Wednesday, August 27, 2014

eleven.

Eleven years ago today he made me a mother. With his birth came a whole new world. It soon became obvious that I had a lot to learn. I vacillated between "Oh my word why didn't anyone tell me it would be this hard" to "Oh my word I never knew I could have this much love for someone". 
I still find myself at that place today. 


This summer I could feel that we are on the brink. We have dipped our big toe into the waters of the teenage years. We are in the preteen stage and many days this summer I found myself saying "Oh my word why didn't anyone tell me it would be this hard" and other days watching him build, create, make breakfast or love on his little sister would fill my heart to overflowing with love. 
Eleven years later I am still learning. In the midst of a heated moment this summer I reminded Moses that I have never had an eleven year old before. We are learning and figuring this out together. And we both need to give each other grace for the mistakes that we are going to make along the way. Even though there has been some freak out moments as I think about the new season we are entering into the greater part of me is excited to watch him blossom and grow into the young man that he is becoming.



I love you bud. 

Happy Birthday! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

new beginnings and a fresh start.




"There is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under heaven."

~Ecclesiastes 3:1


The smell of new sneakers. Sharpened pencils. Empty tablets of lined paper waiting to be filled. Unused crayons and bright colored scissors in clean pencil boxes. Fresh beginnings. 
And a brand new start.

As a kid I loved back to school. I was always sad that summer was over but I looked forward to being with my friends and learning new things. I loved back to school shopping and picking out my first day of school outfit, laying it out on the floor beside my bed. I loved organizing my back pack, putting everything just so, my anticipation mounting for all the new things ahead.

As a mom I am now watching my kids take part in these very things. Today was the first day of school for four of my children. Moses started 6th grade, Sarah 4th, Silas 2nd and Hope afternoon kindergarten. Four kids at the same school. Four excited, nervous, happy kids ready for a new adventure.
My emotions however felt all over the place. Every start to the school year means my children are getting one year older and each year it seems I am adding one more kid to the flock that is leaving the nest. Sure last week I was pulling out my hair calling Mark in utter frustration that the children were fighting, yelling, making messes, hurting each other, back talking (fill in the blank) but now I am a mess that they are gone and the house is quiet. Did we make the most of the summer? Did I seize the opportunities to connect with them? 



 The kids were all smiles and I was too as we took their first day of school photos in their brand new sneakers and filled backpacks. But as we waved good bye at the bus stop I broke down into tears. I felt guilty, sad, and relieved all at once. I was looking forward to having space to think my own thoughts again, to connect with the two little girls and excited for the three oldest to go off and experience new things. But I also felt guilty and plagued with doubts. As I unraveled my mess of emotions (with the help of my sister-in-law, mom and husband) I came to the conclusion that I am normal. Every mom goes through this range of emotions that sometimes feels like a roller coaster. 
It is a journey of letting go.

 I am recognizing how much pressure I put on myself to get it perfect but this mothering thing, it's a journey. There were days, hours, moments this summer that I loved being a mom and having my kids home. There were days, hours, moments where I screamed and shouted and wondered why in the world I have five kids.  
There were days we got to each others hearts in real connection and days we got on each other's nerves.
There were hours of quiet peaceful play and times I was counting down the hours to bedtime.
There were moments of laughter and moments of tears.

This is normal. This is motherhood. 
 But I pray as we say good bye to summer and welcome a new season they will remember the fun memories of summer, the imperfect moments that make us family. 
I pray they will know they are loved. 

 And maybe I don't get a new backpack and sneakers and sharpened pencils but it is a fresh start for me too. And beneath the tears is anticipation for this new season. I am looking forward to quiet afternoons to write, think, and breathe. I am excited to spend time with the two little girls especially Hope as this is her last year of being home in the mornings. I also look forward to getting back to the gym. And I am hoping that some space apart for everyone will bring the kids closer together.

 I feel anticipation for the new beginnings that come with the change of season.
 Here's to fresh starts...


So long summer. Hello school year! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Break Up

Our relationship started a little over two years ago when Mark surprised me with an iphone. I had always protested against such things but soon surprised myself by how much I liked having it. What I liked most was having a camera at my disposal at all times and the second thing I really enjoyed having was Instagram. I liked Instagram because it was a creative outlet for me as stay at home mom and also another way to document our lives. I would often scroll down through my feed reminding myself that the days are long but the years are short and the memories are sweet. Instagram was also a fun way to stay connected with friends and peer into other peoples lives. As a life long people watcher, Instagram feed my curiosity and love of hearing others stories. 

However over the last little while I have noticed a shift for me. I have found myself coming away from "catching up" on Istagram feeling restless. Subtly I will find myself comparing myself to the lives of those on those little squares. I also have noticed myself feeling more distracted which then makes me more irritable. I find myself feeling the need to check in throughout the day. I have felt like my brain has been on overload at times with all the information that is coming at me. I love the creativity and the photography aspect of instagram but I notice that if I post on instagram then I often do not blog. I saw someone write on their profile "instagram ate my blog" and it is true. If I Instagram it satisfies just enough of that itch to express myself but only just scratches the surface as far as photography and writing go.

All that to say,  I have felt at war at times recently with loving it yet also hating it. Over the weekend I felt like maybe me and instagram needed to take a break from each other. A break up, if you will. 
As I thought about saying good bye I got a little bit anxious. How will I keep in the loop? How will I stay connected with so and so? What if I miss a good yard sale or a baby being born or someone getting married? What if I miss something really important that only is posted on Instagram?!!

Silly? Maybe... but all very real thoughts running through my head. So I was back and forth all weekend on whether or not to delete instagram off my phone. The fact that it was even a battle should say something but I enjoy it and didn't want to do something just out of a religious heaviness.

Saturday afternoon I came across this quote,

"This summer put your phone away for a few days. Make some memories that no one knows about. Make some memories that are just yours."

okay that was loud.


And then yesterday in my email inbox came an article from Ann Voskamp, 
"How to Focus in an age of Distraction"...all about getting distracted by technology.

So after reading it I pulled the trigger and said good bye. I broke up with Instagram. Sorry Instagram...It's me, not you. I am thinking it is just a "we need our space for the summer" thing  but we shall see... :)

This morning I found myself going for that familiar icon on my phone only for it not to be there. It reminded me how much I need this break, this space to just breathe and be present.

I am hoping to learn to use a real camera as in not just on automatic, something that I haven't done because Mark takes all the pictures. I am wanting to write more on the blog. But mostly want to be less distracted. 

Here's to summer and making memories...








Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sing so everybody can hear...

I stood at the sink and looked up from the dishes. Out the window I could see her in the garden, pen and paper in hand writing down the stories in her head. Seeing her out there, sitting under the arch, pushed on something inside of me. It made me feel happy and free. I ran outside and snapped a picture.


As I walked back to the house I pondered why it had struck me so deeply. It dawned on me that she was reminding me of myself. Pictures of me propped up in a tree reading and writing came to mind. It brought back those carefree feelings of being a third grader. When I was in third grade I wanted to be either an artist or a writer, the same professions my daughter aspires to be. My parents even signed me up for a writing class when I was nine and I can still remember sitting at a desk in the dusty attic typing stories on the typewriter, imagining my name in print on my very own book. 

But time has a way of stealing some of those aspirations away. And seeing her there in the garden, young and free, reminded me of who I was called to be. She awakened longings in my heart. She made me want to climb a tree and write or create some art. She reminded me of the importance of doing those things that make my heart feel alive.

Days later I found this poem sitting on her desk, challenging me again to write and create. 
Thanks Sarah for being who you are!

Sing So Everybody Can Hear, by Sarah Buckwalter

What is that sound, so peaceful, quiet and soft.
Whatever that is, don't stop playing,
That's the sound of music.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

choose adventure.

"An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way."

~unknown


I woke up to the noise of pots and pans clanging from downstairs in the kitchen. I rolled over to see my husband laying beside me. It dawned on me then that it was mother's day and the kids were probably downstairs unattended making me breakfast. This could be interesting. Mark and I laid in bed talking for a few more minutes before I ventured downstairs to check on the progress. The menu was eggs, bacon and homemade donuts, a very ambitious menu to say the least. They were mixing up some gooey looking batter for the donuts, a recipe they had found online that not even I would tackle.  In that moment I had a choice. I could choose to freak out over a messy kitchen or embrace the chaos and the adventure of my children making me mother's day breakfast. We did end up of vetoing the donuts and Mark helped them finish the eggs and bacon but I was blessed with the breakfast they made me, mess and all.

As I was helping to clean up my mother's day feast we were talking about what we should do that day. The weather forecast was warm and sunny, a glorious day.  Out of the blue Mark suggested a spontaneous beach trip to Ocean City, New Jersey. My heart leaped at the idea. That would be fun. I love the beach! But then my practical mom mode kicked in and I started to calculate the amount of work, money and time it would cost me to do this day trip. The voices inside my head were at war with each other, the adventurous Heather versus the practical responsible mother. I was able to push past my head to my heart and choose adventure and had one of the best mother's day ever. It was seriously a great day with those that I love.

I am recognizing one of my biggest hurdles to choosing adventure is counting the cost. I too often stop and calculate how much work, how much money or how tiring something will be and then talk myself out of it. This is a joy stealer and an adventure killer. Yes, I am a mother of five and yes going anywhere requires a lot in this season but was the trip worth the mounds of sandy towels and bathing suits and clean up I had to do the next day? I would say yes! It was worth it for the look on Eden's face of pure delight as she ate an icecream cone on the boardwalk. It was worth it watching the boys dig up and count thirty sand crabs and seeing Sarah and Hope come to life in the ocean (the very frigid and cold ocean). It was worth it to drive three hours with the man I love listening to music, holding hands and talking about life. It was worth it to put my feet in the sand, sit overlooking the vast ocean and inhale deep breathes. It was worth the time, the energy and the money. It was worth it for the pictures and memories and moments spent together.




Not counting the cost is something I want to get better at because adventure is not just a spontaneous beach trip. I tend to think of adventure as traveling or doing something crazy. But in this season of life adventure might look different than traveling the world. Adventure might be letting the kids try that hard sounding donut recipe, embracing the mess and chaos in the kitchen (this is harder than it sounds). Adventure is going to that class at the gym that pushes me out of my comfort zone every.single.time and still going back because the feeling at the end is awesome (minus the couple of times I cried).  Adventure is letting the kids build a fort in the backyard however hill billy it might look. Adventure is getting on the back of the motorcycle again even though I am scared to death. Adventure is striking up that conversation with a stranger at the gym. Adventure is doing something new not knowing if I am going to fail or not.



I want more adventure in my life. 

Writing this is scary because I know I will be challenged on it. That's the way it goes. 
Saying yes to the adventure will be saying yes to the mess and chaos and letting go of what it will cost me (my time, my pride, my money, my ideals). But I know adventure is worth it. 

"Life is either a daring adventure of nothing at all."
~Helen Keller

"Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you"
~unknown

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnt' do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
 Explore. Dream. Discover." 
~Mark Twain




Monday, May 5, 2014

best sisters.


these two. they make my heart happy. i love watching them be sisters and friends or as hopey calls them "best sisters forever".




"A sister is a forever friend".

the day i confronted my fear.

When the Lord puts his finger on something in my life it starts surfacing everywhere...on the radio, in a book, through my children and even on a date night.
Mark and I had planned a much needed date night last Saturday. I was looking forward to getting a break from the children and spending some alone time with my man. So when he got out his motorcycle Saturday morning and started cleaning it I was confused. The truth is I have posed smiling on the bike for a photo shoot and have ridden once around the block in the almost six years he has owned it. I have always had some good excuse while I could not ride, like "I'm pregnant" or "we don't have a sitter" but truth be told I was terrified of the thing.
So when Mark told me that he wanted to go for a ride as part of a date I did what any one who has been wrestling with fear does. Recognize it as God's method of dealing with fear in my life? No! I threw a temper tantrum that would have made a two year old jealous. 
"I am not riding and you cannot make me" foot stomp and tears to emphasize my point.
Mark gently reminded me that my children were watching me.

I didn't care. I knew I was being irrational and I knew God had been confronting fear at every turn. I even wanted to ride just get over my fear but yet it felt easier to just watch from the sidelines rather than get on the bike and ride.
After some time to think it over and some encouragement from my friend Amber whose husband also has a triumph motorcycle and was going to ride with us, I decided to go for it.

As the time for our ride got closer I had butterflies in my stomach as if I was getting ready to go on a first date! We met up with Tyler and Amber and set off for a ride through the country. When I let go of the fear of dying and falling right off the back of the bike I started to relax a little and enjoy the view. I was still afraid of turning my head too far for fear of throwing something off but it was a different way of looking at the landscape than I was accustomed to and I was on an adventure outside of my comfort zone. It was strangely freeing.

There were times on the ride like when we we briefly rode on the highway and riding home in the dark where I literally needed to confront my fears out loud by screaming "Jesus" and singing "you make me brave"loudly into my helmet to drown out the clatter of my thoughts. But as I stopped focusing on the fear I could actually enjoy the ride I was on. (I am sure there is a ton of parallels to life in that sentence).

I did it and I am proud of myself. I confronted my fear. I tried something new. And I may even ride again. 


"You make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore into the waves. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

-Bethel Music
"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."
-John Wayne

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ephraim and Sarah. A story of Redemption.

Sometimes out of the blue a thought, a song, a story will jump out of nowhere and remind me. Remind me of my journey. My journey is one of so much life and yet mingled in the chaos of raising five children there is the reality of five more children waiting for me in heaven.

The other morning I was rushing around the kitchen doing the "get dressed- eat your breakfast-do your homework-get your shoes on-stop fighting with your sister now" routine. I was combing Hope's hair and telling some one else to stop dawdling and all of sudden I started thinking of them. The five babies in heaven. My thoughts were not left to themselves for long before they were interrupted by another child needing something in the madness of the morning rush out the door.

That morning I was headed to the gym after I got the kids on the bus and as I was driving I got a text from my sister-in-law saying I needed to listen to a broadcast that morning on miscarriage.
 "That's weird", I thought to myself, "I was just thinking about them this morning".
Later that afternoon on my way to get my haircut I had a few minutes of silence and alone time and I listened to the broadcast on my phone. All of a sudden I am crying. God was continuing to touch and heal parts of my heart.

The reality is I am so incredibly blessed by the five children I have and my cup feels full and running over. Yet sometimes there is still an ache. I don't dwell on it long but sometimes it is there. And maybe there will always be a little ache for those babies in heaven. And that's okay. 

But I am seeing more and more that in the midst of the losses is woven incredible testimonies of God's faithfulness, compassion and caring love for us.  It's in those times He seemed to be scooping us up and carrying us when we didn't  think we had the strength. His voice is often loudest in those times. And looking back I can see Him there.

Lately I have been feeling like part of my healing is in writing out the stories of the babies in heavens and in doing so seeing God's fingerprints and the stories of redemption He is weaving.

Here is one of those stories.

The year was 2004 and we were just shy of two years of marriage. It had been whirlwind of a two years and we had just celebrated our firstborns first birthday. We were returning home from a week at the beach with Mark's family and the last day or so there I had not been feeling good. "Could I be pregnant?" I remember asking Mark as we drove the turnpike home from the beach. I took a test that night when we got home and much to our surprise I was pregnant! We made the announcement on our second anniversary on Sept 14th, calling our families to say "two years of marriage and two kids". We were very excited despite being surprised by the pregnancy! We had high hopes for this little family that we were growing!
 On October 5th I was about 12-13 weeks along and the first trimester had been rough, a lot more sickness than my pregnancy with Moses. We were leading a small group at the time and that night we asked them to pray over me and the baby. As we prayed many in the group began to get prophetic words about the baby. They began to pray out encouraging words calling forth the destiny of this little one growing inside of me. One of girls prayed that our baby would be "a son at Mark's right hand" and that he would be a leader and a mighty warrior with speed and strength. A lot of the things that they had prayed had confirmed things that God had already been speaking to Mark about the baby and his name. After everyone left we talked about it and Mark shared with me how he felt we should name the baby Ephraim Benjamin after his grandfather on his mother's side. Our son was called to redeem a family name and generation.  Ephraim in the bible was the second son blessed as the first and Benjamin means "son at my right hand". It seemed weird to me to be picking out names this early when we didn't even know for sure what we were having but it did seem like God was confirming things in our hearts about this baby and his calling and destiny.
 October 9th I got out of bed, ate breakfast and got Moses up and dressed for the day. I was up in his room putting away some clothes when all of sudden I felt a gush, as if my water had broken.  In a panic I called Mark and as soon as I heard his voice I lost it. He began to pray for me and changed his plans and came home for the day. As the day progressed I began to bleed. I rested on the couch or tried to rest, really I couldn't think of anything else. I remember sobbing and pleading with the Lord to save our baby. At this point in my life I believed that if we prayed that God would heal our baby. The thought that we would lose the baby wasn't a possibility. We got every intercessor we could think of praying and warring for our babies life.
(side note: I still believe that if we pray God can heal our baby! I also know that sometimes His answer to our prayers do not always look like what we thought. My babies are healed and whole in heaven.)

I remember that night as we were preparing to go to bed calling our friend Ryan to pray for us. As he prayed he asked us if we were willing to trust that God was God even if we lost our baby. That was the moment I knew that maybe Ephraim wasn't going to make it. And I needed to surrender. Mark and I cried on the couch surrendering our lives and Ephraim's to Him.
The next morning I woke up to painful cramping and more bleeding. It felt like the beginning of labor. We called the doctor and they told us to come in right away. By the time I got there things were intensifying and I ended up miscarrying in the triage area of the hospital.

Going home felt so empty. My womb felt empty. My heart felt  heavy. I remember stopping and getting subs at Smileys, going to Musser park and just sitting at a picnic table crying and talking, shocked at what had just occurred. We felt very thankful for the night with our small group where those prophetic words had been spoken and that we had decided to give our baby in heaven a name. We also felt hopeful even in the loss that we were going to have more children. I remember feeling sad yet hopeful, strangely hopeful.
His presence was also very close during this time bringing comfort through friends and family, prayers and words of encouragement. A few short days after the miscarriage I was helping to lead a worship set at the house of prayer we were a part of at the time. We were singing verses from Psalm 91. When I got to verses 9 and 10 I just froze. I wasn't sure if I could truly sing the words, "If you make the Lord your refuge-the Most High your dwelling then no harm will befall you and no disaster will come near your tent.". Up until this point I had not wrestled too much with "why" but that night I was struggling with the whys and the questions. It certainly felt like "disaster had come to our tent" and harm had fallen on us. I went home after the worship set and looked up the verse in my new living translation and in that version it said "no evil will conquer you". The Lord was speaking to my heart that harm may come but it will not conquer me if I am rooted in Him. It was a battle to trust that God is who he says he is but as I chose to lay down my fears and questions, peace came. I believed God was going to bring redemption.

Fast forward to a month later, November 17th, we are getting ready to fly on an airplane across the world to Hawaii to minister at a YWAM base. In the midst of packing I had stopped by at my neighbor and friend Terah's house for a few minutes. As we talked somehow it came up that I still didn't get my period yet since the miscarriage.
"Maybe you are pregnant", she exclaimed excitedly, "Here I have an extra test go into the bathroom and take it. " She practically shoved me into the small bathroom off her kitchen where I nervously peed on the stick. Instantly the lines appeared. I. was. pregnant. As I walked out of the bathroom holding my positive test my friend said these words to me, "No more holding back."

Just a little over a month later I was already pregnant! Later when I went for my first prenatal visit they would say that it was near impossible what happened. My due date literally changed by only a few weeks. Crazy!

That little impossibility was Sarah.
The redemption of Ephraim's short life was Sarah...my first daughter! In her God fulfilled my heart's desire for a little girl. And through her I believe God is redeeming a generation.
I look forward to meeting Ephraim Benjamin someday in heaven and I cherish the gift of mothering Sarah Elizabeth here on earth.









Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tales from the dressing room

You have got to love kids for their honesty. Unfiltered and real honesty.

Today we stopped by my favorite store Goodwill for a few minutes. I browsed the aisles and found two dresses I liked both from Target with tags still on them. Score. I decided to go into the dressing room to try them on quick. I had Hope and Eden with me so I pushed the cart into the small mirrored room. 
Hope was watching me as I tried on the first dress.
I studied my appearance in the mirror. Hope studied me. 
She piped up from the bench. 

"Mom, that dress makes your breasts look chunky. If you wore that dress to church people would say that girl has chunky breasts."

I took another look at my reflection and cracked up. The way the dress was pleated was not the most flattering. Definitely don't want the "chunky breast" look. Not a keeper.

And that's why everyone needs to take a five year old along in the dressing room. 
They tell you it like it is.





Monday, April 21, 2014

eden grace

Next week this little girl turns two. TWO. How can this be?
 These picutres are from a few weeks ago on one of the first warm days of spring. This girl LOVES to be outside and will stand at the door and fuss till we let her out. She comes to life outside where she can run free and imitate the big kids in whatever they are doing. These pictures of her with her pigtails, hand me down sweatshirt and black eye are so her. She lives life to the fullest with spunk and determination. Oh yes and a little attiutude too. "No" and "mine" are her two favorite words right now. And anytime she can have the stage she is happy whether it is on top of the coffee table belting out the song from Frozen "let it go" or outside on the barn step yelling "ta-da". She loves to be the center of attention! And being the youngest of five she often gets it!
We love you so Eden!