A Look Back at October

Given the current climate, I thought it would be appropriate to re-start my monthly gratitude posts. (Also given the fact that October was ever so slightly exhausting for me.)

If you’re new here, welcome! These monthly remembrances are a time to sit down, to reflect on the last month. To see the beautiful hidden in the mess. To see the glory that gets overlooked by exhaustion. I take this time to sit down with my phone (because where else would all my pictures be?), journal, and calendar. And I remember the good and the bad. The hard and emotional days,  the victorious days, and the regular life days.

Enjoy the look back, friends. And maybe take a few minutes to remember the beauty and grace in your October. (And if it’s hard to find, check out this post about gratitude and how to find it. Because I promise it’s there. Sometimes it’s just hard to see.)


October. Where to start. You were exhausting.

Honestly, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We hit a homeschool groove (and honestly, almost felt like old pros). We traveled. We attended a gala (okay, that’s slightly out of the ordinary). And we hosted friends. It was a month filled with community and routine. And honestly, it was beautiful.

But there was something about the way it dragged on. The way it grew steadily darker as I woke each morning. …and it was still a busy time for Greg.

At some point, October broke me. I whined. I complained. And then…as I woke up one morning. To the dark (insert thumbs down emoji). But then, the most beautiful sunrise.

I wish a camera (on a phone) could do a sunrise through a window (it was ‘early’ morning, so I wasn’t actually going to go outside) justice, because there was simply something amazing about it. Something different. Something special. Like it was meant solely for me.

And it was then that I remembered. It was then that something stirred once more, deep in my soul. And I was truly grateful.

It’s something strange, friends. I had continued to practice daily gratitude. I had continued to spend quiet time (though admittedly shorter with the start of homeschooling). But it always felt forced. Something had changed and I couldn’t get back to where I had been.

But that morning shifted my focus. It moved me back. And that, friends was my October. It was a time of grumbling, complaining even in the midst of blessing and adventure. It was a time of frustration even as life was abounding. And then, it was a time of remembering and seeing God’s glory. A time of remembering relationship. A time of gratitude.

And because we’re friends, here’s some fun pictures of what October actually held for my family and I. Remember, to keep more up to date with us, head to Instagram. Because who can resist posting pictures of our littles and all the crazy that comes along with them?

And there it is. October. As told by pictures: galas, pumpkin experiments, life with dinosaurs, tailgating at University of Illinois, trip to Austin, apple picking (x2), pumpkin carving, and of course trick-or-treating. And to top it all off, a double thumbs down. Because this, friends, is life with boys.

How about you? How was your October? Can you look back on it and recall what was beautiful amidst the hard. I always find it helps my perspective when I take a moment and look back at life.

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The Fullness of February: A Look Back

I almost missed looking back on February. I’m not sure why. I feel like March has lasted forever. No end in sight. 

Except there is an end. And it’s today. 

So here I am, reflecting. Remembering. Remembering faithfulness and hope. Remembering the power of community. 

February was a quick month. It was a month that began with phone ‘dates’ and play dates.  And ended with seeing my new nephew, time with our small group, and mornings spent with friends. 

  
Perhaps more than being a quick month, February was a full month. Something I think I will be seeing more of in these coming months. And something that I think should be celebrated, when done right. 

You see, I believe in rest (so much that I’ve been nicknamed sloth in the past). But I also believe that Jesus asked us to serve others. Abundantly. He didn’t ask us to do only our favorite things. Or to love others by doing the minimum. He asked us to go the extra distance. To stretch outside of the comfortable. To love, and live well. 

February, of course, held Valentine dances and parties with the kids. Moments that are big and important in their eyes. Moments that allow us to love well, oh so easily. 

   
   
It held frequent play dates and coffee dates. February held moments with close friends that I only see once every few months. Moments that fill my soul. 

February, literally, held babies. February began with cuddles with my sweet niece and ended with my darling nephew. Meeting him this month is one of my very favorite moments from February. I don’t think there is anything quite so beautiful as a brand new baby. Especially one that has been hard sought and fervently prayed over.

   
   
February also gave us opportunities to serve others. We brought the older kids to Feed My Starving Children. It was an incredible time, working with others, to make a difference in the world. A time to teach our children generosity and love. We had friends at our house for mornings and for nights. We made dinners to celebrate new life. 

  
And oh how we celebrated. We celebrated friendship. We celebrated new beginnings. And we celebrated with my brother (in law) and his family as they began a new journey in Texas, planting a church in Austin. We celebrated life. 

And I celebrated my completed Bible reading. It was a joy. It was also a 3 month plan that took me 6 months. But it was a time that strengthened my heart. My soul. It strengthened my love for the Word. And it was a beautiful time of growth in my own life. And so as I jump back into reading the New Testament, I do it will joy and excitement. Anticipating God’s movement in my life and the way He will use my quiet time with His Word.  

February was certainly a full month. But it was filled with moments to love others well and to be loved well. It was filled with life. 

I know it’s a little far away, but go back and look at your February. What moments can you be grateful for? 

The Beauty of Remembering: A Look Back at January

I love this tradition.

Pulling up my calendar (yes, I still use a paper calendar), my journals, and my phone. Sifting through pages, words, and pictures. Remembering the beautiful and hard moments of the prior month. Those moments that when pieced together, paint a beautiful picture of the month before. And usually, it’s a picture of grace that I hadn’t even noticed as I lived each of those moments.


You know how much I love remembering. It builds gratitude. Throughout the Old Testament and within the old covenant, God urges His people to remember. To pause their daily lives and take time to remember His work in their lives. His provision. His steadfastness. 

Honestly, I think it’s something we miss so much today. This remembering builds my relationship with God, the trust I have in Him. It builds and strengthens my faith. Not because of something I have done, but because spending moments looking back shows me the way God is faithful amidst the everyday moments. The ways God is faithful and refining me in those hard moments. Remembering shows me the way God is working each and every moment to shape me. So that I reflect His perfect Son more clearly.

You see, if someone asked me what January held, I would shrug and say nothing. But as I glimpse through the words in my journals, my gratitude list, my calendar, and my pictures I see something I missed. I see the grace in the everyday. I see grace in the small, easily taken for granted moments.

This year, January began the way it has for 11 years: celebrating marriage. This year Greg and I ran away to Lake Geneva for a few days. We treasure these moments of time, reconnecting. Remembering each other, without the (joyful) distractions of our littles.


We enjoyed time with friends and family. Celebrating birthdays and the everyday. Enjoying life in community.

     

We watched as the littles continued growing and learning. Goosey-Girl is picking up reading so well. Boy-Child is growing with his social skills (a big goal for us)! Man-Child is learning the art of self-motivation and putting forth his best effort. And Baby-Boy, who really isn’t a baby, is talking more and more. And really embracing the joy of having so many playmates.


January began a new season of activities, new “date nights,” and annual doctor visits. (And good news for Boy-Child at his appointments.)


  

January was also a month of mishaps. The most memorable being my car dying when I needed to pick up Boy Child from school. This may not seem like a huge deal, but Boy Child has some special needs + severe anxiety. Throw in me arriving to school (very) late and in a different car …and a lot of his “old” anxieties resurfaced. However, this crazy afternoon reminded me how continually blessed we are by our neighbors.

I also re-started my Etsy store: Crochet A Smile. I love crocheting and am excited to be working with yarn more, once again. I love the personal way handmade items touch people and families. And I feel so honored to be a small part of those moments. Be sure to follow along on my with me and this handmade adventure! You can follow CrochetASmile on my Instagram or Facebook pages!

crochet bear
I love spending even just a few minutes and seeing the way a month wasn’t quite as I remembered. And January was certainly one of those months. How about you? How was your January? Can you take a few moments to remember January? Did you miss something small, like I did, in the rush of life?

  1. love to you

The Grace of Abundant Praise: A Look Back at December

December. It was only a few weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Yet, somehow, once school begins again, all the abundance December once encompassed finds its end.

And so today, as I continue to box up Christmas decorations, I take time to remember December. All the beautiful moments and the excruciatingly hard ones. The moments that continue to grow me, to stretch me. Shaping me, so that I may look more like Christ.


December ended with me finishing the Old Testament. I have enjoyed my journey through these books of grace. These books that weave together a love so abundant, so personal, so overwhelming. December began with me in Isaiah, one of my favorite books of the Bible.

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You, 
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever, 
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

December began with friends. Literally, the first thing I did on December 1st (after taking the kids to school, of course), was talk to my dear friend from Sweden. Our friendship makes me smile. Like many of my closest friends, it surprised me. And looking back I can see the way God weaved us together.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid; 

for the Lord God is my strength and my song, 
and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)


I spent time with my community, the people that not just surround me, but grow me. The people that challenge me and support me. I enjoyed time with dear friends as we watched our children grow in friendship. I reconnected with a friend and watched as our littlests played. I went running (or fast walking) and began to dream about taking a dog running one day.  We enjoyed parties and celebrations with our closest friends. We cheered on our kids, as our friends sat alongside us, loving our children as if they were their own. And as I sit, looking back on my December calendar, I am lost in praise. Overwhelming gratitude at this abundant community I have been blessed with.

“…the desert shall rejoice and blossom…
it shall blossom abundantly

and rejoice with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)

December was also filled with celebrations. Of course, there was Christmas and New Years Eve, but for us December held so much more. December closed with Man Child turning 8. We celebrated with an afternoon playing games and laser tag with just him. I praised God for this life, this child, who is so much of me (unfortunately, not just the good parts).

“Even youths shall faint and be wary, 
and young men shall fall exhausted; 
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31)

We also enjoyed Star Wars, like the rest of the world. We went with most of our family, and were able to take Man Child! He loved it and I loved being able to share in something he likes. We also cheered Goose on during her first ballet recital. A few days later, we saw the Nutcracker Ballet and fell in love with the beauty of dance and, of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy. And I celebrated my nephew, due in February. I am praising God for these little ones, for their hearts that are so unique and for the unique roles they (will) play in the body of Christ. 

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid; 

for the Lord God is my strength and my song, 
and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

We celebrated Christmas abundantly. Literally, we had a handful of Christmas parties and the same number of Christmas celebrations. We sang carols with close friends, remembering the coming of Jesus. Celebrating it. We saw extended family and enjoyed time together. We spent time with friends: neighbors and co-workers. And we celebrated the blessing of each relationship.

“…by His knowledge shall the righteous One, My Servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and He shall bear their iniquities.”
(Isaiah 53:11)


Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and ‘Christmas Sunday’ were spent with family, marveling at the blessing of God come down. Emmanuel, God with us, fully God and fully man. Man Child read from Luke, the Christmas story, amidst an abundance of toddler and infant noise. And it was beautiful. The kids celebrated others as they handed out gifts for each other over themselves. They learned the gratitude for a few gifts over many. For gifts made by hand, personally created for them. And as I think on all the celebrations, I am struck by one thing. The abundant way we are loved. And even more, the abundant way we love others. 

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given; 

and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)


And we went to a Bulls game. This gets its own paragraph, because well, it only makes sense if you know the boys in my life. We were able to bring Man Child and meet Bill Wennington. We went with friends. Friends that have seen hard but that praise Him nonetheless.

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; 
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'” (Isaiah 30:15)

I pray you all had a beautiful December. And if you haven’t taken down your Christmas decorations yet, take some time to remember the beauty of December as you pack everything away. Remember the abundant blessing of it all. 

love to you

 

 

 

 

A Look Back at 2015

This weekend at church, we were asked what we were thankful for in 2015.

I sat that morning, holding Boy Child. Holidays and changes to schedules are difficult for him. But the irony of a Sunday service with him and reflecting on 2015 was not lost on me. And perhaps overwhelmed me all the more.

  
I was overwhelmed by tears. Tears of thankfulness for this last year. Tears for the hard parts of our journey. The parts we are still enduring. Tears as I listened to friends and strangers sharing their 2015. Tears as an elderly man walked up and thanked God for the journey. For the hard. And for His Spirit that enables him to continue on. To endure. 

And as I sit here, reflecting on this 2015, I am overwhelmed by all this year held. All it encompassed. By all we have seen. By all we have endured.

I am left overwhelmed by all the growth and beauty of this year. 

You see, 2015 began with a period of hurting. Of questioning. Of not seeing or understanding. 2015 began with blindness and hurt.

Sweet Boy Child was not talking. We were beginning to question what was happening. We were seeking more. More answers. More stillness. More peace. More. Of Him. 

And as we sought Him, He showed Himself to us. Just as He promises:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
(Jeremiah 29:13)

We dived into the Bible.
We dived into small groups.
We dived into daily gratitude. 

And we were left changed. 

We saw the effects of daily gratitude as we walked through hard days.

We saw the benefits of iron-sharpening-iron community. We saw the beauty of community filled with truth and wisdom. We shared in a community that challenged and encouraged.

  

We saw the stirring of our hearts as we poured ourselves into His Word. We saw our lives changed. We heard Him speak to us through His word.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
and for Your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; …
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. …
I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love,
because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul,
and You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a broad place. 
(Psalm 33:3-8)

In February we began neuropsychology testing for Boy Child.
In March we began to see growth. Healing.
In April we received a diagnosis of language delay, developmental coordination delay, and severe anxiety.

And each day, though hard, we saw Him. His love. Reaching out to us. As a refuge. As our strength. As our courage.

Through it all we continue to grow in His Word. We said yes to where He called us. And we have never looked back.

And so today, after a year of…a lot. (There’s no word that truly, fittingly encompasses the beautiful mix of uncomfortable + hard + suffering + grace + mercy + faithfulness + friendship + blessing + truth.) Today, I can look back and see the fruits from it all.

This end of 2015 has found me exceedingly thankful. Thankful to be a part of His glory. To witness Him. His work. His faithfulness.

Thankful for:
* COMMUNITY. People loving me. Us. Through hard days. Difficult appointments. Praying for us. Encouraging growth.
*BEING CALLED MOMMY BY LITTLE LIPS. This mothering. This parenting. This refining of them and me. This drawing us closer to God.
*THE BEAUTY OF CREATION. Seeing the hand of God in it all. And sharing it with those I love.
*MY HUSBAND. His grace. The way he sees me. Knows me. For all that we share.
* GREECE. For adventure. For seeing something new. For experiencing this place, with family. And the anticipation to see it again soon.
* WRITING. For the freedom found in it. For the YES I say with each post. For the beauty in the story. For those reading these words. For the way they will be used. For those encouraging me, joining me.
* COFFEE. The smell. It’s warmth. Joining me each morning as I dwell in the Word.
* TEARS. Each and every one of them. For showing me, reminding me of Him. Of where my heart lives. Where my heart beats strong. Of truth. Of joy. Of peace.

Wishing you a beautiful New Year, friends. Take some time to remember what you are thankful for in this 2015? Can you say you are thankful for the journey? Even in the hard parts? 

love to you

The Grace of Thankfulness: A Look Back at November

A little late for my glance back at November, once again. But I am so very glad I waited until now. Today is one of those days where I need to remember. One of those days where I need to pause and remember God’s faithfulness. His truth. And if you’re having one of those days (or weeks), I encourage you to take some time and remember too. Practice gratitude.

  
November was a full month. Full of time with friends. Pink leotards and my dancing ‘Goose.’ Full with hockey sticks and hockey nets. Full of coffee. Full of time with family. It was a beautiful kind of full. The kind that leaves you feeling filled up and loved. The kind that leaves you feeling grateful. 

November also saw the kids home. A lot. It wasn’t quite as imperfect as I had planned. Or rather, it was more imperfect than I had planned. So today, as I sit down with my daily calendar, gratitude journal, and phone (because that’s where all my pictures are) I also take along grace. Because without it, I’m a mess. Really, without Him, I’m a mess.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2-2)

  
‘Goose’ turned six in November. She celebrated lavishly…and we did too. Though, much to her chagrin, we did not wish her a happy birthday the days after her birthday. She danced her heart out to Disney princess songs. She overcame fear. I watched as my daughter grew this November. And it was beautiful. It leaves me anticipating her growth over the next years. I stand secure, steadfast, knowing her growth will continue to be beautiful and life giving.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.” 
(Psalm 25:4-5)

  

Sweet Boy Child potty trained this past month. Talk about glorious. And even though diaper-free doesn’t necessarily mean mess-free, I’m pretty ecstatic. It was also a month that forced me to reconcile how I have changed as a special needs mom. I’m not as “free” as I once was. I don’t do messy. We tend to avoid crowded or busy events. Truthfully, it’s hard seeing the differences of how I parented before Sweet Boy Child and after. But it’s also grace filled. You see, Baby Boy doesn’t know he’s “missing” anything. The older kids are learning that others are more important than them. And one of these days I’ll write more on this, but for now, I’m left remembering that Boy Child, his story, is part of each of our stories. And it’s a beautiful part. Filled with growth and strength. Filled with love.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my god, I will give thanks to you forever.” 
(Psalm 30:11-12)

We enjoyed time with friends. Family friends. Play times. Play dates. Coffee dates. Book studies. And even PTO meetings. I don’t know about you, but I need time in community. Not just any community, but my community. A place of deep relationship. A place where we can be silly and joke, but where we also share the depths of our hearts. Our souls. A place where those depths are treasured and can be shaped. And so time with this community, these people that remind me of truth and guide me in grace, is always tops on my lists of gratitude.

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the work of your hand, I sing for joy.” 
(Psalm 92:4)

  

We celebrated Thanksgiving well. I have no pictures to share (hence this warm weather picture) because it was a time of calm. A time of relaxing with family. The people that I have grown up with. And we all enjoyed it. With tons of delicious food. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart…” (Psalm 111:1)

  

And right after Thanksgiving, my precious niece was born. I got to hold and cuddle her. …And be totally okay knowing I will not be having another baby. (Number one sign you know you’re really done having babies.) 

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” 
(Psalm 19:1)

November also saw me surpass 1,000 gifts. If you have been following along with me, you know I have been counting 3 gifts, 3 things I am thankful for each day. Some days I only had one, other days I had five. But on November 30th, I passed 1,000!

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you…”
(Psalm 31:19)

  

I am also reading through the Bible again. I am technically doing a 3 month Bible reading plan. But I’m pretty far behind because I journal and re-write Bible verses like crazy. And because I love writing and re-writing, I am continuing to do it and will finish when I finish. November saw me finish Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Isaiah. And I loved them all.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.” 
(Psalm 119:130)

And so, as November runs into December, I pray that you find time to pause. To reflect and remember. What a beautiful gift this season is, guiding us, nudging us towards more. Ever so subtly. 

love to you

The First Snow

There is just something so beautiful about the first snow. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but tonight, I sit, watching snowflakes fall. As they cover the branches  of the trees in the backyard. As the pines become a beautiful winter white. I cannot help but feel something special. Something new.

As I stare out at the sleeping wonderland around me, I feel peace. It is quiet and still. The snow is pure and white. There is nary a footprint to mar it’s beauty.


Perhaps this first snowfall of the season is even more special because it began at night. After (or rather, as) my little ones were tucked quietly into their beds, the snow began its magical and wondrous decent. It quietly began to cover the ground. Nudging the earth to sleep once more.

And it is there that the beauty begins, isn’t it? In the quiet. You know my life is really, anything but quiet. But here, as the snow silently falls, it is. I simply stare out the window. Marveling at the beauty of a snow-covered branch. And it reminds me of more. It reminds me of Him. The Creator. His marvelous works.

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