Friday, October 31, 2014

Weekend Retreat

Our fb announcement.

During our celebratory lunch after our first prenatal appt.

My big fisher-girl hooking into something during our camping trip.

Katie and her best friend's daughter, Kaylee.

They take selfies now.  This is my fave.

Happy Halloween!

Oh boy, it's been a long while, hasn't it?  It's been months since I sat down and typed out one of these puppies.  I'd love to tell you I've been off doing some grand thing in my absence from this space.  I'd love to recount the fantastic tales and lessons I've learned in doing so.  But I haven't, really.

For us, this has been a season of gathering ourselves and hunkering down, if you will.  Of big decisions and the leaning into the light, seeking hard after God's will for our life.  We sense that we're at one of those junctures...a fork in the road...where the continuation onto this path or that one will drastically change the trajectory of our life.  Job changes, life callings, buying a home or no.  Things like that.   

So, on second thought, maybe we have been at work on some grand things.

The summer was a crazy blur.  Fun, yes.  Productive?  Not so much.  And, as summer drew to a close, there was this wonderful news.  We're now a couple months into our official homeschooling journey with Katie, and I'm learning so much about myself and her.  We also picked up a few newspaper routes as a way to earn some extra money as a family and have--for the most part--found it incredibly rewarding.  We're now heading into the holiday season, and find myself silly with anticipation over it, as usual.  (Total confession time:  I've made a Christmas music playlist and the kids and I have been listening to it during the day already.) 

And even despite the feeling that so many things are in limbo right now, it's all somehow forced us together in a way.  Smooshed us all onto the same page or something.  It's like we sense that, no matter what happens, our closeness and loyalty to each other and our constant, collective drawing from our one source of strength will ultimately be what we are the most proud of when we look backwards at this time in our life.

Speaking of new seasons, I'd like to try something new with my Weekend Retreat posts.  I've long desired to write a regular post dedicated to the things I've learned.  Learning in any capacity is a passion of mine--always has been--and I'd love to share some of that here.  I was recently inspired by Ashley to do just that.  So I'm going to start doing my retreat post as a monthly thing and also incorporate "What I've Learned This Month."  (I'll be linking up with Emily in doing so...check out her beautiful space, you won't be sorry!)

Here we go...What I've Learned in October:

1.  I'm absolutely in love with the concept of learning at home.  I'd like to go in depth a little more with this in another post all its own, but I just can't help but feel like we've made the right choice to homeschool.  Don't get me wrong...we've had our moments.  Katie is a challenge.  I've sent Scott a text already and announced that I think it's best if we send her to a brick and mortar instead because it's just. not. working!!  (Hello, pregnancy hormones.)  I'm not proud of those moments, but we've endured.  And I've found that, to the same degree it's been one of the hardest things I've ever done, it's also been one of the most rewarding.

2.  As a family, we really do not care about Halloween all that much.  We're not against it or anything, and we do involve ourselves in a few activities, but we've found that we're just kind of going through the motions with it.  For example, today is Halloween.  We haven't carved pumpkins yet because we just simply forgot to.  (We're going to make an effort to squeeze that in later before heading off to trick-or-treat, but it's not going to make or break our night either way.)  The same thing happened last year.  Katie's comment last night sums it up perfectly:  "Is Halloween soon over?  I'm ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas!"  Me too, Katie.  Me too.

3.  Pregnancy is a lot harder than I remember.  It's true.  It's definitely been challenging this time around.  If I'm not exhausted, I'm nauseous.  If I'm neither of those things, I have a headache.  The couch (and Netflix) have been my best friends these days, and the state of my house is a dead giveaway.  Luckily, my family has no problem plopping down next to me to indulge my lazy tendencies.  Together we've binge-watched gems like Restaurant: Impossible, Cake Boss, and Man vs. Food.  And I say oh well.  Survival is the name of the game here lately, and will be for what's left of my first trimester.  I'm clinging (for dear life) to the promise that my mood and energy should improve within the next few weeks.  We shall see.                  

Aaaand with that, we've come to the end of our time together for now.  Before we part, though, I want to thank you for joining me here once again and encourage you to indulge in some of my favorite finds here lately.  Enjoy!

 I love this one.  Ashley delivers on the promise this title suggests and explains why it is we need to stop worrying so much about our "shoulds" and how guilt gets us nowhere.

This one went viral, which is how I stumbled upon it.  These words are beautiful, and I ended up spending an entire afternoon reading Em's blog, which I now follow.  Nothin' but good stuff here.

Because if you're a mommy?  You have guilt.  And we all have a duty, I believe, to remind each other of our bigger purpose here in this crazy life.  This one does such a great job of that.

Guess what one of my big goals is for the new year?  I plan to tackle the phasing out of store-bought cleaning products and move toward homemade.  I've bookmarked this one to help get me started.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Pictorial Debut

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:13-16

Head is to the left!  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Story and An Announcement

We took a family camping trip a couple months ago, and on the way home we saw the funniest thing--a goat. The goat was standing in a field surrounded by grass as tall as its chin. And it was really going to town munching on this grass.

Normal, right?

The thing is, the goat was standing next to a fence. And for whatever reason, the grass that was outside of the fence and way out of reach of this goat was the only grass it was interested in eating. So it stood there--again, surrounded by all this tall grass--and craned and contorted its neck over and under and all around this fence just to get the slightest taste of the grass that grew outside of its fence.

I thought, "Isn't that funny?! What the heck is wrong with that goat?!"

But two more hours in the car, a naturally introspective mind, and an insatiable desire to find an object lesson in everything left me with this realization: I am that darn goat. And this grass-is-greener thing can really creep up on you if you're not careful!

I wrote that as a social media post for Our String of Pearl's Facebook page.

This picture came first:

I had created the image with a plan:  to write a whole post on the subject.  I figured I'd accumulated enough experience to be able to do so. 

This whole thing--the grass is greener thing--had started to creep up on me and it was getting pretty painful.  Here's what that was all about...

We'd been trying to have a baby for two and a half years.  When we began tossing around the idea of growing our family, we had decided that the best thing we could do was give it to God.  So, I stopped getting birth control injections, and we began the process of letting it go.  We assured each other that when--or if--it was time, He would bless us with another child.

Surrender, we found, was so much easier when it was kind of a far-off notion we had just tossed around a few times.

But you could say we got used to the idea.

Liking it, even.

Then it became a desire.  Suddenly we were so sure that a son would perfectly complete our family.  (And therefore, the opposite was true...without a son, our family wouldn't be complete.)  I began counting cycle days and bookmarking articles on conception methods.  Which isn't something there's necessarily anything wrong with.

What was wrong was that our posture had gone from open-handed submission to close-fisted frustration.

Month after month we tried and month after month we were disappointed.

By the beginning of this past summer we were convinced that it just might not happen for us.  And to make matters worse, it seemed like we were surrounded by pregnant women and babies.  Baby boys, to be more specific.  It was torture.

Then God started working on me.

I can't remember exactly what the circumstance was.  If I'm being totally honest, I was probably on Pinterest pinning things to my "Baby Fever" board.  (Yeah, it was that bad.)  But I remember seeing a picture or reading an article or something and--for the first time in a long time--thinking, I've been pregnant twice already.  I have two beautiful, healthy children.  Our family is beautiful and complete just the way it is.

And honestly I believe it was He who whispered this to my heart.

Suddenly I realized that I'd been so obsessed with the desire to conceive another baby that I'd been missing what was right in front of me all along.  I'd been missing the blessings my life was already so full of.  He finally (lovingly) asked me to stop, and thank goodness.

I finally felt free to let go of this picture that I thought was going to be perfect if only--and see what was so perfectly perfect all along.  Free to really see the miracle of my sweet Katie Paige again.  That sweet, strong, determined little lady who is suspended somewhere between being able to pour her own drinks and yet still able to be brought to that baby belly laugh when Daddy tickles her real good.  And my Jyllian Olyvia.  There are times when I look at her and see this incredible young the way she looks, the way she talks, the way that she relates to people.  She's all arms and legs, and her feet grow by the day.  It's hard not to see glimpses of the woman she's becoming, and I love what I see.

And these incredible miracles began in me.  Once upon a time I sat in anticipation, so anxious to meet these two.  I sang to them, talked to them, worried about them.  Felt their first kicks.  Agonized over itchy pregnant bellies and hurting hips.  I willed them into this world and from the moment I laid eyes on them I loved them each more than anyone has ever loved anyone or anything.  They're mine, and they're a gift.

I hate that I spent a single moment forgetting that.

But, back to the camping trip.  That was late July, and by that time my heart had begun to take this turn.  So when I saw the goat on the way home, I immediately recognized that I must look just like it.  Totally ridiculous.  And that was my stance for a little while.  My new normal, which felt a heck of a lot better than the old one.

We stopped trying.  Well, I stopped counting days and all that jazz.

And then...

This test was taken on September 11.  We see the doctor for our first ultrasound tomorrow.  As far as we know, Baby Strouth will be welcomed into the world in early May.  We're so excited and humbled all at the same time.

And as I sit here sick as a dog, I can't help but smile and think how so many times in my life I've been reminded to just. let. go.  Just water the grass where I stand, and He takes care of the rest.  No matter the outcome, it's always perfect.  Always.

What have you been asked to let go of?