Behind The Name | Please Don’t Think I’m Better Than I Am

After last week’s post about walking in integrity, I felt like I needed to make sure I clarify something, both for your sake and mine.

I am not a cool person. Haha. I am not a perfect Mom by any stretch of the imagination. I do not have it all together. I’m not even sure where it all is…

Anything I write is nearly always an attempt to internalize it myself. I share it publicly, because I hope it might help someone else, too. In fact, the morning I shared this post, I had started the day out in overwhelmed tears and ended up back in bed for some more sleep while Kip took care of the babies. Haha. So, please, do not believe that anything I write is out of some higher state of holiness. In fact, it’s usually more like the exact opposite.

Behind The Name

I sort of panned Real Small Life out of a river of thoughts about what I wanted my life to reflect and what I want to say, all while giving an honest picture of what our lives actually look like. It started with a perspective of smallness (little people, little toys, little chores), and I found currents pulling me more toward this concept.

real life mom of littlesREAL

I follow a lot of really beautiful blogs and Instagram feeds, but the types of lives I see are not something I am able to replicate. Haha. There is nothing wrong with a perfectly beautiful home or being impeccably dressed every day, and I’m not mad at them for it! Well, most days. 😉 I initially struggled with the idea of starting a blog, because I feared the temptation to try to make my life look prettier than it is. I decided if I was going to write and share our lives with the internet populous, I was going to be honest. And, if we’re being honest, I really wish my home and life was as organized and beautiful as some of the ones on the blogs I read. And it’s something I’m working toward. But I also won’t pretend that Sam doesn’t wear clothes most days in the Summer, and that any time you read my words there is a 98% chance of dirty dishes in my sink.

While I share all this for the sake of honesty, I also want to say that my goal is to move through these struggles well, not to commiserate and host pity parties. I want to press on toward eternal reward, not remain in my mess. “It’s okay to be where you are, it’s just not okay to stay there.”

real life mom SMALL

I happen to think there is little recognition of the value of a “small” life – at least on the scale of what the general public values. Many of us (myself included) tend to want to be loud, make a big splash, chase big dreams, do something people notice. But the small things, those are what make us who we are. Who we are in private is who we really are. And, we see time and time again, the Lord values the meek. The world doesn’t. I believe this dichotomy has what has lead popular culture to devalue Motherhood, or more specifically, Mothers whose sole job is raising children at home. It is thankless work that is difficult to quantify. Most of the time life with little people is moving from one small task to the next: wake up, eat breakfast, put the toddler on the potty, change the baby’s diaper, wash the dishes, stop washing dishes to correct behavior, read the baby a book, put the books away, remember you were in the middle of dishes, but now it’s time for lunch… and on, and on the days go… Long days full of the small things required to take care of small people. Work that will echo in eternity, but no one is bound to notice here.

“…and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” -Luke 16:10real small lifeLIFE

This is us as we are. Our real life. We only get one shot at this, and we want to do it well. We are learning, but we are totally fallen and imperfect. God’s word is final, not mine, and I pray that no person ever comes away from my words without first checking them with Scripture.

I’m not sure where our path will lead, but I am grateful to have this space to write, to grow, and to connect with others. Being able to look back on past posts and recall memories I had completely forgotten has been such a gift to my Mama heart. I also believe we are intended to live life with and for each other, and I have been so happy to have found friends here and connected with people I might not have met otherwise.

So, that’s me. That’s us. And if that sounds kind of like you too, I hope you’ll connect with me as we learn together.

Love always,
H

Why Mamas Have to Live Intentionally | Walking in Integrity

This little girl. She’s repeating my words. She’s using my tone. The way she says, “Yeahhh…” or, “Thanks!”, or “Oh deearrr” make us laugh every time, because she just sounds so grown up. She’s mimicking my actions. She cuddles her baby, lays her on the table and says “baby stinks?” and pretends to change a diaper. She gently lays the doll on a pillow and lies down with her, gives her a kiss and says, “Nigh-night baby.”

And basically, all this terrifies me. Those little eyes are watching me, that little heart is taking in every action, planting seeds that will grow into her soul for the rest of her life. Can I live up to this commission?

“The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!” -Proverbs 20:7

Moms, the way we live our days matters. We’ve each been given a noble post, a humble one: to live our lives faithfully and intentionally in front of little people, especially in the little things, for a handful of reasons:

1. More is caught than taught. Our babies will learn more by simply being around us than they will in the one-on-one “big lesson” moments.

2. If we live life faithfully, not only will our children learn to live the same way by our example, but what we leave behind for them when we’re gone will be a gift, not a burden. Excellent stewardship of finances, possessions, knowledge, skills, and community will outlive us – let it be a blessing to them.

3. When we walk in integrity, our lives ought to always point to the Cross, which is where we pray our Mothering leads them one day. Walking in integrity doesn’t mean being perfect, having all the answers, or pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It means that we walk with the Truth as our constant companion – the Truth that Christ is our Righteousness.

christian mommy blogLord, your gift to me, at the greatest cost to you, is righteousness imparted to me – I have none on my own. Let me abide in you, that I may walk in integrity, for “apart from you [I] can do nothing.” Let the love you have for me be my rest, from which I find the strength to carry out the tasks you have for me to do in order to create this home. Father, every little action, even laundry, has eternal significance, when little eyes are watching. 

Like a Weaned Child is My Soul Within Me

Good morning! It is 7:45 AM and I am running on a few sporadic hours of sleep. Two year old Rosie was up over and over last night, claiming she needed to potty, only to sit there and do nothing…. and then have an accident in the bed.

Around 5:45 this morning I just gave up on getting any more sleep for either of us, parked her on the couch with some milk and myself with an americano, while I mentally prepped for a rough day. I have so many things (big and small) I need to get done, and a few sleepless nights in a row has me feeling like I can’t get it all done.

mommy blog two under twoAnd then the coffee kicked in, and the Lord reminded me of one of my favorite Psalms.

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
-Psalm 131:1-2

There are times for Mama to dive deeper, but for me, that is not this day. Today is a day to calm and quiet my soul. Today, we are putting one foot in front of the other, and seeking the Lord’s constant presence. Elisabeth Elliot would say, “Just do the next thing.”

So, that’s what today is. A day of next things. One at a time.

Love,
H

Open Wide | The Gospel in Motherhood

The further I venture into Motherhood, the more often I find that God has so sweetly given mamas a unique perspective on His relationship with us. I wrote this back when Samuel was still nursing, but I still look back on those memories with fondness, and gratefulness for the gift of that experience. I know that not all women are able to breastfeed their babes for a variety of reasons, and I understand there can be some hurt there for some who feel they may have “missed out.” My encouragement for those mothers is to remember that you are precious in the Lord’s sight, and your value as a mother is not determined by the things you do, but the price Jesus paid for you. 

christian mommy blog“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” -Psalm 81:10

Tiny, new little body swaddled in my arms, resting after hours of laboring together to birth from the darkness into light. Smooshed little face, eyes wide and alert, belly hungry and slowly he turns, rooting. I tell him to “Open wide, baby boy…” He tries to latch, but it’s shallow – I know the clicking sound from his tongue means that something is not quite right. We need to start over and try again.

I stroke his cheek a bit with my finger, inciting reflexes that open his mouth as wide as tiny lips can open. He lets out a panicky, frustrated whimper. I remind him, “just open wide, and you can eat, sweet baby!” And just when the desire to give up and desperation for nourishment meet, he opens vulnerably wiiiiiide, and… latches. Oh, that sweet relief when babies get the right latch! He drinks the colostrum, the rich milk to work in his little insides to move the yucky, black tar of the womb-self out of his system.

In the days that follow, he cries often for more, and I hurry to him. He opens wide (now only occasionally needing to be reminded the proper way to latch on), and he eats his fill; the tiny, walnut-sized stomach now full of rich nourishment. He rests deep in the milk-coma and I can’t help but smile on him. I delight to meet his needs; to be the one he needs. 

Am I so different? The moments of emptiness come often in my day- I’m out of patience, out of energy, out of drive, out of… fruit. Who can live without sustenance? Who can live long on one meal? I have to come back to the arms of Christ, back to the supper table, again and again. Maybe just for a small portion at a time. One verse to recall. One name of God to ponder. One overarching Truth to dwell on and let dwell within me. And when I “run out”, I cry for more. And the Lord comes to me, ready to fill. But do I know how to receive from Him?

“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it…”

Opening wide requires vulnerability and acknowledges dependence.
Opening wide lets go of idols and inhibitions.
Wide open needs.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3

breastfeeding gospel motherhood encouragement

Photo by JWillowe

We approach him with our hands and hearts (and mouths?) wide open, and He promises to fill. With forgiveness, with grace, with love, with unwavering faithfulness. And as He fills, the pure spiritual milk grows us from deep within, moving the icky blackness of our old self out to make room for the new. That nourishment builds our core that keeps us upright and branches into limbs and capillaries of functioning – crawling, walking, stumbling, running – love. The only thing required of us is emptiness and thirst. And when we cry to Him, does He not come to our side?

As we grow, new depths of Truth are introduced. And though we always must return to our newborn-needy state, we also move on to the “solid food for the mature.” This takes time and gentle patience, slowly introducing and internalizing the new. And though my baby grows and is ready to be fed solids, the approach – the mantra – stays the same. I pop the top off the little jar, dip in the baby spoon and tell my sweet son once again, “Open wide!”

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” 

Finding The Gospel in Sam’s Hair

I have learned that this season of life is one that is overflowing with Gospel-saturated moments, if I just choose to see them. Some of the smallest moments can carry the most weight, if I am willing to slow down and look.

My life with little bitty ones has become a life of little things, things that always need to be done: laundry, dishes, and the like. There are little toys perpetually strewn across the carpet, little people stubbornly clinging to my legs, little bits of food invariably scattered under the table… I live my life in 900 square feet that often feel smaller, and sometimes I forget the world is, can be, so much bigger.

SamsHair

But then there are those moments. When we’re sitting in the light coming in through the window and I catch a glimpse of sun reflecting off the finest strands of white gold, or the deep pools of hazel surrounding pupil, even as she’s frowning at me mid-whine, and I wonder… “How are you a person?” How are you a soul right in front of me? And right there, in the middle of a passing moment, Psalm 149:14 becomes touchable and our four walls hold more weight and eternity than I realized they could.

During the days of a clouded mind, frumpy tee shirts and nap schedules that keep us chained to the house, the ultimate challenge is to continue to abide in Christ. I can’t see Him, and I so quickly forget He is here with me. I know He is out in the mission fields, in the refugee camps, in the secret churches. But, here? In just a pile of laundry? In diaper changes? How can I find Him here?

Rosieeyes“…our perennial spiritual and psychological task is to look at things familiar until they become unfamiliar again.” [G.K. Chesterson]

Sometimes, all it takes to turn a day of tasks into a day in which we see Jesus is a change of posture. Kneeling lower allows me to see more closely my boy’s nose-wrinkled smile or my girl’s swirly little cowlick, and wonder at this creation. Descending to the perspective of a child suddenly demands an upward gaze, where now I can see my Lord.

SamuelClear“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” [Romans 12:2]

Though my days are filled with the seemingly mundane, my calling here at home is an unwieldy one: to grow people – to gather Gospel kindling around their hearts, and pray faithfully that God ignites it. When I choose to slow down and see even the smallest things as gifts from the Lord, I reach for more piece of tinder for their souls, and more fuel for my own. Growing these people means creating a home where daily tasks are done separately from God, but where we walk in the Truth that the only real Life is lived with Him.

RosieToes“I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life.” [Ann Voskamp]

So, I’ll thank God. I’ll stare at what He’s given long and hard until what I see isn’t simply an eyeball, or little toes, but splendorous, eternal Power of a Creator. I’ll thank God for the bodies that fill the laundry, the food that dirtied the dishes, and for the toys scattered by little hands I don’t deserve to hold. This is how we abide.

“…here, you can become a current in the river of grace that redeems the world.” 

Ten Tips for Having Two Kids Under Two Years Old

To the Mama with (or about to have) two kids under two years old,

I wish I had I wish I could come bring you lunch, sit on your living room floor, and play with your toddler while you rock your baby or just go take a nap. But I’m just here in the trenches with you, just a year in, calling out from the other side of the Internet and hoping you can be encouraged to see Christ in this season.

Two Kids under Two years old

After a year of getting to watch these two littles grow together, getting to just be siblings… I can tell you with confidence that it is such a sweet and fun time. It’s absolutely not easy, but I love it. If you’re going to have two little ones soon, here is my sage wisdom… 😉

1. Memorize 2 Corinthians 12:9. Repeat it to yourself every day.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

2. Do one thing today that will help you tomorrow.
Spending an extra ten minutes when you have them free one day can save you a major headache later. Double a recipe to put in the freezer, prep tomorrow’s breakfast before bed, or fill your diaper bag with all the essentials so you have one less thing to worry about while getting out the door.

Managing two babies under two

3. Own a baby carrier. Or 5.
An adjustable ring sling and an Ergo Carrier are my top two favorites for outings. Being hands-free to cuddle a baby and hold hands with my toddler in the parking lot is the only sane way I can get anything done. I always keep my Ergo in the car and the ring sling in my diaper bag. You can read about my ring sling here!

4. Establish a Routine.
Whatever that looks like for you, and for the ages of your kids, just work toward it. I am not a Type-A, super-organized personality. I’m pretty laid back about most things, but even I have found that a daily routine cuts down on a lot of stress. I know what windows of time I can run an errand, or do the dishes, or take a nap. The first few months after Samuel was born, the only semblance of a routine we had was that while Rosie took her afternoon nap, Samuel took a long snooze in his swing. That way, I at least knew I had a couple hours of quiet to look forward to in our day. As he has grown older and all our needs have changed, we have a more set schedule for our day. For us, that still means afternoon naps happen at the same time. Otherwise, my brain oozes out my ears.

Two under two
5. Begin as you mean to go. 
This simply means to establish habits and routines with both of your littles that you can stick to without losing your mind- ones that you won’t have to break later. Okay, I know I just said I let Samuel nap in his swing, haha… It was a habit we had to break, but it wasn’t difficult. He was used to napping at the same time every day, so we began laying him down in his crib while he was awake-but-drowsy. This is an example of one of our “habits” we started when he was about 4 months old. This made our nap schedule way, way easier and much less stressful. Yes, he cried for a few minutes (less than 10 or I’d go get him), but now he goes down to sleep like a champ.

Surviving two kids under two years old
6. Leave the house.
Even if you hop in the car and just hit up the Starbucks drive-thru (no shame!), or take a short walk outside your front door, getting outside always helps me refresh my perspective. Going places with two babies is hard. I know. But it’s worth it. Especially while living in a little apartment, where we pretty much live our whole lives in one big room, getting out of here for a bit really helps break up our day- and makes for good afternoon naps. 😉 If we can’t get outside one day, turning on some music and just being ridiculously silly with my kids helps lift everyone’s spirits.

surviving having two kids under two years old
7. Let people help you.
We wouldn’t have been able to survive Samuel’s first couple months without my Mom’s help. Even later on, if someone offers to bring lunch, to babysit while you nap, or to fold your underwear… just let them. When we are out and about, people are almost always willing to help us. They’ll hold the door open, get a basket for us, or take my cart back to the store after I’ve unloaded my groceries. I am not above asking a random stranger for that last one. 😉 Usually this is when I get a lot of the “You’ve sure got your hands full!” comments, but you know, they’re right. Haha. And I appreciate their help!

8. Do what you can while you can.
Especially during the first few months of having two babies, before we settled into a routine, I just realized I had to take my day one task at a time. Sometimes that meant chores had to wait, and sometimes that meant I cleaned the kitchen instead of napping while the babies were down. Finding ways to multitask has helped as well. I have found if I run my dishwasher and washing machine before I go to bed and unload them first thing in the morning, everything might not get perfectly put away all the time, but we will at least have some clean clothes and dishes to choose from. And it makes me feel like I’m being productive in my sleep. 🙂

parenting two kids under two years old
9. Read your Bible.
Make time. Even 5 minutes. If all you have time for is one verse, read it over and over again until it’s stuck in your head and rooted in your heart. See #1 for an example. 😉 Without a heart and mind set on Jesus, all these things we want to accomplish as mothers simply won’t happen. Jesus himself told us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

10. Make friends in the same boat. 
Find a MOPS group in your area or introduce yourself to the Mom at the library… Don’t be afraid to feel awkward. The awkwardness will pass! I am so thankful for my dear friend Kayla. (Shout out!) We met in a birthing class when we were both pregnant with our first babies. I hardly knew her, but she let me borrow her Dave Ramsey books, made us Valentine’s/anniversary cupcakes and brought them to our apartment, and from there we just kept hanging out. 😉 Now we each have two kids around the same ages, and it is always encouraging to hang out with someone who understands the same weird struggles. Ya know, like, ending bath time completely waterlogged and harried while your newly-clean-and-lavender-scented, butt-naked toddler streaks happily through the house while there’s company over. Normal life things. 😉

So, there you have it. There may be days where you feel forever glued to the house, where the diaper balls scattered around the living room outnumber the hours of sleep you had the night before, or you wonder if you’ll ever wear real pants or make-up ever again. Just know, I am with you.

Are you in this boat, or will be soon? Or maybe you’re on the other side and you have more insight for us! Comment, email me, find me on Instagram, whatever! I’d love to meet you and hear from you.

Love,
H

April Goals

Wahoo! It’s April!

I finally feel like I’m moving past the Winter blues and into gorgeous, wonderful Spring-dom. Living in a small apartment sort of made Winter a season of watching Curious George on repeat… two thumbs down. Because of the layout of our apartment, it feels like we live our lives in one big room. So, the list of things to do runs out pretty quick when we’re stuck inside. But since the weather change, we’ve been outside as much as we can!

stay at home mom blog

Last month, Rosie potty trained (!!!) and I started a Couch-to-5k program (!!!!!!!!).  I really can hardly believe either of those things. This week though, my knee was like “wait what?” and has been super achy. I’m opting to take a break from running for the week, but still working on endurance on a stationary bike. Downside: it’s not outside. Perk: I get to watch Bones while I work out. You win some, you lose some.

two kids under two years old

During the month of March, I’ve also been thinking a lot about discipline. Not “discipline” as in spankings, time-outs, etc., but more a long the lines of self-discipline. My habits, the habits I am instilling in my children, how I handle the charge I’ve been given as a mother and as a wife, my exercise and diet, etc… all of these things have been constantly running through my head. I can’t say I’m super happy with the structure of our day, so I’ve been slowly taking steps toward better habits, which is part of the reason for the C25K program. Another goal I have is to begin consistently waking early. And I mean… early. Our mornings suck about 80% of the time, and that’s largely due to the fact that I don’t wake up and get my act together before my babes do. But, in order to do all the things I want to do before they wake up… I feel like I should really wake up at 5. FIVE. AY. EM. No later than 5:30, but really… 5 would be ideal.

So, maybe if I write about it here… I’ll do it? 🙂 Here we go, goals for April!

Wake up consistently at 5:30AM.
…no matter what. I’ll start here, and maybe work my way back to 5. Haha.
Continue training for a 5k.
Start packing.
(Yep, we’re moving. We don’t know where, and that whole story is complicated and basically just tied to Kip’s next job move… decision pending. Our lease here is up May 9th, so hopefully before then we have made some decisions and know where we’ll call home next. This will be our 5th move in our 3 years of marriage, so. Moving is obviously our jam.)
Find a guided Bible study to add to my morning routine.
Celebrate Sam’s first birthday!
This will be the easiest goal to accomplish, hands down. 🙂 We had a birthday party for him with family last week, but we will come up with a fun plan for a day-of celebration. ❤ I can’t believe it’s been a year already. 

Being a person who usually flies by the seat of my pants, I am really hoping and praying to learn to create a better home and a more structured day for my kids. I think this will help us all in about 359 different ways. If any seasoned Mothers or just really organized people have any advice for me, I am 100% open to it. 🙂

Happy Spring!
Love,
H