guilt is a five letter word.

24 Jan

I’m a stay at home mom. I’m a lot of other things, too, but when a new acquaintance asks, “So what do you do?” this is now my reply. It hasn’t always been. I used to work outside of our home, and even when I stepped back from outside job responsibilities, I felt some kind of need or desire to pad my answer. For a while, “stay at home mom” felt like it had to come with a preface. A “just” or an “I’m only.” Slowly but surely I’m learning not to cut myself short for this significant role, but it’s hard.

A stay at home mom. The guilt can start right there, can’t it? Even for moms who want to stay at home and love to stay at home, somehow guilt attaches itself to this title. If I stay at home full time and other moms can’t (but want to), there’s guilt in the freedom I have to be at home with my littles. If I stay at home full time and other moms don’t, and they have great peace about balancing two roles, there’s guilt in not contributing to the world in some other way outside of being a wife and mom. If I stay at home with two children I’ve carried in utero, and other moms with beautiful mama hearts are still waiting for answered prayers and babies of their own, there is guilt in knowing that I didn’t bear the same struggle. I’m telling you, in this comparison game we play as mamas, guilt seems to think it can sneak in all around.

Guilt isn’t just for the stay at home mom, though. It darkens days for the mama who wants so badly to stay at home but isn’t able for any number of reasons. It’s painfully tangible for the mama who desperately desires to carry her own babies, and for the one who waits with hope and expectation for the day that God makes her a mother through adoption. There’s guilt for the mama who has babies of her own, but who has also lost babies of her own. In motherhood, as in other areas of life, the good we do and the prayers we pray and the hopes we have still do not always drown out the voices in our heads that we aren’t good enough. We aren’t productive enough. Our bodies aren’t capable enough. We aren’t enough.

But here’s the thing.

This guilt and those voices and the feelings of not being enough–for any host of valid and challenging and very real reasons–each come from a place that is not of God, in an effort to thwart our passions and determination to do the very (important!) things that He has called us to do. God is not mean, and He is not poor. The deepest desires of our hearts come from the overflow of His heart into our lives…the outpouring of His spirit over us, so that we are drawn to the tasks and adventures He has planned for us here on earth. He doesn’t promise which way He will take us to get to the very things He has for us. He promises, if we trust Him and open our hands to what He has in mind, that He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. He promises that we are His, and that He calls us as His own.

My microscopic view of the call God has placed on my life is insignificant, compared to what He has for me…for my family, my marriage, my future. And it’s not likely to look exactly how I thought it would, or how I thought it should. It hasn’t already. I would never have invited pain into my own life the way that God has allowed it in. And I would never have imagined how He could use that pain for good in any way. Starting out marriage in a scary place, halfway around the world. Trying to gain traction in our marriage–at a cost, afterwards. Facing the death of someone incredibly close. Miscarriage. Five months of worry and sleepless nights and emotion after our second baby was born. Trying to rewrite the trajectory of our family and build a legacy of covenant and commitment for our children. Jason’s accident and our subsequent grappling with the brevity of life, the lasting impact of split second moments, and the sovereignty of God that creates perspective and wonder about the future and His plans for our lives.

This side of eternity, we just can’t see all of the things. It isn’t possible. And unless we allow ourselves to be brought to a place where we lean so hard on God that His peace and joy break through, we feel the weight of this world, no matter our position. We carry guilt that God never intended us to carry. We remain prisoners of our own circumstances, convinced we are the ones who have to find every answer, convinced we have to be miserable or lonely or without hope. I’m here to tell you that we don’t. We can’t possibly. And there is more peace than we could ever need or ask for when we seek God, who is generous and attentive and tangible and real.

I am a stay at home mom because this is the call that God has placed on my life for this moment, in this season. He has other things for me, too, and He’s revealing them all the more as I try to rest in His presence in my current role and circumstance. Life is not peaceful, and the world is certainly waiting to steal away our joy if we let it. So is guilt. LET’S NOT LET THEM. We are warriors, and whatever it is that we are called to in the here and now, it’s our job to do it and to do it well. God empowers us in our calling, and He gives us what we need for each day, offering a fresh start every single morning. We can’t feel guilty about any of that, and we sure can’t afford to waste it.

I will intentionally say NO to guilt in 2015. I will make the days count. I will own my stay-at-home motherhood and thank God for what He has called me to, even when it feels crazy-hard.

i’m praying peace over the contents of your day today, and asking God for joy on your behalf. i pray you find it in the greatest and smallest things as you say NO to guilt and YES to your highest calling.

mm

well hello, 2015.

3 Jan

I’m not much one for surprises, really, but I do like change. So I like that the new year comes, as expected, every 365 (or 366) days, and I also love that it brings about new beginnings and fresh starts and the sense for everyone that we’re on the cusp of possibility. Sitting around a dinner table for eight with a beautifully radiant group of women a few weeks back, I shared what I most looked forward to in 2015–the fact that we (our little family) didn’t really know what good was in store, and the fact that I’m committed to diving into book writing this year (whoa). It felt great to put myself out there to friends new and old, to actually SAY I’d be writing a book, and to think about the year to come in a glinty, sort of romanticized kind of way. 2015 was attractive to me at the dinner table that night, and it still is (and maybe more so). But the very next morning, my husband Jason got hit by a truck and lived to tell about it, and that phone call and these past few weeks have ushered in 2015 a bit differently than I’d imagined.

In the midst of J’s crazy (and miraculous) accident and recovery, we’ve had moments of immense gratitude, a magnificent array of emotions, a new and different kind of juggling with our house/days/kiddos/life, the holidays(!), lessons in grace and humility, and a fresh experience with the depth of love between two people in covenantal marriage. I am thankful for nearly all of these things, despite the fact that many have been harder than we could have imagined. I will hope to unpack more of the accident and our experience somewhere down the road, but for now (and hopefully to quell concern), J is home, walking on his own two feet, and improving daily. If you saw him out and about, you wouldn’t know his body faced a truck head on two weeks ago, but he is certainly still healing. It will be something, to look back together in a year, or ten years, and to see what has come of one split second moment on an icy December morning. For now we are just so grateful–that he is here, that God has more for J to do on this earth, that our littles still have their daddy, that I’m not trying to forage a path into the new year without him.

Today I was able to sneak away to a nearby coffee shop during nap time, and to soak in God’s word and spend time in prayer and reflection over the year ahead. I’ve been aching to define a word for 2015 as I’ve done previously in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and I’m confident I’ve landed on the perfect fit for these next twelve months: intention.

Intention: In Latin, intentio, defined as ‘stretching or purpose’. Derived from the Latin intendere, which, translated involves a host of definitions that sync beautifully with what I feel God has placed on my heart:

…to have a course of action as one’s purpose or objective…design for a particular purpose or end…to have in mind as something to be done or brought about…to direct the mind on…directed with strained or eager attention…concentrated…

As I prayed this afternoon, digging into one scripture verse I’d heard over and over since asking God to take charge of my 2015, I landed firmly on “intention” as the guide and filter for my steps in the coming year. I have such peace, settling on a focal point that I’m trusting God will honor in the days ahead.

Eph 4.1, 15-16: Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God…15 we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

These words will be my lamplight in 2015, in the midst of the good and the bad, the expected and unexpected, the scary and the crazy-beautiful. We forage a path with God or without God, but with Him, He gives us grace for the journey. He generously offers us boldness and courage in the smallness of the daily, in the magnitude of loss and love and life change, in the heart-stopping phone call on a random Thursday morning, in the book whose unwritten pages have a purpose yet unseen.

cheers to a year of living with intention in every way possible. and love.

mm

loud in here.

20 Nov

Every time I turn around lately I am reminded of one thing: God’s grace is sufficient. He is MORE than enough.

We don’t need to bridge the gap, because HE does. Every time we ask Him, and so many times when we’re too clouded by a given moment to make the request, He does. There is nothing–not any one thing, that is too big (or too small) for Him. And what we see, from our vantage point in any situation, is such a microscopic, limited view of a much, much, much bigger picture. This is such a hard truth, but a good one to tuck in our back pockets.

In these past few weeks (months?) I’ve worked diligently at getting quiet. If you know me, you know that I don’t have a history of being good at this. I am not a quiet person (what?!), and I’ve never been a “no” person. As a result of this dynamic duo, my life has rarely been quiet. For a long time, I’ve kept a schedule that is louder than loud. Too many directions and too many commitments at the expense of too many things. The heart behind it was never bad (at least intentionally), but conviction has merit, and in my case, the conviction to strip down my life has finally grown louder than the way I’ve been living. Imagine this: God can get louder than the lives we’re living, and if we ask Him for input and give Him a little room, He’s going to get right down to it. He’s going to call us to things, and call us out on things, and love us mercilessly through the hard and the stripped down and the brokenness of the process.

I have a love/hate relationship with this reality, but mostly love. Why? Because I’m not in control anyway, and when I’m not listening for God, I’m just pretending that I am in control and trying to figure out how to run my own life from my very limited point of view. It’s fairly exhausting.

In some seasons I’m better at remembering that I function better with God’s help. But I’m stubborn. I like to have the answers. I want to be able to make everything just right, and on top of it all, I’m human. I’m also learning. The more I make room for God in my life, the more He makes room in my life for the things that should have been there in the first place. It’s not always the type of room I expected, but it’s the best kind of room.

And sometimes the packaging is strange…

I wake up in the morning, and all I want to do is go back to sleep. I went to bed too late (again), but I know that if I don’t get up, I won’t get a shower in before all of the crazy begins (and I’m not a very nice person if I haven’t had a shower before all of the crazy begins). So I talk myself out of sleeping longer by weighing my options. And I ask God for help. Since I’ve started making more room for God again, I crave my time with Him. Akin to my need for a shower to make my day right, I need some time with God, too. And I’m not very productive in that time if I haven’t showered. You get the picture: I wake up in the morning and I ask God for the time I need to take a shower. Then I ask Him for more time to spend with Him, in the quiet. Before the kiddos wake up. On my part, I just have to get out of bed.

The packaging is strange, because the time I’m getting rarely looks like I expected. This morning, it was Henry and me, side by side on the couch, reading Psalms and 1 Corinthians together. Strange, because my three year old is obligingly listening to an NLT translation of the Bible aloud, and I’m finding time for God even after the littles have entered into the mix. Beautiful for the exact same reasons.

I don’t share this so anyone reading feels guilty about the time they did or didn’t spend with God today. I share this to say I wasn’t doing it, and now I am doing it, and it’s only by the grace of God that that’s happening. I play a very little part, truly.

This is apparent all over my life right now, and it’s catching and glorious and scary and wildly attractive. God is giving me space for the quiet. Not only that, but He is cultivating an even greater desire in me for solitude. I drove 30 minutes home tonight in the car by myself, and I didn’t once think to turn on the radio or call someone. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I say “no” to things all of the time these days, and that power isn’t my own–not at all. And it’s not to offend or isolate or exclude. It’s just the thing that God is calling me to right now, and He’s giving me the ability to do it.

In my life, in this season when things should otherwise seem quite loud and busy and maddening, I feel peace. It’s not my own. But God can use it. And I know He will.

Please be encouraged by this and not discouraged. We are reminded as Christ offers His peace, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So many people I love are hurting right now, for reasons grand and small. When you’re in the trenches, it can all feel insurmountable, no matter the scale. I understand this deeply. I am getting quiet on your behalf, friends. Please let me know how I can pray for you. Email me, call me, drop a note in the mail. I really, really mean it.

take heart, dear ones.

mm

ground work.

11 Nov

Planted. Rooted. Grounded. These words keep pushing up through brown, ruddy earth in the deep, deep parts of me. God is ever faithful to join us in tilling plots of land He’s offered up.

Three weeks ago today, I could not push rawness down. I could not see past packing and last feedings with our littlest and arrangements around the house to make things easier while I’d be gone. I waded through fears (irrational and founded), folded clothing into piles, checked off lists. I’d been out of the practice of doing, for anything outside of family and children and home, for a long, long time.

All of this–the worry and the adrenaline and the vulnerability of things was messy, but crazy-encouraging. Whenever God is up to something big, I feel it. I sense it in the opposition and the emotion, the irrational moments and the over-thinking and the way I’m suddenly a battle ground for good. When Aslan is on the move, everything in the air changes. Just as in this season, with the November sky beckoning winter and the last cascading leaves turned to gold, the whole earth waits and so do I. God was going to make a move, and soon. I just had to get on the plane.

I love what happens next, because it’s so gigantic and beautiful that I can’t possibly contain it in a blog post, although I’ll try. My dear friend and I arrived in South Carolina for four days of breathing God in and breathing Him out at Allume–a conference and experience He’d been edging into our lives graciously for months. We sat under the teaching of wise, wise women and men, gleaning from their obedience and desire to bring forth light in the world through Truth. We met beautiful soul after beautiful soul–all women with the same longing in their hearts to know God and make Him known through communication and the written word. We worshipped all day long, gained inspiration, got to know each other far more deeply, and opened ourselves up to what God would have for both of us–not just in that weekend but in the days to come.

Three weeks later, it’s the first time I’ve written about it because I’ve been processing so much good and wanting not to miss one bit of what God is doing within. Because I want to share it well with you. Because I believe the things that God is doing are Kingdom things. Big things. Life changing, community changing, heart changing things.

I was feeling a little washed up before all of this. I’d not done a very good job of giving God my first fruits for a long time. I’d not been a very good steward in so many areas, catching myself up on just a few I thought were most important…at the expense of much. Despite my efforts to be open, welcoming, invitational, honest and real, my interactions have lacked a dimension I long for–one I think we all do.

I’m not getting down on myself for missing a boat or wasting time, although I could. What I am doing is putting a stake in the ground as God promised He’d show me when 2014 began. In the days and weeks ahead, I’ll be unpacking Allume and the nuggets of wisdom I gained that feel so important to share with you. I hope you’ll be along for the journey, and patient with me while I lean into God and listen. I think the changes to come are worth the process.

love to you, my faithful friends. God has big plans for us…so big we can hardly imagine!

mm

making room.

23 Oct

Give God an inch and He’ll take I mile, I tell ya. Man, He’s good like that. Seven months after purchasing our tickets, my dear friend Lindsey and I are attending Allume this weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. I’d be lying if I said we just hopped on planes and landed here without a hitch, but I like the real story better, anyway. Getting to Allume wasn’t half a day’s journey, or even a seven month journey. For me, I think it’s a nearly-five-hundred-blog-posts-later journey that God put me on far before I knew Allume existed. And in the past few months, everything He’s done in my heart has been about making room and creating space for Him to do His work in me.

His work in me. Isn’t it crazy that we serve a God who is willing enough and attentive enough to ask us to make room in our own, very small, very humble little lives, for Him?

If tonight is any indication, my world is going to be rocked a bit this weekend, and I’m going to jump out of my comfort zone on purpose with the intent of praying hard, listening harder and writing like I mean it.

God put Allume on our hearts and a little bug in my ear about getting back–truly back–to the thing He created me to do, and then He made a way for us to be here. All I really did was whisper, “Yes, please.” I do love it when God takes a mile ;)

lighter already,

mm

 

THAT mom.

14 Oct

Today was the day. In a terribly stressful parenting moment, surrounded by other moms, I said something I’ve probably said a thousand times. And it didn’t strike me right then as the words left my mouth, but it hit me like a brick between the eyes an hour later.

“I’m sorry…I totally feel like THAT mom right now.” There it is. The weight that I drop every time it comes out.

Of course, there are variations on the theme, and I’ve said them all: “I just feel like THAT mom right now,” or “I don’t want to be THAT mom.”

Regardless of how I’ve said it, I’m thinking the phrase “THAT mom” over this afternoon, and realizing it’s one I need to scratch from my vocabulary.

For one thing, I’m not even sure who “she” is. You know, that mom I only ever feel like in a harried or stressful or embarrassing situation? And whoever she is, I’m sure she’d be offended to hear me say it, and rightly so. I only ever give her credit when my ugly side is on the verge, or when I’ve exposed some part of my mothering self that I wasn’t quite ready for the world to see. So these words come out, and we moms laugh together, or the mom standing across from me is encouraging and insists that I’m surely not that mom after all.

But what message am I sending?

I’m communicating that I’m suddenly insecure about what’s happening with my children or my parenting skills or my inability to always hold it all together. That’s exactly what I’m doing. And I’m saying to anyone within earshot that I don’t want to be THAT mom because she’s not acceptable to me. Because I don’t want to be perceived as the mom who doesn’t have a handle on her kids…or her house…or her life in general.

Does any mom wake up in the morning and aim low for the day?

I’m pretty sure not. But life happens. Schedules get hairy. Messes are made faster than we can clean them up. Kids have meltdowns in very public places. I know this, and yet I somehow forget it’s true in the midst of a broken down minute or day or week. Instead, I belittle myself, and without even trying, I belittle moms everywhere each time I refer to THAT mom–that imperfect woman I really don’t want to be. Only pride and human nature possess me to attempt at perfection in the first place.

It goes without saying that I’m absolutely imperfect. Like most every mom, I painstakingly attempt to get it right for my kids and family, and I meet roadblocks (quite regularly) along the way. Our children are *mostly* happy and well adjusted. The house is passable most days, and it looks lived in, which it should. My day to day is reflective of the journey all mothers are on while parenting young kiddos, who are themselves just trying to figure things out in a world that is largely new to them, too.

THAT mom needs me to give her a little grace. As it turns out, I am she. And she is steadfast and strong, committed and loyal, spurred on to love tirelessly, even when it’s incredibly hard. She is also exhausted at times, challenged by external factors, entitled to have a bad day. Still the only one in the world who happens to be the right mom for her own kids.

Maybe if I stopped working so hard to have it all together, I’d have a little more room for myself when I make mistakes. I’d have more room for that OTHER mom who’s wearing herself out trying, too. It could be so beautiful if we were all doing it together. Shall we?

xo,

that mom

firsts for everything.

8 Sep

Tomorrow morning, we’ll wake up as we do most weekdays–me, rushing to fit a shower in before Eloise begins calling, Henry, slowly but surely as he warms up to the day (and everyone and everything in it). We’ll meander downstairs for breakfast, and I’ll entertain E in the high chair while Henry plays cars and Legos in the living room as I prep the table for our weekday trio. Tomorrow will look a lot like every other day, right up until we wipe faces and hands and push our chairs in after bowls of cereal, yogurt, one cup of tea.

Then, it’s not on to playtime in the playroom and sleepy-eyed Eloise asking for more milk and a morning nap. Instead, the order of the day is pulling on school clothes, combing hair, double checking a packed back pack. I’ve not arrived at embracing this yet, and I can’t decide if I’m in some weird state of denial, or if I just feel like three school is kind of a chill deal.

Jason reminded me tonight that this might be the last time Henry is home “all of the time.” That from tomorrow until forever, Henry will leave the house at increasing intervals and be away from here, in some capacity, every school year. Maybe this is true. And maybe I should be making a bigger deal of it in so many ways, but I haven’t. I do like our little man right where he is, and right where I know how he’s doing, so it’s possible that this is me being naive. We get to go to school with him for the *entire* one hour intro-to-three-school day tomorrow, which probably (no, definitely) softens the reality of the first day of school a bit. I mean, I’ll walk into his classroom with him and will stay there the whole time, and then we’ll drive home sharing about the hour and his teacher and his cubby and all of his new great friends…together. Check back with me on Friday. Friday I might be one big ball of a mess.

In these early years, there are so many firsts–and they happen one after another after another, so very quickly. Eloise, for example, has learned to stand up on her own, to take a handful of steps, and to say about 20 words, all in the matter of less than a month. Talking and walking? Those are crazy-big firsts! At three, you likely potty train and wear undies successfully for the first time, and then maybe you ride a bike for the first time, and suddenly? Suddenly you’re a grown human being who meanders off to school on his own and gets accepted to college on scholarship to become a doctor/engineer/fireman/writer/hero over night. I will blink and they’ll both be married adults with children and professions of their own, right? How many parents have felt this way in these past several weeks as yellow buses roll on down the road for yet another beginning of another school year? Normal, normal stuff, I’m sure of it.

For some reason, though, I’m not excitable on this one. I’m excited for Henry, don’t get me wrong. I know he’s going to love school and everything (ok, mostly everything) in it. I know he’s going to grow wings this year as he learns Spanish and makes new friends and becomes even more independent. I also know that when I walk into that building I feel present in it, and when I walk away from it, I don’t. It’s like I’m standing in my own yard, and I know that the future is just on the other side of that fence. But I won’t look over. I’ll accept and acknowledge that it’s there, but I haven’t greeted it or said hello or baked it a pie and welcomed it to the neighborhood.

Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. Maybe Henry and I will do that together. Kind of like holding hands and jumping off the side of the deep end of the pool together on the count of three, only he’ll learn how to swim on his own this time, and I’m going to have to let go of his hand.

there’s a first for everything. (spanish immersion) three school included. you’re going to be so great, buddy–i just know it!

El Señor te bendiga y te guarde, henry. te quiero un montón loco!

tu mama

 

a button birthday.

2 Sep

Long before we knew Eloise was Eloise, we decided to refer fondly to her as “the Button.” It seemed cute and endearing at the time, and it turns out to be quite fitting for her now. When she was born a girl, I knew within months that I’d be throwing a “Button Birthday” for her as she turned one. I love a good, themed affair, and I figured there was room to get creative with so open-ended a jumping off point. I set the thought mostly aside until summertime, just pinning a craft here and a cake there. But when I started day-dreaming about vintage buttons and a mish-mash of feminine floral fabrics and linens, my dance with a button themed birthday party began :)

You certainly can’t have a party without guests, and I wanted to make sure invites were out at least a month in advance because E’s birthday falls at such a busy time of the summer for most folks. I’d committed to a fairly handmade feel in my mind, so I decided to just freehand an invitation and then duplicate it for sake of time and ease. I wanted to print it on kraft paper, so I hand wrote four invitations on one 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper, then photo copied them onto the kraft paper before adding embellishments. I used a blend of print and cursive for whimsy, crafted a little rhyming poem, and we were off to the races. Finished off with buttons to replace a few “O’s” on the invite, some rick rack, and a paint pen for the needle and thread detail, these puppies were in the mail (with vintage bird stamps of course ;) after a few hours spread over one weekend. It was a fun little project, and I’m pleased with how they turned out:

invitation

For each of Henry’s birthdays thus far, I’ve created some type of homemade bunting as decor, so I started there with Eloise’s party, too. I scoured my favorite fabric shop for the perfect prints to blend into a color scheme that would drive the rest of the party. I wanted the bunting to be able to hang in E’s room post-event, so I had somewhat of a palette and style in mind. I didn’t do the greatest job of taking photos mid-process, and I also didn’t follow a specific pattern for this bunting, but here is the final result and the inspiration for many of the eventual party details:

bunting

(As an aside, I always like making several shorter buntings rather than one really long one, so they can hang in various places and I have some flexibility when decorating the day of the party. In this case, I made two buntings with seven flags each and this bunting with six–the number of letters in Eloise.)

I turned to Pinterest for some thoughts on a cake and a few homemade decorations that would adorn tables at the party. I also scoured ideas for party favors (finding something that was both gender and age appropriate for all of the kiddos at the party, ranging from one year to six, proved challenging as I tried to keep the takeaways on theme). The winner was ultimately these darling hot/cold rice packs, inspired by Lori over at A Bee In My Bonnet. I just thought these were the cutest little things, perfect for bumps and bruises, muscles aches, or warming up your hands after a day outside in the snow. I used leftover material from the buntings to tie them into the party and got to sewing. These were so fun and easy to make, and I love the way they all looked together when finished. I wrote up a little poem to accompany the packs, popped it into an IKEA frame, and set it out next to the basket of goodies at the entrance/exit to our backyard:

For table decorations, I found button topiaries on Etsy that I just loved. The shop owner was on vacation thru August, so I decided I’d just have at it and make my own. I bought seven small plants from a local greenhouse, potted them in terra cotta pots, and then for flowers used some of the leftover vintage buttons I’d gathered for another project. I simply threaded coordinating buttons onto floral wire bent in half, then twisted directly below each set of buttons to secure them to the top of each pick. I popped any number of picks into each plant and set them out throughout the backyard to add some green and extra cheer to each table.

As I planned out the party, I knew some vintage/antique shopping would be in order. I wanted to find a quilt or two and some table linens that would coordinate well, but didn’t want to spend a fortune. For a few weeks, I made a habit of ducking into refurb/vintage/antique shops whenever I had a moment (and could manage with the kiddos or was without them), and each time, I’d find a little treasure or two to add to the mix. Some of my favorite pre-loved items included a $3 antique sewing box that I used to hold flatware and paper straws on the table, an old mason jar filled with wooden thread spools that I added a few fabric scraps to for color, a green tablecloth in pristine condition for $2, varied depression glass plates and bowls for serving, and an amazing patchwork quilt with a ruffled band of bright red trim. Each of these elements seemed insignificant on their own, but together, I loved how they coordinated and made things cohesively vintage and inviting.

Over the years, I’ve collected a few shelves worth of vintage serving pieces and other items that might come in handy “someday.” I was thrilled to be able to put many of them to good use for Eloise’s shindig. An antique Domestic sewing machine and table came out of hiding to hold the party favors and guest book, Eloise’s great-great grandmother’s picnic basket made its way to the food table as a prop, and Eloise sat in my high chair to eat her lunch and smash her cake. My grandmother’s cookie plate displayed lovely cupcakes, and even one of Jason’s grandmother’s tablecloths made an appearance. I like to think there was a lot of love woven into these tiny details…kind of as if the matriarchs of our family were somehow smiling down on the day and adding extra joy.

Besides having so much fun putting things together piece by piece (and as I previously mentioned), I truly got such a kick out of crafting for this party. My very favorite project was Eloise’s button “E”–a button craft I’d pinned to her birthday board and kept in the back of my mind for a while. Any time I’d head into a vintage shop, I’d scour vendor booths for vintage buttons. One place in particular was like a little button heaven…so much so that I drove half an hour to go back and buy more buttons a second time. It turns out that vintage buttons are easy to come by, but not when you’re hunting for red, pink, yellow, green and blue ones! No matter. Once I had my mind set on it, those buttons practically found me! ;)

I didn’t really follow an exact set of guidelines on this project, although I did find this tutorial to be quite helpful in getting started. After drawing, cutting out and tracing a pattern for the “E,” I ended up just spreading my collection of buttons out all over the dining room table and playing with them for a few hours as I fit and glued them into place on the canvas. I paired this with a series on Netflix and was happy as a clam to spend the time. The end result makes me smile, and it will be a great remnant from E’s party to hang in her room for years to come:

On the subject of things made from buttons, I absolutely have to rave about the chocolate buttons I ordered from The Frosted Petticoat, a chocolatier I discovered on Etsy while hunting for, well…candy buttons. These were tied for my favorite party purchase, and for more than one reason. To start, The Frosted Petticoat is the real deal. Personalized service often feels like a thing of the past these days, but the gals behind this shop are truly amazing! The chocolates arrived in the most beautiful little blue boxes, complete with a handwritten “Happy Birthday, Eloise!” note from one of the shop owners. I couldn’t believe the speediness of their delivery, and I’m fairly certain my heart skipped a beat when I opened the boxes to find the most perfect (and realistic) looking buttons inside. I used the buttons to decorate cupcakes (homemade by a sweet, eleven year old friend of our family who bakes the most delicious treats to raise money for mission trips to Guatemala) and Eloise’s smash cake, made by a bakery here in town. I was in sweet treat heaven the night before the party as I placed the buttons on each cupcake, and our guests enjoyed the delicious raspberry, mint and amaretto flavors atop their desserts the next day. I am so delighted to have found The Frosted Petticoat, and I completely adore these chocolates–they truly “make” the cake!

At this point, I can’t even begin to pick my favorite images from what happened to the cake after it sat so prettily on the table. Here’s a whole heaping handful of them. Eloise’s entire cake eating experience in pictures, simply because I have the best friends in the world, and they captured every last bit of these precious first birthday moments:

The above photos bring me to my other favorite party element–another lucky find and a second amazing customer service experience thru Etsy. I’d gone looking for a birthday crown of sorts for Eloise to wear at her party, although I wasn’t optimistic that she’d keep something on her head very long. If this says anything, even Eloise was taken with her flower crown, made by none other than the talented and incredibly accommodating Katie from Fancy Free Finery. I almost hate to leak my source on this one, because I just know we’ll see these popping up all over town ;), but they’re just too precious not to share the joy. Katie was fabulous to work with–I sent her a photo of Eloise’s dress and the colors of the party, and she got right to it. The end result is a beautiful little (perfect fitting) crown that Eloise will wear whenever the occasion permits. And the photos…oh, the photos! I just can’t resist the cake and the flowers together!

One last little detail I had fun creating was the signage for the day. We were partying in the backyard, so naturally, guests needed to know where to find us when they arrived. I learned an unfortunate fact about chalk markers and chalkboard paint in the wee hours before the party, so we quickly improvised and used kraft paper over top of an existing chalkboard to achieve this little milestones board I’d set my heart on making. All in all, it turned out just fine and only took an extra hour. I’m crazy, yes. But I did love seeing it all come together. One last sign to thank our guests for joining us, and that’s about all she wrote. Well…kind of.

There are so many other images from the day that highlight all of the reasons why it was one of my favorites in a long time. The people who surround us bless our lives so immeasurably…I’ll likely post an entire entry of the smiling faces and kiddos who joined us for the festivities. Eloise is one fortunate little peanut to have friends like these, and we are, too. Couldn’t ask for a better bunch to fill up our backyard!

Before we started watching teeny babies turn into dynamic little people in just twelve months’ time, one year gone by felt less significant to me. But really, it’s amazing what transpires in 365 days. In the lives of our families, a year under our belts is so worthy of recognition–in big and small ways. So we toast and we sing and we celebrate with buttons and buntings, these sweet little babes and their precious souls. Our Eloise turned ONE and it’s hard to believe. Harder still, to imagine what the past year would have been like without her petite, spirited, beautifully fierce little self in our midst. We love her SO!

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we hope you loved your celebration, Eloise, and even more so, we pray that when you look back on these photos someday, you know that you know that you know you are deeply and dearly loved!

xo,

mama

happy birthday, eloise!

19 Aug

Well, sweet Eloise, as I type this, it’s midnight on the dot and officially your birthday. I’m taking a step back to let this sink in a bit, and I probably will all day tomorrow, too. Watching you grow is a miracle in itself–no less than the miracle of your beautiful birth one year ago. I can’t imagine ever forgetting that day or how I felt when your daddy announced it was you. You are everything I sensed deeply that you’d be, and far more.

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For so much of this past year, you felt like this tiny little baby–strong and able, certainly, but still so vulnerable and attached in a way that took me a little by surprise. Perhaps I hurried Henry along too much the first time, or maybe it was just all of those nights snuggled close together, you and I, until we figured out how to get you comfortable and settled into your own skin. No matter, you were just little little in my head until not more than two months ago, when suddenly you became this person with thoughts and opinions and an ability to express them. I have marveled at this change in you as you’ve asserted yourself into a very distinct place in our family. The dinner table is often where this is most notable–you contribute to the conversation in your own way, making us laugh and engaging each of us around you on a remarkable level for someone so small.

You are petite, your features, strikingly delicate. You are all girl, and while so young and tiny, you tease glimpses of your future self with regularity now. I envision conversations with you in your adolescent years and wonder how our equally strong and resilient wills will blend or clash for a time. I pray to the end that we will love deeply enough not to be separated by this. Holding you close for this past year has bonded my heart to you in a way I didn’t know to expect with a second child–not because a mother can really love any of her children more than the next, but because I’ve loved your brother so intently that I once worried I might not be able to love you with the same kind of intensity. Indeed my worries were for naught. I love you both, equally and differently, together and individually. I treasure you just as I treasure Henry. The joy of loving you both so deeply is often hard to express.

We celebrated your birthday this past weekend with family and dear friends we consider family, and every bit of the celebration was in honor of incredible little you! I got wrapped up in the details of things as I so often do, but only because I wanted it to be both perfectly Eloise and and perfectly welcoming in every way. I can’t speak to the latter, but everywhere I looked on Saturday, there were traces of you. Indications of your sweetness and joy and the way you radiate light in all of our lives. I could burst just thinking about it, really. The sun shone brightly all day, a warm breeze blew fabric buntings and vintage table cloths, flower petals and paper napkins in our backyard. All of your friends laughed and played and gathered together on the big patchwork blanket for a picnic lunch, and all the while I just couldn’t stop thinking about how stinking amazingly blessed we were to park on such a beautiful scene. You are the why for every little detail. Every. Single. One. And the reason nearly forty of us would gather to sing and eat and pray on a bright, sunny Saturday in the summertime.

birthday baby

Now, as we turn the page on your first year and head enthusiastically into your second, I am trailing traces of the tiny babe I’ve had by my side for all but hours at a time since one year ago. You’ll have to forgive me as I bring them along for a time, but as much as I can embrace how you’ve grown and changed, baby Eloise is going to linger a bit longer in my heart. I know it’s not long before I’m called to turn towards toddlerhood and a walking, talking, articulating version of you–I’m just going to take it slow while I’m able.

In the morning, you will push your little red baby buggy around the house, filled with your baby dolls and treasured things, and you’ll look up to check in with me every few steps as if to say, “I’m doing fine, right mama? Do you see me?” And I will see you and reassure you of both things, and you will go on–you gaining a little more independence with each step and me trying hard not to tear up a little at the new you. In just over nine hours we’ll toast to your birth, then later, we’ll all devour leftover birthday cake and button cupcakes from the weekend’s festivities in your honor. All day long I’ll look at you and praise God for you with such deep thankfulness, just as I seek to do everyday. And all day long we’ll sing to you and teach you how to raise your finger to declare your “ONEness,” and we’ll look for ways to celebrate just how marvelously marvelous your are.

You are Eloise. You are ONE. And while you do not live at the Plaza Hotel, you are certainly as precious and precocious and delightful as another little Eloise I know and love…

may you move mountains in this lifetime, my dear. and may God protect you and provide for you all that you need for your whole life long! happy first birthday, my eloise josephine!!

xoxo,

your mama

eloiseandmama

 

mountains, high and low.

21 Jul

So here’s the deal. I know it’s not much, but as I ease back in, I’ve committed to blogging once a week. More if the spirit moves. I’m telling you so I’m accountable to someone–you, out in the world, whoever and wherever you are. Will you track with me? I’ll do my best to make the content worthwhile, and to begin creating a better community for dialogue and supportive chatter. That’s always what I’ve wanted this space to be, and I’m eager to make it more of a living room than a two-dimensional screen. Care to join?

A lot happens in seven days, and since I last wrote, the sky continues to open up over this new space where I find myself. I can’t share all of the details yet, but there’s so much good on the horizon! I know that this season will take shape in an unfolding kind of way–I can only see individual layers of it at a time myself. I am re-learning what it means to make room in every day. Not just physical room, but more significantly, emotional and spiritual and mental room that I’ve really, really needed. How is it that we are often our own biggest stumbling blocks? I’ve been in my own way a lot in the past year (and honestly, for probably a lot longer than that). I’ll credit my stubbornness and my oh-so-human desire to control things for the delay in clarity. But no matter. When clarity arrives, it seems to push through all of the yuck to something beautiful, and now in the mess, I’m staring at it.

I love this reality.

In the midst of this breaking through, there’s so much else that feels fulfilling and good right now–what a refreshing and necessary change of pace! I am looking forward to a trip with our littlest to visit my sister and her family later this week. I can’t wait to spend five days in the beauty of Colorado with some of my favorite favorites in the world. It’s been almost seven months since I last squeezed my niece goodbye…a very, very long time when the kiddos are little. Eloise was four months old the time, so this visit is sure to look different than the last :) What’s more, my sister is preparing to welcome a second little love into the world soon, and I am over the moon to become an aunt again before long. Beyond that, Miss E turns ONE in four weeks, which feels perfect and wonderful and good. I so love celebrating our babies at this milestone. A year feels like the greatest gift–babies are becoming sweet little (walking and talking) people, parents do a tiny victory lap for making it through some of the trenches, and then there’s cake. Cake! And party planning(!!), which you know I love. I’m having so much fun with the details for Eloise’s 1st birthday party. Gathering friends and family to celebrate life is always a joy!

There’s so much more, but I can’t go on for sake of time and a pre-travel to-do list as I head into this glorious week. Before I go, I just have to share a moment from this morning, which is crazy-dear to me and such a picture of how God works in the small things…

At breakfast, Henry reminded me that we needed to read our daily excerpt from Jesus Calling for Kids, a book gifted to us by a dear friend when Henry was first born. We’ve been reading it together at breakfast and talking about how God wants to be involved in our lives. Sometimes H seems like he’s really tracking with me, and other times, I think I’m just meant to read it that day for the reminder to myself! Today, we talked a bit about how God is always with us and desires time with us. After I put the book down, Henry asked me, “What if we hided in a pile of dirt under a mountain? Then he wouldn’t know where we were.” What a beautiful, processing thought for a three year old! I was overjoyed at the opportunity to explain to Henry how God sees us wherever and whenever, and that He always knows where we are and what we need. How glorious is it, to be able to share the good and powerful news that God is always with us? With our children, no less?! I can’t help but think about the way we’ve prayed for so long that Christ would make His way into the hearts of our children. God hears our requests, every time. I hope this is an encouragement to someone today. When you think He doesn’t hear your prayers, He does. He hears you. And He sees you in that pile of dirt. Under that mountain.

grace to you for today, my friends. you are so loved.

mm

 

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