Category Archives: Purpose

Happy 6th Birthday, Rachel!

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Rachel,

Today we celebrated your 6th birthday! I found myself at different points during the day thinking back to the day you were born and every time I found myself amazed at how quickly time has gone by.  You are, without a doubt, everything we could ever ask for and more.  You are kind, sweet, smart, funny and driven! You love to learn new things and are always, always, always asking questions.  I know that drive to learn will take you far in life.  You are thoughtful and giving, but also shy in certain situations.  I am so thankful that you have a heart that sees the best in people at all times.  You wonder about injustices in a way that makes me wonder about them too in a deeper sort of way.

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This year you held a lemonade stand to benefit our local blessing box that offers food to people who need it.  You came up with this idea all on your own one day after we had dropped off food at the box.  You asked why we took food there and I explained to you that sometimes people just don’t have enough food to eat.  We had a long conversation, in an age appropriate way, about why that might be and what kinds of things can happen in life to make it so that someone doesn’t have enough food.  What I’ll never forget from that conversation is how your mind was processing through the fact that some people’s basic needs are not met and you were “with-it” enough to know that you could help.  When you asked to have a lemonade stand to help I felt such immense pride knowing that you “got” the gist of the conversation.  You knew that it didn’t so much matter the “how’s” or the “why’s” of  what lead people to struggle, all that mattered was that you had the power to help make things a little better.  Taking initiative is such an important step in life, Rachel.  I know that you will go far if you always listen to your heart and look for ways to show people what God’s love is like.  IMG_2627IMG_0104

You raised nearly $100 from your lemonade stand and we filled up an entire grocery cart full of items to put in the blessing box! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too small to do anything to help! You can do anything you set your mind to.

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This year you started school and boy are we ever proud of you! The first day of school I thought there might be tears getting on the bus, but you hopped on that bus so fast and sat down in your seat to wave good-bye and before I even knew it the bus was headed up the street to take you to school.  You are reading and writing like nobody’s business these days.  We find little post-it notes of yours around the house everywhere.

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Still one of your favorite things is playing with Jake and playing on the beach.  Here you both are chasing the birds at the beach.  I’m amazed at how you always see the good in people, even when your brother can be a little bit, um, punchy–shall we say? He can be a handful, but he is A TON of fun! You always tell people that he’s “just a teensy bit wild!”

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Of course, since it’s Christmas time I have noticed that you have not waivered from your viewpoint of his standing on the “Nice List.”  “OF COURSE he’s on the nice list,” you always say.  You are the absolute best big sister.  Sometimes you even help me put Jake to sleep by rubbing his back.  He loves you so much too!

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Rachel, we thank God for you every day.  We know that you are bound to do great things in this world and we can’t wait to see what amazing things are in store for you.  You told me earlier that you think you were put on earth to “help people,” and I don’t mean to sound corny here but it makes me misty-eyed because I feel like you really get what life is all about.  Thank you for reminding us that we are called to love and serve in any way we can, even if (and especially when) we don’t understand.

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Happy 6th Birthday, sweet Rachel! I love you to the moon and back and forever and always.  You are everything we hoped and prayed you would be and more.

I love you.

Love,

Mommy

Relationship Advice #10

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

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Wow! Can it possibly be true that 10 years has flown by in the blink of an eye?! Your Dad and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today and we are proud to say that we have grown closer together in those last ten years than we ever thought possible.  It is true what they say–a good marriage is a labor of love!

Every year I write to you a little bit about what I have learned over the past year.  My hope is that by the time you are venturing into your own marriage you will have 30+ years of marriage tips/tricks and advice to help you navigate the waters.  When I think back on each year as they go by, I try to determine any over-arching themes, any areas that have stretched my thoughts or times that I have felt myself grow as a person.  Then I use what I have and try to convey some sort of (hopefully) helpful advice to you.  Also, if you look back on each year, it would be a pretty safe to say that the pieces of advice that I give are areas that I am currently or have intensely struggled with.  That is why they “stick out” to me as being important or recurring themes.  I am not perfect.  Marriages are not perfect.   They are a team effort that require a lot of give and take along the way.  If you look at each post as a “snapshot” of my year, I also hope that you’ll see little pieces of my heart and who I am/was during that time.

Sidenote: I just felt completely overwhelmed and compelled to tell you how much I love being your mom.  I am blessed to have you both in my life and I consider it the honor of a lifetime to be a part of yours.  ❤

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Here are links to previous years posts:

Years 1-6: (Year 1-5 were the “carefree” pre-children years, although they of course weren’t totally carefree…I just didn’t give much thought to the motherly advice I wanted to give yet.  Year 6 is when things got real and I had to start a blog so I could tell you all the things!), Year 7Year 8 and Year 9

This year’s relationship advice is a bit of a personal one and is something I believe we all may struggle with to a certain extent.

Relationship Advice #10: “For richer or for poorer” refers to  BOTH of those seasons of life and everything in between. Otherwise known as: Your “things” do not define you.

Hard times are bound to happen.  A lost job could turn your financial situation upside-down overnight.  A newly purchased car can become totaled within a week of purchase.  Bills can pile up, unexpected medical bills can nearly put you in near financial ruin.  Your health can deteriorate, a family member can pass away unexpectedly.  Life is good in the good times….but guess what– life is good in the hard times too.

This past year has been a tough one for us financially.  We struggled to see the good around us when it seemed like time and time again we just kept getting knocked down.  It was a difficult time, to say the least.

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“Team work makes the dream work.”

After sulking for a tiny bit, your Dad and I developed a plan.  We cut down our expenses, we nearly eliminated all of our personal disposable spending, we were creative with our grocery shopping (you’d be shocked at how many variations of spaghetti we have had in the past year! But at around $2.50/meal it truly can’t be beat!) and we prioritized every. single. thing. that we bought and constantly asked “Do I really need this?” before buying something new.  I’m talking down to questioning whether or not we really needed a new bottle of ketchup one time at the grocery store.  Things were really that tight.

Stress can ruin a lot of things for people.  Stress can either make or break a person. Financial stress is one of the biggest issues that can plague a relationship.  Spend time being intentional about how you handle the stress in your life.  Being intentional about handling the stress in my life is what made all the difference for us. We worked together, made decisions together and were determined to come out on top. We knew that nothing could be gained by trying to fix it alone and we knew that we could rely on each other no matter what came our way.  Find a partner who values your “team” and who knows that “team work makes the dream work.”

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Since I was questioning every single expense down to the bottle of ketchup, it goes without saying that items like new shoes, clothes, camera gear, etc. were completely and understandably put on the back burner.  You might have looked at our bank account and thought “Gee, these people sure don’t have a lot.” I’d be the first to tell you that you were completely and utterly wrong.

I found myself becoming increasingly aware of people around me.  I noticed my husband working harder than ever to support our family.  I saw my children (you!) laughing and smiling and learning and growing each day.  I began to see that God was placing certain people into my life for different reasons.  Some people had great messages and always seemed to say and do the right thing at the right time.  Sometimes it gave me chills, sometimes it brought tears to my eyes and sometimes it made me exhale in relief.  For example, the bible verse listed at the top of this post is a verse someone had shared with me after I had an exceptionally hard day.  I know with all of my being that that person was meant to share that scripture verse with me that day.  That was a time that I knew God was there.  I knew He was stretching me.  I knew He was growing me as a person and refining me to see the big picture in life.  I know he was trying to help me see what really mattered….and what didn’t.  I was reminded in that moment that God works all things together for good.  All things.  Even when we don’t understand it.

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After a time of not really thinking about buying “things” for myself, I started to notice that I stopped thinking about them (mostly, at least).  I recognized that “things” are just objects…some are helpful, some are not.  Some are just there.  They don’t define who we are.  Our personalities, who we are as people and the values that we have can define us as people.  What are we doing to make this world a better place? It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, something simple will do just as well.

I started to realize that life wasn’t about your job or how much money you had.  Your job title did not determine who you are.  Your job is fleeting.  Life is fleeting.  The only thing that lasts is love.  When we die, we can’t take any of our stuff with us.  We can, however,  leave the world a better place than how we found it.  We can realize that we are more than the clothes we wear or the things we have (or don’t have!).  Love is the only true wealth any of us can ever have.  The ripples left from a loving relationship can affect generations.  It truly is a beautiful opportunity we’ve been given to make the world a better place simply by loving others.

Helpful Tip: Be careful when justifying your purchases with phrases like “Well I work hard, so I deserve this.” A lot of people work hard.  A lot of people “deserve” those things too.  But for one reason or another, they may not be able to have it.  Keep that in mind, always.  Nothing in life is guaranteed or “deserved.”  Be thankful for everything.  Life is a gift.

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“I wish you bad luck- again, from time to time- so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life. And understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.”- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a commencement speech for his son’s ninth grade graduation.

Some questions to consider to help you determine where the desires of your heart truly lie:

-Do I place more emphasis on wanting to acquire material items instead of what I can do to help make the world a better place?

-Do I notice the “things” people have and constantly compare what I have to what they have?

-Do I know without a doubt that although sometimes life is hard, God uses all things to work together for good?

-Am I capable of seeing myself, my partner and the people around me for who they are as people and not “what” they are?

So, my sweet ones, when you take your wedding vows and you say “For richer or for poorer,” know that that means during BOTH of those times and any time in between as well.  Use the hard times learn more about yourself and grow in your relationship with God and your spouse.  Realize that life isn’t just about you and sometimes the chips are going to be down.  Who are you going to be when the chips are down? Maybe you’ll decide you want to be that person when the chips are up again too.  I hope so.

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I love you, I love you, I love you.  To the moon and back! A thousand times! Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

Lenten Reflections #1

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For Lent this year I have decided to read the entire New Testament over the course of the season, reading just a few chapters each day. So far I have read through the gospels and am in the midst of Acts and learning more and more about the early church.  I’ve read parts of the bible, and I’d even venture to guess that I’ve read most of the new testament already, but never in order and never consistently over a short period of time.  So, it’s been quite enjoyable to take time each day to learn a little bit more and maybe get some more context about some things that I thought I already knew or understood to be true.

One of the stories that really stuck out to me was the story of the woman at the well.  If you want to read it, you can find it in John 4:5-42.  The image of thirst is used through out the Bible to speak to the human longing for God.  In this story, the overall message is that God is thirsting to have a relationship with us more than we even realize.

Here’s a synopsis of the story to give you some background info if you are unfamiliar.  Jesus, travelling back from Judea to Galilee, had gone through Samaria and sat down beside the well to rest.  He was hot.  He was tired.  He just needed to sit.  We’ve all been there, right? So while he’s sitting there, a woman comes up to the well to get some water and Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water.  But Jesus, being Jesus, isn’t just thirsty for some water–he’s thirsty for the woman’s faith.  He wanted the woman to believe in him and he wanted her to see him for who he really was–the son of God.  In many ways, our salvation is summed up here, in that our thirst for God meets God’s even greater thirst for us.

Sounds like a simple story so far, right? You’d think so, but that’s not where the story ends.  At first, of course, the woman is a bit evasive with her response. She doesn’t understand why this Jewish man is asking her for a drink.  You see, fierce hatred between Jews and Samarians goes way, way, way back in the history books, so the woman is at first just a tad confused. The woman asks Jesus why he wants water from her, since she is a woman of Samaria.  Since we know that Jesus is actually referring to a spiritual thirst, we can take the woman’s response to refer to her spirituality as well.  Here she’s essentially asking Jesus: how could God be thirsty for my faith and my attention? What would he see in me? What do I  have to offer Him?  Maybe you’ve felt like this from time to time too.

Jesus’ answer to the woman’s question is beautiful and sincere: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”  We are made to have a desire for God and a desire to know him.  At times that desire may seem small, other times you might feel that desire become overwhelming.  Here Jesus shows us that His desire to know us and be with us is even greater than our desire for him.

Your picture at the top, Rachel, is supposed to represent the times of prayer and reflection that happen during the season of Lent.  Lent is an excellent time for spiritual growth and reflection, and I urge you to try to incorporate that into your life as you get older.  When I took this picture though, aiming to capture prayer and reflection, I found that what I actually saw ended up being different.  When I look at that picture, I see the innocence of a child.  The purity and the sweetness of a child, combined with my own personal overwhelming feeling of love and pride that a parent has for their child. I am proud of you–you are kind, and smart and funny and compassionate.  You have some faults, like the rest of us; however those faults could never outweigh the rest of my love for you.

If we only had the power to see ourselves through God’s eyes, imagine what we would think about not only just ourselves, but other people too.  As I think about you and Jake and how special you both are to me, I can’t help but think about what God must see in me too.  When I have trouble thinking of even one thing that I would have to offer Him, He can rattle of probably 50 things that he sees in me.  I know He thinks of each and every one of us that way.  Let’s try to see ourselves the way that God sees us.  After all, He is thirsting for us.

 

I love you to the moon and back. Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

 

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Jake!

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Happiest of birthdays to you, baby Jake! You are our smiling, happy go lucky, sweet little boy.  You can be found at any given point of any given day reading, emptying drawers, or playing with your trucks.  No pair of shoes is safe with you around–you claim them all as your own! You LOVE to run and jump and kick soccer balls.  It certainly didn’t take long for you to learn to push yourself on the scooter, and did we mention you taught Rachel how to drive the PowerWheels Corvette? JakeTurnsTwo-2

 

There are so many things I’d like to say to you about how sweet you are and how precious you will always be to me, but my words are failing me right now.  Instead I have a little bit of a lump in my throat thinking about that teeny tiny baby that I held in my arms the first day you were born. So delicate and sweet. I remember your tiny little hands and how they would grasp to hold on to mine anytime yours were set free.  I knew right away that you were “my” little baby, the one that I had prayed for since I was a little girl, given to us to bring so much love and joy to our family.  Since then you have done that and so much more! We love you more than anything, sweet babe!

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Sometimes it’s still surreal for me to think about all those times I prayed for you before you were born.  I remember praying for my future children when I was just a little girl…and now here you and your sister are.  I had no idea what you were going to look like or act like, or how your little personality would light up my life, but I knew that I would love you always–because I already did! You are such a blessing little Jake, I hope you always remember that.

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Thank you for reminding me that it’s o.k. if things don’t always go according to plan.  Thank you for reminding me that it’s o.k. to smile…even if people don’t smile back, that doesn’t take away from the smile that you gave.  You help me to appreciate the little things in life.  I’ve never paid as much attention to birds flying by, ants crawling on the ground, or cars stopping at a stop sign before you were born.  When the wind blows, you stop and close your eyes just to be able to feel it blow across your face.  I could cry at the sweetness of your innocence and it reminds me what life is all about.  Thank you for that, Jake.

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You are the best Jake I could ever ask for.  Thank you for being so precious and perfect for our family.  Being your Mom is truly one of the greatest blessings in my life.  I love you always, little Jake.

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To the moon and back.

Happy Birthday, little buddy.  xoxo

Love always,

Mommy

 

Relationship Advice #8

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“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34

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Rachel and Jake,

Another year has passed since I last wrote to you about relationships.  If you need a refresher, you can look here and here to see some of my other entries about love and what it takes to make a relationship work.  Now I’m not saying I have all the answers, because I don’t.  Marriage is work and it is hard, hard work.  But with that being said, it’s also the best kind of work.  It stretches you and helps you to grow and see yourself as a part of something that is working for a common good.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Anyway, my hope is that by the time you are old enough to read this blog you will have a nice collection of advice from your dear old mom to consider when navigating through the dating world and eventually settling down into marriage–then the real fun begins! Each year I hope to give you one more tip to add to  your Rolodex of relationship advice (not sure what a Rolodex is? It’ll probably be non-existent by the time you can read this, but as your mother I find it most appropriate to talk about the things from yesteryear anyway 😉 )

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Let’s talk a little bit about presence.

Ok, ok, I’m sorry, but we’re going to talk a lotta bit about presence, because it is very, very important in any stage of any relationship.

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When you, Rachel, were born, your Dad and I had no idea what the every day expectation of having a newborn was going to consist of.  We knew that we would feed you and change you and hopefully get to rest when you did, but we did not know what our new little family of three was going to look like and how those dynamics of our family would be shaped.  It’s something that you just can’t experience or fully prepare for until it happens! We had lots of conversations about what we thought it would be like, but looking in from an outsider’s perspective before something happens is always different from when you are 100% in the trenches living it day in and day out. By the time Jake was born, we had a better picture of what our expectations were–but again, you can never really be prepared until you are living it.  So once Jake was born, things were shifted and moved around in ways that we could not have foreseen, but it just worked for us.

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Rachel, my sweet little dear, I have a confession to make to you right now.  From the time you were born until the time you were about one week old, I did not change a single diaper.  Your Dad changed every. single. one. until you were nearly a week old.  Every single one.  Every single time.  I still get blown away when I think about that.  There I was on the couch after a tough delivery that left me in pain to move any ol’ which way I tried, and there was your Dad (never having changed a diaper before you, by the way), taking it upon himself to change your diaper no matter what time of day or night without giving so much as an inkling that he felt it should or even could be any other way.  Luckily, when Jake was born my recovery was much easier so luckily for us both, I was able to help out much more the second time around.

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Before you were born, I thought it was only a mother’s instinct that would cause her to wake up because her newborn baby was stirring in the bassinet beside her, ready to be fed.  And yet, each time either of you woke up at night, guess who was the one to get out of bed and bring you to me before I even had a chance to sit up? Yes, it was your Dad.  From the very beginning of our parenting experience he has been there for us with an enthusiasm and outlook that can only come from love in it’s most pure form.  He’s there because he loves us and he wants to be there.  It really is as simple as that.

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There isn’t a job that he won’t do. He has never handed either of you off to me because he doesn’t want to change a diaper, and he doesn’t ask me what I’m making you for lunch. If he’s playing with you and your diaper needs changed, he changes it! If he notices that it’s time for lunch, guess what? He makes it! And likewise, I do the same.  It’s truly a wonderful thing.  In your Dad’s and my mind–there are no “woman” or “man” jobs, there are only “parent” jobs.  And for those jobs, either one–mom or dad– will work.  Our expectation is that whoever is able to do it, does it. At the end of the day, we clean up the toys together, we put the dishes away and prepare things for the next day.  Oh yeah, your school lunches? Those aren’t always packed by me either–your Dad can cut sandwiches into sailboats better than I can!

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The best part, is that these are things we didn’t even talk about ahead of time.  These examples (and there are many more to go along with them!) are just some of the ways that your Dad has been there for us without ever even giving it a second thought.  Not keeping score, not throwing it all on one person, but really choosing over and over again to be there for us in every way possible.

So…without further adieu, here’s relationship tip #8.

Tip #8: Be with someone whose second nature is to be physically, spiritually and emotionally present in your relationship.

Choose someone who not only wants to be there in those ways–but someone who really does not see any other way of conducting themselves in your relationship without those things.  Begging for support in any of those areas can be totally draining to both sides.  Choose someone who will meet your expectations in each of those areas.  If your expectations are not met, it can lead to resentment and hard feelings–both of which can be toxic to any relationship.  In the entire picture of your life, your relationship should be equally balanced between two people who are willing to sacrifice and give in order to make it work.  BOTH people need to be present in order for those sacrifices to be made and valued.

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In closing, here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if you and your spouse are really and truly present in your relationship.

– Do I offer help with every day tasks without keeping score? Do I see what needs to be done and do it, or do I wait because it’s not my “job”? Do I value my partner enough to go outside of my comfort zone in order to help my partner feel supported?

– Do I know the spiritual concerns of my partner? What can I do to help my partner along in their spiritual journey? What do they feel called towards? How can I help them reach their calling?

– What is troubling my partner today? What is my partner proud of themselves for doing recently? What is my partner’s emotional climate like? Why? What can I do to help support my partner’s feelings and emotions?

Don’t worry–you got this! And if you don’t, your partner will be there to help you pick up the slack! 🙂 Right?

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With all that said, I love you both very much. More than you could ever know.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxo

PS. Let’s just take a minute and cheers to your Dad! He truly is one of the best one’s out there…Cheers to you, Tim! We wouldn’t be who or where we are today without you! Happy Anniversary! Here’s to a hundred, and a thousand more.

Happy Easter 2015

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Happy Easter, my little sweeties! What a fun day we had filled with candy, Easter baskets, songs and a wonderful message shared later in the day by my sweet girl about how Jesus makes us “clean” again (Thank you, Miss Dani!)

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It is because of the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross for us that we have reason to celebrate today.  Always know that Easter is not just about the candy and eggs, but that it signifies a promise fulfilled and a love so strong that it was willing to go to any length to sacrifice for you.

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Some people put much emphasis on telling others that they love them…a spouse, a friend, a child; but Easter reminds us that real love is more than just words.  Real love requires action and sacrifice.  Jesus dying on the cross is the perfect example of the ultimate sacrifice to display the ultimate love.  I challenge you, my little ones who will one day grow into adults, to show the world your love not just in words alone, but also through your actions. The choices that you make and the sacrifices you endure will show the world (and yourself) where the intention of your heart lies.  Love the ones who are the most difficult to love, reach out to those who need your help the most, sacrifice your time being of service to others.  Volunteer your time, your energy and your heart.  Do what you can to make the world a better and more loving place.  By choosing to live a life of actionable love, you will get to know the Father’s love for you (and all of us) in ways you would never have known before.

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I love you to the moon and back. Forever and always.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxoxo

Reflections on Love {Part 2}

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet little valentines who mean more to me than anyone else in this entire world! I hope you always know how much you are loved, not just by me, but by the One who made you! You were created in His image and likeness, and I believe wholeheartedly that we are here on this earth to spread His love to others in any way we can! You can read a little bit more about my thoughts on what love is here. 🙂

jake valentines day 2015One of the best parts about being your mom is that I get to watch your life grow and change right in front of my very eyes.  I know that you were created for a purpose and that your life has meaning to it, and I can’t wait to watch you both grow.  One thing that I wonder about is how you will react to the world’s expectations of you when you are a young adult.  I hope that the values that I am trying to instill in you today will carry over into your experiences as you try to make sense of this big ol’ world around you.

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I wonder, if by the time you feel the desire to have a significant other, will you still value yourself if you do not find someone in the time frame you were hoping to? Will you still stay true and steadfast to your core beliefs–both personal and spiritual? Will you know that your life’s worth, and who you are as a person, is not measured as “successful” by the ability (or inability) of someone else to love you? If the answer to these questions is “yes!” then I will feel as if I have done my job successfully in preparing you for the inevitable disappointment of a failed relationship or in the longing of a new relationship.

YOU, my sweet ones, are worth the wait in any relationship.  Hold strong to your worth and know that you are a prize.  You are so loved already by so many people around you.  No matter what happens, your life has a purpose and your life has meaning.  Do not let others make you feel lesser or that you are not worthy according to society’s standards (those standards are bizarre and unrealistic most of the time anyway).  The only standard that really matters is His, and He loves you more than you could ever know.  Think about that for a minute or two, reflect on that…..Know that love.  Feel that love.  Share that love with others. You are worth it.rachel valentines day 20152

I  love you to the moon and back.

Love,

Mommy