See ya, summer (and a back-to-school prayer)

Last year as summer came to a close, I wrote a bit about my struggles with long breaks from school, those wretched summer bucket lists (if you do them, high five!), and my mixed feelings about sending two little girls off to school.

This year I was a tad more settled and at home in my own summer mom skin. That meant fewer planned activities and more flying by the seat of our pants, and it suited them and me just fine. Our weeks peeled off the calendar so quickly I’m having trouble remembering exactly how we filled the days. There was potty training. (Truly, I counted the summer a smashing success once that week was over. Done! I’m out! To-do list complete!) There were day camps and a handful of playdates. Lots of painting and coloring. TV- and movie-watching (this is real life). A sleepover. Swimming at grandparents’ houses and the community pool, and attempting to swim in the inflatable thing we picked up from Target. One—one!—trip to the beach. A birthday trip to the American Girl store.

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But for the last week or so, fourth grade and preschool have been calling these girls’ names. New lunchboxes have been selected. Class lists have been posted. Both are thrilled that the start of school is now just a few short days away.

So am I. I am excited for them, and frankly, I am excited for me.

Is that okay to publicly acknowledge? I hope so.

But before I shuffle them out the door next week and maybe do a little dance, I want to pray them off. Continue reading “See ya, summer (and a back-to-school prayer)”

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What I learned {the summer edition}

What I learned_ summer 2016

There are still three weeks of summer left, if we’re getting technical about it, but my kids have been back in school for two weeks already and I’m itching for the next season. So, here we go!

I should never, ever post a photo online of the stack of books I’m planning to read in three months. It’s just embarrassing. There were seven books in my stack, one of which I’d already read most of and so will not count here (Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler).

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Seven books didn’t seem like a totally outrageous goal. But here’s what I actually finished: 

1. Stacey Thacker’s new book, Fresh Out of Amazing, which I had the pleasure of getting my hands on early as part of her book launch team. It was wonderful. Stacey’s stories are so clearly God-written, and I kept forgetting I’ve never met her in person—the more I read, the more I thought of her as a friend and a mentor. Her words are those of the girlfriend you sit and chat with over coffee at Panera, and I appreciate that kind of writing.

2. Three-fourths of Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography. Fine, one-half.

That’s it. No, really. I blame Netflix and my children.

Before helping your child say buh-bye to the pacifier, be sure you are prepared with chocolate. And earplugs. One day in July, I decided I was tired of chasing down my 2-year-old’s pacifiers. So I did something rash I never would have gotten away with when her big sis was little: I walked around the house with a pair of scissors and cut the end off every paci I could find. (Pure evil, I know. I know.) The look on her sweet face when she tried to put them in her mouth! She declared them all “broking” and threw them in the garbage, and I thought, Hurrah! I’ve won! I’m a genius!

And that moment was followed by the worst three days we had all summer.

This is why I’m not spontaneous.

Building websites is fun. My friend Lindsey and I launched a new monthly email newsletter just last week, and I had the best time pulling together the website (really!). We used Squarespace, which I was already familiar with and is pretty easy to use—I’m no master coder or anything. But there was something incredibly satisfying about working on it—the challenges, formatting, troubleshooting, coming up with work-arounds when Squarespace wouldn’t let me do what I had in mind. Nerd alert!

TheDraftingDesk_promo1PS: Go subscribe to The Drafting Desk!

It was harder than I expected to send both my girls off to school this year

IMG_7094_blogThere are coyotes in Florida. Silly me for not knowing this, right? I’d heard about local spottings via my neighborhood board, but the only coyotes I’d ever seen myself were on Wild Kratts, and this one:

wile_e_coyote(Doesn’t count.) Until last weekend, when this one showed up in my backyard. IMG_9389

So, who wants to send their kids over to play now?

On a solemn note, I won’t be able to recall the summer of 2016 in future years without acknowledging the Pulse shooting. I’m still struggling to fully wrap my mind around the devastation that occured less than three miles from the house I grew up in. We witnessed something incredible in the aftermath of the horror though. I watched (as did my little girls) an entire community come together, uniting in prayer, hugging total strangers, and giving—giving so much. My 8-year-old and I scrambled around our house to find notepads, pens, snacks, and little gifts for those stuck waiting at local hospitals for their wounded loved ones, and together we delivered them to a local church. She and I sat and wrote notes to encourage people we will never meet. And I learned that though my children won’t fully understand the tragedy or significance of that day for years to come, our response mattered. Our prayers mattered. More tragedy was to come in the weeks that followed, here in our country and around the world. I believe God continues to sing comfort and love over those still wrapped in grief.

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I felt a cool breeze over the weekend, and the meteorologist might say it’s the result of tropical weather, but I’m calling it hope. Fall is coming, everyone. Hang in there.


I missed Emily Freeman’s link-up this time around, but if you want to check out my past editions of What I Learned, you can find them here

Back to school and a prayer for my girls

IMG_6839I am not one of those moms who wishes it was always summer.

I love those moms. But I’ve had to accept the fact that at this stage at least, I’m just not one of them. Last year I made one of those summer bucket lists for me and the kids—sure, it was on sticky notes, but at least I wrote it—and guess how many items we checked off?

Zero.

I love a good list, but you know what I loathe? Not accomplishing anything on a list I made for myself.

So this year, there were no lists, no plans, no expectations. And summer has gone a lot more smoothly  than I thought it would, until two weeks ago, when all the together time started getting to the three of us—the 2-year-old, the 8-year-old, and me.

Overnight, they were done with summer, and I was done with summer. My darling angel children were now kicking, picking, and yelling at each other. All that unscheduled time was starting to make me feel twitchy and prone to yelling too, and all of a sudden, heading back to school sounded like the Best Idea Ever.

It’s been like waiting for Christmas ever since. HOW MANY MORE SLEEPS? (That’s me asking, not the girls.)

It’s not the getting-the-kids-out-of-the-house part I’ve been most looking forward to—though let’s be honest, I do look forward to that. It’s the return of a schedule I can count on, and shopping for school supplies and new sneakers, and the promise of a turning season. I know it won’t cool off here in hot, hot Florida for a good long while, but I don’t care. When the school year begins, it means fall is coming soon, and fall is my favorite time of the year. Turn, turn, turn. Let’s get this show on the road.

But now I’m sitting here at the dinner table at 9:42pm thinking about tomorrow morning, when my baby—who was just born yesterday, wasn’t she?—will step into a preschool classroom for the first time. She’s been talking about it for weeks now. “I’m going to PRESCHOOL! I have friends and a TEACHER!” I know that those two days a week are going to be fun and valuable for her, and I know that God is giving me those precious hours to myself because there are words He wants me to write and goals He is pushing me toward, for my own heart and for the kingdom. But preschool feels so big.

And then tomorrow afternoon, after scooping up my toddler from her first day and kissing her smooshy little face off, I will take my other baby—wasn’t she just born yesterday, too?—to meet her 3rd grade teacher. Third grade. Third grade. 

My mind is just one big pile of clichés about kids growing up too fast and savoring the moment and days being long but years being short. When more seasoned parents say those things to me, I roll my eyes. Yes, I know, I know.

But I’ve been weepy for days and just realized why. It’s because Christmas is almost here—we’re down to just hours away—and maybe I’m not quite as ready as I thought. What if they’re not ready? Have I prepared my daughters well for the next season? Cue the tears again.

Where else to go but to my knees?

God, hold their sweet, soft hands as they step into the new and different.

Make their hearts tender and sensitive to the feelings of others—both their peers and their teachers.

Remind them of Your Word, tucked safely in their hearts.

Give them eyes to see the child who needs a friend.

Make them bold enough to be that friend.

May they observe other potty trained children and take note (You know which one I’m talking about). Okay, I’m kidding. Kind of.  

Help them to make thoughtful choices.

Fill them with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Help them to give themselves grace when they make mistakes. Guide them in their I’m sorrys. May they extend grace to others and forgive freely.

Help them to be kind-hearted and to serve, even when it’s hard.

Open their minds to all that You have to teach them this year. Help them to soak up knowledge and grow in wisdom and in their love for You.

May whatever they do—from fingerpainting and building with blocks to writing book reports and performing in class plays—be done with their whole hearts.

Lord, please make them brave girls.

Make me brave, too.

Quiet

Less talking, more listening.

Less writing, more studying.

Less noise, more quiet.


I’ve been working on the discipline of journaling. I have volume upon volume of journal pages filled during my high school and college years stacked in a closet, but somewhere in adulthood, between stepping into the working world and then stepping back out again (and in again, and out again), I stopped taking pen to paper.

Lately I’ve felt pressed with the need to take up the practice again, so I picked up a spiral-bound notebook and one of the pens my husband—who knows my fondness for office supplies—had stuffed into my Christmas stocking, and over the last few weeks have been scribbling away.

Sometimes I copy scripture, or a quote from the book I’m reading. This has gradually turned into writing down my own prayers, but most recently, I was surprised to find myself no longer writing to God, but seeing that the words in my notebook were those of Him speaking to me.

And He kept telling me to just hush.

When you’re trying to step into a calling as a writer, as a storyteller? Well, that’s not exactly what you want to hear from the One who, after all, did the calling.

I’ve been fighting the silence, evidenced by the handful of drafts sitting open on my screen. But nothing has come together, nothing has made my heart pound the way it only does when something right and good is in the works… so drafts they shall remain for now.

What I will share, though (because my heart is pounding as I type this), are those sentences from my journal where the pen scratch shifted away from my own ramblings and moved toward something that mattered more—His promises to my confused heart.

So, if you find any comfort or encouragement in these words, then they are for you as well:

Quiet. Hush. Be still.

Hold on to Me and to no one else.

Rest in Me and in nothing else.

Find your worth and value at the foot of the cross—not in friendships or appearances or invitations or accolades—in Me and Me alone.

You are who I say you are. You are the woman I created for such a time as this.

Follow Me, and Me alone.

Brave

A little late to the game, writing about my word of the year on January 14, am I right?

Well. Consider this an exercise in putting my word into practice.

You might not define blogging about a New Year’s resolution-y concept two weeks into the year as brave per say—maybe procrastination would be a more appropriate word, eh Rebekah?—but baby steps, people. I’m here at least. Thanks for giving me grace.

Every January I observe friends, churches, bloggers, instagrammers doing this thing—choosing that one word they want to define the year ahead. Sometimes the really organized ones announce their words in December, just to get a jump start, because come January the internet is going to be sick of reading these posts. Sorry, internet. Here’s another.

I have never been one who makes decisions easily (save for lifelong ones like choosing to follow Jesus or saying yes when my husband asked for my hand), so the thought of selecting one little word that I’m supposed to embrace and weave throughout my life for a year? Bah. No thanks. I have a hard enough time deciding what color to paint my toenails or what to fix for dinner. Order for dinner. Whatever.

I have enjoyed seeing what words other people choose and how they implement them, though. Last year I followed one friend’s journey with her word, no (such wisdom there), and read along as another friend explored what living free looked like for her. I loved reading about what they did with their words and how their choices impacted their lives and the people around them. But I never and I mean never follow through on resolutions. How can I commit to something for a year with life’s ever-changing seasons? Moving, switching jobs, having babies. Life is too unpredictable, and I loathe the feeling of letting myself down by not being able to follow through on something I’ve committed to.

But then one night a couple of weeks ago as I tried to fall asleep, God did as He always does. He made it clear to me that no, I didn’t have to choose a word if I didn’t want to—because He was giving me one whether I liked it or not. 

Not two days later, a friend asked via group text if any of us had done this “word of the year” thing. One by one we all began replying with our words, and I was filled with optimism about what this year could hold for each of these women. Kindness. Focus. Present. Discipline.  

Brave. 

My friend Lindsey wrote a fabulously helpful post for people wondering, I picked a word… Now what do I do with it? One of the things she’s done with her word of the year is to have a little brainstorming session and map it out on paper. (You had me at “This is pretty nerdy, but…”, Lindsey!) This was messy for me, as I prefer bullet points and this turned into bubbles all over my little section of paper, but as I sat on my bed and just wrote out whatever came to me about the word brave, I could feel God working on me. And as I scribbled (what in the world has happened to my handwriting in the last few years? Good grief), I started getting really, really excited about what could come from being brave this year. Not sky-diving brave (let’s be serious)—brave in being vulnerable when needed. Brave in asking questions instead of faking it. Brave in speaking up. Brave in getting to know people and letting them get to know me. Brave in tapping “publish.” Brave in not letting myself be defined as introvert.

I wrote, in the pink-papered notebook my 7-year-old gave me for Christmas, some things that will try to stop me from telling my story, some things I need to say Yes to, and some things that might be harder than my beginning-of-the-year-optimistic self realizes.

There will be more bubbles and scribbling on my notebook pages in the days to come, and my prayer is that the words God gives me here reflect how He’s shaping my 2016.

He has made me brave. IMG_3675

Thoughts on a Friday morning

My husband started—more accurately, fell into by the grace of God—a new job last spring. One of the bonuses I’ve discovered from this new and terrifying thing called self-employment is that he now sets his own hours—meaning he’s available in the mornings to help out with the a.m. shuffle, specifically driving our daughter to elementary school. No more 5:30 a.m. departures and kisses goodbye I have no recollection of! We never knew Morning Dad before now. We like having him here.

As the toddler (I have pledged to stop referring to her as the baby, now 18 months) has swapped up her sleep schedule on me again, this week I adopted a new morning routine in the half-hour I have between Dad and big sis’ departure for school and little sis starting to stir in her crib, her little noggin popping into view on the baby monitor screen:

I blow kisses and close and lock the door behind them, grab the book I’m reading (Simply Tuesday) and my Bible, fix up my coffee, and… climb back into bed. (Perhaps I shouldn’t be sharing this, as you now know my secret and it makes this stay-at-home-mom gig sounds so posh, no?) I read a chapter (usually through tears, because Emily Freeman and I are soul sisters and she just gets me), sip my coffee (still hot! Again, so posh this job *insert the laughing-so-hard-I’m-spurting-tears emoji*), and make notes. My house is silent but for my elderly cat’s random wails when she thinks I’ve vanished. I “psst psst” at her across the house and she curls up on the laundry pile mountain at the foot of my bed (sigh).

I think and dream and pray in these few minutes. As I close my books and place the cap back on my pen, my soul feels quiet and ready, expectant for what the day holds instead of dragging toward it out of necessity. Here I am, God. Present in this moment, hopeful that I will be present in all of the moments You’ve given me today. Please use me today. Teach me what it looks like to be who You made me to be, here in this simple Friday morning. 

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Give us more stories

To say that my family is in a time of transition would be an understatement.

The best way to describe it is to say it feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, or getting ready to leap from a plane (yeah, like I’d ever do that), or summoning the courage to make The Call to push a button or flip a switch. I don’t do well with these types of decisions. I hem and haw over choices like French vanilla versus hazelnut, or whether it feels like a red-striped-shirt day or a blue-striped-shirt day (most days are one or the other, you know).

So at the beginning of 2015, when my husband and I decided—for sure this time—that I should transition out of my part-time job to be home with our girls, I gave myself plenty of time to change my mind. And I mean plenty. I gave my boss four months’ notice. I felt strongly about this decision, and there were many factors involved, but I struggled hard with it. Still, I just kept feeling God telling me that He had this. I just needed to do what He had put on my heart, and He would handle the rest.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised that He would put our faith to the test.

In March, things started falling apart at my husband’s job. It’s a long, crazy story that I’ll spare you, except to say that we were now down to one income—my part-time one. In April, he began a “leave of absence.” After five years of him working at the same company, the whole thing felt surreal. I didn’t really process any of it.

Then we got a call from our daughter’s school about financial aid for next year, and it wasn’t good news. I broke down over that one. The woman on the phone was incredibly kind, and of course had no idea that her call came minutes after my suddenly jobless husband had walked in the door from work at 10 a.m. It was too much. We got down on our knees and prayed. I don’t remember much of what we said, except for these words from my husband, which have stayed with me:

“God, give us more stories.”

The next couple of weeks went by fairly quietly, but all the time I was fretting on the inside. Why in the world would I choose to leave a perfectly good job right now? The clock was ticking away toward my last day. Was I completely crazy to follow through and walk away from it? I asked my husband frequently if he still felt it was the right decision. Thank goodness I married a man whose strengths are a match for my weaknesses, and vice versa. He reminded me regularly of all the reasons we talked about and prayed over so long ago. My calling had not changed. We would not flounder.

Then things started to shift.

I got together with a lovely group of women—fellow moms from my daughter’s school—and shared with a few what we’d been going through. It is humbling and painful to be honest about topics like this, but it is good for the soul to share and feel safe in doing so. Their response was so encouraging, and I felt a little bit of the weight I’d been carrying float away. Everything is going to be ok. 

The next day, my daughter finally lost a tooth that for weeks had been hanging on for dear life. This doesn’t have much to do with the rest of this post, but it had been causing her a great deal of worry and stress, and I considered it a huge victory. Age 6 is a roller coaster, y’all.

That same afternoon, I got a call from her school, and the same sweet woman who had informed me of bad news weeks before had a few questions. We discovered that a typo on our application had led to our aid denial. Yep—the nit-picky editor behind this blog had made an error, and a significant one at that. Long story short, our daughter will be returning to her school in the fall.

Over the course of the past month, my husband met with several friends wanting to connect him with job opportunities. I am in awe of the way our community rallied around both of us. The day after the tooth and the phone call, one of these connections led to an offer of work and the possibility of a future partnership. What the future holds, we don’t know, but we are adding this to the always-growing list of God’s provisions. It is another story He is writing so that we will be able to connect with and encourage someone else who is walking through a similar season.

“Give us more stories,” indeed. It’s funny—one of the things I love most about my job is that I get to be a story-gatherer, and then I get to share with our church community (and anyone who stumbles across our blog or magazine) all the incredible things God has done, and all that He continues to do. I will miss that. But I’m excited to have this gift of time with my kids (though I know there will be days when I will long for my little desk and adults to chat with over tacos in a lunch meeting). I know that God will keep writing stories for my family, and I look forward to sharing them. Most likely during nap time.

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