A Constant Chinese Fire Drill

On of the hardest things about being a mom of young children is the perpetual state of chaos that exists in your home. Each day is like a Chinese fire drill in the living room with the toys being the objects of replacement. Unless you are witness to this organization, good luck ever finding that kitchen utensil you gave your child in exasperation as you attempted to make dinner.

Baskets seemed like a viable alternative to the increasing mountain of parts and pieces that my daughter identifies as treasures. However, the baskets fill to a point of overwhelming capacity and then no one wants to deal with the contents. There’s nothing quite like tip toeing your way to bed through the dark house only to kick into the one missed toy that had to be motion activated and in the quiet of the night you cringe as you hear, “I’m a pink teapot hear me whistle…”.

Less stuff would make my life easier, but it’s hard to keep up with the voracious imagination of a toddler without a rotating number of toys and objects that can be touched, pitched, disassembled and worn around the wrist as a new fashion accessory. There is hope. One day my mess maker will also be able to put away the things and help restore sanity to the living room. This will be done at the cost of a once mute child, but what’s the fun without new adventures in life? I vividly remember my 6 year old brother’s new found ability to read and repeat every road sign as we ran errands with mom. As much as I look forward to the ability to reason with my toddler, I know there will be days I wish that she came with an off button. Especially when she starts repeating the speed limit to me.

As someone who thrives in a clean, organized atmosphere, having a child has stretched my ability to stop caring so much about the temporary and start living in the long term. This means that some Saturdays are spent completely cleaning and reorganizing the house instead of hanging with friends, but when you are stuck in bed with a snoring toddler on you because she needed someone to cuddle with, you know that making memories is more important than perfection.

My Life is Full of Things I Dislike

As I stood in my kitchen last night, listening to the laughter of my little girl as daddy chased her around the living room, I was thinking about how much I hate washing dishes. They have to be washed, but it’s a chore without a reward because once they are dry someone still has to put them away. In moments like these I am increasingly tempted to embrace minimalism. Less stuff means less work, right? As my mind continued down the list of undone chores, I began thinking about how many things in my life I really don’t like doing. Changing diapers, cleaning up the toys for the umpteenth time, vacuuming so that I can mop, soaking stained clothing, putting away the clean laundry so that I can wash more clothes, paying bills, doing taxes, wiping muddy paws, pulling weeds, and the list goes on. My time is often filled doing things I dislike, but it’s surrounded by people that I love doing those things for. 

This weekend we remember one of the greatest sacrifices and miracles in human history. I can not fathom what Jesus went through during the crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, as he pleaded with God for another way and contemplated everything that lay ahead of him I wonder if he felt the same way I did while washing dishes? His life was about to be full of doing things that he hated, but he was surrounded by people that he loved doing them for. 

I am blessed by the people in my life and I am forever grateful that Jesus chose to sacrifice himself in my place. This weekend I am thankful for the opportunity to honor His death, celebrate His resurrection, but most of all I am thankful to be a recipient of His unconditional love. 

If I can raise a puppy, I can raise a child…right?

I will admit that as a teen, babies weren’t my thing. I did my fair share of babysitting and child wrangling, but spending time around opinionated, messy humans of small stature and questionable balance was not my first choice. I preferred furrier mischief. Throughout middle school I was part of a 4-H dog club. We trained our dogs in a variety of categories and then competed at county and state fairs. The amount that I learned being part of that 4-H club is something I will always be grateful for. However, the friend that I gained through those many hours of training is something I will never forget. I was and still am shy in nature. I don’t make oodles of friends and going through the awkwardness of the teen years, a dog who wanted to be my constant companion without caring about really anything else, was perfect. We were a constant duo and if I could have taken her everywhere, I would have. As I grew older, so did she and for some reason God decided that dogs should have short life spans. My life was rapidly transitioning from school, to work, to marriage. She met and approved of my now husband and not long after, her time was up. 
Time moves on and I found myself buying a house, opening the door to the possibility of getting a new dog. As life would have it, I got pregnant and my husband and I had to make a choice. Do we get a dog now or wait until the baby is a toddler? We got the dog, who we both quite like, but now I found myself facing another serious anomaly. What was I going to do with an tiny, opinionated, messy human of my own? Everything I new about raising things was derived from taking a 6-8 week old puppy and teaching it how to be a proper house guest. Surely if I admitted that my parenting approach consisted of Google and what I new from raising puppies people would be aghast. 

My baby is now quickly approach the 1.5 year mark and so far we are all still alive and mostly unscathed. The good news is that there is no “right” way to raise a child because they are all unique and uniquely different. (This is also the bad news.) As my daughter develops and becomes more interactive, I am amazed at how her perception of the world extends as far away as she can get while still seeing me. I am her everything. Separation from me is excruciating, horrible, terrifying and meltdown inducing. Her sense of trust is connected to my presence. This is NOT the same with dogs. Puppies hit a point where they realize there is a whole world on the other side of their fence and it’s meant for exploring. I think this would be called young adulthood for humans, but babies…no. Developmental rates between kids and dogs vastly differ in some aspects. 

The weight of the responsibility that comes from the complete reliance of my toddler can be intimidating. However, it is also enlightening. For a being that can’t communicate with words, our days are like a constant game of charades. It’s my job to figure out her needs, but I also know that regardless of my deciphering she trusts me to make the right choice. If only I had the same attitude towards my relationship with God. How often I feel like a babbling toddler trying to communicate my requests to God. I need to trust that regardless of my interpretation of a situation, He is making the right choice. 

Pulverized

Reflecting on joy, contentment and cultivating Mindfulness. 

You know that feeling when life gets out the meat hammer and goes to town on your schedule, friendships, children, attitude, health and general exsistence? It’s been one of those weeks. Finding strength and encouragement despite your new, flattened state can be particularly challenging. Recently I’ve been spending time looking at scripture and reflecting on what it means to maintain joy and contentment despite the events of each day. Timely topic for reflection apparently! 

Overcoming the emotions and gut reactions that accompany daily disruptions is the true test. How is this achieved? Take a moment to pause and step outside of your thoughts and feelings. I imagine it looks like one of the beginning scenes from Dr. Strange where time slows and you see his spiritual form being thrust out of his physical form. You mentally pause the situation, look around and try to identify the true source of angst. Then work on diffusing that instead of escalating the situation by adding to the fire with more words. The more popular term for this is Mindfulness. 

Mindfulness takes time and practice to master. Breaking the emotional heatwave is the first step. I found myself, while in the middle of a toddler’s tantrum, making up a song about how I was going to be patient. My daughter found the high notes particularly amusing. Prayer is another useful tool. Talking through the situation with God mentally or verbally helps bring calm. Not only will you have spiritual reinforcements, the Holy Spirit helps reroute your mental attitude. Avoiding cellular devices is another positive choice when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed. Instead of jumping on social media or losing yourself in browsing take the moment to work on your mindfulness. Diffuse, reflect and look for ways to overcome the same struggles in the future. Think of it as emotional detoxing. 

I look anxiously forward to the weekend and a cup of espresso as soon as my teething toddler relinquishes my lap. Offering words of comfort to his disciples, Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Overcome. He did and so can you. 

Regeneration

Eight years ago as my mom and I waited for a shuttle, we sat next to a few fish tanks lost in the overwhelming news and reality of the moment. My cancer was gone. As relieved as we were to receive the news and be headed back home, the joy was hampered by relief and uncertainty. I was excited to be going home. Living out of a hotel while going through medical tests and surgery is not something I highly recommend. However, more surgery loomed in the future along with the possibility that the cancer could reappear. 

Certain anniversaries since then have held special meaning. Three years in the clear was the first hurdle towards long term remission. Then I made it to five years and all my doctors breathed a sigh of relief. 10 years will mark the final nail in the coffin for medical insurance red tape. So what is special about eight years? 

The number eight in the Bible signifies Resurrection and Regeneration. It is the number of a new beginning. Eight is 7 plus 1 and since it comes just after seven, which itself signifies an end to something, so eight is also associated with the beginning of a new era or that of a new order.

In the past eight years I have graduated college, worked a few jobs, married a pretty cool guy, got a new dog and became a mom. In the last month I made the decision to change my career path and focus on my adventurous toddler and develop my entrepreneurial skills. This is a new place for me. After nearly 7 years as someone’s assistant, I am taking a step towards a new beginning. 

Pursuing opportunity is intimidating when there is more than one option, but never moving forward and embracing risk keeps us in stasis. Life is vastly out of our control, as much as we don’t want to admit or accept that fact. Living intentionally to intercept change and flourish despite of it is the goal. 

Regeneration can be regrowth or reformation and both of those words seem applicable in 2017. As I celebrate remission, I look forward. Whether it was cancer or _____________________, it changes us. Let your blank be your motivation and live to the fullest with what God has given you. 

For Such a Time as This,

Krista

Best Toys for Aggresive Chewers

If you are looking for a toy for your dog, but nothing withstands your furry friend’s destruction here are some suggestions! Our German Shepherd can destroy a toy in a matter of minutes. We timed her once. A “tough” stuffed alligator lasted a mere 3 minutes. Needless to say, stuffed toys and aggressive chewers don’t mix. Kong, which is known for its durable rubber toys that you stuff with treats, has a line of tough stuffed or soft toys. Don’t waste your money. We got the Wubba and the only thing that survived was the thin rubber ball inside.

Image result for tug n tossMy mom stumbled across the brand Jolly Pets and we have been impressed! Our German Shepherd started out with the Tug-N-Toss in the horse size. The horse version, which is 10″, was unintentional but she loves it nonetheless. They make multiple sizes of each of their toys so that all breeds can play.

Let me pause for a moment and talk about types of play and chewers. If your dog likes to sit down and turn toys into bones, then your options will become significantly limited. You should never leave a dog with a toy if they demonstrate this kind of behavior. Our German Shepherd has matured out of the constant chewing phase. Puppies chew continually as a result of teething and you just have to live through it. Adult dogs that sit and chew toys to shreds probably need more exercise and mentally challenging toys (this would be the perfect instance for a Classic Kong stuffed with peanut butter or plain yogurt). Also try new types of play for your chewer: frisbee, fly ball, agility, tracking or hiking. If returning a toy during fetch isn’t working, have you tried playing with more than one ball? Get creative! Research your breed and find out what makes them unique. Working dogs are popular house pets in the US, but they need to “work” in order to stay out of trouble.

Ok, back to toys. So in addition to the Tug-N-Toss, which our dog loves to tackle, we got a Push-N-Play. I was slightly dismayed when I got this ball in the mail as it was 6″ of hard plastic. I couldn’t squeeze it. I realized in hindsight that is meant to be chased, not picked up. German Shepherds are among the top 10 breeds for bite strength so this ball proved to be no issue for our crazy girl. She had that ball in her mouth in no time. It does wear her jaw out so we mostly chase it. The great thing about the Jolly Pet toys is that they are meant to be punctured and maintain form. So dogs can bite them over and over and it won’t destroy the ball (within reason, you will eventually need a new one).

Some of you may be familiar with the ChuckIt! Brand, best known for their plastic ball holder that helps you throw tennis balls. They make a variety of balls in addition the the tennis ball launcher. We have the Max Glow and Erratic Bouncer. These two thick rubber balls have been holding up very well, considering our Shepherd can split a tennis ball in two. The ChuckIt! balls have been perfect for her to chase, exercise her jaw and are much easier to wash off than a tennis ball.

Toys take a bit of experimentation to find out what your furry friend likes best. On a whim we got a $1 pink plastic frisbee from Target and our Shepherd has been obsessed ever since. So go pick out a toy and have some fun!

 

Maybe God and a Dog Have More in Common than just the Letters

My husband and I chose to do something slightly insane when I was around 6 months pregnant. We got an 8 week old puppy. Getting a puppy is an intense commitment, especially when anticipating adding a newborn to the mix. Between the house breaking, obedience training and constant chewing it was a full time effort. I have had a dog in my life for as long as I can remember. This is something I wanted to share with my little girl when she entered the world. Now, a year and a half later my fuzzy little puppy is a full grown black German Shepherd. While on the smaller side for a shepherd, she is still muscle from head to toe and can easily plow over our daughter, Colleen. The amount of restraint our dog, Lexi, uses has come from a decent amount of training, but I love to watch the two interact. So much power, yet such gentleness. It makes me think about how omnipotent God is and despite that, he chooses to let us have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I took a bit of a risk agreeing to a high drive dog breed, but the reward is a resilience and loyalty that is hard to compare. While Colleen adores Lexi she also enjoys picking on her. Petting turns into whisker pulling or using Lexi as a walker. Despite the looks of annoyance that I get from Lexi, I know she can endure it and has a certain amount of affection for the small human. The bond between the two is one of trust and for Colleen, reassurance. Having Lexi with her when we go new places gives Colleen confidence. I wish that I could let go of my personal reservations and have a similar relationship with God, like Lexi and Colleen. Trust that He will always protect me, adoration for his love and relationship, comfort in his presence and reassurance, “…that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Too often I find myself during the day trying to take on life’s problems on my own. God is my Lexi, ready to be my friend or my walker. All I have to do is call out to him. While I don’t recommend a German Shepherd for every young family, I do encourage you to consider your relationship with God. He is patient and waiting. I look forward to the years ahead as my two goof balls grow and mature together. I know we will share many more great moments, muddy feet and plenty of dog hair. 

The Curse of Eve

Being a mom can make life feel like a freedom sucking vacuum. Between feeding, clothing, changing, bathing and entertaining a child not to mention house chores, cooking, grocery shopping and working, the little bit of “free” time we experience during the day usually involves sleeping, showering or eating. The life that previously existed where you had time to watch movies, read books, go to the mall, plan dinner dates, cuddle on the couch or simply eat your lunch uninterrupted is a fading memory. It’s exhausting and becomes isolating. Independence from children and responsibilities feels like a lost cause. Surviving 7am-11pm is the number one focus. For those of you reading this that have not had kids yet, you are beginning to wonder if offspring are really worth it. 

There are many joyful moments when raising children. Each new milestone is a thrill, the emphatic hugs are priceless, the heart felt laughs make you smile and the attachment to you as their parent is incomparable. Yet the desire for something in life beyond 7-11 survival is a constant nagging. Husbands often take the brunt of this built up nagging. Instead of seeing how hard they work to provide financially, we see a care free individual who gets out of the house, can eat lunch in peace wherever he chooses, has the freedom to stop by the store on the way home and after a few hours, he gets to send the kids off to bed. Don’t get me started on the weekend when heaven forbid he sit down and watch a race or game instead of fix one of the million things on “the list”. What about me and what I want or when do I get to relax???
This selfish attitude that creeps into my mind takes me back to Genesis 3:16.

Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

During the work day I am queen of the castle! I’m also queen of the laundry, dishes, muddy paws, stove, dirty bottoms and overall family schedule. When the days are long and tiring, it’s easy to become resentful of the perceived freedom that my husband has. Finding balance in your marriage once kids come is important, but maintaining a view point from your spouse’s shoes is also important. Chances are the last thing he wants to do is sit in yet more traffic on his way home to buy milk. When my husband comes home, I should strive to be queen of his heart and not the boss of his few hours at home with his girls. 

It’s important for me as mom to get a break and breather. Grandmas are excellent resources for accomplishing this. Sometimes you have to throw in the towel and wave a flag of defeat. It’s important to invest in my husband and marriage. Whether or not you have kids, don’t let the love be overcome by the schedule. Learn to communicate and make your time together a team effort.

Do Your Work

Third time is the charm came true for me this weekend when I had the opportunity to hear Bob Goff speak. Twice before Bob had stopped by Louisville, but a small person prevented my attendance. Bob wrote the book, Love Does, and if you have not had a chance to read it open another browser window and go buy it on Amazon!

Bob has so many amazing stories and as I walked hurriedly to my car in the frigid weather after the event, I began to think about what makes his life such an awesome adventure. Bob’s main message that evening was to do your work. Commit to where God has brought you, faithfully move forward, and in time God will begin to reveal his purpose. I had the honor to work for a veteran, lawyer and historian who put it this way,

“We have to get out of the way and let God be God.” – Colonel Ronald D. Ray

Regardless of what Bob has encountered in life from arranging meeting with Sultans on Twitter to contracting Malaria, his joy is made complete by following after God wholeheartedly. Bob has made his life about seeking out those that society pushes away and never saying no to opportunity. If this life is only a speck in the span of eternity, then what do we have to lose?

Bob ended his message with a dare to walk on the edge of our comfort zones. God uses desperation to draw us closer to Him. Examine your current situation, seek to understand the work God has called you to here and now and step out on the edge. Make 2017 about wholeheartedly jumping into God and go do your work.

2017 Aspirations

I gave up on trying to make and keep New Year resolutions long ago. Instead I like to think of New Year aspirations. Each year I have a few hot topics that make the top of my aspiration list. Adventure and travel are always on the list. Hiking Red River Gorge and enjoying some country music, chocolate crepes, BBQ and pizza in a trip Nashville, TN are on the horizon.

Reading more is something I aspire to accomplish. After college I was so burnt out on books that I can probably name the books I’ve read cover to cover since. Inspiration is always a good way to start out a year, so I’ve picked Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Quiet by Susan Cain as my first two hurdles.

On my mind at present is my one year old walking. Each day she becomes more daring and ventures into the great unknown with tiny, wobbly steps. She also loves to climb everything and I can only imagine all the things that she is going to get into, but also all the things and places we will be able to go when she is confident on two feet.

After what seems like a decade (but is really more like a couple of years), I anxiously await my husband’s graduation and the precious time together that we will no longer have to give up. The last few months before graduation are going to be an intense challenge, but that will make receiving his diploma all the more victorious. I am also faithfully praying and seeking out the ability to quickly overcome school loans, to help keep my family as debt free as possible.

One of the best parts of marriage is having someone close to me to share big dreams with and work towards those dreams together. Proverbs 16:3 is a verse I was inspired to pray over my family this year,

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

I pray that the Lord will move in His way and that we will be able to accomplish mighty things.

Happy New Year and may you aspire to do great things in 2017.