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Monday, June 30, 2014

30 hours.

After just 30 hours on the market, we sold our house. The process was fast and furious and involved a lot of time at Chick-fil-A and our friends' house to pass the time during showings. But it only lasted for two days, so we really can't complain.

We all know people whose houses don't sell for months, and that reality was definitely on our radar. So we don't take it for granted for a second that God so abundantly answered our prayers for a quick and seamless sale. (I don't want to jinx anything, but at this point, we plan to close August 1. We obviously have a whole lot to do - like finding a new place to live and moving - before then.)

So if I had to rank the things I'll miss about this house, it would go something like this:
1. Our neighbors
2. The garden
3. The actual house

I think because the garden was one of the few things we really invested into this place, it's a bit of a bummer to leave it behind. But thankfully, we still have a month to enjoy a little more of its fruit.

Here's what we've grown (and all from seed!):
Kale
Snap peas
Green beans
Zucchini
Tomatoes (two kinds)
Carrots
Bell peppers
Jalapeños
Cucumbers

To say I planted things too closely together is a major understatement. It looks like a jungle, but at least it's all growing! And sometime in late summer, the new owners will have to dig the carrots out from under the tangle of cucumber vines.
Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement during this crazy transition. It's been a privilege to take big steps of faith and watch God unfold miracles before our eyes. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A really great start.

Were you praying? You must have been praying.

Within 24 hours of listing our house, we've had 4 showings, 3 more showings scheduled for tomorrow, and lots of great feedback. When we woke up, we looked out the window and there were already two cars right out front, scouting it all out. The interest has been incredible. We think we might sell this house before the weekend is over. And that can only be God.

In case you're curious (I know I always am), here are some of our real estate photos. Since we are trying to sell on our own, I spent all day yesterday cleaning, taking photos, making a brochure, and putting it all on MLS online. Whew. Real estate professionals - your job is no joke.

All that to say, this is our (somewhat stripped down, de-personalized) house. I'm still squeamish about putting exterior photos for all the world to see, and not every room is shown, but hopefully you'll get a good feel for the house with these.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Moving. Again.

Tomorrow, we'll be putting our little yellow house up for sale. 

I write that and the reality stings a bit, but the sadness is so quickly outweighed by relief that the hurt can't linger long. (First things first, we aren't leaving Raleigh - just moving across town.)

We've been making it work, the ministry salary + working-from-home salary + mortgage and string of home repairs that we can afford if we both work hard. But when we take a look at our schedules and acknowledge that I'm working during every nap time, every evening after Liam goes to bed, and we have very little family time that's not laden with guilt that I really should be working - we realize that something desperately needs to change. We knew this setup wasn't going to work forever, but didn't realize how quickly burnout would come. It has come.

The change we need to make is obvious: our house. As first time homebuyers, I think we had in our heads, "How much can we afford?" A few months into the experience as home owners, we're thinking: "How little can we spend so that we can really feel financially free?" When there are townhouses or other homes a little further out that are the same size and half the price, that means we'd be cutting our mortgage in half, which means I would potentially have to work much less, if at all. These other homes may be completely carpeted, have dated kitchens, or not 100% our taste - but the fact that we would be enjoying much more time together and not worrying about our house payment makes that all so worth it. (And we can always pull up carpet and paint kitchen cabinets.)

I actually love to work, as I've written plenty about before. Right now, though, I feel like a full-time worker and a full-time mom. With 8-10 hours of childcare per week, working 30+ hours requires a lot of sacrifice. I'm ready to be a full-time mom and a part-time worker. These years are short and so fleeting, and I don't want to spend them in guilt that I've put Liam in front of his third episode of Daniel Tiger so I can finish sewing an Etsy order before the post office closes.

So, clearly, this is a bold step. We're actually going to attempt to sell our house ourselves (without the help of a realtor), which is even bolder.

That's where you come in.

We covet your bold prayers.
Prayers for stamina in keeping our house clean (with a tornadic toddler around) and opening it for showings again and again. And prayers for energy to move yet again. This will be the fourth time we've moved within one year and it's just plain exhausting.
Prayers for wisdom in negotiating a contract.
Prayers that it will sell quickly and that the Lord will provide something else just as quickly. We're open to renting, but Raleigh is not cheap, and it looks like buying something else will actually be a less expensive option.

I feel most sad when I think about leaving our beloved neighbors. It feels so unnatural to have only been here 8 months when we all expected years.

Otherwise, though, I only feel relief. Relief that I'm not going to have to sit behind the sewing machine or the computer for literally hours a day in order to pay our bills. Relief that we might even have disposable income again. Brighter Day isn't going anywhere. I really do love it. I just don't love how much we've had to rely on its income and, in turn, how it's consumed too much of our lives.

This process is humbling and stretching and exhausting. But we pray that through it, we grow in faith, in wisdom, in character, and in empathy when we see others who are walking the same road.

Thanks for sitting beside us, on the edges of our seats, in anticipation for what our good God plans to do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

20 months with Liam.


The question comes daily: "Is he 2?" and every time, it sinks in a little deeper that there's very little baby left. There's only boy. The fact is, he's 20 months old this week and apparently tall and verbal for his age.

Liam Worth is about 20% mischievous and 80% just insatiably curious.
Passionate about animals of all kinds, trains, trucks, planes, and dinosaurs.
Lover of books, connoisseur of good cheese and lollipops, wearer of suspenders, and Curious George's biggest fan.
He's got my sense of humor (he laughs at his own jokes) and his Daddy's appetite. My eyes, Daddy's nose and mouth.
He loves to march through the woods surrounding any local park we visit, stick in hand.
He sometimes laughs uncontrollably when he knows he's in trouble, which is perplexing as a parent.
He's an expert Facetimer with grandparents and friends all over the world.

I'm realizing more every day that my best mothering truly comes through prayer. When we spend time in the morning and in the evening praying together, for listening ears and obedient hearts (for both of us) and gobs of patience (for me), there's a marked difference in the tone and flow of our day together. Whether he understands we're talking to Jesus or not, he gets quiet and serious unlike any other time of the day, then shouts a hearty "AMEN!" at the end.

He is our joy, our laughter, our sanctification. Having front row seats to the unfolding of his days is the privilege of a lifetime. 

Happy 20 months, little love.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Numbers.

Source
I've been thinking a lot about this recently: how our lives, and often our self-worth, are defined by numbers. Perhaps it's the first time in history that a person's popularity is so readily quantified.

The number of Facebook friends
The number of blog followers
The number of Instagram "likes"
Even the number of Etsy sales

These numbers are out there for anyone and everyone to see, and it's sad and embarrassing how much they can define our real lives. Do I get a little sad when I notice I've lost a few blog followers? Yes. Disappointed when I haven't had an Etsy sale that day? Yep.

The quote above - it makes me laugh. I'm not sure it's completely accurate because there are people who make a living off of their Instagram accounts (which just blows my mind). But I think it's true that we all need to calm down.

How do you define yourself?
It might be one of the most important questions of our generation.

Here's who I am, what defines me:
Beloved child of God and in desperate need of his grace.
Deeply loved by my husband, Shawn.
Devoted mother of Liam.
Loyal daughter, sister, friend.
Creative, passionate, and (sometimes) brave.

You notice what didn't make the list? Blogger. Small business owner. Facebook friend to thousands.

Beyond this life, when I'm face to face with the Lord, he isn't going to look at me and say, "Look how popular you were on earth! Way to go." I hope he'll be able to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."

I've taken a major step back from social media recently (Facebook & Instagram) and it's been incredibly refreshing. Still, I find places in my life where these little numbers take root in my heart and need to be weeded out. Perhaps I'm not the only one?

Food for thought.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Praying Life.

I just finished reading A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul E. Miller and I can't even describe how radically it is revolutionizing my prayer life.

Prayer has never come naturally to me - does it for anyone? - and, honestly, an entire book on prayer isn't the first thing I'd choose off the shelf. Spending time alone in prayer often feels forced, plastic, or like I'm just talking to myself. Instead of feeling my true need for fresh, daily communion with God, it feels more like a dry task on my to-do list.

Recently, our family has been going through several stressful circumstances - some of which I'll mention here in coming days. Thankfully, our marriage and family have never been stronger. It's outside struggles that have been attacking from every side.

It's felt somewhat like a desert. Basically, the opposite of thriving. And when Miller writes specifically about desert seasons that God allows in our lives, I read it as if it had been written for me.
"The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you. 
Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring what people think of you. The desert is God's best hope for the creation of an authentic self. 
Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you've been in the desert awhile that you are different. Things that used to be important no longer matter . . . After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert David writes, 
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1) 
The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he's the only game in town. 
You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God's presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart. 
The best gift of the desert is God's presence." (p. 185, A Praying Life)
Maybe this speaks to you, too. Maybe this book would be as soul-refreshing for you as it has been for me. Yes, it's a book devoted to prayer. But because prayer is simply our communication with God, it's truly about the heart of God toward his children - and there's nothing more encouraging than to grasp how much he loves us.

Monday, June 16, 2014

ThredUP. Again.

A few summer favorites: this maxi dressthis pretty blouse, and this comfy casual black dress.
Remember how I love ThredUP? If you haven't heard of it, it's an online consignment store that sells high quality clothing at deeply discounted prices. After 4 or 5 orders, I still love ThredUP and have purchased so many (adorable, clean, brand-name) clothes for Liam that most of his summer wardrobe is now from there. I've also had a bit of luck selling some of my clothes in exchange for cash or shop credit, and I love that they give you that option.

If you haven't purchased anything from there before, visit ThredUP through this referral link to get $15 off your first order, and I'll get $15 in shop credits too. $15 can go a really long way, so this is such a great deal, I just couldn't help but mention it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Liam, at 19 months.

Liam Worth Newby, just up from his afternoon nap and with popsicle in hand, is ready for his 19-month interview:

What's your favorite animal? Bus
What's your favorite color? Yeh-woh
What's your favorite shape? Roaaarrr!
What's your favorite food? Eat
What's your favorite drink? [Waves popsicle in the air]
What's your favorite vowel? E, O, U
What's your favorite toy? Deh-deh (Doggie)

Thanks for your time, little love. I think we have a long way to go.
PS - I think I've ruined him for future photos... this crazy intense smile is what comes out as soon as he sees the camera.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sovereign.

Viet Nam, 2007
God's sovereignty is one of the greatest comforts of my life. 

His sovereignty means that he's above all things and before all things (Revelation 21:6), that he knows all things - past, present, and future (Romans 11:33), that he is in control over all things and rules over all things (Psalm 103:19). Those moments that feel like good luck or serendipity? I believe they can only be God. He's constantly working our situations for his good, for our good. Sometimes it's barely noticeable, and other times, it can't be missed.

Flipping through an old journal the other night, one example of his sovereignty in my own life just blazed on the page.

I was in Viet Nam, teaching English for two weeks with a group from my school. I had become friends with Tran, and on one of our final nights, we rode to dinner on the back of her motorbike through the rain-drenched streets of Saigon. As she weaved through traffic, Tran asked me what I was studying in college.

"The Bible," I responded.

"What?" she asked, and I wasn't sure if she couldn't hear me or if she didn't understand that English word.

"I'm studying the..."

And before I could even finish the sentence, another motorbike pulled up beside us at a traffic light and the woman began talking with Tran in Vietnamese. I thought they might have been friends, as they talked comfortably for a few moments before the light turned green. Before she sped off, Tran told me, "She explained to me what the Bible is. So you're a Christian?"

The lady on the motorbike then turned to me and shouted in perfect English, "I'm from California. Enjoy Saigon!" and sped away.

How had she possibly even heard me? I wasn't yelling, and I only said "Bible" once, over the deafening rumble of a thousand other motorbikes. And she seemed to have appeared out of nowhere: a rare, fluent English speaker in the midst of hundreds who wouldn't have understood our conversation.

I just couldn't take it as "good luck." I still can't. It gives me chills to think about it. And it was a pivotal moment for me to explain to Tran the meaning of my whole life. Tran then told me she had also been to church, and someone had explained to her that trusting Christ was like a bridge from us to God. She had basic understanding of Christianity, but without the woman on the motorbike, it would have been really difficult to bridge that gap with her mediocre English and my nonexistent Vietnamese.

The thing is, I could recount so many examples just like this that have happened in my own life or in the lives of my friends and family. It doesn't just happen on the other side of the world, but in my daily life.

In those moments when I see our bills piling up and, somehow, our meager salaries pay them all... month after month. God is sovereign, and he provides.
In the friends he brings alongside us to encourage our hearts at just the right time, when they didn't even realize we were having a rough week. He is sovereign, and he is good.

I don't understand all his ways and certainly don't acknowledge every bit of his work in my life, but I am so comforted that he cares enough for me - and for you - that he doesn't just leave us to sort things out alone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letting go.

Let it go, let it go... can't hold it back anymore...

Now that I have that stuck in your head, it's a lesson I'm learning daily. And it's one of the hardest parts of motherhood for me: tossing my plans and to-do lists aside in favor of his needs.

A couple weeks ago, Liam and I had more time together than usual as his normal childcare wasn't available. I attempted a couple errands with him first thing in the morning, but by our third stop (rookie mom mistake), he threw a full out tantrum when I tried to pry calligraphy ink out of his hands.

I tried to stay really calm as I carried him kicking and screaming to the car, and thought, Who is this kid and what happened to my Liam? I've found that punishing him for these breakdowns just doesn't work - unless he does something harmful like hitting or biting - so staying calm is about the only thing that does. Eventually, he breaks, and will usually be very loving for the next few hours. Or at least the next few minutes. He's 1. It changes all the time.

What I realized, though, is that the rest of my agenda for the day was just not going to fly. So I made a conscious choice to let it go, and we headed to Pullen Park. If you've been there, you know - that place is magic. Any semblance of a bad day just melts away as soon as you enter the gates.

Tim Keller has often said that, as parents, it's important to address your child's specific needs. He gives the example that if your child is playing with fireworks, you should obviously take them away because they're dangerous - but address his need for curiosity in some other way.

For Liam on this day, his need was for one-on-one time with Mommy, to run off his 19-month-old energy, and to play independently in a place where I didn't have to tell him "no" every 10 seconds. Isn't that every toddler's need from time to time?

So we rode the train, we played in the sand and water (not ideal for those without a towel), rode the carousel and ate blueberry-hibiscus popsicles. Then we raced back home when our neighbors texted, "Want to play in the sprinkler?" His face said it all: his heart was full, his needs met. He's just recently started saying, "Taaank yooo!" and I bet I heard it a hundred times that day.

Does it mean that every day with Liam is an all-day play day? Where we just drop all our plans and head to the park? Of course not. That's not real life. But some days, it means exactly that. It means putting his needs - even if it's a need to ride carousels and eat popsicles and play in sprinklers and stomp in puddles - first. And the joy I feel when seeing his needs met is uncannily good.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blogland.

Source
Are you a blog reader?
Ok, well obviously you technically are if you're reading this post. But are you one of those who's loyal to just a handful of blogs - or one who loads her feed list with over 100?

Soon after we got married - when I started this blog back in 2009 - I would have put myself in the "avid blog reader" category. I probably had 10 to 15 blogs I would check regularly, at least skimming every new post. But I quickly found I was reading real books less and less - including my Bible - and something had to change.

So today, I've whittled it down to 2 blogs I read regularly (good friends' blogs) and I check a handful of others on occasion. The other time I spend online, I'm usually updating Etsy, checking my email, or reading the news.

But in case you're looking for some good reads, I wanted to share a few recommendations. Of course, I can't endorse every word on every page of each of these blogs. But I love the overall tone and message of each of these for different reasons. Just to keep things simple, I haven't included any blogs of my friends in real life. I just happen to admire these from a distance.

Summer Harms for whole food recipes and godly encouragement for marriage and motherhood.

Hello from the Natos for honest, thought-provoking theological posts and great interior design.

Grand Design Co for a handy mom who loves vintage pieces and turns everything she touches to gold. (She posts very infrequently these days, but her archives are a treasure of ideas.)

Where My Heart Resides for beautiful writing and photography that capture life with her son.

Tilly and the Buttons for a British sewing fix (I can't wait until her beginning dressmaking book is available in the States!).

Want to share some of your blog favorites in the comment section? I have a feeling other readers would love to know (and so would I!).

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Will Follow.

This week has been long.
Heavy on work, short on time, high on emotions, low on rest.
Have you had one of those, too?

This (new to me) song by Jon Guerra was the perfect way to usher me into a spirit of gratitude this afternoon. Shawn and I had the privilege of going to college with Jon and being led in worship by him quite a bit, so this felt like a little piece of home and a little piece of hope.
I hope you're encouraged by it, too. Turn it up, close your eyes, and breathe. Here's to a wonderful, relaxing weekend.

Also, Jon just released his newest EP and you can find and purchase it here: Glass - EP

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My go-to lunch.

I haven't always been in the habit of eating healthy lunches. But I've found that when I make the conscious effort to do so - instead of just popping a frozen pizza in the oven - my afternoon becomes immeasurably more productive. I also think I'm much more likely to make a healthy dinner if I've already eaten a healthy lunch.
For the past year, these lentil tacos have been my go-to meal on at least 2-3 days a week. I try to keep the ingredients readily available so they take less than 5 minutes to make, and they can be easily changed up from time to time. These also transport well in a packed lunch for work or a picnic.

I found every ingredient for these at Trader Joe's, where they stock delicious jalapeño hummus, the best cheddar cheese I've ever tasted (called "Unexpected Cheddar"), and pre-cooked lentils (found in the refrigerator section near the produce). These items are on my weekly grocery list because they make such an easy lunch and can obviously be used for lots of dinner ideas, too. This meal is also gluten-free and can easily be made dairy-free, too, by nixing the cheese.

Lentil Tacos
Ingredients:
Corn tortillas
Lentils - you can cook your own or buy them pre-cooked
Jalapeño hummus - I'm pretty sure this one ingredient makes all the difference in flavor for this meal
Cheese - I like "Unexpected Cheddar" from Trader Joe's
Cherry tomatoes
Ripe avocado
Green onions

How to:
1. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of lentils per taco (either in the microwave or over the stove) until steamy. Heat the tortillas until soft.
2. Slather each tortilla with a generous tablespoon of jalapeño hummus.
3. Add warm lentils, sliced avocado, green onions, cheese, and whatever other topping you choose.
4. Enjoy!

Extra points for:
+ Grilling the tortilla (!!!) before adding ingredients
+ Adding a dollop of salsa or sour cream, and chopped cilantro
+ Drizzling with sriracha sauce for extra heat
+ Squirting fresh lime juice on top
+ Drinking Lemon flavored La Croix sparkling water

Monday, June 2, 2014

Overheard.

Liam and I spent the weekend in Ohio, celebrating my cousin's beautiful wedding. As I got dressed one morning, I listened to my grandparents chatting in the other room:

Grandpa: You know, you are one of the prettiest girls in town.
Grandma: That's not always what I see when I look in the mirror.
Grandpa: Oh, there's no doubt about it. You're one of the prettiest girls in town. And that comes from my heart.

Alzheimer's disease has stolen so much from him - even the recognition of his wife on many days - but deep down in the recesses of his mind, there's a redeeming thread of affection for his bride of over 60 years that can't be peeled away.