I have no touching story or picture to start out with. And spoiler alert: this is not a warm and fuzzy post about simplicity and joy. Sorry, it's just not.  I'll get right to the point. (Because eeking out a writing moment in these days is like finding that ever elusive unicorn or 5 minutes without fingerprints on the front glass door.) This is the subject on which the Lord has been scraping off the rough areas recently...and lets just be real here, that isn't ever warm and fuzzy.

I am 14 years into this marriage gig, 11 years into the parenting thing, and 36 years into life.

And, still, there are hours, days, weeks, entire seasons that are hard.  Beautiful fleeting easy moments sandwiched in between the mundane, everyday, and just plain hard.

My mind retreats to the default: This shouldn't still be so hard. There must be something wrong with me. Is there something wrong with me?

My greatest source of discouragement within my parenting/marriaging/ministering/just living journey is myself.

I never pictured myself as one who would get so seriously cranky at i-phone chargers not being put back where they weren't supposed to be borrowed from in the first place. I never thought it could happen that at some point within my every day it feels as though my head may fall off.  I didn't see it coming that I could be so selfish about my time and my space.

Within the last few months I've been slowly feeling a paradigm shift happening within, fueled by the Holy Spirit, books that have come across my path, scripture that resonates within my heart, and conversations with friends.

I am realizing that within this snapshot world I live in, I have allowed this lie to infiltrate my heart: That if I am doing it right then it shouldn't be hard.

Running is hard.

I know, hate is a strong word, but I'm going to go ahead and use it because my feelings are strong towards it. I hate running. I can walk for miles and miles and miles with a happy heart but EVERY SINGLE SECOND that I run is pure torture for me. I tried for years and years to like it. I trained enough so that I could run without puking in the bushes afterwards, all red faced and miserable by the end of the cul-de-sac. I finally learned that I will never be able to take the running out of the running.

Life is like running for me. Yes, I can organize and train and chore chart and meal plan and date night and say no and put in all the preventive measures that make things flow more smoothly, but nothing will ever make life easy. It is simply going to be hard work. By design.

I was always making my goal to arrive at a stress-free place. After all, this world makes me feel as though if something is stressful then something is wrong with it, or me.

And here is where the shift is happening: My goal is changing. My fundamental goal is not trying to reduce my stress. My goal is to be the kind of faithful that works through the stress in a way that honors God. No matter what the situation, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the stress level, there is one perfect answer every time. Obey. To allow obedience to become my fundamental.

At 5 o'clock when the children are especially needy, the dog has just chewed up the flower bed again, the hubby has a late meeting, I have a million (or at least a dozen) things I need to do and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and binge watch a netflix show...

I offer up a prayer and choose to obey that which is right in front of me. Make that dinner. Discipline rather than ignore that offense. Apologize for harsh words. Send that loving text to husband working hard. My sanctification being formed in these moments, building up muscle memory. In the words of Rachel Jankovic, "The more I discipline myself to overcome discouragement with obedience, the less discouragement there will be to overcome."

When you need encouragement, obey.
When you are tired, walk.
When you feel lost, remember.

It's okay that it isn't easy. It's not supposed to be. It doesn't mean I'm doing it wrong. It means that I just need to obey. And keep obeying.



Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run the race with perseverance the race marked out for us. 
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, 
for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
 and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12: 1 - 3

Never tire of doing what is right. 
1 Thess 2:13





Again, I can't let the month go by without some blog documentation! Who cares if its just quick blurbs and fuzzy iphone photo's?! Not, I.

(If life happens and it doesn't get blog documented...did it really happen?...)


Monarch Way Academy finished it's 2016-2017 year early in the month! Our best year yet! I now have a rising middle schooler, two 4th graders, and gulp...a kindergartner! Excited (and ready) for a bit of a break and we will resume in July.

Nothing says hello to Summer like a neighborhood lemonade stand! 

Jeremiah played softball this Spring. It was so fun for the kids and I to watch him. I showed up for the first game with the dog in tow and learned that dogs aren't allowed in the bleachers...and had to watch from far away outside the fence, ha! 

My puzzle buddies. 

Before church book and minecraft time. It keeps em clean.

Summer cut's!

Two sisters at the lake.

"Mom, will you just sit with me and we can talk?!" 

I traveled to my Mom's for Mother's day...and baby Silas complied and was born so I could meet him at the same time. Convenient, right?! 

Zoe gave me her Mother's day present by deciding to take a nap on me...a rare, rare occurrence anymore.

Family soccer game at Nana's for Mother's day.

Strawberry picking with friends.

Solo strawberry eating.

Yes, I actually said no to this face. 

14 years with this guy! We got an overnight with no kids and spent our time going through all our photo albums and old letters and journals and reminiscing.

We broke our no broken bones streak with 2 breaks within 12 hours of each other...so sad.

Jeremiah got into a fight with the dogs collar and the collar won. Don't worry, no dogs were harmed in the making of this broken finger.
 
Surgery to piece it all back together again, because having your main chord making finger for playing guitar at full mobility is kinda important to him. 

And today, it's packing day as we fly out for Haiti early tomorrow. I lost the weekend to doctors appointments and waiting rooms, so it's gonna be a mad dash to the finish.

See ya later May,
hello June!


For the first time ever in the seven years I've had a blog, I almost let an entire month pass without a single word written or picture posted...

Almost.

We got a new 6 months old Irish Setter puppy.
We bought a house and moved. 
We celebrated my favorite week of the year. 
We went to Haiti. 

And, now, in the aftermath...I am finally catching up.

I did manage to take a few pictures throughout it all...

He's kinda spoiled.

Holy Week, tomb and seed planting. 





Traditional Passover Seder meal, in pajamas.

My sweet and beautiful Ella.

The fab four, on Easter.

At the overlook in Haiti with my favorite person.





And, now...I warmly welcome May with it's slightly more normal schedule.


Two hands. 
Two whole hands.
This boy is two whole hands old.

Oh. my. goodness. 
This kid...
He's the best.

Sweet.
Silly and goofy. Still makes faces all the time.
Sports loving. (Basketball and Soccer)
My history buff.
Adventurous eater.
Hardworking and always helpful.
With an underlying gentleness in all that he does.

For his special day he requested sushi, a game of Settlers of Catan, and root beer floats.  

He bears no resemblance to the tiny little guy that we first met almost 7 years ago...
And my heart towards him is nothing but a testimony of the Lord's faithfulness and grace and abundance. Nothing but a testimony.

Sweet.

Silly.


My Eli Cade,

You are 10 today! And you are still one fiercely loved little (not-so-little) boy! We are crazy for you and your gentle go-with-the-flow attitude. You continue to grow in so many areas and your Daddy and I are so proud of you and how hard you work. Your silly faces, shoulder shrugs, dream re-tellings, and game playing abilities add so much life to our family. I write every year that you are my little hero. And every year I mean it more. I'm so glad I get to be your Mom.

Happy, happy birthday!

I love you,

Mom

p.s. You still have the cutest curls and button nose. And I will forever embarrass you by saying it every year.

We are in the middle of school, a move, and a crazy ministry traveling schedule that is ramping up (Haiti, here we come!) on top of an already busy local ministry schedule.

Otherwise known as a season of life.

Your life, my life, anyone's life...has it's propensity for stress. I know that everyone is dealing with jobs, kids, relationships, moves, etc. Everyone. I am not about to advocate for the idea that my life is more stressful than anyone else's.

And yet, this season, is a full one for me right now. To pretend it isn't because I'm not alone in it, doesn't change my reality that there is a lot on my plate today.

Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes Easter has it's origin in the early days of the Church. Converts, seeking to become Christians, under threat of Roman persecution, went through a final period of "purification and enlightenment" in the 40 days before their baptism at Easter. The rest of the church began to observe this season of Lent in solidarity with the new believers. It became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their conversion and baptism.



Today, Lent is more known as a season of intentional sacrifices, fasting, if you will...with the desire to deliberately focus a heart and mind on things above in the 40 days preceding Easter.

What does Lent have to do with a stressful season in my life?

Truth moment: I have never done anything for Lent. Never given up anything. In fact, if honest...I've kinda felt it a bit of an eccentricity. I shouldn't need to give up something in order to focus my mind. You know, because I always have laser sharp focus...

However, a few weeks ago at the beginning of Lent I felt the soft gentle challenge of the Holy Spirit to participate. And my sacrifice?

Give up two words: Overwhelmed and Stressed.

I may very well be overwhelmed and stressed out. But the fact that those are my true feelings does not make them truth. And by allowing myself to say them, think on them, I had given them power.

Power to debilitate me, or at the very least, slow me down and steal any hope for finding joy in the work.

It's like when I send Zoe to her room to pick up her toys: She can either 1) sit on the floor crying because she is totally overwhelmed at the work before her, or she can 2) push through, roll up her proverbial sleeves and in twenty minutes be enjoying the rewards of a clean room and happy mommy.

It's time for me to adjust to the work the Lord has me doing. And the very words "overwhelmed" and "stressed" were hindering me.

Sidenote: Let me be clear, I am NOT talking about the stress I create by not saying no or by over scheduling my life. That's a whole other issue of mine that I have put in some hard work finding out what is an acceptable amount of white space for me to function in. I am talking about the seasons that involve things outside my control: moves, parenting issues, sickness, school, marriage, ministry/work schedules, etc.

And so, I have stricken these two words from my vocabulary. And like anything else, it's never enough to just stop doing something. I needed to replace them with new words.

My new mantra is to mentally run through four truths, taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corin. 10:5):

1) I am equipped to do what I'm called to do (Heb 3:21)
2) I am never alone (Mt. 28:20)
3) This is a season, not the entirety of my life (Ecc 3)
4) Just obey (2 Jn. 6)

I'm a few weeks into this process and I would be nothing but a bald faced liar if I told you that doing this process has fixed my feelings. It hasn't. And that's okay. I'm still struggling with overwhelming feelings of stress. But, I'm also learning there is great maturity found in taking my thoughts captive, rolling up my proverbial sleeves, pushing through the feelings, and just doing what needs to be done.

And, like I've written before, if I allow it, seasons of stress create dependency on my only source of Strength, which leads to intimacy. And the joy is found there.






Quick!

Let's fit in a field-trip-extravaganza before the craziness of travel season and moving begins.

And let me tell you, February is the month to field trip. Only no one knows about it, apparently.

Fine by us.

We just finished a History unit on the Civil War so we started in Buchanan, VA and followed the trail up to D.C., hitting the Civil War Museum and some of the battlefields. The next day was D.C. bound and we hit all the major monuments and two museums. And barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do there...but enough to reach capacity for us until the next time.

Sidenote: This age and stage with my kiddo's is my jam. A perfect little sweet spot between toddler years and teenage years.







If you can't beat em, join em. 

Zoe found it quite exhausting. "I'll just take a little nap while I wait for you..."



A thunderstorm was rolling in, so we booked it outta there.

After her"exhausting" day, we decided it best to leave Zoe with Nana for D.C =)  Just the three big's on this day!









We made friends with the SS police after he photobombed. We happened to hit the day that the barricade to Pennsylvania Ave was gone for the first time since the Inauguration. Score!