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10.13.2014

The Table

So much happens around a table, doesn't it?  Conversations shared, meals consumed, holidays celebrated, family routine established...the table is really a sacred place in the home.  Life is always demanding more from all of us and it's very easy to give in to the hustle and bustle of opportunity and scheduling, but I long to fight those demands and to take every chance we have to consistently gather here.  It's too important to neglect and the years we have with our kids around the table on a daily basis, are fleeting.  I am committed to carving out time here and to serving my family with food that fills their tummies and conversation that fills their souls.  I want to break bread with my kids and my husband, while we talk about the Bread of Life in our home and in our lives, every single day.  
It's really amazing to me that in only five years, we've already had incredibly deep conversations about the Lord and about spiritual things with Ava and Carter here.  In the thirty minutes or so we sit for a meal, we have daily time to ask questions, to answer their thoughts, to encourage them, to model prayer for them and to hear what's on their hearts.  We also have plenty of time to laugh, to talk about fun things we did or saw throughout the day, and to just enjoy each other.  And all of this time together, it matters.  It matters to Travis and I, but I know it also matters to them.  Even if they can't articulate that yet, meals around the table are something they can count on and a place where they (hopefully) know that they belong.  It's so easy and it's so tempting to just rush through a meal.  I TOTALLY get that feeling and sometimes that happens here too.  There are days that I am so over everything and it's been a long day and I just want to get through dinner so I can sit down and relax. Our home is just like yours and I don't always look forward to prepping, cooking and cleaning up after another meal.  BUT gathering here anyway and redeeming what we can, even on the messy days, matters.  
To my friends who have young ones and who are wondering when to start making dinners at the table a priority or how to bring the Lord into your routines?  Just start right where you are, today.  It's not only for them, but for you too. I can't tell you how many hours I've logged at our table singing songs to my kids while they ate, reading stories from the "Bear Bible", asking about the lesson in Sunday School, going through our Advent devotional, talking about our Easter garden and the cross, reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible, etc.  When Ava was a baby, I knew she didn't understand most of what I was talking about, but I realized that I could talk to her all day long and practice whatever I wanted to practice on her.  She was the perfect audience! So I decided to try and make mealtimes a habit for me, not just the food prep, but the soul prep. I tried to hold myself accountable and make the table a place where we talk about Jesus.  Even before the kids know who He is, I wanted Him to be welcome at our table and to be Lord over every part of our daily lives, not just when Daddy is working or when we're at Church.  I knew I wanted Him in our home and as I've fumbled through a thousand meals, I've tried to include Him in as many as I can.  So many times I've been reading or talking and I can just tell, they aren't paying a bit of attention to me.  The words are over their head or they are lost in their own world, but the Holy Spirit always whispers to me "just keep going" and sometimes nothing changes with the kids, but almost always, everything changes in me.  Jesus is what I want my kids to leave home with more than anything else. And the salvation He died to offer me and them? It is the most important thing I can help them understand and long for and He is so worthy of my best effort, no matter how they respond.  I can do my best to make this time together count for Eternity and then I can leave the results up to Him.  I do it for them yes, but I also do it to be obedient to Him.  We have responsibilities to train up our kids and to write God's word on their hearts. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to talk about them when we sit and when we rise, when we're on the road and at home.  This is just one of those ways to do it.  

But do you know what I'm seeing constantly now?  The fruit of that choice.  At five and at four years old, my big kids are answering questions, connecting dots, praying for a variety of things and talking about the Jesus they are growing to know.  Believe me, we still have tears at the table, arguments, refusals to eat something, spills and all the other things that go along with raising kids.  It's not perfect and sometimes it's down right ugly.  But there is a sacred element to our mealtimes that is such a treasure to me.  It was inspired by the Lord impressing that on my heart, it's fueled by Him and on the days when I'm tired and not in the mood, He can redeem a lot around that table. I share this not to toot my own horn because honestly, this is ALL JESUS in me, it's not my own natural tendencies at play here.  But I also want to encourage you, especially those of you who have tried something and were disappointed when it didn't go like you hoped...Don't give up!  It does pay-off and even when we think they aren't listening or understanding, they are likely retaining more than we know and in time, they will understand why we cherish this time with them and why we find it so important to speak truth into them.  I am also extremely grateful for a husband who shares the same desire and who brings all kinds of joy and laughter to the table!  He is a wonderful counter-balance to me and all my seriousness! ha ha! But also, this table is hopefully a place they will come home to and will make memories around for a lifetime to come.  And that's why I've shared this photo with you today...
This table now sits in my kitchen, but it's a table that I've gathered around for more than 25 years.  It's been in my parents' house for all that time and around it my sisters and parents and I have made countless memories.  We've celebrated birthdays here, gathered for holidays, and had many conversations with family members we've loved who dine with Jesus now.  I remember hosting Stacie's girlfriends for her bridal shower around this table and I also remember assembling tons and tons of Jennie's wedding invitations here with family and friends.  I did a million school projects on this table and played with my barbies underneath it.  I brought Travis home to Iowa for the first time and we ate around this table and now, almost 12 years later,  I've brought this table home with me.  My parents have a new table coming and they graciously asked if I wanted to use this one for my family.  I jumped at the chance because it's so sentimental to me, but also because our old table has just become too small.  This new one will hold us for a long time coming and can increase or decrease in size as we need it to.  It fits perfectly in my kitchen because of its' oval shape and already we all love the added space it's given us for mealtimes.  We christened it with dinner a few weeks ago, we celebrated Carter's birthday here last week, we hosted our first guest around it (Trav's Mom) and Ava has already logged some time here doing her homework.  I love it for so many reasons and especially for what is to come around it.  We have room for Walker now and I have hopes to refresh it with some new chairs down the road.  

Daily we gather here and daily we invite Jesus to meet us here too.  To many it's just a hand-me-down table and dinner is just one more meal to get over with, but to me all of it is a treasure and our time spent here together is priceless.  

10.10.2014

Dream Season

This is the fifth year I've stood on the sideline of many a high school soccer game, watching play after play and cheering for one team of guys after another.  Trav's been a head coach for all these years and while we always cheer for his team, it's no secret that I'm really there to cheer on him!  I love seeing Trav across the field and I love to watch him in action.  He has coached some great kids over the years and that has resulted in some fun teams to watch.  I never played soccer in high school and before I met Trav I didn't care a whole lot about it.  But with as many hours as I have logged over these last five seasons, I know a whole lot about it now!    
Soccer is a perfect fit for Trav, it's a relatively short season and it's a lot of time spent outside during a gorgeous stretch of Minnesota weather.  Plus he loves the game like crazy and has played it most of his life.  The kids and I try to go to as many games as we can, for the same reasons.  If Daddy has to be away a few nights a week, then we want to at least be where he is so we can support him and because it keeps all of us from resenting the time he spends away from home.  It's easier to let him go when we understand why he's going and when we're excited about what he's doing.  And let me tell you, this season has been SO exciting for all of us!!!  
I haven't been able to blog as the season has unfolded, simply because my head has barely been above water as I've juggled an extra load at home.  BUT, I've been dying to write about it because it's been a one-of-a-kind season!  For the first time ever, Trav's guys went UNDEFEATED all season, winning their conference regular season record and making school history in men's soccer!  Leading up to their  conference tournament last week, they were 14-0!!!  That is SUCH an accomplishment and with each win it felt more and more amazing to consider that no one had beat them this year.  We had a few close games, but we also won plenty of them with a lot of margin.  SO, after winning the first round of their conference tournament last Thursday, we were able to play in the championship last Saturday afternoon.  
It was a gorgeous, Fall day but it was freezing!!  I knew it would be too cold to bring Walker but there was no way I was missing this game, so I got a sitter at the last minute for Walker and Ava, while Carter came along with me.  
It was an intense game (mostly due to the officiating) but as you might guess from the sweet leap above, we won!!!  We grabbed an early lead and hung on to finish the game 4-2.  
I cannot tell you the relief I felt when that last whistle blew!!  Although it wouldn't have been the end of the world to lose, it felt SO SWEET to cap off this amazing season with a tournament win as well!  I have been nervous for WEEKS just thinking about how great it would be to have an undefeated season, but I tried not to think about it.  The pressure that mounts with each win is a little crazy, but I am married to the most level-headed and steady man in the world.  There were more than a few times that I just tried to get him a little worked up about it just so I didn't feel like I was the crazy one!!  But he would not give in to my nerves, he's irritatingly calm sometimes  :) 
However, when the game was over and I got to see that big smile on his face, it was so great!!!  
I am incredibly proud of him and of course the guys on his team.  They will always have this fun memory from their high school days!  They worked so hard this year and played so well together, it is an honor they deserved.  
Although the winning has been great, my favorite sight after every single game is always seeing my man and his players, praying with and for the other team after the game.  An undefeated season is awesome, but this simple act of humility and serventhood is so much better in many ways!  
After the prayer ended, Carty couldn't wait to get across that field and congratulate his Daddy!
And he even managed to get himself in the team picture!  
I love that Trav let him share this moment with him!  Four years ago Trav's team won the conference tournament as well in a last minute, miracle shot and after all the excitement, Carter was born the next morning!  
A week later and Carter still talks about Dad's team winning the trophy.  This was such a special day for us to spend together and for him to share with his Daddy.  
So deserved! 
I know Travis will miss this team and the great Senior leadership he had.  They were a fun mix of players to watch and we enjoyed watching them all season. 
Carter got his hands on the hardware too!
Hoping someday we can repeat this picture when Carter is older and playing on his own team! 
I don't care what anyone else thinks, but I am married to the best soccer coach in the world!  I love him so much, I told him recently that one of the things I appreciate most about him is that I never, ever worry during a game about him losing his cool or flipping out over a bad call.  He is so calm and such a great example for his players.  That is rare in the world of coaching these days and I adore him for it. 
I won't lie, I'm so glad this is all behind us now so that I can sleep much better knowing that they did it!
It's been a wonderful ride this year and I'm one proud coach's wife. 
Congratulations to the SWCHS Stars and their undefeated season!!!  
Love you so much Travy!!!     

10.09.2014

Honestly

Welp, want some honesty? I have a syndrome these days that I'm trying to overcome.  It's called "biting off more than I can chew, and sometimes on purpose."  I still (clearly) haven't accepted the fact that I am not as free as I once was OR that having an infant again doesn't slow me down.  In both cases I am living blindly, thinking I can get back to "normal" much quicker than I should be and adding stress to my own self that is silly.  Maybe getting 3 days into a 31 day blogging series, followed by 6 days of silence might prove my point exactly.  I can't keep up.  And that's ok!  I'm realizing I don't have to and more importantly, I need to be OK with that.  

My hands are full.  
My husband has his hands full too.  
I have three small children with many needs. 
The world doesn't stop turning just because I am tired and busy.  
That. Is. My. Life.  

And I love it and I wouldn't trade it in for the alternative, life without kids.  I'm grateful for the privilege of feeling stretched thin because of what God's given us. So rather than wallow in what I cannot get on top of, I'm embracing my inabilities and maybe even celebrating them right now, and why?  Because when I do accomplish something or have a victory (or five) during the day, I want to recognize that God is the one who gives me the strength/endurance/wisdom/ability/etc. to do it in the first place.  I've recently realized a big flaw in my thinking.  I am a classic firstborn who thrives in "doing it myself."  That has resulted in 34 years of feeling pretty good about my self-suffiency.  I don't lack a lot of confidence about my ability to get something done, although I often lack the desire.  But too much of what I do, is often  fueled by the way it makes me feel to do it.  Does that make sense?  I am finally being honest with myself and realizing that so much of what I take on or think I "need" to do is really just a by-product of pride in me that says "Wouldn't it be amazing if you could get that done?  Especially with three kids??" It's such a twisted way of being productive, but at it's core it's sinful.  And do you know who suffers because of it?  Besides me?  My family.  The four people I love the most often suffer the consequences of my pride, pride that says "yes" too quickly and that tries to tackle too much, simply so I can say I did it.  Yuck.  

I read a quote this week that has stomped all over my toes.  

"If we feel and look self-sufficient, we will get the glory, not Christ"- John Piper

OUCH.

So there you go.  I'm here to say I'm not doing it all, I don't have it all together and when it does come together, it's simply by the grace of God! There is nothing easy about this stage in life, but there is plenty that is wonderful.  And as I keep reminding myself, I can enjoy it all so much better when my plate is only holding what is absolutely necessary.  

And that's what's going on in my life today, honestly  :) 

10.04.2014

3 Months Old

Believe it or not, but we have a 3 month old in our house! This has been a big month of development for our Walker and he is just changing all the time right now.  I know I've said this a million times about each of my kids and I'm sure I'll continue to say it, but we just LOVE him!!  
Walker is such a delight to our family and we just adore him.  To think he is already three months old is crazy.  The months seem to be dropping off the calendar at a rapid pace but it is so fun to see another little one in our family and to experience all of his "firsts" together.  One of the sweetest milestones this month is seeing Walker's big smile everyday.  He has really taken to each one of us and he typically lights up when we say his name and smile at him.  He's a little heart melter already. 
He also makes us laugh for reasons like this!!!  His hair after a bath is always super soft and it stands on end forever, which is hilarious because it's so long and stick straight.  He resembles a certain little Disney character, doesn't he??  
Walker's big sister and brother continue to love their new roles.  This month they helped give him a bottle or two, which was super cute and helpful. 
They are learning to be helpful and to understand what Walker needs or how to keep him happy.  
He is such a lucky little brother to have such adoring siblings.  He loves to watch them and to smile back when they talk to him.  I'm sure they will all clash here and there as they grow up together, but it is so fun to see their bond begin to form and to see Ava and Carter welcome Walker to their little relationship too.  I know these are the easy days compared to what's down the road, but as their Mom I am sure enjoying their interactions and I continue to thank the Lord for blessing us with three kids.  Each one of them is precious. 
We've been doing more and more tummy time this month and Walker does a pretty good job.  He can lift his head up with no problem but after awhile he just decides he'd rather lie down than look around.  It's interesting to think about what his personality might be like, I seem to remember Carter squawking a lot during tummy time, maybe Walker will be as laid back as he seems! 
For sure this month our little guy has become not so "little!"  He has chunked up considerably and remains a great eater.  Look at those rolls!  He's so squishy and yummy! He is pretty predictable and eats anywhere between 3-4 hours a day unless he's napping.  He is getting so big that he keeps growing out of his clothes like a little weed!  He's wearing 3-6 months right now but barely.  Mostly he's in 6 month clothes and I'm finding myself buying ahead to keep up with him!  Carter grew exactly like this and has stayed at the top end of the charts so I'm guessing Walker is going to follow in his footsteps.  
This was a month of discovery for Walker, I happened to get this picture when he discovered the toys hanging above his swing for the first time!  Love that expression! 
We pulled out the activity mat this month and that has been our new go-to spot for him.  For the first few times we put him there he just stared at everything, probably wondering what in the world it was??
Even though the little lamb seat and the swing have been so good to us, they are about to be packed up as Walker is outgrowing them already.  It's hard to believe that the newborn stage is really over now, we are transitioning in many ways.  Leaving the swing and the vibrating seat behind is one of them.  
I'm still very happy to get as much snuggle time as I can, in between all the other things I'm trying to do all day.  Walker still likes to be carried but he is a little less sleepy in it than he used to be!  Now he wants to look around the whole time and check out what everyone else is doing.  It's still helpful for me to have him in there, I'm starting to understand that anything that helps me do several things at once is necessary now! 
Probably more than any other spot, Walker can be found in his carseat.  Such is the life of the youngest child!  From soccer games to the daily carpool lane, Walker spends a lot of time in here.  I sort of hate it for him but honestly he doesn't have much choice.  Thankfully he's usually pretty happy in that seat! 
This is one of my favorite pictures from the month! That little monkey is with him quite a bit now, he loves to bury his face in it and pull it close to him.  He also has a little elephant and a bear blankie that he loves.  It's so funny to see him recognize them and pull them close.  Ava and Carter get a big kick out of that, especially since they picked those out for him before he was born. 
This is the look he gives me after he eats. 
It's so cute and I think I could safely say he seems pretty satisfied here! 
For the most part Walker is mellow...
...but when he does get worked up...
...he lets us know it!  Usually it's only because he's hungry, his diaper needs to be changed or he's ready for a nap.  Beyond that he is a pretty content baby and we are grateful. 
We got Walker's room all ready for him this month and I'm happy to say he is now napping in here on a regular basis and any night now, he'll be sleeping here too.  We did indeed hit the "sleep through the night" milestone and it has been wonderful!!  He saved it until a few days before he turned 3 months but now he is consistently sleeping all night long.  The kids are dying for him to sleep in his crib near them at night, they think that is so great! I'm looking forward to it too.  
Carter and Walker spend a lot of time together now with Ava in school.  Carter loves him like crazy and is so anxious for him to play.  Most of the time he does great at being gentle, occasionally he gets a little more aggressive with his "love" than we'd prefer, but Carter is a sweet big brother.  I'm relishing the days when they are still "quiet" together because I know very soon that will be a completely foreign concept! 
Carter loves to remind me that I'm the only girl when Ava is at school.
I've officially become outnumbered! 
We introduced Walker to the world of football this month!  Clearly he's thrilled to be a Hawkeye! 
Lots of our days are routine now and although I almost always have to wake Walker up to take Ava to school or to pick her up, he rolls with the changes fairly well.  
I don't think I ever woke Ava or Carter up from naps but we never really had to be anywhere!  As often as I can I try to make time for at least one really long and uninterrupted nap everyday.  Usually he is sleeping about 2 hours in the morning and about 2-3 in the afternoon.  
I love that little face!!  I think we might have a character on our hands! 
When the weather has cooperated, Walker has experienced a lot of the great outdoors!  We've put him in the jogger for many walks, for runs with Trav, and tons of soccer games.  
When Ava gets home from school everyday, she loves to do a little "catch-up" with her littlest brother.  She is such a great helper and like a second mommy to Walker.  Often I don't have to ask her to check on Walker, she's already right there trying to find his paci or singing to him.  
Daddy spends lots of time with Walker at night after the big kids are in bed.  That's usually my time to unwind or get something done while Trav is happy to hold Walker and get his snuggles in.  
He loves his Daddy so much and loves to be in his arms.  I love seeing moments like these! 
Over these three months, the name we all use the most is Walkie.  Daddy likes to call you "Walkie Talkie", Carter refers to you as "Walk" and Ava and I say "Walkie-boy" a lot.  I taught the kids a little song I've sung to each of them about their names and now they love to sing it to Walker as well.  You know your name and you turn your head to find us and follow our voices.  
Just last week you began finding toys for the first time!  Now you like to reach out and hold on to things or try to put them in your mouth even.  It's so fun to see and a little bittersweet.  That always seems like such a grown up thing to do.  
We are making memories together and doing lots of things at home right now.  
It seems we are on the go so much for daily life that when we can just do nothing at home, we are all on board.  Walker has now enjoyed our "Friday Family Movie Nights" for most of his young life.  He typically naps halfway through it, but he seems to be a fan! 
He and I are still best buds, spending the most time together. 
I can get so many faces and expressions out of him, here we were discussing his facebook :) Ha ha! 
Look at that grin, is he a crack-up or what??
Walkie, you are such a great baby. 
We love you so much and can't believe how big you are getting.  
Even when you're sad, you are still such a gift to our family.  
You were loved from the first day we knew about you and now you've found your place and made us complete as a family of 5. 
You are one loved little brother!
I know the next month will continue to bring lots of development and change for you and we can't wait to see it all unfold.  
You are so sweet Walkie, happy 3 months!  
We are so thankful for you!!