The Return to Normal

As I’m sitting here- autumn sunlight streaming through my windows while I sip on a peppermint mocha coffee (shhhh, don’t tell my first love, Pumpkin Spice, that I’m cheating on him) – I’m left with a very distinct feeling of relief. And calm. And happiness.

This was one of the first weeks, since we started school in September, that life felt normal. The kids were both sick for almost 4 weeks – off and on – starting early September, and then – on the rare healthy moment – we were playing catchup and I was running around like an over-caffeinated chicken whose head had been cut off. Sooooo many plans, SO many things going on, and SO many things to do!

Yes, I really have been at the point where I could relate to an over-caffeinated, headless chicken.

But not right now. Right now, I’m a happy little chicken, sipping on coffee, taking in fall colors, and listening to her two chicks happily playing.

Nate and I enjoyed our wedding anniversary date the other day (13 YEARS married and still sooooo in love), and – as we walked in the woods together and sipped on coffee – I told Nate, “You know what? I’ve missed the sunshine. We’ve been so busy, I haven’t stopped to appreciate it.”

“But, Nicole,” You might be thinking, “sunshine is such a common element of nature… How could you not notice it? How could you not notice the golden leaves around you that are on fire right now with pure autumn beauty?”

It’s easy. Sometimes, life just gets so big and so busy and so complicated for us mamas that we literally don’t take the time to see. We can’t. We’re in surival mode, and all we can focus on is everyone clothed, fed, is the next meal prepped, is laundry being washed, and are we on time for the next appointment?

Want to know what one of my favorite parts of this morning is? The sunshine… the fact that my kids are healthy right now and able to entertain themselves a bit before school… and the realization that the day is ours. No appointments or big plans or heavy responsibilities. We can seize the day and be spontaneous. And that just feels SO right.

And today is a reminder that even during the crazy times, it’s so important to take these “just be still” moments to go for a walk or just sit a moment!

Sometimes, it’s really easy to get SO busy with life that we forget to live.

Ooh, that was good… I need to type that again.

Sometimes, it’s really easy to get SO busy with life that we forget to live.

So I’m just sitting here, taking in the moment of normalcy, and focusing on all my blessings! It’s autumn, the holidays are right around the corner, and I’m chatting with all of you (which I’ve desperately missed, so I REALLY need to get back to blogging more regularly). Life is good!

Curly Girl Method – My start!

Someone (Hi, Sarah!) suggested that I take “before” and “after” photo’s of my Curly Girl journey, and I thought that was such a fantastic idea! I took “before” photo’s… and then promptly forgot where I had stored them. Oh mom brain… HA!!! But I did find a photo that I think represents how my hair usually looks!

My hair tends to have more of a crimped, frizzy look. On a good day, I’ll have a few ringlets, but it’s never predictable. On rare occasion, I’ll have a fantastic curly day! (Usually it’s on a day that I have nowhere to go, because isn’t that always the way?). 😉 And more often than not, my hair is more along the lines of frizz-gone-wild.

As a result, I’ve always straightened my hair on holidays or special occasions to guarantee a good hair day.

So here we are, day 1 of attempting the Curly Girl method! I’m SO in!!

To start, I decided to read The Curly Girl Handbook by Lorraine Massey, which started the trend.

My biggest take-aways from the book were:

  1. No more “poo” (a.k.a. shampoo!). Gentle cleanse the scalp on occasion, but no more bubbly shampoo that will strip curly hair. I’m nervous about doing this, but I am here to try it!
  2. Frizz = dehydrated hair. Hydrating hair means no more frizz halo!
  3. Be VERY careful of product ingredients as some work against curly hair (even if they’re labeled a curly hair product).
  4. Use fingers to comb through wet hair in shower. No more combing once you get out of the shower.
  5. Don’t fully rinse out all conditioner. WHAT? I’m excited and terrified to try this…
  6. Use a cotton towel (or tshirt) to gently scrunch hair dry. No more virously rubbing hair dry.
  7. Apply a LOT of gel to create a gel cast. Then “scrunch the crunch” and gently scrunch out the gel case to reveal soft, curly hair underneath. I feel skeptical, but I can’t wait to try this!

Let’s get STARTED!!!

For my initial attempt to at least get started, I shampooed my hair – as is my usual routine – followed by conditioner. BUT I used a lot more conditioner than normal and used my fingers to ‘comb’ my hair before rinsing. I also switched from my Loreal products to Pacifica Pineapple Curls shampoo and Coconut Curls Raw Smoothie conditioner, both of which are Curly Girl approved. (That being said, I rinsed out ALL of my conditioner and didn’t leave any in as recommended. Baby steps!)

First impression – These two products smell like HEAVEN! My hair smells soooooo good right now!! I did, however, immediately notice that my hair already seemed a bit frizzy when just getting out of the shower, even when wet. I don’t think that’s usually the case. And I wonder if that’s the product or not? Maybe I’ll try my Loreal shampoo and conditioner to see if that usually happens or not.

I followed with a couple of drops of Frizz Ease serum by John Frieda (not Curly Girl approved) and then a quarter sized amount of Creme Brule by Curls (which smelled like dessert and IS Curly Girl approved). I used the ‘praying hands’ method of applying (which you can read about here).

First impression – Frizz Ease might not be Curly Girl approved, but I did like the idea of starting with a serum that will help me fight frizz. I feel as though the product DID help with that a little. That being said, my hair might have been a tad bit greasy and weighted down, so I’ll be on the look-out for an ‘approved’ replacement. I also like starting with a creme to help smooth out my curls. I don’t know yet if I’m obsessed with the Creme Brule cream, but I currently don’t have any complaints.

Gel is supposed to be SUPER important to the method of casting curls… and then scrunching out the crunch to reveal soft curly hair. I decided to start with Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk, which is Curly Girl approved. And then when my hair was about dry and needed a bit more definition, I spritzed on a bit of John Frieda Frizz Ease dream curls styling spray (which is NOT Curly Girl approved).

First Impression – I’ve read a ton about setting a nice ‘hard’ cast on one’s curls and then scrunching out the crunch, and I felt as though the Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk gel wasn’t firm enough for that. It was minimum hold, and there was no crunch to scrunch out. Once this bottle is empty, I think I’m going to move on and try a new gel. I actually LOVED the Frizz Ease dream curls styling spray, but it’s not Curly Girl approved… Soooo I’ll have to decide whether or not to continue buying it once it’s empty.

THE END RESULT – I feel as though my hair was a bit greasy looking intitially, but as I moved and kept busy during my day, that went away. So maybe I should have scrunched my hair – when dry – a bit more? I do think that I’d like more volume, and so maybe some of the products were a bit heavy for my curls. (That would make sense since some of them had products that Curly Girl does not recommend I use…).

That being said, my hair looked WAY better than it has in a long time. I saw ringlets that I haven’t seen in years. Just this one morning of change (which took me no longer than my usual routine) left my hair looking as though I had “done” my hair. I felt myself falling in love with my curls again, and I’m SO excited to keep going and figuring out what works for me!!!

This was the BEST hair day that I’ve had in FOREVER!!! 🙂

Stay tuned for my next steps!

Racing and Cars

You might remember that I hurt my knee last spring, tearing my meniscus. Popping out my knee and injuring myself is something I’ve done since I was 12, so that was hardly new. But this time, I didn’t bounce back like I had in the past. Tearing the meniscus left me off of my feet and unable to walk even a mile… for months. I was in such pain. I saw an orthopedic doctor, thinking that surgery was in my future; but he told me that there was nothing he could do.

His final verdict was: “Maybe you can take up swimming? I’m sorry to say, but your running days are over. There’s just nothing that we can do. You won’t run again. It’s time to find something else that you love to do. Your knee is just what it is.”

I was devastated. And honestly really confused… It’s a humbling thing to be told – in your 30’s – that you won’t ever run again. You all know that I joke about not growing up, but I left his office feeling 10 years older. Not only had my favorite form of exercise (and an important mental-health activity of mine) been taken away, but I also couldn’t help but look ahead to the future… Would I not be able to hike with my kids? Would I not be able to play tag or sports with them? It was a huge blow!

BUT… I started to hear stories from others who had been told the same and who worked extremely hard to turn a diagnosis like this around. I was also encouraged by physical therapy who did not agree with his findings! They told me that I was young, and they felt that – with the right conditioning – I could run again. They did not believe the pain was arthritis (as the doctor had claimed), and they did believe that strength training and proper rest would strengthen and heal my muscles to the point where I could run once more.

It has been quite the year. For months after my injury, I could hardly walk 2 miles. But little by little, with lots of stretching and physical therapy, I gained strength. Since January, I’ve pretty consistently run 2 miles, 4 times a week. And today? Today I ran my first 5k in years!

*I’m smiling even as I type that*

I woke up early this morning a bundle of nervous energy. I had a long drive to get to the race, so I wanted to be fueled without overly full. I poured my usual bowl of cereal, but I added sliced banana and a small handful of cashews to it. It was delicious and really did give me energy that lasted! I can’t do much coffee before a run, but I did sip on a small iced coffee with breakfast.

The quiet drive was SO beautiful! The sun was just coming up, the clouds were alive with color, my worship music was playing, and I was alone with my thoughts. It really felt healing! Then I picked up my friend Arielle at a supermarket not far from the race, and we drove the rest of the way together.

We picked up our racing bibs and got into line, and – as we were waiting at the Start – Arielle asked, “Did I mention that the first mile and a half of this course is all uphill?”

“Hmmm, no, you hadn’t,” I replied.

“Oops”, she said with a grin.

Ha, ha, ha!!!

She was NOT lying!!! The first mile and a half was brutal. The hills were endless and some were quite steep. She and I kept a steady pace though; and because some people had started too fast, they had to start walking and she and I were able to pass them. (At one point, we even passed a bunch of kids from the highschool football team who looked quite sheepish to be passed by two moms. HA!!!).

Slow and steady wins the race, my friends!

There were definitely times when I felt like quitting, although not because of my knee. My knee actually felt stronger and more secure than it had in years. But my lungs screamed, as did my legs. This was my first time really pushing myself in a long time, and I felt it. (I haven’t trained doing 3 miles, AND I definitely had not trained for hills like these). There were definitely points where I wanted to quit and start walking, but I refused. She and I kept each other accountable and moving at a really brisk pace, even through those hills.

And then, when I thought I couldn’t run another step, we saw the Finish line up ahead. And she and I just booked it and started to run as fast as we could. As I stepped through, this wave of emotion just raced through me, as I realized I had just done it. I had run a 5k!!!

She and I placed 420th out of 1,575 runners, which was just fantastic!! Although we didn’t even come close to placing, we outran over 1,100 runners; which was just a huge accomplishment for us. Also I hit a new PR, beating my last 5k time by two minutes! So these scores were just incredible, and we couldn’t have been more excited. I love that we pushed each other and challenged our paces. I definitely would not have run so well had I attempted this alone!

You guys, I did it!! 🙂 Just over a year ago, my doctor had said, “You’ll never run again.” Talk about words that fueled me and motivated me to truly fight! 🙂

And to celebrate my great run, my husband bought me a new car!

Okay, fine, he was planning on buying me a new vehicle already… But doesn’t that sound good?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you might remember that my first car was bright yellow. And it was my baby! 😉 BUT when a real baby came along, the two-door car wasn’t practical; so we traded it in and bought the Jeep. Our Jeep served us really well over the years, and we absolutel loved it! But it’s starting to run rough and need repairs, and it’s just not worth throwing a lot of money at.

I’d say that my one “complaint” about the Jeep wasn’t even it’s fault. 😉 It just always felt masculine to me and never really felt like mine, even though it technically was supposed to be. This time, Nate really worked with me and let me help pick out something that was practical for the family, in our budget, but also bright and upbeat like I love.

After lots of research, we decided on the Nissan Murano, and I am obsessed!!! It’s so sporty, a candy apple red, and I just love it! Ooh, and it has a sun roof, which was a major surprise when we went to sign the papers yesterday. Nate hadn’t told me about that ahead of time so that I’d have a bonus surprise! 🙂 The Murano is just so fun, and I’m really excited about this new vehicle. I might love it almost as much as I loved my yellow car. Ha, ha!

What a PERFECT day!!! 🙂

I’m Trying the Curly Girl Method!

Let’s talk hair for a moment, shall we?

When I was little, everyone would say that I had hair like Shirley Temple. My ringlets were tight and abundant. Strangers would stop me in the grocery store and ask – in awe – “are those your natural curls?”

The funny thing is that I didn’t want to have curly hair as a child though. I wanted long, straight, silky hair like my sister. Or like absolutely everyone else in my life. I felt like the odd girl out, and I thought curly hair was ugly.

Jump forward a few years to my teen years, and I was pretty much rocking the affro. I had big, frizzy hair that refused to be tamed. It wasn’t my best look, but I also didn’t care enough about attempting hair styles to try to change it. I didn’t know where to start, to be honest. And also, doing hair has never really been a passion of mine. I’m more of a “wash and go” type of girl, to be honest. 😉

Over the years, as an adult, straightening my hair was the way I “did my hair” if I felt like putting in effort. Date night… holidays… special events. If I wanted to ensure a gorgeous hair day and a day that I felt put together, I’d definitely pull out the straightening iron and iron out those curls and frizz. Otherwise, I’d wash my hair and let the frizz and curls do what they wanted.

Because yes, my hair still refuses to be tamed. In the morning as it’s drying, I see ringlets and curls; but – throughout the day – they loosen and frizz out. And while I have found products that give me a more put-together look (and it’s not that every day is a bad hair day), I really still don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to curly hair. And I definitely don’t have any control over what they’re going to do that day

Enter the Curly Girl Method!

I’ve heard about this method for YEARS, but honestly just didn’t care to put any effort in to learn about it. I mean, mom life and all that. I went from a busy career to no sleep and raising children. 😉 Working with my hair was pretty much at the bottom of my list, especially since I lived in baseball caps most days.

But recently, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that I’d really love to learn how to work with my curls. And the Curly Girl Method really seemed like the place to start! So here it goes… I’m about to start a Curly Girl Method journey, and I’d love to bring you along on the ride with me. 🙂

I have a Curly Girl book coming in from the library soon, but there are a ton of resources online. And without having done too much research yet, I’ve already realized that – according to the curly haired experts – I’m doing absolutely everything wrong.

Curly Girl Method Products – The Curly Girl Method has a long list of taboo products that you aren’t supposed to use; because they can frizz your hair, weigh down your hair, work against your curl pattern, etc. I love this site, because you can easily run a check on all the ingredients of a product. And it will tell you if your product is curly girl approved or not!

My Products – I currently use the Loreal EverCurl line for my Shampoo, Conditioner, and hair gel. None of them are Curly Girl Method approved. I have enjoyed this line for years, but I will say that I do struggle with frizz. And I do feel as though my hair is weighted down. So while it has served the purpose for awhile, I definitely plan to replace this line with Curly Girl Method products to see if I notice a difference.

Curly Girl Method Hair Cair – Again, I still have research to do. BUT I’ve read enough to gather some of the basics… For the Curly Girl Method, you’re supposed to wash your hair only once or twice a week with shampoo, using conditioner on the other days. (The method uses lots and lots of conditioner). 🙂

You generally don’t comb your hair when you get out of the shower. Instead, you rake your fingers through your hair in the shower when there’s conditioner in it, and then you don’t comb it afterward. This helps to keep your curl pattern.

When you’re done washing your hair, you gently scrunch it dry with a cotton towel, followed by LOTS of gel. This dries and forms a curl cast; and then you ‘scrunch the crunch’ out, leaving just the curls.

In addition to a cotton towel, it’s recommended that you sleep with a silk pillow case so that you don’t frizz your hair in the night.

My Method – I wash my hair every single day with shampoo, I comb my hair out of the shower, I dry it vigously with a towel, I add as little gel as I can, and I definitely didn’t even know that silk pillow cases existed. Basically, I am doing ALL the wrong things. Ha, ha!!!

Sooooooo, I’m excited to change my routine up a bit and to see if I can transform my hair! If not, it’ll still be a fun experiment. HA!!!

Do you use the Curly Girl Method? Have you even heard of it?

The Measure of a Mama

I am VERY goal oriented. Fueled by progress… Satisfied by measurable accomplishments… Motivated by sticker charts… 🙂

And this can be a good thing! I mean, who doesn’t love a good chart, especially when there’s adorable, over-priced stickers involved.

BUT…

How do you measure your success as a mama? I’m not talking about the end game when your now-grown children are Jesus-loving, hard-working, caring adults who are making the world a better place. I’m talking the here and now… The messy – but also beautiful – part of the journey that’s filled with Cheerio crumbs, runny noses, skinned knees, sleepless nights, early mornings, ketchup stains, crayon scribbles on the walls, endless piles of laundry, and bottomless cups of coffee.

That success is much harder to gauge. And oftentimes, I think that – as moms – we spend a little too much time comparing, focusing on our short-comings, and stressing about all the ways we didn’t measure up.

This past week, both my kids were very sick with a nasty virus. (They tested negative for COVID, but RSV is going around… and it can be pretty rough for kiddos going through it).

Because of the constant coughing, there has been limited sleep. Because of the limited sleep, emotions have been running high. Oh yes, and fevers… Fevers have been running high too. Kaitlyn finally got rid of her fever this morning after a week, and Brady is still fighting one at this point. I’ve been running up and down stairs to fluff pillows, fill up glasses of juice, snuggle, give sympathetic kisses, run baths, hand out Tylenol, take temperatures, and read stories.

After a week of this now, my house is a mess. I’m a mess. We’re all a mess.

Nate called me on his way home from work the other night and asked what was for supper, and I replied, “It’s… hmmmm… it has hamburg… hmmm… I can’t remember what it’s called… it’s… hmm…”

To which he replied, “I’m grabbing a pizza on my way home.”

The next night, he picked up KFC. Last night, we had boxed macaroni and cheese. I haven’t worked out in about two weeks. The laundry is piling up. There are cups all over the house, and scattered blankets, and cracker crumbs where sleepy kids decided to have random picnics. And you know what? Because of the clutter, and my inability to keep up with workouts, and my eating junk food, I labeled myself as having a bad mom week.

No ‘Good Job’ sticker for me.

Last night, I opened up a brand new planner I had bought and took out my fancy, colored pens. I love keeping track of my workouts and meal plans as a way to stay focused and try to make healthier choices… But as I thought about my goals for this month, the one word that kept coming to my mind was “rest”.

This mama was TIRED!

So it was fitting that – in my morning devotions – I read about Mary and Martha hosting Jesus in their home. You know the story… Martha busied herself trying to prepare a nice dinner, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words. And when Martha asked Jesus to get her sister to help out with the work, instead of rebuking Mary, He said that Mary was making the right choice. She was sitting and eagerly spending time with Him, holding onto everything He said. That was more important than the busy stuff pulling Martha away.

As a mom, that makes me feel seen.

Because I too often get caught up in grading myself as a mom based on the quality of dinner, the tidiness of my home, and the orginzation of our day. I rush around like Martha, sometimes getting caught up in the act of service. And not that there’s anything wrong with that! I will always strive to fix my family healthy, delicious meals and to give them a cozy, clean house to live in. BUT when it’s impossible for me to attain that? It does not mean that I’m a failure.

When the kiddos are sick and I’ve had an abnormally exhausting day, there is no shame in accepting a take-out-for-dinner offer from my husband. Or walking instead pushing my body to run. Or deciding to put off some of the extra chores for tomorrow.

I gently helped Brady into the shower last night at midnight, hoping the warm spray and steam would help to alleviate his coughing. And as I wrapped him in a towel afterward and snuggled him for a hug, he whispered, “Thank you so much for taking care of me, Mama. I love you.”

And in that moment, I got the gold star. I got the “Good job, Mama.” Because it didn’t matter that my bathroom sink needed a wipe-down or that the laundry basket was full. My kid was being taken care of and loved. He needed me to sit with him. To be with him and to rest with him. He needed ME.

Just as my Heavenly Father wants ME.

And in order to truly offer myself to my God and to my family? Then I’d better make sure I’m taking time to take care of myself! And what my body (and my mind) needs is going to shift and change with the different stages of life.

For my number 1 goal for this month, I wrote down “rest.” And I think it’s going to mean signing off of social media earlier every night, getting to bed a bit earlier, and allowing myself to find a routine and pace that works for my family. It’s going to mean walking instead of running if my body is just beat. It’s ging to mean reaching for the foods that energize me and make me feel good. And that’s going to mean measuring myself through my Savior’s eyes!

No more thinking that my success has to look a certain way. Most definitely, no comparing myself to those beautiful instagram pages or Youtube videos of perfect-looking families and always tidy houses. 😉 That will never be my reality… and that is okay!

My God sees ME. He sees each person in my family, and His heart is for us. Because His heart is for people. And when I choose, every single day, to care for my family the best way I know how (even though sometimes I might feel like I’m winging it), I am making Him proud. And I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Measuring yourself as a mama shouldn’t be comparing yourself to the standard of perfection that you might see on social media. Sometimes it means letting go of the standard of perfection that you personally have set for yourself too. Be easier on yourself, Mama. Let your kids see your love for Jesus, for your family… and for yourself. That right there earns you a gold star!

Every Victory

I’ve given a similiar recap of this part of my life before, but here it is once again…

I had been a freshman in college for two weeks when September 11th happened. I was thousands of miles away from home, knew no one, and wasn’t sure if airports would ever open up and allow me to find my way back to my family. To say that I was terrified is putting it lightly. I had never been more scared in my entire life.

Once the phone lines weren’t down (they crashed due to the amount of students trying to reach their families), I called my parents in a panic and begged them to drive to Florida to take me home. I had expected my dad to drop everything, grab a few snacks, and make the 24 hour drive down to Florida to pick me up. Instead, he calmly and quietly said, “The moment I feel you’re in danger, I will come get you. But you can’t run when you’re scared. You need to be brave right now and trust that when it’s time to come home, we will make that decision. But we’ll make the decision based on information and God’s guidance. We won’t make one based out of fear.”

I didn’t understand. Had it been up to me, I would have ran. I would have come home with him and said “goodbye” to college for now. Maybe forever.

But it wasn’t up to me. Airports were closed. I had no money. And I was farther from home than I had ever been in my life. I had to trust my father in ways that I never had before. I had to trust his judgment and his words that – even though his plans weren’t my plans – he had the wisdom to make a decision that was best for me.

And as I walked through that decision, I also had to trust my heavenly Father in ways that I never had before. I truly felt alone, as I was a face among thousands of strangers on a campus where no one knew my name. I was scared, completely uncertain as to what the future would bring. In that moment, I was sure that my dreams were gone and that there was nothing good to look forward to. The newspapers I read spoke of Anthrax, how to build shelters in case of potential fall-out, soldiers going to war, and heightened security at airports and government buildings.

Fear would have made me run from things that never happened.

But had I not stayed, I wouldn’t have made the incredible friends I did; and I would have missed out on a faith-strengthening experience that impacted me for the rest of my life. My two years at that college helped strengthen my faith. It began my journey to really discover who I was and to find complete confidence in that. And those two years in Florida showed me that even when I felt small, my God was BIG. And with Him beside me like a roaring lion, I could face my fears and walk through only stronger.

Even when the very ground beneath my feet gave way into crumpled ruin, my GOD would hold me and raise me up on wings of eagles. I didn’t just read about that in scripture anymore. I saw it firsthand in my life.

Year… after year… after year… As I grew older and faced additional challenges throughout my life, God brought me through fire; and I learned – again and again – how to trust. Sometimes I kicked and screamed my way through the challenge, but I always came out stronger. Because that’s how my God works. He turns beauty from ashes.

I can look back over my life and see the hardships I faced – from almost losing my husband in a horrible ‘incident’ at work, to my son badly breaking his leg at the age of two, to working a job that required me to ‘grow a backbone’ tougher than I’d previously had to, to facing pure fear that immerged out of my husband’s dangerous line of work, to trusting God with finances when money wasn’t adding up… Those battles flashed the impossible before me, only for God to show that He is the God who does impossible things. He is the God who quiets my heart and says ,”I will fight for you; you need only be still.”

Now the thing is that we all want victory. That moment we rise above defeat and are able to look back and see all that God has brought us through. We all want to be able to rise above the smoke and ruins, stronger than ever! More courageous than we ever have been before, because NOW we know what we can accomplish with God on our side.

That being said, we don’t want the battle, the challenge, the fear, or the attack it takes to get there.

But there is no victory without battle.

There is no gold without metal being purified through fire.

There is no strength without the sweat and endurance of running the race.

That fight we hate so much will be used by God to grow us… strengthen us… build us…teach us to trust solely on Him. And then, when we’ve overcome, He won’t just leave us sitting in that victory. He’ll move us forward and use us in bigger ways than we had ever thought possible.

That’s how my God works. His plans aren’t my plans. They’re better.

I LOVE this song and have sung it in church pretty faithfully over the past couple of months. It’s on my running soundtrack, and I can’t worship to it enough these days. Every victory is HIS! I need that reminder sometimes. But I also don’t want to forget – in the middle of the storm – that without the wind and waves, I’d never get the chance to hear Him say, “Peace be still.” Without the attack, I’d never get to see Him fight for me.

And without the battle, I wouldn’t know the victory in His name!

Fall is Coming… Fall is Coming!

I saw a weather report the other day that said New England had roughly 9 days of sunshine during the entirety of July… And I believe it! Never have I seen so much rain and clouds, day after day after day. Boy am I glad I purchased the kids rain boots this year, because I got my money’s worth! (Silver linings and all that…). 🙂

Because we were stuck inside SO much, it almost felt like an unfair continuation of winter (just a warmer version). And it’s a bit shocking to most of us that Summer didn’t figure out a way to postpone itself until the sunshine of August arrived. But while August felt like the beginning of summer, it still was the last half of it; and school supplies and fall clothes started to hit store shelves per usual.

And here we are, on what feels like should be the middle of summer, starting a brand new school year! (I’m not sure how that’s even possible). We’re only one week into 1st grade and Pre-K, but our school days have been fantastic so far. Like fantastic! I’m almost afraid to ask someone to pinch me, just in case this is all a happy dream and I’ll wake up to a more frazzled, homeschool life. Ha, ha! But teaching two kiddos and blending classes; so that they both feel challenged, creative, and loved has happened much more organically than I’d expected. I really, really have been enjoying my time with them!

Now, you all know how much I adore Autumn, so it’s probably going to come as a shock that I’m almost not ready to say goodbye to Summer this year. But as much as I live for fall, I do feel as though I didn’t get my fair share of the warm season this year. 😉 We didn’t go out for icecream once. Is that even legal?!? And I also never even made it to the ocean! (Is it too soon to start a bucket list for next year? No? Okay, good! Because here is a bucket list item for 2022… Go to the BEACH!). 🙂

Anyway, I’m trying to soak up every ounce of warm, sunshine that I can… while also feeling giddy over the fact that my happy season (Autumn and my favorite holidays) is right around the corner. I just live for skinny jeans, boots, chunky sweaters, colorful trees, all things pumpkin, Thanksgiving, and Christmas lights.

And pumpkins? Did I yet mention all things pumpkin yet?

Okay, okay, Nicole calm yourself down!

It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year!!!! But don’t worry, I’m loving the warm sunshine as long as I can too. 🙂

Sooooo… About Disney…

After almost 13 years of marriage, Nate knows that I trust my gut. Like if both of us want to do something, but my gut says “no”… we won’t be doing it. Because over the years, Nate has come to trust my judgment just as much as I do.

He respects that God gave me wisdom about some things; and if I say something isn’t right, he trusts me. (And I feel like it takes a strong man to take a step back and trust his wife like that, so it’s just one of the many things I love about him). 🙂

Anyway….

I kind of felt off about booking our trip to Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s something I want to do with my family! But when Nate said we had the money and ability to book our trip for January 2022 (this upcoming January), I felt more uneasy than excited.

Mainly COVID played a big role in regards to that. Literally days after we booked, Florida unraveled. And we’re starting to see masks come back here in my state too. I felt sick thinking about bringing my family and parents to Florida during all this crazy pandemic stuff that’s getting a bit out of control again. And on top of that, my Pepere needs so much care right now; and my parents are the ones who are doing the brunt of it (although the entire family is pitching in as much as we can). To plan a vacation in the middle of this started to not feel right. Our hearts are being pulled in SO many directions right now, trying to figure out how to best care for him while also making sure my parents aren’t taking on too much. It’s a LOT.

So I quickly regretted that we’d jumped into booking a vacation when normally I take a day or two to process first.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Nate if we could reschedule everything; and – after looking into it – he felt that we could probably postpone our hotel and Disney tickets to be valid for a future date. BUT the one thing we couldn’t get refunded for were the plane tickets. We were stuck and would have to make January work, even if it meant masks for everyone and trying to find care for my grandfather while he lived at my parents’.

Then just days ago, we received a notice from Expedia that our January flight had been cancelled and we were being refunded our money! WHAT?!? I have no idea why Delta decided to already cancel a January 2022 flight, but it happened.

And honestly, I just felt relief.

So we are getting our money back for our flights and working with Disney to hopefully push out our reservations to the year 2023… Yes, we are skipping over next year and booking for early 2023. But it just felt right, and we’re praying that some of the crazy will be behind us by then.

Sooooooo Disney isn’t cancelled. But it’s super far away now. Ha, ha! We’ll start planning again next summer, and I fully believe that we’ll be glad we waited. 🙂

There obviously was some disappointment on our end. BUT pumpkin spice season starts at Dunkies today. Ha, ha!! Fall is just around the corner, followed by all the holidays! I start to homeschool Brady 1st grade on Tuesday, and I begin to teach piano lessons again a couple of weeks after that. So much goodness is coming our way! 🙂

My favorite time of the year is just about here, and I plan to fully embrace it and enjoy every single moment!

Life isn’t always easy. But it’s beautiful. And I choose to see the blessings and joy in my life, and I definitely don’t need a Disney trip in January in order be happy! I’ve got everything I need right here!! 🙂

Missing Peace Found!

“Peace be still.”

“Be still and know that I am God.”

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

I struggled with those verses for a long time, because – like a disgruntled Martha fixing dinner while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus – I felt compelled to ‘do’. This whole making time for stillness thing didn’t fit into my calendar, which was very much booked for the remainder of the year, thank you very much. Always running late… Always unable to sleep, because there was so much I had forgotten to plan and figure out… Always rushing out the door, hurrying througout the house like a chicken with no head, and wondering when I would ever find the time to also look for joy in being a mom.

I lived like that for SO long and all in the name of serving Jesus. Like Martha, my heart wanted to be in the right place. But I felt God’s tug on my heart…

“That’s awesome that you’re leading worship, but how are your daily devotionals? I miss talking to you and speaking to you through my Word.”

“That’s awesome that you made those meals for other families this week; but how much patient, quality time did you invest into the children that I have entrusted you with?”

“Awesome job running your outreach for women, but did you and your husband have time to connect over the past few days?”

I couldn’t say ‘yes’ to any of it, so I dropped SO much of it over the past few months. And in the process, I have found SUCH peace. I realized the other day that I haven’t been this happy and joyful as a mom… ever. Those white, free squares on my calendar have made room for daily devotionals that fill me up in ways that my exhausted soul was just craving. I’ve seen my kids BLOSSOM in confidence, their love for Jesus, and their connection to each other. Nate and I have fallen back in love as we’ve made time for each other.

One of my favorite new traditions is our quiet time before bed. For three weeks now, during the week, we don’t do television before bed like we used to. Beforehand (roughly an hour before bedtime), we all take a task and do the tiniest bit of light cleaning, just tidying up a bit at the end of our day. Then we all gather in the living room, and we read. I’m reading the kids Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , which they’re adoring. Then Kaitlyn does a puzzle, while Nate, Brady, and I read our own books for a bit. For me, to be able to sit down with a book – surrounded by my children and husband – at the end of the day is kind of a dream come true. It warms my heart so much!!

Now September is quickly approaching, and – yes – our summer schedule will give way to a busier routine. I’m going to be homeschooling both kids this year (Pre-K and 1st grade), and I’m both excited and nervous about that. 🙂 I fully realize that this is going to be a big commitment.

I’m also going to be working on Wednesdays (with prep time on Tuesday nights), in addition to worship prep on Monday nights and my women’s group meeting on Thursday nights. BUT Nate and I made sure that it all ends early enough that we can be together as a family before bedtime, and we’ll still – for the most part – not be running around like headless chickens throughout our day. We both felt that this is important right now and what God wants for us.

And judging by the peace we feel, He’s blessing it! 🙂

At the same time, I have also made time to bless others, which is my heart. (I also feel it’s so important for our children to see us serving others). 🙂 I’ve been making a meal a week for my parents and grandfather to help them, and I try to get the kiddos involved. It isn’t as fancy as some of the meals I used to make, as it’s usually a meal for my own family that I just double in order to share. But my mom has been soooooo appreciative of the assistance; and my Pepere gives each meal a thumbs up, which is all that matters. 🙂

The kids and I also made cookies to share with a widow we know who was struggling a bit these past few months.

I still run my women’s outreach, but I’ve had to just be a bit less busy in it. I try to make every Thursday night meeting, but I have been open and honest with them that – some weeks – I can’t. And they have all been understanding and supportive of that.

I still lead worship and teach Kid’s Church, but I haven’t allowed myself to overvolunteer like in the past.

I’ve learned to pray before saying “yes”, and if I don’t feel peace about the commitment, I am strong enough to say “no”.

And I think that, for the first time in my life, I’m finding balance. And with that, I’m rediscovering my LOVE of being a mom and a wife. I’m finding peace in my home that can’t be knocked down when things outside our walls try to claw their way in. My busy, restless spirit is calming and finding such peace. We are still giving and showing God’s love, but not in that frantic way that stole from what God wanted for us.

May be an image of child, standing and outdoors

God isn’t the God of confusion. Or chaos. Or stress. He doesn’t call us to things that keep us so busy that suddenly our kids are a burden and something we need to find time for. He doesn’t call us to ministries or volunteer oppertunities that keep us so busy we don’t have time for prayer and Bible reading.

Everything else can fall into place after we’ve sat at the feet of Jesus first.

“Peace be still.”

“Be still and know…”

I’m doing it. And I am truly happy and joyful because of it! 🙂