be honest, I didn't know how desperately I needed rest until I took some time for it. I'm not talking about sleeping all the time or being lazy (although I have given myself more grace to nap during this season) but simply creating some white space in my schedule. I've said no to things that would drain me or leave me depleted with only leftovers to give my family. I have said yes to things that fill me up and allow me to have more to give my family. I have taken more lavender baths in the last month than in the year. We have majorly slowed down as a family. We aren't running all over town on errands or just for fun. We are staying home more in the evenings and simply being together. It has been so good. My soul is so much more full. I have actually enjoyed cooking dinner on more than one occasion (typically its a rush and I don't look forward to it at all). The snow storm last week really pushed us into rest because we were snowed in for 2 days. It was glorious. the end we all had some cabin fever, but overall we just loved a slower pace. 
Only one month in and rest has filled my soul more than I could have realized. I cannot imagine what the year will be like if I am able to keep rest in my sights and continue on this path of creating space.

2. Our baby now has a title. We debated for a while over whether or not to find out the gender of baby #3. With #1 we waited until birth to find out and it was so much fun! With #2 some friends threw us a gender reveal party just a couple months before the birth and finding out with our family and friends was also extremely fun! So with #3 we were torn. But, we decided to do something different. We found out and then we revealed to our family and friends in differing ways at different times. I'm pretty sure some of them probably still don't know. We didn't want a big announcement on social media (just yet). We have taken our time telling everyone in unique little ways. We mailed most of our family and some friends a "scratch off" ticket. Some friends found out a little early because we were staying with them while our furnace was being replaced on the day we found out--so we colored some sparkling grape juice and poured it as a celebration. 
Are you curious yet? 
Baby #3 (who will arrive in May) has the title of....

little sister. 

My E-girl has been praying for a little sister, so we are all excited, but she is ecstatic! 

3. Slow mornings are my favorite. I just really enjoy a good, slow morning. Savoring the coffee in my cup, reading, journaling, NOT having to get up and get out the door early. Just relaxing and enjoying. Most days that doesn't happen. Most days are pretty full...getting E to pre-school, heading to doctor's appointments, making sure the pantry is stocked and picking up other household essentials. But those days when I sleep past my alarm, soak up the morning sun streaming through the windows, slowly sip the coffee from my mug and maybe even make pancakes for my family (rather than cereal or oatmeal), those are mornings that make me feel at peace. Those are the mornings I look forward to! 

4. There are several new dinner options that my family really enjoys! In the last month, I have found a couple new recipes that my family really seems to enjoy. This makes me happy. It is so easy to get into a rut when it comes to meal planning and I am always happy to find a new recipe (or two) that my family will eat and enjoy! One of them is Italian Chicken and Quinoa Soup. It is extremely easy and is made in the crock pot! My kids aren't huge soup fans, but when given a sandwich or something to dip in it, they love it. San Fransisco Style Pork Chops served with mashed potatoes and green beans--HIT! Like, out-of-the-park-home-run-HIT! Hubs really loves it and the kids gobble it up! A friend made them for us and I got the recipe from her. I have made the recipe at least 2-3 times since she gave it to me because I haven't met a person who doesn't like it! 

5. Creating beautiful spaces bring me joy. I think I have known this for a while, but I am realizing its depth. I have wrestled with finding what God has created me to do, doing it, and serving others with it. While I sometimes enjoy cooking, cooking is not life-giving to me. Yes. I will serve others with food when that is necessary, but it doesn't get my heart beating rapidly. Caring for children (whether nursery at church, babysitting for friends, etc) is not life-giving to me. But both of those things are BIG ways women typically serve within a church context. That a music--I love music as well but in this season I don't have the time to invest in my piano playing to be able to do it well and truly serve others with it. So I wrestled with how God wired me. How did he create me to serve the body? What makes me come alive when I'm doing it? And how can I use it to serve others?
Since reading The Nester's book, I have seen just how much creating beautiful, peaceful spaces in my home has given life to me as well as my family and friends who come to spend time here. But I never saw it as ministry...until today. Yes. Today.

I am hosting an IF:Local gathering this weekend at our church. Its the third year we have done one, but we are actually decorating and trying to create a place of comfort and peace that allows the women coming to feel comfortable and safe....kind of like sitting in a friend's living room with a warm cup of coffee. So I have been dreaming and scheming decorating ideas for a little more than a week. Today I shopped my house and gathered some of my favorite things to decorate with. We are keeping decorating simple--candles, twinkle lights, lanterns, items from nature--but beautiful. While I was gathering my candles and lanterns and dreaming of where they would go in the welcome center of the church, it hit me...this is what I am made to do. AND I am loving and serving others by doing it! God has given me a way to use my creativity to bring beauty, joy, comfort to other ladies this weekend. When I finally saw it as a service and not just a hobby, it filled my soul! Now, I don't know what using this gift for the church looks like outside of this weekend, but I know I am supposed to because God created that love for creating beauty within me. 

6. A cup of coffee might just make me cry. I'm going to be really honest here for a minute (**note--if you don't like raw honesty you can skip this last one**). Mondays are usually hard for me, but today was beyond hard. Before we had even had lunch the day felt heavier than I could bare. Too many things going on "behind the scenes" and trials that my family is walking through. I know so much of it is a spiritual battle leading up to IF:Local this weekend. There's not a doubt in my mind that my soul's enemy is trying to shake me, distract me, and discourage me this week as I seek to gather women, pray, worship, and have our hearts challenged and freed by the work of Jesus. I felt overwhelmed. I cried half the morning (maybe some pregnancy hormones at work here too). Then I got a text from one of my "IF girls" (that's how I refer to the girls who have been with me in the IF:gathering vision since the first one) sent a text

"my shirt (along with a goodie) is on your porch. Purple table..."

I was expecting her to drop off a shirt for this weekend and I think my mind totally dismissed the "along with a goodie" part because when I opened the door I was only expected a bag with her shirt in it. Instead, there was also a little snack and cup of coffee. Yep. I definitely cried. Who knew something so simple would be so meaningful on a day like today! God knew. He prompted her. She listened. And I am so thankful. Friends like these girls are one of God's greatest answers to prayer in my life. I prayed for heart knit together like this...knowing one another deeply...walking through life with one another in the mundane little things not just the exciting or hard big things. This was one of those mundane little things in life that God used to show me he has heard my prayers for women like this in my life. He has answered. He is gracious.

I'm sure there are many more things I have learned over the last month. And I pray I continue learning lessons in my life both big and small. I hope God never stops showing me my need and his grace.

Check out all the other "What I learned" posts over at Chatting at the Sky


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sharing Stories, Hope & Encouragement

I hope you're ready to use your imagination with me a little this morning!
Ready? Alright!

Put yourself in these circumstances...
You're a young woman
who just gave birth to her first born (a daughter) 3 months ago.

That's a nice thought, right?

Right as your daughter turns 3 months old you are diagnosed with cancer
You're given 15 months to live with typical treatment


There is a more risky treatment available that could extend your life a few years but it is just that...risky and expensive.

What would you do?

If you're like me, you'd probably cry, get angry, cry more, hold your baby extra tightly, snuggle up with your husband who is also scared and hurting. You'd weigh your options and begin to worry about everything that goes with each option (side effects, risks, finances, etc).

This is not just a scenario to be played out in our minds, but this is the real-life story of Heath Von St. James. Just three months after her daughter was born, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma-- a form of lung cancer caused (most often) by asbestos exposure. When Heather was a little girl, she would wear her father's work jacket around when he returned home each evening not knowing that the asbestos particles she was inhaling would eventually lead to cancer...a very aggressive form of cancer.

Like all of us, Heather and her husband were scared, but they faced this entire ordeal with courage and determination. Upon hearing the 15 month prognosis and the other more risky option, they immediately decided to go for the second option. Wouldn't you? What mother can imagine dying before her baby is 2 years old? It was really their only hope. But what mother can imagine having her lung totally removed? That's scary, but not too scary when it comes to saving your life.

In the face of having this intensive procedure, Heather's sister coined the phrase "Lung Leavin' Day" to help make the scary day seem a little less scary. Heather's family gathered to write their fears on plates and smash them into a fire  as a symbolic way of letting their fears go.

On February 2, 2006 Heather Von St. James had the procedure done to remove the cancerous lung.

Now, 10 years later she is still celebrating with her family! She is a survivor of what looked like a very hopeless diagnosis. She has seen her daughter grow, spent more time with her husband and family, and grown courageous in more ways than one. She is now sharing her story to raise awareness for mesothelioma research and treatment.

This February 2 will mark 10 years since the original "Lung Leavin' Day". Heather and her family will gather again to celebrate, write out their fears, and burn them. Ten years is a remarkable milestone when the original prognosis was 15 months! Heather's story has encouraged many others facing a battle for their lives. Take some time to read a little more about Heather's journey and learn about mesothelioma caused by asbestos.

You can check out more of Heather's story here 

or Lung Leavin' Day here!

Then consider your story. It might not seem quite as "heroic" or "courageous" but just like Heather, you have a story. A story that could encourage someone. A story that could give hope. A story that God is writing for you. It may seem simple. Your life may have been relatively easy...or maybe it was extraordinarily hard. Whatever your story, God wants to use it to bring hope to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all or affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

Each one of our stories has hard elements as well as exciting, fun, and beautiful chapters. God wants to work through each of our stories to share His love, grace, comfort and freedom with those around us. So, what's your story?

Be courageous. Share.
It just might encourage someone. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

One Little Word

I might be a little bit behind on the "one little word" trend. Typically I spend an afternoon with Hubs planning goals for the year, but this year that just didn't happen. I kept stressing over it in my head, but with sickness over Christmas and other things to keep up with we just never got a chance to get away and go to a quiet spot to think, reflect, and plan. 

So I decided that this year I would keep things a little simpler.
Instead of creating a laundry list of goals that our family would like to see accomplished, I would choose one word for myself to set a precedent for the year. 

As I began praying about it the word that God kept showing me was "rest". 

I tried (believe me I tried) to find a different word. A popular blogger had already chosen that word and I didn't want to seem like I was mimicking her. Also, rest is hard. That's a hard word to define your year. I think it is hard for me because I am such a do-er. I find a lot of my identity in what I am able to get done or how productive I am able to be.  

But God would not stop putting that word before me each morning. It was the only word that sounded right. The only one I could think of. 

So I surrendered to it and finally wrote it out in my journal. 

2016 will be a year of rest. 

Now, I'm not sure what that looks like. 
But I know it doesn't just mean physical rest. It means spiritual rest as well. 
Resting in God and his sovereignty when I don't understand what is going on. And let me tell you...I have had to put that into practice so much earlier in the year than I anticipated! The ball had hardly dropped in Times Square before life started spinning out of control. 

I am trying to make time for physical rest as well...and being pregnant that is so helpful! My energy has been lacking this entire pregnancy and since I have given myself permission to rest each day, I don't feel as guilty for that afternoon nap. 

"Rest" also means saying "no" to things I might otherwise have said "yes" to. 

Jen Hatmaker really helped me with this post she put on Instagram a week or so ago:

jenhatmakerAs you move into 2016 hoping for a saner schedule that prioritizes your actual life and keeps you focused on the things that matter the most, let me share the decision-making filter my agent Curtis always gives me: "If it's not a HELL YES, then it's a no." So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn't-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes? 
NO. Nope. 
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I've already committed my time and energy this year. I've loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we've agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won't be able to do more right now. 
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong...the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY.

So when people I love have put opportunities before me to serve that take my energy from my family and  that don't make my gifts leap to life...I've said "no". Not always what I want to say because I want to serve, I want to be helpful, I want to love well. But saying "no" isn't unloving.

Holly Gerth puts it this way in her book You're Loved No Matter What" 
"Real friends love your 'no' as much as they love your 'yes'. Mary and Martha received a 'no' when they wanted Jesus to come right away.But that 'no' led to the resurrection of Lazarus--a miracle beyond what they could have imagined when they first asked Jesus to come. I wonder if Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus embraced and wept again when they were reunited. But this time the tears would not have been from sorrow. Instead they would be the kind we shed when we see how God can transform even a painful 'no' into a glorious 'YES".

Her words have deeply encouraged me and strengthened my "no" because it is a purposeful "no". 

"Rest" will be a struggle for this productivity seeker this year. But it will be a good struggle. A sanctifying struggle that I pray teaches me more about myself and my God and allows me to focus on the things that really bring life to my soul rather than all the things I feel like I should be doing that actually drain me. 

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