Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stop Saying "I'm Introverted"



Sometimes people hold me up as an example of someone who is independent, confident, and outgoing because I was able to move far away from my family and build a new life with my husband.  The very idea makes me laugh.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a self-proclaimed introvert.  As a child I loved books and playing by myself, and I was hopelessly shy.  I remember distinctly a time when my mom sent my younger sister and I into a gas station to pay for something.  I was too shy to pay for it myself, so I made my younger sister do it.  Yes, my younger sister.

Later on, a 17-year-old me sat in my mom’s car crying because I was too afraid to go into my first college class.  For years, I would get so nervous going into new situations where I knew no one that I would throw up beforehand.  But, oh yeah, I moved 1000 miles away from my family, made new friends, and now have little trouble going into a big new group.  Real life confession, though?  I still don’t like calling people on the phone and I am still definitely an introvert. 

Being an introvert is something you’re born with.  You can’t change it anymore that you can change the color of your skin or your eyes.  What you can change is how you respond to it.  Too often, I see the phrase “I’m an introvert” used as an excuse to shy away from situations that make someone nervous or uncomfortable.  Believe me, I get it!  I’ve used the very same excuse.  I know from experience, however, how unfulfilling that excuse can be.  Life has pushed me out of my comfort zone and away from that excuse.  I’ve become unafraid by being forced to push through my fears.

That day I cried in the car?  My mom made me go anyway.  A few months later I went to England for two weeks with a friend.  I puked a lot on that trip, but I came back the better for it.  That same year I timidly submitted an application to be a small group leader with the on-campus Christian group I was a part of.  My two friends and I nervously joined the 40 other leaders (that we didn’t know) on their weeklong camp.  We had an amazing time and made many new friends.  Just a few months later I went to a conference where there would be 300 other homeschool graduates…none of which I knew.  I puked the morning I left…but I went anyways, and while there I met the man that one would day be my husband.

I could have let my introversion hold me back from all of those things.  If I had, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today, nor would I have the wonderful life I have today.  Without a doubt, I would be just as afraid, shy, and lacking in confidence, and probably miserably unhappy and lonely.

I will never regret pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  When I started to do so, I suddenly started thinking a lot less about myself and a lot more about others.  You see, as introverts sometimes we get so caught up in our feelings and fears that we completely forget about the feelings and fears of othersOften times, we miss out on being a blessing to others by letting our introversion be a cop-out or an excuse.  In turn, we never get out of our own selves, and we sink only further into our introverted “ways”.

Today, I don’t get sick to my stomach in new situations or panic talking to new people.  My instinct is still to wait for someone else to initiate, and I avoid making phone calls, but I am no longer afraid of them either.  I embrace who I am as an introvert, but I don’t let it control my life. 

Pushing past your introversion is never easy…but it is always worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Beauty in the Trouble

Compared to my first, this pregnancy has been no picnic in the park.  In the beginning, I felt guilty for not being as excited about this pregnancy as I was with the first.  Then there was a worry about baby girl’s brain ventricle being too large, and more recently such bad contractions and cramping that I almost went to the hospital.

I realized the other day, however, how long October seemed away, and how impatient I was for it to get here.  The time has slowed and I find myself counting the days until sweet Baby Girl Baker makes her arrival.  I’m excited and expectant and eager…all things that I wasn’t in the beginning of this pregnancy.

You see, all the trouble and worry has made Baby Girl’s life all the more dear and precious to me.  I’ve come to realize just how much I love and cherish her…and that I’d do anything to see her safely in my arms.  The contractions, the excessive water, the aches, and the insomnia are insignificant to me in comparison to knowing that, Lord willing, in a few short months I’ll be able to kiss her tiny little toes.

I don’t mean to say that God gives us troubles and heartaches, but I do believe He has allowed these things to happen because He knew they were exactly what I needed.  He knew that I needed those worries to prepare my heart to receive my daughter. 

Sometimes hardships are exactly what we need to make us stronger.  Sometimes there is beauty in our troubles.      

The Life Of Faith

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Month Without TV: What It Taught Me

A couple of months ago my husband came to me with the idea that we should take a break from the television for a month.  The more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make.  With the busyness and stress of the last six months, watching television had became our life.  I watched it sporadically throughout the day, it helped me fill the hours when my husband was coming home late, and when he did finally come home, crashing in from of the tv was our default. 

So, with the exception of a few movies, we turned off the tv for an entire month. 

The first day, we honestly didn’t know what to do with ourselves.  We were bored and antsy, and were constantly wondering what had happened on one of our “shows”.  I didn’t think we’d make it past a week.

Quickly, though, we started to find things to do.  We kept busy, felt better, and didn’t end up missing the television all that much.  By the end of the month, we weren’t even anxious to turn on the tv.   

Here are a few things I learned from our month-long tv fast:  

I waste a lot of time.  One of the first things I noticed was how efficient I suddenly was at getting things done.  Folding laundry took half the time because I wasn’t trying to do it while catching up on a favorite show.  In fact, everything took about half the time.  Without the tv being available, I was more productive, my house was cleaner, and I wasted a lot less time.

Television makes me feel tired and brain numb.  It was amazing how much more energetic I felt during that month without tv.  Reading books, writing, doing crafts, and getting projects done filled my time instead of mindless tv watching, and my brain could feel it.  Even with being on partial bed-rest for a weekend with some freak contractions, I didn’t feel like I was dragging.  I hadn’t even realized how low watching tv can make you. 

I don’t need television for entertainment. Very early in the month, we realized that we had forgotten how to entertain ourselves without the television.  The mere fact that we didn’t have a clue what to do was disheartening.  As we started to remember our other interests and hobbies, we started thinking about the television less and less.  We remembered that we don’t really need the television at all. 

What I watch effects my mood and daily outlook on life. One slightly unexpected side effect was that I started sleeping better, waking up more ready to start the day, and feeling more at peace wtih everything going on in my life.  I realized that modern television can be downright depressing.  It plays at your heartstrings and never gives you full-resolution to anything, hoping that you’ll come back for the next episode.  Whether we know it or not, this can be a serious mood suppressor. 

Quiet is okay.  As a mostly stay-at-home mom, I have found the house to be overwhelming quiet at times.  Baby chatter is one thing, but being deprived of the sound of an adult human voice all day can be a bit maddening at times.  I’d gotten in a really bad habit of just turning on the tv as background noise during the day, nevermind the junk that is called “daytime television”.  When I suddenly didn’t have that option anymore, the quiet was at first almost deafening.  As the days went on, though, I learned to embrace the quiet.  I learned to focus on what my little guy was chattering about and trying to tell me, instead of just blowing off his babbling.  I learned that all the quiet can be a very good and refreshing thing, and I’ve come to embrace it. 

 

We’ve turned our television back on, but we don’t find ourselves craving and needing it like we did.  Many days I slip into bed realizing that I haven’t turned on the television the entire day.  What a freeing experience!

Have you ever turned off the television for a period of time?  What was it like?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dancing in the Kitchen

It had been a long week.  Cramping and Braxton Hicks had almost sent me to the hospital, my husband and I had both been busy with work, the days had been hot and muggy, and I was just trying to clean up the dishes so I could put my son to bed and sit down to veg on Facebook.  My phone was blasting a favorite Pandora station.  Suddenly I heard a sweet little voice say, “Mama, dance!”  I looked down to see my almost two-year-old son reaching up for me. 

I almost told him “not now”.  I was too busy, too tired, too worn out to be bothered.  But I didn’t.  Instead, I remembered how fleeting these moments would be…how quickly I’d be aching to hold him and giggle and dance.

I pick up my sweet halfbaby, halfboy in my arms and we dance.  He crinkles his nose and rams my face with his little boy version of an “eskimo” kiss.  His pudgy little hands hold tight to my neck.  I soak up the sweet smell of his soap mixed with dirt and grass.  He pats my back and whispers a contented, “Mama.”

Dirty dishes sit in the sink.  Laundry needs to be followed.  But right now I’m dancing with my son…and that’s all that matters.





The Life Of Faith

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup



I really love soup.  My husband, not so much.  So...you can probably guess what I like to make when my husband isn't home for dinner.

Last Wednesday was no exception.  It was rainy and relatively chilly (for summer in the South), and my son and I were holding down the fort alone for a few days.  What better thing to make that soup?  The only problem was that I was out of a lot of things and didn't really want to make a trek to the grocery store.  The great thing about soup, however, is that you really can use whatever you have on hand.  It's hard to mess it up!  So, I decided to throw together a Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup.  Or chicken-y noodle soup, as chicken meat was one of the things I was out of.

Here's what I had:

-Leftover homemade chicken broth made from a chicken I cooked last week
-A few onions and a clove of garlic from the garden
-Egg noodles
-Red Quinoa
-Rice
-Leftover cooked lentils
-Kale
-Carrots
-Bag of frozen mixed veggies
-Frozen, chopped celery
-Various spices


Within about 25 minutes those random ingredients were bubbling in a nice, warming soup.  Here's how you can do it too:  

First, heat some olive oil (or butter or coconut oil or whatever you have) in a large sauce pan or stock pot.  Chop up the onion and press or finely mince the garlic and throw it in with the hot oil.  Saute until tender.


Chop up your carrots.  Throw them and a handful of celery in the pot.  Saute until tender.


Chop up your kale and add it in too.  Saute until it wilts down nicely.  


At this point you can throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Or any kind of vinegar.  Or wine.  Whatever you have and you prefer to use.  


Add in your broth, rice, quinoa, lentils, noodles, frozen veggies, and seasonings.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer until the rice and grains are tender.  If you have cooked chicken, now would be the time to cube it up and add it as well.  


In about 15 minutes your soup should be looking like this. 



It should smell as yummy as it looks.  If it doesn't, add in more seasonings.


My husband may not like soup, but my son devoured it...as you can tell.  



And here's the final product waiting for me to devour it as well.  We ate our soup with some toast.  Mmm...nothing better.  



And here's the recipe.  Please don't follow the exact measurements.  Soup is meant to be thrown together, not measured.  Also, feel free to substitute or omit whatever you want.  It will still turn out deliciously yummy!


Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves: 4 people (with leftovers)     Time to make: 25-30 min.

Ingredients

-Olive oil (or your oil of preference)
-1 onion, chopped
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-4 carrots, chopped
-2 celery stalks, chopped
-1 head of kale, chopped
-Balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar or wine)
-Box of chicken broth (or use chicken bouillon+water)
-1/2 c. red quinoa
-1/2 c. lentils
-1/2 c. white rice
-1/2 c. egg noodles
-Bag of frozen mixed veggies
-1/2 pound cooked chicken, cubed (optional)
-1 bay leaf
-1/4 t. oregano
-1/4 t. thyme
-1/4 t. parsley
-1/4 t. cumin
-1/4 t. paprika
-Salt
-Pepper

Steps

1.)Heat oil in a large sauce pan or stock pot.  Add in the onion and garlic.  Saute until tender.

2.)Add in the carrots and celery.  Saute until tender.

3.)Add the kale.  Saute until wilted.

4.)Deglaze with the vinegar or wine.  

5.)Add in the chicken broth, quinoa, lentils, rice, noodles, frozen veggies, chicken, and seasonings.

6.)Turn the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice and grains are tender.

7.) Taste and adjust seasonings.  Enjoy!  Serve with warm bread.   





Monday, August 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sweet Miles

At 8:15 Friday morning I sat in my kitchen single-handedly devouring the loaf of Amish friendship bread a friend had brought me.  It had been a rough night, so I felt justified.

My husband was gone for a few days on a business trip and the afternoon before my son had come down with a high fever.  I had been up with him most of the night and, at that moment while I sat in the quiet kitchen, he was finally sleeping.  I felt more dead than alive, and I cringed thinking about how this would be every morning for me again in a few months.  At least, if Baby Girl is anything like my Miles.

Miles.  My son.  The light of my days.  He was a terrible sleeper for the first year and a half of his life.  He never liked to be rocked or swaddled.  Nursing had been a struggle.  The first few months of his life colic had consumed my days, about driving me mad during those long evening hours when I just wished he'd stop crying and sleep.  In short, he turned my world upside down, made me question my competency as a mother, and pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

But oh how I love him.  My love for him consumes me, filling my heart to bursting.  Yet each day it miraculously grows.

That's the mystery of motherhood, isn't it?  Struggling, sacrificing, and aching, but loving in spite of and because of all that?  Never regretting it for one single moment?

Today my baby boy turns two.  I watch him now sitting in his half-put-together birthday present.  He holds up a tiny tractor and says, "Mama, look!"  I feel about to burst.  How can it really have been two years ago that I was holding him for the very first time, with no idea the pain and the trials and the joy that motherhood would bring me?

Happy birthday, my sweet Miles.  Thank you for coming into this world with that first shrill cry and making me a mother.  I've never been more thankful for anything.

The Life Of Faith

Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Married Young


When you marry young, a certain stigma hangs over your head.  People seem to be just waiting for you to have troubles and split, or at least regret your “rash” decision.  Getting married young can be incredibly hard and frustrating, but it can also be wonderfully sweet.   

I have a lot of friends who are older and single who no longer have any hope of marrying young.  This post is not for them.  It’s for those whom God did call to marry young, and for those who are contemplating it.  It’s for those who question the wiseness of marrying young.  It’s for my husband, my best friend, the man I want to grow old with.  It’s also, in many ways, for myself.

So, without further ado, here are the 9 reasons why I’m glad I married young:

1. We get to grow up together.  Notice I say “get to” instead of “got to”.  We’re still growing up and maturing.  God is still molding us into the man and woman He has created us to be.  The best part is that we get to go through this process together, while making sure that we grow together instead of apart.

2. We weren’t set in our ways.  We didn’t have a lot of time to get set in our ways.  I didn’t have an opinion on what brand of toothpaste was best, and he didn’t have an unchangeable Saturday morning routine.  Granted, we each came into marriage with our own set of opinions and methods, but we’ve also had more of an opportunity to develop habits together.

3. I didn’t have to discover who God created me to be alone.  I’m not the same young woman I was when I got married, nor am I the woman that I thought I would be back then.  The past four years I’ve gone through a lot of self-discovery and growth.  If anything, my husband has furthered this growth as he’s encouraged me to stretch myself, challenged my thinking, and supported me in my pursuits.  He gives me the freedom to become the woman God created me to be, but I haven’t had to do it alone.  He’s been by my side every step of the way.

4. We rely on each other.  When I got married, I had never lived outside of my parents home.  One week after our wedding day, I found my naive newlywed self one thousand miles away in a completely new place.  We didn’t have many friends, and we had to rely on each other for everything.  We also had to learn to depend on each other financially.  We didn’t start out with firm career paths and tons of savings in the bank.  We were both still in school and had next to nothing.  Any worldly success we’ve had since then has been completely dependent on our marriage and on each other.

5. We fit in better with the culture we live in. God chose to plant us in a place where marrying young is the norm instead of the exception.  In our circles, we are far from being the youngest to get married, or even the youngest to have a baby.  I believe God knew that when he put us together.  My husband and I feel more able to reach those in the community because we can relate to the many who married young as well. 

6. We had the opportunity to start a family young.  We waited a year and a half before feeling God leading us to try for a baby, and we’d been married over two years before Miles was born.  Not a long stretch of time by any means, but we still had a good chunk of time to ourselves.  The great thing about having married young, however, was that we were still very young when we became parents.  We appreciate the extra energy that comes with youth…and we also look forward to being young empty-nesters and still having the energy to travel and explore.

7. The sexual freedom. I won’t go into a lot of detail here.  Suffice it to say, sex within the bonds of marriage is a very beautiful and freeing thing.  We didn’t have to wait a long time to experience that.  Not that marriage is a cure-all for sexual struggles, nor is married sex the hot-and-steamy passion it is depicted in movies and books.  Yet, sex within marriage can be unbelievably fulfilling, especially when you've gone from the tension of “waiting” and not crossing a line, even though you really want to.  Having the freedom to enjoy all that God created sex to be is incredibly liberating.  

8. Marriage is fun.  Marriage is a lot of work, and it’s far from easy.  It can also be really fun.  Enjoying life with the person who knows you better than anyone else is an unfathomable blessing.  Laughing together, doing spontaneous things, fixing up your house, not being afraid to be yourself...need I say more?  

9. More time with my soul mate. Life is short and goes by all too quickly.  You never know what day will be your last.  I don't have any clue what the future may bring, but I’m so thankful for these extra years I’ve had with my man.  I'm so glad that I didn't wait to marry him.

Getting married young has had its challenges, but I don’t regret it for one single minute.  I know without a doubt that I married the man God created for me, and I’m so glad that I didn’t put off the wonderful blessing that marriage is and has been because of my age, or because I hadn’t yet “experienced” the world.  Yes, I was young and unsure of myself, but marriage has not stifled my growth.  Far from it.  Marriage has been the best and sweetest adventure I’ve ever knownI’m so glad I was young when I embarked upon it.