3 Things That Make Me More Productive

My firstborn was a really hard baby.  He was fussy, colicky, and clingy.  My house looked like a disaster for pretty much the first year and I hated it.  Surprisingly, 9 months into have two I actually feel way more productive and on-top of things.  Here are just 3 simple ways that have helped me come to this point:

1. The Motivated Moms app on my phone.  I’m a list maker.  So, it should come to no surprise to you that I’ve tried just about every home management tool out there, from creating my own lists on Evernote to Flylady.  The later just didn’t work for me.  There were elements I loved, but some of the main components just didn’t make sense in my life.  I don’t want to walk around the house with my shoes on, nor am I able to keep my sink clean constantly.  Then a Facebook friend suggested Motivated Moms…and I fell in love.  Even with being pregnant and working part-time, it worked for me.  Then Baby Girl came along and I quit for awhile, but that past few months I’ve been back at it.  I’ve customized it to work with my days and schedule, and I’m suddenly becoming way more productive…and my house is always in semi-decent shape.  Even with a 9-month-old who started crawling last week and is into EVERYTHING.

2. Updating the budget every. single. morning.  You already know how much I love YNAB.  The only problem is, you have to manually enter things, which takes some time.  Thankfully, however, I can update things quickly on my smartphone.  When I’m feeding the baby, I’m usually looking at my phone anyway…so why not use it for something productive?  Every morning I quickly pull up my various banking apps, as well as the YNAB app, and update and add things.  Sometimes I still need to look for a receipt or log onto the computer to actually update budget categories, but that work is a breeze when I’ve already got almost everything entered in.  It takes minutes, I stay on top of things, and I start every day knowing where our finances and budget stand.

3. Waiting to eat breakfast with Miles.  My children are typically early risers, but a couple of times a week I actually get up before them…or at least one of them.  ha!  My favorite way to spend that time used to be spending quiet time with God and then eating breakfast alone.  When my toddler got up, I’d feed him breakfast and try to get ready by myself.  Only, my son is one of the slowest eaters ever.  He gets every slower when nobody is sitting there eating with him.  So, I would find myself still sitting at the kitchen table in my bathrobe at 10 am with nothing to do.  Now, on those rare days, I do my quiet time and then take a shower or get ready.  On the really rare days that I still have extra time, I log onto the computer or do any number of tasks that are hard to do with my son around (read: trying to help and just making things harder!).  Whenever he gets up, I make breakfast for the both of us and we eat together.  My son eats faster, I’ve accomplished a lot more, and less time is wasted.  Problem solved!

What are some of your favorite productivity helpers?

Just A Mom

I used to think it would be enough for me to be merely a stay-at-home mom.  I had grown up watching my intelligent, PhD holding mother spend her days folding laundry, cooking food, and bandaging scraped up knees.  For her, gone were the days of helping troubled families in the a116d-2013-03-15_11-15-22_890court system and bringing in decent money from her highly-esteemed career.  But she never seemed to mind.  In fact, she thrived and found the most purpose in those quiet days full of simple tasks.  I knew unwaveringly that I wanted to be just a mom…just like her.

The years passed and I became just that.  Yet, I was surrounded by friends and women who were more than just moms.  Women I respected.  Women I enjoyed being around.  Suddenly my confidence and surety wavered.  I began to feel less able and less important than these other women.  I felt like I could never join in and complain about having a messy house or not having enough hours to get everything done because, after all, they did what I did plus some.  They went to work all day and then had to deal with the laundry and cooking and housework.  Some even worked on schoolwork after their children went to bed.  I used to think I was smart, hard working, and highly educated, but amongst these busy, capable women I started to doubt myself.

There were women who talked about how they could never just sit home all day…how they had to be doing something.  And so I questioned myself.  Am I really that much of a homebody?  Do I really do so little?  Am I bored?  Couldn’t I juggle all of those things too?

But God.  Always but God.

That Still Small Voice began speaking to my heart.  I could do all those things…juggle all those things.  I am an intelligent, educated, hard-working woman.  I am just as capable, but in this season of life, I choose something different.  I choose to not juggle all those things and do all those things. Right now, I choose to be just a mommy and just a homemaker.

Mamas who are just mamas: don’t doubt yourselves.  Don’t question your worth or value or abilities.  Remember that, like me, you chose this path.  You chose to find your purpose and fulfillment in this season not in being able to do it all or be all things to all people, but instead in the small little tasks that come along with being “just a mom”.  I know that one day when our kids are all grown up and gone, we will be glad that we sacrificed so much for those extra minutes with our babes.  We will be thankful that we got the chance to be just moms…and that we took it.  

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

“Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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We Waited

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Hilary (my sister): Did you see what T___ wrote on her friend’s Facebook wall?

Me: Yeah, I guess she and her hubby actually waited to have sex?  It surprised me a bit.

H: Yeah, me too

Me: That’s sad that it’s so surprising when a Christian couple actually waits to have sex.

My youth group years were spent smack dab in the midst of the “True Love Waits” campaign.  I signed the pledge, bought the purity ring, and watched the Joshua Harris videos, along with countless numbers of my friends.  Sex, or at least the saving of it until marriage, was talked about almost every Wednesday night.

Some years have passed and those friends and I find ourselves in our mid-twenties.  Some still single.  Many more married.  Some with kids.  The sad reality, however, is that of all those friends, I could probably count on one hand the number that actually ended up waiting to have sex until they got married.  My otherhand could probably be added to include those that ended up having sex, and then later waiting (claiming their “secondary virginity” the term coined by former-Bachelor-now-married Sean Lowe).

In light of that saddening fact, trying to save sex for marriage would seem pretty hopeless and futile for those that are unmarried, whether they be weekly youth group attendees or thirty-something and not-yet-married .  But it’s not.  I know it’s not…because my husband and I waited.    

I’ve been dreading writing this post.  I’ve had it on my heart for a very long time, but I’ve been too afraid to actually share it.  I just know that someone, or perhaps many people, will be offended or take it the wrong way.  I worry that people will think I’m prideful or judgmental or haughty.  Please believe me when I say that that’s not at all how I want to come across or what I want to portray.  My purpose in sharing my heart is not to make anyone feel guilty, but instead to bring hope.

My husband and I waited to have sex not because we were saints or prudes or not attracted to each other.  We waited because we firmly believed that that was God’s best and, by His miraculous strength, we stuck to our commitment.

It’s been over five years since our virginal selves said “I Do”, and I can tell you without a doubt that it was so worth the wait.  Sex is a beautiful, unifying, transforming blessing within the safety and confines of marriage.  Yet, so often, waiting to have sex gets a bad rap.  People’s motives are questioned, the term “legalism” is brought into play, and those that did end up waiting, like myself, find themselves almost embarrassed to admit that they did.

Now, before we go any further, let me be very clear about something: In proclaiming the value of waiting, I am in no way saying that if you didn’t wait your marriage won’t be as good as it would be had you waited.  The good Lord knows that, while I may have saved sex for marriage, my own past is full of its own set of sin and regrets.  Do those things play into and effect my marriage and my future?  Of course they do.  That’s just life…but that doesn’t mean that my marriage or my future is destined to be any less glorious than the next person’s.  On the contrary, the depths of my past mistakes only serve to illuminate the glorious redemption of Christ’s sacrifice.  However, that doesn’t mean that I want my children to repeat my mistakes.  I know that someday they’ll look back with regret about their own set of mistakes, but my hope and prayer is that they won’t be repeats of my own.

So, please know that if you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day, I am in no way condemning you or trying to shame you.  I just want those coming behind me to know that waiting is possible…and that it is very much worth it.


Waiting Is Not a Punishment

My husband is currently building the coolest treehouse for our soon-to-be 3-year-old son.  It already has three towers, a tunnel, a tube slide, a swinging bridge, and a bomb crows nest.  And this thing keeps growing.  The other day my husband asked me if I thought our son was too small for a complete-with-a-harness zipline from the top of the crows nest down to our shop (100 yards away).

“Andy,” I said (probably in a less-than-excited way), “You do realize that every other dad is going to hate you for completely out doing them?”

“Yeah, so?” was his response.  “Miles is going to love it.  The Bible does say that a good father knows how to give good gifts to his children.”

Touché

He was totally right.  In our day and age waiting to have sex is often seen as an arbitrary rule made by a god who doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves or have fun.  The truth is that that isn’t our God at all.  Our God loves us…and He knows how to give good gifts.  Sex happens to be one of them, but you cannot fully appreciate and accept that blessing unless you enjoy it solely within the confines of marriage.

Bringing it back to my children again,as a parent I really truly want them to be happy.  Sometimes, though, that desire comes across as me being mean.  For instance, my infant daughter may see her brother’s legos and want to play with them.  You better believe that she thinks that playing with those legos will make her happy.  And you know what?  Playing with legos would be really fun for her.  As her mom, though, I don’t let her play with legos.  Why?  Because she currently puts everything in her mouth and she could choke on them.  I know that the thing that she thinks will bring her happiness and joy could in fact hurt her.  If it hurts her, the happiness that it brought will quickly dissipate.

She doesn’t understand that.  She thinks I’m just being mean and don’t want her to be happy, but you know and I know that that’s the furthest thing from the truth.  A few years from now, when she’s not trying to eat everything in reach, I’ll gladly let her play with the legos and I will enjoy watching her enjoyment of them.  I will be confidant in the fact that her enjoyment of the legos won’t dissipate with one getting lodged in her throat.

It’s the same way with God.  He created sex as this beautiful blessing, but He knows that if that blessing is enjoyed before the right time or in the wrong setting, then the enjoyment and happiness we experience from it will be incomplete.  He knows that sometimes that thing that was meant to be a wonderful blessing could, in fact, hurt us.  He doesn’t create arbitrary rules to steal our fun and make our lives miserable.  He sets specific parameters for the blessings He has given us so that we may experience and enjoy them to their fullest.


Waiting Isn’t Antiquated

In the culture we live in, saving sex for marriage is seen as an old fashioned notion.  To forfeit pleasure until you’re married is seen as a ridiculous and near-impossible idea.  Everybody has sex before marriage these days.  It’s a normal and healthy way to get to know someone.  How else are you to know if you want to marry someone if you don’t know if you’re sexually compatible?  And if you know you’re going to marry your partner eventually, why deal with the stress and tension of waiting any longer?

Of course, all of these are selfish reasons born out of a self-centered culture.  In her book Passion and Purity the late Elisabeth Elliot writes:

What do women want today? What do men want? I mean, deep down. What do they really want? If ‘times’ have changed, have human longings changed, too? How about principles? Have Christian principles changed? I say no to the last three questions, an emphatic no. I am convinced that the human heart hungers for constancy. In forfeiting the sanctity of sex by casual, nondiscriminatory ‘making out’ and ‘sleeping around,’ we forfeit something we cannot well do without. There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.

The sad fact of the matter is that we can’t actually find true fulfillment when our lives are so self-focused.  Momentary happiness, perhaps, but that soon fades.  You see, when we are so consumed with self-gratification, we actually miss out on true love.  True love is self-sacrificing.  True love wants what’s best for the other person.  If we really loved our partner, wouldn’t we a) recognize that God wants us to wait to have sex for our good and that b) if we really wanted our partner’s good, we would wait for their sake?

Waiting to have sex may be antiquated in our culture, but the reasons behind waiting are not.


Waiting Is Possible

To be honest, everyone who didn’t wait has an excuse.  Usually those excuses are completely understandable and relatable.  Things got out of hand.  We were hormonal teenagers.  We had a long engagement.  We knew we were going to get married.  All valid, but all overcome-able excuses…and I can say that from experience.

The truth is, my husband and I didn’t have chaperones or a short engagement to keep us from straying.  We were alone together a lot, and we were engaged for 13 long months.  Yet we were still able to wait.  You see, excuses may explain the temptation, but they don’t validate the sin.

And we are not alone.  They may be hard to find, but there are others that waited too.  You don’t have to be in a fundamental courtship to be able to save sex for marriage.


Waiting Is Worth It

Don’t get me wrong…saving sex for marriage isn’t easy.  Far from it.  When you love someone, are intensely attracted to them, and know you want to spend the rest of your life with them, withstanding the temptation may not seem worth it.  But I can tell you, it is.

My husband and I have a special bond because we have something that is sacred and special to our marriage.  We may have loved each other and enjoyed being with each other pre-marriage, but marriage knocks dating and being engaged out of the ball park.  Our wedding day brought to a close a very long time of waiting.  So, instead of the world’s view of marriage as a ball-and-chain that ties you down, our marriage has always symbolized freedom.

Furthermore, by waiting to have sex, we avoid a myriad of issues that come with having sex.  Birth control, unplanned pregnancies, regret…these were not problems that we had to worry about until our wedding day.

Finally, there’s also something incredibly unifying about knowing that you were tempted and overcame temptation together.  You enter into marriage without regret, and with an ability to persevere through adversity together that those who didn’t wait lack.  It really is a beautiful and peaceful thing to experience a blessing of God exactly as He intended it to be experienced.


Waiting Starts Now

But what if you’ve already had sex?

The point in all this is not to shame.  We “all have sinned and fall short” [Romans 3:23], remember?  But you know what the wonderful thing about that is?  Christ died for us and washed our slates clean.  If you’ve chosen to accept this gift, then you are a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17] and no longer a slave to the flesh [Romans 6:15-23].  This doesn’t mean that we will no longer be tempted, but that God will give us the strength to withstand temptations when they come [1 Corinthians 10:13].

We may not be able to erase our pasts, and that’s where God’s glorious grace comes in, but we do get to choose how we go forward.  We get to choose whether to let our flesh or Christ’s righteousness reign in us.  Just because you’ve already had sex outside of marriage doesn’t mean you have to again.  It’ll be hard and take some guts, but let me remind you that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Saving sex for marriage doesn’t have to be a one-time-and-you-blew-it thing.  It’s not something that you already lost the ability to do.  Waiting starts now.


Sometimes, I almost feel embarrassed to admit that we waited to have sex, because I feel like I will be singled-out…seen as a judgmental prude with above-average self-control.  That’s really, really sad.  If you and your spouse waited to have sex, whether your entire life or just for a time before marriage, I’d encourage you to join me in sharing that.  Share a picture of you and your spouse on Instagram with the hashtag #wewaited .  Let’s show our unmarried friends that waiting can be and has been done…and that it’s worth it. 

This is a touchy subject.  Feel free to comment and discuss…but please be respectful and kind.  

To the Mama Going from One to Two

IMG_6342bThe other day I ran into a friend who had just had her second child the month before.  In her eyes I saw the all-too-familiar stress and panic that adding a second child brings.  She spoke of the adjustment being hard, even though her second was a much easier baby.  She talked of going from being able to get out of the house in 15 minutes to it now taking an hour and a half…of trying to figure out how to be a mom to both kids.

Going from one kid to two kids isn’t easy.  I know I had the same look in my eyes those first few months.  No babywearing apparatus, freezer stocked full of meals, or Netflix subscription can really prepare you.  Getting out of the house alone with both children will most likely induce a stress-induced panic attack.  No matter how hard you plan, you will have those moments of chasing your toddler across the parking lot, forgetting to bring a change of clothes for both children, and having to drag both children out of somewhere because they are both crying (the baby because she’s had enough, the toddler because he wasn’t ready to go).  And don’t forget having to deal with your potty training toddler having an accident and your newborn having a blowout at the same exact time.

Staying at home isn’t much easier.  There will be nights where your children will literally just trade off which hour they wake you up with a need, and you’ll get up in the morning wondering if you ever actually fell asleep.  Your first child, whether accidentally or purposefully, will kick the baby in the head, try to feed the newborn a cracker, or eveIMG_5810n drag the baby 10 feet across the floor while you’re just trying to brush your teeth for once.  Your toddler will find the candy you have stashed in the cabinet when they know you are stuck nursing the baby.  There will be many, many times when you have to let one child cry while you tend to the other child’s needs…and picking which child to take care of first is never an easy choice.  You’ll be on the verge of a nervous breakdown and need to get out of the house…until you realize how stressful getting out of the house will be.

But, Mama, don’t lose hope.  The other day as I looked into my friends eyes it suddenly dawned on me that that look had begun to fade in my own eyes.  No, having two kids never really gets easier…just more normal.  Getting out of the house with my toddler and now eight-month-old no longer produces extreme anxiety.  I can even leave the house with both in under 20 minutes.  At home, I can actually clean up the house and make dinner most days.

It’s still hard.  I’m still constantly reminding my older child to be more gentle with the baby.  I still have mornings where I wonder if I actually got any sleep the night before, and now with the baby getting more mobile we’re entering into a basically constant lesson in sharing toys.  But trust me when I say that there are good times that will make all the hard times worth it.  There will be times that will fill your heart so full that you’ll feel like it just might burst.  There will come a time when you’ll hear your children blowing raspberries at each other and giggling in the back seat.  One morning you’ll awaken to hear your toddler over the baby monitor sweetly saying to his sister, “Did you wake up, Sister?  Did you wake up, Stinky Chunks?” You’ll watch your baby laugh and giggle because she thinks her big brother is the funniest, coolest person ever.  And your love for them will only grow and grow.

So, Mama, don’t worry.  Two will be hard…but it will be worth it.  

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When You Have a Sweet One

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My son is one of those uncommonly sweet people.  Every time I pick him up from Sunday school I hear, “Miles is so sweet!”.  And then almost every night I hear our doorknob rattle and turn, followed by tiny little tiptoes across our floor.  My almost-three-year-old then silently climbs into bed on my side and neatly tucks himself in next to me before drifting back to sleep.  It’s hard to say no to something so heart-melting.

He’s the type of little boy who tells his mama often that she looks pretty, and you know he means it.  When I was sick recently, he voluntarily would softly rub my back and say, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling good, Mommy.”

His sweetness goes beyond just loving his Mama, though.  He notices peoples emotions, and it bothers him when others are upset.  When we took him to see Big Hero 6 in theaters, we thought that the movie would mostly go over his head.  However, by the time the credits rolled we were left with a sobbing little boy quaveringly telling us that “Baymax fell into the water!”.  He may not have understood everything, but he understood that Baymax was gone (or had been), and was absolutely torn up about it.

As his mommy, I both cherish and fear his tender heart.  I cherish it because it is a gift, rare in this world, especially among males.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s all boy, from his ability to turn anything into a weapon to his obsession with sticks and rocks (especially the throwing of them).  Yet, he has a sensitive streak in him that not every boy has.

I fear his tender heart because I am his mom and I don’t ever want to see him hurt, and yet I know the heartache that this world holds for those sweet ones.  Often in the world we live in, the ability to emote and empathize is degraded and made fun of.  I know that there will be times that my precious boy won’t fit in because of it.  I know that there will be times that he will be misunderstood because of it.  I know that watching the suffering of others will just about break him apart.

I also know that God has gifted him with this heart for a reason.  

I may not know yet what that reason is, but I pray every day that God will give me the strength and wisdom to nurture this precious little heart that He has entrusted me with.  I can’t wait to see the man he becomes.

Of Young Love and No Longer Being a Newlywed

My sister-in-law is getting married.  It’s all romantic and rushed in a we-can’t-wait-to-be-married way.  Then there’s the handful of others in my life getting engaged or planning futures together, in the midst of young, blossoming love.

All of it has me thinking back on our own love story.  Five years isn’t a long time to be married, yet that first year of marriage seems like ages ago.  It’s hard to recall what life was like before houses, babies, and crazy work hours.  It’s harder still to remember what it felt like to first be in love: the butterflies in the stomach, the ache to just be near each other, and the promise that you’d never take for granted the gift of not having to say goodnight.

In five years, life happens.  Some days you feel like ships passing in the night, and you most certainly take for granted not having to say goodnight, because only getting to see each other then just isn’t enough.  And one day you realize you’ve almost forgotten what it was like to be that young girl in love with a boy and willing to give up everything you’ve known to be with him.

And yet, the love hasn’t faded.  The giddy, early love has perhaps, but it has been replaced by a constant, truer love.  A love that takes work and sacrifice.  A love that ebbs and flows with the days, but is steadily getting stronger and stronger.  A love that is untouched by a big fight or a season of long work hours.  A love that delights in the easy times, and perseveres in the harder ones.

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Thanks to some airline miles and saving, Andy and I were able to get away for a few days for our 5th anniversary.  It was so weird to be without the kids for that long, and we certainly missed them, but we needed that time with just the two of us.  Truth be told, I’m not the same girl that first fell in love with that cowboy.  She was just a shadow of the woman God is molding me into.  He’s not the same boy I fell in love with either.  If we didn’t take the time to get to know each other over and over again as we grow, we’d find ourselves waking up one day not knowing the person we were married to…and that’s a very dangerous place to be in.

Sometimes I may forget what it was like to be nervously holding hands with Andy, watching love stir and grow in my heart for him.  My love for Andy and with Andy may have its seasons and changes.  Yet, he’ll always be my cowboy and I’ll always be his girl…and that’s enough for me.  


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Having It All Together

Today is the second day in a row that I’ve gotten both kids to go down for a nap at the exact same time.  Today, I feel like Super Mom.  Today is not ordinary.

I’ve been juggling two kids now for 7 months.  It finally seems normal, but it never really gets any easier.  I remember the first time I went to the grocery store alone with both kids.  I thought I’d just have Miles ride in the cart while I carried Nora in the ring sling.  Only, I didn’t factor in Nora only wanting to be upright in the sling, thus requiring me to support her newborn head most of the time.  Nor did I factor in how hard it was to steer a cart one-handed…or keep a toddler happy while bouncing a baby constantly.  Thankfully, a very sympathetic mother from church with older children saw me coming out, trying to turn the cart with my foot while getting Miles to stop whining.  She pushed my cart all the way to my car for me.

I was grateful to her, but I couldn’t help feeling self-conscious…like I was woefully in over my head without any way to hide it.  I thought I was born to be a mom, but this two-kid thing was not second nature to me.  I felt anything but capable.

Since then, I’ve learned that I am decidedly not capable.  But I’ve also learned that that’s okay.  Sure, there are some days like today when I want to do a Rocky fist-pump because I am rocking it.  Yet, I know that tomorrow my son will probably yell out something very disrespectful to me in Walmart and every judging head in the store will turn to see how I react.  Meanwhile, Nora will be screeching and shoving her face into my chest wanting to nurse.  (Have I mentioned that we never left the house today?  Maybe that’s why I’m rocking it…).

At any rate, I know full well that I won’t feel like Super Mom every day.  Or even most days.  What I do know is three-fold.  1.) God promises to never give me more than I can handle with His Strength.  2.) As one of the dear “older” moms in my life likes to remind me, I will miss this one day.  3.) Super Mom or not, God entrusted me with these babies because He knew that I was the mom they needed.  Capable or not.  Rocking it or not.    IMG_5693

One day when my kids are all grown, it will matter little whether I had everything together or not when they were small.  What will matter is that they saw and felt and tasted Christ’s love overflowing out of me to them each and every day.