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Sunday, January 8, 2017

What worked for me in 2016

I've been trying to do some goal setting for the new year, but I've also been thinking a lot about the past year.

So often we think about what we need to do differently or what we want to change. It's helpful to focus on what does work for us, rather than what doesn't. I always love when Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy shares her What Worked for Me lists.

1- Using a paper planner. I have tried to just rely on the calendar or set reminders in my phone, but found myself wanting an actual planner I could carry with me to keep track of things. This year, I invested in a really cute planner from Anchored Press (I had a coupon). It is not only gorgeous (inside and out), but it also has weekly devotionals and plenty of space to make a daily to-do list, write down what you're having for dinner as well as appointments. I've only been using it for a week, but I really love it.

2- A simplified wardrobe. Now that I am a stay-at-home-mom and live in a very casual place (thank you Colorado), jeans and t-shirts/sweaters are the perfect go-to outfit for my daily wear. Sunday is about the only exception, when I often wear black jeans and a cute top or occasional dress with leggings (because I have two small, active children). I had read about the daily uniform wardrobe and capsule wardrobes for years, but finally got to put some of these into practice (more on this soon I hope).

3- Drinking my coffee black. I know this may seem so simple, but I have Whole30 to thank for training me to not need any cream in my coffee. There are times (holidays mostly) that I add a splash of something like eggnog, but on the daily I am enjoying my coffee black.

4- A few apps helped me keep track of things. Clue (tracks your menstral cycle), Goodreads (lists of books I've read, want to read, etc), Ibotta (saves me money through rebates. I've seriously earned over $175 since I started using it last year by uploading my receipts from stores I regularly shop at, i.e. Target), Ebates (also give me money back, but for online shopping). Even though I mentioned my love for a paper planner, I do use several apps to track my life in areas such as reading, my period, and shopping.

5- Keeping a gratitude journal. I started this in November, but have kept it up and started using  a separate notebook this year to write down things I am grateful for on a daily basis. I have tried to keep it simple, but love how it allows me to journal in a small way by keeping track of things my kids say/do.

6- Washing my hair twice a week. That may seem a little gross, but I my hair has "trained" itself to be less oily and since I live in a very dry climate, the less washing the better.

7- Facebook groups. I used to be very much against online groups, but have tapped into a few great communities through Facebook that are so life-giving and encouraging (I also hope to write more about this later).

Have you thought about what worked for in the last year? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016

As we say goodbye to 2016, I have a lot to celebrate about the year. Our family grew by one, we moved across the country, sold 90 year old our fixer-upper, and we started a new chapter on the eastern plains of Colorado. We took our first road trip as a family of four and I was an adjunct instructor last fall.

Although, I wasn't very consistent at blogging this year, I'm glad I recorded a few stories along the way. It turns out teaching a college course for the first time is time consuming (!!!) and left me little time to write, among other things.

Looking forward to a new year, means new goals and fresh starts await. The week between Christmas and New Year's feels a little awkward to me. I want to dwell on the sparkling lights of Christmas, keep playing Christmas music and nibbling cookies.

BUT this year we took down the Christmas tree just days after Christmas. The house felt cluttered (mostly with new toys) and we had to make space. I felt sad to pack up or throw away so many fun things we'd done over the holiday season-- decorate gingerbread houses, DIY snow globes, "stained glass" trees, new Christmas books, and our "activity set" (read: Nativity). I will cherish the memories we made and saved a few things to pull out next year.

Despite my plan not always going the way I imagined, we had some fun starting traditions and making memories. As much as I'll miss the feeling of preparing for Christmas, I am looking forward to things returning to normalcy and starting new rhythms.

Next week, Maggie will return to preschool, but I will not be teaching in the spring semester. Bodie is crawling (A LOT) and there will be no shortage of things to keep us busy. My hope is to focus on our family more fully and be open to what 2017 has in store for us.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

As we celebrate the waiting

Motherhood has felt like failure in a lot of ways lately. I planned activities to do throughout December. While I told myself to hold them loosely (after all I have a three year old and 10 month old), I also hoped things would go a certain way. I found cute crafts on Pinterest that would surely turn out just like the photo!

But as soon as I saw my three year old place a cookie cutter in the center of the dough, the memories of how difficult making cookies with a child could be flooded my brain.

And the snow globes-- those were a disaster! Thankfully, my three year old wasn't too bothered by the water turning blue-ish green (from the evergreen tree) or the fact that the snowman didn't stay glued to the bottom and was floating the next day. ((Deep breaths))

Don't get me wrong, not everything has tanked. We've made some memories and I've taken some fun pictures, but I have also gotten so frustrated in the process. I don't call myself a failure, but I don't always get it right.

I try to take on too much. I let small things stop me from fully doing what is planned.

I am so grateful for Advent and its reminder to celebrate the waiting, to anticipate Jesus' birth. He doesn't want us to fill our plate so full that we're are unable to fit Him in. He came from all people-- the ones who succeed AND struggle. But the Bible tells us He has a special place for the downtrodden, the weak, the ones who screw up (Matthew 5). He meets them in their need and picks them up.

I am so grateful we serve a God who meets us where we are, no matter where that is. Whether we are over-planning our days or trying to fill them.

Despite having created some less than Pinterest-worthy projects this month, my three year old will excitedly rattle off all the character's names in the "activity." I don't say this to take any credit, she has some fantastic Sunday School teachers and other adults who talk about these things with her. We keep reminding her it's called a "nativity," but I guess we have some work still ahead.

May your Christmas be filled with reminders of Jesus drawing near. Emmanuel means "God with us." I hope you can feel His presence as you go about your celebrations!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Advent Plans

It's December first and I'm full of expectation. I sit here listening to Austin Stone's A Day of Glory Christmas album and diffusing pine and blue spruce, as I think back to a year ago this month when I first came to Flagler with Brandon for his interview.

Here we are a year later, having put up our Christmas tree in the parsonage we now call home.

There is so much to look forward to, as with every start of the holiday season. I feel like this is the first year our three year old daughter will really "get it" in terms of retelling the story of Jesus' birth. It has been so fun to watch her excitement when the timer on the Christmas tree clicks on in the afternoons and when we do a craft (similar to this one).

I had fun planning our family Advent activities and was tempted to "do all the things." But who can? Even with a fairly open schedule (only one kid in (pre) school), I know it is best to keep it simple and have been cautioned against overdoing it by more than one mom who has already been there (via articles like this). We also live in a rural town, so there are not as many nearby options for some activities I would have planned a year ago when we lived in a city.

So here's what we are doing/planning on doing.

I bought the Kids Read Truth table cards and we started using those on the first Sunday of Advent since there are 29. They are designed for kids of various ages with a question for 2-5 year olds, 6-11 year olds and 12-1 year olds. I thought they would be useful for years to come and they are so cute! Maggie has loved them so far and each night during dinner ask "when do we get to read the card?" There's also an answer key (which I wish I could have realized last night while Brandon was away at Bible study and I was trying to explain what it means to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly" to our three year old).

We're also using a paper chain count down from Color + Kindness' Advent and Christmas Countdown Calendar and Activity Kit (download). The bundle has a number of ways to "count down" and pieces to color. I've been loving her shop for downloadable PDF Bible-focused files for my preschooler (and some have memory verse cards for mamas!). 

I also bought five children's books to celebrate the season. I wanted to give them to the kids in a (somewhat) meaningful way, so I decided to wrap them up and have them open one every 4 days so we can enjoy the books before Christmas. My three year old loves reading so I think this will be right up her alley. I labeled each book with a number on the tag to correspond with certain days (1, 5, 10, 15, 20) and also wrote the numbers on the paper chain I previously mentioned. 

I also purchased Amen Paper Company's Adevent Bundle, something I've wanted to do for years (you can still  download the PDF devotional here for $12). I have the calendar hung up in our dining room, which is where we spend the majority of our time as a family. On the back of the cards I wrote an activity for each day. Some are simple like watch a Christmas movie and drink hot cocoa while others are baking cookies one day and taking them to neighbors the next. I also included things we already have on the calendar like attending and participating in the Living Nativity in town.

How are you celebrating the coming of Christ Jesus? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

A new season awaits

I kind of can't believe the last week of summer is upon us. While part of me is sad to say goodbye to the concept of summer, I am mostly happy to be welcoming a new season.

For one, fall is my favorite season. I've always loved back to school shopping. This is my 14th year of not being enrolled in a class, but I am still connected to the world of back to school and am embarking on my first year solo teaching. While it's a part-time gig, I am looking forward to trying something new and staying connected to higher education.

I look forward to the return of wearing jeans and boots and jackets. I love wearing layers! I am excited to spend more time outside, since it won't be so hot during the day and I really need to get back into my walking routine to get some regular exercise.

Truth be told, I am eagerly awaiting the new season with a lot of hope and expectation. I am anxious to get into a rhythm. I am hopeful we will feel like part of the community in some small way.

While we were in California and attended the annual gathering with our church, I got to hear Dr. Bob Logan speak. He had some really great things to say about doing ministry that really encouraged and challenged my heart. One of the things he encouraged us to consider was what he called "drop two, add one" when you are thinking about taking on something new. While I haven't had a lot of commitments since moving, the idea resonated with me in the culture of busy that so often exists.

I can't say enough about Jess Connolly's Fall into Freedom worksheets (probably because she's a girls after my own heart in the need for structure department). Doing the worksheets got me so excited for establishing some routines, but also being intentional about what I am saying YES to.

Since I am teaching, I expect there will be some structure to my days (at least three days per week when the class meets). The kids and I will attend MOPS every other week. And I am exploring some options for our preschooler to get into, but I am being intentional about what I commit to. I am hopeful the season ahead will be structured, but not overly busy.

What are you looking forward to as the school year begins?