A Life Stirred

What do you do well?

I read a lot of blogs these days.  Because 5 minute chunks of time for reading is about all I can handle.

[Sidenote: Sometimes I worry that I’ve broken the part of my brain that could focus on a mental task for more than 10 minutes.  I’m blaming motherhood for that, but I wonder if it’s more a cultural trend.]

So, anyway, I read mostly Christian, mom blogs.  [Maybe I should diversify my blog-reading, but that’s not what this post is about…]

Generally, these blogs strive to encourage and challenge other moms in their walk with the Lord. Which is great.  I need that.  The Bible even tells us to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

BUT lately, it seems like everything I’m reading focuses on areas where we might be falling short.  Presumably because those are probably the areas where we most need encouragement.  Things like being patient as a mom, practicing hospitality, housekeeping things, developing a regular prayer time, loving our children well, loving our husband well, being a good friend, focusing on self-care and on and on.

And before I go any further with this post, let me say clearly, there is nothing wrong with those postsNothing.  I need all the encouragement I can get in most of those areas (ok, ok, all of those areas).  There’s a reason I read the blogs I do—I want to be spurred on towards love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).  And heck, I do the exact same thing on my own blog (or I try to)!

However, with all the focus on areas where we need help and encouragement, I think we forget an important piece.  We don’t often acknowledge the ways where we are doing well, the things that do come easily to us

No matter who you are, there is something that you do well.  There are areas of motherhood and life where you don’t struggle, areas where you actually shine!

Maybe you are really good at keeping your house clean and organized.  Maybe you find joy in mopping.

Maybe you are naturally patient with your kids.

Maybe you find joy in throwing elaborate, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties.

Maybe you are thrifty.

Maybe you love inviting others into your home.

Maybe you are consistently in the Word and in prayer.

Maybe you do super-creative educational projects with your kids.

Maybe you are really good at selfies in the mirror aisle at Hobby Lobby.

No gift is too small.

Not as easy as it looks.

Do you get the idea? You excel in some way.  Yet, too often, we push those gifts aside or long for a different gift or dwell on the 318 ways we could be doing better.

Granted, I know that it wouldn’t be healthy (or fruitful) to spend all our time talking about the ways we do things well.  But I think there is value in sharing our gifts.

So, today, I want to hear from you.  Yes, really, you.

 What do you do well?

And if you share (and I hope you will), don’t make excuses or be apologetic about your gift.  Be proud of the gifts the Lord has given you.  I know it will encourage my heart to hear how you are uniquely gifted!

[P.S. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone who is close to you for some ideas.  I bet your friends could give you a few ideas.  We are often so critical of ourselves (and even of our own gifts) that we are blind to our strengths.]

 

 

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Phrases that Phrustrate

Confession:  I’m a bit of a language snob.  Cutesy misspellings and grammatical errors drive me up the wall!  (Yes, that would include the title of this post too.  I’m bugging myself right now.)

You’d like a few real-life examples?

“Kmart Kares About Kids.”  Apparently, not enough to use spell check.

“Bilt Rite,” a construction company.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to trust you as a contractor if you can’t even spell all your words right!

And don’t even get me started on grammatical errors!  There, their, they’re.  Come on, people!  Think it through!!

Believe it or not, this post isn’t actually about my desire for accurate grammar and spelling.

I think every mom has a phrase or comment that triggers irrational frustration.  It’s usually something benign, but something we hear over and over and over again and after the one millionth time, it’s just doesn’t feel so benign anymore.  It causes Hulk-like anger and often triggers a snappy and unkind response.

“Whoa!  Are they all yours?”  –No, I just thought I’d borrow a few extra children and then go shopping.

“You certainly have your hands full.”  –Oh, do I?  Thanks for pointing that out.

“You think this season of motherhood is hard?  Just wait…”  –No, you just wait…

And that’s just a few.  There are probably as many examples of frustrating phrases as there are moms.

Recently, I’ve felt challenged to change the way I view these phrases (and the people who say them).  Instead of resorting frustration, I’m trying to be more understanding, more grace-filled.

Generally, the commenter isn’t trying to be malicious or rude or obnoxious.  Generally, it’s just someone who wants to strike up a conversation.  Someone older or lonely or missing the days when their hands were full with little kids.  Or all of the above.

So, I’ve been trying to treat each comment as an opportunity to connect with the people around me (even if it’s the 427th comment that day).  It is waaaaay too easy for me to stay in my own little introverted bubble and never interact with those around me.  So, sometimes that frustrating phrase is just what I need to be pulled out of my bubble.

It’s not always easy.  Sometimes I’m in a hurry, or I’m distracted, or my kids are whiney, but really, taking time for people should always be high on my list.  For my girls, I want to model grace, love, and patience towards others.  I want them to extend those very same things to those who cross their paths.

So that means I have to take a deep breath, assume the best, and respond kindly.

And yes, I know that there are some phrases that we can hear that are actually offensive or hurtful.  And I’m so sorry if that’s been the case for you.  But people are still people (even if they’re being rude or unkind), and I think it’s always valuable to extend grace when we can…even if extending grace means walking away before you hurt someone.

What phrase drives you up the wall?  How do you respond?  How do you want to respond?

 

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The Facebook Weight

A month ago, I officially deleted Facebook.

Scratch that.  Six weeks, I told Facebook I wanted to delete my account.  Two weeks ago, they finally did it.

[Did you know that there’s a “waiting period” before Facebook will really delete your account?  14 days!  That seeemed excessive to me.]

Anyway, all that to say, my Facebook account is official gone.  (Well, I did download all my Facebook information onto my computer…ten years worth of posts and pictures.  Priceless.)

And I really don’t miss it.

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …

Hebrews 12:1-2

I heard a sermon recently that pointed out that there is a difference between weights and sins.  Weights may be morally neutral things that rob our affection for the Lord.  They will distract from the race set before us.

For me, Facebook was a weight.  It isn’t intrinsically bad, and it isn’t a sin to use Facebook.  In fact, a year ago, I would have said that Facebook was a great way to connect with long-distance friends and family, keep up with others, and encourage others in their day-to-day lives.

And it is.

But Facebook can also be a weight that clings so closely.  Its effect on my heart and life was subtle!  Sometimes it can even be hard to identify its grip until you are out from under it.

For example, I struggle with comparison in general.  Even without Facebook, I still struggle.  BUT I never fully realized how much Facebook fed into this struggle.   I continue to be amazed at the levels of freedom I’m experiencing without Facebook.  I have so much more joy when I don’t have to fight the constant tug of comparison.

Now, don’t read this wrong.  I am NOT saying that everyone needs to leave Facebook.  I know that for many, Facebook is a place to spread the Kingdom of God and to encourage one another.  And that’s awesome!  We need more people to use social media as a platform to spread the gospel.

However, I do believe we all need to be careful about our social media use.  It can be time-consuming and distracting and it can cling so closely (as Hebrews 12:1-2 says).

So, I encourage you to examine your heart.  Do you feel a pull to set aside Facebook (even if just for a season)?  Do you feel a desire to use Facebook as a platform for encouragement and glorifying God?  Or do you have another weight in your life (a morally neutral thing that robs your affection for the Lord) that you need to lay aside?

 

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Ten on Ten: Life-on-A-Tuesday Edition

It’s that time of the month again.

No, wait.  Not that time.

It’s Ten on Ten!  It’s time to document the beauty in the ordinary.  I always enjoy this activity.  Because it shows me that there’s always waaaay more beauty to find in my day than I would have expected.

I find it both adorable and sad that my 19 month old can work her own nebulizer.

I find it both adorable and sad that my 19 month old can work her own nebulizer.

Big sis “reading” to little sis. (In the interest of full disclosure, Claire is crying in this picture…for unknown reasons.)

Executing Plan B at the Mall.  The stroller broke on the way in, so I fed the girls a snack while figuring out what to do.

Executing Plan B at the Mall. The stroller broke on the way in, so I fed the girls a snack while figuring out what to do.

Walking with friends in the mall.  So cute!

Walking at the mall.  The cutest!

Lunch on a snowy afternoon.

Lunch on a snowy afternoon.

A little blog writing during naptime...my favorite.

A little blog-writing during naptime…my fave.

Jo's "Coronation Shoes." (A la Anna in "Frozen".)

Jo’s “Coronation Shoes.” (A la Anna in “Frozen”.)

Grace in action.  Jo finished her snack, and Claire shared hers.

Grace in action. Jo finished her snack, and Claire joyfully shared hers.

Walking on the bed in capes.  Because why not?

Walking on the bed in blanket-capes. Because why not?

Table Time.  (Aka my daily desperate attempt to make it from 4:45 to 5:30 with an ounce of sanity.)

Table Time (aka my daily desperate attempt to make it from 4:45 to 5:30 with an ounce of sanity.)

ten on ten button

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Three Years Ago…

Three years ago, we became a family of three.

Welcome, Joanna Joy.

Welcome, Joanna Joy.

My first motherly thought was, “Whoa!  Look at those cheeks!!”

One week old.  Best cheeks ever!

(One week old)

And now, we have a three year old on our hands.  I’m praying she doesn’t become a threenager, but everyone keeps telling me three is worse than two.  So encouraging….or not.

I think I’ve said it at almost every stage, but I LOVE this age!  Personality is exploding; language is hitting a useful and entertaining point; creativity and imagination are a part of play now.  It’s just awesome.

So, Joanna, what are you like at three?  I’m sure you’ll want to know someday…and if you don’t, I’m sure I’ll tell you anyway.

You have a very thankful nature.  For example, you’ll ask, “Who gave me my boots?”  When you find out we gave you the boots, you say, “Oh, thank you, Mommy, for my boots!”  I love your thankful heart.

You are the best big sister.  You are (generally) so patient and loving with Claire.  You love to play with her.  You always look out for her.  My favorite is when you girls hold hands and walk together.

You care about your friends, and I think you have a special ability to befriend those who might be a bit harder to love.

You are so excited to be three because it means you’ll get to be in Cubbies (an Awana class).  You love reading the Bible and singing songs about God.  I can’t wait to see how your relationship with God continues to grow.

Happy birthday, JoJo.

That seems like a lot of candles for someone so little.

That seems like a lot of candles for someone so little.

She didn't even spit on the cake!

She didn’t even spit on the cake!

Who needs a fork?!

Who needs a fork?!

Present-time!

Present-time!

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Diaper Bag No-Man’s-Land

I’ve been in diaper bag no man’s land for the past few months.  Have you ever been there?  It’s unsettling.  With one kid in diapers (and two kids who need water and snacks on hand during all outings), I need a bag that can hold all that diaper-related stuff.  And honestly, I’m getting a little tired of my diaper bag.

We've had a good 3 year run, but I'm ready to move on.  It's not you, Diaper Bag; it's me.

We’ve had a good 3 year run, but I’m ready to move on. It’s not you, Diaper Bag; it’s me.

BUT I recently discovered Lily Jade bags…now there’s a diaper bag that I could get excited about.  It looks grown-up and nice (probably nicer than any purse I’ve ever owned), but it still has tons of pocket-y and organizing space.  Which makes my Type-A heart very happy.

And guess what?!  Right in my time of need, Lily Jade is giving away 3 diaper bags!!  So, you get the honor of seeing “What’s in my bag?”  It’s a real privilege.  Brace yourself.

Obviously, the baby wasnt in the bag.

Obviously, the baby wasn’t in the bag.

1.  Snacks and water.  Must-haves for any outing that last longer than 5 minutes.

2.  Spare outfits, diapers, and wipes.  Unexpected poo explosions.  Need I say more?

3.  Changing pad.  I haven’t used this in months.  But it’s still in my bag.

4.  Random summer things.  That’s coming again, right?

Summer, schmummer.  My diaper bag is in denial.

Winter, schminter. My diaper bag is in denial.

5.  My stuff.  And hey, look!  There’s my inhaler.  I wondered where that went.

So there you have it.  The glorious contents of my diaper bag.  Thrilling stuff, eh?

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Almost 3

Joanna is almost 3.  It’s an awesome age.

And let’s get the obvious out of the way:  I CANNOT believe she’s going to be 3!!  She was *just* a baby.

Seriously.  Wasn't that yesterday?

Seriously. Wasn’t that yesterday?

So, almost 3.  Most of the time, I am really loving this age!  I love how she talks and interacts.  I love seeing her personality and language develop.  Sometimes she drives me a little crazy!!

Anyway, almost 3 looks like…

  • …a lot of “Whys?”
    • I’m sorry, Joanna, but I don’t know the internal motivations of every. single. person and thing we see.  The worst is the mouse from If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.  I have no idea why he does what he does.  No idea.
Why?  Why?  Why?!

Why? Why? Why?!

  • …a lot of “What will we do after…?”
    • This habit is simultaneously annoying and endearing.  I love schedules too, little girl.  Someday I’ll teach you about calendars and to do lists, and you will be a happy kid.
She just likes having a plan.

She just likes having a plan.

  • …a lot of random whining and crying.
    • I could do without that.  Use your words, kiddo.  Use your words.
Usually the crabbiness is not this cute.

Usually it’s not this cute.

  • …a lot of playing.
    • It is your job right now, after all.  You and sissy play dress-up and baby dolls and kitchen and blocks and games and Play-Doh.  It’s amazing to see you get creative with your play.
Best buddies...all four of them.

Four best buddies.

There are lots of things I love about this age (and a number of things I don’t love as much), and I’m sure I’ll write more about Joanna in 11 days when she’s actually 3.  But for now I just want to enjoy my almost 3 year old.

Even when she seems so old…

So big.

Big Kid Jo.

And even when she still seems like a baby…

Always my baby....

Always my baby….

(Also, you’d better believe I soaked up the “Let’s pretend I’m a baby” game.  Why, of course, Joanna, I’d love to snuggle you on the couch like you’re a itty-bitty baby!)

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Ten on Ten: The Birthday Edition

It’s my birthday!  Yahoo!

I’m 31.  Yahoo….?

It’s funny.  Last year, I turned 30…which is exciting and noteworthy.  It’s the kind of birthday that you can invite friends over and throw yourself a birthday party.  But then, turning 31, not as exciting.  Not as noteworthy.  I didn’t feel like I could throw myself a party either.

Anyway, today’s ten on ten is actually only 8 on ten.  And when you hear about my day, you’ll be glad I stopped taking pictures.

So, I kicked off my birthday with a bit of an intestinal bug, and I got to be awake from 2 am to 5 am.  Not fun.  Granted, I got to wish myself a “Happy Birthday” at my actual birth time (3:10 am).  Not something I want to repeat next year.  Thankyouverymuch.

Ben (awesome husband that he is) let me sleep in, so I started ten on ten late.  Whatever.  It’s my birthday.  I can do what I want.

They turn on the space heater together every day.  Melt my heart.

They turn on the space heater together every day. Melt my heart.

Birthday lunch--homemade chicken nuggets and fries (...and peas too).  So glad I was feeling better.  Yum!

Birthday lunch–homemade chicken nuggets and fries (…and peas too). So glad I was feeling better. Yum!

Tim's and Staples...a happy combo.

For my birthday, I requested time alone.  Tim’s and Staples…a happy combo.

A dressing room selfie?  Yes, ma'am.  I still can't decide how I felt about that stripey shirt.  It was either flattering or it made me look pregnant.  I couldn't decide...so I passed.

You’re never too old for a dressing room selfie, right? I still can’t decide how I feel about that stripey shirt. It was either flattering or it made me look pregnant. I couldn’t decide…so I passed.

Packing for a family outing to the pool...which didn't happen thanks to the intestinal bug making it's rounds to a few other family members).

Packing for a family outing to the pool.  Spoiler alert:  We didn’t go (thanks a lot, intestinal bug!).

Ben's a comedian.  31 candles and a fire hazard.  Ooof.

31 candles are a fire hazard. Ooof.

Claire and I headed into town for fluids. As you can see, she prefers not to wear shoes and socks in the car. Silly kid.

Picnic dinner and a movie.  An attempt to salvage the rest of the day.

Picnic dinner (for those who felt like eating) and a movie. An attempt to salvage the rest of the day.

And let’s just say, things went downhill from there, and I just stopped taking pictures.  You’re welcome.

Intestinal Bug: 3, Morses :1  (Claire is still holding strong…you go girl!)

Despite the rough beginning and ending to my day, I actually had a very nice birthday.  I can’t wait to see what this next year has in store!

ten on ten button

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Trickle-Down Identity

Ok, ok, so three days ago, I didn’t have a word for 2015.  But a lot can happen in three days.  A lot of thinking can happen…especially when you have a chance to take a break from everyone under the age of 3 in your family.  Not mentioning any names…

Why would I need a break from these two?  (Someday when they form a sister rock band, this will be their cover.)

Someday when they form a sister rock band, this will be their cover.

Anyway, I have a word now.

Identity.

But specifically, I want to have a trickle-down identity.  This year, I want to…

2015 word--identity

1.  Be in Christ securely.

This is where my identity needs to start–in Christ.  That means 2015 needs to be a year marked by regular and focused time in the Word and in prayer.  I want to listen to God’s voice before all others!  (Well, what do ya know? My 2014 Word is making a 2015 appearance!)  I also pray that I will believe what God says about me through His Word.  Because as a long-time Christian, I know what He says, but I often fail to really believe it.  I want to be SECURELY rooted in Him.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord,

so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith,

just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  

Colossians 2:7 (emphasis mine)

2.  Be me boldly.

As I root myself securely in Christ, I believe that will free me up to simply be me.  To be who God created me to be without insecurity, comparison, jealousy, or discontent.  I want to be able to embrace who I am (weird quirks and all) and just live my story (and not desire a different version).  Honestly, this is my biggest dream for 2015.  I have lived in comparison and insecurity for waaaaay too long.  I long to break free from that and be me boldly!

For freedom Christ has set us free;

stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  

Galatians 5:1

3.  Be in relationships selflessly.

This is the final step of the trickle-down identity.  As I find my identity in Christ and step out to be who He made me to be, I will be able to have relationships out of an overflow of love and grace.  Instead of looking to others to fill me or be my identity, I can simply serve and love and encourage and support others without expecting anything in return.  I believe this will dramatically affect my marriage, parenting, friendships, and leadership.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  

You are serving the Lord Christ.  

Colossians 3:23-24

Identity is a big word for one year.  I suspect I won’t have it all figured out in the next 360 days.  Yet I know that God is able to do big things in my heart when I am open and obedient to His voice.  And that makes me eager with anticipation for this new year!

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2015: A Year Without a Word

Last year, I had a word.

So naturally, I wanted a word this year too!  In fact, I’ve been mulling it over for a few weeks now.  And I’ve got nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

Ok, so that’s not totally true.  I think I have a theme.  A Theme of the Year.  That’s better than one measly, old word anyway, right?

The concept of identity and finding my identity in Christ, contentedness, being me, and telling/living my story has been everywhere lately.  And to me that means, “LISTEN UP, CARLEY!  YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS!!”  (Sometimes I need the Holy Spirit to skip the “still, small voice” step and go straight to attention-grabbing step.)

I believe (and pray) that 2015 will be year of learning who I am.  Specifically, learning who I am in Christ and letting Him to define me, as opposed to all the other things I let define me (motherhood, wife, friend, good at <insert talent here>, etc).  As I allow who I am in Christ to permeate my soul, I pray that I will shake off some of my old (and clingy) insecurities and be content in who I am and how God wired me.

It’s a big theme.  I may need more than a year.  But I’m excited to see how God uses this desire of my heart (to find my identity in Him) to shape me this year!

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