The Only Thing That’s Good in Me is Jesus

the only thing that's good in meI spent the first 19 years of my life feeling totally worthless. I never had a lot of friends, I was in trouble a lot, I lied a lot, and was often reminded of my “sin” and shortcomings. I was made fun of all the time for everything and I just didn’t think I was any good at anything or for anybody. I always felt like to even be good enough for Jesus, I had to constantly sacrifice and belittle myself at his feet. On the rare occasion that somebody would compliment me on something, I instantly thought they were lying or taking pity on me. When guys would hit on me, I’d get mad and storm off because I thought they were just doing it to make fun of me. I’d been set up and embarrassed too many times and hurt far too often to believe anything positive about myself. I had ZERO self esteem. ZERO. When I look back at who I was then I just get so angry because I spent so much time feeling bad about myself. I hated myself. And not just because of how I looked (although that was a HUGE player), but who I was at my core. I hated who I was because I thought everyone else did.

It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I started understanding that I was worth something. That I wasn’t the mess of of a sinner that I’d seen in the mirror for so long. I wasn’t just the goof off, the class clown, the girl who overcompensated for her insecurity by being obnoxious and acting like she didn’t care what anyone else thought. When I finally accepted that I did care and that I was loved by the Creator Himself, things started to change. I gained confidence in myself and who God had called me to be. I learned to accept that I was created in the image of God and even though I didn’t like who I was that much, there was a King creating and perfecting the art of Kristen. “Can the clay say to the potter, why did you make me this way?” No. She can’t. She just has to try to see the beauty in her mess the way the potter does. But I didn’t. And perhaps I still don’t.

After we left our youth ministry position and moved and things were tough, I went back to my first love, my greatest gift, the one talent I had that no one ever made fun of…writing. It took a few months of writing and pouring my heart out, but then the e-mails started coming in.

“You just saved my marriage.”
“I can’t tell you what your words have meant to my life.”
“Thank you for writing. Please don’t ever stop.”
“You are wise beyond your years and you speak truth into the darkness.”
“This is kingdom work that you’re doing, Kristen.”

When they first starting coming in, I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t even read them all. I started deleting them and Zach was like, “NO! You’re going to need those words to encourage you someday!” But I felt like I needed to write a post exposing myself for who I truly am. I didn’t want anybody to think that I was somebody special. That I was holy or set apart or anything more than just a woman in her 20s struggling with life and faith and motherhood. I cried because I felt like a fraud. The words I write on here are always true, but they’re only a fraction of a glimpse into who I really am. And I’m a mess. A hypocrite. A fraud. A failure.

But I am also holy, set apart, created and loved by the Creator. The fact that I fail does not negate my righteousness or my calling. My favorite cliche’ Christian quote is “Christ doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” I am a 27 year old Bible College graduate who struggles with doubt, insecurity, failure, and worthlessness. Quite literally, the only thing that’s good in me is Jesus. And I love that. I can claim no prize or honor for myself, because without Him, I am nothing and have done nothing. Just know that anytime you look at someone and find yourself feeling insecure or like you’re less than what you should be, relax. Breathe deep. I can’t speak for everyone, but the only good you see in me is Christ within me. I am nobody, He is everything. I hope that truth is always reflected in what I write, in what I say, in how I act, and in what I choose. He is good and all the good you see in me, is Him.

Thanks for journeying with me, friends.

Real Talk.

I’ve never been a fan of pregnancy. Babies. YES. Give me all the babies. When I was pregnant with Jonah, my BFF was pregnant with her third baby and we used to judge each other for our feelings on pregnancy. She LOVED being pregnant. Every second of it. It was the baby coming that she dreaded because that’s when things got hard. That’s when you stopped being able to sleep and eat whatever you want and exist as a human being for a while. But me? Take the pregnancy and give me the baby. We joked around that she should just carry my babies for me and give them to me when it was all over. It’d be the perfect arrangement. But no. You must keep the baby you made and you must make the baby to keep it. At least in our situations. Anyhoo.

My hatred of pregnancy is one of the biggest reasons I was so upset when I saw that positive pregnancy test. It’s selfish and it’s childish, I know, but all I could think about is how sick I was going to be. And now here I am, 11 weeks preggers and completely loathing the process. I’m not throwing up and for that I’m extremely grateful, but ya’ll. My crazy is on another level. I was reading Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows yesterday. I’ve read this book no less than 14 times. I’ve seen the movies at least 4 times. And yet there I was, completely shocked at Dobby’s death like it was the first time I’d ever read the words. I sobbed, yo. Lip quivering sobbing. I whispered, “Why did he have to die? You were such a good elf, Dobby.” And the tears fell on the pages. And even now, as I write that, I feel a lump in the back of my throat. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

Craziness aside, can we talk about  my exhaustion because it’s miserable. I’m not sure if I’d rather be the crazy, exhausted, hormonal, life in a fog mess that I am right now or sick all day every day throwing up and not being able to eat anything. I’ve experienced both and I can truthfully say, in this moment, that they’re equally miserable. If given the choice, I’m not sure which ailments I would choose. My friend told me the other day that I must be collecting symptoms because I’ve experienced them all and I told her it was what I get for desperately wanting babies and then complaining about them.

But here’s the silver lining. I know that God has blessed me with these afflictions so that I can continue to hold them over my kids for the rest of their lives.

You want $20 to see a movie? Hec no. I threw up every day for 20 weeks. You should be paying ME.

Borrow the car? Are you kidding? Do you realize that you were almost born in the parking lot of the hospital and then proceeded to rip my cervix because you couldn’t just wait 10 more minutes to come out? Yea. No. You’re walking.

Prom? PROM? You want to go to prom?? No. You’re not allowed to feel fabulous for another 10 years because I had to lay on a couch for months just trying to see straight long enough to make it to the bathroom without passing out. I went 4 days without a shower once. No prom for you.

Holding a grudge much, Kristen?

You bet I am.

Just kidding. I love my kids. And there’s definitely about three weeks out of every pregnancy that I really do enjoy. I’ll let you know when I get to those three weeks. I’m not there yet, though. In case you were wondering.

Also. I feel like everyone I see out in public is thinking this and I don’t really care. I’m going to rock this bump because it’s probably gonna be the last one I get. Holla.

is she pregnant or bloated

You. Are Not. The Boss.

Dear Three Year Old,

I know your life is extremely difficult right now. You’re struggling with only having one Ninja Turtle action figure, when you really want all four. And Shredder. And Splinter. And every other Ninja Turtle related toy you see on that stupid catalog that came with your $9 toy. You have a nap time and a bed time; that must be rough. You have to be reminded to flush the toilet and you still can’t wipe your own butt. I can’t imagine the struggle. But we need to have a talk. So listen up.

When you were just a little tyke, starting to form words and sentences and understanding more complex concepts, your dad and I discovered the beauty of negotiation. We found we could avoid you having a major meltdown of confusion and frustration if we offered you options and met in the middle. Win-Win situations for everybody. You give a little, we give a little, and everyone was happy. For a while, it worked. We maintained our roles as superior humans and you were content thinking that you’d achieved what you wanted without a fight. My dear three year old, we made a grave mistake. We should’ve never taught you to negotiate. We apologize. Profusely.

Because now that you’re three (closer to four! what.), you’re beginning to perfect the art of manipulation and lying. You’ve learned to make excuses and to negotiate in way that is tricky, deceitful, and appears to be paving the way to a successful career in law. Our parenting has backfired on us. You seem to think you can negotiate your way out of anything. I tell you to pick up your toys and you say, “I’ll play for one more minute and then I’ll pick them up.” When that minute goes by and you are reminded again to pick up your toys, you’ll put up your hands and say, “Mom. Calm down. I’ll play for seven more minutes and that’s it.” And so the cycle continues into every avenue of life.

“No, you cannot have a cookie.”
“I’ll eat 2 carrots and one sandwich and then I can have a cookie.”
“Um. No. That’s not how this works.”
“Ok. 1 carrot and 4 sandwiches and I can have 2 cookies.”

“Time for a bath!”
“I’m just going to bed and I’ll take a bath in the morning.”
“No. You’re gonna take a bath now.”
“I can watch ONE show and then I’ll take a bath.”

I’m starting to wonder when the moment was that your dad and I began to lose our authority over your life. When did you get it into your tiny little brain that you are the boss? My dear sweet child, you are not the boss. You never will be. I run this roost, son, so step out the way. I really hate to break this news to you, but your daddy and I … we’re done negotiating. It’s going to be difficult for everyone. I hate tantrums and emotional bursts of anger and frustration, but you’re going to have to learn to deal with those emotions and I’m going to have to learn to love you through them. And I do love you, kid. I really, really, do. And it’s because of that love for you that I have to do this. You don’t get to negotiate a deal in every situation that you find displeasurable. I don’t want you to bribe you to follow rules and to be kind and helpful and cooperative. These are things you are going to have to learn, whether you like it or not. You’re going to have to learn to clean your toys up without the promise of a reward. You’re going to have to learn to eat your food because you need to not die, not because you really want to get that cookie that’s sitting on the counter. So, kid. Here we go.

Negotiations have been thrown out of the courtroom. Let’s throw down.

Love you always sweet boy,
The Boss.

You are NOT the Boss

Currently

Hi there! Welcome to Currently, where we share with each other what we are Currently up to and let you share your post through the link-up below. We love this link-up, where we can make new friends and build community. I’m co-hosting this week with A Mama Collective. Join us! 

Currently

Thinking about // Grace. I’ve always struggled with extending grace to people. Screw me once? See ya. I hate you. Bye. I’ve grown so much over the last few years and I’ve found the beauty in letting go and truly forgiving and giving someone the grace to make mistakes. But for myself? Not so much. I’m really hard on myself. I push myself to the point of exhaustion and then chastise myself when I give in. Zach is the ultimate grace giver and he forces me to relax and give myself room to be human.

Listening to // Gungor. All day long. The music refreshes me in ways I can’t explain. Specifically this song. For so many reasons.

Reading // In the last week and a half, I’ve been almost completely confined to my couch. It’s not morning sickness so much as just total exhaustion. I haven’t been able to think straight, or stare at my phone, or even open up my computer to answer e-mails. It’s so frustrating. I’ve cried several times this week because I just can’t focus on anything. So I started reading. Real books. In 10 days, I’ve read The Giver, Gathering Blue, Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, and various books in the Bible. Currently dwelling in Esther. I highly recommend transferring your brainless facebook news feed reading to book reading. It’s been so good for my soul.

Thankful for // Zach. Which probably goes without saying, but he’s just rocking this dad of two and husband to basically an invalid thing. I’m practically useless. I try. I really do. But right now, our laundry pile is at least four baskets high, and that doesn’t even include the diaper laundry. Our floor is covered in cheerio crumbs, my “office” (which is really just a kitchen table in the corner of the basement), is covered in play doh, products that need to be reviewed and bills on top of bills. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He goes in to work late and comes home early, changes almost all of Emery’s diapers, cooks, bathes the kids, puts them to bed, brings me random food items that I all of a sudden need immediately and he doesn’t complain. He just loves and serves and is the best at being my help mate. I’m lucky, guys. Really, really, lucky. #blessed

Photographing // Not much lately. I’ve been kind of on an unofficial taking photos fast. I’m trying to absorb moments instead of capturing them. I don’t need photographic evidence of every single second of my life. It’s a really hard habit to break, I confess.

So what are you up to lately? Link it up below, or just leave a comment and tell me what you’re :

Thinking about:

Reading:

Listening to: 

Thankful for:

Photographing : 

Happy Monday, friends!

Easy Peasy On the Road Pasta

Right before we left for our 14 hour road trip to Massachusetts, I got a little package in the mail. I was STOKED. We were getting in the car and it came just in time for my super spur of the moment stroke of genius. Doing the blogging thing for a living gets pretty legit when I can work sponsored opportunities into my life without trying to force anything. This was definitely one of those times. So thanks in advance for supporting me and for clickin away

I was pretty shocked at the response I got on this photo that I posted on facebook during our roadtrip. Besides a few randomly viral facebook photos, this is definitely the most popular one I’ve ever posted. Which is hilarious, cause I was rockin that road trip look with my 25 cent Star Wars shirt. But I was also feeling pretty super mom-ish because my brilliant idea was happening. The night before we left, I went to Target and bought some pre-cooked noodles & italian sausage. At the time, I was thinking we would maybe stop at a rest stop and use the microwave (some places have them!) or we could just eat it cold. I just knew I didn’t want to stop at a fast food place and spend a ton of money on crappy food. But then as we were packing up the van, the lightbulb went off and I remembered my parents had a camping stove! Genius. I packed that thing up, forgot the lighter (thank you stranger at the rest stop for lighting it up for us!) and we were on our way. Holla for saving money on the road and making memories with my family. We had so much fun at this little country rest area in the middle of absolutely nowhere Virginia.

Pompeian Sponsored

So back to the little package I got in the mail … baBAM :

Pompeian Bottle

Nothing too fancy, right? But oh, my friends, it’s so. good. You all know that I’m constantly on a healthy eating journey and one of the major changes we’ve made in our lives is switching butter for olive oil. Everything just tastes better. We put it on every single thing. I’m a huge proponent of eating it as uncooked as possible, because high heat tends to damage olive oil. It loses a little flavor and unfortunately, some of its health benefits. Now, that doesn’t keep me from using olive oil instead of butter when I’m sautéing, because even with less flavor, its a better alternative than butter. BUT I’m thrilled about this new oil from Pompeian because it uses Safflower oil! I won’t bore you with science and details, but combining extra virgin olive oil with safflower oil means that the oil has a higher smoke point which holds the flavor at super high heats and maintains all of the incredible health benefits that make olive oil the best.

So before I get to the recipe, I’m gonna challenge you this week to swap one recipe that calls for butter, with olive oil. It’s really easy to do and you can use this conversion chart to help. I’ve used olive oil in eggs, in cookies, pasta (that’s an easy one), and even homemade bread. You can DO it. It’s National Olive Oil Month, so dare to make a healthy change, eh? 1,000 randomly selected people who sign up to take the challenge will either receive a movie redemption code or a free bottle of olive oil from Pompeian. But oh wait, there’s more! Every week, 5 Pompeian fans will be selected to win a prize pack! I don’t know what’s in the prize pack, but I’m sure it’s legit. So take the challenge! Win some stuff! 

Tracking PixelAlright, alright. Here’s the recipe! It’s really a no brainer, but some of you asked, so here we go!

Easy Peasy On the Road Pasta // When at HomeFirst, you’re gonna need some ingredients.

.1 Green bell pepper (sliced)
.1 Red onion (chopped)
.1 Roma tomato (diced)
.1/4 cup of Pompeian Olive Oil
.3-5 TBS of balsamic vinegar
.Pre cooked pasta and sausage. The brand doesn’t matter. You could easily pre cook the noodles at home and store them in a container. Sausage might be a little more difficult. I’d buy the sausage (or whatever meat tickles your fancy) pre cooked and pre chopped. Saves time and effort on the road.
.Salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients And now for the instructions :

.Saute 2 TBS of olive oil
.Add onion, green pepper, & sausage and let all the flavors get all mixed up together
.When the sausage starts to brown, add the pasta. This is the part that takes a while. Your pasta will be cold and it needs to heat up. Throw that piece of tin foil you used for the peppers on top of the pan to contain the heat and help the pasta heat up quicker
.Once the pasta is nice and hot, add the diced tomato. Always add the tomato last, unless you like mushy tomato.
.Finally, add the remainder of the olive oil (or less, depending on your taste. I say more is always better) and the balsamic vinegar. Stir it all up, realize you forgot plates and forks so everyone gets to eat with their hands off off the little cardboard pieces left over from the pasta and sausage packaging. Or don’t do that. But… memory making, right?

GREASY HANDS!

handsAnd that’s it. I was pretty proud of myself for this little stop and it’s definitely going to become a new LaValley family road trip staple. It was just too much fun. SO. Are you going to take the olive oil challenge? Are you a butter lover or an oil lover? Tell me the things!

*This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian *