Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

At 7 months pregnant with our third child, the belly began getting in the way of leaning over the counter to put on mascara. Pregnant problems serious.

The solution? A small stand mirror. For ten bucks, it was just a bonus that it had both 1x and 3x magnification.

Well, maybe not.

I’m not sure how many years have passed since I looked at my face under 3x magnification, but lets just say it is a little different (wrinkles).

AND, under that 3x magnification – I noticed something extra shiny in my hair. Curiosity got the best of me and soon I held my very first, 4 inch long, white-gray hair. And a second. A week later, my sister noticed a plethora of gray hairs when she was coloring and cutting my hair. Higher magnification sure does open our eyes to reality.

In addition to the wrinkles and gray hairs, last month marked another birthday.

So, this is where I confess my sadness about aging, right?  

Nope.

I can honestly say that the overnight increase from 33 to 34 doesn’t feel any different. Neither does the discovery of gray hair or wrinkles (although they certainly did surprise me – I am either very unobservant, or they came out of nowhere!).

Thankfully, God wisely created time go slow enough that we don’t feel age changes overnight. However, I am older, and now have gray hair and laugh lines prove it. This third pregnancy also confirms my age increase with more aches and pains, blood sugar issues, and weight that is harder to control. Oh, and those gray hairs – I’m fairly sure they are the direct result of pregnancy hormones since they are all exactly the same length.

But is all this evidence such a bad thing?

It may be taboo to ask a woman’s age, but some women don’t tell the truth anyway. Instead, many pick an age and claim it in perpetuity – forever 21…or 29…or 39…

By refusing to acknowledge and gracefully accept our age, we put way too much stock into those numbers. We allow a number to offend us while we wonder what others will think of it.

We cover up outward aging signs by dying our hair (my sister was adding highlights while discovering those grays, so I’m not judging!). And we use expensive skin creams to reduce and slow wrinkles in an attempt to hide outward signs of aging.

Some of us look older than we are. Some of us look younger than we are. And yet, ALL of us are exactly the age that we ARE. But so often, we want to ignore it. Pretend it isn’t happening.

But why?

The accumulation of days and years lived on this earth is unavoidable. Instead of avoiding the issue, or putting too much stock in it, I say we embrace it.

I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying my 30’s. I plan to love my 40’s too. Do you love your age?

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

  1. Children: These little people did not even exist in my 20’s. I love how they fill my days with new challenges and joy. They give me a greater understanding of how God loves ME, our children, and others. These years are BUSY, but I am in no rush to get past them.
  2. Body Image: Having babies has forever changed my perspective on body-image. This body has carried and fed 3 babies.This work does leave a mark. My body is different and won’t ever be the same again. But I am grateful God equipped my body to do such rewarding and beautiful things.
  3. Self Esteem: I spent much of my 20’s unsure of myself and uncomfortable in social situations. I was nervous in groups, especially groups of women. I would second-guess every word, if I was brave enough to speak up. Many (not all) of my relational insecurities have faded as I’ve begun to better understand how God sees me and how to humbly view myself.
  4. Wisdom: 30 is the new 20, right? I hope not – I was pretty dumb when I was 20. I was poor at managing friendships, wasteful with my time, had a narrow world-view and a much-too-small and low understanding of God and His character. The lessons learned in my 20’s are invaluable. I’m still makin mistakes but I’m learning more now that I can take into my 40s.
  5. Authentic Friendships: Gone are the days of trying to be someone I am not. And with less free time for friends and meaningful conversations, friendships have become very real. We don’t waste time with small talk. Conversations express what we’re struggling with, celebrating, and hoping for. And some of my deepest friendships are with family, which was not true in my 20’s. With age, friendships continue to become deeper, more authentic, and thankful.
  6. Priorities: With increased responsibility comes the need for prioritization. I’ve had to become more and more intentional with my time and energy. Our time is spent on what we need and want to do, and with the people we want to spend it with.
  7. Marriage: How I love looking back on what God has done in our marriage over the past 11 years. We are not the same and neither is our marriage – we’ve both grown up a lot. We know each other better and have acknowledged many of our own weaknesses. We’ve let go of most of those petty things that used to drive us crazy when we were first married. Disagreements and conflicts still happen but are resolved quicker, with fewer tears, and with more respect. We enjoy greater commitment, deeper love, sweeter moments, quick forgiveness, and the depth of trust and respect that can only develop over time. He’s still my favorite – more so each day.
  8. Peace: Much of my 20s was spent worrying – finances, work, relationships, current events…you name it. God has taught me some very important lessons about fear in my 30s, especially when it comes to our children. Although fear still rises sometimes, I am better equipped to turn it over to God and to rest and trust in His peace.
  9. Gratitude: I’ve focused more in recent years on gratitude. With each passing year, I am more grateful for the people in my life. I am much more aware of just how sinful I am and how much God has saved me from through Jesus’ work on the cross – gratitude is the natural response! There is less sense of entitlement, and less frustration with what I do not have. We have so much to be grateful for and I am hoping to only grow in the practice of gratitude.
  10. Faith: All our days and years tell our unique story – challenges, sadness, joy, pain, lessons learned, successes and failures. Combined, they make us who we are today. God has used our circumstances to refine us – sometimes by fire. I have found Him to be trustworthy and faithful. He has walked through each year with me and isn’t about to stop. He is the good, good Father. I see how His Spirit and the study of His word have changed me over the years and cling to the promise that He is not done with me yet. I’m not the same as I once was. And I don’t want to go back. Even if I could.

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. I like 34.

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Write Them On The Doorposts: An Idea For Building A House

During construction of our house, my sister-in-law shared the coolest idea with us – when building their house, their family wrote scripture and their names on the wood studs with a Sharpie.

A home built around God’s word. Literally.

The passage in Deuteronomy about teaching scripture to children came to mind.Focusing on God’s word isn’t just for Sunday morning, but instead for every day, and should permeate every aspect of our lives.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

-Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (ESV)

As my husband and I prepared to walk through the house after framing (before drywall), we considered what we wanted to write on our doorposts.

What do we want our house to be used for? How do we want to live life as a family? What scripture is special to each member of our family? We really do desire for God’s Word to permeate our lives and for our home to reflect it to others.

We thought about what we do in each room of the house and picked scripture to remind us of what we WANT to happen in each room. It was really fun to think about the purpose of each space.

Thinking about our kids and what we desire for their relationships with God was even more fun. And special. By far, this was one of the best parts of building a new home – and yes, I think it was even more exciting than picking out countertops and finishes.

We’ve lived in our finished house for 2 years. While we know what verses are hiding just behind the drywall, it just isn’t enough to know the words are there. No, we want those words to affect our life.

Now we are finding ways to display the verses in each room. They will not only be part of the structure, but also part of the livable space.  We have a few more rooms to go, but are making progress!

Many of the verses are displayed today because my PhotoShop-talented mom gave them to us as a gift (Thank you!). Talk about a gift with deep, lasting significance!

Here are the verses we chose for our home and family.

Kitchen and Dining Room:

Kitchen and Dining Room | thisgratefulmama.com

Our family’s day starts and ends in the kitchen and dining room. We share our meals and talk about our days – the heart of our home. We chose Joshua 24:15 because we want to be a family who daily chooses to serve the Lord.

Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:15 (ESV)

Living Room:

Living Room

Our living room is where we hang out as a family and guests. It is where the television is, and where we spend a lot of our time. This is where life happens! Philippians 4:8 reminds us of what we want to happen in this room. We want our activities and talk to be filled with GOOD things that honor the Lord.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Front Door:

Write It On The Door Posts | thisgratefulmama.com

On the post for our front door, we chose Numbers 6:24-26. I cannot think of a better prayer to pray over those who enter and exit our home. We are still looking for a way to display this one above the door.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

Office:

Write It On The Door Posts | thisgratefulmama.com

Our office is currently being used as a ‘LEGO room’. One day, it will be an office displaying Proverbs 19:21. This seems like a suitable verse for the place where we work, pay our bills, and consider our finances. We want all of these things to be submitted to the Lord and to follow His leading for our family.

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

Our Son’s Room:

Write It On The Door Posts | thisgratefulmama.com

Ephesians 6:10-11 was the first scripture verse our son memorized. He learned it while we were helping him work through his fear of thunder storms. It is our goal as parents to teach our children how to be clothed in God’s armor so they are equipped to stand firmly in faith on their own.

10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV)

Our Daughter’s Room:

Write It On The Door Posts | thisgratefulmama.com

Proverbs 3:5-6 was written on our daughter’s doorpost. It is our prayer that she will grow up trusting God to guide her steps. We pray this verse with her and over her often.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Our Bedroom:

Our Bedroom.jpg

For our room, my husband and I chose two verses. Ephesians 4:2-3 expresses how we want to treat each other – with gentleness, humility and patience through love.

The second is Song of Solomon 6:3 – we belong to each other…now and forever.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)

and

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine

Song of Solomon 6:3 (NIV)

While our family is not always good at living these things out, the verses serve as a reminder to point us to God. Often, when the day seems chaotic, a glance at the displays in each room can give me words to pray for our family, and change our attitudes.

Our kids are also very interested in the verses and often ask us to read them out loud. And, we can refer to them as we teach them about each verse and what it means.

I am so glad we took the time to select and write scripture during construction. I love how displaying them helps our family to remember in God daily life, and as we share our home with others.

How have you posted what is important to your family in your home?

 

 

“Thanks-Getting”?

Thanks-GETTING? | thisgratefulmama.com

Today I enjoyed a quiet afternoon – football in the background, kids napping, husband nodding off on the couch.

While prepping food for dinner, I reflected on how God is so good. And on how much a day of rest is needed. Sunday afternoons at home are a lovely gift.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV but I still heard it. The end of a Verizon Wireless commercial for Thanksgiving specials. It wasn’t the great deal that caught my attention, it was the slogan.

Thanks-GETTING“.

Barf.

It struck me as gross the first time I heard it. Later, while our son watched football, he heard the same thing. He looked at me with a smirk on his face and said, “ThanksGIVING, mom”. I think he just thought they said it wrong. I am grateful the pun went over his sweet 5-year-old head.

Not funny Verizon. Not funny at all. Some day we’ll struggle to undue what our consumer-driven culture is preaching to our youth.

And yet, doesn’t ‘thanks-getting’ adequately describe what the Thanksgiving shopping craze is all about? A retail driven, consumer fed threat to holiday meals.

Have we all forgotten what we learned in school about what the first Thanksgiving was? Two very different cultures, both struggling to survive, helping one another and sharing a meal together. It was about coming together, despite adversity and many disagreements, to build relationships among even those who were very different.

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a day once spent in fellowship, giving thanks to God and one another is now being invaded by the desire to GET more stuff?

I think GETTING is the complete opposite of siting back and being grateful. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more, it is about GIVING. Of our time. Our attention. Our thanks. Our love. And of deepening relationships.

If we’re focused on getting, we are distracted from the joy of spending time together. Instead of reflecting on what we DO have, we’ll be daydreaming of what we can get – for ourselves or others. In most cases, none of us need that item. It may be a deal, but it is more distraction than anything.

Our desire for stuff allows retail to take over a holiday about relationships and gratitude.

While planning for shopping around Thanksgiving, let us not forget that spending TIME with our family is much more valuable than spending our money. Or is it more like saving money by spending it?

Let us not forget that even the greatest Christmas gift may not feel as special if the giver neglects to spend quality time together on Thanksgiving. Or if the giver spends the whole holiday on a phone or computer mapping out retail conquests.

These sales may not repeat until next year. But neither will Thanksgiving.

Are you willing to sacrifice your family holiday and relationships for STUFF?

Put the ads, phone, and computer down and be present. IF you shop on Thanksgiving, do not let the deal planning invade your whole day and conversations. Spend quality time with loved ones. Reflect on what you HAVE. On what God has given. On the people in your life. Eat slowly and enjoy the meal that took so much effort and care to prepare. And linger…this is a holiday about the people, not the stuff.

Be grateful.

Give thanks where it is due.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7:17

Practice Gratitude – And An Invitation.

Practice Gratitude - And An Invitation

 

As I wrote last year, I firmly believe that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with Turkey. In 2014, our family placed an extra focus on gratitude during the month of November. Our son and I filled out gratitude calendars. It was amazing to hear how our 4-year-old son could verbalize what he was thankful for and to also hear him do it with far more variation than I expected.

October was a busy month, filled with a rotation of colds and coughs, apple picking, bonfires, fun activities, a trip to Maine to visit family and rejoice at the wedding of our nephew, and culminated with the return to Minnesota and the celebration of our son’s fifth birthday. It was a whirl-wind.

In fact, October was so busy that I feel like November snuck up on me. I woke up this morning in a day-light-savings haze and realized it was ALREADY November. We were already one day behind!

There are 23 days until Thanksgiving, 52 days until Christmas, and 59 days until New Years Day.

Our plan for 2015 is similar to last year, only we will practice gratitude from now until 2016. If we had started yesterday, it would be an even 60 days, but 59 will have to do. Perhaps next year I will be a little more proactive.

Instead of the gratitude calendar we made and used last year, we are going to try a gratitude tree. I’m excited to go out and find the ‘tree’ this week, but in the meantime, we’ll record our gratitude on little notes to hang when the tree is ready. I can’t wait to share it with you!

It may have to be a big tree to support our family’s notes for 60 days! Perhaps we need one per person…

So, what does it mean to practice gratitude for 60 days? 

Let’s start with defining practice and gratitude according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

prac·tice (verb): perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

grat·i·tude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In essence, we are choosing to develop the quality of being thankful by practicing it repeatedly through the New Year. With the busy-ness of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in To-Do lists, and all kinds of good activities. Although the season is fun, filled with family and friends and twinkling lights, sometimes we lose sight of just how much we have already, because we are focused on what we have to DO.

By focusing on what and who we are thankful for, we create a pattern of reflecting on what we already have. We will more readily see the blessings in life despite and through our circumstances, and more easily and habitually GIVE THANKS to others. From experience, the effect is uplifting, joyful, and WORTH IT. 

And why would we do this?

Because we have MUCH to be thankful for.

We have MANY people to thank.

We have a Lord who deserves ALL our gratitude and praise.

We will strive to emulate a passage of scripture that is very dear to my heart:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 And so…

I’ll be posting our daily gratitude on the thisgratefulmama Facebook page for the next 59 days. I would love to share this journey with you. Will you join us? 

 

Grateful.

Grateful | thisgratefulmama.com

It’s Monday.

Before jumping headfirst into the week, why don’t we just take a moment to be joyful in this moment?

As I consider all that is before me, and all behind me, I am left with one simple yet profound word.

Grateful.

The weekend did not go as planned. A little one had a fever so instead of a weekend packed with activities and friends, it was packed with…us. Just our little family. And it was lovely. I am grateful for moments of extra snuggles, silliness, quiet, and even the tears.

After a month filled with researching and wrestling with a large decision, today I find myself feeling that peace that transcends all understanding. Not ‘peace and quiet’, but that deep peace and rest that comes only when I realize that God has me exactly where He wants me to be.

Right here.

This is where I belong. I am doing what He has called me to do.

What more could a girl want?

As I look back on the past month, I see God’s handiwork in my relationships and circumstances. Woven into daily life, sometimes into the tiniest of details. I see how the challenges of the past month have deepened my relationship with God, with loved family and friends. Challenge has a way of penetrating your soul, requiring and releasing new levels of authenticity in relationships.

The result has been the rich blessing of stronger faith, and stronger, more authentic relationships.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28

What. A. Promise.

As I start this Monday. This week. I am grateful for so much:

My Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Who loves me. Died for me. And lives so that I may find life abundant.

My husband and best friend who provides for this family selflessly and generously. He is my favorite person on this planet and I am so grateful I get to live out my days with him.

These sweet children. Their smiles, curiosity, playful joy and even their testing of boundaries as they learn about life. I am grateful for the way their eyes shine when we tell them of Jesus. And for their hugs as their little arms squeeze as tight as they can when they greet me each morning – It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our family. Parents and grandparents who want the best for our family and are helping hands, wise counsel, and listening ears. Siblings who listen and speak truth into situations in ways only they can. And who provide support, encouragement, and who check in often. Family who choose to be more involved than just the occasional family get-together.

Friends. Neighbors. Church. O my.

We are so blessed. People we can be ourselves with. Who know and see us as we are, and still love us.

My friends, this is a beautiful life.

Today is a new day.

A new week.

Let it begin with JOY.

Grateful.

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!

Cook

 Events (Twin Cities)

Do

  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn

Make

Go (Minnesota)

Shell Shocked Parents…And The Face Of A Child’s Resilience

One of the exhibits at our local Children’s Museum is a life-size ant hill. The kids love the maze of tunnels. Our daughter is just 2, so my husband and I climbed in with them. We were not as fond of the humid, carpeted tunnels and the smell of sweaty socks as they were – we went in only for giggles.

This time, the fun was short-lived. Our daughter crawled in a second level tunnel and blindly moved forward. I heard my husband shouting for her to stop. Below her, I moved towards them hoping to catch her. Not fast enough.

THUD.

Any parent knows that particular sound – the unmistakable sound of a head face hitting something hollow. She crawled straight over a hole and fell, face-first so her nose and mouth took the brunt of the impact. Cradling her as we crawled out into the light, we surveyed the damage.

A face full of bright red blood.

It. Was. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

First, my husband and I froze, our faces mirroring looks of horror and concern. Then suddenly, adrenaline kicked in and I shoved her into my husband’s arms and ran for something…anything…to soak up the blood. Her screams echoed as amazingly helpful and sympathetic staff began arriving to assist us.

I’m not gonna lie – the afore-mentioned adrenaline could easily be interpeted as panic. My thoughts raced down all kinds of rabbit holes…loss of teeth, broken nose, bit tongue, concussion and worse.  Grabbing paper towels and the diaper bag while replaying the thud and the blood in my mind…I wondered if we needed to go the ER. I prayed we wouldn’t.

Running back, I found my poor (amazing) husband sitting, trying to console her and keep the blood off of the museum bench. As we soaked it up from our writhing and screaming child, we made eye contact.

No words required.

Fear. Love. Concern. Prayers. Hope…all at once.

It took maybe 10 minutes to slow the bleeding down to a trickle. It felt like HOURS. We assessed the damage and were amazed there was no external cut. A tongue bite that hardly bled, and a record-setting bloody nose.

As we tried to apply an ice pack provided by the staff, she struggled to get up, screaming to get down. Why? Not because it was cold. Not because it hurt. No, she was ready to play.

Seriously?

My husband and I were ready to go home.

We moved to the hallway and and gave the kids a snack while we continued to try to get her nose to stop bleeding. By now, our main concern was whether she had broken her nose.

Her main concern was what she could play with next.

When the bleeding finally stopped, we changed her clothes, washed up, and decided to try one of the quieter exhibits. My husband and I spent the rest of the time trying to make sure our over-ambitious two-year old didn’t fall on her face again. Or…rather we succumbed to overprotective instincts and annoyed her. Helicopter parenting at it’s finest worst.

To our surprise, we finished the rest of the museum and left with two tired, happy kids. The only evidence of what is now known as the ‘childrens museum incident’ was a bruise on the bridge of her nose. How so much could come out of someone so little and leave only a tiny bruise…I still cannot understand but am grateful for it.

I was amazed by how quickly she moved on from injury. As parents, injuries seem to linger in our minds long after our children move on. Our wandering minds remind us of what ‘could have happened’. But she refused to let even the most epic of bloody noses to stop her fun. We feared she would reinjure her nose, but she had no fear AT ALL.

She chose not to dwell on it – a lesson many adults could benefit from learning. The urge to play was stronger than the urge to wallow. So, she got back up, and got back to the business of having fun.

We left shell-shocked. She acted like nothing happened – with a smiling little face of resilience.

Carry on, Sunshine girl.

Still with a bruise - a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com

Still with a bruise – a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com