Live an Extraordinary Life, Because "Sink-Or-Swim" is Just Blah!
If there's one thing I've learned through almost two decades of marriage and raising five kids, it's that God is with us in the trenches and He equips us with everything we need to live a life of purpose and intention. My hope is to share the "life preserves" I've gathered on this journey to live "blessably."
I blog about health, intentional living & parenting, faith, good books, and any other creative, serendipitous stuff that pops into my mind! (That happens often:-)
When I first heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short,” I felt a little lump in my throat. It was a reminder that there would be an end to my daily mommying to you, my first baby.
Well, that day has come.
Today we reach that fork in the road and the years don’t only feel short, they feel condensed into this weird blackhole of life called “the past.” As I think about this, God whispers something comforting in my ear that seems almost a faint foreshadowing of the words we all want to hear someday in Heaven: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” I look at how far you’ve come and know that God has done an amazing work already in you and I am honored to have played even a little part in that.
As a mom, I fell short more often that I would have liked. I didn’t do everything right. I apologized often for my shortcomings and I’ve learned that it takes an infinite amount of grace to live more Christ-like each day.
The days and months and years went by, and as you grew into a young lady, something miraculous happened right before my eyes. You started to reflect Christ too. You offered me grace and comfort when I felt exhausted and weak. You gave me hugs when I needed them yet didn’t even know it. You held my hand in church when I needed a hand.
I cannot even put in words how thankful I am that God gave me the kind of mommy-heart that felt called to put Him at the center–albeit in my clunky-I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing-Jesus-take-the-wheel kinda way. He showed Himself through my motherhood experience. He is kindness. He is grace. He is honor. He is just. He is faithful. He is love.
Therein lies my hope for you today. I want you to know that as you start this amazing college journey of learning, discovery, and growth, you will soar and you will dip. You will smile and you will cry. You will be happy and sometimes you will feel lonely. Yes, sometimes you will even fail–but He will not. Today, I leave you in good hands–the best hands actually. You are in God’s.
Tonight we will celebrate a communion service together and end with cheers and words of encouragement, with hugs and kisses and more hugs. Then I will turn around and walk away leaving a piece of my heart in a college dorm half way around the world and I will lean on our awesome God and trust that His plan for you is greater than mine, and it’s going to be amazing!
As a child, I marveled at the vastness of the universe, the beauty of sparkling galaxies, the endless expanse of time and space. I was awestruck by tiny things too, like the unique patterns of fingerprints, the mysteries uncovered under a microscope, the miraculous weaving of DNA, and the millions of tiny colored dots that produced a photograph. God revealed Himself in the biggest of the big and the smallest of the small. And then I forgot about Him. Teen years. College years. You know the time.
God calls through motherhood
Then I became someone’s mommy. Motherhood is truly a miracle in and of itself, from the first butterfly flutters during pregnancy to the gift of a vulnerable young life entrusted to my care, and the responsibility and joy of raising a child in a great big world. It was in this new role that God laid one single question on my heart that I could not shake. “What will I tell my child when she has big questions about life?”
You know they’re coming. Why is the sky blue? Why are kids mean? Why do people get sick? Will I die too? These are questions that everyone asks and I knew that God, the Creator of the universe would be the best source of answers. I surely didn’t have really good ones and I’d read enough books, taken enough classes, and lived enough life to know that even the smartest people on earth didn’t have the best answers. In fact, the smartest people know that they actually know very little.
This was the start of my journey to find an authentic faith—because I was a mommy and my baby deserved the best answers. My journey looked like this…I watched a friend’s life. She seemed to know about Jesus and his teachings, and unlike many religious people, she was doing this unusual thing and living it out every day and serving others so graciously! That was weird enough for me to want to investigate. She shared with me her story of faith. I watched some more. Another friend told me her story which included a tragedy, sadness and abandonment. But still she had an amazingly optimistic view of life despite her history, which she attributed to a personal relationship with Jesus.
I also watched the lives of people who seemed to be sinking in quicksand as they got older. Self-medicating, self-righteous, self-loathing. What was the common denominator? They either didn’t know Jesus—or they hated Him.
I needed to start somewhere, so I finally decided to find a good Bible and actually read it. I started with the New Testament. As a literature major, and a self-professing intellectual elitist, I had to find the logic in this book. I read Matthew 20:17, where Jesus told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” I had very little faith, definitely tiny-as-a-mustard-seed faith, but that was all God needed to reveal Himself to me. Through a serious of providential events, like a teacher giving out the book The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel, a former atheist turned Christian, and great discipleship in a local church, I was finding the best answers to any question my child could possibly ask. Of course, I was getting answers to questions I too had as a child and I was overjoyed.
That was nearly thirteen years ago. Today, I have five children who count on me for guidance. I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does and I go to His Word everyday so that I might be equipped to impart true wisdom. I believe that motherhood is often tied up in knots of guilt, worry, lack of control, and just plain old exhaustion. But I also know this verse that truly resonates in my life and I think every mom, new and experienced, can appreciate this— in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It matters for all eternity
Isn’t that just what every mother needs? Rest, both physical and spiritual. Being able to knowingly answer questions about why people are mean, why there is pain and suffering in the world, and where people go when they leave this earth.
Rose Kennedy once said, “Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity — a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.”
I think this is on every mom’s heart. I pray for each of you on this Mother’s Day, that you allow God to help you through this challenging and exciting time and that you allow Him to give you rest, knowing that the search for answers need go no further. Happy Mother’s Day! Be Blessable!
When my kids text me, “Mom, plz buy some ice cream on your way home! Pleeeeezzzz!” I think, “Hmmm, college education, or ice cream, college education, or ice cream?” If you live on Guam and shop off-base, you know that anything resembling creamy decadence is a sheer luxury. A typical 1.5L container of ice cream could set you back $8.99! Fortunately I have found a way to serve yummy ice cream to my familia, without staying up at night feeling guilty! Okay, if I eat some of it myself, I might still be up at night feeling guilty, but that is a whole different story.
At a cost of roughly $2.70, I can make the same amount of ice cream that costs $8.99 at the market. I haven’t ventured past plain vanilla yet, but my savings tastes so good that I am feeling quite satisfied in all its simple glory.
Vanilla Ice Cream (Using a Vitamix, but a Nutri-Bullet should work too)
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
4 cups ice cubes
1/3 cup powdered milk
1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
Select Variable 1.
Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
Use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades. In about 30 seconds, four mounds will form in the center of the mixture. Stop machine.
I’m sure you can try non-dairy substitutes as well. Use mint, chocolate chips, or your favorite flavor to make it your own special treat. You know I’ll be throwing ripe mango in once the season is in full swing! Substitute maple syrup, or honey for the powdered sugar. Use a fresh vanilla bean instead of extract. If serving later, pre-portion ice cream into bowls and place in the freezer. Allow bowls to sit out 5 minutes before serving. If your frozen dessert is not setting up well, just add more ice cubes (or frozen bananas:) to your blend.
I’d love it if you’d share a tip about how you enjoy a treat without breaking the bank.
Today, I had the incredible privilege of listening to over a dozen young adults tell their stories in hopes of getting scholarships for college. As expected, some could use work on their communication skills, some did relatively well and others knocked it out of the park.
The one theme that stood out in my mind came from the question, “Who inspires you?” The answer that was given almost every time surprised me. It was “MOM.” These young adults shared their stories of their mothers having taught them to be courageous, diligent, respectful, caring, faithful, humble and to serve. I was touched to watch each person choke out sweet words about their moms over and over again.
It made me think of my role as a mom. I am encouraged to look further than tomorrow or next week. I’m inspired to remain diligent in the task at hand.
In the Old Testament, Nehemiah left his post as a servant to King Artaxerxes. God had revealed to him that he should go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the surrounding wall to protect the city. He obeyed. While he was focused on carrying out the mission, the enemies wanted to get him to stop. They tried to distract him, calling him down from the wall. No matter what, Nehemiah stayed focused. He stayed on that wall and hollered down, “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down.”
Moms, we are doing something meaningful. You may not be feelin’ it today, but you’ll be surprised how many little eyes and ears are picking up meaningful lessons along the way and finding their deepest inspiration in YOU! Despite the distractions and responsibilities pulling this way and that, stay on the wall and do your great work! #motherhoodmatters
Forks clanking against white porcelain plates. Small giggles and hearty laughs amidst the steady hum of conversation and the rich smells of grilled steaks and steaming soups. This was my life for a while as I assisted managing our family-owned, downtown restaurant.
It was an exciting but difficult time because of the inevitable juggling that had to take place. Five kids and a busy husband on the one hand and a busy restaurant on the other. We eventually resolved to sell the business, but while we were hustling, I learned some key life lessons that have kicked up my parenting abilities a couple of notches. Maybe you will find them helpful too.
1. Write things down. Schedules, manuals, recipes, menus, signage–everything needed to be written out and made clear to all. This is so true in all areas of life. When we don’t write things down, they simply fall through the cracks. Things get left on life’s back burners, never to be moved to prime “get ‘er done” real estate. Do you keep a family calendar? Do you write out your goals and specific steps that you’ll take to reach them? Write it down, get it done!
2. Accountability. Until there was a designated staff member in the restaurant scheduled to clean the bathrooms at regular intervals, things would get pretty icky. If there wasn’t a log specifying who’d be cleaning out the chillers or the espresso machine, it wouldn’t get done.
Accountability is just as vital at home. That oh-so-useful chore chart is key here. It sets up the expectation and gives me a “fall guy” should the dog not get fed on time or the dishes not get put away. (Since we can’t fire our children, consider “docking their pay” which can translate to canceling the next planned trip to Yogurtland:-)
3. Murphy’s Law is universal, so expect the unexpected. The old adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” takes on a whole new meaning in a restaurant. An oven will break down just before a busy Friday dinner service. The credit card machine will malfunction just as a waiter processes 25 Naval officers on a quick lunch meeting–all paying separately. We need to have back-up plans and expect the unexpected.
Similarly, a child will have a tummy ache on the day Mommy is supposed to attend a big conference. The washing machine will die out when there are eight backlogged loads of laundry. Bottom line is, expect the unexpected and have a back up plan. A go-to sitter, a Whirlpool repair guy on speed dial. And sometimes, just a little margin in life so that when these crazy things creep up, we aren’t strung so tight that one little thing snaps us.
4. Own up to Mistakes. A customer’s steak might be well-done when they swear they said rare. A chef might forget to put the coveted avocado in the sushi. A piece of cork might be floating in the glass of Merlot. It happens. Own up to it and work toward remedies for the situation. A genuine apology, a complementary dessert and even removing the item from the ticket might be necessary.
Parents, we might not like to admit it, but we are really good at making mistakes. We need to get better about humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness. The customer at the restaurant might tweet something about a messed up order, but a child stores up all the little wrongs in their hearts when there isn’t a remedy to the mistake. Whether it’s a harsh word for spilled milk or not noticing your daughter’s first goal in the soccer game because you were on Facebook, they see our mistakes. We need to own up and apologize because it’s the right thing to do.
5. Get out of “the weeds.” Have you ever seen a waiter start fumbling orders, disappear on tables or auction off food because he didn’t remember who ordered what? That’s called being “in the weeds” and it is hard to get out.
Usually, the most effective way to rectify the situation is to have a manager or another waiter help out so that he can gain composure, get organized and get back in the game if you will.
A lot of times as parents, we find we are in the weeds too. We are overwhelmed by the stuff of life like home renovations, behavioral issues with kids, deadlines at work. It might get hard to see the reason we do it all when our we can’t see above the weeds. God never meant for us to go it alone. A spouse, family, friends, church community–there are so many people who can help us get out of the weeds. If we don’t reach out and we choose to loiter in those weeds, there are no happy customers.
6. Setting up for success. One of my most experienced chefs had years of experience working on cruise ships. He brought with him the phrase, “Set up for success.” He always made sure that nightly clean-up was done and that all necessary items were prepped for the opening shift. Sauces were made, veggies were chopped, and a list of required items to shop for was written and hung on a clipboard.
When I leave dishes in the sink, clutter on the dining table or miscellaneous laundry strewn about, I know I am not setting myself up for success. In fact, it usually means that I will wake up already in the weeds! I have to remind myself every night to complete the necessary tasks that my “future self” will thank me for in the morning.
Are you translating work skills into your home? If you’re not, what are some ways your work habits and skills could improve life at home? I’d love to hear your ideas.