Monday, January 16, 2017

New House Adventures!

Finally, the house situation is all coming together, barring any extreme or bizarre scenarios!

I know you've all been curious, and I've shared photos here and there with some of you, but today I will finally give you a bunch of the juicy details about our new place. We get keys on Monday and will spend some time painting, cleaning carpets, and moving over all the stuff we just moved to our current rental this past August. I know, what a pain! But, the prospect of the new place is making the packing less dreadful than I expected.

The house is in Tigard, near Washington Square Mall, which we will be trying NOT to frequent as we recoup our savings this next year ;) We'll be near the Fanno Creek Trail, same distance from our CC community, same travel time to church, and closer to some of my dear Beaverton and Tigard friends. While the neighborhood is not exactly what we envisioned, it's still really nice, and we trust that God has specific plans for putting us there.

I know, I know, you want to see pictures... here are just a few!

This formal dining area will be our homeschool room - it's SO much bigger than the space we are using now! I cannot wait to line the wall behind this with bookshelves and books.

Not fabulous colors, that's for sure, but the space here is great! I'll have two pantries (not shown here) and plenty of room for people to be in the kitchen without bumping into each other.

This is our upstairs bonus area that will double as a guest room. We'll eventually put up removable curtains that hang from hooks in the ceiling to help aid in privacy and such. But what I am really looking forward to is sending the kids up here to watch TV instead of trying to read in the same room as them while their silly shows or games run in the background. 

Amazing, right? That's fake grass, by the way. Yes. We are fake grass people. I'm a little ashamed, but  a lot excited ;)

And now, maybe the best part - the covered patio. Oh yeah, and the pool! I plan to sit here, looking at this view a lot this summer. I'm also really excited to finally get my kiddos swimming regularly and have a great way to do a low-impact workout during the hot months. 

There are lots of other rooms with that lovely yellow color from the kitchen, mostly all the bathrooms and Mark's office, so a paint job is definitely in order. All the rooms are a good size except for Jovi's, but she'll just have to survive. We won't have a soaking tub in the master, but there is a giant empty space where one should be, so eventually we will have a small remodel going on in there, maybe next year.

So what do you think? We were not looking for a pool, and rarely even looked at homes with a pool, even choosing not to look at some that had a pool and no yard, but this house just grew on us. With homeschooling, having a mud-free zone for the boys will be a life-saver! And with all the rain we get in Oregon, the covered patio will be super nice as well. I'm already planning on doing a lot of reading there - both out loud to the kids and on my own.

I hope many of you local friends will invite yourself over in March and beyond! We really want to make this place a lovely oasis, filled with life-giving fellowship. You can pray for our stress levels, our stamina, and our ability to love well despite feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. We are already feeling relieved about finding a place to settle in for a while (we are aiming for 3-5 years - baby steps) but there is definitely a lot that needs to be done.

Thanks for checking in with me and asking me about the house over and over. After the crazy summer we had, it is so good to finally be able to purchase this place. It only took seven offers! Ha! I will keep you updated via Instagram and hop back over here during the next week or two. I can't wait to get settled and fill you in on all my plans for this little blog of mine. I hope you're ready for an amazing 2017!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Big Three and My Biggest Plan.

I love New Years, and I usually make some resolutions, but this year I just never got around to putting them down on paper. After reading The Accidental Creative last year, how I look at my life and my perspective on making progress have changed. I don't think having a bunch of goals is necessarily the best way to ensure you accomplish what you hope to, so instead I'm choosing to narrow my focus and make plans along certain priorities.

In his book Todd Henry recommends having a "Big Three", three main priorities you are always looking at, three goals for the month, three projects, etc. More than three and you're spread too thin. Less than three and you'll get easily distracted and stop moving forward. So what are my big three? Aside from my service to God and my family (which always come before everything else), I am focusing on...

- Homeschooling
- Writing
- My Oils Business

Each week and each month I will have certain objectives and planned tasks in order to keep me on track. I'll have to actually look at my planner, but more on that later. I want to spend a short amount time here on the blog on each of those priorities, and today I'll start with homeschooling.

Several days ago, I was in a major funk. Hardly functioning really, just taking care of daily stuff, completely irritable, and hardly able to think a single thought to completion. I was certainly not my best self. In all reality, I get like this semi-frequently, maybe every other month or so, it's really hard to nail down why. Anyway, I felt like my life was always going to be this under-whleming normal, the person who is always needed, and while often appreciated, I just wasn't feeling like the this life was the best use of myself. I was spending a lot of time thinking about my goals, my ambition, my lack of energy, my giant load of responsibility, and none of it was fitting together enough to make sense.

As I scrolled through Instagram (for maybe the tenth time that day), I came across a friend's post where she quoted a few lines from a book a friend gave her. I don't know all the people I need to thank for making that happen, but Amanda is one if them for sure! Here it is:

"When we are consumed by God's glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamored by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamored with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God's glory, we'll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His."

This quote is by Hannah Anderson in her book Humble Roots.

Isn't that the perfect reminder? I was so busy trying to figure out my own life, I could not even begin to enjoy my role or look for the silver linings in all the difficult parts of being a homeschool mom, much less lovingly invest in my kids (which is the pretty much the whole point). What makes this quote, this truth, even more refreshing is that our current culture doesn't say this, and much of popular Christianity today does not say this. Famous authors, accomplished people, and many well-known Christian women tell us to look in our heart, to find our true desires, and make those dreams happen. At what point do we admit that our hearts are askew and maybe we have no clue what is really best for our lives?

We are so focused on ourselves that we despise the "inconveniences" we encounter every day, and we miss all the things God is putting in our way to lead us down a better path. If that path is more tumultuous, more painful, or simply less glamorous, we despise it or question how it can possibly be good. We don't actually believe that a life filled with service, alternate plans, and less consideration about our own dreams will actually be better, more fulfilling, and more worthwhile. I think I believe this, but my heart and these tumultuous bouts with my mind prove that I don't believe it as much as I'd like to think.

So what does this have to do with my homeschooling? What I really want is to make my plans and be willing to relinquish them, to be after God's priorities in our schooling time more than my own ideas of what needs to happen and how. I made my agenda for the year, and I want to focus on meeting my kids needs in schooling above my other ambitions. I want to gladly sit down and read to them without resentment, without worrying about my other tasks, without rushing through. I want to savor them, and more than just that, I want to earnestly seek out what God is doing through our homeschooling to grow in relationship with my kids and other homeschool families.

In all of my big three priorities, I need to be reminded of one thing: God's glory is most important. My kids seeing God in my behavior is more important than my shower, bigger than the inconvenience of spilled milk, and far superior to my agenda of getting my seven-year-old to memorize three types of consumers. If I can stop, look to see how wonderful God made each of my children, and look for the way to love them well, my homeschooling endeavors will be accomplished.

For some of you, seeking God's glory might mean handing over the schooling to someone else, or maybe it means asking for help when you don't want to admit you are struggling. It is totally possible that God's glory means pursuing that fire He put in you above a lot of other things in your life. What this decision-making, priority-setting process really comes down to is willingness. How willing are you to drop one thing and move on to whatever it is God is asking you to step into? How hard are you clinging to hopes, dreams, ambitions, or goals that are not God's goals for you and your family? This is a tough pill to swallow, I hear you.

As a very ambitious, type-A, goal-oriented person, I am trying to swallow this pill the best I can. But each time I come back to this idea, every time I remember I am after God's work (not my plan), the pill slides a little further down, bringing more peace and less craziness in my brain. We need to admit we don't always know best, and confess that sometimes we are irrationally clinging to goals that do not make sense in God's kingdom. We have to see that being a person, a mom, a wife, an (insert whatever your main identity word is here), does not actually revolve around us, but around God's work, around His agenda, around His purpose for us in that role.

Why on earth would we want to miss the exciting work of God's plans being forefront in our lives? We really think we know what is best for us, but I know wholeheartedly that we don't. It's time for us to admit it, come face-to-face with the fact that our pouting is mostly about our selfish wants, and less about God's holy work. I want to want what God wants more than the other things I want (still with me?). More than I want to get my own way, more than I want to have everything under my control. I finally feel crazy and overwhelmed enough to admit I cannot figure out my life and my purpose on my own. It feels surprisingly good, I'm not sure why it always takes me so long, or why I constantly forget. The peace we can gain from simply allowing God's work to be the most important thing in our lives is completely unreal. It's not a fair trade, and we are definitely getting the better end of this deal.

Maybe this all seems a bit vague to you, so I'll tell you some tangible things I'll be doing to ensure God's work is my priority.

1. Reading my bible and praying for others will come before Instagram and Facebook. It seems like a no-brainer, but seriously, it can be a problem.

2. Speaking kindly to my children will be a daily goal, sometimes hourly, often every few minutes. Children forgive, but they are shaped by our tone, and this is something I am working really hard to get a grip on.

3. Homeschooling will come before my other priorities. Before trying to get caught up on business posts, or reading, I need to ensure I am using my time for my kids' education without resentment for how it inhibits my schedule. Their educational needs will change, and right now, and for the next three to five years, what they glean from my personal input is huge. It needs to be extremely important, set-apart, and seen as a glorious opportunity to fill my kids up with God's goodness and the beauty of the world He made.

So that's my general homeschooling agenda until summer. Overall, I'm seeing how the biggest investment opportunities we have revolve around people. People are influenced by people. Maybe they are motivated by dollars, by prizes, or prestige, but people rarely find peace, love, or a healthy identity because of those things. So in my big three I will be looking at how I can invest in others the way God would invest in them. Being a good friend, a reliable neighbor, a stable and comforting mother - these are the qualities that I want to see affecting my big three this year. And I'm convinced that as I follow God's lead in these ambitions, no matter what other hopes or dreams fall apart, I will be content knowing I've put a seed of God's love into all the passions I've pursued and into all the people I've invested in.