On becoming a better baker (and almost burning banana bread)...

I admire great bakers.  Baking requires attention to detail, lots of patience, and practice.  The great bakers I've come across have spent hours upon hours in the kitchen, meticulously working on their measuring skills and slightly tweaking recipes to perfection.  They didn't just happen to be awesome at throwing flour and sugar together, they developed their technique and learned the "right way" to bake.

This skill has never come naturally for me, especially because following detailed directions and caring about the difference between whisking and whipping aren't my strengths.  So when I started to dabble in baking early in my marriage, I was a mess.  Our kitchen was a mess.  The outcomes were a mess.  I could barely make a chocolate chip cookie that didn't come out too burnt on the bottom and too spread out on my dark non-stick cookie sheet.  

These days (after lots of practice), I'm doing a little better.  I'm still a long way from making a cake fit for a bakery display or a flaky pastry, but my cookies have shape and I don't bake peaked muffins anymore!  Over the years I've had a few (very basic) realizations that have helped me become a better baker. 

1.  Have baking ingredients on hand (and keep them stored in the same place).
I used to crave oatmeal cookies or desire to spend an afternoon baking, only to check my pantry and realize it was going to require a trip to the grocery store.  Bummer.  I find that for me, the desire to bake or the need to have a dessert prepared for an event, comes up somewhat unexpectedly.  Having all of the baking staples on hand makes baking much more enjoyable and much less of a chore.  These might include things like flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, eggs, oatmeal, cocoa, shortening, baking soda, and baking powder (to name a few).  I also designated an area of the pantry for my baking ingredients, so I don't have to go searching for what I need.  When I'm running low on a staple, I always buy it before I need it and have extra on hand.

2.  Have the correct tools and utensils.
When we registered for bakeware, it never occurred to me that all pans were not created equal.  Why wouldn't I want all dark non-stick bakeware?  Less mess, right?  Some thoughtful women had mercy on me, and provided a few aluminum items to start my collection and I realized quickly there was a difference.  I've gotten to where I use almost all aluminum bakeware because my results come out more evenly cooked.  When I do need to use non-stick, I turn the oven temperature down 15-25 degrees lower to compensate.  If the recipe requires a special tool, I try to use that item specifically.  I think using the right whisk, wooden spoon, baking sheet, and sifter can really impact your baking.

3.  Carefully read and follow the nuances of each recipe.
The devil is here in the details, folks.  I used to ignore the little sentences in my recipes that said things such as, "be careful to not over mix...let boil for 1 minute...fold in gently".  Who needs "folding" when you can just whip your spoon and beat the batter to death?  Yikes.  When a recipe says something suspicious, instead of wondering why they included that seemingly meaningless detail, I follow it closely.  This by itself has made a HUGE difference in the outcome of my baking.  If it says butter softened, you will get the best result when you butter has actually been out on the counter softening all day (versus being nuked in the microwave).  Instead of heavy-handedly scooping my flour out of the container, I take care to spoon it into my measuring cup and level it off.  Yes, you can still get tasty treats the other way around, but the intended results are much more consistent when you follow the directions to a T.

4.  Watch someone more experienced and take mental notes.
There isn't much of a substitute for just watching and helping an experienced baker.  Before trying to make cinnamon rolls on my own, I went and helped a good friend who is a cinnamon roll expert.  She told me so many secret tips that I never would have picked up from just following the recipe.  When I went to do the recipe on my own later, the results were leaps and bounds beyond what they would have been had I attempted them without help to start with.  Sometimes, I'll also help my mom bake or ask for her to show me how to do a recipe.  I try to notice how she stirs or what speed she puts her mixer on.  Those experienced bakers know a thing or two!

5.  Practice.
At the end of the day, becoming a good baker is a learned skill.  Sometimes you have to make the same recipe over and over again before you get it right.  Sometimes you have to experiment with your bakeware, oven temperature, cooking time, or technique before you have an end result you are proud of.  This isn't an instant gratification homemaking skill, but one that improves with more hours in the kitchen.  

P.S.  As I was writing this, I slightly overcooked some banana bread.  What is that proverb?....oh...pride comes before a fall.  :-)  Beware of baking and blogging.

The treat pictured is Classic, No-Fuss Banana Bread, a recipe from Espresso and Cream.  Madison is a wonderful writer and you will love her blog!

4 Things I've Learned in 4 Years

Brad and I's 4th wedding anniversary is this week.  It's amazing to look back and see how much has changed!  I'm not an expert on marriage, but here are a few things I've gleaned by the grace of God in the years we've been married...

Being on the same page before marriage makes a difference.
At the end of the day, staying married is about valuing a commitment and a covenant above all else no matter how your spouse changes.  However, now that we are in the midst of busy daily life, I'm SO grateful that we talked through a lot of our core values before we tied the knot.  It's paying off... big time.  Our personalities and the "how" of our approach is different, but we both want the same end goal.  When two people are on the same page about the "big stuff", it's easier to sort through the small stuff. Brad and I largely agree on faith, kids, finances, family, roles in marriage, and other core issues that can cause a lot of conflict in marriage.  That's not to say we haven't had our share of conflicts or unexpected "hey, wait...I thought you wanted something different" conversations, but overall, those things haven't provoked major hurt in our lives.  I'm thankful for this, and I attribute it to God's protection and conversing about those issues before we got married.

It's essential to be a good forgiver.
Want to know a skill that we've exercised a lot in the last 4 years?  Forgiveness.  I classify it as a skill, because it's something that doesn't always come easy or naturally...it takes practice.  We started out early in our marriage saying to each other, "would you forgive me for...(and then naming the specific sin)" and then the other person says, "yes, I forgive you for... (naming specific sin)."  This way, we don't minimize or act like it doesn't matter to reconcile about specific offenses.  It's hard to look the person you love in the eye and name your sin, and it's equally hard to name the sin and be the forgiver.  Setting this pattern was difficult, but 4 years later, it's paying off.  Although we've had lots of hurts and conflicts, those things have been reconciled and put away, not to harm our relationship for years to come.  We make it a practice to resolve things and then refuse to continue punishing or holding it over the other persons head.  Wow...marriage changer right there.

Make time for each other and live life together.
Sometimes people have teased us about being homebodies or overly reliant on each other.  It's true that often times you'll find us doing things as a couple when we could be doing our own thing.  Partly, this is because we genuinely like doing things together and we feel like best friends.  When I have a choice, Brad is the first person I want to share activities and experiences with.  Doing things as a couple, even mundane daily things like talking about business goals, going for walks, and eating meals together every night, has helped us grow as friends and companions.

Grow and change with your spouse's interests.
Although we had many conversations about our core values before we were married, that's not to say that things haven't changed over the years.  I sometimes hear the expression, "we just grew in different directions and became different people," when referring to the end of a relationship.  Growing in the same direction is a choice, and you can choose to follow your spouse in his or her interests instead of fighting them.  Brad is a dreamer and has lots of frequently changing ideas and interests.  At first, I fought this and wanted to get practical, bringing his dreams down to earth.  By God's grace, early in our marriage I realized that if I wanted to keep going with Brad, I needed to keep growing with Brad.  These days I try to embrace, participate in, and support his interests in whatever way I can.  Yes, there is still need for the occasional, "let's get real about this" conversation, but not as often as you would think.

I'm so thankful for Brad and I am in AWE that God put me with someone who is exactly right for me in so many ways.
(circa 2008) I wonder what we would have thought if someone told us that 5 years later we would live in Iowa and have 3 boys...

Preparing for twins

As I shared in my previous post, Brad and I were (mostly) shocked when we found out we were having twins during our 12 week ultrasound.  After the initial flood of emotions wore off, the practical questions starting coming to light.

What would we do with 3 kids under the age of 2?
Where (and HOW) would they all sleep?
How would we arrange their car seats?
What amount of clothing, diapers, burp cloths, and other necessities would we need?
Would I be able to breastfeed them both?

This is just a small small sampling of all the things we wondered about.  (and an even smaller sampling of what people have asked us about)  

Even with all of these lingering questions and unknowns, we had a lot to be grateful for.  I was grateful that Brad was soooooo over the moon excited to have these little ones.  Having his enthusiasm and support and encouragement made me feel like this WAS going to be wonderful (even if it felt overwhelming initially).  Brad was grateful that we invested in a van (which would now be filled to the brim) and that I was willing and ready to be at home on the front lines with these little ones.  Also, we discovered through more ultrasounds that both BOYS were growing at the same rate and were in about the lowest risk category for future growth problems (our fraternal twins = separate placentas and separate sacs).

Here are some of the things Brad and I have done (or will do) to prepare for the arrival of these guys:

1.  Understand the risks
One thing we learned very quickly (as we immediately had to switch from using a midwife to a traditional OB doctor), is that twins pregnancies are considered "high-risk".  Yes, many go off without a hitch, and just because you are having twins doesn't mean anything will be complicated, but the risks for complications are much greater.  I had Lewis 4 weeks early, so I was already going to be watched more closely for signs of pre-term labor (even if we would have had one baby).  Women carrying twins without a history of pre-term labor are still at great risk for having the them too soon, so my odds of complications were higher in this area.  Not only that, but there is a lot to be said for proper weight gain and nutrition, because while you don't need to gain 60 pounds, women carrying twins do need enough calories to beef up babies so they can grow grow grow before coming into the world.  In addition, we knew that while bed rest was not imminent, it was a possibility, and the reality was that no matter what at some point I would probably grow so large that I would be too tired to carry out many normal daily activities.

2.  Re-evaluate our plans
All of these things quickly made us re-evaluate our plans for the next year.  After my 28 week mark of pregnancy, our calendars are largely clear.  I prayerfully stepped back from any additional responsibilities outside of the home.  We agreed to not travel unless absolutely necessary in the later stages of my pregnancy, and even cancelled two family trips that we were scheduled to go on in the fall.  Thanksgiving and Christmas plans are completely on hold, and most Christmas shopping is going to be done online early this fall.  We are trying to keep living our lives, while still being aware that this seemingly uncomplicated pregnancy could shift directions very quickly.  Having a lower commitment load is lessening our stress levels and is allowing us to enjoy a season of rest before we are caring for two needy newborns.

3.  Lean on family and friends
Brad and I realized early on in this process (and are understanding it more daily) that we cannot do this alone.  God is with us and will be faithful to provide all that we need for these guys, materially, physically, and emotionally.  We are counting on him to give us grace when we are in desperate need of wisdom and direction.  We also know that he practically gives this grace through our Christian brothers and sisters who are here to love us and care for us.  It has been very humbling (for me) to acknowledge my need for HELP.  I'm not super woman, I don't have enough hands for 3 children, and life may be a sleepless balancing act for a while.  Thankfully, we have had an EXTREMELY generous outpouring of love from our church, friends, and family.  Everything from additional baby showers and unexpected gifts, to standing offers to watch Lewis whenever I need help (even if it's with the laundry).

4.  Get practical
The to-do list is long right now and Brad and I are coming up on a fierce deadline.  We weren't exactly chomping at the bit to get everything prepared for Lew's arrival because at 36 weeks we still thought...,"oh, everyone goes late with their first baby.  we have plenty of time."  WRONG.  When my water broke, I was sitting in an unfinished nursery with no crib, no bag packed, and no assembled car seat.  While everything worked out in the end (and it was a good lesson in trusting God even when I don't feel prepared) this is a "fool me once, don't fool me twice" type of experience.  We are not under the impression this time that we have endless weeks and months to prepare.  After 28 weeks, these boys could arrive any day, and our road in the NICU could be long depending on their size and condition.  Right now I am deep in the midst of assembling supplies, preparing freezer meals for the fall, and putting Lewis through any transitions I want him to get past before we have newborns (i.e. pulling the daytime paci).

There is so much more going on in my heart and mind, and it's difficult to share all of the ways Brad and I are preparing.  This news really changed our vision for our family and our future plans.  It's funny, because now I can't imagine if we WEREN'T having twins.  It seems like this is just US...our family...the way God intended it to be.

Thank you if you have been one of those beloved friends or family member who have prayed for us, loved us, encouraged us, and supported us during this time.  God is using you in our lives, and we are richly blessed because of it.

A twins story - How we discovered we were having two

No one tries to have two babies at one time.  But if Brad could have, he would.  As far back into our marriage conversations about children as I can remember, I recall Brad telling me he wanted twins.  In fact, he repeated this hope so often that even close friends and family have witnessed his enthusiasm over the prospect of two babies at one time.  I, however, was always un-enthused at this possibility.  All I could think about was the work, the pregnancy discomforts, and the exhaustion.  Crazy.  And I was sure it would never happen to me, so I could just laugh about it.

Just a few weeks after finding out about our second pregnancy, I was walking Lewis at the park and suddenly this thought was eating away at me... "What if we had twins?"  I was picturing being in the delivery room and meeting two sweet babies.  I was hearing the doctor tell us, "you are pregnant with two, not just one".  I thought my imagination was getting a little over zealous, so I tried to shake it off.  Just then, a man on a bike rode past us with a little boy on the front and two twin girls towed behind.  The three children appeared to be almost the same age difference as our children would be.  My heart leapt.  It seemed a bit too coincidental that I would have just been thinking about having twins so close to Lewis when I would see that exact little family combination ride by.  Later on our walk, we passed the man again, and this time he made eye contact with me and smiled.  Another time, I shook it off...thinking it might be the hormones talking.

The next night I was falling asleep with the lingering question of why I was STILL thinking about twins anyway.  Feelings are not always accurate, and our hearts can't be trusted to lead us in the right direction, but sometimes the holy spirit does reveal little personal things to us for God's greater glory and purposes.  Besides, there were many instances in the bible when God revealed special things to women about their children during pregnancy.  It wasn't too completely weird...was it?

I only told a handful of people about my suspicions.  I told Brad (who actually believed me) and my mom.  I jokingly shared it with a few other family members.

We went in for our 12 week appointment with the midwife, and everything was routine.  She discussed my pre-term labor risks (because I had Lewis early) and then brought up something interesting and unexpected...having an "impromptu ultrasound" to better date the baby.  Woah.  My heart started to beat more quickly, and I wondered if we would find out we were having two babies that very afternoon.  She only picked up one heartbeat on the doppler, but I knew it wasn't over until we SAW my uterus.

There I was, laying in the dark ultrasound room with Brad sitting in a chair next to the door.  I don't know if Brad was thinking we might see something unexpected, but I at least had an inkling.  Almost immediately when the ultrasound started, my brain registered the image at the same time our technician exclaimed, "oh wait, you have two babies in there!"

picture from our 12 week "impromptu ultrasound"

Brad leapt out of his seat and did a fist pump while screaming, "yes!".  I threw both hands over my face and overwhelmed by emotion, shed tears as I cried, "I knew it.  I can't believe I knew it."

There are only a few moments in my life where I have witnessed tangible assurance that God is real and that he cares for each person intimately and personally...this was one of those moments.  I felt like God was smiling down on us...watching Brad's desires for two babies be fulfilled (when we thought it could never happen to us)...watching me accept the news with joy (knowing that God was so gracious to give me a couple of weeks to warm up to the idea).  I was sure that these twins were a gift from him to our family.  Handpicked for us.  Exactly in his plan for our family.  And there was peace.

Already I've seen how taking us from one to three so quickly is a marvelous part of his plan for our lives.  He has brought me back to a place where I'm not planning ways to do-it-myself, but instead I'm having to rely on him for answers to even basic questions like, "how will I feed them...how will I sleep...how will I go places?"  I am having to rest in the truth that he is faithful and will provide what I need.  I am having to trust that he will give me grace when I need it (and not a moment too soon).  I am humbled that he would give Brad and I such a great responsibility, and that he wants to equip us to tackle it.  He has quickly expanded my mindset of mission and mothering, reminding me that this is a serious calling and it's going to mean laying down all that I have...my whole self...all that I've clung to for comfort and security.  He has reminded me that only he is my security, and this Christian walk makes me a slave to Christ, to joyfully serve in whatever way he leads.  And right now...that means being a wife to one man, and a mother to three.

Praise the Lord.

Intentionally Serving Your Husband - The Master Suite [part 2]

The journey to having a master bedroom retreat has been a long time coming for us.  We were tired of living in laundry and clutter that found it's way to our bedroom when it didn't have another place in the house.  Now, we are excited to retire to the master suite at the end of the night to wind down and enjoy each other's company.  Here are a few non-professional quick cell phone pictures of our bedroom:

The Master Suite - BEFORE (random lamps, white shades, plain bedding, no personal touches)
The Master Suite - AFTER (still "no frills", but warmer, more personal, and touches of color)

Now, I know that it's not always practical to find money in the budget for a complete remodel of the master.  Duvet covers, curtains, and decorative pillows can add up quickly.  I'm not saying the answer is always to run to your nearest Target and buy all new stuff, but there are a few practical ways you can take what you already have (plus a little creativity) and make a great master suite!

1 - Love your bed:  After years of having blah sheets that were scratchy and uncomfortable, I finally bought sheets that Brad and I enjoy sleeping between every night.  I found them at Target  and had a coupon, so they weren't even very expensive (but they make a world of difference for our comfort).  Also, this might seem like TMI, but I finally put our sheet changing on a schedule so it happens very frequently.  Yep...clean sheets go a long way.  Other elements of the bed make a difference too; make sure you have pillows that are comfortable, blankets or comforters and fit the temperature of the season, and take the time to make your bed everyday.  

2 - Make it personal:  I made it a point to put a wedding picture gallery across from our headboard (not shown above).  This means that Brad and I can't fall asleep at night without looking at snapshots of that special day.  I can't tell you the number of times that the holy spirit has used those pictures to remind me of our vows and our love for each other in moments when I wanted to go to bed angry.  It's a visual reminder of our covenant, and the bedroom is a perfect spot for it.  

3 - Set the mood:  Color choices, amount of decorations, and furniture can really change the feel of the room.  If it feels too heavy, consider using lighter colors and fabrics or remove a lesser used piece of furniture.  If it feels too empty, start filling the walls with picture galleries or other decor that adds warmth and character.  Hang your favorite bible verse on the wall, or a cute printable that matches your decor. Try burning a scented candle at night or in the afternoon before your husband comes home to give the room a memorable identity (currently burning - "Fresh Cut Roses").  

4 - De-clutter:  Not many people feel rested and relaxed in a space full of clutter and piles.  When there is a mess in our bedroom, I'm just further reminded of my to-do list (and not inspired to rest at all).  Make a serious effort to purge your bedroom of things that migrate there and don't have a place in your retreat.  Better to have a junk dump spot in another room than the master.  Keep laundry and other worn-but-not-dirty clothes off the floor and put away.  (If you do it everyday, it's only one or two items.)  For things that need to stay, be sure to organize them in a way that is practical for you to maintain.

5 - Get your husband's input:  It was amazing the feedback I received when I asked for Brad's suggestions for making our master bedroom a more restful place.  He had some really specific requests like keeping the bed made daily, not adding any more knick knacks, keeping the decor clean and basic, getting sheets that we really like, and putting away the laundry.  Even though I was all worked up about the "look" of the space, he was really just hoping for some simple and functional changes that would really make him feel comfortable.  All of his requests were super simple, and it actually meant I could stop trying to add "decorative touches" to the room.  Don't underestimate gathering input from the person you are trying to serve!

I know it's not realistic to ALWAYS have a clean and perfect space (and that's not the case for our room either...in fact, this week Lewis has been sick and I've been slacking on bedroom tidiness).  I don't feel condemnation when these things don't fall into place, and my husband is gracious to fall asleep with me no matter the condition of the room.  Our marriage isn't significantly better or worse based on having comfortable sheets and a picked up floor.  However I do think that these little things, over the course of years, can positively impact a man and a marriage.  As wives, we need to respect and serve our husbands unconditionally, and having a special place for them to relax and sleep is just one small practical way to show you care for them.  It gives glory to God when we say, "Lord, I'm a mess, and I'm just not very good at making my husband's comfort a priority.  Please forgive me, and show me specific ways that I can show him honor today so that he would feel loved and drawn to you."  I literally ask God to HELP me make the bed and get these things done most days.  By God's grace alone, I can be the aroma of Christ to my husband by the way I show him hospitality through the master bedroom.

Are there other practical ways you have found to take what you already have and make a great master suite?

Intentionally Serving Your Husband - The Master Suite

A little over a year ago, I had a dear friend share about this blog series and how it was impacting her view of hospitality.  Around the same time, I was getting tired of our messy master bedroom and was feeling convicted about my lack of focus on that area of our home.  The post that impacted me the most was, "Hospitality begins in bedroom".  This series of posts recently became an ebook, so I wanted to summarize her point for you...

The main idea:  Instead of having your master bedroom be an afterthought in your home...the place where "no one really sees anyway", your master bedroom should be one of the highest priorities for your decorative talents and cleaning skills to shine.  Wives have the opportunity to set the tone for the marriage in this bedroom, where husbands retire at the end of a long day.  Let this be an opportunity to minister and show hospitality to your husband by providing a space of rest and retreat, even if the rest of your home is struggling to hold together.

Wow.  This post struck me at just the right time.

Our unfinished master bedroom, shortly after we moved in.  It didn't change much for a long time!
An unfinished version of a gallery wall I started that is luckily in completion stage these days!  Don't mind our bathroom door that isn't stained or on it's hinges :-)

After over a year of living in our home, I'd finished almost every other room in our house EXCEPT our master bedroom, which didn't really have a decorative plan or direction.  I kept thinking, "well, no one really goes back there except Brad and I, so it doesn't really matter if it's decorated."  It had never occurred to me that just the opposite was true...the most important person in my earthly life goes back there everyday.  WE see our bedroom.  WE live in our bedroom.  How could I consider it to be un-important anymore?  I wondered what positive marital impacts we were missing out on due to the mess in the master.

Now, when this all struck me, I had just given birth to Lewis.  There was a newborn in our room, I was waking up multiple times a night, and I was adjusting to a new routine during the day...so re-decorating was not an overnight change.  Somewhere in the midst of the early months of having a baby, I developed a plan to re-vamp our bedroom (or at least finish it) to be something that we could really enjoy as a retreat.  I ordered fabric, a new throw, purchased pillows we actually like along with curtains, and purged the room of unnecessary junk.  I no longer wanted this to be a catch-all space for things that didn't have a place in any other room.  Brad was even inspired to help move our furniture around and invest in a new mattress that we love.

At every turn, I kept taking stuff OUT.  Baby stuff, papers, clothes that weren't in season, magazines, and stacks of books.  Cleansing the room and just leaving the bare minimum suddenly made it much easier to keep tidy.  We remained committed to at least TRYING to keep all of our laundry contained and under control...and I committed to having our bed made everyday before Brad got home from work (a habit that I admittedly didn't have).  Also, we tried to keep our room as "child-free" as possible (which was very hard until Lewis was older).  Each day I would gather up the random assortment of toys, clothes, and burp cloths to go back into the nursery.

Now, almost a year since this process started, I am seeing the fruits of this important change.  Here are a few of the perks:

  • We both actually enjoy being in the bedroom together at night...it's relaxing, and it helps us wind down.  We regularly find ourselves spending time together or just reading.  It's so peaceful.
  • When we retire to our bedroom, we almost forget we have a child.  There are no pictures of Lewis, and no evidence of him in the form of toys and clothes.  For a moment it's just US.
  • Brad appreciates the change, and enjoys being able to have a special spot in the house that is clean and calm (even if other rooms aren't).  He likes being able to get ready in the morning with ease, not battling piles of laundry and stuff.

I admit that we don't keep it perfectly clean every single day.  There are times and seasons when it does get a little messy (especially when we have guests or a busy schedule), but I'm more motivated than ever to get back in there and clean it up before it gets too bad.  I know that we have two boys coming to our little marriage haven in the near future, and for that season there will be evidence of children again.  But overall, I feel so happy to have a space that we both enjoy and appreciate that shows hospitality to my husband.

Next post - details on our "finished" master bedroom and practical tips for decorating and reducing clutter!

Becoming the "mom" on trips

I used to go on weekend getaways and just show up.  Large family gatherings and vacations meant getting away from my day to day responsibilities.  Even after I was married, it was really easy to pick up and leave town.  Okay, maybe I needed to bring a few extra snacks for the car, but other than my own packing, traveling was simple.  Blow-up mattress, cheese stick here and there, cell phone and charger...simple.

After I had a child, I wasn't expecting to realize that the trip doesn't "just happen".  Let me describe what I used to experience...

Brad and I would arrive at our condo / house / multi-family unit for the getaway.  Food and snacks of all awesome varieties would be waiting for us in the kitchen.  Dinner was wonderful and just magically appeared (and the dishes disappeared).  We would stay up late to talk, play games, and watch movies.  The next morning (after sleeping in) we would smell freshly brewed coffee and enjoy a homemade breakfast, compliments of a behind-the-scenes chef.  When we were done with the getaway, we would just leave...no thought really to how the place cleaned itself.

It never really occurred to me that the MOMS did all of this work. 

And then I joined the mom club.  A trip was planned and suddenly the getaway went more like this....

The week before is spent planning meals, activities, and packing lists with the other moms in attendance.  Lewis and I make multiple trips to the grocery store, and the two days before are spent making assembled meals and snacks, packing all of the necessities, and getting everything ready for the trip.  When we arrive, I help unload and organize all of the food, making sure that the snacks are out for everyone to eat.  I help cook meals and clean the kitchen afterwards.  Usually, after Lewis has finally gone down to bed, I'm feeling a little too tired for a game or a movie and barely stay awake for more conversation.  I wake up to hear Lewis babbling in the morning (our sweet boy saw the sun because there weren't any blackout shades).  If the coffee isn't going, that's my first stop.  Oh yes, there is breakfast to make.  Then lunch.  Then dinner.  When all of this is over, and it's time to leave, there are beds to strip, sheets to wash, sinks to clean, and things to organize.  The next few days after the getaway are spent..recuperating. 

THIS is the new reality of "getaways".  (I admit, they are more work than the regular job I have during the week.) 

All this to say...

There have been many instances since becoming a mom that have put me in grateful AWE of my own mother, grandmother, mother-in-law...etc. etc.  My new reality for trips and getaways is just one more thing that makes me realize how much WORK the women in my life did (and still do) for me.  They lay down their lives constantly.  Everyone's needs come before their own.  They give up the relaxation and the ease so that they can serve, prepare, and provide for everyone else on the trip.  They make it happen.  Without them there would be no fun snacks, yummy meals, cleaned kitchens, and shiny sinks.

If you are still in the phase of life where a getaway is as simple as showing up and having fun, THANK YOUR MOTHER.  Look for opportunities to serve by coming up alongside her in the preparations and work (something I never really thought twice about).

If you have become "the mom", BE GRATEFUL that you are getting the opportunity to serve your family like Jesus...without much recognition, glory, or ease.  What a witness and a gift.  God sees all of your work, because it's unto Him.

I'm realizing (albeit slowly) that these changes in my life are blessings.  At first it feels like the ease and fun are going away, but they are replaced with fulfillment and sanctification.  Deep down I don't want to just live for fun, deep down I want to live to serve God.  Situations that bring this into reality exhaust me, but also fill my soul with the joy of doing what God created me to do.

Happy Labor Day.  :-)

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