big changes: part 1

green leafed trees
Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

In past posts, I’ve hinted that there are big changes in my life. I’m finally ready to start sharing about those changes! This is the first in a series I’m calling “Big Changes.” Each month I’ll share one of the changes happening, starting from smallest to biggest. Okay, ready for the first one?

I’m selling doTERRA!

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a big sales pitch here. I’m just sharing my experience and vision.

I signed up for doTERRA in May of 2018 after attending a class. I had used essential oils for 10 years, but I had always bought inexpensive ones. I didn’t understand how important it is to get the purest, but I think I knew deep down because I rarely used them on me or the children. I just used them in my cleaners. Once I signed up with doTERRA, I started using the oils in all the ways: defusing, topically, and internally. I finally felt empowered as a mother to take care of my children’s scrapes, bumps, rashes, and allergies (to name a few) without turning to medicines. Not only that, I started taking doTERRA’s supplements and I really started to feel like super-mom. I had more energy and was much more emotionally stable.

During the class I specifically thought, “I could never sell these.” But after a few months, I wanted to! I felt so changed and inspired. Also, there is a lot of potential and I was inspired to help my husband come home so we would work together on the flower business and being self-sufficient. So I signed up!

I wasn’t ready to do big classes and for a long, long time, I didn’t do anything. But I was learning and praying. Just last month, I signed up my first customer! It was my sister-in-law and it was a very natural process. She asked me about things and I answered. She was looking for products to help her and doTERRA had them! It was exactly what I’d been praying for – a situation where it comes up naturally and I have the courage to share. I’m praying for more situations like that.

I certainly don’t want to be “in your face” about my doTERRA  obsession, but I will be sharing more on here about how I use their oils and hopefully share a recipe here and there. And, of course, if you are interested in essential oils or looking for the absolute best supplements out there, please consider me your girl and reach out!

I’ll be back next month to share another big change! Thank you so much for following along here.

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spring reflections

As we move swiftly into June, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past few months. We’ve had a lot going on, and the kids are growing and changing so much. I don’t do this often enough. It’s not really for you, it’s for me, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

A couple housekeeping notes:

I am slightly changing the direction of this blog. Maybe it’s more in my mind and how I think about what to write. It’s going to be much more about what’s going on in our life as a family, and less thoughtful on spirituality and faith, although that will still be mixed in.

Also, I’m officially done with Instagram and I’m very happy to have some new followers to the blog! Thank you and welcome!! I’m really honored that you took the time to follow along.

Moving on…

March started out strong with the beginning of Lent and lots of energy and focus toward that. We had some sickness, but nothing too terrible thankfully. My husband wasn’t traveling for work and that always makes life so much smoother. It brings normalcy! We celebrated Ella being potty trained just a week before her third birthday. I saw such a growth in her leading up to her birthday. There’s such a difference between 2 and 3! She’s very much into baby dolls, the doll house, and talking about when she grows up and is a mommy. She’s such a joy!

Ella helped make her birthday cake!

April began calmly, but the schedule got way crazy toward the end! In the middle of the month, I took Theo to the cardiologist for a follow up appointment. When he was born, they found an ASD (that’s what I had repaired in my heart a few years ago). Often they close on their own so they wanted to see him again when he was older. Praise God, it was closed!! It certainly wouldn’t have been a life threatening or even huge health risk if it wasn’t, but now we don’t have to worry about it.

Then there was Holy Week. Oh, Holy Week. So much going on. But, of course, it was so, so good. So full of grace and then so much joy at the Pascha service! I barely was able to catch my breath before we packed up and headed to my in-laws the weekend after. All the children had planned a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. It was a success!

The weekend after that my husband and I went on a trip with some friends, just couples! It was such a treat and a lot of fun. I thought I’d be more rested after being away from the kids for so long, but it was a pretty rough adjustment coming back for all of us. Finally, by the third weekend of May, we were home with no major plans! It was so glorious and finally reset things for the whole family. The last weekend of May, my husband reroofed our house with the help of some friends. I basically cooked and cleaned all weekend long to keep everyone fed! We finished school the week after then moved into our summer rhythm, which is basically a lighter version of school.

Throughout April and May Michael had baseball practices and games. For most of his practices, I took him and spent the time in the car, so it was a break for me. A lot of his practices got rained out though. I was very resistive to doing baseball this year, and it started out being stressful for me. But then I just decided to pack picnic suppers for us (and forget about trying to be healthy!), and that meant no mess to clean up and no eating then rushing out the door. Michael eats a sandwich before we go and the rest of us eat during the game. So. Much. Simpler!

Mia continues to be the best big sister ever (most of the time!). She is very attentive and engaging with all the other children. She’s constantly reading and writing. Soon she’ll start going to the ranch near us for weekly horsemanship sessions. She cannot wait!

At times I can feel like I’m losing connection with my older kids. They don’t need my actual physical care much anymore. They play so well together – they are best friends! But from January to April, we connected over a book series. It’s called the Wingfeather Saga, and if you guys haven’t read it, you must! If your kids are younger, just read them yourself! They are written by Andrew Peterson, who is also a singer-songwriter. Look up his music – it is so soothing and beautiful! (I really love “Be Kind to Yourself” as well as “We Will Survive.”) Anyway, I was able to get these books on audio through our library’s online source. As many evenings as possible, after the little ones were in bed, we’d listen together for as long as I’d let them. Often, we’d all fold laundry together while we listened. It was such a special time. I hope we can find something just as compelling to listen to next winter. Any suggestions?

In May, I hired a teenage girl we know to come once a week to watch the little ones while I have focused time with the big kids. She’s come twice and both times there’s an adjustment time for the littles, but by the time I come out of my bedroom (where Mia, Michael, and I are during that time), they are so content and don’t even stop what they’re doing to great me. I’m really thankful for this time to teach uninterrupted and be fully present to Mia and Michael.

For Christmas I got an Instant Pot. This has really changed the way I cook and meal plan! I try to use it as much as I can. I won’t go on and on about why I love it so much, but I had to mention it because it’s truly been a game changer in my homemaking. I plan to use it even more in the summer months since it doesn’t heat up the house!

Overall, I feel like this season solidified our routines and our rhythms. Chores got done for the most part, I didn’t have big projects, and we grew closer as a family. While there was a lot on the schedule, we (mostly) took it all in stride, getting back on track pretty quickly. I’m feeling less like a “young mother” and a bit seasoned now. Toddler tantrums hardly phase me most days, although they can still annoy me. I’m enjoying watching the littles grow and become more independent, while knowing each hard thing is just a phase. I find myself thinking about how to talk about puberty with my older daughter, and to remind myself to welcome the cuddles of my older son because they won’t last much longer. Motherhood never stops growing you, and what a beautiful thing!

an update for June

June flowers

Hi friends! Happy June 1st!

So obviously, I wasn’t able to keep up with my Lenten series! Oh well, Christ is Risen!
Lent was a very edifying time overall. Full of challenges, grace, and clarity. One thing that was clarified for me, that I can share now, is that I am not returning to Instagram. I wrote some about how freeing it felt to not be on there. To me, being immersed on Instagram (and, really, any social media) is like being in a room light by artificial lights. I can see, I can function. It’s fine. But not being on Instagram is like having the curtain opened and natural lighting flooding the room. It’s bright, clear, and joyful. That’s how my mind and soul feel. I do miss it and the people I was able to connect with, but I’ve made a bigger effort to spend face to face time with the friends right around me. My true needs are being met through those interactions, needs that cannot be met through social media.

 
And now, it’s time to look toward summer!

 
I’m tweaking our schedule to transition from more structured to a bit more relaxed. We will be doing less school, but still do our Morning Time with oral math added. I want to take time each day to read to the older kids, the younger kids, and tend to the garden outside. Instead of thinking about the garden tasks as picking and weeding, I’m thinking of them as harvesting and nourishing. Each time I go out I hope to harvest a little and do something to nourish some plants, even if that’s pulling weeds nearby. We also have various summer activities planned throughout the week. I feel good about it all!

 
Personally, I have a big project on my plate, but I’m not quite ready to announce. You can be sure I will once I’m able though! (You can subscribe to get my posts automatically, so you won’t miss it!) Our family also has a big change coming up in the future. I’m eager to write about it, but it’s just not time. And no, it’s not a baby, although that may come up in the future!

 
So, there’s a little update on me! I hope your summer is getting off to a beautiful start!

life during Lent: week 5

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Last week our daffodils started blooming. Friday I noticed the pale green on the trees. Hope is in the air. Spring is really here.

I always try to savor these days, my favorite of spring. I try to slow down and really notice all the little, fleeting changes. But it’s hard. Because time still moves on, and sometimes it feels like a quick current.

I didn’t get to post last week. Life on the outside has sped up. Life on the inside has also sped up. But some moments feel like the slow motion of putting one foot in front of the other during the last mile of a marathon.

We truly are in the last stretch of a marathon. It feels oh-so-long as well as so fast. That feeling unsettles me because I can’t put my finger on it.

Regardless of how it feels, the fact is there is one week left of Lent. Then the sprint of Holy Week, which is it’s own kind of race.

The quiet and peace that came at the beginning of Lent has been replaced and filled with other things. One thing is thoughts about clarity I’ve received. Another thing is email. I have been checking it way too much, when I used to just check once or twice a day. Quick moment of boredom? Let’s see if that email I’m expecting came. No? Ok, let’s check 15 minutes later. My weakness is still there, just revealed differently.

So to be honest, I feel a bit discouraged with myself. My will power and resolve are waning. This is only showing the truth: I am a weak, selfish, impulsive human being. I need God. I can only do good in God. He is my will power and resolve, my strength and control.

Maybe you’re here too. Maybe you’ve run out of your own resources. Let’s remind ourselves to lean into all God offers us with open arms. The strength to do the right thing, the forgiveness when we don’t, and the love no matter what.

Christ dies and rises for us regardless of our performance during Lent. Lean into that and hang on friends!

life during Lent: week 3

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Tuesday

We were able to go to Liturgy for Annunciation, but we didn’t stay after for the brunch. I just didn’t feel the little ones were well enough for mingling. So we came home and had our own brunch, and it was actually pretty calm, even though it took an hour to get it all set. There is so much grace on feast days!

I read the Scripture readings for the Annunciation on Sunday night. I felt so touched and moved, but I can’t quite put my finger on it enough to articulate it. Part of it was that the older kids and I had just finished an amazing book with an ending that reflected the awesome sacrifice Christ made for us by dying on the cross. He could only do that if He first became one of us through Mary. Again, my words fail me.

Thursday

I’ve been getting some extra cleaning done lately. I don’t think it’s necessarily because it’s Lent, or because of the things I gave up, but it might be. I find myself looking for ways to preoccupy myself, and Instagram isn’t an option. I think part of it is that I’m moving into a different stage with the kids, two toddlers (plus two big kids!) instead of a baby and a toddler. While, that does mean more cleaning (kitchen floor after meals), it sometimes means a pocket of time while they’re playing nicely, and I can do a chore. I can’t sit down – that’s asking for trouble. But if I stay standing and moving, I can buy myself more time. And with that time, I’ve been cleaning. I cleaned the stovetop the other day. In days past, I did that every week or so. Now? Maybe once a year. Yesterday I cleaned on top of the fridge, but only because we had to move it out for a repair and, boy it needed it! So many cobwebs! And I was thinking, when we don’t take time to examine our soul and go to confession, our souls become like that space full of dark cobwebs. The sins build on each other. Unfortunately, soul cleaning is harder than just sweeping cobwebs away. It feels easier to just turn the other way, to not look. But really that only leads to trouble and pain. Still, I find myself not wanting to think about it. Especially when confession is coming up…

Sunday

Phew! We are halfway through, not counting Holy Week, which is its own journey! These new ways of living are starting to feel more normal. Things feel healthier. I’m thinking some about which changes I want to keep and to what degree. At least right now, I don’t feel like I’m dying to have all the things I’m abstaining from. That is, unless I think about it too long. I know I don’t want to just to back to exactly how things were before.

The stillness and quiet is, usually, actually enjoyable. I’m have less of a desire to turn to a distraction. There are still times of course. With this silence, I feel God calling me more. When things feel hard, I’m reminded faster to lean into Him as my strength and comfort.

life during Lent: week 2

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“The lenten season is the time for direct confrontation with God. It is the time for consciously presenting oneself before the face of the Lord for judgment. There is nothing to be offered, and no sacrifice is acceptable. There are only the broken spirit and the contrite heart of repentance which God will not despise.”

–  from The Lenten Spring by Father Thomas Hopko

Monday Morning

In Indiana, all the central churches celebrate Sunday of Orthodoxy with Vespers at one of the larger churches. It’s one of my favorite services. I participated from the amazing nursery which has a window to the nave and a speaker. The littles played contentedly and I prayed in peace (mostly!). There were over a dozen priests and half a dozen deacons, and a bishop. Pretty heavenly. Also, the food afterwards is awesome.

Boy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about social media, digital detox, and silence. It’s kind of a jumble in my head, and I won’t be hashing it out here, but just wanted to say that I really feel God working. My soul-vision is foggy, but I have a feeling things will get clearer. Lent is such an amazing journey. I continue with trepidation, but also curious expectancy.

Tuesday

Yesterday didn’t feel like Lent exactly. For one, I had an amazing sleep (after two very interrupted nights before), and felt like a normal person, ha! Also, it was my sweet daughter’s third birthday, so I was thinking about that a lot and getting ready for her small party after supper.

I played the Canon to the Mother of God during my morning chores and that felt like a good start to the day. I find that if I play Orthodox music at some point then, when there’s silence again, I have Orthodox music running in my head. Not necessarily the same music, but something. It’s often the same with classical too. So that is helping me “fill” the voids with something edifying and curbing the urge to put on a podcast.

We had black bean tacos for her supper, since it’s something she loves. I set out the cheese and sour cream for the kids, but had resolved not to have any myself.  I thought this would be hard, but I made guacamole and we had salsa and I was satisfied with that. And, amazingly, I only had one when I was planning to have two. Helped knowing I would have cake later, and I had a large piece of that to make up.  But, it felt like a good balance.

Thursday

Lent has a way of exposing more of our ugliness and the little pains we neglect. It strips away the distraction and avoidance we use to cover up what we’d rather not see or feel. I know we can never see our true spiritual state, or we would not be able to bear it, but this feels like a time when the cover is pulled back just a bit. And it’s hard. Yesterday I felt vulnerable, irritable, and worn down. I’ve experienced this on and off a few times this Lent already. Thankfully, it hasn’t lasted. It’s just enough to humble me.

On the other hand, I feel like this clearer vision has also exposed more of the grace and goodness of God. Again, with less distractions, I am more aware and available to see what is always there. For example, at dinner my husband has started sharing ways God has worked in his life, and has asked me to do the same. So throughout the day, I’ve been looking for things to share.

After lunch yesterday, I wanted my now three year old to help me clean up the toys. She was not interested, surprise surprise. I felt defeated and frustrated thinking about even trying, and I shot up a desperate prayer. Then I had the idea to tell her it was a game. I’d tell her what to do and if she did it, I’d give her a high five. I doubt this will ever work again (though I’ll try it!), but she loved the idea and we went around and picked everything up with no resistance! And I know it was the answer to my prayer. I also know this has happened in the past, but I was acutely aware of it this time. As well as awed and humbled. Our God truly is a loving God. He is always ready to help, even with the smallest of things.

Sunday

I’m just going to consider this the end of week two. I wasn’t able to write or post yesterday because we had sickness in the house Friday night and Sat morning, and there just wasn’t a good time. Today I am home from church with the three older kids who are still recovering. I’m thankful there is Liturgy tomorrow for the Annunciation and am hoping to be able to go to that.

Thursday and Friday were particularly hard spiritually. As I lay in bed late Friday, trying to calm my nerves after middle-of-the-night sickness from our daughters, God showed me the meaning behind my struggles. It was so clear and seemed so obvious afterwards. I want to share all about it, but will do so in another post later this week. For today, this is enough!

How is your Lent going so far? We’re one-third of the way through!

life during Lent: week 1

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Monday

It seemed like a bad thing that the beginning of Lent coincided with daylight savings time, but it worked out well this morning since the kids slept in an hour. Besides doing the prayer of St. Ephrim with our morning prayers, and the food restrictions, it has felt like a normal day so far. A good day in fact.

We are off school for the week. It’s a lot going to church each evening and do the full load of school. So we are doing Morning Time, but not the rest. Hopefully this will keep things sane(r)!

Lunch was pb & js and veggies since we didn’t have leftovers. I had a big salad and a small sandwich. (Tip: Put hummus in your salad along with your dressing. Adds protein and creaminess! Sounds strange, but it’s yummy!) As I was making the sandwiches, I could smell the herb bread I made last night to go along with our lasagna. It made me think about pizza, but I’d been so gluttonous leading up to Lent that it didn’t really tempt me. I’m still ready for a cleanse. Wonder how long that will last. I also remembered how my husband, a friend from church, and I were talking about amazing food last night after Forgiveness Vespers. How ironic. So much of our thoughts center around food. I don’t think that’s fully wrong because food is a blessing from God. However, it needs to not become an idol. Definitely something to think about.

I had some extra quiet today. The kids were playing in another room as I was fixing the sandwiches. I felt pulled to put on a podcast or music. I wished someone would text me. I realized this happens all the time. I want a distraction. If I’m doing something mundane, I want something exciting to think about or listen to. This is exactly why I limited my podcasts. I need to get acclimated to less input and use that space for prayer and reflection. And today I did, a little, but I felt annoyed as well.

Tuesday

morning

I only made it through 45 minutes of church. Will is out of town and, while Ella was very good for that time, sitting with my mom and sister, Theo was challenging. When Ella started to get squirrely and it was inching toward bedtime, I asked my sister-in-law to bring home the older two. I knew I needed to leave before I got frustrated and lost my peace. I’m past trying to prove anything to anyone or myself. I’m past thinking it’s not “good enough” to leave early, or just not go. In fact, I’m not going tonight. What worth is it to go to church if I’m frustrated, angry, and resentful inside about it, and taking that out on my kids? No worth.

evening

It would be easy to feel like today was as much a failure as yesterday felt like a success, but it wouldn’t be true. Really, most of the day was really good. But the day also included two snacks, music to avoid silence, and yelling at my kids. Sigh.

I started to feel poor physically in the late afternoon because of low blood sugar. I had some trail mix, and it helped some, but I started to feel a quick dizzy feeling when I moved too quickly. I tried to slow down and just do one thing at a time and that helped. But then it was that crazy hour – everyone’s hungry, the last few things need to be done for supper and it felt like a zoo. Hence, some yelling. And after as well while trying to hurry up the kids to clean before they left for church. But, apologizes were given before they left and things turned around again, except I still wasn’t feeling well. Which is where the second snack came in and I felt better. Now the littles are in bed and I’m waiting for the big kids to come home.

Thursday

In retrospect, yesterday feels like a crash and burn. The day’s events were fine, really, but by late morning I was dragging. It started with an adorable stray dog hanging out all morning. I ran to the store with the kids and it was still here. So I decided to post something on our neighborhood social media platform, something I’ve only done one other time – because of a stray dog. And I chose the worst time to be on my phone – while trying to put together lunch for the littles and put groceries away. I felt fragmented and scattered the rest of the day.

Speaking of social media, I haven’t really missed Instagram. Or rather, I certainly don’t miss being on my phone more. I don’t miss that, and yet I feel myself wanting something exciting from my phone. It’s weird. But I have felt lonely. I’ve been day dreaming of sitting on a deck, sipping wine will catching up with friends while the kids run around – every evening. Like, my friends just walking over for a quick evening chat. But no friends are in walking distance. Still, why don’t we (er, I) make more time for this? Oh yeah, because I get so stressed out about routines, messes, and bedtimes.

Friday

I had one on one time with a dear friend last night and I feel so rejuvenated! So much better than hours on Instagram. Which by the way, I was starting to miss. I miss sharing, and I think of those I “know” and wonder how they are doing. And so I feel torn. But I wonder what the cost is to “connect” through virtual reality.

Something we talked about got me thinking about my miscarried son Elijah, and so many other miscarried babies. And it got me thinking how amazing it will be to meet them someday. I longed to be pure enough to meet them. In the Orthodox Church, there’s a concept that heaven isn’t some place in the sky, but all around us and we can enter in if we just have the heart, the eyes, the purity. And that when we die, we will all be in the presence of God, but it will feel like heaven to some, and hell to others. If I have trouble being present in my earthly reality, how will it be for me in the true reality of the presence of God? If being in “virtual reality” takes my focus off of this earthly reality, how much further does it take me from the true reality of God? My mind and heart feel so much clearer after not being on Instagram for two weeks. I know so much good can come from social media. I’ve found a lot of enjoyment from it, and have worked through some of the challenges it brings me, but it just doesn’t seem worth the cost of moving away from my present reality and the truest reality that I want to grow to be more aware of. Does it draw me into the presence of God, or further away?

Saturday

Overall, this first week was so blessed. Not because it was perfect (obviously!), but because it held both blessings and struggle. Wednesday was the hardest day, but most other days I felt very alive, more focused, and aware of areas I need to work on. Physically, I feel lighter, healthier and motivated to exercise more. As I expected, I didn’t have as much discussion with the kids about Sunday of Orthodoxy as I had wished, but there’s this afternoon right? And there are the church services, which are the best teachers of all.