Friday, September 30, 2016

The Power to Make it Through the Day (Part II)

In the last post, I talked about how I was really convicted about needing to re-start spending very intentional time with God. I feel the need, I feel the call, but I'm not sure how to put it into action. Noah weaned (WOW emotions), he started potty training, then he got his first stitches, my computer broke, then we went through a few weeks of "terrible two" behavior requiring reinforced discipline, then my pain flared up. August and September got the best of me, which is why I had my initial "aha" moment early this summer, and I'm just now processing it at the END of September!

(How is it the end of September!?)

Except... it's not really like that, I guess. It's not like nothing's been happening in my heart. I've been reading, I started seeing a new counselor, I've been reaching out in friendship more, I've been talking to Ross about not assuming the worst of people (especially of my spouse). I recognize the void, and I guess I've spent the last few months really feeling it out. This is how far and how wide and how far-reaching it goes: the absence of God in my life touches everything.

God is in constant pursuit of me, and the last 5 years of my life have been spent letting go of how I thought my story should go, softening, changing, and realizing this is God's story. In fact, sometimes I go through this entire range of emotions in a 24 hour period! Marriage, miscarriage, and motherhood have continued to refine me this past year, possibly more than ever. Which is funny, because I thought my marriage falling apart in 2012 was the biggest upheaval my life would ever see.

Anyway, I'm starting to feel like I'm moving into a new season. I'll always need to be letting go of little idols and expectations, yet I can't help but think that this new season is more about taking hold and standing firm than it is about letting go. Taking hold of the promises of God. Taking responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and actions, and actively sifting the good from the bad. Using my time wisely. Standing firm in the faith to which I have been called.

With these thoughts floating around in my head, I started reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, and this image caught my attention early on in the book.

I loved my life, but I had become someone I didn't want to be around. I had become someone I didn't want to be. This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from exhaustion to peace, from isolation to connection, from hustling and multitasking to sacred presence... The greatest, most challenging, most rewarding sea-change of my adult life. 
I had no idea what it meant to remake my life from the inside out. Now, more than three years later, I'm so deeply thankful to look back and realize that's just what I've done, although in the twistiest, most circuitous possible way. I tried all the outside ways first-- I imagined the changes I needed to make were about time management, or perhaps having the cleaners come more often. I quickly found it was not about managing time or housekeeping. It was not about to-do lists or scheduling minutes and hours. This journey has been about love, about worth, about God, about what it means to know him and be loved by him in a way that grounds and reorders everything. 
It IS work, of course. It feels, I'd imagine, like adding a basement to a house that's already been standing for decades. I thought it would be more like adding new shutters, but I'm finding it to be more like lifting up a home and starting to dig, re-orienting the very foundation. There is nothing superficial about this process.

This really captures my imagination because the other week, I was at work and Ross texted me a picture of this exact thing: someone's house on stilts, while they added a basement beneath! Of course, he sent that picture to tease me about our own never-ending renovations, joking that we should do this next. All I could think of was how horrifically disruptive and expensive it would be. (But I entertained it for about a second because our moldy crawl space drives me nuts.)

Anyway, when I read Shauna's words, they really had an effect: how horrifically disruptive this would be! Followed swiftly by the thought, I need a change in my life, internally. For so long, the tidal waves of disruption have come from the outside. This is gracious, in a sense, because my external circumstances have spurred internal heart-change that might never have happened otherwise. But... what if this time the disruption could be my own? What if I was able to see: this is where I want to be, and this is where I am, and I can't carry myself from here to there on willpower or passage of time alone.

As I sit here thinking, dare I say? The waters have stilled a bit. I've caught my breath. I look at life very differently than I did 5, 10, 15 years ago. For better and for worse. I love my life, truly. I'm so happy that the avalanche of all the things led me here. I love being a mom. I love my job at the hospital (the ninth job in as many years-- although many of them overlapped-- and the fourth job in 2 years). I love that I'm about a million times less anxious than I was this time last year. I love that my laughter overrides my anger more often than not when I'm home all day with a toddler. I feel softer, in a lot of ways. So many of these changes have been necessary in my life, but I feel like I've taken them as far as they can go. The house (literally and metaphorically) has been organized and tidied, and now... maybe... it's time to begin addressing the foundation so I'm on solid ground when the next storm hits.

I've come a long way AND I have a long way to go. These two things will always be true.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Power to Make it Through the Day (Part I)

I have a few podcasts that I love listening to on morning walks. It's like listening to an older, wiser friend without having to chime in or fear mom judgement. I have plenty of favorite episodes from a few different women, but Episode 21 of Mom Struggling Well has been so applicable to my life the last few months, that I finally decided to write down the bits that really spoke to me.

In it, Kristin Lemus is talking about how God's truth applies to her motherhood:

I really struggled, for the longest time, with feeling like a bad mom... I would have days where I'd get to the end of the day, and I would just be exhausted, my kids were whiny, things didn't go right, potty training struggles, whatever it is. And I would be like, 'I am such a bad mom. I can't get it together, I can't get organized. I'm not spending time playing with my kids...' whatever the thoughts were. I kept feeling overwhelmed with motherhood. I'm thinking, 'at some point I should be able to figure this out and get on top of it.'

One day, I just hit my limit... I was talking to my husband and I was just like, 'I'm such a bad mom, I got upset with the kids today. I don't know how to overcome these feelings.' I knew in my head I wasn't supposed to feel like this, I just didn't know the way out. I just felt stuck.

...I started talking to God the way I'd been talking to my husband: 'I am such a bad mom and I don't know what to do about it. I don't know the answer!' And I just heard His voice in the moment: Who says you're a bad mom? I don't say you're a bad mom! When I created everything, I looked over all of it and declared that it was good. I designed you. I made you a mom. And I declare that you are good. Instead of confessing all those other things, like 'I am so overwhelmed,' begin to confess that 'I'm a good mom because God calls me that'... Take the bad thoughts captive and you will begin to become what you are confessing. It was a process, but it totally transformed my life and my mothering...

The interviewer asks, "So what does that look like today? What is that process?"

It's really so much about taking our thoughts captive, because the enemy wants to come in and speak to us in those moments when we are feeling all those overwhelmed feelings... It's a matter of stopping them and saying, 'No! I'm not going to choose to agree with that. I'm going to choose to agree with what God says about me.' ...You hear those negative things super quick. But the more you combat it, the faster you get at it, and the less power that it has over you. It's a matter of putting it into practice.
"What weapons are you fighting with and how did you make them accessible?"

I started to dig into God's word... Scripture about who God says I am, and about God's love... I had to read His Word more intentionally and write those things down and memorize those scriptures, so that it was in me. So when the opposite was coming toward me, I had something to fight it off with.

The other thing I've learned, is just spending time with Him in His presence, it makes such a huge difference. The Bible says that the same power that rose Christ from the dead lives inside of us! The Holy Spirit is so willing to give us the power we need to overcome these things. He wants to equip us and strengthen us, and his fruit is so good, and so sweet, and so powerful, and that's what we want to be as moms. We want to be loving, and kind, and have self control, and all of those things that are the fruit of the spirit. But the only way we get that is by spending time with Him and becoming friends with Him, and letting Him work those things in us. The more we do that, the more it is in us and comes out of us.

"So what does that look like for you on a daily basis?"

So I used to be the person who was like, 'I have to get up super early in the morning, and I have to have my quiet time now or it doesn't count.' ...I'm so not that person anymore. I feel like God has taken me through a lot of seasons. There have been some seasons where I felt like He's said, I want you up early before everyone else, and then there have been other seasons where he's like, I want you to rest and spend time with me later
But I will say this... when I was a really young mom, I had a lot of voices around me telling me, 'God has so much grace for you,' and 'Don't worry about when you get your quiet time in... just pray in the shower!' And I totally soaked that up. I'm like, 'I need all the grace I can get! I can barely breathe, I'm lucky if I get a shower...' So that was what I lived by.

But now, honestly, I'm a little frustrated by that advice. It's not that God doesn't have soooo much grace for us. He's not gonna come and whack us over the head if we don't spend time with him every day. BUT what I felt like was happening is that advice robbed me of the power that I needed to actually make it through my day! If we miss it, grace grace grace! However. If we do take that time, make that effort, make it a priority, give Him our best and our first, He meets us there and equips us. I just thing that's so powerful... I finally figured this out with my fourth kid, and I remember saying, 'I don't care how tired I am, I'm gonna spend some time right now praying and reading God's word and asking Him to speak to me, and listening.' That was such an incredible time. And it changed my mothering.

I would challenge women to make it a priority. Like I said, there's always grace. But we need this! It's like the oxygen for our day. It's so life-giving. Mothering is so tough, but there really is this power that comes from the Holy Spirit. He really does want to help us to have self-control and be loving and kind. It's a process, but giving him our priority is such a huge thing.

...Take time to speak and pray and be still and listen and read his word... He spoke the world into existence, right? He's the Creator. So when He speaks, it's creating something. When He's speaking peace into your life, He's creating peace. Whatever it is, he's actually creating that very thing in your life. It's so life-giving.


Wow. Right? I've been playing it over and over, and this is what stops me in my tracks every time:

"What I felt like was happening is that advice robbed me of the power that I needed to actually make it through my day. If we miss (quiet time)... grace grace grace! However. If we do take that time, make that effort, make it a priority, give him our best and our first, He meets us there and equips us."

That line massively convicted me. I remember being so entrenched in my morning quiet time routine early in my pregnancy with Noah. I needed it. I thrived off of it. But once we moved, I lost my footing, my routine, my safe space so to speak. I didn't feel comfortable just sitting in the middle of someone else's living room with my books and journals everywhere. I guess I should've known that when you have a baby, you have no personal space! Moving just accelerated that process a bit.

Anyway, I remember asking friends how they did quiet time with a newborn. A few told me that they read a Bible app or something while nursing, but with Noah's tongue tie, and my back pain, nursing was always a two-handed process for us. Others, of course, told me to give myself grace and speak to God throughout my day and know that eventually I would find a new routine. Well I did the first part, but I never really did the work of looking for a new routine beyond a few halfhearted streaks of naptime devotions here and there. I did lots of talking to God, but not much listening. And like Kristin says above, a lot of my talking was the 'gospel' truth of, "I'm so tired, I'm so overwhelmed, I'm so bad at this, once I get on top of my life things will be better."

Now I've reached the point where I'm potentially the most "on top" things I will ever be (ha!) and I'm feeling that God-time void. My mind is running in a million different directions, and I'm constantly choosing to "just clean up" of "just do a quick workout" or "just get some sleep" ahead of choosing to spend time with God. How will I get to know Him without spending time with him? I won't!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas

This was surprisingly good, and now I have a whole list of Gimme Some Oven recipes I want to make! I was afraid this was going to taste like every other crockpot chicken recipe, but it was nice and spicy, and crisping the chicken right before dinner really changed it up.

I was a little nervous, it would be too spicy for Noah, but he inhaled it! He started eating before we all sat down, and when Ross sat down, Noah chugged some water, noticed Ross didn't have any, and shouted, "Papa get some water it's spicy!" It was the cutest, most earnest warning I've ever heard.


Serve them in your favorite tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good!


  • 4-5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts*
  • 1 bottle gluten-free beer (or chicken stock, if you do not like to cook with alcohol)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-4 fresh limes


  1. Add the chicken, beer, onion, garlic, chipotle, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and salt to the bowl of a large slow cooker.  Gently toss to combine.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until the chicken is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, preheat your broiler to high heat and grease one large baking sheet with cooking spray. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared baking sheet, spreading the chicken in an even layer and leaving the juices behind in the slow cooker.  (Don't discard the juices, we're going to use them later!)
  4. Place one sheet under the broiler, 2 racks down from the very top, and broil for about 5-6 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken begin browning and crisping up. Remove the sheet from the oven, then ladle about 1/2 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the chicken, and then give it a good toss with some tongs so that the chicken is evenly coated with the juices.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat more crispy. Then remove and ladle an additional 1/2 cup of broth over the crispy pork.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes.  Then remove sheet from the oven, and toss chicken with the remaining broth.  Then drizzle with however much fresh lime juice you'd like (I love a ton of lime flavor!), and toss once more to combine.
  5. Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good to you!  This chicken can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Summer 2016

Oh summer, we miss you already. We've been floundering since mid-August, still trying to find a fall routine that we love. Here's what we did this summer:

Almost every morning, we took a walk. I live for walking season. (Now that we've started potty training and we're house-bound for much of the morning, I miss those walks like crazy!)

On Mondays, we had Monday Funday. This was an AMAZING idea orchestrated by several friends from church. They set up an entire calendar of Monday activities for June, July, and the first week of August. We visited new playgrounds, got to tour a fire station, and generally just loved starting the week off with friends. It was magical.

On Tuesdays, we had Bible study at the same church where we did MOPS last year, so Noah loved being in the same classroom with a lot of the same friends. And I LOVED doing Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God study with some other women. Seriously, this study was life-changing. So good.

On Wednesdays, Noah had Parent's Day Out. Summer Session was short: just 7 weeks, and we were out of town for one of those weeks. But on Wednesdays, we would rush out of the house in the morning and meander around the nearby Farmer's Market for an hour or so, often drinking "boocha" (komboucha) and eating sausages while listening to music or playing in the fountain before PDO.  Then while Noah hung out with friends and played at PDO, I was able to catch up on housework AND two or three times, the weather cooperated and I was able to swim laps mid-day. It was glorious. Those days, I'd actually pick Noah up and go BACK to the pool, because since he was "2 and under," he was free, and I could get my hand stamped to go back in on the same punch-card "visit" from that morning.

On Thursday mornings, we went to Toddler Time at the pool near us. Most of the local pools aren't open until after noon. What's up with that?! When you have a toddler who takes a nap from 1-3pm (-ish) it's so hard to try to cram pool time in after nap and before dinner, when everyone is tired, cranky, and hungry. Thus, Toddler Time is genius. They only offered it twice a week, so we always tried to make it once. And for just $2/kid, it was MUCH cheaper than buying a summer pool pass. The kid's area was amazing, and Noah just loved it. He's been quite the fish this summer, and he's not afraid of anything. Thank goodness for Puddle Jumpers!

On Fridays, Ross often got off of work early, so the day was a free-for all. Often, we'd just hang out at home after a busy week.

What a fun summer. Noah's at a great age, and it's so hilarious to converse with him. He's opinionated, energetic, and really fun to hang out with.