Living life with a smile: in memory of Justin

May 1 holds a lot of precious memories for me. Mostly good ones but some sad too. It’s the day one of my childhood best friends, Justin, passed away from a hard-fought battle with Cystic Fibrosis.IMG_8801

Although my memory tends to be pretty poor, I remember the day very vividily and even the week leading up to the day. I remember a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to go spend time with him the day before, and the tear-filled night that followed as my heart was heavy and the Lord was preparing me for his passing. And then the next day, and that same strong gut feeling telling me I needed to go to the hospital at the first chance I got.

And how when I arrived there, I stood outside the room waiting to get the okay from the family to go inside to see him. The nurses’ eyes told me that Justin, body and soul, was no longer there but in heaven. Still I prayed as I waited.

When I walked inside those heavy doors, many relatives stood around and his sweet mom sat at his side. I had the chance to touch his cheek and pray over him and offer my condolences to the family.

The passing of a 16-year-old is emotional and it is never easy but through Justin’s passing the Lord taught me so much. And, little did I know, was preparing my heart for another loss– the passing of my dad– that would happen only 3 short years later.

But I write this post not to bring tears of sadness or pain flooding back but to bring memories of joy and happiness to the forefront.

Justin was a special soul. Anyone who knew him, knew him for his cheeky grin (which usually meant he was up to no good), his signature CF rosy cheeks and his laughter. His life, of course, was littered with the difficulties of managing a terminal illness but it was just as peppered with happiness and optimism.

His life and death taught me to not only make every day count but to not hold back and to act now. In some of the last moments I spent with him, I gave him an early birthday gift that I had been holding onto for a few weeks. I didn’t know that he would be gone before his birthday but I did know that the gift would bring a smile to his face and I wanted he and I to enjoy that moment now and not later. In those last moments he also showed me a card covered with signatures and messages from our classmates. The time friends took to pen a short message to a sick (dying) friend mattered. And rewind all the way back to our elementary school days, when I made the decision to befriend this little, blonde haired boy who was different than everyone else mattered… not only to him but to me.

So, on May 1, I try not to think about what might have been, because truly nothing might have been. His being born and his dying, that was all planned out ahead of time by Our Father. He gave Justin just the exact number of days that were intended for him and I believe Justin used them to be a vibrant, shining example of life-to-the-full even– especially—  through the suffering he endured.

May Justin’s life be a reminder to us all that life is short, that God is good and that joy is possible.

With a heart full of fond memories,
Jenny

Confessions of a former martyr mom

Woe is me. Have you ever felt that way? At times I can be worse than a whining toddler. “The kids were so naughty today” and “the baby barely slept” and “little girl spilled her milk for the 127,829th time.”
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With each passing travesty, I can go from meek mom to martyr mom in less than 60 seconds. I can go from gentle to enraged just as fast. And– over what?– these little humans and their inevitable flaws because, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re pretty new here.

It’s so easy to forget that they’re young and inexperienced (yes, even at making sure their cup doesn’t get tipped over even though it is placed nowhere near their chubby, little flailing arms). It’s so easy to forget that, just like me, they often learn best by messing up. And that children messing up means parents jumping to the rescue and picking up the slack because that’s our job.

When I stop right there and think about this awesome responsibility in front of me I feel both humbled and a little bit ashamed. Ashamed that I often am so bogged down by the here-and-now, the do-this-do-that that something as basic as a troublesome toddler can set me over the edge and lead me down a path of martyrdom.

Martyr Mom says, “This work is just too hard, I need a break!” Martyr Mom says, “My life is so not glamorous, I wish I was in Tahiti.” Martyr Mom says, “I am the only mom who deals with these travesties, I just know it!” And then, “What did I do to deserve to be mistreated this way??”

And on and on and on.

If we want to get all technical about it, a martyr is a person who is killed because of their beliefs. Pretty intense. Pretty radical. And yet so many times I can be that martyr mom. That woman who feels like my life is dead because I’m a mom. Like my future is bleak because so. many. messes.

Then I live motherhood in this hurried cycle, rushing things along. How long until I can get baby out of diapers? How long until they stop eating like rabid beavers (who leave a trail of Goldfish crackers wherever they go)? How darn long until they learn not to spill the milk?!

And the answer, my friend, is not very long. In the blink of the eye the training wheels are off, the driver’s license is issued and the bags are packed. Oh, my heart honestly aches to think about it! And yet, I’m trying to rush things! What is wrong with me?

Motherhood does not have to be about martyrdom. It should not be about martyrdom. It should be about life. It should be about celebrating all the firsts and clutching onto all the moments– the good, bad, the ugly– that are being created for these little humans we are raising (and for us)! Everything that happens in our lives has the potential to shape us for life, affecting how we think about the world, how we love others, what we believe. That is anything but a dying cause. That is a living cause.

Motherhood does have to be about self-denial and self-sacrifice. A dying to self of sorts. The newborn babe is not going to feed herself just because you want to sleep instead. No, when you are a mom, you crawl out of that bed to nurture and sustain that tiny life that can’t live without your help. You give up part of your desires– be they for sleep or beauty or being fed first– because you’ve been given a tremendous responsibility to care for another life. I am not the same person I was as a 22-year-old new mom. Not even close. I’ve lost some aspects of myself but gained others I never knew I could have. Self-denial and self-sacrifice– at the expense of training up beautiful, beautiful souls– is so worth it. Every crumb-filled room, sleepless night, every drop of milk trickled on the floor, is worth it.

So let us shift our thinking away from this hopeless estate that is martyrdom and move toward living out a beautifully messy, oh-so-hard, yet worthwhile life as a kingdom-advancing, world changing, mother.

With hope,
Jenny

Moms, what do you need a break from?


I’ll let you in on a little secret: God designed us to do hard things. And not necessarily do them well or with an ounce of beauty. Our futile attempts usually look anything but Instagram-worthy. Messy. Even ugly. However, it’s in those ultra-weak moments that His strength intervenes and His glory best shines through.beauty review

As moms we must be real with ourselves and with our thoughts. We must constantly question our motives and weigh them against Scripture. We must allow ourselves to experience mom guilt.

Yes, I said it.

Of course, self care is important. Of course, alone time is important. Of course, date nights are important. However these things should never become an idol causing us to abandon our current, Biblical responsibilities.

Moms, this may seem harsh and it may seem condemning or even unfair but it must be asked. Have you shaped your life around your Biblical responsibilities of being a mother and wife or have you shaped your Biblical responsibilities around your life?

I am fully aware that each of our situations look very different from one another. And no one can or should accuse each other of making the wrong choices. I also know that, as believers, we are called to help and encourage each other toward godliness. And few things break my heart as much as witnessing godly roles being abandoned by women everywhere and, perhaps, even worse, godly roles being devalued within the Christian community.

I have been in many situations where I clearly needed a break. And sometimes God has granted me that privilege and sometimes He said “not yet.” In Job 23:10 we are reminded, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” The problem, for many, with this stance is that is requires patience and perseverance and steadfastness. Boy are those attributes I often lack!

Rest assured moms, there are going to be moments when God blesses you with a break. A friend who offers to take your kids for the afternoon; A time when your husband takes the kids for a walk so you can get a nap; A sitter who comes once a month to watch your kids so you and your husband can share a quiet dinner.  But those moments may not always be possible, consistent or part of God’s right-now plan.

It is not wise to fall into the “I deserve” camp especially when your desires cause some abdication of your Biblical responsibilities.

The unchanging fact is that we only have so many hours in this life to carry out His work. If majority of our week is spent away from our children, we need to be extra protective of our time together. The same is true for marriage. If the majority of our week is spent away from our spouse, we need to be extra protective of our time together. And we do not always “need” the break that we think we need. And yet sometimes we do.

So, it’s a very fine line, you see.

I end with the rhetorical question– moms, what do you need a break from? Some of these needs are so real– a crying infant who just won’t sleep, a household of sick kids. And other perceived needs, if I am going to speak for myself and be real with you– a quiet house, a clean house, a dinner date– they may not be as truly necessary for survival.

The good news is that God knows. He knows what’s best and He is a loving, caring Father who wants to give us the desires of our hearts so long as they are good for us. And when they are not good for us, He will answer with a “no” or “not now” or “wait”. And, moms, that is going to have to be okay.

Keep seeking Him. Keep communing with Him in prayer. And live a life submersed in His Word so that your mind is full and clear and able to rightly handle these ever-occurring tiring situations of life. Never losing sight that this life is short and temporary, stressful and joyful yet beautiful.

With compassion,
Jenny

 

33 years in the making

IMG_8334In honor of my 33rd birthday– just for fun– here are some little-known facts about me:

 

1. My first name is Jenny not Jennifer.
2. I am a huge foodie but some of my faves are shrimp tempura sushi & french fries.
3. I have one sister, no brothers and lots of cousins.
4. My word of the year is THRIVE. I’m trying to apply this to all areas of my life.
5. I once won the audience prize on The View but it kind of wound up being a total bust. I don’t watch the show anymore (for many reasons…)!
6. John Piper is my homeboy.
7. My favorite TV show as a kid was Ghostwriter.
8. If I could add any flavor to my coffee it would be creme brulee.
9. I recently quit caffeine. Yawn.
10. Growing up I was sure my daughter’s name was going to be Bianca. Yeah, that never happened.
11. My favorite essential oil blend is Balance. And Serenity. And Digestzen.
12. I am a night owllll. My kids are morning people. It’s a fun combination.
13. The book “Created to Be His Help Meet” inspired me to be a better wife.
14. I married a “Mr. Steady.”
15. Though my husband and I went to the same high school, we really got to know each other through chatting on ICQ. (He sent me a flower.)
16. This year we’ll celebrate 12 years of marriage.
17. And 5 kids.
18. We said we were going to have 17.
19. #onlytimewilltell  😉😉
20. My favorite essential oil is Lavender. And Lime. And Vetiver.
21. I’ve never been on the West Coast but hope to change that this year.
22. I don’t have a cell phone.
23. Bubble baths are my jam.
24. I love Boggle.
25. And Zulily.
26. And Amazon Prime.
27. I never enjoyed reading as a kid but now I love it!
28. I love the mountains (I love the rolling hills. Boom De Ah Da).
29. All of my kids have names that are either from the Bible or derivatives of Bible names.
30. I started working at age 13. First a babysitter, then a waitress, then a hostess, store clerk, Disney gift shop attendant, telemarketer, administrative assistant, technical writer.
31. I fell in love with writing in the 4th grade when I won a writing contest. I think it was the first thing I really felt like I succeeded at, so I ran with it!
32. My college degree is in Professional Writing & Public Relations.
33. My parents were small business owners when I grew up, so were/are my in-laws. Now my husband manages a small business and I run my own essential oils business. It’s in my blood!

The necessity of self care (part one)

Lately I’ve been feeling awful. Though I can’t really pinpoint one specific ailment, I’ve just felt all-around junky. My attitude has been bad, my mood has been swinging and my energy has been low. I’m not here to complain but just to explain to you all where I am at.

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The thing is, I’m no stranger to feeling like this. I try to give myself a little props though– I’ve been pregnant or nursing for all but one year of the past ten years. My hormones have been up and down, my sleep patterns have been up and down, overall my health has been up and down. But I press on.

A few years ago, between babies, I got to the point where I felt the worst I had ever felt. It got so bad that I was waking up, taking care of the kids for an hour or two only to collapse back onto the couch and fall asleep– a deep sleep– for a few more hours. Then headaches came on every.single.day. And I reached my breaking point.

I was concerned that I was having thyroid issues (which sometimes can happen temporarily after a baby). The thought sort of bothered me because I really didn’t want to have to rely on a medication to feel better.  In the end, it was confirmed that I was suffering from something altogether different– candida overgrowth.

It may sound silly but I was kind of happy with the diagnosis. I was familiar with the condition and knew that a few simple (but big) changes should result in a complete restoration of well-being. And I was right. I changed my diet to include mostly whole foods, steered clear of grains and sugars and added a bunch of supplements that my body was lacking– including a good probiotic, extra vitamin D, a fiber powder and more.

After a short time, I felt better than I had felt in YEARS. It was incredible. My energy was through the roof and my headaches disappeared (I’d also eliminated dairy products due to a sensitivity I didn’t know I had). I lost 10 pounds without even trying. The changes were so profound not just for me, but for my whole family who I was given charge over.

Fast forward to today. Here I am a couple of years (and another beautiful baby!) later and I’m starting to feel pretty UGH again. I’ve let my healthy lifestyle slip away. My hormones are definitely shifting again but I suspect there’s some other stuff going on as well. The positive thing is… I now know how to take care of my body. I know what it’s like to feel good and to truly be healthy and I am taking the steps to get back there. I realize now (again!) that I need to take those big (but simple!) steps toward taking care of little ole me.

This is not a self-centered approached, as I’ve often let myself think. Moms, this is about making sure we are on top of our game. I need to be a side-kick (help-meet) and cheerleader to my husband. I need to be a nurturer and teacher to my children. When I can barely peel myself out of bed in the morning and my head is throbbing, I am no good to anyone. And that’s not good or noble or God-honoring.

I know, Lord willing, that I can feel better. And so can you. Yes, our families need us but they need a high-functioning, healthier version of us.

Because I’ve rambled, I’m breaking this into two parts. The next post, part two, will spell things out a lot better and give practical solutions to combating this dilemma that plagues so many of us DIYparents. Let’s do this together! Stick around to read more!

With eagerness,

Jenny

Looking past interuptions

It’s as if something clicked. I was contemplating some mom struggles I’ve been having lately. And then I realized– I’m so frustrated with the kids lately (as in the past six months) because they’ve been interrupting me. Both literally and figuratively my kids have been interrupting me. They’ve been not only rudely jumping into conversations when they shouldn’t be but they’ve also been getting in my way of accomplishing what I want.

Ugh. Just typing that out is so ugly. So convicting.IMG_4046.PNG

My thoughts, while most definitely were silently occurring in my head, were as deafening as a nearby freight train. And also as frightening.

My kids are distracting me. That’s the lie I was feeding myself.

Distracting me from seemingly good things– a quiet morning cup of coffee, my daily devotional time with the Lord, an important conversation with a sister.

Yes, my kids need to learn obedience, they need to learn when to talk and when to refrain from talking, but I am just as guilty.

I need to learn that what I want to be doing is not always the task God has put right in front of me. My kids, my husband, my family– they need me. And they need a gentler, less frazzled, more-grace-extending version of me. Not only that, but they need to know, to feel, to see that they matter and they are worth my time and my energy.

It’s so easy to become sidetracked with good works– and for me this is my love language, this is how I feel loved and how I love others. But sometimes I forget that just going through the motions of motherhood is not enough and is surely not God-honoring. Slapping a heaping spoonful of home-cooking onto a paper plate with a begrudging attitude and a hardened heart is not love. It’s rebellion and a reflection of my brokenness.

And boy am I so broken sometimes.

But, then, there’s grace. There’s a loving Father extending an open hand saying, come to me, let me carry these burdens with you, my grace is sufficient.

And so this momma gives it another shot. I approach another day, another week with a refined outlook. I try not to cling to what went wrong in past weeks but learn and grow and look forward.

This time, I’ll try not to look at knotted hair as just another head that needs brushing but a beautiful daughter that needs my undivided attention for that five minute task. I’ll try not to look at requests for seconds at the dinner table as a pesky child always wanting more but a little boy who is growing and already appreciates the blessing of good food.

This shift will not come easily, for sure, but it is necessary and desired and a step toward right-reaping.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Each day I am thankful for a new chance, new opportunities to live this life to the full and to honor God with what He’s given me. This week, and in the weeks ahead, I’ll keep trying to do better…

With determination,

Jenny

The myth of “doing it all”

I recently made the decision to relaunch my essential oils business and I also joined a friend in a developing a homeschooling co-op and, ohh yeah, I had a baby a few months ago too. This is not me trying to brag, this is just telling you about my season of life right now. I am just like any other busy mom– we’ve all got a lot going on.

IMG_3411But because of my obvious busy-ness, I’ve been getting some questions– how do you do it? or how do you do it all?

And it’s got me thinking… just what is doing it all? I guess to most moms it’s managing the household. For some of us it’s homeschooling our children. For others it’s working outside the home. It’s keeping up with the messes, the laundry, the dishes, the bubble baths.

But really friends, I’m here to tell you that doing it all is just as much of a myth as having it all. It’s just not possible.

Just like there is always going to be a better car (minivan!) to drive, a larger house to own, a better (or more minimalistic) wardrobe to own– there is always going to be mom stuff not done. One more dish in the sink, another load of laundry left unfolded, a garden not weeded or a cranky child that just will not go to sleep.

If I spend my days chasing after getting it all done– and that’s all I find my satisfaction in– I will miss out. I will miss out on sweet afternoon snuggles, opportunities to teach my children how to bake cookies, giggles over bubble bath beards.

Yes, I want to be an awesome homemaker. I try to have clean underwear for my husband after he gets home from work and is desperate need of a shower. I try to make dinner– not always from scratch– every night. I try to run my dishwasher every night. So, I haven’t given up. I haven’t stopped attempting to get better at this thing called wifehood & mommyhood. But I have, at times, lowered my standards, settling for “good enough” instead of “perfect.”

So, in case no one has told you, I will. “Doing it all” is a big fat myth. Something has gotta give somewhere. Choices have to be made– get extra laundry done today or play in the sprinkler with the kids, skip going out to lunch with a friend to catch up on housework, pick up takeout for dinner so we can deep clean the car before vacation. It’s all about give and take.

At times I may look like I have more on my plate and am handling it better than someone else is. And at other times I look like a hot mess (probably because I am)! While it’s great to have friends to look up to and who encourage you to be a better person, it’s not always great to compare yourself to others. Right now, I have big kids who help me out a lot but just a few short years ago I was that always-frazzled mom with 3 kids aged 5 and under. That was tough.

I just want to encourage you all to do the absolute best you can do with where you are in life and with what is before you right now. And when you don’t have the strength to handle it all on your own– which I’m telling you, you won’t– turn to God and He will give you rest for your soul. He will help you carry your burdens and He will sustain you. Keep working hard and keep setting goals for yourself and aspirations for your family but also keep giving yourself grace. You can’t do it all, nor were you meant to.

With encouragement,

Jenny

 

 

 

 

New beginnings

Life is full of new beginnings. Right now in our house we are experiencing lots of new beginnings: A new[ish] baby in the house. Two new beehives in the front yard. A new homeschool co-op along with new friends. A new shoe size for my toddler. The new just never ends. And it’s wonderful.

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I am not a person who fears change. I usually dive in with both feet and buy a new pair of shoes to do it in! It’s when things don’t change, that’s when I struggle. Though contentment is not something I’ve mastered, it is something I am working on.

So, if you’ve been with me over the years you may have noticed that consistency hasn’t always been my strongest asset. But that’s okay. I never claimed to be perfect. I only ever vowed to be real. And with real-life comes lots of “new”s, lots of changes and then many seasons of stagnancy (or, more likely, seasons of survival mode).

With this new beginning, this new launch of DIYparenting, I can promise almost nothing. I hope to be able to embrace writing, sharing and connecting with you in a whole new way now that my household is no longer filled with only littles. But who knows?! Thank you for sticking by me and reading my posts even if they were unpredictable!

Please hang on just a little bit longer. New content is on it’s way. And I can’t wait to share it with you.

With thanksgiving,

Jenny