Catching Myself

This week, I participated in Lysa Terkeurst’s Praying Boldly for Your Marriage challenge. One day, I was reading the email that she sent out, and my eyes were opened. But first, I have a little bit o’ back story. ;)

Pray Marriage Challenge

Many moons ago, I was a young married gal. Full of life, free, and loving the season I was in. I had setbacks in our first year of marriage, of course, but my outlook on life was still greatly influenced by the care free attitude of my teenage years (I married the month before I turned 21). I smiled, was often told I was a kind and cheerful person, and I felt it. Fast forward eight years, two kids, and several life changes later, and I am a different person.

With your twenties comes a lot of decision making. There are tons of transitions and this decade can feel a lot like being lost. A lot like being unsettled. This is a whole other blog post in itself, but with all of life’s turns and the changes our bodies and minds make over the years, I’ve suddenly found myself in a place where I don’t want to be. I am much less patient than I used to be. To the outside world, I may still appear kind [although with a cup of snark thrown in here and there], but to those closest to me, I am far from kind.

It hurts to write that because the deepest longings of my heart are to be kind, generous, and refreshing. A woman radiating Jesus. If nothing else in this world, I want to be known for that. But so often I find myself in the opposite place. Snappy. Greedy or full of worry. And draining. At least that is what I feel like after thinking about the day and all the things I could have done better.

I shouldn’t have yelled at the kids for running around the house.

I should be a better wife and not demand so much from my husband when he gets home from work.

I should be more patient and loving towards my family.

I should’ve…I wish I had…I can do that better…

And instead of turning where I should [uh, the Lord] for encouragement, I beat myself up further, swear I’ll try better the next day, and drift off to sleep…only to be woken by a whispering four year old who is standing inches from my face at 4:30am needing to be re-tucked into bed.

Oh, the joys.

So often I am running on so little steam, that I quite literally just react. Anger. Impatience. Frustration. It all comes pouring out of my mouth and heart and leaves me feeling like a terrible wife and mother. The wake of it like a thousand thirty foot waves beating against my heart telling me I am not enough. When will you EVER measure up, Erin? You say you’ll do better, but you wont. We both know you wont.

And I believed it. I believed those lies. So I just promised myself to strive harder the next day, all the while failing because I was relying on my own strength. When I saw Lysa’s challenge, honestly, I decided to do it not because I wanted to hear from the Lord, but because I thought, “Hey, this will be something to get me on the right track! Another thing I can do to make things better.” When I read one of Lysa’s emails, something she said jumped straight out of the page into my spirit and lit a little flame.

Is this an irritation or an issue?
There is a big difference between an irritation and an issue. Identifying the difference helps me pick my battles. If this is just an irritation, maybe I need to practice being more flexible, patient or willing to extend grace.

While this may seem like a no-brainer for you…this was monumental for me. You see, I saw everything as an issue. I reacted with fury and irritation at every little or big thing because it threatens my idea of what my family should look like. Instead of considering that, um, little kids can be annoying and that is normal, I took it as a behavioral issue and determined every little moment to be a “teaching moment.” Instead of knowing that my husband isn’t going to be 100% ON all the time when he got home from work, I took it as a sign that he didn’t care for me and didn’t want to be around me, so I lashed back.

What an exhausting way to live, eh?

So what am I trying today? I’m trying to live the day through that filter…I’m trying to pause and think about how my reaction is reflecting my belief that the situation is either an irritation or issue and modifying if needed. The Lord used Lysa to show me that if I identify something as an irritation, that is my moment to practice patience. Kindness. Generosity. All those things I want so desperately to be.

This challenge has been nothing short of a blessing and refreshing pull back of the curtain for me. It has reminded me that I am human, but has also given me a practical way to watch my tongue and learn to bless my family. Speaking of which, in that same email, Lysa also talked about praying about versus praying for:

Am I praying about or for my husband?
If I do sense something that needs to change, I need to pray for my husband—not about him. Praying about him is just ranting. Praying for him means digging into God’s Word and praying scriptures specific to his struggles. That’s powerful! When we pray the WORD of God, we pray the WILL of God.

I loved this too because after I identify what the situation is, if it truly is an issue, I need to turn to the Word of God first. Not just turn to God and gossip about my husband [or kids, or family, or whatever it is], but I need to pray boldly with God’s Word over that person’s life. That is love. Truly desiring the change for someone doesn’t mean beating them over the head with it. It means praying fervently for the Lord to take hold of their heart. I can also know that I need to do that for myself. Instead of simply praying for all my wants, I need to go to God’s Word, see what it says, and pray through that.

I’m incredibly grateful for eye opening moments like this. Can you relate?

“It was like…magic.” // Seattle & Portland

One of the things that I would like to make more of a constant in my life is travel. I absolutely love traveling. Its something that I have come to love more in my adult life [maybe its motherhood and needing a little break occasionally!], and I’ve had several conversations with Joseph about doing it more often. There’s just something about stepping into a place you’ve never been before. Setting out to explore the hidden gems that cities have to offer. Its so wonderful. Or as Sam said, “It was like…magic.” [If you get that reference, we are MFEO. ;)]

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This post is FULL of links to all that we did. If you’re visiting the area, I hope these suggestions help! We snagged an early flight into Portland, Oregon first, spent the day there, drove up to Seattle and stayed with family for a couple days, and then drove back to Portland for one more day, and then flew home. It was such an amazing trip with my sister and her husband. Instead of the usual tourist schedule, we skipped most of the shopping and instead opted to do things that we would remember forever. Like taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island and hiking Mount Rainier…and of course, we did shoot to the top of the Space Needle. Because who doesn’t like being insanely high above the ground in a tiny little elevator that goes to the top in 41 seconds?? Apparently, one person a month throws up on the elevator. I could empathize.

Walking around Portland that first day was so crazy to me. Of course, I know other states have seasons [dear Arizona, follow suit, please…], but seeing all the trees on fire with red, yellow, orange, and green leaves was so amazing! The piles of leaves everywhere were fun to see [although I hear its a pain because if you don’t rake them up, they turn to sludge and that’s no bueno]. I couldn’t help but imagine my kids diving into piles of leaves on a cold fall day here. You don’t get that in Arizona.

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Of course we ate tons of yummy food. We joked that vacations are just trips to eat food in a different place than home. But seriously, it was sorta like that. I had some of the best food I’ve had in my life. Our breakfast when we arrived was at Mother’s Bistro & Bar…it was amazing. I had the breakfast nachos which are basically Irish nachos with the most amazing bacon you’ll ever taste. I just wanted to keep eating. Even though I was full. We visited the Nike Headquarters [because my hubby and my sister’s husband both work for Nike] as well as the Nike Company Store. My husband was like a kid in a candy store. For reals. We spent the day exploring all things Nike and then that evening met my cousin and her fiance for dinner at Portland City Grill. Its a restaurant 30 stories up above the city. It was amazing. We got a table at the window and chatted the evening away while eating yummy food and listening to the live piano. It was so cool.

The next day was in Seattle. On Bainbridge Island we visited a little crepe place (Bainbridge Crepes) that was just…there are no words. I had a savory crepe with fresh salmon and a sweet crepe with strawberries, pecans, and fresh whipped cream. The shop owner is the sweetest lady you’ll meet, and she tries to get all local ingredients for her crepes. YUM. And the crepes she made were buckwheat so they were gluten free. I couldn’t tell…they were SO good. You must eat here if you step foot on Bainbridge. Seriously.

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We visited Public Market (aka Pike Place Market) after we came back from Bainbridge. Y’all, the flowers at the market were INSANE. I didn’t get a picture of them because I was in such awe, but you could get a bouquet that makes grocery store flowers look like weeds. Seriously HUGE bouquets for only $10-$15. The first Starbucks is in this area as well as tons of seafood vendors, farmers market stands, and I even found a gluten free pasta vendor! Its such a cool experience; the vendors holler at you from their stand, give tons of samples, and the place is hoppin. I imagined living in an industrial downtown loft and shopping every day at the market for dinner. So fun!

The most magical thing we did was hike Mount Rainier. Having lived in Seattle as a kid for a short time, I remember seeing this snowy giant in the distance. I’d never visited the mountain until now though, and I’m so glad we took the trip. Its a good two hours or so southeast of Seattle through small mountain towns and swerving switchback roads. My sister and I were devouring ginger chews to keep from tossing our cookies on the way up, so definitely take your time.

Once we got through the gate, there are many different places to stop and take pictures before you get to the place where you hike up the mountain. There are waterfalls and many photo stops and then finally you get to the place to climb. It was a workout for sure, and since the air is so much thinner this high up, it is definitely a trail to take slowly. But its SO worth it when you get to the top. Truly breathtaking.

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How cute is my hubby? He wrote J + E in the snow up on the mountain. I’d like to think that because its only going to get colder from here on out, that his little love note will be preserved in snow until the mountain thaws next spring. :) A little piece of us left in Washington. :)

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The city of Portland is just so cute. I loved the little houses and places to walk. We walked around Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland where there were tons of shops, restaurants, and side neighborhoods to explore. Its definitely a place to visit! We loved Salt & Straw and Barista.

Altogether, it was an amazing trip. In four short days we definitely did a lot! I was so sad to leave and can’t wait to get back. What places are your favorite to visit? Share below in the comments!!

So Thankful. // Share the JOY

Is it just me, or do the holidays creep up on you like a procrastinated due date? Every year, the summer seems to creeeeep by (in Arizona, this is torture since the temperatures reach over 115º daily). Then school starts and before you know it, you’re frantically searching for that one costume that your four year old wants and trying to figure out why it became a tradition to give small people an overabundance of their drug of choice (sugar). But after you’ve “sorted” through their candy (parent talk for “eat half of it”) and the sugar tantrums fade, its suddenly the best time of year.

If it weren’t for the pure joy on the faces of my children at the sight of Christmas lights, sparkly trees, and that one gift (or five) that they’ve been begging for since the Toys R’ Us ad came out…I’d say Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Who doesn’t like a day dedicated to eating until you’re uncomfortable, taking a nap, and waking up to eat more?? And then drink coffee and eat pie? I mean, you must be crazy if this isn’t your idea of heaven.

We have several Thanksgiving traditions in our house…snuggling with the kiddos and watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with Starbucks hot chocolates is one of the biggest. My husband and I also watch White Christmas every year the weekend after Thanksgiving, make sure to watch the Friends Thanksgiving episode with Brad Pitt (can you believe this was a tradition started by my husband? ha!), make toasted pumpkin seeds, do a little holiday baking, and enjoy the time of year where neither the A/C nor the heater are on. Bliss.

This year, because I have it on my 30 before 30 list, I am cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I am both excited and terrified. Many different scenarios flash through my mind at the thought of this…most of them inspired by television turkey fiascos. I imagine a beautiful turkey that is ice cold on the inside, still contains the “parts” bag in the…ahem…cavity, and that tastes mildly like burned oven. But I digress…I have to learn and figured it is one of those “rights of passage” for adults…yada yada yada. *wink*

As I was thinking about cooking my first turkey, I also started thinking about the table that it will be on. If I am going to make a magnificent bird, he’s gotta have a great stage, right? Growing up, we never really had much of table decor for Thanksgiving because the whole table was full of food. I’m not complaining. But if I am being honest, a beautiful table set up is just icing on the cake of a wonderful day celebrating the things we are so thankful for. So I have come up with ten items I would love to have on my Thanksgiving table from, of course, pretty much my favorite store, World Market.

World Market Thanksgiving

  1. Amber Damask Ogee Tablecloth$14.99
  2. Turkey Serving Bowl$24.99
  3. Be Thankful Paper Banner$7.99
  4. Turkey Oval Platter$29.99
  5. Wood Bark Pedestal Stand$29.99
  6. Porcelain Plates Sets with Space-Saving Racks$19.99-$24.99
  7. Natural Fiber Turkey$22.49 sale
  8. Edin Wood 2-Tiered Stand$19.99
  9. Autumn Grass Stacks$39.98
  10. Mini Cornucopia$1.99

And this amazing create your own table set up interactive part of their site that you pick plates and different accessories and it populates your choices and shows you what your set up would look like! I don’t know about you, but it can be really frustrating for me to pick all the pieces to match the idea in my head but then get home and it doesn’t quite look like what I imagined. This eliminates that!

Thanksgiving Tablescape

I think I have this high idea in my head of what I would love Thanksgiving holiday entertaining to look like (appearance-wise) and that would probably be the dinner table scene in the intro to the show Parenthood. Outside, hanging bistro lights, long table, decor, candles…it just looks so magical! To celebrate the spirit of giving this holiday, Cost Plus World Market’s Share the Joy sweepstakes is back! Enter for your DAILY chance to win a $500 World Market gift card for you AND $500 for the charity of your choice! A winner will be chosen daily. Enter today and get the chance to Share the Joy this season. Sweepstakes ends 11/21/14.

What does your Thanksgiving table look like? What are some of your favorite pieces to decorate with?

This post was sponsored by World Market but as usual, all opinions are mine. I wouldn’t share something I didn’t believe in, which is why I changed the direction on my blog. You can read more about that here.

What Starbucks Used to Mean To Me

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I worked at Starbucks all through college and a couple years after. It was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, and I am sad to say I mourn the loss of what Starbucks once was.

When I first started at Starbucks, I worked in a store that had one of those grind and tamp espresso machines. Do you know what I am talking about? You won’t see them in any Starbucks now-a-days, but these machines required you manually grind the espresso beans, manually tamp (press) the espresso into a little portafilter (looked like a small pot with a handle) and manually brew each shot. You had to time the shots, calibrate the machine to brew the shots just right, and it took fooorrrrr-evvvvv-errrrrrr to make each drink. But it was amazing. The art of coffee. No automatic shut off, no automatic steam wand for the milk, you actually had to pay attention. Imagine that.

About a year after that, we got the automated machines. Coffee was still an art to me, making each cup with love. What I loved most about the whole thing was the customer experience. I loved the people. Talking with them while I made their drink, getting to know the “regulars” who came in daily, memorizing drinks, and generally making the experience for the customers a fun and welcoming one.

The importance back then was the people. Starbucks often spoke with us employees about being the “third place,” the place you go when you’re not at home or work. Once a customer walked in the door, you were required to say hello within a few seconds. If a person sat at a drive-through window for more than three seconds without a hello from the employees, not good.

The focus was on creating the Starbucks experience. Making it memorable so people would come back. It wasn’t about pushing sales and relying on the addictive factor of their delicious drinks. It was about people.

So what changed?

In the last year of my employment there, Starbucks started making changes. Changes that required more sales. More emphasis on the drink offerings. And less on the people. After I left, I started noticing the quality of workers at Starbucks just wasn’t the same. Where did all the smiles go? Where were the kind workers? Where did the work ethic go? Now, it isn’t uncommon for me to wait at a drive through window for several minutes before being acknowledged. An entire transaction can go without a smile, thank you, or polite anything.

I am so disappointed in the change that Starbucks has been going through. More sales. Less community.

And that is probably what bothers me. You see, when I worked at Starbucks, it was one of those places where people would come to be with one another. The regulars all hung out for hours and laughed and shared life.

I particularly remember one couple who regularly came in. When the husband of the couple was killed tragically in a car accident, the wife came to our store. She said, “I knew you guys would be there for me.” Our manager went outside with her and they sat for a few hours talking. She continued to come back daily, without her husband, and I saw healing happen in a freaking Starbucks. I saw community happen in a commercial business. But it was all because Starbucks used to value community.

It makes me sad, really. Its truly representative of our culture now. Get in and out. However you want to take that. Food. Work. Groceries. Sex. Relationships. Phone calls. School. Heck, even having babies. So, I raise a glass (an iced americano with hazelnut and cream) to what Starbucks once was and what our culture used to be…may community continue to reside in our hearts when it is no longer represented by a green Siren.

What is it about writing?

This week, I had an encounter with content stealing that left me feeling like I wanted to quit the internet. I have dramatic moments like this occasionally, trying to convince myself to just break up with my blog and move on. But every time I feel this way, I just can’t bring myself to actually do it. The community, the connection with other people, it just feels like too much of a loss.

But you can stay on social media like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you might say. Yes, this is true…but when it comes down to it, I just can’t stop writing. I am not an amazing writer, in my own opinion, but something in me needs to have this space to write and send my word out into space. I need to be able to say all the words and all the sentences.

I don’t know what it is about writing. I mean, I don’t even say anything particularly philosophical or moving. I don’t have a book or millions of followers. I could chant, “I WRITE FOR ME!” but that wouldn’t be true either.

What is it about writing? Specifically, what is it about writing publicly? Is it therapeutic? Is it narcissistic? I guess I do have dreams of one day writing books…but is that why I love blogging? Writing?

Sometimes I wonder if maybe writing is like throwing out a little morsel in hopes that someone will comment that they can relate. Or, if I am being truly honest, maybe it is a bit narcissistic in that we are looking for someone to be interested in us. Find value in us. Maybe we are trying, in a vulnerable and real way, to stand up and ask if someone will notice us.

Because if there is one thing I know about our humanity is that we long to be seen. We long for someone to look at us long enough to notice and see what the glancers and busy-bodies don’t see in their rush. Maybe we’re hoping for more than a comment. Maybe we long for a deeper connection that shows us that people find value not only in our writing or the pretty online spaces we create, but in the person who is connected to the fingers typing out the words.

Maybe we’re longing for more than what our culture has to offer. More than skin and big talk and possessions and sex and all the things. More than fizzled connections and empty words and manipulating and the never ending pursuit of the thing that we will be bored with 10 minutes later. Maybe writing and blogging and Instagramming are just small grasps at the desire to connect with the world in a meaningful and refreshing way.

Maybe?

Gardening & Parenting

This year, I decided that I wanted to start a garden. I’ve always admired those who grow their food and have big, overflowing vegetable gardens. I wanted one so bad! But here in Arizona, I was afraid that the hot sun would scorch anything I planted. After doing a lot of research and attending a local class about starting your garden, I felt more confused than I began! So I decided I would just jump in! I had a couple gift cards that I hadn’t used yet, so one evening, I went and got a bunch of supplies to start my garden.

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I was amazed at how much I got for only about $80, and after the kiddos went to bed, I got to work. There’s just something about warm, wet soil under your nails and planting little sprouts that was so good for my soul. I had always had a “black” thumb and killed everything I tried to nurture, but this time I was determined to not only keep these little plants alive but also to grow something that I could eat and be proud of.

Sorry for the grainy picture! But this is everything all planted the night I did it. From left to right, I planted red bell pepper, heirloom tomato, jalapeno and cilantro (blue pot center), cherry tomato, and sage. I imagined all the bowls of salsa, crispy sage in a pan with chicken, salads with tomatoes, and more. I was so excited! The heirloom tomato on the left is only as tall as the first rung on the tomato cage and the cherry tomato on the right barely reached the second rung.

gardeningStarting from the left is the sage, center is the bell pepper plant, and right is the jalapeno with the cilantro in the background. Did you know that if you don’t pick the cilantro, it grows really tall and sprouts little white flowers?

I watered, pruned, watered some more. I learned which was the best way to position the plants for sunlight. I learned that cilantro is finicky, and that tomato plants have LOTS of pests. I would wake in the morning to find the tender leaves of sage full of wormy holes. I would find branches on my tomato plants missing blooms and leaves leaving them resembling barren tree branches. I learned that even though they were sprouted, it takes time to produce fruit. And that even though I saw growth, the best was yet to come.

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I found this mirrored my parenting. Some days are pruning days, some are watering. Some topics are finicky and don’t have set answers, and that parenting comes with LOTS of pests trying to ruin what you’re doing. I found that I would get frustrated from not seeing anything…wondering when I was going to get to reap the harvest of my work and diligence with this little garden. Isn’t this so much like motherhood? The stretch of days that feel like all you do is discipline and one bottom is constantly occupying the time-out chair. Days upon days where you wonder, “Am I doing anything? What difference am I making on this little person?”

But I kept watering…partially out of stubbornness (I will not let this investment go to waste!) but also because I knew, something had to be coming. And this is how I have to live with my kids. Partially out of stubbornness ;) but also in knowing that something has to be happening. Underneath all the tears, punishments, molding, shaping, cuddles, lessons…I had to be making a difference somehow. When I tell them not to slam doors today and they forget the lesson tomorrow. When we teach not to hit and 5 minutes later you hear another smack! Underneath the soil, there just had to be growth. I had to have faith in Jesus that he was helping me mold their little hearts and even though I couldn’t see it, He could.

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Finally, one morning I woke to find little tiny sprouts from the buds. And what was once just a little plant was now a taller, much stronger plant that was beginning to produce fruit. And some days, I wake up and my kids are kind, loving, and listen. Some days they aren’t. But when I remember that something is happening underneath that I can’t see, that one day I’ll wake up and that little bud of kindness, obedience, etc. has sprouted, that each day the fruit of my labor as a mom to little people will grow bigger and bigger…it makes all the days of tilling the soil worth it. ♥ xo

5 Things Every Mom NEEDS On Hand

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As most parents learn, I’ve learned through trial-and-error [and mostly error] the things that make my life easier. Many times, I am simply too scatter brained to even think of new ideas to help myself be less stressed and the household a happier place. [Can I get an amen??] But as my babies get older and I become more aware of the hardest parts of my day, I’ve decided to sit down and write out the top 5 things I think every mom needs to have on hand at all times. I mean, we’re here for each other…solidarity, mamas…and I think we have to share our tips and secrets to a less chaotic day! Yeah?

1. Dry Shampoo

I mean, I could probably just say that and be done with it, but you guys. For reals. I used to not use dry shampoo because I had really greasy hair every morning and was not convinced that it would work. BUT. IT. WORKS. And for cheap too. I use Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo [and you can buy a 2-pack at Target!]. It smells good, works really well, and I always have it on hand. I mean, as I write this post, I’m wearing day-old hair [with curls!] and it looks great!

One thing I love about dry shampoo is that you can also use it on days that your hair is clean for that extra volume you need, extra grip for a pony tail, or in my case, to hold curls in my otherwise thin and limp hair. Its a win-win-win-win…you get the idea…

2. A Good Tumbler

31uMsT26GyL._SY355_Its a commonality amongst moms that we joke about how many times a day we have to reheat our coffee. For me, it was like 4-5 times before lunch time and then I would end up tossing it and starting over because it just didn’t taste right. Now that I live in a home that does not have a microwave, this makes things a bit more complicated since I have to reheat my coffee in a sauce pan. [I know…] So, one day, I had a Gru moment [lightbulb…] and realized that my coffee would probably last a bit longer if I used one of my coffee tumblers. And, surprise surprise, it worked!

Of course, I have several really cute coffee mugs that I love to use, so if I am anticipating being able to drink all my coffee in one sitting, I still use mugs. :) But tumblers like this one or this one [or make one you own really pretty with this tutorial] are really cute and will keep your life-giving mommy-juice warm for the duration of your morning. :)

3. Jeans that make you feel amazing

I don’t know about you, but I could probably live in my yoga pants and/or pajamas all the livelong day. But because I have to sometimes venture out into the world of the living, I need to look at least like I didn’t come off the set of The Walking Dead.

I’ve always loved Old Navy’s jeans…they always fit me just right. And right now, I am in LOVE with their Diva Skinny Jeans. I own a couple pairs in a few different colors and washes. The reason I think every mom needs a good pair of jeans is because when you feel good in your clothes, you really do feel better. I don’t know why. Maybe its just that you feel like a human again when you’re dressed and your hair looks good, but it changes something inside. Like a reverse Hulk situation.

4. A good mascara

I’m not really sure what could possibly distract from dark circles under tired eyes, but a good mascara is always a great idea. I have hopped around to different mascaras, trying different ones for fun. But I always come back to Maybelline New York The Colossal Volum’ Express Mascara. I have thin hair and eyelashes and need that extra volume and this mascara does the trick. Its pretty cheap and yet I love it!

On mornings that I am running my daughter to school, tossing on a couple coats of this mascara changes my face. I also have dropped a few drops of Lavender oil into the bottle [I use Young Living] to promote lash growth and to keep yucky germs out of my mascara tube. I really have noticed longer lashes! Holla!

5. Self-care

Okay, I know you can’t buy this one on Amazon [if you could, I’d buy all the stock!], but as I get older and my kids get older, self-care becomes more and more an obvious need. I always felt guilty going and doing something by myself. I hated leaving my husband and kids behind just to do something that I thought was selfish [which is not]. But in the past year, I have learned that when I am not caring for myself, I am unable to fully be present with my family.

I started with just going out for an hour or so. Then, when school started in Fall 2013, I started going to coffee shops to study before class. Then, a couple months ago, I started attending Holy Yoga. For me, going to yoga was the tipping point. I had found my jam. Now, I go weekly and find it to be exactly what my soul needs to reset and refresh.

There’s nothing worse than a worn-out, grumpy mama. These five things are game changers for me. What are the things that you just cannot live without as a mama? Comment below!

Back to Me

Last Friday, I put my blog on maintenance mode and posted this update:

Sorry for the inconvenience. But I have something to say. Something that I need to get out because I have been sort of embarrassed to say it.

I don’t like my blog design. Or my blog right now in some ways.

Earlier this year, I set out on a personal journey towards simplifying my life. [Still on that journey and loving it…so no complaints there.] I thought this meant that simplifying needed to spill over into every nook and cranny of me…school, kids, marriage, blog, house, Jesus, home, chores…everything. But as I am learning about simplifying, I am realizing that even though I LOVE the journey, this isn’t my voice. You know how they say [who is they by the way?] to find your niche and stick to it? Write to it? Well, I forced my mommy, wife, grad student, Jesus loving self into the “simplify” niche…and its not me. Simplifying my life is a part of my journey right now.

But you know what I really want to write about? Being a mom. Being a student. Loving my husband and little people well. Learning from my hurts. Leaning into Jesus. THAT is my niche.

So if you came looking for “the simple blog,” well, I’m sorry if I disappoint you by saying that “simplifying” won’t be the theme I speak from. It will totally be something I talk about, but it isn’t my voice. I’m so sorry. If you want to listen how I implement simplicity into my life as a mom, wife, student, and more, then I hope you stick around.

Right now, I am redesigning my site back to erin lauray. It will have a new color scheme, will be built on an amazing WordPress theme, and will hopefully encompass all that I am as a person.

The reason why this scared me was because I have changed my design a lot. I have new ideas that I get excited about and run with. So my fear is that you will see this as another one of my changes that won’t stick. Honestly, I pray this sticks. But who knows? A year from now, I may be a different person with different dreams who needs a blog that reflects that. When I change my design or whatever, I see it as a representation of how life is. We are constantly changing and learning and growing…and I would hope that when you come back to visit a year from now that I am not the same person. I really would hope that.

So here’s to new beginnings…again…and learning about who I am in the process.

While I was terrified of what people in the interwebs would think of me, I was more concerned with continuing to try and be someone I was not. What I am learning in my #simplify journey is that simplicity isn’t a one size fits all type situation. For me, that was making things less simple.

What I came to was this intense desire to get back to what I truly love and what my life is all about right now: parenting, motherhood, school, being a wife, and discovering myself as a woman and a person in this grand story that God is weaving through time. When I stiff-armed the mom blog in exchange for something different, I was also finding a lack of content ideas and a lack of passion behind writing. I want to write about life. About victories and moments of joy and also burned dinners and tears and pain. I want a community of moms who can support one another in this blessed and hard season of raising little chicks. I have found community so many times through social media and blogs in times when I was unable to find community in person.

I want to be that place for other women who are in that same season. A season of needing a girlfriend to talk to. Someone who will listen. I want to write about things that are real, things that make other moms/wives/women/people go, “YES. ME TOO.” I want to share my journey towards becoming a therapist and all that journey is teaching me about my life, my parenting, my relationships, and myself.

I hope that this place can be a place where you, too, can be encouraged. Uplifted. Challenged. Real.

So go tell all your friends…lets build something good here.

xo – E

Honor Where You Are

I recently started practicing yoga. Holy Yoga to be specific. Its a combination of the practice of yoga with scripture and centering yourself on the Lord during your time on the mat. And I quickly realized something.

I am more out of shape than I thought I was.

You laugh. Its okay. You probably imagine me trying to do some handstand or something difficult and then wondering why I can’t do it. No, its even worse. It was the Gentle Flow, and I was nauseous only halfway through. Pretty sad, huh? I follow a bunch of lovely yoga ladies on Instagram who are very talented and can do all sorts of fun and challenging yoga poses. They have fun, colorful yoga wear and smiles on their pretty faces.

I thought surely I can do yoga. I’ve done it before and loved it, so this time around I’ll likely get right into the flow and not have a single issue! I got a pretty purple yoga mat, set up my water and Holy Yoga DVD, and got ready for a wonderfully refreshing session.

Except I wanted to die. Except that I felt like my muscles were going to explode. And I got frustrated. I got mad at myself. Why can’t I do this? I chase little people around all day and here I am sweating bullets and wanting to barf.

I felt like such a failure. I had high hopes and expectations on myself for what this would look like. I wanted to be more advanced than I was, and when I realized that I wasn’t so far along, I berated myself.

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Its not just about where you want to be.

I tried again. And again. And still felt so out of shape. And I felt so bad about it. And if I can admit something ugly, I wanted to be cool. Trendy. I wanted to be all like just drank my almond milk latte and finished a 90 minute yoga session on my back porch with the sunshine pouring in. Complete with Instagram picture. It embarrasses me to even write that.

But then I noticed something the instructor said often. Honor where you are in your body. I came to a realization. It flowed through me and seeped into all the areas of life. I have to learn to honor myself and where I am at. I had to honor my body and abilities.

It wasn’t about settling with where I was at and being disappointed. It was about respecting myself, pushing when I could handle it, but honoring my body. Valuing it. Valuing myself. You see, its not always about pushing ahead. Getting to your goals and dreams. Sometimes its about doing the work here. Sitting in right now for a little bit. We’re all so ready to move past the pain of the moment. The stress of today. That instead of learning about yourself, your life, loves, passions, etc., we are pushing past a teaching moment. Stop trying to get to the next thing in life – whether that is older kids who don’t throw fits or wear diapers anymore [ahem…hand raised], finally working in a place you like to work rather than the place you’re working now, moving into the house you’ve always wanted, finally putting the energy and time into something you have always wanted to do…no.

There is always going to be something. So my kids aren’t little babies anymore and can play independently. I wished for that in moments where they screamed their heads off, and I wasn’t able to put them down for one second. And then they grew a little and now can do what I had wished for, but now I have new problems. When will my two year old stop being so stinking hard?? Get my point? There is always going to be something.

I learned that honoring who I am right now helps me to learn about myself and truly consider who I want to be. Instead of pressing past the struggle, if I rest into the struggle and I can allow it to strengthen my muscles, my heart, and helps me to [cliche as it sounds] love myself. We have so many critics, there will always be people who will criticize you. Don’t let yourself be that person. Don’t be the first to hate on yourself; be the first to honor and love yourself.

There will always be people further than you. Ones you…[gasp]…envy. You wish you could be like them. Have their opportunities. But what does that create? Self-loathing. Negative self-talk. You could be like her if you worked harder. Lots of moms love to play with their kids, who are you to say you’re too tired? If you were only a little more interesting, you might have more followers and comments.

I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to you — You are good. You are worthy. You are valuable. You have nothing to prove. Let yourself stretch and grow in each season and stop looking so far ahead that you’re missing what you could be learning now. I promise you, a garden grows with gentle love and patient care, not a hasty and violent hand.

30 Before 30

I am 29. Its very weird to think that soon I will be leaving this life-changing, defining, pivotal, immensely hard 20s season behind me and venturing into my 30th decade on this earth. While that Friend’s episode of Rachel not wanting to turn 30 plays in my head, I am actually extremely excited to turn 30. Not really for any specific reason, but I am ready to venture into new waters and see what the Lord has for me. The turning of the clock from 29 to 30 seems to have a symbolic “leaving behind” for me…maybe I will finally move past some things. Maybe my 30s will be less about the uncertainty of my 20s and more about assurance.

Lots of bloggers out there have done 30 before 30 lists, which is a list of thirty things you’d like to do before you hit your 30th birthday. I started my list a couple months before I turned 29 in June by writing little goals in my notepad on my phone. But I have already been able to check some things off my list, so here it goes!

30 BEFORE 30

  1. Get a wrist tattoo – I really like this image and have always wanted to get three birds on a wire for my sisters and I.
  2. Start a vegetable garden – Growing your own food is something I have always wanted to do but have been so intimidated by!  Started this garden at the end of August 2014 :)
  3. Plant a few flower pots for the porch – The front of my house, while historic and cute, is not the most colorful. I’ve always wanted pots overflowing with flowers to help bring a little color! Done! Planted some pretty hanging planters as well as some fun pots full of pretty flowers in September 2014. Yay!
  4. Run a 5K – I’m not a runner, so this would be a victory for me…all 3.11 miles.
  5. Start a blog about simplifying – In my own pursuit to #simplify my life, I want to share my stories with others. I renamed my blog “the simple blog” in August of 2014. Since then, I have had more joy in writing about pursuing simplicity in my life. Its wonderful!
  6. Start singing on the worship team at church again – I was on the worship team at my church from age 14 all the way through age 24. This was one of my most favorite seasons of life.
  7. Start mentoring someone – I don’t look at this goal as an, “I’m so great!” type of goal. I see this as something where I am ready to pour into someone else and love on them.
  8. Take piano lessons – Always wanted to do it. That’s all!
  9. Lose 10 pounds – Because. Food. I achieved this through my 23rd point below! Yay! Finished the program in September 2014.
  10. Start practicing yoga – I’ve always wanted an active hobby and I love the slow flow and quietness of yoga. Holy yoga is something I really think would be a great way to start. I started going to Holy Yoga classes here in Phoenix in August 2014 as well as practicing at home with a DVD. This has been a major part of my self-care goal, and I am excited to say I plan to stick with attending the classes!
  11. Start co-leading a small group with my hubby – We absolutely LOVE hosting people at our house and have always loved being with other couples. This is a goal we both have really desired for a while.
  12. Take a cooking class – I think this would be so fun! Anyone wanna join?
  13. Go somewhere I’ve never been before – We always vacation to California…don’t get me wrong, I love California. But I would love to go somewhere I have never been before this next summer comes.
  14. Once a month, write one “just because” card and mail it – Everyone loves mail! I’ve recently purchased a few cards from Target that were really nice and just cards for every day. I’d love to write cards to people to encourage them and love on them.
  15. Take a girl’s trip – I have always wanted to do this!! When I was 18, I took my first road trip without my parents with a couple of my girlfriends [one who is now my sister-in-law] and yet, I have never taken one since! I’d love to take a trip like that again.
  16. Take a trip alone – I went to the Influence Conference in 2013 and absolutely LOVED how refreshing it was to travel alone.
  17. Host a dinner party – Because this would be so fun! :) I hope to have my patio all decorated pretty before the cooler weather comes so we can actually enjoy it. Think string lights, picnic table, and pretty pretty plants. :)
  18. Make self care a priority – I’m not quite sure how I am going to achieve this…but I’d like to think that investing my time into the other 30 things listed here would be a start ;) But seriously, I think that I would love to have something I consistently do to pour back into myself. I started practicing Holy Yoga in August of 2014 as part of my self-care.
  19. Develop a habit of prayer – This one is super important to me. I don’t want to only be praying in desperation every day, but I also want to develop the habit of praying for others and for myself and my family – again, not in desperation [i.e. “God, please make my son stop throwing a fit!!!] but more for things that I’m seeking an answer to. I have this awesome prayer journal that every month you write in things you’d like to pray for. In August, I filled that thing up, but opened it to pray only a handful of times. I’d like to change that.
  20. Make more friends – I’d really like to have some more friends. I mean, this is always a good thing, right?
  21. Cook a turkey – This is intimidating to me. REALLY. But I’ve never made the Thanksgiving turkey before, and I’d like to learn.
  22. Go and actually cut down our Christmas tree – I’ve always thought this would be lovely, but here in Arizona, you have to have a permit to do this. Luckily, they only cost $15 but are first come-first served, so I hope this one gets checked off because we actually got to do it!
  23. Complete one full workout program – I tried Slim in 6, didn’t finish it. I did about two months of P90X and didn’t finish it. I started Jillian Micheal’s 30 Day Shred and, you guessed it, didn’t finish it. So I hope to finish one program in my 29th year. I started 21 Day Fix in the beginning of September and finished!!
  24. Bring more intentional with my kids by doing things they like – This will include scripture memorization and baking with Jael and playing Play Dough or outside with Elijah…of course, there are so many more things they love, but I want to be more intentional about doing things they individually love too.
  25. Join a book club – This sounds like so much fun, so if any of you are part of one, want to start one, or know of a good one, please let me know in the comments below!
  26. Replace my husband’s truck – This one might be a bit difficult, but its on it’s last leg for sure, and I’d love to bless him with a new one.
  27. Register and plan to go through the Gottman Level Two training – This one you may not quite get, but its basically a training for therapists who work with couples. It will be in Las Vegas in November 2014, so I’d like to at least be planning for it by the time I am approaching my birthday. My MFT friend and I have been planning the Level 2 Training in Las Vegas next year, but I’d love to attend the Chicago one too! So the planning has sort of started. :)
  28. Visit [lunch, dinner, play group, etc.] one blog friend – I don’t know who because I have a couple that are close by or within driving distance, but I think this would be really fun.
  29. Mail a family Christmas card - I’ve always wanted to do this. I think Christmas cards are so fun!
  30. Paint and DIY my living room end tables and coffee table – I bought the end tables at a garage sale with the intention of painting them and adding glass tops as well as repainting my coffee table, so this would be nice to have done within the next year!

So there you go! Any tips, ideas, or comments about my list? I really hope its not like my past New Year’s resolutions…I really want to try and get these things done. These things are items that I feel would add to the joy and cheer of life, and I am excited! Let me know what you think below! Have you done a 30 before 30 list? I’d love to read it!