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Michelle Warner

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Keep Me Abiding

Posted on September 9th, 2015

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I have loved the song “Full Attention” ever since I  heard it sung at church. It is based off of the passage in John 15 comparing our relationship with God to bearing fruit on a tree. I love verse 5 in the Message version- “I [God] am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”

When we had Addilyn dedicated a couple of months ago, they sang this song at the dedication service. They asked us to change the words to reflect a prayer for our babies. As you’ll see in the lyrics below, we sang, “Keep HER abiding that SHE may bear fruit.” I just loved keeping that focus and making that our prayer. When I get a moment (ha!), I want to frame those lyrics and hang them on Addilyn’s wall.

Without further ado, here is the song I am loving and singing right now:

“Full Attention” by Jeremy Riddle

May Your voice be louder
May Your voice be clearer
Than all the others
Than all the others

May Your face be dearer
May Your words be sweeter
Than all the others
Than all the others in my life

Please keep my eyes
Fixed on You
Please root my heart
So deep in You
Keep me abiding
Keep me abiding
Keep me abiding
That I would bear fruit

May Your presence be truer
May Your presence be nearer
Than all the others
Than all the others

May Your light shine brighter
May Your love move deeper
Than all the others
Than all the others in my life

 

Confessions of a Tired Mom

Posted on August 12th, 2015

wednesdaywisdom

I almost feel like I need to introduce myself again. It has been so long since I’ve had time to sit down and write out my thoughts and process what I am learning here on my blog. Mostly because I am just plain tired. I am in a season where I am waking up very early with Addilyn and staying up too late at night to get everything done that didn’t happen during the day (not to mention Olivia isn’t falling asleep until 10:30pm every night and last night I went into her room six times for potty breaks, drinks of water, and reassurance).

I keep thinking back to the blog post I wrote before Addilyn was born about my fears of how I would handle two children. People keep asking how it’s been with two and I smile and say, “Well, just about as hard or harder than what I thought.” I think people may be a little taken aback that I respond more than, “Great. We’re loving it” but instead give a transparent answer about our adjustment.

I’ve actually learned an insightful lesson as I’ve walked through this as-challenging-and-tiring-as-I-thought season: I can do hard things. I can do hard things with a grateful heart running on little sleep and patience. I can do hard things as God equips me with the strength to endure. Even when what I feared actually happens, God gives me the grace to keep putting one foot in front of the other. (And this is so much truer when I walked through cancer–that even when my greatest fear happened, God gave me the grace to walk through what I didn’t think I could. Amen and amen.)

As Jared and I process the challenges of life with young kids and a busy career, I keep stopping us when we say this is HARD (like I just did above). Yes, there have been some hard moments as we find our groove but our life is actually beautifully wonderful right now. We have two sweet, healthy darlings, a stable job and income, parents who love and support us, healthy bodies, and so many other gracious gifts from God.

HARD was when I sat in a hospital bed for five days in a row feeling nauseous with no hair on my head. HARD was waiting to get pregnant and wonder if we ever could. HARD are the tragedies that many others are enduring right now. So as much as I am trying to transparently embrace this crazy season, I am also trying to do so with a grateful heart of how GOOD life really is in this current window of time. Beautifully wonderful and yet insanely tiring juggling a fussy baby and a determined toddler.

Late last night as I checked on Olivia in her bed and then walked to Addilyn’s room and checked on her, I had such an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness and tender love toward my two sweet answers to prayers. I read somewhere that moms should always watch their kids sleep because they look like such angels and it erases the memories of the hard parts of the day. I have to admit, that is so true. As I walked out of their rooms, I thanked God for the immense privilege I get to be their mom.

But boy, am I tired. Have I mentioned that?

And more than tired, I feel a bit conflicted in my mom-soul. That is probably why I haven’t written much here. Beyond the tiredness and the lack of a consistent nap-time window to write or energy to put words to thoughts at the end of a long day, I honestly haven’t known how to express my thinking. I love being a mom but it is waaaaaay more difficult than I was expecting. The whole sacrificial-love thing and continual-putting-others’-needs-before-your-own thing hasn’t been easy. I love being a wife but it is waaaay harder to choose gratefulness over resentment when life is full and tasks don’t always feel split evenly. I love teaching about writing but I’ve struggled with juggling work life and home life, and always feeling like someone is coming up short. So all of these thoughts have been bumping up against each other in my brain like a pin ball in a game machine. And I haven’t known how to blog about them without coming across as ungrateful about the challenges of these immense gifts in my life.

However, my goal is to try to do more of what I’ve done this morning: just sit down and write even if the word choice isn’t spot-on or the flow isn’t particularly smooth. Because what I do know is even if this post speaks to no one, it is cathartic for me to spill these thoughts onto a computer screen. And I leave feeling lighter and freer even if I haven’t solved a thing.

What I really planned to do this morning in this entry was introduce a post I read a couple of days ago on the blog Gracelaced. I have found her work and writing so insightful as she mothers and follows her passions. I felt particularly encouraged as I read what she wrote below and I wanted to include an excerpt from it. I felt like in so many ways she wrote what I have been processing with the exception that part of my full plate right now is just how it is going to be with two young girls. I’m still working through how to accept that reality while also following my passions, being disciplined in writing, taking care of myself, spending good time with the Lord, and building into my marriage.

All I know to do is embrace the joys and challenges of this season, let go of the idealistic plan of how my teenage-brain pictured life as a wife and mom, extend a lot of grace to myself and those in my life, and depend wholeheartedly  on God for strength, wisdom, and perseverance.

Here’s to that. And maybe a little sleep along the way.

***

Excerpt from Gracelaced by Ruth Simons:

HERE ARE JUST 3 REASONS WHY I’VE HAD WRITER’S BLOCK IN THIS SEASON:

1) You can’t do it all. When I added my paintbrushes, my tools of language shifted in a way. Not permanently or even for the better. It just has, for this season. Running a thriving business with my art has definitely cut into my time to write. There are only 24 hours of the day. How we choose to use them often reveals what we feel we can’t live without. Sometimes the mediums we use to express ourselves change from season to season…I’m learning not to be surprised when I can’t use every medium, all the time.

2) Some say: IG (and social media apps) ate the blog. I love Instagram and find my groove there. But with all the daily practice, I now think in shorter sentences, I read shorter thoughts, and my attention is captured more quickly by the accessibility of relationships formed in the ever-changing world of micro-blogging that is Instagram. It still works for me…but I think we’ve lost something. 

3) And, perhaps this is the most poignant for me in my current season, and relates to the former:

A FULL PLATE OFTEN ROBS ME OF THE APPETITE FOR READING, LEARNING, AND MEDITATION ON THOSE VERY THOUGHTS AND MORSELS OF TRUTH THAT MAKES FOR GOOD WRITING…WELL THOUGHT OUT WORDS…INTENTIONAL STORYTELLING. 

There’s very little to flesh out at length when what you take in is only skin deep. There’s so much vying for our attention that we skim read, catch headlines, and entertain ourselves by simply scrolling. But those are only temporary boosts of information…like a cup of coffee that gives a surge of energy and alertness to what’s around. But there’s no shortcuts in the art of chewing, lingering, processing, rejecting, and receiving what’s worthy of reading. There’s simply no Cliff Notes to soulful thinking and richly digested content.

There is no creative freedom or flowing of the pen when the soul suffocates in the tyranny of busyness. 

So to all my fellow bloggers, writers, thinkers, and creatives who wonder what’s happened to their voice, their storytelling, their ability to think a thought worth wrapping 350 words around:

PERHAPS YOU HAVE LITTLE TO SAY BECAUSE YOU’VE NO SPACE TO THINK. PERHAPS YOU HAVE NO SPACE TO THINK BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO BUSY DIGESTING BEFORE YOU’VE TASTED AND SAVORED. A LACK OF EXPRESSION IN WRITING HAS LESS TO DO WITH HOW MANY TOOLS WE HAVE AND MORE WITH HOW LONG WE SIT AT THE TABLE….TO DINE. 

And so I leave you with the familiar words of our friend, Jack:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

— C.S. Lewis

Rather than reading to stay up on the latest…rather than posting to satisfy a schedule…rather than creating to simply be heard…

…I’m convicted and committed to SAVORING MORE and letting what is written here overflow from a life well-watered and well-fed. I’m overcoming writer’s block with a greater appetite.

Nurturing Your Soul as a Mom

Posted on April 15th, 2015

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I have the app “Time Hop” on my iPhone which shows you all of the things you’ve posted to Facebook and Instagram over the previous years on that date. It alerted me today that two years ago I wrote the blog posted below. I decided to reread it to remind myself of what I was learning a few months into being a mom. And WOW. Don’t you find it funny when you reread something you wrote earlier and it speaks to you in new ways? I totally needed to read this today and so I thought I would repost it in case you need the encouragement too.

This morning I had a couple of hours to myself at Panera while my wonderful babysitter watched Olivia and Addilyn. I knew I needed some time to write some thoughts in my journal and spend time listening to my heart and the Lord. One of the things I was writing down was under the heading: what I enjoy doing. I’ve found that now over two years into motherhood, if I am not intentionally spending time with God, nurturing my soul, and giving myself room to do the things I enjoy, it is just not going to happen.

Typing those words makes me squirm a bit because I don’t want to sound selfish. I think as moms it’s easy for us to take care of everyone else first before ourselves and by the end of the day, there is nothing left for us. And over time, we realize that we hardly even know what we want or what we need because we haven’t tapped into it in so long.

Well, I’ll stop using “we” because I don’t know if that’s how you feel but I know that’s how I feel. And I know that God is wanting me to readdress it in my life. My church is beginning a six-week study on the word brave (and my MOPS group has just spent the year with the theme centered on brave), and I’ve been asking God, “what does my brave look like?”. I feel He is asking me to be brave enough to evaluate how motherhood is going and the effect it has had on me. To recenter my identity on Him, not dependent on the actions of my girls or my husband. To do things that a feed my soul and remind myself what I enjoy doing.

As I write this, I am also aware that I am in a special season of life–one with two little girls two–years-old and under. Time to write, or grab coffee with a friend, or sew, or read, or walk around Target uninterrupted isn’t going to be very plentiful. Part of me is still accepting this. But part of me also realizes that in order to nurture my soul, I must be intentional about ways I can do things that bring life to my soul.

I don’t have any major insights today, just more reflecting on this wonderful yet challenging thing called motherhood. I know the first thing is taking intentional time to hear from God and show me what this looks like. I hope to share more thoughts soon…

…but until then, I must go because I just got Addilyn finally to sleep and now Olivia is waking up. :)

 

 ***

 April 15, 2013

About two months ago when Olivia was about two months old, I read a quote that has been percolating in this new mom’s mind ever since: “A child isn’t an interruption from the important work; A child is the important work.” (I wish I knew where I read it, but “mommy brain” has clouded my mind and for the life of me, I can’t remember!)

In my heart I deeply agreed with those words. After all, I had dreamed of becoming a mom for as long as I could remember. At first, reading this wisdom brought great freedom from the guilt of not tackling the laundry or promptly returning emails. Life was different now, and my sole responsibility was to nurture my newborn instead of checking things off my to-do list. If anything else got accomplished besides nursing, changing diapers, and bouncing Olivia that day, it was icing on the cake.

But I’ll admit, even though I loved being a mom, I still struggled with adjusting to my new way of life and as I settled into my new role, that quote stirred up a slight panic in me. I didn’t realize how much I had grown accustomed to my pre-baby lifestyle. I loved having time to meet with women and chat over coffee, write for an uninterrupted block of time, read my Bible and journal my thoughts, cook dinner and entertain friends at our house, exercise when I pleased, and browse through Target at a leisurely pace. Not to mention, I looked forward to my weekly date night with Jared and enjoyed downloading about our days over dinner on the nights in between.

And then one day, we brought a sweet baby home from the hospital and our lives have never been the same. We fell deeply in love with our long-awaited bundle but we also experienced our fair share of difficult moments.

One of those challenging days was over a month ago now. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I felt very anxious. All day. I couldn’t shake the cloud that loomed over me. And of course on that particular day, Livi wanted to exercise her vocal cords. All day. It seemed everything I tried throughout that day didn’t appease her. And honestly, I was exasperated. At one point when she was screaming and I was trying to calm her down, I said to her, “I know, sweetie, it’s okay to cry. Mommy wants to cry too!”

I finally calmed her enough to rock her in the glider in her room. As my body swayed with the movement of the rocker, my mind raced with all of the things I still had to do. Cook dinner. Clean the hardwood floors. Empty the dishwasher. Finish thank you notes. Respond to emails.

Yet, instead of accomplishing anything on my list, I was sitting upstairs in a dark room holding my baby because she had finally dozed off to sleep. As I rested my head on the cushion and asked God to speak to me, I felt Him say, “Stay.” And I knew exactly what He meant. Don’t try to tiptoe to her crib, lay her down and then scurry out the door to accomplish a few things in those glorious moments of silence. Instead, I knew He wanted me to sit and hold my sweet daughter and allow God to calm me in the stillness as well.

I sat in that chair for over an hour as I held my sleeping girl and talked with God. I asked Him to enter into my frustrated thoughts and point me to truth. Slowly as I quieted my heart, He revealed some freeing insights to me.

One of the insights He showed me surprised me. I realized that I was carrying around some shame over not enjoying each and every moment of motherhood. I felt so guilty that I had prayed so fervently for a baby and then when she arrived, there were moments that I felt overwhelmed and even wondered if I was cut out to be a mom. Every time I talked with someone who exclaimed, “Aren’t you just loving every minute?” I felt a sandbag of guilt pile on top of me. Was it okay to admit that although, yes, I loved my daughter to pieces, no, I wasn’t loving every single second? In all honesty, I was shell-shocked with how much our lives had changed and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. And although I couldn’t believe I was saying it, I missed parts of my before-baby life. Sleep. Quiet. Reflection. Connectedness.

As I continued to rock Olivia, a quote came to my mind that kept popping up in conversations and in my reading: “Wherever you are be all there.” I have noticed whenever there is a theme I need to tune my ear to what God may be saying to me, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about these words.  (I wrote a few of my thoughts about being present here.) It is definitely the desire of my heart for Olivia to know that she isn’t just a distraction to what I really want to be doing; she is my primary focus and I want to be “all there” when I am mothering her.

However, if I could be honest in my brief experience of motherhood thus far, I am realizing that in order to be all there for her, I have to have some moments to recharge. I’ve struggled with the guilt I have felt for needing a break from wearing a mommy hat. Was it okay that I needed a respite? And was it okay to admit that even though I loved Olivia there were parts of being a mom that were really challenging and even discouraging?

Yes and yes, I have found that it is okay. It’s taken me a while to realize that part of my anxiety was due to the fact that I wasn’t living up to the elusive “perfect mother” image that whispered to me in my not-so-great hours, “Every other mom cherishes these moments; what is wrong with you?” Thankfully after several discussions with dear friends, I am realizing that many moms have felt this way too but they’ve been afraid to admit it. One of the most guilt-lifting realizations was that it’s not that I don’t want to be a mom.

Quite the contrary, I want to be a great mom, and I am learning part of the way for me to be that is to not only take care of my daughter and husband but take some moments for myself to replenish and especially have moments with God so that when I am mothering Olivia, I can be “all there.”

However, as we all know, having these realizations and integrating them into our reality can be the challenging part. As I look back over the last four months, finding time for me has hardly happened since Olivia was born—and not because my husband hasn’t been supportive or our parents haven’t been willing to babysit. It’s just that there’s so much to do and my rejuvenating time can easily be pushed out by piles of laundry, a full inbox, and a long list of errands.

I now can totally comprehend how motherhood becomes all encompassing and before you know it, you don’t even know who you are anymore apart from being a mom. Part of this is good; my life has great purpose in caring and nurturing for a little life. But part of this, I am realizing, can be so dangerous if I am not careful to nurture who I was before becoming a mom and who I want to be as a woman.

And so I am learning, as much as mothering can be very satisfying, it is not my sole identity. I am also a writer, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and most of all, a follower of Christ. When my identity rests here and I nurture all parts of me, I can view my new life and my new role with such greater perspective and I can also enjoy my mommy moments so much more.

Just like spring is hopefully arriving here, I’ve come to view life in seasons. It occurred to me as I’ve been processing all of these thoughts about being a mom that this little block of time with a young baby (or insert whatever stage you are in) is a season. It won’t last forever and I can understand a bit more why people who have lived through a particular season look back with a glimmer in their eye and say, “Cherish every moment.” When you look back on a season, it is a lot easier to skip over the extra hard days and just remember the sweet moments (like my college days!).

Which reminds me of a situation I experienced recently with Jared’s lovely ninety-two-year-old grandmother. While we were visiting, she kept saying over and over, “the years go by so quickly,” and “enjoy every one of these moments” and “hold her as much as you can because she’ll be too big really soon.” I didn’t seem to mind her comments as much because I am sure when you’re in that situation where you are looking at your great granddaughter, the scenes from all of your life seem to flash before you and it feels like yesterday when you were cradling your own.  I also didn’t mind because she prays for us constantly, loves us well, and her heart is so kind.

Later on during our visit, Olivia became very fussy and started uncontrollably crying. I was bouncing her back and forth through the living room trying to calm her down to no avail. After a good while, Grandma Warner looked at me and with such sweet sincerity in her voice she said, “That was good for me to see and remember that there are hard moments too.” I can’t tell you how validated I felt. I have thought of that moment so many times since and have tried to take to heart her advice of holding Olivia more as well as remembering that some moments as a mom are just plain hard.

After two months of reflecting, I am realizing that yes, raising a child is very important work. But the most valuable endeavor is what Beth Moore reminded me in her teaching series on Deuteronomy when she said, “To be a successful mother in God’s eyes, love the Lord with everything you have got.” The overflow of loving and seeking God will bring the energy, joy, and perspective needed to be the mother and woman God has created me to be. Now, that’s important work.

A Babymoon Blunder or Blessing?

Posted on December 3rd, 2014

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Ah, the time had come.

Jared planned a Babymoon for us to get away before the busyness of the fall and the holidays kept us homebound. We had been debating if we should go away for a few days for reflection and connection as we celebrated our almost two years with Olivia and prepared for our next little one to arrive. We decided in the hustle and bustle of daily life that, yes, we needed a few days away together. Once Jared booked the flights and hotel, I could feel my excitement rising.

I dreamt of sleeping in without having to bound out of bed to a work schedule and an energetic toddler. I visualized myself on the pool chair, losing myself in a book for hours and not feeling guilty. I couldn’t wait to sit over a meal with Jared and not have to coax a toddler to eat her peas all the while. For this tired mom, it sounded like heaven.

For the record, I have loved being a mom. There are parts of it that are exactly what I envisioned it being all those years ago. But there have also been some extremely difficult moments when I realized that motherhood is much harder than I expected. Days when I have had to give up everything I want to do for the sake of my daughter. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t always sacrificed with a willing spirit. Sometimes it’s been with a grumpy heart, wishing I just had some time for me.

So needless to say, this gift my husband was giving me of three and a half days on the beach sounded blissful.

The date finally arrived and we woke up at 3:30am to begin our long day of travel. Even that crazy hour for this non-morning person couldn’t dampen my mood. We were ready. We were packed. The grandparents were in charge and the typed directions for Olivia’s every hour were laid on the counter.

I should mention that during the week leading up to the trip, the weather presented us with a potential snafu to literally rain on our parade. A tropical storm was churning in the Pacific Ocean and threatening our sun-filled paradise vacation in Cabo. Jared and I prayed and discussed the options, wanting to make sure we weren’t forging ahead with our plans if it wasn’t the best plan or what God had in mind. But after praying, discussing, studying the weather reports and weighing the cost to rebook the trip, we decided we felt comfortable continuing on with our vacation plans. We stuck in a puzzle and extra books in our suitcase in case it rained most of the time. But even that sounded like a vacation because it just meant more sleep and down time for two exhausted parents.

On our layover in Dallas, we checked the weather again and were pleased to hear that the tropical storm was downgraded even more and it seemed to be no threat. When the hotel worker picked us up from the airport, even he mentioned how in Cabo they experienced tropical storms all of the time and it only rained for a brief part of the day and then the sun returned. Ah, exactly what we needed to hear. See, the weather forecasters were creating drama where there wasn’t any!

Arriving at our hotel and breathing in the salt from the ocean brought instant peace to my tired soul. I couldn’t believe I was actually in paradise and given four whole days to unwind.  Jared and I didn’t waste much time changing into our swimsuits and heading down to the gorgeous pool. We laid on the towel-covered lounge chairs for several hours reading our books and letting the stress of every day life begin to seep out of us.

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After showering and watching a little of the football game (okay, so I didn’t exactly watch it but it was on and I sat next to Jared reading my book as he watched it!), we decided to head to dinner. It was tempting to just order room service since we had been awake since 3:30am after a full day of travel, but we decided that since it could rain the rest of the time, we wanted to eat dinner at the hotel’s restaurant overlooking the ocean.

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The view was amazing and even though I was more tired than I would have liked to truly soak in the beautiful scenery and special company, it was still a wonderful time. Adult conversation, beautiful views, and no toddler battles!

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The next morning, I woke up really early, much to my dismay. My internal mommy clock was programmed for 7:00am whether I liked it or not. I crept out to the patio of our room while Jared slept and took in the beautiful view. The clouds had set in and the waves seemed higher than before, which disappointed me for a few minutes because I realized that maybe a storm really was approaching. But I didn’t let myself feel discouraged for too long because I knew I was so blessed to be away even if the rain did come.

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Jared and I enjoyed the morning with a delicious breakfast overlooking the crashing waves and then a walk on a path by the ocean. We took pictures of the big waves and marveled at how stirred up the ocean seemed, but we weren’t really fazed because we didn’t have a context for how it was when the seas were calm. We even sent pictures to our parents, trying to reassure them not to worry about us.  Everything is fine here, Mom and Dad!

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We headed back to our hotel room to change into our swimsuits for another day at the pool (though we knew we would likely get more clouds than sun). While we were getting ready to leave, the hotel concierge called to tell us that because the storm was coming, we needed to make sure we were back in our room by 1:00pm.

No problem, we thought.

Down at the pool, we watched how high the waves climbed before crashing down on the shore. “Wow, we’ve never seen waves this high, “ Jared and I said to each other. Even though the waves looked fierce and the sky looked ominous, I still didn’t feel overly worried about the impending storm. As we had walked down to the pool, I asked a hotel worker about the storm and he said, “A little rain and a little wind.” Okay, sounds good to me. Even though out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the hotel workers surrounded the perimeter of the pool with  sandbags, I decided they must be preparing for the worst-case scenario. (Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?)

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As we stood in the pool marveling at the waves with some of the other hotel guests, the sprinkles turned to rain. We could tell the skies were about to let loose, so we hurriedly grabbed our things and started up the path to our room. Just as we suspected, the rain turned to a downpour with heavy winds. We made it to our room just as it began intensely blowing.

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The rain pelted the windows sideways and seeped under the doors. I looked at Jared with big eyes that said, “Wow, this is not just a little rain shower.” Just then, water began dripping through our thatched roof and Jared and I scrambled to find trash cans and glasses to catch the drips.

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The phone rang and interrupted our scrambling.

Jared hardly said hello before the concierge blurted out, “Hi Mr. Warner, we have decided to evacuate the hotel.”

“Ok, where will we be going for the night?” Jared and I had embraced the possibility over the last few minutes that maybe we’d have to go a safer place for the night while the storm blew over.

“Well, we have decided to send our guests on a bus to San Diego…It will be a 24 hour bus ride.”

Huh?!

You can imagine our disbelief. A whole day’s worth of driving to evacuate this silly rainstorm? That seemed a little extreme.

“Well, I don’t think we are ready to do that. Let us know if any other options arise.”

We hung up the phone thinking how crazy it was that the hotel’s only option was to bus us 24 hours away. From all they had told us up until this point, this tropical storm was going to blow in and blow out. Why did we have to evacuate 24 hours away and incur plane charges and a blown vacation (literally!) when the storm would be gone before we even made it to our destination?

Regardless, we realized we would be leaving our room for the night so I started collecting my things, stuffing everything back in my suitcase, and praying for wisdom about what to do. Jared and I prayed together that God would direct us and make it clear what we should do. We didn’t want to be so stuck on our own plan that we placed ourselves (and unborn baby) in danger.

Not ten minutes later, a knock came to the door. One of the hotel workers wanted to talk to us about evacuating. I was trying to be patient as I listened to him talk and then my ears perked up when he said, “Mr. and Mrs. Warner, this is the worst hurricane that will have ever hit Cabo. A Category Two once hit us and it knocked out the bridge to get to the airport. They are now saying this will be a Category Four, I think this one could be really bad.”

Oh.

For the first time, the gravity of the situation began to hit us and we realized there was no other choice but to board the bus. I didn’t know anything about hurricanes, but I knew enough to know I did not want to be overlooking the ocean in a Category Four hurricane. We hurriedly packed the rest of the room and walked down to the bus meeting area. While the rain had stopped for a while, it picked up again on our walk. We stood in the rain holding our luggage as we waited to board the bus, smirking at each other because we knew we better just laugh at the blunder or our Babymoon. 

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It wasn’t until we were settled onto the bus that the realization of all that had transpired hit me. The next day of my vacation was going to be spent on a crowded bus rather than a spacious resort. It felt a little cruel and I’ll admit that I let myself cry for a few minutes, processing the dichotomy of my reality to our heavenly vacation and the 27 hours we were fortunate to experience.

But thankfully I married a husband who not only has a level head but also strives to hear from God and keep perspective. We shared many conversations over the next few hours about the situation. (Nothing like being forced to sit next to each other with no cell service and not much else to do to encourage good communication!) Yes, it was a bummer that our babymoon was hijacked by a hurricane, but it felt quite entitled to stay there too long when people were in danger, losing their homes, and stuck in Cabo for days on end. And not to mention, we knew that we were blessed that we were even able to go on vacation.

And if we needed more perspective, our trip from Cabo to San Diego took us through the desolate desert. The shacks (literally) that people lived in reminded us that there was an entire other world out there whose biggest problem that day wasn’t that they had to leave their resort and ride on a chartered bus. Sometimes opening my eyes to see the bigger world is all I need to jolt me back into perspective.

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We thankfully had left Cabo four hours before the hurricane so though it was a little tense as we drove, we finally outran the storm. We made it to a remote gas station in the middle of the desert at 7:00am, twelve hours later. Jared waited until then to mention how thankful he was that we didn’t encounter any safety problems through the night–something I hadn’t considered, and boy, am I glad because I didn’t need any help imagining a frightening situation. 

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[the bathroom at the gas station we stopped at.]

The rest of the trip was long (we had to stop six times for the Federales [Mexican army] to search our bus and bags), but thankfully uneventful.  We kept hearing reports of visitors stuck in Cabo and hotel workers’ homes destroyed. What started as frustration to have to change our vacation plans turned into gratitude that we made it out of Cabo safely.

Not to mention we still had homes to return to. And so many other blessings to list. 

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It’s been two months since our Cabo adventure, and Jared and I are still processing the lessons we learned. One of the biggest take-aways for me was that though I desired a relaxing vacation way from the stress of life for a few days, God wanted instead to expand our view beyond our little worlds. It’s another reminder to me that though we may picture life going one way, God may envision it going another to grow us or teach us more about ourselves or Himself. It’s not always pretty, and thinking back to my cancer situation, it’s not always enjoyable, but I am learning the key lies in changing my perspective and opening up my heart to what He is trying to accomplish. When I shift my view from myself and onto what He is doing, I gain a peace that doesn’t come from anywhere else. Not a perfect vacation. Or perfect health. Or a perfect marriage.

And along with that nugget, God also reminded me that I can’t see the full picture, only He can. His hand of protection was totally upon us, and how grateful we were (although maybe more in hindsight). Jared and I have been learning the lesson of gratitude and this was another reminder to truly thank God for the ways He has protected us and led us, even if it wasn’t exactly how we wanted it to go.  I am learning that sometimes I must choose gratitude rather than wait to feel it. As I choose to be grateful, slowly the feelings come and my eyes are opened to all of the blessings I have.

Although our Babymoon wasn’t the perfect paradise that I dreamt about, it bonded Jared and I closer together in our marriage and taught us a deeper lesson about gratitude. All in all, quite a blessing.

As we mulled all of this over while eating dinner in San Diego, rain began drizzling from out of nowhere. We laughed and joked about the rain following us wherever we went, but then God painted the most beautiful double rainbow in front of my eyes and reminded me how much He was with us and providing for us. It was the most fitting end to quite a Babymoon adventure.

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Living a “Small” Life as a Mom

Posted on October 29th, 2014

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As I mentioned in a recent post, I had the awesome privilege of attending the MOPS conference this year. One of the biggest things I took away from it is that sometimes motherhood can keep me living very “small.” I oftentimes do not feel I have the time and energy to open my eyes to the “bigger” things going on around me because my world is filled with changing diapers, negotiating toddler battles, and listening to songs about animals on the farm.  And then I crash on the couch in the evening with a brain full of mush because I gave every ounce of energy I had throughout the day (and then this brings up a whole other topic of being intentional in my marriage and friendship, and one Jared and I keep talking about as we are in the throes of parenthood…).

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[The cute friends I spend the most time with these days.]

For the last 23 months, I have been reflecting on and wrestling with my role as a mom and as a woman. Part of me is accepting the fact that what “big” used to look like in my life will now look different as a mom with a new job responsibility. In a lot of ways, I have had to surrender how I may want to spend my time (writing, teaching, meeting women for coffee, reading, reflecting) and embrace that my new normal looks much different and in so many ways, much fuller and richer. And it doesn’t mean I can’t do those aforementioned activities, but they just require more creativity and flexibility–and if I’m honest, oftentimes it doesn’t happen because I don’t have the energy to figure out how to make it happen.

Anyway, I don’t have any well-developed thoughts to share today, just a few that are percolating in my mind and in my prayers. I mostly wanted to share this blog I read recently that I really resonated with: “When You Worry Your Life is Too “Small” to Qualify for “Big” Ministry” by Lisa Jo Baker. I highly recommend it!

I read a book of hers recently entitled Surprised By Motherhood which I appreciated. Here is an excerpt I underlined and have been thinking about since:

“Some days I still miss the Lisa-Jo I used to be. But those days are rarer than they were when Jackson was just a few months old. Like a pair of saggy old jeans on a Sunday afternoon, the word mother fits me more comfortably now. But there were days under the lilac jacaranda when I shook my head and couldn’t understand how I’d lost myself in the wash and spin and rinse and repeat of new rhythms I couldn’t find my groove in…This was a new rhythm, and my body was awkwardly fumbling toward the beat.

So I rocked and walked and soothed and wrangled my own confusion. And still I stood with one foot in the life I thought I loved as I waited for the baby I’d wanted to start to love me. Nonsense. I lived a lot of nonsense before life started to make sense again. But that’s because the breaking up can be a slow process. Becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself. And it takes time till you can keep time to a cataclysmic new beat. It takes courage to say no to yourself and yes to someone else. Over and over again–days, weeks, weekends, years, and trips to Chuck E. Cheese’s on end. The way a gut-punch takes your breath away with the sheer shock of the change.

So I spun and spun in dizzying circles, until sometime just before Jackson turned one, there in the distance I spotted the small unremarkable speck of who I used to be. And I waved. And the dance swept me on” (90).

And then a few chapters later, she writes, “No, God doesn’t ask us to trade who we are for the label of ‘Mom.’ Rather, He builds all the courage and calling of a lifetime into a story line big enough and rich enough to encompass kids, passion, work, creativity, and dreams that don’t end in the labor and delivery ward” (154).

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I am still processing how all this plays out in my life, and in full disclosure, right now this means finishing this blog post that I started during nap time as Olivia watches a Mickey episode. And I better sign off because it is approaching dinner time and I need all the creativity I have left to muster up something to make for dinner!

 

Super Smoothie Recipes

Posted on April 30th, 2014

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I have been making and eating a healthy smoothie for over four years now. I have tweaked the recipe since I wrote about it and thought I would share it again. Mainly, I wanted to share it because I read an interesting article about a “Berry Brainy Blizzard Smoothie” that I wanted to post today as well. Annnnd…the real reason is it is finally getting warmer so smoothies sound much more appealing and refreshing!

My [tweaked] Super Savory Smoothie Recipe:

**Makes four smoothies.

2 Tbs. ground flaxseed [Make sure the flaxseed is ground so that you can receive all of the health benefits.]

2 Tbs. Barley Green [Read about the health benefits here and here. I bought mine through Ell Farm but I also found it online here.]

2 Tbs. Brewer’s Yeast [Read about the health benefits here. You can buy it online here or at Whole Foods.]

1-2 Tbs Whey Powder [Read about the health benefits here. My nutritionist recommended Biochem which you can find at Whole Foods.]

  • I do not use this any more because of the dairy component but maybe I should reread the health benefits and think about it. :)

½ tsp Cinnamon [Read about the health benefits here.]

1 6 oz. container organic yogurt

2 cups frozen berries [I buy frozen bags of Wild Blueberries and Mixed Berries at Costco but anything will work. Blueberries continue to be recommended for brain health. See the article here.]

1 banana (to make thicker)

A big handful (or two) of spinach or kale [Read about health benefits here.]

**Sometimes I add an avocado, a peeled orange or any other fruit that needs to be used.

Fill the remainder with water.

Blend!

  • I have to give a shout-out to my beloved Vitamix. I had no idea the world I was missing before I had it! I know it is super expensive but we decided it was worth it because I make smoothies so often. The smoothie is literally finished blending in two minutes and it takes another two minutes to clean the blender. Totally worth it in my book. (I bought mine at Costco which is the least expensive place I have found it.)

I was happy to see that my smoothie was similar to the “Anti-Flu Super Smoothie” that was posted on The Super Healthy Kids website. The author also includes really helpful information about the ingredient benefits as well.

And if you wanted to compare one more smoothie recipe, here is the “Berry Brainy Blizzard Smoothie.”

Any other ingredients you add in your smoothie that I haven’t mentioned? Please share!

Here’s to a healthy summer with lots of cups full of smoothies!

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Is it ready yet, Mommy?

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Olivia always goes to find her little cup for me to pour the smoothie into when she sees me get out the Vitamix. I love that she is on board too!

Trampled Death by Death

Posted on April 16th, 2014

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I’ve been staring at the computer screen for the past several minutes trying to think how I should begin this blog post. At the time of loss, it is difficult to find words to express the feelings welling up inside.

Last Saturday, my sweet Grandma met Jesus face to face in heaven. I bet that was such a glorious experience for her and even as I type those words I know they don’t even begin to describe that moment. I take such comfort in knowing she is with Jesus and that because of our relationships with Jesus, we will see each other again. Actually, that truth has brought such immense comfort to my heart because I am so very, very sad that our time together on this earth is no more. She was so special to me and we have shared some very precious memories that I hold very dear.

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The morning after she died, Jared and I went to church. In all honesty, I wasn’t feeling up to going to church as my heart felt really fragile and sad. Not long after we slipped in, the band began playing Matt Maher’s song, “Christ is Risen.” As the lyrics played on the screen, tears filled my eyes because it was as if Jesus was reminding me of what I really needed to hear. Being the first time that I have lost someone so special to me, I found such solace knowing that heaven wasn’t just a nice thought but it actually was real and when Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us, He meant it. And not only that, but because of my Grandma’s faith in Jesus, she was there at that very moment. In my finite mind, I could picture the joy she must be experiencing being healed,  whole, and fully who God made her to be. It made me smile.

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When we sang the line in the song “Christ is risen from the dead trampling over death by death,” tears choked my words and all I could do was stand there nodding. I will never forget that moment because I internalized the truth that Jesus trampled death by dying Himself. It wasn’t just a thought in the clouds but it was an actual promise. What hope! Death was not the end for those who know Christ, and I have never been more comforted of that truth.

A dear friend of mine lost a family member this past week as well and she made the comment that they do not grieve without hope because they are “Easter people.” I have never thought of it in that way, but how grateful I am that because Jesus died for my sins and then conquered death by rising again, I do not need to despair about death. Yes, I am immensely sad that my Grandma is no longer with me on earth, but I am deeply comforted of the promise of heaven. We are Easter people with deep hope amid our grieving.

I know this Easter will be special as I continue to internalize these truths and picture my Grandma dancing on the streets of gold with Jesus. May these truths rest on your heart in a fresh way as well.

Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign
Forever let your church proclaim

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, he’s alive! he’s alive!

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Rise up from the grave…

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My Grandma made me a quilt for my wedding. This was just one example of the selfless love she poured out on us.

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My grandparents were married 62 (and 3/4) years and celebrated every anniversary with a sundae. What a legacy of committed love they have left for us.

They have been so involved in my life, through the ups and downs.

They have been so involved in my life, through the ups and downs.

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Our last time shopping at garage sales together – a past time she taught us how to do!

“The Art of Presence”

Posted on April 2nd, 2014

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In my spare time (which isn’t much these days), I have been writing a blog post about ways to encourage those going through cancer. As I’ve been compiling my information, I keep thinking about an article I read a while ago about how to “be there” for someone going through a difficult time. I thought I would share it below for the Wednesday Wisdom Well because there is such important information included. It was also a helpful reminder of ways to love and encourage my Grandfather, Mom, and other family members as we watch my Grandmother’s health rapidly decline. If there is anything I learned walking through cancer, it was to do something to reach out to those hurting because I saw firsthand how much it encouraged me when people remembered me.  I will write more in my upcoming blog post about more of my thoughts but thought I’d whet your appetite about this topic with this blog post.

Let’s “be there” for those God may want us to bless today.

***

The Art of Presence by David Brooks

Tragedy has twice visited the Woodiwiss family. In 2008, Anna Woodiwiss, then 27, was working for a service organization in Afghanistan. On April 1, she went horseback riding and was thrown, dying from her injuries. In 2013, her younger sister Catherine, then 26, was biking to work from her home in Washington. She was hit by a car and her face was severely smashed up. She has endured and will continue to endure a series of operations. For a time, she breathed and ate through a tube, unable to speak. The recovery is slow.

The victims of trauma, she writes in a remarkable blog post for Sojourners, experience days “when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.”

Her mother, Mary, talks about the deep organic grief that a parent feels when they have lost one child and seen another badly injured, a pain felt in bones and fiber.

But suffering is a teacher. And, among other things, the Woodiwisses drew a few lessons, which at least apply to their own experience, about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone. There are no uniformly right responses, but their collective wisdom, some of it contained in Catherine’s Sojourners piece, is quite useful:

Do be there. Some people think that those who experience trauma need space to sort things through. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence. The Woodiwisses say they were awed after each tragedy by the number of people, many of whom had been mere acquaintances, who showed up and offered love, from across the nation and the continents. They were also disoriented by a number of close friends who simply weren’t there, who were afraid or too busy.

Anna and Catherine’s father, Ashley, says he could detect no pattern to help predict who would step up and provide the ministry of presence and who would fumble. Neither age, experience nor personal belief correlated with sensitivity and love.

Don’t compare, ever. Don’t say, “I understand what it’s like to lose a child. My dog died, and that was hard, too.” Even if the comparison seems more germane, don’t make it. Each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness. Each story should be heard attentively as its own thing. “From the inside,” Catherine writes, comparisons “sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.”

Do bring soup. The non-verbal expressions of love are as healing as eloquence. When Mary was living with Catherine during her recovery, some young friend noticed she didn’t have a bathmat. He went to Target and got a bathmat. Mary says she will never forget that.

Do not say “you’ll get over it.” “There is no such thing as ‘getting over it,’ ” Catherine writes, “A major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no ‘back to the old me.’ ”

Do be a builder. The Woodiwisses distinguish between firefighters and builders. Firefighters drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders are there for years and years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles.

Don’t say it’s all for the best or try to make sense out of what has happened.Catherine and her parents speak with astonishing gentleness and quiet thoughtfulness, but it’s pretty obvious that these tragedies have stripped away their tolerance for pretense and unrooted optimism.

Ashley also warned against those who would overinterpret, and try to make sense of the inexplicable. Even devout Christians, as the Woodiwisses are, should worry about taking theology beyond its limits. Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.

I’d say that what these experiences call for is a sort of passive activism. We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation. Allow nature to take its course. Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process. Let them define meaning. Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness. Be practical, mundane, simple and direct.

Ashley and Mary went to Afghanistan a few months after Anna’s death. They remember that as a time out of time. They wept together with Afghan villagers and felt touched by grace. “That period changed me and opened my imagination,” Ashley recalls. “This thing called presence and love is more available than I had thought. It is more ready to be let loose than I ever imagined.”

God’s Relentless Love

Posted on February 26th, 2014

I mentioned in one of my last posts that I had the opportunity to speak at my church recently. It was quite meaningful to me because it is the church where I attended youth group and also where many people–some who I didn’t even know–prayed for me during my cancer journey.  I was struck by how faithful God has been and has walked each step of the way, even the tumultuous road of cancer. I shared my testimony and weaved in the theme of God’s unconditional love for me.

Not coincidentally, right after I spoke, I received an email from one of the mothers of my former fourth grade students asking me to guest blog about God’s love. I immediately thought of the talk I just gave and decided to use several anecdotes from it when I wrote the blog entry. If you would like to read it, follow this link.

I would be remiss without saying a big thank you to those of you who have faithfully read my blog and prayed for me during this journey. I feel so grateful for you and for the way God has sustained me and my health. As you will see if you read my blog post, I am continually adding chapters to my story of ways God has revealed His love to me. Please know that He has used so many of you and your encouraging posts to uplift me when I have needed it most and remind me how much He loves me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Living Out Your Calling

Posted on February 12th, 2014

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Last weekend, I joined a few others women in my area and we watched the simulcast of the IF: gathering conference. I didn’t know much about it but knew people like Angie Smith, Ann Voskamp, and Jen Hatmaker were speaking so I knew it would be interesting.I hardly knew anyone attending the local event but I felt God nudging me to attend. Thankfully, Jared graciously offered to watch Olivia Friday night and Saturday afternoon so my schedule was free.

I wish I could find the words to articulate how moving this conference was for me. It came at a time when my heart needed it. After surviving the first year of motherhood, I have been feeling a desire to stick my big toe back into women’s ministry. Not that I haven’t been involved here or there, but with the combination of moving to a new area and having a baby, I have given myself some space to adjust. I have more to say on that but because Olivia is waking up from her nap, I can just scratch the surface for now.

One of the predominate thoughts I took away from the conference was – Are you living out your calling? I realized last weekend that though my calling is the same (vulnerably sharing my life with women to point them to Christ), it looks quite different now that I am a mom. I have wrestled all year with the fact that I don’t have time to blog or meet women for coffee like I did in the past. And in many ways that has left me feeling like I am not “living out my calling.” But the major ah-ha I had (and this may seem obvious to you but I am a slow learner at times!) is that I need to change my expectations for what “living out my calling” looks like now as a mom. As one of the girls at the conference encouraged me last weekend, it may mean inviting people into my home and life amid the craziness of an active one-year-old. And in addition to my calling of ministering to women, I also have a calling to raise Olivia to know and love Jesus.

So many thoughts rolling around in my head but I wanted to write some of them down while they are still fresh (and Olivia is sleeping!). She is awake now so though I have more on my mind, I must end for now. I will leave you with a few quotes that I appreciated from various speakers this weekend. If you listened to the simulcast, what quotes stood out to you?

***

“You can be delivered but not be FREE.” (Referring to the Israelites in Joshua 5) -Christine Caine

“Believe the truth of God’s Word over the facts of your circumstances.” -Christine Caine

“Measuring sticks always lie. Jesus isn’t about scales; He’s about grace…They don’t make a scale that could ever measure value, worth, or the weight of a soul.” -Ann Voskamp

“Walk through life with a measuring stick and your eyes get so small you never see God.” -Ann Voskamp

“God doesn’t want to use you, He wants to be with you. He is Emmanuel…We can get caught up in the doing instead of the being” -Sarah Besse

“Free people free people.” -Bianca Olthoff

“The root of anxiety is unfulfilled responsibility…You know you were made for more and you’re not doing it.” -Rebekah Lyons

“Calling is when your talents and burdens collide.” -Rebekah Lyons

“The sin that entangles is so deceiving…May we reject the things that numb us of our captivity.” -Rebekah Lyons

(I didn’t take any notes of Jen Hatmaker’s talk because I was listening to it in bed at midnight!) :)

 

A few questions to consider and ones that I am pondering:

Based off of Hebrews 11, what do you need to throw off?

In what ways are you entangled?

What is holding you back?

What keeps you from living out God’s purposes for you?

What risk is God calling you toward?

****

The song that is on my mind that they sang during the conference and one that I keep playing is Oceans by Hillsong United. If you haven’t heard it, listen here.