We’ve Got a Trail to Blaze

We all draw inspiration and encouragement from different places. Some people use the Bible, some use music, some use friends or family, and some use those cheesy posters that have a dramatic nature picture with one word and its definition that can be found in every elementary school classroom across the country. In my life, I tend to go through seasons of time with one phrase that repeats itself in my head over and over.

Through most of college, my phrase came from the Lion King of all places. It’s that part in the movie when Rafiki the baboon smacks Simba on the head with his stick. After Simba asks why the monkey popped him on the noggin, Rafiki laughs and says, “It doesn’t matta! It is in de past!”.

Early college is filled with bumps in the road. You do poorly on a test, you stay out later than you should and pay for it the next day, or any of the thousands of things you are doing on your own for the first time and mess up on. We make mistakes, learn from them, and then MOVE ON. That’s what the monkey was telling the lion. You can’t change it, so work with what you have now.

While that phrase still pops into my head often, it has been replaced with a new phrase from a random source. Michigan’s head football coach, Jim Harbaugh, has said that his motto for every day is to, “attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind”.

During this most recent period in life there were (and are) many days that I dread what is coming. Things I really wish I didn’t have to take care of, calls I don’t want to make, or what I perceive to be many responsibilities pulling me in different directions that make me want to avoid the day all together. I love the word “attack” because there is no questioning its connotation. The word “enthusiasm” conveys a positive excitement and energy. The end, I view as a challenge — to do something “unknown to mankind”. This phrase to me is a “tighten your belt”, “saddle up your horse”, and “let’s get ready to rrrrrrrumble” all in one.

These are just two examples of phrases I use to draw inspiration and motivation. I could still describe 2 Timothy 1:7, every member of my family, The movie Chariots of Fire, or the phrase “not dead yet” and their effect on my and my life. Whatever the source or method, find something that inspires you and motivates you. Share with others what drives you and why, but do not be afraid to look beyond yourself for encouragement.

As the great marketing department at Nike so brilliantly said: “Just do it”.

-Zach

The Hardest Part of Motherhood

“Motherhood is tough”.

“I never knew this season would be so hard”.

“Raising babies/toddlers/kids/teenagers is the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.

“I wasn’t prepared for this”.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard one of these lines. Raise two hands if you’ve ever said one of these lines. There’s no denying it — being a mama can be tough. In the best, most incredible, love filled way, motherhood stretches us. Most days it leaves us tired and needing a shower. At the end of the day yesterday, I had dealt with 7 different types of bodily fluids (number 1, number 2, drool, spit up, sweat, snot, and baby tears). But these things we think of — the yucky stuff, the sleep deprivation, the fill in the blank — these aren’t what make being mommy hard. These are just pieces to the puzzle. No, the hardest part of motherhood is that it strips away our selfishness.

As a mama, it is our job to care for another human. A very needy, very adorable human who doesn’t know how to do anything on their own yet. We feed them, bathe them, rock them, and snuggle them (and enjoy every second of it). But at the end of the day, we’re often left wondering, “do I ever get a break?” or “why do I have to do ALL of the work around here” or “what about me?”. And these are hard thoughts. These thoughts (and others like it) leave us feeling guilty and inadequate. On one hand, we feel justified in these thoughts because “hello, I’m obviously carrying the team here”. But on the other hand, we know in our hearts our attitude is wrong. These thoughts give us a glimpse at our selfish nature. (Now don’t get me wrong, it’s totally healthy for moms to take a break. It’s not the thought that’s wrong…it’s our heart behind it). They show us that we weren’t meant to do this alone, and that we need more of Jesus and less of us. Motherhood is hard because it is a constant reminder that “love is not selfish”. Repeat after me. LOVE. IS. NOT. SELFISH. Some days, I repeat this non stop.

When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and I don’t want to get out of my warm, cozy bed. Love is not selfish.

When I find myself envious of the fact that my husband gets to do “whatever he wants” (yeah right, parenthood affects these daddies just as much). Love is not selfish.

When I get frustrated because the baby is crying for what feels like the 24380714380th time. Love is not selfish.

Motherhood is tough for so many reasons. But I honestly think the hardest part is the each day, we are challenged to die to ourselves. As humans, that’s rough. It involves growing pains, and nobody likes those. But we can find encouragement in this — if motherhood is stripping off our selfishness, then motherhood makes us more like Jesus.

So how do we submit to this? How do we accept this new normal?

-Choose to serve: instead of worrying about how hard motherhood is, what would happen if we made it our goal to make our husbands life easier? What if we chose to love our husbands by protecting their sleep, or facilitating time for them to play with baby?

-Take a break: seriously. Set aside 15 minutes each day that is yours. Run, bathe, read, watch YouTube cat videos, dance, eat cheesy nachos. I don’t care what it is. But do something for 15 minutes that is just for you.

-Pursue community: listen y’all. Satan wants you to believe that you are in this alone. He wants us to think that we are the only person who has ever walked this path or that nobody will understand us or that nobody cares how we feel. DON’T BELIEVE THESE LIES. Surround yourself with people who care about you and will speak Truth into your life. We need people who will help us along this path of sanctification.

March Must Haves

I’m back this week to share 5 must have items! This month’s items are mostly food and books…I’m not sure what that tells you about my lifestyle (probably that I like food and I like to read), but I’m okay with it. Anyways, let’s get straight to the point:

#1. Honest Tea Moroccan Mint Tea: I used to think I wasn’t really a mint person. Boy, was I wrong. I could drink this tea all day long and not be one bit sad about it. Plus, it’s easy to find — you can buy it at HEB. Green tea. Mint. Not overly sweet. It’s refreshing to say the least.

#2. Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: This book tells the story of 3 women who meet through their school aged children. Each has their own web of lies — whether big or small, I won’t say. In the end, someone dies…but who? I read this book before baby girl was born, and still think about it to this day. It is very well written, and really draws you in. If you read this, be prepared to not want to put it down! (Disclaimer: this isn’t a book I would let my 13 year old read. It has some language).

#3. Maybelline Define-a-Brow: I’m not a big make up wearer. Most days, I just throw on some mascara and go. But I’ve found that if my eyebrows look great, then I feel more confident. Don’t go crazy with this stuff, just use it to accentuate your natural beauty. Send me a selfie when you wear it, and walk around feeling fabulous all day long!

#4. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: This book is something every Christian should read. Written in the point of view of a master demon writing letters to his trainee, C.S. Lewis portrays human life and sin. It can be a bit confusing at first (they refer to Satan as the Father and God as the Enemy), but is so humbling and helps us to really see our sin for what it is. This book will completely change the way you view spiritual warfare.

#5. White Chocolate Popcorn: A dear friend of mine made this once, and I just HAD to have the recipe. Don’t like white chocolate? You’re in good company. But man, I could eat white chocolate popcorn for days. You can’t buy it anywhere, but it so easy to make. Here’s how it goes: pop 3 bags of popcorn and put them in the biggest ziploc bag you can find. Melt one bag’s worth of white chocolate chips. Slowly pour the melted chips into the bag, and shake the popcorn until every kernel is coated. Voila! You have yourself a not so healthy but entirely delicious snack.

Have you discovered any new must haves? Is there something that you just can’t live without? I’d love to hear about it!

Things they don’t tell you about motherhood

When people find out you’re pregnant, they automatically offer advice. Here’s how to do this, be ready for that, don’t worry if ____ happens — you know the drill. In these last 4 months, I’ve been amazed at the things I’ve learned that nobody has told me, or maybe they did and I didn’t listen. Here are some surprising things nobody tells you before you become a mom:

If you have a little girl, pay attention to her bows. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve looked back and RJ’s bow had fallen in front of her eyes because the bow was too big for her head. No wonder the kid was crying. Now that her head is OFF THE CHARTS huge, bows tend to leave dents in her head. It’s comical, but also makes you feel like the worst. So if you’re putting a bow on the child’s head, make sure it fits.

The laundry. Oh my gosh the laundry. Before RJ was born, I would wash probably 3 loads a week. Now, I can easily do about 8 loads…and still be behind. I feel like some homeless person must be sneaking into my house in the middle of the night and using all of our clothes, because surely 2.5 people can’t produce this much laundry. Right? Wrong.Tiny babies poop everywhere and spit up and have really cute outfits that they grow out of in a matter of minutes seconds.  When it comes to laundry, 1 + 1 + 1  = 312,780,412 (apparently).

At home date nights are a thing of the past. Once you have a baby, it becomes even more important to spend quality time with your man. But listen closely — do not try to have an at home date night. We’ve given this a go a couple of times, and it was a joke. We cooked a yummy dinner, rented a movie, and sat down to watch it together. And that’s when the baby decides it’s time to have a meltdown (never mind the fact that mom should have realized it was time to eat). At home date nights are great in theory, but only lead to a failed attempt at quality time.

Dad will always be the fun one. This one here really gets me riled up. As moms, we put in all of the work leading up to the kid being born. We grow the child for 9 whole months, we go through labor (or if you’re like me, you have a C-section because your baby is completely upside down), learn how to breastfeed/bottle feed and wake up in the middle of the night, and then when the kid learns to smile, they will only do it for dad. Not that parenthood is a competition or anything, but come on kid!

I’m pretty sure babies are bi-polar. Little babes have this incredible and strange ability to go from crying sorority girl (disclaimer: cut this video off before you get to the last 5 seconds…there is a bad word) to this level of happy in a matter of 0.12 seconds. It is equal parts terrifying and adorable.

Tiny baby snuggles are the best. Let’s be real, some things about motherhood can be frustrating. But as soon as your baby snuggles up to you, all of the irritating things just melt away. The heavens open up and the angels sing, and all is right in the world.

What about you? What surprised you about motherhood?

You’re not Mom

Quick disclaimer, if the title didn’t tip you off, I’m not Sarah. Our little girl reminds me of this quite frequently, and it’s neither a bad thing nor a good thing. Being Dad simply looks very different than being Mom. Some things I literally can not do and other things S can’t do. 

One of the hardest parts of adjusting to being a dad is the “what do I do?” question that pops up about every time the kid squeaks. When the kid melts down because they are hungry…not much I can do. It seems silly, but it plays itself out in hard ways. Early on when the baby has to eat every 2-3 hours and S is getting out of bed 4 times a night to feed the kid, it isn’t easy to know what to do or how to help. As previously stated, Dad is no help when it comes to feeding. Often times this leads to feeling inadequate and guilty. I get to stay in bed while S doesn’t sleep and feeds the baby. But what’s a guy to do? 

There is a feeling that every guy has felt. He is holding a small child and the thing erupts. Sad. Pathetic. Loud. The little ball of cuteness has morphed into a monster, like Jack-Jack at the end of The Incredibles. The first time this happens for a mom, she may inwardly freak out, but outwardly she calmly soothes the kid back to tiny human form. The first time this happens to a guy he holds the kid at arms length and prays for the mother to take it back. The point here is that Mom is just better at comfort. Dad can try and even be successful from time to time, but he is never what the kid actually wants. He will always be number two in the pecking order. But what’s a guy to do? 

Grouped together with the first two insufficiencies is the knowledge that God gave moms an intuition that he omitted from dads. We’ve all seen this even without having our own kids. You’re at a restaurant with a new mom and her kid, no one else sees it, no one else could possibly see it, but the mom sees, senses, or hears that the baby needs something. She tells you whats wrong and quick draws a bottle out of a holster like an Old Western sheriff or puts the kid to sleep in 0.25 seconds. These are the things that intimidate a dad. Most of us don’t get to spend as much time with the kid, so we don’t know them as well. We want to help, but genuinely have no clue what we are doing 95% of the time (this is actually true in pretty much every aspect of life, we never actually know what we are doing). So what’s a guy to do? 

1. Do something. Anything remotely helpful. Go get the diapers and the wipes ready for changing. Make a bottle. Or, when all baby tasks are taken, do stuff around the house like fold laundry, pickup all the kids toys, or do dishes. 

2. DO SOMETHING. For real. Get up and doing anything. 

3. Know that coming home is no longer a peaceful environment. Work may be done, but now your job starts. Dad time. Take the kid from mom and let her do something else. This is the best part of the day. You get to swoop in and be the hero AND spend time with your awesome little kid. 

4. Talk to your spouse. This can mean a few different things. a) Be a grown up human that they can talk to because they have been starving for adult interaction for a while now. b) Figure out what they need. What is most helpful in your situation? Everyone has a different setup going, so find what they think is the most helpful. 

On Identity

Today I ran 3 miles, and this is what I looked like at the end. And these weren’t fast miles, these were grueling I-think-I-might-die-this-is-so-slow miles. Pre-pregnancy, I would have whipped these out like it was no big deal, yet now I am so out of shape. Let me be honest and say that this is discouraging. I never realized that this ability was something I prided myself in; something that I felt made me who I am. This realization hit me one day last week while I was running dying, and all I could think was “dear God, don’t let anyone I know see this”. Being in shape was just another silly item on a long list of things that I felt made me who I am, where my identity lied. I can’t help but wonder why it is so hard to let go of past expectations and to settle into a new you? When we go through a major life change (or a not so major change), such as having a baby, or getting a new job, or getting married, or starting at a new school, or fill in the blank here, we are often left wondering “who am I now?” Somewhere in the midst of all of the change, we suddenly realize that this thing we are letting go of somehow became our identity. This thing was our defining factor. So we struggle, we cry, we raise our fists, all because we no longer know who we are. But life doesn’t have to be this way; we don’t have to walk through life constantly looking for something or someone – whether that be running, or our husbands, or our job, or fill in the blank here – to tell us who we are.

As a new mom, we are constantly saying things like:

“I just don’t feel like myself”

“I want to be known as more than just a mother”

“I don’t feel pretty/sexy/cute”

“All I ever do is take care of the baby”

I know I’ve been guilty of saying things like this; don’t get me wrong, transitioning into a role where you are responsible for keeping another human alive is hard. However, I can’t help but think that we make this even harder on ourselves by failing to recognize where our worth and identity should be coming from. When we place our value and the weight of who we are on people, roles, or things, we are setting ourselves up for a life of hurt and discontentment. We were not made to live a life defined by other people or worldly things. We were created to find our value and worth in our Creator. Ladies, let me just confess right here that I am preaching to the choir. The Lord is constantly showing me layers upon layers of false identity in my life – from my role as a teacher, to being a good wife, to having the ability to run far distances, and on and on and on. How do I know this? Because I find myself being consistently stressed or disappointed in these areas, no matter what they look like. I feel unloved if my husband doesn’t pay what I feel is enough attention to me (and if you know Z, you know he is pretty much the most attentive husband that has ever existed). I feel unproductive because I am no longer a teacher. I feel embarrassed because I’m not as in shape as I used to be. When we find ourselves discontent in multiple areas of our lives, maybe the issue isn’t our circumstances…. maybe the issue is us.

So what do we do about this? How can we fix this? I can’t say for sure, but here are three things I am trying to do:

-Reset your focus. If we aren’t in the Word, how can we ever expect to center our worth on who God says we are? Simply put: we can’t. Listen y’all, I know this can be a struggle. We’re all busy, and there’s never enough time in the day. But if we want to live content and full lives, meeting with our Creator has got to quit being the first thing that goes when life gets crazy.

-Become a servant. If we feel unproductive and directionless because we don’t know what our role is in this world, then maybe we should start finding ways to serve others. Write a sweet note to your husband each day, send a kind text to a friend, volunteer in your community. I’ve found that when we spend our time focusing on making others feel important, we suddenly feel more valuable as well.

-Give yourself a break. If you’ve just gone through some sort of life change (or if you went through a life change 6 years ago and still haven’t gotten it all figured out) – or if you just don’t feel like yourself these days – then take a deep breath. We aren’t expected to figure everything out right away, and we sure aren’t expected to be perfect. We have a God who even cares for the birds and the lilies; I think He’s more than capable of caring for us.

February Must Haves

I don’t know about you, but if a friend tells me about something they can’t get enough of I just have to try it (unless it’s food that sounds gross, then I just don’t even pretend to be interested). I’m always looking for new things to read, places to go, clothes that will look good, and on and on. So I’ve decided that each month, I’ll share 5 must have items. At least one will be a book, the rest will be random. Here are 5 things I can’t get enough of this month:
#1: Walmart grocery pickup
As a new mom, going to the grocery store is a whole thing. Do I take the baby? Do I leave her with dad? Can I squeeze in a quick trip in between feedings and naps? Walmart grocery gets rid of most of those issues for me. All I do is order my groceries online and then drive to the store. They do literally everything else — get the things, load the things, they even bring you goodies sometimes. It’s incredible. If you haven’t tried it, you should. The only downside is this does take some planning ahead, you have to schedule your pickup usually a day ahead of time. Still worth it though. If you’ve never tried it before, use this code to get $10 off your first order.
#2: Lularoe tights
Let me be clear here and say that I am in the “tights are not pants” camp. They’re just not pants, end of story. But as long as your little hiney is covered, then I say wear all the tights. I recently discovered Lularoe tights, and now I want to just live in them. These pants have cute and funky patterns, and are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. Imagine your favorite pajamas, and multiply that by at least 2. That’s how comfy these tights are, and I don’t even feel like I’m overselling them. You have to buy them from a representative, check my girls out here and here.
#3: H-E-B Texas pecan coffee
If you like coffee, you need to try this kind. I’ll just say this: my in laws don’t have H-E-B, so we legitimately “import” it to them every time we go visit. It’s the best.
Lightweight, adorable, fun. These earrings are made of leather, and dress up even the grungiest tee shirt. On days where I want to feel cute, I put these on.
We take care of our bodies. We exercise, try to eat well, get enough sleep, etc. but do we take the time to take care of our souls? In this book, Judah Smith looks at what it is our souls really need. It’s a must read.
What are you reading? What are some things you can’t get enough of? I’d love to hear…maybe your suggestion will end up in next month’s must haves!