Better Together: Harvey Edition

In the past 9 days our town (Kingwood) has seen unprecedented destruction and devastation.

Homes were filled with water, people were rescued by boats at their front doorstep, homes were completely washed away, cars were destroyed, and possessions were ruined.

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However, in the midst of the chaos, fear, and heartbreak Hurricane Harvey caused; something incredible happened. Our community came together like never before. It didn’t matter what the sign outside your church was, it didn’t matter what color your skin was, it didn’t matter what your W-2 form looked like last year, it didn’t matter what your ballot looked like in November; none of that mattered anymore.

In the aftermath of Harvey people became who God truly intended for them to be. Each person had (and continues to have) a role. People leaned into their role for the betterment of the community as a whole.

People came from near and far with boats to rescue complete strangers from their homes.

People purchased, prepared, and delivered food to people they’d never laid eyes on.

People showed up in droves in neighborhoods to take out drywall, sheet rock, furniture, and appliances out of flooded homes.

People invited complete strangers into their homes and gave them a place to sleep, take a shower, and eat a meal.

People showed up to their jobs in grocery stores, hospitals, gas stations, fire stations, police stations, etc. despite the personal risk it took to get there.

People watched other people’s children so more adults could be out working in homes and flood victims could safely work in their homes.

People took in pets of flood victims, even people with pet allergies.

People washed clothes for people who were flooded.

People scrubbed and sanitized dishes and pans for strangers.

People comforted and cried with those who lost everything.

People sent money and gift cards for flood victims from every corner of the World.

People are the glue that holds communities together during disaster. It’s not an organization, it’s not a charity, it’s not a government program. People will out perform FEMA every time. When you have a united group of people working together anything is possible.

Thankful to be a part of the people of Kingwood.

We are better together.

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Have kids, Still travel.

I love to travel.

My husband would tell you that I have an insatiable travel bug. I start twitching on the inside if I haven’t gone somewhere for a few months.

We also have three young children ages 5, 3, and 18 months. This makes traveling look WAY different, but we still do it. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring the world.

Here are things to keep in mind when embarking on a trip with your kids.

  1. Go outdoors. Nature is a huge playground to kids. Take them on a hike and they can find sticks, throw rocks in a lake, race to a tree, climb on a boulder, and see wildlife. The outdoors are free (or super cheap), there are usually no lines, there’s nothing your kids will want to buy, and your rowdy toddler can’t break anything (besides a bone or two).
  2. Kids are free on an airplane when they are under 2. USE THIS! Our oldest went on 15+ flights before she turned 2 because we took full advantage of this. See The rules of air travel with a small child.
  3. The time before they can run away from you or give an opinion is a prime time for a trip. Most people go into lockdown mode when they have an infant but I am here to tell you, 7 months and younger is the easiest lap child you will ever have. Another plus to traveling at this age is that they (usually) fall asleep anywhere still so you can wear them/push them and GO.
  4. Renting a house is the way to go for longer trips. Airbnb and VRBO have some great places to stay at affordable prices. This way you can spread out and not be sharing a room with your child(ren) and you have the added convenience of a kitchen. Do you know what happens when a small child wakes up in a hotel room? Everybody wakes up. The last time I shared a room with my 5 year old I discovered that she talks A LOT in her sleep and it is frequently directed at Mom so this did not equate to a restful night sleep.
  5. YOU CAN TAKE KIDS SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN DISNEY! I’m yelling this because I don’t think it gets said enough. Disney does a fantastic job of marketing and making you believe that this is the ultimate vacation for a family, but I’d argue that there are much better options out there for a young family. You can go a lot of places with the money that a Disney Vacation would cost you (Europe, if you are super thrifty). Also, if you haven’t been to Central Florida before I have some news for you, it’s really hot and humid. The fact that I already live somewhere that is hot and humid (Houston, TX) probably adds to the fact that I have no desire to make a lateral move in terms of heat. There are also a lot of lines at Disney World. For everything. I’ve waited in a long line with a one-year-old before, now I have Amazon Prime and I get my groceries delivered through SHIPT because it is literally the worst.

So say yes to the trip, because you and your kids aren’t going to tell stories years down the road about that one night you stayed home and watched Netflix.

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How To (not) Lose the Baby Weight.

I’ve birthed 3 humans. I’ve been pregnant 3 times. When you go through a pregnancy there are a few different ways that your body can react.

Scenario 1: You could go on “I didn’t know I was pregnant” as a guest. You somehow, against all odds, don’t look pregnant at all. When you tell people how far along you are they are utterly shocked because there is no way you could be 38 weeks because you look like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner, not a bowling ball. You get maternity pictures taken because you are still cute. Your OB talks to you about gaining more weight and you have no idea why people equate pregnancy with swollen ankles. You, my friend, are an anomaly in nature.

Scenario 2: It’s obvious to strangers that you are pregnant…but only when they see you from the front. You gain the suggested amount of weight steadily throughout your pregnancy and you look like your usual self with a basketball underneath your shirt. People say things to you such as “you’re all baby” or “I couldn’t tell you were pregnant from behind.”  Also, super lucky.

Scenario 3: You are pregnant everywhere. You are pretty positive there is a baby in each of your thighs at this point and you aren’t sure how those babies are getting out of there. Your face looks like a perpetual allergic reaction for the last 3 months of your pregnancy which makes random strangers offer you Benadryl. You laugh when people ask if you if you are doing a maternity photo shoot because why would you want to look at this down the road? You go to your Doctor’s appointments in the least amount of clothing possible and your lightest pair of shoes, which you still take off for your weigh-in. At this point the comments you receive are along the lines of “Are you sure it’s not twins?” or “I think your Doctor got the wrong due date” or  “Wow” or even worse, complete silence. I feel you, I’ve been there.

After your darling, fat-producing, cuddly baby makes their entrance into the world the real fun begins. Losing the baby weight.

For scenario 1 and 2 people this comes pretty easily. Breastfeeding (if you decide to nurse), some walks or runs, and not eating entire cakes by yourself will pretty much do the trick.

With my first pregnancy I was a scenario 2 person. I gained 40 pounds. I was also 27 at the time so my metabolism hadn’t completely flown the coop. I even wore a bikini that summer after having a baby in March (not normal). I ate M&M’s while I would breastfeed. I’m a runner so I did that but I didn’t go nuts about it. It was easy. Looking back, ridiculously easy.

Then I got pregnant with baby number 2. I became a scenario 2 and 1/2 person with this pregnancy. I gained 50 pounds this time around. Losing it was more difficult. Some factors that made this more difficult would be that I had 2 kids to manage at this point, I could no longer do any type of jumping in my workouts, and my metabolism had started packing its bags because I was 29.

I ran on occasion, I ate M&M’s, and I drank beer. This combination is not a winning weight-loss strategy by the way.

I rationalized that I was breastfeeding and that is pretty much like running 5 miles a day so surely I could still eat food I liked and not workout every day of the week.

All it really took was the realization after about 8 months of this that I needed to run more and drink less beer for the weight to eventually come off.

Then I got pregnant with baby number 3. This pregnancy was all sorts of scenario 3. I gained 65 pounds. I ran until I was 32 weeks pregnant and I didn’t eat entire boxes of donuts…but the weight just kept coming. My maternity clothes from previous pregnancies didn’t fit by the time I hit third trimester. I’m pretty sure someone was injecting fat into my salads. I was 30 this time around. My metabolism didn’t even write me postcards anymore from wherever it went. We had a great run together but it just wasn’t enough to keep her around.

After I gave birth to my cute little fat producer I was on a serious mission to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. Here’s how this went:

Five Weeks PP (Postpartum): I went running. It hurt real bad. Not like hurt my uterus, but my knees. Understood why overweight people don’t go running for exercise.

Two Months PP: Signed up for a half-marathon that was 4 and 1/2 months after I gave birth. Figured there was no way I could run 13 miles while overweight. Stopped buying M&M’s.

Four Months PP: Ran half-marathon. Ran really slow. Found out that you CAN run 13.1 miles while 30 pounds overweight, it just hurts real bad.

Five Months PP: Worked out like a crazy person. Not losing weight anymore.

Six Months PP: Still on plateau of weight loss. Not sure what to do since this has never happened before. Start googling adult beverages that contain fewer calories than beer.

Nine Months PP: Come to the stark realization that I can’t consume bread, pizza, dessert, pasta, beer, or anything delicious anymore. Start eating salmon and vegetables most nights. Husband is bored with menu at home. Start losing weight again.

Ten Months PP: Look into options like the 21-day-fix. Decide I probably shouldn’t cut that many calories since I’m still nursing. Still have 15 pounds to go.

12 Months PP: Kept nursing through the Holidays purely because it burns calories. Got rid of clothes that used to fit but don’t because there’s no reason for them to take up closet space anymore. 

13 Months PP: Stop nursing. Decide to do a 3-day juice cleanse to kickstart some weight loss. Nothing happens besides being really hungry and using the bathroom more often. No change in weight.

16 Months PP: 10 pounds left. Wonder when the statute of limitations on the phrase “baby weight” occurs. Think about writing to my metabolism to see if there’s any chance it’s coming back.

The moral of this story being losing weight after 30 is the worst. Also, M&M’s won’t help you lose weight, you’re welcome.

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Note to self, don’t wear running shorts you like while you are pregnant. These don’t fit anymore. 

 

 

 

 

10 Things That No One Tells You When You Have a New Baby.

You just brought home your new bundle of joy! Congrats! Being a new parent is a whirlwind of emotions and can be quite overwhelming at times. There are so many books and resources out there that you may have read about your new baby, but there are some things people leave out when they talk to you about having a new baby, let me fill you in.

  1. Your belly is still going to look pregnant. It does go away eventually but for the time being avoid brutally honest preschoolers or that Uncle that thinks he is hilarious. “Yes, I’m positive there isn’t another one in there.”
  2. Forget that you own non-maternity jeans for at least the next 5 months. I’ll tell you right now, they aren’t going to fit well. Don’t bother trying them on because it will only add insult to injury. This is why elastic was invented. Use it to your advantage.
  3. There are going to be people that have ZERO boundaries when it comes to touching your baby. Wearing your baby is the easiest way to combat this BUT there will still be a select few (generally people you don’t know that well) that will put their hand on your child’s head, foot, etc. I have yet to come up with a tactful way to say, “Excuse me, your hand is less than one-inch from my boobs, what the heck are you thinking?” Let me know if you figure something out.
  4. Your baby will cry and need you at the most inopportune times. For example: when you sit down to a hot meal, when you answer a phone call, or when you are in the middle of washing your hair. However there will be times when they WON’T cry: when you get pulled over by the police, when a random stranger goes into great detail about their birth story, or when it’s your partner’s turn to wake up in the middle of the night with them.
  5. If you get invited to a trampoline park, a jump-a-thon, or a workout class that involves jumping jacks do yourself a solid and bring an extra pair of pants. You’ll understand why.
  6. Now is the time to pick a television series to watch. If you are breastfeeding you are going to have a lot of time to sit. It doesn’t have to be child-appropriate when it is your first born because those little eyes are only seeing your boobs and their own eyelids so they won’t be traumatized by Prison Break, House of Cards, etc. Live it up now because if you have subsequent children you are going to be feeding your child while watching Curious George.
  7. Accept help. If someone wants to bring you dinner, take it. If someone wants to fold laundry, let them. If someone wants to hold your baby while you take a shower for the first time in 3 days, let them.
  8. You are going to know things you had no prior knowledge of. It’s weird, but Mother’s intuition is a real thing. If you haven’t been around babies much this will almost feel like an out of body experience when you start spitting knowledge of your baby and what they need. Just go with it.
  9. They are more resilient than they appear. They won’t break by you putting clothes on them no matter how terrifying it is to pull clothes over a screaming newborn’s head but rest-assured you won’t do any permanent damage unless you are secretly the hulk. They also won’t tell their therapist when they are 30 about crying for 10 minutes while Mom finished taking a shower.
  10. Your brain is going to go on a vacation for the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure where it goes but it won’t be with you. You may have been forgetful during pregnancy “pregnant brain”, you’ll forever have “Mom brain”, but “newborn brain” takes the cake. For my firstborn I completely forgot it was my birthday; I was truly wondering what the heck all these alerts on my phone were. For my second child at his one-week well check I left my car running unattended in the parking lot (mind you, it is a Prius and makes no noise) for 1.5 hours. Now is NOT the time to defend your thesis or make life-altering decisions.

 

It gets better and don’t worry, you will block out the next couple of weeks because otherwise no one would do this again. Best of luck.

Embrace the Process.

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Wearing her shinguards so “her shins won’t get hurt at school.”
My daughter, Kate, has been anticipating turning five for roughly the past 364 days of her life. Five is the fix for EVERYTHING according to her. It is when she is going to be “big”, when she is going to eat all of her dinner, when she is going to be able to run longer and faster, you name it. She has this milestone on a pedestal because this is when she feels she will have made it in life.

Yesterday, she turned five.

None of her hopes and dreams for five came to fruition.

She came downstairs that morning, sat with my husband, looked at her leg next to his and started crying because he was still bigger than she was. The fact that she was five didn’t provide any type of change she could see.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

This rings true in every aspect of our lives. If you want to get fit; one workout isn’t going to whip you into shape. If you want to improve your marriage; one hard conversation isn’t going to fix all of your problems. If you want to deepen your walk with Christ; going on one retreat or attending one service isn’t going to create lifelong devotion.

Change takes time. Change takes discipline. Discipline means you go on that run even when no part of you wants to. It means broaching subjects that are uncomfortable with your loved ones. It means reading, journaling, and praying even when you are tired and surely don’t have another moment to spare in your schedule.

The change process is where we learn about ourselves. Are you the type that looks for excuses not to do things or do you make things happen no matter what? Taking on a new discipline isn’t easy but Hebrews 12:11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

That change you want, it’s worth it. Keep going.

It is so easy to live in the mindset of the “when.” Kate’s “when” was turning 5. Everything was going to be better then. We all have these; for some it is when I get married,when I get that promotion, when I don’t have to carry diapers in my purse anymore, when we sell the house, when we go on that vacation, etc. If we constantly seek the next thing we can’t enjoy what is in front of us.

Instead of hoping for that elusive “when” in your life that will undoubtedly turn into something else; let’s embrace the process and the now that is presented to us.

 

 

Whose house is it?

When I was 15 years old I was on a soccer team that was in the process of looking for coach. One night at practice we were brought together for a meeting and our team manager announced who our new coach was going to be. When they said the name, the first thing out of my mouth was “that guy used to live in my basement!” If you want to get a lot of weird looks, be a teenage girl and announce to your peers that a 30-something man used to live in your basement.

This was pretty normal fare at my house growing up. We had a few different people live with us for a summer or so. My parents made it a point to show uncommon hospitality. The difference between them and so many American Christians is that they know their house isn’t just for them. 

As a Christian, having economic means or having a large house becomes problematic at times. If you follow after Christ and you have a large home you have probably wrestled at some point with downsizing and using those extra funds for Kingdom work like missions, giving, etc.

It’s not wrong to have a big house. It’s more about why you have a big house and what you use it for. 

If you bought a 10,000 square foot home only so people could look at you and say, “wow, they are a big deal” then that’s problematic. Matthew 19:24 states “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Money distracts us, deters us, and we all too often think it defines us. The reason the Rich man struggles to enter the Kingdom isn’t because he has economic means, it’s because of his heart and his motives.

Being generous doesn’t solely mean you can write a large check to a cause, you can be generous in ways other than just giving money. Your home can be a source of generosity.

Our houses shouldn’t be just for us. This looks different in various seasons of life. When we only had one kid we had a few different people live with us for extended periods of time. One time it was a friend from home who was moving to Houston and was in a state of transition. This was probably the best decision we ever made because she thought doing dishes was therapeutic. One time it was my brother who needed somewhere to land for a few months between college graduation and starting his first job. He did not think doing dishes was therapeutic but we had some great times and some really heated games of Scattergories. Then one summer we housed two of Clint’s youth interns so we had a baby and a frat house upstairs.

When you open your doors and use your guest rooms for their actual intention, guests, it reaps relational benefits for all parties involved. For empty nesters this may look like taking people in, for some it may look like becoming foster parents or providing respite care.

Your house may be maxed out on space for long-term guests but your house can still be used for ministry. In your kitchen you can make a dinner for a friend who is undergoing chemo treatments or for a family who is welcoming a new baby. On your back porch you can sit and talk with a friend who is going through a rough patch. At your dining room table you can share a meal with that neighbor you are wanting to know better, a family who is new to the area, or that new colleague at work.

We all have things we can be generous with. It doesn’t have to be money; it can be our time, our talents, and in some cases a spare room.

And someday I hope and pray our kids get confused looks because of all of the people who have lived in our (Texas) basement.

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Not our house 

 

 

7 Reasons you should work at Summer Camp.

The College years are a selfish time.

It’s all about you. Your schedule. Your major. Your classes. You. For 4(ish) years the only thing people are going to ask you about is you.

But they don’t have to be.

You see, you have time during college that you won’t have in any other season of your life. You have the longest summers ever; use it well.

The natural inclination for most college students is to find an internship to get a foot in the door for jobs down the road. But you know what, you are probably going to work a 9-5 for the rest of your life so why start before you have to?

You should work at a summer camp instead. Here’s the reasons why:

  1. The focus is off of you. For that week/month/entire summer you aren’t worried about yourself or your needs. You are solely focused on pouring into your campers or the task at hand, not you.
  2. You learn to be flexible. With your diet, your exercise regimen, your comfort level, your limits. There’s nothing comfortable about sleeping on a wooden floor in 100 degree temperatures surrounded by nature. But if you can adapt here you can adapt anywhere. This is a life skill that is useful in whatever you do with your life; parenting, the work force, etc.
  3. You learn to truly depend on the Lord. You reach the end of your strength after about 3 days. YOU can’t do this job but HE can. He will give you the strength, the energy, and the words to say when you let him.
  4. You learn to work with different types of people. In any work situation there are going to be people you do not see eye to eye with, people who you would never be friends with in any other context, or people that get on your last nerve. But you learn to make it work. Not by being fake but by the grace the Lord provides.
  5. You learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Would you run around your campus wearing jorts, an oversized sombrero, and painted on freckles? Probably not. But at summer camp if you aren’t doing this you are the weird one.
  6. It will make you a better parent down the road. You have had a small glimpse of the pride parents feel when their kids excel at things, the frustration of when they fall short of expectations, and the selflessness required to be a Mom/Dad.
  7. When you go back to your campus you are different. You run extra with the teammate that is struggling to finish a workout, you start asking your friends deeper questions because you are still in counselor mode, and you find yourself looking for ministry opportunities because the normal selfishness of college drives you crazy now.

So work at summer camp, it will change your life.