A realistic to-do list

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Ever feel like you worked all day but didn’t actually accomplish anything? Ever looked at your to-do list, known you’ve been working and productive all morning, but have nothing to check off?

This happens to me!! And I finally realized *something needs to change*! Either I need to write down what I actually need to do, or I need to stop writing down things that I realistically can not do. Maybe both.

I used to make long, ambitious lists of all I wanted to do in a day; but currently, I write down lunch and dinner and give Eden a bath and sometimes even make my bed and get a shower if I can tell it’s that kind of a day. Not only does it help me to not write in extra things that will never realistically get accomplished, but it also motivates me to do those seemingly obvious things that tend to be forgotten in the daily plan. (Ever forgotten to take a shower? Or forgotten that the little people were planning on eating dinner?)

These seasons do not last forever, but it is very tempting to feel that they might.

It’s okay to write “clean up from breakfast,” or “put dinner in the crockpot,” or “read with ‘Zoe'”on your list. If it needs done and you’re in a crunch season (or if it’s a rather undesirable task that tends to be overlooked), then write it down.

Now you might not write “change diapers.” But think about it – even if it’s only five minutes – that multiplied times five or ten takes up a good little chunk of your day. The same could be said for nursing or potty training. Leave room for those things. And especially leave room for discipline, conversation, and sweet times with the kids.

We have to figure out how to still do laundry, errands, meals, etc., but don’t plan beyond what is reasonable with so many other responsibilities.

I wish I could tell you this post will help you accomplish more… but it won’t. That’s not even my intention. But I do hope – if you find yourself in such a season – that you will recognize how much you do accomplish, and feel a tiny bit more encouraged at the end of the day.

 

Seven weeks of Eden

Hello family and friends, near and far. Here is an update on life, an apology for the sporadic communication, and a testimony to the goodness of God regarding our last seven weeks.

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Our sweet Eden Evangeline was born on July 20 weighing a splendid seven pounds and twelve ounces. At six weeks she weighed a few tenths of an ounce less than that.

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I cannot recount every detail here, but we have been through many ups and downs as we realized that Eden was struggling to gain weight. From the beginning she was horribly fussy, but seemed to nurse well and be content afterwards. At her one week visit we knew she had not gained enough. At two weeks she had actually lost a little more. At our first lactation appointment they said everything looked okay, that she might have a small tongue-tie, but that since I was experiencing no pain in nursing that it probably wasn’t a huge problem. I had been letting her sleep  long stretches and feeding her every four hours unless she woke up earlier so we decided that she just needed extra feedings and that we would continue going to have her weighed every week to see if there was improvement. She gained steadily but in small increments, we kept hoping she would turn the corner and take off. Her biggest gain was five ounces, but then only three – making it back to birth weight by five weeks. The doctor said a tongue-tie revision may or may not help. I wanted to wait; it was so tricky because she seemed to be nursing fine, was sleeping okay, had enough wet and dirty diapers, and was taking in the right amount as measured at the lactation appointments.

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At six weeks she had dipped just under birth weight again. So it was all-systems-go, whatever we had to do. We scheduled a tongue-tie revision the following day; I began pumping, and we began supplementing with formula.

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We started out not too worried and taking it in stride. But as the weeks wore on her lack of weight gain weighed heavily. Some days it felt like we listened to her fuss all day. Then it would seem to be better. Some nights she never really settled down and other nights she slept all night. Nothing was ever consistent. I knew more than likely she would be fine. I knew that other people have gone through much harder things than this. But it felt like I couldn’t keep the balance between giving her everything I had and doing the most basic of other things. (I’m not even talking about laundry/meals/cleaning; we have had amazing support from our church here.) For the first time in my life I found myself choosing sleep over showers! I would do so good taking in extra calories and water and then forget for a few days and wonder if that had been the cause for the ounces she had missed. I would stay home and rest and she would do well so I would try going out to do something fun with the kids and then feel like it took a toll on her.  (Of course you don’t know but these are the things you wonder when you’re so closely connected to this tiny little person.)

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From the beginning, the Lord helped me to see that this was good for me. After six nearly problem-free infants, here was something new. A chance to be humbled, to learn – my inclination that it would work itself out was wrong. I’m so thankful for the advice and help from the doctor and lactation consultant.

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I cried at the thought of the fierce love I felt for Eden, the determination to see good done for her even though she was weak and needy and giving nothing in return. I knew that God’s love for me, his adopted child, was far greater and more perfect than that love I felt for her. Even in these circumstances.

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We knew that God’s wisdom and timing are perfect. That in His providence He gives things that are hard to understand.

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Why our seventh baby? Why right after we moved across the country? Why literally the day before we start back to school?

I don’t know the answers at all, but I do know that this has been a time of weakness. And a time to see His perfect strength – whether it’s through a meal delivered by a friend, a text from someone who is praying for you, a song about His greatness, the ability to continue on through exhaustion, or simply the knowledge that His Spirit is at work in you when you can feel nothing else.

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There is not a perfect ending to this story as we are still quite possibly in the middle. Eden weighed eight pounds three ounces at her seven week appointment and that was a huge success. We have every reason to believe she will continue, but at several points in this process I thought we had figured things out. With our trust and hope in God, we are doing all we can to chunk that girlie up.

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Thank you so much to all who have prayed and offered encouragement and practical help. This is certainly light affliction compared to many others, but it has certainly been given to draw us closer to Christ as we see how much more valuable and sufficient He is than anything else.

Eden, I tell you all the time, but we are so happy you are here. Already we long even more for that coming perfect fellowship with God and are grateful for the work of Christ to accomplish that for us. And we have your sweet name to help us remember.

A little theology of vacuuming

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The whole house was done. I got the last few corners of my bedroom and began to wind up the cord.

I am so happy.

My favorite house chore complete again. Of all the tasks left undone for weeks, vacuuming is not one of them.

So happy. Happy?

My thoughts were provoked.

This floor will be messed up in days. Where will my happiness be then?

It’s not wrong to have a good feeling from something being clean or put in order. But where did this love come from? Is there a deeper reason I enjoy the finished product of vacuuming?

I believe, yes! Created in God’s image, made in the likeness of the One who operates with complete order and beauty – this is from Him! And He is a source of happiness that will never end.

Of course it’s not wrong to feel happy about a house that is vacuumed. But let temporal happiness point you to something eternal. Shouldn’t that be one of the permanent benefits of our daily work? Take note of that love of order; revel in the One who gave it to you.

Worship the Lord for being made in His image. Worship Him for the common grace of loving the things He loves. Worship Him for giving us meaningful work and for the ability to enjoy it. Worship Him for being the One who does everything perfectly.

The list could go on. And after worship there is thankfulness.

Thankful for a vacuum. Thankful for energy and time. Thankful for people to vacuum after. Thankful for a house to vacuum.

Good theology takes you so much farther than temporal good feelings. It challenges you to know what is true about God and to see yourself in light of Him.

Everything true and beautiful about Him will remain even when the floor is messed up again. And that is something to be eternally happy about.

Whirlwind update

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So much has happened in our lives in the last year. It would takes hours of wasted time for me to write it and hours of boredom for you to read it. But since some of the changes have been major, I want to at least attempt an update.

In December of 2016 we found out that we are expecting another baby! It really is true, though hard for some to believe, that we are just as excited about this little girl as we have been with every other baby. Her due date, middle of July, is now drawing close and we are very thankful to have had a healthy and uneventful pregnancy so far.

This February Paul accepted a family pastor position at a church in the inland Northwest. He had been connected to this church already through the seminary and was very thankful for the open door with this body of believers.

We got our house ready to sell in exactly one week, put it on the market, and were overjoyed that it was under contract in less than twenty-four hours. We continued to move through that process, pack, and search for a new house thousands of miles away. No biggie. We had an offer accepted on a new house that we had not seen in person and hoped for the best. (Spoiler alert: it turned out great; we absolutely love it!)

The first week of March we said our very sad and very difficult good-byes to our friends and family in the East.

Perhaps the brightest spot in the past several months was our cross-country trip. I would love to say that I would blog about all our adventures and stops, but no promises. You can check out photos with the hashtag #gowestfunfam on instagram.

We are mostly settled in our new house. The kids LOVE the yard; I love the garden beds; and little by little we’re exploring our new city. Our new church has welcomed us so kindly and we’re excited about building new relationships there for the glory of Christ.

Are we tired? Quite. I think the adrenaline from all the change has worn off and now the impact of everything is hitting. We are so happy to be here; but maybe just a little worn out from all the transition. We are learning to embrace our weakness and rejoice in God’s strength, which is actually a pretty great place to be.

Love to all,

Christie

A tip for timeliness

Please, if you know me, do not laugh at me trying to write about being on time. In no way am I an expert on punctuality, but I do get to practice at it every single day. This little tip is beginning to change how I work to meet a deadline.

Hurry before you need to.

How many times do I find myself hurrying the kids to finish breakfast before we need to leave for church? Hurrying to pick up the house before company arrives? Hurrying to get my homeschool plans in order before the first day?

Bleck, bleck, and bleck. I don’t mind hurrying, but I hate feeling rushed and forcing others to rush. And I really hate that realization that no matter how much we hurry, we will already be late.

So I’m working at hurrying before we really need to.

I encourage myself and the kids to get ready quickly in the morning even when we woke up on time; choose a reasonable amount of time for breakfast and then end it; plan time to actually clean off the table, get our Bibles, and get in the car (stepping into another area of preparation there), but making ourselves do it quickly even if according to the clock we’re looking good. (this scenario applies to our Sunday mornings)

If I’m prepping vegetables or setting the table for company that night, I push myself to work as quickly as I can – feeling that hurry – even if no one will be there for an hour and a half.

When I sit down to homeschool plan I love to take my time and look through the books and think, but realistically, I only have those chances every so often so I need to  pick up the pace and get my assignments written down as efficiently as possible. Right now, some plan for two weeks is better than an extensive plan for three days.

It may sound like a silly mental game, but it really has helped me. And I really need help!

What about you – do you struggle more with the preparation or execution stages of punctuality? (I have my hands raised for both) = )

I’d love to hear what has helped you.

Here is a fun article I found after I wrote this. I seem to spend lots of time reading about how to save time. = ) Secrets of people who have all the time in the world.

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There is so much about this picture that cracks me up! Sorry if it’s only funny to me.

 

 

The Great License Plate Game

It all started on a long car trip from North Carolina to Indiana.

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Paul challenged the girls to find the license plates of all fifty states. And it became a family project that is probably one of the sweetest collective memories from the last few years.

Of course we found a ton on the trip. I was delighted by how quickly even the little girls could recognize plates that we had seen several times. (I should add that just a month or so earlier Paul had helped the girls memorize all fifty states. So it was easy to keep track of what we had already seen and still needed.)

We all were so in tune to license plates for months! Every trip to the store or anywhere the girls were pointing out states. It’s amazing how many are around all the time if you just look.

Confession: sometimes we would drive around parking lots looking for plates.

On two occasions we found new ones we needed at a mall about an hour from our house. I can’t even explain how excited we all would get when we found a new state. The rules were just that one of us had to see it with our own eyes. And it had to actually be on a car, not like on the wall at Cracker Barrel.

So around October we had narrowed it down to North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Hawaii. And pickins’ were slim. We were all sure that Hawaii would be the last one we’d find.

Owen’s due date came and went.

We even got my mom in on the excitement, but still nothing.

October 31. We had realized the night before that we needed to go buy candy. Around 11 that morning I began having contractions and by lunch around 2 or so, we were pretty sure this would be the day. (for the baby) So we stopped at our grocery store about five minutes from our house, and on the way back to the car…we saw a North Dakota!! In the parking lot! Of our grocery store! Five minutes from our house!

It was unbelievable! Such a sweet little blessing in the midst of another big blessing! (Owen)

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We were over the moon excited and incredulous. Only three more to go!

Some weeks after that, I was invited to a little Christmas party at a friend’s house and left Owen home with a sitter for the first time since Paul had a late appointment. Hating to be away from him, I kept my phone close just in case I was needed. We were eating dinner at this gorgeous table when a text came through – I tried to check it discreetly but gasped out loud when I read the message: Paul had found South Dakota!!!

That was fun trying to explain why that was so exciting.

So Vermont and Hawaii remained.

I mean, we should see a Vermont. It’s not like we’re on the other side of the country from it or anything.

We totally gave up on Hawaii. I hatched this scheme to buy one online and give it to Hope for Christmas.

So in early December we were out shopping for Christmas decorations, and by a miscommunication on my part we ended up at a shopping center we are not normally at. Between taking six kids (including a newborn) up and down the aisles of Michaels, and Mommy who has trouble making her mind up, we were all fine, but borderline cranky.

After getting in the car Paul started to wind through the parking lot, you know, just in case. And I saw it.

My arm shot out and grabbed him, “I just saw Hawaii! Go back, go back!”

He was unsure, “What? No you didn’t.”

But I knew I had seen it. “I did! I did! Go back! It had a rainbow on it!”

He circled back around and sure enough we all saw it. Hawaii!!

Evening made. Month made. Holiday season made. Year made.

We had found Hawaii!!!

And we were all together when it happened!

The parking space next to it was open so Paul pulled in and we got out and stared at it and took pictures with it like crazy people.

We literally talked about it the whole way home, replaying how it all happened and how crazy it was that we were even there, and how we all felt when we saw it. And that we were all together when it happened.

I guess you’d have to understand how long we’d been looking and how sure we were that we would never actually find it. It still makes me smile just thinking about it.

So…Vermont.

We contemplated getting in the car and heading north until we found one. (It’s okay at this point for you to be absolutely certain that we are nuts). But we had come this far and just had to have that last one. We had even looked it up online to be sure we knew what we were looking for. Apparently, Vermont has one style of license plate so that was good.

Christmas came and went.

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On one of those awkward post-Christmas days when you’re not quite sure what to do, we decided to take all the kids for a hike. We were almost out of our neighborhood when a little red car pulled in. Paul noticed the sign on the front of the car and whipped around to check when it passed us.

It was a Vermont.

He pulled in someone’s driveway and turned around action movie- style. The poor little red car, we followed it ’til it parked in a driveway only a street over from ours. Paul parked on the road and jumped out. (I think they were a little perplexed, to say the least.)

He explained our great license plate game and how all we needed was Vermont and they were our Vermont! The man was really good-humored and let us take a picture with the plate and the girls. They had just arrived from Vermont to visit the grandkids. We wished each other well and went on our way.

“Can you believe it?” We kept asking each other. We found Vermont! In our neighborhood.

A better ending to such a hunt could not have been scripted.

We were so excited that we decided to celebrate with milkshakes after our hike.

We went to Sonic. And they were out of ice cream. Are you kidding me? You’re Sonic. #youhaveonejob

But just forget that part because it didn’t matter.

Our excitement could not be dampened. We had found all fifty states.

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Yay for family. Yay for hunts. Yay for memories we will never forget.

On the benefits and drawbacks of being tired

I found this fun little draft from awhile ago. Hope it’s an encouragement to someone today! 

If there is one physical state of being I have experienced most in the last ten years, it is being tired.

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I’m not speaking of the worked-all-day-in-the-yard good tired or the ran-a-marathon-that-I-trained-for-for-six-months good tired, but rather the I’m-making-a-baby-and-carrying-around-a-one-year-old-and-up-and-down-and-bending-all-day-and-woke-up-three-times-during-the-night tired. You will have to decide for yourself what brand of tired you are.

But every stage has benefits and drawbacks. Every one! Maybe pausing to think about the graces given through this “difficulty” could be encouraging.

Here are a few things I can see as benefits:

When you’re tired it is often easier to say “no” to frivolous, external engagements. This is a good thing. No, I don’t want to scroll on facebook for forty-five minutes; no, I don’t want to watch the last three innings of that baseball game; no I don’t need to watch my thirteen billionth episode of Chopped. So there’s that.

When you’re tired it is easier to see yourself as weak before God. This is an especially good thing. Yes, I can do nothing good in and of myself. Yes, if I make it ’til tonight it will be God’s grace that has sustained me; yes, your mercies are new every morning; yes, God’s faithfulness shines brightest against the backdrop of human faithlessness. Relying on Him moment by moment becomes not something we know we should do, but our basic survival instinct.

When you’re tired it can be easier to be compassionate with others. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to be bothered with the foibles or eccentricities of others. Getting upset may take that last shred of energy that you will need to load the dishwasher that night. Or whatever. Relationships can be the precious comfort they were intended to be through the weariness of life.

Now…

Lest you pull an all-nighter to be on the receiving end of all these benefits to being tired… here are my views regarding the drawbacks.

Tiredness accentuates the difficulty of the spiritual disciplines. It’s hard to gain from reading the Bible when you fall asleep after the second sentence. (and yes, for us mamas of little ones, there will be times when no matter what we do, we will be this tired)

Tiredness exposes our hearts (perhaps this could be a benefit). If bitterness or selfishness or impatience have been lurking under a well put-together surface, being tired will probably bring those to the forefront.

Tiredness keeps our minds from working like normal. And we all collectively groan.

Tiredness keeps us from keeping up with routine tasks leaving us to feel overwhelmed and incompetent.

Sometimes being tired hurts – headaches, soreness from our body not having enough horizontal time… bleck.

Maybe there are things you can do to get a little more rest or maybe you just have to hang in there. Living in community with your husband and other sisters in Christ will help you know if you’re more in the “I need to work at getting more rest” stage or the “I’m doing the best I can and have to fight for joy and contentment” stage.

But there will be times (#youngmoms) when being tired just becomes a part of your life. We can rejoice in God’s sustaining grace and rest in His faithfulness that reaches the sky.