Category Archives: What I’m All About

The Broken Cookie Cutter Marriage

I never used to believe that I was creative.

No. I was too busy lining up cookie cutter pictures of the way life was supposed to be. The perfect good girl looks like this. The perfect student does that. The perfect Christian can’t think or dress that way.

I read book after book about the specific ways to find the perfect spouse and finally decided to stop trying to find a husband altogether. Then one day, when the last thing on my to-do list was to find a man, I met him. Instead of being “perfect,” he was the real deal, more bona fide than any suit-and-tie guy who only quoted the KJV I’d met. He was the just the right fit for me, exactly what I needed to give me a new perspective on how to look at life.

I’d spent 22 years building a kingdom exclusively out of cookie cutter cookies. The only thing is, as pretty as those cookies are to look at, they will never beat a batch of chocolate chip, mismatched in size and shape as they may be.

I have only grown to love the genuine man who has proven over-and-over that being real and true to who you are created to be is worth it. He has made me see that life is far richer when I will embrace the creativity that God has placed within me, even when it looks messy. Messy is real, and it can clean up into something that will inspire others.

On our ninth wedding anniversary, I celebrate the man who unknowingly started crumbling my cookie cutter kingdom eleven summers ago when we met. Others have tried to mold him into their definition of “acceptable,” but instead of settling for their definition of good enough, he has been brave enough to ask God what pleases Him first, and change according to His standard instead.

Nine years of living brings about a great deal of change, but what I love about having a marriage with two people who are real rather than ideal is that, for better or worse, it is rich. I am grateful that I married a man who encourages me to be real and has proven he meant his vows.

Even when I’m not looking or acting pretty, he’s my consistent encourager. He has not only been there in sickness and in health, he’s helped me clean up kid puke in the middle of the night, even though he had to deal with patient puke at work. He’s not only been there for better or for worse, but he actually believes that I can do better at my dreams and passions than I’d ever allow myself to imagine. He’s worked hard and sacrificed much to make our poorer days rich in memories.

I thank God that, when He gave me Tanner, He didn’t send the picture I had in my head. He sent me someone far greater than I could have imagined.

New Love

Love Today

A fun little then and now. Top picture was taken the summer Tanner and I met, and the bottom one I took today.

 

 

Being Real

When you’ve been through a refiner’s fire or two, you come out on the other side changed. It’s impossible not to be different. Sometimes, even though you know that you are not who you used to be, you wonder if other people notice, too, or if they just think you’re crazy. 😉

The other night I got to spend some time with a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known  for nearly a decade. We attended church together when I was very much of the mindset that my purpose in life was to be the hardest-working, model church member out there.

That was when I believed that being faithful to God meant not only being at every church function, but serving at it as well. Why be in charge of one ministry at church when it was humanly possible to be a part of 3-5 at any given time?

That was a time in my life when I would have said and believed, “My identity is in Christ” but I did not yet understand that my identity was a balled up mess, woven into titles, expectations, and tradition.

This friend has known me through the unraveling of my identity. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but she has prayed me through some extremely dark days. She’s a fellow lover of the beautiful stories that God writes with our lives and has been one of my greatest encouragers as I’ve grappled with how to share it.

As I once again wondered about my sanity while we talked, she made this whole messy process that I’ve been working through a bit more worth it by stating, “You are not the same girl you were five or six years ago, hardly even the same DNA. Now your story is real, and I can relate to you in my own mess.”

There was a time when I would not have considered those phrases a compliment. I’d have much rather heard someone say, “You haven’t changed a bit.” When your works come out as rubble in the fire, however, you have a different perspective. As I continue to sort through the mayhem of what remains after the fires God saw me through, there are times I wonder if it was worth it. Did I actually come out stronger or more chaotic?

I believe the answer is both. Because the truth is, I am still trying to find the balance in what was good about who I was before and what I need to let go of. A prime example of when the struggle was very real was just a couple of months ago.

I forgot to go help prepare a meal for the local homeless shelter because I was helping family. I cried the entire frantic trip across town in hopes that I wasn’t too late. I was. The grace that the sweet women I had unintentionally stood up extended to me was precious, but the old me swam intently to the surface begging for a chance to prove that I’m better than that. The new me, humbled and much more willing to receive grace told the old me to calm down and remember, “You aren’t defined by your mistakes. We all need reminders from time to time that we desperately need grace. In the end, grace is enough. It has to be.”

While we all appreciate people who are real and relatable, the process required to become that ourselves is no easy feat. If you find yourself in that process, let me recommend the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. She brings up some powerful points about the value of vulnerability, even in a culture that thrives on shame. I love the passage from The Velveteen Rabbit that she shares on pp. 110-111 of her book.  I hope you do, too.

   “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.””Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Reflections of a Mom: Letting go of Excessive Labels

Much like we all tend to do, I spent my growing up years building a picture of what my life should look like when I grew up.

One of those pictures of my grown-up years definitely didn’t include me being a working mom. Nope. It took actually being a grown up and experiencing all of the unexpected experiences that come with living to bring me to where I currently find myself.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it looked like to be a mother coming into it. I’d watched my mom do it and do it well. Then I grew up and became one. I wasn’t shocked by the actual work that came with it, nor was I amazed at how rewarding being a parent is. What has been crazy for me to comprehend is how much like a never-ending experiment being a grown up is. As a child, I looked to my parents to know the answers to everything I had questions about. Now that I’m the one in that role, I understand more and more each day that it takes a lot of prayer and ad-libbing to make it through the days. It also takes living life on purpose.

I haven’t always done the best job of that in my mothering. There have been times I’ve felt like I was drowning in isolation. I’ve floundered with how to handle discipline issues or the best way to educate my kids in their early years. All the while, I held onto one part of my ideal picture of being a good mother, and I could find comfort in the fact that, while I might not be doing everything right, at least I was staying home with them, and that had to count for something. That meant I wasn’t failing at everything. (I didn’t see other moms who didn’t stay home as failures. It was just the picture I’d built for myself as ideal. In my mind, it had to be my forever calling because it was what I’d always pictured myself doing for forever.)

Meanwhile, a great many experiences began changing me and my perspective of what it meant for me to be a good mother. For the longest time, I had a neat little package answer of why I couldn’t be a working mom, but then the wrapping began to rip.

I began to realize that what was truly best for my family wouldn’t always look the same. I had proof of this in many other areas, so I finally allowed myself to accept it in this one as well. It was time for a new season. My husband was working himself ragged and we rarely got to see him while the kids and I were together constantly with no breaks from each other. I had been allowed the amazing gift of being there for all of my kids’ milestones, but their dad was missing a lot of them. I’d tried every work-at-home job I could find, but none of us enjoyed it when I did. It was time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and work part time.

I pushed aside the guilty feelings that come with being a mom, for by now I knew, no matter what “kind” of mom I was, I would always fight those guilty feelings, and I started substitute teaching on my husband’s days off from fire fighting. There have been days I’ve bemoaned all that I must be missing by being away from my family, but each day when I come home, I realize that my kids don’t look at me any differently. They don’t see me as less of a mother. I’m still the same mama they love and need, but now I’m able to offer them a different set of lessons.

I was able to see some of those lessons in action the other day when I took them to the park after I got home from work. I smiled to myself on the way to the park at the memory of thoughts I had before I was working. I would take them to the same park and think, “If I were working, I’d be missing out on chances like this.” I have now proved that this sentiment was simply not true. As we ran around the playground, I watched how much more independent we have all become since I let go of this notion and proved myself incorrect.

The reality is, my working has made me value the time I have with my kids that much more. I spent years building a foundation when I was with them all of the time, but now we get to start building upon what we started. I can stand back and watch them push limits I used to cautiously hold their hand through. As a bonus, they’ve learned to hold each other’s hand through the changes, too.

Working Mom Reflections

I have a leg to stand on when I tell my son to be brave and try new things because I’ve been brave enough to do the same.

Working Mom 2

As they grow, I can tell them to take care in what they allow to define them because I’ve begun the work of letting go of all of my worth and identity being wrapped up in them.

When they face seasons of transition in their own lives, I can say, “I know it’s scary and exciting, but growth never happens without purposefully changing the way you do things from time to time. And of course, I’m here for you as you take the risk ”

Working Mom 3

I’m thankful to have gotten to a place in my life where I can be at peace with being a mom without throwing a label in front of it. It’s not about being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom,  a boy mom or a girl mom, a mother of two or a mother seven. God has called me to be a mother to some incredibly priceless gifts, and the roles I will need to fill throughout the years of raising them will change as much as they do. Motherhood requires letting go of so much, but thankfully we never outgrow the hugs.

Working Mom 1

I have held off sharing this part of my story on here for a long while because I know that this topic stirs up all kinds of emotions in mothers. The last thing I want to do is place negative feelings in anyone’s heart, but now that I’ve had enough time to process my own experience, I believe it’s important to share my story. I look at it as only that. My story. It’s not necessarily what your story is meant to be, but I share it with the hope that you can apply the principles of living life on purpose and the importance of being open to change when change is what is best. That is how we all grow.

Blessings to you all!

~Kelly

Remembering, Living, and Snapshots

A year ago, we were reeling from the sudden loss of my father-in-law. The details that go into wrapping up someone’s life once they’re already in eternity are overwhelming. The shock of knowing they’re no longer going to participate in the big or little activities of life is staggering. Last February is a complete blur in my memory.

However, in the process of grieving and moving forward, beautiful truths begin to come to light. I thought I’d share a few that I’ve observed as well as a few of my favorite pictures that sum up some of my favorite memories this February. I’m so thankful that God has given us the gift of some sweet days together as a family this year.

  • Life still has beautiful moments.

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  • Laughter is allowed and it does bring about healing.

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  • Your life may change, but it still has a purpose, which is allowed to change, too.

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  • It’s okay to feel the pain of loss from here on out, but you don’t have to let it consume you.

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  • Great things almost always come from losing good things.

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  • You don’t have to wait for the happy, polished ending to have a good life. Embrace all parts of life on this earth, for you aren’t going to get a second chance at it.

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  • You’re not going to handle everything perfectly. You’re going to have bad days, good days, and some days that have a little of both. Ultimately, do your best and don’t repress. God has already been your strength, so depend on Him to be your joy.

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  • Always, always, always rejoice at and celebrate milestones.

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  • We all work hard at building a life that we love. Sometimes, we’re going to have to rebuild it whether we want to or not. We may not have control over much in life, but we do have the power to choose whether or not we’re going to rebuild ourselves into messy heaps or stronger, more refined people who choose joy.

An Imperfect and Disjointed Reflection on 2014

Imperfect Reflections

Photo Credit

Whew! It is almost time for 2014 to become history and 2015 to bring with it what it will. If I’m being honest, this statement brings with it equal parts relief and nervousness because many of the events of 2013 and 2014 have wrecked me. As I reflect on everything I’ve lived through and learned, I am at the place where I am beginning to see some of the amazing blessings that are coming as a result of it all.

I used to be really good at putting words together about life. I wanted so badly for my life-long anthem to be focused on being a quiet, simple woman whose purpose was to focus on the exceptionally average. I’m starting to see and accept that, while the principles are something I will always hold dear to my heart, it’s not God’s plan for me to camp on that solitary theme forever. The season of living in a comfy cocoon is now one to look back on. There was nothing wrong with that time in my life, and one of the reasons I’ve been wrecked so much is because I’ve not wanted to let go of that simpler time in my life: the time before I took all of the words that used to flow so freely out of my fingertips and had to start making sense of them when applied to legitimately difficult circumstances.

The making sense of it all has left me speechless. I haven’t been able to piece together anything that could do justice to what I was realizing. I would either sound whiny, overly-dramatic, angry, or confused – likely because that’s how I felt. I was also paralyzed by fear at the thought of sharing too much of my story. One thing I’ve learned about our life stories is that some parts of them are meant to be shared while other parts need to be sacredly yours and God’s alone.  It was easy to be an open book before I had oppressive battles I was fighting, but when things started getting real, ugly, and resolved without a promise that this would definitely be the end of that trial, I didn’t want to even open up the book I was living some days.

So I’ve been the most quiet I’ve ever been in my life. Yet lately I’ve been feeling a gentle stirring in my spirit that it’s time to start sharing my story with others little bit by little bit.

Now that I’m realizing life isn’t about coming out on the other side of tough times, it’s about living a life of freedom in spite of the uncertainties that make up our time on earth, I’m not putting the pressure on 2015 to deliver a series of dreamy experiences because 2014 included some crummy ones. Life will always have struggles and challenges, but I don’t have to be defined by them unless I choose to be. I lived many good days this past year, and I choose to remember both the good and the bad because they have worked together to teach me some lessons I desperately needed to learn.

I’m in a peaceful place as I reflect on the life I lived this year. The word I chose as my one little word for 2014 was favor. It has looked dramatically different than what I pictured, but it has become beautiful to me. I have messed up, I’ve found victory in areas I never thought it possible in the past, I’ve cried hard and laughed hard. This has indeed been a favorable year. As I look ahead, I’m thrilled at the prospect of living out and sharing my one little word for 2015.

The Abridged Tales of Car Buying with Kids

We bought a new car recently, which is the hugest blessing. The stories I could tell about why we needed this new car are enough to write an entirely new post, but we will settle for the abridged version: we now have two whole rear view mirrors (Hallelujah and amen!) and my prayer every time I get in the new car has changed to “Thank you so much, God, for blessing us with a reliable car!” instead of, “Lord, PLEASE keep this car from blowing up in a dramatic fashion that matches the noises coming from the engine.”

Anyway, the salesman we worked with was a nice young man who is completely happy with the status of being unmarried and not at all interested in being a parent. (Side note: Does it officially make me old that I used the term “young man” without catching myself until rereading the sentence? I think he said he was 26. Where has my life gone?) We talked with him quite a bit during several visits to the dealership to find the right vehicle, and on the second-to-the-last visit, we decided to be brave and bring the kids with us. Because car shopping an hour before nap time with an almost 2-year-old and a 5-year-old would obviously go well…especially if you remember halfway there that you forgot your daughter’s pacifier.

It just happened that this brave trip was not a bust because we found our car! By we, I mean my husband and the salesman. Meanwhile, I found several creative ways to convince Daisy that the fish in the fish tank were not going to make an escape and attack her while simultaneously reminding Dash that, while he was physically capable, he wasn’t actually allowed to help himself to the popcorn in the popcorn machine. Also, I did not have any change for the vending machine and no matter how many times the two of them said that the cookies and candy inside looked yummy, they wouldn’t be getting any today. At the point that nap time was officially upon us, my husband returned from the test drive and asked me if I was ready to go give it a spin. Daisy replied for me by throwing herself down on the front steps of the dealership so she could properly sob uncontrollably about not having her own water bottle. A girl is entitled to feel deeply about things.

CarRideOne of our last adventures in the old car. Here’s to many new ones as we drive around the new one!

Fast forward to later that afternoon when we had secured a babysitter and were back at the dealership to get the car. I was finally taking that test drive and we chatted with our salesman friend while we drove. He admitted that the very thought of having kids terrified him. I’m sure that observing the angelic behavior of my own kids earlier that day did not in any way solidify this fear. I chuckled inside as I contemplated how on earth I could convince this guy that it’s a worthwhile venture. I mean, until you’ve actually found yourself responsible for the health, well-being, education, nutrition, and discipline of a child, it’s tough to understand that the crazy that consumes your life is truly worth it. That it balances out with the incomparable love that you feel for your child.

The first moments after Dash was born and my parents were getting to love on him for the first time, my dad said, “Your life just changed forever.” I wasn’t prepared for the terror that I felt at that reality. How on earth had I not considered the depth of that fact until that instant when I realized he was so right? My life would never, ever be the same, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Then Dad finished his thought, probably because he noticed how wide-eyed and panicked I was looking, “But it is so worth it.”

These are all of the things that were going through my mind while I was test driving a car with a guy who laid it all out there to us by saying, “I’m far from ready to take on being a father.” I smiled and said no one is ever 100% ready, but when it’s the right time, whether you think it is or not, it’s one of the most fulfilling gifts you could ever get in life. I have no idea if he believed us or not, but I’m pretty sure my husband and I both drove home in our new car with not only a new plan for how to minimize the amount of kid-inflicted scuff marks on our new seats but also an extra smile or two at how blessed we are with the little feet and hands that will “accidentally forget” and make their marks on the car just like they do in our hearts.

 

33 Lessons from Life

You only turn 33 once, and today is my day. 😉 As I’ve reflected over some of the things I’ve learned in my years on this earth, I decided to record 33 of them on the blog today. Here is my list in no particular order. What would you add?

Lessons from Life

1. Reading is a joy that deserves your time. Read to learn, read to enjoy, read to escape, read to relate, read to unwind.

2. Take care of your body. Eat a balanced diet, exercise whenever you can, moisturize, get a good night’s sleep, work to maintain your spiritual and emotional health. These are all key to being able to truly take care of those you love.

3. Never take the lives of those you love for granted. I don’t think it’s possible to fully comprehend how to do this until you’ve come close to or have actually lost someone dear to you, but do your best. The pain of loss can’t be prevented when it happens, but it’s not quite as sharp if you don’t have lingering regrets.

4. Comparison is a dangerous friend. Don’t compare yourself to others; don’t compare one season of your life to another. It’s an exercise that will both exhaust and confuse you while keeping your from fully appreciating the life you have right now.

5. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are real. They’re dangerous and will attempt to devastate you. God is stronger than them, and He will ultimately be victorious, but be on guard and depend on Him for discernment and deliverance.

6. Now that I’ve had a taste of working outside the home part time after five years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve learned numerous invaluable lessons. One of the biggest ones is the ability to say with confidence that being a mom is just as hard and rewarding whether you’re home with your kids 24/7 or not. (See number four about comparison.)

7. Hold onto good friends.

8. Find a hobby and carve out time to invest in it at least once a month.

9. Go on at least one date a month with your spouse. No matter how much you believe you’re being a great parent, employee, steward, or whatever adjective you want to believe to be true by putting it off, you’re only fooling yourself.

10. Parenting is not about you. It is in the sense that you have countless opportunities to learn how to improve yourself, but you have an obligation to let go of your children a little more each year that they live so they can be their own people.

12. That being said, your kids will never outgrow needing you on some level, so you have the gift of parenthood for your entire life. Do your best to find a healthy balance of being involved in all seasons of their lives.

13. You will never make everyone happy all of the time, and this is okay!

14. You can have wisdom! Pray for it. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5)

15. The Bible mentions the importance of rest, waiting, and being still far more times than our culture’s demands make you believe you need to be busy. Busyness does not equal a successful and fulfilling life.

16. Don’t take your health for granted. Each day that you feel good is a gift of grace, and there are many people who aren’t given that privilege. Cherish the days your feel strong, and ask God for strength on the days that are rough. Trust Him and thank Him in both circumstances.

17. No matter how many years and earnest efforts you put into being good all of the time, you will eventually need an abundant dose of grace.

18. Thank God every day for something you love and something that is a challenge for you to enjoy. Gratitude is a natural product of spiritual maturity.

19. Prayer is powerful – really, really powerful. God has changed His mind on more than one occasion after listening to the prayers of His people.

20. Life is not about here. It’s about the future, eternal hope we have in Jesus. When life seems to keep getting crummier, remember that heaven is where our treasure lies. You aren’t to the place where it’s all worth it yet, so just keep waiting for it.

21. Anxiety is a beast that wants to destroy your life. It can attack when you’re vulnerable and even when you think you’re going strong. Never stop fighting it with Truth. (Philippians 4:8 – “Finally brothers, whatever things are true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about things.”)

22. Perspective is one of the essentials to living a free, happy, peaceful life. Life can be hard, but God is always good. We all face seasons that are abundant in fun as well as times of trial. We need all of them.

23. You do not have to be defined by what others believe to be true about you, so choose not to be. Instead be defined by God’s love and grace.

24. You are able to survive on less than what you think you need.

25. You are never going to have it all together. Embracing this fact and owning your strengths and weaknesses are incredibly freeing and allows you the opportunity to relate to others and let go of the comparison game just a little bit more.

26. You don’t have to have all of the answers to trust God. The world is full of confusing and heartbreaking situations. Spending all of your energy to try figuring out why bad things happen will deplete your hope. It’s not your job to understand, it’s just your job to trust God. (Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”)

27. Love. It’s one of the most misunderstood words in the world. The expectations and definitions that the world, and even at times the church, place upon it are skewed. Look to the very One who is love’s originator to see it define and transform your life. The world will know you are God’s by your love. (John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)

28. God’s will for you life is not a specific job that you are never to waiver from throughout your life. His will for you is to fear Him, love Him and others, serve Him, and follow Him through each season of your life. The way you do that will change as you change. Just because you had success doing something in the past doesn’t mean you should do it forever.

29. Don’t resist dreaming. God has dreams for you, so you should dream about them, too.

30. There’s much learning that happens in the waiting. Enjoy the waiting periods in your life, but be ready to let them go when it’s time to take action.

31. Be responsible for your words and actions. When you’re mad, vent your frustration privately. When you don’t know the whole story, don’t assume you do and spread false information. Gossip is one of the most deadly poisons. No matter who shares it with you and tempts you to join them in partaking of it, run away!

32. If you do something because you’re inspired by guilt, God is not the one inspiring you to do it.

33. Everything you create doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Strive for good, flaws and all. You never know what “good things” you share with the world will be a catalyst to change someone’s life for the better. Those who are truly inspirational in the world let go of perfection and chose to be brave enough to be vulnerable.