Here’s some happy news…

Thank y’all for your outpouring of love & support from my last post. The post was easy to write, but not easy to “publish”. Some feedback has been hard to take. My pride wishes my secret was safe with me. But if I’m going to live authentically I have to share the humbling experiences as they come.

I’m feeling lighter. I don’t want you to feel like you need to call me or worry about me. Be assured I am 180% “better” than I was back in August. The negative cycle has been reversed. I’m feeling the positive momentum of His hope & provision. I would like to leave the “blah” behind and share the ways God has reached down and pulled me up over the past month and a half.

Knox-love

Honestly, the first step in the right direction was attending my grandmother’s funeral in Indy. Sounds weird but it’s true. Taking time away from the demands of family life was life-giving. More than anything getting “to know” Knox and being able enjoy him without distraction was the greatest!

His laugh is addicting. I will do anything to pocket the currency of his laughter and joy. I love the way he rolls his ankles while he eats. I love how he raises just his right eyebrow when something intrigues him. I love how he pulls in close and takes a little nibble out of my left shoulder. Pure yumminess.

Moments with the Middles

Oddly the other “hope offering” has been our wild school schedule.  It’s odd because, unlike the past 6 years, I don’t have a single moment during the week by my self. Instead of dreading it, I love it.  I have two full days with Price (my 2nd son) and two mornings with Watts (my 3rd son).

For the past two months I’ve been spending lots and lots of one-on-one time with each of these “middle” boys. Of course I miss my break and my time to see the dentist, get a haircut or write. I’ll trade “me time” for sweet conversations about God, any day.  The time sitting and playing has been precious. They have even become great “helpers” when I need to run errands or even go clothes shopping (gasp!)…Watts offers his opinions freely. The other day he told me a shirt was “yucky”. He is three. 😉

Blossoming Academic

God was gracious to me when he gave me Quade first. Yes, he was a challenging infant. But he is a rockstar 1st grader. I’m in absolute awe of how much has learned in just a few months of school.

He is my soul mate. I love how he “gets” subtle plays on words. He appreciates and notices patterns in life. Like me he doesn’t miss much (blessing & a curse). The other day when he saw a flock of birds on the Katy Trail he said, “Mom, that reminds me of Giotto’s ‘St. Francis Preaching to the Birds’ I bet you don’t even know who Giotto is, do you?” Love that guy. (and no I didn’t know who he was…but I do now!).

Upcoming Women’s Retreat

Okay it’s not really a women’s retreat (Allume). It’s a Christian women’s blogging conference. But it’s 400 women from across the country who love God soooo much they can’t stop writing about Him and making Him known to the world (and there is a prayer room & worship…good stuff). And it’s next weekend!

I bought my ticket last year on black friday. Almost a year in advance. In God’s goodness, this conference lands right when I need a huge dose of “positive momentum”. And also at a time in which I’m excited to be with people. Thank you Lord for knowing exactly what I would need when I’d need it!

Here are a few more of tangible ways God has handed me hope:

Don’t you love the pics of the boys from Charlie Roch? Here is one more…but I can’t wait to show you even more. This guy is uber talented. I’m thrilled we have captured precious moments with our boys in this season (thanks Charlie!).

What hope has God brought you this week? 

The Best Way to Use a Couch

Bruce graduated from college 3 years before me. During that time he worked hard, saved money and slept on the floor in an apartment with 5 other guys. By the time we got married his furnishings included: a circa-1973 fuzzy orange recliner, a kitchen table with 4 chairs, and an air mattress.

Assuming the role of homemaker, I needed a “bit” more furniture to make ourselves a little home. So the day we returned to Wheaton, IL from our honeymoon in Hawaii, we bought a king-sized bed, a couch, love seat, and a coffee table. All. in. one. day.

Back on March 15th, 1999 I had NO idea our carefully chosen couch would someday be used for this:

The synchronized diving practice (thank you Olympics for all the new and interesting inspiration) is only one of the best ways to use a couch. Our boys have also piled cushions in mountain-like fashion and played king of the hill. They’ve placed the cushions on their sides around the couch, and sailed the high seas in search of treasure.

Thinking back to the reasons why we chose this couch-the perfect color, deep seat cushions for my 6’3″ husband, and sturdy wooden feet-we never considered how well a 4-year-old bounced from its springs. How could we have known we would be blessed this greatly?

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.” 

Psalm 127

My “Bump Into Grace” Friends

*disclaimer: I received permission before including any of the following stories for this post. 

80% of our interactions are accidental. I should rephrase that. We didn’t plan on seeing each other, but God always had our “accidents” written in His planner.

Monday morning I felt like a metal ball in a never-ending pinball game, bouncing from need to need. The crazy wave never seemed to die down. When the sitter arrived I announced, “I’m ready!!” Unfortunately, there were still 45 more minutes of ‘crowd control’ (a.k.a. disciplinary measures and tantrums) to deal with before I walked out the door.

Driving away from the house, tears brimming, I said out loud, “I don’t want this life.” Just as quickly as the words slipped out, my mind filled with all the logical reasons why I really did want my life. Included in my gratitude list were boys who said “goodbye” with big kisses and hugs (and blows on necks…it’s a tradition). Despite the nuttiness of a morning, they still wanted to give me hugs. They live big and love big and forgive big.

My main goal for the afternoon was to mail out Quade & Price’s birthday party invites.  But the first step was to find envelopes large enough for the invites I created on my computer. I knew there was a Michael’s near the post office. So my half-aware brain headed towards Michael’s.

As soon as I walked into the store I bumped into a friend…a “bump into grace” friend. Since Quade was a toddler we’ve consistently bumped into each other at stores, museums, parks, restaurants… I leave our conversations refreshed. We go deeply quickly. We breathe grace in each other’s presence.

On this particular day I was super impressed to find her three kiddos perfectly behaved standing next to her, all quietly holding on to the cart. I encouraged them, saying “Wow! Y’all are doing such a wonderful job patiently waiting in line with your mommy.”

photo credit

My “bump into grace” friend, through smiling, gritted teeth, said, “You have NO idea.” I shared with her some of my morning. Including my theory that challenging behavior may have been due to a late bedtime from the previous evening’s VBS. She agreed. We exchanged goodbyes and I was off in search of envelopes.

I walked out of Michael’s empty-handed, just as my phone showed a text message from my “bump into grace” friend. Her text explained how a moment before I walked into Michael’s her oldest and youngest were playing an angry tug-of-war in with a Brave coloring book. Right before I saw them behaving perfectly, she had given the “mommy look” and insisted they both put their hands on the cart. Her middle child was just scared quiet. She ended the text, “nice to see your smiling face.”

As I looked up from reading the text I saw my friend driving through the parking lot. I held up my phone to show I got the text. We shared knowing glances. We get each other. I felt encouraged because I’m not the only one struggling through the challenges of motherhood. It helped pull me up from my belly gazing and “woe is me.”

She shared how it encouraged her to see me and know God is kind. Seeing me had re-colored her day. Instead of remembering the horrible “tug-of-war” incident she remembered my perfectly timed entrance.

You know what’s even crazier? As I walked away from her car I asked if she could think of any office supply stores nearby to get envelopes. She pointed me to the Office Depot. RIGHT NEXT to the post office. Um, yeah.

Why didn’t it cross my mind to go to the very conveniently located office supply store for envelopes?

I believe God directed my steps.

“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

He is kind. If we are willing to see His hand in our day we can see how He orchestrates “bump into grace” incidents.

Not just friends. Perhaps grace comes from bumping into a stranger (<—click to read). Or even through the world-wide web…

This week I received a Facebook message from a college friend I have not seen in over 13 years. She took time to tell me I have been on her mind. The night before she dreamed about my husband Bruce and I meeting her at a conference. When she woke up from her dream she prayed for us.

Do you know where my husband was when she messaged me? In Boston at a conference. I hadn’t posted it on Facebook. But I needed prayer while he was away. God had been kind. She had been available. She took the time to stop and pray.

Do you have friends you frequently “bump into” and God uses to speak to your soul and show you grace?

If you don’t have a real-life grace community, have you experienced “bump into” moments through online community? God speaking through the words of a blog post when you were at a breaking point? Scripture shared through Twitter or Instagram?

Ask God through His Holy Spirit to open your eyes to “bump into grace” moments. They are happening. My prayer is you don’t miss them!

Don’t you love a good find?

I’m giddy with excitement to share this favorite. My dear friend Misty and her longtime friend, Julie, just launched an awesome mommy-friendly business. Both women are stay-at-home moms who love Jesus. God has gifted them in administration, marketing, style, organization…! We are benefitting from their talents. Their business is called, “The Find Auctions” and I’ll let Misty share more specifically what it’s all about…

What inspired The Find Auctions?

I know we’ve all enjoyed the quest that comes from finding just the right thing. The perfect find. A quirky new restaurant, a fabulous little handbag to wear to that summer party, a great bottle of wine to serve, an incredibly personal gift that will show care. Whatever it is, you know it when you see it and it is somewhat thrilling.

These days my “finds” are mostly more about locating a lost email in my overstuffed (read: unorganized) inbox or searching for my child’s shoe that should have been on her foot ten minutes prior as we race out the door. Oh, dear, that’s a whole other story.

Life’s demands on our schedule eat up our ability to really grab true finds and we often either settle for something or just let it go. Gone are the days of leisurely strolling through boutiques.

Somewhat inspired by the memories of yester-year coupled with the opportunity to search for great finds with a longtime friend, we are on a mission for finds. Not just finds for ourselves, but finds to share with you.

What we are doing?

We’ve been scouring the same designer markets that big name buyers source…picking all the styles you’ll love.

Chic handbags and accessories.

Great accents for your home.

Charming gifts that are almost too good to give away.

Style for every part of your life.

Our finds will come your way on Wednesday nights through a fixed-price auction on Facebook. It’s a soiree of style with your friends.

We are The Find Auctions. Fabulous Finds, No Finder’s Fee.

How do you get in on Finds?

Go to Facebook.com/TheFindAuctions and “Like” the page.  Then you will be signed up to see all of the previews, special deals and surprise announcements.  Here’s out it works:

  • Tune in to Facebook on Wednesday night at 8:30 CST
  • Bid on an item by commenting on the item’s picture with the following info: “sold”, your paypal email address and “OOT” if you are outside of Texas (for sales tax purposes).

The winners are listed shortly after the sale.  The sale is less than an hour and the goodies arrive straight to your doorstep!

The price is fixed and the number of items is set. It’s first come, first served.

What you need to do before Wednesday: 

  1. Make sure you go to facebook.com/thefindauctions and “like” them (also hover over the ‘like’ button and click ‘show in news feed’).
  2. Set up your PayPal account (you will use the email address associated with your account).
  3. Log in to Facebook on Wednesday at 8:30 CST ready to ‘refresh, refresh, refresh’ your news feed to see each “find” as it is posted.

Heather here….sounds fun, right? I’ll see you there Wednesday night!! Better warm-up those fingers.  I did win the “fastest typer” award Junior year of High School…I’m a tough competitor! 😉

Few Favorites Friday: San Antonio Edition

For the second week “off my foot” I went on vacation with my little family. The six of us! This trip was planned long before the fracture. Since I needed help with the boys and my husband had already taken off work…we stuck with the plan.

Despite an injured momma and an exhausted hubby…here are our favorite moments from a wonderful trip to San Antonio:

Swimming…

Boys had such a great time swimming. Splashing. Sliding down huge water slides. Exploring the lazy river. Building sand castles. We loved having a positive outlet for all their energy! (cute matching suits…40% off from Lands End!)

Oodles of smiles from this cool guy…

Often while my husband was off swimming with boys I had the chance to rest my foot &  spend time with this handsome fella.

Sea World…

Fortunately we used the year passes we had purchased at Christmas to visit Sea World again! This time with preferred parking…thanks to my temporary handicap hangtag!

Motorized Wheelchair…

Unfortunately it wasn’t a totally “free” trip…since we had to ‘rent’ a motorized wheelchair. But that money was worth it. Since my day at Sea World was the most I’d stayed off my foot since the fracture occurred! The boys thought it was super fun to ride with me.

Feeding Dolphins…

Definitely the highlight of the day was being face-to-face with these amazing creatures.

Alamo…

Boys have read the biography of Davy Crockett & are very interested in wars/fighting/battles/etc. Seeing the Alamo was top of their list. They asked if there would still be blood on the ground. =)

Riverwalk…

My favorite part of San Antonio is the riverwalk. It’s beautiful & peaceful…yet lively. Various architectural styles preserved. Fun patio restaurants. Just wonderful!

Brotherly love…

During our trip wherever we walked somewhere my husband and I would catch my oldest two boys holding hands…a sweet sign of their friendship (didn’t capture a picture…tricky to do while on crutches). But did get this:

Board games…

One activity on my list I was hanging around the condo playing board games. Two different mornings we made that happen. Playing Monopoly Jr & Ticket to Ride.

S’mores…

The Hyatt Wild Oaks (condo bldgs next to Hyatt Hill Country Resort) is a beautifully landscaped property. One feature they offer is one large fire pit and four individual fire pits. One night we brought our own s’mores supplies and had some sticky fun.

Allowing boys to be boys…

A special gift for mommy…

Traveling with 4 young boys isn’t most couples ideal vacation plan. If you don’t have the luxury of taking an intimate Greek cruise with your spouse. I would highly recommend visiting San Antonio (especially if you live in Texas!). AND I would highly recommend renting a 2 bdrm condo at the Hyatt Wild Oaks. It allowed my husband and I the chance to relax in the living room or on the balcony after the boys went to bed. We also saved money on food by eating in the condo almost all our meals.

In spite of my injury I gained what I set out to gain from the vacation…great memories, focused time with the boys (individually and together) & quality time with my husband. Thank you Lord for the many, many blessings!

Few Favorites Friday: Fractured Foot Edition

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

A friend shared this verse with me when I was extremely discouraged. My response was: “Does it count if instead of “walking uprightly” I walk leaning slightly forward? Using crutches I’m more like 20 degrees off upright.” =)

I’m trying. This has been a challenging week…not in the way I thought it would be. Before I got my “diagnosis”, I was dreading another week home with the boys without my husband. Ready to be exhausted by responsibilities, whining, solo-discipline, etc. Instead it’s been a different kind of hard. I can’t do what I normally do. I’ve had to adjust my entire way of doing things. I can’t even be home alone with the boys. Another adult must be here to help me.

There were few things that I selfishly enjoyed that I can no longer: Dance class (where the injury occurred), working out in general, quiet time in my big leather chair downstairs. My dear friend encouraged me that I can still enjoy those things just in a new way.

My #hellomornings time has been happening in my bed…not ideal but it’s still happening. My exercise is now swinging my huge body on crutches. I’ve been able to sit and enjoy my boys. Filling their love language of quality time instead of service. And the biggest favorite of the week:

1. My Mother-in-law

Thank the Lord for my mother-in-law. She has done the jobs of both myself and my husband this week (laundry, trash, meal prep & clean-up, helping with sick kids, putting boys to bed). Without a single complaint she has served our family. She also brought joy & laughter into our home.  I’m so very thankful for her this week.

2. Breakfast in Bed

Remember in my post from Monday when I was upset because my husband didn’t make me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day? Well, because of my injury my MIL served me breakfast in bed every day this week (be careful what you wish for!).

3. Highland Park ER 

The stand-alone emergency room we visited on Mother’s Day is definitely on my favorites list. If you are in the downtown Dallas area you should consider using the Highland Park ER for your next emergency. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. We were the only people in there, so I was seen immediately. They had a keurig machine, people! The staff were helpful and friendly. Now I may change my opinion when we get the bill… 

4.  Giant Bubbles 

One afternoon we mixed up this fun bubble solution…find the recipe here: Giant Bubbles.

We just made a 1/4 of the solution…we didn’t need 12 cups floating around.

Boys loved adding the ingredients…like a science experiment. They were blowing HUGE bubbles. Super fun. Highlight of the week.

5. Homemade Journal & 1000gifts…

I gave this gift combo to teachers last year. I’ve given it to my mom & MIL for Mother’s Day last year. I’ve given it to all my friends at Christmas. So I was a little nervous giving it as a gift this year. The book has been around for awhile & on the New York Times best seller list for over half a year. Thankfully NONE of the 5 teachers I gave “One Thousand Gifts” to, had read it!

This year when making the journal I got creative.

I wanted to buy new scrapbook paper & ribbon. However my injury prevented that from happening. To the 99cent composition book I glued a cute piece of scrapbook paper to the front. Glued a ribbon along the paper & binding. Then for the back, I glued a piece of plain scrapbook paper on which the boys painted their handprints. Turned out great!

6. Summer Celebration

Heard at a MOPs session that on the last day of school we should celebrate the start of summer. Telling our children how much we look forward to spending time with them, learning new skills, taking trips. So, with my walking boot & crutches I headed over to Dollar Tree. Spending less than $10 I got each of the boys:

  • Sunglasses
  • Water shooters (those tube shooters)
  • Spiderman helium-filled mylar balloon

7. No-slip, No-crease Hair ties–Amber
My super sweet, super fashion-forward friend Amber sent me her favorite thing. It’s elastic silk hair ties!
“They are absolutely wonderful. They don’t leave a crease in your hair when you take it down! You can find them at little boutique shops, but they can get pricey.  I found them on Etsy for cheaper!  Love, Love, Love!”
Here is the link to the Etsy shop: TuToo Cute TuTu’s

What were your favorites this week?

Few Favorites Friday: Home Alone edition

On Monday I shared that my husband Bruce would soon be going out of town…the truth is he had already left that Sunday afternoon and was gone this week. Fortunately, he arrived back safely last night. Whew. We survived. There were definitely moments that I hope my children block from their memories (don’t know if I will ever forgive forget them myself).

One lesson I learned this week is the value of community & allowing community to step in and help. A few gifts of grace:

  • Phone call from my mentor reminding me: “This is the day the Lord has made…” Which helped me focus on seeing the positive in my day.
  • Offers to have us over for dinner or bring us dinner.
  • Enough food from one friend that fed me for 6 meals!
  • A kind dad at Pump it Up who included my boys while he played with his own child (they needed some big jumping, wild, fun).
  • The worker at Pump it Up who let me slide down the big slide with my boys without wearing the required socks.
  • New exhibit at the Nature & Science Museum…great conversations with the boys about weather.
  • A sister who came over…held Knox while I put the boys to bed, then folded laundry for me.
  • Knowing all the people who I could call and they would help me in a heartbeat.

Here are a few more specific favorites:

1. Frito Salad:

My friend Kari brought us a yummy salad this week. I thought I would share it with y’all because it’s pretty simple, delicious…& just a little naughty. 😉

2. Pizza Making {Mommy Break}

This week I got a text from one of our babysitters. She asked if she and her fiance could come over and make pizza with the boys for dinner. I answered with a: “Um, yes! Yes you can!”

She texted me the day before asking what kind of pizza they liked. When they arrived she looked at me and said, “We’ve got this, you can go do whatever you need to do….even if it’s just sit down & breathe.” <—an angel in disguise, right?

I went upstairs to fold laundry (which did require me to sit down & rest). A few times I snuck downstairs to snap some pictures of their work in progress:

Making Dough

Spreading the Sauce

Voila! Mac Brothers’ Pizza (coming to a street near you!)

Our sweet sitter (& fiance) also completely cleaned the kitchen & took the trash out to the alley! Truly gave me the boost of energy I needed. Amazing.

3. Hot Chocolate & God

During the #hellomornings* Spreecast (basically a video conference call with 78 other women!), Kat Lee ( from inspiredtoaction.com) shared a super idea. One of the participants asked: what should she to do if her child wakes up while she is  having her early morning quiet time? (remember #hellomornings is waking up FOR my kids, not TO my kids).

Kat shared how when that happens she makes her kiddos hot chocolate. They grab a Bible/books to read through. Then they chose a name written on a stick of someone they will pray for.

Well, on Wednesday I told my boys about this idea and they loved it. We wrote names on popsicle sticks and placed them in a jar labeled “prayer”. The next morning, since Bruce was out-of-town, we all sat at the table. They had their hot chocolate and Bibles, I had my tea and Bible. For about 5 minutes we sat and focused our hearts on God.

To be honest I didn’t think such a thing would be possible with 3 boys. However, they proved me wrong. It wasn’t the deepest, most meaningful quiet time I’ve ever had. But it was the sweetest. I will treasure these pictures…

*If you are curious about #hellomornings…check it out here or the link on my side-bar. Sign-ups for the Summer Session are going on now. Session runs from May 14th thru July 8th.

4. Little Lights Missionary Biographies” by Catherine MacKenzie–Ashley

 My friend Ashley (who has 3 adorable little girls) sent me this favorite. I definitely want to check them out & buy some for our “hot chocolate hellomornings”.

“These biographies are sold separately. There are eight books in the series, including biographies about: Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Corrie Ten Boom, David Livingston, and Hudson Taylor. I would recommend them for ages 4 and up. Each book is about 24 pages long and presents the gospel beautifully. I adore children’s books and have many favorites on our bookshelf. I love how these tell true stories about brave men and women who gave so much of themselves in order to further the Kingdom. Good for kids to read some nonfiction!”

What were some of your favorites this week? What are your survival strategies when your husband travels?