Saturday, December 28, 2013

Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." ~Matthew 5:3

As a former Sunday school going, AWANA song singing, Christian school graduate, I have the Beattitudes written on my frontal lobe. The "BE" attitudes as I was trained to think of them always left me vaguely confused. I pictured the Jesus you see on Catholic candles at the Dollar Tree, perched on a mossy rock and intoning spiritual mysteries... which remained to me entirely mysterious. Was I supposed to be sad? Was I supposed to be hungry? Was I supposed to be called names? Since I was "blessed" when those things happened,  was I supposed somehow feel better?

Over the past several months, I have felt a renewed interest in this strange collection of blessings. It started on a day when I felt like all cheer and the very life had drained out of my soul. Circling down a highway off-ramp, I felt rather than heard these words: Blessed are the poor in spirit.

If you wonder what spiritual poverty is, you need not look to Mother Theresa or David Livingstone or the pope. You have surely felt it. It's the draining away of your spiritual resources. When your inner strength fails; when your joy, hope, peace and faith take flight; when all motivation, courage, wisdom and creativity are tapped -- that's spiritual poverty. The truth is, we are all always poor in spirit. Easy circumstances cause our meager spiritual resources to appear sufficient, but when things take a turn (even a small turn -- broken plans, messy houses, worn out clothes), we realize our lack. It is then that we may choose to accept our own insufficiency and lift trembling hands to the very Source. I may be utterly sapped, but the whole kingdom of heaven is mine -- the very joy, peace, hope, faith, strength, courage, wisdom and creativity of God are mine. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Such small words hold such lavish meaning. When you are utterly spent, lift up your hands and all of the resources of heaven will be thrown down at you.

Matthew 5:3 ; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 66:2

Monday, September 16, 2013

Long Time, No Blog!

Long time, no blog! I have had great blog post ideas running through my head, but I usually decide to do laundry or surf Pinterest or read a book. Today, though, after visiting one of my new favorite blogs, Sally's Baking Addiction, I decided to pop over here and catch up on my own blog.

1. I think I may have drunk the pink cool-aid. As in the Mary Kay cool-aid. As in the facial parties and glam appointments and intoxicatingly positive beauty consultants. To be honest, I didn't even know that people still did Mary Kay. I remember my mom's friends selling Mary Kay, but in the world of Sephora and Ulta, Bare Minerals, Urban Decay and Benefit, I didn't know that anyone in my generation even knew about Mary Kay, let alone sold it! Wrong! A friend of a friend - Lindsey - offered to give me a free facial, which morphed into a party, which is in the process of morphing into a slough of parties in my social circles. I was actually impressed with the skin care line. (I have a minor obsession with skin care. Like I rarely make it out of the drug store in under an hour, my favorite stop in the mall is Sephora, and my Amazon wish list always contains multiple lotions and potions.) And while I haven't seen a lot of the makeup yet, I really liked what I did try. Most of all, though, I loved the positivity! Mary Kay is all about setting goals and achieving them, under the basic principles of "God first, family second, career third", the Golden Rule, and helping others succeed. Loved the genuine positivity that oozed out of Lindsey. Anyhoo, I walked away with a Miracle Set, foundation, and a well-dog-eared catalogue!

2. I have been suddenly and surprisingly swept of my feet by... football. It gets my blood pumping. The talent, discipline, strategy and sheer athleticism of the Seahawks inspire me. It makes me want to put my running shoes on and hit the pavement. It makes me want to be part of a team. It makes me jump off the couch and punch the air and hope that I didn't just wake up my baby. It looks like I am the 12th Man... go Hawks!

3. For the first time since I was pregnant with Caleb, I was chilly today. And. I. Loved. It. It poured. I baked. Bliss.

4. Wanna try a homemade face mask? I did for the first time today. I have a ton of pumpkin in my fridge from making pumpkin fudge brownies. So I tried this mask. It actually did leave my skin softer, smoother, and moister. Give it a try!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Days

I can't get ENOUGH of Caleb in the pool, wearing nothing but a sun hat and popsicle juice. He is all chubs and dimples and smiles and furrowed brows as he chases Duplos around the little plastic pool. The pool is just the right height for him to pull himself up on it, and oh is he proud! Here is where I would love to insert a picture of Mr. Chubbles himself, but my camera is packed... (We are still living at Gramma's, but it looks like we should be living at home by the end of August???)

Caleb enjoyed "Puffs" for the first time this week. He has tried them before, but they were too dry, so he always gagged on them. Now he grabs them with his front teeth, looks out the corner of his eye, and appears to think very hard as he crunches down and then mushes them around his mouth. He also tried yogurt for the first time today; which was also a hit... after the initial shudder at the first tangy bite. I love it! I never would have guessed how much fun it is to introduce new and yummy foods to my baby. (Insert another adorable photo here.)

Now Gramma and I are sitting here, lost in our individual cyber-spaces, licking the last drops of microwave s'mores off our lips. We didn't have any firewood, but the neighbors are having s'mores, so we wanted them, too!

And now a happy, summer poem for you.

Midsummer Joys
by Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr.

Give me the joys of summer,
    Of SUMMER QUEEN so fair,
With wealth of lovely flowers
    And fruits and sun-kissed air!
Talk not to me of winter
    With ice and frost and snow,
Nor changing spring and autumn
    When howling winds will blow.
No, I will take the joys
    Of SUMMER every time,
So to this Queen of Seasons
    I dedicate my rhyme.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


One of the simplest ways I have found to be a better me, is to make sure that I am nourishing myself. Not just feeding myself (junk food, junk media, etc) but really and truly nourishing myself. Although food is one way that I nourish myself, there are so many other facets to nourishment. I have found that when I am feeling anxious, depressed, unmotivated or fatigued, I usually need some kind of nourishment like...

Sleep - It is so simple, but so hard, especially as a mom with a baby, but I have to choose sleep. Even if that means letting the laundry wrinkle in the dryer overnight, or more often, closing my computer!

Fresh Air - Sometimes a whole day can go by and the most fresh air I get is the air standing between my front door and my car. Even if all I can do is walk around the block, I am a much happier person if I have some fresh air every day.

Beauty - I need beauty in my life! Whether it's an especially well-written book, nail polish in a color I love or something that I craft, I need to create and enjoy beauty.

Silence & Space - Often when I am starting to feel overwrought, it is a case of too much input -- too much music, too much news, too much Internet, even too much communication with other people. Sometimes I need to turn it all off and sit alone for a bit. Take a walk. Take a bath. Close my bedroom door.

There are so many other ways I find nourishment: time with friends, special meals, dates with my husband, prayer and meditating on Scripture, laughter, the list goes on! The important thing is to seek out nourishment in any form and enjoy it and share it.

This week I am nourishing myself by knitting this fun washcloth , reading a beautiful book called Mitten Strings for God, and driving with the radio off. What nourishes you?

I haven't finished Mitten Strings yet, but so far I love it! It's meant for moms, but Kenison's observations can apply to everyone.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wallace Falls

Standing over the North Fork of the Wallace River. Caleb, Brian, me, Gramma.

This past week we enjoyed our first hike and camping trip with Baby Caleb. It's been a couple years since we have camped, and I forgot how relaxing it is. After the initial flurry of digging out gear, (over)packing (sorry, Babe!) and setting up camp, you just sit. In a world where there is not only constant activity, but also constant surface-y connections with people -- ie. Facebook, texting, email, etc. -- it takes me a while to settle into the stillness. It takes my mind and body a couple of hours to stop lurching around looking for something I have to do, but then, oh the bliss of nothing! There is nothing more soothing than the crackle of a campfire. The flicking flames and glowing embers draw the tension out of my body: it goes up with the smoke. I don't feel guilty about staring off for hours, accomplishing nothing.

Not that I felt obligated to take anything away from our trip, but I did walk away with a renewed sense of the importance of stillness in my life. Without trying to make a big Thing out of it -- I am so good at making Things out of things -- I am trying to make little choices that invite quiet into my life. Like this moment I am snatching away to write about it. 

Brian builds the  most beautiful fires I have ever seen. Truly, they are works of art.
The beautiful Wallace River.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Start Where You Are

Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.

This little piece of wisdom came to me through Pinterest, courtesy of my sister-in-law. It seems so simple, but it has completely revolutionized my happiness. I have always struggled with perfectionism and idealism. I am easily overwhelmed by the big picture. But with this little nugget in my pocket, I can usually calm myself down and take one confident, happy step.

For example, I may not be The Pioneer Woman, but if I think she hung the moon (I think she might have... I should check into that) and if I want my life to feel a little bit more like hers looks -- namely, delicious -- then instead of gawking at her blog while my heart sinks into my boots, I can do something!  I can start where I am (my mother-in-law's house), use what I have (a butt-load of coffee from Costco and a can of sweetened condensed milk) and do what I can -- make Ree Drummond's fantastic Perfect Iced Coffee. So I did. And I'm happy. And caffeinated.

That may seem like a silly little example, and it is, but if I take this little piece of common sense and apply it to my bigger problems, it transforms the way I handle life. Brian and I have the cutest little fixer-upper from heaven hell purgatory you have ever seen. There is nothing on God's green earth I can do to make this project go faster. We are at the mercy of a shoe-string budget and favors from busy friends. There is nothing I can do to make it "perfect" (luckily I don't want it perfect anyway!). But I CAN paint everything that's standing still so at least it looks clean. And I CAN use my words to bless my house and thank God every day for giving us a house to live in someday. And I CAN savor this season of living with "Gramma" -- free babysitting, anyone?

The secret to this little morsel of wisdom is that it changes my focus from what I don't have and can't control to what I do have and can control. It allows me to be thankful. It empowers me.

So, here you go! Enjoy -- Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Dream

As far back as I can remember, my dream has been to be a mom. Starting about my junior year of high school, when we were all supposed to be thinking about career goals and taking surveys of our talents and applying for colleges, my dream became the target of every kind of discouragement. Not that people didn't support my desire to be a mom; in fact, most people did. But no one seemed to believe in it enough to let me be. In the opinions of everyone who mattered to me, I needed a degree and a career goal. Long story short, I made a lot of decisions in an effort to please other people instead of trusting my dream. Yes, I got a degree, but  I was miserable for years. (Side note - although I don't consider my education a waste, my degree hasn't done me a shred of good in the way that all of my "advisers" seemed to think it would, and given a second chance I would have thanked them all for their advice and then followed my gut. Who knows, maybe I would have ended up with the same degree anyway, but it would have been on my own terms and probably without the psychotherapy.)  Back to my story... About four years ago I married my best friend, Brian. After two and a half years of working in coffee and thinking that my dream would never come true, it did... but not the way I thought it would. In fact, in order for my dream to come true, I had to let go of a piece of it.

I had always seen my dream very clearly. In fact, when I was eleven or twelve I kept a notebook called my "future book." It was a book of blueprints for my house, names for my kids, and plans for how I wanted to decorate my home, the kinds of meals I wanted to cook, how I wanted my days to go. My future book made some naive assumptions about things like money. As in, we'd have it. Not that I ever wanted to live like Paris Hilton, but I didn't exactly picture myself as Oliver Twist, either.

Fast forward to two summers ago. I wanted a baby. Badly. I had a growing case of anger and frustration and jealousy. Why? Because it wasn't fair that we couldn't have a baby just because my hardworking husband and I couldn't scrape together enough money for a bigger apartment, let alone a house. Heck, if I were to quit working we couldn't even afford the apartment we were living in. We had done all of the "right" things - we worked our way through college without loans, got the best jobs we could in a free-falling economy, and lived on a budget that would put Dave Ramsey himself to shame. I felt the clock ticking. I was angry that having a baby was about having money. And then one day, I realized that it isn't. It took me a few months to let go of a sense of irresponsibility - I had bought into the idea that it was irresponsible to have a child if we didn't already have our financial ducks in the row that everyone else seemed to think they should be in. But at last, I let that piece of my dream go. So we didn't have a house. Oh, well, what I really wanted was a family.

Without giving the whole convoluted backstory, in April 2012, the Wednesday before Easter, I found out we were finally expecting. And homeless. And I didn't have a job. And Brian was still only employed seasonally. And we didn't have insurance. Gulp. Not exactly how I pictured it! But we managed. We spent most of my pregnancy moving from one relative's basement to another and finally got a great deal on a tiny apartment. We moved in two and a half months before Caleb was born. Brian landed a job one and a half months before Caleb was born. And I worked part time until the day I went into labor.

Becoming a parent was a trip, but if you are one, you already know that and if you aren't one, there's nothing I can say to really convey what it felt like. Suffice it to say, the transition into motherhood is not soft and feminine and motherly the way I expected. In fact, becoming a mother has redefined the word "feminine" for me. So there went another piece of my dream - the soft, clean, controlled, pulled-together vision I had for myself went out the window with my birth plan. But, after all, my dream isn't to be soft, clean, controlled and pulled-together. My dream is to have a family.

And now I am faced with the loss of another piece of my dream. You see, in my dream I don't work outside the home. I really thought that was at the heart of my dream. I thought my dream was to be a stay at home mom. I actually thought that was the "sacrifice" part. In fact, it was a point of pride for me that I would rather scrimp and save and live without so I could stay home with my kids. But it looks like for now, that isn't to be. I don't get to spend my days in my vegetable garden or my kitchen. I have to go grocery shopping at dinner time while feeding Caleb a "pouch" and chowing down a Cliff bar, and I see my husband for twenty minutes when we transition between who is going to work. But I guess, after all, my dream isn't to grow vegetables or cook casseroles. This piece is a really hard one to let go of, but my dream is to have a family, and if I have to answer phones and file paperwork so my family can eat, then you better believe I will.

I believe God's not just out there, but that he is so close to me that he can read my thoughts - and he cares. I believe that my dreams came from him as a gift and clues about what to do with my life. I also believe that he's God, and if he wants to he could wave his finger and fix all of this but that he's choosing not to. I don't know for sure why he has stripped away so many pieces of my dream, but I have a guess. I think he's making a reduction of sorts. He is intensifying the flavor and viscosity of my dream. All of the excess water is being boiled away, leaving only the purest, most beautiful and true character of my dream. Maybe someday I'll get to stay at home and my husband will have a 9 to 5 job and I'll have a vegetable garden and chickens and matching Tupperware. But if not, at least I know that I have the best part, the very heart of my dream - I have a family.