Out of Control

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This week at MOPS we started something called “The 28 Day Challenge”–basically a month-long truth or dare game for grown-ups. It’s awesome. On the first day of our challenge, the “truth” was to tell about what ways you feel out of control in your life.

Ummm…hold up. Are there any ways in which I actually feel IN CONTROL in my life right now? The jury is in, and the answer is a big fat NO.

This past month has been a bit of a whirlwind. Literally. January started with a series of storms that left us stranded, isolated, cold…and completely out of control. Those four days that we were trapped in our house with no electricity and no means of escape were some of the most “out of control” feeling days I have ever experienced.

Then Inauguration Day happened and…well, ya know. Out. Of. Control. (I want to keep this about me here, so we’re going to just mosey around all of this political mumbo jumbo for the time being. Moving on, now.).

And then there is my personal life. Let’s just say that there was a huge decision out on the table that was going to affect every aspect of our family’s life. It was monumental. We spent months praying about God to open doors so we could have some sort of discernment when making The Decision. A few weeks ago we finally made up our minds and committed our hearts to The Decision. Right when we were patting ourselves on the back for making one of the biggest decisions of our life and getting excited to move forward with everything–BAM! The door shut. Out. Of. Control.

This month has taught me that my world is actually quite small, and it doesn’t take much to move from hunky-dory to earth-shattering. I have spent a lot of time praying and crying and questioning everything over the past few weeks. It’s been terrible…and wonderful.

I’ve had a lot of time to think this month (turns out, sitting in a dark house with no electricity for four days allows for a lot of thinking time). In all of my thinking, I’ve realized something. This is important, now, so pay attention:

The World and my little world are not mine to control.

THEY ARE NOT MINE. None of it is mine. The world? Not mine to control. The weather? Not mine to control. Political leaders and their decisions? Not mine to control. The Decision and it’s outcome? Not mine to control. Not. Mine. To. Control.

And, guess what?  I’m fine. Weary and confused and with an aching heart many days, but fine. Because someone else who is far more capable and compassionate and omniscient than I am IS in control.

Out of control, I have realized, is an opportunity to live out my faith. If I say, “Yes, God, I trust you!”, then I have to actually TRUST Him. I have to trust Him in the storms and in the answers to prayer that aren’t the answers I wanted to see. I have to trust Him in the good times AND the difficult times. When I feel out of control, I have to trust Him that what He says about himself and who He is and what He can do is true.

Control is not ours for the taking. The irony of control is that the only way to actually gain control is to release it–to sacrifice my false sense of control to the One who actually IS in control. Only after I release control can I experience the peace and the hope that comes from trusting God.

As mind-blowingly difficult as “out of control” feels, it is actually a very good place to be. I don’t like out of control, not even a little bit, but I’m going to allow it. I’m going to take a step back and just sit with my out of control for awhile. I’m going to take my doubts and my worries, and I’m going to turn them into prayers. I’m going to look for the blessings around me and celebrate the good that still happens in the out of control. I’m going to trust God.  And then? I’m going to watch in amazement at what happens on the other end.

So, if you’re joining me in the out of control club, welcome. Welcome to the chaos and the confusion and the craziness. But more importantly, welcome to the hope that comes through trusting the One who is in control.

My Best of 2016 Awards

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As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today I noticed a recurring theme of “2016 has been the WORST year ever…” in my friends’ posts. Venerated celebrities have died. A controversial presidential election took place. The worldwide refugee crisis and slavery have reached historical highs. Brexit. Just a lot of weird, terrible, confusing, heartbreaking things went down over the past 365 1/4 days.

It hasn’t all been bad, though. In the midst of the crazy town that has been 2016, there have been many rays of light. This year has taught me to be grateful for what I have and to embrace the blessings in my life. So, let’s turn that frown upside down! Here are some of the highlights from my year:

Best Loss:
Excess Busyness.
This year I made a point of not over-scheduling our family. We had been running into a lot of burn out, and I decided that enough was enough. I limited the boys’ extra-curricular activities to one activity at a time, that they could both do together. No more shuttling kids back and forth and back and forth. I said no to some invitations that I would have liked to say yes to. We cut back on our travel and adventure-making. We just needed some time to chill out, and it’s been good for all of us.

Best Addition:
Hannah!
Oh my goodness, I can not say enough wonderful things about this child. Born in February of this year, she has changed our family for the better–she’s taught us to be more loving, more generous, more protective (and more lenient…third child problems, I guess). The boys care for Hannah and teach her. Jon and I love cuddling her and hearing those sweet baby giggles in our home again. Even the dog loves licking the floor under her high chair.

Best Academic Surprise:
David’s kindergarten success!
I have struggled with making school decisions for our kids every. Single. Year. It’s complicated, and I just want what’s best for them. The problem is, sometimes I don’t know what’s best for them and we just have to make a decision and pray for the best. That’s kind of what happened this year with David starting Kindergarten, and we’ve all been blown away (in the best way). He is thriving like I never expected could happen in my wildest dreams. The kid loves school so much that he cries when it’s the weekend BECAUSE HE WANTS TO STAY AT SCHOOL. When this year is over, I’m sure I’ll also be crying BECAUSE I’LL WANT HIM TO STAY AT SCHOOL.

Best Over-coming:
Jacob starting preschool.
Poor little Jacob had literally never been away from me or his brother until this year, and it was a rough start for him. When he first started preschool he was nervous and timid, but all of that has changed. He’s making new friends and learning new things. He’s brave and kind and excited to learn. We are so proud of our little guy!

Best Husband:
Jon!
Yeah, yeah…I only have ONE husband…but he’s a KEEPER! Each year that we’re married (and there have already been 11 of them) I fall more in love with this man who I have chosen to do life with. He’s kind, caring, hard-working, Jesus-loving, and unfaltering in his dedication to our family. He snuggles babies and wrestles boys. He cooks the most amazing steak. He even sends me out to do “whatever I want” (a nap in my car) on the days he’s home from work. Love you forever, Jon!

Best Adventure:
Our trip to Arizona.
This spring we took a pilgrimage back to the land of my birth: Arizona. While there, we visited my grandma, aunts, uncle, and cousins–family who we hold dear in our hearts but don’t get to see in person nearly often enough. I got to introduce my kids to the joys of polliwog hunting in G.G. Sandy’s creek, the smell of creosote in the desert after it rains, and why we don’t touch the owie trees (cactus). We got to see one of the Wonders of The World (the Grand Canyon) and we discovered the place we’re going to retire so we can hike and visit day spas every day (Sedona). It wasn’t a lavish vacation, but it was one of the most impactful adventures we’ve had in a long time.

Best Yes:
MOPS.
Two years ago I was asked to step into leadership at our church’s MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, but it just wasn’t the right time. Last spring they still needed someone to take over the group, and I said Yes. Leading and praying for the moms in our group has been one of my greatest privileges this year. I have a huge heart for moms in the trenches, and I love that I get to spend my week ministering to them now. Plus we get brunch at MOPS, so what’s not to love?

Best Surprise:
My sister Jessica showing up on my doorstep for Thanksgiving.
While I love most parts of the life we’ve made for ourselves here in California, I will always miss my friends and family who are far away. This year we hosted my parents (from Washington) and sister Erin’s family (from Southern California) for Thanksgiving at our house, but my other sister Jessica couldn’t make it. She had just started a new job and couldn’t get time off work to fly down from Seattle. As we were sitting down to dinner on the first night of everyone’s arrival, however, there was a knock on our door–it was Jessica, and she’d flown down after work to spend the weekend with us. I know that it was a huge sacrifice of time and expense on her part to be here, but it meant so much to me. Love you, Jess!

Best Accomplishment:
Running the Big Sur Half Marathon.
I’ve been a runner for most of my life and I’ve run more half marathons than I can even recall, but this one was special. I ran it in November, just 9 months after giving birth to my third baby (via C-Section…my THIRD C-Section. All of you C-Section mamas know what a big deal this is.). It took a lot of focus and sacrifice to fit in the training, overcome injury, and make this race happen. My dad flew down from Seattle to run the race with me, and it was the most breathtakingly beautiful course I’ve ever run. Absolutely one for the memory bank.

Best Accidental Joy:
The benefits of random acts of kindness.
This year I wanted to help spread kindness, and to get my kids in on the action with me. We’ve done everything from baking treats for new neighbors to bringing hand-made Christmas cards to our fire fighters. And while the kindness is always appreciated by the recipients, the lasting joy those acts give me and my kids is by far the best benefit. I’ve made special friendships and precious memories through our random acts of kindness, and I intend to keep it up.

Best Realization:
God’s got this.
You guys, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world around us. There will always be pain and injustice and nuts-o politics. This is a broken, hurting world–it always has been, and always will be. That’s why God sent us a Savior, and He is bigger than all of this. When you feel discouraged or confused or angry, put your trust in Him, because He’s got this. And that. And everything else, too. And when we change our calendars next week, that truth will always remain. God’s got this.

Now, as we enter yet another year, may you experience the blessings all around you.

Welcome, 2017!

Bring it on.

Moving Forward

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Yesterday morning I woke up to the results of one of the most divisive elections this country has every labored through (and, having gone through a combined total of over 80 hours of childbirth labor myself, I can attest that labor is the most accurate term for what we have all just gone through here). Now that the results are in, a winner has been called: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. There are a million and one reasons why I could not vote for him. However, despite my own feelings or convictions or efforts to make my voice heard, the truth remains: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America. And so, we have a choice to make. Are we for him, or are we against him?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last 24 hours, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be for him. I must be pro-Trump and move forward with acceptance. Because for me, for us, for them it is the right decision.

I will move forward with acceptance because he will be president.
Living in a democratic nation means that sometimes who or what you choose wins…and sometimes it doesn’t. That is the beauty (and the beast) of the democracy that our nation has fought so hard for. No matter how I feel about any of this, nothing will change the outcome of the election at this point. On January 20th, Donald Trump will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and he will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Trump will be the leader of our nation and the free world. With leadership comes a huge responsibility. Leaders need support and guidance if they are to do their leading well. So, for that reason, I will offer my support.

I will move forward with acceptance because unity is better than division.
There have been a lot of Big Feelings across our country and around the world this week. This election has shown me that people are feeling broken and scared and rejected. And right now? Right now we all need love. And kindness. And hope. We need to come together, not break apart. We need to support one another and hold each other up. We need to walk forward as friends and neighbors and families and fellow citizens.

I will move forward with acceptance because my reaction is teaching my children.
My children are watching my every move and word and attitude. They are learning from me how grown-ups handle the real world, how adults handle tough times. My reaction today will teach my children how to be a good loser. My reaction today will teach my children how to respect authority, even when I disagree. My reaction today will teach my children to put their hope and trust in Jesus, not on the fleeting decisions of this earth. My reaction today will teach my children how to be the kinds of grown-ups I hope they will be some day.

I will move forward with acceptance because I reject bitterness.
When we don’t get what we want, sometimes bitterness can seep into our hearts. We dwell on the past, on what could have been, on what we wish we could have had. But bitterness is like poison. It can utterly ruin a person. Instead, I will choose hope. Because in every situation, there is good to be found. Find the good, and cling to hope. That, my friends, is life-giving.

I will move forward with acceptance because Trump was made in God’s image.
God created Donald Trump. He did! God loves Donald Trump. He does! Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, and that includes our neighbors in the White House. There are no contingencies of “Well, love thy neighbor unless you disagree with them or don’t particularly like them or if you’re just too jealous of their incredible hair…”. No. We are called to love all people, because God loves all people.

I will move forward with acceptance because Trump is not my ultimate authority.
Here’s a shocker: there was not a single candidate on my ballot that held true to every conviction that I hold dear in my heart. There was not a single candidate that met my impossibly high standards for perfection as a leader, because no person could meet those standards. Jesus is my benchmark and, sorry fellas, but y’all fall short.

Regardless of who is running our nation or our local government or my own household, my ultimate authority is God and His Word. The world is a very broken place, filled with and led by very broken people. But God is perfect. He is just. He is all-loving. He is all-powerful. He is sacrificial. He is generous. He redeems that which is broken. He is never-changing. He is everything I could ever want or need from a leader, and He is my ultimate authority. God can use any situation to His glory–He sees the whole story, not just the messy parts in the middle. So no matter what happens in the world, there is hope in the steadfast love and leadership of God.

In the end, I get to make a choice. This choice is bigger than an election, bigger than the outcome of a presidential race. Because this choice is for me. I get to choose how I will live my life, how I will lead my children, how I will move forward with the Truth of Jesus. And that choice? That choice is mine. No swing state or electoral college can take the power out of my choice for how I live my own life. So I will choose to move forward. To move forward in love, unity, humility, and grace.

Because choice is a beautiful thing.

 

Thank You Notes

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A couple of weeks ago in MOPS we had a fantastic speaker come and talk to our group about something I have totally not mastered: jealousy. And along with jealousy, comparison. I know that it’s hard to fathom, but from time to time I find myself longing for the green grass on the other side (Shoot, I would even settle for the grown children who can wipe their own bums on the other side of the bathroom stall.).

In her talk, however, the speaker gave us the solution to this particular problem of jealousy. Do you want to know what it is? What one quick fix will get you out of the comparison game faster than anything else? Drumroll, please…

Gratefulness!

Being thankful for what you have is the opposite reaction to comparison, and it really does work. So, in an attitude of true repentance and gratefulness, I have decided to pen my own thank you notes* to celebrate the many blessings of motherhood (*credit to Jimmy Fallon, Jen Hatmaker, and every other funny person who has already done this and who I am blatantly plagiarizing with this post).

They go something like this:

Thank you, playground sand, for staying with my children long after they leave the playground. My children had so much fun jumping off the swings into you and digging in you with their sand toys in you that we just couldn’t stand to leave that party. I count it all as joy when I walk into my living room and step into a pile of freshly-dumped-from-shoes playground sand. It’s such a fun reminder of the good times we had at that park and it does not stress me out at all. I love it when I’m about to get into bed at night, but I have to spend 20 minutes vacuuming the floor around my bed first because there is a fine sprinkling of playground sand scattered around my entire bedroom–it’s like camping at the beach!

Thank you, Moms Night Out, for an excuse to get out of dealing with BEDTIME. The friends and the night out are nice, too, but we all know the real reason we scheduled this little shin-dig from 7-9:00.

Thank you, Costco, for allowing me to still feel like a got a bargain at the end of the day because my hot dog + soda still only costs $1.50. I may have spent $400 on “essential” items, but you still know how to please the penny pinchers in all of us.

Thank you, doctors’ office stickers. You made my child feel proud and brave after he got his flu shot (even though he screamed like an attacking mountain lion and left claw marks in my arms from his attempted escape during the procedure). Not only do you change my child’s outlook on his day, but you also change his wardrobe. Thank you for sticking to his shirt all day and never falling off like a decent cheap sticker, so that I forget about you and throw his shirt-with-sticker in the washing machine the next morning. The sticky residue that you leave on his shirt is such a nice addition to the clothing–that shirt was so boring, so normal, before you left your gobs of goo permanently glued to the front right breast of that shirt.

Thank you, weekend mornings with children, for being exactly like every other morning of the week. I never really liked quiet or sleep or brunch anyway.

Thank you, “screen time”, giver of daily mini-vacations to moms everywhere.

Thank you, minivan. You are so much more than a vehicle. You are a storage closet, a kitchenette, a baby-changing station and a super-cush place to sneak in a nap between kindergarten drop-off and preschool pick-up. You have so many cubbies and cup holders that I hardly even notice the garbage my kids hoard in your dark recesses. I’m sorry I gave you so much crap before I had you–I was a different person then, and I just didn’t know you. Can we please be BFF’s now? xoxox

…and I could go on and on with these, but my baby just woke up from her nap. I’ve got to leave it here for now because real life is calling. There is a baby downstairs who needs me a and a house that (definitely) needs cleaning. There is a whole pile of people for me to love and who love me.

And for that, I truly am thankful.

 

Be Love

img_6608When I was a child, I used to dream about lovely things like becoming a ballerina or being able to lick off BOTH beaters when my mom was baking a cake. As an adult, however, my dreams have changed somewhat (although I still lick off both beaters when my kids aren’t looking). As a grown-up, I’ve dreamed of more grand things. Like meeting Jen Hatmaker.

For those of you who may not know her already, you are about to, and you’re welcome. She’s only the most hilarious, genuine, kind, encouraging, inspirational author and speaker of our generation. Stop what you’re doing right now and go on Amazon to buy her books and listen to a few of her podcasts. You won’t be sorry.

Jen Hatmaker lives in Austin, and I’ve seriously contemplated moving to Texas just so we can “accidentally” become fast friends. As it turns out, though, Jen actually came to me! Last weekend she was in central California as part of the tour for her most recent book, For The Love. Obviously I had to go see her. So, I packed up myself and the baby, and drove for “what should have been 3- but turned into 6-hours” through the worst Bay Area Friday Afternoon Traffic ever (remind me again why we live here?). But in the end, we made it. And it was totally worth it.

I had an amazing weekend and I met some amazing people. I even got a book signed by my new best bud, Jen. But the best part of the weekend? I left inspired. Inspired to change myself for the better, and hopefully better the world through that change.

The topic of the weekend was “Be Love(d)”. Jen spoke on how we are loved by God (“Be loved”), and how we can “Be love” for others through our life and our actions. The message totally hit home for me, and I’ve been thinking non-stop about the implications of being loved and being love.

There have been several times in the last week where I have literally shed tears over the brokenness around me. It seems like everywhere I look there is discord and fear and hate permeating our communities, our country, the whole world. Racism is rampant. Our political future is at an unnerving tipping point. Terrorism and violence have leaked into our very neighborhoods. People against people. Us against them. Each man for himself.

Yet I refuse to believe that it has to be this way. The brokenness that I feel is surely breaking God’s heart as well, and we can no longer afford to sit idly by and watch the world unravel before us. Action is required. And it begins with us. In fact, Jesus actually straight-up gives us the answer to our current predicament.

When Jesus was questioned about what was the greatest commandment, the most important rule to observe, he answered:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22:37-39

Love! That’s it. The tool that will fix brokenness is love. And love, my friends, is something we can all afford to give.

I am a strong believer that lives are changed one at a time. That deep, meaningful connections–surrounded by love–are what change individuals. And when one life is changed for the better, that one life will influence their family, their community, and the world. It starts with one, but the effects are exponential.

This week I put into practice this idea of “being love”,  quite by accident, and I was blown away by the results. A woman had recently moved into our neighborhood, and she has a baby that is about the same age as Hannah. I’d seen her walking with her baby a few times and had exchanged smiles and waves from across the street, but I hadn’t really introduced myself or gotten to know her at all.

Anyway, on Wednesday afternoon I was baking muffins with the boys and the recipe made a lot more muffins than I was expecting. We had muffins covering every surface of our kitchen, and I was trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Then an idea struck me: maybe I should share some of these surplus muffins! (I know, sometimes it takes me awhile to come to realizations that should be quite obvious.).

So, I packed up a plate of muffins and wrote a quick note welcoming this new neighbor to the neighborhood, and we walked them over to her house. When my neighbor opened the door she was delighted and her eyes filled with tears.

“Nobody ever bakes for me!” She said, “I’m a pastry chef instructor, and I guess people don’t feel like they can bake for me! Thank you so much!”

My first thought was, “I sure hope I got out all of those egg shells from the 4-year old’s “help” in this little project”, but mostly I was just happy that she was happy.

The next day I was rushing to unload groceries from my car before I had to zip out again to pick up Jacob from preschool. I was kind of in the zone, running back and forth from the car and trying to make my deadline. As I was unloading the last bag from my trunk, however, I looked up and saw my new neighbor walking down the street. I glanced up, smiled and waved, ready to get back to the task at hand. But instead of continuing on her walk, my neighbor stopped in my driveway.

She asked if we could talk for a minute–I could tell something was bothering her, so I put down my grocery bag and listened. She went on to tell me her story, a story of brokenness and loneliness and a deep need for love. At the end of her story, she  said, “I don’t know why I just told you all of that, but I just needed to tell someone. And you seemed like someone who could listen.”

And in that moment, I knew exactly why she had just told me all of that. Love. I had done one small, simple, seemingly insignificant act of love, and it literally opened the door to this woman’s home and her heart. Love changes everything, and it does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sharing some muffins, putting down your grocery bag, and listening.

So that is my challenge to you, friends. Be love. Whether the world is falling apart around you, or everything is going along just fine, be love. Love is like a rain drop in a pond, and it sends ripples out into the world. Be the kind of love that sends out ripples of goodness and kindness and hope together.

Be.

Love.

 

 

First Baby vs. Third Baby

I’ve been in this mommy gig for almost 6 years now (but don’t even get me STARTED on how my BABY is about to turn 6. SIX! No. Nuh-uh. Nope. I refuse to acknowledge that these babies of mine will soon outgrow me in wit and height, and I will cry IF I WANT TO.). A lot has changed in those six years–the age and size of my child(ren), the availability of new and improved baby paraphernalia, the fact that my doctor now advises feeding peanut butter to babies. We’ve gone from a family with just one baby, to a family with three children aged 5 and younger. The most notable change over the years, however, would have to be with myself.

I don’t know if I’ve become more wise over the years or if I’ve just given up, but the fact is, I do things differently now. Like, really differently. From my first baby six years ago to our third baby right now, my parenting style has…ahem…shifted. You can see this shift in basically every aspect of my parenting (or lack thereof). For example:

Healthy Eating
First baby:
I literally baked his first-birthday cake from the dirt of the earth. It was made from  stone-ground whole wheat flour, home-made applesauce (cooked from the apples I picked myself. Off an actual tree.), and organic angel kisses. Nothing but the most pure, natural ingredients for my little sunshine.

Third Baby:
I’m pretty sure she just ate an Oreo that had been wedged under the couch since before her conception. She is 7 months old.

Sleep Training:
First baby:
I read Happiest Baby On The Block cover to cover and I implemented the 5 S’s of “calming the fussies” like a BOSS. Happiest baby on the block? Check!

Third baby:
What? There’s a baby crying? Ah, no baby ever died from crying…right???

And while we’re on the topic of sleeping…

Naps:
First Baby:
All naps must be done in a crib, with baby sleeping flat on his back. Play soothing white noise in the background and minimize distractions. And, of course, while baby is sleeping I should work on getting some shut eye as well–after all, good mommies sleep when the baby sleeps!

Third Baby:
I forget that there even is a crib at home, because we’re never at home. Between preschool drop-off, kindergarten drop-off, grocery shopping, errands, exercise, preschool pick-up, and kindergarten pick-up there is exactly zero chance of this baby taking a nap in a crib. Carseats, strollers, baby carriers, a blanket on the grass, and my weary arms make excellent napping spots. Mommy hasn’t slept in 6 years, so we’re just gonna roll with it.

Mom’s fashion:
First baby:
Oh my goodness! My pre-pregnancy size-tiny jeans are snug! Oh, the despair and the agony! At least my perfectly styled hair with fresh highlights still looks cute!

Third bay:
I don’t even know what size I am any more because I refuse to look at those blasted numbers printed on the tags inside my pants. If they fit and I’m comfortable, that’s all that matters. I’ve named my muffin top “Frank”, and I’ve decided to make peace with him so we can be friends. I dress Frank in yoga pants and flowy tops most mornings, and we can all move on with our lives in harmony. And this is nothing to say of my shoes that have also grown with each baby that I’ve pushed out of my body.

My hair is worn in one of two fashionable styles: Top Knot or Low Knot, well out of the way of grabby baby fingers. My hair is tinged with gorgeous gray strands that I earned while chasing my boys across busy parking lots and rescuing them from precarious perches.

Public Breastfeeding
First Baby:
Hold on! Let me grab one of my four nursing covers and slip away to a private room where I can nurse in privacy and modesty.

Third Baby:
I’m already late for kindergarten pick-up, so I just whip it out in the Target parking lot. Privacy has been a myth since my toddler learned how to open the bathroom door, and I’ve already lost my modesty in a birthing suite three times. So, ya know, whatever, Bro.

Bathing:
First Baby:
Every-other-day bathing is ideal so you can practice proper hygiene without drying out baby’s skin. Between baths, make sure to dab at exposed skin with a warm, damp towel infused with essential oils and good chakra.

Third baby:
We went swimming in a public pool over the weekend. That should count for at least a week, right?

Receiving Unsolicited Advice
First baby:
Wow! What powerful insight. You’ve done this before, so you probably know what’s best. After all, what do I know–I’m just a new mom. Maybe I should just implement each piece of conflicting advice I get from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me, my situation, or my baby.

Third baby:
(Smiles and nods her head while rage boils from the deepest core of her being and smoke bellows out her ears)

Bodily functions
First baby:
Baby spits up on you and immediate panic sets in. You change your entire outfit, and that of the baby before setting about disinfecting all exposed areas.

Third baby:
Baby spits up on you and you wipe it off your shoulder with the end of your ponytail. The dog laps up any spillage that made its way to the floor. Eh, good enough.

Time Management
First baby:
WAH!!! I don’t have time for ANYTHING any more! Having a baby is hard work! How am I supposed to get ANYTHING done with a BABY?!?!

Third baby:
I only have the baby today?! Halelujah, sweet Jesus! I have a whole hour to get stuff done…hmmm…what should we do? I know! Let’s go get our nails done, do our monthly Costco shopping trip, get an oil change, and run a half-marathon. Piece of cake! (Oooh! Maybe we should get some cake, too…)

Date Night:
First baby:
Date night is important. We’ll call on our army of local family and same-life-stage friends to help babysit so we can get out at least once a week for some alone time to recharge and reconnect.

Third baby:
Nobody wants to babysit two crazy boys and a baby. Not even if you pay them. We are in the “Netflix and a bottle of wine on the couch after bedtime, but try not to fall asleep before the end of the movie” stage of life. And I’m okay with that, because I can’t stay awake past 9 PM anyway.

Dressing The Baby
First baby (a boy):
Pajamas every day. That should do it.

Third baby (a girl):
I spend tens of minutes that I don’t have each morning styling the fluffliest, furliest, adorable-est frock and bow combination for this sweet flower baby. Tutu? Check. Tights that look like ballet slippers? Check. Sparkly tiara? Check. Now, let’s create an excuse for an outing so we can parade the baby in public.

A Mother’s Love
First baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Third baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Some things change (okay, MOST things change), but the important ones will always remain the same. To each of my babies: I cherish you, I’m for you, I love you. And that, my friends is one thing that will never ever ever change.

A Story of Friendship

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The original small group couples (plus the first couple of babies) in 2009

This story began eight years ago.

In 2008 Jon and I embarked on our first Grand Adventure as 20-something newlyweds. We decided to pack up our house, our cars, my classroom, and our dog and move 1,000 miles away so Jon could attend a top-ranked grad school. It was a huge decision that would impact every area of our lives (and our pocketbooks), so we were nervous.

There were a lot of “what if’s”: What if school didn’t work out? What if I couldn’t find a job to support us during those years? What would it be like living in a place so different and so far away from the only place we’d ever lived? What if we missed our family too much? What if we didn’t meet any friends?

Through all of the what if’s, however, we had confidence because we knew that this was where God wanted us to be. So, we moved forward in faith, trusting that it would all work out.

Shortly after arriving at our new home in Palo Alto, California we got connected to a great local church that some of our friends were attending. We decided to join a small group Bible study that met once a week in a couple’s home. After all, we still didn’t know many people, and maybe this would be a good chance to meet some new friends.

Little did we know then, but that one decision to join a small group would impact our lives forever.

On the first night of our small group I tried on about 15 different outfits. I wanted to look cool without looking like I’d tried too hard so I could make a good first impression. I was incredibly nervous–as I always am when meeting new people for the first time (I try to play it off in public, but I am 100% an introvert and social gatherings often set me in a panic)–but I was also excited to hopefully meet some people our age.

When we walked in the front door of the Barley’s tiny top-floor apartment on that first night we were greeted with hugs and huge smiles, and I knew we were in the right place.  These people were genuine, and I couldn’t wait to get to know them more.

Over the next two years the couples in that group would become like family to us. We found commonality in our faith, our careers, our joys, and support when all of our husbands worked too hard. We went through a lot together in those two years, and the years that have followed. Three of us became pregnant with our first child at the same time. More than one of us miscarried. One of us adopted. One of us nearly died. And, eventually, most of us moved away.

Over the years we kept in touch and followed one another’s adventures. When our family embarked on our next Grand Adventure to Ireland, our small group friends journeyed along with us in prayer (and in faithful reading of my blog!). And when our third Grand Adventure moved us back to California, some of them were still there to greet us and welcome us “home”.

Our lives are so very different now than they were when we first met eight years ago, but this is the kind of friendship that spans time and distance and life change. In the two years since we’ve been back in California I have met up every couple of months with the ladies from that original small group (I refer to these gals as my “comfy friends” because I can wear my comfy sweats and messy hair around them, and they’ll do the same for me). It has been such a source of contentment and  joy to have my comfy friends back in my life again!

A few weeks ago we managed to hold a reunion with the 4 families from that original small group that are still living in the Bay Area. It was absolutely incredible to see the husbands and wives and children and careers and homes that we had prayed for all those years ago–here, in the flesh.

And, while it was amazing to have all of us together under one roof again, it was short lived. Because next week? Next week we send another family off on another Grand Adventure. But that’s not the end of this story.

You see, this family of dear friends is not just moving anywhere. They’re moving to Ireland, the same far-away country that we recently moved from. Actually, they’re moving to Cork–the same city where we lived two years ago. More specifically, their house is in Rochestown–the same neighborohood where we once lived. In fact, they will be living just a few doors down from our former home, and walking the same streets where we once walked.

The irony of us moving back to California to such wonderful friends, only to have them move halfway around the world to the same neighborhood that we recently moved away from, is fascinating. I am so excited for them and the adventure that is unfolding for their family. Excited for what awaits them, but also excited because our story will continue through them.

I love it when God surprises me like that. He wrote this whole story before time began, and when the pieces come together He must smile knowingly because He planned it that way from the very beginning. It’s not luck or coincidence that I have these friends in my life or that our paths have crossed over time and space. It’s providence. It’s God’s provision for our present and His protection for our future. I can trust God’s providence because He already wrote the ending of our story. And it’s GOOD.

So, as new plot twists and characters enter this story, I will be ready. Ready to embrace the journey and the story as it continues to be written in our lives. Ready to trust and follow the Author. And, most of all, I will be ready to be amazed.

Because amazing is what He does best.

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Our small group reunion, July 2016