Fall has always felt like a new beginning for me. That’s partially because it’s been linked to the start of a new school year, but it’s also because of the change that happens. We move from hot and sunny and stifling and dry into a cooler, more pleasant few months. I don’t like frigid cold, but I appreciate the brisk, crisp fall air. I like sunny days that are also chilly. I like always having a warm drink in my biggest mug. I also like the layers and scarves and boots of my fall wardrobe. I digress.
Since it’s fall, and I am overcome with a feeling of fresh start, there’s a verse that has been on my heart recently. My women’s small group used it as their memory verse a couple of weeks ago.
Lamentations 3:22-23: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
His mercies are new every morning. How beautiful is that idea? Whatever you did yesterday, or didn’t do yesterday, you have a clean slate each morning. Bring your messes to The Lord and be redeemed, because He is bigger than your mess.
As an (extremely) imperfect woman, wife, mother, and friend, I find great joy in knowing that He has overcome my sins and my failures. His plan for me is bigger and better than the lunch date I forgot about, the laundry I didn’t do, and the unkind words I have spoken to Hubby. In I Peter we are reminded to love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. I am thankful for a Father who loves me deeply and perfectly. I am thankful for perfect example of love to serve as a model for the love that I should give to others.
I got this idea from Sasha over at MomLife Now. (I love her blog!!) She asked if you had one word to breathe – to breathe in and breathe out all day long – what would it be? Hers was “content”. I think I can relate, and my word (my interpretation of it anyway) is similar. After a few minutes’ thought, I decided on “rest”.
I feel like my life can get so crazy. It can be busy even when by all accounts it shouldn’t be. I can really get bogged down by the everyday stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. I am often easily frustrated and not so easily soothed. So the word “rest” has so much meaning for me.
Rest obviously has its physical connotations. But I also believe the thought should be applied to every aspect of your life. For me, in this moment, I do want to remember to rest physically. But I also need to rest spiritually in the place where the Lord has me. I need to rest at this moment in my kids’ lives, and appreciate the stages they are in currently (however much I wish they’d go back a little or forward a little). I need to rest in the openness of my schedule and my moments that aren’t contracted out to anyone else’s to-do list.
Wherever you are in life, whatever stage you’re in, job you go to, relationship you value, rest in it. Rest in that place and time with those people. Find a moment to calm your mind, and rest in it. Where is it that you’re resting right now?
Last year in late September, I was expecting a baby boy to come in a couple of months. I was working, exhausted all the while, on a Christmas program, because everyone knows you need months for that. I was learning to lead worship on my own. I was beginning to feel the terrible twos coming on for my daughter (yes, several months early) while I tried to get the quality time in before her sibling arrived. I was rearranging my home, in anticipation. I was planning visits and trips before it would be harder to travel.
But this year? I’ve got two amazing, busy kids. I’ve got a husband who I appreciate and love more every single day. I’ve lost two family grandparents, but gained a niece and a nephew. I’m looking forward to my 10-year high school reunion this weekend, and reconnecting with old friends. I’m gaining more confidence in my new roles, and not mourning the old ones that I’ve moved on from. I’d say I’m doing well.
Another thing I’m doing is looking ahead (possibly way ahead) to needing more space for a bigger family (read: we are not currently pregnant). We’d like to have another child. But even if we don’t, I hear that the bigger kids are, the more space they need. And right now, every closet is full, every corner has something in it, and my kids have full roam of our home. We love our house. We’ve been here for four wonderful years. We’ve rearranged a hundred times, redecorated rooms, moved kids around, added and taken away furniture and in general changed up the feng shui.
But it’s time for something more. An addition, perhaps, of another bed and bath. Or a move, to a different home. We haven’t decided. We are early in the process. But our hearts are excited and mourning at the same time. Hubby and I have conversation after conversation, discussing what the best options are. We’ve met with our real estate agent who sold us our current home, seen a few houses, and even found one we think we could love. We’ve also met with a friend who does additions and renovations, discussing options if we decided to stay. It’s an overwhelming idea, whichever one we choose.
So that’s what’s happening with me right now that’s different from last year. I’d say it’s a good place to be one year later. You know, other than working my job, raising my kids, adoring my Hubby, the usual.
Today is a great day! At Salem College (my alma mater) there is a perfect day of fun and games and some healthy competition. There is a day of cancelled classes, singing, dancing, acting and showing off awesomeness. There is a day of cheers and chants, skits, songs, and camaraderie. There is a day of sisterhood.
Today is that day. This Wednesday in September. This chilly morning with an afternoon that will probably be warm. This is the perfect day for the women to show what they have prepared, to wear the t-shirts they designed, to compete with each other while supporting each other, to make some noise, and for seniors, probably shed a few tears.
I’m taking EK to meet up with a few alum friends at the skits tonight. We are wearing shirts from our own Fall Fests, years ago, and we will be thinking of our own skits as we watch these tonight. EK will probably watch for all of 5 minutes, and then get squirmy and want to run around. But I want her to see some women who have worked hard (even if it’s just on a fun, social activity) and are proud of themselves and each other. And also hilarious. For certain, they will be hilarious.
In honor of an incredible college career with incredible women, I celebrate Salem College, I celebrate fall, and I celebrate the women I loved then and love now. Sisterhood strong, girls. Sisterhood strong.
The first time I tried clean eating, I wasn’t very creative. I also didn’t do much looking around for different options or substitutes. I just ate mostly salads, veggies, grilled chicken or steaks with no sauces, and snacked on fresh fruit and nuts. That’s fine for a while, but when you have a craving, or want something a little different, or with more depth of flavor (we are self-proclaimed foodies at our house) you need to dig a little deeper and be a little more creative to get the flavor you want without the processed ingredients.
Clean eating is, in a simple definition from Melissa (my Stroller Strength guru), a lifestyle where anything you put into your body either came from the earth, or had a mother. There are a few exceptions, and a few specific dos and don’ts, but for the most part, that’s the easy way to look at it. The biggest way (I think) that I ran into problems was with sugar (obviously) and grains… there are a lot of processed grains that you typically buy instead of buying them in their natural forms (brown rice vs processed white rice, for example, or white flour vs whole wheat flour). Therefore, pasta and bread are pretty much out, too, unless you make your own. One accidental perk of eating clean is that it can easily become gluten free, so if you’re on the gluten free diet, it’s helpful for that also.
Anyway, since I’ve cleaned up my eating in general, and done several week or two-week bouts of completely clean eating, I’ve become a little more creative and done a lot more looking for yummy recipes or snack ideas. This weekend, during my “nearly perfect day” I did some digging (read: Googling) to find a new recipe, and made a recent favorite, and now we have breakfast (or snacks? or both?) made for the week.
That’s the other key to clean eating; it takes a little more planning. I find myself needing to visit the grocery store a little more, but because I’m buying produce and meat instead of pre-made items, I don’t spend quite as much. EK loves helping bake or cook, so I get her in on the fun too, and she’s learning how to be healthy without me even forcing it on her!
I want to share a few websites that I have used for recipes or meal ideas. BUT also know that I love southern-style, more savory cooking too! For example, The Pioneer Woman is my absolute favorite website for recipes, but obviously those are for flavor and not health, necessarily!
The Gracious Pantry – All clean eating recipes, tricks and tips for keeping it up. Home of the No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies of my clean eating dreams.
Hungry Healthy Girl – Healthy recipes, lots of them clean! (This is where I got the Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins from, and both my kids LOVED them! FYI don’t try to eat them hot… the stuck and fell apart. Patience is everything!)
Mama Natural – Where I found the clean Pumpkin Spice Latte. This website is in general a little crunchier than I am, but I like it all the same!
Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body – Home of the delicious Banana Bread that EK and Hubby love so dearly. Not all recipes are clean or even healthy, but there are some great dairy-free, vegan, and healthy recipes here.
Hope that these are good resources for you if you’re on a healthy journey! Do you have any websites that I should add to my list? Leave them in the comments!
With kids, everything happens in stages. Stages of waking up every few hours, and stages of sleeping through the night. Stages of independence, and stages of debilitating neediness. Stages of picky eating, and stages of so hungry they’ll eat sidewalk chalk after a three course meal. These stages – seasons, I like to call them – go by alarmingly fast sometimes.
Recently EK has entered into a season of snuggling, hugging and kissing. Voluntarily showing love, basically. It’s particularly merciful because this season is on the heels of a difficult season of not wanting to sit still enough to snuggle, yet screaming and crying if we left her for even a moment. But she has (for the time being) moved on to confidently knowing we’ll come back, and giving us smooches for the road.
For instance, the other evening I was leaving to go to a birthday party, and left the kids with a friend. When I announced that I was leaving, told her I loved her, and turned toward the door, she ran over to me saying, “Hug! Hug!” So of course I picked her up, and she said, “Bye bye mama. I miss you.” Talk about melting a mama’s heart. I mean, seriously… when I pick her up to hug her these days, she snuggles my neck, pats my back and strokes my hair! It’s truly a Pat yourself on the back, you good parent, you! sort of thing. The gestures of love she’s received from Hubby and me are being given back to us. She has so internalized our love and the way we show it that she is giving that love back out.
What if we, as children of God, took the gestures of love shown to us by the Father, and gave it back to Him? Or better yet, passed it on to others? The Heavenly Father gave up his only son for you. And me. And our families. And old folks in nursing homes. And inner city children. And celebrities. And sleazy politicians. And murderers and thieves. He loves us (all of us!) that much. As much as I love my children (a ludicrous amount), it’s only a fraction of the love God has for me. If we take even a portion of the love and blessing we’ve received from the Father, and multiply it by passing it on? That’s Kingdom business.
Obviously, there is no such thing as the perfect day. There is no 24-hour time span that goes exactly how you’d like it to, or exactly as you planned. However, there are days, from wake up to bed time, that seem to go pretty darn well. This is one of those days.
When I got up this morning, it was to the sound of J fussing (he had probably started out talking, but I was too asleep to hear it) and EK running around (she’s taken to not visiting me before she visits her toys). Hubby had a gig last night, so I let him snooze. I fed the kids breakfast, while putting on my running gear one piece at a time in between bites… EK’s toast in the oven, one sock. A few bites of fruit for J, the other sock. Grapes washed and given to EK, the sports bra is on. You get the point. Finally, everyone was fed, packed in the stroller, and we were off for one of my favorite things: a long, cool, morning run. This 10-degree cool off in the weather has been a saving grace for my running skills. Ain’t nobody got time for an Indian summer.
Recently, I’ve been running to the grocery store in the mornings. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that it gives me a bathroom break. It gives EK a chance to get out and walk around, and there’s always at least one thing that I discover we are out of, or I am randomly craving. So we run to the grocery store. I usually take a 2-mile route to get there, shop it up for 15-20 minutes, and then run a (different) 2-mile route home. It’s a nice process, I think. Anyway…
We get home, and two of my girlfriends come over for homemade pumpkin spice lattes. I came across this amazing-sounding recipe (check it out here, from Mama Natural) and the girls said they wanted to try it. So we spent an hour and a half making our lattes and chatting. Super nice. During this time, J went down for a morning nap and Hubby woke up, so life continued in the Hsu house as normal.
Hubby and I got to thinking about EK’s room, and how it’s oddly put together. When we put her in there, we weren’t sure how sleeping in a “big girl bed” was going to go. It’s a full size bed, and now she’s used to it, so we decided to make it look nicer (perk: deep clean the room in the process). We rearranged her furniture and vacuumed, dusted, etc. It’s adorable, functional, and she loves it. Win.
J woke up, and EK wanted to try out her new bed placement, so we swapped them out. While she was sleeping, we ate a stellar take out lunch (Vietnamese pho – a revelation), we ushered Hubby off to work with smooches and waves, and J let me take a shower without crying a lot (thanks, little guy!). I call that a productive two hours.
EK woke up, and J was ready to nap round 2. While he was asleep, EK and I got some quality time together baking. We made pumpkin muffins and banana bread (both clean recipes, check them out here and here). Both turned out well… muffins stuck to their cups a little but tasted delicious, and the banana bread was perfect, as usual. That recipe is bangarang.
When J woke up, I packed up my sweeties and headed downtown to meet some family and friends at the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival. For those of you not from around here, Texas Pete is our local hot sauce, and the festival invited all the best restaurants in town to have booths of Texas Pete-inspired dishes. Also there was beer, served especially by our sweet friend Aida. So basically, it was a great evening of yummy food and great friends, adults and babies alike. My sister-in-law Holly and her son Finley were there, as well as a long-time church friend Abby and her little girl, Elliott. Having time with girlfriends and their babies really is the best of both worlds.
When we headed home, there was a mini-meltdown moment, spurred on by the fact that I forgot I needed gas in my car (come on, Mom! Rookie mistake!) but we made it home, had a quick bath time, and both kids were out by 8:30. I call that a great day. Everyone got the play and the rest and the snuggles and the exercise they needed. There wasn’t a sacred Double Nap but there was one-on-one time for me with both kiddos, and sometimes that’s hard to come by.
So here’s your encouragement: despite the meltdowns, despite the fact you forgot something at the store yesterday, and despite the fact that you’re on your own with those beasts all day, make the best of it. Look for the fun and the good, and don’t worry that you didn’t do laundry or dishes. You had fun. So did they. No one missed anything. Praise the Lord.