Thursday, September 26, 2013

31 Days 2013

For the past two years I've participated in the Nester's 31 Days of October blog phenomenon.  She challenges bloggers to choose a topic and write on that topic for 31 days.  It's fun and challenging all at the same time.

I've been debating whether or not I'll be able to do it this year.  If you follow my blog, you know that I've been absent from blogging for a few months due to having a baby and feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The thought of writing everyday again seems unlikely.  I've tossed several ideas for topics around in my head, including 31 Days of Silence, and although it would be easy, it wouldn't be very interesting.

A friend of mine asked me to guest post for her 31 Days series {I'll share that information with you next week}, and that solidified for me that I would attempt to tackle this once again.

I don't know how it's going to happen every day, and maybe it won't.  But, for the month of October I'm going to write a series.  I may end up posting only a few times a week, but  it will all be centered around the same thing.

The first post will be up next week, September 30th, sometime that evening, and I'll continue on through the end of October.  Come back Monday night for the name of my series, and for some links to other blogs that you might enjoy.

If you're planning to participate, please, put a link to your blog in the comments so we can be sure to follow your series!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When Life Overwhelms

I'd like to think I'm one of those Moms who can wake up every morning with a joyful spirit, sit and read to my children for hours, play make believe whenever they want, do the laundry, make a great meal, manage our home, and still have time to chat with friends, workout and decorate my house in a seasonally appropriate way.

I'm not one of those Moms.

My heart struggles to rejoice and my tongue often reflects that with angry tones and harsh words to my children.

As I write this, dirty clothes are literally spilling out of the laundry room into the hall.

Last week all of my toilets had thick black rings in them.

I got a new phone this summer and still haven't moved my contacts over, so when I do receive texts or calls from friends, I have no idea who they are from as only the number shows up.  So I reply in generic terms to texts, trying to guess who it is that has sent me a message. Great friend that I am, huh?  And so much for phones that are supposed to be smart.

I forget to do things, frequently.  Like two weeks ago when I came home from Costco and Bradley said, "Did you see any utility trucks outside?  Are they doing construction somewhere?  We have no water pressure."   That fine print at the bottom of your water bill saying they'll cut the water off if you don't pay?  They mean it.  Especially when you haven't paid in two months.

Yesterday, I went out with the girls to get a few things and by the time I got to the store I couldn't even remember why I had gone or what was so important to buy that day that I rearranged our schedule and had to go.

I feel like I'm being buried under a huge mass:  my life.

People have asked me, "What's it like with four kids?"  I usually reply, "Oh, it's fine. We're doing good."  But Bradley called my bluff the other day when someone asked and he chimed in and said, "It's hard."

He's right.  I feel stretched, confused, scatterbrained, frustrated, and yes, overwhelmed.

This isn't the first time in my life I've felt this way, though, so I don't really think it is because I have four children. I was overwhelmed when I graduated from college, got married, had my first child {I loved reading this post about that}, and found out that Mason had Down Syndrome. It's just that anytime our life circumstances change, we must learn to juggle the new, whatever it may be, and learn to rearrange our hearts, minds, and daily activities to accommodate it.

So, what do we do when life overwhelms?

The temptation is to either seek pity or a pat on the back from those around us.  We bombard our Facebook statuses with updates about how challenging our life is, or we list out all the things we accomplished in a brief 24 hour period, hoping that someone will comment and tell us how great we are for all those things we did and for bearing up under the pressures of difficulty.  We tend to direct attention to ourselves.

And, then we compare ourselves with others when we catch a glimpse of their lives.  We hear someone's complaint and think, "Oh, that's not that bad.  They should see what I have to deal with everyday."  Or, we might think, " I shouldn't feel overwhelmed by what's going on in my life because they have it so much harder."

The truth of the matter is that each of us faces overwhelming issues.  Life is hard and our days can be busy.  This looks different for each of us, but there is one thing that is the same:

God is not overwhelmed by any of it.

During the opening of our service at church on Sunday, one of our pastors said, "Nothing overwhelms the King."

I needed to hear that.  No matter how crushed or floundering I may be, God remains stable, a Rock.  He knows what's happened, what's happening right now, and what is to come, and He is not overwhelmed by any of it.

If I can take my overwhelmed heart and mind to Him and rely upon Him, He will graciously carry me through the moments, days, and seasons of feeling overwhelmed.

How do I cultivate the right attitude in the midst of feeling overwhelmed?

I need to strive to glorify God and point others to Him, not to myself or to my struggles.

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory." {Psalm 115:1}

If I simply make it through a day, it's only by God's grace and strength.

If I accomplish anything on my to-do list, it's only by His power.

If I'm struggling, I need to admit it and seek the prayers and encouragement of those around me.

Let's be sure that as we face life's overwhelming flood that we are relying upon the stable Rock to carry and enable us.  And, let's be quick to point each other to God's powerful grace when we see another floundering.

When my life overwhelms, please, don't give me pity or a pat on the back.  Pray for me.  Encourage me.  And, please, point me to Jesus.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cutting Out & Working Out: Getting Rid of Pregnancy Weight

Today marks 8 weeks postpartum with Jennavieve.  I gave myself a full seven weeks to recover from having a baby and get into a good groove with breastfeeding before starting to tackle the removal of excess pregnancy weight.  After four babies and one miscarriage in the last five years, my body has undergone weight gain and weight loss a lot, but never with a focus on toning my muscles and truly working hard at getting back in shape.  After my miscarriage in 2011, I did run for a few months which was wonderful.  I ended that stint of exercise by running/walking a 10-miler while 9 weeks pregnant with Mason.

September, 2011, was the last time I exercised.

Now, two years later, I'm tackling this once again. There's no better accountability, I suppose, than writing and publishing my journey for others to read.  I thought about waiting until I'd actually lost the weight, that would've been a bit easier to share publicly.  By sharing my progress, I hope that it will encourage others and help to keep me disciplined.

Confession:  I gained 58 pounds during this last pregnancy.   This is not something I'm proud of, by any means!  I had a hard time being disciplined to eat well, and I never once exercised while pregnant.  Mine is not the example to follow.

Seven weeks postpartum:  I lost 30 pounds without really doing anything.  It helped that Jennavieve was a 10-pound baby, but I'm only halfway to where I would like to be.

Cutting Out:
We've removed excess sweets and snacks from our home.  This was difficult to do, but necessary for me if I want to avoid temptation.  I also know myself well enough to realize that cutting out sugar entirely would only cause me to binge when it was available.  So, I keep frozen yogurt in the freezer and in the evenings, if I want a little sugar, I eat a few spoonfuls.

I've also been cutting back a bit on my portions.  I am breastfeeding, so dieting is out of the question.  By eating less at meal times and choosing healthy snacks I should be able to maintain an adequate milk supply and still shed the extra pounds.

Working Out:
Bradley is developing workouts for me that we do together several days a week.  We've converted half of our garage into a workout station {come back tomorrow for a DIY project that we did in this space} so that we can workout and still hear the kids should they need us.

Our workouts consist of repetitious sets targeting legs, abs, arms, and everything else, I think--at least that what my muscles are telling me!

I've also started to walk/run.  My goal is to be able to run several miles a few days a week.  Easing into this, though, is how I've heard that it needs to be done in order to keep up my milk supply.  I try to stagger jogging and walking, keeping a fast walking pace, for about 2 miles right now.  Once I'm able to jog that without stopping, I plan to slowly increase my pace and distance.

You will not see any pictures here of my 'before', but maybe down the road I'll feel comfortable enough to publish that :).  It's better with an 'after' comparison, anyway.

The cutting out and working out is not just about losing weight for me.  It's also an exercise in discipline and self-control.  I long to be self-controlled in all areas of my life; eating/exercise has always been the biggest area of struggle for me.  I want my children to have a healthy Mama who takes care of her body.

How have you gotten rid of pregnancy weight, or just weight in general?  Do you have any tips for me?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Seven Year Anniversary: Our Love Story

Today marks seven years of marriage to the love of my life.  I've never shared 'our story' here before, so I thought I'd let you in on how we met and fell in love nine years ago.

I first laid eyes on my husband one year before I met him.  I was attending training at our mission headquarters in PA, preparing to head to the Middle East for one year.  I can vividly remember him walking into our training room.  He was dressed nicely in black dress pants and a deep blue button-down shirt, and extremely attractive.  His smile is what really got me. I tried to forget about him, but throughout the week I continued to see him around the campus and admired him from afar.  I never spoke to him or even learned his name, but I didn't forget him.

In the months following that time, I lived in the Middle East and worked as a Nanny for some American families and taught English to Palestinian refugees. It was there that some of my co-workers began telling me about this guy that I needed to meet.  Oh, great, I thought, not another set-up.  I was tired of people trying to arrange my love life.  They persisted, and as the time came for me to return to the US, they wanted to plan a meeting for me.  I declined, but said that if I saw him, I would introduce myself and pass along their greetings. {I didn't know it at the time, but these same friends from the Middle East had told him about me about a year earlier}.

I returned to the same mission headquarters in PA in the summer of 2005, once again for training, and on my second day there, I saw him again.  Only this time I knew his name, a little bit about him, and was immediately nervous.  He spoke in one of our training sessions the next day, so afterward I introduced myself and we began to chat.  It turned out that we had several mutual friends, and we enjoyed talking over lunch.  He said, "We should grab coffee one night while you're in town," but it was definitely a non-committal statement.  Every day I hoped that I would run into him and strategically walked around the building in order to see him.

We eventually went out for a cup of coffee later that week, and it became apparent that we were hitting it off.  We spent time together every day during the next ten days I was in training.  We took walks along the river, visited on his parents' front porch swing, and got to know each other pretty well.

I was torn.  I had longed my entire life to be married and have a family.  But, I had also wanted to be a missionary.  My year in the Middle East had been challenging, and it became apparent that returning right away wasn't the best thing.  My next steps were uncertain, though, other than moving back to VA to live with my parents.  Bradley was beginning to seriously pursue a career in the Navy.  How was this ever going to work?  Would it work?

The day I left PA, we had breakfast together and Bradley said that he would not call me for one week.  He wasn't thrilled about a long-distance relationship and needed some time to think about things.

Four days later he called, and for the next two months we talked almost daily on the phone.

At the beginning of October that year, I was offered a job at the mission in PA where we had met. The job was a perfect fit for me, so I readily accepted it.  I guess it didn't hurt that my job was bringing me closer to Bradley...

Living in the same city and working in the same office allowed us a lot of time to get to know each other.  I was definitely falling for him, but also wanted to guard my heart.  By New Year's, 2006, we began talking about marriage and I was fairly confident at that point that this was the man I wanted to marry.  There was never a magical moment of this realization, but as Bradley demonstrated his love for me over those months, wooing and pursuing me, I was drawn to him and desired to commit to him for life.

My family told me that they could see a difference in me when Bradley and I were together:  he brought out the best in me and life was much fuller with him in my life.  I couldn't wait for our engagement and for our marriage to begin.

He proposed to me the Friday before Easter, April 13, 2006, and we set our wedding date for September 2, 2006.

Here we are, today, seven years later, and I still think my husband is extremely attractive.  But it's way more than that.  He has a deep joy in life.  He loves to serve.  He is a fierce protector of his children.  He is a hard worker.  He makes life fun. He dreams big.  He is creative.  He is adventurous.  He is a great lover.  He daily cares for me. He loves the Lord and longs to follow after Him.

We've walked through some hard times together in the seven years we've been married.  But those times have only served to deepen our love and knit us together more tightly than I ever imagined possible.

I love you, Bradley.  I thank the Lord for allowing me to catch a glimpse of you that summer, nine years ago. You've never been far from my mind since and I will continue to look at you as we walk this life together.  Happy Anniversary.