Wednesday, January 23, 2013

101 Wednesdays, the blog!

Hi folks.

This is just a quick post to let those of you who are interested know that 101 Wednesdays now has its own blog!

{If you don't know what 101 Wednesdays is, you can read this.}

To find the new blog devoted exclusively to women who want to follow and interact with this informal, once a week online study, click this right here. Or click the button on the right side bar.

Go check it out. And better yet, JOIN us in seeking God and studying the basics of His word together. 

{There is a "Welcome" post and a Week 1 homework post up now!}

Feel free to comment with any questions you have, or leave your email if you want more info.


Monday, January 21, 2013

For when you feel like you just can't.

Today I had a bunch of moments when I said inside, "I just can't." The moments seemed to pile up towards the end of day, primarily, when my head was growing fuzzy, my emotions frazzled, and my body weary from the day.

I was cooking, and thinking about something, and hearing my son's voice saying something barely audible over the loud sizzling in my pan. "What?" I said to him, glancing over my shoulder. He held up a large, hard-backed book and its torn off cover in two separate hands, and repeated something I still couldn't make out.

I just can't, I thought. I've heard so many of his words, fixed so many of his problems today. I just can't give my attention to a single additional one right now.

The phone rang and I mistakenly answered it. It was a recording saying my cell phone payment was due. I added to the mistake by trying to enter the payment right then while cooking, while parenting, while juggling the thousand thoughts in my head.

At a pause, I asked my girl to get ready for bed, and then realized I'd stripped her sheets off earlier in the day and forgot it was left unmade.

I just can't, I thought. I don't have it in me to remake her bed right now.

She was thankfully reading quietly, but happened upon a funny part of the book. She begged me to come read it, to share in her delight, and oh, the funny part wasn't that long, she said.

No, I so didn't want to. I just can't, said my head.

And I was irritated because I saw she left her purse on the floor, which attracted our dog. He was halfway through the pack of gum when I caught him, my phone on the counter still talking at me through the speaker. But when I took the gum away, he grabbed the Chapstick.

It's not even food! I thought. I just can't deal with this dumb dog right now. I'm in the middle of cooking dinner, trying to keep up with the automated payment thing on the phone, and....

I tried to quickly pry the Chapstick from his mouth, but he only clamped down harder on it, my thumb in his grip now as well. It hurt so bad I cried.

My kids suddenly got very obedient, startled by my tears.

I just can't. I just can't.... said the voice in my head.

But I did.

By God's grace alone, I did.

A peace settled on the night, somehow. Miraculously. I wrapped my thumb with a cold pack and cooked with my other hand. My call got disconnected from being neglected, but I was sort of relieved. I fed the kids. I made her bed with clean sheets. Then I read the funny pages of the book and chimed along with her. I even patiently asked her to clean off her Chapstick container with soap.

And when I tucked my son in, I took notice of the book lying on his floor with a missing cover. I gently asked what happened. The spine broke, and it was even a Star Wars one, he said. I apologized for being rude to him earlier. He apologized for saying he brushed his teeth when he really didn't.

We prayed together, asking Jesus for forgiveness because we are all broken, all sinners. We all just can't sometimes.

But He can and He does and He wills for us to lean on Him.

Oh, how I need Him every hour, and particularly the late ones in the day.

I'm not quite sure what that word is, that thing that pulls me from "I just can't" to "I can," but I think it's grace.

And the truth is that the phrase I just can't is a lie our enemy speaks to our hearts; he is the one who wants to convince us that there is no hope for us, no strength left, no possible way. Oh, it's an insidious lie, and somehow sparkles just like the truth at times.

"Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” {said the man with a sick son}
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.”
Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus can. How much do you believe it?

He offers grace to cover my sin.

He lifts me up and gives me strength when I can't.

He shows me that grace is what I need to receive and what I need to give, as generously as possible on both accounts.

I believe. I just forget sometimes. And His grace covers that too.

Praying you have a sense of His grace-covering today and that you believe He can when you feel you just can't.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Instagram has taught me

This whole thing surprised me.

Last January for my birthday, I got my first smartphone. I wanted an iPhone in part because many of my friends were on Instagram, the social network app that revolves around photos taken with your phone. And at the time, Instagram was only available for iPhones.

Well since then, I have not been as revolutionized by the social network itself (though it is my favorite) as much as what it has taught me about photographing life. Instagram has dispelled 5 myths, I've found, which for me equals a little bit of a personal historical revolution: I have a full year's worth of captured moments of my real, everyday life, most of which would never have been considered camera-worthy in my previous existence.

I'm in awe of how I feel about it, really. In other words, this is a post very close to my heart. My life has never been caught in glimpses like it has been in the past year. And to think it was wholly on accident. When I scroll back through the year, I'm humbled and grateful for every snap.

Myth #1: Cameras are for occasions.

But Instagram has taught me that every day is an occasion. Every breath, really. In fact, I've learned that the "ordinary" is really the most beautiful, the most real.

a. she loves reading. reads all the time. this is how i'll remember much of her childhood.
b. i remember the night he wouldn't go to sleep. i invited him to sit on the kitchen counter with me. he's wearing a tee shirt he made in preschool for the thanksgiving feast.
c. we always laugh at candyland. best game, though we lost the ice cream floats card.
d. her amazing, creative style is not even hindered by rainy days. those legs, those knees are in between little and big.

Myth #2: Everyone should be smiling.

But Instagram has taught me that part of life worth capturing is the melancholy, the strife, the grief. All of these emotions are just as beautiful and just as important to our histories as the happy, clean ones.

a. i remember the day we went to frozen yogurt. she wasn't happy with me and i was trying to win her over by chatting and buying her something with sprinkles. this photo represents the blurry wall that often exists between us, and how i find her so beautiful and yet unreachable at times.
b. it was memorial day when we came home to find his turtle Rocky has passed away. this was the burial site.
c. i remember the day he cried after realizing that someday, though in the distant future, his sister would leave for college and he'd be left behind.
d. you'd think that in Hawaii, the grouchiness would stay away. but she felt better hiding behind her daddy's hat.

Myth #3: I'm always the photographer, never the subject.

But Instagram has taught me that capturing my own many moods and moments is a historical account that I want and love. It's like a visual journal, really, chronicling my days. In our regular camera history, I'm in about 0.001% of the photos.

a. we were at a campground with friends, everyone playing in a dry ravine until dusk. i was playing with the sun and my new phone.
b. i was at a cafe with shauna, trying the no-heat-curls, which became my favorite hair trick.
c. i was at the local petting zoo having a great day with my children.
d. i got this souvenir in the airport as we were about to fly home, hearts full from a great family vacation.

Myth #4: You take pictures when you're away from home.

But Instagram has taught me that seemingly ordinary shots in the house are extra valuable because our home is where we live.

a. one day i'll miss the squashed cushions and tiny toes.
b. he drew hairs on his chest with a marker. enough said.
c. she made a campout under the kitchen table to listen to daddy play guitar before bedtime.
d. snuggly moments with my littles are a priceless part of my days.

Myth #5: You take pictures when you are in a place of interest.

But Instagram has taught me that a place of MY interest is in my car. Though it's my second home, I can't recall ever in my life taking a photo with a real camera in my car. And now, I can't believe how many I have snapped. Again, it is where we live. My car time with my kids is precious and short. It is worth remembering.

a. she snapped one of me on the drive to school.
b. i do a lot of good thinking in this seat.
c. my man likes to check on the surf now and then.
d. the makeup mirror is my friend.
e. these two right after pick up. i'm so happy to have them back after a day at school.
f. road trip to grammy's house.
g. melancholy as usual.
h. moments when i get to mother their friends is a blessing.
i. let's not forget how much eating we do in the car. he loves tacos.

Not a single one of these photos in these five collages would have been captured had I not been using my phone camera, and most of the time, I used my phone camera for Instagram. Such a happy accident. I've never had a photographic legacy like this before.

What about you? Have you changed the way you capture your life now that we have phone cameras with us pretty much always?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Infertility & adoption, a guest post

Friends, you're in for a treat.

Emmy is sharing her story of infertility and adoption here today. And not only is her story vulnerable and poignant, it has inspired her to reach out to women who have similar stories. Be sure you read to the end, because Emmy has coordinated a one-day event full of awesome speakers and loads of encouragement on these important topics. If you have not experienced infertility yourself, I bet you know someone who has. Perhaps consider sharing this post via email or Facebook, particularly if you live in the Southern California area. A friend may feel uplifted by Emmy's story and may want to attend the conference. Let's help spread the word in the name of supporting our sisters and friends struggling through infertility. Here's her beautiful story. 

I'm Emmy, I'm 35, and I'm infertile.

Wait, let me back up.  I'm Emmy.  Leslie has been so sweet to allow me to invade her space for the day.  I own Much Ado About You {where I used to sell printed day planners, and now I just sell printables}, I occasionally blog {Confessions of a Paper Freak}, and I incessantly Instagram {@itsjustemmy}.  I am married to my high school sweetheart and as of this year we have been together for more than half our lives.

Almost 11 years ago I got pregnant for the first time.  Nathan and I were so excited, and immediately started planning that child's future.  We were thinking of names... wondering if it would be a boy or a girl... hoping its due date of December 26th would not mean we were going to have a Christmas baby.

But just a few days later I started bleeding heavily, and knew in an instant that that baby was gone.

We had only just begun trying to get pregnant, but I had so many friends experiencing infertility and I begged God to spare us from that roller coaster.

Our doctor told us that since we were so early in the pregnancy I would not need a D & C, and that technically I could get pregnant as soon as my next cycle.

Which I did.

That pregnancy was such a relief, and I vividly remember thanking God that I was never going to have to walk that long and painful road of infertility.

A year after Beau was born we decided to start trying for a second baby.  We wanted four, so we thought we'd better get going!

God had different plans for our family. 

The next six years were spent going from one doctor's appointment to the next... from one surgery to the next... all in an effort to figure out why my young and seemingly healthy body was not working.

I have Endometriosis, a condition that basically destroys your body from the inside out.  During my final surgery my doctor made the painful decision to remove both of my non-functioning fallopian tubes, hoping it would increase the chance of my third and final IVF {invitro-fertilization} treatment being successful.

The next month we had our final IVF procedure.  It failed.  We were done.

We were physically {well mostly me on that one}, emotionally, and financially spent.  The chance of a natural pregnancy was eliminated with the removal of my tubes.  I was officially STERILE.  It is still strange to say those words.  I am a woman that cannot do what I was created to do... bear children.  That is a very strange reality to be faced with.

I spent seven dark years in the thick of my infertility {I say "my" infertility because the issues were mine... with another woman my husband could have had more children... more salt in the wounds}.  For some of those years Nathan and I were not on the same page.  He didn't understand my desperation for a child when I already was a mom.  Those years I struggled with a deep loneliness that I had never known.  It is so hard to explain what infertility feels like to someone that has never experienced it, but the bottom line is... IT SUCKS.

However, God also used those seven years to challenge my character and bring me to a place of total trust and reliance on His plan for my life.  I came to a point where I had to say, "God, I love you and I trust you, and I know that {while very different from mine} Your plan is the best plan for my life.  So even if I never have another baby I will praise you and be thankful for whatever it is that you call me to do."

And I really was at peace.  Without tubes I no longer had to live in two week cycles, wondering if each late period was the one.  I had an incredible eight year old that was the joy of my life, a loving, supportive husband, a thriving business... life was good.

Now since I have already babbled on for quite some time {and probably lost most of you} I will leave this next part of the story short and sweet {if you would like to read the whole story, you can find it here}.  Through miraculous circumstances, in March of 2011 we brought home the most beautiful baby girl that looks nothing like us.

And in the instant that I met her, I understood every 'no' that God had placed in my path. 

If you are in a season of not understanding the circumstances of your life, please be encouraged that someday you may understand and even appreciate the painful path that you are walking. 

Since experiencing infertility and adoption I have a heart for encouraging hurting women.  Several months ago I felt a calling on my life to do something to help other women that are experiencing similar trials, and the Choose Joy event was born.

Choose Joy is a one-day conference in Southern California for women and couples that are experiencing infertility and/or desire to grow their families through adoption.  I have somehow convinced several other women from all over the country to come and be a part of this event.  We have speakers on topics such as "God's Heart for the Hurting; Waiting Hurts, Waiting Perfects", "Having a Heart of Hope: Overcoming the Hurt of Infertility", "The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly of International Adoption", and much, much more.  My desire is for this to be a day of connection and community, and for women to open their minds to the plan that God has for their family.     

The event will include a luncheon and a dessert, and at the end we will be raffling off a cash prize to help someone grow their family.

Tickets are on sale for $30 through the 25th of January. {After that the price goes up to $40, so don't delay!}  Please visit the website for all the details on the location and schedule, bios on each speaker, and to register for the event. 

If you aren't experiencing infertility, statistics say that someone you know is.  Please pass this website on to your friends or family that could use some support. 

Thanks for reading my story.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Instagram week in review {& a winner!}

Here are a few highs and lows of our week past...

This explains itself. Commence weeping in the car.

Finally took these friends down and began to de-Christmas. Don't worry guys, it's only 11 more months until we see each other again.

Here is a tragic tale in three parts.
Part 1. My son enjoys our tree swing in the front yard.
Part 2. Some meanie cuts down our tree swing the day after the above picture was taken with no warning, no note, no reason.

Part 3. My son hides in his teepee and cries his eyes out.

Despite that "pit" of our week, my husband is a bright spot.
On a weekday, we had a breakfast date at noon, and then hit the shooting range together. (I have some surprises in me, people.)  New opportunities in our lives are unfolding around us. God has good plans for us, this I know. I'll share them when we He shares them with us, promise. 
And as for the winner of the Katygirl Designs giveaway,
it was comment #61, "grace."

Email me, Grace, and I'll connect you with Katy, or you can contact her directly. I know you follow her blog too. :)

Next week, my cute guy above turns the big 4-0. I can't wait to update you on other big news in his life, and tell you about an exciting giveaway I am going to do in honor of him. So stay tuned, party people.

Have a great rest of the weekend.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A note on sharing the hard stuff

Today the two Bible studies I'm in reconvened after a holiday break. On Wednesday mornings, as most of you know, I lead the 101 Wednesdays group (see sidebar for more info) for new believers in my community. Then on Wednesday nights, while my kids are at Awanas, my husband and I attend a small group at our church. In the span of the few weeks that we did not meet together, so much had happened in everyone's lives.

One announced a new marriage, while another announced a marriage finally giving way. At least three people asked for prayer for loved ones with deeply rooted addictions. I learned of friends dealing with infidelity. And one dear woman we know who had headaches for two weeks learned she has advanced brain cancer. Her son circulated a statement from her on Facebook.

I have to admit I was a bit floored by her words. Read this excerpt from her letter:

As God brings me to your mind, please be at once reminded that the quill of God's pen is writing my life, and my passion is to give Him full reign and gain all glory for what lies ahead. This is not the time to scream angrily at heaven or raise a fist at God with "How could You?? Rather, as I have is again my stalwart source of sustaining strength to rely on my Lord, and I beg you to join me in gripping the Master's sovereign, capable Hand which is endured with power and outstretched to me. You too will see that supernaturally God can grant His abiding peace, which to the world seems impossible and makes absolutely no sense. None of us are exempt from trial and tribulation, in fact it is God's way of grooming us to trust, and that, friends, is survival on this fallen earth. 

What? Because I sort of thought "survival" meant having a healthy body and living a really long time. And in an emotional sense, "survival" means getting through the day with a bit of happiness left in my heart, a recorded episode of Parenthood, and a leftover cupcake.

No, says this woman, who was recently widowed, has inoperable brain cancer and is in her 60's: "survival" means anchoring yourself to God in a kind of trust that He develops through trials and testing, no matter how sick your body feels or how ugly circumstances get. The irony in her definition of survival despite her condition leaves me humbled and awestruck.  

Are you there yet? Would you be rolling those kinds of words off your tongue were you in her shoes? Me neither. And as much as I desire to have that kind of trust flow out of me like it does this friend, I know hers was formed through sorrow, through radical pain, and through God PROVING Himself faithful when things looked really scary. 

For the rest of us who aren't going through the really hard stuff right now, well, we need those of you who are to share. We need your testimonies to remind us how faithful a God we have. We need to be floored by your words of faith. One of the most spiritually dangerous places to be is simply comfortable. When all is going smoothly, we tend to forget how awesome, how powerful, and how loving our God is. We start to think we've got things all figured out, and that somehow, our cleverness has earned us the comfort we have.

Tonight at Bible Study, someone in a more comfy place in life thanked someone who is not for sharing his pain and confusion. He said that getting a glimpse of the hard stuff reminds us of the immediacy of our faith. I loved that phrase, and I can relate. I know what it's like to cry out and long for a God who does not delay in meeting me. Our needs are urgent to God, and His presence is immediate. I have to confess I've been taking that for granted lately because I'm not in that rough season at the moment. I forget how much I need Him when things are going well.

Trials, however, put us in a desperate position. They are meant to expose our deep thirst for something bigger than ourselves, a God who is in control and whose character is rooted in love. And when a believer shares her story about God powerfully showing up in the midst of a storm, we are all encouraged, all pointed to the Savior. And we are all reminded where to go and what to do when (not if) skies start to get cloudy in our own lives.

So this is my long-winded way of saying, "Share your stories." I know, it's bossy. If it seems too great a call, start asking God how you might begin to testify to His work in your life. It doesn't have to be on your blog or on Facebook. It could simply be taking a conversation one step further with one other person. Just tell it, any piece. Someone comfortable needs to be reminded of who our God is and how immediately He can help.

Because her storm - or mine - could start tomorrow.


Monday, January 07, 2013

My birthday, surprises, & a Katygirl giveaway

Saturday was my birthday. I'm sorta big on birthdays, and that's totally to my parents' credit. I grew up in a family that loved celebrating one another. I have many, many fun memories from the parties we had together. I only remember one birthday party that I didn't love. I think it was my 10th or 11th. My parents packed my friends and I all up in a car and went for a drive; the destination was a surprise. Well, I don't do well with surprises, and now that I think about it, this incident may be why.

The anticipation killed me, not knowing where I was being taken. I grew from slightly anxious, to completely terrified that they were going to bring me somewhere where I would be embarrassed. I'm not sure why I thought this. It wasn't rational. That's just what I remember: I was so scared it would be something embarrassing. My parents were sorta over the top, so if they'd said, "Hey for your birthday, you're going to go up on stage in front of 5000 people and meet Madonna (it was the 80's, people)," I would have believed them. And I would've been terrified.

Well, guess what. We arrived at a big arena, and went to a Disney on Ice show. Zero percent embarrassing. 100% fun. Except all I remember was hating how I felt leading up to that party. The fear left a much more lasting impression on my memory than the actual party did. So yeah, don't throw me a surprise party, ever, kay?

This weekend, I turned 38. And in that span of time from age 11 till now, I've grown some, and I do a little better with surprises. Especially if they're God's. He is the one guy I really trust to surprise me with things that are exclusively for my good. Throughout my youth and my 20's, I claimed Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope."

I've learned He has good plans. And I've learned I don't have to know about them in advance.

This year, I'm sure, He will surprise me with His plans. And though it may be a new year, a new season, my God stays the same. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Knowing He may surprise me doesn't leave me feeling fearful or anxious. Well, sometimes it does, when I'm not in step with Him. When I've looked away from His face, and turned my attention to give ear to those fears. But when my eyes are fixed on Him, instead of anticipating the next step in fear or anxiety, I can look forward to my days with excitement and hope.

I bought this print from my beloved blog friend Katy for a friend for Christmas. When it arrived and I held it in my hands, I knew it was for me too. My heart resonated with this message deep down.

I love it so much.

And so to celebrate my birthday, Katy has offered to give away a copy to one of you. Isn't she the best?

{If you're the winner and you'd like one of her other prints instead, that's okay too.}

Here's another reason to jump for joy. Today, she's releasing a whole bunch of new designs in her shop. Some of them are killing me they're so great. They speak to my heart, and they speak truth so clearly, so beautifully. Please visit her shop and check them out. And here's fair warning that you may not be able to pass up the note cards.

If you want to be entered in the giveaway, just leave a comment. You can get an extra entry for doing any of these things; just leave an additional comment for each:

I will be choosing a WINNER on Thursday night and announcing it on Friday.

And wait. Before you click away, just tuck this truth in your heart today:

All of your life, in every season, He is still God. He has good plans for you this year. You can trust Him.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013


For those of you who don't know, at the start of a new year, many bloggers like to choose a single word that will stand as a goal or anthem for the coming year. I've played along for the past couple, each time asking the Lord to give me a word that I would need, that would help my focus throughout that year.

In 2011, He gave me "Look," because apparently my eyes were closed to His work in my life and in those around me. It was a perfect word, and truly helped me see a bigger picture when challenges came.

In 2012, God gave me "Hope," because He knew I'd need that word, over and again (even though a lot of times, I'd read the word back to Him with a furrowed brow and a question mark at the end.)

This year, well, today, which is January 1, 2013, He gave me a new word. And He gave it to me through this.

I took this photo today with my phone. It was cold; I left my sweater in the car and was near to shivering. But kids, you know how beautifully wild they are. They had to go in, had to partake in the wildness of the sea and I know better now not to prohibit them, but instead to let the natural consequences of discomfort later teach a lesson if one needs to be taught at all.

My daughter, the hot-blooded fish that she is gets pulled to water magnetically. It's just in her, so I didn't bat an eye as she soaked her jeans well up past her knees. They both literally frolicked in the whitewater like ponies on a spring day.

A while later, after a stroll, the kids, my husband, and I perched on a rock overlooking the water dotted black with surfers. We had a little family meeting. We talked about the coming year and the potential adventures on which the Lord might have us embark. "No matter what," my husband promised, "we'd be together."

This afternoon, I stared at this photo on my phone. And then I heard, or rather saw, the word again: together.

I like to tumble thoughts over in my head again and again until I'm familiar with their shape and I've pressed through each corner. "Together" was not only to mean the four of us in my family. "Together" was God and I. Hand in hand. Staring at the tumult, the chilling tide and threatening clouds of tomorrow. "Together" was peaceful and strong despite stinging discomfort.

Tonight, the thoughts tumbled still, and I searched the Bible for a phrase in my head until I landed on this verse.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 16:8

And what else is there to say?

The waves of 2013 will come, and perhaps I'll feel alone. Perhaps God knows that. And so, on Day 1, He speaks to me his friendship, his unfailing companionship. He says, "No, no. You will not be alone, my daughter. We will be together."

Together, my family and I will follow the Lord and say Yes to life's adventures.

And together, God and I will stand peaceful and strong.

Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Happy New Year.

{and you have a special word for the year?}