The Best Laid Plans

I am a planner. It is in my nature. I have an unhealthy obsession with school supplies and get down right giddy about back to school shopping. Nothing makes me quite to happy as an empty notebook or blank planner pages. So much so that I collect them. My wildly disorganized office is full of stacks of notebooks and planners in use, discarded, or waiting for their time.

I can schedule and map out action steps with the best of them. Making to do lists and figuring out what needs to be done to reach a goal are a piece of cake.

But the best laid plans.

You see there is a flaw in all my planning. Though I have been a mama for almost 8 years, almost with out exception, I make plans failing to take into consideration this crazy bed head and her two big sisters. Despite careful thought and planning I am rarely able to accomplish all I set out to do.

With this toddler's big sisters starting school last week I set out to take steps to grow my blog, as well as submitted my application for the largest, juried show our area has to offer. I made plans to grow my offering at this show and introduce new products. I started doing yoga. I added name to my happy mail list. I attempted to rearrange the girls bedroom.

I forgot my pint size companion was on a sleeping strike. I forgot that I was running on fumes. I forgot that when we move toward what God is calling us to there will inevitably be set backs. There will be road blocks and distractions and there will be other work to do.

And I would like everything to be simple and clear cut. I wish the answer was as tidy as forget the to do list and play all day. Forget the dreams and focus on the dishes. Or, forget the dishes and sew up a storm, your family needs the money. But it's never all or nothing. I am a mother, and a wife, and a friend, and a writer, and a creative, and a church member and all of those things require my attention. So some times and answer is to cut back on the to do list and some times the answer is to stay up till 11 pm to knock it out. Some times the answer is rest, and some times the answer it to kick myself into high gear and get things done while the baby plays and the kids are at school so that I can cook dinner and do home work when they get home.

I really like planners. I like the boxes and the lines and the check marks. And life is so much messier than my plans. It's complicated and pushes back far more than I would like. There are days when the hats I wear get confusing and I am not sure which is supposed to have my attention at the moment. Life isn't as easily as defined as I would like to think on my notepad pages.

So I keep trusting that as long as I keep moving forward, and doing the next thing, that it's all leading to the perfect place for me.

P.S. For fellow planner addicts you can find my planner instgram account at https://instagram.com/plannerofjoy


Don't Grow Weary

Galatians 6:9
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I don't have a well thought out, edited post for you all tonight. I have tried but my brain is just not working the way it needs to. I am lucky to be getting this up.

Some days are about simply doing the next thing.
The thing right in front of you.
Doing the right thing because it's the right thing.
Some times faith is big and bold.
Some times it's folding the laundry and baking bread and sending an e-mail.
And it's easy to get weary when the work is mundane.
Some times doing good looks a lot less changing the world, and a lot more like changing my heart.
And so you play JJ Heller music way louder than was ever intended and brew your third cup of tea and keep on keeping on till harvest time.


Resting in Grace

It was our last day of Summer together as a family. The girls started school Monday and since Josh doesn't get Saturdays off, Wednesday was our last day to do something fun. And so we did just that. We sat around in our pajamas till 11 and then got chicken nuggets for lunch and surprised the big girls with a trip to the movies-complete with a large soda and extra large popcorn. They loved every minute of it.

Since we had a long promised sleep over scheduled for tonight we came home afterward to do some cleaning. The kids weren't too thrilled, but together the four of us managed to knock out basic cleaning in the basement, kitchen, and living room.
Dinner was prepped, the big girls were playing, and since Tacy was with my mother in law I was presented with a unicorn of a concept - free time! Yes there was more work that could be done (isn't that always true), but Josh suggested that enough is done for now and it would be a healthy thing to do something enjoyable for a bit while it is quiet.
I was torn. You see, my first response was that I should do something creative. I should sew, or journal, or make something with my stacks of scrapbook paper and stickers. At the very least, I should write a blog post! But honestly, all I wanted to do was curl up with a big mug of tea and watch Star Trek. I LOVE being creative and it feeds my soul on so many levels, but lately I have found myself too tired to even do that which I so dearly love.
While I sat talking about this with Josh, I was struck once again but what a producer I am. I have constantly struggled with this.
As a child I loved to read, but I often find myself disregarding this hobby as I get older. To sit in a chair with my feet up and a good book seems like to lazy a way to spend an afternoon. If I have nothing to show for my time at end of the day I feel like I have failed.
Eight years ago I learned to sew. It started out as a fun challenging outlet for my creative side, but in effort to justify the cost of fabrics and patterns I found myself attempting to grow a business. After I few years I had found a decent level of success, but found myself loosing interest once I had turned something I enjoyed into something I had to do. I thought I had to make it into something big to make it worth while. I have since found a level of entrepreneurship that works for me, but it is a constant battle. Every new design I create I find myself wondering if I should produce it for sale. I have to remind myself that creativity is worthwhile in it's own right.
I know that some people struggle with this more than others. That “Type A” personalities are notorious for taking control and not knowing how to unwind. But I think it's deeper than that. I think it's something that has been in all of us since the fall. It's why God put the Sabbath into the ten commandments and why we struggle to observe it.
We are scared that if we stop producing we will no longer have worth.
It's why I find myself texting my husband through the day to tell him all the chores I have accomplished.
It's why one of the first questions we ask when we meet people is “What do you do?”
It's why we feel resentment when we feel our contributions to ministry are being over looked.
It's why we identify with the brother in the story of the prodigal son.
It's why we LOVE Proverbs 31.
It's why we feel Martha got a bad rap.
It's why the first thing I think when something goes wrong is “I am a failure”.
If I am not producing I am not needed.
If I am not producing I am dispensable.
If I am not producing I am not lovable.
I started writing this post a few days ago and then came back to it. And while I was being honest and genuine when I started I realize now just how much I was censoring myself. Because talking about turning hobbies into careers is safe and even a little humorous. But talking about the deep down fear of failure, that fear that we are not enough, is ugly and uncomfortable. We don't like talking about it because it feels like we are fishing for a compliment. We don't like listening to it because it his a little to close to home.
So we sit quietly in our homes, slaves to our to-do lists, Desperately trying to prove we have worth. Listening to the lies of the deceiver who says our value is determined by the size of our laundry pile. So we throw ourselves into achieving pinterest perfection. Or we give up and stop even trying and give into laziness. And either way the serpent has won because he has convinced us that God can't be taken at His word.
I have value. Not because of anything I have done. But because on the 6th day God made mankind and pronounced it “very good.” And if I love my children no matter what, how much more does a perfect God love is wildly imperfect children. Because Sabbath isn't about do and don't but accepting that if I stop working, God will still provide, and still love, and still be good.
And so I'll watch Star Trek and sew dolls and color in coloring books and make notebooks and do the dishes and fold the laundry and sit in my big chair with a cup of tea and pray.
    Because grace says I can.


Back to School and Growing Up

Abi at Kindergarten Open House 2013

First Day of Kindergarten and First Grade 2014

Today was back to school open house for my girls. They got to see their classrooms and meet their teachers for the first time. Josh and I got to fill out paper work and stand in lines to figure out bus schedules and when and where to get finger printed. (Two years in and I still haven't done this. Bad mom, I know.)

Abi is thrilled and cannot wait while Maddie is in denial and walks around dejectedly stating loudly that she doesn't WANT to go back to school.
And I am in the middle.

I am ready for summer to be over. I am ready for routines and set bed times and wake up times. I am ready to know what we are doing every day, rather than trying to concoct a plan exciting enough to entertain a 6 year old at the drop of a hat. Selfishly I am even looking to have some down time with Josh on his days off and going back to our favorite walking path as soon as the weather cools off a bit.

I am not ready for them to be in first and second grade. Always before starting a new grade, it has seemed like an exciting mile stone to celebrate, but this year I am dragging my feet a bit. It's a little more bitter sweet. They are growing up in front of me and I am thrilled with the exciting things they will get to do and learn this year, and terrified of the challenges we will face.

The past two years, my mother, sister, or both have been present with us over the weekend. While I knew it was impractical to think this would go on forever, my heart aches and I find myself wishing for them. I'm not ready to do this on my own yet! And yet it is time.

The first year my mom and sister were here to help me after I had just had my third baby by c-section. School supply shopping, large crowds, and even fixing lunches was a challenge and I was beyond thankful for their ability to expertly hold everything together so I could be there for my terrified kindergartener.

Last year we found ourselves once again in the middle a massive transition at the start of school. My brother and his family had found their own home after living with us for 18 months and we were doing home renovations. We had another one entering kindergarten and public school for the first time, and to top if all off underwent a pretty intense tooth extraction the day before open house. I remember my one year old grabbing my cup of fresh brewed tea and dumping it all over her and I just about thirty minutes before my parents arrived that weekend. I was at a point of shear exhaustion and my parents found me on the sofa tears rolling down my face holding ice packs on the baby and I.

And then there is this year. My sister is busy with her own back to school things as she prepares for another year of teaching first graders and my parents are getting ready to have one of my nephews come visit for a week before he starts 6th grade. While I might miss them all desperately, this year I realize we don't NEED them like we did in years past.

As my children grow and I adjust to this season my confidence grows-as does my ability to navigate this whole school experience. My children are growing and so am I  and we all find a new level of independence.

I take a step back and look at all of us; my mother, my sister, myself, and my three daughters. The two that have gone ahead of me, the three following behind, and me, in the middle.
And I know that another step back would reminder me that we are a links in a chain extending past and future.
 But today, it's those three links I see.
 So I take a deep breath, brush tears from my cheeks and say a prayer of gratitude for my mother and sister, a prayer of protection on my daughters, and a prayer of grace for myself


Something To Say


I have three amazing little girls. Each one a unique individual in their own right. 
My oldest developed speech early or so I am told. She had complete sentances by a year and would follow my younger brother around the house demanding that her "Unce Etcher" give her a "cacker" By three she had a vocabulary that more often than not left me shaking my head.
"Mother, there is a situation with Madeline and the body lotion."
A situation?
The kid had emptied an entire tube of Bath and Body Works body cream into her head.
My middle one was a little slower, though pretty standard when it come to speech. Her first sentence was "I la oo" on Christmas day at 18 months. Once she picked up on the whole talking thing she loved it. Thought we could only understand about 1/3 of what she said until she was nearly 4 that didn't stop her from a steady stream of communication. I once tried to count how many questions she could string of in succession and zoned out after question 30. Her last timed talking streak lasted 45 minutes with minimal response from any one around her.
My youngest is now two and gives her sisters a run for their money. What she lacks in vocabulary she makes of up for in volume and repletion.
It comes as no surprise to any one who knows my husband and I, that two of our kids are talkers. It am fairly certain if physically pains them refrain from joining a conversation.
For my middle daughter this means conversations often dissolve into her bouncing from one foot to the other, eyes roaming the room looking searching for something to talk about. She has a voice, and she wants to be heard, she just hasn't figure out what to say yet.
My youngest pulls the pretty typical two year old move of saying your name over and over and over until she has your attention, only to respond with a long drawn out "Ummmmmmmmmmmm" when you ask her what she needs.
And, while I waver between amusement and irritation and their constant interruptions, I find myself startled when I see so much of myself in them.
Not because I talk a lot, though the fact is I do, but in my writing.
I have a voice. I have a burning inside of me to tell story. I want to be heard. I want to be part of the conversation going on out there in the great big world. I want to add my own unique perspective and experiences.
And yet.
I wonder if I have anything to say.
I come to this little space on the internet and shout "LOOK AT ME!" Only to have my thoughts drift away and I am left hoping from one foot to the other hoping to hold your attention until I have something worth sharing. This post alone has taken me over an hour to write because I keep roaming around, playing on my phone, looking at instagram, reading other blogs. Searching for something to say that might keep you here with me. That might hold your attention.
And I have said before that I never want blog simply for the sake of blogging, and that the internet is noisy enough with out me adding to the chaos.
I want to be like my oldest daughter. I want to write and share because I have something worth saying. I want to post because I have thought through my words and sorted them carefully and want to engage and connect.
But I am a young blogger and children some times ramble. Some times my children speak because they are still finding their voice. They may not have anything to say yet, but they want to know that when they do we will be there to listen.
Some times my words will have weight and depth and some times it is just me, leaning in close, wanting to connect.




I heard a sermon once on mountains and valleys in our spiritual journey. It was a great lesson and has stuck with me over the years. The pastor talked about our spiritual journey and the highs and lows and the contrast and importance of both.

Mountain top experiences are important in our walk with God. There are a number of stories in the Bible recounting God meeting with and speak to people on the top of mountains. We all want those experiences. Conference, summer camps, sermons, and personal devotions. Seasons where God is so close we feel as though we could physically touch Him. Those moments when we know He is speaking to us with startling clarity.

In contrast valley's aren't as popular. When we think of the word valley in the Bible I think it's safe to say many of us jump strait to Psalms 23. Valley's are the low places in our journey. It's where we encounter pain and doubt and questioning. The speaker pointed something out that we often over look the fact that while mountain's are wonderful, things grow in the valley. We all desire mountain top experiences, but it's often in the valley's that we grow. The struggling that comes with our spiritual valleys can bring forth a lot of fruit.

It's a wonderful analogy. But he forget something. He forgot Kansas.

Let me explain.

I have spent all but 3 years of my life living on the East Coast. My roots run deep into Maryland's sandy soil and Virginia's red clay. But my younger brother and I are the only ones in my family who can say that. To my parents and grandparents the Mid West is home. My mother is a Midwest farmer's daughter, and my dad's great grandfather was a circuit preacher. Starting in their 20s my parents started migrating East to eventually settle in Maryland, but Kansas and Illinois especially are sacred places for my family.

While salt water my run in my veins, my father's are fill with the Colorado mountain stream water. And so, as often as he could my dad would round up as my of his six kids as possible, pile us into a mini van and drive from Maryland to Colorado and back. Personally I have made this trip three times that I can remember, though pictures show more trips than that.

To get from where we were to where we going we had to pass through Kansas. It's a long drive. Land locked on every said Kansas is flat. No mountains, no valleys, not even hills. Flat strait roads as for miles. Valley's my be lush, but Kansas feeds America. Over 88% of Kansas land is farm land. Over 9 million acres of wheat and 4 million acres of corn are planted there every year. I looked it up. It may not be much as far as scenery goes, but it get's the job done.

I think back to those drives across Kansas. Mile after mile of predictable scenery. It wasn't the forests and streams of home or the wilderness of mountains we were driving towards. It was the in between place. It held little interest to my adolescent imagination, but it was necessary to get where we were going.

When we see our faith as all mountains and valleys we loose perspective.
We expect everything to be either an emotional high, or a season of crisis.

Most of life is lived in the middle.

The day to day of our faith.
Waking up
Reading our Bibles even when it doesn't seem to make a difference.
Choosing to loves those around us.
Walking the dog.
Diving car pools.
Interacting with our co workers.
Showing up and choosing to stay engaged when what we see before us is the exact same thing we see behind us and there doesn't seem to be any change in sight.

It may not be the popular thing to say, but some times faith is about going through the motions when things seem flat. We shy away from these seasons saying that they are lukewarm, or that we fill in-authentic. We are afraid of a faith that is about checking boxes. We become so wrapped up in being genuine that we drift away from daily discipline lest they become route or routing. But some times faith, some times obedience, is accepting the ordinary and trusting that it is needed to get you where you are going.

Some times the plains are the hardest season. Things are fine and steady and we forget the joy of the mountain and who gave it and the pain of the valley and who brought us through. There are stretches of struggle, and there will be stretches of shear joy, but in between is the spiritual Kansas.


Being an Extrovert in a Introvert Society: Part One

Years ago my dad started a tradition. Whenever one of his children gets married he writes two letter. One for his child and one for their spouse to be opened on their wedding day. Being the fourth to get married I knew these letters were coming and looked forward to reading them.

Though my father wrote about many things in those letters, there was a common theme in both that has stuck with my husband and I through nine years or marriage. Dad wrote about cultivating a home that was focused on people. As he put it "We chose to clutter our life with people not things." In that one sentence he summarized a family culture I knew, but never knew how to articulate.

Josh and I have tried to make this a motto in our own home, though often it isn't always as easy as I wish it was.

In many ways I am a perfect storm when it comes to the need and desire for community. I truly believe that God places in his church a call to walk to through life with others. I think this is especially strong in women. Add to those two things my bent toward being an extrovert and you end up with some one who doesn't always know what to do when left to her own devices.

As a child my out going personality was easy to see in a positive light. Between my dad being a pastor and my mom working for the school I attended I was often expected to play greeter for the new kids and it was a role that felt natural and easy to me. People like outgoing children who smile and strangers and talk to the new kid.

Over the years though my desire to build relationships has started to feel like a burden. My outgoing personality and pension for initiating have become a personality quirk to be managed rather than celebrated.

In the age of social media, texting, and telecommuting it seems that the introvert is king. Search "introvert" on pinterest and you will come up with pages and pages of links on how to care for, understand, love, and be friends with an introvert. Search "extrovert" and you will find a number of links as well, most of them about introverts.

On the one hand I appreciate pieces like this. For most of my life my closest friends have been introverts and so insights on how to understand them are appreciated. On the other hand there is a small part of me the curls up and pulls back with every one of these I read. I fear that my desire to engage in friendship and build up the Church body is perceive as needy, clingy, obnoxious, and ultimately unwanted.

I have noticed a change in myself over the past few years. An unwillingness to initiate contact. When my husband and I purchased our home five years ago it was partly because we wanted more room to build community. We had a desire to have people in our home and use our space to minister to others. And yet I can't remember the last time we invited people over.

People are busy.
We are busy.
Schedules conflict.
You can only hear excuses so many times before you start to pull back. 
Before the door that once one wide open slowly starts to close.
You can only hear no so many times before you start to guard your heart against the inevitable disappointment.
A guarded heart is hard to share.

And so I find myself at times in a season of isolation. Holding every one at arms length, afraid of committing some social blunder. Afraid of being rebuffed again. Resisting the urge to reach out to others. Ignoring the promptings I may feel to send a text, make a phone call, or suggest a coffee date.

I can defend this behavior to myself to no end. Declaring I need space and that it is simply self preservation. I argue that I am pouring into my kids and husband and that those are the only relationships I have time for right now. I hide behind this "season" saying it will pass and I will make community a priority "later."

But we can only dodge the truth for so long. Eventually it will catch up to us and shine a light on all the lies we have been hiding behind. The truth is God designed His church, Women, ME for community.

So now what?

I have been trying to reach out more. To invite people into my life more. To ask a friend for coffee, to initiate a phone call, to text more often. To listen to the still small voice I had come to ignore.

At times the out come is balm to my slightly bruised, extroverted heart.
A friend thanking me for taking the initiative and extending a dozen different invitations over the summer.
A late night cup of coffee while our hearts are slowly being knit together.
The unexpected, initiated text from a friend who will never truly know just how much her reaching out first means to me.

And for the times when I feel rebuffed again, when I feel to weary to place my emotions on the back burner in consideration of a friend, there is God's grace. His gentle reminder that if I am full of Him and His love and provision that there is ALWAYS enough. That I can give love and attention and compassion and not have to worry that my tank will run dry. When I meet with Him first, and invite Him into all that I do, then there is more than enough to go around.

God made me this way. And so I trust He has a purpose for me. I trust that my friends, my family, and my church need people like me. Even if I do invade their bubble from time to time.