Sunday, December 19, 2010

Losing Focus

Today we were doing some final Christmas shopping at the store with the big red bulls eye. As we weaved our way up and down aisles crowded with people and toys, I found myself losing focus of the reason we were buying gifts.

I started playing the comparison game.

How much would so-and-so be spending? Will this present delight or disappoint? Does the scope and grandeur of my gift rise above the unspoken bar of expectations?

I was caught in an anxious guessing game of how others would analyze the price of the present as an interpretation of the value of the relationship.

This is wrong. I know it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Christmas is not about keeping up with the Jones's or finding the best holiday discounts. It's not even about buying the perfect present to satisfy someone's needs or wish-list of wants.

The perfect present has already been bought. God gave us his perfect son. Jesus bought us the gift of a restored relationship with God by paying the penalty of our sins through his death on the cross.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16
CHRISTmas is about remembering that God loved us so much that he sent his his son to earth and Christ loved us so much that he lived a perfect life and then died, that we, too, might live.

So what about all this gift giving?

When I regained focus, I remembered that Christmas is an opportunity to share God's love with the family and friends he's blessed us with by giving out of the resources he's provided.

When I regained focus, I realized that I can honor God best by being responsible with my finances, buying only what we can afford, and by being joyous in my spirit, giving generously out of love not out of fear of being judged.

 I wish I never let my eyes drift from the One who matters most.

But I'm thankful that when I do, he's always there to meet my refocused gaze.

Does your vision ever get blurry this time of year? How do you stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reindeer and Snow Flakes and Beads, Oh My!

I spent the weekend finding new nooks and unconventional crannies to display my favorite Christmas ornaments. [Check out the previous post to read why.]

Here are a few more of my clever creations...

I filled this chunky glass vase with the strings of cranberry wooden beads that we usually drape around the tree. Then I topped it with simple bronze ball ornaments and finished with a plaid Christmas ribbon.

On this bathroom shelf I grouped a trio of reindeer ornaments instead of the classic red candle I usually use to fill the cubby.

And I love how this huge red snowflake pops against the crisp white cabinet.

I felt especially inspired when I adorned my kitchen cabinet handles with these pretty holly berry branches. (I really love how they look hugging the limbs of a Christmas pine ...but this is a fun way to enjoy their beauty sans tree.)

I placed cinnamon-spice-scented pine cones in this elegant glass hurricane instead of using a large wooden bowl like last year (since it's now housing my ornament collection).

And that Christmas gift bag? That's my fancy way of concealing the pile of mail that normally sits haphazardly on the counter.

Does it feel like Christmas at your house?

What's your favorite way to deck your halls?

No Pine. No Problem!

So we've decided to forgo my two favorite Christmas decorating traditions this year: the classic Christmas tree and the meaningful Nativity scene.

Why would I do such a thing?

His name is Noah.

He is one of the loves of my life. He is almost two. And he is WAY above the jingle bell curve of tactile curiosity!

The thought of putting up a Christmas tree conjures visions of ornament hooks up noses, twinkling lights between teeth, and beaded garland wrapped around his baby brother's neck. Likewise, I'm certain my beautiful Willow Tree manger animals would wind up in Noah's plastic Playschool barn; Joseph would surely become the newest Tonka truck driver; and who knows where I would find Mary and the Baby Jesus? [The only spaces I have for the Nativity scene are within Noah's ever-increasing grasp.]

Knowing my son, he would master self-control over the enticing new decor just before the New Year when we're ready to take it all down. So to save us a lot of headache and hassle we're choosing to just avoid the chaos this year.

With that said...I still LOVE decorating for Christmas! So after being inspired by one of my favorite homemaking blogs about finding creative ways to use holiday decor, I decided that my home would look and feel like Christmas this year. I could still enjoy the delight of pulling out all my favorite ornaments, I'd just find creative ways to use them in inventive out-of-toddler-reach ways.

Here's what I came up with...

This large wooden bowl is usually home to over sized potpourri. Now it displays a collection of rustic Christmas balls, bronze stars, and my favorite giant snowflake.

I hung mini jingle bell wreaths on either end of this cafe mug rack.

Then I propped these sweet angel ornaments and extra large jingle balls on the shelf above.

Love the crackle finish!

I spruced up two metal snowflake lanterns with wooden tree ornaments for a pop of color and texture. 

Have you been inspired to use traditional Christmas decorations in a nontraditional way?

Check back soon for more of my creative holiday twists!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Truly, truly, I have so much to be thankful for.

Just one of the things I'm giving thanks for today is our morning family walk.

We bundled up the boys and strolled our quiet neighborhood streets. The sky was bright blue. The air was perfectly crisp. And I don't think my kidlets could be any cuter!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
-Psalm 107:1

Friday, November 12, 2010

Passing Moments

Here are a few things I delighted in on today's morning walk:

Watching my four-month-old stare up at the clear blue sky, then succumb to sleepy eyes and drift off to sleep.

Saying "Good Morning" to a stranger and seeing him smile.

Listening to my (almost) two-year-old giggle with glee at the men in the trees trimming branches.

Feeling the warm sun on my back and the crisp air on my cheek.

Overhearing a conversation between two gentlemen in their late seventies that went something like this:
You keep up the good work.
Yes, you, too.
Hey, are you still playing that horn?
Hell yeah!
Life is made up of moments. Don't let joy in the small things pass you by.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Better Than a Desert

I hope living with me is better than living in a desert.

This morning I was stirred by the words of Proverbs 21:19:
"Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife."
In general, I think my husband arrives each evening to a happy family and inviting home. I do my best to listen intentionally as he tells me about his day, offer encouragement and praise when warranted, and then share honestly about the joys and challenges I encountered while we were a part. I know that love is an active choice, not a passive feeling. So I seek to love my husband in action and in word.

It can be easy to critique other people's they bicker about everything, lack appreciation, or try to control one another. I can be glad that I'm not like her, and then start to feel pretty good about myself. Proud about what a fantastic little wife I am.

But I am not perfect. Not by a long shot.

I am not immune to being defensive, responding with a blatant edge to my tone, and even being plain rude. I have allowed tiredness to be an excuse for not being kind. I've knit picked about things that don't really matter and cared more about being right than being loving.

But this is not the kind of woman I want to be. This is not the kind of wife my husband deserves.

I want to be more like this. And this. And this.

No, I don't have to be perfect. And neither do you.

Just make sure living with you IS better than a desert.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reviving Wisdom

After days (or weeks) of letting TV, dishes, laundry, sleep, paperwork, grocery shopping, and Facebook consume any quiet, kid-free moment I had, I was finally still enough for long enough to hear God whisper to my heart, "Come, be with me." And I was just weary enough not to fight it. I knew I needed to obey.

I opened my Bible and read Psalm 19. These words were meant for my heart.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
My soul NEEDS to be revived. I want to feel alive. I want to walk in cadence with my God, knowing that each step I take is directed by him and he is right there beside me. No more trying to be super-mom, -wife, and -friend on my own strength. No more sulking in the hum-drum of daily life. I was created for a purpose. I want to live life to the full and be fully me.

I NEED to be made wise. Disciplining a boundary-testing toddler. Saving money for my family. Finding the balance between seeking community and seeking simplicity. Getting out yet staying rested. How to love my husband, train my children, and do it well. Yes, wisdom for all these small decisions that make up my life...that's what I need.

Will my soul be revived by watching one more episode of America's Next Top Model? Will I find wisdom in reading one more status update?

No, I'll find what I'm really looking for, what I really need in the perfect, trustworthy Word of God.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10, 20, 30...SHRED!

I'm taking on a 30 day fitness challenge and I'm inviting you to join with me!

Last week I was over at (in)courage and saw this post by Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. She talked about creative ways to build community, one of which was working out.

Fitness has definitely been top of mind for me lately. Since giving birth to my second son 12 weeks ago, I have been eager to shed these prego pounds and get back to feeling like me. I've been watching what I eat and taking long walks while pushing the boys in the mega-heavy double stroller. But I'm still not getting the results I want fast enough. So when I saw Jen's invitation to 30 days of fitness, I knew this was the kick start I needed.

So what is it and why did I choose it?

WHAT: It's a workout DVD by Jillian Michaels called 30 Day Shred, which combines strength conditioning, cardio, and abs.

WHY: First, I have 10 more pounds to lose to get back to my pre-prego weight and into my favorite pair of jeans (you know the ones that are comfortable and figure flattering...oh, how I miss them!) Second, I can commit to 20 minutes a a busy mom of two under two, any more just isn't realistic. And third, 30 days is long enough to get real results, but short enough that I knowI can follow through. (I like to set myself up for success.) Plus, I know that fitting even 20 minutes of intense exercise into my rather intense life would be challenging, so I liked the idea of joining a community of other women who were doing it, too. And when I found the DVD on for $5.99 it sealed the deal!

Today I endured the first day of shredding. It felt good (and bad) to feel my out-of-shape muscles burn, wipe some sweat from my brow, and know that I am one day closer to a do-my-body-good accomplishment!

I'm sharing this with you all NOT to toot my own horn about buying a silly workout video and doing it for one day. I share this with you because I NEED accountability, and I'm thinking maybe some of you might, too. I'll be updating you at least a couple times with my progress over the next 30 days.

PLEASE feel free to jump in and join me any time!
Only 20 minutes a day away from a healthier you, me, WE!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keenly Aware

Have you ever noticed that we are all more keenly aware of our own imperfections than anyone else is?

A friend and her son recently came over for a play date and remarked how clean my house was. She jokingly asked Noah if he was sure he actually lived here because she was certain it was way too tidy to be the home of a toddler.

My house, clean? I was keenly aware of the breakfast dishes in the sink, the layer of grime on the refrigerator shelves, the rust ring in the bathtub, and how well my tile floor hides dirt.

On Saturday I went to my childhood best friend's engagement party. Several people commented on how good I looked for just having a baby two and a half months ago. A single gal told me I must share my slim-down secrets with her if she ever has a child.

My body, slim? I was keenly aware how the waistband of the only nice pair of pants I could squeeze into was digging into my soft tummy each time I exhaled.

I entertained a new friend for lunch last week and she complimented me on how beautifully decorated my home was. She enjoyed the selection and placement of art and accessories in every room.

My home, decorated? I was keenly aware of the huge blank wall above the fireplace that has been begging for a canvas to cover it since we moved in over a year ago.

Perhaps it's time to transfer my keen awareness to something other than my imperfections. Maybe I should be more keenly aware of how blessed I am to have a home to weclome friends into and an abled body that has given birth to two precious boys.

Because, really, no one has a perfect home or a perfect body. (Except maybe a celebrity with a professional decorator, cleaning crew, personal trainer, and private chef. And even then, she is probably keenly aware of her imperfect marriage, unhealthy self image, and lack of hope.)

So here's to being keenly aware that perfection isn't as important as perspective!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Little Moments

The way she holds your little finger
The way she coos when you are near
The way you calm her every whimper
And cast out all her fear

The way he giggles with excitement
The way he cries when you’re apart
The way his eyes light up with wonder
And his smile melts your heart
It’s in these little moments
Shared just between each other
That make you know for certain
You were meant to be a mother

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gentle Shepherd

Since yesterday I told you about one of my favorite bedtime stories, today I want to share another beloved ritual from my childhood...the bedtime song.

After my mom finished reading our stories, she would turn out the lights and sing a song. My favorite was Gentle Shepherd. As she sang, she rubbed my back. Her soothing strokes mingled with the peaceful melody calmed my heart and mind as I drifted off to sleep.

Gentle shepherd,
come and lead us
for we need you
to help us find our way.
Gentle shepherd,
come and feed us
for we need you
for strength from

day to day.

There's no other
we can turn to
who can help us
face another day.
Gentle shepherd,
come and lead us
for we need you
to help us find our way.

And now I sing this song to my son. Every night I rub his back as we rock and sing.

I have a terrible voice. Truly awful. And I'm not exaggerating. But to my sweet little boy and to my loving God, the notes that I miss matter not because they hear the praise and prayer of my heart.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Special Place

Like most kids growing up, I LOVED bedtime stories. Actually, I loved stories any time! But bedtime was always extra special...a time of quieting down and listening to my mom's soothing voice.

My sister, Mary, and I would sit in our matching twin beds nestled in the nook created by the double peaked ceiling of our shared room in the house my great grandfather built. My mom would perch between us and take our bedtime story requests.

More often than not, we chose The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. There were silly poems and thoughtful poems. Poems that made us giggle and poems that made us shriek. One of my favorite poems was one that made my heart feel comforted and glad.

Home! You're Where It's Warm Inside
by Jack Prelutsky

Home! You are a special place;
you're where I wake and wash my face,
brush my teeth and comb my hair,
change my socks and underwear,
clean my ears and blow my nose,
try on all my parent's clothes.

Home! You're where it's warm inside,
where my tears are gently dried,
where I'm comforted and fed,
where I'm forced to go to bed,
where there's always love to spare;
Home! I'm glad that you are there.

Now that I'm the mom, I'm inspired to create this kind of home for my kids. A place where they will always know that they are loved. A place they'll be glad to be.

As someone who struggles with perfectionism, it can be easy to allow the to-do's of running a home to take precedent over the get-to's of raising a family.

I get to kiss the boo boo's and dry the tears. I get to prepare healthy meals and give cozy hugs. I get to be a teacher, playmate, and encourager.

So day by day, I'm learning to let go of being perfect and embrace being present.

I'm Mommy and I get to make Home a Special Place!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It spills out of my eyes.

Sometimes I'm overcome by how much I love my boys.

Of course, I always knew (in an intellectual, of-course-this-is-logical kind of way) that I would love my own children more than any other.

But sometimes it surprises me how deep and fierce and pure and joyful my love for them is. I've only been their mother for a relatively short time. But each day I know my boys is another day I love them more.

Sometimes my love is too much for my heart to hold. It spills out of eyes. It creates the goofiest grin that I couldn't erase from my face if someone offered me a thousand bucks to do so.

Noah and Elias are my sons. I delight in them. I love them just for who they are.

In loving them I can't help but have a greater understanding of the Father's love for me. It's profound, really.

Watching Noah play or Eli sleep makes my heart smile. In the same way, God's heart is filled with joy just watching me be me. He loves me not for what I do but for who I am.

Noah, 21 months old

Elias, 2 months old

I could ask for no greater blessing than being a mom.

I'm blessed to love fully.

I'm blessed to be fully loved.

The LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:11

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And So We Walk

My walking shoes are therapeutic.

They make me turn off the TV and breathe in fresh air.

They make me forget my tiredness and feel my strength.

As a friend who is in my same stage of life so eloquently said, "walking represents my sanity."

I strap Elias in the Bjorn and buckle Noah in the Bob and we walk.

Sometimes we walk with a friend. This daily dose of adult conversation refreshes my heart and makes the miles melt.

Other times we walk alone. Just me and my boys, my inner dialogue, and my prayers to God.

I don't always feel like walking. But when I walk I always feel good.

It's a chance to soak up the sun. A chance to smile at a stranger.

Walking calms a fussy baby, contains a rambunctious toddler, and gets me one step closer to fitting in my jeans.

And so we walk...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who's Got Mail?

Confession. Growing up I had this quirky habit: I had to open the mailbox before I opened the front door...every time. It didn't matter if it was a Sunday, a holiday, midnight, or if I knew the mail had already come and I was even the one that had retrieved it. Every time I stood I stood before our green front door, that black metal box hanging on the rough brick wall beckoned me to open it.

What if I missed a letter the first time? What if there was a hand delivery? were the questions that continuously came to mind. But what propelled my irrational behavior most was my love for the ever-treasured personal notecard.

I could pick a hand written letter out of a mailbox lineup in my sleep! The slightly square shape of the envelope, address scrawled in familiar penmanship, and sturdy weight of a greeting card tucked inside. There's just nothing better.

Nothing better than knowing someone thought of you. Someone cared enough to pick up a pen, find a stamp, and lick an envelope. My first summer in college I worked in Kings Canyon National Park. There was no cell service, no Internet access, and a single payphone for all the employees to share. While it was one of the most challenging summer's of my life, it was also one of the best, in part because snail mail was my main form of communication with family and friends. I cherished every card I got!

In these (wonderful) days of texting, email, and facebook, the blessing of a written "just because" card is often lost. I admit that as much as I love receiving a handwritten note and as much as I love writing, the busyness of life and the tyranny of the urgent have put my card writing days on the back back burner.

Until now...

In honor of National Day of Encouragement (today!), one of my favorite blogs, (in)courage, recently gave readers ten free greeting cards from DaySpring's new Hope and Encouragement line. I was one of the lucky recipients of these beautifully designed, refreshingly thoughtful and authentic cards, and I can't wait to send them out!

 Maybe today is the day you'll get a special note of encouragement. Or maybe it's the day you should send one.

Stock photo courtesy of clshearin

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Several years ago I was talking with a coworker and asked her if it was hard to be single. She was in her early forties and had never been married. We chatted and she expressed that yes, at one time she had hoped and longed to be married, but now was content with her life and the journey God had taken her on. Then she said something that has always stuck with me:
"It's better to want what you don't have than to have what you don't want." 
The wisdom in that simple phrase has come to mind time and time again when I get caught in the wanting game. I want more sleep, more energy, more time. I want better hair, whiter teeth, and cuter clothes. I want best friends who live on my block and understand me all the time. More money, better communication, a bigger house, kids who never whine, and flatter abs. I want. I want. I want!

And then I remember those words. Especially the last have what you don't want. What if I had a child with a severe disability or a husband with a terminal illness. What if I had no food for my family or didn't know how to read. A lack of hope, no one to call a friend, an abusive past...all things I would never want.

How blessed I am to NOT have what I don't want!

And really, when I think about it, I really do want everything I have. A husband who is smart and funny and my best friend. Two insanely cute and precious little boys. Two legs to walk on and two arms to hug the ones I love. A sharp mind (when I'm not sleep deprived) and friends who care for my heart. The amazing-grace gift of salvation and a relationship with Jesus. Wow. Everything I have I want!

I guess wanting is not such a bad thing...if you want what you already have.

Be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
-Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wear What Fits

So I changed the look of my blog. When I saw this new background it just seemed to fit.

While I loved the Old World look and worn, travel journal feel of my old blog template, I decided that didn't really resonate with this season of my life. The previous design reminded me of pouring over aged books or sifting through antique treasures.

There is no space in my life right now for pouring anything but juice into sippy cups. The only things I have time to sift through are baskets of laundry and boxes of toys.

I liked the idea of the old design, but it's just not me. This new one is. I am trying to embrace not what I WISH were elements in my current life (like vacations to cobblestone paved European villages or a full night's sleep), but rather what IS.

Blue is the clear sky under which the boys and I take our daily walk. Green are the beautifully manicured lawns I admire as we stroll our neighborhood streets. And simple and magical is a dandelion wish, which is the kind of childhood I hope to give my sons.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Humility 101

I'm taking a life course called Humility 101. My current instructors are a toddler and a newborn.

Here are a few lessons from today's curriculum.
  1. Your primary function in life is a milk machine and butt wiper.
  2. You think you know how to discipline your self-asserting toddler, but everything that  should work does not.
  3. You realize that you might just blow your entire savings account if someone offered you 24 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  4. You give everything you have, yet you still feel like it's not enough.
Knowing that my attitude and actions each day directly effect two little lives that are totally dependent on me is very humbling.

I'm trying to learn how to fully go to God for the strength that I need and accept his grace for my many shortcomings.

These are some challenging days. But I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Your prayers for this leg of the journey are greatly appreciated.

Please meet my humble instructors...

Professor Elias

Professor Noah

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Little Explorer

Curious. Inquisitive. Brave. Adventurous.

100% BOY!

Noah is 19 months old and loves to climb, explore, and try new things. About a month ago we found a quaint little hidden park in a nearby neighborhood. Noah had a blast discovering every inch of his new favorite playground.

I love my little explorer!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More and more...

Five years ago today I said "I do" to a life-long journey with my best friend.

As a young bride, I was deeply in love with my new husband. But over the past half decade I have learned so much more what it means to love and be loved.

I love Chris more each time I see him thrive at a job he's passionate about. I love him more when I see him act with integrity and treat others with respect. I love him more when I watch him be an incredible father to our two boys.

Every day, I love him more and more.

Here are a few memorable moments from the day our journey began.

Happy Anniversary, My Love!
Here's to loving you more and more for another five fifty more!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Introducing Elias

On Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm,
God brought another small but spectacular miracle into this world.

I am proud to introduce to you

Elias Michael Keife

7 lbs 3 oz
20.5 in

The whole family adores little Eli already!

We are doing well...
adjusting to this "welcomed change"...
and very blessed by our beautiful baby boy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Resisting Welcomed Change

Today could be the big day. The day I give birth to my second son. The day my little family of three becomes four.

I am so excited to meet this whirly, twirly, kicking machine who's been growing inside me these past 38 weeks. I can't wait to look into his little eyes, caress his little cheeks, let him wrap his tiny hand around my finger. Welcoming baby Elias is a blessing we've been praying for, preparing for, and waiting for.

So, why I am resisting?

Last night as I was rocking and singing to Noah during his bedtime routine, I burst into tears. The thought that this could be my last night with only Noah to soak up my love and attention overwhelmed me. I've had almost 19 months with my little buddy and now everything is about to change.

Of course, in my head I know that all the joys and blessings, love and laughter Chris and I have experienced being Noah's parents will only multiply with the addition of Eli to our family. I know that it will be an incredible journey coming to know this new little person and seeing Noah become a big brother. There is much to look forward to. And I am genuinely excited.

But I have always had a hard time with change. Even good change. I like to know what to expect. Probably because when I can anticipate circumstances I feel like I can control the outcome. But here I am again on the edge of a big uncharted sea...mothering a toddler AND a newborn! (Not unknown territory to mankind, I understand...but still a scary adventure for me.)

Had only I prepared more! Had only I made time to reread the parenting and breastfeeding and baby care books I poured over when I was pregnant with Noah. Will I remember what to do? Had only I organized my underwear drawer and hand-mopped the floors and scrubbed the refrigerator shelves. Wouldn't I feel so much better going into today?

Yes, I'm sure I'll remember how to care for my new baby. No, I'm pretty sure had I done all those things my mind would just be on the other dozens of items on my never-ending list of to-dos.

So, what now? I don't know for sure if Elias will make is big debut today. But I do know that I need to turn to my loving God and ask Him to take care of me. Really, that's what I need to do every day.

With God's tender guidance I know I can lean into this season of change. I will endure the hard moments and savor the sweet ones. I will trust that He knows what I need, what my husband needs, and what BOTH of my sons need. And He will be faithful to the end.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Simple Pleasures

One of the best things about being the mom of a young child is
getting to re-experience the world through a child's eyes.

I love watching Noah get excited about life's simple pleasures.
Things like crayons, Cheerios, orange popsicles, and digging in dirt.

Sometimes I can make life feel so complicated.

Noah helps me get back to the basics.