Celebrating Summer: Perspective Not Perfection but 3 ways to make it better

Today we’re kicking off an all-new series on TwoShadesofKraze.com – one I’ve been dreaming up for awhile, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. At the beginning of the year, I finally said yes to a nudging God’s had in my heart since we moved here, now 2 years ago, to use the blessing of our house to serve whoever He would send my way. I had no idea (still don’t) what I’m doing. What would I talk about? I can hardly keep my house clean enough for us to live here, much less have people over on a consistent basis! I relent and am embracing that obedience is more important than perfection. There’s nothing I love more than the connection and encouragement I pour into and receive from moms in different places and stages of motherhood. So… I started a mom’s group with this really great group of moms that God, no doubt, placed in my life. Every other week, we share brunch and an encouraging word around my dining room table. Here I’ll let you sneak a glimpse into the conversation and food we share…and with this series, I’ll uncover little entertaining secrets and what’s on the menu for each week, and we’ll call it Brunch with ME (Moms Encouragement). I can’t imagine a more fitting time to kickoff our first post than the first day of summer (ok, it’s officially the first weekend of summer now, but we’re not striving for perfection here, remember).

 

For as long as I can remember, summer has always been my favorite time of year. Summer meant lake days that lasted until the sun went down (in Texas that was until 9:30 at night), eating outside for almost every meal, beach trips, fruity drinks, a great tan… And one of my favorite days of the year, my birthday is smack dab in the middle of summer! More than anything, I’ve found myself being more spontaneous, free and positive during the summer, when I’m at my best.

For three very special reasons, summertime is a bit different now. The days are still long but some day are loooonng (I know you feel me mamas)

Let’s take a poll….

  • Are you the “Make it Monday”… “Water Wednesday” with an activity planned for each day kind of summer mom?
  • Or do you like to plan multiple activities (camps, trips, etc) over the summer but leave a little room for spontaneity?
  • Anybody like to keep summer wide open for 3 straight months of ‘who knows what we’re going to get into’?!

“Kenzi pre-kids” was person #3 – that was the life of being married, both working, no kids (we were the definition of DINKs – Double Income No Kids), so any free time we had, we were spontaneous and adventurous! Now with 3 children, there’s no way I’m going to step into 3 months of having no idea what the heck we’re going to be doing. Option number one would make me feel completely trapped by “Water Wednesdays” when I want to go to the beach on a Tuesday. As silly as that sounds, I know myself well enough that if I’ve chosen to implement this, I would feel so uneasy to stray from it. What’s best for me is right in the middle… planning as much as possible to know ahead of time how our weeks will be spent, but leaving enough freedom for days to spontaneously check off our summer bucket list.

No matter what works best for you, as moms, summer can be busy and complicated, exhilarating and exhausting…but I’ve learned that I can still be my best self by holding on to what I’ve always loved most about summer.

3 Things I’ve learned over 5 summers of motherhood:

Please know I’m sharing my own experiences, which will look different for each of you based on where you are in your journey and what works best for your family.

  1. Set expectations
    • Before your children can weigh in, set the expectations with your husband. He needs to know if you’re going to go mad if you don’t have at least one outing a week planned or something of the like. Once they’re old enough, give them boundaries and let them know what needs to happen/ not happen in order for you to not lose it have the best summer possible. A couple examples from our house: 1) After breakfast, take your plates to the sink, brush your teeth and make your bed. (I could and might do an entire post on the morning routine and why) 2) Put away the first thing before getting out another to play with.
  2. Write down fun things do as well as goals
    • This is the first year I was able to involve The Kraze in coming up with a list. I got my big white board and they each chose a color marker to represent themselves. I wanted to be able to keep up with whose ideas belonged to who, so everyone got an equal voice (talking over each other is a real struggle ) and I can be intentional about scheduling in their ideas as equally as possible. It was so much fun to hear their ideas, and my biggest takeaway is that kids don’t really ask for much. A few items included “pet cute puppies”,  “bake a key lime pie”and “meet a friend at the park” (ok, there are a couple “Disney World” and “SeaWorld”). See the full list in Stories.
    • Lists and goals keep me grounded, especially in such an unstructured season. This summer I wanted to be intentional about teaching them the important things like tying their shoes, hanging upside down on the monkey bars and reading. Yes, even teaching them to read. It’s so fulfilling to help them achieve something they’re proud of, plus, the intentional time is invaluable.
  3. Keep perspective
    • Summer is so fleeting – the days will become notably shorter and the kids will go back to school before we know it. I recently told my husband that I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that everything that annoys me right now are going to be the things I’ll miss.  These truly are the days… The days are long, the sun is shining, we’re all together, and they actually beg to wash your car for you.

 

Perspective not perfection

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This verse isn’t referring to special circumstances. God knows we we’ll spend a whole lot more of our time in ordinary moments than we will in the extraordinary ones.  Whether we’re at work, taking care of our children, talking with a friend, or even cleaning our house, it’s clear that WHATEVER we do and whatever we say…we are to do it and say it in the name of Jesus.

Over the summer, we’ll have way more ordinary days than special, planned out days and while we can talk about keeping perspective and giving thanks to God in all of it, I don’t believe that means we can’t feel human. “in the name of the Lord and giving thanks to God” doesn’t mean I’m to be happy in every moment of motherhood. Some days we’ll feel like super mom and some days we’ll feel like giving up… Some days we’ll be thanking God for every little moment and some days we’ll be thanking God that he’s there to lean on…  We can be grateful for these amazing blessings and be absolutely over it at the same time… if it were easy, if it were nothing but bliss, would we remember we need to lean on God – would we remember that our strength comes from Him and not our own power? 

Sometimes it’s ok to say “we’ll try again tomorrow” because God’s grace is new each day… with a few more hours of sunshine to enjoy your little ones!

 

Photo Cred: Southernboy Dishes

On the Menu

To maintain a no-pressure vibe, everyone brings a shareable dish if they’re coming, so we’re sure there’s enough food for everyone. 1) You make whatever sounds good and is doable for you 2) No biggie if you were up all night with the baby and you can’t get out of the door that morning

Drinks: Coffee (this will be the first thing you see on the menu every week – obviously a must with a group of moms) + a variety of creamers and sugar and OJ

Mozzarella, Tomato Bruschetta

Cinnamon Rolls

Banana Bread

Blueberry Scones

*Clearly everyone was feeling carbs this day!!

 

I’d love to know what summer plans you have with your kiddos??

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10 Things I Want You to Know that I Can’t Teach You

The things I want to teach them during these years I’ve been given to raise them are countless. I actually have a pretty extensive list, but… priorities… and they’re 3 (almost 4 but I don’t want to hear that) and if I tried to write it all down, I’d never hit publish! So here are just 10 I’d like to focus on now, because it’s just never too early to raise them in truth. These crucial things, I can’t teach them – knowledge that will only come as a result of life experiences, creating a faith community around them, and doing my best to be their example. I won’t always do it right, but this is my hope and prayer…

 

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My precious girls, please know that:

* You are perfect and loved, not because of anything you’ve done, but because you were made that way.

* You can’t control how people treat you, but you can control how you react to it.

* You are amazing! There is no one like you. No one!

* True happiness is found in love – giving & receiving love, not things. Although, love can hurt, things will leave you empty.

* Bravery doesn’t mean doing something scary – it means standing up for yourself & for others.  Listening to your own voice over your peers and doing what you feel is right, for you.

* Failure is nothing to fear. If you let it, failure can show you how resilient you are and give you the chance to star in your very own comeback story.

* Being happy or not is up to you.

* If you’re going to take a big risk and bet on anything, bet on yourself.

* Your identity isn’t found in anyone or anything – through Christ, alone, you have been made whole.

* I love you.  You don’t have to do anything to deserve it – I just do, with all my heart.

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Easter: Celebrating Hope

I keep saying Easter is one of my favorite holidays, but the older I get (no doubt it has so much to do with being a mom now – realizing the importance of raising these little hearts with an eternal perspective) it’s really become my #1 favorite holiday.  No, it’s not because of the bunny or egg hunts and all the other activities, which are most definitely super fun without the stress & expectations of Christmas, or that with Easter comes spring… *Oh how I instantly feel a lift in my spirits when the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and we’re (all 4) riding down the road with our arms up singing “Hands in the air like we don’t care!”…

 

But no, that’s not it.  To me, Easter is the definition of Hope.  Easter is when God’s promise was fulfilled.  Just when darkness thought they won, they had been defeated in the biggest way… You know the feeling you get when you get to prove the naysayers wrong?!  That’s the victory Christians felt the moment Jesus had risen again and defeated death, proving He indeed was the Messiah, our Savior!

Because of the resurrection:
  • You & I can pray knowing God hears our prayers.
  • We can live knowing there is life beyond this life.
  • You can sacrifice knowing your faithfulness matters
  • He proved he was who he said he was… our Lord & Savior.
Explaining it to Little Ones
This can seem pretty difficult to talk to little ones about, talking about death and all, but it shouldn’t be… that’s not what we’re celebrating.  We’re celebrating that he conquered all and lived again.  So this is how I easily explain it to The Kraze: Easter reminds us of the day Jesus saved the entire world… and they excitedly ask, “Like a superhero?!”, to which I reply, “Jesus is the #1 Superhero!!!”
I leave you with this… and hope that you’ll take in each word:
Alone in my sorrow dead in my sin
Lost without hope with no place to begin
Your love Made a way to let mercy come in
When death was arrested and my life began

Ash was redeemed only beauty remains 
My orphan heart was given a name
My mourning grew quiet my feet rose to dance
When death was arrested and my life began

Oh your grace so free
Washes over me 
You have made me new
Now life begins with you
It’s your endless love
Pouring down on us
You have made us new
Now life begins with you

Released from my chains I’m a prisoner no more
My shame was a ransom he faithfully bore
He cancelled my debt and he called me his friend
When death was arrested and my life began

Our savior displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That’s when death was arrested and my life began 
That’s when death was arrested and my life began 

Oh we’re free free
Forever we’re free
Come join the song
Of all the redeemed

Yes we’re free free
Forever amen
When death was arrested 
and my life began

 

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A Transformation of Faith

I’ve kept myself from posting this for two reasons: (1) I felt it would be misunderstood that I thought my struggles were worse or harder than yours, so here’s your disclaimer: I’ve decided to write this, not for my own pity or selfish desires, but the pull on my heart is that someone else might need to hear read this (in fact I know this & I know some of you, what you’ve been through & my heart aches for you… know that I love you).  In all honesty, I did not learn or come to this conclusion on my own, but from merely being a spectator of someone else’s struggle (which was absolutely much tougher than mine), which brings me to my second reason: (2) I’ve had to mourn the loss of this person.  I celebrate the fact we knew him & he changed my life through what he called his journey, (not struggle – that’s my word), but deeply mourn the fact that the Kraze will not know him, however hope they indeed will by what I hope to carry on through my life and pass down to them.

My journey still feels too personal to share the details with you – maybe full transparency will come with time – but I’ll tell you my faith has been tested in insurmountable (to me) ways since the Kraze was born.  While I’m choosing to hold tight to the specifics for now at least, I’ll share some thoughts I’ve had along the way…

  • “Why when we ‘needed’ more did we all of a sudden have less?!”
  • “Lord, in the midst of feeling emotionally drained, I at least needed my health.”
  • “How could this be?!  Did I not pray hard enough?!”
  • At this point, I wanted to stop asking why & was just angry.
  • **In the midst of these struggles, we found out God had chosen not to heal the most Christ-like man we’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and calling our friend, Mack – “WHY oh why, God?!”
Mack’s precious wife shared this verse months ago, which I needed at the time more than I realized, but wasn’t until later that I allowed it to penetrate my heart: “… In this you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith OF GREATER THAN GOLD, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine, and may result in praise, honor and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

During this time, Zach and I continued to watch Mack’s journey from afar and felt completely inadequate in our faith. We witnessed him never “growing weary in doing good… and not giving up”; he never wavered in his faith.  We heard him say more than once, “God is not mad at me. He loves me.” Because of this witness, I’ve come to a place of thanking God for believing I’m stronger than I think I am and seeking the purpose in it all… His purpose.

 

So here’s what’s been impressed upon me:
Your pain is probably not about you, but for the greater good, possibly of someone else.  Someone in particular whose life could literally be saved by turning to Jesus because of your story.  Isn’t that what happened on the cross?!  God didn’t allow Jesus  (who was truly perfect) to endure the pain & suffering of the crucifixion because He was being punished or because God didn’t love Him anymore (His own Son).  That very pain & suffering (sacrifice) is what saved the world… the ENTIRE world… if we’ll just accept Him.

Right now, I don’t know who our story will touch or how it could change lives, but my hope & prayer is that we’ll hear His calling and use it for good (hopefully to be a good example for my girls). My prayer is that I can be an example of how “hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40.

I’ve titled this ‘A TransformATION of Faith, not TransformED (past tense) because I’m still walking through this journey, one step at a time a little further down the path from Plans for Good.  I still don’t have answers, I don’t understand, but I now understand it’s not about me… it’s about honoring a God that loved me (and you) first by following in Jesus’ and Mack’s footsteps of allowing God to use me to transform lives… to bring people to Him.

Casting Crowns new song, ‘Just Be Held’ speaks to this so well & I feel like I can relate to every word:
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong    as a mom this couldn’t ring truer
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when youre tired of fighting
Chained by your control
Theres freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when youre on your knees and answers seem so far away
Youre not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
Im on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
Youll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
Youll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, youll understand
Im painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where youll find Me
And where you are, Ill hold your heart
Ill hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go
In honor of Mack, I’d love to share a few of my favorite ‘Mack Hannah Quotes’ that I will forever carry in my heart:
  1. “I’m not your example bc I drop the ball more than I carry it but I can tell you my journey/experience / share my story.”
  2. “Choose the next right thing.”
  3. “I’m just a begger telling another begger where I found some bread.”
  4. “I don’t want to do His job, I just want to do His work.”
  5. “I’m not in competition with anyone but Satan.”
  6. “I know I’m not what I should be, but I praise God I’m not what I used to be… one day at a time.”
  7. “Never focusing on the past but looking ahead and focusing on the goal.”
  8. “Because of Jesus, when I need someone to lean on, he’s always there. Some may say it’s a crutch, but when you’re crippled you need a crutch & I’m crippled.”

 

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