Married Life

California Life, Faith, Living In Tennessee, Married Life

Pursuing Peace & Joy Inexpressible

I cannot count how many times I have settled down with my journal to pour out my frustrations and dashed dreams, and within a span of a few pages, find my writing shift into something like praise. It’s not because I’m holy or somehow divinely inspired. It’s because God shows up, time and time again, and speaks truth to my heart as I write. I recognize God’s voice by the sense of peace that comes along with it. It’s the sense that I am moving towards joy.

It was October 8, 2016 and our small business was slowly failing. The pressure of constantly meeting payroll, and rent for four commercial spaces, and the $10,000 metal print supply order that we had to place nearly every month, felt increasingly oppressive. I was homeschooling my two children and had a toddler. We were also residential landlords and land owners. The responsibilities were overwhelming.

A babysitter was coming so Rich and I could celebrate our wedding anniversary a day late. Neither of us felt like celebrating, but knew we should. We had limited funds, and decided on our favorite cheap date: a day in Yosemite Valley. We’d have the drive up to Yosemite and back to talk, and in between the drives we knew we could find someplace beautiful to wander.

That morning, I sat on the porch swing on our front porch with my Bible and told God I was sick of the stress of the business. I missed my sisters and extended family. I was tired of not having a church where our kids could learn and grow. I was exhausted from homeschooling, and the idea of continuing into high school felt overwhelming. I prayed an, “I’m at the end of myself, save us now!” kind of prayer…and then got ready to go to Yosemite.

We were exhausted and stressed driving up towards the valley, and as always, our conversation turned towards our business. Rich had ideas on how to downsize and streamline our services. We sat eating sandwiches, somewhat numb to the beautiful vista, and thought up new business plans.

We kept driving, and parked near El Capitan meadow. We walked east, and found ourselves in a part of the meadow where we’d never been, though we’d been walking in that area for 18 years. Suddenly Rich looked at me and said, “I think we’re supposed to sell our house. I think we need to sell our house and move back to our little blue house.”

I agreed. The cost of having a larger home was draining our pocketbook, and it seemed wise to downsize our living expenses so we could shore up our savings.

He continued, “We need to downsize because I think something big is about to happen.” 

My heartbeat picked up in excitement, and I felt like he was speaking truth I already knew, but hadn’t verbalized yet. “I agree!”

“I think God is going to move us. I think he’s going to move us to a city of some sort.”

I nodded, my spirit perking up like a dry plant drinking in fresh rain, as these words poured out of Rich’s mouth and into my ears.

“Suse, I think he’s going to move us to Nashville.”

Nashville? Rich had never been to Nashville. 

“I don’t know about Nashville, but I agree…I think God is about to do something. It’s like we’re on the cusp of a big change.”

October 8, 2016, the night we learned we were moving to Nashville. A candlelit dinner with a view of a pickup truck in the window sets the scene in Mariposa, California.

And just like that, the weight of the business; the worry; the angst that had plagued us for months lifted as God gave us a new vision, and a new dream. We spent the rest of the night feeling giddy and in love with each other, and with life. We had an amazing dinner at a little restaurant in a neighboring small town, wondering at what the future held, and for the first time in a long time, we felt a sense of freedom.

“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:7

It’s the rush of  inexpressible joy that keeps me coming back to Jesus, time and time again. That’s what we felt that day in Yosemite. 

And the time when we drove home after Rich’s cancer diagnosis, and stopped the car to look at the thousands of stars in the dark mountain sky and suddenly felt full of joy and peace, even though Rich was so sick and the prognosis wasn’t good.

And when our son was in the NICU after being intubated because he stopped breathing for unknown reasons, and Rich came into the hospital room with his face beaming because God had inexpressibly spoken to His heart and given him sudden peace and joy while sitting in the hospital courtyard.

Though I’ve experienced God’s peace in these trying times, one of my favorite places to find God’s joy is in the mundane moments. It’s so unexpected, and such evidence of His constant presence. I recently took walk by myself around our neighborhood. It was twilight and the sun had set. Bunnies were out collecting bites of flowers, and the robins were twittering. I began thinking about my friends far away. I was missing their faces, and praying for them, and my mood shifted from melancholy to being suddenly full of joy…joy inexpressible, as I walked in the middle of a typical suburban subdivision in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

These circumstances; this inexpressible and unexpected peace and joy, is living proof that God is present in all situations. He is constantly working good on our behalf, even when the circumstances are hard. Hard times cause us to lean on Him more fully, and to be more aware of Him and His voice…which refines us. The truth is that sometimes, to be rebuilt, things need to be torn down. Businesses close. Marriages fail. Relationships sever. But God is not done. He is still writing our stories.

“So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire; may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6’

I’m 3.5 years past that prayer on my porch swing. We never moved back into our little blue house, but God did move us to Nashville, where I have a fulfilling job working at a ministry. My kids are in excellent public schools. We found a church that has stretched us and grown us, with the teaching perfectly coming alongside us as we began to rebuild our lives. Rich is pursuing his dreams in new ways that are inspiring both of us. It’s a good new life.

Are things perfect? No. There is a lot that is hard about this time. It’s possible to see blessings as curses sometimes…which leads me back to my journal, so He can transform the feelings in my heart into joy inexpressible, once again.

 

Living With School, Married Life, Mom Life, More Posts

New Plan: Be Content With Simple Things

Survival & SimplicityThere is value to simple fun; fun that costs nothing other than free time and a place to play.

When I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s, I didn’t play soccer, take ballet, or do art classes. I went to school, came home, played in my yard, and planned various ways to spy on my teenage sisters. 

I was frequently bored, and had to find creative ways to fill my time, like pretending the rock garden in our back yard was actually a kitchen; or finding a packet of morning glory seeds in my mom’s junk drawer and planting them next to the pillars on our side porch. My mom stared at them in disbelief when they began to work their vines up the pillars, wondering how they could have possibly grown on their own.

We had three very old out buildings behind our midwestern farm house, and I would endlessly examine their floors and corners, looking for treasures from the families who came before mine, but usually just found disturbing spiders.

I have always had an active imagination, and I think most of that is because I had to entertain myself as a kid. I had to create my own simple fun. This was common amongst children when I was growing up.

Kids of today have different childhoods. “Fun” is often organized, planned for, and often paid for. Trampoline arenas, climbing gyms, pottery painting, Chuck E. Cheese…As my friend Delissa once said, it’s a “Pay to Play” era. Somehow having my kids at home, all of the time, has made me realize how much I seek entertainment from the outside world, and I have conditioned them to do the same.

I am also becoming more and more aware of a monologue in my brain that is a bit neurotic. It’s a compulsion to do something; to fix things; to remove boredom; to invest in my kids’ education; to give them another experience. It goes something like this:

“Have my kids done their homework? Have they answered emails from their teachers? Did I buy the snacks I promised for the kindergarten classroom?” Oh wait, there is no school.

“My kids haven’t moved enough today. We need to enroll them in something, anything. Rock climbing? Tae Kwon Do? How much would that cost every month?” That’s right, there are no classes right now.

“He’s interested in coding. I wonder if there are any coding camps he could do this summer?” Oh…yes, most camps are cancelled.

“He’s been on his screen too much today. This isn’t good!” Oh, but that’s the only way he can do his school.

“Has he seen his friends lately? We should plan a playdate. What about socialization?” Oh, that’s right, we aren’t allowed to see anybody!

So often, my answer to each perceived problem is an action; it’s DOING something. But in an era when we literally can’t DO anything with our kids outside of our home, this dialog is completely useless.

So I’m having to resort to new thought processes. I have to be OK with many things being broken; or different; or just kind of existing as is. Here’s what I’m noticing:

Our lives are far less chaotic. We are lingering at the dinner table instead of racing through to get to an activity.

It’s a nice break from the outside world of teenage pressures. I feel like my teenagers can be themselves in a way that isn’t possible when they are out on the town, perpetually embarrassed by their parents and little brother.

We are all getting a little crazy, and the craziness looks different on each of us. If you are  trapped in a house with your kids and your spouse, you know exactly what I mean…if not, I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

My kids are remembering old interests, and are spending time doing hobbies that had been set aside because of the busyness of school. They have been reading books for fun again.

In many ways, this time is reminiscent of when we homeschooled. On the days when I work from home, we eat all three meals together; we share stories; we talk about old memories from when they were little…

And it’s kind of like a family vacation because we are all together on this adventure, with little interaction with the outside world.

But there is also an overwhelming sense of unrest. As much as I love having my children at home, and all of the family time we’ve had, things aren’t as they should be. Teenagers love to be with friends. My kindergartener misses going to the park. My parents have been in isolation for months now, with no reprieve in sight. Things aren’t right.

A difficult season calls for a different plan. So I’m working hard to adopt a new approach to life, and to school, during COVID-19. Here’s my new plan for the remainder of this season. It’s based on embracing simple things, and easy expectations. Maybe it will resonate with you:

Activity #1: Survive as well as we can. Let’s face it, shopping with gloves and a mask is no fun, especially when grocery stores are depleted. Contracting COVID-19 is even more scary. I’m here to say SURVIVAL IS ENOUGH. But just surviving can get boring and repetitive, which leads to the rest of my list…

Activity #2: Bake cookies and try some new recipes. When my dad had a heart attack at 43, I remember my older sister telling me to stop crying, and then pulling out the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies with me. Doing something ordinary like baking distracted me, easing my spirit, and made the time pass more quickly. It is the same today.

Activity #3: Do the little things that give us joy. Like baking. Or watching the baby bunny in the backyard. Or looking at old family photos.

Activity #4: Do the school work that must get done, but realize that the majority of the “work” in this season is character development. We are all learning about endurance, patience and being content in any circumstance. I, for one, like seasons like this to pass quickly (which illustrates why I apparently need more practice learning those character traits).

Activity $5: Exercise and breathe fresh air. Exercise is my Prozac. If I don’t move, everyone suffers.

Activity #6: Focus on our blessings more than our hardships during this season. This is a lesson I’ve had a lot of practice in since the closure of our small business three years ago. It has taught me that gratitude is a choice, and it is something that has to be practiced. When I practice being thankful, I realize that, though there are a lot of hard and unsolvable things in life right now, I am also surrounded by blessings. It’s a constant, repeated choice to choose gratitude over grumbling, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Activity #8 Embrace the simple fun. Card games; binge watching a Netflix show; reading books; making the cats chase after the laser pen…my kids have the chance to live my childhood for awhile. I’d like to enjoy it with them. How about you?

Faith, Married Life, Mom Life, More Posts, Work

Excellence Matters: Embrace Your Calling

Home ownership came with a lot of life lessons, especially concerning our septic system. As a kid, I’d always grown up with the convenience of sewer lines…you flush the toilet, and it all disappears.

It turns out that septic systems require a bit more attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until four years into home ownership, when our septic lines started failing, leaking sewage into a nearby stream. It wasn’t good.

I don’t remember the name of the man who taught me how to take care of my septic system, but I remember one thing: He was passionate about them.

As he sat on the tailgate of his pickup truck, his dusty cowboy hat framing a nearly toothless mouth, he taught me that I had two septic lines, and I needed to manually switch them every few months. He taught me about things like bacteria and leach fields and sledge layers, and what happens when the sledge layer makes it into the leach fields (it’s not good).

I sat there, soaking in this new knowledge as if I were learning the most riveting subject matter, and walked away understanding how to take care of the intricacies of this system that I had purchased with my house, but had formerly known nothing about. Even better, he fixed our septic system.

Four years before that, I sat signing my mortgage papers with my friend, Terri. Terri is a fellow mom, with kids near the age of mine. We spent years in our Bunco group sharing the details of our lives. But seeing Terri in action in her job was inspiring to me.

At the time, she was a mortgage broker, and over the course of an hour, she distilled 30+ pages of contracts into easy-to-understand nuggets. She reviewed each page with a critical eye, showed us where to sign, and explained the subtle nuances of the fine print. That day, I gained a new appreciation for the gifts my friend brought to her job…and was again, amazed at what a well-embraced calling looked like in action.

I can think of countless times I’ve been amazed, watching a person’s gifts at work:

  • The surgeon who mended my son’s cleft lip into a complete smile.
  • The nurses who expertly guided chemo into my husband’s body, and watched over him with an experienced eye.
  • The photographer who decided sandhill cranes were something worth preserving, celebrating and documenting…so he spent a chunk of his life doing just that.
  • Another photographer who gave his time, talents and money to the Raw Sea, helping preserve the last untouched ocean on our planet, allowing scientists a space to study and learn, so they can help the areas of our planet that are anything but untouched.
  • The barista at the coffee shop who made a pretty picture in the milky foam during a particularly trying day.
  • The mom of four kids who somehow managed to keep a calm, steady voice, though her kids were running circles around her…

Excellence matters.

Deciding to be a master at your trade blesses people and our world.

I’ve seen so many people coast through life, giving a half hearted effort as they punch a time clock. What if we embraced our lives; our jobs; our roles in life; as more than a means of making money? What if we saw it as EXACTLY where God wanted us to be, at this point in time, for a unique purpose? What if we saw it as a divine appointment to make the world better, or to simply make someone’s day a bit better?

The longer I live, the more I’m realizing that embracing my callings, for all they are worth, is the one single thing I can do to improve our world. Because no one else has my unique background, skills or desires.

And no one else has yours.

Today, I challenge you to embrace your calling, wherever you are at this exact moment of your life, and use it to bless the world — whether it’s as a mortgage broker; or repairing septic systems; or protecting a corner of our planet; or a person or animal in need; or momming your kids; or making a good cup of coffee for the tired person in front of you.

If we do our life’s work with our whole hearts, it will make the world a different place around us — and beyond us, as we inspire others to do the same.

Colossians 3:23
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”

Faith, Married Life, Mom Life, Work

Surrender: My Life Is Not My Own

“Your life is not your own.”

The first time I heard that statement echoing in my head was in 2015. I had a new baby, two kids I was homeschooling, and I was helping my husband run our small business during the busiest season of its existence.

As I tried to balance working with teaching and running my home, it seemed like my life never stopped. I felt like a circus performer, constantly turning to the next act, keeping the balls spinning, trying to keep everyone happy, and all of the details accounted for.

I felt like I was failing at everything.

As I sat in my home office, looking out the window, wondering how long I’d need to keep this pace, I heard a calm, steady voice say, “Your life is not your own.”

I’d like to say it gave me instant peace; an a-ha moment; a sense of, “Yes! It’s true! Now I can go on living like a crazy woman because I know MY LIFE IS NOT MY OWN!” But that wouldn’t be the truth.

Instead, it made me feel tired. And annoyed.

If pouring myself out for everyone, all of the time was what I was supposed to do…I was tired of doing it.

I mean, I know the Bible says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves; to serve one another in love; and to lay down our lives for one another…but could I just get a few hours to read a book, just for the fun of it?

Women’s magazines tell you about how important it is to make time for yourself; to take care of yourself; to do things for YOU. And I agree…But the fact is that some seasons, if you have to choose between a shower and reading a book, the shower wins. You can give up reading for a few years, but you really can’t give up showering for too long before people start to notice.

When I was done feeling tired and sorry for myself, I felt a sense of surrender. Surrendering to this busy season of life. Surrendering my ambitions and dreams and idea of what life was SUPPOSED to look like, and instead resting in God’s plan.

When I think about all of the things that cause me stress, me wanting to do life MY way, according to MY plans is probably right at the top of the list. My natural inclination is to become frustrated when things don’t work out quickly enough; or if I have to break plans to accommodate a last-minute need; or if life doesn’t stay in the confines of my perfectly laid plans.

But here are some things I’m learning about planning:

– Plans get broken.

– The best-laid plans can lead to disappointment if you hold them too tightly.

– Planning can make you into a control-freak…because when there IS NO PLAN, you have to trust God, and surrender to the fact that His plans for your life may look very different than yours. And then surrender to the fact that His plans are perfect. And are for your good. And…here’s the kicker…they are not all about YOU! You are not in charge of finding the perfect plan…you can leave that up to God, and simply do each day’s work, and enjoy each days’ blessings, as best as you can.

I’m becoming aware of the fact that God is much bigger and active than I realize, and He is working on details in EVERYONE’S life ALL OF THE TIME. In fact, I think the more people you have in your life; the more He will use you to affect change in the community around you.

If you have children in your home…God will write chapters into your life to grow THEM and change their lives…

Which means there will be hardship to grow THEM. There will be challenges to write a new character trait into their lives…or my husband’s life…and inevitably my life, as well.

So, sometimes God might have you move across the country to align your child’s life for their next step.

Sometimes He might write a broken leg into your life, or a trip to the hospital, just so you can meet a mom who really needed a friend just like you.

Sometimes, He might allow relationships to break because you rely on them in a way that only He should be relied upon…

And sometimes, He writes in a vacation where you have time to FINALLY READ A BOOK just for fun!

After the craziness of the last three years, I am fully aware that my life is not my own…it is His. And as I learn to surrender more and more to His plans, I find a new sense of peace and rest, even in the busyness of this season.

Married Life, Mom Life

Ten Years After Cancer: Life Lessons that Remain True

In 2009 my husband was diagnosed with Stage III Testicular Cancer. It presented as a 10cm tumor near his right kidney, and he was extremely sick…so sick, I thought he was going to die. We were parents of two small children. We owned a small business with a staff of 17.

Rich’s cancer diagnosis coincided with the recession of 2008/2009…the time when people were losing their homes, foreclosures became commonplace, and bankruptcy lost some of its stigma because so many people had to file.

My husband grew sicker as the chemotherapy began to do its work of “melting the tumor like butter,” as Rich’s oncologist said. As he endured infections and nausea, I  fed him a steady diet of milkshakes and omelets because that’s all he could keep down.

I watched our business’s sales plummet by 40%, and I thought we were going to lose everything. I kept this from Rich, because I didn’t want him to worry. I just wanted him to get better.

One night, as I sat down to journal, I began to make a list of business ideas and promotions to help spur our sales. I wracked my brain, trying to come up with the magic fix that would save us from the plummet. As I wrestled with ideas and tried to figure out how to implement them, I asked for God’s direction…I asked if these ideas would work. I asked for His blessing on them.

I heard in my spirit His still, calm voice:

“You could do all of this work, but the outcome will be the same.”

What do you mean, the outcome will be the same? If I could just do more, or perform more, or come up with one magical idea…things will be okay. I can save the day.

“You can choose to focus your energy on your business, or your husband. You can be up all night programming sales into your website, or you can rest, so you can take care of Rich and your kids. The outcome for your business will be the same.”

At that moment, my priorities came into immediate perspective.

Rich came first. Taking care of him and being there for him however was needed had to be my very top priority.

My kids came second. This was a huge change for me, because ever since I’d had my daughter five years earlier, my kids took the number one position in my life. I realized that God was giving me the opportunity to teach them that we all are important, and when one person is going through a hard time, the rest rally to help lay a firm foundation of love and care beneath him.

I came third. I wrote in my journal, read my Bible and began working out every morning…a half hour exercise video served as my prozac. With Jillian Michaels, I punched, stomped and kicked cancer and all it was doing to our family and life. I got into good shape!

Everything else came after that.

That’s the year I learned how to not do everything, because there physically was no way I could do everything.

That’s the year I laid down my ideas of how life was supposed to go, and instead accepted that God had a different plan.

That’s the year I learned that hard things happen, even if you do everything possible to avoid them. People will ask lots of questions, pondering ways you could have avoided the bad circumstance (What was Rich’s diet? Does he exercise? Is there any family history of cancer? Does he carry his cell phone in his pocket?)…but in truth, some hard chapters are just there to live through, and if you choose to, they will grow you closer to God in ways that easy chapters never could.

That’s the year I learned that, when you stop doing everything, some people will come alongside you and hold your hand, telling you that surviving is enough…and others will be there, reminding you of all the ways you are failing.

That’s the year I learned that my performance is for an audience of one: God. And if I’m listening to Him, and earnestly trying to follow His lead each day, then it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, or what other people think of me…it’s between them and God.

That’s the year I learned that God is my provider…not my business, and not my husband. Gifts and money came from unlikely places, sustaining us through one of the most challenging seasons of our lives.

That’s the year I learned that nothing in this world is guaranteed; that health, good fortune and our livelihoods are temporal. You can’t base your peace or sense of worth on any of them.

That’s the year I learned that the one solid thing I can hang onto is God’s faithful love and peace. Despite all human reason, God’s presence persists through it all, providing each step, one minute at a time. Sometimes those steps are dances of joy…and sometimes they feel like I’m trying to walk with two broken legs. I’ve learned that both types of steps are okay as long as they move me forward, and closer to God.

I never wanted cancer written into my life. But nearly ten years later, I can say that God wove deep truths into my life during that time; truths that continue to echo in my spirit today. Remembering God’s faithfulness and grace continues to encourage me when difficult circumstances come my way. Because They never fail.

2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Married Life, Mom Life, Work

What’s Harder? Homeschooling or Working Full Time?

So, it turns out that when you work a full time job AND have a family AND have a 40 minute commute each way, you end up with a lot less time for things like blog writing…

Despite the busyness and the packed schedule, my ideas keep flowing…so I will continue to write this blog, even though a brand new season of The Bachelorette (my guilty pleasure) is calling my name.

Yes, I will write… And I will tell you about this new chapter of life called “Life As a Full-Time Working Mom”. This chapter was written into my story following many other chapters of motherhood including:

Life as a mostly stay-at-home mom
Life as a business owner mom
Life as a mom of little tiny kids
Life as a mom of school aged kids
Life as a mom with a very sick spouse
Life as a mom who GETS PREGNANT AGAIN AT 40!
Life as a homeschooling, working mom with a newborn…

So, at this point, I figure that God wants me to have the perspective of what it is like to be many types of American moms, so I can fully relate to any mother I meet. Therefore, for this chapter of my life, I am working full time.

I am beginning a series where I answer various questions, and the first one is: Is it easier to be a full-time working mom, or a homeschooling mom?

That’s quite a question to start out with, isn’t it?

I am six months into being a full-time working mom, and it is both harder AND easier.

This morning as I drove off to work in my quiet car and listened to a podcast that had nothing to do with parenthood, while sipping my hot coffee ALL BY MYSELF, it felt like being a working mom was VERY EASY and VERY QUIET. Hot coffee and quiet have been nearly impossible to come by for the past 14+ years, and now, for 40 minutes to AND from work, I have both.

Over the past several months I’ve had a very heavy workload at work, learning the nuances of nonprofit bookkeeping, the culture of a new workplace, the names and personalities of dozens of wonderful people I’d never seen before, but who now fill my daily life…it has been very, very intense.

But it’s not anywhere near as intense as homeschooling two kids while running a small business. Or closing down a business and moving across the country with three kids, two cats and two fish…

At work, I am able to complete a task from beginning to end, several times each day. If someone interrupts me, they are extremely polite as they ask for my attention. I am able to delve deeply into troubleshooting many issues, and actually come to conclusions…unlike most of parenthood, which changes just as soon as you feel like you’re getting the hang of it…

So, the day to day life…it’s easier in many ways as a full-time working mom.

Here’s what’s hard:

  • Trying figure out a clothing style that doesn’t look completely like mom fashion, when you’ve been living in yoga pants for the past decade…or mountain fashion, when you’ve been living in the mountains for 20+ years.
  • When to get to the dry cleaner, and the doctor and the dentist…why does everyone keep 9 to 5 hours, when the rest of the world needs to work, too?
  • Sleep is also hard…if I stay up too late watching the rose ceremony on The Bachelorette, I still have to wake up to get to work on time the next morning, instead of letting me and the kids sleep in until we are ready to rise and greet the day.

But you know what is hardest? Missing my kids. Missing being there when they get home from school. Missing seeing my four year old make the day-to-day discoveries of that magical age. Having to catch up my kids’ days at the end of the day, instead of while they are going through it…that’s hard for me. My kids are my favorite people in the world, and it’s hard to have time with them limited by work…though I truly feel God has called me to this exact job and this exact point in time…

So I am thankful. Thankful for the contrast, and that I have spent nearly all of the past 14 years deep in the trenches of motherhood, living every single day alongside my children.

Thankful that Rich gets to be with our kids in a new way, spending loads of time with them as he lives out life being the official daily parent-on-duty.

Thankful for God’s palpable presence and direction in this chapter, just as He gave it in the last one.

And thankful for this new perspective on what it’s like to live life as a working mom.

Seeing all of the full-time working moms who now fill my life has convinced me of two things:

  1. They love their kids fiercely and well; and
  2. They are mentally strong, organized and admirable as they try to live out God’s call to steward their life at home AND in the workplace.

No one works as hard as working moms…except every other kind of mom. Motherhood is a lot of work, no matter how you live it out. And whether I’m home full time, or at work…being a mom is the best job I’ll ever have.

Faith, Married Life, Mom Life, Work

Searching For The Perfect Plan

After trying many planners, this is my favorite daily planner for homeschooling…and they also make a regular daily planner, as well.

Today I was supposed to go to work. I navigated the morning obstacle course of making lunch; feeding my little boy; getting dressed; and finally settled into the car with a fresh podcast loaded onto my phone…only to discover that work was cancelled for the day.

My plans changed.

Again.

No matter how much this last year has taught me, it still unsettles me when plans change. Especially when most days include unexpected diversions and disruptions.

The concept of “planning my day” became part of my daily vernacular in college, when I was introduced to my first “daily planner.” Ohio University issued official spiral-bound planners, which could be purchased at College Bookstore for a few dollars. Tests, quizzes, homework assignments and club meetings quickly filled in the pages of my life, and within a few months, I found myself living by this book. If something was written down in it, it happened…if not, it would be forgotten.

College was marvelously and fantastically predictable. Syllabuses were issued; books were studied; tests were taken…and I eventually received my diploma.

This standard protocol did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the realities of my adult life.

Immediately after I finished college, Rich and I took a six week road trip, with no plans other than to “go explore out west.” We loaded up his 1999 Nissan Sentra with food, a tent and clothing…space was so tight, I didn’t even pack a hair dryer. We spent four of those weeks in New Mexico and Utah, exploring the national parks, drinking Snapple and searching for any type of music on the radio…we were in the middle of nowhere…there were no iPods or Smart Phones in the 1990s…

I went from a completely planned life in college, where I could fully manage my time as I saw fit…to sleeping in a tent with absolutely nothing to do other than follow our whims.

It was tremendously unsettling, and a great introduction to the unpredictable life that was to come…

– First, business ownership (always working, even if we weren’t always at work).

– Then, having children (always a parent, even if you should be sleeping but someone randomly throws up / has a bad dream / heard a noise).

– Then, homeschooling (making plans, but having to be ever-flexible to your child’s needs for that day…times three, when you have three children).

– And now…becoming a working mom. Full time. As in…I am leaving the house every morning at the same time, and coming home and feeding my family…packing lunches, and doing it all over again the next day, five days in a row.

I find myself wanting to plan my life, much like when I was in college…making plans for meals, lunches, outings and dates with my spouse and kids…

But last week, I planned to go out on a date with Rich, only to be texted that my son threw up, just as we sat down for dinner. With so many disrupted plans, I am finding myself resentful of planning. I can’t live my life by my plans, because plans change. People get sick. Appointments are missed. Life is tiring, and sometimes I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep and forget ALL OF THE PLANS.

The past year has taught me that planning is a luxury. To meal plan for the week or month, you need to have money to buy all of your groceries ahead of time. To make plans for coffee with a friend, you must be able to predict that you will be able to leave your family at the allotted time, and actually meet her. To plan for outings or trips, you must be able to reasonably predict that you will have the time, money and energy to actually deliver on the plans.

So, when people say they live by their plans or their calendar, I think…you are so lucky. You are so blessed that your life is predictable, and has a steady rhythm. Sometimes people don’t live by plans because they can’t catch a break to actually make them. There are chapters in life like that, it seems…and sometimes it inadvertantly becomes a way of life…

Still, I try…

Because planning gives me the illusion of control over my life. A well-laid plan makes me feel like all the stuff of life will eventually be accomplished, and this gives me peace.

So, I will continue to plan our meals, search for good routines, look for slots of time when I can connect with each family member…and all the while, try to figure out how to have peace when the plans fall apart. I’ll try to live life working towards a plan (not berating myself if the plans are broken…again…)

I’m also realizing that it’s okay for the plan to be having NO PLANS…some chapters call for full immersion in the moment…afterall: “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

You can plan your day, your month, your life, and in the end…it’s really up to God how it all works out.

Work was cancelled today, for example, but I had the time to write this post…

His plan was better than mine. It always is.

Married Life, Photography

Peaceful Inspiration – Prints To Take Home

I’ve always felt God’s presence most in nature. There is a sense of grandeur, infinite peace, and creativity beyond my imagination that transports my mind away from the bustle of the world and into the quiet. Time and time again, when I wander in the forest, or by the sea, or up a mountain top, I learn a bit more about myself, and about God.

One of God’s greatest gifts to us here on earth is the earth itself: The granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley; the powerful surf crashing against cliffs on the Big Sur Coast; the giant Sequoias that stand big and strong, as alive in the 21st century as they were when Christ walked the earth. All of these declare His glory, His creativity and His power. Experiencing this beauty sets my soul at ease.

For a long time, Rich and I have sought out places of beauty, in an effort to experience this peace. Rich strove to capture the views on film; I would collect the experiences in my mind, trying to wrap words around the delight of my senses, sometimes on paper, usually just in my mind.

The Bible talks about how all of creation sings praises to God; that even the rocks and trees call out; that if no one ever heard about God, or who He was, or had any sense of “religion,” creation itself would declare who God was through its beauty, strength and majesty.

The other day, Rich took one of his photographs and laid a piece of scripture over it. It was a photograph he took on the way up to Yosemite Valley, of a group of trees we were fond of, and had become like old friends we enjoyed seeing each time we drove into the mountains.

We were intrigued by the pairing…scripture, plus his photographs. God’s word, plus a carefully composed and deeply felt view of His creation. It goes against all rules of photography…photographs are supposed to speak for themselves; a photograph says 1000 words… But those 1000 words can be different, based on each viewer…and it felt important to point the viewer not to worship the creation itself, but the Creator…

We were given words that could be meditated upon; words that coupled with the artwork in a harmonious way; words that gave a deeper meaning to something that could be construed as simply a pretty view.

The rocks cry out…

The trees clap their hands…

All of creation sings of His glory.

We wanted to share this coupling of scripture with Rich’s photographs with you. Take a look at our first few pieces, and if they inspire you, order one…it will help us continue to fuel this project. We will be adding more in the upcoming days, and I’ll post them as they are available. They are all printed as fine art prints, on fine art paper, and are ready to be matted, framed or simply tacked up on your wall.

Want to give these away as gifts, or sell them in your store? Contact me for quantity discounts, or wholesale pricing. 

Visit my Etsy store.

 

Married Life, Photography

15 Things I’ve Learned About Being Married To A Photographer

Photography has defined my life since I first started dating my husband, Rich, nearly 30 years ago. Since then, photography has taken us on adventures I never could have imagined that first time I stood next to him in his old-school darkroom, watching an image magically appear in the developer tray.

After navigating through brambles, long-awaited sunsets, several versions of LowePro backpacks, and countless dropped lens caps, here are 15 things I have learned about being married to a landscape photographer:

1. All extra money that comes into the household will be first considered for photography or photographic purposes.

2. Most trips of any meaningful length, distance or expense, will also involve photography and/or will completely revolve around photography.

3. Romantic sunsets sitting side-by-side will be replaced by sunsets spent sitting next to his camera bag while he photographs.

4. You will freeze many mornings while watching spectacular sunrises. Bring blankets or hot cocoa.

5. Dinner will not be eaten until it is completely dark, and all possibilities for photographing sunset have disappeared. Bring snacks.

6. You will find yourself answering a slew of questions about your husband and his photography, while he’s busily taking photographs. Be patient and kind.

7. A “quick drive to check something out” always turns into a longer adventure than you expected.

8. Bring hiking boots. Even if you are going out for a romantic dinner. Especially if you are going out for a romantic dinner. This image of Half Dome, for example, was taken on our second anniversary, requiring an unexpected hike in a Yosemite meadow (pretty, but not so great with flats), and delaying dinner by at least an hour. It was still a happy anniversary.

9. Photography equipment will hurt you. Especially heavy tripods, which always seem to catch onto something…like your ankles. Or your hips. Or your back, as you are juggling it alongside your three-year-old toddler.

10. Inkjet printers, photo equipment and mat board will fill your home. Who needs a closet for clothing? We spent our clothing budget on photo gear, anyway…

11. Photographing with kids? That’s almost always an oxymoron…especially if you have more than one child in tow.

12. If you are traveling, at least one of your carry-ons will be a camera bag, and your checked bag will be partially filled by a bulky tripod. Plan accordingly.

13.  You will see breathtaking beauty and fleeting sights that few people will ever see, just by hanging out with your husband.

14. You will gain a new understanding of light and simple beauty, while exploring the area around his tripod holes.

15. You will likely never be rich, but photography will take you on adventures you never dreamt of having, giving you experiences that will shape your life for the better, one beautiful scene at a time.

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