To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Friday, April 17, 2015

I've Moved!

Hey readers!!

You're soon going to find this site very, very quiet. That's because I've moved!! I took the plunge and moved to my own self-hosted website.

Come on over to my new website and give it a look. Get familiar and make yourself comfortable, as that's where I'll be posting all of my content going forward.

I just want to thank you for being such a loyal member of my Mind Mumbles community and following me along each step of my journey.

Be blessed, and remember: Bookmark it, join the email list, and we'll see you there!

Friday, April 10, 2015

730 Days of Moments

Two years. Two years, Harlynn. April 9th, we learned you had already left us before we ever got to see your blue eyes, hear your cries....anything. 12:16 a.m. April 10th, you were delivered. And all was silent.

These last two years have become a collage of moments. There is no measurement of time anymore, outside of "before we lost Harlynn" or "after we lost Harlynn". Just a window where moments come and go - either waiting to be remembered, or forcing their way to the path of reliving. 

I don't have lengthy memories of the sequence, or the exact events - just snippets of moments that tend to replay themselves in my mind since April made its appearance. Moments I can't forget, nor do I want to. Moments that haunt me, and moments that swell my heart with hope and anticipation of seeing you again.

The moment the doctor said "I'm so sorry."

The moment my water broke.

The moment the doctor asked your daddy if he wanted to cut the cord, and the nurse asked if I wanted to hold you.

The moment I felt your weight upon my chest.

The moment your daddy held you, longing to startle life back into those lungs.

The moment I kissed your hand. Your forehead. Held your toes.

The moment my OB held me in her arms as I wept. The moment another held my face in her hands.

The moment we had people surrounding us in our hospital room, just to love us. 

The moment your sister came to see you, and we had to tell her what happened.

The moment Granny held you in her arms, looking at you so lovingly and shaking her head in disbelief.

The moment I kissed your forehead for the last time.

The moment we had to choose your casket.

The moment my best friend came walking up my driveway, after driving 700 miles to be there for me.

The moment I met Michelle at your visitation.

The moment I placed my hand upon your closed casket lid, knowing you were inside, separated only by a lid of fabric - but we were already worlds apart.

The moment my boss came to the visitation and hugged me, with tears in his own eyes.

The moment your sister yelled at her cousins to be quiet, because you were "sleeping". 

The moment the snow storm caused us to reschedule your funeral.

The moment we walked to the front of the church, and I had no idea how my legs were able to move. I didn't want to take that walk.

The moment right before we started down the aisle, and I saw Dana's face, and somehow knew how very loved we were, and how very supported we would be from that point forward.

The moment your namesake, Mr. Harlan, read scripture at your service.

The moment your daddy picked up your casket to carry outside, and released a heart wrenching wail. 

The moment we placed your tiny casket in the huge hearse.

The moment we hugged person after person inside that church, and I couldn't believe so many had come, but I was so glad they were there.

The moment we carried you to the little cemetery riser.

The moment the sun peeked through the clouds.

The moment I had to turn and walk away from you, and I hated myself for not being able to crawl in the ground with you.

The moment we sang in church, and Beth put her hands on my back as I wept.

The first time I tried to go to the cemetery, but couldn't because of the flood preparation barriers. 

The second time I tried to go to the cemetery, and it was the same story.

The third time, and the first time I got to sit by your grave.

The times your sister blew bubbles for you.

The time someone left a care package, from you to us, on your grave. The purple egg with the purple mini koosh ball inside sits inside my desk drawer, and I pull it out every time I need a little smile.

The moment your daddy went out in the cold to take pictures of the brightest moon I had ever seen, because it made us feel a tinge closer to you.

The moment Michelle told me "I think we should start Harlynn's Heart."

The moment my friends sat in my living room, to give me a check to start your legacy, and everyone prayed together. 

The moment we had a thank-you party, and sent balloons your way. 

The first time I spoke to a group about stillbirth, and shared your story. I could hardly talk through the tears.

The first time I had a dream about you.

The first time I felt like I could pray again.

The moment I went with Michelle to help a family grieve the loss of baby Mauriana. 

Every moment I've been with a bereaved family since.

The moment we met seven other amazing couples at Faith's Lodge, and the moment I saw my first tick.

The moments - and there are several - when your sister will tell me she misses you.

The moment we got the most beautiful gift, of a frame of four canvased pictures of you.

So many moments. So many memories. So much heartache. So much hope. So many ups, and so many downs. Two years. 

Two years.

So tonight, I bought those mini chocolate donuts I constantly craved while I was pregnant with you. I'll have them for breakfast in your honor. Tomorrow, we'll take you a cupcake. I even found purple frosting. We'll sing happy birthday - if Mama can get through it. We'll send you more balloons.

And not just tomorrow, but forever and always, we'll be missing you. Loving you. Longing to be with you again.

In the mean time, take a peek down here and see how many people are supporting us. If God lets you scroll through Facebook, get a load of all the profile pictures that are all in your honor, baby girl. We are so loved. I don't understand it. I don't deserve it. But I am so beyond thankful for it. Because oh how I need it. 

My heart hurts so very much. But it also hopes far more than it did in those first moments after we had to say goodbye to you. When it's my turn to walk through those pearly gates, I'll fall down in worship to the One who got me through each of these moments and then some. I'll praise Him and be completely awestruck by His love and power and then I'll say, Lord....Where is my Harlynn?

Happy birthday, my love. Not one single day, not one single moment passes without you being thought of, missed, and desperately loved.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Broken Together: My Husband Does Not Complete Me

Twelve years we've been married. Twelve years. Well, not yet, but in another couple of months. I was going to save this post for our anniversary, but I'm kind of an impatient person. 

A lot of people lost bets after we made it past the five year mark. We struggled mightily through year six. And seven. (and year one, and two, and...) And here we are, year 12. We've been together (more or less) for the last 14 years. That's a long time when you're as young and care-free as I am. And I'm pretty young. Like...pretty young. In my heart. 

I'm madly in love with my husband. He makes me laugh. He pretty much cracks me up. A lot. He holds me when I'm feeling down. He hugs me for no reason. He compliments my cooking. And my outfits. He gives me butterflies in my stomach. Either because he makes me giddy, or irate. We shuffle between those two reasons from time to time. He's super handsome, has a million dollar smile, and big strong arms. He was the only person I wanted by my side, every minute, after we lost Harlynn. I could not have survived life after losing her without him. My husband, in my eyes, is kind of a big deal. 

I love my husband more than I thought I could love any man. Ever.

But he does not complete me.

Wonderful as he is, my husband has flaws. He has shortcomings. He disappoints me from time to time. We argue. We disagree. We have bouts of intense fellowship. He screws up. He makes mistakes. He's even wrong once in a while. 

If I, as a greatly flawed individual trust that another greatly flawed individual will complete me, my hopes in that "you complete me" junk will leave me nothing more than a sour taste of brutal disappointment

Brent is a smart guy. Really smart. Sometimes he's so smart it makes me angry. Like when we're arguing about something and he's so busy making so much sense with his smartness, he doesn't understand that I just need a hug and some M&Ms. He's smart enough to know, though, that he cannot complete me. Nor does he want to even try. Can you imagine the burden of that responsibility? The overwhelming pressure and expectation of first, finding all my faults and flaws and then working overtime to compensate for those - all for me? Forget about fixing yourself or having any issues - you have to complete ME. My needs. My shortcomings. You have to make up the difference in whatever I lack.

No way. No. Way.

Relationships aren't easy. They aren't even romantic. There are sometimes, romantic things that happen within a relationship, but the relationship itself is not romantic. It's messy. And confusing. And a lot of work to maintain. You can take a walk in the park, which might be romantic, but you can't expect your relationship to function as if it, as its own entity, were a walk in the park. Come back down to earth here for a minute.

Brent and I have been together for a long time. I know he isn't perfect (no matter how close he may come at times.) We all know I'm not perfect. Both Brent and I know, appreciate, and understand that neither of us could complete the other. Please tell me you understand the same regarding your relationship?

There is only One perfect being - that being Jesus Christ - who could complete us. Yet we struggle so often when others disappoint us. When others let us down. Because they should love us enough to know better. They should have known how their words or actions would affect us. They're supposed to be our other (or better) half. Without this person, I am only half the person I would have been before I realized I needed another half a person to spend my time with.

Wait, what?

You've heard it said before that marriage isn't 50/50. It's 100/100. If two people each buy half a sandwich and mush them together, they don't have a whole sandwich. They still have two halves of sandwiches. If you're an incomplete person, mushing yourself together with another person isn't going to make a whole person. It's going to make your life complicated and insane and you're gonna have to understand a thing or two about communication, fighting fair, and what it means to commit. You can't just go mushing around with people expecting to be made whole. Stop the mushing.

There is going to be so much hurt, heartache, and suffering that you'll endure in life. Don't expect another person to complete you - in those times especially - but choose wisely who you'll allow to carry your heart for you in those moments when you can't. Choose who you'll want by your side when the only thing you see is pain. Choose who you'll allow to see you in your most vulnerable moments, and who will help you - not live for you, but help you - come out the other side of that tunnel. And if you have your person, stop expecting them to do the completing for you. Meet them in the middle. As much as you need support and understanding, they need twice as much. Well, Brent needs twice as much, because he's stuck with me. 

I love my husband. I would fight, die, and haunt someone for him. He has some weird different habits, and he doesn't do everything the way I do. He raps in his sleep. (Okay, it was one time, but it was hilarious.) He knows too much about things other than how to not shrink my brand new shirts. But I love him. To the moon and back. To the ends of the earth. I would eat a mushroom for him. *shudder* But he does not complete me.

This song - this awesome, captivating, amazing song - makes me cry. Of course, a lot of things make me cry. But listen to this song. And keep a tissue nearby just in case.

Brent and I are both broken people. That's why we have Jesus. And because we have Jesus, we're able to hold on tighter to each other. Loving Jesus together completes our marriage. Our family. Not because of anything we do on our own. But because of everything we're able to do through Him

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Taking Over The World One Science Lesson At A Time

An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The law of inertia. Even more amazing than the scientific law itself, is that I remember it at all. High school wasn't all lost on me. What's super cool is sometimes we don't even realize something is in motion until we look back and see all the ripples leading back to the very first step of action.

In this case, it was a shortcoming of mine. For whatever reason, I didn't make it in to the local United Way's women's leadership 35 Under 35 program the first time I applied. I was crushed, to say the least, and didn't even want to apply again the next year. I didn't have anything to offer more than what I had showcased the year prior. Buckling under the encouragement of my boss, however, I begrudgingly sent my application in again. I wound up getting the call I had been accepted. Class of 2012 counted me as a participant. 

I met 34 other women who, with their unique and individual qualities and talents, propelled and inspired me to do, plan, and pursue goals I wouldn't have otherwise. When we lost Harlynn, they rallied around me and supported me in ways I still can't quite grasp, and will never be able to repay. So many awesome friendships came to be - and not even during the program. It was later when the buds of common interests started to bloom into the relationships they are today.

One of my fellow classmates, Kristin, invited me to a painting party last July. Paint and sip parties are such a trendy phenomenon right now, and I had been wanting to do one for quite a while. I was so excited to be able to go, and quickly submitted my RSVP. 

After I arrived, the first instruction given was to choose our paint colors. I almost had a panic attack. I am super creative... when I am given exact instructions to follow. This meant I had to come up with my own color scheme, and the mere thought gave me anxiety. After avoiding hyperventilating and taking my sweet time in arranging my colors just so, I was able to relax and enjoy myself as I painted the most morbid looking flower I've ever seen in my life. But oh my goodness, it was so much fun.

Within a day or so, I contacted the woman who led the painting party, and asked if I could talk to her more about becoming a guide. I am no artist, but I am really good at following instructions - and all instructions for the paintings are provided. I would just have to tell people which brush to use for which part of the painting, and we would all create our own masterpieces. Along with getting me out of the house every now and again, it would give me the opportunity to do what I love most: be the center of attention. Obviously, I had to sign up. Thus birthed my hobby-career as an Independent Gallery Guide with Gallery on the Go. (And I've gotten a lot better with a brush since then...)

Not more than a month later, my job was waning. Eventually, I was set free and left wondering how I could provide for my family without having to leave them behind every day. We stressed and struggled for a brief while, though God so powerfully provided for us in so many ways, I'm almost ashamed for feeling stressed to begin with. He has never left us or abandoned us, yet I woke every day questioning how we were going to survive from one financial crisis to the next. We didn't hit one crisis during that time. Not one. People followed God's nudging in so many ways, and we were always taken care of. Thank you, God. And sorry about that whole doubting thing...

Maria, founder of GOTG, gave me a call one afternoon to see how I was doing with my new-found painting business. I told her I had just lost my job, and painting parties were my only source of income. Not knowing anything about my work history, she offered up information on a business owned by a friend of hers. She told me if I looked into it, she would vouch for me. Not knowing anything about my work history. She just up and offered a resource and a reference. Seriously. She's nuts. (And I love her for it.)

I went to the website ( and filled out the application, knowing it was probably a long shot. I was in Corporate America my entire career, and this virtual stuff was surely beyond me. It didn't hurt to apply though, and get my resume spruced up. It would be super cool, though, doing the things they built their business on...

I've been a Virtual Assistant through PVA since November. I have three clients and I earn my living doing things I'm passionate about and enjoy doing. I write. I make fun pictures. I scour the internet for words of wisdom and content ideas. I make friends. I learn something new every day. I work for people I truly adore, and can't imagine not having as part of my life. It's a job that's been waiting for me since that acceptance letter was received, stating I was a participant of the 2012 35 Under 35 program. 

I met Kristin at the appointed time, we developed a friendship that blossomed when we both needed each other, and she invited me to a painting party. I signed up to be a guide. I spoke to Maria. She had a friend who owned a business. The business owner, Trivinia, not only called me, but showed such a display of confidence in my abilities, I now work for PVA. That single painting party shaped my entire career. Are you understanding how out-of-this-world-awesome this is?

God's plan tends to stay in motion until He carries it through to completion. It's not so much the law of inertia as it is the substance of His love and mercy for us. There are no coincidences. There is no happenstance. When things don't happen for a reason (like me not being in the 2011 class), it's because things are going to happen for a different, more purposeful reason. When plans don't go our way, it doesn't mean they aren't going to work out HIS way. For He knows the plans He has for us. (Jer. 29:11)

The ripple effect. The law of inertia. Whatever it is, whatever you want to attribute it to, everything has a starting point and that point not only got you to where you are today, but will guide you to where you'll be tomorrow. That starting point is His love and care of each of us. For you. Even for me.

A rejection letter. A painting party. An entire livelihood. He makes no mistakes. Dear God, help me remember you make no mistakes.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

If you know of anyone who is looking for help in their entrepreneurial venture, have them contact Trivinia. She has a God-given gift of placing clients with the VA who will help them further develop their platform, and launch their success. 

And if you want to paint, even if you're a neurotic perfectionist like me, let's chat

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Farewell 1005's done. The house is sold. We don't have to run over there for more of our belongings, or to make minor repairs or adjustments, or to clean, or to do anything. It's in the name of another owner and starting a new journey under new care. No more house.

As we stood in the kitchen one final time yesterday, I grabbed Brent and choked back tears saying, "I feel like we should pray. For the new owner, for the blessing this house has been to us, and for listening for God's leading in our next steps." So he prayed. And I cried as he prayed about the memories made within those walls. The kitties. The children. The laughter. The intense fellowship. The eight years of everything we had known, breathed, and woke for.

After his "Amen", I opened the door to the basement stairwell and pointed to the jamb that contained all the pencil ticks and dates marked for Little Miss' growth over the years. I said, "Please take a picture of that." and I turned and walked out of the house for the last time.

I headed to the front, my nose still red and splotchy from crying, and took one final snapshot. That No more.

More memories came flooding in. Those hedges were my project each spring and summer. It was my job to keep the front landscape looking nice. I loved it. A lot of sweat equity went into those plants. That doorstep, that my Dad helped us repair to aesthetic glory, is where I sat - in that same sweatshirt - to snap this picture that encapsulated everything I felt and experienced after losing Harlynn.

Once the tears started, it was hard to get them to stop. Don't get me wrong, we were relieved to be moving and freed from debt and the responsibilities of homeownership. It was a prayer I had been praying for the last five years at least, as I felt we were busting at the seams with Little Miss's arrival. Even still, that was our first house. Our first steps to raising a family. Our first yard. Our first check to a mortgage company instead of a landlord. For eight years, which at this point is 3/4 of our married life, we ate, slept, and breathed within those walls. It was tough to just walk away from it. So final.

At the closing, we were in the room autographing legal-speak papers for all of 10 minutes. We were handed the check, and we were done. So final.

We made the rounds in town paying off our loans and debts. We are debt-free. It hasn't sunk in yet, and I feel like I'm still just waiting for the bills to come in. But they won't. They're done. Paid off. We owe nothing. We owe no one. (Except I owe you your $5 change, Joy! I haven't forgotten!) It's so surreal. All of it.

Yesterday was such an emotionally taxing day and we were so spent. I asked Brent if he would just pick us up something "lazy" for dinner. We had celebratory Chinese food. Nothing says "I'm so done for the day" quite like chicken lo mein and pork won tons. 

We put the kids to bed, I picked up a few things around the apartment that don't quite have their place yet, and I got a text from my husband, sitting across the room.

Oh honey. The door jamb!! With Little Miss' growth marks! NOT THE STAIRWELL!! Spousal communication at its finest. This not only represents an era gone by, but it represents we still have a long way to go in being the perfect couple. Praise Jesus anyway.

*Sigh*  At least we have this picture to remember our daughter's life in that house... It is a pretty spectacular stairwell. God bless it...

And now, we turn the page. A new chapter is being written. And we patiently wait to read along and see how the story ends.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Double Life

Most people would love to own more than one home, right? Vacation in this one, live in that one, rent out this one... While the appearance of owning multiple homes is attractive, I'm not so sure it's something I'd ever look into should I have the means to afford the endeavor.

Right now, we're between two places. Our home sold, so we've moved into an apartment. We've been moving, I should say. Closing is tomorrow, but it's been an intense few weeks of getting things moved, stored, and fixing whatever we needed to at the house. While we're focusing on that, we're also focusing on making this new place our home, getting it comfortable, settled, and functional. We're stressed, a little testy, and burdened by the chore of it all.

It's a lot of work to keep up with two places! Both my husband and I have shared with one another that we will be incredibly relieved - elated, even - to have the sale of the house behind us and be able to spend our focus and energies on only one dwelling. Tomorrow morning, good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, that will be our story. 

These last several days, I've realized I'm kind of caught in this place - stuck between two places - in my own life. The house, being representative of Harlynn, and the apartment, representative of the present and future.

The house was what we had planned on having. Our hopes, dreams, and ways to make them all happen, were strategically planned out from within those walls. 

The apartment is everything we have, after those plans didn't happen. Not a bad result, just one far different from what we anticipated, and after the only thing we kept holding on to was our faith, after letting go of our will.

I'm stuck between those two places.

We planned on having Harlynn, bringing her home, having her and her sister argue over princess dress up clothes and baby dolls. Her life did not go according to our plan.

We planned on buying another house. That also did not go according to our plan.

Here we are, in a three bedroom apartment, serenaded by sounds of hipster music (is that what the kids call it nowadays?) and backpacks. Lots of backpacks. And trucks. So many pick up trucks. Who knew apartment living was so attractive to the pick up types?

I'm muddling through. Truly muddling. Trying to find a new place for all of our old belongings. Unpacking box after box (after box, after box...) and questioning the significance of everything we've acquired over time. Having all of Harlynn's mementos here with us, but not having the faintest clue what to do with them. 

I'm finding papers and files from years gone by that give me pause in remembering what I thought my life would be at that point, and beyond.

I'm finding things I thought were lost, and not finding things I know I intended to keep (I'm not pointing fingers, but... Hubs?). I'm finding phone chargers. Tons and heaps of phone chargers.

And I'm finding that it's so much easier to just be in one place. I've been spending these last 23 months incorporating my life into Harlynn's legacy, and likewise, incorporating her legacy into my life, but never living as if the two were a part of the same me. 

Now I see, they are. It's far more fulfilling to have one life. One home. One place. 

As I enter this season - this one that's always mixed for me - I'm trying to bring everything together in one me. Not the grieving me, or the mothering me, or the wife me, but just me.

March brings the birthday of our firstborn, who had her own dramatic entrance into this world and spent the first month of her life in the NICU. I always go back to that trauma we experienced, and seeing her today just blows my mind. What a little lady - a Little Miss - she has become. 

April brings the anniversary of losing Harlynn, and the birthday of our Little Man. 

It's quite the season for me. And there will be lots of tears. But I'm not going to separate the emotions out into compartments (or boxes, sticking with the moving theme). Everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen later on is all a part of one me. One life. 

No more making things harder on myself than they have to be. I'm settling in and finding out how to live here. Now. It's far easier living in one place.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Weight of Seasons

It's another season of feeling the intense weight of Harlynn's absence. As we pack up our home and decide what stays with us, stores until we buy another home, or parts with us altogether, I'm tangibly revisiting every stage of our lives from the last eight (and more) years. Anytime I happen to touch anything having to do with Harlynn, I linger on it a little longer. I hold it close. I don't want to pack it into a box, but rather, cuddle up with it on the sofa and douse it with a good cry.

It's been almost 23 months. Just shy of two years. Yet, often even still, I have trouble accepting this is my life.

I have trouble believing that night ever happened. I have trouble believing it's possible for babies to die. I have trouble believing an active baby, who apparently loved church music and chocolate donuts, isn't here to trample her toys. Isn't here to be Anna to Little Miss's Elsa. Isn't here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a particularly difficult day with life in general. I was grumpy, I was tired, and I just wanted to take a nap. During lunch Little Miss hesitantly began speaking. "Mama..."  I braced myself for a bargaining session on what treat she could have if she finished all her lunch, or for an inquiry on the possibility of skipping nap time that afternoon. Instead, after I curtly answered "What." her thoughts were brought to light. "I'm missing Harlynn today."

Me too, sweetie. Me too.

I have a younger sister. I was so excited when I learned she would, too. The games of school, the imaginative tea parties, the car trips, the clothes sharing, the matching dresses and pigtails... It was going to be as precious as anyone could have hoped for.

Now Little Miss's younger sister rests in a cemetery across town. 

Our middle child. Her younger sister. The sister Little Man will never have seen. 

The picture taken that fateful day of Brent holding both his daughters is one that tears my heart to shreds. The beauty, for one, mixed with the evident sorrow - I can't quite handle it. So many dreams and hopes left unfulfilled. So many moments cut down to one. One moment. One picture. One.

Packing our home and moving is the beginning of a new chapter. A new adventure. That said, the story hasn't changed; it has only just continued. We don't turn this page and forget about all the pages previous. We don't leave her out of our story. We don't edit her out of our subsequent chapters. She shapes our story. She shapes our whole current purpose. Who we are as parents. As a family. As friends to fellow bereaved.

On what would have been Harlynn's first birthday, I was in the hospital, warding off premature labor with her younger brother. I didn't do any of the things I had planned in order to commemorate that day. This year, I hope to do those and then some. I hope to make a tradition for Little Miss and Little Man to remember Harlynn with us. There might even be cake. I find it important to celebrate her, and to remember the joy and anticipation she provided in our lives in the months leading up to her delivery. 

I find it important to remember how Little Miss would sing to her each night at bedtime. How she would pick out stuffed animals and tell us which ones she would share with her baby sister. 

I find it important to show that while we continue to grieve and venture this life without her, she isn't a source of pain for us. She never was. Her death has brought intense heartache and emotional turmoil, but her life was and is always a source of joy. Celebration. 

It's important to celebrate her.

I suppose that's part of why I'm struggling putting these mementos in a box. Packing these items makes her not being here feel so much darker. I find solace in the fact the packing will only be temporary. Not near as lasting as her absence. I know they'll be among the first of the boxes I unpack once we're moved.

And just as I let the moments and memories linger with each touch of her belongings now, I'll tarry on in unpacking the same treasures after our move.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

When Being Enough Isn't Enough

At least a dozen or more times a year, I see articles of varying phrases but similar points floating through my social media feed. The underlying theme is to not beat yourself up when you can't get it all done the way you wanted to, because "being Mom is enough."

The first few thousand times I read these articles I felt relief. Finally! Someone understands! Then I kept reading them, and the sense of understanding switched from giving myself a break once in a while, to just being okay with the mediocre. The kids are alive, and that's all anyone can expect of a stay-at-home-mom, right? Keep on keepin' on, and don't beat yourself up when you're all having Cheerios for dinner. Again.

Okay...but...really? The more I read these sentiments, the more bothered I became. Sometimes just being "enough" isn't enough. 

Working from home definitely has it's perks and bonuses, but it's no walk in the park, either. Children, home, and my personal life are constantly beckoning for me, needing my immediate attention. My phone calls or video conference meetings rarely happen without me having to get up to change a diaper, calm a crying child, or refill the goldfish crackers. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new meaning when you're feeding a baby, taking notes, and trying to create a marketing plan while not tripping over the mounds of unfolded laundry. 

I've said before that physical clutter gives me mental clutter. If my home is in disarray, so is my mind, which means I can't focus or function until the clutter is cleared. It's not because I'm anal about being clean, or I'm trying to impress others with any white-glove tendencies. It's because my brain shuts down if I don't pick up the toys or do the dishes. When those things can't get done, nothing else gets done, either. 

Clean gives me calm, and calm gives me creativity, and creativity gets me cash. I have to have an orderly home. 

Little Miss has a terrible time picking up by herself, but she loves to help if we're doing the same thing. I can unload the dishwasher with her, pick up toys from the floor with her, and even fold laundry with her. Not only are we being productive, but she's learning a lot about how to keep up after herself, and the importance of a clean, comfortable living space.

There are plenty of days where they only thing I accomplish is getting spit up on, stirring the cheese powder into the hot macaroni noodles, and praying for my husband to come home from work ten minutes earlier. Those are the days where I'm "enough". Sometimes no matter what I do, or how much I plan otherwise, those days just happen. And so long as it isn't every day, I can accept that. 

There are weeks I've spent my entire Saturday working, in an effort to make up the hours I couldn't be productive in work during the week. Being only enough to keep the family fed and clothed cost me a day to spend care-free with all of them on the weekend. 

There are times (only one time, I swear) when the laundry doesn't get washed, let alone folded, and the wife might have had to wear a pair of her husband's briefs because she had no clean underwear in the entire house. Only being "enough" doesn't get the underwear washed. That's something I don't want to have to experience again.

There are times we've made it through the entire day before I look up and realize I still have to feed everyone dinner, and I have nothing prepared and no brain cells left to think of something to cook. That's when the take out comes in, or the pizza gets ordered. Lately that's been happening more often than I'd care for, and my husband's and my waistlines are certainly paying the price. I lost so much weight after Little Man was born and felt so good about it - I don't want to gain it all back because I could only be "enough". 

I can't make every day magic. I'm not under the illusion (see what I did there?) that every day will be awesome and I can be Mommy, Wifey, and Employee perfectly at every turn. There are crap days. There are days where the unexpected rips the world from right underneath you. There are days you have to wear your husband's underwear. But I don't want those days to be the standard. I don't want to look back and say, "At least I got up and fed everybody today." 

I want to know I did everything in my power to be everything I wanted to be. I set out to get work done and gave that project my absolute all. I sat down to write the best article I could think of. I cooked a tasty meal for my family that will have positive bearing on our waistline and our overall health, for that matter. I washed and folded the daggum laundry, so we all had appropriate clothing to wear. I got up and read my Bible and said a prayer that was something other than, "Please God, let them go to sleep...." I want to close every day knowing I did my best, on purpose, for a purpose

Sometimes being enough is all we can manage. But it shouldn't be all we strive for. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a very important meeting with a Little Man who needs some pureed squash...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stranger Danger

I feel like I might have told this story before, but instead of admitting to having a poor memory, I'm just going to say this is what we, in the blogging world, refer to as "repurposed content". Allow me to do some repurposing.

If you've been following this blog for any significant amount of time, you're aware I spent a majority of my working life in Wyoming as a server. My boss, Julie, was a powerhouse mentor and taught me so much about life - and I guarantee you she has no idea I consider her such an influence. She was just the real deal. The kitchen staff taught me how to take myself a little less seriously and be confident in my abilities. Yes, the kitchen staff. They weren't teachers; most of them were on work-release. But they embraced life, and while we didn't share the same choices or passions, we shared an enthusiasm for actively pursuing all we held important. 

When I wore that apron, I became not just a server, but a friend. When diners would come in, they weren't just hungry people. They were customers. Well, most of them. Let's be honest, there were some real doozies of tables, but there were some really special people who walked in those doors. There was one family who came each summer from Kentucky, and would request me by name to wait on them. I was their adopted family in their home-away-from-home. There were the regulars who shared jokes and trials throughout the week. There were friends who would come in for a burger and conversation. Few people were strangers by the time their meal was done.

The first year Brent and I were married, I called him from work one night to ask a very risky, out-there question. This is that story.

One Saturday evening, I was waiting on a table of three college guys. I remember one was named Pat, and one was named Eric. This was many moons ago, and I forget the name of the third guy. Jared? Alex? I suppose now I have to fess up to the poor memory thing. They were from somewhere in South Dakota (I think?) and on a poor-man's tour of the states, trying to take in the sights before heading back to school from break. It was either very late fall, or early winter, and it was cold outside. Not the most ideal time for travel, but they were having fun with their journey anyway. 

At some point in serving their meal, I asked them where in town they were staying. To my shock and horror, they told me they had planned to sleep in their car in the WalMart parking lot. I've never been great at hiding how I feel, and when they saw the look on my face, Pat grew a little concerned and asked, "What....will someone hurt us if we sleep there?" Probably not. But it was cold. And they were three guys. Sleeping in a car was just wrong. In the cold. In a parking lot (where I had quite an experience). I told them I had to make a phone call, and I would be right back.

I walked over to the cashier's counter and used the phone to call my husband. I started out with, "Please don't think I'm crazy." You know it's gonna be a good phone call when your wife leads off with those words. 

Y'all, as those guys were telling me their plans to sleep in a parking lot, I was overcome with a physical burden. A literal weight rested upon my shoulders, and this inaudible voice told me, "You know what to do." I didn't. I didn't want to know. These were strangers. Male strangers. They outnumbered me, and even with my husband, we were still outnumbered. "You know what to do." 

I told my husband I felt like the Lord was impressing upon me it was our responsibility to house these men for the night. In our two-bedroom apartment. With no way to defend ourselves should they turn out to be murdering psychopaths who were actually running from the law, and not on an innocent sight-seeing venture.

My husband, God bless him, said, "If you feel like this is what the Lord is telling you to do, I am in no position to stop you. I don't like all...but I trust you."

Heart Mountain: One of my favorite landmarks in Wyoming...home.

I walked back to the table and looking each of them in the eye, offered them the opportunity to stay with us that night. One of them responded with, "I don't know....are you like a murdering psychopath?" I took it as a positive sign we were both scared of that possibility of the other. That meant it wasn't likely anyone was going to die that night. I told them to talk it over, but that I had really felt like the Lord was prompting me to invite them. And we had heat. And they could spread out. And I would make pancakes for breakfast.

After work, those three guys piled in to their car and followed me home. They came in, we got them situated with bedding, and Pat called his dad. Brent overheard him saying, "I'm going to have to tell you the whole story later. But we're staying in a stranger's apartment right now. It's crazy. But it's good."

The next morning, all of us woke up (no one was murdered in the night), and I followed through on my promise of pancakes. We got ready for the day, and they followed us to church. I'm not sure how the invitation even came about, but they went with us to church. During church, the preacher invited us to turn to the book of Acts. Pat grabbed a Bible, started thumbing through, then turned to us and asked in a whisper, "Is this in alphabetical order or something?" I reached over and turned the pages to the appropriate place for him. 

Afterwards, we all had lunch together (I'm pretty sure my parents treated us - yes, they even met my parents) and they were on their way. 

I've never seen nor heard from them since. That said, I think of and pray for them often. Quite often. I pray Pat questioned why the Bible wasn't in alphabetical order enough to crack it open and read it for content rather than categorization. I pray they were touched by the church service that morning. I pray when they recount the events of their trip, they think "why would someone open their home to three complete strangers?" and the answer would lead them to Jesus. I pray they liked the pancakes. I pray, all these years later, that one night led them to a new life in forgiveness and freedom.

I pray, also, that I would continue to be open and trusting to the Lord's calling of hospitality. It is so important that we open our homes and our hearts to shower others with love and fellowship. Real fellowship. Not just coffee, or play dates, but intimate times of sharing and authentic community. Hospitality.

I don't recommend just inviting anyone and everyone into your home and putting yourself at risk of harm. I am suggesting, however, you trust God and His plans for who He places in your path and upon your heart. Those three strangers have no idea the lasting impact they left on this lady. 

And seriously, let's give a hand for my husband, who trusts the Lord leads his wife to do crazy things, and supports me in those wild ventures...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ten Things I Almost Stopped Hoping For

Oh boy. Here goes. I'm doing a study in Malachi right now. One of the previous assignments was to make a list of 10 things you've "almost stopped hoping for."  Almost stopped? Almost. The kind of hope that hurts when you admit you have it, but you don't want to give it up completely because you desire it with every fiber of your being. The kind of hope you just can't let go of, because it would diminish that dream and cause you to question why you ever hoped for it to begin with. The kind of hope that remains a flicker for those "just in case" possibilities. Ten things I almost stopped hoping for. Almost.

The assignment went on to suggest sharing that list with a few close Christian friends. No way, I thought. How embarrassing to let anyone in to the inner-most depths of my personal dreams.

Why embarrassing? Because someone else probably dreams better. Bigger. More relevant. More spiritual. More obtainable. More significant. Because someone else dreams different, and that makes me completely insecure.

So I'm blogging about it. For all. the. world. to. see. It's terrifying. And liberating. And out there. And making me a little bit nauseous. 

I wrote this list just over two weeks ago. Three days later, items one (a different house) and two (being debt free) became a stark reality, when our house sold without us even listing it. Two items - boom, boom - fulfilled. Please tell me that excites you a little bit, and you can sense the incredible significance? Items one and two, marked off my list, within days of putting down in writing I had almost lost hope for them completely.

Number three, a reliable vehicle for Brent. Our entire relationship, he has driven some doozies. I just want him to have a car or a truck or a tank or a bus that will keep him safe, that won't nickel and dime us, and that he can haul our most precious cargo - our children - in, without wondering if he'll make it across town.

Four. A book deal. I have no idea how to go about pursuing one. I don't have a book written. Or started. But I want to write one, and I want someone else to want me to write one. I want to tell God's story in a way that He has shown us His existence and presence. I want to put it in black and white. I want people to look past my author picture and see His bigger picture of love and life for them. 

Five. Being invited to speak. I speak at several events and gatherings, but because I volunteer, excitedly, and say, "I'll do it! I'll speak!" Some day, somewhere, someone will say, "You know who would deliver that message well? Val. Let's ask her."

Six. A sense of style. Lord help me. I don't know how to dress, accessorize, or shop. I text pictures of my outfits to friends and say, "Can I wear this?" and then they text back and say, "No. No, you cannot." and I try again. I just want to look as put together as the mannequins in the window, but that seems so much harder than it looks.

Seven. A trip to Ireland. One of the only countries I've ever wanted to visit enough to motivate me to get a passport. I still don't have a passport. But if I did, I would want the first stamp to be my trip to Ireland. Something about the green grass and the sheep and Riverdance. I don't know, I just want to go.

Eight. Taking a cruise. Wait, do I need a passport? The cruise I most want to take, and won't require a passport, is to Alaska. I just can't imagine. The beauty, the Bering Sea, the bears. Cruise me to Alaska.

Nine. Meeting Angie Smith and Mary Beth Chapman. Both married to men who I've always wanted to sing with (which I've totally lost all hope for; I just don't see it will ever happen.) and both mothers knowing the inexplicable pain of losing a daughter so loved and cherished, and finding a way to cling to God through the journey of life without her. I want to meet them. I want to hug them. I want to sit in Nashville, at the Pancake Pantry, and laugh and cry, and dribble my syrup in front of them. I want to take a picture of us, the three amigas, with our cute little scarves (that my friend texted approval of and said I could wear). I want to pray with, for, and beside them. I want to soak up their encouragement. They have helped me in ways they'll never realize, but their lives have been a completely palpable well of strength to draw from in my own journey.

Ten. A routine at home that always works. There won't be an always, because there is an exception to every rule. But I want a routine that actually stays a routine. I want to wake up in the morning by my alarm, and crack open my Bible before I crack open my Facebook feed. I want to have time to pray over and prepare for my day before getting breakfast ready. I want to shower and get dressed and have my hair dry before my 9:00 a.m. meetings. I want to play with my kids and read them stories. I want to be productive. With work. With laundry. With meals. With dusting. Lord, the dust... I want to have slotted time for snacks and Candy Land and baths. I want to not chase my tail and wonder, at the end of every day, why I'm so tired. 

So I was excited when the first two were seemingly knocked off my list! Maybe there is hope for the rest! Right?

Confession time. We hit a bump in our road. Since I'm an independent contractor (self-employed), we can't count my income toward a mortgage until I've been at it for two years. I've been at it for two months. The homes we were considering, we don't qualify to purchase. We'll be renting for a while. Perhaps a long while. This was a sucker punch. A blow to the ego. A deflating feeling. How could we have just sold our home and now not be able to buy one we need? I was frustrated. I was doubtful. I shook my figurative fist to the heavens and questioned how He could let this happen. The plan was to spread out! Give ourselves some elbow room! Now we may have to rent for more than six months? We may have to downsize even further and for longer? And all for information I would have loved to have known before we accepted an offer on our home!

I stopped. Right in my tracks, I stopped. I am the one who has been verbalizing messages of encouragement. To keep trusting. To keep hoping. To know God's got this. Got all of us. I am the one who was boasting of being enveloped in the peace of God, and trusting His mighty plan. And then I am the one not walking that walk. 

I had lost hope. Almost. All over again. I prayed. I repented. I'm trusting again. Hoping. The truth of the matter is: God is bigger than any amount of hope I lose. For that matter, He is bigger than any amount of hope I hold. There are no obstacles for Him. There are no bumps in the road. There is only the outcome. No matter what that may be, it's perfect. Whether in my time or His, it's perfect

I may have almost stopped hoping for things, but I will not stop hoping in Him. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Big Question

Our whole household is sick, which is a real bummer. We had several plans made for the remainder of the week that have since been cancelled so we can hunker down and concentrate on getting well. We've got multiple boxes of tissue open and strategically placed around the house. We're loading up on vitamins and snuggles, and hope for this to soon be but a distant memory. All the down time, though, has given me a lot of time to think. And question. And wonder. Uh oh.

The other night as Brent and I were headed to look at the first home in our search for a new dwelling, it struck me how life just happens - mostly without our consent or permission. So much of what has transpired in my own life is not at all what I imagined or anticipated. It's not all bad. It's not all good. It is what it is. It struck me, nonetheless.

I reflected on these truths as we were headed to a potential new home for us, wondering what stories the walls of our next dwelling would collect. I turned to Brent as he was driving and asked, "Did you ever think you'd be married to me and end up with kids one day?" It may have seemed an obvious answer, but I was asking in all sincerity. His answer, sweet as can be and without hesitation was, "Uh, yeah. Pretty much from the first time I met you."

And yes, I swooned.

But then I thought even more about it. I suppose upon more honest introspection I would have rephrased my question to ask him, "Is your life with me living up to all you anticipated or expected it to be? Am I living up to your hopes and dreams of spending the rest of your life with me?" Without hesitation he answered yes. It wasn't about the trials we have been through as a couple. As parents. It wasn't about the moves we've made, the choices we've been faced with. It wasn't about the fights we've had or the compromises we've made. His answer was all about the big picture for him.

He knew he wanted to marry me and be the father of my children. He didn't have to know more than that. He didn't know what that road would look like. He didn't know the obstacles he would face in that journey. He didn't know we would uproot and move to another state. He didn't know his wife would get lost in fits of rage, suffering from PMDD. He didn't know our firstborn would come two months prematurely. He didn't know we would lose our second daughter, Harlynn. He didn't know his journey to fatherhood would be such a treacherous one. He didn't know he'd have a son with a hearing loss. He didn't know any of it. He couldn't have known a single piece of it. But he chose it anyway. From the first time he met me. 

It doesn't matter what we've hurdled over, waded through, or found ourselves stuck in. What matters is the bigger picture: we're together, and that by the grace and mercy of God. We stayed together when either of us could have turned foot and walked away. When times got tough, we fought our way through. Together.

I was more than a little humbled by Brent's unrehearsed (and super romantic) answer. It was a special moment I'll forever tuck away in the folds of my heart. I asked a big question, and I got a big answer. 

I don't deserve him. I don't. I'm far from perfect. And yes, so is he. I sometimes cringe when I see the Facebook posts or other social media shares of ideas and ideals that encourage women to wait for the perfect guy, and here are several fantasy-laden, unrealistic traits you'll be able to identify him by... I am baffled there are people who buy in to the fact a soul-mate, who will never insult, hurt, or befuddle them, actually exists. We're people. We're imperfect. We'll always screw up. Every last one of us. 

Brent and I don't have the perfect marriage, or the perfect relationship, but we've got it pretty good. We both have a faith in which our relationship is grounded. We both are, and have been, continually surrounded and lifted up in prayer by others. We respect one another. We admire one another. We don't always enjoy the other's company. We don't always see eye-to-eye. We don't always like each other. But by golly, we made a vow. And when it comes down to it, we're crazy about one another. Because of the other, sure, but mostly crazy about one another. Our relationship is not always easy, but it's always worth it.

In the big picture, I struck gold with Brent. No doubt his reward is in heaven for sticking life out with me. Say what he will, he never could have imagined life would have him settled down with a mess like me. And for that lack of creative imagination within him, I'll be forever thankful. Well, for that, and for his spider-killing skills.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Peek-A-Boo: I See You!

To say it's been a crazy week would be a bit of an understatement.

About 3:00 on Sunday, my husband and I randomly came to the conclusion we were going to get our home ready to list by the end of the week. Through more random (though, obviously divinely appointed) events, we ended up showing the house and accepting an offer by Wednesday of this week, without ever having listed. Now, we're up against a six-week timeline to find somewhere to live while we bide our time in scoping out a new home to purchase.

Yes. In a matter of 72 hours, we went from staying put to sold.

I "vlogged" (can there be a better word for this, please?) about it. 

We hustled this week in so many ways, going so many different directions, and all while trying to figure out what in the world was going on. But it was awesome. Then I couldn't sleep. For three nights in a row. Then I kept forgetting to eat until I was ravenously hungry, grabbing the quickest things I could shove in my mouth. It was starting to get a little trying.

By Friday, Little Man started to act not at all like himself, and developed a fever. Now he's been crabby, clingy, and crying. We're not sure if he's ill or teething, but he's a pitiful little dude for sure, and it's heartbreaking to see him so miserable.

Brent was gone for a while Saturday morning and again in the afternoon. After the events of the week, and the emotional toll of everything taking place in such short order, I was spent. Absolutely spent. At one point just before dinner, I had finished feeding Little Man, sat at the table, put my head in my hands and cried. Sometimes you just have to cry a little bit. It was only a minute or less, and when I pulled my hands away from my face, Little Man was staring right at me and began to smile his big, toothless grin. He thought I was playing peek-a-boo. I had covered my face, after all, so naturally it was time to play.

I giggled. Oh child. Peek-a-boo.

The truth of the matter is, I can only harbor so much excitement or disappointment before I just start to lose it. I love what has transpired this week, I love that we get to start a new chapter in our lives, and I love that we'll be selling this house and hopefully finding one that will be even more awesome and special to us than this one has been. But it all happened so fast, so unexpectedly, and by dinner time Saturday, I was feeling worn out by it all. 

Then! Then, by feeling worn out by it all, I felt guilty. Like I somehow couldn't handle being blessed. So I should just stick my head in the sand and not deal with it, because obviously I can't deal with it, and I don't deserve to even have it to deal with!

Do you see what's happening here? There is one who will never be happy with your successes. Never be happy with your accomplishments. Your blessings. Your miracles. Your answered prayers. And when there's even a hint of opportunity to destroy you, he runs with it. He ran with it for me.

Don't let him steal your joy. Your momentum. Your faith. Give him an inch, and he'll take your whole life. Take it back.

I am completely bewildered by the fact that we have to find a place to live, pack up, and move there, in six weeks time. (By the way, if you'd pray for us in this regard specifically, we would be so appreciative.) But I'm not hopeless. I'm not scared. I'm not fearful or worried about any of the details. It's a lot, but it's fantastic. It's stressful, but for such a greater outcome. This is an incredible answer to a prayer we've prayed a long time.

I might cry again before this is all said and done. I'd put money on it. I'm a crier, after all. Regardless, I'm not going to hide behind my tears. Not in this. There will be tears of joy and anticipation mixed in with any of sorrow or nostalgia. Moving, from a home we've experienced so much of life in, will be a big event for us. I plan to face it head-on, and watch to see what's next. No, I'm not going to hide behind my tears.

I may hide behind my hands....but only because that's how one goes about playing peek-a-boo. And I see you, friend. Whatever you're up against, whatever kind of week you had, I see you. And I get it. And we're gonna go through this next one together, without giving the father-of-lies any room to wiggle in our psyche. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

Creating Balance: Part II

If you read Part I, then you've been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for me to get around to posting the sequel. I'm sorry it's taken until now. 

I'm going to introduce - or, most likely, reintroduce - you to a woman who lived out the Greatest Command, and by doing so, balanced life like a champ. Readers, meet the Proverbs 31 Woman

I know, I know, no one likes her, we'll never live up to her, she did it all but we can't - give this friendship a chance here. Learn from her.

She loved God with all her heart (passions). Her marriage, her family, and her career, constantly drove her as motivation to be and give her best. (vs. 11, 12, 18, 24, 27)

She loved God with all her soul. She was building her eternal legacy. (vs. 28 - 30)

She loved God with all her mind. In verse 16, she "considers" (weighs pros and cons, thinks it through). Verse 21, she displays forward thinking and preparedness. Verse 26 uses the word wisdom!

She loved God with all her strength. I'm just guessing, she probably could have taken me if we went toe to toe. (vs. 17, 25)

She loved her neighbors. In verse 15, it mentions her taking care of her servant girls. I would like to point out here, that even the Proverbs 31 woman had help!! She cared for the poor. Her husband was well respected in the community because she was no gossip. She loved her neighbors in immeasurable ways. She didn't know any other way.

Here's what I need for you to take away from this: 

1. Love the Lord your God. Stop applying God's word to your life. (WHAT did I just say?!) Yes. Stop. Instead, start aligning your life to God's word. Don't look to see if what's important to you can be justified by scripture. Take scripture, and make it important to you.

2. With all your heart. Quit making to-do lists. Make lists of your goals that align with your God-given passions, then work toward those. Instead of those to-do lists, document how you spend your time. Identify where you can, or need to, make changes.

3. With all your soul. Make use of the "ME" in "TIME". Recharge and refresh your soul. It is the core of who you are. Feed it.

4. With all your mind. Don't let your obligations overrule your priorities. Use wisdom and discernment with your "yesses". Consider the benefits and consequences of the activities you have the opportunity to participate in.

5. With all your strength. Take your health seriously. Your body is a gift, and His dwelling place. What can you do to care for it? Implement incremental changes. Don't try to start every new habit all at once.

6. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be accountable in your relationships. Your spouse, kids, friends, family, colleagues, everyone! Be authentic and genuine and allow your relationships with others to mirror your relationship with God. Transparent. Honest. Committed. Invested.

The overall gist is this: In order to achieve and maintain balance, love God, then live out that love.                      


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Creating Balance: Part I

What areas in your life require balance? Typically, that question is met with answers like, "work/life", "mom/wife/friend/daughter", or other various roles we feel the need to separate from one circumstance to another. It could be things like schoolwork, time management, or our diet. Regardless of what you'd fill the blank in with, we all crave the "secrets" in creating balance. Great news - I can tell you how.

I'm going to introduce a breakdown of scripture to you in this post, and then in another post, I'm going to tie it all together by introducing you to a woman who balances life like a champ by implementing these principles and living these truths. Here we go.

Balance, defined by Mr. Webster, is "a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions." In our lives, that translates to about two seconds of our day. The other 23 hours, 59 minutes and 58 seconds are spent juggling everything we have, live, do, say, want, need, and like, trying to get them into those equal or correct proportions. Balance in life - by our definitions and on our terms - is not maintainable.

It is, however, possible when we redefine, and realign with the appropriate terms and definition. Balance isn't something we achieve, it's something we acquire. With effort. With careful thought. With purpose. It doesn't just happen when we wake up 15 minutes earlier each day, or designate one night a week to four hours of exercise or eat shredded wheat bran for breakfast. It's a process, not a product.

In Mark 12, beginning in verse 29 Jesus is answering a question on the most important command.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

So what does that mean, and most especially, what does that have to do with balance?

1. Love the Lord your God. Everything in our lives begins and ends with Him. He is the foundation of everything in life. He's not going anywhere. He has sent His Word (the Bible) to us, and many refer to it as "His love letter". To Love the Lord our God, we are to be in the Word, and speak to Him in prayer. (without ceasing)  When you love someone, you crave time with them. You marvel at the little things they do. You desire to be your best self around them. Love the Lord your God.

2. With all your heart. Your passions. What are your passions? How are you fostering them? Or are you still trying to determine those answers? Maybe, you don't know what your passion is. There was a time I didn't, and I felt like my peers all knew what they wanted to do and fight for and support in life, and I was wandering aimlessly around, dabbling here and there with help for good causes. I felt like a loser. Like I was missing out, or even lazy, because I couldn't determine what my passion or my purpose was. Thankfully, after hopeless searching, my passions (and you can have more than one) found me. God will fuel your passions according to the gifting He has given you. If you're still searching for what lights your fire, consider what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 -
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." (underline mine)

3. With all your soul. Your soul is the very core of who, and what, you are. It is your life's fuel. It is eternal, and the direct link to your eternal home. How are you feeding your soul? Several times in scripture you read about the soul finding or needing rest. Let your soul recharge. Let it fill, so it can then fuel you. Nurture your soul and do not take the responsibility lightly. It works tirelessly to keep you connected to your eternal Father. Nurture it. Be in His word. Spend time with Him. Do what He has gifted you with in bringing joy to your life. Do you like to knit? Read? Paint? 

4. With all your mind. Don't use up precious space in your mind by over-thinking things. When you over-think, you lose sight of the purpose and start to focus on doubts, false perceptions, and feed fears. But how can you really love with your mind? Romans 12:2 talks about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. Seek wisdom. Engage your intellect. Challenge your mind to stretch in knowledge, increase capacity, and grow boundaries in wisdom. Most importantly, to love the Lord your God with all your mind, exercise discernment and sound judgment. Make the right choices.

5. With all your strength. Proverbs 24:5 says "A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength." Wow. Repeatedly in the OT, you read "the Lord is my strength" or "my strength comes from Him." This represents and important cycle. God gives you strength, and you - in turn - love him by utilizing all of it. Keep going. He'll give you more. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 reads "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." Get/Be/Stay healthy. You are of minimal use, and certainly not able to balance anything in life, when you can't care for yourself. Do what you need to do to keep your strength. Move more. Eat less. Eat right. Take your vitamins. Get rest. Get sleep. Gain strength.

6. Love your neighbor as yourself. Plainly stated, this command is two-fold. First, foster and nurture meaningful relationships. Be mindful of the company you keep, and give your relationships your best. Do unto others - be genuine. Be authentic. Second, take care of one another. Serve with your time, talents, and tithes. Clothe the poor. Feed the hungry. Care for the widows and the orphans. (Which, by the way, the Bible partially defines religion as caring for the widows and the orphans. Read James 1:27!) Hebrews 13:2 says by showing hospitality to strangers, some have entertained angels! Love your neighbor as yourself.

Chew on this for a while, and stay tuned. I'll introduce you to a woman you've probably grown up knowing, and may not be very fond of. If you'll let me, though, I'll show you how she applied her life in each of these principles, and was able to essentially "do it all". She balanced life in ways most of us only dream of. Stick around...

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