Surviving Week One

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Last week was Nick’s first week back to work full-time. I was horrified and excited to figure out what solo parenting these peanuts would be like… I had ups & downs and endured multiple meltdowns (myself included).

Having a newborn & a toddler is just as crazy as it sounds. But there were things that definitely made the week easier.

What’s Helped Me Survive

  • Mocha Overnight Oats
    This has been INCREDIBLE for several reasons:
    1) I don’t have to make breakfast for myself in the morning (it’s made the night before).
    2) I get caffeine (there’s coffee in it).
    3) I get protein (there are oats & almond milk in it).
    4) It’s delicious (chocolate).
    I’ll be posting this recipe in the days to come, but I’m sure you can whip it together with the gist I just gave you. And it tastes amazing.
    PS how have I never thought about putting coffee in with the milk when I make overnight oats?? Brilliant.
  • Toddler Toys
    More specifically, toys that keep my 2 year old pre-occupied. The toys that have done this the best is a little bowling set I got him and the “gone fishing” game.
  • Emails & Texts
    I apologize to all my wonderful friends who have left voicemails and haven’t heard back from me. As I’ve said plenty, I’m a zombie right now and lack energy for phone conversation. But what’s kept me totally sane has been being able to text and email girlfriends. Even if I don’t have energy for coffee dates or long phone chats, I love that I get some friend time this way.
  • Perspective
    The best thing I’ve been able to do over the last week has been remind myself that this season is temporary. With that, I not only begin to cherish the really little, beautiful moments, but I also find relief in knowing that things will get easier. Kai WILL sleep through the night one day and he WILL be less fragile/needy as time goes on. One day my boys will be old enough to play together and I won’t be hanging by a thread trying to cater to them both separately at once. Of course different challenges come with different seasons… but the challenges of this season will soon be over.
  • Gratitude
    Finding beauty in things as little as my morning coffee… or our new fall candle that makes our home smell like the holidays. Finding gratitude in things as big as my two precious, healthy boys & my amazing community. Looking for beautiful moments, even when I’m tired and cranky, has been surprisingly simple.
  • Comedic Relief
    Thank you, Mindy Project and New Girl for giving me some quality laughs while I’m on the verge of meltdown.
  • Baby Carrier
    Kai lives in the Ergo. Apparently I’ve got an intense snuggler on my hands… he loves being upclose and personal so whenever he gets fussy I just put him in the Ergo (that literally glues him to my chest) and all is calm again.
  • Community
    Last, but certainly not least (in fact, the most helpful), our community has been vital. We are unbelievably grateful for dear friends & family who have dropped by to say hello, bring meals, groceries &/or help with the boys… I don’t know how we’d make it without you.

What’s Been Difficult

  • Bedtime
    Trying to put down a 2 year-old while caring for a hungry/crying 3 week-old feels pretty close to impossible when you’re the only parent home. Hopefully I’ll get a good routine down for this soon.
  • Getting Out
    Getting out of the house has been very difficult, but at the same time, absolutely vital to survival. Even if it’s as simple as going on a walk with the boys in the morning… nothing frees you from the feeling of house arrest quite like actually getting out of the house.

That’s my gist for week 1 of solo parenting.

My goals for this week are to shower every day and get out of the house at least once per day. Already excited to figure out somewhat of a routine 🙂

Would love to hear from you! What’s helped other mom’s during this transition?

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Reflections on 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I decided to jump on the bandwagon and answer some reflection questions going into the new year to help me process & plan accordingly for 2016 🙂 Here are the best questions I found (via http://www.theartofsimple.net) for reflection.

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1. What are the best books you read this year?
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin
The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown
What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty

2. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Becoming a licensed occupational therapist! I got my masters, passed my national board exam and now, I can finally move forward from the academic part of my career! It’s been a long journey and I can’t believe my professional life can begin at last 🙂

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
My summer fieldwork at a nursing home. To be honest, I was absolutely dreading this. In school, your peers (& sometimes your professors too) tell you the horrors of nursing homes. In their defense, many of them are poorly managed and get a bad reputation for their patient & employee neglect. But the one I was at was wonderful. I had wonderful therapist mentors who helped me every inch of the way and walked me through everything. I truly feel like my experience there prepared me best for my career as an OT.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Although most of my friends & family do not know this, I feel comfortable sharing: I had a miscarriage this year. Towards the end of the year, actually. Both the pregnancy and the miscarriage were unexpected… and we were absolutely devastated to lose the pregnancy. I was lucky that it occurred so early on (I only knew that I was pregnant for two weeks). But it was still heartbreaking. And the pain was a lot deeper than I had ever envisioned miscarriage to be.

5. In what way did you grow in your relationships with others?
I became better at speaking truth. Before this year, I was incredibly timid to be honest with friends if I knew it meant they may get upset or it may result in conflict… but this year, I learned what it means to speak the truth in love, regardless of the outcome. I learned what it means to say “I care about you too much to not be honest with you.” I learned the importance of resolving conflict in a timely manner & not simply retreating from it. Hard conversations have always been, well… hard for me. But this year, I definitely grew in my ability to have them well.

6. What brought you the most joy?
Joining our church a plant. For those that don’t know, Nick & I joined a church plant in February (right after leaving a church plant that disbanded). Although we grew exponentially at our first church plant & had incredible mentorship, we vowed to not join another one because we were exhausted from trying to start a church. But when we found ‘Renew Church’, we knew we had to stay. When we first went, it was a church of about 30-40 people. Today, it is 150. We have been blessed, not just with being a part of something beautiful, but also with a community that we have been praying for for the past 3 years. For me, LA did not feel like home until this year, and I think that is in large part due to finally having community near us. We have been so blessed, challenged & encouraged by our church family.

7. What was the best habit you kept this year?
I have to name two because I can’t decide-
habit #1: going on a media fast (AKA: no TV shows & no social media) the last week of every month. This has been amazing for my soul & my time with friends and family. I always dread it, but when it’s over, I feel completely refreshed.
habit #2: no sugar/sweets during the day (only after dinner).

8. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix & Hulu. Yup. Every single one of those things.

9. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
I’ll narrow it down to three:
time with loved ones… 🙂
reading for leisure… I read 19 books for leisure this past year, which I think is a personal record.
writing… I have found a real passion for communicating stories & insights I’ve learned. I plan to do more of this in the new year.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I grew in my leadership skills. Nick & I lead the outreach ministry at our church and I have learned a ton about having vision, strategy & leading a team through that role.

11. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Vulnerability is courageous AND contagious. Being real with people about your imperfections is not just good, but it is vital. It may be more life-giving for others to hear about your struggles than sharing your successes. I have seen so much freedom come from my vulnerability (both in myself and in those I am vulnerable with). And in turn, I have been so blessed by those who have opened up with me.

Sitting in the Sadness: What I’m learning about Suffering

I know what you’re thinking: kind of a weird topic to write about the day before Thanksgiving. But I was reminded today about the Thanksgiving I had 4 years ago: me & my parents spent the entire day in the hospital. My mom was nearing the end of a long & tedious battle against a terminal illness. And I remember thinking: “I can’t muster up any gratitude today… this is just too painful.”

I didn’t think that I could actually choose gratitude & joy amidst the loss & turmoil we had been through that year. And I’m sure many others may feel that way today.

Let’s be real for a second: the last three weeks have been hard. Both personal and global strife has caused my heart to ache. I’ve felt emotionally & physically exhausted… and I’ve found myself continually asking God one question: “Why?

Why, oh why, does He let his beloved children suffer? From the deadly attacks in Paris to the millions displaced in Syria to the individual loss that each person endures on the daily… I do not know where His sovereign hand is.

And when you look at the world, suffering happens every. single. day.

The last four years have been a roller-coaster ride and there’s much to say on this topic. For now, I’ll take a de-tour from the ‘personal’ and simply write about suffering as I believe it relates to each one of us. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about-

4 Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. Our need for “quick fixes” & “how-to’s” makes it really hard for us to tolerate suffering.
    I remember the first time I saw a therapist after my mom passed away. I distinctly remember asking her, “Could you give me a to-do list to complete so that I can grieve and just be done with the pain?” I’m pretty sure she laughed.
    Suffering should never come as a surprise, yet it always seems to completely delineate & traumatize us. We want the path of least resistance. We want the easiest, most pain-free journey possible… and there’s only one problem with that: suffering is inevitable. And when it comes? We want it fixed and we want it fixed now. We are afraid of sitting in the pain… Yet that’s the only place where real transformation happens. That’s the only place where we can access our emotions and begin to heal… quick-fixes don’t work here.
  2. Seeking distractions & numbing the pain usually doesn’t promote healing.
    Just to make a disclaimer: I don’t believe that it’s always wrong to numb pain by watching a show or doing something to stop thinking about it. A friend recently reminded me that it’s absolutely ok to give your mind a rest… distractions can be helpful.
    But at some point, we need to confront what we feel. This may be the hardest part of suffering (or maybe that’s just me), but allowing my soul to be still & quiet is unnerving. I’m restless. And prone to numbing. I want to keep myself busy, preoccupied & constantly in the presence of others… there have been nights where I’ve needed the TV on to fall asleep.
    In Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection“, she talks about how you cannot selectively numb emotions. We cannot say, “I choose to not feel pain, but I will allow myself to feel the happy stuff.” That’s not how it works. If you numb the bad emotions, you numb the good ones right along with it. So consequently, allowing yourself to sit and work through the pain (without seeking distraction) builds your capacity for love and compassion. It’s amazing isn’t it?
  3. Suffering allows us to more fully experience joy & celebrate life’s treasures.
    Let’s take Jesus for example: Could Jesus have resurrected without dying? In order to experience the glory of his resurrection, we had to endure the pain & brutality of His death. Enduring the hard times is what makes the good times so so good.
  4. Our character is built when we suffer.
    We grow in humility. We grow in patience. We grow in gratitude. Our compassion for others becomes so much greater. We are filled kindness and grace.
    Suffering is vital for our character growth. And God is way more concerned with our character than with our circumstances.

And now to address my final question:

How can I suffer well?

Suffering looks different for everyone (of course). But I’ve noticed Christians always talk about “suffering well”… Which I believe refers to our suffering being used for our betterment & not for our detriment. How can I suffer in a way that builds me up rather than tears me down?

In churches, we sometimes hear advice that sounds like this:
Lean on God!
Trust the Lord!
Just pray!

Huh?? What does any of that even mean??

I have 5 points that I think can indeed help people suffer well, but before I get to them, I want to mention something I learned from a book I’ve been reading.

I recently picked up “Joy in the Journey” by Steve & Sharol Hayner. This book is a collection of their journal entries during the 9 month period where Steve battled terminal pancreatic cancer. And I must say that I am floored. I am in awe. Up until reading this, I am not sure I truly believed that you can actually have joy & peace in the face of death. Not just plain old hardship… but death. I did not know that while sitting in intense pain, you could still experience supernatural rest in God’s presence. Yeah, okay, I know that in scripture Paul talks about God’s sustaining peace & joy while he’s being beaten & locked up in jail. And Jesus himself offers praise & adoration to God while being persecuted by everyone. But those are bible people… super heroes… or so I thought.

I now know that even amidst intense trial, joy & peace are absolutely possible with Jesus. There’s space to grieve & be sad, of course… but we must never underestimate God’s power as our ultimate hope and comforter. He truly is all we need.

Here are the things I’ve found that help me endure trials & draw near to Him (aka “suffer well”):

  1. Praying
    Which is, honestly, one of the toughest things for me to do. It’s so much easier to talk to visible people. People that will readily speak back and give me a real-life hug. But praying is vital. It is our life-line. It is our primary means of communicating with God and ultimately, allows us to better see & hear Him.
  2. Reading Scripture
    My heart remedy. This one’s easy for me because I’m a reader. I love words & stories. What better words to imprint on your soul than ones from the Big Guy, himself? Jesus’ stories remind me to keep an eternal perspective… that I am not alone in my suffering and that it can indeed be purposeful.
  3. Seeking Community
    Because this is where community really comes into practice: walking with one another in our pain & suffering. God guarantees an abundance of joy in this world, but it’s never distributed evenly; we are called to be vessels of joy & comfort for one another. Of all the times in my life where I’ve desperately needed to be picked up, I have had incredible friends & family, whose prayers, encouragement & wisdom have carried me through difficult times. I often wonder, “where would I be if I didn’t have people that sat with me, loved me & prayed for me during that time?” Money can’t hug us. Clothes can’t love us. And characters from TV shows we love (i.e. Jim & Pam!)  won’t actually be there for us. We need to start putting time & energy into the stuff that matters: real-life community.
  4. Practicing Gratitude
    Because we CAN choose gratitude, even in the worst of times.
    “All life on planet earth is terminal, and while we can certainly contribute to our own well-being in amazing ways, none of us is ultimately in control. One day, my life will be swallowed up by Life. And for today, I am choosing truth, joy and love wherever and however I can. I am resolute in my desire to learn, to fulfill my calling and to engage each day with as much joy as I am graciously given.” -Steve Hayner

Today, I choose gratitude. I am grateful for this abundant, full life that I’ve been given. I am grateful for a God who offers me rest & freedom, even amidst circumstantial chaos. I am grateful for friends. for coffee. for Harry Potter. And for my little family ❤ There is much to be grateful for.

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Update On Mommy Life (& What’s Saving Me)

I haven’t blogged in a really long time… and the time that’s elapsed between posts has grown exponentially. I know, I know… I’ve put my personal little corner of the internet on the back burner.

But hear me out: Life has been crazy. Absolutely crazy. Wonderful, yet completely packed with chaos. Who knew working full-time could take up so much of my life and capacity? Not me… I can’t even remember the last time I worked full-time (quite possibly never), so as you can imagine, I’ve been a tad overwhelmed. I don’t really have the time for a long-winded update. And being a mom who works full-time deserves it’s own post.

But for now… Here are a few bullet points of what’s been going on:

  • Being away from Josh is too hard.
    So hard in fact, that I don’t think I’m cut out for full-time work right now. I actually have come to realize that working full-time may not really be my thing in general, so maybe I’m just lucky to use Josh as an excuse? I have too many other hobbies… like serving at church, reading, writing and exploring my city with my toddler. He’s young and adorable. And I absolutely hate that I spend more time at work than I do with my baby.

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  • I’m in desperate need of a spa day.
    And lucky for me, I have some phenomenal girlfriends who (for my birthday) got me a gift card to a day spa down here in LA. It’s an AMAZING spa only a mile away from where I live. I have only been to it once before (last year on my birthday when they got me the same gift!) and I cannot wait to go again and get a spectacular facial. It’s cute, it’s bougie… it’s the best splurge.

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This is the place.
And did I mention they offer a complimentary glass of wine upon arrival?

  • Praying is my only real saving grace.
    I’ve started spending my carride to work every morning in prayer. And now I’m not sure how I’ll get through my day without it. I’m grateful for a God who hears, responds & never sleeps on me. He’s always there.
  • Books, Books, Books.
    From fantasy to historical romance to Christian non-fiction… My leisure time has been filled with books. And it’s brought me a great deal of joy. A lot of my lunch breaks are spent reading and it’s the perfect way to rejuvenate my soul.

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My most recent read. Loving it.

  • One of the biggest blessings this season has been finding a babysitter I love and trust.
    One who sends me photos & videos of my baby all day long. She’s taught my kid so much (including an incredible amount of sign language). And loves him dearly. I’m so grateful.
  • I wouldn’t make it without my supportive husband.
    Now that I’m away from home 40 hours a week, he’s had to pick up a lot of my slack. Little did we know how much less I could do around the house while working… Consequently, Nick’s had to do a lotttt…. Taking care of my dental bills… cooking dinner… cleaning dishes every night.. taking my iPhone in to the repair shop… he does it all. #blessed #nobutreallyblessed

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Yes, this is the steak dinner he made me ❤

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and then egg rolls from SCRATCH the next night 🙂

  • I dropped my phone in the toilet.
    On a lighter and more comedic note… I dropped  my iPhone in the toilet (never again will I carry my phone in my back pocket).

That’s all for now folks… I’ll write real stuff soon, I promise ❤

On Graduation & Overcoming My Fears

Finally! The day I’ve been waiting for. The moment I never thought could actually happen… This past Friday, I stepped on stage in my cap & gown and acquired my master’s degree in occupational therapy.

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What a long & trying journey it has been to get here.

Although many know the shear fact that I got pregnant during my first year of graduate school and had to take time off, most do not know that, at one point in time, I had actually decided I would not finish graduate school… that after my summer internship in 2013, I felt it was more pressure than I could bear and that it would be best for me to take a different route with my life. The time, energy & emotional exhaustion it would take to acquire my degree WHILE having a baby and paying endless tuition was simply not practical. How was I to finish grad school with a baby at home… no extended family around… and living off of one income? It felt improbable that I would finish and unlikely that I could even go back… So I decided I was done.

Luckily, I had (& have) very honest people in my life. People that listened and understood, but also pointed out my fears & questioned my motivations. They gave me personal insight and wisdom on how this might feel in retrospect. They encouraged me to go after my degree if it is what I want and to not throw in the towel simply because my timeline got shaken… No one has to give up a vocational calling simply because motherhood came sooner than anticipated.

Looking back now, I can confidently say that circumstantial obstacles were not reason enough to give up on my calling. We are not supposed to look at every road block and merely say, “I guess God has a different plan for me.” Obstacles are meant to be endured and overcome. And although I viewed my obstacles, initially, as signs to stop, I’m so grateful I had people in my life to advise me otherwise.

And as a side note, I certainly do not condemn any one who decides to stop pursuing a dream. In fact, I believe that in some cases, it takes a lot more courage to stop than to keep going.

In my case, however, the day I decided I to finish graduate school was the day I named my longing and went after it. I said “YES” to finishing what I had already started, despite wanting to quit… I am overwhelmed with joy when I realize that I actually did it.

Graduating, walking in my cap & gown and FINALLY getting my master’s (my dream since I was 18) felt like a huge accomplishment. Despite getting married, pregnant and having a baby during my program, I cannot believe I am finally finished.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my incredible family, friends, mentors & all others who helped me get here and walked on this precious journey with me. I could not have done it with out your support.

Mama’s Day Off: How I spent my first day off in over a year

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hat’s me trying to find ways to display my newly manicured nails.

Like most mom’s, it’s a very rare occasion for me to have a day off. Sure, I’ll leave home to go to class, to study, to run errands. I have been away from home over night only twice since Joshua was born. Once for a friend’s wedding and another time to visit a friend who had returned from Africa after 2 years.

And although it is nice to go and get time for errands or studying or even for leisure, I am always acutely aware of the clock. “Okay, so I have 2.5 hours to spend. I’ll spend 1 hour studying, half an hour writing, half an hour reading and grab some groceries for the last half hour.”

As parents, you typically only get what feels like moments to yourself. And it’s rare not to feel incredibly pressed for time when you’re out attempting to rejuvinate.

So when I found out that Nick was going up to the Bay for a conference and that he was going to take Joshua with him, I immediately began to mentally plan what would be a full 2 days to myself. The first day would be filled with class, but the second was completely free. A whole day! No time crunch, no under-ridden guilt for taking an extra 10-minutes to myself and no fear of needing to prep dinner, clean & make sure everything’s in order at home.

Here’s how I spent my day :

1. I slept in.
Until 8:30 AM! I know most people would never call this sleeping in. But I certainly do.

2. I did yoga.
Without interruption or whining in the background.

3. I took a long time showering & getting ready.
And I ended up looking quite cute and trendy, if you ask me. This is not of the norm.

4. I got a mani-pedi
The first time since last summer! It felt incredibly relaxing & blissful. And it also felt nice to take care of myself in that way. Here’s a shot of my nails:

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I
 meant to have a gold sparkle, not pink. But I’ll take pink any day.

5. I went to Urth Cafe to read & journal
a) I got the Spanish Latte (to die for)
b) I got the best spot in the house. Outside on the elevated patio.

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6. I ran errands
Not my favorite part, but it had to be done.

7. I went shopping
Without needing to push around a stroller and rush through trying on clothes so my baby doesn’t get ansi.

8. I made dinner for 1
It’s amazing how much less time it takes to prep & eat dinner when you’re only making it for yourself. I made myself some chicken vegetable chow-mein. OH and I ate dinner in front of the TV! Which we never do with Josh!

9. I watched the Lizzie Mcguire Movie
Guilt-free! Not like the hubs judges me too much… but sometimes, you’re still dating in marriage. And sometimes it’s nice to get to do something you love that’s silly without anyone else there.

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I know this movie is ridiculous, but it has Italy, Disney, Singing & Dancing. ❤ it.

A few nuggets I learned (for moms):

  • A Day off requires scheduling & budgeting. There’s no way to find time off unless you pencil it in some time in advance so that everyone in the family can plan accordingly. And it helps to enjoy the day if you’ve already budgeted for what you’ll be doing.
  • I need this every once in a while. But not too much. I found myself incredibly excited & eager to pick up Josh and Nick from the airport. I really really missed them. a full day was more than enough.
  • Do something that makes you feel pampered & relaxed. I felt girly again 🙂
  • Dads deserve a day off too. They work hard both in and out of the house. I plan on trying to make this happen for Nick.

Everything I Love Right Now (April 2015)

Reading:
  • The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
    I am blown away by how captivating and well written this YA novel is. I’m sure some of you are surprised that I’m reading this (my husband certainly was) because it’s not my typical novel of leisure. I will admit that I highly prefer reading uplifting, happy-ending type novels (as childish as that may sound), but I had to get my hands on this, given how many good things I’ve heard AND how interested I’ve been recently by WWII. It’s set in Germany during WWII and follows a little girl growing up in the foster care system, as her mother was taken away to a concentration camp.

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Watching:
  • Shark Tank (as per usual)
  • Fresh off the Boat (as per usual)
  • The Imitation Game
    Well… another WWII themed item. You MUST see this film! I was telling a friend that, as far as films about WWII go, this one is ‘ideal’ in that it’s not bloody, gory, or unbearably heart-wrenching. It’s just… really really good. It follows the story of Alan Turing… don’t know who he is? WATCH IT. (PS Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly are AMAZING.)

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Loving:
  • Comfy workout clothes (from Old Navy)
    Did I just go to the gym? Or roll out of bed? The world will never know… Old Navy has unbelievably cute and inexpensive workout clothes. And I LOVE wearing them because 1. It pushes me to exercise and 2. It’s the comfiest of all clothes.
  • Neutrogena facial sunscreen (spf 55+)
    I’ve been wearing this every. single. day. Keeps my skin clear and cancer-free (let’s hope).
  • Beignet’s (at Disneyland)
    Bought these for the first time 🙂 They are little French donuts covered in powdered sugar and pretty much the best dessert you can get at Disneyland.

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  • My Mornings
    It’s really and truly worth it to wake up a little earlier every morning, while Nick and Josh are still asleep so that I can get some ‘me’ time to pray, read and workout. I’ll lose a little sleep for it if need be.
  • My Journal
    Pretty journal makes for happy writing 🙂 PS: Moleskin journals are the best. Here’s my pink one 🙂

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Celebrating:

  • Easter
    Well… we should probably always be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But Easter was particularly awesome this year. Our church plant launched, which we’ve been prepping for since January. And then our little family went out for sushi and boba. The best.

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  • Nick’s Birthday
    My hubs is TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS OLD! We were blessed to celebrate with friends, cake and champagne (ALSO he LOVED my gift: Gordon Ramsay’s Cookbook.)

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  • National Occupational Therapy Month
    Did you know April is National OT Month?? I have never been more excited and blessed to do what I do. Only a few more weeks until graduation! Finally time to start changing the world 😉 haha a tad over-ambitious, I know 😉
Listening to:
  • “Forever” by bethel music 

On Change & Redemption

Since Easter just happened, I think I will write on the topic that’s most significant and purposeful regarding this holiday: Redemption.

If you had told me two years ago that my life would look like this today, I would have said you were crazy.

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These pictures were taken exactly two years apart: Easter 2013 & Easter 2015. And although Nick and I have two beaming smiles on our faces on the left, we were actually engulfed in a mess of pain, exhaustion, and brokenness. And little did we know that only a few weeks after this picture was taken, we would become pregnant with a little baby boy.

If you had asked me, at the time, where I thought I would be in two years, I would have never guessed that our family of 2 would actually become a family of 3. I could not have imagined that, in light of such a change, we would actually feel more joy and freedom… guess God really does know infinitely more than I do.

The first year of our marriage was spent figuring things out (to say the least). I would ask myself: Will we ever figure out how to communicate well? Will we each have the time and capacity to work through our personal baggage? Who knew each of us had so much baggage? Is this what the rest of our lives will look like?

Sometimes I wonder how I’m capable of writing about our marriage in the “early stage” as if it were ten years ago. How is it that we are only two years out from that time? Well…. the most definitive and concise answer I can think of is this: God’s redemption.

What’s changed since year one?

I used to say: “I deserve more than this!” (old, selfish me)
Now I say: “I have been given beyond what I deserve.”

I used to say: “God, how can you allow us to conceive a child at this time?!”
Now I say: “God, thank you for blessing us with a child!”

I used to say: “Doesn’t God want me to happy??”
Now I say: “God wants me to be whole.”

I used to say: “Excuse me, hubby… What’s in it for me?”
Now I say: “Hey hubby… How can I serve you?”

I used to say: “I know what’s best for me.”
Now I say: “God knows what’s best for me.”

I used to think it was absolutely bananas that God would allow us to have a child during such a rough time… and then I remembered that one time, long ago in history, God sent a baby to save the world. (That was Jesus, by the way 🙂 )

God is in the business of redemption. He cares about restoration and knows exactly what I need in order to be made whole. Although it seemed ill fitting to me (& to most people) for us to have a baby, it ended up being God’s biggest tool in healing my soul, my marriage and to my relationship with Him.

What I know now: Nothing is past redemption. Nothing it outside the reach of God’s healing hand. This is what I choose to remember on Easter and through the resurrection of Jesus.

When Life Gives You Lemons

The topic of suffering isn’t an easy one to touch on… but I feel as though I have had much of it at the ripe old age of 25…

The sickness & death of my mother is always a first that comes to mind… and only one year after that happened, Nick and I got married and began (what we did not know would be) an incredibly rough and rocky first year of marriage… and of course, only 4 months after we got married, I was unexpectedly pregnant with our baby boy. This is all in a span of 1.5 years. Wow.

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These photos were taken one year apart: our wedding day and our one year anniversary

Who knew how quickly life could move…

I have had many unexpected left turns and MANY moments where I wondered, “God, are you even there? And WHAT in the world are you doing?”

But I realized something only a week ago… I realized that I finally understand what the bible means when it claims that long suffering is a fruit of the spirit, in that it produces spiritual fruit: kindness, goodness, love, patience & grace. I understand what James means when he says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that suffering produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” James 1:2-4

So exactly how have I been blessed by suffering over the past several years? Here are a few answers:

  • I am very aware of my brokenness-

In a good way, of course… Not that I constantly dwell on my faults, but that I’m aware of my humanness. I’ve come to realize that I am not above sin in any way, shape or form. I am no better than the people around me. And there is literally nothing I can do without the grace of God. This has truly deepened my relationship with God.

  •  I am less judgmental & more compassionate

Becoming aware of your own brokenness helps you accept it in others. I have been through so much and I have made plenty of mistakes. Who am I to judge anyone for what they’ve been through or the choices they’ve made? I am as much in need of God’s grace as the next person. The ground before the cross is level.

  • My joy is deep

Before my experience of intense suffering, my happiness highly revolved around my circumstances. How are things going in my marriage? How smoothly is school going? How are my friendships doing? Am I feeling healthy? Am I looking good? Etc etc. But when you go through any type of depravity or suffering, your joy cannot be founded in your circumstances anymore. It just can’t. Or else your emotions will always be haywire. I have found a deep joy in the Lord that supersedes any circumstance. And, of course, I fall back into poor patterns sometimes, when I focus too heavily on temporary things. But above all, I have a deeper sense of joy now. And it is far more gratifying than the fleeting happiness I relied on before.

Best of 2014

My list of bests for 2014:

Most enjoyed Film: Mockingjay Part I
IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. 1) This movie kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 2) The president of district 13 is a WOMAN (awesome). 3) Jennifer Lawrence. 4) I couldn’t predict it AT ALL.
I know everyone liked the other movies better, but what can I say… I like what I like.

Most listened to album: Taylor Swift 1989
My husband and I have listened to this through and through… at this point even he can recite the words to nearly every song. Faves on the album are definitely “Blank Space”, “Style”, & “Bad Blood”.

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Most Life-Changing book: “Kisses from Katie” by Katie Davis
I’ll refrain from going into too much detail… all I’ll say is that “Kisses from Katie” completely ignited my soul for social justice. It’s an autobiography about a girl who moved to Africa after high school, adopted 14 girls, and is still there today running a school and serving the poor. I cried so much while reading it and my heart is still on fire for all the children who live in poverty throughout our world. It opened my eyes and helped me see how much better it is for ME and for the WORLD when I say “yes” to God. Please read it.

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Honorable Mention: “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown

Most Fun Purchase: Disneyland Annual Passes
My dream since being a little kid has finally come true.We got passes almost 3 months ago and have already been 7 times. There’s no date night more perfect, no family night more fun than Disneyland. Thanks, Walt, for the most magical spot in LA.

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Most Used Purchase: Canon Rebel T3i (our camera)
Not only do I get to explore my eye for photography and establish an outlet for creativity, but I get to capture every single precious moment… in high resolution! like this one 🙂

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Most shopped at store: Target
My one shop stop for clothes, baby food, accessories, self-care products, etc.

Most eaten-at food place: Chipotle
Inexpensive and really NOT all that bad for you (especially for a fast food place). Thank you for keeping my husband and I nourished for most of 2014.

Most watched TV show: Parks and Rec
I am now in love with Leslie Knope. I discovered this sometime in September and could not believe I had gone so long without watching it. I was hoping for a show much like the office and I got it :)!

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Most cooperatively enjoyed TV show (by both me & Nick): Sherlock
It’s absolutely amazing. A little too intense for me to watch on the regular, but seriously… it’s amazing.

Most Used Recipe: Honey Sesame Chicken
This is my go-to “oh hey we’re a few friends over for dinner and need to make something” recipe. It’s absolutely delicious and goes GREAT with rice and green beans (both of which we always have on hand). OH and it’s slow cooker. super easy.

**recipe found here: http://damndelicious.net/2013/11/02/slow-cooker-crockpot-honey-sesame-chicken/

What moments have been the most memorable in 2014?
Where can I even begin? I, of course, cannot go without mentioning the birth of my child. And every single milestone that he’s hit.
Moments outside of motherhood include so many celebratory moments, as well as “little” ones. The season that stands out the most has been the fall. I have loved going to Disneyland 7 times in a span of 3 months (one of which includes our incredible anniversary). I also enjoyed going to 2 weddings in a span of 1 week (one of which was my sister-in-law’s). I loved the Christmas season. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Madison. And last, but certainly not least, my birthday was the best I’ve had in about 5 years.

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What are you grateful for this year?
Once again, I must instantly say my husband & child. Nothing has been more joyful and healing for my soul than becoming a family of 3. I love the friends we’ve made and the amazing monday night dinners we have had consistently for the past year. I am grateful for mommy friends that help me grow as a mother, a wife & as a child of God. I’m grateful for a baby boy that is filled with immeasurable joy and sleeps through the night. I am grateful for health. I am thankful for the ways I’ve healed in regards to my mother’s passing.

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In what ways have you grown this year?
I’m not quite sure honestly… all I know is that my perspective on life feels more mature and full now that I am a mother and have gone through a couple years of marriage. I still, however, have infinitely more room to grow. I have so much to learn about motherhood, marriage, friendship and sacrificial love… this year, although full of joy, was also one in which I realized how selfish I can be and am in desperate need of God’s love & grace.

What are you looking forward to next year?
I am looking forward to growing with God and learning more about who he’s created me to be. I am looking forward to new milestones with Joshua (turning 1), going to greek staff conference, finishing OT school, and going to a taylor swift concert!

Thank you, family, for being my joy this year.

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