Friday, April 11, 2014

have you ever told your 'story'?

Lately it seems like there has been a not so subtle push for me to tell "my story."

As in, I have to.
Not write -- actually speak.  Verbalize.  Out loud.  (FYI: Speaking to groups - without a script - is not my strong suit.)

We joined a community group at our church a couple months ago, and we are now taking turns during our Thursday night gatherings telling our "stories"  --  about our lives and how God has worked in them thus far.  Perhaps about events and/or people who have had an influence on our spiritual journeys. To get to know each other on a deeper level.

Then my sister-in-law Jen recently attended a Christian women's conference in Dallas called Hope Spoken, and in her recap of the weekend it seems that there were so many women telling their stories, or testimonials, of how God has moved in their lives, through joy and hardship.   A few of the speakers even stressed the importance for the women in attendance to share their "story" - whatever that may be. Just like I am being asked to do in my community group.

I'll confess, I am a little at a loss of how to tell "my story" as it relates to my faith in front of a group of men and women.  I've written the "my life series" here on the blog, in which I share a little bit about my beliefs.  I have wrote a few other times about how important Jesus is to my life.  But nothing that I feel qualifies as a "testimonial."

At first I was really excited about the task!  I loathe small talk and enjoy deep questions and sharing real feelings.  But then it came time for me to figure out what I was going to say when it was my turn to tell my story and I basically my excitement transformed into fear and panic.  Forced reflection on my life made me feel grossly inadequate to tell any inspiring story.

Plus, I'm an introvert.  I don't usually throw all the intimate details of my life out on the table.  Especially to people I don't know very well.  I would say I could count on one hand the number of people I am comfortable being 100% transparent with.  1) Jesus 2) my husband 3) my sister.  Yep, that is it.

Yet that is what I am being asked to do.
So I have been making lots of excuses, including:

"Nothing substantial has happened in my life worthy of qualifying as a 'testimonial of faith.'"  

"I'm not a good speaker or naturally 'likable' so no one will want to hear my story." 

"I'm ashamed of certain parts of my life -- I might be looked at as a bad example of a Christian and all the 'good Christians' will judge me." 

"I have built a protective wall around myself/my heart.  I feel safe there." 

"I can't put my faith into words, or my relationship with Jesus.  No one will understand it."

I have written a bunch of notes about what I'd like to say, but I feel like the "surface level version" is boring and trite, and a "transparent version" is too much to makes me uncomfortable...and I fear it will make others uncomfortable, too.

So often I hear people, mostly women, blurt out the personal details of their life with complete ease,  and while I admire their transparency it tends to make me add more bricks to my wall.  It forces me to acknowledge how NOT comfortable I am talking about the ways in which God has worked in my life.  I feel like the way the way God has used me for his good is not exactly the typical feel-good, inspiring stories people like to hear.

Some people have these amazing stories of cancer survival, near-death experiences that strengthened their faith, or perhaps endured the heartache of miscarriage (in the female blogging world especially this is a familiar story that really seems to be a witness and light to other women.)

I have none of these things.  What I do have is a history of mistakes and plenty of personal demons, all of which Satan is probably using to prevent me from speaking about my faith.

Depression.  That one is a regular battle I fight.  Then there is the constant feeling of 'not fitting in' probably stemming from plenty of verbal bullying and backstabbing over the years from other females, many who called themselves my friends...leading to a distrust of female friendships.  A distorted body image. Oh, and guilt from a past in which I did not follow God's plan for my life and lived the way I wanted to...with a million excuses to back that up.
These are real issues, important issues, that I think many women face...but sometimes I feel they just aren't very inspiring to write/hear about.

Or I feel like it is more a story for a therapist, not a church small group expecting this beautiful story of faith.

But maybe I am not the only one with a messy story that is pretty much still writing itself?  Maybe it doesn't matter that I'm not some inspiring heroine that makes everyone stand up and start clapping.   Maybe there are others who can relate to my form of heartbreak.   Maybe it is okay for me to still be getting to the climax of my story, rather already in the lovely denouement?
Turns out the first night I was supposed to share several people were sick so our meeting was cancelled. The following week I had a fever and sore throat so I wasn't able to attend.

Let's just say I am grateful for an extra week to reflect on this.

+ + + + + + + 

Have you ever spoken of your faith journey out loud to a group of people?  If you were asked to tell your "story" or "personal testimonial" of how God has worked in your life - would it be easy?

Monday, March 31, 2014

one year ago : one baby, now two!

Exactly one year ago I was largely pregnant...

 ...and now here we are -- minus a huge bump and plus a sweet baby girl...
While there is not much I miss about being pregnant, it is kind of bittersweet to look back on how little Cormac was back then, and how very much he has changed in only a year.

My spirited child.

Then he was a he is a little boy!

Then he only said about five distinct there is no limit to the things he will say.

Then it was diapers.  Now it is big boy underwear!
Then he was an only child.  Center of the universe.  Now he is a big brother.  Learning to share attention, toys, personal space, everything.  Quite the everyday challenge.  Here are some of my favorite recent shots of bro and sis:
they were dancing really cute.  until I got the camera out.

When I look back on photographs from one year ago, though I know life was easier then with only one, I just could not imagine going back.

For us, two babies is the place to be.  Every day it is hard...but every day it is awesome, too.
Hope everyone had a beautiful weekend!  We are this close to warm weather...and I couldn't be more thrilled.  

I'd like to get some sunlight on myself and my vampire children.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

finola - ten months!

Little One, 
We had a very fun 'month ten' together!  Your personality continues to grow and make me wonder about the things that you will say someday.  My bets are on you being a little fireball.  More laid-back than your older brother, but forever pushing the limits to see what your cute little smile will let you get away with.  

You were sleeping through the night on a mostly regular basis...until you started cutting your third tooth.  So the past week you have been waking up more at night, some nights A LOT.  Still napping the same as before, although the first nap seems to be getting a little shorter.  I will be excited when we are done with that one and have more flexibility!

You pretty much eat anything I'm allowed to give you.  You self-feed all the time, which is your preference because I guess I cannot spoon-feed you fast enough.  You want nothing to do with your bottle unless I hold you while you drink it and it is not meal time.  Let's just say if solid food is in sight you would prefer that.  If you see something someone else is eating that you want you will ignore whatever you had been eating and "complain" until I give some to you.  One thing you do NOT like is avocado...which you'll have to get over, girl.  Your brother loves it and it's a power food.

  • Weight = 20.8 lbs. (same as last month)
  • Cut 3rd tooth a few days ago and working on the fourth.  Teething up a storm!  Seems fine (a bit fussier) during the day but it is as night you seem especially irritable.
  • Wearing all 12-18 months clothing.

  • Continues to cruise and stand with one hand on something - but no solo steps yet.
  • Claps hands!
  • Waves bye-bye
  • "Dances" (sways/bobs back and forth when music comes on)
  • Lots and lots of kissing.  People, books, mirrors, etc.
  • Loves to 'clean up' - putting toys back in boxes.
  • Easily transfers objects from one hand to the other.
  • Still only says "Dada" and "Nana" and "Maaaah"(on rare occasion) but tons of vocalizing/babbling/shrieking.
This Month's Memories:
  • Visit from Auntie Heid and cousin Selah!  We had a blast and you and your cuz hung out a lot.  You were kind of aggressive (curious?) and wanting to grab her face constantly and poke at her eyes.  She is a sweet, dainty little thing.  Hopefully she gets bigger or you might squash her.  
  • Our second zoo trip!  We skipped your morning nap and you still did really well.
girl cousins!
 Sibling relations:
Well, before I felt you were an innocent in any squabble that occurred...but now I feel you are an active participant.  You grab ANYTHING your brother is playing with or using.   Like it's your job.  You seem slightly antagonistic...or maybe you just feel it is your right, as the baby, to have whatever.  I try not to laugh as I can now totally see why Cormac is so annoyed.  He still takes thing from you, too, though.  I guess the sharing thing we will be working on a while.  Probably the next eighteen years.
Here is Cormac's ten month post - I can hardly remember him being that little!   I guess that means you will be a rambunctious 2-year-old in a blink!
your 'stink face' - which you wear a lot when teething
twinkle toes!
 strollin' through the house
just chillin' in my skinnies
your look of fierce determination
So fun.  Every day.  Hard at times with two babes so close in age...but I definitely treasure you two amazing kiddos.  I feel like God gave me you for a million reasons - and that He gave me you sooner rather than later to challenge me as a person and a mama...and make me realize I cannot "do it all."  Tough for a control-freak like myself.   Many things must be left undone in my day.  Nothing will be "perfect."  Control is really not in my hands anymore - not now, not with two, that is for sure!  But I try my best and have my meltdown moments and am embracing my imperfections, as there are many.  The good thing is - motherhood is never dull!  The times I enjoy most are just hanging out with you and your brother, no other agenda.
You teach me more than I will ever teach you.
I hear you babbling upstairs, so it's time to wrap this up.

Love you, girl.
Mama + Dada

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the renovation : guest bath progress

There is nothing like an upcoming visit from your sister (or any guest) to motivate you to make progress on your home renovation.   I absolutely love when I am hosting something at the house - a visit or any type of get-together - because it means something on the house will get prioritized and we will see some progress!

(Or I will actually really clean...and having a freshly cleaned + organized home is also an awesome feeling.)

My sister visited the past five days.  (Another post on that to come!) It was awesome to spend time with her and her 7-month-old daughter!  She lives in Montana so we don't get to see each other often, but when we do, despite each having at least two babes, we always get in some good quality time!

Anyway, we finally got the guest bathroom together.  Not really "decorated" or "finished" per se, but usable.  Baby steps, people!  :)

Here are a couple before and after photos...
Renovation checklist:

  • new hardwood flooring
  • new vanity
  • refinished clawfoot tub
  • installed bamboo shade
  • fixed wall due to water damage
  • new light fixture above vanity
  • painted walls in Valspar 'Notre Dame' 

 Here is a peek of the current guest bedroom -- also not yet fully finished accessorizing/making it personal, but it is beginning to become a room I love. (You can see the door to the guest bath on the right.)
A LOT more has happened in our 'dream home' since I last posted, so I will try to share more in the coming month about that!

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Monday, March 10, 2014

no-dairy challenge check-in #1!

I have to say that not eating dairy has definitely been TOUGH.
I miss cheese - a lot.
I never realized how much cheese I ate.  (Okay, yes I did.  So good!)
And the butter.  Oh, the butter!  I am a butter lover.  Gimme butter on anything.  Drool.

However I survived a week dairy-free without much to-do.

I started drinking and cooking with almond milk...which tastes better than regular milk in my opinion.

I made my smoothies without my typical Greek yogurt, and by adding more frozen banana they still taste good.

I avoided all the cheese sitting in my fridge, even though it beckoned to me daily.

I even ordered a veggie pizza with vegan cheese while out with girlfriends -- and it was surprisingly DELISH!

My one cheat: after my long {slightly hung-over, I'm-an-idiot, nearly-empty-stomach, seven-mile} run on Sunday Hubby and I went to Chipotle and I got my usual burrito, since I felt like I was dying of starvation {probably was}...which includes sour cream and cheese.  I didn't even think about it.  Even as I was inhaling this gigantic burrito I didn't realize my 'oops.'  Hubby didn't notice either, and he usually calls me out when I cheat on the challenge.  That night I realized and gave my forehead a good smack.  

But other than that - no dairy.

I maybe have lost a pound or two, but because I am half-marathon training and have amped up my daily workouts I am not sure which is having more of an effect - my dietary changes or the running/extra workouts.  

Hubby did remark that my face looks "thinner" and I am looking "really good" so I guess he is noticing something???  He is not super observant about changes in my appearance so I think this says something!  :)

I have had a cold the past few days so I can't say I "feel" better since starting this challenge, but maybe I'll notice this week?

All-in-all, I am loving this month's challenge!

Anyone else dairy-free out there who can share their experience???  Or completely vegan?  I would love to know some more creative substitutes and advice on where to shop for the best dairy-free options.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

family resemblance.

Well, it was bound to happen.
Already folks are telling me Fin looks like my Hubby, and not me.
They even go so far as to say she got her blue eyes from him...
even though they are the same shade of blue-gray as mine,
with a dark ring of navy around the pupil.

"I really see Paul!"  said one.
"That is Paul's face right there!"  insisted another.
"But her eyes are like Pauls, right?"
Me: "No, I have blue eyes.  Paul's are hazel, kind of brownish-green."
Person squints at my eyes, which I bug out at them for effect.
They shrug, act as if they cannot tell what color my eyes are, and 
then tell me her mouth looks just like Paul's.

I mean, I know I don't have a lot of folks staring into my eyes these days
(I have to sometimes insist Cormac makes eye contact)
but sheesh.

So here is another round of "who does she look like?" 
for all those naysayers.
{mama and baby - 3 months}
no idea what ages we are...but surely there is a resemblance 
Yes, I will admit, Cormac definitely favors his father in most ways...
my handsome men!
 ...but I am still holding out hope that my genes made it through somehow.

I did birth them and all.

PS : My friend Laura had her babe -- a BOY!

Monday, March 3, 2014

feb recap + march 'no dairy' challenge!

I know I was MIA last month when it came to our eating challenge.  Between my son's potty training and my increased efforts to make it to the gym to train for a half-marathon in April I kind of let writing about this challenge fall down the priority list.  So now to get back to it.

February was "no fried foods."
Way easier than last month's 'no sweets' challenge.
This kind of surprised me, since I thought I ate more fried foods than I really do.  So while not really causing me to cut many calories, it led me to some self-actualization.

Mainly: despite my love of French fries I don't exactly eat them often or crave them.  Also, I may be confused about what is actually considered 'fried.'

Bacon and eggs.  Fries.  Burgers?  What if they are grilled?

Plus, I bypassed the "fried" rule with the bacon and just baked it.  So I still consumed bacon.  Okay, it was turkey bacon.  Still.

No major dietary changes for this gal by eliminating fried stuff.

Anyway, since I don't eat much that is fried, perhaps February should have been 'no fast food' or just simply 'no junk food.'  Because I do eat chips and salty snacks that are probably not great.  {hubby just read this and informed me that chips are I said, I am confused.} Also it would have saved me from the half a pan of brownies I ate last week.  Oops.

Did anyone else feel better eliminating fried foods???  Was this one the 'big one' for you...or pretty easy?
* * * * * * 
Now, onto March.  No Dairy.  Finally one that will really, really be a challenge.  I am starting a couple days late, but as of today, March 3rd,  I will be eliminating dairy from my diet.  I grocery shopped yesterday (while drinking a soy latte!) and feel pretty prepared for the month.  I am going with almond milk as a sub for my usual skim cow milk.  I am interested in how it will taste in my cooking and baking.

I am dreading not being able to have cheese.  I pretty much live for cheese.
Who else is with me?  I know, this one is a bummer...but I think it will be the most life changing.  For a dairy-freak like me, at least.
Now, to change the subject a bit...

In doing this 'eating challenge' to get ready for summer and reflect on our diet/eating habits and perhaps our relationship with food in general, let's not forget about exercise.

I read recently that weight loss is 70% diet and 30% exercise. 
This surprised me a bit.  I am a self-professed gym rat, running I have always been much more interested in moving my body than limiting my calories.   However, I know a few folks who lost significant pounds mainly through changing their diet.  I also know very thin people who rarely work out...they just are really good at portion control and/or nutritious eating  Clearly, diet is the key.

But let's not forget exercise for your body (your temple!) to be truly strong/healthy!

Have you found the thing that makes you want to get moving?  As I've mentioned, I am definitely running-focused.  It is what makes me happy and what works well for my body type.  However, it seems all the friends I have talked to enjoy something different.  Yoga, zumba and Insanity are three that come to mind that have motivated various friends to get the body they desire.

So what are you doing?

If you haven't found your thing then keep looking.  Even folks who claim to not "need" to work out, or "hate it" still need exercise.  It is not about weight, it is about health.

If your excuse is lack of time (the #1 excuse) or lack of money (heck, gym memberships and home equipment can be expensive!) then how about taking a tiny portion of your day/evening to work out for FREE.

Yeah, if you are reading this blog then most likely you have a computer at home (or probably you could even use your smart phone) and could easily search for free workouts that you can do with simply what you've got at home.

For example, I really like this one.  No equipment.  Ten minutes.  Your butt will be sore the next day - promise.

There are a ton of good ones out there.  Do three of these and you've put in your recommended thirty minutes of exercise.

So eliminate the excuses and get moving!  Getting started is the hardest part, I promise.  :)