The What If Game: Fetus Edition

I almost feel bad for writing this, but it is real life and I feel like this goes unsaid by many people because it isn’t the “popular view”.

This ones for the ladies….do you play the what if game? You know the one “umm, I feel bloated, I seem over emotional, man I am craving spicy food which is unusual, and I haven’t seen Aunt Flow in a while?”. The game of “umm, what IF, there is a tiny fetus floating around inside of me?!?”. You know the what if game. Are you like me and sometimes the what if’s are too much so you test the odds and go pee on a stick?What If???

No, just me?

Liar.

Sometimes I work myself into a tizzy of worry thinking about the what if’s and then convince myself the only way to quiet the questions is to find out what if. So I rush to the local drug store, buy a two pack, and wait 2 minutes for the answer.

1 minute

1 minute 30 seconds

1 minute 33 seconds

(are we there yet?!)

1 minute 34 seconds

…..

2 minutes

Times to find out. Longest two minutes EVER

Blank circle. Sigh of relief. But what if there would have been a line. What if our lives would have changed in that moment? Of course I have big plans of how I would surprise Conner when in fact we do find out we are pregnant, but today was not the day I wanted those plans to start swirling into motion. I think I was mostly relieved because I am scared. Scared of how a baby will change everything, and that I feel so ill equipped to be a mom. How do you know when you are ready? I mean everyone around us is ready for us to be parents, but when will we know that we are ready and capable??

Even after the answer was no, it makes me wonder what IF the answer would have been a yes rather than a no in that moment. Yes, we would have been happy, joyed, and scared. Yes, I said a quick prayer in that moment that when we do begin our journey to baby that it is as easy as saying “opps”. But the no gave me clarity and passion to remember that this moment right now, just the two of us, is fleeting. We will never get these moments back. Yes, one day we will have an expanding family with babies, toddlers, and grown-aged children, but not today.

What can we do today, that will strengthen our relationship and marriage for the future of our family? Is it pausing our schedules and carving out a few moments for a dinner at a restaurant? Does it mean shutting off the tv, putting down the cell phones, and going for a walk outside? What does it look like to hit pause and be intentional in the here and now moment. Not dreaming, not working, but rather doing the silent work that comes from spending time together. The silent work of togetherness that builds a foundation of memories is how we are setting ourselves up today for success in the future. I pray that I can remember these moments where we pause without cellphones and head to the local town center to sit and people watch on the street and get lost in life chats rather than worrying about getting home to relieve a babysitter.

 

 

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Overcoming Betrayal: Real Talk

Part of our love story is overcoming sexual addiction in our marriage. That is hard to type because for so long I wanted to hide that this issue even came up, even now as I type this I get a tinge of anger, but we believe this challenge happened for a reason and we hope to provide hope for others overcoming similar situations.

When I first discovered the addiction (two weeks before our wedding), I was broken and hurt. I wanted to ignore the issue in hopes that when we got married everything would change and be better. I felt alone in my pain, like no one else was experiencing the same type of unhappiness in their marriage. I thought this was supposed to be my happily ever after!

Slinky fun

Then it happened (err continued to happen) and I felt like we hit rock bottom. I felt like we hadn’t actually progressed through everything and nothing was being fixed. I struggled for a while with bitterness and the lack of control. But I could’t hold on to the bitterness over being betrayed forever. I needed to heal and work through it.

It wasn’t about ignoring the addiction and brushing the pain under the rug. I needed time to work through the battle I was facing internally with being unworthy of love, not pretty enough, or not having big enough boobs in comparison to the images I discovered on the computer. I was so hurt and working through that was not an overnight solution.

But the thing is, while healing was part of my process, and doubt constantly has to be quieted, I can’t let it affect the restoration of trust. It would have been easy to give up. Easy to ignore the issue and let it happen but that is disrespectful to myself, my spouse, and the commitment we made to God.

If it wasn’t an overnight fix, how did I heal from the pain? I needed alone time to pray and find hope in the word written in the Bible. I worked my way through reading Romans 5 because that seemed to be exactly the words and pain I was feeling, but couldn’t verbalize. I also read the book Every Heart Restored. That book really laid out the anger I felt, the self doubt, and helped me try to understand why this type of sexual addiction could even happen. That book was HARD to read. I could never get through more than a few pages without crying over the truth. Honestly, I got about two chapters from the end before I stopped because it was too hard to relieve all the negative feelings I was working so hard to get rid of. (Side note: I started reading that book before Conner read the companion book, but both are great resources if you are facing the same type of journey to restoration).

I say all this because it is important to forgive in any relationship. It would have been easy to hold a grudge forever and always bring up the pain in fights but that serves neither of us well. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago so why should I expect my spouse to be too? Healing comes when you work through the pain and find ways to overcome that hurt.

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5 Quality Date Nights

If you have been around here long enough you know I love a good date night.
2014-09-21 13.29.27We recently were meeting with our married small group and the conversation came up about date nights and how to plan quality ones that really make the most of the time together while making each other feel valued. Here are a few things that came to mind for us that we hope can inspire you on your next date night:

1) Make plans. For me, the lack of planning feels like a lack of love. Conner calls me the scheduling coordinator of the family as I maintain the calendar and typically come up with the date night ideas. For me, it is fun to come up with creative ways to spend time together, but sometimes I want a date night with a break from the planning. Planning comes naturally for me in terms of thinking of themes, details, and the minute-by-minute play by play of the events for the evening.When plans are made beyond just time on the calendar, the date feels more intentional. A few ideas to get you started: Make plans that include a restaurant with significance such as something your spouse has mentioned they would like to try, or perhaps a new food group that you want to introduce each other to. Make plans beyond the restaurant to include an activity. The activity could include dessert, an adventure such as ice skating, or people watching at the mall. My ideal date would be dinner at a new local restaurant and then a few laps around Target to see the newest trends in home decor and clothes without feeling guilty of walking too leisurely through the aisles.

2. Think outside of the box: I’m talking about the black box that is a movie theater. Yes, a movie is a good conversation starter, but when you may only have 3 hours together, do you really want to spend that time in silence? Find a fun activity and enjoy each other’s company.

3. DVR Binge: Yes, ladies and gentlemen we binge watch TV. Now, I know what you are thinking- watching TV is the same as going to see a movie. Well, yes and no. The DVR can be paused, and cuddling happens a lot better at home than while at a movie. The thing about the DVR Binge is that you must be present and not focused on the pile of clothes needing to be folded or the dishes that are sitting dirty in the sink. Just be in the moment together.

4. Questions: Bring a list of questions to ask each other on the date. Things that are not your usual go-to-topics so that you can really connect with each other. Maybe start by asking how they picked the name for their childhood pet or perhaps brainstorm ideas of future restaurants the two of you would like to visit.

Hanging Twinkly Lights Selfie5. Find Free Options: Money is always a stressful topic, and dating within a budget is hard which makes it easy to move dates to the bottom of the priority list. This is why we believe it is important to discover free options. The other night there was a free Art Gallery opening that we walked through. Dating doesn’t always have to cost money so explore your local downtown areas and see what free events are coming up that you could go check out. Maybe since it is Christmas time you can make a cup of coffee or hot cocoa at home and place in a to-go cup so that you can then walk around your neighborhood to view the twinkly lights.

I would love to hear other ways you get creative while planning date nights. Comment below with your ideas or let me know who is the one who usually plans your one-on-one time.

 

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Gingerbread House Building Activity

One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season is making Gingerbread Houses! I grew up with my mom making the dough and cutting out the pieces of gingerbread to form into the chalets. We would all gather around the table and decorate the houses in our own unique ways.Gingerbread House

Well this year Conner and I decided to take this tradition to our friends. We coordinated a family house building night where each couple was given the supplies to build their house…aka a bag of icing, two roof panels, a front and back side, two small walls, and a door. We gave our friends a list of holiday candies that worked well for building houses and challenged them to bring a bag or two in order to build their masterpieces.

I was shocked that not a single person brought the same ingredient! That is a victory in itself.Snow Queen

Now truth be told, this was my first time baking the gingerbread houses myself and making the icing so I called in reinforcements: The Snow Queen (aka my momma). My baking skills did not succeed as some of the pieces came out crooked or unsymetrical but at least I tried! Oh, and I made the wrong icing. But, it all worked out and everyone used their best efforts to build houses worthy of Pinterest. Each house turned out differently and I was ecstatic over the creativity everyone used.Gingerbread Houses

The top ingredients included mini wheats, candy canes, cookies, pretzels, and fruit loops. What is your go-to ingredient for gingerbread house assembly? Do you make yours out of real cookies or out of graham crackers? Speaking of graham crackers…umm I thought there was an “n” somewhere in that word. Oh well, spelling bee winner I am not.

 

 

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Jesus is our Hope

This year, Mandy and I are doing an Advent devotional from Naptime Diaries and our first few days have been really good. It seems as if – at least in this early stage of the Christmas season – I have heard a lot of debate this year about how Christians “should” celebrate the season. A couple of weeks ago we saw the new Kirk Cameron movie, Saving Christmas, about this very topic. Also, I’ve seen multiple blog posts shared on Facebook about how to handle Santa with kids and how to reduce consumerism in the household. It seems as if everyone has a different way of doing things and that’s awesome! But it doesn’t give me the answer I’m looking for. If anyone has the definitive way of doing things, let me know because I have no idea.

Brinkley Christmas

Luckily we don’t have human kids yet and some of those decisions will get to wait a while longer, but questions still remain. I have always been one who fully embraces the Elf-watching, decoration-collection-expanding, hot-chocolate-filled version of Christmas. I still love all those things and I think that they have their place this time of year. In fact, my hope is that the material trimmings of Christmas will help to illuminate our house with the spirit of Christ at the heart of our celebration. That’s my central frustration with the “anti-Christmas” attitude with which a lot of today’s Christians approach the season.

Why do Jesus and today’s version of Christmas have to be mutually exclusive?

Regardless of the way that your family deals with navigating the waters this time of year, I believe that the story of Jesus’ birth highlights the benefits of the holiday season. We don’t need to focus on the fact that some people only care about Jesus during the holidays, but rather celebrate the fact that the season has caused them to care at all. Why is it ever bad for people to be reminded of the hope in Christ? Why do we need to complain about how materialism and Santa detracts from Jesus rather than focusing on the fact that they serve as reminders of Him to folks who might not have been reminded otherwise?

Christ’s sacrifice is the same year-round but the hope that it provides is somehow more apparent around the holidays. As for our family, we will enjoy the fireside hot chocolate and be happy that we can celebrate our Savior while enjoying the things that come with our favorite time of year.

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Rim Hugger: Mississippi Spartan Sprint

A few weeks ago, Aaron, Jessica, and I piled in the car and started off on an epic road trip to Mississippi for yet another Spartan Sprint! After our first race in Atlanta back in March, Aaron and I knew we were hooked. We consulted the race schedule and said to ourselves, “Mississippi is close, right? Let’s do that one!” Little did we know that the “short” drive to the Gulf Coast was seven hours long. By the time we realized the distance, it was too late – we were already committed and it was going down.

Photo Nov 08, 1 06 10 PM

Photo Nov 08, 2 33 35 PM

At the race that Mandy and I did in Philly, we realized how awesome it is to volunteer at Spartan Races so we planned to do the same at this one. The trip out was filled with conversation, life-talks, and goal-planning and we had a great time. We rolled into Wiggins, MS around dinner time and quickly realized how tiny of a city we were staying in. The best (read: only) restaurant in town was absolutely packed so we drove to a Mexican place and enjoyed some fajitas. Then it was off to the hotel for a couple of hours of sleep!

168_3137b605ee987744e79e9d3ceb1c5ee5_Log Carry

The alarm went off super early the next morning: 4:15am in order to shower, dress, and get to our volunteer shift that started at 6:00am! We all got assigned to work registration and it was an absolutely frigid morning. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t hold onto the waiver sheets that the racers were handing me. I got a glimpse of Brakken Kraker warming up and heard his name announced a short time later when he won the race. We worked with a cool crew until 1:00pm and then Aaron and I headed to the starting line.

Photo Nov 08, 3 15 06 PM

Our 1:30pm volunteer heat was the very last one of the day so the course was nice and muddy by the time we climbed the wall into the starting pit. The awesome Spartan announcer, He Man, gave us the traditional course instructions but added the little nugget that there would be sixteen water entries during our race. I guess we should have known since we were standing on the bank of the lake, but I knew then that we were in for something that we hadn’t done before.

Photo Nov 08, 2 34 55 PM

168_40ac40d20f5faed9d1a1698af546f635_Fire Jump

We ran off through the smoke grenades and were almost immediately guided into the lake. I’d say a good half of the race was spent in the lake one way or the other. We got to try some new obstacles including the tractor pull (through a mud pit!), Z-shaped traverse wall, and Under, Over, Through in the middle of the lake. I was super nervous about the rope climb – I had failed at the sprint in Atlanta, got up it in Philly with no mud, and didn’t know if my training was going to pay off this time. I was able to get up with no problem thanks to the technique I had studied…it’s all about form! Also, if any of you had any doubt that these events aren’t all glamour and success. here is a picture of me totally eating it while trying to get in the rope climb pool although I did keep my hands dry!

Photo Nov 08, 2 34 11 PM

Aaron beasted this race and improved dramatically from our first time through. We both did burpees at the spear throw due to the silly strings they tie to them now, but we paid our penalty and headed on. Luckily, all the swimming kept us relatively clean as well! The race was a great one and I’m so glad we decided to head down and do this one. Spartan did a great job of mixing up the course and keeping things interesting. Can’t wait till the next one!

Photo Nov 08, 3 40 46 PM

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Not Right Now

We have been reading in Acts the past few weeks about Paul’s travels. Last night we focused in on Acts 16: 6-10 and I couldn’t think of a better few verses to read right now.

It becomes so frustrating when everywhere you turn it seems like a “no” is being given to you.

We have had our fair share of “no’s” over the past few months as we are in a holding pattern. I love these verses in Acts because not only does it show the way God gives a plan to people, but he also proves that No’s are not necessarily hard no’s, but rather “not right now, I have something better planned” type of no’s.

No’s are discouraging

No’s make me want to give up and stop working towards this goal we feel called to.

In college, I struggled with the desire to change schools but at the same time feeling like I was being told “No. Stay put”. That no turned in to a situation of something better than I could have planned on my own. My plans are not my own. Leaning in to the no, even though it was difficult and led to many tears, resulted in the forward trajectory of my career: meeting Conner, having influencers in my life, and ultimately getting me to where I am today. A clear example of a big no, turned into an “I have something better for you” no.

Dinner around a pallet table. Yes please.

I have to remind myself that I am not the one in control and that IS okay. Actually, that is more than okay, that is WONDERFUL news. I may not see the why behind the no right now, it may take a few years for it all to be revealed, or even more I may never see why it was a no…but that is just it, it IS okay to not be in control.

So today, I am thankful for the No’s. As Conner keeps reminding me, one no is just one more no closer to a yes.

Yes in deed.

But oh the patience and perseverance it is building up inside of me. It is building a determination to keep running and to keep taking the steps to move the goals forward.

Waiting for the no’s to turn in to the big flashing sign of “this is the something better I have planned for you” is always the hardest process.

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