Sabbath Year Update

I fell off the blogging bandwagon about a month ago because I finally fell into rest.  Which is exactly what this year was for…rest.  I have finally been letting myself actually engage a lifestyle of rest.  I love writing, though, and am feeling the grace to pick up blogging again.  As a way of re-entry to blogging, here’s a little update on what I’ve been up to in this restful season. 

Found this on my tea bag.
First and most importantly, I am learning how to live life in such a way that I actually thrive within the limits and nuances of my design coupled with the reality of my life stage.  I am learning to accept my wiring as a highly sensitive ISTJ*.  I am also learning how to function in that design coupled with being a mom to three small boys.  In so many ways, being an HSP ISTJ and being a mom of three little boys can feel like an oxymoron; however, I am beginning to learn how to thrive in the seemingly mutually exclusive combination.  For me, this thriving looks like regular rhythms in our daily life, limited external connectivity so that I can give most of my connectivity to my husband and these little guys, and daily alone time so that I can recharge.  I am beginning to truly accept the way I am wired and am allowing that to it to inform how I live.

As an overflow of learning to live life in line with my design, I am also becoming more and more the woman I’ve dreamt of being: a woman at peace and fully present with her people.  The most noticeable result of this is in how I experience motherhood and how my kids experience me.  This Sabbath year has been an catalyst for me to grow in both peace and presence. 

Vegetarian Pad Thai
For a few months, I was able to step away from cooking almost completely except for convenience-type meals (read here: lots of pizza and pasta and burgers and takeout); however, this past month, I’ve been re-engaging meal planning and prep.  This has been one of the more difficult realities of the past month…trying to re-incorporate meal planning and cooking in my weekly rhythms without returning to a place of stress and performance in meal production.  While we have the time and space this year, I am taking a stab at learning how to develop healthy, yummy, yet manageable meal planning with plenty of freedom to still get takeout or just cook burgers.  Re-engaging this process has taken a fair amount of focus this past month. 

I’ve also been doing some really fun things.  Things like working on Silas’ first year scrapbook while watching many of the Jane Austen movies.  I’ve been leading Bible study this spring and have truly loved it!  Leading Bible study might just be one of my favorite things I could do…ever.  So, that’s been extremely life-giving to my soul in this Sabbath year. 

I also had the opportunity to be a part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love Launch Team,” which meant that I got an early copy of her upcoming book For the Love.  It is seriously one my most favorite books that I’ve ever read.  She was able to put to words things that I have only ever felt.  I cannot talk enough about how amazing this book is and how much I think everyone should read it!  Seriously, though, go pre-order it today!  I am certain that literally every person who reads it will connect powerfully with something in this book.  It was like water to my soul.  Being a part of her launch team has been one of the most fun things I’ve done in a really long time!

(Seriously, go pre-order her new book if you haven’t yet.  This is not an official “launch team” recommendation, but me telling you this is one of the best things I’ve read in years!  You’re going to want it in your hands the day it comes out!)

I’ve also just been having fun with my people.  Val and I started going on dates again (a sitter that was a good fit with all three boys was a total answer to prayer this past month!).   We’ve been having movie nights and fire pit nights and porch nights after the all boys go to bed.  Sometimes these nights are just Val and I…sometimes they are the two of us with my brother (he still lives next door and I love it!).  Elijah started T-Ball with Val as his coach.  And I even had the opportunity to take Solomon to an art lesson at our local art museum.  We are so enjoying this season to rest and reconnect and reset as a family.  It was so needed and has been so good. 
We are just a little over halfway through our Sabbath Year and still are not certain about what life after this looks like.  We’re still fully “in” this rest season.  I am certain God will lead us out of it just as He led us into it.  Only then will we know clearly what is on the other side. 

Click here for more info on highly sensitive persons as parents.  Click here for more info on the Myers-Briggs personality types. 


Guarding the Life Source

A while ago, there was a relationship in my life that was causing such anxiety in my inner self, such turmoil, such pain that my entire life was being affected.  Every day was wrought with anxiety.  There was a hovering cloud of stress over my heart because of the influence of one person in my life.  It was awful.  I didn’t know what to do.  Even after working extensively toward healing and restoration in the relationship, the pain and struggle remained.  So I prayed, asking God what to do with the relationship.  His answer was simple: “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”*  Not knowing exactly what a “wellspring” was, I researched it so I could understand exactly what I was to do. 

Picture, if you will, a beautiful and blue natural water source (a “wellspring”).  Maybe a hidden fountainhead with streams flowing from it.  Fresh water flowing freely among lush, vibrant greenery.  Living creatures depending on the various streams as they spread out among the jungle. 

Now imagine that water source as your heart.  Imagine your heart as that hidden water source.  From your heart flow streams of life.  How you live flows from the water source that is your heart.  How you love.  How you engage your husband.  How you interact with your kids.  How you relate with friends and family and strangers.  All of these streams flow from your heart.  Your husband, kids, friends, creativity, and contributions to the world depend on the streams of life that flow from you.  Your heart is the wellspring, the water source. 

Now go back and picture again a real water source, a real wellspring.  Picture someone dropping just a few drops of poison into the water source.  What happens to all the streams?  What happens to all the living things that depend on that water source for life?  Poisoned.   Sick at best. 

When Scripture talks about guarding our heart above all else, it is because God knows what will happen if we don’t guard our heart.  The NIV says that everything we do flows from our heart.  The ESV describes the heart as the place from which flow the springs of life.  Our whole self is impacted by the life source…the heart.  And we are instructed to guard the heart.  God knows that just like poison to a real water source poisons all the streams that flow from it (and all the lives that depend on it), destructive influences to our hearts impact all the streams of our life (and all the lives that depend on it).  All our outputs.  All our relationships.  All our investments.  All of these are impacted by the life source.  By the state of our heart.

Our very life flows from our heart.  So, when we allow influences into our heart, we are actually allowing those influences to affect our whole life. 

Through this imagery, God was able to show me what to do next with this painful and stress-inducing relationship.  It became clear that I had let this one person in too close to my heart, and by doing so was allowing destruction to flow into all areas of my life.   Because I had been continually allowing this person’s painful influence into my heart, I was living in constant anxiety.  That anxiety was flowing into all my relationships, costing so much in each stream of my life. 

So, I chose to pull back.  I chose to guard my heart.  The streams of my life and the people who depended on those streams were worth more than pleasing this one influence that was costing my heart so much.  As my heart became safe once again, the streams began flowing more clearly…the relationships that depended on my streams of life started to become healthier and move vibrant. 

Our life source is so valuable.  So much depends on our healthy life source and the streams that flow from it.  Which is why God instructs us to guard our very hearts. 

How well are you guarding your life source?  How are the streams of your life being affected by the influences you’ve allowed into your heart?

* Proverbs 4:23


Quiet Time Boxes and Learning to Read

This week our family grew up a little bit.  As our oldest completely stopped taking naps this past month, he also began learning to read.  All the sudden we took the next step into growing up.  This kid has “graduated” from naptime simultaneous with beginning to learn to read.  Yesterday he was a toddler…and now he’s learning to read.  It happened that fast.  It’s just a little bit crazy.  And super awesome. 

First, I have to tell you that although I taught first grade for four years, I still feel like I am terrible at teaching reading.  Teaching is my strength.  Teaching reading is not my strength!  So, when I saw the following book on my friends’ social media, I ordered it almost immediately.  It was exactly what I wanted…something to guide me in teaching through the simple building blocks of reading.  My oldest and I just started this week…and we’re loving it!  It is so simple for both mom and kid, super scripted for me, and full of little successes for the kiddo. 

This no nap thing, on the other hand, has been rough!  My oldest’s naps have been sporadic for a year or so now; however, he still napped about every 3rd day, so we just kept our nap routine with some “rest time” options if he didn’t fall asleep.  But no nap at all is an entirely different story.  Most days, instead of quietly resting, my oldest would just check in over his monitor about every 5 minutes to see if his “rest time” was over.  It was stressful for whichever parent had all the monitors in the afternoon.  And, honestly, our "no-napper" was just so bored that he was edgy, too, by the time "rest time" ended.

In an effort to circumvent the every-5-minute checks, Val and I decided to create quiet time boxes in hopes of making rest time a little more restful for everyone involved.  I totally copied the “quiet time boxes” idea (and their contents) from my BFF’s blog, buying almost every single thing she linked in her blog.  It was so helpful that I thought I’d share here my links so you, too, can have an easy time creating your quiet time boxes when the time comes for your little people!

I created a separate box for each day.  We also got a 60-minute sand timer, too. My oldest, Elijah (4 ½ years old), gets to have that day’s box in his room for one solid hour, while our middle kid, Solomon (3 years old), naps. Some days everything perfectly aligns and our littlest, Silas (6 months old), will even nap tat the same time, too.  

So, Elijah has to stay in his room for one solid hour without chatting with us over the monitor.  He can play with the quiet time box or anything in his room for that hour.  It has been amazing!  Later in the day, when Solomon gets up from his nap, he gets to have the quiet time box while Elijah does reading lessons with me (the reading lessons lasts for about fifteen minutes).  I am loving the flow of the afternoons now.  Because the boys only get the box for one hour, once a week, I have a feeling that the novelty of each item will last for quite a while.  

Here’s what I’ve got in those boxes:

Monday: Puzzles

Tuesday: Dry Erase Maze Books

Wednesday: Magnetic "Joey"

Thursday: Reusable Waterpainting Tablets

Friday: Doc McStuffings Busy Book

Saturday: Block Train

Sunday: Reusable Stickers and Backgrounds

With the maze books, the waterpainting tablets, and the reusable stickers, I bought more than one set of each of these and put them in the boxes.  With the puzzles, I actually bought quiet a few “cheap” ones but have found that the Melissa and Doug or Ravensburger puzzles are really better quality and are easier to do.  In the end, these "Quiet Time Boxes" were quite an investment, spending close to $130 just to set everything up. I did, however, buy mostly reusable items with the intention to use these with all three boys as they transition out of naps.  So, the initial investment (while costly) feels totally worth it!

Note: I do use "amazon associates," so I get a small percentage of your purchase if you purchase by linking from my blog.  (I think all the big-time bloggers call this having "affiliate links" in their post, and I think you're supposed to let your readers know you can make some change off their purchases.)


He's Back from Iraq

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness...
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted... 
Isaiah 58:6 & 10 (ESV)

The last two weeks I’ve been quiet about our real life because the love of my life was leading a medical relief team in Iraq.  For security reasons, we were asked to not mention the trip while it was happening.  The reality in the Middle East…and specifically Syria and Iraq is heartbreaking (click here to learn more).  I actually avoided reading detailed news reports while Val was gone, simply to keep my heart at peace trusting God with my man serving in the midst of such profound suffering and persecution. 

While Iraq is technically considered a war zone, Val was not actually serving in the middle of the conflict, but was offering medical, emotional and spiritual care to Syrian refugees who had fled from Syria to Iraq.  I have yet to hear all his stories, but am waiting to hear how the God of the Universe touched lives through this medical team. 

While Val was away, my mom spent a full two weeks with me helping me take care of my three boys.  We both worked so hard.  I kept telling her that she was just as much a part of what Val was doing over in Iraq as Val was because there is no way that he could have gone over without her helping me.  So, indirectly not only was my mom helping me, but she was actually making this medical trip possible.  (Thanks, Mom!).

This is my part of the story:

A year ago, Val went to Iraq and I stayed home with our two big boys while I was also in the midst of that dreaded first trimester of pregnancy.  It was awful.  I was impatient, unkind, edgy, sick, and beyond exhausted.  I felt alone.  I hated how frequently I lost my patience with my boys while Val was gone on that trip.  Even with a friend helping me for the last half of that trip, I was pretty certain I never wanted Val to go on another one of these trips.


God has been so at work in me that I am a different person this time.  Not only am I not pregnant which makes a huge difference in my ability to handle caring for our boys while Val is on a trip like this.  I am also no longer trying to hold everything together.  I asked for the help I knew I would need.  Not only was my mom here for two weeks, but a good friend also came out for a few days.  I haven’t attempted to cook more than simple things like grilled cheese and hot dogs.  This trip has still taken a toll on me; however, I am still at peace.  This was not the case a year ago when Val went to Iraq.  I was at the end of myself by the time he came home a year ago.  Now, I just want a long afternoon to recoup. 

God has been working in me.  He has been working in our family.  He has been resetting us in healthy rhythms and relationships within our little family.  I am learning my limits and living within them.  Our little family is also more at peace.  It’s hard to put into words, but us slowing down our life and going so very slow these past few months has been the best thing we have ever done for our family.  Our boys are so much more at rest in themselves.  I am so much more at rest in myself.  And there is a renewed life and energy in Val.

In stopping and slowing down and taking a year to rest, we have melded together as a family in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined.  I used to say my dream was for our little family to be at rest with each other…our home as a place of peace.  I think it is beginning to happen.  The peace is becoming a lasting reality and not momentary dream between events and demands.  This peace has remained almost entirely even with Val gone for ten days. 

For the first time, we as a family might be truly stepping into the wind of the Spirit in our everyday reality, rather than running on a hamster wheel of just trying to manage our life. 

Photo credit: Valerie Monson