A Year In
A year ago today, we were freshly back in the US, full of hope and optimism, and the year that proceeded ended up being one of the more challenging of my life. Isn’t it funny that way? I distinctly remember thinking last January, “This is going shockingly well so far. We are working out and finding new cafes and meeting new people. This is going to be great!” Perhaps somewhere deep down, a part of me was yelling at myself to not think that…nothing is ever this easy! Nevertheless, I was hopeful and optimistic.
Then February hit, and a number of challenges came my way. I had some challenges with my teeth that resulted in multiple visits to the dentist and a trip to Tulsa with Otis as a solo parent. I came home to Eleanor in the midst of a vomiting bug, one that continued that night and into the morning, resulting in us taking a visit to the ER because of her dehydration. Mind you, my mouth was throbbing this whole time. Robbie started applying for jobs and didn’t hear back. We started trying churches and nothing seemed to fit. I was up multiple times a night with Otis who was only four months at the time, and I was confused about what I was meant to be doing with my life. Not to mention freezing cold temps and lots of snow. February kind of sucked.
I’m not going to recap each month because frankly that would miss the point. My point is that it wasn’t all perfect and it looked entirely different than either of us imagined our first year back would look like. We sort of found a church, felt like it wasn’t the right fit after a couple months, and then had to search again. Robbie applied for jobs, got a job, lost that job and had to apply again. I tried network marketing, stopped network marketing and then revisited it with a different mentality and goal. We lived with my parents for 10 months. In the first half of the year we got our finances in order, took the Financial Peace Course, set a budget and proceeded with that budget as Robbie started working. We met with a financial planner/broker friend, got pre-approved for a mortgage, looked at houses and put an offer on one…which we didn’t get. We didn’t get it but thank goodness because the next day Robbie was blindsided at work and lost his job. I dealt with anxiety regarding our transition and mothering and life. I had a few anxiety attacks – something completely new for me and not so fun. I met with a counselor in April and felt like there was no chemistry, mutual understanding or respect, and then waited several months until August to try again. When I tried again, it was incredible and one of the best decisions I have made. We met new people, reconnected with old friends and saw friends from Australia (such fortunate surprises!!!). We renovated a house with my family, moved into the house and now have a home. We found a church the second time around, settled in, found a small group and feel great about being here. Robbie applied for jobs a second time around, did many phone interviews and some in-person ones. He finally got an amazing offer…that started in January. Robbie got seasonal work as a UPS driver during Thanksgiving/Christmas, and reality really sunk in when he got back after 10pm every night his first week. We went on a few road trips. My Dad was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor. We experienced some holidays we haven’t for awhile, as well as the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere again. We watched football…and not at 8am on a Monday morning (Australia time). We went to family events, weddings, friends birthdays – things we haven’t been able to for nearly a decade. I ran a 5K! We have two cars now – a 2007 Toyota Camry and a 2008 Toyota Sienna. We are a Toyota family, and I am rocking the mini-van.
It’s funny because as I go back and read that last paragraph, it’s all just facts. It’s not really the emotions or mental challenges surrounding all of those things (that would take a book). In reading that paragraph, I feel as if I am writing about five years, not one. So much.
This is what I know, though, one year in.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be near family, to get to know them on a different and new level. I am thankful for Robbie, my partner for life, my support and champion, and the one that continued to laugh with me amidst it all. I am grateful for two beautiful and healthy children who have done SO well, all things considered. They have grown and matured, met new friends, gotten braver, learned new skills. It’s been a joy to be their mom. I am grateful that I no longer feel fragile. I feel strong. I don’t run towards hard things, but I am not afraid of them anymore. I am grateful for a wonderful counselor, a woman who has sat with me for months and heard me talk through all of this. A woman who is understanding and yet challenges me. I am grateful for counseling in general. I have learned so much about myself in these last five months. I have more clarity, and in a year of new and change and confusion, clarity is welcomed with open arms! Most importantly, I am grateful that the same God that started stirring our hearts for a change 2.5 years ago is still with us and covering us and loving us and providing for us.
I haven’t written in awhile, but it’s a new year. I am feeling less bogged down by the need to make this look perfect or sound perfect, and I am more convinced that vulnerability is what truly helps others. Vulnerability is so important. (Thanks Brene!) This year has many wonderful things to look forward to, and I hope to bring you along the journey more and more.
AND, I want to encourage you – if you are going through a transition, I get it. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. There are more unknowns than knowns, and you may not know when you’ll be “transitioned” as I liked to say. Take refuge in the fact that God is with you in the call, he’s with you in the transition, and he’s with you at the destination. You, my friend, are the one that is changing and growing and being challenged. He’s constant.
Launching Photography Business, Establishing Routine & Transitions
Hello faithful blog readers! I appreciate that you’ve read over the years, even when it’s been limited to only the monthly update about Eleanor or Otis. I’ve written a blog for about 13 years now, and it’s taken so many shapes over the years. It’s ebbed and flowed as far as how many posts were on each month, as well as with the type of content I have written. As Robbie and I transitioned out of YWAM and moved back to the States, it’s been a j-o-u-r-n-e-y to figure out what I am doing more specifically. I have the broad vision, and I feel confident in that. However, it’s taken a while to figure out the specifics.
One thing that has been a learning curve is figuring out our routine here in the States. For the first several months, we had no routine. Robbie was looking for a job, and he would go work in a cafe on resume/applications/etc. I was trying a few different things over those months. One thing I have felt decently confident in the entire time is to relaunch my photography business. I had anticipated doing it much sooner than I have, but it’s taken a bit of time and sifting through a few other areas first.
My major vision is geared towards family. That’s incredibly broad, and I feel a relative bit of freedom to dream with God as to how that outworks. One area is photography, specifically family photography. Another area, though, is continuing to blog. A challenge for about a year for me has been to determine how I could do both. I didn’t want them to be separated, but I also wanted them to be distinct. Finally I had an epiphany one day, and that is how my main page was created. So if you look at my main page, you will go into either my blog section or my photography section. They come under the same banner, though. I am still sorting out other decisions such as social media and all that jazz, but it will come in time.
Other ways I’m pursuing this vision of family?
I am looking at starting a summer mom’s group here, and I am trying to get out and about for play dates and other things as well. It’s all taking shape, but it hasn’t been without challenge over these 6 months. Yep, 6 months! We’ve been Stateside for 6 months already, and I cannot believe it.
Transition is a tough thing to work through, but I am learning a lot and recognizing areas that I still need to learn and grow in. I’m hopeful for more roots to be planted as we settle into summer and get used to Robbie being at work all day every day.
All that to say, I am hoping to transition this blog (and photography) from hobby to business. I love being home with our kids, but I definitely feel certain I am meant to pursue work as well. This seems like the best of both worlds for me right now. I’m also still selling Plexus products, but that is more on the side for now.
Let me know in the comments what your favourite posts are that I have done in the past. From analytics, it seems that all things motherhood and family tend to get the most movement. Is that what you like? Also, I do feel a strong nudge from God to write more vulnerably, particularly about our transition. I remember before we moved feeling like there wasn’t much written out there about transition, even though it’s something that most, if not all, of us will go through at least once in our lives. It’s tricky to navigate, and I am still in it. I hope to write more about that in the future as well.
Finally, again I appreciate that you read. Over the past four years in particular, I have received messages of encouragement from people who have appreciated my posts and sharing about my life, particularly with motherhood. I always have to keep that at the forefront of my mind. Even though sometimes it feels like I am writing to process things or record memories for myself, I want the main priority to be others. How can I stand with others, encourage others, be vulnerable to communicate “I’m with you” or “Me too!” That’s my heart. Can’t wait to see how it all takes shape!
Slowing Down for Baby #2
In just a few short days, September will be here. September 1 in Australia is the start of Spring, and it is also BABY MONTH! How did that happen? Even though my due date is towards the end of the month, I am preparing for anything since Eleanor came a week and a half early.
There is a lot going on, and often I find myself getting into bed at night with my mind racing, torn in a million directions. Some things are obvious, some things are yet to be communicated, many things are yet to be worked out. All in all, I have tried to create lists and write my thoughts down and organise them so my mind doesn’t feel so cluttered, but I am still finding myself back in this place too often.
With that being said, I have felt really strongly to take a bit of a “maternity leave” if you will from the blog over the months of September and October. Obviously at this point my blog is not a full-time job, but there is a lot of vision stirring over here for the future. I don’t want to miss out on my main priorities because of that. I am planning to still write, but I may or may not publish right away. I really want to give myself room to just be present in these moments – the last moments with just Eleanor and the beginning of our life as a family of four. My parents are also coming to visit for three weeks near the end of the month, and I want us all to be able to enjoy the visit.
I am still planning to share on social media, and behind the scenes, I’d like to still be working towards my rebranding of this space. I’ve never had more vision for this space, and there are so many new components that will be brought to the table. I want to do them justice, but more importantly, I want to give this season room to breath. I want to slow down and relieve myself of the pressure to relaunch sooner or to be anywhere other than present with my family.
My goal, albeit a soft goal, is to relaunch around the first of November. In the meantime, follow along on my social media accounts for any updates about life – there are sure to be a few in the coming months!
And, as always, thanks for reading! Love you guys!
Developing Our Habits: Reading!
In the last few months, I find myself constantly adding to my “To Read” list. I actually have had several book lists over the years in various places, and awhile back, I was reading this post by Nancy Ray and was introduced to Wunderlist. I really like this app, and I feel like I could utilise it for so much more than I am. It has helped keep lists like a reading list all in one place, though.
I wrote at the beginning of the year that I wanted to be intentional about learning, and a big part of that was by reading. I wrote that before finding out I was pregnant, and if I am honest, I have let the tiredness of pregnancy lead me towards a bit of laziness in this area. I haven’t done terrible, but I haven’t been as intentional in this area as I’d hoped. Here’s where grace comes in, and I am choosing to look ahead and not behind. It’ll all be ok!
That hasn’t stopped me from adding (almost daily) to this list of books I want to read. I am constantly seeing friends post in their insta stories about a book that impacted them or a quote from a book, and I am finding myself screen-shotting these photos all the time. One of the worst habits I have had with reading, though, is starting a book and not finishing it. Who is with me on this one? I don’t do this with fiction books, but with non-fiction books, I am a bit like a distracted toddler in a toy shop, focused until something else catches my eye and draws me in.
Robbie and I were meeting with a friend last week, and he was sharing a simple “equation” for success or results. This can be used in large areas of life, or even in small habits you want to grow and develop, like reading more regularly.
Desire –> Motivation –> Results
That sounds great, but the trouble is what happens when you don’t have the desire for something? There is a second part to the equation, and when desire is missing this is where discipline must kick in.
Discipline –> Motivation –> Results
Of course! It made so much sense, and then he broke it down even further and explained what ingredients are necessary to have discipline. In order to have discipline, you must have a schedule and accountability. Even more than that you have to allocate and prioritize in order to follow through with your schedule. I love when concepts that you know in your head are broken down so simply.
I find myself coming back to this often now and applying it to multiple areas of my life. For now, though, I am trying to take one thing at a time (ok, maybe 2-3 things at a time) so I don’t overwhelm the system and actually wind up with nothing to show for it.
In an effort to create accountability by sharing this publicly, I am going to tell you how I am going to allocate and prioritize time for this particular habit of reading. When I wrote my goals at the beginning of the year, they probably could have done with further specifics to help achieve these goals. Some of them had that but not all of them. Here is to creating discipline and seeing great results!
My Commitment to Reading
- First thing’s first – I am taking this one month at a time. Because baby is coming in September, I don’t want to set myself up to fail. So this is my goal for the month of August specifically.
- I will commit to read for at least 30 minutes before bed every night.
- I will commit to finishing 2 books that I am currently in the middle of reading – Long Days of Small Things and Loving Our Kids on Purpose
- I will commit to following up at the end of the month, possibly with a recap of the books I read.
Do you find yourself starting many books and not finishing them? What things help you stay disciplined to reach your goals?
Be Brave. Be You.
I have been wanting to write this post for awhile now. It’s something I have been processing, and even though I’ve come to certain conclusions, I’ve still let this post gather dust in my drafts folder. I have had many thoughts over the past two years or so about my blog – many post ideas and themes. Yet, I haven’t written a lot of them. They sit in my draft folder as we speak.
When I first started processing why I wasn’t posting, I thought that perhaps I was too busy with being a mum or maybe it was because I had other obligations hanging over my head. Even with those things, I realised that it was neither of those because I was in fact still posting. I just wasn’t posting much.
I looked at what I wasn’t posting as opposed to what I was, and I noticed something very quickly. What I was posting – what I have posted – it’s fun or nice or encouraging. It’s about pregnancy and Eleanor and motherhood and photography. Even before that, it was about travel or cafes, or revelations I had been having about God or ministry. These are all great things, but what I wasn’t posting were things that were a touch more vulnerable or controversial. It was pieces that I feared would create backlash or bring on hurtful comments. It was topics that I worried would create debate or would have people look at me differently.
Fear really is the culprit here. So then I dug a little deeper, and I asked myself why I was so afraid now. When I was first in college, I wrote often. I had a blogspot blog and a xanga site. I wrote what I believed in, even if it may have frustrated one person or another, because I believed it was worth it to help others. I was bolder and more courageous. I was also less life experienced and definitely more immature. There was a lot yet to discover about myself and about God (and there most certainly still is). Even in the midst of my courage and boldness, there was a good dose of refining that needed to happen.
I thought about the journey from then until now.
A lot can happen in 12 years, and a lot has happened in my life. I finished college in a much different place emotionally and spiritually than I started. I moved halfway around the world to try this “missions thing”. I was changed in many ways and given new and fresh perspectives on things that had previously left me hurt and frustrated. I met my now husband, got married and had a child with another on the way. I’ve gone on outreaches. I’ve planned events. I’ve appealed for financial partners. I’ve had victories with immigration, even amidst the challenges and setbacks. I’ve been challenged and refined in weaker moments. I’ve learned. I’ve learned I have so much still to learn.
Yet in all of that “life happening”, I got scared somewhere along the way. I got a bit more worried about what people think, particularly as a mom, and somehow I forgot about the quiet call God had spoken to me. The call to write and to teach and to disciple. The call to be myself and to find all of my confidence in Him, even in this area of motherhood. Especially in this area of motherhood.
The more our culture and world becomes digitally engaged, the more I find my temptation to disengage. It’s probably the harmony in me. I cringe at online “comment debates” because they’re mostly done quite poorly. (I have definitely seen it done well, which is worth saying). I follow many different bloggers and writers who represent different spheres and nationalities. I read their blogs, and mostly, I find myself giving them the benefit of the doubt. I can’t help but notice the mean comments or the disbelief in their choices or lifestyle. I think about the desire to write, to influence and to impact, and then I see the comments and backlash and get scared.
Be Brave. Be You.
That is the call I am feeling. It’s been a gentle nudge over the years, but I am feeling it stronger than ever now. The minute I worry, God swoops in with someone to encourage me down this path. Lately, there has been so much encouragement, and I am feeling challenged to really pursue this. To pursue this dream and to continue walking in the calling and gifts God has placed within me.
So I will write.
You read it. You can quote me on it. I will write. It may not be perfect, and often, it’ll probably be in the midst of my own learning and development and growth. In fact, I hope it’s always in that place: in the journey. A few months back, I had a thought about authors and how scary it could be to publish your own thoughts and opinions onto hard copy, knowing it’s out there forever. What if you change your mind about something you’ve written or learn something new? Then I remember all the second and third (and fourth and fifth!) editions of books and the vulnerability of the authors in those first introductions. They’ve grown, and they’re not apologetic about it. They’re inspired by it. In fact, it is what makes me want to read them more because it shows humility, teachability and growth. I want those in my life through Jesus so much, so I am inspired. I am inspired to continue journeying, and I am inspired to write about it. To be vulnerable in this space. To share. To grow together.
Will you grow with me?
An Update with a Dose of Honesty
I feel like I need to write an update about life because a lot of what I have wanted to write in the past few months simply hasn’t happened. I don’t necessarily feel like I need to explain this, but I also feel frustrated that the blog has become a bit more dormant than my hope is for it.
Life has been busy these past few months and a bit unexpected at times. We went on holidays for four weeks to the States, and when we returned, it was a whirlwind three weeks as we finished June with Robbie’s school, teaching, a massive fundraising campaign for our centre and more. We finished the month sick – all of us – and honestly, I wasn’t surprised. I said to Robbie somewhat jokingly (somewhat not) that if June were a person, he took us out back and beat us up. It was too much, and even though we walked into this new month under the weather and exhausted, it was nice to have a chance to slow down and recover.
I entered my third trimester this past week as well, and it’s not escaping me that in just a couple months, life is going to change again with this new baby arriving. Busy will look and feel different than it ever has before, and the dynamics of our family that we have known for these past two years will shift to welcome our little guy. It’s good, and I am so, so excited. I am also a little nervous and a lot curious. I haven’t written hardly at all about my pregnancy because to be honest, I have no desire to do so this time around. I thought I would want to, but things are so different this time around. Half the time I can barely remember how far along I am. I have taken about a fourth of the photos of my belly this time, and pregnancy feels more like a road to a beautiful and incredible destination. Because I’ve been there before, I am just ready to get there again. I cannot wait to meet him. I am not marvelling at the newness of pregnancy this time around, but rather, I am watching my daughter daily, loving her more and more, and finding myself so anxious to add more of that to our little family. Did anyone else feel this way?
All that to say, my pregnancy is going well, and traveling to the States this time was a bit easier pregnancy-wise than when I traveled while pregnant with Eleanor. It was harder in other ways (hello, entertaining a nearly 2-year-old for a 16-hour flight…), but overall, it was pretty smooth. I am measuring normal, have normal blood work and glucose tests, am not swollen quite yet and haven’t had many cravings. I feel stronger in general because of working out prior to getting pregnant and staying moderately active this time because again, hello, 2-year-old. My current sickness that I am getting over has been frustrating and quite persistent, but I am hopeful that if I stay at a slower pace, I’ll fully recover soon.
In general, I have so much I want to write, and in the past few weeks, I feel like God has been speaking a lot and showing me more and more of his heart for me in this current season. I am reading a book called Long Days of Small Things, and it’s so good. I am only on the second or third chapter, but seriously, it’s so good. It’s just what my heart needs right now. I am trying to slow down, but I am also wanting to really soak up these last couple months with just Eleanor and me each day. One thing God has been showing me with writing is the area of vulnerability – how to do this well and why it’s good and right for me. I’ve been confronting fears when it comes to writing, particularly about parenting because the internet (which is people really) can be so harsh sometimes, especially in parenting. Like I have said before, I have questioned if I am strong enough or brave enough, but I am realising that some of that bravery and strength is forged in the fire. Some of it is founded in the tricky conversations and questions and responses. And again, like I said before, I do believe it’s worth it. I know it’s been worth it for me when others have been vulnerable, and I am incredibly grateful for them.
More on that to come. If you haven’t gathered in the past few years with this blog, it’s taken a lot of different shapes over the years, and part of that has to do with the season I am in. I am really working to continue plowing through the main heart and vision for this space and defining that more as I go on. Stick with me. I appreciate all of you who read, and I hope you continue.