Discovering Purpose

writing

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. ~Ephesians 2:10

I take the albums off the shelf, one by one. Before putting them in the box, I just can’t resist cracking them open. Taking a stroll down memory lane. One in particular catches my attention. Letters from grade school teachers during a transition from one school to another. Three different teachers all had similar things to say…

She is always reading. Every spare moment she has is spent with a book.
Out of the 125 books in the classroom collection, she has read 95% of them.
We never see her without a book in hand.

And then I come across my 8th grade writing test results.

The scoring scale is from 175 to 260. This test score is 272.

I not only topped the chart – I surpassed it. In the 8th grade. Is it possible I knew myself better then than I do now??

I cant help but think about how God has prepared me to do his work since I was a small child. I was created to read. Created to write. As a very small child, I always had a book in hand. I self-published my first book – an autobiography – when I was in the first grade.

But somewhere along the way I got distracted. I no longer read for fun. I forgot to pick up my pen and paper. It wasn’t cool to always have my head in a book. I needed to make friends – to be popular – to be “in.”

And when I started finding that part of me – when I started to revive the creativity deep within my soul – I had babies … and I was afraid my creativity was gone forever.

But recently I’ve been feeling that pull to create once again. A dear friend once told me that creativity does come back postpartum … but that sometimes it takes a year or two. So here I am – two years postpartum for the second time – and I’m once again working to rediscover who God has created me to be.

It’s like discovering a forgotten gift that has been shoved to the back of your closet. You knew it was there – but you had so many other things to keep you busy. You just didn’t have time to find a place for it.

But when you discover it – when you unwrap it for the second, or third, or even fourth time – you begin to realize how God has placed it in your life over and over and over again.

For we are what he has made us …

God is constantly preparing us to answer his call. He’s constantly showing us tiny glimpses of who he has created us to be. Quiet whispers of what he has prepared for us.

And when we answer … when we finally say yes … it feels like all is right with the world.

It’s not always easy to say yes. It sometimes means turning away from those we love. It often means saying no to things we want. There are so many things left unknown. So many uncertainties.

And let’s face it – if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s often more difficult to say yes than it is to say no. Saying yes means a lifetime of being in the dark. But yet at the same time – a lifetime of living in a light brighter than anything we could ever possibly imagine.

And so I continue to stroll down memory lane. Remembering the paths I’ve taken and the people I’ve met. Recognizing God’s presence in each and every one of them. And realizing, in a very new way, that God knew who I was going to be before I was born. He created me to do great things.

And every day I uncover just a little bit more of what he’s got in store for me.

How are you discovering who God’s created you to be? What’s your purpose?

This post was originally published at Bibledude.net. It has been edited ever so slightly to reflect a new stage of life since it was first written in 2012. Because life changes, but our purpose remains.

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Celebrating Life

praying hands
I think I just took the deepest breath I’ve taken since I first learned you had cancer. I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it all until now. Now that it’s over. Now that you’re finished with your chemotherapy and planning for life in the future. Moving made it easier for me … I didn’t have to face it – not the way you did – and not the way those living near you did. I didn’t have to deal with the reality that I couldn’t just pop in any time – that you might not be able to pop over and visit the way you used to – that our conversations would be less about me and more about you.

But now it’s over. You’re alive – and that simple truth has me on my knees in tears today. Tears of thanksgiving. Tears of repentance. Tears of love.

My biggest regret moving was knowing that I wouldn’t be there for you through this hellhole time in your life. You have been my rock so often during my earliest mothering times. You taught me how to mother – how to practice self-care while at the same time sacrificing myself for the sake of my family. You taught me what it means to truly be a friend. You taught me that it doesn’t matter what your house looks like when you invite someone over – all that matters is that you let them into your heart. It helps if you always have coffee or tea on hand – but it’s not necessary. The only thing truly necessary is to provide a safe place. A safe place for happiness and joy. And a safe place for tears, for fears, for anger, for real and raw emotion.

I’m sorry my friend. I’m sorry for not being there for you more during this time. I’m sorry that your family had to live through this – and that I couldn’t really live through it with you. Everything inside me hates that I’m in New England while you are in Atlanta … and yet at the same time I totally used that as my escape from your reality. I was so angry that you were having to deal with cancer. I was angry that I wasn’t there to walk alongside you. I was so consumed at my own pain and fear of moving to a brand new place that I just didn’t allow myself to feel the pain and fear I had in my heart over you.

You taught me to not dwell on regrets or past failings – but to move past it and vow to do better.

I promised you I’d be there in November to run a 5K with you in remembrance of your cancerversary. I guess that means I should start training – so I don’t get left in the dust. Man – wouldn’t that be embarrassing …

I love you so very much my friend. I know you know that – and I know that you don’t need this apology, and for that I’m so grateful …. but I need to say the words. Not just to you, but to the world. Because the world needs to know what I’d do differently if it happened again. Maybe someone out there reading this is where I was six months ago.

I’d bring you food myself before moving 1100 miles away. I didn’t get to say goodbye … because I’m no good at goodbyes. I was a total wreck leaving Atlanta – and I knew seeing you would make it worse. But you know what? I should have. I should have come to hug your neck. I should have come to tell you I loved you. I should have come to say “You will survive this. And even though I won’t be here physically, I will be here from afar.” Because physical presence means something. And I know that now in a way that I didn’t understand then.

I’d send you packages once a month. Maybe it would be a thoughtful package. Maybe it would be a ridiculous one. But I’d send you something – just to let you know I was thinking of you. Because if I can’t physically be with you, then at least you can touch something that I touched. My sweet Autumn Grace draws people pictures and makes me send them – “so they don’t miss me mama” … and I never really understood it until I watched that video of you dancing out of the chemo unit. But it’s true – having something you can hold on to makes a difference.

I’d care for your family better. That’s so hard to do from far away – but I would figure out a way to do it. Maybe it’d be a gift for your amazing husband, or for your incredible children. Maybe it’d be sending a video – or a picture – or a coupon for a good, healthy meal. I’m not sure what it would be … but whatever it is … I would do it.

I can’t turn back time. And I pray it never happens again. But I want you to know just how cherished and loved you are. Just how dear to me you, and your family, are. You are so special. So loved. So cherished.

And I am so very glad you are alive.

Photo Credit

And Now You’re Two

Happy Birthday #2!
My sweet baby E,

Happy birthday to you! So much has changed in this last year of your life. Just a year ago we were having a big celebration on our beloved deck – complete with a Pigeon Bus Cake, a Bus piñata, and more friends and family than we could possibly imagine. Today, we celebrated your birthday in a very different way … just the four of us, enjoying a family outing to the local arboretum to pick wild raspberries, playing with your new parachute & balls, an afternoon nap, and then a birthday tea party with some of the best birthday cake I’ve ever made. It looks different than any of our other prior birthday celebrations, but it’s a perfect birthday celebration nonetheless.

We are just returning from a long, fun-filled, exhausting vacation, and although we thought long and hard about what to do today to make today super special for you, we realized that what everyone really wanted was just a day of normalcy. So that’s what we did – and I’m oh so glad. It was so fun to watch you run in the grass, eat berries quicker than I could pick them, and sing “happy birthday to me” over and over again. This age of two … it is probably one of my favorites from the toddler ages. You are so full of life – so eager to try new things – and so very loving.

My dear girl – I want you to know that you are one of the sweetest children I know. I imagine you are a lot like your daddy was when he was little. To see your sweet nature played out every single day brings a joy to my heart that I didn’t know I had. You are already such an empathizer – a sharer – a lover – a protector. You are learning so much every single day, and there just aren’t enough words in the dictionary to tell you just how precious and loved you are.

And while you are sweet, you are also fiercely independent. You are not afraid to stand up for what you want – or know to be right. You aren’t afraid to show your emotions … and as difficult as it is to mother you in your challenging times, it’s also so inspiring to dream of how those strong-willed tendencies will make you an incredible teenager and young adult.

You are bold. And so brave. Your daddy and I have no doubt in our minds that you will grow up to change the world – in big ways and in small ones. You will love people completely, passionately, unconditionally. You already do. You bring a smile to the faces of anyone you meet. Your beautiful blue eyes captivate the world – and they are one of my very favorite features on your tiny little face.

My sweet girl – we love you so very much. You are such a gift to us, and I am so honored to be your mama. I cherish that I get to stay home with you and watch you grow. I know now that you will be a preschooler before I know it – and I’m doing my very best to keep you little for as long as possible. Happy birthday my sweet girl … you are so very loved.

Love,
Mama

On Debt … and Tough Decisions

airplane
Tomorrow is the day we were supposed to leave for our road trip to Georgia. Today was supposed to be spent packing, cleaning, getting ready. But instead, I am standing in my kitchen wearing one child on the back and one on the front because they both refuse to ‘effing nap. In all likelihood, they’d probably be refusing to nap even if we were leaving tomorrow, but I probably wouldn’t care as much – hoping they’d be so exhausted they’d sleep a good chunk of driving time in the car. But as it is now, I’m totally pissed. They haven’t been going to bed until 10 or later, and when I let them go without a nap they can’t make it past 5pm without a total meltdown. So here I stand – holding 55+ pounds of kid, praying – FORTHELOVEOFGOD – that they pass out and stay there a while.

Because ya’ll .. I’m about to lose my mind. And my back.

So yeah – about that trip. Continue reading

Wednesday #weekinthelife

Tuesday’s post is in the works, and I’ll get it up as soon as possible. Today’s photos are unedited, but hey – I’m doing this all on my phone! I’ll update them later 🙂

Wednesday.

Closing day.

Upon waking, I immediately get to work. We won’t sleep in this apartment again and I need it as packed up as possible before we leave today. The girls get busy coloring. They do a lot of that these days. No complaints here – I love watching their progression.
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With the car loaded as full as possible, we head out. The girls are both a little cranky – I think they are both excited, but also a little scared. It’s yet another transition – we’ve had so many.

We stop by CVS to pickup gift bags. Being the good Southerner I am, I brought homemade jelly as thank you gifts for the realtors, the attorney, and his paralegal. While I’m there I pick up matching hello kitty coloring books and new crayons. They will be destroyed quickly, I’m sure, but hopefully this will keep them busy during the closing.

We then drop books off at the library before heading to the house for our final final walk through. The house looks amazing. Perfect. Ours.
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The girls don’t quite understand why we can’t stay there, but I try to explain that we will be back in just about an hour. Time means nothing when you are 2 and 4. E screams the whole way there – thank goodness it’s only a 5 minute drive instead of the 15-20 we normally have to go. When we get to the office for the closing we discover there’s a big box of toys – score! The girls are happy and content for a good 20 minutes – and then I bring out the surprise coloring books.
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By the time we get to our(!) house, we realize none of our lunch food got packed and everyone is hungry. D takes the girls to the basement to play and I head to Trader Joes to pick up food. I park. Open my bag. Realize my wallet is in the other bag. Back at the house. So I head to the apartment to load up the car full of stuff from the freezer and fridge, and a random assortment of other stuff lying around. As I drive, I can’t help but fight back tears of relief. Relief that the last six months are behind us. Relief that we have found a place to really put down roots. Relief that this house we have found – our house – has a soul that already loves us as much as we love her.

Once it’s all unloaded back at the house, we all choose something to eat and D heads to rent a Uhaul van to fill up with mattresses and small pieces of furniture. I nurse E down for a nap and come out to find A away in imagination land. I take a moment to fill up the diffuser, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the space. It has been a hell of ride, these last few months.

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Around 4:30 we put it all aside and head outside. It’s time to play for a bit, and grill burgers. Dining al fresco tonight … And many more nights to come. We finish up the night like we usually do – bath, stories, bed. We are camping out on mattresses in the basement tonight – our furniture arrives tomorrow.

Once the girls fall asleep, D and I paint their room …. Potentially Purple is the color they chose. It is purple indeed. They will be so excited when they wake up!

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Some time today A asked me, timidly, “Will we still be able to go to the same church Mama? And can we invite Luther over to play?” I assured her that we could do both – and then I realized she was terrified that with this move would be yet another change in roots. Because we have already begun to put down roots here … And the best thing about this house is that even though we are just barely moving in, it feels like we’ve lived here for ages, and that we are just now coming back after a really long vacation.

We already love you dearly sweet house. To the ones who owned you before: we promise to treat her right.

Monday #weekinthelife

Our days start early around here, and Monday was no different. A woke me up around 5:30, bringing me a homemade present for Mother’s Day. She’s really big into gift giving … and special occasions last for weeks around here. When I could barely open my eyes, she went into the living room and found something else to do. This is a huge win for us lately – we leave a few projects out at night and when she wakes up the next morning, she has something to keep her busy. It’s pretty much amazing.

When I did finally wake up around 6:30, I ended up with a total breakfast fail – I put everything in my cup for a breakfast smoothie and then discovered my blender stick was packed. I made a super quick shake instead and we ushered everyone out the door so we could get D to the train station on time. Upon returning home, I discovered our huge peace lily that we bought to help clean the air in our terrible first rental here had a flower bud on it!
Peace Lily

The morning continued on with constant demands from the tinies. Usually D makes coffee, but he was off his game today, so I put the coffee on and then turned on the TV. We don’t watch a lot of TV around here, but when I need a few moments to myself, I’m known to turn it on for a show or two. Today it was Sid the Science Guy and Daniel Tiger. Always Daniel Tiger.

I drank my coffee in peace, and then I got busy on the tasks before me … a lot of cleaning, a bit of packing, snack-making, finishing up some freezer meals from the weekend, holding the tiniest – who is exceptionally cranky today, wiping noses, repeat.

In the meantime, E made herself busy with the plastic lunch containers in one of the cabinets. Before I knew it, she was running up to me saying “Poop! Poop!” I went over to where she was and discovered poop on the kitchen floor. Squishy gross poop. Of course she had also stepped in it, so I proceeded to clean it up off the floor and her foot and her bottom. This week is all about documenting life – and today would not have been today without the poop. I’ll spare you the picture – although I did totally take one for my #weekinthelife album. She began begging for mommy milk, so I briefly nursed her (I’m trying to encourage her to wean), and then decided we’d take selfies. They always help my mood shift from terribly irritated to happy. It must be something about these smiles.
Selfies

Deciding I had had enough at-home adventures for the day, I decided we would spend the rest of the day outside. We haven’t seen the sunshine in over a week, and it was glorious today. So I packed a picnic, clothes for our church picture later in the day, and cleaned up a bit while A found the Jewel Christmas cd, put it in the DVD player, and began ballet dancing all around the living room floor. She truly is a bundle of joy.

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When I asked where they wanted to go, A quickly yelled “the BIG cemetery mama!” So we headed to Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge – which has quickly become one of our very favorite places in the greater Boston area. It was the perfect place to be today. Everything is completely amazing – beautiful – peaceful – wonderful. I am pretty sure we’re going to spend a lot of time here this summer.

Mt. Auburn first glimpse

Balancing

Joy

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A large portion of our time there was spent with Autumn taking pictures. It has become one of her new hobbies … I think we may need to invest in a camera of some sort for her to play with. She really has quite the eye.
Me!

We ended our day out at church, where we ended up waiting an hour to take a 5 minute picture for the upcoming photo directory. Although we tried to be patient, we were frustrated with all the many things waiting for us at home. Once we finally got out, we decided to pick up pizza on the way home, so we could focus on doing a bit of packing instead of preparing and cleaning up dinner.
Dinner Aftermath

Once we finished up, the girls colored. D helped A do her very first color-by-number, and then the day ended as it normally does – bath, stories, rocking, sleep. As soon as they were both asleep I jumped in the shower … it sure is nice to be clean!

What started as a full, stressful, irritating day actually ended up to be a very fulfilling one. The weather is supposed to be amazing this week, so I’ve decided we will pack as much as we can before the movers come, and whatever doesn’t get packed we can pick up later. It’s more important for everyone’s sanity that we spend as much time as possible outside. The boxes can wait until the sun goes down.

Monday. It was a good day.

A Week in the Life

@weekinthelife
A friend wrote a blog post today about how we stay-at-home-mamas answer the question, what do you do? In it, she introduced me to the #weekinalife project, and as I read more about it I decided I would jump on the bandwagon this year. It begins today.

Today – a day that marks another week of transitions in our life. We move for the third time in six months this week, and while we are so excited to be moving into a house that we know we will love, we are all a little tired and a little weary. The last six months have been, in a lot of ways, like an extended vacation. We’ve had our own furniture and stuff, but we’ve known the place that we were living was temporary. First it was because the apartment was not up to our living standards, and the landlord wasn’t incredibly nice or helpful. Then when we moved four months ago, we knew it was a temporary stop. We were under contract on a house, but the sellers didn’t want to close until May. Although we were antsy to be in a house, we loved this particular house so much that we were willing to wait. What we didn’t realize was just how secluded we would feel in that new apartment.

Although we are in the same town as our house, we are a good 15 minutes north from where our permanent place will be. 15 minutes from the train station, where we drop D off every morning and pick him up every afternoon. 15 minutes from a grocery store – and 25 from the one that I prefer to shop at most weeks. 30 minutes from church. 15 minutes from just about anything at all. We spend at least an hour in the car every day – sometimes more. When you add in the time that it takes to get everyone ready, coats & shoes on (because most days still require a cost here), and buckled into the car, we are at 2-3 hours of travel time a day. It’s exhausting. It completely drains me of any and all creative energy. It’s safe to say that it has been a long four months.

But it’s almost over.

And this week marks the beginning of that last, and what we hope will be final, transition in our big move to New England. What started as #rowesmovetoboston shifted to #rowesmovetoacton. And now, as we close out that chapter, and begin to really put down roots here, I am oh so excited to bring you a #weekinthelife.

We are moving this week, so it’s quite hectic, but I’ll document as much as possible throughout the week on Instagram – and I’ll get my thoughts put together for each day sometime by the end of the month.

Stay tuned. This is the beginning of the rest of our lives!

Guacamole

Guacamole
Since December, we have been using Young Living essential oils for just about everything in our house. Back in January, they released their new Vitality line, which includes some of my very favorite essential oils specifically labeled for culinary and dietary use! You guys know just how much I love cooking, so you can imagine how excited I was to give them all a try!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe using some of these new Vitality oils over on my latest blogging endeavor – Happy Little Oiler. I wanted a place where I could explore our Happy Oily Life, but wanted Soul Munchies to stay true to its mission of Faith. Family. Food. Enter Happy Little Oiler!

We almost always have avocados in our fridge, and whenever we get to their last days I try to whip up a batch of guacamole. Everyone in the house loves it – and it never lasts very long. It’s one of our favorite snacks, and it almost makes us think that we’re at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The last couple of times we made it, we added essential oils, and it was so good we decided to share our recipe with the world!

For the recipe, head on over to Happy Little Oiler!

Meals Under $15: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I buy broccoli a lot because my girls love it, no matter how I cook it. This soup is one of my favorite meals to put together, because it’s easy, quick, and delicious for days to come. You can make a batch on the weekend and eat it for lunch all week – if it lasts that long – it’s usually gone pretty fast in our house!

My girls LOVE this soup, so I make it often. In fact, even though the weather is getting warmer, I have it on my meal plan for later this week. When I priced it out based on our grocery prices here, it costed us about $11 – $9 if you use homemade broth – and it feeds us for at least two meals, sometimes three! Continue reading

On Thomas … and Doubt

Doubt & Emotions
Sunday was dark and gloomy around here. When I woke up and looked out the window, I discovered the ground – and my car – were covered with a blanket of snow. Because it was Sunday, and because we couldn’t imagine staying inside at home all day long, we got ourselves ready and headed to church. As I sat through the service, I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was that on this gloomy snowy day we were hearing about Thomas. The one who doubted. As I sat there, I realized that I, like Thomas, was in a serious place of doubt.

Doubt that spring will ever arrive.

Doubt that I will be happy here for the long term.

Doubt that the day will come when I no longer long for Atlanta.

Doubt that I will ever find a community that I love as much as the one we had in Grant Park.

Doubt that God is ever going to show me what in the heck She is up to.

It’s only been a week since Easter. And I, like Thomas, have already forgotten the joy of Easter morning. I’ve forgotten the sunshine. Forgotten the promise of friendships. Of community. Of a future so much greater than anything I can even possibly imagine. Continue reading

Meals Under $15: Orecchiette with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Baby Kale

orecchiette with slow roasted tomatoes and baby kaleHappy Monday! Today’s edition of “Meals under $15” is perfect for your Meatless Monday dinner plans. Coming in at just over $5, and full of flavor, you cannot go wrong with this dish. My tiniest one devoured it, and begged for more!

Lately I have done a terrible job of meal planning, so most meals end up being thrown together with whatever I can find in the fridge. It’s my least favorite way to cook, and it’s hardly ever economical. But this piece of work … it was delicious, used up ingredients in my fridge, and still managed to cost us very little money.

I love orecchiette pasta – they look like little hats and they are so fun to eat! They have little ridges on them too, so they soak up whatever sauce you put on them amazingly. You could use any other pasta as well, this just happened to be what was in my pantry.

You can also edit it a little by adding spinach or arugula instead of baby kale, and if you don’t have cherry tomatoes on hand, or you don’t want to slow roast your own, you can substitute sun-dried tomatoes.
Continue reading

Where Were the Children? [A Good Friday Reflection]

Good Friday

But why are they taking the candles away Mama? she asks, with tears in her eyes. I like the candles. Will they bring them back?

This is the first Maundy Thursday service we’ve been to in several years. The last one I can remember going to, we left early – because A was just a year old and staying out past 7pm just wasn’t in our cards. But this year, I didn’t care how late we were out … I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted to experience the remembrance of those last days. The last meal. The foot washing. The prayers in the garden. That last night with his friends, his disciples, his family.

I wanted my children to experience it. As difficult as it is to watch … as difficult as it is to understand … the majesty of Easter just isn’t as glorious without experiencing the loss. I wanted them to experience that loss …. so that when we walk in to Easter service and we see the flowers, the candles, the white paraments … when we hear the loud bells and trumpets sounding, it truly is majestic and glorious.

But man did it tear me up inside when my 20-month old asked to go up to have her feet washed. And man did it break my heart to watch my 4-year-old begin to comprehend what was going on. Continue reading