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Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Marriage, Motherhood, Serious Stuff | 0 comments

Living with Purpose when the Pages of Your Planner are Full

I love a good to-do list. I’m task-oriented and I love checking things off the pages of my planner as I go throughout my day. But sometimes my to-do list actually keeps me from doing the things that really matter.

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Last week in my Bible Study lecture, the speaker said this…

“When we forget our identity, our life becomes all about tasks and fails to be about purpose.” 

Those words really convicted me because all too often, I find myself preoccupied with tasks and as a result, distracted from my purpose. Let me paint you a little picture of what this looks like for me:

Atlas will come ask me if I will play ball with him and I’ll tell him I can’t right now because I’m folding the laundry. Then later he will ask me again, and I’ll say, “In a minute, I’m prepping dinner.” And then that night I tell him we can play tomorrow and I go to bed feeling like I accomplished a lot on my to-do list, but I missed so many God-given opportunities in the process.

Sometimes, my identity can get lost while I’m switching out all the different hats I wear everyday. Since I serve as the mom, the chef, the maid, the dog walker and the doer-of-all-the-laundry I like to refer to myself as the COO of our family. It is my job to ensure things in our house run smoothly. But that’s my job…not my purpose.

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The reality is, anybody could do my job. Sometimes I actually think a monkey could probably do the job better than me. But my purpose is unique, and consequently far more important. I feel like my purpose is to point my children to Jesus. While I can try my hardest to ensure things in our house run smoothly, there’s no way I can ensure life will run smoothly for Atlas & Andi Rose. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee them the opposite. Life is filled with bumps, accidents and pitfalls and while my job today is to protect my children, my purpose is to prepare them for the sometimes bumpy rollercoaster that is called ‘life.’ If I teach my kids to look both ways before walking out into the street, I’ve done a part of my job. However, if I teach them to walk in truth, I’m fulfilling part of my purpose. But if I’m going to teach my kids those kind of lessons then I’ve got to be connected with them and I’m realizing that those connections take root when I slow down long enough to spend time with my children. But time spent playing ball with Atlas isn’t something I typically pencil in the calendar, which is absurd because shouldn’t I be strategic about making time for the things that align with my purpose?

When I think about the culture we live in, I would venture to say most of us are blinded by busyness. Between the pages of our crazy calendars and being saturated with social media, we rarely get a free minute to think about our purpose. Time isn’t free anymore. I’m never going to be given a free minute. I must intentionally carve out free time if I wish to have it. But it is in that free time where I find I’m more empathetic to my children and to the needs of other people around me – because that’s when I have time to consider my purpose.

I think this concept also applies to my role as a wife. My job is to care for my husband and the home he provides us. My purpose is to love him well, bring him good, cherish his heart and build a legacy with him for our children. But I can get so preoccupied with doing his laundry and washing his dishes that I forget my bigger purpose requires me to leave dirty dishes in the sink sometimes and just sit with him and lend him my ear after he’s had a long day.

I hope this post encourages you, just like the lecture in my Bible Study last week encouraged me. My OCD heart is so satisfied going to bed at night when I feel like I’ve accomplished all the things, but my soul is satisfied only when I feel like I’ve accomplished the most important things…and I have to remind myself daily that those ‘things’ aren’t always written in the pages of my planner.

***

Outfit Details

This is for those of you who are like, “Um, I don’t even have kids and who the heck still writes in a planner when you have an i-phone…I just wanted to know where your scarf was from.” I got you too, girl. 😉

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Sweater via Shop Dress Up// Blanket Scarf (mine is from last year, but the one I linked looks almost identical) // White Pants (can’t stop wearing these because they are SO comfy) // Booties are old, but similar ones are here and here //Clutch

Happy Hump Day, Friends!

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Posted by on Sep 29, 2016 in Motherhood, Serious Stuff | 1 comment

Pep Talks from Atlas + A Random Funny Story

 

Dave has been out of town this week, so it’s been harder than usual to find time to blog. I’ve also had a few things weighing heavy on my heart this week and to be 100% transparent, I sat down to blog several times over the course of the week and each time the tears just started flowing and I opted out of writing.

I’m feeling better today, thanks to a pep talk from Atlas. Yesterday, I was crying and Atlas saw me and hugged me and said, “I’m sorry you’re sad, Mommy. You are Atlas Andrews and Andrews choose to be happy and Andrews are good to people.” I think it is funny that he repeated what I say to him so many times a day when he is crying or throwing a fit or refusing to share with Andi Rose and I think it is even funnier that he didn’t swap out his name for my name. He’s so great.

Anyways, I have to share a funny story with you: While at our Bible study this week, I was talking with one of the girls there about Dave being out of town & we were discussing how we actually keep it together just fine while the men are away & she said, “I always feel like things go smoothly & then 4 hours before my husband arrives home everything falls apart.” THAT totally happened to me. I juggled both kids & both dogs fine (I mean, I say ‘fine’ – I washed my hair once while he was gone & Atlas went to bed at midnight one night, so…you know…), but as Dave was pulling into our neighborhood Andi had a blowout diaper & was suddenly covered in a diaper rash (happens every time she gets a new tooth) & Atlas was mad because we had to go inside to clean Andi Rose up, so I told him he could wait on the porch, which I think concerned one of our neighbors when he walked by & saw Atlas swinging alone on the porch swing (I could see/hear the whole thing from the window inside as I was cleaning Andi up). Meanwhile, I’m rushing to change Andi so I can get back to Atlas & Andi is screaming & then Dave gets home right at that minute & I’ve got poop all over my shirt & I’m sweating & the neighbor is looking at Dave like, “Thank God you’re home because your toddler was outside unattended” and all I could think was, “Daaang. I totally had this until about 6 minutes ago.” Ugh.

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Posted by on Sep 21, 2016 in Motherhood, Serious Stuff | 4 comments

The Miracle is in the Monotonous

A few weeks ago, I was in the gym working out and I just got this feeling of complete boredom. I was going through some upper body exercises and I thought, “This isn’t actually fun. I just did these same exercises a few days ago and I’m over this repetition.” I laid on my mat for a couple of minutes thinking about what I wanted to do next when I got hit with this thought…

Sometimes the miracle is in the monotonous.

I had been doing those same exercises for several weeks, and as a result I had gotten a lot better at doing them. When I first started going those particular exercises I felt physically ill because they were so hard for me. Laying on my mat in the gym that day though, I realized I had grown stronger. Somewhere along the way, I stopped doing push-ups on my knees and moved to push-ups on my toes and I traded in my 8 pound weights for 15 pound weights.

But none of that progression would have happened if I would have bailed on my routine of working out, as unexciting as the routine is somedays. (Most days it isn’t unexciting at all though because it’s my only time-out from motherhood.)

I heard someone say one time that the miracle can sometimes be found in the mundane (I can’t remember for the life of me where I heard that, but it stuck with me) and I think that is absolutely true – especially as it relates to working out and motherhood.

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Some of these training runs I’m doing for my half marathon in November are definitely wearisome, but in doing these dull runs now I’m setting myself up for crossing that finish line later, which will feel like a miracle…but the miracle is actually happening now with every practice run I cross off my calendar.

I know a lot of my friends have asked me if I get bored as a stay at home mom. I’ll go on the record stating that I never get bored. Boredom sounds like a luxury because it alludes to the fact that I have free time. Quite frankly, my children don’t allow me the time to be bored. There is always something to do – laundry to fold, a mess to clean, a bathroom to scrub, a meal to make, a dish to wash, a boo boo to kiss, a book to read, a train set to build, a discipline to be doled out, a toddler’s question to answer, a plant to water, a lego to fish out of someone’s mouth, etc. You get the picture. I’m never bored. However, somedays I do find the whole routine incredibly monotonous and I grow tired of it.

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But then I think that in the midst of all the tedious tasks, a miracle could be happening. Like our bedtime routine, for example. It’s a long one with Atlas. We read a book, we point out different letters in the book, we ask him what his favorite part of the day was, we ask him what he wants to talk to Jesus about, we pray together, we act silly for a little bit, we go over the family rules and we say “I love you” back and forth 12 times. It’s a process, ya’ll and usually it is a process that I love and I try to savor because it is such a sweeeet time with my baby boy. But some nights I’m just so dang tired that I want to skip the whole thing and just say, “Peace out! I love you! See you in the morning!”* But I think I would be robbing myself of a miracle if I did that night after night. I’m hoping all that time we spend with Atlas (& eventually Andi Rose too) before bed will lay a solid foundation for communication that will stay with us through the (scary) teenage years. I want my kids to be used to talking through things at night in their rooms with Dave & me so when they are teenagers who are facing difficulties at school they know that they can trust us with their issues because we are invested in them. But in order for them to one day realize that I’m invested in them, I’ve got to actually invest in them now and sometimes that investment looks (& even feels) tedious.

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To Atlas, I’m just being ‘mom’ when I do his bedtime routine, but I pray that one day he realizes I’m on his side in life and I’m his biggest ally and fan…but I’ve got to lay that groundwork now to experience that miraculous relationship that’s rooted in love & trust with him later…and sometimes laying that groundwork is…well….work.

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So, if you’re feeling over the monotony of your routine – whatever your routine is – I encourage you to think about what you’re doing now as it relates to the bigger things in life you want to accomplish. Maybe the tedious work you’re doing now will pay off big in the future if you stick with it. Or maybe you do need to switch things up – there’s nothing wrong with that either! We all need a change of pace sometimes! That’s why I signed up for my half marathon – I knew I had achieved the fitness goals I set for myself earlier in the year and it was time for a new goal. If you’re bored because you’ve already reached your goal and now you’re stagnant in life, then definitely reevaluate where you are and where you want to be! Just don’t bail on the boring stuff now if it is what’s going to get you to the good stuff later! 🙂

*Full disclosure: For my sanity’s sake there are nights every once in a while where I shower while Dave does the bedtime routine with Atlas and I just come in to kiss him goodnight. This isn’t the norm, but it does happen because sometimes we all need a break in life. So, if you’re a mom, don’t beat yourself up because you sat something out – it doesn’t mean you’re not a key player in the game – you just needed a water break so you could play better later. 😉

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” 

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Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 in Serious Stuff | 0 comments

Consider Where You’re Standing

Happy Hump Day!

A few weeks ago our pastor said something in church that really ‘clicked’ with me. This is what he said…

“The farther you are from a problem, the simpler the solution appears. The closer you are to a problem, the more complex it appears.” 

I keep thinking on this statement and how true it is, no matter what situation I apply it to. Politics. Relationship advice. Parenting tips.

I know sometimes it is easy for me, personally, to look at somebody who is struggling and from my distance think, “Oh – you should just do _______ and then everything will be okay.”

Several years ago, I went through a really difficult season and I got advice from a lot of people and some of the advice I got was pretty bad, not because the people doling it out were bad, but because they weren’t close enough to my problem to see how complex the solution truly was. Because of that particular season of life, I’m not one to hand out a lot of unsolicited advice to my friends when they walk through serious problems, because I assume – in most cases – I’m not close enough to the heart of the problem to offer a sound solution. I can offer encouragement and a listening hear, but I’m slow to offer a “You should ______.”

I feel like this principle is never more clearly displayed than with parenting. Before I had kids, I walked around talking like a parenting-how-to-book. It was so easy to see a kid acting out in Target and say, “Oh my gosh! That mom needs to take that child to the car and spank him and then remind him of the family rules and the Bible verse of the day.” I laughed just typing that out. Parenting is the most complicated gig I’ve ever had and now that I’m 2 kids in and smack dab in the middle of this tornado called Motherhood, I’m surrounded by murky water, ya’ll. When I’m at the heart of the problem, I’m often left with more questions than answers. Like with parenting…I always wonder, “Am I too strict? Am I letting too much slide? Should I make them eat the asparagus or else send them to bed hungry or should I throw some mac and cheese on their tray and know their bellies will be full and call it a day?” (My mom always told me when it comes to motherhood, pick and choose your battles…she just never told me that somedays everything would have potential to be a battle.)

I believe there are some situations where when you provide yourself some distance from the problem, you gain clarity, which is why sometimes outside perspective is so wonderful. People farther away from the issue can clearly see the solution, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t seek help and guidance in life. In fact, in most cases we should seek it.

The whole point of this post is just to encourage you to think before you quickly tell someone you love what they ‘should‘ do next time you’re presented with the opportunity to hand out your words of wisdom. By all means, offer guidance and insight – that’s what friends are for and it is such a blessing. But present your advice with grace and humility by recognizing that you may not be close enough to the heart of the problem to posses the best possible solution. Or perhaps you do hold the answer key, but remember that you’re farther away so your heart isn’t at the core of the issue. What may be a simple solution from where you’re standing (i.e. “Just go to marriage counseling” or “Just file for divorce” or “Just quit your job and find a new one”), may be an excruciating decision for the person in the middle of the problem.

I just felt led to share this on the blog. It’s been a great reminder for me the last couple of weeks so I thought it may be valuable to someone on here too.

In other news, I got in my first official run for my half marathon training plan! I’m not finished creating my training plan yet, but I’m hoping to wrap that up today and share it here on the blog soon.

half marathon training

Whoop Whoop! 5 miles with Ob with a few hills thrown in at a 7:58 pace.

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It felt good and I’m grateful for that!

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Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 in Marriage, Motherhood, Serious Stuff | 2 comments

Stopping for Maintenance

In the evenings, Dave & I usually load the kids in the double stroller and leash Ob & Marley up for a walk around our neighborhood.

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We still love Ob & Marley in an unhealthy way, and I obsess over them getting enough exercise and attention. Our evening walks not only serve as a great outing for the dogs, but it allows the kids to get some fresh air before bed and if the kids are good (that’s a big ole’ IF), it allows Dave & I 30 or 45 minutes to chat about our day. (If the kids aren’t good, we walk in silence while I hand out snacks, pick up dropped pacifiers, tell silly stories and threaten things like no iPad for the rest of eternity.)

I typically push the stroller and Dave holds the dogs’ leashes.

double stroller

I definitely have the harder job – especially now that we live in Georgia, also known as the land of the giant hills, but I don’t mind it because I like the extra workout. But a few weeks ago, our walks were just getting so dang hard on me. I was struggling through our nightly walks and our stroller just felt heavier than usual. One night, I finally stopped dead in my tracks, put the break on the stroller, looked at Dave & said, “Give me the leashes. I can’t push this stroller anymore. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I cannot push this thing one more step – I’m seriously dying. Either I’m getting weaker or they are getting heavier, but we’ve got to switch jobs. You push.” Dave told me I was probably just not used to the heat, handed me the leashes and went to push the stroller. He took 3 steps, stopped, put the break on the stroller and bent down to examine the wheels. He started laughing and said, “Ashley – the tires are flat. No wonder you’re dying – these tires need air. When was the last time you checked them?” I was immediately relieved to learn that the problem wasn’t me, but the stroller. I also gently reminded Dave that checking the tire pressure on any of our vehicles would definitely be considered his job, not mine. 🙄

After we got home, Dave put air in the tires and I couldn’t believe the difference I felt in our next walk. I wasn’t dying – the stroller moved with relative ease and as a result I enjoyed our walk so much more!

That whole little saga, got me thinking…how many times do I do that same thing in life? How many times do I trudge through life, struggling beyond words because I don’t stop for maintenance? How many times do I try to just push through the difficulties, without stopping to really assess what the root of the difficulty actually is? Instead of pushing a stroller with a flat tire, I push through life with a fatigued spirit.

It took Dave less than 10 minutes to fix the problem and put air in the tires that day, and often times I feel like it is the same way in my daily life. Sometimes just taking a few minutes to read my Bible, or a good book, or pray, journal or sip some tea and eat some cookie dough during the kids’ nap time is all it takes for me to feel a little lighter throughout the rest of the day. But I have a tendency to get in these habits where I just work, work, work until eventually I’m like, “Daaaaang, this feels hard. I’m so tired. I can’t push through anymore. Someone else push.” My soul needs maintenance and when I stop for regular tune-ups, I find that I run so much better.

evening stroll

Outfit Details: Sports Bra/Running Shorts (on sale and so comfy)/Shoes (Back in stock)/Stroller

Can anybody out there relate?

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Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Motherhood, Serious Stuff | 1 comment

The Greatest Gift

Last year, my mom was talking with me about the power of prayer and she said, “Ashley – our prayers outlive us. Isn’t that amazing? When we die, our prayers don’t. Our prayers live on.” We were going through the same Bible study, even though we were states away from each other, and we were both challenged to pray big and pray beyond ourselves because our prayers get stored up. Revelation 8 refers to the prayers of all the saints being offered up to God as an incense. I think that is such a beautiful picture. I imagine my own prayers – both the prayers of gratitude that I’ve offered up in the midst of rejoicing and those prayers that I’ve only been able to barely whisper through tears – all being offered up to God in something that is like a sweet aroma to Him. It makes me think my prayers are like a gift to the Lord.

Since my prayers outlive me, I believe my heartfelt prayers are the greatest gift I can leave my children. Prayers that will extend through generations to come. Prayers that will reverberate through my family long after my time on this earth is done, because my prayers don’t die with me.

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With that thought in mind, I’ve been challenged to pray differently. One of my favorite pastors, Steven Furtick, once said in a sermon, “God isn’t a genie. He is a gardener.” As in, we shouldn’t come to God with a wish list hoping that if we rub his magic lamp just right, he will grant us wealth, health and happiness. Instead, we should come to Him knowing that He has planted us to grow into a beautiful display of His glory, but that comes as a result of being pruned. Pruning is the act of cutting away at a plant, so that it can actually grow better. Pruning is painful, but it is necessary for optimal growth.

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So, I find myself praying and asking God to cut away at the dead spots in me so that new life may take root. I find myself praying not that my kids will grow up and be successful, but that they will be deeply rooted in the source from which true success flows. I pray that my kids are known one day by their fruit, not their fortune.

I got this book, Prayers for Your Children – 90 days of Heartfelt Prayers for Children of Any Age, by James Banks and if I could give one gift to all my mama friends, it would be this book.

Prayers for Your Children

Ya’ll it is so good. It has really helped me learn how to pray, not my will for my children, but God’s will for my children. Because it is SO easy for me to want to pray that my kids will be spared from pain and harm and hurt, but I know that isn’t realistic and I want my prayers to count. I want to pray in such a way that it moves God’s heart. I want to pray HIS best for my kids, not just the best thing I can imagine (because I’m shallow so let’s be real: the best thing I can imagine is that Andi Rose marries a super cute doctor and Atlas becomes a pro golfer). I want my prayers to be good ones because they are gifts I’m leaving to my family.

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Ob is like, “You best be praying it rain bacon for me.”

This books is changing how I pray, not only for my kids, but for Dave and myself. I like to read it with my Bible and my prayer journal all out because the book basically prays through the scriptures so I like to reference my Bible as I read each chapter in the book. The chapters are short, comprised of only 2 or 3 pages so it is an easy early morning read or nap time read. Each chapter is saturated in scripture, which is why I like having my Bible nearby. Some days, something from the chapter will jump out at me and sink deep down into my soul and I find myself praying it over my kids at the most random of times weeks later and I absolutely love that!

One of the chapters references 2 Chronicles 1:11-12. This passage of scripture says,

God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people and you did not ask for wealth, riches or fame or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people – I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future.” 

Solomon moved the heart of God when he prayed for knowledge and wisdom and this passage confirms that God’s heart was moved not just because of what Solomon asked for but because of the why behind the prayer. Why did Solomon wish to be wise? Because he wanted to do right by God. He wanted to lead God’s people well. Oh, how that convicted me, challenged me and encouraged me as a young mom. I so badly want to lead these 2 tiny humans God has given me well.  Society tells me I need more money so I can put them in the best private school so they can get the best education because they are going to need that education to climb that corporate ladder faster and make a name for themselves. But what if that’s all I pray for my kids? If that’s all I wish for them, then I’ve sold them short. I’ve robbed them. I certainly hope my kids do well in school. I hope they are ambitious and driven and smart, but more than anything I am praying that they love Jesus. I pray that they run hard after Him and the plan He has for their life. I pray they are wise because they walk with the Lord one day and I pray they choose to walk with him sooner in life rather than later.

I hope my family is blessed by the time I spend in prayer with the Lord. Obviously they reap the blessing of it today (because I’m much less inclined to turn into a raging psycho after I’ve spent some time in prayer), but the thing that gives me chills is knowing that Atlas and Andi Rose and maybe even my future grandchildren could be blessed by the prayers I’ve offered up to God today. I fully expect my kids to go through hard seasons & difficult times, but it gives me hope to think that in the midst of those times, God may recall all these prayers I’ve offered up as a young mother. Even if I’ve long forgotten some things I’ve prayed, He won’t.

Mama's_Boy

*I wrote this post because I’ve had a few people reach out and ask me about my prayer life since it is something I talk about from time to time on the blog. I hope this helps answer some of the questions some of you have asked me about how I pray! My prayer life has certainly evolved a lot over the last 3 years and I expect it to continue to change and grow as God continues to work in my oh-so-messy-heart. Even if you’re not a parent and you’re just trying to figure out how to pray, I think I would still recommend this book. Just pray the scriptures for yourself and it’s a great resource to help walk you through your Bible too.

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**Andi Rose, if you’re reading this relax! My prayers won’t be the only gift I leave you – your dad & I are making a will. I’m also leaving you my shoe collection when I die, so you’ll have something tangible. Atlas, I don’t have any money to leave you because I spent it on the shoes mentioned above.  Juuuust kidding! 😜😜 PS – kids, I’m praying you both get my sense of humor.

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