A Life Stirred

Ten on Ten :: The Summer Edition

It’s finally summer here in the far north.  Which naturally means it’s almost fall.  (I know I should be sad, but I’m not…I love fall!!)

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Ten on Ten.  Largely because I completely missed July 10th.  Like completely missed it.

But I’m here now, and that’s what really matters, right?

Yesterday we went on a day trip to a lake to catch up with some friends.  (Who moved far, far away a few years ago…boo.)

Of course, a simple day trip requires no less than 47 bags.

Of course, a simple day trip requires no less than 47 bags.

I didn't know this place existed until I was 22, and now I'm totally hooked!

No road trip is complete without a quick stop to Tim’s!

"Holy, holy, holy!"  The chorus of her favorite song.

“Holy, holy, holy!” The chorus of her favorite song.

No road trip would be complete without a random bathroom stop.

No road trip would be complete without a random bathroom stop.

Jo and her Rachel.  It took Jo a few minutes to warm up and then she wouldn't leave her side.

Jo and her Rachel. It took Jo a few minutes to warm up and then she wouldn’t leave her 

Summer sister sweetness.

Summer sister sweetness.

Aaaaand we're back home.  Hello, laundry.

Aaaaand we’re back home. Hello, laundry.

We skipped naps today.  Some of us had a hard time making it through the afternoon.

We skipped naps today. Some of us had a hard time making it through the afternoon.

Pre-dinner playing.

Pre-dinner playing.

I know, I know.  I’m one picture short.  I’ve got no excuse.  Except that it was a beautiful day with some beautiful friends.  And that’s all the excuse I need.

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The Benefits of Honesty

Saturday was one of those days.  You know the kind–where nothing seems to go like you’d planned.

The plan was simple.  The girls would stay home with Ben (and have the time of their life, no doubt.  Daddy is the best).  I was going to church to help with a women’s clothing swap all morning.  I was going to come home at naptime.  It was all planned out.

And then Ben woke up feeling sick.  Hello, Plan B.

So the girls came with me to the clothing swap, and I prayed they’d play independently and quietly for 4 hours while I helped run a clothing swap.  Not likely.

Playing is their specialty.  Playing quietly?  Not as much.

Playing is their specialty. Playing quietly? Not as much.

In the scheme of life, this was really no big deal (or “NBD” as we like to say around here).  The girls would be fine.  The clothing swap would run more or less efficiently.  But I was annoyed and frustrated by plans gone awry.

And then I bumped into a friend, who asked me, “How are you?”.  For a second, I considered going with the socially expected answer (“Good.”), but then I went with honesty instead.  I told her how I was frustrated and how my plans were messed up.

And you know what?  Ten minutes later, she had worked up a plan to take my girls for the morning to her son’s Curious George birthday party (she had me at monkey cake).  She offered and meant it, and I took her up on it.

It was so simple.  But she lifted a weight from my day.

And all because I was honest about how my day was going.  If I had said “Fine”, she would never have known that I needed help.

Sometimes I am resistant to help.  I feel the need to do it all myself.  I want to have it all together (or at least to act like I do).  I don’t want to admit that I might need help.

And yet, when I did, I was blessed.  My girls were blessed.  And to think, this blessing started with an honest answer to a standard question.

It makes me wonder if there would be more blessings if we were more honest.  More blessings to give.  More blessings to receive.  But we miss out because we hold out.

So, maybe this week, consider answering honestly.  You might just be pleasantly surprised by the results.  I know I was!


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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.]




A Heart Issue…again.

I’ve mentioned before that gossip is a heart issue.  Currently, my heart is super-sensitive to it.  I don’t want there to be any hint of wrongdoing in my words.

…which is good, and it’s where God has me right now.  BUT…I am so super-sensitive to my words that I’m a little extra strict with what I say and what I hear.  This makes for an interesting dynamic in my relationships.

For example, if someone wants to vent about a frustration in a relationship, I don’t know what to do!  Her heart in sharing may not be gossipy…it’s just frustration.  She needs some perspective and wisdom and understanding.  She isn’t sharing to tear down or slander them.  She genuinely wants encouragement and counsel.

Yet, I find that that kind of situation is hard for me.  Because of my gossip-y past, there’s part of me (the sinful part) that wants to hear negatives (especially if I know the person and/or if I feel like I’m competition with them).

She isn’t gossiping.  But I am…?  That’s weird, right?  It all comes down to our hearts.  My friend is sharing with a pure motive.  I am listening with an impure motive.  It’s tricky stuff.

It is my prayer that as time passes and as I gain more control over my words, I will be able to reengage in conversations like that without struggling.  God can transform me, and I believe He will.  In fact, I know He already is!

Don't miss a day!

Don’t miss a day!

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I’ve enjoyed writing for many years.  I have journals and journals filled with (not so good and not so finished) stories that I wrote when I was a kid.  When I was in second grade, my teacher expressed a concern with my creative writing.  According to her, I included everyone from my class in my stories, resulting in too many characters.  [Which—now that I think about it—is a bizarre concern to have for an 8 year old’s stories.]  When my parents asked me about it, I replied, “I just don’t want anyone to be left out.”

Twenty-two years later, I still like everyone to be included and feel important to me.  This isn’t a bad trait.  In fact, it’s a good thing to make those around you feel valued and included.  But somehow, I began to believe that that in order for me to include everyone and to be authentic and real (qualities I want to have), I had to share everything with everyone.

I mean, I had some level of discretion.  I wouldn’t just pour out my soul to the Walmart cashier.  But I have a lot of close friends, and I feel like I’m supposed to tell them all everything I’m working on and processing through.  And all the details.  And all my feelings and thoughts about the details.

Yet in this journey to a tame tongue, three different and wise women suggested that limiting who you share all the details with is part of having a tamed tongue.  They said there are levels of friendship and real-ness.

Honestly, that had never occurred to me.  I just want to include everyone.  I don’t like to think of levels of friendships because it sounds like I’ll be leaving someone out, which causes me to have flashbacks to 7th grade.

But the more I thought about it, the more I saw the value of limiting the number of people I share deeply with.  Not everyone needs to know everything I’m dealing with.  And really, I can be authentic without sharing everything with everyone.  Although, that balance is a little hard to find.

So, while I still want everyone to feel valued and included, I am beginning to see that discretion in what I say and to whom is absolutely key in taming my tongue.

What about you?  Do you consciously limit who you share deeply with?  Have you found a way to be authentic without over-sharing?

Don't miss a day!

Don’t miss a day!


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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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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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!


When real ISN’T messy…

So, as you know, my desire is to be real.  I want real relationships.  I want depth in my friendship.  [Don’t get me wrong, though…I can do surface-y relationships with the best of them.  Depth doesn’t always come naturally for me, but I crave it nonetheless.]

But I have to confess something about “my real”…

My kids are really easy.

Wait!  Don’t leave!!  I think we can still be friends.

Let me clarify a few things real quick.  First, I’m NOT saying my kids are easy because I’m an awesome mom.  They seriously just came that way.  Both of them.  And it is 100% God’s grace to me.  He has blessed me with my children.  It’s completely undeserved.  It has NOTHING to do with me.  Claire’s middle name is Annabelle which means “Beautiful Grace.”  And that what it is.  Beautiful grace.

Second, I am well aware that they may not always be this easy.  I’m not naïve to think that I have perfect children that will always be easy (boy, wouldn’t that be nice?!).  Joanna and Claire are sinful by nature.  Hey, while we’re at it, I’m sinful by nature too.  And that alone is enough to guarantee that the future will hold challenges.

But right now, the girls are fairly easy.

I feel like this disqualifies me from relating to moms who are having a harder time with their kids.  What can I offer?  I don’t know what it’s like to have a defiant child or a climber or a non-sleeper (oh, dear, that would kill me) or a bad nurser.

I feel like this disqualifies me from being an advocate of being really real in relationships.  Why would anyone what to be real with someone whose real (at least in regards to mothering) isn’t very messy?

But I believe that we can have relationships with one another even when we don’t have the exact same experience.

It’s like my friend who generally has very clean floors.  She has 3 young kids and clean floors.  Now, my floors…not so clean.  But I believe we can still be friends.  I can rejoice with her because her floors are delightfully clean.  Her clean floors don’t pass judgment on my messy floors.

I could let comparison take over my mind.  I could let her floors make me feel bad and inadequate.  I could probably get pretty mad at her floors if I wanted.  I could even be a little bit happy when her floors aren’t spick and span (“HA!  See?  She’s not perfect).  OR I could just recognize that her real doesn’t generally involve messy floors.  Her real will involve other messy things (probably more figuratively…her house is really very clean).

My real doesn’t involve difficult children.  Your real may involve difficult children.  But I believe we can still be friends.  We can rejoice in God’s grace.  I can practice empathy with your challenges.  And you can practice empathy with mine.  Because there are no doubt things that I struggle with that you do not (like the selfishness in my heart, my idols of food, my struggle with body image…just to name a few).

I think being real involves recognizing that our reals are not going to look identical.  And that is ok.  I think we can still support, encourage, and love one another even if we are in different places.

And THAT is my desire for my friendships—that we can be real with one another, regardless of whether it’s a messy real or a not-as-messy real.   I want us to rejoice in the things that are easy and not messy, and encourage and support in the things that are harder and messy.

But that’s not easy, is it?  It’s easy to let comparison and jealousy and judgment rule in our hearts (I know because I let those things rule in my heart all too often).  So, when things are hard, it’s best to practice them more.  (Whoa, flashback to my piano-playing days and my mom’s assurances that if I practiced, it would get easier.  It did…a little.)

So let’s practice this.  Let’s practice empathy.  Let’s practice rejoicing with one another in our easy non-messes.  Let’s practice encouraging and supporting one another in our hard messes.

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We’ve got a problem.

Or more accurately, our fast-paced, always-on-the-go, constantly-over-stimulated culture has a problem.  (It probably has more than one problem, actually.)

We don’t really listen to each other anymore.  We ask our friends a question and then move on before they’ve even responded.

What?  You don’t think you do that?  I bet you do.  I bet you do without even thinking about it.

Case in point:  It’s Saturday night at church.  (Yes, I go to church on Saturday night.  So liberating for this night owl.)  As you make your way to your seat (the same one you sit in every week), you pass about 20 people you know, and you have the exact same conversation with every. single. one of them.  “Hi!  How are you?”  “Good. How are you?”  “Good.”  Conversation done.  Move on.

Talk about a riveting and meaningful conversation, right?

Have you ever tried to actually answer that question in a real way?  Just this weekend, a sweet lady at church asked how Claire was doing.  A very kind, thoughtful question.  I responded, “She’s good.  She has a cold right now, so it’s been a little rough lately.”

Except I wasn’t able to even get out that whole response before the sweet lady had moved on.  Two sentences, and I lost her after the first one.

See, the problem is she didn’t really want to hear the truth.  She wanted to oooh and aaaah over the adorable baby, hear that things were going well, and move on.

Wnd why wouldn’t you want to oooh and aaah over this adorable baby?!  (Yes, that is a Bible next to her...she's that advanced.)

And why wouldn’t you want to oooh and aaah over this adorable baby?!  I understand the temptation.

And really, I didn’t expect much more from the woman.  I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing.  This kind of conversation happens all the time.  We ask “How are you doing?”, but we don’t stop to listen to the response.

We don’t even expect a real response.  Because imagine if someone just dumped how they’re really doing on you after that question.  You’d probably smile and back away slowly.  Being really real is just not what we do in our culture.  We say “good” regardless of whether or not it’s true.

BUT God calls us, as Christians, to be different, to stand out.  They’ll know we are Christians by our love, right (John 13:35)?

What better way to show love than to care about how others are doing?!  I mean, I know I’d feel loved if you asked me how I doing and then waited for (and required) a real answer.  And I suspect you are probably the same way.

So, as this new week starts, why don’t we give listening a whirl?  Next time you ask someone how they’re doing, find out how they’re really doing.  Support them.  Encourage them.  Hey, you could even get real crazy and pray for them!  (Whaaaaat?!  Is that even allowed?!?  Yes.  It is.  Even if you’re in Walmart, blocking the chip aisle.)

It probably won’t be easy.  You’ll probably have to go through a round or two of howareyougood before you get to the real stuff.  You might even have to go with a “How are you really doing?” and a meaningful look and head tilt.  But it’ll be worth it.  And I suspect we’ll find that our friendships grow deeper and community is sweeter because we took the time to listen.