Monthly Ventures: Yoga & Hydration

If you follow me in instagram, you know that I am finishing up the February challenge #30DaysNewBraids: an entire month of different ways to braid my hair. I went from being nervous about doing a French braid to trying crazy things like a 3D Pull-Through braid. I now have a hairstyle repertoire up my sleeve - take that, messy mom bun! (I'll be doing a wrap-up post on that challenge later this week if you want some of the tutorials for yourself.)

Having a challenge each month is a great way to see specific progress. And if you're like me, you'll know that personal goals are the best type of motivation. If you want to hone skills that you'll have for a lifetime, you're going to have to practice for more than just thirty days. However, a month is a nice neat segment to start with.

I wanted to let y'all know my plans for the month of March, so that hopefully you can join me! This is basically a chance to challenge yourself to a little bit of discipline and a little bit of change. I dare you to try these things with me and see how much you notice change in yourself.

Of course, you know how plans tend to go...
proverbs 16:9
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
proverbs 19:21
There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.

But until He shows me differently, I am going to step out in faith and see how He uses these plans I believe He has put on my heart. Therefore, I proceed with hope and many prayers to cover these exciting intentions!
#1: Drink 80 oz. of water per day. Water has the ability to boost your metabolism, cut your snacking habits (if you're dehydrated, your body can interpret it as hunger), can increase your overall energy, and flush out toxins in your body. I spend most of my time slightly dehydrated, and I'm ready to change that. Choose your amount of water and measure it out into a pitcher or some water bottles each morning. That way, you don't have to try to remember how much water you've already drank.

The average person should drink about 64 oz. of water per day. A breastfeeding mom should drink something more like 80-100 oz. of water per day. And, as usual, always drink a little extra if you're in extreme temperatures and/or being more active (workouts, etc.). Don't push yourself to drink till you're bloated; trust how your body feels!

#2: Conquer One Yoga Pose. If you've never done yoga before, no worries. This challenge is about choosing one pose that is a bit hard for you to do and doing it every day for an entire month until you have perfected it. Yoga is best done when you do multiple poses to warm up your muscles before doing your "target" pose, but you may not have time in your busy day for a full sequence. THAT'S OKAY. What I really would like you to do is focus on doing your pose of choice 2-5 times per day. It only takes a few minutes. Try to hold the pose for one full, deep breath - and then lengthen it to more breaths as you progress. I have chosen to do the Crow pose.

If you're looking for some videos, I highly recommend Caroline Williams. Her stuff is fantastic (right now I'm working through her "Hot Mess" series). 

If you want to participate in these challenges with me on IG, use the hashtags #DrinkMoreWaterDare and #ConquerThatPose so I can follow along with your progress! Feel free to tag me as well!

> > >

Your challenges for this month may not be ones that are written down - they may be curveballs thrown at you, things you never imagined would happen. Things you wish would never have happened. That's okay. God gives us strength to face whatever is before us...whether we create those problems, or not. 

I'm creating these challenges for myself because I crave that extra motivation to act. I love seeing progress, being able to document change, and having specific things to do each day. That being said, I have absolutely no idea what this next month will bring for me.

> > >

Because I like being a busy bee, here are a few of my other focuses this month (and I'd love some support and encouragement with these if you have any to offer!):

Post on the blog once a week. I want y'all to have only my best work here on the blog. As easy as it is to throw words at you every day, most of them would end up being filler. So while I am never short on things to say, I need to discipline myself to follow through on a thought and take time presenting it. One post, one thought fleshed out, one idea for you to mull over for the week.

Upping my blog game...By starting a newsletter! This newsletter will begin later this month and will be available for any and all of you, not just moms! I'm so excited for this new development - even if my mother is the only one who reads it. Over the years many of my friends have told me what an encouragement my words - verbal and otherwise - have been to them, and I want to hone this gift that God has given me.

Early Potty Training. There's this thing where babies are a bit more manageable than toddlers when it comes to plunking them on the potty and making them sit still till they pee. I am more than willing to get a head start on this! Learn more about it here and here.

Sign language. Babies have a hard time communicating their wants and needs (which is why they cry all the time). I've chosen to give my baby some communication help by teaching her some simple signs. A lot of signs are similar, so I'm sticking with a few that I know I can be consistent with: milk, more, potty (to go along with the potty training), mommy and daddy, all done, and sleep. One thing to remember with this is to always say out loud the word that you're signing, so that their speech development isn't hindered.

Baby-Led Weaning. This is another "jump the gun" approach, but I love being prepared and planning ahead. Baby girl is nearing 6 months (which is ridiculous) and instead of making my own pureed baby food, I'm going to feed her whole food straightaway. I'm actually really excited about this because it means that I can give her tidbits of the food we're already eating, instead of making special things just for her.

> > >

What would you like to see more of on my blog? Is there a post of mine that stands out to you, and if so, what was the topic? What did you like about it?

Carefree Motherhood

"I'm a mom. I worry."

We've all heard this statement; some of us have even said it (...more than once). It's kind of a given. You're a mom, so you worry about every aspect of your kids' lives. And your husband's. And yours. But why? Why should the words "worry" and "mom" be synonymous?
Fear has been a part of my life for years. As a girl, I was afraid of the dark. Very typical. I was also quite afraid of bugs, especially spiders. And I remember being afraid at times of something bad happening to my parents. As I grew up, my fears became more "rational" - I was afraid of things that I understood could actually happen.

I think fear is one of Satan's greatest weapons against us. It has the power to paralyze us, turning any part of life into something so big that we feel like we can't handle it. Can't trust God to take care of it.

If we want our kids to be bold, brave, beautiful little souls that change the world, that attitude has to start with us. When I am afraid of something  (especially something silly, like a large bug in the house or driving in bad weather), I immediately think, "I don't want my daughter to be afraid of this." But no matter what I tell her, she is going to sense my own fear. It's natural.

So how do I combat it? How do I choose a better life for her?

By being unafraid.

I'm done taking for granted what the "acceptable" version of a mom is. And I want to challenge your version, too.

I'm proposing a new mantra. Not worried women and moms - but peaceful women. A mantra that gives life, rather than letting fear sap it away. A picture of "carefree" motherhood.

Not Careless Moms, by any means. Nor shirking responsibility for fun's sake. But allowing things to happen, being excited for uncharted territory, reveling in the unknowns.

We don't have to live in fear of the dark. We simply have to remember to bring a light with us.

When we let go of our fears, we are free. And we automatically free our children the moment we free ourselves. God wants to free us of all of it so that we can follow Him on crazy adventures.

"Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror." 1 Peter 3:3-6

Live with abandon as you take care of your families and yourself. Let go of the idea that you have to plan and prepare for every scenario that you can imagine. Release the idea that you can safeguard anyone from bad things. 

Our job is simple: trust God and pray. 
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6-6

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9

"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Lovely Little Things

I love Valentine's Day. Not in the I-have-to-be-pampered-today sort of way. I don't like putting those demands on other people. But I love it because it's a fun, cute day that is completely nonsensical. A day of hearts and random acts of love and a reason to bake new things.

Making these mini heart pastry-pie things made my day.
Not that it was easy, mind you. I had our new puppy underfoot because it's been cold and wet and he needs some lovin' + indoor time. So of course he peed on a chair within five minutes. Then when I came back from cleaning that up, baby girl had the mixer in her hand. I of course proceeded to spill vanilla all over the counter (though, if I was going to spill something, that was the best-smelling choice ever).

Basically, it took me all morning (and part of the afternoon...) to achieve these cute little morsels. Was it worth it? Yes. Halfway through did I want to give up? Also yes. But I love cutesy things and baking and it honestly made me really happy to spend ludicrous amounts of time on this one unnecessary thing.

You can find the official recipe here. My tips on the recipe can be found at the bottom of this post. But that's not the real reason I'm writing today, so, moving on.
I'm in the process of learning to let God plan my days. I started this awhile back, when I wrote about the cage that to-do lists can put us in. It gives me a chance to let Him handle the situation - before I plan my way around it. It offers the perspective that interruptions are meant to be, that I'll get done today what needs to be done. And it means that I have time to see the special little things He's placed for me to find along the way.

I'm not proposing a structure-less life. One of the best things I've ever done is decide to be a morning person and get up before the baby to do a workout/yoga/devotions alone, and that requires some discipline (but there have been a lot of days this month that I've been too exhausted to keep it up).

Letting go of my crazy plans and my lists and my expectations has given me freedom. I've discovered I pray more. And I laugh a lot more, too.
You don't need Jesus to be a part of your day if you're the one taking control. We can only see grace when we are vulnerable enough to need it. Yet there's something about needing other people that we avoid. If we have all the stuff and money and plans and knowledge that we need, then there's absolutely no opportunity for someone to help us. No chance for God to come to our rescue.

Letting my day take shape under His timing has been a huge blessing. I have had to need people. People to offer a dryer for my laundry, people to carry my groceries to the car, people to answer my millions of questions about how to do life differently in Texas. 

How are we supposed to show love if no one leaves themselves vulnerable enough to need it?
Besides being able to receive love and grace, I also have extra time to notice the little lovely things along the way. The stuff God put in our world to make us smile. 

Take a minute and look through your day and notice anything positive or funny, that maybe only you care about. Not just things that you're thankful for because they're practical or better than they were before. Choose things that are lovely, that you love to love. Things that make you happy. Smile and breathe deeply. You always have time to enjoy His good gifts. You always have a minute to spare to thank Him for the beauty in this world.

Here are some tidbits that I've noticed:

  • Waking up early with the baby, and being struck by the melody of birds singing just outside.
  • The heavy calm that comes with an all-day drizzle.
  • When my baby sees my face and smiles, just because it's me.
  • A cloud of runaway balloons in the sky, a whimsical rainbow in contrast to the dark sky that's spitting rain.
  • The times I am able to get completely through a workout or yoga session without having to get the baby - so, so thankful that He gives me times like that.
  • Friendly strangers at the grocery store. 
  • The sheer awesomeness of having a washer and dryer in my house! When you have a newborn and you're going through a million burp cloths, baby clothes, and of course all of your clothes that have turned into milky messes, and you have to endure three flights of stairs to get to the laundry, you really appreciate having one ten feet from your bed.

Tips for the Recipe:

  • Dough. Yes, Pillsbury pie crust dough is worth the extra buck or so - the generic store brand was sort of crumbly and thin and lacking.
  • Jelly. Use good jelly (and more of it) if you want that strawberry flavor to come through.
  • Cream cheese. I decided to double the recipe, but that left me with extra creamy filling on my hands. Any ideas for repurposing the stuff? Quick, before I give my husband the bowl and he eats himself sick!
  • Seal. Seal those babies up good, otherwise you'll be scrubbing burnt heart innards off your cookie sheets like I will be...tomorrow...because dishes can wait. But seriously, jelly likes to bond with things for life.
  • Sugar sprinkles. If you put them on too soon, while the pies and the melted butter are hot, they will sort of melt, too. And if you wait to do it, they don't stick at all. For the second batch, I just sprinkled on a little powdered sugar. It was much simpler and just as cute.

I think that's it! They're really easy to make. That is, if you don't have a baby interrupting the process...

Abundance in the Desert

I miss those crazy mountains. Moving away from them was kind of hard.

We've been in Texas for three weeks now, long enough for me to see a million things about myself and the state of my heart that I really wish weren't true. Living in the desert makes you feel dry. You notice your thirst. And sometimes God puts us in the desert to make us realize things that we don't notice other places.

I don't just live in a literal desert here. My inside is pretty dry and empty, too.

I want to be more than thorny branches and parched ground. When I am that dry, that thirsty, I am willing to soak up
any drop of moisture that is thrown my way - muddy water, sugary soda, jacked-up caffeine. Things that tide me over. But they do nothing to quench my real thirst or foster new growth. 

In the end, I'm more dried up than before.

Accepting the fullness, the abundance, the satisfaction of Christ means denying anything else that promises to fill me up.

When I look in the mirror, I don't see a badass mom. I see a tired girl. Her hair is tangled, her face is shaped by shadows, and her teeth are unbrushed (most of the time). Her thoughts are fragmented and her throat is always dry, the water never enough. She lives in a desert that she doesn't know how to escape.

I keep trying, really putting in effort to be the person that I want to be. The one who is happy, artsy, full of exuberance for everything she encounters...but simultaneously organized, well-rested, and smart, of course. But it is only pretty clothes put on the outside.
"Maybe I just wanted to look in the mirror and see someone worthwhile. But I was wrong. I see nothing." -MULAN
What if our job isn't to be the strongest, prettiest, most together woman? What if our job is to have unshakable faith and radiant joy?

I know that I have higher (ahem, unrealistic) expectations for myself than anyone else. Want to know the thing I hear most from my husband? "I just want you to be happy." That sounds shallow, but it's not. He's saying something from the heart: he is tired of seeing me worn out, depressed, afraid, lost - for no reason. He can't handle any more tears. He loves my smiles, my laughter. That's what he wants from me. That's it.

Why is that so hard to deliver? 

Because I have to be Wonder Mom and Stunning Wife and Glorious Instagram Sensation, duh. And who am I doing that for? Me. I have to do so many things, not because anyone tells me so, but because I am determined to be it all.

But somewhere along the way, I became afraid of Quiet and scared of Alone. I started running from the words, "Be still." I am filled with Busy and Noise instead. If one thing disrupts my little plans, I let Tired and Moody get the best of me, and I quit. Then suddenly I am exhausted by my failures, falling into bed without the energy to even brush my teeth. And I feel empty, as if the day were somehow pointless.
Abundance is "overflowing fullness." It means having so much that you literally cannot contain it. I have created a sort of artificial abundance in my life, stuffing my day with goals till I'm so full I could burst. But it doesn't feel like abundance. It feels empty.

You may have heard the following words before, maybe enough times to have numbed your understanding of them. Pause and allow them to wash over you like fresh water onto parched ground.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -MATTHEW  11:28-30

Come. Be still. Let His water quench your desert-soul. He asks for nothing - not perfection, not success. He seeks to have your surrender, so that He may shower His abundance of peace and love on you.
If you're interested in exploring abundance with me, I'll be here, just dreaming about running barefoot in lush green grass (one of those things I actually miss about Ohio).

The UNcomfort of Adventure

This week has been incredibly hard and long. Full of the growing pains that come with moving, changing, learning. A long roadtrip and we were shot into a new life, from the icy mountain peaks of Colorado, to the flat and spiky desert of Texas.
When we arrived, everything was gilded with glittering newness. We're back at a camp, in a community of generous people, living in a double-wide trailer that feels huge compared to our 650 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment. A new life and a new home and the chance to start afresh. It felt like a dream.

But like all great adventures, the excitement wears off pretty quickly when you're battling strange creatures, wading through bogs, and hacking your way through a sea of thorns. That's the thing about adventures: there's no telling what might happen. You open yourself up to fantastical experience, exhilarating joy, and extreme pain. After all, one of the definitions of adventure is,"a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome." But it is that same "uncertain outcome" that makes adventure so desirable, isn't it?

That is, until you're faced with frustrating things that make you question all of your previous decisions.

In baby girl's case, there were literal growing pains. A growth spurt and a second wave of teething coincided with our move, and we transitioned her into her own bedroom once we arrived, so the poor thing has been exhausted. Crying, screaming, waking multiple times at night, refusing to head has been spinning simply from trying to figure out how to take care of her.

On top of that, small negative things kept cropping up (adventure is never comfortable; just ask Bilbo Baggins). Instead of dealing with each one and moving on, I let them pile up in my mind like so many bricks, till they were one massive impenetrable wall.

No dishwasher. Mud wasps. Mice. Screaming baby. No washer or dryer. Talk of scorpions (no sightings yet). Boxes strewn everywhere. No cell service. Stinky stove/oven, stove/oven at all (temporarily). No sleep at night. Wild hogs. No alone time (needy baby + husband home all day). And most annoying of all, little burr prickers coating the ground, which means I can't walk barefoot anymore!

All of these things have the potential to feel like disasters when you let them build up in your head...yet they don't have to be. They're just roadblocks. Thorns, tearing at your clothes and hair and skin. Part of the curse of this world. 
I've been carrying around this burden: that each day must be better, each outing the most fun, each decision the best one, each task worthy of sharing on instagram. I want things to feel good and turn out perfect - all the time.

I keep expecting to reach a place were life "gets good." That magical land where I won't be tired anymore, where I won't be in an awkward transition, where I won't feel like I'm always having to run to catch up.

But that's never going to happen, is it? Life is the awkward transitions.

God waits patiently till my little freak-outs are over, till I take a deep breath and realize that none of this should even phase me. That it's just life, something I only have to take one step at a time. And then he just points out how he gave me an amazing man to walk through it all with me.

AdventureDad has been calm, chill, reassuring, and willing to do everything - from making dinner to rocking the baby to sleep to vacuuming up bugs to dealing with a mouse in a trap at four in the morning to watching Harry Potter with me because it's my favorite.

Last night we had pancakes and eggs for dinner, fried on an electric griddle because we won't have a stove for a day or two. We snuggled on the couch (we have a real couch now!) and we were a family: a little unit riding out the waves of adventure together.