Friday, March 28, 2014

Giving Them Grace

Fairly recently, Luke has really began mourning for his sin.  It is actually such a beautiful thing.   Here is a story of when it first began.

About a month ago, Luke had been such a good boy all day long--he was truly a joy to be around, as he is most days.  But, as happens with most of us, he fell into sin later in the afternoon when he disobeyed me.  As I disciplined Luke, explaining why what he did was wrong, he began wailing loudly.  This wailing was the really loud kind of wailing--as if he were badly hurt.  Confused, I asked him what was wrong.  I didn't understand why he was crying so loudly; I was speaking to him softly, yet sternly, so it couldn't have been due to the way I was speaking to him.  His reply melted my heart right then and there.  Luke said, "Mommy, I really wanted to be a good boy today, but I didn't."  Oh. My. Goodness.  My little boy had made that turn in the road towards truly understanding and grieving over his sin.  He really wanted to be a good boy, but his sin nature got the best of him.  At that very moment I felt God tugging on my heart to explain grace to Luke.  So, that is what I did.

"You see, Luke, we all sin, unfortunately.   Mommy sins too.  I don't want to, but sometimes it happens.  When it does happen, it makes me very sad.  So, I go to God in prayer and ask Him for forgiveness.  When God sent His son, Jesus Christ to earth, His purpose was to be a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Jesus didn't even sin once, because He was God--He was perfect.  But, he bore the pain of all our sins by dying on the cross.   I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sin, so He has forgiven me...even though I don't deserve it.  That is called Grace.  Luke, I tell you what.  Just like Jesus wiped all my sins clean when I asked him to come into my heart, I am going to do the same for you.  I am going to forgive you for disobeying me, and give you a clean slate for the day.  It is like you never disobeyed me.  Just try really hard not to do it again, okay."

God urged me right there to show Luke the picture of grace.  Little did I know though, that God was teaching me through the whole experience.  After I said those words to Luke, he gave me a huge smile and I literally felt the weight of the sin that he was grieving over lifted.  He was a new little boy.  By going through this experience with Luke, I began to look at forgiveness and sin from the eyes of our Father in heaven.  The Bible tells me that man was created in the image of God.  Also, I know that Jesus came to earth and experienced the same human emotions we experience.  Although I was very disappointed in him for disobeying me, I was also extremely touched that Luke was sad over that disobedience.  Although I am sure God is disappointed when we sin (as it separates us from Him), just as my heart melted when my little Luke cried over his sin, I am sure that our heavenly father is touched when we mourn over our sin and ask for forgiveness.  After Luke cried over His sin and in those tears admitted he really wanted to be a good boy, I just wanted to embrace him with the biggest hug ever and forgive him a million times over.  Perhaps, that is how God feels when we mourn our sin and ask forgiveness. 

I experienced this again yesterday, when once again Luke cried loudly over his sin, telling me he was really wanting to be a good boy.   And once again, my heart melted and I just wanted to embrace him and pour out on him as much love and grace as I had at that moment in time.  Thank you, Lord, for teaching me in these precious moments with my children!

Matthew 5:4:  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

2 Corinthians 12:9: "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Our Austin "Stay-cation"

Ever since I began cancer treatment, my "end of treatment" celebration that I was really looking forward to was to go snowboarding.  So, we had been planning to go this month on a fabulous snowboarding/ski trip.  Actually, we were going to ski/snowboard with a big group of family just this past week.   We decided long ago to go to the Taos ski valley, because it was less expensive than Colorado/Utah/California and within driving distance (which is nice with all of the kids that would be going).   Unfortunately though, New Mexico just didn't get enough snow this spring to make the trip worth it.  With the possibility of closed runs and warmer than normal weather, my family mentioned that perhaps a visit to us in Austin would be a better option.  So, our family had a little Austin "stay-cation" this past week instead. 

My mom and dad, brother (Jeremy), sister-in-law (Brandy) and nephew (Traber), stayed at our house with us.  My sister (Holly) and brother-in-law (Ryan) and their kids (our nieces--Lilly and Linnea), along with her in-laws (Ryan's parents, Wayne and Susan, and Ryan's brother, Drew), all rented a cute house closer to downtown. 

We packed in so much fun each day they were here and had a blast showing them around our beloved town.  We ate at delicious Austin restaurants and food trucks, visited so many parks (Zilker, Barton Springs, Laguna Gloria, Mayfield Park, Mount Bonnell, Zilker Botanical Garden), took a tour at the Texas Capital, took a stroll down South Congress, watched the Bat Colony under the Congress Avenue Bridge emerge at dusk, and even did some shopping and playing at Top Golf.  In addition, we threw in a little birthday party for our nieces, Lilly and Linnea, who turn 6 and 4 years old, respectively, this month. 

Below are just some of the photos I took during the trip.  You will notice that Luke and Abbey are not in many of them.   They were always too far ahead of the group (or moved too quickly) for me to be able to snap a photo of them.  :-)

My sister, her family and in-laws in front of the Capital building.

Abbey's pace was a little faster than the tour guide's pace.  So, she did her own little tour with daddy.

I really enjoyed the tour that we took of the capital.   I had visited before, but never had a guide.  I learned so many interesting things--it was definitely worth the 30 minutes of our time.

We did a lot of exploring!

Jeremy and his family hiking at Mt. Bonnell--too bright for a good photo.
Lilly, reflecting on her last days as a 5-year old.
Tuckered-out Abbey
Cute little Linnea
Lilly and her other uncle Drew
Abbey--exploring at the super-fast Abbey pace.

I love murals---they are a fun backdrop for photos.  This one is great for photos with loved ones...

I will stop with the photo overload now.  We just had so much fun with everyone.  Showing family around your own town makes you appreciate it even more.  And, the weather couldn't have been more perfect.  I really do love our city.  I am still going to go on that snowboarding trip someday though!  :-)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In a good place...

I'm in a good place now...but, it took a lot of growth and fighting God to get here.  Here's the story I promised in my last post...

Prior to being a stay-at-home mom, I had an awesome job.  I mean, a REALLY awesome job.   I worked for an awesome company, in a role that I loved, for a manager that was great, with people whom I loved.  I also felt I was really good at this job.  I had worked my way up through lots of schooling and human resources positions to a wonderful executive level position.

After Luke was born, God began tugging at my heart to become a stay-at-home mom.  Of course, I wanted to be that stay-at-home mom.  But, I also wanted to keep the job I loved....and the pay.  Honestly, my job brought in over half of our family's income, so just quitting would be a very big deal not just for me, but for our family.  But, that is what God was calling for us to do.  Drew was ready to take the plunge.  He thought quitting was a good idea, and told me that he trusted God would provide for us.  But, that was such a big leap.  We had some money in savings, but how long would that last?   I finally decided to go into the CEO's office (my boss) and have a tough talk.  I told him about feeling the pull to want to give 100% as an employee and 100% as a mom.  I told him that when I was at home with my family, I was often thinking of work (I didn't want to) and often at work, I was missing my newborn son.  If I had to make a choice between the two, of course I had to make it in favor of spending more time with our new son, Luke.  My wonderful boss offered a great solution, and Drew and I ended up changing our work schedules a bit so that Luke only had to be in care for only a few hours per day.  That went so well....until our caregiver quit.  When she gave her notice, I did as well--again.   But, again, my wonderful manager offered the option for me to work part time, which Drew and I decided would work.  So, Luke only had to be in care with someone else for a little bit each week.   We put Luke into a part-time Christian private school.  But, God continued to tug on my heart.  It just never quite felt right.  Then, we found out we were pregnant with Abbey.  We prayed about what to do over many months.  But, it was now very clear.  The school told us that by the end of the year (12/11), they would no longer continue the part-time program.  Abbey was due in January 2012.  God wanted me to quit my job.  He wanted me to have complete faith in Him to provide for us.  I quit just a few days before Abbey was born, knowing that we would probably be ok for 2-3 years without me working, due to some money we had been putting into savings.  But then, I would need to likely find some part-time work.  After I quit, I started my own Human Resources consulting company.  I thought this was a perfect solution:  work on my own terms.  Plus, I felt like I was a terrible stay-at-home mom.  I had all of these huge expectations I placed on myself, most of which I felt as if I was failing in.  But, God continued to stir my heart.  He really wanted me 100% devoted to my family--no other roles, jobs, etc.  He reminded me that just as becoming a good employee took lots of experience, being that stay-at-home mom I wanted to be took lots of experience and practice.  However, I continued to fight God's calling for my life a bit while continuing to meet with potential clients.

Our Abbey Lee
Then, when Abbey was only eight months old, I received a cancer diagnosis.  When I received that diagnosis, I decided right then and there that I would no longer live on my terms, but rather, would live on His terms.  If this meant not working, then I would trust His plan.  As I continued to give up control, I began finding more joy--even amidst an aggressive, advanced stage cancer.  I realized that trying to "control" things can actually rob you a little bit of your joy.  Don't get me wrong, I have always been a happy person.   But, the joy that only comes completely from the Lord when you are in His will is just something amazing and totally different from "happiness".

joyfully receiving a chemo infusion

Last year, Luke was in preschool (on Tuesdays and Thursdays).  His attendance at the preschool during the 2012-2013 school year spanned my entire cancer treatment (chemo, surgery, radiation).  He loved the school and his teachers.   But, last summer after the school year ended, God began stirring my heart in another direction--He wanted me to homeschool.  What?  Me?  God, you must have me confused with someone else?  You see, I really don't think I am capable.  Also, I was kind of looking forward to having that time when Luke was in school to get chores done, go grocery shopping, cook, work, work out, or whatever.   But, I was committed to doing His will, so I began exploring it.  I attended informational meetings. I sat in tears at the first meeting I attended.  God was literally speaking specifically to me through the things these ladies were saying.  Words they used answered every doubt or fear I had.   They quoted scripture that was EXACTLY what my heart needed to hear.  All of my doubts and fears began subsiding.  I began to get excited.  So, I elected not to enroll Luke in any preschool for the 2013-2014 school year.  Instead, we would home school.

Fast forward to today.   Although I am shocked at where I am now versus where I was 5 years ago, I am also so content.  I am in such a good place.  I will admit that I really struggled with contentment until I finally decide to give up control over my life to the Lord.   Until I locked into exactly what He wanted for me and for our family, I always felt as if something was missing.  I love being a stay-at-home mom.  I am also now super-excited about homeschooling, and I have a huge list of so many reasons why I am so excited about it.  This will be for another post though since this one is getting so long.  When I reflect back on the journey the Lord has taken me through the past few years, I smile.  So, of course I had to write about it.  I am now a stay-at-home, homeschooling momma.  Whoa!  I want this testimony to be documented for our kids to read someday.  I want them to know that sometimes God calls you a direction that may be one that you don't feel comfortable with, or capable of going.  But, He will carry you.  And, in the end, you will see it is much better than the road you would have chosen for yourself.  You just HAVE to trust Him, and sometimes just take that leap of faith.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

You want to hear something else that is amazing?  When we reviewed our budget before I decided to quit that last time, we came up with an annual amount that we were short (income vs. expenses).  Like I said, we had enough in savings to cover us for a few years, but then that shortage would eventually catch up.   Also, cancer treatment was thrown into those first couple of years.  As you know, cancer is VERY expensive and not something for which we budgeted.  But, here is the cool, miraculous thing:   Drew came home one day from work with news that he received a new salary/bonus that would make up that very specific difference in income we lacked.   That right there folks is acknowledgment from God that He is completely taking care of us.

Y'all, I get to hang out with these amazing little humans every. single. day.   I get to teach them, mold them, shape them, love them, praise them, cry with them, kiss their boo-boos.  No job could be better than this.  It is crazy to me now that I fought this for so long.

While I am at it, I may as well include a little video.  Today, Abbey and Luke were very sweetly collecting the white blossoms that were falling off of our bradford pear trees.  Luke said he was "collecting lilies for his cousins, Lilly and Linnea" who are coming to visit next week.  He thought they would like them (so sweet).  I enjoyed watching the two of them run around and collect the flowers.  They are so sweet together--my heart melts a little bit each day.  :-)  Here is the video:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We might be becoming hippies....a homemade deodorant recipe

First of all--so sorry for the lack of blogging these past couple of weeks.  Life got really busy and I have about 20 blog posts written in my head, but not enough time to post them.  So, I will just post one here and there for the topics that I have photos of (because my writing alone would probably be pretty boring).

Second, I wanted to update everyone on our journey to more natural living (hence the title).  As you may remember, back in January I wrote a post about trying to live more "naturally" and not just by consuming more natural foods (unprocessed, cooked from scratch, with ingredients we can pronounce and keep in our pantry---not in a chemistry lab).   But also, with the skin being the body's largest organ, we began realizing it was important to be picky about what substances get put on our bodies every day.  We have begun purchasing these more natural items, but are finding that ideally, to get the best products, we are going to have to make them ourselves.  So, in January, we began using homemade laundry detergent.  You can read that post here.  The update is---we LOVE it.  Super cheap. Works great.  No harmful ingredients.  What's more to love?

So, we decided to make other products (both for household cleaning and for our bodies) as our store-bought products gradually were used up.  Drew used the last of his Old Spice deodorant, so that was next on the list.   I perused the internet for recipes.  I read tons of reviews about what worked and didn't work for those recipes.  Then, I decided on a concoction to try out.

First of all, this is exactly why we decided to make our own deodorant. Look at this ingredient list in the deodorant Drew previously used:

I have recently discovered during our quest for more natural living that you never want to purchase an "antiperspirant."  Most have aluminum (or a derivative) as their main ingredient and that is bad, bad, bad.  Aluminum is what acts as the effective antiperspirant.  But, it also mimics estrogen in the body, which can really mess up your hormone levels.  Did you know it is also linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer's?  Hello?  Why in the world did a slather that stuff right on my axillary (armpit) lymph nodes--the same ones who were removed because they became full of breast cancer--for so long?   I guess knowledge is power, because I am going to make sure I never put in more of that stuff on my body.  Drew's deodorant was just that---a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant.  So, it didn't contain aluminum.  But, it did contain a bunch of other junk--like propylene glycol (same chemical in anti-freeze) and artificial colors.  Our new deodorant can even be eaten. So, it is definitely safe to be rubbing onto our armpits.

After much reviewing of recipes on the web, I found wellness mama's ( to be the most intriguing.  If you are interested in this stuff, you should really take a look at her website.  She has a lot of great natural recipes listed on there.  Here is the recipe we tried:

Healthy Homemade Deodorant (updated 11/14--I have tweaked the recipe, s0 it doesn't melt, glides on smoothly and is just awesome):

5 T Coconut Oil
6 T Baking Soda
3 T Shea butter
2 T Beeswax
4 T Arrowroot powder (optional--if not using, just increase the baking soda)
Essential Oils (optional--just a couple of drops go a long way if using) (I used tea trea and lavender)

  1. Combine shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil in a double broiler (or quart size glass mason jar with a lid and place this in a small saucepan of water) until melted. Using the mason jar will save your bowl and you can just designate this jar for these type of projects and not even need to wash it out.  
  2. Remove from heat and add baking soda and arrowroot (If you don’t have arrowroot, use more baking soda)
  3. Mix well
  4. Add essential oils (I learned a few drops go a LONG way). Honestly, the deodorant doesn't even need a scent with the coconut oil and shea butter, but it is kind of nice. From here, you have 2 options:   
    1. pour the deodorant into a glass container for storage. Simply smear it on each day with your finger.  (The deodorant does not need to be stored in the fridge.) 
    2. Or, if you prefer, you can let it cool a bit and put into an old deodorant stick for easier use.  This is what we do and it works really well.

Here is Drew's new deodorant prior to putting it into his Old Spice Stick:

We're also making our own toothpaste.  I will hopefully share an update on that soon as well.

In the meantime, I am really enjoying spending time with the kiddos outdoors lately.  I am so thankful for this beautiful weather, and the contentment God has given me as a stay-at-home mom.  Actually, not only am I content, but I am seriously loving it and taking my new job very seriously.  The transition to how God has grown me to be in this spot is worthy of another blog post, because He truly has transformed me.   As I began giving up control and my own "desires, I discovered that what He has for me is SO MUCH better than what I would have designed for myself.  And, He has shown me how Faith and trust in him can truly move mountains.  I can't wait to write about that....another blog post, another night.

I will end with a random photo that will be included in this future post referred to above.
I love spending one-on-one time with this guy during Abbey's afternoon naps.