Monday, February 2, 2015

the beauty of winter.

The month of January has come and gone in a flurry of snow days and sick days. 
Somehow what seems like the longest month of the year has already come and gone and February is upon us. January always proves challenging as we come off the holiday excitement and the freshness of the new year and then find sick days and snow delays and early dismissals and canceled school that tempts me to forgot all my resolutions and fresh hope and bury myself under a pile of blankets on the couch.

This January I have been trying to give myself more grace and receive the rest that comes with winter. I have been allowing myself to snuggle on the couch in the afternoon and read or even sleep. I am giving myself permission to write or paint or redecorate or anything else that I enjoy. Giving space for things that bring me life has been huge in fighting off the winter blahs that usually settles in about this time of year. Maybe that seems silly or basic to some but for me it has been huge.

I recently read something by one of my favorite musicians/artists, Melissa Helser, about winter...

"Savor the clarity that the winter brings. In her bareness she shows you all her secrets and in the spring she will clothe herself again--covering up her deep beauty."

I think the clarity of winter is in the natural and spiritual. Looking out my window across the white covered world of fields and meadows I can see fences, and neighboring farms and nearby developments that are completely hidden when everything is lush and green. The barrenness of the trees allows me to see things I couldn't see before.

The same is true in life. The quiet slower pace in winter when I allow it can bring new life and perspective and clarity. It shows me things I couldn't see in busier paced seasons. 

I want to rest in the beauty of winter.





So I know that in writing this I will be challenged on these very words. In a few minutes my kids will be scurrying in the door from an early dismissal and the "quiet and the beauty of winter" that I spoke of so highly will be threatened! But it is in these times together in our small house where beautiful and ugly moments mix that we grow and learn. I am learning a lot about parenting right now, some of the lessons coming through humbling moments where I have messed up and need to apologize and find better ways to communicate. I know some of the parenting moments come from the reality of spending more time together in a little house with high energy levels and winter boredom but I pray that some of the lessons would be clarity that would stay with me for the seasons to come.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

the vanity.



a story.



As a little girl I had a vanity with a bench in my room.  I remember being very young sitting on the bench screaming as my mom combed out my long straight brown hair (much like another little girl I know). I remember looking into the mirror wondering what I would look like when I was grown up. My parents got the vanity when we lived in Nebraska and it went with me through several different moves. As I got older we painted it pink and covered over the strawberry fabric on the seat for a more grown up looking floral. I remember countless hours playing "hairdresser" in my room with my two younger sisters. As the  bossy older sister I was always the hair dresser and they my clients. I combed, curled, braided and primped for hours. As a middle school teenager I can remember sitting on the bench curling my bangs and trying to scrunch and hair spray them into place just so. Exclamation perfume, hairspray and my little jewelry box collection sat on the vanity's top.

Just recently I was reminded of this vanity when a friend of mine posted a picture on instagram of her childhood vanity that she refinished. "I wonder what ever happened to my vanity?" I wondered to myself. I had last seen it when I moved out of the house for college. For some reason it had never made the move with me.

Over Christmas break I got a phone call from my mom. 
"You will never believe this" she said excitedly on the other end. A friend of mom's shares her love for thrift stores and bargains and they have had several yard sales together. Her friend had brought over a small vanity she had recently purchased at Salvation Army to show my mom. My mom stood in amazement as she pulled out of her van... my childhood vanity. 

My parents had gotten rid of it when they moved to the farm 15 years ago. And now here it was. The vanity had been painted over white but at places you can see the old layer of pink showing through. Careful inspection of the bench shows the same strawberry fabric underneath.
My mom was calling to see if I wanted it.

I did.


We rearranged the girls room to make home for the vanity. The girls right away went to work putting it to use doing each others hair. 

It is a small thing but it was one of those little reminders of God's love coming to me in the form of a childhood vanity. He works in crazy ways to show us He cares about little details...memories... things that are important to us. I pray that this vanity would provide fun for the girls and that as they look into the same mirror that I did as a girl, they would know they are beautiful and loved. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

the unseen blessing

Last night as I was tucking the girls into bed Sarah leans over to me and tells me she was reading my little goal book. This is a small journal that a few years ago I started to write some life long dreams in and where Mark and I record our new years goals. It had been left sitting on the counter. 

" I was reading your book. Well, in it you said you wanted to work on controlling your temper and I think you need to work on that. And actually Daddy too."
She said it smugly, seemingly ready to start a fight.

I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. I smuggled a smile.

"You are right. That is something we will work on this year. Actually..." I said, "I think that is something everyone in our family could work on.

"Actually... you are right" she said, "Good night."

It had been somewhat of a doozy of a day well, actually a week. Sickness had a paid another visit to our home in the form of a violent stomach virus. All seven of us got it to some degree, some worse than others and the sickness in our house lasted a week. By the end we were all feeling a bit stir crazy... and irritated with one another.
 I don't remember a time where I have felt so sick. I didn't make it out of my bed in two days except to use the bathroom which I did frequently. Mark took care of me and the kids for those two days and then succumbed to the sickness himself. He climbed into bed with a fever just as my chills and aches diminished.
 It was a rough way to end Christmas vacation.

Today was back to school and everyone is healthy again. I could feel a little bit of anxiousness creeping in due to the fact that Christmas break is over. In some ways I am so ready to have some regular routine but there was so much anticipation and excitement in December and now it is is just regular life. But I think so much of it lies in how I see it.

If there was a any blessing in the sickness it was the gift of perspective. When I could finally eat and drink normally four days later it was almost like getting a new lease on life. My health and my body is something I so much take for granted. When I was lying in bed I just wanted normal life...to eat, drink, cook dinner, play with the kids, run errands...uh get out of bed.

 I need to remember that.
The beautiful gift of the normal everyday life.



Friday, December 19, 2014

lessons from a two year old.

I watched her this morning as she climbed onto the chest to look in the mirror.

"Hi Eden" she said to her reflection. She smiled and waved . She flipped her hair and was satisfied with what she saw. She laughed and was pleased with her beauty.

I watched her and it struck me how she has not yet learned to compare herself to others around her and those she sees on social media. She does not scrunch up her nose at her reflection and the flaws she believes are there. She does not pinch and squeeze body parts wishing them to be smaller or bigger or more something or other. She does not scrutinize the reflection staring back at her.

She simply looks in the mirror and smiles.
I can learn a lot from watching her.

just call me "ma"

The other morning I was driving around running errands with Hope and Eden and we got to talking about what we want for Christmas. Hope recited her list and then turned to me with excitement and exclaimed, "I know what you want for Christmas Mommy!!"
"Oh really, What?"
"A rocking chair!" She answered. "So you can sit by the fire and sew like they did in the olden days!"

I laughed out loud. I don't even know how to sew... (although i did get a sewing machine for my birthday and am learning!) and the thought of me sitting in the rocker sewing just struck me funny!

I love Hope and her humor. 

Just call me "ma"...


Friday, December 12, 2014

laugh or break?



So I hardly ever clean the bathroom, like really clean it and give the shower and floors a good scrub. Sure wiping toothpaste off the bathroom mirror and pee off the seats is a daily occurrence and I occasionally give the toilet a swish with the wand but that's about it. So it had been a couple months since I really gave it a good cleaning. So Wednesday I scrubbed both bathrooms and did some other cleaning around the house.
And like one of the those unspoken laws of motherhood, 24 hours later two bathroom floors puked on and a kitchen floor covered in throw up. Two beds with vomit. A daddy and three kids sick. And did I mention I am also watching an extra kid? And it is almost laughable. 

I just tucked everyone in and showered off the lingering smell of vomit. I was feeling really grumpy this evening taking care of everybody and cleaning up messes and was thinking "God don't let anyone else throw up" and I turn around and Hope throws up at my feet.  Kids come running into the kitchen and all I could think of was the scene from Cheaper by the Dozen where the kid slips in throw up. It's not really funny at all. But it is so ridiculous that it is almost comical.
*******
Fast forward to this morning and I am having trouble seeing any humor in all this sickness.
 I.am.tired. 
Mark is lying in bed sick and I am running around doing the umpteenth load of laundry and being bedside nurse, a role I don't always do graciously. But in the midst of going through the motions, getting another glass of sprite, cleaning up a diaper of diarrhea and patting another back I felt God whisper " you are doing it". 
This is where the rubber meets the road. There is a call to rise to the task at hand. And even though I feel tired and a bit grumpy... I am doing better than I think

And if I can keep this perspective than half the battle is already won.

"I truly believe that one of the greatest skills a mother can have is a sense of humor. Laughter heals. A broken spirit makes things worse. There are lots of times in the life of a mother when these could easily be your two choices---laugh or break. 
You know the day that you wash all the bedding, even the comforters?
Probably causing a traffic jam of other loads that needed to go through? You know what will happen, right? Almost guaranteed puke in the middle of the night, or at least an accident, possibly a bloody nose. If you wash it, it will be the victim of some kind of catastrophe. What is this kind of thing other than funny? It is slapstick level comedy with the clean sheets playing the role of the pane of glass. Can you laugh? Or do you let it dry you out just a little bit more?"

-Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst








Tuesday, December 9, 2014

this is my story. this is my song.

This weekend we got a way with our church family for a couple days of fellowship, worship and perspective. This annual weekend is always one of the highlights of my year and this year proved no different. I love how on these weekends away God has a way of putting his finger on stuff in our lives that when we are in our everyday lives we are too close to see. But in these settings he is free to dust things off and awaken things in our hearts forgotten in the business of ordinary day to day life.
The whole theme of the weekend was about getting rid of shame and living a good story. 

We need to let go of shame in order to see clearly the story we are telling. 


Friday night as I stood in worship my heart felt free and alive. I was just Heather. Not a wife or a mom or anything else and it felt.so.good. In this season of life God is showing me more and more of who I am. At times I almost feel as if I have been under water for years and just now coming up for air and learning to swim. 
I can breathe. I feel free and alive.

I can be hard on myself and can look back and feel like I lost so much of myself in those early years of birthing babies. Marriage and motherhood are two of the greatest things that ever happened to me. But at times I have felt like I was in an identity crisis not really knowing who I am anymore because I was constatnly changing.  But God is showing me that surrender was necessary and part of the process. 

There was things I needed to let go of to become more of who I was called to be.

 Motherhood is a life changing procces that involves a lot of surrender. Surrendering our bodies, our lives and our dreams is part of the process. The surrender can be hard and painful at times and you feel as if you are lost never to be found again. But now in this season parts of my heart are slowing coming back...and I am better for the things I have walked trhough and learned along the way. 
But when I allow shame to cloud my story I am not seeing the beauty of the process and celebrating how far I have come. 

This weekend God touched deep places of my heart and pulled away a shadow of shame that has lingered over the past. It was as if I was looking back with foggy glasses and he tenderly came and wiped them off so I could see more clearly. I wept and He whispered his truth over my heart and I felt clean and whole. 

That is the Father's heart for us. 

And when I talk about shame I am not talking about huge regrets but just an overarching feeling that I often had about parts of our story. It was like a shadow. It wasn't real.  I read a quote today by Brene Brown that sums it up perfectly, "Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking." Bulls eye. I am a recovering perfectionist and have super high expecations for myself. It is learning proccess to be graceful and loving with myself.


And coming home I could start to see things differently. Almost as if I was watching a slideshow of my life. God was showing me the story we are writing and it is good. And when shame is removed the hard parts, the messy parts and parts that were unpleasant just become part of the what makes it a good story. Because all good stories have conflict and tension and some battle to overcome. 




I am celebrating how far I have come. And looking forward with expectation for the things yet to come. 
I am filled with a thankful heart for the journey we are on and the story we are telling.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

love grows best...

I have written about how marriage is sanctifying. And I have found this this to be true.

But even more so in my life, mothering has been sanctifying or revealing or frustrating however you want to word it. Mothering has a way of showing your true colors...some prettier than others.



There are seasons of mothering just as there is summer, winter, spring and fall. Summer break and winter always seem to be hard mothering seasons for me. Summer because everyone is getting reacquainted with each other after the school year and winter because we are all cooped up in the house together.

With the first cold week of winter blowing its cool air this week I have started to feel that familiar claustrophobic feeling of the walls closing in. We have spent more time indoors and our small house just started feeling even smaller. I was recognizing this week my need to get perspective now since winter hasn't even officially began yet. I mean we haven't even had a snow day...



One of the challenges is not just dealing with the kids and their squabbles but my own issues that arise in the process! They are fighting and yelling and I am ball of stress and it feels like we are all just one big hot mess. Today was a perfect example. It wasn't even nine in the morning on a Saturday and I had already broke up five fights and blew my top several times. I could feel the stress creeping in...
I muttered to myself  "why does someone who hates conflict have to spend their whole day doing conflict resolution?". And I am not even a morning person! It just doesn't seem right.

But mothering is sanctifying and God knows my weaknesses and buttons and stress points and still gave me these five with their unique strong personalities because He thought I was capable for the job. And if there is an area that needs a little work He is going to use these little people to work it out in me. Some days it feels exhausting and defeating. And other days I can see the beauty and the work in progress. Today was the former but I am straining to see the latter.


I am recognizing as they get older how much I need to let go of control.
 Give boundaries...and freedom. 
Let them make choices. 

Love, love, love.




And I know we are making progress. 
Some days it feels like baby steps.
 But right now I am choosing to receive grace, hold tight to God and cling to His perspective because I know there is a much bigger picture than what I can currently see. 

Give me eyes to see


Love grows best in little houses, 
with fewer walls to separate.
Where you eat and sleep so close together
you can't help but communicate.
And if we had more room between us,
think of all we'd miss.
Love grows best in houses just like this.






Friday, October 31, 2014

the next chapters.

The End.


Just kidding.

Thirty one days is over but really our story is just beginning in some ways. There is still so much more to unfold. Some days I can get discouraged about dreams on our hearts that are still sitting there. But was reminded again about how God loves a good story. It is exciting to see what chapters are still being written.



I am glad to walk through this life with this man. My husband, my adventure partner, my dreamer, my encourager... my best friend.



I leave you with lyrics from a cheesy country song. What I love is the last line...living our love song. I pray we could continue to chase our dreams and our love's still growing strong till we are old and gray.


So many things have come
So many things have gone
One thing that's stayed the same
Is our love's still growing strong

Baby just look at us
All this time and we're still in love
Something like this just don't exisit
Between a backwoods boy and a fairy tale princess

People said it would never work out
But living our dreams has shattered all doubts
It feels good to prove them wrong
Just living our love song.

~Jason Michael Carroll


Thursday, October 30, 2014

the island.


We moved to New Bern knowing no one but our realtor. (Mark's brother and his family and a couple other families would eventually follow). It was a crazy step of faith. But it was also an exciting adventure.
My biggest concern with moving there was that Mark find a job. Moving down there we thought there was a possible job but things didn't pan out exactly as we hoped. There was a three month period were Mark was job hunting. It was stressful at times but looking back also a gift to for our family to spend a lot of time together.
One day when we were both feeling a bit discouraged and wondering what we were doing in life we decided to go to a local BBQ joint. We really didnt' have money to be spending to go out to eat but it felt like we all needed to get out of the house. It was late afternoon and we all got our BBQ sandwiches, fried chicken, sweet tea and hush puppies and sat down in a booth. This was real Southern cooking at its finest. As we were eating we noticed two African American women sitting at the table next to us smiling and looking our direction.
We started a conversation with them about the children and then about how we had just moved here. The one woman looked at Mark and said,
 "We have been sitting here since 1:30 and The Lord wouldn't let me leave. And now I know why. I am supposed to tell you, you are right where you are supposed to be. "

We lived in New Bern for six months and then moved 45 minutes away to Emerald Isle which is on a barrier island at the tip of the Southern Outer Banks. We lived 3/4 of a mile from the beach and right off of the sound. Mark found a job working as a manger at a restaurant called RuckerJohn's.

It was not all glamorous but looking back it was a very sweet season of life. 
It was a sabbatical. It was time of restoration and healing. It was a time to establish who we were as a family. Sometimes you don't know why you are doing something until after you have done it. Hindsight is always twenty twenty as the saying goes.
And looking back it really was a pivotal time for us a family and for our marriage. We really grew closer as a couple and spent a lot of family time together riding bikes, playing on the beach, and going for hikes. Also a perk of working at the restaurant was we got to eat there for free once a week which was always a highlight of our weeks.
I often think that everyone should experience a season like that in their marriage where they are away from family and friends and home because it really does push you closer to one another and gives you a different viewpoint.










Emerald Isle will always hold a sweet spot in our hearts for the year we spent there. Some days it kind of feels like a dream. But it was real and I am thankful we followed God on the adventure.
After  a year of living there we felt God drawing our hearts back home. We felt torn because we really loved North Carolina ( i mean you can't beat the weather and the landscape) but felt like He had something for us back in Lancaster. The adventure of following God would continue.