Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sowing Season

It's been a while...There's been a bit of blog silence over here at Meager Words-- mostly because I've been trying my best to bring order into our somewhat chaotic lives. We finally moved out of our temporary two bedroom apartment and into a three bedroom townhouse in the city.

 I was doing just fine until the movers delivered ALL of our stuff. We chose to downsize our living space considerably so that we could be closer to Jonathan's work which means we had way more furniture and "stuff" than our 1,300 square foot townhouse could contain.

  After the movers unloaded all the boxes for our bottom floor living room/dining/kitchen area, you couldn't even get all the way back to the kitchen because it was packed almost ceiling to floor. We've been forced to give away many things that we're not using now. We also moved some things we're not ready to part with into storage (like my big beautiful farmhouse dining table).

The whole process has been overwhelming, but, at the same time, pretty freeing. I thoroughly enjoyed temporarily living in a small apartment because there just wasn't much to upkeep. I could wash all of our clothes in a morning and clean the whole place in 30 minutes. I don't enjoy housekeeping because we have too much stuff.

Everyone has different capacities, but for me in this stage of life, with four small children, taking care of items we don't need does not top my list of priorities. If I can't clean the house in a day, we have too much stuff.

All in all, I'm in a sowing season right now. I didn't expect the move to be so hard, but the honeymoon is over and we're trying to carve out a life here in the city.

Being the mother of four is no joke: especially when they are all small. I'm tired-- really tired-- everyday. Between trying to keep my babies occupied, and sifting through all of our stuff to figure out what to keep and what to give away, life is full.

It's easy for me to get frustrated because I can't see the final results of the things I'm doing. The house isn't sparkling. I can't fit into my skinny jeans yet. My kids still have meltdowns and explosions.

So everyday, just like a farmer, I get up in the morning and do what needs to be done: trusting that one day there will be a harvest. All I can do is offer my small obedience. There are so many factors that I can't control-- just like the weather . I'm trusting that the Lord will create life from my little seeds of faithfulness.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I'm in my 30's and its hard to believe that I still haven't exactly figured out a career path (thankfully I've got a sugar daddy). For right now I'm mommying it full-time with my four crazy hoodlums. I know that in a few years when my kids are older I'll be ready to re-enter the workforce.

I've always envied those people who seem born to do what they do: like the musical prodigies and professional dancers who begin showing signs of genius at age three, or the boys who are gifted at sports and go on to play professionally.

That's just not me. I've always been okay at everything I've tried, but as a child and even as a teenager I never had a clear passion for anything-- except for maybe a passion for enjoying life.

I entered college pretty cluelessly. I liked writing and speaking, so I became a Communication major thinking I'd be a news anchor. But, I quickly realized I didn't like the pressure of being in front of the camera.

 I was focused on making good grades and having a good time with my friends, but not particularly focused on finding a long term career. I didn't do a good job of networking, and I regret the fact that I didn't complete an internship before graduation.

During college, the classes that stimulated my mind the most were the anthropology, art, and creative writing courses I was able to squeeze in after I finished all my major course requirements.

After graduation, I took a job with a campus ministry I had been involved in during college, and after that I did some public relations writing for a non-profit. I decided to stay home a few months before I gave birth to our first son, and the rest is history.

Should I have gone to college right out of high school? I'm not sure. If I had been more mature and focused, I think the experience could have been four times as beneficial for me career-wise. But at the same time, I wouldn't trade my friends, my story, or my road for anything.

Without even realizing it, I internalized the lie that if you didn't start young or get the right major you can't pursue the kind of work you are ultimately interested in. The truth is that hard work will get you a whole lot farther than sitting on the sofa, eating Ben and Jerry's, and lamenting about days gone by.  

Right now I don't have the time or the money to go back to school or even take classes. But I've got internet access, a library card, and the will to work hard. I can use the biggest thing I learned from my school experience: how to be a lifelong learner.

I love being a mother and think the work I do at home is valuable and challenging, but I just NEED to be doing creative work. My goal is to figure out some stimulating work that I can do from home. For the time being, I want to be committed to working, growing, and learning. I'll see where that takes me.

The proof that this sort of thing is possible is all around me. We have friends who have taught themselves all sorts of things-- from photography to flower arrangement, sewing to coding-- who are now working at least part-time doing things they enjoy.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. — Ira Glass

Stay at home moms out there (or anyone really), do you find yourself craving meaningful work outside of your household or day job? If so, How are you honing your craft so that you have something to contribute to the world?

Friday, March 6, 2015

One Month In the Emerald City

We arrived in Seattle at the beginning of February (with the help of my incredible in-laws) and for the past month we've lived in a two bedroom apartment with four small children and one big dog. At first the thought of living in such a small space with our fairly large family was more than a little overwhelming.

On the few occasions when I've envisioned raising a family, I've always imagined we'd live in a big house with a lush green yard. I guess I've unconsciously assumed that the city is for single people or the childless married crowd.

 Jonathan's company offered us free corporate housing as a part of our moving package. It bought us some time extra time while we were looking for a place to live and trying to sell our house in Charleston.

The company gave us a choice between a big house in the suburbs with a long commute to work for Jonathan, and a two bedroom apartment in the city that's a five minute walk to his office. Being the thrill seekers that we are, we opted for the apartment. Jonathan was excited and I was skeptical.

It hasn't all been fun and games. There have been days when I've felt trapped by my infant's nap schedule and our close proximity to one another. Getting the boys to take naps has definitely been a lesson in trial and error.

But in many ways life in our small downtown apartment has been refreshingly simple. All of our earthly goods have been in storage while we live in this temporary housing situation. We moved in with about a week's worth of clothes per family member and two toys per child.


Cleaning the house has never been easier- It takes me 30 minutes tops to get the place clean and all of our clothes can be washed in a day.

Its easier to get around with small children in the city- I hate hauling the kids in and out of the car when I need to run errands. Here I've been able to wear the baby in my baby carrier, put my two middle sons in the ride and stand stroller, and let my 5 year old walk beside us. They have fun and I am able to get things done.

Walking everywhere ensures that you get exercise

No yard = No upkeep and plenty of time to take day trips on the weekend 

We're spending very little money gas- We drive on Saturdays to sight see outside of the city, and on Sunday because the church we're attending is a bit of a haul. Other than that we walk everywhere.


We don't always feel comfortable bringing our children in the small quiet restaurants nearby, even if they have a casual atmosphere

You HAVE to leave the apartment if you want your kids or your dog to have time to run around outside -  Backyards are so convenient when you have an infant. The baby can nap and you can bring your baby monitor and go hang out outside with your older kids. Here in the city we've had to plan our outings around Pearl's nap time.

Housing is expensive and you get less square footage for your money

We don't see many families with more than two children- Every time I meet another mom at the park some of the first words to come out of her mouth are "Are they all yours?" and "I don't know how you do it." Every. Single. Time.

For the next year we've decided to rent a townhouse about three miles away from where we are now. You can definitely get more house for your money in the suburbs but the commute is insane. I don't know if we'll end up living here long term but I think if we'd moved straight to the 'burbs we wouldn't have even considered living downtown.

Honestly I don't know if I'm entirely comfortable with our kids growing up in the city. I loved my childhood and I grew up in the suburbs. If we end up staying here their childhoods will look different from mine in many ways, but being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

 I've found this article written by Kathy Keller, wife of pastor Tim Keller and mother of three men who were raised in Manhattan, particularly encouraging and inspiring. Would you consider raising your family downtown in a bustling metropolis?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Letter To Myself (Postpartum)

Dear Renee,

You had a baby two months ago, don't expect to look like a supermodel today. Stop cringing when you catch your reflection in the huge full length mirror in your apartment's lobby. Stop checking skinny women out and pining for their flat stomachs and thin thighs. That's just not where you are today.

Self loathing isn't sexy or productive. It usually just drives you to down a pint of ice cream or way too much chocolate...and the cycle continues. You're not getting much sleep, and you're living on the fumes of sugar and caffeine. 

It would be easy to fall into one of two camps. You could become super obsessed with the way you look: count every calorie and become an exercise Nazi. Sure the weight would probably fall right off, but would it be sustainable weight loss? 

 Or, you could throw in the towel and quit caring altogether. You could trade all your cute outfits for shapeless clothing and forget about ever getting made up again: because who even sees you these days besides your kids (right!?).

There is another way, and it is simple but not easy. Eat healthy whole foods in proper portions and get plenty of exercise. Everyday. Don't get over zealous and cut out every food you enjoy. Enjoy sweets and treats in moderation. 

You'll have bad days. Your kids will all be screaming in some kind of chaotic disonate symphony, and you will eat your entire chocolate stash in one sitting.  Your husband will persuade you to order and eat pizza with him late at night. It's ok, just don't give up.

The truth is that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and gluttony coupled with inactivity will kill you. 

It's ok to want to get back into your skinny jeans-- that's not vain. Don't worry about it. Try to be faithful and be a good steward of the body you've been given. Let that be enough.

Keep it simple; you've got other things to deal with,



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Big Rocks

The new move and new baby have created more than a little mental chaos for me. Operating on very little sleep in a new city makes everything seem just a bit chaotic. It would be easy for me to shut down and operate in survival mode.

 But in times like these, it's important for me to re-establish a routine for my kids so they feel like their lives are somewhat structured and predictable. For me, that means I have to sit down, clear my head, and take some time to re-evaluate what is important for us to be doing during this season of life.

What are the things I want/need to get accomplished with my children everyday? What are my big rocks? Right now this is what it's looking like for us:

Keep 'em Fed and Clothed- If I want my kids to be eating nutritious food, I've got to be committed to meal planning and grocery shopping. Some people (who are probably more organized than I am) plan out a whole month or two at a time, but I usually just plan one week in advance.  Keeping them clothed just entails keeping on top of the laundry and making sure we all make it out of pajamas everyday

Prayer and Reading- After breakfast, I like to start the morning off with a little prayer and reading. Nothing fancy. I just pray: then read their children's bible and whatever other books we have laying around the house. We all cuddle up on the couch, and it helps us to enter into the day calmly.

Do Something Educational- What do my kids need to learn in their different life stages? We're working on letter sounds and numbers with my three year old, and we're going through the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my four year old. We're working on obedience with our 18 month old, and our little girl is a healthy sleeping and eating little infant. My two oldest sons enjoy Starfall which is an educational website that's great for letters, numbers, colors and other basic learning.

Move Your Body- My boys have tons of energy, and they NEED time to run around. This means I carve out time to take them on a walk or take them to the park. When we had a backyard, they spent a truckload of time out there. Today was one of those rare days when conflicting nap times prevented us from going anywhere. They ended up jumping on the couch and wrestling on a  handy air mattress we have in our apartment. 

Clean Up- It's important for them to be in the habit of picking up after themselves. If there's a lull in the day and I can tell they are bored, I just look around and see what needs to be picked up. We turn on the music and make beds or pick up toys.

There are a million things I can do with and teach my children, but honestly if I hit my big rocks everyday I feel like we are thriving instead of just surviving.