Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Slowing Down for Joy

I came across this quote this morning on a blog called Blissful and Domestic and it stuck with me.

“The joy in motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times, but amid the challenges there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction.” 
-M. Russell Ballard 

Yesterday was one of those days. I had all intention of documenting the times that we have spent together the past couple days. I had all intentions of filling full of Christmas memories, fun, love, and laughter.... but it just didn't happen. Life happened. Moments of yelling, drinking fountain tantrums at the Y, times when the snack provided in the car just wasn't enough... and a million other moments in a five minute time period that drove me nuts. I let the season, the stress, and the family indifferences rot in my soul.

As I was cleaning the kitchen yesterday, I got the God urge to just slow down. To slow and to savor those moments with our now 3 year old. I looked at the hot mess around me and just threw the towel. I ran in her bedroom and grabbed the one "easy to move" CD player in the house and in went TSO. Instantly the mood changed in the house. She danced.... with me. With me the mom that had 50 million things on her plate and didn't want to do anything but check off the boxes. She grabbed my hands and told me that it made it her joyful. ME!  I made her joyful. Something so simple as turning off the stuff of the season and turning on the simple needs of a three year old. 

We were working our way through the tracks and this song Oh Come All Ye Faithful/Oh Holy Night came on. I started singing (horribly I might add) and it just soaked in my soul. Oh holy night is a favorite of Erick and I's. Not sure why it became so special to us... Erick says Paul Dagenhard's version is his favorite. I stood at the laundry room door and just started to sing. Sing at the top of my lungs (praise Jesus Landree doesn't judge!) and sunk to the floor holding her and singing. What a blessed time of the year overrun by my checklists, perfection, and trying to overcome obstacles. I played it again... and again. Each time closing my eyes and just letting the words penetrate my soul. God's small simple lesson to me... slow down sweet child. I stood up and threw my hands in the air. I praised. I spun Landree around...  I was faithful.

Our Sunday school teacher asked how we would be keeping the Christmas spirit alive throughout the year. Like this Paul, like this. By bringing the love of Jesus to my daughter instead of the stuff. And no, I'm not talking about gifts. I'm not judging. I'm talking about the "stuff" we think the holidays has to be. I need to stop being a box checker and be present. I need to keep sitting by the Christmas tree and reading Christmas stories. 

At that very moment, I stopped, looked at Landree. Dare I ask? I asked Landree, who's birthday do we celebrate on Christmas. I was expecting her's... Pubbies... maybe mine to come off her lips. Her response? "Jesus birthday is on Christmas mommy. We celebrate him and give him presents." 

I cried. On the spot I cried. She gets it. She truly and utterly gets it. I had not completely sent her down the checklist spiral. The only response I could muster? "Landree the best gift you can ever give Jesus is to give him your heart, and love him with everything you are."  

Today we venture out to teach Landree more about giving back... 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tis the Season for Comparison

Where has time gone? It has been half a year since I have last written a blog. I read one that I was written by Erick's aunt Paula and I realized... I need to get back to writing. It was therapeutic even if no one ever read it.

Last Thursday, we welcomed blogger Aprille Donaldson from Beautiful in His Time to our MOPS meeting. I had never met her,  but came across her blog randomly. After reading the first couple lines of her blog, I knew she would be a perfect speaker for our "hot mess group" as I call it. Over the past two years, I haven't given the women a topic to speak about, instead simply to pray about where God leads them. This month was simply perfect.

Aprille did an amazing activity with us that I encourage everyone to do. We were given a little packet of papers with the names of each mom present in our group (and holy moly have we grown and have a lot of amazing moms!) and we simply wrote next to each one something we envied about them. What an eye opener. You never realize as you are sitting there envying something about one mom they are doing the same thing right back at you. I never pictured anyone envying me in any way. I just do life where God leads me. When we wrote those words, it was freeing. It was amazing to write such simple words that were SO real. "I envy your artistic talent." "I envy how sweet you are and your kind heart." "I envy the relationship you have with your children." "I envy the fun things you do." "I envy your marriage and friendships."

While I wish I could say we are in a season of simple blessings, the birth of our King, and giving back, in the back of my mind we are in the season of comparison. How many gifts can we shove into a shopping cart? How can I stuff that tree? That family bought this for their children so we need to up the gifts. That mom looks amazing in her Christmas party dress, why do I look "fat?" Why did her husband put so much thought into her gift and I got this old thing? How can I fit in every last single thing that I can go to just because? Guilty as charged. Why are they invited to everything and I'm just looking for a friend? When did our eyes stray so far from the true meaning of the holiday season? I realized at that moment a lot of things I truly, legitimately envy about people I can make my own. I can create those beautiful things for myself if only I gave as much effort in doing it and spent less time comparing.... Although I don't think my hair will ever be as beautiful as Amy's or Melanie's!

This year, our family is slowing down and creating memories with our friends and family. Over the next thirteen days leading up to Christmas, I'll share a glimpse at our fun traditions and simplicity. For our family that is far from Reidsville, NC it's a peek into our life here that we love so much. Feel free to swipe any of the ideas that I post! Most of them I grab off Pinterest anyway! Let this be the week's reminder to slow down in your own lives and truly savor the holiday season without envy. Slightly imperfect cookies and all.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hartley Adventures: Smith Mountain Lake

On June 4th, we were so blessed to be invited to the wedding of Scott and Sheri Beale at Smith Mountain Lake. What an adventure it was! We left early Saturday morning so that we could squeeze in as much time as we could. We forgot how beautiful this area was!

Our first stop, Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, VA. Landree's half birthday fell on Saturday, so we knew we had to make it special. If you haven't been there before, it's a must stop. Their milkshakes are out of this world! I also found a little piece of home. My beloved Troyer's products... and in particular, their Cajun bacon. Flipping ridiculous deliciousness. Find it. Buy it. Chow it.

Get in my belly!!!

Our big two and a half year old... loving every minute of her chocolate ice cream

Spending some time with the goats before we head on

From there, we headed straight to our Air B & B rental. This is the first time we have used this service, although we had used others like VRBO. When we pulled in, my stomach dropped. The pictures showed lake front and here we are looking at a grassy yard. Did I really screw up that badly? Erick got out of the car and checked out our apartment for the night. We got a thumbs up so out we went.  The pictures below show our mini home. Beverly's rental was absolutely perfect!!! It's exactly as described on the site. There isn't a full kitchen, but there was a grill and we brought our griddle. Perfection. We captured some pictures of the unit Nature's Retreat, but truly, it doesn't do it justice. If you have a small family, it's really all you need. The point is to be in the water!

Mini kitchen. There isn't a stove, but we made do just fine!


We dropped our things and headed for the lake. It was closer then we thought! Down a little path and there it was!! And even better, we met the owner, Beverly. She was sweet as sweet can be and very welcoming to our family. We decided it was time to grill some burgers and head back to swim.

A view right off our own dock!

Landree took a minute to warm up but then loved the water!! She definitely is our little fish. Thunder started booming, so it was time to head back to the rental.

We were relaxing and what appeared out our window? My nemesis, the deer. The owner fed them (and some duckie friends) and they came within 15 feet of us. Erick snapped pictures, Landree had conversations with them, it was peaceful and amazing!!

To the wedding we went... it was HOT and sweaty... understatement of the century. BUT, it was beautiful. They couldn't ask for a better setting. The huge thunderstorm held off till after the ceremony thankfully!

We couldn't ask for a more perfect mini getaway! I highly recommend it to anyone!