Saturday, February 18, 2017

Riding a Bike

It was around the time Elizabeth turned 2 and we were trying to figure out what on earth to give a 2 year old. After hearing so many raving reviews on balance bikes, we decided it would be the perfect gift. By the age of 2, she was adept at some things but using pedals was not her forte. So I input "balance bike" into google and happened upon the site "Two Wheeling Tots".

After reading reviews and trying to find a good deal we decided to buy a Strider brand balance bike off Zulily. We gave it to her for her birthday in June and of course all she could do was walk with the bike between her legs. But she faithfully practiced that for the rest of the summer and into fall and then winter came.

The next spring she gained confidence and began to glide. So much that by the end of the summer she was gaining momentum and was able to stay seated on the seat and lift her feet after getting herself going. We had read that balance is the first step to riding a bike and it proved true. By the next summer she was a bit big for her strider and we began hunting for the perfect first bike.

Again I turned to "Two Wheeling Tots" and asked advice, read reviews, learned about biking and made a decision. Because we have a petite sister ready to inherit this first bike we ultimately decided upon the Cleary Gecko. And for her 4th birthday she received her first big girl bike.

When making our decision there were a couple of things that were important to us. We have the motto for our parenting that goes along the lines of "start how you want to continue". We wanted to get her off to the right step biking so that she would be confident and controlled going forward. We really wanted her to learn to use hand brakes from the start and to eliminate the use of a "coaster brake" (back pedal to stop). I had read enough in my research to learn that kids often back pedal to explore what riding is like and a coaster can frustrate young riders. This was true because while at some friends houses' she definitely got frustrated trying to ride the average box store bike. We also wanted it lightweight and for it to be her size so she grew in confidence. Also we did not want to rely on training wheels at all. Since she knew how to balance already, adding training wheels seemed like moving backwards.

The Gecko was just a smidge bigger than her balance bike but she started gliding just as she did with her balance bike, reached her feet up and off she went pedaling. That friends was worth the extra money and definitely made for an easier parenting moment. It's technically a 12" bike but was the perfect starter and will work great for her smaller and younger sister.

We absolutely knew that she would only get one riding season out of the Gecko so I managed to find it with a discount and it was money well spent. When researching bikes again for this next summer, I again reached out to "Two Wheeling Tots". Their expertise has been exceptional and extremely helpful. After sharing where we were at, hoping to skip a 16" bike knowing we wanted some longevity with this purchase, they led us to the Pello Reddi.

The Pello is an amazing bike. It's a 20" bike but doesn't have gears since our 4.5 year old is a bit young for gears and they are un-necessary right now.  It has dual hand brakes and is an incredible bike. It's lightweight, sits a bit more upright, and lastly our daughter loves it. It's a bike you want to ride and it's extremely responsive.

I was able again to contact the company and secure a discounted bike. The one she has is a second...there were some tiny paint flaws but it saved us money. And now our family is able to head out the door biking the trails in our new neighborhood. We went out today and Elizabeth rode almost 5 miles with a smile on her face. She could get up the hills and control her speeds well.

I can't recommend Two Wheeling Tots enough. If you are researching or looking for bikes for your kids, reach out to them. It has made all the difference for our family. (And know they have bikes in all price ranges that they recommend.)

*just a little blurb on biking...we get a lot of questions and comments because she can bike so well already and thought I would share for anyone who cared:)*

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

To Elizabeth as you turn 4

Sweet girl, it is a true joy to be your momma. To think four years have unfolded before our eyes seems crazy. You often ask, "Mommy, can you remember when I was really little, like a baby?" And yes, I sure can. Holding your sweet little body and snuggling you in...I remember it like yesterday. That's why this business of you turning four seems so crazy and yet so fitting.

They say the days are long and the years are short and that's the truth isn't it? Some days are extremely long but these 4 years have gone by so quickly. It's been a joy to watch you grow and learn and develop just the way God saw fit.

Here's some things about you Elizabeth Mae that we don't want to forget.

1. You are the most sensitive, sweet, and full of love girl I know. The way you care for others and love deeply is overwhelming. You feel the emotions of others, you guard your sister with care, you love fiercely and more than that you know what true, genuine, Godly love looks like and feels like. Your expressions as you understand more and your jokes and silliness are so much more developed and refined. You have the kindest things to say and you love to build people up and remind them of Gospel truth. I'm often the recipient of your sweet encouragement when I'm frustrated or things are not going quite right and I'm thankful for your words. I pray you will hold fast to the truth and share wisdom with others in a kind and loving manner as you grow.

2. You are a social bug. The extrovert to our introvert. We've met more neighbors and people at the park and everywhere we go because of your love for people. I'll be honest, it's been a bit tricky for us to navigate, your daddy and I, but we are thankful for your love of people and desire to know and care for others. You've pulled us out of our comfort zones and we are thinkful for that but more than it being about us, it's been incredible to watch you when you are in your social element.

3. While you follow the rules, you have this tenacious, determined and stubborn side of you as well. You know what you like and what is right and what you don't and what is wrong. I pray we can lead you well in this area, showing you how to follow and lead with grace and truth. To humbly admit your mistakes while continuing to work hard towards your goals.

4. You faced your fears this year over and over again and are learning what hard work and determination can result in. Swimming lessons last year were a disaster but this year we cannot get you out of the pool and lessons have been a highlight of your day. It's a priviledge to be able to watch you push yourself and gain confidence in areas you were less confident in. You determination serves you well in this regard. Alongside learning to swim you have danced in your first dance recital, learned to downhill ski and ice skate, and learned to ride a two wheeler sans training wheels on the second try. It's evident when you are interested in something you are willing and ready to put in the hard work to give it your all. I'm grateful for your tenacity and willingness to try new things without letting others stop you.

5. You have your own unique sense of style and fancy. Lately you love picking out your own combinations of clothing and accessories and enjoy getting all fancied up. While you are equally comfortable in your play clothes and tennis shoes, you have an inner love for sparkles and dress up and fancy that is so fun.

6. This year you grew leaps and bounds in your understanding of God and the Gospel. Over Easter weekend, you, in faith, responded to the Lord's call on your heart to follow Him. It's been a joy to teach you and help you understand who God is and what sin is and the glorious thing that is grace. You loved Super Bible Club and AWANA and BSF. With gusto you dove in to learn and understand hard concepts and brought an abundance of questions our way that we were more than happy to attempt to answer. Sweet girl, we pray that you will hold on to the testimony of faith you proclaimed with all that you are as you grow and experience the years to come. It's our joy to walk alongside of you and point you to Jesus.

7. You love being with us. The joy and excitement that is on your face when you know all four of us are going to be together is truly a blessing. Add on grandma or nana or any other family member and you are on cloud nine. You revel in quality time and appreciate tradition. You enthusiasm to be together is contagious. I pray this will continue and you will always love being with your parents and your relationship with your sister will grow to be a sweet sweet sisterhood.

8. You love to sing. I'm so grateful for your sweet voice that sings hymns and songs and makes them up sometimes as well. It's a beautiful thing music and you have a love for it wherever we go. In fact "Holy Holy Holy", the songs from the church G.O.D cd, and a few others get literally belted out in shopping malls, stores, and the like. I love it. Dance parties are also usually to follow and your daddy and I love joining in.

9. You love to draw. This has developed more lately and we often find you out in your daddy's office with some paper and a pen making sweet drawings for your family. I love hearing about your pictures as there are usually intricate and detailed plots that accompany them. It's never just a picture for you. I pray you continue to enjoy being creative and as you create that you will see and know Creator God all the more.

10. You are a bookworm. You love to make up stories and read stories. You often sit in your room and "read" books before you fall asleep. Sometimes you even hide piles under your covers so we don't see how many you've pulled into bed. It's hard for me to disapprove as I was exactly the same way as a kid. Always my nose in a book. Praying this serves you well as you continue to learn and soak up knowledge. May books take you to a place of respite, give you comfort and teach you as you grow!

As your parents there are things we hope for and we pray for but most of all dear girl we pray that you would follow hard after Jesus all your days, not being swayed by what the world is whispering to you but holding fast to the promises in the word of God. We pray that you would fall in love with Jesus, knowing He's with you throughout your days, depending upon Him, looking to Him for your worth, and finding rest in His faithful arms.

Being your momma is about the best thing that's ever happened to me past following Jesus and marrying your daddy. It's my joy dear girl to spend my days with you. There isn't anywhere else I'd rather be.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Mae!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

letting life shine amidst the bathroom chatter

It seems like yesterday but in all reality it was over 4 years ago. That moment after we found out that we were expecting and I began to wonder about the sex of our baby. Inside I really wanted a boy. Mainly due to all those years of nannying boys and even more so out of fear of having to raise girls. And I began having dreams of a daughter. Then the writing was on the wall. Ballet pink splayed across the dining room.

It was then that every fear or anxiety I had about raising girls came at me like a blunt force. Me. Having girls. This grown woman with so many skeletons in the closet. Well not really in the closet, because most have come out to the open. But knowing what was in store for them. And more importantly, not knowing what was in store for them. What would childhood look like? And adolescence? And leaving the nest? Would they be bullied, or swayed by the sexy notions of the time or would they be the bully or the mean girl (please Lord no!)

All I could do and all I can do is pray. Well pray and help pave the way, right? I remember chatting over my fears with my husband and earnestly, almost as a plea, asking him to set our family on the offensive. Let's be on the offensive, right? See what's coming before it comes. Start the conversations before they are in the middle of it. Not get swayed by what the world is screaming. Not get swayed by what the church is screaming. Asking him to help me get swayed by what the WORD is screaming.

And then God gave me another little girl. And I felt a little like Sarah when she finds out she's pregnant with Isaac, laughing, in a sad and happy manner knowing full well that that which He has called me to, He will equip me for that work, even though it seems near impossible. Thank you Lord. Because raising girls, raising kids, that's work we cannot do without help.

And as any mother or parent or human being knows, what we do and what we say and how we act and how we love does not go unnoticed. It's why we can see ourselves in our best and in our worst playing in a motion picture right in front of us. The shortened temper, the kindness to a stranger, the cute and odd idiosyncrasies we all have, the joy in a beautiful day, the list could go on. And it matters what we offer up to them. It matters. Thanks be to God again that every single day is a new opportunity to do it better. To offer more grace. To show more love. To mess up and offer forgiveness. You get the idea.

Some mornings I wake up and the mercies don't seem new. I awake with the same attitude or mindset, only to offer it up again on the altar. Continually offering, well beckoning in my case, for more and more help. To raise these little girls in a way that offers the world as large of a piece of Jesus as our family possibly can. And boy do we get it wrong some days. But that's displaying the amazing work of grace and mercy. Free to sinners who fail.

That's the point right. Boy or girl. To love God and love others. To spread a passion for Jesus. And our words hold no sway if our actions aren't following right behind them. And then we start our day, we read the news, we begin to worry. We cast vision for our children, we want to mother hen the heck of them. To protect them. To keep them. To shield those little eyes. Right?

In these past almost 4 years of motherhood, I find myself consistently wanting to mother hen my girls. To keep them from my own mistakes. To shield and protect them. To not let them see or know or experience the evils the world holds. Just about a month ago I sat in bed reading articles on my phone...we're silly that way. And the two I read pertained to girls and social media. About how girls were beginning to give their bodies away to boys because they felt so much pressure to have sex that it was easier to just give in and get sex over with. Of boys asking for nude photos of girls to be sent via the kik app. So on and so forth. And my heart ached. God's good plan for sex...which is good and lovely and so fulfilling, so skewed and spent years too soon. My heart physically ached for the pain and hurt and damage that's being done to these sweet young girls. Ached. And I prayed for them and for my own sweet little girls to be guarded from sexual pressure.

Talk about sex, in an age appropriate way friends. Talk about it plain as day...about what the Bible has to say about how our kiddos are formed, who forms them, who loves them, how He made them and that all He's done is good. Remind them of their good good Father who has created them for His work. He's made them and us friends, to live a life that shines. To shine the light of Jesus.

And now the news of transgender bathrooms. Target's endorsement. The multiple petitions and chatter on how we should stand and fight and never shop at Target again. And I'm not making light of it. Believe me, as a momma to two young sweet girls, I'm not making light of it.

But I have been earnestly praying. For wisdom and discernment. For love to shine. Because friends, those boys and girls, men and women are struggling with their gender identity. They're made in the image of God. They're real people. And because of the sin that infiltrated the world we live in, because I'm using the Bible as my lens, they're confused and hurting. Some believe they were created to be homosexual, transgender, bisexual. But because again, I'm using the Bible as my lens, they were created in the image of God, as male or female. But sin, well sin frustrates God's good plan that He's bringing back to perfection. Soon and very soon.

As a family this past year, we've been studying the book of Revelation through Bible Study Fellowship. Revelation, as Elizabeth would sing,..."The Book of revelation says what God is going to do." Friends, it doesn't matter what your theology says about the book of Revelation. (although its great to figure that out.) The biggest takeaway from the book of Revelation is that millions of people will be swept into eternal darkness and despair because they would not denounce the world and follow Jesus. The biggest takeaway is one of Jesus greatest commands "Go and make disciples of all nations..." Go and live a life that shines for Jesus. That shares Jesus.

And with that lens, I'm reviewing the bathroom issue. I've got these sweet girls, friends. They're little and impressionable. And they watch. Oh dear, do they watch. They watch in the uncomfortable staring kind of watching. How will momma react? How will those people react? What is this world we are living in? How do things work? All the questions their little brains are trying to answer and put into perspective.

And here's my chance to pave the way. To start on the offensive. To lead them through this. And the only thing I keep hearing in the Word and in my heart is, LOVE. Love them. Show them how to love.

And here's the deal. As I see it, for the unforeseeable future my daughters will go to the bathroom before we leave. We will use a unisex bathroom as a group of three. Or friends, we will walk in that bathroom in twos or more. And we will look anyone we see in the eye and smile. We will offer kindness. We will not be scared or timid. We will not shy away from questions when they come if there's a male in the bathroom. We will confront them head on. Because this isn't new. This isn't new my friends.

Sodom and Gomorrah came down in an instant.

We happen to know those who consider themselves homosexual or transgender. We happen to know where they are at. We've been able to love them. Alex has share the gospel, he's used his friendship with these individuals to share the love. To let life shine for good.

It's not loving to boycott or never use a bathroom or never meet the issues head on for anyone. It's not loving to our kiddos not to talk about what's happening. What's going on. It's not loving to shame those confused or living life differently from ourselves. It's not loving to turn the other way in disgust or treat them as if they are all child molesters. It's hovering under the notion that removing ourselves will be easier or keep us safer or protect us or protect our kiddos.

I know we are called to protect our kiddos. I'm not deeming that silly. I'm not saying it's not important. You remember I've got two little girls. Two precious little girls. I would rather die than allow something hurtful to happen to them. And I know the idea of sexual predators in the bathroom is real. I'm not negating that allowing men to use the women's restroom and vice versa won't have adverse affects. I don't take any of those things lightly.

There are still options for us. Still good options such as single unisex restrooms. And from what I've read through Revelation and the New Testament, we've only got more destruction, more sin, more pressures coming as we take a stand for Christ. It's not magically going to get easier. We don't let the doors slam us down and hide in fear, we stand tall. We stand strong. And we love. We let our lives shine bright.

Because God's got us. He's got us. The God who created the entire world, who created you and me and millions of others, knows the hairs on our heads. Knows who is in the bathrooms in every part of the world. And He's still called us to love and share and lay ourselves down and dump ourselves out for His glory.

Take this life and let us shine friends. And let your children join in.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"If the Lord wills..."

I I can remember the feeling I had in my heart after having gone on a couple of dates with Alex and him sitting with me at Dunn Brothers and saying "I think we should not continue dating."

I probably should have been heart sick or disappointed but instead I said "okay," and later left and called my dear friend. And to her I said, "He's going to change his mind...this is the guy."

I cannot say that the next day he called back with an alternate plan. He didn't. But months later, our paths again crossed and this time, as the Lord willed, we began dating. Not fairytale months of dating. Hard, prayerful, sin exposing and still fun and exciting if that's possible, months off dating. Until we were engaged and then married.

Somehow at that moment, after hearing his words, my heart was certain God would bring us back together.

James 4:13-17 reminds me that our plans are not ours, life is yet for a moment, the Lord holds the details and is totally in control. 

Because today we find ourselves with an answer to prayer that we began praying almost two years ago. Lord, if you will, help us discern where we should be. Whether we move or stay. 

When we started attending our current church it didn't take long for us to fall in love with the people, the teaching, the church. And we began to realize that if we really wanted to invest in the church and send our daughters to some of the charter schools we were looking at, that a move may be in store.

And yet, we just kept plugging along at updating our house. Not knowing where the Lord would have us. Thinking that the best solution was to stay. Pay off our house. Keep driving. We thought our roots were set in place but there was that back of the mind notion of moving that just wouldn't go away.

And here we find ourselves today, having prayed and negotiated and prayed and prayed, with a purchase agreement secured on our house and a soon to be builder agreement for a house much closer to our church and our church family.

I didn't have that same, we will move certainty like I did that I would marry Alex.  But we left the decision up to the Lord and He's shown us that moving is in our 

We can say today, with confidence, that moving, while bittersweet is exactly where the Lord is leading us. And we couldn't be more excited.

Through these years and months of praying and trying to take ourselves out of the equation, we've realized that our house isn't as important as we once thought. We are looking forward to building a house, but it will never be what we've created in our current home. It won't be as custom or as detailed. But it's a home, a beautiful that's finished, that frees our family up to serve and give of our time to others. To our church. To family and friends.

Not to mention we are very excited to have more accessibility to being outdoors as a family. Biking, walking, playing at the park. 

So as the Lord has willed, we will move later this summer from our home in Bloomington where roots were starting to be planted to Victoria where those roots will dig down deep...unless, of course, He wills to move us again. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

What's inside your bag?

I rarely read blogs hear days but posts like this are always some of my favorites. 

I just changed out my bag for spring and once I saw all the contents I thought it would be fun to share. Mainly because of one little bag that's an addition to my purse, and it's a little bag I love!

Here's my new bag...a Pottery Barn Kids striped diaper tote I picked up during one of their latest sales for $15! Score!!

And here's what the inside looks like all packed up. 

Things I have with me at all planner, my wallet, a pacifier, Meghan's diaper pouch and my new floral oil bag. 

I had a diaper pouch like this for Elizabeth when she was little. Monogrammed with her name just like Meghan's and it's perfect for nursery drop off and keeping things all in one place. The nursery workers love it because it has her name on it and it's not a huge diaper bag. It usually holds diapers, wipes, a sippy cup and a bib. I bought both of them at Pottery Barn Kids on sale. They are their normal wet bags so they are lined with a waterproof lining which is great. They double as a spot for wet bathing suits after the pool in the summer😉

Next I have my new oil bag from Red Fox Lane on Etsy. I can sew but I'd rather just purchase from someone else and have it done right away in this season of life😉 Just FYI this holds way more than oils. I have it stocked for a trip so there are more oils in here than normal. 

This looks small but it's a powerhouse. I have so much in here all organized because of the oil slots.

I have rollerballs, hand sanitizer spray, bug spray, sunscreen stick, lip balms, lipgloss, aquaphor, diaper cream, a pen, meds, bandaids and neosporin, nail clippers, and a Breathe vapor stick. There's still plenty of room for other things as well. It's like a medicine cabinet in a bag. Even if you don't oil I would recommend it!

Lastly my planner, my favorite wallet (Hobo Lauren), my small Bible and a pad of paper. There's a changing pad that came with the bag that I keep in here for traveling but otherwise I take it out.

So what in things do you have in your bag? Any favorites I'm missing??

Thursday, March 3, 2016

One big decision ahead

The last time I posted I had high hopes of writing more often. But then, as it often does, life intervened and my plans were thwarted. These past few weeks our family has been mulling over and praying over the idea of moving. We've been searching and driving all over the west metro.

This isn't necessarily a new thing...but definitely more recent. The past year has been filled with thoughts of the future and preparing for some financial freedom.

Earlier this fall, Alex read through a book on creating a legacy by Dave Ramsey. We sorted through our affairs and made a legacy box. (A spot where all our important things are) While doing this we  also spent some time working through the future and preparing for the what ifs in case either of us were to pass away. He even created me a budget if the day came that he passed. 

And so this month we were/are preparing to pay off our entire mortgage on our current house. We've always lived a more wartime lifestyle because of Alex's profession and self employment, but some current work projects have blessed us. So much that we could pay off our mortgage now.

This step is the last step in our end of life plan as well. This step gives me the freedom to never work if Alex were to pass away. That's an incredible blessing.

But sometimes even in the midst of our own careful planning the Lord brings to mind a different path. And that path for us would be to move. 

To move closer to our church, our church family, give our girls sidewalks to ride bikes on and hike and run. To alleviate some of the "issue zones" in our current home that cannot be easily remedied.
We never thought that much about moving because financial freedom was on our brains. But we then contemplated the move and we could move to a beautiful new house and keep our current mortgage. Obviously not as custom as our house now, but the new house would back up to a pond...allowing the girls to ice skate in their backyard. It's a family friendly community, closer to church and the new house plan would remedy those current "issue zones."

It's definitely not an easy decision but it's a future that we feel drawn to. 

Pray with us?

We have already worked out a floor plan with the builder but they are working on getting a quote on some changes we've made to a plan. We are waiting two weeks or so to hear if it will work to build the plan with our changes and the costs associated. If everything comes back positively we will most likely put our house on the market. 

It's definitely we love this house. It's where we poured out a lot of love, brought our little girls home, dreamed of their future. BUT...

It's just a house...our home is wherever we are together, right?

We've already made some minor changes to our existing house that we will enjoy if we don't sell but will get it ready if we do. 

Our basement was painted and our main floor bath got a very minor update, but one that really changed things up.

Obviously we don't exactly know what the future holds but we're anxious to see where God leads us and will be ready if He says move:)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hemming Me In

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Nor is just being a woman who follows Jesus.

My life has been given it’s fair shake of ups and downs, bringing out my best and my worst.

I’ve known full well my areas of struggle, those spots tender to the enemy’s prodding. And it seems over time that slimy snake has figured them out as well. I’d blame the enemy or my children or my circumstances but I know right where the responsibility lies.

Like I tell my daughters daily, your mommy is a sinner. You are a sinner. Your daddy is a sinner. Everyone is a sinner. I realized the other day that I needed a change of definition when she posed that Nana and Papa couldn’t possibly be sinners because they don’t yell. And we began again, deconstructing sin.

We need to see our sin if we are ever to grasp the overwhelming grace from Jesus death.

That’s my area of struggle. Keeping my tea pot of a temper from screeching to a boil.

I’ve been a mother now for the past 3.5 years give or take. I assure you, there has never in my life been a period of time so sanctifying. The years of hemming me in.

There was a time in my life when I thought I had gotten my tea pot under control. And I guess I did for awhile. Until everything in my control was really not in my control. Nothing in motherhood is truly under my control. Well maybe the choice of lunch is. Or  whether or not my Bible opens.

But these littlest ones, the ones the Lord created for me to mother. ME to mother. He knows me better than I know myself and He still ordained for me to mother. These little ones cannot be controlled. Meaning they will not always do just what I want when I want them to for my comfort and my convenience.

That’s not really the meaning or intent of motherhood anyways.

They make my desire for order and cleanliness and introverted freedom a chaotic and beautiful mess. 

They boil the water in my tea pot.

Thank God they boil the water.

Thank God they hem me in.

Brings tears to my eyes that He loves me so much to give me these girls and for them to sanctify me deeply. For me to wear my heart on my sleeve. There’s no hiding from God. And there’s certainly no hiding from these little ones. They know who I am.

I’m not sure when I’ll get this water to just simmer and not boil over. Or even for the water to remain still. Never probably.

But there’s today, and the next minute. The next hour. The next part to pray.

Pray that God will help me keep my water below the boiling point. That He calm my heart. That 
these girls will obey their momma with the intent of obeying God.

Slowly but surely, because He said he would, God’s hemming me, in all the right ways.  A nip and a tuck and a gather. He’s bringing up the grime and removing the grit. Cutting it off.

Growing me closer to His image.

And as my daughter reminds me, because I remind her, every day is a new day.

New mercies are ours come the rise of a new dawn.

That’s true balm for a mothers heart and soul.

New mercies.

Sweet momma, girl, woman, daughter…God’s hemming us in to make us more like Himself.

He’s trimming the yuck for holiness.

Reminding myself to cling to new mercies. New chances.

Our days are filled with them.

Thanks be to God!