The Challenge for Me in 2014

I’m up early this morning taking some time to work on…me. Yep, me.

When was the last time you set time aside for yourself? Last year, month, or week? Yesterday? Being a full time mommy of a toddler, a part time working mom and a pastor’s wife, I’ve frequently softly muttered the words, “What about me?

Those of you who follow have read about the ways our souls are restored. As a Christian, I know my Savior is the only one who can give me true, restoring rest for my weary soul.

I also know that as a woman that seeks to serve others, I easily fall into believing a lie that I am being selfish in the few moments I’ve allotted to care for myself.

NOT TRUE.

Yes, as a new mommy, I’ve had to be creative and intentional about how I spent time alone. I have to communicate with my husband ways I need help and I’ve had to get up early to go to the gym or out for coffee on a Saturday morning.

So, you see there are sacrifices involved.

However, my husband and daughter would agree that momma is so much happier and focused when this time is allotted.

I missed throw back Thursday, so here’s a shout out to what I like to call “Sentimental Saturday”

This was me, two summers ago.

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I weighed in at 140 lbs in this photo. Two months post-pregnancy, at which point I weighed in at 170 pounds. (My pre-pregnancy weight was 115). Ouch.

I am smiling in this photo, but I hated that it was being taken. HATED in every sense of the word.

I hated the fact that I was in a swimming suit to begin with and as I passed a mirror later that day, I burst into tears wondering if I would ever feel confident in my body again.

Over the next month and year, I diligently ran and lifted weights every chance I got. (It helps to have a supportive husband who gets giddy about teaching people how to lift.)

But as fall rolled around, there were still clothes I considered tossing because I was losing hope that my body would ever be the same. I tried a few diets specifically promising to help me lose “that last couple of inches” and found that I had NO ENERGY to continue. (They clearly weren’t designed for the momma of a toddler). I started praying that God would guide me to the right resources because I was at a complete loss for what to do.

In October, a friend who had a baby around Afton’s age approached me and asked if I would like to join her fitness challenge group. I had seen her drop her baby weight quickly and had been wondering what her secret was. I was delighted that she was willing to share it with me and eagerly asked more questions. In November, I joined her and was able to lose the last 7 pounds of weight I was aiming toward without feeling like I was sacrificing energy.

I actually had more energy than I’ve had since pregnancy and I developed a deep desire to share with other mommas who wonder if their bodies will ever be the same.

I constantly had friends asking me what I was doing, and since most people in my church didn’t really know me prior to pregnancy, they were really confused 😉

I needed to write this post today for two reasons:

#1, This blog is about documenting God’s faithfulness in my life, and losing baby weight is one of the ways God has shown me favor. The glory belongs to Him!

#2, It wasn’t easy.

I don’t care how quickly you think it went or how high my metabolism “must” be (it’s not), I worked hard and I wouldn’t have been able to finish without the help of a girl friend, who instead of quietly rejoicing in her own victories, took it upon herself to reach out and encourage me toward the same goal. Friendship like that is a gift.

#3, I love food.

And that’s ok, God gave us food, yummy food, that we can enjoy….but I need on-going accountability because-back to the fast metabolism thing-turns out, it’s slow as molasses. (Somethings don’t go back to normal I guess). I also need accountability  to love and honor God above my love for food.

Just being honest here! Sometimes when I break it down, turns out this is a problem!

For reason #3, I’m reaching out.

Winter is the hardest time to be healthy.

When it gets dark early and it’s too cold to be active outside, all I want to do is curl up with a snack, a blanket and Gilmore Girls,  but I know by the time spring rolls around and I want to wear one of those cute arm-bearing sundresses I’ve packed away, I’m going to regret the sedentary life-style I’ve grown accustom to.

I’m taking names now to sign up for my January challenge group and no matter where you live, you’re invited to participate. We will encourage each other through what we learn, scripture and prayer.

Message me on Facebook or email me at autumnroseanderson@gmail.com for details. We can do this together!

XOXO Autumn

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It’s Ok to tell God You’re Mad; He Can Handle It.

Do you ever have days where you fear the sound of the phone or a knock at the door because you can only assume it will be more bad news?

This week I am grieved as a large number of close friends and family are facing illness, crisis, death of loved ones, etc. These are the people I hold closest to my heart and when I stop to think about it, I wonder why I’m not struck with  paralyzing anxiety.

As more and more heartbreaking news blurs my view I’m finding there are too many things to worry about and I have no choice but to let go. You might wonder what I was holding onto. The truth is, I’m not sure, but I know that when I let go, I realize that whatever it was,  it was heavy and this verse starts to make a lot more sense to me:

34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Sometimes, when there’s  just one situation that’s askew in my life, I think that mulling over it will actually help me come to a conclusion. But when I realize the vast majority of these situations are completely out of my control, there’s something terrifying yet freeing in surrendering these responsibilities to someone else.

Friends, sometimes life sucks. This is not a complaint in hopes of an “I’m praying for you,” or “what can I do to help,”  but an honest, bold and vulnerable statement because I’m guessing I’m not the only one that is holding a crappy hand of cards.

The good news is that this seemingly crappy hand of cards was not dealt to me at random. Unlike a game of chance, each of these situations were handpicked for this exact time in my life and yours.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I chose you…”Jeremiah 1:5

I rest in knowing he loves me enough to choose trials designed for me. They’re not random, but handpicked.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1: 7

God, how much do you love me to let me go through trials of many kinds! So much that you choose trials that you know I can’t endure without you . To show me my need for you.

I have a hard time realizing my need for anyone when I have a situation under control. But when I need a hand, I start looking around.

Think about this: A God who recognizes our independence and allows free will also allows us to endure trials with the full knowledge that we will not be able to endure it without dependence on him.

That is merciful!

And this abundantly merciful God invites us to draw near to him in our discouragement.

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Palm 34:17-18

I am not a morning person. Never have been. I have been known to shed tears at the sound of my alarm clock…or these days, a babe’s cry.

Yet the last three mornings I have awaken slowly but completely by the hour of 5am. Previously an “ungodly” hour to me, this is now a precious hour of prayer as it has been clear to me each morning that I have been awakened for no other purpose.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

One morning it was a friend battling illness. Another morning it was a family member. This morning a co-worker. This has happened not once, but three times and each morning is precious, quiet time. Time with someone who cares and understands  and listens.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Isaiah 53:3

Friends, there are so many things we can’t control in our lives, but one thing we can control is ourselves and how we react to trials.

Will we react in fear allowing our bodies to be stricken with anxiety by the peril around us or will we make the conscious decision to discipline ourselves to prayer?

You see, prayer is not the “only thing we have left,” but it’s the first thing we have access to and the only powerful tool we are graciously allowed to use.

If we truly realized how powerful prayer is we would be on our knees in an instant, praying as we walk about our day, talking out loud like a crazy person in the car. We would not wish people well and tell them we would “be praying” for them, but rather interrupt their story to say, “Can I please pray for you right now?!”

Afton has a toy that consists of 4 balls, 4 slots, a visible race- car -like track box and a toy hammer. This is a fun toy that she is just learning to play with. She knows where the plastic balls go and how to push them down  so they spin through the track and come out at the bottom. She picks them up and places them back at the starting point. The only part of the toy she fails to use is the hammer. This is a tool that I hand her every time. I have showed her how to use it by gently hitting the plastic balls and watching them fall. She smiles and takes the toy hammer, places it in her right hand and uses her dominant left instead to force the balls into the slots.This process takes longer, more effort and sometimes fails to work.

What I can’t get over is that she understands the hammer is part of the game,so she holds it, but she does not understand how it is to be used. She’s the same when handed a spoon and a bowl of yogurt. She holds the spoon in the hand she intends not to eat with and uses the other hand to shovel the gooey sweetness into her mouth leaving the spoon unscathed.

Friends, we’ve been given a tool that works, yet, like my sweet toddler we gently set it aside and use our own means to attempt to get the job done.

I would venture to say that our worry and human understanding of problem solving rather than prayer is less effective than my daughter’s attempt to use her own two hands. At least some of the yogurt ends up in her mouth!

“But which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.”Matthew 6:27

This week I have chosen to be disciplined in prayer. I will be waking each morning at 5am to intercede for the situations that are grieving to me. I want to ask you to join me.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 

God- thank you for the person you’ve brought to these words. I lift up their, anxieties, pain, hurt and confusion and I ask you to work out the details for them. I ask that you would meet them in their trials and that you would not only take away the trial they are facing but that you would leave in it’s place the mark of your work in their lives. Thank you for what you promise to do if we ask. I thank you for all you have in store for the person reading this. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Consider joining me throughout the week. I can’t wait to see what God will do in our lives and the lives of those prayed for and I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to comment or send me a message with your story!

Monday 5am: Pray for the sick.

Tuesday 5am: Pray  for those who are hurting.

Wednesday 5am: Pray for those in leadership/authority.

Thursday 5am: Pray for those facing persecution.

Friday 5am: Pray for the lost.

Saturday 5am: Pray for the poor.

Sunday 5am: Pray as led.

*Above is a framework if you’re not sure where to start but want to participate. Otherwise, pray as you feel God leads you!

Told a friend over the phone I would pray for them. I turned around and she was doing this. #dontforgetmommy #accountabletoatoddler
Told a friend over the phone I would pray for them. I turned around and she was doing this. #dontforgetmommy #accountabletoatoddler

Chicken Noodle Soup by Candle Light

Tonight is a make shift date night. “Make shift” because it wasn’t planned, we worked with what we had and we needed it- stat.

The last couple of weeks have been busy with preparation for the start of the school year and the start of a new ministry year. John is not one to get stressed about planning. In fact, the opposite happens. He tends to get very excited and talks about his plans and preparations all the time. What I do with the information given to me is to stress out for him and worry that he doesn’t have enough time to prepare, etc. fulfilling my wifely duty of a help mate…wait, what?

Clearly worrying about him getting things done and being ready wasn’t helping him. Yesterday he took the evening to go work out and finish a long to do list that simply couldn’t be done by the time he needed to pick up Afton from day care. Tonight, the plans have been made, the stage is set- literally- he somehow even found time to throw together a simple set- and he is on his way home.

And Afton is in bed.

And I have chicken noodle soup on the stove. That is all.

But we will eat chicken noodle soup in our sweaters and maybe read together or watch a movie or play music together because I have time to be with him and to help him prepare for ministry tomorrow.

Date night isn’t about the perfect dinner, the perfect dress and the babysitter. When that happens- it’s lovely. Enjoy every second of it and don’t you dare feel guilty! But when suddenly you have a moment, an hour or an evening with your special someone and no plans have been made, you work with what you have and you decide to be intentional about eating chicken noodle soup together.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.— Pillow on my couch

And sometimes, the storm looks like a busy week with one night haphazardly carved out in which you will eat chicken noodle soup by candle light and call it a date.

Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

One of my favorite things (ok, one of the only good things) about being sick is the opportunity to perfect my homemade chicken noodle soup recipe. Unfortunately last winter, I had a lot of practice. Here’s to the beginning of chilly weather and (maybe) the beginning of a monthly soup recipe post!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

One free range chicken (3 lbs)

4 Carrots

4 Celary

3 cups yolk free dried noodles (small)

3 lbs olive oil

3 tsp.  ground thyme or fresh if you have it!

2 bay leaves

garlic (buy 2 garlic heads- you’ll use most)

1 tsp. whole black peppercorn

Instructions

1. Place whole chicken (minus the giblets) in a stock pot and add water until it just covers the chicken

2. Add 2 chopped carrots,  2 sticks of celery, 1 bay leaf, 3 tsp. ground thyme, 1 head of garlic and 1 tsp.  whole black peppercorn

3. Bring stock to a boil; lower heat to medium and let simmer for about 1 hour.

4. Check chicken with a meat thermometer to ensure it has cooked (should read at least 165 degrees for poultry)

5. Carefully strain broth into a large pot removing all added ingredients. Remove chicken and set aside to cool.

6. Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large stock pot and add 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1 bay leaf, and 1 tsp. of  dried ground thyme. Cook on medium-low heat until veggies are slightly soft but not browned.

7. Once chicken has cooled, remove all chicken from bones and shred into separate bowl. Set aside.

7. Return chicken stock (broth) to pot. Bring to a boil, then add noodles.

8. Return to a boil and let noodles cook for about 5 minutes.

9. Add chicken and simmer on med-low heat.

10. Add Salt and Pepper to taste and an optional garnish of fresh parsley. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

1 Nap

The time has come where I- er, Afton- now only takes 1 nap a day. While this transition has rocked her- er,my world a little bit, it’s also a nice change that means I get more time during the days that I’m off to spend with her!

My time with Afton is so precious to me now that I’m working. I miss the days where we didn’t have plans- we woke up and stayed in our jammies until we felt like a target or library run. I miss that pace. Now I struggle to not over plan on the days that I’m off while also wanting to ensure that I am intentional about my time with her and others.

It may be no secret to those who know me that my desires took a 180 turn after my 9 months post-partum. Before having Afton, I couldn’t imagine wanting to stay home. I felt guilty for not wanting to stay home. Then God called me back to work and I felt differently. You see, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence for me. This is a constant thing.

When I went back to work,I knew it was the right timing, the right position, etc. I knew it was right, but that didn’t make it any easier. I still cry when I leave her, not because she’s upset, but really because she’s not. She’s quite accustomed to being in other’s homes, with other children, with different toys and rooms to explore. Sometimes this is hard for me. The grass that is greener has mommies with children who cling to them and feel nervous around other people. You mommies probably wish it wasn’t so but I ache for that just a little. I ache to know I hold a more special place in her heart than the sitter she seems just as excited to see.

And I know I do. It’s just hard sometimes and some days are harder than others.

To the ladies that have told me I’m missing out on the best years of her life and I’ll never have them back- I know that. I do. And I think about it every day that I’m away from her. But I’m happy for those that get to spend time with this sweet girl and I’m blessed by the people in my life that love on her when I’m away allowing me to be where God has called me to be in this season of our lives.

Though I’ve never had to work full time as a mom -I work part time and stay home part time- I feel I must say to women in either situation- let’s be gentle.

To the working mom- please let’s not assume that stay at home mom’s “can afford it” or “don’t want to work” or are “probably home schooling too because they can’t let go”. They are doing what’s best for them and their own babes in their own stage of life.

To the women who stay home- please don’t assume that the working mom is “more passionate about a career than parenting” or “needs the money.” It might not be what they want or it might be! Either way, let’s find out how we can support, encourage and come along side each other as mommies rather than comparing ourselves, our lifestyles and our child-rearing. When it all comes down to it, I believe that most women crave affirmation and unfortunately we won’t find it in comparing and contrasting our lifestyles with others without knowing their whole story. It’s like looking at an instagram picture of a moment in someone’s life without knowing anything else going on around it. Reach out, find out, and learn from the differences and similarities you share. How would we have the strength to encourage and push each other toward growth if we were exactly the same?

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes,”Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Never have I needed female approval like I do now that I’m a mom. The moment I brought Afton home from the hospital I was struck with the realization that I had no idea what I was doing and I needed my moms. I humbly begged my husband to ask his mom to come and she selflessly did. My mom did the same. I was desperate in those early days for their approval and still love to hear them tell me I’m doing a good job.

When an older woman in the grocery store gives me that knowing smile and let’s me go ahead of her in line saying, “I know what it’s like,” a sweet feeling of affirmation floods my heart. So much better than the “Wow, she’s not happy” I’ve received from other irritated customers or a “She wants to get out of the shopping cart and walk around” tip. Who knew so many people spoke angry toddler? 😉

My point is, we have the opportunity to bless other momma’s so easily with something as simple as a smile or a “you’re doing a good job” and sometimes we miss these opportunities.

So I want to grab at the opportunity to encourage you.
To the stay at home mom:
Your job as a momma is not easy but the pay is the best. Next time you feel like for what you give you get nothing in return, take that little munchkin in your arms and look at his face. Do whatever it takes to make him laugh and tell me that’s not worth your biggest pay check. Then remember to take some time for you. Ask a friend, husband, relative to watch your little one while you go for a walk or grab a coffee. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s important and it’s good for them to see you prioritize yourself too. You’re doing a great job!

To the working mom:
It’s one of the hardest things to let someone else hear many of the giggles, see many of the first steps and hear many of the first words. He might not always understand why “Momma has to go to work” but you are doing what needs to be done for him. Thought it’s easier sometimes, don’t pull away when you’re home. Make the conscious decision of choosing to be all in when you’re with him. Hold him, play with him, read to him and talk to him. The house work can wait. You both need this. Try as hard as you can not to bring work home and if you must, to set up clear boundaries of when it will be done and when it’s play time so that he knows what to expect and feels secure in knowing he is your priority. You’re doing a great job!

This is our home- come on in. Don’t mind the mess in my heart.

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Guys..my house is a disaster. There is laundry on the floor, the contents of a backpack and diaper bag poured over the floor to make room for another adventure, random items in random places, toys to trip over, and messes waiting to be cleaned up. The good news is, the clothes on the floor are clean and waiting to be folded, the toys represent the fact that I have a creative daughter who plays very well on her own and there are dishes in the dishwasher, representing the fact that I’ve begun the cleaning process. This is our home. One of my mentors-actually a few of them- have encouraged me to be ok with this. No, they haven’t encouraged me to be a pig and let my house go, but to minister through the daily chores, to let people in, to let discipleship happen over coffee and folded laundry and to be ok with people seeing me in the context of our not-so-perfect home. My generation calls this “being real.” Easier said than done. Opening the door and not apologizing about the “mess” (be it ever so slight) in hopes of saving face or that my guest will politely say, “Oh, you should see my house,” “This is nothing,” or “What mess?,” has not come easy for me. My pride craves affirmation that I am the best at everything. I’m not. I don’t always have a clean house. There, I said it. Sometimes my kitchen is disgusting and I’m embarrassed to look at it myself. Sometimes the garbage cans are full, Sometimes I forget to clean out the highchair and what I find later disgusts me. And sometimes, I get really bent out of shape about it. Sometimes I think that my messy house is a reflection of a much bigger picture of failure. Do you think that’s a stretch? I could say it this way: Sometimes I base my reality on present circumstance and I dwell on and I hem n’ haw (ahem) over it instead of picking up my crap and dealing with the problem. When it’s as bad as it gets, my first thought is “How did it get this way and where do I start?” Enter- excuse making monster. Since I’ve chosen not to make excuses, let’s move on to the “Where do I start” question. When it’s my house… I could pick up and get away with it for a bit longer, or I could clean. I’m talking about rallying the troops from the cleaning closet- the mop, the broom, the toilet brush, the chemicals- or natural cleaning products- but since we’re being “real”, I have chemicals in my house. 😛 And I clean. I go nuts. I pull out everything, go under everything, and scrub everything. Everything else goes on hold because today is cleaning day. Boom. When it’s my heart… I could change my attitude temporarily by venting and then pulling myself together enough to be presentable and make everything think I’m perfect, or I can deal with the heart issue by pulling all the crap off the shelf of my heart and looking at the nasty build up of sin that I have been hiding from myself. No chemical is enough to get rid of what I’m looking at. Only an all powerful and truly perfect God who loves in spite of the sin glaring in his face and mine, could clean up this heart. And He did.And He will. And He is. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit..” Titus 3:4-5 I just looked up “Clean” in greek. kaqaroß It means: Clean and pure. Purified by fire. Like a vine pruned so that it can go on bearing fruit. Free from every admixture of what is false. Sincere, genuine and blameless. Innocent. Unstained with the guilt of anything. Another definition says “Free from corrupt desires.” This doesn’t mean that they won’t come back, but it means that because we as believers have been washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the temptation, whereas before, we were powerless to resist it on our own. Tonight I’m praising Him for the way he cleans and the way he motivates me to strive toward holiness.

“I promise to be silly with you…”

I recently attended a wedding in which this was read as part of the vows. It was perfectly suitable for the couple who recited it as they keep it real in every sense of the phrase. Every aspect of their wedding had their desire for authenticity written all over it. I loved that about them.

A theme of our adventure, in addition to silliness being very close to the center and yes, obviously our Lord and Savior who above all teaches us how to love each other- is adventure. Without the sense of adventure that both of us have promised to keep at the center of our mindset, we  may not have survived some of the roughest storms that have threatened our ship so far. 

This weekend we celebrated our 4 year anniversary. I’m actually not going to say that it went fast. By no stretch of the imagination has it felt like “forever” but it has been a packed 4 years. I will spare you a re-cap of our lives together, since we recently found ourselves processing that with friends from high school that stayed with us- but I will say that God has brought us through a lot and it’s been a joy to grow and learn through the many difficult and trying experiences that we’ve faced. Some of them have been written about here, and most have not. The joys certainly have been shared. I’m convinced that Letters to Afton must hold both as an example and constant reminder of the sin we bring into the world as humans and His redeeming love that constantly rescues and reassures. Only God could create such a beautiful picture of this in marriage. 

Tonight I’m thankful for the good times together, one of the highlights being sweet Afton, but I can honestly say that I’m also thankful for the heartache we’ve both experienced along the journey thus far. Heartaches that no one else but he and I experienced which has only drawn us closer to each other and to the Lord. It’s the combination of both the sunny skies and the rain that create adventure and I’m loving ours.

Here are some shots of our most recent adventures in honor of our 4 years together! 

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