Hell0, 2017!

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I have a love/hate relationship with midnight, New Year’s Eve. I appreciate the opportunity to turn a new leaf, but I am very nostalgic, so I always cry as we bid farewell to another year. One year, Andrew and I took a getaway over New Year’s with two couples. While the other five were drinking sparkling cider and watching fireworks from the balcony, I was sitting inside with tears streaming down my face. It’s become a big joke…my friend Brittney always texts me to ask how my annual cry was. ;)

This year, I missed the countdown. My hubby was in bed and I was in the dark living room feeding my baby. I felt contented and peaceful as I looked at the clock and realized it was midnight, 2017. I didn’t cry.

I’ve come a long way in the past year. When I reflect on where I was at as of January 1, 2016, I am thrilled to see tangible ways that God changed and grew me. If I had to pick one word to describe my 2016 “journey” it would have to be “trust”. I continued down the path of learning to give my mommy anxiety to God and let Him care for my little ones. I gave our future job/ministry plans to God as we waited for Him to open doors. I let go of stressing about when God would give us another baby. Over and over, God met our needs and gave us answers, sometimes to questions we hadn’t even thought to ask. He showed me repeatedly that trusting Him is always best, and He is always faithful. I am so grateful for the work He did in me, through pain and through joy, and I look forward to 2017 with great anticipation for what He will accomplish!

In some ways, with the excitement of a new baby and Andrew’s completion of seminary, the New Year caught me off guard. So I’m behind on goals and plans. But here are a few scattered ones I’ve been mulling over for awhile. These are mostly practical/tangible. There are also many other ways I am asking God to grow me in godliness and Christlikeness this year.

I am purposing NOT to push through the days and “just try to make it” to crib time or bed time or Daddy getting home. All the frustrations and accidents and challenges that happen on our way to those times of respite are what these little years are made of. How can I wish them away?? I want to be very present and to enjoy my children even when it is hard to see past the spilled juice and the meltdowns and the blowouts. These sweet little souls will only be little for so long and I will choose to embrace this season, each part of it!

I hope to grow in my prayer life, to sieze many small opportunities to commune with God throughout my day. I have grown in being faithful to actually pray for people when I say I will, and I desire to be even more consistent in this and remember to check in with those I am lifting up.

I will seek to grow in having a “helper mindset” toward Andrew. To be flexible and adaptable, eager to free him up for ministry to others. I was dependedent on him so much last year when I was in the throes of pregnancy sickness, and I am excited to use my good health and energy this year to better serve and help him fulfill his callings. I want to be a gracious and humble wife, with low expectations.

I desire to train our children with their salvation and love for the gospel in mind. To correct for the purpose of showing them their need for Christ and His perfect fulfillment of that need, rather than for the purpose of making my life easier, making me look good, etc. I want to train them unselfishly with true, biblical love, and to be consistent and not lazy in my correction.

I will take consistent preventative measures to build up our immune systems as best we can, while knowing that God alone oversees our health. I did some research over the past few months and with Andrew’s permission, picked a few realistic things to create our new daily supplements “regimen”. They are a good probiotic (I’ll be rotating which one we take every few weeks), vitamin C, and cod liver/fish oil. I also just bought elderberries to make elderberry syrup, and we have almost entirely cut refined sugar from Caleb’s diet. I am still taking my prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and a large dose of Vitamin D daily, per my midwife. I hope these efforts help us achieve a healthier year, but I know that God is in charge of whether or not we get sick.

I hope to read six books. I hope I read more, but I figured I’d start with a super realistic goal and go from there. ;)

These are a few of my random goals for 2017, what’s left of it now that we’re in February. :) What are you working toward?

{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

Does Your Husband Buy You Flowers?

IMG_8751One of the many things I’ve learned from being married is that no two marriages will look the same, nor should they. Our culture paints idealistic cookie-cutter pictures of romance and love, but reality is often far from what we have seen in movies or read about in books. (By the way, I’ve found that reality is different, yes, but far deeper, richer, and more wonderful than the culture’s portrayal of it.)

Romance is one of those words that can encompass a million different things, but often gets squished into a few ideas: flowers, a candlelight dinner, hand-in-hand walks on the beach at sunset, etc. Those are all romantic and special ways of showing one another love, but romance can mean so much more!

Andrew is, in general, not a flower-buyer. He is not one of those guys who will randomly stop by the grocery store on his way home and pick up a bouquet of roses “just because” more than once or twice a year. This has never been a “hard” thing for me, but I have teased him over the years about it because he predictably buys me flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The summer I was expecting Caleb, I was dealing with a really difficult situation related to my apartment management job at the time. I left home in a puddle of tears for an errand. When I returned about 45 minutes later, Andrew was just washing the last of a huge stack of dirty dishes in my kitchen. I started crying again because it meant so much and it was such a relief to come home to a clean kitchen. (Dishes hang over my head like no other chore!)

“I was going to go buy you flowers,” Andrew explained, “but then I thought that washing the dishes would mean more to you, so I did that instead.”

In that moment, I realized that every time he voluntarily washes the dishes for me or speaks my love language in another way, it is like his “version” of bringing home flowers. Not only does it take the same thoughtfulness and love, but it really does mean more to me than flowers. I don’t particularly love flowers for the flowers’ sake. What I love is that they mean Andrew has thought about me and chosen to do something to tangibly convey that love. But he does that in a million other ways that are actually even better (to me) than flowers, and when I recognize that, there is no room for jealousy when I hear about a hubby who brings home bouquets on a regular basis.

I drafted this post about a year-and-a-half ago, and finally publishing it today ironically comes on the heels of a surprise bouquet of flowers from Andrew after a hard day. But the message I hope to convey is the same.

Don’t let the world’s definitions of love and romance make you miss out on the ways your spouse is already showing affection. Never play a game of comparison, and wish your hubby would be as romantic as your friend’s is. Observe and appreciate the “unconventional” ways he romances you, and treasure the reality that your marriage is uniquely yours, and your husband is uniquely him. He may not buy you flowers, but I’ll bet you can find his thoughtfulness in a hundred other gestures, if you’re just willing to stop and look.

 

{Homemaking Journal} New Spring Recipes

Five months into this whole mommy thing, I’m still loving the extra time I have to cook proper, delicious meals for my little family. Granted, this week included two nights back-to-back where I got precisely nothing on the table due to completely packed apartment days, but under average circumstances, I have the time and the energy to put yummy food in front of my hubby each night and I love it! Here are a few favorite new recipes from recent weeks. Please pardon the language in one of these blog URLs. It’s an unfortunate blog title but the food is scrumptious! My new favorite cooking blog for sure.

As always, I made numerous changes to these fine recipes…including altering them to be gluten free. Sorry for the poor photo of the Bang Bang Chicken! I always forget to get my Nikon out after I’m done cooking. =)

Trader Joe’s Spaghetti Squash Carbonara – I personally loved this more than the Cheesecake Factory version. To die for!

Cheesy Enchilada Rice Skillet – Nothing earth-shattering flavor-wise, but SO easy.

bangbangchickenBang Bang Chicken – I’ve made this twice already! DELICIOUS! Worth the fuss!

Cauliflower Chowder – I’m honestly not a big fan of cauliflower, but I absolutely loved this soup. And it was sooooo simple.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Panini – These satisfy that occasional and obsessive craving for something toasted with cheese.

{Marriage Journal} Why Can’t He Just Remember?

Towel_Rack_1This morning, Caleb was napping and I was working on apartment management items, when Andrew called to me from the other room, “Hey Hon, could you grab me a towel?”

I sighed as I set my laptop aside and got up to retrieve the item that I seemed to deliver quite often. Why can’t he just remember to grab a towel before he gets in the shower? I grumbled in my head.

The thought was barely finished when I realized how many dozens of times I’ve sat down to nurse Caleb and then realized I forgot to pour myself a tall glass of water first. (I am always parched during feedings!) “Hey Babe, could you bring me some water?” Andrew never complains that I don’t prepare better for nursing sessions.

It’s funny how easy it is to notice my husband’s quirks and minor shortcomings without ever stopping to look at my own. If we both picked at each little mistake or got annoyed every time the other’s forgetfulness made a little extra work for us, we’d be at each other constantly. This is everyday life together. This is being married. It means smiling when Andrew forgets the towel or I forget the water. It means laughing when I pick up the dirty laundry that ended up exactly next to the hamper instead of inside it. It means Andrew kissing me on the cheek when he discovers that his earbuds have grown legs and wound up in my nightstand. Sometimes it is in a million of these tiny decisions that a happy or frustrating marriage is made. (There are plenty of bigger factors, too…but small things often become the big things!)

Next time I hear the Towel Summons, I hope I smile instead of grumbling. I hope I say something sweet as I toss it to him. I hope I thank God that He gave me a husband.

And hey–I should be grateful to be married to a guy who showers! ;)

Photo taken from imgkid.com.

{Homemaking Journal} Favorite New GF Dinner Recipes

I am loving this new season of life, with the bulk of my time and energy being devoted to home life! Andrew and I are still apartment managers, but because we currently have no vacancies, that job is only requiring a few hours a week on average. I am also back to reading books and writing reviews four hours a week, another fun job that I can cater to my schedule. With this new schedule, I have enjoyed getting to put more energy into cooking and trying new recipes! Here are a few recent favorites, all gluten free. My disclaimer is that I rarely follow a recipe and often toss instead of measure. Also, I add minced garlic or garlic powder to nearly everything I cook. =)

Honey Balsamic Meatballs – I love that these meatballs use cooked quinoa instead of bread crumbs. They were really easy to make and tasted great with brown rice.

image1Kale Caesar Salad With Crispy Garbanzo Bean Croutons – A friend made this at a recent baby shower and I couldn’t wait to try it myself. The homemade dressing is to die for! Making the “croutons” is a bit time intensive. I might opt to skip them next time, although they do add a lovely crunch.

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken – Sadly, another delicious recipe that has sugar. But it can’t kill you once in awhile, can it? I’d actually like to try subbing honey and see what happens. This is in the oven right now…Andrew immediately requested a repeat when we enjoyed it last week.

IMG_4669Southwest Salad – I recently learned that this kind of salad is one of Andrew’s favorites. I cheated and started with store-bought Ranch dressing, then threw in chili powder, cayenne, etc. And I used corn chips from Trader Joe’s instead of making my own.

Chuck Roast With Balsamic and Dijon – Except I didn’t use dijon, I used regular mustard, as I always do. This was delicious.

Tasty Chicken Hot Pot – This came out a little bland, but was better after some Frank’s hot sauce. I’m still saving it because it’s fast, simple, and doesn’t require unusual ingredients. We ate it over brown rice.

{Marriage Journal} Four Years

Four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. I never could have imagined how wonderful marriage to Andrew would be. There’s no one I would rather do life with. God has been so gracious to us and I am beyond grateful to Him.

Happy anniversary, my love! Here’s to many more!

Photos courtesy of Ben Bender Photography.

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