Dear Mom, Comparison is the Thief

Dear Mom,

The internet can be a wonderful thing full of information and inspiration, recipes, and quotes…but it can also be a black hole where all we see is a picture of what looks like “the perfect life”. And we go from focusing on God to focusing on self.

What we don’t see is the real. The real messy kitchen (b/c who is actually going to share that…), the real look of a sleepless face, and the real frustration when our kids aren’t listening. The raw moments. The real moments. The tears and the laughs. Those aren’t posed pictures, but threads that makeup our ordinary lives.

When we get caught up in the cycle of comparison, what good can come from it? Instead of focusing on the blessings, our minds gravitate towards the how, why me, and why not me. The thief has tiptoed in and stolen our joy. The focus has gone from Christ to self on the road to comparison. And we’ve happily taken a road trip. I don’t want to measure myself by likes and followers, but by how I’ve loved and shared the truth. So what do we do? How do we change the destination? How do we return the focus to Christ?

Instead of hearing the noise of the world, the gospel calls us into silence. Isaiah 30:15 says “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I pray that we may all find our quiet space today. May the silence and His words fill us up in ways that draw us back in over and over again. May we be fed by the true everlasting bread. May we rest in the silence, and know He is God.

Love,

Emily

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Dear Mom of Sick Kids

Dear Moms,

All the schools here have closed due to illness. The plague has hit our home, and we have surrendered and have stopped trying to fight it. In the past, the idea of sick kids would have left me feeling overwhelmed, tired, and hopeless. But, this time I’ve unraveled the lies and reminded myself 1) this won’t last forever 2) I’m not alone in this and 3) We have everything we need. When the well is running dry, the only place for me to run is to my Bible. While my dark chocolate stash might suffice for a minute, it’s just temporary fuel. My real source of strength is in the arms of my Father. That’s real life, right now.

I listened to a podcast recently and the phrase “grace, not perfection” resonated with me. I keep hearing the women around me say they no longer want to live feeling frantic. They seek a simplified, authentic, heart-driven life. We don’t need more perfectly curated squares on instagram or facebook. We need more circles of real, authentic friendships and community. A place to say come as you are. No filter required. We need more truth-telling, and less how-to tutorials to get the perfect body, hair, business… you fill in the blank. When we are striving for an impossible pursuit of perfection, we dismiss the gift that God gives us to not do it all perfectly.

God beckons us to come as we are. He calls us out of our pursuit of perfection, and into a place of rest. We receive the gift of deep-seeded joy. We stop striving for the things of this world, and start contemplating the everlasting. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The abundant life calls me out of pursuing perfection, and into receiving the gift He comes to give. A life that is meaningful, purposeful, joyful, and eternal and most of all God-centered.

So, I’m what I’m saying is I’m not doing it all perfectly. I’m raising my hand; waiving my flag. You can too. I hope this can be a place of rest for our weariness. Where we examine how we are living, our hearts, and the ways we are showing up for God, our families, and ourselves. A place where we can share the real, practical things we are all learning as we walk in faith. Time for another cup of coffee…

Love,

Emily

Dear Mom on Self-love

Dear Moms,

It’s February. We are in the business of bundling up, tidying up, and trying to keep the goals we set at the start of the new year. Let’s face it, we are good at being busy. We are good at staying busy. But somewhere between work, preparing the meals, and late night cleaning/packing lunches/and laundry sessions we forgot about one key ingredient: ourselves.

Recently I took back something that I had long put on the bottom of my to do list, working out. Regularly. I’m not talking about the occasional run here, or that drop in barre class, but serious self-commitment to returning to the gym. On a regular basis, scheduled out, during the week. Stop the train. This didn’t make me a bad wife, mom, or friend. Rather, I’ve found it to make me better – (insert all the roles/titles one can have). This was a 6 year journey for me, I have twins, and another little one that I just couldn’t see past trying to fit another thing into the day… there was too much already that needed to be done.

But Moms, we are important, so important that we need to show our children how to care for ourselves. And we deserve it. Self-care is not selfish, but an act of self-preservation. And so a little practice I started December 30th, has now become a weekly habit. A beautiful rhythm has been added to my days. Something that gives back to me in a way I so desperately needed, but perhaps didn’t recognize in the tides of busyness that came and pulled me in. I am now longer treading water now. Instead, I’ve figured out how to move with the flow. Along with this practice, my daily bible reading is another way I refuel.

So I want to challenge you to think about what’s something you can do for you. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but rather in what ways can you show up better for yourself, and often.

We can’t pour from an empty cup.

Let’s show our spouses and our children we love them by how well we care for ourselves.

All the Love,

Emily

Winter Greys and Hygge

January has come.  She has come greeting us with dark, frosted mornings and chilly fingers.  She has come with mittens and hats sprawled across the floor, and endless layers, but no snow.

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We had a delicious winter break, fully equipped with late starts, no agenda, and lots of time spent at home playing.  We are incrementally creeping back into our normal routine…this week makes week 2 of being back to school (so we really should have it together!).

How many of us have hit mid January and shouted, “Sun where are you?”  I’ve been there.  The grey has tinted not just my walls, but my mindset.

This is where the wonderful concept of Hygge has lightened my winter woes.  A few winters ago I took it upon myself to do a little self study of the Danish lifestyle tradition – Hygge.  A tradition centered around the feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoyment of the simple things in life.

If you have ever enjoyed a good book on a rainy day, or the pleasures of a random snow, you’ve experienced hygge.  As freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danish.   Instead of wishing away winter, hygge calls for us to get comfy and cozy.  Hygge is a feeling.  The term has no literal translation in English, but is frequently described as ‘togetherness’ and ‘coziness’.

It is the “art form of creating intimacy in any given moment.”  And who of us couldn’t use a little bit more of that?  It’s friends gathered around the fireplace with full bellies after breaking bread.  It’s lusciously soft blankets, and chunky knit pillows to welcome rest.  It’s favorite photographs and art, and hobbies that encourage us to stop and slow down.

So as another brisk January morning greets me, I am lighting my favorite candle during breakfast and hygge’ing my way into the new day!

xoxo,

Emily

On Raising Babies

When I was pregnant with my twins I scoured the internet for resources. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could to help us (hubby too!) prepare for their arrival.  What did I find…not much.  Apparently after you have twins you don’t have a lot of time to write about having twins (I get it now!)

What I did find were other twin mommas who so graciously shared the real and the raw about raising two babies at one time.  I struggled with things like how to cook dinner during the witching hour, how to consume 2500+ calories while pregnant, and how to manage going out in public when they started walking (in two different directions!).  These mommas formed my tribe, and I thank Jesus for them and their quiet encouragement they gave, especially during the first year.

When you learn you are expecting, a million questions go through your mind.  When you find out you are expecting twins, your legs shake and you smile (you also hold your husbands hand and squeeze it till he’s lost circulation) while you digest the big news! You are thrilled, and wowed all at once. You ask yourself, how did this happen…and you trust God has a lot more confidence then you have in yourself.

I knew having twins would be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey, and in fact we loved this part of our journey so much that we went on to have another baby.  Child rearing has made the relationship between my sweet husband and I that much stronger.  When you get up together during the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and each feed a small (4.5 lbs.) baby, something magical happens.  All the world is silent in that moment, you make eye contact (because you don’t dare say anything to wake those babies up even more) and you realize your family is your world.

So to all the mommas and daddies out there wondering if they are doing it right, waking up in the middle of the night, gathering your tribe around the table with a homemade meal, and looking for the answers…keep going!  As my dear friend Dr. Seuss says, “to the world you may be one person; but to one person you may by the world.”

The Vine that Ate the South

kudzu“I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves.”

Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood by Willie Morris

When I first moved south, it was early spring.  The heat and humidity of the summer was just rolling in.  My thick hair was adapting to its new southern shape (think triangular Christmas tree a three year old draws).  Everything was in full bloom. The Redbuds, the Dogwoods, and even the Kudzu.  It was as if Mother Nature had rolled out the red carpet for me.

Kudzu was something I had never encountered before.  A strange vine like plant that seemed to wrap its ventricles around every square inch of this scruffy little county.  An invasive like creature, slowly taking over the entire city.  I was apprehensive, even a little anxious. Would it wrap its leafy fingers around me and swallow me whole (Christmas tree hair and all)?

I have vivid memories of my first summer here.  Of driving past  jungles of Kudzu and seeing what appeared to be entire neighborhoods engulfed in its snake like vines.  Behind the lush, green leaves was really a lurking monster.  When my mom came to visit, she remarked, “It looks like there are homes, and cars, and hidden cities beneath that stuff.  How deep is it?”  It was true; I could see shadowy outlines of whole farms and communities.  Places people had abandoned and let Mother Nature lease.  A type of natural menagerie. It was like the Secret Garden, gone desperately wild.

Kudzu was everywhere.  I’d ask my coworkers about it, and they would just gently nod and acknowledge that it was a permanent resident.  People accepted that this foreign exchange student had come to stay.  No one was trying to get rid of it.  Instead, people let it eat the things they no longer wanted.  At least that is how I made sense of it all.

So, I did my homework.  If I was going to live down here, I needed to have some peace about the plant that had the potential to consume my home.  I was right. The monster is highly aggressive.  Kudzu grows at a rate of one foot per day, and mature vines can be 100 feet long.  And farmers were actually encouraged to plant kudzu between the 1930s-1950s to prevent soil erosion.  Well evidently, this area ran a successful awareness campaign (complete with posters) because more than a few farmers in the county planted and mothered this beast into existence.

I’ve come to accept the kudzu.  I won’t say we are friends, but I no longer fear that I might wake up one day to find that the green monster has made a house call.  The kudzu is an iconic part of the south. She plays a special role in our southern ecosystem.  For this snake like, vine eating monster is actually the queen of hiding things we no longer want to see.

The Great Northern and Southern Union

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In 2009, I married a southern boy, the man of my dreams.  He won me over with his dreamy southern accent and manners to write home about.  The ceremony was a beautiful, fall event on the lawn of a historic southern home. Yes, I said that right—fall.  In fact, the-other-side-of-Halloween  and how-soon-can-we put-up-Christmas-lights part of fall.  And you know what? It was a sunny, 80-degree day in the hills of East Tennessee when we said, “I do.”  It ended up being so sunny that day, that my soon to be husband was squinting to see me as I walked down the aisle.  He jokes the only thing brighter than the sun was my smile.  Southern charm and warm falls, more reasons to live in the south.

Yes, the tales you hear about the weather down south are true.  There are occasional 70-degree days in January, Indian summers that stretch into November, and, yes, guests could have worn flip-flops and linen shirts to our late fall wedding… if the weather served as their only fashion barometer.  The harshness of the northern winter is unbearable once you experience a southern snowstorm.  Southern snow happens two to three time a year, rarely sticks, and when it does kids and adults get a snow day!

We decided to marry in Tennessee because it represented us best.  My husband is from a small, little town (population size 10,736) in the middle of rural Tennessee.  I am from a mid-sized, bustling suburb of 50,000 northwest of Chicago.  We met in south Florida and managed a long distance relationship through several years, two graduate degrees, four jobs, and many road trips with stays in places like Boston, Washington, DC; and Key Largo, Florida.  Knoxville was our place, the place where we chose to start our life and set our roots.  It was also a neutral meeting ground for my northern and his southern family.

By bringing our families and friends together in Tennessee, I hoped they would gain a more intimate look at our life, my decision to marry a southern boy, and my new fondness for other things southern (seersucker, no state income taxes, and sweet tea).

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The venue was a historic confederate home nestled amongst the banks of the Tennessee River.  You read that correctly, a confederate home.  They still exist.  The Bleak House, named after the Charles Dickens novel, was not bleak at all but a beautiful plantation home maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 89.  As you can imagine, this setting had my northern and his southern guests up in arms (armed not with guns, but jokes).  Our union brought together the north and south, but this time in peace and celebration.  During the Civil War, this home served as headquarters for the Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet during the Siege of Knoxville.  For our wedding, it served as the first official meeting ground for my northern and his southern family.

My husband really loves me, as he reminds me every time he brings up that our wedding broke a cardinal rule of being a southerner – don’t get married, have children, or commit to any other annual activity on a college football Saturday.  Explosions periodically interrupted the beautiful outdoor ceremony, as the University of Tennessee Volunteer football team played its homecoming game only a short two miles down the river.  Every time the team scored, an impressive round of fireworks celebrated the accomplishment.  The preacher performing the ceremony, my husband’s brother, joked that the Civil War had started again (canons not fireworks) and that the Yankees were back in town (meaning my relatives).  I will get into that word Yankee in another story.

It was a riot watching the two cultures come together.  His sweet, country Granny and my true German Oma conversed over a glass of sweet tea.  His family shared their traditional style of buck dancing.  Mine shared a piece of Black Forest German chocolate cake.  Somewhere in the festivities I began to feel at ease about my new Southern life, and based on the smiles and laughs of the guests, I knew my relatives would still claim me.

Even today, my northern relatives tell stories of my southern wedding.  They tell their friends it was a legendary wedding, unlike any other.  Not only did it have sweet tea and sunny 80-degree fall weather, but it also was the day the north and south came together to celebrate a union.