Some Days Aren’t Pretty

 Some Days Aren't Pretty - www.searchingformyeden.com

Some days are just plain hard.

Some days the ugly comes pouring out.  Some days it’s not sacred ointment I pour on His feet, but soul-vomit and tears.  Do you have those days, too?

When the haggard woman staring back is NOT so much the kind, sweet, put-together girl that you want to see, but some crazy lady who looks like she is one espresso shot shy of a latte.  (If you know what I mean.)

And as much as I want it to be all picture perfect, my life just isn’t.  Grouchy attitudes, unpleasant realities, and peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches smashed into car seats happens.  Irritations simmer, personalities collide, and the laundry mountain isn’t going anywhere.  (Except up.)  It is days like this when I most need to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus came to save.

And oh, it is His love that saves.  I don’t need to be reminded of how far short I fall, I need a love that never fails when I do, again.  The gospel holds up.  It takes the worst of us and gives back grace.  This is not a porcelain love to be admired on a tidy mantel shelf – it is a sturdy love to build a life on.  It is a hammer and nails kind of love that will hold you together when everything else is falling apart.

Love is not just for the pretty days, the sunshine and popsicle days, the days we’re kind of almost winning this whole life thing…it’s the arms that hold us when our world has crashed in.  When it’s the darkest night we’ve ever seen, the deepest pain we’ve ever known, when we are at the utter and total end of ourselves.  Love sustains.  In the face of senseless brutality, and the horror of evil played out in the reality of a fallen world, this love does not flicker out or wither away. It is an anchor, a beacon, a refuge.  It’s not going anywhere.

And in the mundane, the hormones-awry, kids-are-fighting, and hubby’s-late days, it still holds up.  It is the fabric of our very life, the fiber that weaves our torn pieces together.  This is not some cheap, synthetic blend that pills and wears through the first time it hits hot water and throw up.  This Jesus love is rugged.  It can endure the day-in, day-out tug of war between the girl we want to be, and the girl we are when the poop leaks out of the diapers and becomes something to use as finger paint.  (I am not. Even. Kidding.  Toddlerhood is a very body-fluids-intensive time of life.  Also, I use Lysol wipes by the case.)

When Psalm 61:3 reports that God is a shelter and a strong tower, it’s easy to forget that the writer knew what is was to have his world collapse.  His father in law literally ordered a hit on him, his wife was given to someone else, and he found himself rejected and betrayed multiple times.  His child died.  One son raped his daughter, and another son killed the rapist.  And that’s just the abbreviated version.  And yet, this grieving man found the love of God to be the one thing that could hold him up when everything else in his life was knocking him down.

I see it written all over the pages of sacred Scripture, and scattered across the ages of history: this faithful, sustaining love.  And yet, I hesitate.  I get distracted.  You, too?  When my wonder dulls, and I gloss over the truth about Calvary, I miss out.  My family misses out.  Because THIS day is not beyond His ability to redeem, too.

Saving grace is not just for eternity, it’s for here and now, too.  Jesus’ favorite place is not the church pew, but your kitchen table.  And your office.  And your laundry room.  His love is the most important thing, not because we must spend hours sitting and admiring it, but because it is the sturdy thing that carries us through the ugly moments, the hard things, and the endless routine.  His love elevates taking-out-the-garbage-and-washing-dishes mundane into something holy.

When we serve with love, drudgery becomes opportunity.  The gospel saves, yet again.  Not just your soul, but your day.

Because the Gospel is Christ’s love, applied.

And it makes all the difference.

Grace, peace, and wet wipes,

Kelly

Continue Reading

Let’s Get Honest About Homemaking

Getting Honest About Homemaking - www.searchingformyeden.com

I hate crunchy floors.

Oh, and dirty bathrooms.  And messy kitchens.  And dusty furniture.  Pretty much, I could cheerfully employ an entire cleaning staff full time, and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all.  Homemaking is not an intuitive strength for me, friends.

But for some reason, an army of maids (or even one cleaning lady) is not in the budget, and so…it’s up to me.  Since beginning homeschooling my oldest, there are even fewer hours to make it all happen, so I’ve been working like crazy trying to get a good routine in place.  One thing I have learned is that (like most of life) I need to be intentional about it, or it just doesn’t happen.

This is how I’m (kind of) keeping up with the housework:

  1. Valuing the morning hours.
  2. Prioritizing exercise.
  3. Building rest into the routine.
  4. Releasing unrealistic expectations.  (Like pulling eye teeth, I tell you.)

Valuing the morning hours is my biggest discovery so far.

When I wake up with my alarm, rather than the kiddos, my morning whole entire day goes so much better.  I’m learning to really hit the first three hours of the day hard so that I have accomplished a majority of the housework before we start school.  Let’s face it, by the time we’ve spent all morning doing school, and then demolished lunch, we’re at nap time, and WOW, do we all need it.  The 17 month old is done, the 3 year old is tired and cranky and oppositional, and the 5 year old wants nothing more than to enjoy NOT hearing the sound of my voice asking her to do something else.  And me?  I am deeply ready to sit in peace, undisturbed for a few blessed moments.

That’s why I make a concerted effort every morning to do these things after my Bible time and exercise:

  • start a load of laundry
  • unload and reload the dishwasher with breakfast dishes
  • wipe down the bathroom
  • sweep or mop the floor
  • clear and wipe the table and counters.
  • do one extra chore – such as vacuum (twice a week-ish), dust, or organize one small area.

I’m also becoming much more intentional about the little moments.  I can use 30 seconds to check Facebook, or I can use that time to wipe down the front of a cupboard.  I don’t always choose wisely, but I’m getting much better about it! 🙂

Prioritizing exercise is another one of those secret weapons that helps SO much.

It seems counterintuitive to take half an hour to go for a run, when I could use the time to do something else, but the honest truth is that I’m far more likely to get up with the alarm when I have an exercise plan in place, and I am incredibly energized by a great work out.  Believe it or not, my mornings are so much more productive when I go for a run.  (The fact that I do my best praying in that half hour may have something to do with it, too!)  Also, I want to stay healthy and fit so I can stick around for this family of mine.  Taking good care of myself physically is doing my part to maximize my ability to serve others.

Building rest into the routine?  Really?

Again, taking a 20 minute nap seems like a total waste of a perfectly good 1/3 of an hour.  But when I know that I can look forward to a little nap or a chapter in a favorite book during rest time, I am that much more effective and motivated to push hard and really not waste any time during my chore time.  (It also helps get me up when  obeying the alarm clock seems like a terrible idea.)  And, finally, it gives me the energy to push through the late afternoon, put away laundry, make dinner, and chase kids without melting into a heap.

Releasing unrealistic expectations is the hardest one for me.

My mother-in-law keeps an immaculate, warm, welcoming home.  She loves Jesus, works hard, and is always thinking of others.  She also lovingly raised 8 children, and so when she gives advice, I tend to listen.  Her two cents on homemaking?  “Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy.” (Author unknown, but brilliant.)

There is so much freedom in that statement, friends.  We need to feel the freedom to live out our particular season of life and not apologize for it.  It is not my season for smudge-free windows or sparkling displays of knickknacks.  Keeping the dust knocked down, the bathrooms clean, dishes washed, and the floor swept is good enough.  It is not my season for spending all day in the kitchen making gloriously complicated meals.  Simple and healthy is good enough (and yes, sometimes even frozen pizza is good enough!)

At the end of the day, making a home is about much more than cleaning or organizing – it’s about inviting our loved ones into relationship.  Intentional homemaking can only be done well when we remember that we are serving Jesus first, our families second, and our own agendas last.

Grace, peace, and here’s to finding your rhythm,

Kelly

 

 

Continue Reading

Balsamic Roast Chicken (Crockpot Paleo Friendly and Gluten-Free)

 Let’s just get this out on the table, ladies:

Dinner is better when I actually get intentional about planning and preparing it (instead of, say, figuring it out at 5 o’clock.)  You too?  I’m usually pretty good about at least having a general plan, but homeschool just started for us, so it’s going to take effort these first few weeks to make sure that it’s not frozen pizza every night. 🙂  This post is from last fall, but the recipe remains one of my favorites – and I thought you might enjoy it, too. 🙂

august 26, 2015 038

 

Is anyone else letting out a happy sigh that it’s slow cooker season again? And pumpkin everything season. And casserole, soup, and chili season.  And jacket season.  I might as well confess that I bought an awesome leather jacket, and I’m excited to wear it. It’s sort of my rebellion against turning into a stodgy, spit up covered, sweatpants and messy hair mom. (Not that I don’t have those moments…er…days. But still, a girl’s gotta have some hope, right?)

Anyway, confession aside, how about tossing some chicken in the crockpot and forgetting about it till dinner? Count me in!  This recipe is not only easy, delicious, and a crockpot main dish – it’s paleo friendly and gluten free!

Pull out your crockpot, and brush off the cobwebs that have accumulated over the summer.

 

Spray the ever loving goodness out of the insert, and drop in those chicken pieces. Here I used boneless, skinless thighs, but I actually prefer bone in for slow cooker use. Whatevs.

august 26, 2015 031

Now, grab about a teaspoon each of rosemary and thyme, and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and sprinkle it over those sleeping beauties.

august 26, 2015 034

Toss on some chopped onion (1/4 cup or so) and 3 or 4 peeled garlic cloves.

NOTE: I used to hate peeling garlic until I discovered the “chef” way. Now it’s just fun!

Put your clove on the counter, or cutting board. Put the flat of your knife blade on top…

august 26, 2015 032 august 26, 2015 033

… and SMACK down with your open hand. Voila! The skin comes right off!  (Just be careful, pretty please, so that YOUR skin doesn’t come off on the very sharp blade!) 😉

See? I told you it was fun.

Anyways. Drizzle on about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, and add 1/2 cup of water.

august 26, 2015 037

Cook on low for 4-5 hours or hi 2-3 hours (and always make sure you check your chicken’s internal temperature…it should be at least 175° F).

Balsamic Roast Chicken (Crockpot Version, Paleo and Gluten-Free)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Spray the insert in your slow cooker.
  2. Place the chicken in a single layer over the bottom of the crockpot.
  3. Sprinkle the spices and onion over the top, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and water.
  4. Cover and cook on HI for 2-3 hours or LO for 4-5 hours. Always check doneness with a thermometer to verify that the internal temperature is at or above 175 F.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
https://searchingformyeden.com/intentional-homemaking/crockpot-paleo/

Now that dinner’ s in the crockpot, there’s time to enjoy a walk (maybe even with a leather jacket and a pumpkin latte).  This is fantastic with rice pilaf or egg noodles, and a salad or steamed carrots and green beans!

Grace, peace, and dinner in the bag,

Kelly

Continue Reading

How To Get Great Family Photos – 2 FREE Printables!

 

You know how hard it is to get great family photos?

Yes, I imagine that you probably do.  Let me just state for the record that it is NOT. STINKING. EASY.  Especially with wriggling little Oompah Loompahs who don’t like the whole sit still and don’t mess up your cute little outfit lecture.  Seriously, after half an hour of juggling and coaching and trying to smile for the picture, there are countless other activities that sound more appealing.  Like a root canal, for instance.  Or two.  Oy, vey.

Easter 2016

But then, I realize how ridiculously fast time is slipping by.  Seriously, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was the approximate size and shape of a beached whale 8 months pregnant with Malachi?  I am all about keeping the Oompah Loompahs little, but stacking bricks on their heads isn’t working.  (Yes, I am joking.)  The best I can do is savor each day and get some decent photos to look back on when I finally sit down in my old lady rocking chair with Superman.  (Keep reading for practical tips on lighting, makeup, and posing.)

I will miss the constant interruptions (or so I’ve been told), the cute mispronunciations (such as bee STINK, not bee sting, and DESTRUCTION site, not construction site.)  And their cuteness.  Oh, my goodness.  The cuteness melts me every time.  I want it frozen in time, and while I love candid photos, I want some frame-worthy portraits, too.  But family photos with wiggly small people and the non-wiggling small budget of a single income household is HARD.

A few months ago, when I got serious about re-launching the blog, I had the opportunity to meet with an amazing photographer, Carla Lyle.  She’s a wife, mom, Jesus-lover, and the owner of 4:13 Photography.  We began the day as acquaintances, but her easy smile and sense of humor soon landed us in friend territory.  Carla has an intuitive style.  She just instinctively knows what is going to work, without ever crossing the line into bossy territory.  If you live in NH or southern Maine, you’re in time to book for fall family photos.  She was a total blast, who cracked me up on multiple occasions during the shoot.  Give her a call: (603) 986-3962.  She’s agreed to give a FREE upgrade from the Joyful Package to the Lovely Package ($25 value) JUST FOR MY LOVELY READERS!!!

Sassy

If you happen to not live close enough to take advantage of 4:13 Photography (message her to get the story behind the name), you can still improve the quality of your family photos.  I even made a free printable to help out (’cause who doesn’t like a cute little printable, right?) 🙂  I’ve been bugging nagging asking for a photo of her to include here so you can see her beautiful face, but no luck so far.  You’ll have to go on Facebook if you want to see her.

Great Family Photos - www.searchingformyeden.comAnd then, for those of you who can’t swing the cost of a photographer at all, I have a couple of tips to get some nice photos without spending a dime.

1) Figure out the details ahead of time.

Get your background figured out.  Set up a chair or two if you need it.  If you’re using a tripod, get it in place.  Snap a few practice photos to make sure the focus is good, and the flash is set to your liking.  But most importantly:

2) Timing is key.

Don’t try to squeeze in a photo sesh after a harried day of errands and running around.  Make sure that little tummies are full, it’s not nap time, and no one is past the point of exhaustion.  (You have about a five minute window if your family is like ours.)  🙂

DSC00813

Also, if you’re doing outside photos, be aware that strong sunlight is not your friend.  A slightly overcast day or early evening is best.  You need something to diffuse the sunlight, so that faces aren’t washed out.  If you’re doing inside photos, again, be aware of the lighting.  You may want to place a lamp close to the floor if the overhead lights are strong so that there aren’t harsh shadows (or pronounced dark circles under the eyes of haggard parents.) 🙂

3) Don’t Wing It.

Seriously.  Figure out the outfits a day or two ahead, iron or mend anything that needs it, and spend some time the big day putting yourself together.  I like to try to have us wear coordinating colors, but some people love to have everyone wear the same outfit, and some really don’t care!  My advice is to just be the best versions of yourself, without trying to be anyone else.  Yes, you want to have a great photo, but you also want to stay true to who you are as a family.

4) Some practical girly tips:

Be aware that lighting will wash you out, so go with a slightly more dramatic version of your usual makeup routine.  For me, this means dark chocolate eyeliner instead of medium brown, several coats of mascara, and a little extra blush and eyeshadow.  (You can wipe it all off as soon as you’re done, promise.)  Also, delicate jewelry is often not visible in a photo, so choose accordingly.  The color closest to your face should be extra flattering, so use a blouse, sweater, or scarf in a color that looks amazing on you.

5) Finally, posing to minimize flaws is a subject you can research, but here’s a few easy pointers that can benefit all of us:

  • Don’t hide your neck.  Keep it long (don’t dip your chin or lift your shoulders up.)  Good posture, without being stiff, is what you’re looking for.
  • Straight on is not the most flattering.  Turning your body even slightly will slim your profile, or you can have a little person standing in front of you (my favorite trick!) 🙂
  • For double chins, you can push your chin out ever so slightly, and it will minimize the issue.  Think loooooong neck!
  • If your arms are large, choose an angle rather than facing the camera straight on or completely profile.  Relax your arms, but don’t push them up against your side.
  • Smile big, but not huge.  A great smile is contagious, but don’t cheese it up so much that you lose your eyes.  And definitely, do smile with your eyes.
  • Lastly, make sure that you are connected with the family members – your hand in his, their head on your shoulder…something that shows how much you all really do love each other!  Communicate the family bond through the photo, and you will have a priceless portrait to cherish for the rest of your life!

To make it easy, I have a Posing 101 tip sheet for you!  Score!

If you found this helpful, would you let me know in the comments and share with your friends?  Thanks a million!

Preparation Is Key


Get_greatfamilyphotos__(2)
Here at Searching For Eden, we’re all about the intentional life. Getting intentional about great family photos starts with preparation. Grab your checklist here!




Powered by ConvertKit

And just so you know, Carla gave me a photo session with her for free in return for my honest opinion here on the blog.  I can tell you, I hope that our family can book a paid session with her soon for family photos.  (She’s THAT good.)  I just want to keep things real here, and you need to know that there’s no behind-the-scenes agenda going on.  🙂 Xoxo, Kelly

 

Continue Reading

Surviving Busy – Handheld Breakfasts For Crazy Days

VBS kills me every year.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person for even saying it.  Now before I get a whole huge stack of hate mail, let me clarify that statement by saying that we believe in the value of our church’s Vacation Bible School.  We do.  Jesus + kids + fun activities, stories, and games?  No brainer.  Yes, please.

It’s just the whole feeding, clothing, and getting out the door before 8 a.m. with three kids under the age of 6 that gets me.

Working mothers and single moms, I bow in total respect.  I am not worthy.  You do that crazy shuffle every.stinking.day, and I have not a clue how you survive.  (You have definite crowns in heaven waiting for you.  And chocolate covered espresso beans.  Yum.)

Without a doubt, the hardest part of getting us out the door on time is the whole “feeding frenzy.”  I know it’s important to feed the pack of Oompah Loompahs, but it’s hard enough just rolling them out of bed, getting somewhat decent clothes on them, and making sure that they have shoes and socks on.  That’s why I came up with some portable, nutritious breakfast ideas that they could devour in the car.  Oompah Loompahs happy, my sanity saved = win-win.

So, I know, you’re busy and ready to get to the ideas.  Ready to have your life saved?  🙂

Breakfast PosterGRAB YOUR BREAKFAST HERE, GIRL!  Fast food joints got NOTHING on a prepared, savvy mama with a minivan load of fully fueled kids. 🙂

Grace, peace, and everything bagels,Kelly

Continue Reading