Category Archives: Mind & Heart

a difficult answer

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For the past few days I’d known that this wasn’t the month for a baby. I’d known I was going to start my period. The waiting every month is the hardest part for me; the waiting to discover what the answer is. I want to be hopeful, but to be honest with you, being hopeful scares me because I don’t want it to hurt even worse. I woke up feeling these emotions quite strongly two days ago. My heart ached and I battled fearing the unknown. What grace, that at that very moment, I could cast those emotions and fear at the foot of the One who loves me more than I can comprehend, and who knows, with perfect wisdom and reason, what and why the answer would be the one that it was. To be able to live in this comforting instruction, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I cast my anxieties, asking for His grace for what He has planned for this month. I prayed that if this wasn’t the month that He would allow me to start my period soon, even that day, and that He would fill my heart with overflowing peace to be able to rest until I knew the answer and for whatever the answer was to be. In His grace, He gave me the answer that night.

The answer was “not this month.” It’s hurting, but over the past 16 months of this journey, my confidence and absolute assurance in God’s perfect timing has grown to be more solid than ever before. He has used this, every single bit of this, to refine me. Being refined often aches and often stings, but the result brings greater goodness that we can often imagine. This past month, as we’ve struggled with the side effects of the Clomid, the Lord has continued to strip away feelings of inadequacy, fears, desires to control, or expectations we hadn’t even realized we had. This continues to be one of the greatest tools the Lord has used to work in our hearts and minds, to bring us to a greater understanding of ourselves and Himself, and to deepen our love and trust in Him to an awesome extent. The definition of awesome reads like this:

awe·some
ˈôsəm/Submit
adjective
extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.
“the awesome power of the atomic bomb”
synonyms: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning, staggering, imposing, stirring, impressive

Through this struggle with being able to conceive, the Lord has made known to us, in a beautiful and unique way, His breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning, staggering, imposing, stirring, and impressive character and love that He has for us. He is an awesome God; in the joy and in the pain. Though I struggle with being fearful to hope, I truly shouldn’t. My hope is set in the One who knows the best timing for us to grow our little family, the One who knows what our hearts need, and the One who has shown Himself perfectly faithful in our lives. His grace is undeserved, His sovereignty is my assurance and His wisdom is sweet hope. The hard days come and they hurt, the tears come and they sting, but the Lord is in the hard days, too, and I see His promises and His love woven throughout them in the most beautiful ways.

Thank you for journeying with us, friends. For your abundant prayers and your thoughtful encouragement. You’ve truly no idea what it means. That love of our Lord’s I was just talking about…..I see that through ya’ll.

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let them be little

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Cereal crunched into the carpet. Smudgy handprints on the walls. Tupperware containers tossed about the kitchen. Legos waiting perilously on the floor to cause intense pain to an unsuspecting victim. Any mother can relate to one or many of these occurrences, that can often happen daily. They are reminders of those little blessings that are living amongst us; and, while I absolutely believe we must faithfully teach our children responsibility and care and respect for our homes and possessions, these daily reminders of life with young ones can often cause us to respond in a way that doesn’t make our kids feel like such little blessings.

Being a person who is quite fond of organization, tidiness, and uncluttered living, becoming a momma has taught me quite a lot about the flexibility and grace I need in my everyday. I am continually learning to let her be little. For quite a while I struggled to say “okay” when she wanted to help me in the kitchen because all I thought about was the mess I would have to clean up afterwards. I didn’t often say “yes” when she would ask to get paints out because I was paranoid we would stain our rented apartment carpet. I would stress out if there were “too many” toys out at once. Notice my focus here: me. I was living with an attitude of what was convenient, preferable, and simpler for me. I wasn’t encouraging my Little to help. I wasn’t creating an atmosphere for her to learn and grow and imagine. I wasn’t letting her be a kid!

Now, hear me. Our home has never been a place where snacks must only ever be eaten in the kitchen, you must wear fully body coverings to use markers, or where our kid sat sadly in one spot because she was afraid to mess anything up. We have always lived in our home. However, I came to a point, by God’s grace, where I realized that my desire to keep a clean, organized, and always presentable home was becoming the reigning selfish desire over enjoying the fun of having a kid!

Shifting my mentality in this way, learning to practically love my Little more than myself, has not only served to deepen our mommy/daughter relationship, but it has given me the gift of experiencing more things with her firsthand and making even more treasured memories.

Now, one of my favorite things is when she is in the kitchen with me. We chat, we jam out to our favorite tunes, and it has taught her to be such a thoughtful, patient, and productive helper! I think she’s going to be quite the chef one day.

I love pulling out the paints and watching her creativity flow. I spread out a mat over the table, put an old shirt on her and let her inner Picasso go wild.

I don’t start putting toys away if she has several things out at once, but rather, I just enjoy sitting back and watching her imagination run for a while. My husband and I teach her responsibility, care, and consideration, but we also want to just let her be 3!

It’s so easy as a mom to sometimes get wrapped up in our to-do’s of the day or our desires for how we had planned something to go, that we miss sweet opportunities with our kiddos. We have the idea of how we want things to run, at what speed we desire them to run, and what result we want to see happen, that we shut down our kids creativity, our kids desire to help, or our kid just being a kid.

Please don’t hear me saying any of this as an allowance for our kids to run rampant in their disobedience and sinfulness, but rather, to cherish every stage with our kids, to encourage and foster an environment of learning, creativity, and adventure, to take the opportunity to show them how to do laundry or let them help you write the grocery list or let them rip up the lettuce for the salad. To soak up every bit of our kid’s growing-up. To smile when you crunch that 500th cheerio under your foot, thinking how one day they won’t be there anymore. To enjoy the jam session they put on with their make-shift tupperware drum set. To treasure these precious creations that God has given us to love.

Let them be little, my friends. And just invest in a lot of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

my 27th year

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I turned 27 yesterday. I have looked forward to 27 for a while. There’s something about it that marks a milestone in my mind. It’s always sounded quite grown up to me. I looked forward to being able to say, “oh, I’m 27.” I looked forward to writing it down. For whatever reason, 27 has always stood out to me as an age I eagerly anticipated being. And here I am! I’m excited about hitting this quite grown up age. I think it holds some delightful days ahead.

26 was a good year. As I’ve said over and over again here, a hard and beautiful year. The Lord worked in my heart, revealed to me how very deep rooted some struggles truly were, and He showed His kindness and grace to me daily as He sanctified me in those struggles. He brought our little family through some deep valleys and wearing days. I grew more content, more joyful in simplicity, and more grateful in all things. I was challenged, on a daily basis, to practice fearing God more than men; and learned the freedom that comes when I stop living my life based on what others think about me. I learned to be satisfied in Jesus even more. I read more books and grew in knowledge. I had adventures. I grew in creativity. I feel more in love with writing. I learned more about what it means to truly love with a sacrificial love. I gained some beautiful friendships. I spent more time in my kitchen. I made memories. I traveled. I was challenged. I was encouraged. I realized, to an even greater depth, how immensely surrounded I am by gifts of grace. 

And all these truths I’ve learned, all these areas in which I’ve grown, all these creative endeavors I’ve tried and loved, all these ways I’ve been sanctified, all these gifts I’ve been given, these all hold true in this, my 27th year. The Lord has graciously given me another beautiful year. A year in which I can carry with me the things He’s done in my heart and eagerly anticipate what more He will do. Oh, how many prayers, hopes, dreams, and goals I have for this sweet year of 27. I’m so thankful it has begun. I pray that I live it well.

cherishing advent

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My husband and I have been learning something sweet over the past few weeks — the joy that comes when we truly cherish the advent season. Both as we have anticipated the coming advent and christmas season and as we now find ourselves in it. We have prayed and sought that this year we wouldn’t just go through our advent routine, but that our hearts behind the actions and the atmosphere in our home would be such that the hope of Christ would be the greatest theme.

The last months have been heavy. It’s been a season of transition for us and also a season of waiting. We have been learning, to an intense and sanctifying depth, what it means to trust the Lord with every bit of life, in every moment of the day. We have been learning to then rest, in the waiting. To remember that He knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11) and He has our good and His glory in mind (Rom. 8:28). To be obedient to the work He is doing in us in the waiting and to anticipate, with hopeful thoughts, what He has for us in the days ahead. And even more for us, to savor the waiting. To have joy in the process. To be eager for what He has planned, but to not miss what He is doing in us now. To stop trying to push past the present and rush toward the future. The times we find ourselves doing that are the times we realize we’re losing sight of the truth that satisfaction won’t come with “what’s next.” Satisfaction, complete and full satisfaction, comes only in the form of Jesus. And when He is that for us there is joy in the waiting, for we want for nothing else.

So this advent season, this season that we celebrate the coming of Christ, has been deep and meaningful for us. Our hearts have been learning of this very theme — waiting, anticipation, longing. And what sweeter timing in our lives than now to be reminded of the One who doesn’t disappoint at the end of waiting, the One who is fully satisfying, the One who brings the greatest joy.

A couple wonderful Advent studies that we’ve been using:
 The Village Church Advent Guide & John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy

waiting for those 2 lines

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This is one of those, “I’ve debated for a long time about writing this post and opening this area of my heart up to my blog,” type posts. To tell you the truth, they aren’t easy to begin. I think I’ve started a post like this close to 10 times, stared at the blank white space for minutes on end, deleted the “ummmmmmm” I so painstakingly wrote to not make the blank space seem quite so blank, and walked away from the computer yet again. This time is different, though. This subject has been an ache on my heart to share with you all for so long, to give you all opportunities to share too, and to find encouragement in this sweet community.

When we began the “having kids” conversation back several years ago we prayed for the Lord’s perfect timing for us to have a baby and, to be honest, I think we both expected that perfect timing to be the first month we started trying. After all, we live amongst a community of people where it seems that every other day someone else is pregnant. Why would it be any different for us? Month after month went by, negative pregnancy tests were taken and periods were started, and we battled anxious thoughts, fears of “what if?”, and heart-aching disappointment. There were many tear-filled days and battling gut-wrenching hurt when someone would off-handedly ask, “why aren’t you guys pregnant? when are ya’ll going to start popping kids out? isn’t it time?” (we will chat more about such comments later.)

The battle to truly trust in Jesus during those months of waiting was a hard-fought one. In those moments of feeling defeat after taking yet another negative pregnancy test and realizing our baby dreams were having to wait another month, we had to fight to believe what is true and fight to remain hopeful in the midst of pain. I’m so thankful we had to fight, though. Oh, what work the Lord did in our hearts during those months of waiting. Would I have said then that I was thankful for what we were going through? Not in those first months, to be honest, and not every day afterwards, by any means; but through those 9 months of waiting for our Anna Kate, I grew to be thankful, to be hopeful, to be restful in the Lord’s kindness, and to truly treasure the last few months of just being “us.” 9 months later, when that pregnancy test showed 2 lines the happy tears flowed and I soaked up that moment with even more gratitude. The story of that wonderful day is accompanied by many other sweet stories that I could share with you all about how beautifully we saw the Lord’s wise and perfect timing displayed in that season.

I’ve recalled those stories to my mind again and again in the past 13 months as we have found ourselves battling, yet again. For 13 months we’ve been hopeful, praying for another little one, waiting for those two lines to show up on that pregnancy test. Each month we’ve faced those same emotions we felt the first time around. One month, more recently, I stared blankly at a pregnancy test that read, very emphatically, “not pregnant.” I walked to my husband and just fell into him, the tears flowing. I had been so sure that this was the month and, yet, the answer was no again. I told J I didn’t feel like I could handle anymore. The aches, the pain, the disappointment, the defeat, the wondering why we are having to go through this again, they’ve all been there; but with each month we’ve looked at that darling, strong, helpful, clever, creative 3 year old daughter of ours and been reminded of the Lord’s kindness to give us the gift of her. And when we talk about that our minds are filled with those stories I mentioned, those beautiful reminders of the Lord’s timing, and of His rich grace that brings us through the valleys with hope.

I know that there are so many beautiful women who are waiting to become a mommy, who wait hopefully with their husbands each month to see if this is the month, and who battle the heartache when it isn’t. I know that there are so many beautiful women who have experienced incredible heartache through the loss of their baby, whether through miscarriage or early delivery, or being born with a fatal illness. The thought of what these brave, beautiful women have gone through and/or are facing now cause my heart to ache alongside theirs, to be prayerful for them, and to remind me that I am far, far from being the only one who has experienced pain in this area; and many, many women have experienced far more pain than what I know. My heart aches and hopes along with you, mommies and mommies-to-be and hopeful mommies, as you cry those tears, dream those dreams, and pray those prayers. I’m so prayerful that the Lord will grant you the gift of motherhood soon. And I firmly trust that He will, in His best way. And to you, dear mommies who have lost your babies, I pray that the comfort of Jesus is yours in abundance and that your heart is filled to bursting with the knowledge of His love for you and that little one; a love that is deeper than our minds can comprehend.

My doctor has put me on Clomid now and we are braving new territory there, both physical and emotional, and let me tell you, hot flashes at age 26 sure are fun. 😉 We are hopeful for how this will help and prayerful that very soon we will see two vibrant lines on a pregnancy test and we can celebrate a new little life! As we wait, though, I am thankful. Thankful for a kind and loving Father who gives to us only what is His best for us in each season; that truth gives such comfort in the midst of pain if I choose to think and live in light of it. Thankful for the struggle of sanctification and how much my heart has been changed through these seasons. Thankful for sweet women to learn from, admire, pray for, and journey with. Thankful for the most loving, gentle, thoughtful, and faithful man, the best man I know, to walk this road with. And thankful that every day I get to look into the sweet face of a little girl who calls me “mommy” and see such a precious evidence of God’s grace.

I’m so thankful for each one of you who take the time to read what I write here on my little web space. I’ve gained beautiful new friends through this world called blogging and I love the camaraderie I feel with each one of you I’m able to connect with. I consider you, dear readers, my community and I consider it such a blessing to share with you here just as I would if you were to come into my little home, put your feet up on my sofa, sip coffee with me, and chat about life, dreams, adventures, books, movies, and whatever other subject we should choose to tackle. I’m so grateful that as I open my heart and my little world up to you all that you would take the time to be a part of it with me. Thank you, dear ones.

a month of thanksgiving

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And enters November, the last month of fall. I’ve heard many people bemoan the month of November. Not I. I love November. It is the month in which I soak up those last wonderful bits of crisp fall, put on thicker sweaters, wear boots and only boots, and stuff my face with the last Honeycrisp apples and pumpkin-flavored treats that I can get my hands on. We celebrate the birth of my sweet mom in this month, and that in itself makes this month special. We also celebrate Thanksgiving, which is one of my most favorite holidays to celebrate. I mean, fall, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving food, leftover Thanksgiving food, football, food comas, family, what could make for a better holiday?

Last year at Thanksgiving, my precious mom had the idea to go around the table and say what we were all thankful for. Now, if you know my family even the slightest bit, you know that we are a whole emotional load of criers. We cry at commercials, Pixar movies, an encouraging card, when someone we don’t know does something exciting, you catch my drift. Happy, proud, sad, hurt, or excited, the tears come. So you can imagine that when we are all together, which happens 2, maybe 3, times a year, that makes for an enormous load of happy moments which means: waterworks. Throw in talking about what we are thankful for and thinking over how richly God has blessed us and you’re looking at a mini Niagara Falls. The cherry on top? Right before we started doing this I asked my darling nephew, who was 3 at the time, what he was thankful for and he said, all from his own sweet heart, “I am dankful dat you tould tome here.” I’m almost had to run out of the room. I couldn’t even say anything to him. I just looked at my older brother, tears streaming down my cheeks, and he had to tell Joshie, “Auntie Jen is thankful for that too, buddy, and she loves you.” I’m tearing up again just typing this.

As much as we teased my mom about the questionable wisdom behind having our family do something like that, I love that memory. I think back to that day and my first thought is, “that really was a Thanksgiving day.”

This year has been such a year of learning how to live with gratitude, daily, in my heart, my mind, and life. I feel like it’s been a year of learning to live a Thanksgiving Day every day. Cheesy as that may sound to you, I have thought over that past Thanksgiving Day so often this year and how it displayed to me how I believe I should live every day: with a heart that is characterized by gratitude.

I’ve been thinking that November would be a good month for all of us to start thinking of ways to practically live out our gratitude. A few thoughts I’ve had:

1 // Keep a journal that is meant only for you to write down “what I’m thankful for today” in it. I love mine.

2 // Writing notes, sending cards, shooting a text, making a call, commenting on Instagram or Facebook, to tell someone, “Hey, you’re great and I’m thankful you’re in my life.”

3 // Voicing to your spouse and kids daily how grateful you are for them, who they are, and the things they do.

4 // Write the word “grateful” or “thankful” on an index card or a sticky note and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day to remind yourself.

5 // Give. Get outside of yourself.

6 // Talk about it with people. Set the example.

7 // Fight to quit complaining or being negative about every other thing.

I don’t mean these things to say, “hey, let’s all leap around like fairies and sprinkle pixie dust, smiles, and candies everywhere, saying “chin up, buttercup.”” I mean these things to say, “hey, life is rough, unbearably so, at times. there are awful days, hurtful days, and heart wrenching days; but I still believe there’s thanksgiving to be found in them.” After all, we are told to, “give thanks in all circumstances,” so there really is something there, even if we have to work hard to find it. “for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus,” and that’s the best thing.

Today I am grateful for:

01 // the beautiful Sunday we enjoyed yesterday.

02 // the restaurant finding my Little’s “B” (her blanket), because even when she’s done cuddling with it at naptime and bedtime, I still want it to be folded up in her memory box to keep forever.

03 // piles of fall leaves.

04 // thoughtful, generous, and loving friends.

05 // how excited my Little was to keep me company at the doctor’s office today.

06 // chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream frosting my sweet friend made the other night.

07 // the next weeks of anticipating the holiday season.

08 // life slowing down a bit.

09 // our parents. 4 of the most generous people on the face of this earth.

#thesesweetdays

So, to state the obvious, the name of my blog is these sweet days.

The answer to why I named it that comes from a quote that my dear friend Michelle shared with us a while back:

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This quote is written speaking more particularly to the years of raising children. There are hard days, days that feel like the end will never come and you will continue to spiral down in a tornado of dishes, laundry, fussy children, and un-checked to-do lists; but, but, those days will end and truly, before you blink an eye, your fussy toddlers will be the 18 year olds that you are driving to college and you will be wondering where the time went. So a quote like this is such a beautiful reminder to cherish the days, the hard and exceptionally long days included, to find the beauty in them, and to hold tight to the joy in them, for they will be gone far too quickly.

I think, though, that this quote is just an overall excellent life quote. Life is hard. We are sinful people who hurt others and feel hurt ourselves. We experience pain, sadness, death, heartache, sickness, losing jobs, having tight finances, physical and mental disabilities, etc; but, we don’t have to live in this defeated, miserable, depressed state because, if we have Jesus, we have hope that this life is not the end, and thus, there’s an even greater joy to hold tight to in those long hard days and the reality that “the years are few” is the absolute truth.

So I take this quote to an even deeper extent and amidst tear-filled days, or drained days, or hurtful days, or days when the carpet gets stained, traffic is bad, dinner is a disaster and you just can’t seem to make anything happen, to remember that “these momentary light afflictions……,” and push aside the heartache or discouragement or frustration to fight for the joy.

This blog was born in a season where I was struggling with deep discontent in life. I was discouraged in different aspects of our life situation and, honestly, had such a miserable attitude. So I started this blog to be a documented journey of my desire to treasure every day and every season, to relish the different parts of life, to fight for joy, and to give glory to God for His grace and work in my heart. So these sweet days was born.

I share all this with you because I have an idea. I have taken part in hashtag projects that different bloggers and friends have started on Instagram and I’ve loved it! I’ve learned about people, been inspired by people, and been deeply encouraged. In light of that, I’ve decided to start a hashtag project: #thesesweetdays. My goal in starting this is to inspire all of us to fight for joy, to look for sweetness, to laugh at ourselves, to embrace our circumstances, to document the different ways we find encouragement throughout the day, and to be grateful. Let’s take to heart that quote, “the days are long, but the years are few,” and not wish away the day we are living in, but rather, face it head-on with coffee, passion, gusto, and hearts restful in the fact that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

I’d love if you joined me, friends, to document your sweet days! #thesesweetdays