Sweet Huit

getting ready wedding.jpg8 years ago I woke up in my childhood bedroom, more nervous and excited than I had ever been. Quite literally. I stared up at the same ceiling I had stared at for YEARS – praying to God about who I might marry and what he might be like. I had ideas and visions and dreams just like any other teenage girl. I asked God to make sure he was hott (two t’s), to make sure he really loved Jesus, and it would be also kind of super great if he had a sense of humor because I had a laugh that could wake the dead and I wanted him to love it.

I got out of bed, looked around my room full of dance ribbons and neon picture frames and marveled at what day it was: my wedding day. 15 months ago I started to date a guy who was hott, loved Jesus, and was kind of scared of my laugh (bless him),  10 months into our dating we got engaged, 5 months flew by and now here it was: THE BIG DAY. I was marrying John Lavoie. I was going to be a Mrs. by the end of this day. My heart leapt into my throat as I heard my mom and sisters bustling around in the kitchen and after about 2 minutes of pondering and marveling I was just so ready. SO. READY. My excitement practically catapulted me down the hall into the welcoming company of my bridesmaids and in a blur the day ushered me to the church, down the aisle, to the reception, to the honeymoon (BOW CHIKKA WOW WOW), and so began our adventure together.

Today I wake up  in the bed we’ve shared for 8 years, I reach my arm across to your side of the bed that’s already empty because you’re already gone for the day. Never in 8 years have I worried about your commitment to provide for me, and now for Samuel too (even during seasons of unemployment and Lord knows we’ve weathered that together more than once). You work harder than any one I know.

I say a prayer for you, thank God for you and eventually peel myself out of bed. You and I are in the middle of an ordinary, supernatural thing. God has given us a remarkable life, built upon the foundation of that one promise, “For better or worse, in good times and bad times, by the grace of God for as long as we both live.”

You have witnessed my better and my worse, you have walked faithfully in good times receiving lineand bad times. You have depended on, been rescued by, and pointed me to the grace of God throughout all of it. I have witnessed you at your worst and your best, I have not forsaken you in the dark waters of depression and I have cheered for you loudest as you have conquered obstacle after obstacle. You do not cease to amaze me.

Sometimes throughout our marriage we’ve missed each other. Not just missed hanging out with each other but missed out on the person we married. We  have been caught up in the whirlwind of life full of work hours to complete, dinners to make, appointments to keep, diapers to change and laundry to wash and we have passed each other like ships in the night. Then we just kind of resign ourselves to being strangers and we hide behind our phone screens or books because it’s just easier, you know? It’s so hard to be intentional when you feel bitter or lonely. Thank God for His new mercies every morning and the Holy Spirit that helps us get over ourselves. We have fought many of the same fights over 8 years together. And we have fought for each other too. We don’t always feel the warm fuzzies, but we understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it has strengthened our commitment like no amount of self-help or self-sufficiency ever would.

beach picI do not want to do this with anybody else. I promised you that 8 years ago and I’m sticking with it.

Let’s promise, by the grace of God, in the midst of the mundane world of dentist appointments and dirty floors that need cleaning we will lift our chins and find each other. Thank you for keeping your covenant to me. You honor me with your love, you assure me with your integrity, and you delight me with your friendship.

I love you, John.

Happy anniversary!

All About Dad.

When we had a son many people told me how he (Samuel) would most likely cling to me and need me and worship the ground I walk on etc etc… until he was about 2-3 years old. Then it would be alllll about dad. Dad. Dad. Dad.
They were almost right.
Since Samuel was born, aside from nourishment, poopy diaper changes, and the occasional affectionate moment with me – he was born ALL ABOUT DAD. I’m not trying to downplay my role or anything – I love Samuel and he loves me and that’s that. But this is Father’s Day so I get to talk about John and he doesn’t get to stop me (HA. HOPE YOU’RE READING THIS, JOHN.)
FD pic
When you become parents, each of you ordinarily operates in the realm of “Reliable, Comforting, Safe Parent” OR “Crazy, Risk-taking, Boo-boo making, Fun Parent.” Knowing our personalties going into marriage I was destined to be the fun parent and I just knew it (PLEASE. I AM SO MUCH FUN OK?). But I didn’t really know who I was parenting with until Samuel came around. I have met my match.*
John is a FUN. MACHINE. When he comes home from work Samuel just can’t even. It’s “DADDY!!! DADDY!!!” at maximum decibels.
From about 12- 18 months, Samuel would get so excited to see John he wouldn’t know what to do so he would sort of run towards him and then run away and ignore John altogether while smiling like his cheeks were in charge of holding up his eyeballs. The cutest.
John will wrestle and throw and play and come up with games (that I don’t even think qualify as games?) that Samuel just LOOOVES doing and they’ll do it together and I just kind of shake my head while I make dinner and thank God for the two goobers running circles in my living room.
Of course part of that is being a boy. John’s been a boy before so he gets little boyhood on a very personal level. But honestly? A big part of it is who John is. It’s the man that he is that makes him so awesome at being a dad. He wants to get to know Samuel. He really really cares about who Samuel is as a person. He disciplines and he sets boundaries and he plays and he cares. He’s an incredible dad.
So here’s to all the dads today. To the ones who are raising ankle-biters, or teenagers (po-tay-to, po-tah-to). To the ones who are done “raising” people and now just get a front row seat to their lives. To all the dads (mine included) who patiently helped with homework, filled up the gas tank, listened and listened and listened (Shout out to dads of girls. You are saints. We have alot of words and feelings.) Keep on keeping on, guys.
Thank you, John for stepping into the role of father with both feet and making Samuel’s life so much richer and better for it.
And thanks to my Dad, too. For all the years in my life where I was quite content to be your valentine and wake up to flowers and balloons at my kitchen chair. You taught me how to find a guy that would really enjoy my company – because for my entire childhood, you always did. Thank you. (I’ve found him, Dad! Thanks for setting the standard. 🙂 )
I love you both.
*to be clear – I’m a fun parent too. Just a different sort. LIke silly faces and tickle fights instead of shooting the cat with a nerf gun. Play to your strengths.

Walking with Jesus – through my refrigerator

 I’ve been walking with Jesus through this life since the tender age of 7. Twenty years you guys. 20 years of his companionship, guidance, discipline and joy! And yet every year – sometimes every minute – I am learning and surrendering all over again. It’s amazing what happens when you take the truth of God’s word and hold it up against the subtle habits of your life.
May we never ever get it set in our heads that we have arrived. That we have learned all we need to learn or have grown into or deepest intimacy with Him. It’s simply not true. There is always more of Him than there are minutes in our lifetime. The real question is – will you find Him in those minutes?

Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both… All things are lawful, but not all things EDIFY. – 1 Corinthians 6:13 & 10:23

I wrote this little note this morning and placed it on my kitchen counter because I am re-evaluating my relationship with food. Something so simple and ordinary yet crucial to my life. It’s a relationship in which I have begun to adopt unsavory habits, in which I have begun to place food on some kind of comfort pedestal in my heart. I have not done the hard work of truly examining what I eat and why because I know, at the root, there is a restless mistrust of God’s goodness and an incredible ability to justify my sin into oblivion.

I’m just beginning the work of taking a long, hard and honest look into my pantry and fridge and figuring out what it might be telling me about my heart and my mind. They’re so connected you know? Thankfully, I have not reached a point where I am truly depriving my body intentionally or obsessing over a particluar size or image that causes me to binge. If this is you – please please talk to somebody about it. Oh what a hard spiral you are in – but you CAN be free from it!
For me? I’m addressing my apathy towards what I put in my body – “So what if this has stuff in it that isn’t actually food? So what if I’ve only got one life to live and one body to live in? Whatever. I have a high metabolism so I don’t have to “worry” about that stuff.” Not OK. Not a healthy attitude towards the blessing and nourishment that food is meant to be for me and my family.
So I’m asking myself: What is my relationship with food like? Is it healthy? Do I have auto-pilot habits and reflexes that need to be re-claimed and re-trained? (Answer: YES) — this little picture frame on my kitchen will sit as a reminder that God can use anything and everything to edify (to build up and encourage) His children. That He has given me food for my body but ultimately He has given me Himself to enjoy and find soul-pleasuring sustenance in – for my whole eternity.

I’m figuring out what all of this looks like and while it’s awkward for me to share and it will probably make me feel even more insecure when I let the whole freaking Internet world know about it – I want to be an encouragement to that one other person on the other side of the screen who is thinking about this too.

Momma's motivation <3

Momma’s motivation ❤

All I know is – I want to treat my body with care, raise my kids on food that will nourish and energize, and never ever eliminate the joys of ice cream and peach pie from my life because God gave me 10,000 tastebuds and I ain’t wasting a-one of ’em.

In a moment

IMG_0162I emptied the dishwasher this morning. It was the first time I pulled your brightly-colored spoons from the silverware tray and I just paused and smiled when I thought about all of your banana shenanigans. Face-onesie-bib-bumbo-mom – all things that ended up smudged with banana goop. Ahh but your toothless grin as you smack your gums and grunt for more. In a moment you’ll be holding a grown-up fork shoveling in spaghetti or chicken or other foods that you have no concept of right now. You’ll be asking for permission to leave the table (hopefully you’ll have manners!) and you’ll run off to play outside or ride your bike with friends and I won’t have to wipe your face or smush your sticky fingers between the jaws of my wet paper towel before you go. In a moment, kid. Just like that.

I puttered around the house as you napped and picked up the green hoodie sweatshirtIMG_0168 we bundled you in on our walk this weekend. I stared at it as I stood in the middle of our living room. Where should I put this? Where does it belong? It doesn’t make sense to place it folded into the drawer next to the footie pajamas you’ve already poked toe holes through. We put it on you a lot nowadays, might as well hang it up next to our coats by the door. I casually walked over and hung it on a hook before stepping back and seeing it there for the first time. In a moment, you’ll be grabbing your athletic sweatshirt hanging up in your closet and take your dad’s 20 year old civic to a nearby park for some pick-up football with your bros. I won’t need to be there to wrangle your limbs into the arm holes. You won’t need me to fight the zipper or remind you to look both ways. In a moment, buddy. I will have endured (and often encouraged) your independence from me. I will applaud your successful shoe-tying. I will rejoice in the day you get accepted into college. I will trust you with a curfew and wait as the sleepy minutes tick by until the door creaks open and you fall asleep in your teen boy-smelly room.
IMG_0151So in this moment I’m gonna scoop you up and place you on my hip. I’m going to play peek-a-boo with you a thousand times til I think you may have giggled yourself to oblivion. I’m going to choose to laugh as you roll onto your tummy, bare baby buns in the air as I try to put on your diaper. In a moment, my love. This will all be over.
We are not guaranteed any tomorrow moments you know? But if God wills, we are running into years of moments that will stay safely tucked into their places in time.  We will feel and learn new things about each other. We will relate differently. I will lose my temper, you may call me names. There will be ugly moments, I’m sure of that. I was a teenager once too and I mastered that eye roll. Don’t test me.
But most importantly? More than colorful spoons and midnight curfew moments I want you to know — in every new chapter there will never be a moment where I ever stopped loving you so deeply, so imperfectly yet so wholly. In every moment you are covered in my prayers, wrapped in my very skin, loved to your very core. Never think otherwise, my sweet boy – not even for a moment.

The Measure of a Man

My husband turns 30 today. Over the past few weeks we’ve had some really great conversations about this past decade of his life, what he wants to achieve in the next, and have laughed about some of the more ridiculous memories and moments from his life. I have 3 takeaways from reflecting on his life:
1909941_516673594967_5122_n1. There is a lot of wilderness in your 20’s but it can be a fun wilderness if you’re in it with the right people. Your 20’s are so often about trying to figure out who you are yet it makes it challenging when you graduate college in your early 20’s but it takes you several more years to actually shake out what you want to do for a living. If you’re in your 20’s and still confused as to what the heck you’re doing with your life – you are in such good company! Just don’t assume it’ll never work out. My best advice would be to try stuff. Just try it. If nothing else, you’ll figure out your strengths and weaknesses through trial and error. Also – personality and strength assessment tests are my FAVORITE! John and I have taken several and they are so helpful in affirming your best and worst qualities (everybody’s got both let’s not pretend otherwise).
2. If you can look back on mistakes you made without an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame, you’re becoming comfortable with your humanity and the grace of God. John made mistakes in his 20s, just like you did/are doing! But what I love about remembering them with him is remembering how he handled them. Sometimes life is messy and finding your way out of the mess can be difficult – but man, I’m so proud with how John handled not only mistakes but real challenges in his 20s.
3. At the end of the day, it’s people we remember. People who shape us and 183498_1831365553179_2236008_nbreak us and build us up. While talking about many memories from John’s first 3 decades of life, so many of them involved people that I am so incredibly grateful are in his life. Men and women who know how to get John to laugh, who don’t hate on him when he cries, and who value him as a person. No matter how old you are, strive to be someone who errs on the side of loving people. You may find yourself getting hurt more often than those who choose to close themselves off from others but OH will your life be so much richer and deeper. We are all flawed. We are prideful, overly judgemental, and ultimately insanely insecure. So work on being comfortable enough in your own skin that you are willing to allow other people into the softer, more vulnerable and most precious places of your heart. When you find people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, you are richly RICHLY blessed.
Last night John and I watched the GOP Presidential debate together (which counts as part of my birthday gift for him, by the way. 2 HOURS OF MY LIFE.) While parts of the debate were entertaining, the overall impression I got was desperation. Men who are desperate to be the best, most perfect, most powerful, most polished man on stage. I mean, I get it. You’re presenting yourself as a candidate to be President of the United States. It’s a very big deal and you have to be confident. But there is a difference between being confident in who you are as a man versus being confident in how unreliable and petty everybody else is. When I looked over at John while we were watching this debacle (half giggling and half shaking our heads in disbelief) I was struck with how truly and completely grateful I am for him. For the man that he is.
DSC02660More than just turning 30 (age ain’t nothin but a number) and more than just having fancy bachelor’s and master’s degrees and more than just the money in our bank account – I have a man who is immeasurably more than I could have asked for. He has integrity, he lives out of his convictions when it’s hard and unpopular, he weeps for people who are hurting, he gets so much life from encouraging people. When he sees something you’re doing well – he loves celebrating that and challenging you to take it to the next level. He’s my biggest cheerleader! He has embraced his role as daddy with gusto – and Samuel is soaking it all in.
My husband is a man I am proud of and a man I am crazy in love with. I have only been in his life for 8 of the 30 years and I am grateful to every person – family and friend – who has loved him and encouraged him to be who he is along every step of his 30 years.
I love you, John! 30 is the new 40! Oh wait.. woops. Whatever. Any decade looks good on you, babe! Just remember, I will ALWAYS be younger. ❤

Addressing the chronic dreamers

Do you know what separates the dreamers from the doers? – Action.

Dreamers live in the ethereal. They are often visionaries and they’re motivational and inspiring and their ideals are beautiful. We need dreamers! We need people who can see what is and dream about what could be.

But we need more dreamers to become doers.

Doers write down their dreams and then they try it. They go. They work. And doers fail a lot and cry a lot and doubt a lot. And doers WIN a lot. Just by showing up and trying. Doers have tasted the bitter bile of disappointment. They have swallowed it and they have tried again.

I have always been a dreamer. I love to wonder and think big and describe great truths and marvel at how great God is.

But I am often too scared to be a doer. Because I’ve “failed” a lot with dreams. My plan A’s are so often turned into Plan “WTF”’s. At least that’s how I’ve seen my efforts since the beginning of this year. I haven’t written 15 minutes every day, I certainly haven’t blogged consistently and my efforts to train for a half-marathon have been completely reset by 2 weeks out with an injury and nasty head cold.

I’m paralyzed by how imperfect my dream-doing is. I’m so tired of making promises I haven’t been able to keep to myself – there’s only so much self-inflicted shame one person can handle. So instead of trying I’m tempted to just stop everything. Give up. I cannot disappoint myself or anyone else if I stop making promises altogether, right?

But here’s what I’ve been missing about the dream equation – a setback is not a broken promise. It’s not a reason to give up on a dream or beat myself up. A setback is just that. It sets me a little farther back. It causes me to re-trace my steps.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

Failure is not found in the working out of a dream – it’s found in the premature abandonment of it. If you want to dream – dream! If you want to change your life – DO. Go for it. Get back up again, reevaluate, tweak, and push forward.

The process of a dream is such a mess isn’t it? I know people who are aspiring authors, nurses, marathoners, and musicians and if you peek into the middle of their “doing” it looks nothing like the end result. The first nursing shift began after countless hours of burning through highlighters and flashcards and studying. The finish line started at 5am, day after day after day, months before race day. It was achieved through uncomfortable, tiring, focused, effort.

We need less “A dream is a wish your heart makes” and more “A dream comes at a cost, and you’re heart may break a thousand times in the process.” No Disney princess jumped on that rendition. I mean, what rhymes with “process”? And no way that can fit on a pillowcase. Let’s be real.

This is all part of me trying to process what I learned from a women’s conference at

2016-02-05 22.13.56my church last weekend. Nobody explicitly talked about dreaming and doing but there were enough exhortations to make my head spin by the end of it, “Drop your water jar! (you had to be there) Take up your cross! Love your next-door neighbor! Reach the world! Free the captives! Sponsor a child! Give! Go! Be!” So I’m working on untangling all the truth I heard by pulling on one strand at a time.

Today I pulled the thread that examines my inactivity towards my dreams. My tendency to be paralyzed when I’m faced with missed expectations. I know now that I have permission to dream but a responsibility to DO. What does that look like in my life right now? Well on Sunday, I laced up my running shoes again and got back out there. Nevermind the herds of women in matching outfits and free-flying ponytails who breezed by me while they chatted. UGH. People who “chat” while running past me. Ugh. I just. You are hard for me to love. But nevermind all that!

My doing looks like running and writing. What’s yours? Could I encourage you to get

2016-02-06 18.24.03back at it? If you are a chronic dreamer like me, let this act as a swift kick in the rear to get at it. To stop circling the dream over and over in your mind, analyzing all of the potential heartache that comes from going for it and just deciding once and for all that it’s too important to let it sit dormant in your mind and it must make waves in your actual life.
ONWARD!

Googling & Talking to Yourself and other stuff I want to tell new & expecting mamas

I’m still a new mom. My son isn’t even half a year old yet so me writing to all the

<3

future new moms out there seems a little ridiculous, I’ll be the first to admit that. But at church on Sunday John and I had a friend ask us what it was like to be new parents – we told him the usual, “It’s hard but worth it etc.” but I really wanted to find his wife who was only a few months pregnant and sit down with her and share a few things. Maybe I feel compelled to share with you now because I’m not so far removed from it so I don’t really have the luxury of sugar-coating my experience thus far.

Isn't he TOTES ADORBS?! #hangry

Isn’t he TOTES ADORBS?! #hangry

I want to share with you (new mama and soon-to-be mama) some mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’m currently learning as a mom who is only a few small steps ahead of you. You could even say I’m just a few BABY STEPS ahead of you. Get it?! HA!  I need more sleep, I know. I KNOW.

1. Google with caution – Trust me on this. When your child gets his first cold, the internet will convince you it’s whooping cough and he’s in grave danger of hyperventilating. Even if he isn’t coughing – you’ll find yourself sort of gravitating towards the dramatic options because your brain is now attempting to  anticipate every need of your child. It’s exhausting. I still haven’t quite figured out how to control my “worst case scenario” reflex as a new mom. Lots of prayer (see point #3).
2. Create a “Mama Bullpen” – Bascially, your bullpen is full of other mamas who you know are going to shoot straight with you, who are for you as a mama (and as a human being of value, sometimes we forget we’re more than a butt-wiper at this stage), whose advice you can take without feeling judged, and can make you laugh when you feel like giving up. Make the bullpen a diverse one if you can – moms of littles and bigs, nursing moms and formula moms, cloth diaper moms, chicken nugget moms, organic moms, stay at home and work at home moms, just find them and put them on speed dial.
These are the moms you text during crisis. The moms you chat with or grab lunch with between naps because seeing them is life-giving and hearing from them reminds you that you aren’t crazy and you CAN do this. The bullpen idea came from some discipleship sermon John heard about creating a bullpen of mentors who could help you with various issues in life or something. I don’t know. I just love telling you to create a “Mama bullpen” because oh the imagery! Am I right? Go find your bull mamas. I would be lost without mine or out to pasture, as it were. HAHA! Ok I’ll stop.
Showing Samuel how to pray. OBVIOUSLY. #holymama

Showing Samuel how to pray. OBVIOUSLY. #holymama

3. Pray all the time – This sort of happens naturally because the moment you hear your child announce himself into the world you think, “Oh God. That’s mine. What am I doing?” If you have a personal relationship with God then it’s like starting the longest and greatest conversation with Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Him, let me just encourage you to think about it. The gospel of Jesus sets you free. It doesn’t mean you won’t screw up, just that when you do, you’ll have the Living God to hold onto and move forward with. It’s mind-blowing.

 
4. Monitor your inner dialogue – As a woman you know what I’m talking about when I say “inner dialogue.” It’s that never-ending conversation you have with yourself. Sometimes that conversation turns into imaginary conversations that you have out loud with your loofa or steering wheel, but either way, you’re talking to yourself. Listen to what you are telling yourself and be very very careful.
This is all new. ALL of it. This person that you’re holding in your arms with the squiggly eyes and chubby limbs (or gangly limbs if you’re my kid 😉 ) is brand new to the entire world. The world doesn’t know him and he doesn’t know the world. Guess who gets tasked with facilitating the long introduction between the two? That’s right, mama. You. It feels too big and too great for you to handle and it is. So you have GOT to remember to give yourself grace.
Let me just say that grace feels painfully absent in the middle of the night when you’ve slept 2 hours in the past 8 and your kid is crawling all over you crying about only God knows what (seriously). Your body and soul take a beating those first few months – acknowledge that. Being honest is the best avenue to really healing. Again, I’m still learning this. I have a lot to process from Samuel’s birth and am still processing this whole mothering thing.
But start that positive, moving-forward conversation with yourself. Here’s a glimpse into mine when Samuel was 2-3 weeks old, “This is unbelievable. He hasn’t slept for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Man. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Get out of bed and go get him, Rachel. He needs you. One foot in front of the other. Yep. You’re doing it. You’re getting it done. One foot in front of the other.” So it’s not the next Agatha Christie novel but you know what? It’s also not beating myself up and feeding lies.
Lies become more and more believable when we give them a platform to stand on in our minds. KNOCK ‘EM DOWN, SISTER. If the lies have grown so big that you can’t see past them — see point #2. Call on your bull mamas to help knock them down for you. Melt down, yell, cry – but let someone else know that you’re doing it.  Too many solo breakdowns can lead you to believe that you’re alone and nobody cares about how hard it is and how hard you’re working and trying and guessing and praying.
Case in point? Last week I called one of my bull mamas. She answered with, “Hey. Is everyone ok?” (she’s usually someone I text so a phone call is normally a sign of SOS/911 stuff) And I responded with, “No. I’m not.” and proceeded to sniffle and snort my way through my strange emotions with her. I got off the phone and felt like I wasn’t crazy. My heart didn’t feel as heavy and my life didn’t appear so impossible. But if I had continued to listen to the lies that I was worthless, ill-equipped, unloved, and isolated I wouldn’t be in a place to write this blog now would I?
There aren't enough words to describe my love for you, kid.

There aren’t enough words to describe my love for you, kid.

Moral of the story is, you aren’t supermom. You are your child’s mom. Your child needs you desperately – warts and all. You will mess up. You will slip and fall while caring for them both literally and figuratively if you’re lucky like me. You are perfect for this job. If nobody else is telling you – I will! And I hereby grant you the freedom to indulge yourself in truth, good people, prayer and caffeinated beverages. Never ever be afraid to ask for a caffeinated beverage.