Five Minute Friday: Mess

The word makes me cringe. I can't stand messes. I especially have a hard time with messes that are my own. It's hard to see the beauty of something when the mess is what stands out to me. 

Take this picture of our kitchen counter (which I took this morning).

The main thing I see when I look at it is how cluttered and disheveled it looks. But upon closer reflection, I see more than that. 

I see an orange mug that's filled with coffee for Anthony to take to work. I see a sweet book from the library, Betsy-Tacy. Lots of groceries. A little square box my grandparents had for me to use as a bank when I was little. A juicer. And the thing that stands out most, flowers Anthony recently bought me on our trip to Trader Joe's.

Each of these things represents other things like: a job, the ability to read, money for groceries, memories from my grandparents, the ability to make healthy food, and the love of my husband. I can look at this counter and be frustrated by its imperfection or I can look a little deeper and see the other things that it stands for. Maybe that's what I'm learning right now, how to see the beauty of messes. And this includes my own self. 

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday where we write freely for 5 minutes.

Defining Normal

Journal Entry: February 4, 2013 

"It's a normal night. I got home from work and asked Anthony if we could go for a walk. I noticed a package from Amazon sitting on the table. I didn't remember ordering anything, but, knowing me, that doesn't mean I didn't. I opened the package and found an item wrapped. It was the book, Jesus Calling, from my cousin Beth!

Anthony and I have begun to really enjoy walking together. It gives us a chance to talk without as many interruptions. I admit, we don't have as many interruptions as some people, but walking outdoors helps us focus on the conversation we are engaging in. We walked all the way to our friend Kelli's house. She gave us some water and we walked back home.

When we got home from the walk, I made dinner. Farro with Chicken Sausage & Apples. It was even better this time. We cleaned up the kitchen, got our coffee ready for tomorrow morning, and got my lunch ready for work tomorrow. We then folded our laundry.

Sitting down, I called my cousin to say thank you. Then I Facetimed my sister, Heidi, who told me about a doctor's appointment with Olivia."

Today: December 16, 2013

I'm sitting in my pajamas eating a huge bowl of oatmeal. It's 11:00 am and I don't have anywhere to go. Not because I don't want to go anywhere, but because we have one car and Anthony took it to work. I found this old post from February and thought it would be interesting to just write today and see the differences.

In February, I was worried we would never get pregnant. We had yet to visit North Carolina for the first time, but had already purchased our plane tickets to take the trip out here. We hadn't gone up to Portland for the second time in six months to meet the team of people that we would move to Raleigh with to help start this church. We hadn't started packing up our house, saying goodbye to everything that was normal to embrace a season of nothing being normal. Well, relatively nothing being normal. 

Normal is still being married to Anthony. Talking about the future. Dreaming about what our life will look like with the addition of our son any day. Normal in February was 3 day-shift workdays at the hospital for Anthony and a 5 day work week for me at the Department of Education. We were used to getting off around the same time each day, even though they were at different hours for both of us. With a few hours of quiet before Anthony got home from work, I would blog, clean the kitchen, make dinner, go grocery shopping, walk on the treadmill in our garage or a number of other things. Almost all of these activities would be done in silence. I would stop by Jackie's house to see her and talk about our life. I would visit with our wonderful neighbor, Stacey. I would also talk with Heidi about her experiences being a mom for the first time. 

Now, normal is Facetiming Jackie in the few moments she has free (she has 3 little ones under 2 1/2 now), discussing knitting problems with Heidi, phoning my Grandma to tell her we're thinking of her, love her, and are praying for her. It's long conversations with social services to check on application statuses. It's pouring over Instagram and thinking fondly of our family and friends. Trying not to be too sad that I'm not in the picture or around for when the picture was taken. It's discussing when my parents will come to visit, before the baby's born, during, or after. Arranging baby clothes, baby stuff, baby furniture. Scouring blogs to find out what I should pack in our "Go-bag." Texting Shannon to find out do I really need _____ baby item (she knows, she has 5 sweet children). 

Normal is sending pictures to my close friends of my stomach and stretch marks and saying... "What the heck?!? Will this go away?" It's a long conversation over the phone with my Aunt Becky to find out how she's doing, the kids are doing, and for her to say, "Keep going. We love you and are here for you." It's answering for the hundredth time, "We don't know if or when we'll every move back to Sacramento. We don't know what we're doing tomorrow."

It's thinking about when the baby will come. Will I actually know when I'm in labor or will I be surprised? It's having friends over for dinner when we don't have a table and trying not to apologize about the lack of furniture. It's being hospitable and generous. It's being ok with things that are uncomfortable. It's learning that life isn't what I planned and accepting that God has not forgotten us. No matter how we feel about it. 

He is Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting God, the Mighty Counselor, and the Great Comforter. He is familiar with pain, He is with us, He is probably even carrying us. It is remembering that Christmas isn't a failure if there are no presents under the tree. Or there's no money to buy gifts for family and friends. It's about the gift that we were given. Peace. God being with us. God being for us. God working through us. God using the mundane to capture my heart and say, Be Still and Know

Normal is all of these things and more. And what's so shocking is that it's in the normal, everyday life, that the Holy Spirit will speak and say: 

Do not worry about tomorrow. I take care of birds and grass. You are my daughter. How can I not take care of you? Just as you are making preparations to take care of your son, that's what I, the perfect parent, do for you. You are loved. You can never be forgotten. You are my child. Rest in me. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. I will teach you what that really means.

Is your normal any different today than it was in February?

Joining Heather for Just Write Tuesday

A Change of Heart

Trying to celebrate the small things has been the anthem of the past six months of my life. Many, many things have seemingly gone wrong since we moved to Raleigh. We didn't get jobs in the time we had hoped. We have burned through almost all of our savings. We both accepted non-career jobs to bring in money. In the midst of all of this, we are still rejoicing about being pregnant. 

You see, 2 years ago, we felt we should stop procrastinating and trying to prevent expanding our family (as if we actually had any control over that). Things did not go as we anticipated. We didn't get pregnant until April, a year and a half later. In that time frame, every one of our married friends got pregnant and most of them had their babies. Some of our dear friends even had twins, a dream I have always had. When we did get pregnant, it was the opposite time frame of anything I would have planned. 

We gave our notice to our landlord and employers on May 1st and 2nd. On May 3rd I took a pregnancy test and thought my eyes were broken. It was positive. I took two more that day because I was in utter shock. There was no way we were pregnant when we had just given up all the security in our life. When Anthony got home from work that Friday night, I gave him a Baby Taylor guitar, the way I had planned to tell him for years. I told him I thought I was pregnant and he was elated. After taking a total of 5 tests, I started to think this could be real. On Mother's Day we told our families we were expecting. They were so happy for us, yet disappointed we would still be moving to North Carolina. 

I didn't write about expecting a baby here on my blog for fear that a potential employer would Google me and not hire me because I was pregnant. Now, I wish I had written about our great news when I first wanted to. I didn't get the career job (aka higher paying with benefits) I applied and interviewed for. Maybe it's because I'm pregnant, maybe it's because they weren't what God had planned. I hope someday I'll know the answer to my questions. In October, Anthony interviewed for a job at a large hospital in the area. Two weeks ago, they called him and offered him the position. Next week that job will start. It isn't exactly what we had been hoping for, but it will pay our bills and maybe even afford us the opportunity to travel again. 

I've always been a planner and an organizer. With the end of my pregnancy rapidly approaching, those 2 characteristics are in hyper-mode. I have lists and lists for lists. My inlaws came for a visit the week before Thanksgiving and my mother-in-law, who I fondly refer to as Grandma Don (short for Donna), helped me decorate for Christmas. Our Christmas decorations are all ready in case the baby decides to come before December 25th. Until then, we have been fixing burned out lightbulbs, getting the car serviced and detailed, and preparing for our little boy in every way we can.

As the month of December begins and the beautiful, shocking story of Christmas is told, I can't help but relate with Mary. How stressful it must have been to be so close to having Jesus and travelling so far. We are in a predicament with insurance. The baby is due New Year's Eve, will he come in 2013 or 2014? If he comes this month, it means we'll get a tax write-off, if he comes next month...if, if, if. I wonder if that's how Mary felt when there was no room for them in someone's home? Friends have often said they look forward to seeing me as a parent. Could that be they want to see how this organized, needs-everything-planned-out, person will handle the biggest variable ever? 

This day I reflect on the beauty and incredible challenge uncertainty has had on my "plans". I'm learning to believe that God really does take care of me. He might only let me see how his provision is for this day only though. In the past 6 months, Anthony and I have relocated across the country, found out we were having a baby, quit our jobs, applied for hundreds of new jobs, interviewed and started new jobs, left our community, started a new community, changed churches, and experienced the shock of a new state. When I list all of the changes we have made, becoming parents doesn't seem that major. Today I'm reflecting on the growth that change brings. I've discovered with my rapidly expanding body, growth leaves marks and is often uncomfortable. But there is the promise of something new on the other side. 

Joining Emily for:

Five Minute Friday: Listen

Listen. It seems an easy thing to do until you actually try. That's when its power is really seen. For to listen requires a number of different things to occur. I must quiet my own mind to hear what the other person is saying. Engage in what the person is expressing by leaning forward or attempting to block out other distractions. It requires feedback, nonverbal and verbal.

All of these things make it difficult to focus on the other person, however when someone has listened intently to me, I feel like I was valued. In the fast-paced society we live in, it is hard to narrow my attention to one person's thoughts and speech. But oh how important it is to practice this seemingly simple act. 

In moving to North Carolina, we are surrounded by people who don't sound like Californians. They have accents. They talk at different rates than I'm accustomed to. And I know very few people. So, listening has become vital. I want to know the person's story, why they are the way they are, what makes them do things this way, how come they believe in that. Listening enables me to actually know someone. And then maybe they'll ask me about me. And if they don't, I'm still a grateful recipient to their story because it's unique and different than mine. Their life experience is meaningful. Listening allows me to get to know that.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Brave

Back in October, I briefly mentioned Anthony and I had gone to Portland, Oregon. While we were there we happened to visit a church called the Solid Rock. The evening we attended that service, John Mark Comer, the Lead Pastor of Solid Rock, introduced Dominic Done, who was coming on staff as an embedded church planter to ultimately plant a new church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

They played a video where John Mark asked Dominic why he was planting in the Raleigh area and Dominic began to explain. At the end of the video, John Mark asked everyone to pray and consider selling everything they had and move to Raleigh to help start this new church.

Anthony and I both felt they were speaking to us. Actually, it was more than just them, it was the Holy Spirit. Something was stirred inside both of us, at that moment to consider the idea of a cross-country move. 

We began to research the Solid Rock, Dominic, the Raleigh area, and anything else we could find.

A few weeks after we came home in October, were were asked to visit Raleigh with the Lead Elder of our church, Capital City Church, Rick Martinez and his wife Kathy. "Coincidentally" they were asked to help with another church in the outskirts of Raleigh in February.

On that trip, we met so many great people from the area and made new friends. The city of Raleigh wasn't what we had pictured or somewhere we would choose to move. But moving there wasn't our idea to begin with so our preference doesn't matter that much.

As we flew away from Raleigh, I looked out the airplane window and began crying because I wasn't sure if we'd ever be back. The seed that began in October continued to grow.

These have been the most eventful months in witnessing firsthand the intervention and orchestration of God in our lives. This blog post would be SO MUCH longer if I were to add everything that has happened.

Two days ago, we did something pretty crazy. We turned in our resginations to our employers and landlord. On May 27, we will begin our move to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

I've never been more scared, yet felt so brave at the same time. 

This is why there have been so few posts lately on my blog. I look forward to sharing more of our story in the future!

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and whole bunch of other awesome people for Five Minute Friday. (I went a little over the time today)

Five Minute Friday: After

After...things are easier to explain after they have happened. It's a lot harder to discuss challenging or difficult seasons in the midst of the event. 

Afterwards there is clarity that comes. Hindsight and understanding of why or how that thing shaped who I am. Before and during, now these are words that convey where the struggle takes place.

Faith isn't needed after the trial happens. It's needed during. It's needed in the midst of the situation.

After a little while the sting of a challenge is less "stingy". I find I need hope in the middle, but that's the most awkward time for me to share my life. I want to tell you when I've already seen the outcome. When I'm not questioning my decision or how I'll respond. When I already passed the test. Afterwards I'll tell you I'm a success. 

But I need to share the before and during. 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace. - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.

#WriteStuff Tweetup

Last night I had a great time chatting with other writers about practicing writing. We weren't in the same room, but it felt like we were having a lively discussion in my living room. You may be wondering how I could have a discussion without anyone being at my house? 

Ah. The connecting power of the internet, social media, and my personal favorite: Twitter. The conversation took place on Twitter and with a #WriteStuff tweetup. Because I'm new to this whole tweetup concept, I thought I'd describe it to you.

A Tweetup occurs when a group of people use a specific hashtag (#) before the subject (ie #writestuff) at a designated time. When anyone searches the tagged topic, all the tweets containing that hashtag appear. When a tweetup is happening, there are lots of people joining in and you get to read all of their tweets. It's basically like having a chat room devoted to yourselves with a focused topic. (Does anyone remember chat rooms?)

The WriteStuff tweet party is normally hosted by Unkwown Jim. Yesterday it was hosted by Team Bogel (Anne & Will Bogel). It happens every Tuesday night from 9-10 EST. According to Jim, they talk about writing on Twitter using the hashtag #writestuff. Each week has a different theme, last night's was deliberate practice.

Anthony and I use Tweetbot, which is a program you can install on your iPhone/Mac to help you manage your Twitter account. Here's what my #writestuff screen looked like last night:

 

For our conversation last night, Anne was the moderator/leader and had questions to guide the group's discussion. Here's her first question:

 

Once she shared that question, people started responding. Whenever someone responded with #writestuff, everyone who was searching that topic could see it.

There were great ideas shared and tips for getting more writing incorporated into life.

I enjoyed meeting new writers, getting inspired, and seeing some of my writing group friends at the discussion (hi Claire). I was encouraged by this statement from Ashley, who was replying to Anne's question:

Have you ever participated in a Tweetup? What were your thoughts?

A Tale of Bread Pudding

There once was a woman who thought it would be a lovely evening to have bread pudding. But this was no ordinary bread pudding, this was pumpkin bread pudding. Made with only the finest ingredients.

After she left her place of employment, she went to a local coffee shop. The employees refilled her jar of coffee beans and even ground them for her. She also purchased the most delicious looking baguette. It was a crusty baguette, the type Remy from Ratatouille would love. As she carefully took the bread from the kind employee, her hand was sliced by the waxed paper. Ouch, she thought, and as she looked down she saw a little cut. Walking out of the store, she greeted the coffee aficionado who was roasting coffee beans. He gave her a sample of the freshly roasted beans. Ah. Delicious.

As she drove to her castle, she thought of how exquisite the bread pudding would be. She thought it was even worthy of serving to her fair maiden sister, Heather. Who happened to be joining the feasting that evening.

Once the woman got home, she unwrapped her bread. Of course, as any good and caring lady would do, she began to chronicle how to make bread pudding. That way her friends and neighbors could read about it on her online story telling machine (the good 'ole blog). Photographs were taken. 

The recipe was splendidly mixing together. This would be a delectable bread pudding. It would be just sweet enough. Just dense enough. And certainly it wouldn't be a problem for the waistline. 

She knew as she cut the bread this was going to be scrumptious. The bread turned and the knife slipped. The poor choice of a knife cut her dainty digit instead of the bread. YIKES. She stopped cutting and ran to the sink.

She sat down afraid she might faint from the shock of the cut. A knock was heard on the castle door, she opened it. Heather, the fair maiden, entered. She helped the woman with the digit. 

When the master of the castle joined them from his excursion, he rushed to the woman. He kissed her hand and assured her she would live. His proclamation brought her happiness: the digit would be saved and a trip to the physician would not be necessary.

As any good tale should end, the woman's digit was spared.

But the best news was that the fair maiden came to the bread's rescue. And the three feasted on melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin bread pudding. 

Someday, the woman mused, she would share her recipe for the infamous bread pudding!

The end.

I'm joining another Heather (Extraordinary Ordinary) for Just Write Tuesday.

#OneWord365 Rearview Mirror

Wow. I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I felt I would focus on the word trust

Without a doubt trust has been the consistent theme of my life this year. Little did I know, I would not be the one driving the journey of 2012. 

I have talked about our travel tales, my reading adventures, learning about Jesus, the writing process, cooking, other creative ventures, my little Niece, and of course random updates.

I haven't talked about the incredibly challenging time we have had with growing our family. I'm saving that story for the new year. I haven't talked about the tug that we feel to follow God wholeheartedly, because we don't yet know what that means.

We went to Portland for Anthony's birthday. While we were there, we visited Solid Rock church. Anthony and I were blown away at the number of people our age that made up the congregation. We went to spend time with Anthony's classmate. We didn't go expecting to have a flame lit. We didn't go expecting to have one passage ring through our minds for the next few months. It's funny now to think about the passage Dominic shared that night:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-8 NIV

This year I discovered worry is the antithesis of trust. Yet trust is what God has been impressing on my heart almost daily. Anthony and I have heard the Philippians passage numerous times since we first heard it in October. 

I don't know what another year will look like. I don't know if we'll have a baby or be living in this house. I don't know if I'll be working where I currently work or somewhere completely different. I don't know anything other than I know how to trust the plans of God more today than I did a year ago.

I still worry, but I've been learning how to pray instead of stewing. I've read amazing stories of people Daring Greatly and how God is consistently faithful to provide. 

When I picked the word Trust, I thought I would steer how it would influence my life. I had no idea the Holy Spirit was the One who had chosen the word.

Trust has shaped me as I have learned to rely more on God. I've seen His hand gently guiding both mine and Anthony's lives.  

As this year comes to a close, I am excited and nervous for the adventures 2013 will bring. We're planning to travel to North Carolina to visit the city of Raleigh. I'm hopeful for personal growth and more dependence on God. I'm looking forward to trusting God instead of myself. Without a doubt, 2013 will include more of this little ray of sunshine:

Linking up with One Word 365 Rearview Mirror update.

What I'm Into (November Edition)

I can't believe another month has flown by. I love when bloggers share the things they've been reading, doing, or watching lately. Anne inspired me to write my own What I'm Into today.

Reading

I've had lots of fun reading books recommended by Shelia (Deliberate Reader) and Anne (Modern Mrs. Darcy). I am still raving about Love Does by Bob Goff.

I finished reading An Invisible Thread and I have Lived a Thousand Years. Both were thought-provoking, inspiring reads. 

I skimmed Dinner: A Love Story, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, French Women Don't Get Fat, and An Everlasting Meal

I'm in the middle of reading Bringing up bébé by Pamela Druckerman and really like the ideas and concepts she presents.

Listening

New music and me don't normally go together. I have been loving 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. I bought Carl Goes Up from the Up Soundtrack. Other than that, I listen to what Anthony turns on.

Crafting

Since Olivia (my niece) was due on December 5th, we had a Ready to Pop baby shower in the middle of November. I made a breastfeeding survival kit for Heidi. It included handmade burp cloths and a nursing cover.

(Heidi at her shower)

I also made Olivia a hooded towel and washcloth set and a few more blankets. 

I made two table runners and have Christmas fabric ready for a pennant to decorate our front room.

I started knitting again last night and am making a little mauve and purple beanie for guess who? Olivia! She just can't wear something that isn't handmade by her Auntie.

Cooking

Last weekend I made a small Thanksgiving dinner. I successfully made a turkey and it was delicious!

(photo credit)

I've been making lots of red sauce using Jessica's recipe. And I've made 3 batches of brownies over the course of 3 days. Maybe that's why my clothes aren't fitting?

Blogging

The most popular post was Homemade Vanilla Extract. My personal favorites were A Simpler Season and the DIY Natural Laundry Soap.

Blogger Love

Nearly every post has spoken to me in some way from Donald Miller's Storyline Blog. My personal favorites were:

Nikki (Christian By Association) wrote an insightful post called "Why Christians Should Say Happy Holidays." It's worth the time to read it. 

PC Walker (Ragamuffin PC) always writes posts that cut to the heart. "When you say, "I don't want to gossip, but ..." has helped me stop a few times. 

Anthony told me about Diane's blog, He Speaks in the Silence, and this Sunday Scripture was food for my soul.

Buying

I took a big leap and bought Michael Hyatt's Get Published while it was on sale last week. I haven't started the program, but I have high hopes for it helping me with my writing. 

I bought some earrings from Hannah, a necklace from Tricia, and fun cards to put on my sewing projects from Lindsay.

(Sewing projects with cards)

Watching

We went to the movies and saw Lincoln with Heidi and Caleb. It was a great movie and I thought the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis was perfect. I enjoyed the filming and appreciated the way the cameras recorded a scene from the ground.

Going/Travelling

This month we went to Disneyland with Anthony's family and had a great time. But seriously, how could we not have a great time at Disneyland?

My favorite part of our whole trip was the conversations we had while standing in line for rides and driving in the car. Because of the trip, we have nicknames: inlaws (Anthony, Donna, Brianna) & outlaws (Scott, Chad & me)!

I loved recapping this month!

What have you been up to lately?

Linking up with Leigh for What I'm Into.