Friday, June 24, 2016

#OneSwap: 6 Summer Skincare Switch-Ups

Summer is finally here...hurray!  

With climbing temperatures, many of us need to change up our skincare. Here are the switches I make to my routine for summer:

1) Swap Re9 Day Cream for FC5 Oil-Absorbing Day Cream.

Many of us should switch to a lighter moisturizer in the heat to keep our skin looking fresh, and to protect ourselves from clogged pores.  The FC5 Day cream absorbs any shininess that may occur in the summer, and it contains SPF to protect your skin from the sun.  (In fact, I noticed last week after too much sun, my face was significantly paler than my poor chest and shoulders, where I had not applied any sunscreen.  Frankly, that is more effective than I would expect from a day cream!)  When I have been in the sun too often and feel dry, I add three drops of Nourishing Facial Oil to the day cream and mix in my hand, to ramp up the hydration.

(Are you leary of facial oils?  I was too, but they are such a popular trend that I knew I had to try one out.  When Arbonne released ours last April, I dove in, and I am IN LOVE.  A high-quality facial oil can be used on all skin types, even oily skin.  Arbonne's oil is a sheer dry oil, so it doesn't leave you feeling greasy.  But it does help your skin absorb moisturizer and treatment products more effectively, and I have noticed a serious improvement in my skin's radiance.  That glow is your best summer accessory!)

2) Loose powder for FC5 Mattifying Powder

While I love loose powder for the rest of year, it tends to cake up in the heat.  The Mattifying Powder is silky and helps keep makeup matte all day.  If you have extra oily skin, use this powder underneath your makeup and on top, for fresh makeup all day.

3) Primers and Setting Sprays

Makeup primer is an everyday essential for me all year round.  If you have never used makeup primer before, it a silky face product that allows your skin to stay matte, and it keeps your makeup in place during the heat.  Arbonne's Primer even has opti-light technology, which helps diffuse light off your face, giving you a flawless finish.

I also find eyeshadow primer to be more imperative during the hot temps.  During the summer, eye makeup tends to crease and slide.  Similar to facial primer, eye primer helps keep your eye makeup in place.  I use mine both above my eyes, and under as well.  It will help keep your undereye concealer from creasing too!

When I need my makeup to look perfect all day long for an important event, I bring out the serious equipment: makeup setting spray.  My current favorite is Urban Decay All-Night Setting Spray.  You spray it on after you finish your makeup, and it is pretty much like shellac for your face.  UD claims it will even keep your makeup waterproof while swimming, although I'm not sure I'd believe it that far. It IS hard to scrub off.  Still, if you are going to be a bridesmaid this season, or have a long day in the sun, it is a great summer product.  All that being true, it just can't be good for your skin to waterproof it everyday.  I save this one for special occasions.

4) Stock Up on Renewing Body Gelee, Awaken Salt Scrub, Suncreen, and Awaken Spray

Body Gelee for sunburn, razor irritation, rashes, and taking the itch out of bug bites.  This is truly a summer essential, and it smells incredible.

Salt Scrub for exfoliation, peeling skin from the sun, sunless tanner prep, and everyday shaving.  Exfoliated skin means a closer, less irritated shave, and a longer-lasting sunless tan.  (My tan esthetician always comments on how well-prepped my skin is, and my sunless tans last almost 14 days now!)

Awaken Spray to be used as a safe-for-any-age bug repellent.

Sunscreen. For obvious reasons.

5) Switch Up Lip Gloss, Foundation Color, and Eyeshadows

Despite sunscreen use, most of us tend to become a shade or two darker in summer, which calls for a change in makeup colors.  I switch my foundation shade from Buff to Honey Beige.  I also start playing with lighter and more metallic eye colors, and pinker lip shades.  My summer eyeshadow favorites are Mist, Opal, and Solar.  My go-to summer lip shades are Hibiscus for lipstick, and Larkspur for gloss.

6) Switch to Lighter Body Lotion

Just like your facial moisturizer, your favorite body lotion may start to feel too heavy in the summer.  I can usually get away with the oils left from using the salt scrub, but when I need a little extra boost of hydration, I use a light gel, like the Body Gelee, or the FC5 Conditioning Moisturizer.

If there were #OneSwap I could encourage you to make for the summer months, it would be to make certain that your daytime face lotion has a high enough SPF to protect you!  I know too many people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer lately.  It is SO easy to ensure you have sunscreen on everyday if it is in your day cream!

So, tell me, what summer #OneSwap will or do you try to help your skin beat the heat?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Blame: There is No 'Us' & 'Them'

It's months like this that make it clear how absolutely short-sighted the idea of having five children really was.  

Between the awful news from Orlando, both Pulse and that precious two year old at Disney, a young death in our church family, the Stanford rape news cycle, and unsettling health news on my Arbonne team, the obvious truth that we prefer to hide from has been pushed in our faces, again and again: life is fragile.  You most likely will lose someone who feels essential to your existence.  (And if you're like me, you silently plead "anything but my children.")  Because it suddenly seems impossible that I will get to keep all five.  I know I am not alone in this well-worn path of anxiety.

And so we pretend that we can bargain with the universe-that if we just find the thing that victim or that parent did wrong, we can protect our families from that kind of pain.  We can give ourselves safety.  We can control the situation.  We can know that it will never happen to us.

And it is natural to try to find the fault, the blame.  

To pretend this bargain is real and not an illusion is the only way many of us can remain upright and functional in the face of so much obvious danger.  Because if I spend even a tiny bit if time thinking about what it would be like if it were my baby in that pond, that club, that courtroom, my heart cracks wide open and I am paralyzed by fear.  The world is too dangerous.  Having five children who I now cannot live without was so immensely stupid that I cannot fathom my own naivety and lack of foresight.

And so we blame the victim, the victim's family, because it is the only way we can carry on in the face of our fear.  It is natural, for our brains to do this.  Of course, it is a false promise, a liar's bargain we are making with the universe.

Finding the fault will not protect us.  

But still...

However: the first time you open your mouth and share that false pretense with anyone else, including the Internet, you have made yourself, for that family, part of the very pain you want to protect yourself from.  Why?  Why speak that aloud?  Five minutes before whatever horror happened, I guarantee you those parents were building a life on that same false promise.  If I/Then we are safe. They are just normal parents, probably good, probably not bad, making the best decisions they could with the information they had, just like we all do.  The only difference between you and them is that they are being forced to live the truth that we are not in full control.  They have lost forever the ability to build their lives on that bargain with the universe, because it has become shockingly obvious to them that it was a lie the entire time.  The world is not a safe place.  And they have to keep going anyway.  And all of us, we are witnesses to their "before-this/after-this" dividing line moment.

I know some of you are irritatedly thinking "there is something different between me and them!  They did blah blah blah.  I would never blah blah blah".  Perhaps.  That could be true.  But more likely, you have just been lucky.  Trust me when I tell you, if you have not had your "almost lost something essential to you" moment yet, you will.  If your children are babies, you might not be able to picture a time when something you do will put them in danger, but it will.

When my Amelia was two, she fell into a winterized, above ground pool at a BBQ.  She went up a big tall slide and went right into the water, surrounded by probably 15 adults.  No one saw her.  She yelled when she hit the water, because it was cold, and I looked around to see why she was crying, not particularly worried.  And only by the grace of God did I see her tiny little head sinking in the pool.  I had infant Charlotte strapped to me in the sling, and I was yelling for Seth as I struggled to put her down.  No one was moving, until one of the guys from the farm threw his huge arm down and hauled her up.  Was it his fire department training that made him so much faster than the rest of us?  I don't know.  She was, thank God, absolutely fine.  But I was not, and I am not. To this day, I cannot tell that story without crying.  Because I know I just got lucky.  I did nothing to deserve the mercy we got that day.  It's not because I am a better parent.  If people wanted to dissect my parenting that day in an Internet comment box, after the fact, they would point out:

  1. My age.  I was probably too young to have children.  (I wasn't)
  2. I have too many children.  "See, she can't take care of them all!"
  3. Both Seth and I had a beer in our hands.  Drinkers.
  4. It was during dinner, and I was sitting eating, and obviously I didn't know where my two year old was. Selfish. (We all thought someone else had her.)
  5. I had taken my babies (all under five years old at this point) to a home with an unfenced pool. Irresponsible.
  6. When she did fall in, it wasn't me or my husband who were fast enough to save her.  Didn't try hard enough.

See how easy that is?  That is only me finding fault in my own parenting.  I am sure the public might be able to find ten more things that led to that accident.  And it feels good, doesn't it-To know why? To be able to connect the dots to fault?  To why it will never happen to you?

But don't allow yourself to do that.  You are making a bargain that life will not keep.

If you can, stand with your heart cracked wide open for those families.  Allow yourself to acknowledge their pain, not find their fault.  Sit with your own visceral fear.  Because it is very real. And all we can do is bear witness.  All we can do is keep them from standing alone.  That is the best any of us can do for each other, in the face of fear and pain.

Oh, of course, there are practical things we could be doing to take action, and we will find those things.  But mostly it is a silent true knowing "there by the grace of God go I".  And when we truly know that, and we acknowledge that fear for our own family has led us to blame, we can turn away from that false promise and drop our stones.  We can see it as the liar it is.

There is no US and THEM.  There is only US.

And how then shall we live?

We must learn to build a life in the tension between fear and function, where we know that any minute we could lose someone who is everything to us, and we must go out and live with joy anyway. We must be open and ready to stand with those do suffer a loss.  We must drop the stones of blame and embrace the great power of witness.

We have not forgotten.  We are not pretending.  We will not live in denial.  But we will dance anyway, while we can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#OneSwap: 5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

You guys, Father's Day is this Sunday.  Can you even believe that?  It feels like the summer has just barely started, and we are already hitting one of the big seasonal milestones.

With Dad on our mind, I thought we'd chat about ways to help the guys in our life be more healthy. Of course, they are grown adults in charge of their own health, but I have often found that guys need a little nudge towards making healthier choices. And isn't nice to spend a little time taking special care of them? Here are five ideas to help the guys in your life stay in top form.

5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

1.  Lead By Example

Really, the best way to encourage someone close to you to make a change is to do it with them! Every guy is different, but Seth tends to be pretty happy with the status quo (in terms of our health).  He doesn't usually come to me with big ideas about how we should reform.  However: if I say to him, "hey baby I really need to eat better and get into a good routine with exercising, would you do it with me because I need the support?", he is all in.  Even if I don't ask him to participate with me, I have noticed that when I am on track with my own health, Seth tends to take better care of his health as well.  That is gift of marriage, is it not?

2.  Do the Research

The guys in my life have no interest in spending hours researching ingredients in skincare. (In fact, I don't even think the fact that skincare HAS toxic ingredients is on their radar-their Facebook feeds aren't covered with all the "mom warning" articles that fill up mine.)   They don't spend a ton of time obsessively comparing and contrasting healthy living programs.  They pick what is easiest and most readily available, or whatever their friends use  (Your guys may be completely different-I have friends whose husbands are the ones who feel strongly about ingredient policies.)  If we can take all that research off their plates and boil it down to the most important essentials, they are much more likely to make the switch to a healthier choice.

3.  Upgrade Him

If he has no interest in choosing for himself, you can just start replacing his products with better ones! Seth was a very consistent head-to-toe generic bar soap guy until I just stopped buying that toxic junk and replaced it with Arbonne's Men's Face Wash and this bar soap (bonus: I have never met a woman who didn't love how it smells).  He would never eat breakfast until I started handing him protein shakes on his way out the door, and making hot lunches for the farm.  If your guy loves soda, fizz sticks will help him kick that habit.  Sometimes we can get them something that is very familiar feeling-like a bar of soap-that is actually a pretty serious upgrade to his routine!

4.  Make It Easy

Along those same lines, one way to take special care of our guys is to make it as easy as possible for him for make healthy choices!  What if you packed his lunch for him?  What if you could take five minutes and make that dentist appointment for him?  What if you quietly quit buying junk food for the house?  Could you fill his water bottles for the gym every morning before work?  Could you encourage him to sign up for a race with his buddies?  Could you stick a sunscreen in his bag (I need to do that for Seth soon!).  I would never tell my husband how to eat or exercise or take care of himself,  but I CAN make it easier for him to do those things.  The little kindnesses and acts of service we do can make a huge difference when he needs help starting a good habit!

5.  #OneSwap

This Father's Day, instead of buying the dads in your life a shirt or a tie or even great beer, what if you swapped out a gift that supports his health in some way?  If he is trying to lose weight, what if you offer to do a Clean Eating Challenge with him?  If he doesn't take care of his skin, what if you upgrade him to a safe anti-aging men's line?  If he needs to lace up those sneakers more often, maybe you could grab him a Garmin, or a new bike.  Help him make #OneSwap for health!  Isn't that the best gift we could give them?  I know I want my guys-Seth, my Daddy, and my Father-in-Law-to be around (and healthy!) for a long, long time yet.  All three are precious to me.

Have a great weekend celebrating the men in your life!

Friday, June 10, 2016

#OneSwap: Making Time for Fitness

Before I launch in today, I want to tell you how much your words on my last post mean to me.  I know that both abortion and religion are fraught topics, and as always, you guys are amazing at showing love and grace, to me, and to each other.

We are going to shift topics pretty hard today, to a new series that I am calling "#OneSwap", inspired by this post, which I totally relate to.  There is just too much information out there, too many 'MUST DOs or else,' too little actual authority on what is essential and what is optional.  Every article seems to be screaming about how dangerous the world is.

Well, Mama don't play that.  Are there some issues that we will, in 20 years, realize we should have been more careful about?  I'm sure.  Is every single thing out there going to kill our babies, or us? Phhhhh.  Scare tactics.

In that light, in this series, I am going to highlight some topics that many of us struggle with, and suggest one simple swap you could make in order to move toward a healthier choice.  One thing. That's it.  If you have time and energy and interest in doing more, awesome!  I will give five ideas.  If not, we are going to really boil this down to the essentials, so you know what you really need to be focused on.

Today, our first topic in this series is going to be finding time for fitness.

I already gave some tips on staying healthy while traveling, but what if your everyday life is equally jam-packed?

I get that, I really do.  Five little kids, homeschooling, farming husband, my own business....each day has more to do than I could ever do well.  But being a fit and active mama is really important (to me, and many of you too).  Our kids are watching us.  So how can we make sure we are fitting it in?

5 Tips on Making Time for Fitness

1.  Exploit Your Advantage

Whether you work out of the house, or stay at home, whether you have kids or not, your personal situation has an advantage in there somewhere.  Your job is to find that advantage and USE it.  So, let's say you are a working mama.  Could you drop the kids at the sitter early and exercise before work?  Could you workout during your lunch hour while the kiddos are at daycare?  Could you arrange with your nanny to stay late twice a week while you hit the gym?  Don't say "I couldn't possibly".  Really think it through.  Don't be quick to dismiss the possibilities.

If you are a stay at home mama, your advantage is that you have more control over your schedule (whether you feel like it or not!)  Put that sweet baby in the exersaucer next to the treadmill, get a good quality jogging stroller, or make use of that dusty bike trailer.  Which leads me to....

2. Make the Investment

If you have a busy life, the key to being able to fit in exercise is to have all the equipment you need immediately on hand.  Any lack of preparation will derail you indefinitely, and you don't have time for that. What equipment you must invest in will be different for each of us, but some of my most useful fitness investments are: a good treadmill, hand weights, kettlebells, a used Garmin, exercise mat, double jogger, double bike trailer and bike, excellent workout gear, and streaming barre classes.  I couldn't bike ride with my kids before I bought myself a bike and trailer for the littles.  I couldn't run during the day before I bought a double jogging stroller.  I couldn't run in the winter before I bought a treadmill.  I don't have access to exercise classes all the way out here on the farm, so I couldn't do barre before I bought a subscription to streaming classes.

Your investment might be unlimited classes at your favorite studio, a Y membership, childcare....whatever it is, do it now, so that when can squeeze in fitness, you are prepared.  If you only have 30 minutes for exercise today, that doesn't mean you have 15 minutes to find your running shoes, 90 minutes to research jogging strollers, 30 minutes to exercise, and 30 minutes to shower.  In my world, 30 minutes means I have exactly 30 minutes before the baby wakes up and needs to be nursed (those days are finally passed, phew!), or we need to leave for swimming lessons, or my husband needs to leave for work.  Be ready, have all your equipment together, prepare ahead of time as much as possible.  The happy news is: most of this can be purchased used, for an excellent price, if that is a consideration for you.

3.  Have a Plan, But Be Flexible

If you have a truly insane schedule, it can really help to sit down with your calendar and schedule your workouts by week.  In writing.  You will see where you can fit in a lunchtime run versus where your day is so packed that your only option is a 5am workout.  I find that on busy weeks, if I don't do this ahead of time, that means I will not exercise at all.

That being said, the opposite is also true: allow yourself to be flexible.  For a long time, if I didn't manage to get up and workout at 5, as planned, I decided that I missed my chance and I didn't work out that day.  And sometimes that needs to happen.  But just as often, I could have still fit it in somewhere that day, if I had let go of my idea of the perfect schedule.  Last January, I committed to a "no matter what" resolution of exercising every single day, for 30 days.  And I found that even if I did miss my scheduled workout, I could make it happen in another way or at another time.  I could always find 30 minutes of empty time somewhere, even if they weren't ideal.  A couple of nights that meant I walked on the treadmill in my pjs, but it happened.  Try committing to that type of attitude for 30 days, and see if it sparks a new habit.

4. Find Your Passion

Exercise will feel like just another awful adult thing you have to force yourself to do, if you don't take the time to explore what you love.  I really believe there is a form of being active out there that every single one of us will love (or at least not totally hate).  If you can find what you are passionate about, it will feel much easier to squeeze that workout in!  I don't always feel motivated to run in that exact moment, but you should see me if I don't run regularly-my mental health disposition suffers.  I daydream about running when I am stuck inside.  That's how I know I found my thing.

There are two parts to this:

     1) Becoming proficient.  

It is hard to know if you love a workout if you are still at the beginner stage, where everything feels strange and hard.  Give any activity that interests you a good trial period before you decide you don't like it.

     2) Know yourself.  

Are you super competitive?  Do you need to be alone more?  Do you hate team sports?  Do you love being outside?  Do you have legitimate physical restrictions?  If you are an introvert with lots of little kids at home all day, a loud team sport with a strict schedule is an activity that you will probably dread, not look forward to.  But you could learn to crave solitary hikes.  On the flip side, if you are an extrovert at home with one tiny baby, you may desperately need team camaraderie and some healthy competition.  Maybe a sand volleyball team or Crossfit is a better choice for you.

5. Everyday active

This is especially essential if you really can't dedicate a block of time to exercising on a regular basis. You can make being active a part of your daily life (again, if you have the proper equipment).  I may not be able to ride 20 miles on my bike today alone, but I can convince the kids to ride to the red barn and back, with the little boys in the trailer (and then I will very quickly realize that I have taken on more than I can handle, but consider that the push you need!).  This can double as character training for the kiddos, if you take the time to discuss why staying active is a family value, and how "Wenzels never whine" is a family motto.

This can be true of anything the kiddos do - you can participate and get into it if you are prepared.  I have noticed that I am so much more willing to get really into their activities if I am wearing my workout clothes all day than a real outfit.  That sounds silly, but it is true.  You can burn a ton of calories playing soccer with your kiddos, if you are are all in.  Trampoline?  Get up there.  Playing at the park?  Don't sit on the bench!  Run the tiny park loop around the playground, or use the equipment for a quick circuit of body weight activity.

If you don't already have a fitness tracker, that can be a useful tool to see how active you truly are every day.  Before I had my Fitbit, I would have said that I was moving all day long, so therefore very active.  That turned out to not always be true.  Start with 10,000 steps as your baseline, and see how your day stacks up.  You can compete against friends and see how active you really are!  From there, work for higher step goals.  I have had my days of walking loops around my house to make it happen.

6. Stop Making It So Complicated

So, all this is too much for you.  What ONE thing can you do to make fitness happen?  Start small. Commit to making movement happen, no matter what, every single day for 30 days.  Go buy "Seven", the seven minute HIIT app.  If you are not familiar with HIIT, it stands for "high intensity interval training".  The app will help you, from home, get in a comprehensive workout.  HIIT (also called by other names, like Tabata) has been proven to be an effective method for improving your cardiovascular fitness and lowering your insulin resistance.  If you cannot find the time or motivation for any kind of exercise, HIIT is for you.  Make one swap from the couch to seven minutes per day. You can do it!

Tell us, what is your number one obstacle to working out regularly? Share it with us on in the comments or on social media using #OneSwap!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Faith

The funny thing about being a big family-homeschooling-farmer's wife mama is that people who don't know you (or even those who do) tend to view you in a certain way.  Certain assumptions are made about what you might believe, what your life is like, what your values are.  And often those might be safe assumptions. But just as often, they will prove to be misleading.  I have already written about debunking the myth of a perfect life in terms of "doing it all" (most irritating phrase ever, amiright?!).  But I also can't deny that I have been enormously blessed in terms of a happy marriage and these five sweet children, and so many other things, and that can read as "perfect" to some people.  I know how easy it can be to look at someone else's life (online especially!) and feel like they have a more ideal life in some way.

Mother's Day 2016

But here is the truth:

Comparison is a losing game, every single time.  

Each of us has been given some gifts, and each of us has been given some brokenness, and what we do with the two define our lives.

I have been feeling a nudge to tell you the story of how we became a family. And I have been ignoring that feeling because the idea that anyone would ever be interested in hearing this story seems like total narcissism to me.  But I have also learned to pay attention to when an idea won't leave you alone.

Because this story is one of how obedience to those quiet feelings can change everything.

If you haven't guessed,  I am a Type-A, oldest child, perfectionist.  I have known exactly what I wanted to do with my life since I was about 10, and I knew what I need to do to get there.  I had a plan.  I was good at school. I worked hard. I didn't get into trouble. I had my steps mapped out... through age 50.  On paper. (Now there is a cringe-worthy read).  High school-good college-law school-politics-rule the world-done.  I am not really kidding.  I didn't want children and I was only vaguely interested in getting married.

I had just graduated from college, and I was in my first year of law school.  I loved it.  I had a great apartment downtown Chicago, good friends, and I was having a good time.  Seth was getting his Masters back down in Champaign, and we were in the middle of a maybe-breakup over distance and priorities.  But things were mostly going as planned.

About four months into my first year, I started feeling really unwell.  Like, I thought I got food poisoning. More than once.  Hmm.  And I was a level of exhausted that I hadn't known existed before.  I thought I was just working so hard that I was overly stressed.  (HAHAAHAHA.  I die.  Sweet 22 year old me. Bless her heart. You all know where this is going. I had no clue).  After yet another week where I was whining about feeling awful, a girlfriend in my study group said, "Cheer up!  At least you're not pregnant!"

Well.  About $200 in pregnancy tests later, every one of them agreed that I was very pregnant.

There are a million and one things about the story from this point that break my heart and I would do SO differently now. But I am not ashamed to tell it, because it is the foundation of my entire life.

A baby was not in my plan at all, let alone during my 1L year. So before I did anything else, I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment.  You guys, I had this handled. I was so sure of myself, I didn't even tell Seth before I made the appointment.  (Seriously, it really didn't even occur to me that he might have an opinion.  As in, it did not even cross my mind once).  I called and told him when to show up, and that was that.  I wasn't delighted about it, but I wasn't worried about it either.  I could go on and on and tell you that it was an agonizing decision, but that would be a lie. I had zero second thoughts about it.

The day comes and they do an ultrasound first. Turns out I am almost 12 weeks pregnant, which is on the later side, but still in the "okay to proceed" zone.  Fine with me.  We have to go back out to the waiting room and wait some more. And I am just sitting there on those plastic chairs looking around the room at a bunch of other girls waiting too.  Every single one of them was probably between 14-18, and they were all so alone.  Not a boyfriend, not a best friend, not a mama with them.  Each of them looked scared to death.

Out of nowhere, I felt like God spoke directly to me and told me that we were doing the wrong thing. We did not belong here.  This was highly ridiculous to me at the time, seeing as I did not believe in God, and certainly He had never spent any time talking to me and telling me what to do.  So obviously I tried my best to ignore it, because I was not a stupid girl who acted on voices in her head. But it was absolutely insistent about being obeyed.  So to Seth's total shock, I stood up and walked out.  We got in a cab and went directly to Barnes and Noble and bought parenting books. And I have never even had one second of wondering if that was the right thing.  Not a single doubt, not even one moment where I looked back at my own plans for my life, and wished I had made a different choice.

I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me, and it never left.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I obeyed.  I am terrible at being told what to do, and I am a born skeptic. The idea that God might being speaking to me or have a plan for my life was inconceivable to me.  I knew that I would be seriously disappointing some of the people closest to me.  Even Seth had a few stunned minutes of "what the hell just happened in there?"  And trust me, I would not understand it either if it hadn't happened to me.

When I woke up that morning, having a baby was the last thing on earth I wanted.  When I went to bed that night, that baby was the only thing I wanted.  I can't give a more satisfying explanation of WHY such a sea change occurred...

Except maybe this: 

One of my dearest friends told me later: "My mom and I have been together praying all day that you would change your mind.  I just knew it was the wrong thing for you."  At the time, that didn't strike me.  Now, that brings tears to my eyes.  Because the thing is, there are so many ways you can handle it when someone close to you is acting against your deepest values.  Loving her anyway and quietly praying is such an underrated and underused form of love and faith.

Today, that baby, Olivia Kaileen, the joy of our hearts, turns 11.  


I terrify myself every day thinking about what if I had been stubborn and prideful, and not obeyed something that I did not yet understand.  Because I well know my nature.  It is only grace that saved me.

And I still don't understand grace well enough to tell you it was a sure thing - that, of course, I would have always chosen this way.  But I know enough to tell you this:

He has built me a life of undeserved peace and blessings, on that one act of obedience. 

He has given me everything I did not think I wanted, but exactly what I needed.  I know enough to tell you that the Lord will mess with all your perfectly laid plans, to give you the purpose and the plan that He has for you, if you listen.  And that His purpose for your life is better than your best ideas, by far.  (Consider these: Me leaving my job to stay at home. Having five kids.  Homeschooling.  Being a farmer's wife. Owning my own business. Writing this post.)

This girl is the before-and-after dividing line of my life. 

The point you can look back at and say, "that is exactly where everything changed."  I am so grateful for the mercy and JOY that she is in our lives.

It took me another five years to even pick up a Bible.  

If Jesus is not your thing, I get that.  I really do. And I'm not trying to change your mind.  I don't really think you can "bring people to God" or whatever else evangelism tells church people to do. But I do believe in telling our stories.  In saying "this is what God has done for me, and I can't explain it, and it may seem messy, but there it is."

Maybe you have something in front of you where you feel an insistent push to take action, and I just want to say: DO IT.  Act in obedience.  You don't have to see all the whole path in order to take that first step.  The odd thing is, God rewarded my obedience to something I had no faith in by then giving me faith.  When I look back now, it is obvious to me that there was always a greater plan for my life, I just didn't know it yet.  And I couldn't see it.  Every painful situation from my past has given something that I needed to fulfill my purpose now.  I might not always like it, but I can see how it all connects.

And where I can't see the connection yet? I wait.  

If you are not there yet, stay open.  Pay attention.  Listen to those nudges carefully.

Lest this all seem too simple and rosy, I should tell you that very few people had the same sense of peace about this course of events as I did at the time.  Our various sets of parents were very unhappy and disappointed in us, and at one point some were even fairly aggressive about trying to talk us into making a different choice.  Someone close to me is still so disappointed that I didn't stick to my original plan that they have barely looked me in the eye in the past 12 years.  We were young and broke and we made plenty of mistakes along the way too.  But we have loved each other, and our girl, every day since then and she is deeply loved by our friends and family as well.

If this happens to be your exact situation, know that I am not implying that everyone should make the same choices I did.  If it would help, I am happy to talk anytime.  

It will be okay, I promise.