Seeing Beyond the Pebbles

“This way Levi,” I called.  “Let’s keep walking.”

“C’mon buddy,” Josh said.

Levi stayed bent over on the path, picking up little pebbles and trying to hold as many as he could fit in his hand.

I looked around; we’d barely made it onto the path and had a little ways to go to make it into the gardens.  We’d stopped at a historic house on our way home from a photoshoot so Levi could stretch and run around.  The old house is nestled amidst trees and beautiful gardens, right on the edge of a river.  A gorgeous, quiet nook away from the busyness of town.

“Levi,” I said walking towards him.  “Let’s go so we can see the water fountain and all the pretty flowers.”

But he was content to plop himself down on the path and play with pebbles, not noticing anyone or anything else.

I stood there thinking, and without taking the analogy too far I wondered — how often do I stop myself short?  Levi had no idea that there was more fun to be had if he kept walking.  He was too focused on the pebbles in front of him.  When we walked him into the gardens and he saw the water fountain, he lit up even more and had a blast exploring.  So much so that we had a hard time getting him to leave!

There have been countless times in my life where I’ve been so focused and consumed on one particular thing that I don’t see the rest of what God’s doing, or the other things He wants me to see.  He’s so patient and faithful to help me see things when I’m ready, but I wonder how many things I’ve missed out on because I’m too consumed with what’s in front of me.

We can’t go back and relive things, and dwelling on what could’ve been won’t help either.  The only thing we can influence is how we look at things to come.  As I watched Levi and saw how thrilled he was with the pebbles, I thought of even the times I’m thrilled with certain situations or life happenings and how wonderful they are.  And could there be more?

Ultimately that’s up to God to decide and show us.  We can pray that He will give us eyes to see what He wants us to see, when He wants us to see it.  We can pray that we’ll see the bigger picture and all the rest He has in store — we can pray that we’ll see these things sooner than later, and have hearts and attitudes to handle them well.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to see more of His blessings and His gifts — sooner?  He knows what timing is best, and we need to trust that.  Yet there are certainly times we block our own sight whether we realize it or not; those are the times I pray will change.

In my own life, I pray that I’d be humbled and full of thanksgiving and peace.  We see life much more clearly when we’re aware of our humble position before such a wonderful, mighty God.  I pray He helps me see more readily His glory and workings!

Dear Diary

Hi everyone, it’s Tuesday.  And I’m sitting on my toolbox with a maple syrup bottle because that’s what Mom gave me.  The bottle doesn’t have any syrup in it though, and I wish it did.

It’s raining a lot and Mommy was going to take me to the beach but now we can’t go.  I’m bored.  But, I figured out that if I sit on my car and push with my legs I can go places.  My feet get in the way sometimes but I’m pretty proud of myself.  I still wish we could go to the beach instead, because then I can run and chase birdies.

Mommy let me play in the window though — she holds me so I can stand on the towels, and then I can see all the cars and the trees and the birdies.  And the rain.  And she helps me open and close the window, and I can play with the stick on the shade thingy.  There’s a string that she never lets me play with, even though I try a lot.  Sometimes I wait till she’s looking in the mirror (she always does, because she likes to see the other side of my face.  I don’t know why.); then I go for it and get it before she can stop me.  Except then she stops me, and I have to put it back.

Mommy says my friend is coming over soon and I’ll have someone else to play with.  That’s nice, I like my friend and sometimes Mommy gets boring.  Oh and she said I have to share my toys but I don’t know if I’m going to.

Sincerely,

Me

Happy Saturday

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Whom have I in heaven but You?

And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fail;

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

A Mother’s Dream

One of the fun things about being married is sharing friends.  Josh spent a few months at a school in Colorado before we started dating, and he met quite a few wonderful people.  One of these people is Katie, and though I’ve never met her she encourages me from a distance.

She and Josh have been “Facebook friends” for a while and every now and then he’d read me one of her posts — eventually I decided I’d give a friend request a shot and see if I could read her posts for myself.  For some reason, she accepted (thanks Katie!).

Katie has two sweet kids, a boy and a girl, and another baby girl on the way.  Her middle daughter was born with bilateral club feet as well as Shprintzen-Goldberg syndrome, which is a rare disorder that I’ll let you read more about by clicking on it’s name.

While every mother faces her share of challenges, Katie has had some unique and especially trying ones.  With that in mind, I’d love for you to read one of her recent posts; I’ve copied it below, and I pray you’ll be encouraged and inspired.

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KatieM

“I have a dream. In that dream there are sweet little children gathered about me. I look rested, smiling and happy. My hair is neat and my outfit is Instagram-worthy. My kids are smiling too as they gather around, looking up lovingly at me. In that dream my husband is proud of me, and his eyes and smile show it.

But in my reality, I look worn out, tired, and maybe even a little overwhelmed. My unwashed hair has dried syrup and vomit in it; my outfit consists of my husband’s t-shirt and oversized sweatpants that need to be washed two days ago. My little ones are gathered about me, but instead of smiling lovingly at me, they are pulling my hair and begging for more juice. My husband is in the background; he is home from a hard day of work and would love a home-cooked meal, complete with a beaming wife and quiet children. But instead, I beg him in between g-tube feeds and cleaning up my two year old’s poo from the couch to please order in pizza. Of course he does, and never complains.

Motherhood is the dream but the reality is so far from perfect.

I am far from perfect. My kids are far from perfect. All the preparation in the world couldn’t prepare me for even one day as a mom. Because the needs of little children go beyond just providing food and clothing, education, good experiences and lasting memories: they are souls – spiritual beings, whose hearts need shepherding and souls feeding. And I, along with my husband, are responsible before God to do this well.

This is the part you can perhaps prepare for.

Because nothing can prepare you for the need to be alert, joyful and available to little children and a husband while running on three hours of sleep. Nothing can really prepare you for the sacrifice of 9 months of pregnancy and 3 days of labor. Nothing can prepare you for doing it all over again the next year. And then the year after that. Nothing can prepare you for the day you look at yourself in the mirror, but can no longer recognize the person staring back at you. Nothing can prepare you for the intense love, the incredible joy, the shudder of tears that overtake your whole body when you stare at your precious little ones sleeping. The love is real, it’s deep, it’s raw and it hurts. I wasn’t prepared.

But I did prepare for this one thing: the knowledge that I can do nothing without a living, breathing, real relationship with God. I can’t lead my children in the right way unless I am being led in the right way. If I am to do more than just clothe, feed and maybe even successfully avoid a few tantrums, I need to be hearing from Someone greater than my own emotions and desires. Because they are many!

I need Someone who can comfort and direct me when I feel exhaustion, frustration and even anger at this beautiful, messy thing called motherhood. The kind of relationship that offers mercy and grace when I feel like a failure and need to start again fresh. I need Him to let me know when to be silent, when to speak. When to send them to their rooms and when to just gather them in my arms with kisses. When to say no and when to say yes. When to hold my ground and when to let it go. I never thought I would be so dependent upon God on a daily basis for even the most mundane decisions. He teaches me as I go. When I don’t know what to do, or what to say, His voice speaks to me. When I feel lost, unable to handle what the dream is bringing, His spirit can lead me in that very moment. I can talk to Him and He can talk to me. We have had many, many late night conversations, just me and my Lord.

When the dream has brought disappointment and failure, HE never has, not even once. I cling to this relationship, so grateful the God I knew in the days of my dreaming, is the God of my reality. He is the dream come true. He always has been.”

-Katie Millen

Memories & A Dear Diary

Yesterday I took Levi out for a little Mommy-Levi date at a nearby trail.  It’s a trail I walked countless times when I was pregnant with him; I’d get up early and go for some peace and quiet and fresh air.  Of course, I was the only pregnant lady there at that time and I had to remind myself that it was okay to just walk and not run like I’d rather have done.  :)

But yesterday was a sweet walk down memory lane, if you’ll excuse the pun — I reminisced all the mornings I huffed up and down the inclines and the moments I’d pause to look at the water.  All the time I spent thinking about and praying for the little one growing in my belly, praying for strength and increased faith for myself as my life was about to change.  Praying that the baby would grow up to love God and serve Him foremost.

To walk those same woods with that same little kiddo was so neat.  To see it from his perspective gave it a whole new look to me.  And this time, his brother is in my belly.  I have to admit it made me laugh, walking up and down carrying not one but two little guys.  The huffing this time was a little more intense!

What a great afternoon we had.  I’ll share some photos and then let Levi share his perspective in his weekly “Dear Diary”.  ;)

 

Dear Diary

Well Mommy already told you that we went on a trail.  She had me on her back while she walked and she let me hold rocks, and then I threw them.  When she put me on her back she had to bounce me a lot to get the strappy things to fit, and I couldn’t stop laughing because it was so funny.

I saw so many doggies!  And I got to say hi to a couple of them, they were soft and wiggly.  There were other little people too (that’s what Mommy calls them) and I said hi and bye.

When Mommy was done walking was the bestest part ever.  She took me off her back and I got to go wherever I wanted!  There were some stairs at a house that I climbed, and then we ran down a hill and then there was a path with a lot of bushes and flowers that I picked.  And when we went back into the woods Mommy let me walk and play with the rocks and bridge!

I hope we go back again soon because it was so much fun.  I love when Mommy lets me go wherever I want and play with everything.

Sincerely,

Me

Marriage: A Beautiful Gift

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There’s a picture frame in my parents’ den, holding a photo of Josh and me at our wedding.  It’s one of my mom’s favorites; us looking back through some daylilies, smiling for the camera.

I sometimes use that frame as a little 5×7 mirror, to see if Levi’s eyes are open or closed as I walk him to sleep.  Yesterday as I walked him I saw his reflection against the photo — the thousandth time, maybe, but this time it looked at little different.

It looked like gratitude, like thanksgiving.  Like the gift Josh is to me, the gift our marriage is.

It’s no small thing, marriage.  It’s the most binding and intimate and holy relationship we can have on this earth; truly it is sacred.  And I’m thankful — to have a friend and partner for everything, to make choices together and live every day together.  The meals and purchases and times of travel, the friends and family; it’s all shared now.  Everything.

There are times I think things might be easier on my own, if I could just forego having to consider someone else’s opinion and only worry about myself.  Yet it’s frequently that other opinion that grows and stretches me, helps me see beyond my box and think of other things.

The best part is that his opinion is one with the same interests in mind as mine.  The way he goes about pursuing those interests looks different than how I would and do pursue them, and many times we’ve had to step back and remind ourselves that we’re fighting for and working toward the same things.

But it’s wonderful.

We’ve grown together, laughed together, experienced so many things together.  Through the good and the bad, marriage is a beautiful gift.

It’s not perfect, but it gets better and better with time as we learn to serve each other and love each other more.  And learn we do, it doesn’t all come naturally; so we pray and continuously ask God to lead us and shape us.  And He does.

Walking in the den and seeing Levi’s little face layered softly on top of our smiles… he’s one of the many blessings that has come from our marriage.  God gives such good gifts.

Dear Diary

Today Mommy took me to a farm!  I didn’t want to get in the car but she said we could see cows, so I got into my seat.  I love cows.  They say moo.

We went into a building and there was a lot to play with, cept Mommy didn’t want me to touch everything.  She had to get some milk and write it down — but I took the pen.  :)

There was a doggy too!  He came over to see us and he was really nice.  And they had a lot of little rocks everywhere that I could pick up, and I took a bunch in my hand.  Then they fell out because I needed to hold Mommy’s hand to go back to the car.  Oh well.

The cows were all inside where I couldn’t see them, and I didn’t like that.  But I could hear them say moo and I said moo back.

I think we’ll go back to the farm next week because Mommy needs to get more milk.  And she said she needs to give them back the milk bottle, and then they give her some money for it, I think?  I don’t know but I hope the cows are where I can see them that time.  They sound like fun.

Sincerely,

Me

P.S.  I forgot!  Mommy wrote on her website today and she showed some pictures of me and Daddy and her.  You should go look because our family is fun and we made pancakes.  Go here:

https://www.aoriginals.com/blog/2017/7/31/personal-family-at-home

Happy Saturday

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It’s been a quiet, chilly day over here in Maine.  Levi and I scooted out to do a photoshoot with a friend this morning, and did a couple errands after that — now he’s napping and I’m sitting feeling little baby flutters.  Slow, brisk, cloudy afternoons like this remind me of Fall.

How has your day been?  I hope it’s been nice and relaxing.  :)

The Envy Effect

Recently I came across the following article and I have to pass it along — Shauna Niequist is a gifted author and I think she wrote this article wonderfully.  It certainly gave me things to think about, and I hope it does the same for you.

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Instagram’s Envy Effect

I keep having the same conversation over and over. It starts like this: “I gave up Facebook for Lent, and I realized I’m a lot happier without it.” Or like this, “Pinterest makes me hate my house.” Or like this: “I stopped following a friend on Instagram, and now that I don’t see nonstop snapshots of her perfect life, I like her better.”

Yikes. This is a thing. This is coming up in conversation after conversation. The danger of the Internet is that it’s very very easy to tell partial truths—to show the fabulous meal but not the mess to clean up afterward. To display the smiling couple-shot, but not the fight you had three days ago. To offer up the sparkly milestones but not the spiraling meltdowns.

I’m not anti-technology or anti-Internet, certainly, but I do think it’s important for us to remind ourselves from time to time that watching other peoples’ post-worthy moments on Facebook is always going to yield a prettier version of life than the one you’re living right now. That’s how it works.

My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.

Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.

But seeing the best possible, often-unrealistic, half-truth version of other peoples’ lives isn’t the only danger of the Internet. Our envy buttons also get pushed because we rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and when we’re lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness.

When you’re laughing at a meal with friends, are you scrolling through Pinterest? When you’re in labor with your much-prayed-for-deeply-loved child, are you checking to see what’s happening on Instagram? Of course not. We check in with our phones when it seems like nothing fun is happening in our own lives—when we’re getting our oil changed or waiting for the coffee to brew.

It makes sense, then, that anyone else’s fun or beauty or sparkle gets under our skin. It magnifies our own dissatisfaction with that moment. When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special.

But it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.

I’m a writer. I use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and my blog as part of my professional life—as a way to connect with readers and be part of a conversation that we’re creating together, a conversation about creativity and faith and writing and parenting and community and life around the table. It’s a lovely conversation, and part of my work involves reading many blogs and commenting on lots of photos and scrolling through status after status.

Some days it feels rich and multi-faceted. I learn and I’m inspired. I find recipes I want to try and stories I want to live. I feel connected and thankful to be part of such an intelligent and creative internet community.

And then on some days, I feel like I have nothing to offer, like I must be the only one who isn’t a graphic designer and hasn’t yet managed to display her entire darling life online with lots of chevron and mint accents. I feel so certain that my life is a lot less darling than other peoples’ lives.

But that’s the Internet. The nature of it. I so easily fall prey to the seduction of other people’s partial truths and heavily filtered photos, making everything look amazing. And their amazing looking lives make me feel not amazing at all.

Let’s choose community. Let’s stop comparing. Let’s start connecting.

Some days when I sit down at my laptop, instead of choosing to be an observer via Facebook, I choose to be a friend via email. Instead of scrolling through someone else’s carefully curated images, I use those few seconds to send a text to a person I really know and really love and really want to be connected to.

It’s not about technology or not. I’m not suggesting you get all old-school-pen-and-paper about it (unless that’s your thing.) It’s about connecting instead of comparing. Instead of using the computer to watch someone else’s perfectly crafted life, enter into someone’s less-than-perfect life. You can use Facebook if you want, but you might find email, Skype and phone calls work better.

The distinction I’m making is public vs. private, not in person vs. long distance. I have very close, very honest friendships that depend on phone calls and Skype dates and long wandering emails, and I’m thankful that technology allows for those connections. But I don’t think you can build transforming friendships that take place only in a public sphere like Facebook or Instagram.

For many of us, walking away from the Internet isn’t an option. But using it to connect instead of compare is an option, and a life-changing one. Using technology to build community instead of building carefully-curated images of ourselves is an option, and a worthwhile one.

And on the days when you peer into the screen of your laptop and all you see are other people’s peak experiences that highlight your lack in that moment, remember that life isn’t about the story you tell about yourself on the Internet. It’s about a million more beautiful and complex things than that, like love and faith and really listening. It’s about using what you’ve been given to craft a life of gratitude and passion and grace.

Remember that the very best things in life can’t be captured in status updates.

 

Article originally found here.

Dear Diary

Yesterday I did something funny.  Mommy came and picked me up when I was done napping, and I snuggled like I do sometimes.  (Sometimes I don’t really want to get up yet but she says it’s time and I have to, so then I curl up on her when she picks me up.  Because she’s comfy and maybe I can go back to sleep.)

Anyways, I snuggled and she started to rub my back.  And I realized I could rub her back too.  So I did — first it was more of a pat but then I rubbed instead and she started laughing!  I kept rubbing and then she kept smiling and laughing.

It was pretty funny I guess, and I laughed too and then stopped snuggling because I was awake and all done snuggling.  And I couldn’t tell if Mommy was going to cry because it almost looked like it, but I don’t know why she’d cry if I rubbed her back.  It doesn’t hurt.

She does cry sometimes though and she says it’s because of something inside her with the baby…  I don’t get it.  I don’t think Daddy gets it either.

Sincerely,

Me