Best. Weekend. Ever.

My brain is filled to the brim and my journal is covered in thoughts, quotes, and prayers. Influence Conference was just so good for me. I could easily write an entire week’s worth of posts based only on the incredible friendships, truths, and experiences that were crammed into a three day trip. But I won’t do that. I’ll just do a little re-cap for you and then we’ll talk about all the nitty gritty details later.

First. The friendships.

You guys. I can’t even describe the unearthly bond my roomies and I experienced immediately upon meeting for the first time. Besides Christie and I, none of us had met in person, so things could’ve been really awkward. I was secretly praying it wouldn’t be a total train wreck. But it was absolutely the opposite. When Cassie walked into the hotel room, the party started and it didn’t stop until Sunday morning when we parted ways. We were meant to be. We started the hashtag #ecumenicalfriendships because apparently Catholics and Protestants can cross the line of friendship into sisterhood and it’s such a beautiful and amazing thing. I love my little Catholic buddies and I’m so, so, thankful for our friendship. I really could write an entire post about my love for them, but that would be weird so I’m moving on now. But first. We all need to just be aware that this happened :

But don’t think we just kept to ourselves. We made new friends, met up with some other online faces that we hadn’t had the chance to squeeze in person yet and basically just brought the party with us wherever we went.

franz

So basically if nothing else was awesome about the entire weekend, the friendships I made would’ve been enough for me to come back and say, “Yea. That was 100% worth it.” But the friendships were just the beginning. The messages, the speakers, the vibe of the whole event, it was just absolutely saturated in love and Jesus and all the things that I hadn’t realized my soul was needing desperately. I’ll be sharing a little more about those thoughts as they become more than just a mumbled mess in my brain, but I’m excited for the direction and clarity God seems to be giving me these days. Really excited. And a little bit scared. But good things. Really good things.

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AND THEN THERE WAS JEN LULA. I’m not a fangirl typically. I’ve met some people in my day and I’m just not one of those “Oh mah god it’s YOU” type of girls but then there’s Jen. She was the first blog I ever started following and that was back in 2011 when I was a new mom and she was just totally cool. So I was pretty excited to sit in her class and listen to her share her little Jesus loving blogger’s heart. Most of her talk was about working with brands, which was great, but I’m kind of past that now, so that wasn’t the part of her talk that got me. It was when she started talking about her priorities. She said her blog, as successful as it’s been, is the last on her priorities list. She hasn’t blogged regularly or consistently in a while and that’s because her full time job is to be there for her family. As soon as she started talking about her priorities, I got a check in my little convicted heart. My priorities have been WAY out of wack. Embarassingly so. And I’m correcting that as of today. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was open up my Bible. I can’t remember the last time my Bible was a priority. I’m so thankful I was sitting in her class and that she felt the need to talk about her priorities. It’s rocked my world. Jen Lula you’re my hero. Sorry for being awkward in the elevator.

I keep trying to sum up the thoughts and knowledge that I walked away from this conference with, but I can’t seem to find the words right now. I’m just really thankful for this conference, the friendships, the rest, the team of women who worked so hard to put the whole thing together, and that I was able to attend. I’m certain I’ll be sharing more with you throughout the next few weeks and you can expect some big changes around here.

Speaking of changes, what do you think of the new site design?? It’s still a work in progress, but I’m feeling this updated look for reals. Anyhoo. It’s Monday. I need to get back into the swing of things and feed my kids or something. Love you all!!

Just a few of the blogger lady friends in these photos :

Jenna || A Mama Collective
Christie || Letters from the Nest
Cassie || Kent Heartstrings
Kristel || Glowing Light 
Holly || Cartwheels Down the Hall
Frances || The Living Letter Chronicles 

When Your Love Story Isn’t Perfect

I write a lot about mine and Zach’s relationship, and I probably always will. We have something special and we are well aware of how blessed we are to have found each other at such a young age. Zach is my best friend, my soul mate, my absolute everything. I’d be lost without him. For real. And I think that’s a good thing. Our lives and our hearts are so wrapped up into each other that it would take a lot … and I mean something catastrophic and extreme … to rip us apart.

Are you done gagging yet? Ok good. I’ll carry on then.

Our relationship is great now, but it wasn’t always. In fact, by all logic and reason, we should have never made it to the dating stage. Not through the dating stage … to the dating stage. Zach broke up with me before we were even officially together. I was a psycho overly attached non girlfriend that called him 14 times in a row until he picked up. He was struggling with feeling like he was breaking a vow he made to God not to date for a year and I was struggling with getting over a toxic two year relationship that destroyed all my self worth. We were a mess, but for some reason, we fell in love and decided to make things official and then everything was better and we lived happily ever after.

When Your Love Story Isn't Perfect

Except that’s a total lie because things just got messier and messier. About two weeks after we made things official, I took off to Paraguay and he took off to Ohio for our summer internships. That was our first awesome decision : to begin a relationship thousands of miles apart. Good job, guys. We almost broke up twice before I even got on the plane. Once I was in Paraguay and he was in Ohio, things got worse. He thought maybe God brought him to Ohio to meet his future wife. I thought maybe God brought me to Paraguay to test my patience with this boy because he was throwing some serious shade. Our relationship was 95% on instant messenger and that was all we had to keep in touch. Every now and then I’d walk to the store and use my calling card to talk to him, but that was rare and it almost always ended in a fight because, as previously stated, I was psycho. If he had to get off the phone before I felt like the appropriate love emotions had been communicated, I’d go ballistic. Poor guy…

That summer was crap. We almost broke up more times than I can count. We spent hours on instant messenger talking about all of our insecurities about our relationship, our fears, our failures, our ugly feelings and all the bull crap that people don’t usually confront until they’re engaged or married. We just took it right on. He told me he was doubting our relationship and I told him I was doubting him. We didn’t work stuff out until the summer was over and we were face to face again. And even then, things were messy.

Our relationship was always messy. Always. And if it wasn’t enough that we were struggling with finding our identities, our callings, trying to figure out if our relationship would ever work, we had a pretty painful departure from a youth group we were working with, someone on staff at our school decided to tell a few people that they thought Zach and I were fornicatin’ and it pretty much just crushed me. Cause we weren’t. Not even close. I was lucky to get a make out session once a semester cause Zach was just always so careful and respectful of the boundaries we’d set up. So for someone to say we were doing the hanky spanky when we’d never even wandered below the neck line was just … well. It sucked.

As all the crap was happening, and daggers were being tossed, and rumors were flying, our fights got worse and my doubts grew heavy. And then … like a break in the clouds … I was sure. On our one year anniversary, Zach got down on one knee and asked, “Can I keep you?” And then I was unsure. And then I was sure. And then I was unsure. And then I was sure.

And then our wedding day came and when the doors opened and I saw him standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me, I was never more sure of anything in my life before or since. Until that day, our relationship was held together by strands, it seemed. We were young and immature and we were both a mess. But after we said our vows and signed a paper and finally got our hanky spanky on, our relationship was golden. And every day, our relationship is better than the day before.

Sometimes things still get a little messy. We’ve had our fair share of dark days and long nights. We’ve gone days without really talking to each other, and we’ve had times where even the idea of intimacy of any kind is just a joke. Things have been bad, but even when they were bad, we were good. Since the day I said “I Do”, I’ve never doubted our relationship. Not for a second.

I think a lot of women (and maybe guys too) think that love has to be this Twilightesque perfect thing. And maybe that if your man isn’t sweeping you off your feet every day, he doesn’t really love you, or is cheating on you, or has a secret alternative wife and family somewhere in Canada. But love is messy, ya’ll. It doesn’t always start off pretty. If it does start off pretty, it’s not going to stay pretty. If it stays pretty, somebody is hiding something. If somebody’s hiding something, that doesn’t mean the love story is over. When your love story isn’t perfect, just try and remember that it’s probably because people aren’t perfect. But your story can still be incredible. Ours is.

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Eventually, the Comparison Game Has to Stop

When a female is being formed in the womb, God puts all kinds of amazing things to work. He shapes her personality, her quirks, her strengths and weaknesses, her features, and her imperfections. He steps back and says, “Yep. That’s good.” And then the baby girl is born and then she is a child and then all of a sudden she’s a pre-teen and the devil himself comes in and says, “Woops. God forgot something.” and he puts this little, tiny, microscopic black hole in her heart and calls it Comparison. Because the devil knows that the easiest, most subtle way to destroy a girl’s worth is to trap her into comparing herself to other people.

I’ve compared myself to someone else my.entire.life. There was brief period of time when I was pretty self confident and had a pretty good idea of who I was, but then I got pregnant and everything changed. I started comparing my pregnancy to others and somehow I always came up lacking. And then Jonah was born and all of a sudden I wasn’t good enough. I’d watch what other women were doing and I’d either judge them for being a worse mom than me or I’d hang my head in shame for failing my kid in so many ways. I’d see super crafty moms doing their pinterest amazing things and I’d think, “My kid is missing out because I don’t make toilet paper caterpillars with him.” And then I’d see moms not doing anything crafty with their kids, but taking them outside an hour every day regardless of the weather and I’d be all, “Well there goes my child’s sense of independence and adventure cause I’ll be darned if I’m going outside when it’s snowing.” It didn’t matter what the other mom was doing or not doing, my self worth was so low, that no matter what, my motherhood was always worse than everyone else’s.

Eventually the Comparison Has to Stop || When at Home

So I started copying other people and trying to be something that I wasn’t and that always left me empty and feeling inadequate. When we uprooted our lives and moved to Knoxville, I was completely and totally alone. I went from having several mom friends to having zero. It was tough, but getting away from all the people that were influencing my motherhood helped me stand on my own two feet and figure things out on my own. I didn’t have anyone to compare myself to. There was just me.

Here’s what I know. As long as you are comparing yourself to someone else, you will never be good enough. You will always feel inadequate and no good things will come from it. Even if in your comparison to someone else, you find that you’re the better person, better mother, better human, whatever…those seeds of comparison and judgment will take root and grow into something uglier than you could ever imagine. Comparison can breed all sorts of negative things and has no place in the heart of a woman.

So eventually, it has to stop. Whether your comparison drives you to judge harshly or to constantly berate yourself, stop. You can’t be more than who you were created to be and the effort will hurt you more than it will help you. It doesn’t matter that you don’t look like or act like whoever it is you’re comparing yourself to. Just do you and you’ll find yourself breathing deeper, feeling more at peace, and enjoying life a lot more. And when you inevitably mess up at something … girl. Just laugh about it. Embrace your imperfections because they’re what make you who you are. 

I will never be a pinterest queen. I will very rarely put aside my own discomfort with uncomfortable weather for the sake my children’s childhood. But I’m pretty kick A at being me, and so far my kids seem to be doing ok. Sometimes I’ll look at them and think to myself, “How bad am I screwing you up right now and how much should I be setting aside for therapy?” But guess what? Even the super-crafty-has-it-all-together-mom who is my worst nightmare is screwing her kids up in some way and she’s probably just as terrified and insecure as I am.  Right?

So Comparison can go play somewhere else. I don’t have room for it in my life.

To the Girl Who Breaks His Heart

Jonah is in love. He’s been in love before, but not like this, and if he is anything like his father was as a child, we’re in for a long line of true loves. (Zach was mad girl crazy before I came along, but we won’t go into that right now.) This particular girl that Jonah is in love with is named Ashley. She’s this bubbly little blonde, gorgeous, in her 20’s and recently married. Please don’t think that Jonah cares about any of that. He does not. As my friends and I used to say, “Those are just minor details”.

You should see how his face lights up when someone mentions her. His eyes go all glossy and he looks at you, but he’s not really looking at you, because he’s thinking about her. And when I catch him in a moment of awe, I must have that annoying mom look of adoring his innocent heart because he gets all weird and smiley and hides his face and says, “Stop lookin at me like that!” So I know. He’s in love and it’s as real as it can be for a three year old.

Which has me thinking about future girlfriends and how much I’m going to hate them. Let’s just state, for the record, no girl will ever be good enough for either one of my boys. EVER. Sorry, future daughter-in-laws. I’d love to tell you that I’m praying for you and that I can’t wait to meet you, and that I’m so happy for my sons to have found you, but if I’m being honest, I’m already plotting against you. You’re going to need to prove yourself, woman. But this isn’t about you.

To the Girl Who Breaks His Heart

This is about the little heart breaker that’s going to make my little boy sad. That girl that will make him listen to sad songs and pretend he’s not hurting, but then secretly he’ll go write a song about how he’ll never love again. I remember when my older brother suffered his first heart break. I remember, clear as day, the look on his face when he told us that she broke up with him. I wanted to slap her stupid pretty face. So if I cared that much about my brother’s heart, whoever breaks either one of my boys’ hearts is going to have hell to pay. Little jerk.

To the Girl Who Will Break My Son’s Heart For The First Time,

I know that this is a necessary part of life. We’ve all been there. I’ve been the recipient of many a broken heart, but I’ve also been the breaker, which is what gives me the authority to speak to you on this matter. I don’t like you, because I know how girls work and girls are mean. You will make my son fall head over heels for you and then you’ll need “space”, which is really just a euphemism for “I’m bored and this other guy is really cute”. You’ll say some bull like “let’s always be friends” and if you’re one of the “nicer” breed, you’ll smile and be nice to him at school, and you won’t rub it in his face that you broke his heart. But you won’t be the one that has to watch him experience the pain from a broken heart for the first time. And even if you did have to see that train wreck, you won’t really care because you’re not his mom. Which is good. Because that would make things weird. But I digress.

You didn’t cry every time you heard his heart beat when he was a growing little fetus in the womb. You didn’t wipe his tears or hold his hand or kiss his boo boos. (You better not have ever touched him with your lying lips, girl. For real.) That was MY job and I was stinkin good at it. So you’ll have to understand, that this is a little difficult for me, because for the first time in my (and his) life, I can’t fix this. I can’t buy him enough ice cream to heal the pain that the end of your relationship (however brief) has caused him. And that ticks me off. Even right now, as I write this, and he his years and years and years away from ever having his heart broken, I’m already boiling with anger over a situation that has yet to happen. I’m trying not to hate you, as you are just a child at the moment, but I kind of do. Do you know how hard this is for me, girl? The thought that someday my little boy will have to learn to navigate heartbreak on his own just kills me a little.

So forgive me if I ever give you the stank eye. Forgive me if I snub your mom at church because, clearly, she did not raise you right. You’ll have to forgive my other children also, as they’ll be just as done with you as I am. Eventually, I will start acting like an adult again and I will move on from this heartbreak, but probably not until a little while after my son does. Because mama wrath is a real thing and it shows no mercy. But eventually, we’ll all bounce back from this little situation and one day my son will find a new love of his life and your heart break will be a distant memory. So maybe I should thank you because you’ve prepared him a little bit for the mess of emotions that is falling in and out of love.

But I’m not going to thank you. I’ll let his future wife do that.

Sincerely,
Not Your Future Mother In Law

14 Week Bumpdate

Second trimester what. UP. I figure it’s about time to get to non-sickness pregnancy related things. I finally have something to show for the last 14 weeks of my life and I’m gonna flaunt this bump as much and as often as I can. It’s most likely the last bump I’ll ever rock, so I’m going to really try to relax and enjoy every nuance of this pregnancy.

that bumpdate

I’m starting to actually feel really good. I don’t feel sick at all anymore, but I’m still dealing with the non stop exhaustion. I’m learning to just push through it and keep on moving. Occasionally I have enough energy to dance, but I always pay for it later.

I went in for my monthly appointment on Monday, and I don’t know what it is, but I’m always really nervous the day of the appointment right up until I hear the baby’s heartbeat. It’s like all of a sudden the fear of losing the baby is so tangible, I’m almost convinced that it’s inevitable. So of course at this particular appointment, it took the midwife a little longer than usual to find baby’s heartbeat. But find it she did and there’s really no greater sound in the world than the sound of your baby’s heartbeat. It’s beautiful.

And then I canceled our gender scan . Yup. It’s done. We’re not finding out if this baby is a guy or a gal until their grand entrance. We’re stoked about it. I’m surprised at how OK we are with waiting. Maybe it’s because this pregnancy is already flying by, but it just doesn’t seem like a big deal to wait. The only thing different I’d be doing if I knew what the baby was going to be would be sewing up some blankets and if it’s a girl, some little baby dresses. BUT all that will just have to wait until March. The thrill of the wait is really what’s got me super excited about this pregnancy. It’s going to be so much fun. 

14 week bumpdateSo that’s the bumpdate and now I need your brains. This is my second pregnancy as a blogger, but my first pregnancy as a blogger that actually has followers so I need your opinions and ideas. What would you like to see on the blog as far as pregnancy and baby related things go? Maternity style tips and ideas? Giveaways? Baby product reviews and giveaways? Should I bring back cloth diaper posts? Tell me anything and everything you’d like me to write about and I’m on it. I’m thrilled to share this journey with you all, but I also don’t want to do pregnancy overkill. Let me know your thoughts, ya’ll!