What’s Next?

Last week, eating lunch in my quiet classroom, I stared at the paper in front of me, blank except for the heading “Summer 2015″.  I had already made a couple lists for summer but I was mulling over some bigger, more long term things.  Things that were uncertain… hopes and questions and possibilities… and I was trying to somehow wrestle them onto the page so they made more sense.

Finally I just leaned back and sighed.  You can’t plan your whole life, I told myself.  I put the paper away and tried to follow my own advice.

Unfortunately, that’s really hard for me.  I love to plan.  I love to have something on the horizon that I’m looking forward to.  I like to consider different scenarios, play them out in my mind, and try to prepare for what might be coming.

I don’t think planning is a bad thing.  But sometimes it becomes too much of a focus for me and I start grasping for a hold over things I can’t control.  It’s in those times that I need to remind myself that God is in control.  Sometimes I need to simply wait, trust, and pray for patience.

Have you ever felt like everything was falling into place perfectly, only to have it change in the end?  That happened to me, in a huge and incredibly difficult way, when Faith died.  It happened again, in a significantly smaller way, yesterday.

There was a job opportunity that I was really excited about and, to be totally honest, was also pretty confident would work out.  It seemed to make sense in so many ways.  It seemed like everything was lined up just right.

But it didn’t happen.

I’m disappointed.  I’m frustrated and unsure of what’s next.  Truthfully I can just keep going as I have been for the past few years, nothing really has to change.  From the outside that probably makes sense.

But on the inside I feel like this could be the start of something else.

One of my initial reactions, after hearing the news, was to start considering different plans, to start setting up those imaginary scenarios in my head.  That always seems to be my natural response!

But the truth is I don’t know what my plans should look like and I don’t want to try to make them on my own.  I want to trust God.  I want to be open to His leading.  I want to be patient and take it one step at a time.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I sang Rich Mullins’ wonderful song – Sometimes by Step (live version here) – to Natalie while I pushed her in the swing this morning.  This is my prayer as I seek God’s plan and purpose for me, “step by step You’ll lead me and I will follow You all of my days.”

I have already seen His hand work mightily in the biggest of challenges, I know He is here working in the smaller ones as well.  “I may falter in my steps, but never beyond Your reach”.

What’s next?  I will wait, and pray, and see.

 

 

 

Lists for Summer

Today was the last day that teachers had to report at school.  The school year is now officially over and summer vacation has officially begun!  YAY!

Now it’s time to start tackling my summer lists.

I’m a big list person.  As in, I like making lists for almost anything and everything.  Of course I like checking things off my lists too!  For weeks (okay, make that months!) now I’ve had a few lists in mind for this summer.  The two main lists being my “to do” list and my “summer fun” list.

(And now I feel like I’ve said list too many times… it’s starting to sound funny in my head, haha!  Anyway, carrying on…)

The “To Do” is full of projects that had to wait for me to have more time and/or warmer weather, such as re-finishing/re-vamping some furniture, painting, and organizing our closet to name a few.

The “summer fun” one is just what you would think, ideas for fun things we’d like to do this summer.

Natalie can do so much more this year than she could last summer, and I’m looking forward to having lots of adventures together.  Many of my ideas revolve around being able to get outdoors, so hopefully the weather cooperates!  Even if it doesn’t, I have quite a few inside activities I’m excited for as well.

I like brainstorming all these ideas in advance so we can start setting aside time to do things.  I think it helps me do a better job of spreading the fun out along the whole summer, instead of trying to cram stuff in at the last minute when I realize the weeks are passing too quickly.

If you’re interested in starting a summer fun list of your own, or would like some ideas as a bouncing off point for your own family activities, you’re welcome to check out (and print if you’d like!) this list I created – Summer Fun List (Printable)

A few things on our own list are more personalized, but for the most part these are the ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have some fun stories to share as we check off the boxes this summer!

PS Last summer I wrote the Summer Challenge Series.  We enjoyed doing that as a family, but I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up with blogging quite as often this summer (read: shorter nap time for a certain little someone!) so I’m not going to do it again this year.  If you’re interested in looking back at last year though, this page has the links to each of the eight challenges.

What Are Scapes?

This summer we’re trying a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we’ve already enjoyed eating a new food after just one week!

A little background information…  I had looked into a CSA last year, but with us moving at the end of June and Natalie being really young still, it just didn’t happen.  This year my sister brought up the idea, since they had teamed up at work with a farm that would deliver shares directly to her office.  So convenient!  Needless to say, she was interested and passed the word along to the rest of the family.  We decided to split a share this year and see how it goes.

It’s fun to see what shows up in the basket and I like the idea of supporting local farms.  Plus, it’s a personal challenge of sorts to cook and serve different foods that I might not usually have in my kitchen.  Or, in the case of an item last week, that I had never even heard of!

When my sister dropped off these curly green things I thought, “whoa, those are cool looking, but what in the world are they?”

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She told me they were garlic scapes.  More culinary savvy people probably already know, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I had never heard of garlic scapes before.  So I went to my trusty friend Google and found out that they are the buds/”flower stalks” of the garlic plant.

Next step, search recipes.  I found a lot of recommendations for garlic scape pesto, which did sound delicious, but then I read about simply grilling them and I decided that was the way to go.  Something about trying a food for the first time, I just wanted to keep it more on it’s own so I could get a better sense of what it tastes like, if that makes sense.

Anyway, here’s what I did.  I lightly coated them with olive oil, then sprinkled them with coarse salt and pepper.  Steve grilled them on low/medium heat for about 10 minutes, until there were some nice brown spots.  I served them as a “bed” for grilled chicken and the verdict was… delicious!

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Some of the things I read talked about scapes having a very strong garlic flavor, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming at all.  I thought grilling them resulted in a good combination of flavor and texture, not to mention it looked fun on the plate!

If you ever get a chance to try scapes for yourself, I say go for it!  I’m going to keep my eye open for them in the future and maybe I’ll try that pesto next…

 

Dear Faith (On Your 3rd Birthday)

Dear Faith,

Happy 3rd birthday my sweet little girl!

I think about you often throughout the whole year, but today especially you were on my mind all the time.  I miss you, as I always do and always will.

What kind of celebration do they do in Heaven for birthdays?  Maybe you don’t even celebrate birthdays there because every day is so perfect and wonderful on it’s own.  I’m not really sure, someday you’ll have to tell me about it.

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Sometimes I feel sad that I can’t do more things for you… like celebrate your birthday here together, or brush your hair and read books and learn about the world hand in hand.  Your little sister, Natalie, depends on me for almost everything, and I love taking care of her.  I would have loved taking care of you too.

But I have peace in my heart knowing you are taken care of in a way that exceeds anything I could ever hope or imagine for you, my sweetheart.

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This morning I woke up to a beautiful song that reminds me of you and the way God has used your life to continue shaping me into the person He wants me to be.  Thank you for bringing me joy, teaching me courage, and helping me love more fully.  I hope you know that you made me a better person and I really believe that your life, no matter how short it was here on earth, impacted many people.

You are beautiful and incredibly special and I am so glad God gave you to us.  Even though you are not here with us physically, you are with us always in our hearts.

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I love you, Faith, with all my heart.

Love always,

Mommy

The View From Here

It’s been 7 years since we said “I do”.

We spent Friday night and Saturday (our first overnight away from Natalie !) in Skaneateles and enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake from our room.

There was something so peaceful about looking out over the water.  The way everything is crisp and clear at the beginning, then fades into a horizon that is beyond our view.

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Isn’t that what life is like?

There’s the here and now right in front of our eyes but there is also the future, stretching unclear and unknown ahead of us.  We can dream and hope and plan, but the truth is… the future is always beyond our view.

As the years pass they become just that – the past – but on that day 7 years ago, when we held hands and kissed at the altar, every one of those years was the future.  Every moment was a distant horizon full of unknowns, but also full of promise.

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I am so thankful for our 7 years together as husband and wife.  As each new horizon has come into view – no matter what it brought our way – we have been together.

What does our future hold?  We don’t know.  But I’m glad to be looking out at that horizon together.  With Steve by my side the view from here is beautiful.

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The “Happy” of Mother’s Day

The past few Mother’s Days have brought a myriad of emotions my way.

In 2012 the day was full of anticipation.  I was expecting our first baby and was thrilled at the thought of the following year, when I would spend Mother’s Day with that baby in my arms.

But when the next Mother’s Day came, Faith had been gone for almost a year.  As the day approached I felt anxious over the thought of another milestone that would remind me of the daughter we didn’t bring home.

At the same time, another little child was growing inside, a secret that only our families knew, but one that brought hope and comfort to the day for me.

Then, last year, I celebrated Mother’s Day with a baby in my arms for the first time.  And it was absolutely wonderful.

Still… there was a part of me missing Faith.  There was also a part of me wrestling with how to be completely happy about Natalie without feeling guilty, as if I wasn’t thinking enough about Faith.  It’s a hard thing to explain, but I remember struggling with those thoughts last spring.

This year… this year I am truly and fully happy.  Yes, I miss Faith, but there is a peace and settled feeling now.  I don’t have that sense of guilt lingering (I wrote about that in more depth here last June).

Faith is the daughter that made me a mother, and she changed my life in a way that no other person in this world has.  I love her and I’m thankful for her and I can’t wait to see her again.

And Natalie has filled my life – our lives – with so much joy.  I cannot express in words what an honor and privilege it is to be her mom.  Every day is a new adventure as she grows and changes and I am so thankful for the chance to raise her.

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This morning, as we headed downstairs to go to church, she cuddled against me and rubbed my back with her soft little hand and my heart melted.  Those are the moments I’ll cherish forever.  The “happy” of Mother’s Day… and every other day that I get to be her mom.

Little Girl in a Big World

The weather is finally nice and I feel like we’re coming out of hibernation!  It is wonderful to be able to go outside every afternoon.  Natalie and I have been enjoying stroller rides, blowing bubbles, swinging, and exploring the great outdoors.

I love her curiosity and enthusiasm.  Pine cones are a favorite item to collect, but she’ll pick up and inspect pretty much anything.  She also ate dirt the other day when I turned my head for a moment to check on Jackson.  Way to go mom, haha!

Sometimes she likes to have me right next to her, but other times she ventures out on her own, checking back once and a while to make sure I’m still close by.  There are days when I feel like she’s growing so fast, but seeing her out there in the yard I was reminded how little she really is.

A little girl in a big world.

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It’s funny… that’s how I feel too.  This world is a big place and I’m just a tiny part of it.

On those days when life feels really “normal” and the routine gets mundane I wonder what kind of impact my little life is making.  Am I doing something significant?

On the days when life feels challenging and the future is full of questions I wonder where my little life is headed.  Am I on the right track?

I think (or at least I hope!) those thoughts and questions are normal.  I think we all want to feel like we have a purpose and a plan, but we don’t always know what it is or where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

It would be pretty intimidating and even discouraging to me… if it weren’t for the promises and presence of God.

I know that He made me for a purpose and that He knows me better than anyone else.  I know that He can use me to accomplish great things for Him, and I want to be ready and willing to follow His lead.

These lyrics, from the song Little Is Much by Downhere, express so well the question and the answer…

What is the measure of a life well lived
If all I can offer seems too small to give

Little is much when God’s in it
And no one can fathom the plans He holds
Little is much when God’s in it
He changes the world with the seeds we sow
Little is much, little is much

Even more importantly, this passage from 1 Corinthians speaks a beautiful truth…

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

It doesn’t matter how small I feel because God is working through me.  On the mundane days, on the crazy days, and on every day in between, He is present and He has a purpose.  What a wonderful peace that brings!

Just as Natalie has the courage to wander off into the yard , I pray I will confidently go forward following God’s will for me.  And just as Natalie stopped to smile back at me, making sure I was still watching, I pray I will never lose my focus on the God who is in control.

So thankful that He is with His little girl in this big world.