A Life Stirred

Ten on Ten: The Get-the-Kids-to-Nap Edition

There’s a definite theme to today’s pictures.  And it wasn’t even really intentional.  But after like 2 months of lame-o napping patterns, I decided today was the day.  Today was the day I was going to get the girls to nap…at the same time.

Clearly, I have ridiculous expectations.  At least I got to document it.

Somebody thought 5:45 was an awesome wake-up time, and then needed at 7:30 nap.  That's just silly.

Somebody thought 5:45 was an awesome wake-up time, and then needed at 7:30 nap. That’s just silly.

She did all of this by herself!!  I was so proud.  It doesn't even matter that Nemo is in the wrong place.

She did all of this by herself!! I was so proud. It doesn’t even matter that Nemo is in the wrong place.

A friend came over...and shared all of her snacks.  Which is basically Joanna's love language.

A friend came over…and shared all of her snacks. Which is basically Joanna’s love language.

We went on a walk/run at the mall to burn some energy.  Because that's what Northern Mainers do when there's still 3 feet of snow everywhere.

We went on a walk/run at the mall to burn some energy. Because that’s what you do when there’s still 3 feet of snow outside!

Bonus Picture:

Just in case you think Claire doesn't get enough attention.

Just in case you think Claire doesn’t get enough attention.

Lunch with some of my favorite ladies!  Dang, we're cute!!

Lunch with some of my favorite ladies! Dang, we’re cute!!

One kid down.

One kid down.

Welcome to Mud Season.

Welcome to Mud Season.

Another kid down!  Too bad Claire was awake at this point.

Another kid down! Too bad Claire was awake at this point.

Today is National Sibling Day, and here are two super cute siblings!

Today is National Sibling Day, and here are two super cute siblings!

The uglier side of siblings.  Note that Claire is holding the much desired pink block out of reach.  HA!

The uglier side of siblings. Note that Claire is holding the much desired pink block out of reach. HA!

 

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Before and After

I only had two things on my to do list today.  Totally manageable, right?

I love writing my to do lists on a white board.  I just erase as I go.

I love writing my to do lists on a white board. I just erase as I go.  So therapeutic.

I knew we were going to be out all morning, so I didn’t want to overdo it.  But we got home for lunch, and I looked around and was totally overwhelmed by the mess.  I joked with a friend that this was the kind of day where I needed to take Before and After pictures of my house.  Just to enjoy all the work that went into setting up the pins.  Because it’s not like it was really going to be all that amazing at the end…it was just going to be so much better than it was in the beginning.

So I did it.

I took Before and After pictures.  Yeah, I know…who does that?!

Here’s my Before:

This picture stresses me out just looking at it.  (Also, please note the pile of laundry on the floor that's still in the shape of a laundry basket...because I needed the basket for more laundry).

This picture stresses me out. (Also, please note the pile of laundry on the floor that’s still in the shape of a laundry basket…because I needed the basket for more laundry).

And here’s the After:

This just makes me happy.  I lit a candle too.  Because I'm an overachiever.

This just makes me happy. I lit a candle too. Because I’m an overachiever.

And you know what?  This stirred my affections for the Lord!  I feel less overwhelmed and stressed, less chaotic, and ready to engage with my girls and tackle dinner.  I just feel more peace and joy.  It started as a silly project to prove I did something today (because I know things will have re-exploded by the time Ben gets home), but it’s changed the attitude of my heart.  God is so cool like that.

Also, you should be really glad I don’t have pictures of the “During.”  That was a mess…with a toddler that wasn’t napping and a baby that napped and then woke up and then napped again (but required a lot of attention in the middle).

This Before and After picture is so misleading.  Misleading, but cute, right?

Claire at 1:30 and Claire at 3:00.  This is so misleading. Misleading, but cute, right?

 

 

 

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Control Issues

I have a friend who posed a question on facebook last week.  It was a harmless, simple question.

And whoa, people had opinions!  Strong opinions.  Since I tend to not have strong opinions, it surprised me.

And made me laugh.  Because guess what she asked?

“Do you let your kids mix Play-Doh colors?”

Yeah, apparently, that’s a hot button issue.  Who knew?

The overwhelming response was, “NO!  It drives me crazy.”  Which I totally get.  I like things nice and neat and orderly too.

But…really?  You don’t let your kids mix Play-Doh because it drives you crazy?  That seems a bit controlling…

[If you were in the no-mixing camp, keep reading.  I have a point.  And it’s not to call you names.  Trust me.]

It was easy for me to read those responses and judge.  (Yeah, I judged.  I’m sorry.)

But you know what?  I am just as controlling.  Maybe not about Play-Doh, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to control thoroughly unimportant things in my daughters’ lives.

And for the record, I’m not controlling about Play-Doh because I only let Joanna play with one color at a time…thus making mixing impossible.  Oh, wait.  Maybe that is controlling…

And for the record, I’m not controlling about Play-Doh because I only let Joanna play with one color at a time…thus making mixing impossible. Oh, wait. Maybe that is controlling…

So what do I try to control, you ask?  Ugh.  Where do I even start?

I control what they wear, which bins the toys go in, when they can use crayons, how much TV they see, when they can play with certain toys, where they play in the house, and on and on and on.  And don’t even get me started on the things I try to control that I have absolutely zero control over.

Some of those things are probably worth controlling.  At least to some extent.  But some of them aren’t worth the energy.  Like who cares if the blocks end up in the toy car bin? (Ironically, Joanna has been known to pull a block out of the wrong bin and put it in the right bin.  I love that girl.)

And sometimes she just wears the toy bin on her head...

And sometimes she just wears the toy bin on her head…

I wonder if this is something all moms struggle with…or if it’s just us Type-A, mildly OCD types.  So what about you?  Do you find yourself controlling aspect of your kids’ lives?  Or have you figured out the trick to just letting go and letting them be kids?  If so, it’s time to share your secrets.

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A Few More Thoughts on Stillness

I love the friends God has placed in my life.  I love how I can share something I’m working through, and you, my friends, reply and respond and trigger even more thoughts and a new perspective and much needed encouragement.  It’s a beautiful thing.  It’s what community and friendship should be.  It stirs my affections for the Lord.  (Thank you.)

And inspires a follow-up post about stillness.  You’re welcome.

So, it seems like there are some lies that we buy into about stillness and rest.  We equate stillness and rest with laziness.  And we don’t want to be lazy.  So we must. keep. busy. at all costs.  I’m not sure I consciously recognized this lie, but it’s there.  I feel like I need to do everything in order have value and/or deserve rest.  Never mind the fact that God Himself rested and certainly wasn’t lazy.

As I thought about that lie, I realized an even deeper root of this particular issue.  Not shockingly, it was the exact same root that’s at the heart of nearly all my struggles.  Pride.  Pride and fear of man.

While my constant busy-ness is draining and exhausting, it does actually produce some decent results.  And least externally.  My house is clean(ish).  My dishes are done.  My laundry doesn’t pile up.  My kids are bathed and dressed.  I look good.  I look like I have it all together.  Hello, Pride.  You are an ugly part of my heart.

It reminds me of Jesus’ description of the Pharisees, who were like the Kings of Pride.  He called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).  They “outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”

Yeah, that’s gross.  And that’s me.  Pretty on the outside, but not so much on the inside.

Because in my busy-ness, I certainly am not making time for the Lord and stillness with Him.  Heck, I couldn’t even just sit still for 15 minutes with a cup of coffee.

So I will keep practicing stillness and rest.  I was encouraged by someone a bit further along in this journey that it does get easier.  So there’s that.

Also, this poem describes my life.  Anyone else?

 

If You Give a Mom a Muffin
By Beth Brubaker

If you give a mom a muffin,
she’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She’ll pour herself some.
Her three year-old will come and spill the coffee.
Mom will wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks.
She’ll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry into the washer,
she’ll trip over shoes and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She’ll look for her cookbook
(How to Make 101 Things With a Pound of Hamburger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse,
which is being dumped out by her two year-old.
Then she’ll smell something funny.
She’ll change the two year-old.
While she is changing the two year-old, the phone will ring.
Her five year-old will answer and hang up.
She’ll remember she was supposed to phone a friend
to come over for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some more.
And chances are,
if she has a cup a coffee,
her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

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I’ve got a problem.

I’ve completely forgotten how to be still and rest.

I just can’t do it anymore.  And it’s creating a frazzled, panic-y, busy, stressed, peace-less feeling in my heart.  Talk about unpleasant.

I mean, I can be physically still.  Kind of.  But even when I’m physically still,  I nearly always have some form of technology in my hands—a phone, my computer, a camera, my tablet.  So that’s not actual stillness.

And don’t even get me started on being mentally still!  From the moment I wake up, my mind is a whirring mess of things that I need to do, conversations I need to have, texts I need to send, emails I need to write, and issues that I need to fix in my life.

But admitting this is the first step on the road to recovery, right?

“Hi, my name is Carley, and I have a busy-ness problem.”  “Hiiiii, Carley.”

“Hi, my name is Carley, and I have a busy-ness problem.”  “Hiiiii, Carley.”

The trick is that a lot of the things filling my mind and time aren’t necessarily bad things.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning, meal making, and diaper changing are all important.  Even the technology things have some value…

Facebook is great for connecting with others, especially those who are geographically distant.

Blogging is great for processing my thoughts and encouraging others (which I hope I do…at least some of the time).  Plus it’s a super easy way to make sure my mom has up-to-date pictures of the girls.

Hi, Mom.  The girls say thank you for the sweaters.

Hi, Mom. The girls say thank you for the sweaters.

To do lists are great for organizing the chaos that is my house and life.

Facebook, blogging, to do lists, emails, phone calls, texting, podcasts, and music have value.

But these things have absolutely zero value when I spend every free moment reaching for something to fill my free moments.  It’s gotten to the point that when I do sit down to read my Bible and pray and journal, I can’t even focus.  My mind is a ricocheting mess!!

[Last week, I realized I couldn’t even just watch March Madness with Ben without feeling like I need to be watching and doing something else.  Granted I don’t really love basketball, but that’s not the point.  I couldn’t just be present.  This is clearly become quite an issue.]

I claim that I want 2014 to be marked by listening.  I claim that I want Psalm 46:10 to define my relationship with God—“Be still and know that I am God.”  Something needs to change.

So today, I practiced stillness.  For 15 minutes.  Don’t laugh.  It was hard.

I made a cup of coffee, set my cell phone alarm, sat on the couch, and watched my girls play.

Within that time, I had to battle the urge to fill the time with less-still activities.  Seriously.  It was a battle!!

Do you know how many times I wanted to just grab a piece of paper and jot down a quick to do list?  Do you know how many times I wanted to grab my phone and shoot off a few quick texts to organize my week?  Do you know how hard it was to not grab my computer and scroll though facebook and some blogs?  Do you know how hard it was to let the basket of laundry just sit there?

I cheated a little and took a picture.

I cheated a little and took a picture.

My plan is to keep practicing stillness.  And perhaps that stressed-out, frazzled, tense, unpleasant feeling will be replaced by peace and joy and rest.

What about you?  Do you find it hard to be still?  Is it challenging for you to rest physically and mentally?  How do you unplug?

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I’m sitting in the hallway.

Sometimes this parenting thing is a little ridiculous.  Or rather, it makes us do and say ridiculous things.  Things that no other self-respecting grown-up would ever say or do.

Perhaps an example would help.

I have never, in my life, cared so much about someone else’s bowel movements.  “Do you need to poop?”  “Are you pooping?”  “Are you poopy?”  I know for a fact that I have asked each of those questions many, many times…this morning.

You want another example?  I’ve got plenty.

Right now, I’m sitting in the upstairs hallway outside my eldest daughter’s room.  That’s not weird, right?

Lately, Joanna has developed some less than desirable naptime habits.  So, I am trying to correct some of those poor habits.  But let’s be honest, I have no idea if this is going to work.

This is what we want at naptime: resting.  Adorable-ness optional.

This is our naptime goal–rest.  Being adorable is optional (but probably unavoidable).

Ben and I started a conversation about discipline this weekend.  We got interrupted before we got into the specifics, but we’ve got a good handle on what we want to teach Joanna through discipline.  So that’s a start, right?

Primarily, we want her to learn to love the Lord and to be obedient to Him.  And we want to use discipline to teach the gospel.  Joanna is a good kid.  She’s relatively polite and compliant and obedient.  BUT she is still a sinner in need of a Savior.  I don’t want her growing up thinking she is good enough on her own.  I want her to see that she needs Jesus just as much as anyone else.

I want her to love the Lord.

We both need Jesus.

Ben and I still need to “finish” our conversation (yes, yes, I know, it’s a conversation that will be ongoing for the rest. of. her. life) and figure out how to reach our big-picture goals.  But there’s something about having the big picture in mind that makes this sitting-in-the-hall-reinforcing-the-behavior-we-want a little less ridiculous.

No, wait.  It’s still pretty ridiculous.

But it’s worth it.

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Really Seeing

I walk around blind.  I get consumed with my own little world.  With my own little family.  With my own little concerns.

I don’t really see the people around me.

I would even venture to say I’m rather comfortable in my blindness.

But God hasn’t been letting me stay blind.  I guess it makes sense.  Jesus was into healing the blind, opening their eyes to see.  Granted that was a literal blindness, but I suspect Jesus cares just as much about my figurative blindness.

God started opening my eyes by opening my ears.  Every day, I turn on the Christian radio station for background music to my day.  I didn’t think much of it….initially.

But a steady stream of the gospel message is changing my heart, opening my eyes, reminding me that there more to this life than my own little world.  I’m singing along with songs and wondering if I really believe what I’m singing.  And if I believe it, why doesn’t that belief shape every. single. thing. I do?

Then last week, I was the first person to arrive at an accident scene–a car went off the road, and the driver was unconscious inside.  All of a sudden, all my CPR training seemed woefully inadequate.  A real live human life (with a real human soul) was in jeopardy.

And I was terrified.  And a little nauseous.  And completely clueless as to how to respond.

I do know that it rocked me.  I wish I had been braver.  I wish I had been bolder.

But it opened my eyes even more.  It reminded me that we have a very limited time here on this earth, and that as a believer, I am called to share the hope of the gospel.  No excuses.

Then why don’t I?  Why do I keep the good news of Jesus to myself?

Why do I fear man more than I fear God?  Why do I waste time when people I know and love don’t know about the God that I know and love?!  Why don’t I feel the brevity of life?

I don’t have the answers to those questions.  I only know that God is making me uncomfortable with my blindness.  And that’s got to be a step in the right direction.  I’m praying for my heart to change, my eyes to really see, and my life to bring nothing but glory to God!

oceans2

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Setting up the pins

“Everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking ‘em down.
It can feel simple but it’s really profound.”

–Sara Groves, “Setting up the Pins”

 This is my life.  I’m setting up the pins.  All day.  Every day.  Over and over and over and over…

Dishes, laundry, diapers, baths, grocery shopping, meal-making, toy picking-up, mopping, vacuuming, dusting…

The list could go on and on.

I set up pins.  So they can be knocked down.

It can get downright discouraging sometimes.  Because at the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for all my efforts.  On a good day, it looks exactly the same as it did in the morning.  On a bad day, it doesn’t.

Don't let the cute baby distract you from all the knocked-over pins around her.

Don’t let the cute baby distract you from all the knocked-over pins around her.

It can be really hard to find joy in that.

It’s hard to find joy in doing something that’s really only noticed if it’s not done.  And for this words-of-affirmation-love-language girl, that’s hard.  Sometimes I just want praise for changing diapers.

But Colossians 3:23 reminds me that I’m not in it for the praise of man.  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

It's no coincidence that Colossians 3:23 hangs above the changing table.

It’s no coincidence that Colossians 3:23 hangs above the changing table.

I’m working for the Lord.  He sees me.  He sees me setting up all the pins.  He sees the pins being knocked down.  I desperately want my work to be done for the glory of God.  Which means my attitude needs to glorify Him.

Anyone else find that hard sometimes?  Or all the time?  Or after the 6th poopy diaper of the day? (Seriously. That can’t be normal for 2 kids.  Sometimes I think they break them up on purpose…which is both impressive and annoying.)

The end of Sara Groves’ song puts it perfectly:

My grandmother had a working song
Hummed it low all day long.
Sing for the beauty that’s to be found
In setting up the pins for knocking ‘em down

Oh that my heart would be able to sing for the beauty that’s to be found in setting up the pins for knocking them down.

(P.S. If this concept resonates with you at all, go watch the music video.  You will. not. regret it!!)

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Ten on Ten: The Monday Edition

I had a really great weekend!!  We made an impromptu trip to Bangor (aka civilization).  It was a little crazy though.  We decided at 7 on Saturday morning that we were going to make the 3 hour trek.  And Ben and Jo were in the middle of making gingerbread donuts for me.  And I needed to shower.  And we had nothing packed.  We were on the road by 8:45, though.   So there should be a prize for that kind of awesome-ness.

All that to say, it’s Monday, and it’s normal life again.  We’re all adjusting.  Plus there’s the time change.  And Operation Paci Elimination (which is into its 3rd day).  And a house that was tornado-ed by our efforts to leave quickly on Saturday morning.

BUT I got to spend today looking for the beautiful in the ordinary (once I remembered it was the 10th).  This little activity always does wonders to adjust my perspective.

Bare baby feet time.  I can. not. keep socks on this kid.

I can. not. keep socks on this kid (or on the other kid, for that matter).

Drink time.

Joanna is always concerned about Claire’s hydration.  What an excellent big sis!

Play time with Mommy.

So pensive.

Stealing Mommy's cell phone.

Stealing Mommy’s cell phone.

Peek-a-boo eggs for lunch.

Peek-a-boo eggs for lunch.

Joanna and George.  Best friends.  He's helping her cope with her paci loss.

Joanna and George. Best friends. He’s helping her cope with the loss of her paci.

A cute, non-napping baby in a messy living room.

A cute, non-napping baby in a messy living room.

So funny story:  When I took the above picture, I was super frustrated.  It was 1:30.  Nobody was napping.  The house was a mess–dishes everywhere, sticky floors, and piles of laundry.  I just wanted a break.  But now, looking at this picture, all I see is the adorable baby on my lap.  And all I remember is the fun we had playing, bouncing, “dancing”, and giving kisses.  Yet in the moment, I kept feeling like I needed to be tackling something.  But I didn’t.  And it was worth it.

That might be worth remembering next time.

Rite Aid drive-thru.  A Mom's best friend...even though I can never get close enough and always end up looking like a fool.  (Also, note the gigantic wall of dirty snow...ugh.)

Rite Aid drive-thru. A Mom’s best friend…even though I can never get close enough to the window and always end up looking really silly while I hang out my window trying to pay.

Sockless...again.  Joanna was smelling her sister's feet.  Brave.

Sockless…again. Joanna was smelling her sister’s feet. Brave.

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Swirling thoughts and a question

It’s 1:45 on a Thursday afternoon.  Both girls are sleeping (praise the Lord!!).  I have an unknown amount of free time.  Do I mop, shower, read, blog, nap, or scroll through facebook?

Such a tough question.

I decided to blog in my head while mopping.  I’m pretty sure I missed big chunks, but I’ve got most of a post written in my mind (and scribbled out on my grocery shopping list on the fridge).  Classy, right?

A Slinky-trapped baby.  (Nope, it's not related to anything, but it sure is cute!)

A Slinky-trapped baby. How’s  that for a smooth transition?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about community…

And how community connects to friendship…

And how friendship connects to encouragement…

And how encouragement connects to social media usage…

And how social media usage connects to competition and comparison…

And how competition and comparison hinder community and friendship and encouragement…

And on and on and on my thoughts go.

I feel like I’m on the verge of a big thought breakthrough, but then the demands of two kids yank me out of my thought-world.  <–Literally, a baby started crying as I wrote that sentence.  And I still haven’t quite put a finger on how all these sorta-connected things actually connect.

I do know this is what God is stirring in my heart, and I think this will all eventually connect to what He’s calling me to.  I just don’t see all the dots yet.

I have some questions for you.  Yes, you.  It’s about encouragement.

I’m assuming that we all want and need encouragement, right?

So, how do you want to be encouraged?  What form of encouragement would mean the most to you?

I suspect our answers will connect to our love languages and personalities, but I still want to hear from you.  How could someone show encouragement to you?  Would it be spoken words?  A letter?  A surprise cup of coffee?  Help folding the laundry?

Aaaaaaaaand discuss.

And because no post is complete without the help of both girls, here's Jo, eating a post-nap snack and reading the Bible.  She cracks me up!

And because no post is complete without the help of both girls, here’s Jo, eating a post-nap snack and reading the Bible. She cracks me up!

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