Passover & COVID-19: Finding Hope in the Hard Questions

In this crazy time of COVID-19, there’s a question that keeps haunting me: “Where am I placing my hope?”

Is it in the security of an economically booming economy? In having and maintaining good health? In my savings or fully stocked pantry? In a medicinal cure? In the distractions of another day of outings, entertainment, and friends? Or is it just in the fact that soon we will get back to “normal”?

As fears and anxieties have continued to swirl within me the last few weeks, and I kept obsessively searching the internet for some source of hope (a promising treatment, or another country ending their time of quarantine) in order to calm my frazzled nerves, I knew something was dreadfully wrong with the state of my heart. Well, honestly, I’ve known that something was wrong for a long time.. but when life seems good, it’s much easier to shove fears and difficult questions into a corner. Atleast until your sense of control and security are utterly shaken, and you’re left in an empty room with nothing to do but acknowledge that they’re there.

Questions like: “Can God truly love ME? Is He REALLY a good God? If He is, then why does He let such horrible things happen? What if He lets me go through something terribly painful? What is it He really wants from me while I’m on this earth? Am I truly willing to do whatever that may be? What will life after death really be like? How can I desire eternity when I can’t even comprehend it?”

So many questions. So many years of running from them. So many times I’ve felt like an utter fraud as I profess to be a woman of faith, and yet I know deep down how tenuous my faith really is. How can I meaningfully tell someone about the Good News, of my hope in Jesus, when I as a believer don’t even know how to fully put my hope in Him?

As humans, our survival instincts are very strong. For whatever reason, mine seem to have been heavily triggered at a young age, as I found myself afraid of so many things – the dark, being alone, heights, pain, rejection, failure, death, even life after death. Stuck in this constant state of fear and the primal need to simply survive another day, I found controlling my surroundings and others as the best way to provide myself with a sense of safety. Anything I couldn’t understand, and therefore couldn’t control, was considered a major threat and was promptly removed or ignored. But there was just one problem… the person who was supposed to be the center of my life was also at the center of my biggest questions: God. I knew I believed in Him, I knew there was no way our entire existence was an accident, but I didn’t.. or rather couldn’t, fully understand Him nor His plan. That was where faith was supposed to come in. But complete faith feels so dangerous… totally surrender and give up control? I would read stories of the Apostles and the ways they were beaten and killed in such gruesome ways and think, “But what if He allows me to go through something like that?”

So here I find myself, in the midst of a pandemic where simply going to the grocery store feels threatening, and allowing myself to think about it too much causes me to curl up in a fetal position, no good to anyone. I know I’m at a crossroads. I know I can’t continue living this way any longer… just simply surviving. Staying in limbo land where any future stress will send me right back to this place of hopelessness because the root cause still hasn’t been dealt with, and the core question hasn’t been answered: Can I truly trust God?

I think it’s a question many of us, believers and unbelievers alike, are being faced with right now. Panic breaks out in the midst of trial and tribulation because we can’t handle living in a world without feeling some sense of safety and security, even if it’s only a veneer. When all of the things we’ve spent our lives trusting in – our money, our possessions, other people, entertainment, lusts of the flesh, the government – are suddenly stripped away, what are we left with? Where can we find hope? Where is a safe place to put our faith? Is God truly trustworthy, even when He’s allowing bad things to happen?

Tomorrow at sunset begins the day of Passover. The day when the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on their door posts in order to save their first borns from the death angel that passed over Egypt. Before this year, I never truly considered what faith it must have taken for them to believe that the blood would be enough to protect them. They had nine other plagues as proof of God’s power, and they knew a death angel was coming. How many of them thought that staying in their homes and trusting that Moses had heard God correctly, was risky? How many saw the bad things that God was sending on the Egyptians, even the innocent children, and wondered whether they could truly trust in God’s goodness and mercy on their families? How many were overcome with a fear of death, despite being promised protection?

How interesting that thousands of years later, we find ourselves heading into the closest version of Passover that we’ve ever experienced. We’ve been told to stay in our homes. We know there’s a virus out there taking life after life, and we ask God “Why does this have to happen?”. Many of us are struggling with a fear of death…. and God is still asking, “Do you trust Me? Do you trust the blood to cover you?”

I look at my children and I think of how I love them. Of how innocent they are; completely oblivious to what’s currently going on in our world. They are at total peace because they trust their Daddy and I to always take care of them. I think of how I would do anything to protect them from pain, but then I realize… it’s not as simple as that. Sometimes in order to protect our children from lasting emotional, mental, and spiritual pain, we have to allow them to experience physical pain. We have to make judgement calls every day, weighing the risk versus the reward. We know that a parent who is truly looking out for the best interests of their child will slowly allow them independence and the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. A coddled child become spoiled, ungrateful, resentful, lazy… and rather than experiencing some pain early on that allows them to grow stronger, they are likely to experience a life of suffering because of what their parents took from them – opportunity for growth, wisdom by experience, responsibility, freedom of choice, and the ability to know what true love looks like.

Our responsibility as parents isn’t simply to keep our kids alive, it’s to teach them how to live life abundantly. And then it hits me… is this not also how God cares for us? What kind of love would he have for us if He stopped every bad thing from happening? If He coddled us and only allowed us to live a perfect life? If He took away our free will? We’d be ruined. True love… the kind where two people actively choose each other, would be lost. Like us, He will do everything He can to protect the lives of His children. But His focus is on the big picture…. and that’s preserving our eternal lives, not merely our physical ones.

So this brings me back to Passover. Because the Israelites covering their home in the blood of lambs and the physical deaths of the Egyptians wasn’t the big picture… the atoning blood of Jesus that made eternal life available to all, was. Our Father allowed His firstborn son to be sacrificed, because it was the only way to save His children from a life of bondage leading to death.

When we step outside of our current struggles amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and try to view things from a big picture perspective, what comes into focus? What areas of our lives is God working to bring us out of bondage? Where is He proclaiming freedom over us?

For too long I have believed that life is only worth living when things are easy. That God can only truly be a good Father if He keeps bad things from happening to His children. But I’m realizing that by having these incorrect beliefs, I’ve been setting myself up for nothing but failure and disappointment; for an absolute breakdown when I come up against any type of adversity. Just like in the garden, the devil is still using lies about God’s intentions to plant seeds of doubt in our hearts. He knows that if he can keep us from trusting in our One and Only Hope, we will willingly relenquish our God given power to overcome even the most difficult of trials; that we will crumple in defeat and he will win without so much as a fight. Currently, he’s attempting to use COVID-19 to fill us so full of fear that we become distracted from the truth that Passover proclaims, and that is that DEATH HAS BEEN DEFEATED!

So let’s stand against the powers of darkness and say “No more! We have already been declared victorious! May the church arise stronger than it ever was before! May hope in the one and only God be restored! May many hearts be turned back to God and this nation and world repent of it’s evil ways!  May we learn to TRULY trust our Father, no matter what is going on around us! May this Passover season be the most meaningful and life changing we have ever experienced!”

It’s going to be a battle. It’s not going to be easy. Our anxieties and questions may not go away overnight… but God will never stop chipping away at the lies that have opened the door to them, and He will never stop calling us to run into His arms when we struggle.

May we find relief knowing that during this time the skeletons in our closet are finally being dealt with. May we have a strange sense of longing to exchange our old version of “normal” for a new one, may we be filled with an insatiable hunger for spiritual freedom over physical, and a increased sense of excitement to see how God will refine us in this fire. May it be here…in this time where everything else is stripped away, that we find our hope.

Motherhood: From Survival Mode to Slow Jams

Have you ever had one of those seasons that was so difficult and full of trials that all you could do was hunker down through the winter and try to survive it? That was me last year. The problem was that I couldn’t just hide in my cave nursing my wounds like I used to; now I had kids to care for. I had to somehow attempt to manage some semblance of normalcy, so I grabbed for whatever mask or quick fix got me through the day. But because I did this for so long, a strange thing happened. Even though 90% of my trials ended or eased up immensely, for months I still found myself stuck in survival mode. Since I had allowed negative thinking and the way I saw my life and family in moments of difficulty become the lens through which I viewed everything… suddenly my children changed from being the joys of my life to my greatest source of stress.

They were a burden I was forced to bare though most days I barely had the strength to get myself out of bed.  Overcome with anxiety, health issues, and emotional/spiritual battles, the last thing I had the energy for was to deal with the third toddler tantrum of the day. But when you’re a stay at home mom and your husband is at work, you really don’t have a choice. So, I dealt with them… with much anger. I knew that being constantly short tempered with my kids wasn’t helping them, and yet I couldn’t seem to stop. That of course only added to my stress with feelings of guilt. There were days that I resented being a mother. When I imagined getting in my car and driving away. What happened to the girl who wanted to be a mom more than anything in the world? I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

So I found the best way I could to cope: fill my days as full as possible so as to minimize my time at home alone with my kids. Distractions, distractions, distractions. Play date so I can have adult conversations? Sure! Bible study group with babysitting? Absolutely! Put on a movie for them so I can have some peace and quiet? Definitely. Get on my phone the second they became entertained? Yep. But even though I was with the boys all day long, it never seemed to be enough to make them happy. Getting them to sleep at night would take hours because they would have separation anxiety. Asking them to play quietly while I read would result in a tantrum. EVERYTHING resulted in a tantrum. “What happened to our sweet little boys!?” I would complain to Adam. But the problem wasn’t with them. Yes, I was with them all day, but I wasn’t present with them. And when I was present I just wasn’t a very nice person to be around (so of course they were going to start acting out to get my attention). Not only was I not present, but every day was all about ME. What I could do to make the day better or more tolerable for me, rather than them. I was so wrapped up in just getting through another day that I couldn’t see it. The ironic thing was that my season of ‘survival’ had already ended… I had made it through the war and yet the only person I was still battling was myself. (I’m calling it PTMS – Post Traumatic Mom Disorder, haha)

I used to have this image in my mind of the kind of life and education I wanted to provide for my kids. Rather than sending them to school 8 hours a day where they had all kinds of different people influencing them and the exact education as every other student, I imagined choosing curriculum that fit with the way they learned, getting them involved in extra curriculars that they were passionate about and helped turn them into well rounded and happy people, teaching them to engage and learn with people of all ages and not just their own, and traveling together so they could become cultured and learn about history as they were seeing it come to life. We’d live on a big ranch where they could ride four wheelers and horses, exploring and building forts after they finished their work; we’d have the house that all their friends wanted to come to even though we don’t have a TV.

But suddenly I found my biggest goal was getting my kids to school age so I could finally send them off somewhere for 8 hours a day, have some peace and quiet, and be “me” again. The house we live in one 1 acre that was supposed to be a stepping stone to a bigger piece of property started to feel like too much work and our dogs, cat, and chickens had become even more bodies I had to care for. And traveling with them? Ha! Forget it. Maybe when they were teenagers but definitely not through the early school years. I wanted nothing to do with the anything that came with more responsibility or work – I couldn’t handle the stress. And yet the more things I ignored to “cut the stress”, the lazier and less fulfilled I became. The one thing I was on top of was my obsession to keep the house orderly and clean just to maintain some kind of control in my life. I spent more time cleaning up messes than I did playing and laughing with my boys.

Then about a month ago as I was wrestling with what kindergarten to send Landon to next fall, a friend shared a blog about an interior designer who homeschooled her 6 kids on a homestead in Europe. My first thought was, “How could anyone possibly do all of that AND homeschool SIX kids AND stay sane?!” But as I began reading through her blog something I had buried deep inside of me started to re-awaken. Tears filled my eyes as God reminded me of the way I had always dreamt of raising my children…. and how painfully close I was to giving up on all of it. How much I had already given up- namely, my joy in being a mother. In relishing those little moments with a 4 year old who asks such thoughtful questions, and a 2 year old who makes you smile every time you watch his little waddle-run. I was going to ruin everything I held dear if I continued down this path, including my relationship with my boys.

“Lord,” I prayed, “Forgive me. Being a mom is harder than I ever imagined it would be. I’m not strong enough to do this. I need you. I know you put those dreams in my heart for a reason, change me so I can be the mom my kids deserve.”

After that day it was like all the armor I had put on to survive the previous year finally came tumbling off. Homeschooling suddenly seemed like a possibility again and I found a wonderful all-in-one Christian preschool curriculum to begin working with Landon on (it’s called the Good and the Beautiful, if you’re interested!). My desire for land and animals so my kids would spend their days outdoors enjoying a simpler life came flooding back after spending time with a sweet friend whose kids did just that. Days spent mostly at home suddenly seemed to be more alluring after reading about Charlotte Mason’s ways of raising kids. My stress levels came way down after taking the advice of another homeschool mom who rarely booked anything before 1 pm because “Slow mornings are their jam.”

So, I cleared as much of our schedule as I could, tried to put away my phone and other distractions, started trying to say “yes” more than I said “no”, and began looking for enriching things to spend our mornings doing together at home… and something amazing happened. The tantrums went way down, the boys started sleeping better, my patience returned, and I was enjoying my children again. Oh, how they make us laugh when we take the time to just watch and listen to them.

Now rather than having every day loaded down with activities, rushing the kids out the door in the morning so that we are all stressed and in bad moods, and spending too much time inside or on electronics, our days look a bit different. We all take our time in the morning, enjoy breakfast, the boys do their chores (like feeding the animals, helping with silverware, cleaning up their toys, making their bed), I read chapter books to the them that we all enjoy (we’re doing Little House on the Prairie right now), we snuggle and play with our puppy, Landon and I do his preschool work and Bible study while Cooper plays with legos, and I encourage them to play outside if it’s nice out. We have lunch together, Cooper takes his nap and Landon and I spend time together doing art, baking, playing games, or drinking tea on our porch swing, and then he gets to watch something educational as long as all of his chores/learning are done for the day which gives me some quiet time to decompress. After Cooper wakes up we go to Jazzercise or run errands while listening to books on tape (again, that we all enjoy), and then start dinner after Adam is home from work so I’m not super stressed trying to cook with the boys running around. We still have a playdate at least once a week, go to bible study on Wednesday mornings, and my moms on Tuesdays for a few hours, but other than the random thing here or there, that’s about the gist of it. As I get more into the stride of things I hope to start incorporating more music, gardening, walks, and other fun ways to learn.

I’m still figuring things out and trying to grow in many areas. This is just the very beginning of my journey to making life with kids slower and more intentional, and every day I am going to have to keep battling my flesh, leaning into God, and choosing the harder thing in the moment that reaps the most reward in the long run. And when I fail, I’m going to have to get back up and try again, leaving my guilt and shame at the cross rather than dragging it along behind me. My life probably won’t ever look like the perfect picture I had in my mind many years ago. We might still send Landon to charter school for a time, but it’ll be because it’s what’s best for him not out of desperation. We might not ever be able to afford that big ranch, but we’ll make sure to make outside play and living a bigger priority.  It’ll be a bit messier, a bit more chaotic, a bit harder, but that’s what will make it even more beautiful and fulfilling. Motherhood will never be easy, and every season will bring about its own set of trials. But I am just ever so grateful for a God who will never let us forget what He put us on this earth to do and equip us with the grace, courage, and patience with which to do it.

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” (Psa. 127:4)

To all you mammas out there who are in a difficult season right now, know you’re not alone and that there’s hope. Please reach out if you need encouragement! And to all you moms who have found joy in the simple and intentional way of raising children, I’d love to hear what your typical day is like/things that you and your kids enjoy doing together!

Fear, Anxiety, and My Struggle Trusting God

Don’t let this picture fool you. It’s fake.

Just like so many social media posts… including my own.

I think it’s time to be real.

My entire life I’ve deeply struggled with fear. To this day I can remember nightmares I had as a 3 year old. As I got older I’d make my little sister sleep in my room because I was so afraid of being alone. I felt like I was living in a constant state of survival mode, always imagining the worst possible outcomes and trying to protect myself against them. Questions of life and death, the two things I couldn’t understand no matter how hard I tried, always plagued me.

Early last fall, a dear mentor of mine spoke Joshua 1:1-9 over my life, specifically emphasizing “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is with you wherever you go.” Not long after that I went on a retreat where I felt closer to God than I ever had before. At the end of the retreat I fasted for two days, trying to get my heart to a place that was ready to fully surrender. After dinner when I broke my fast, I was hit with a horrible anxiety attack and stomach issues. Then every day after that I started having multiple anxiety attacks a day along with many other strange symptoms. Because food seemed to trigger a lot of my symptoms, I was afraid to eat most things and lost a ton of weight I didn’t have to lose. I had never looked in the mirror and felt scared before.

When the anxiety would hit, I’d have a hard time breathing and my mind would start racing, sure I was going to suffocate or die in some horrible way. For months I FELT like I was looking death in the face every day, and the fear of it consumed me. On top of all of this my family was going through multiple other intense trials which were opening our eyes to the unimaginable evil being inflicted upon children worldwide, and that even Christian kids were not immune to it. If God let someone else go through such suffering, who’s to say He wouldn’t let me? Or my own kids? Suddenly the world felt like an insanely dangerous place, governed by a God who lets bad things happen to even the most innocent of humans. Between this and the fact that I had been fasting right before all of my anxieties and sickness got triggered, there was a big part of me that was confused and angry with God. I felt I couldn’t fully trust Him or His plans for me.

In the back of my mind I could feel Him saying that He was letting me go through this to purge out the fear I’d held onto for so long, but sometimes I didn’t want to hear it. Other times I would see Him move in a big way on my or my family’s behalf and I’d feel a moment of unwavering faith… only to be dashed to pieces an hour later when new doubts would creep in. But throughout this time the scripture “Be strong and courageous” seemed to follow me everywhere I went – through a song I’d never heard before that God led me to, a gift from a new friend, the name chosen for our church, a perfectly timed teaching. There was no denying that God was trying to get my attention.

By spring time, after working with a functional medicine doctor for months, I was starting to physically feel a lot better. Most of my strange symptoms had gone and the anxiety attacks only tried to resurface if I ate a lot of my trigger foods. But emotionally and spiritually, I felt numb. When I would go to pray no words would come. I knew I was hiding from God and that I was being ridiculous, yet I couldn’t seem to stop.

Before I knew it, summer had arrived and I was due to head off to a messianic teen camp I’d never been to before. I knew no one going and started seriously questioning whether I should back out. After all, I had been struggling spiritually for months, what business did I have mentoring teenagers? But deep down I knew I needed to go, though I wasn’t quite sure why.

This years theme for Camp Yeshua was “Come Alive.” On the second day we were talking about the tree of knowledge and that the penalty for eating of it was death. One of my campers asked why God would make death the penalty (a question I had asked myself many times, thinking that it seemed cruel)… and suddenly I knew the answer, “Because He is so merciful and so loving. If He let us continue to live forever in our sin state, we would never be fully unified with Him the way we were meant to be and ultimately would destroy ourselves. God knew from the beginning that He wasn’t willing to lose us, so He allowed death to come into the picture so that we might be resurrected and brought back to Him fully restored. It wasn’t about punishing us as much as it was saving us.” I sat there for a minute, surprised at the words that had just come out of my mouth. How had I missed this for so long?

The next couple of days continued to chisel away at the walls I had built up to protect myself from everything I feared – including God. On the second to last night of camp I went on a walk alone and found myself standing in front of a large wooden cross on the hillside. I stared at it, trying to picture Jesus hanging there, dying for my sins. I felt the words that had been repeated over and over throughout the week resurface, “Bare your cross and follow me.” My immediate thought was that I was too scared – scared of the pain, suffering, and death that would surely come from my complete surrender. But oh so gently He reminded me, “Have you not been doing everything you can to fill that hole inside yourself, trying to escape the inner pain and suffering you experience every day because you are actually walking around in a spiritual state of death and decay? I’m not asking you to die to yourself and remain dead, but to die so that I can make you truly come alive.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had spent so much of my life terrified of what it would look like to fully give up control. Of the trials and tribulations I would go through like so many of His disciples. But what I wasn’t seeing was that by refusing to let go, I was making my life into the very thing I was scared of – one of pain, suffering, and death – and missing out on true unselfish love, overflowing joy, and peace that surpasses understanding.

“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I see this scripture in a whole new way now.

Since coming home from camp, I’ve felt a new inner peace. I’m still struggling with many other things I know God will need to deal with, but when I think about dying that same dread isn’t there anymore. As a Christian I know I have to continue to choose to die daily, and that I have many more lessons to learn and hard choices to make. But I pray that He continuously gives me the strength and courage to keep doing the things He asks me to do even when I’m scared; so that by my obedience I might continue to strip away the lies and see Him for who He really is: The God who takes the enemy’s only weapon against us and refashions it into the ultimate tool of love and mercy.

2 Cor. 10
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Travel Blog: Costa Rica

Day 1:

We were up at 3 am to catch our 6 am flight, but when you’re headed on a big trip it’s not like you sleep much the night before anyways! We had a quick layover in Fort Lauderdale, I finished an entire book on the plane (haven’t done that since before kids!), and were on the road in our rental 4×4 in Costa Rica by 1 pm.

It was a 3 hour ride to Osa where we were staying and a super easy drive. I found the hotel on Groupon but ironically enough it proved to be the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at! As soon as we pulled into the jaw dropping Mediterranean boutique hotel, Kailor (we got to know all the amazing staff at the hotel) came to greet us and take us to the pool to relax with a complimentary cocktail while he parked our car and took our bags to our room.

The Garden Room that we had booked also had an ocean view and an insanely comfy king bed.

After freshening up we headed to hotel bar to enjoy the live music they had that night and that’s when we met Matt and Jill- another young couple staying at the hotel who just happened to be the hotel owners daughter and son in law. They gave us the down low on the hotel and then we were taken to our table where we had one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever tasted- duck with cheese and mushroom risotto. I can’t even describe the explosion of flavor. Juan Pablo the hotel’s chef is super passionate about what he does and makes up all his own recipes using only local, fresh, organic ingredients. My only regret is that we didn’t eat here more during our visit.

Day 2:

Besides the amazing pictures and rave reviews, one of the main reasons I booked this hotel was because it offered a private excursion to Garza Island. Michael came to pick us up at 10 after eating a delicious Guatemalan breakfast. He drove us down to the boat that took us across the river to the island and then we began the short walk though the palm trees. He chopped down a few coconuts for us to drink and set us up with some hammocks before going off to start cooking lunch.

We explored the beach and found a ton of sand dollars and beautiful shells, swam in the insanely warm ocean water, and read in the hammocks while drinking cocktails and snacking on veggies. Later we ate the lunch that Michael made us and then watched him do his art in the sand before taking us back across the river. It’s hard to explain how neat of an experience this was. I’ve always had this dream of being on a private island relaxing with my man and I can now mark it off my bucket list! We felt like the Swiss Family Robinson’s- Clark edition haha.

When we got back to the hotel we found Matt and Jill at the pool and they invited us to dinner with them at the Bamboo Room. We enjoyed the live music and the food but more than that we enjoyed the company and conversation. They were an answer to prayer as we had asked that we make some friends on this trip. We just wish our travel dates had been more aligned!

Day 3:

We didn’t have any concrete plans for the day so we asked Gerard where he recommended and he sent us to a beach with a sea cave. It was a cool place but when we got there it was high tide and because of the strong waves crashing through the cave we couldn’t go in. Our next stop was to this little water fall on the river he had told us about, but it was a bit of a let down. We ended up just wading through the river trying to make the most of our morning.

For lunch we went to this little French bakery and enjoyed a few eclairs. We then headed to Elan which was a private beach we had access to through El Castillo (our hotel). We had the beach all to ourselves and spent the afternoon boogie boarding. It was so much fun! We caught quite a few waves and I was actually not terrible at it! Haha

At Matt and Jill’s recommendation we headed to a nearby hotel called 360 for dinner that they said had the most amazing view they’d ever seen. Did it ever! I wish the pictures could do it justice.

Day 4:

We sadly said goodbye to El Castillo and all the wonderful staff and headed into Uvita to check out the local market. We even ran into our friend Michael who does the sand art and bought a few of his photographs.

Next we headed to the Whale Tale which is this big sand bar that extends out into the shape of a whale tale but sadly after a really long walk to get there we found it covered in water from the high tide.

Since we were starting to get hungry we stopped at a cute restaurant along the main road and grabbed some lunch to go- a quesadilla for Adam and a gluten free margarita pizza for me. Oh and a watermelon and pineapple smoothie, yum! We chowed down on our way up to Nauyaca falls.

Since we didn’t plan ahead we arrived after the final truck ride to the falls and our only option was to make the 4 mile uphill hike on foot. Let me just say I’ve never sweated so much in my life!! It was an insanely long hard hike but look at this waterfall that greeted us at the end…

The water was gloriously cool and we spent about an hour swimming around and just soaking in the majesty of God’s creation. Thankfully the walk back was mostly down hill and seemed to go by much quicker and we even got to see some spider monkeys which were absolutely adorable.

Next on the docket was heading to Quepos to check into our new hotel, Villas Nicolas. It was a little less than an hour drive to our bungalow in the jungle with a fabulous view.

After taking much needed showers we went to dinner at the marina at Z Bar Gastropub. It was a really neat modern place and I had the most delicious ceviche.

Day 5:

After eating a quick breakfast at the hotel we were picked up by ADR adventures. It was time to go zip lining! Turned out we were the only ones that had booked the tour so it was just us and the guides- The Indian, Water Buffalo, and Papparzo (as they affectionately called each other).

This pretty sweet SUV took us way up a mountain to their base camp which was an old school bus (how on earth did they get that up there?) and a bamboo hut. No sooner had we gotten decked out in our harnesses and helmets did it start pouring rain. But did that change things? Of course not, it’s Costa Rica, pura vida! So on we went to the first zip line… which was the tallest and longest one right off the bat, go figure. (I am super afraid of heights but I had decided I would suck it up because of the rave reviews I had read about this tour.) Once the guides literally pushed me off the mountain I was able to enjoy the amazing view as I soared over the canyon. This tour was called the 10 in 1 because there were lots of different activities in one tour. There were quite a few zip lines, a couple rappels, a zip rappel, and a Tarzan swing. Most of them were terrifying but the waterfalls that we were swinging back and forth over were pretty amazing, and being in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle while it rains and you watch the fog move in over the mountains was magical.

magical.

After we finished and made the long trek back up the mountain we were rewarded with amazing burritos and sweet tea (these guys know how Texans like their tea).

Back at our hotel it was still raining so we decided to have a chill evening with a couple glasses of wine, some chocolate, and a few good books out on our porch overlooking Manuel Antonio National Park. Later we went to dinner at a cool place called the Falafel Bar… and per usual, passed out early haha.

Day 6:

Usually I am a “travel itinerary” kind of girl but Adam asked to not have every day booked with activities so we didn’t have anything specific planned for our last day. We attempted to do a little shopping (mostly to get a present for Landon because it was all he asked about when we called to talk to him lol) but there really wasn’t much to choose from. Then we attempted to go to the National Park but it was closed on Mondays. We ended up having a guy talk us into doing a mangrove boat tour because he promised we would be able to play with wild monkeys. Before heading out we grabbed lunch at a French cafe called Emilio’s. This was our view.

Once we got on the little boat and had motored around for a while I was about to accept that we had gotten gypped when the guide pulled the boat over next to some mangroves and started making all these crazy sounds. Before we knew it there were monkeys coming out to greet us! He gave us some banana to give them and one in particular was especially brave and even jumped on our heads. The highlight of the tour though was when the monkey climbed on to one of the other passengers shoulders and then peed down his back. The guide tried to play it off like he had just dropped water on the guy so he didn’t freak out… but when he gets home and smells that shirt, he’ll know the truth haha.

Other than the monkeys the day had been kind of a bust so what better way to salvage it than with a couple massages to end the trip off right? (Plus we had some seriously sore muscles after all the hiking) We went to a place called the Raindrop Spa and got a couples massage with a chocolate scrub while listening to the sounds of nature. It was heavenly! (I finally found a masseuse who was on par with my mom’s awesome skills)

Nice and relaxed we made the two and a half hour drive back toward San Jose for our last nights stay near the airport. I had booked us in at a boutique hotel at the last minute and we weren’t sure what to expect, but it was lovely! We spent the evening eating take out, enjoying the hot tub, and playing boggle.

Day 6:

We enjoyed some yummy breakfast tacos on the porch and then headed for the airport.

Traveling home took all day but it was so worth it! We absolutely loved Costa Rica and can’t wait to go back and explore even more. Friendly people, delicious food, amazing views, fun activities, great culture… what more can you ask for?

In our case, two adorable boys to come home to ❤️

The Idols on my Mantle: A Christian’s Confession

The center of a home is usually the living room, and the center of the living room is usually a fireplace. Over this fireplace there is often a mantle…. Where a person or family will display things most important to them. You might find family portraits, a priceless piece of art, trophies and awards, or any number of other things. The point is that whatever you have on display is there because you want it to be the focal point of the room.

What if I asked you what the focal point of your life is? As a Christian, you’d probably answer “God”. But if I walked into the house of your soul, and stepped into the “spiritual” living room…. what would I actually find displayed there on the mantle? What are the things that honestly take up the majority of your focus?

An easy way to gauge this is by looking at what we spend most of our time doing and talking about. You may tell me that God is your focus, but when I look on your mantle it’s not a Bible I see sitting there. What is it is I see? Well, for every person it’s different… but what I can tell you is that if it’s not God, it’s an idol.

You see, an idol is anything that we put before God. It can be our family, our job, our hobbies… literally anything. If you spend more time focusing on anything more than you spend on living God’s way of life, then you are in essence worshipping an idol. There are many different spiritual idols I could talk about but I really want to focus on the 3 mentioned in this verse:

“For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- are not from the Father, but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)

As Christians, we’d like to think that the idols listed here as being “from the world” are things that will stay there. But let’s be honest, they’ve crept into the spiritual Church and have taken hold…. especially in the lives of the younger generations. And no, I’m not just sitting here pointing fingers. I’ve been guilty of every single one of these things, and I’m talking to myself just as much to anyone else. So let’s just be real with ourselves and each other and talk about the elephants in the room.

Idol 1: The Lusts of the Flesh

We’re human and we have basic needs. Things like sleep, food, shelter, and community. But we also have desires, some of them sinful, and some of them neutral. Either way, those desires when continually practiced turn to vices. Let’s just name a few: sexual promiscuity, TV and video game addiction, overeating, greed, materialism, alcoholism, and partying. If you know it’s sinful, or maybe it’s not sinful it just takes time away from God and serving others, and yet you continually do it…. You have created an idol.

I hate to say it but I see all of these things in the lives of many a young Christian. Almost every social event is focused around alcohol, our conversation at church services revolves around work, our money is spent on cars we can’t afford and gadgets we don’t need, we spend more time staring at a screen than we do our Bibles, excuses are being made for messing around before marriage, and many have even made the Feast of Tabernacles a focus on materialism!

We’ve been taught well, we know what is right and what is wrong… so why do we keep letting our fleshly lusts dictate the actions we take in our daily lives? If we keep going along, convincing ourselves that one day we’ll give up our bad habits and turn our focus back to God, it’s going to be too late.

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

We mustn’t give up our souls for the sake of our flesh!

Idol 2: The Lust of the Eyes

Beauty is everything these days. Not only are we obsessed with how we look, but with how the world around us looks. With things. We want a bigger house, a newer car, better looking clothes. The greed and materialism of this world has taken over and many of us have forgotten the Biblical examples to “store up our treasures in heaven and not in the things of this world”. We keep convincing ourselves that we deserve nice things because we work hard. And then we look at the starving children in other nations and think, “I wish someone would do something about that.”

Then we’ve got the physical side to it… who’s sexy, who can take the prettiest picture, who’s been to the most exotic places, who wears the cutest clothes. “Selfies” are the most popular kind of picture to post on facebook. When we choose who to date we’re often more focused on how they look than who they are. Men have been sucked into pornography and women into vanity. The human body is for nothing more than pleasure and objectification.

How many mornings do we spend more time picking out an outfit and getting ready physically for the day than we do spiritually? Yes, even on the Sabbath. Are we really more worried about what others see on the outside than what God sees on the inside? Which of these things has an eternal impact?

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov. 31:30)

Let’s invest time into the beauty that matters.

Idol 3: The Pride of Life

This can come in many different forms…. But a common theme is a pride in our own wisdom and knowledge. We can be so prideful that we think we have all the answers and refuse to let anyone teach us anything. Even God. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’ve learned all the truth the Bible has to teach us, and are so sure that we’ve got it all figured out we limit God’s ability to reveal even deeper truth. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others and think we’re doing “pretty well”. But when we instead measure ourselves by Christ, we get a very different picture. Being spiritually humble is not always our strong suit, and it’s something we need to work on.

Another way we can be prideful is in human accomplishment and all the “great things we’ve done. “Take science for example. The whole world is in awe of the scientific accomplishments we’ve been able to make as humans…. And yet when it comes to most scientists, the Creator of all is conveniently forgotten. A Christian with God’s Holy Spirit will admit that they themselves can’t begin to comprehend the ways and things of God… and yet we’ve duped ourselves into believing that an atheist with a science degree is smart enough to figure out how His creation works. Many of them have deceived themselves into thinking that they’re so smart that not only can they understand the ways of God, but that they can play God (take for example genetically modifying our foods to make what God originally created even “better”). Obviously most of the Christians I’m writing to aren’t scientists, but the problem begins when we start to put the wisdom and knowledge of such men ahead of the wisdom from the Bible, or try and make the Bible fit with the world’s interpretation. There’s a reason evolution and the Big Bang have led away so many Christians… because any science or wisdom of men not based on a foundation of the Word of God can lead to nothing but lies.

It’s so easy to become prideful in what we’ve done. We like to take the praise when it’s really owed to God. How easy it is for us to convince ourselves that we’ve got everything under control…. Just look at how little we depend on God in this day and age. He’s merely a blip on our radar every day…. A 10 minute prayer thrown up to Him before we go to bed and we’re good. Food and shelter? Got it. Money in the bank? Check. Roof over our heads? No problem. Now of course when things start to get bad we invest a bit more time into prayer and asking Him for help… but the second things are good again, we’re back to relying on ourselves.

“This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Let’s start giving God the glory in everything we do and allow Him to reveal deeper spiritual truths!

Brothers and sisters, I write this because I’m concerned for the next generations. Dark times are upon us and I need your encouragement to leave these idols behind just as you need mine. Satan is the father of lies and he’s so skilled at deceiving that he has even infiltrated the Christian church… and then deceived us from seeing that he’s there. We have to admit that he’s there and then FIGHT BACK.

God wants his church pure and without blemish. We need to take a long hard look at our lives, repent with all our might, and pray for God’s spirit to change our hearts and purge out the sin and idols from our lives. We don’t have the time to be lukewarm. We have a calling to live up to. A light to shine. People to serve. And a loving Father who’s waiting with open arms to welcome back His prodigal children. Run to Him, and don’t look back.

The context of 1 John 2:16 puts it all into perspective:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Those “Irritating” Differences in the Body of Christ

Anyone who knows my husband and I knows how different we are. He’s outgoing, he’s a server and a doer, he connects to things/people on more of a logical level, and is into all things camo. I, however, am more of an ambivert (kind of go back and forth between being extroverted and introverted), I’m a thinker and a planner, I connect to things/people on an emotional level, and am into all things NOT camo. Often times our differences cause conflicts and frustrations. I get frustrated with him when he doesn’t take time to think things through before he does them, he gets frustrated with me when I spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing… He doesn’t understand why I have to sneak off into corners by myself when I’ve been in a big group of people for too long, I can’t understand why he’s always running off to talk to or take care of other people when I want him to spend more time with me… and the list goes on and on. Sometimes we comment to each other how much easier our marriage would be if we were more alike… and you know what, it’s probably true.

But, there’s a reason opposites attract… and there’s also a reason divorce rates are so high. In the beginning this person who is so different from you is exciting and mysterious, but after time goes on and the newness loses its sparkle, you suddenly find yourself only noticing the differences…. And how stinkin’ annoying they are! Let’s face it, we get stuck in OUR ways… And we don’t like people to come along with different ways of thinking and doing things. After all, our ways are tried and true… they’ve been working for us so far, we’re happy with them, so they’re obviously the best, right? Oh how I wish I could say yes…. but I think we all know how incorrect that would be.

God’s ways are best, end of the story. But do you know what’s so interesting? He only gave PARTS of His perfect ways to each of us. This may seem a little confusing… Why would God do that? Why would He only give small portions of His likeness to each of us, therefore making us all so different? Doesn’t He know how difficult this makes life when it comes to dealing with other people?! Well of course He does… but we don’t come to salvation by taking the easy way, do we?

Let’s take a look at 1 Cor. 12 starting in vs. 12, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? “

What is God telling us here? He’s saying that we… you… me… every single baptized individual makes up a part of the Body. That the Body is not a physical church, or a single person, but rather a group of people… and that He created each and every person in that group to fill a unique purpose. Each one of us were made differently in order to work in complete harmony with one another. An eye cannot be a foot, and neither can a shoulder be a stomach. We all have different functions… But why? Why only give us “parts”? Why not a full and functioning “body” to every person? Because of this one word right here:

Humility.

Not only can we never form a perfect body without God’s spirit, likewise we can never form a perfect body without EACH OTHER! We are nothing on our own. God wanted us to learn to lean on one another, to appreciate what the other has to offer, to LOVE one another not despite their differences, but because of their differences! He wants us to see each and every human life as unique and precious… just like He does. He wants us to realize that our ways are not the only ways, nor are they the best.

Because it’s so easy to get to this point isn’t it? To start thinking that everyone around us has it wrong, and if they would JUST LISTEN to how we think it should be done, things would be a whole lot better. But where’s the humility in this thought? Where’s the wisdom? Where’s the understanding that we don’t always have the right answer? And maybe things would be a whole lot better for us if we would JUST LISTEN…. And let our pride just slip away.

Continuing on with verse 20 – “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.”

How many offenses have been caused in Christ’s body because an eye has said to a hand “I don’t need you! The way you do things is not the way I do things, so either start working like an eye or get lost!” What is the result of a scenario like this? Well, either the hand listens to the eye and does all it can to fit into a position it was never meant to fill, or it realizes if it wants to keep being the hand it was designed to be, it has to go find another part of the body that is more accepting of it. Either way, what is the result? We are left with a broken, dis functional, and divided Body of Christ. Over here is part of His body but it’s full of ears to hear, and no hands to do, and over there is a part of His body but it’s full of hands to do, and no ears to hear. We cannot let this happen!

We have to remember that every part has a strength, purpose, and gift… and we should be seeking to get to know one another on more than a surface level so we can truly appreciate and understand each other. It’s not about every part functioning on its own, but rather each part doing its job, and then releasing control to the next part so that it can do the same. Think about what happens when we eat – our mouth chews, our throat swallows, the stomach digests, and on it goes. Each fills a very important role, but the only way our body will ever be nourished is if every part works together. And in order for us to trust each other enough to work together, we must first get to know one another.

Finishing up in verse 24 – “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Isn’t this beautiful? God wants us to be so close that we, every part of the body, are one. He wants us to be so connected that we feel everything each other feels. For us to constantly be looking out for one another and encouraging each other. For us to never feel alone in our joys or struggles. When we take the time to serve, talk to, and spend time with our brothers and sisters, we begin to cultivate the kind of bond and trust it takes to function in the beautifully harmonious way that is described above.

If we ever find ourselves feeling lost in the Body, not sure exactly what our role is, or what gifts we might have, we should start following the advice of Matt. 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door shall be open.” When our hearts are in the right place, when we are truly seeking to edify God and those around us, God isn’t going to withhold showing us how to do so! He WANTS us to get to this place. He wants us to come to the point of humility where we look at ourselves and say, “I have nothing good enough to offer. Lord, only by the gifts of your Spirit, and the guiding of Your hands will I ever be able to truly edify the Body. Please, show me what you want me to be doing, and give me the gifts with which to do it.”

Even through the working of the Holy Spirit in both of our lives, my husband and I will always be different. He will always be the kind of guy who can make a friend out of any stranger in five minutes flat and who loves to serve with his hands. I, however, have just not been gifted in this way. (at least not now)  But you know what? I’m ok with that…. because God’s plan is perfect. He didn’t give me the tools for the same purpose as my husband, but He has given me tools for another (one that I am still working on figuring out). Realizing this makes me so grateful for people like my husband who can fill that role like I never could. It reminds me that not only does the Body need him and his gifts to be whole, but that our marriage needs his gifts and differences to make to make us (as one) more well rounded and Christ-like. It reminds me that I would only be half the person I am if I hadn’t married the sometimes irritating but oh so amazingly different man that I did.

The Love of a Child

There are some feelings when it comes to being a parent that nobody can prepare you for. One of the biggest is how much you  will love your child. Everyone tells you, “It’s a love like nothing you’ve ever felt,” and you picture yourself holding your first born and know in your heart that you will love them so insanely much that you think you can imagine the love, that you can understand it.

But you can’t.

Just like you can’t imagine how much more you’re going to love that child with every passing day. The day they are born you are so filled with love for them, you think that you couldn’t possibly love them any more than you do in that moment.

But you do.

Every day you grow to know that precious little being more and more as you watch them take their first step, say their first word, and show their first interests. There’s a big part of you that can’t wait for them to grow up, because you are so excited to learn even more about them; to see them grow and develop their personality and interests.

But as excited as you are, you’re equally as terrified.

Because every “first” leads you closer and closer to a “last.” The last time you’ll nurse, the last time they’ll crawl, the last bed time story, their last night at home. Those first few months may seem like a lifetime, but before you know it, their lifetime will have gone by. And though you’d love to stop the clock, or change time…

You wouldn’t change a thing about them.

You love everything about your child, even their more difficult traits. When they look at you with that ornery little face, or insist, “I do it myself!” you can’t help but love them for it, because you know exactly where that orneriness came from. You understand they come by it honestly. It’s just another part of the puzzle that makes them all the more yours. You watch them bloom into their own independent person, with thoughts and needs totally different from your own, and as frustrated as it makes you at times…

You love them all the more for it.

Being a parent means truly knowing what it is to feel an all-consuming love. The other night as I held my son in my arms, his head snuggled under my chin, both arms wrapped around my neck, I can’t describe the feeling of complete peace that came over me. I didn’t want to put him down. I didn’t want those chubby little hands to stop sweetly caressing my arm.

There is something so pure and so powerful about a child’s love.

The fact that there is nothing forcing them to love you. There’s no requirement, no responsibility, no duty…. They just do. Fully, unequivocally, they give their hearts to you. They trust you. They love you not because of anything you did or didn’t do, not because of who you are, what you have, or what you can give to them. There’s no logic behind it, no selfish motives, no evil intentions. They love you purely because you love them. Because you are their world.

And there’s nothing like it.

9 Postpartum Horrors No One Tells You About

You did it! After 9 months of waddling around pregnant, and hours stuck in a torturous labor you thought would never end, you finally hold your sweet baby in your arms. You look down at this beautiful little bundle and feel your whole body relax. Finally… you are at peace. The weird pregnancy symptoms, the aches and pains of labor, all finally over…. Right?

Wrong.

But you carry on in your blissfully unaware state, thinking it’ll be all roses and unicorns from here on out, because nobody told you about postpartum. (You’ll later angrily ask your mother, “Why didn’t you warn me about this!? And she’ll sheepishly say, “Well, I didn’t want to scare you… and I really wanted a grandchild…” Oh wow, thanks mom!)

 

  1. The After Birth

Oh yeah, guess what ladies?! You know that awful labor you just went through? Well… after a couple minutes of peacefully getting to bond with your little one, you’ll suddenly feel those sharp pains again, and think, “Oh no! Am I having twins!?” Well not exactly, it’s time to birth your placenta! Let’s just say it is not pleasant, and I’ve heard it only gets worse with subsequent pregnancies. Then, once you finally give birth to your child’s ugly step sister, your personal torturer (aka your nurse) will descend on you. Punching and prodding your stomach like it’s her own sick version of whack a mole…. trying to make sure they get any and all “leftovers” out. (mmmm…leftovers… what!? It’s been a long labor and you’re hungry…)

 

  1. Sweet Relief

If you’re like me, you might be so weak from loss of blood, that merely trying to stand makes you so incredibly dizzy, that you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom. In which case, your torturer will hand you a bed pan and sweetly say, “Well, if you can’t go in here, we’re gunna have to catheterize you!” (Oh wow, really!? Sign me up!) You begrudgingly take the bed pan and think to yourself “I was so sure I had another 60 years before I would see this low point of my life…”. Now, you awkwardly get yourself situated… and wait… and wait…. And wait. You try harder to pee than you ever have in your entire life, but it’s as if that part of your body isn’t even attached to you anymore! Then, out of nowhere, you hear that oh so sweet sound that’s going to save you from the dreaded catheter.  But alas, as it continues… and continues… you start to get a bit concerned, because as you previously realized, you have absolutely no muscle control from the waist down. That’s right, there’s no stopping this train! So when you feel your butt cheeks slowly starting to become immersed in something warm, you just have to sit there and take it…. whilst trying (and failing) to convince yourself that you’re actually sitting in an extremely small hot tub.

 

  1. Bye Bye Baby Belly

Well, you made it through the hospital horrors and now it’s finally time to go home! You’ve looked forward to this moment for 9 months – the day you finally get to put on your pre pregnancy jeans! But wait…. They won’t fit! What is this!? Why do you still look like you’re 6 months pregnant! There’s no baby in there! This is so unfair! Oh! And why does it feel like that!? Like a bowl of jello… or like your guts are just swimming around in there (oh wait, they are!) You make a silent promise to not touch your stomach again until it stops looking and feeling like something belonging to Jabba the Hut.

 

  1. Breastfeeding Support

You were told that you would need a lot of support at the beginning of nursing… that you might even consider joining a nursing support group. To be honest, you laughed at this. How much support could you possibly need? You just stick your baby to your boob and it eats, right? Ha… if only. Your boobs, the ones you used to love so much (especially in push up bras), quickly become the bane of your existence. First, they start to crack, bleed, and scab. (A friend of mine had such a big scab on one of hers that when it came off she was totally convinced that it was her nipple that fell off). But then, your milk comes in…. and you’re suddenly endowed better than Dolly Parton. Which would be great fun, except for the fact that it can lead to milk fever (where you feel like you have the flu, just because your boobs joined the Dairy Farmers of America), clogs, and mastitis. And don’t even get me started on what those things will look after your year of breastfeeding is over…. (think very sad deflated balloons with large unusually shaped… other parts)

 

  1. Modesty…. What?

What other women did warn you about was how your modesty would go right out the window as soon as those hard contractions hit, but what they didn’t tell you was that it would stay gone for quite some time. Your husband stares in horror as you strut shamelessly around the house in nothing but an adult diaper, jelly belly flapping in the wind, because the mere thought of trying to squeeze your swollen chapped baby makers into a bra makes you want to cry. Let’s be honest, even the idea of putting a loose fitting tank top on makes you want to cry. And pants? What are pants? (On the plus side, this new sexy look of yours will probably make your hubby’s six week wait quite a bit easier)

 

  1. The TMI Part

Before birth, you were quite confident with your knowledge about how babies entered this world. But after birth…. you were convinced you had been sorely misinformed. Like seriously… your baby must have gotten confused on his journey and come out the wrong door. When you say “everything hurts” after birth, you literally mean EVERYTHING.

And then there’s the fact that you literally have a fear of going “numero dos”. You’re already so sore, the idea of anything else coming out down there has you in sheer panic mode. So, during the first two weeks postpartum, Smooth Move to you is like crack to an addict. Oh, and hemorrhoids? Yeah… they’re not just for old people…

 

  1. The Smell

It’s really ironic how giving birth to new life smells like death. At first you run around your house sniffing everything, trying to figure out where that awful smell is permeating from, telling your husband to stop lighting them off all the time. He just gives you a pitying look, forcing you to accept what you’ve been hopelessly denying… that the terrible smell’s originator is you.  After 8 showers, 4 loofahs, and an automotive air freshener in the shape of a tree thrown into your adult diaper for good measure, you finally give up. (Seriously kid, the least you could have done was spray some febreeze on your way out)

 

  1. You Become A Human Fountain

Baby cries? You leak. Baby smiles? You leak. Drink a glass of water? You leak. You go through an entire jumbo box of nipple pads before the end of the first week. But that’s not the only place you’re suddenly leaking fluids… night after night you wake up in a pool of your own sweat (with a hint of breast milk). As if the 3 hours of sleep you’re getting a night (what with having a newborn and all) weren’t bad enough, now you’re sweating like a pig every time you close your eyes. Oh… and then there’s the crying. Lots and lots of crying. And no, I’m not talking about your baby.

 

  1. Your Luscious Locks

Just when you’re feeling at your physical lowest, wanting nothing more than to shed that extra baby weight, your hair starts shedding instead. But this is no normal shedding…. think golden retriever right before a Texas summer. All that gorgeous thick healthy hair you accumulated while pregnant starts to exit as quickly as it came. While showering you have more hair going down your drain than water. Suddenly, you start finding little bald spots around your hairline, and melt into a pot of tears…. Completely convinced you’re going to go totally bald. But not to worry! You still hold on to a couple tufts. J

~~~

But you see the thing is, no matter how terrible your pregnancy, labor, or postpartum times are, you would do it all again in a heartbeat, because that’s how much you love your child. They are worth every sacrifice because they truly are your greatest blessing.

A Hairstylist’s 10 Most Dreaded Clients

Being a hairdresser means coming in contact with all kinds of people. It’s a bit like playing roulette when it comes to new clients… you never know who’s going to walk through that door. While of course we love our clients (I mean, they do pay our bills!), there are a couple types of people that leave us, well… wanting to pull our hair out. To all my fellow hairdressers out there, this blog’s for you. 

 

The Wanna-be Hairdresser Clients

Oh boy… here we go. So these are the clients who come in, sit down, and then spend their entire appointment time telling us how to do our job. They tell you they want to go lighter, but when you say “in order to go lighter we will have to bleach your hair,” they tell you you’re wrong, and that color will lift color just fine. (I’m sorry, did you spend a year of your life studying color theory?)

They bring their $4 bottle of Pantene shampoo in and tell you to use it when washing their hair because it’s way better than the professional $40 bottle you use.

But your all-time favorite is when they literally take the brush out of your hand to show you how to properly blow dry their hair.

All you can do is silently seethe and wonder why they even came to a salon in the first place since they clearly could do everything you do at home.

 

The Contradicting Clients

This is the type of client that sits in your chair and says, “I’m looking for a change!”

You smile and say, “Great! What kind of change are you looking for?”

The client replies, “Well, I’m tired of my long hair, but I don’t want to cut it shorter.”

A little confused but still trying to remain positive you say, “So you must be looking for a change in color then! How about we do a nice chocolate brown?”

“Oh no! I don’t want to color it,” they say, “I mean, I definitely want a big change, but I want my color to stay the same, I don’t want to take any length off… Oh! And I definitely don’t want to have to style it! But other than that, I’m open to anything!”

You stare blankly at this client while wondering if they got dropped on their head as a baby.

 

The Magic Wand Clients

This is the client that comes in with 5 years’ worth of jet black box color on their hair and wants to go platinum blonde…. The same day.

This is the client that comes in for a haircut and brings a picture of someone with super long, thick, curly, hair and says, “I want my hair to look just like theirs!” while they themselves sport a short, thin, straight mop of hair.

This is the client who says, “I want to wake up every day with my hair looking great without me having to do anything to it.”

This is the client that comes in with hair so fried that you’re afraid simply brushing it will result in bald spots. They, however, want a full highlight and nothing less.

Come on people, we’re hairdressers, not fairy godmothers!

 

The Time-less Clients

Ok, so technically there are two types of Time-less Clients:

The perpetually late client- This type of client arrives a minimum of 20 minutes late to every appointment. In the beginning they apologize profusely and offer up a rare assortment of excuses. However, with time, they’ll eventually come in 20 minutes late while drinking their non-fat chai latte and chatting on the phone to their sister… then proceed to sit in your chair and give you an ‘I have no shame’ look. You spend the rest of their appointment time flying around in Tasmanian Devil mode, trying to keep their lateness from derailing the rest of your appointments for the day.

The perpetually canceling client- This type of client is arguably much worse than the perpetually late client…. Because well, they never even show up. When you see them on your books you inwardly cringe…. For though you’ve never actually met Sally Ann, you know her. You know her all too well. Just like clockwork, she’ll call 5 minutes after her appointment time, and say she’ll have to reschedule… leaving a gaping hole in your books, and in your wallet. 

 

The Fun-house Mirror Clients

These clients do have one great attribute – they know exactly what they want. But these clients also have one terrible attribute – they know exactly what they want, no matter what you think. These are the people that have been sporting the same hairstyle since the 1980’s, that love a good mullet, and that insist on straight across bangs when they have an extremely round face. You look at them and wonder what it is they’re seeing when they look in the mirror. Though admittedly they are always happy when they leave, you still want to go crawl in a hole for fear of someone seeing that you were responsible for that.

 

The High Maintenance Client

These are the clients that live by an unspoken rule that says they can never be happy with a service until it has been performed a minimum of 3 times.

These are the clients that allow you to completely blow dry their hair before saying, “You know, I think I want it shorter.” (and…. Que fake smile as you grit your teeth and say, “Oh sure, no problem!”)

These are the clients that ask for cotton balls because they can’t take the slightest chance of getting water in their ears while you rinse their color out (how do these people take showers? Or swim?)

 

The Crazy Client

Now these clients really do come in all shapes and sizes… and let me tell you, I’ve had my fair share of them. I’m pretty sure the phrase “It’s the crazy one’s you’ve gotta watch out for” was coined in a beauty salon. Most of the time you’ll know right off the bat you’re dealing with someone who’s a bit…. well, batty…. but other times the crazy pops out, yells “surprise!”, and punches you in the nose. Sometimes you’ll have enjoyed a delightful two hour appointment talking to a sugary sweet client … when during the finishing touches they notice that you didn’t cut their bangs short enough, and when you ask them how much shorter they’d like them, they suddenly jump out of their chair screaming, “Forget it! You’ll never get it right!” … all before storming out of the salon and taking your tip with them.

Other times the craziness is apparent the moment their butt hits your chair. Like the client who brings pictures of plants to the salon to look at in order to keep themselves calm whilst getting their hair cut. Or the client who is so paranoid of being pampered that she refuses to sit down in the waiting area. Or the one who rips her smock off, exposing her bra to a room full of people, in order to make a quick exit because she “just knows you were talking bad about her in the back room!”

Oh yes, these people exist… and they’re the ones that make me question my chosen profession.

 

The Mind Reading Clients

They’re the ones that come in with multiple pictures of hairstyles that look nothing alike and say, “I want to look like this!” You shuffle through the stack of photos that include a girl with a blonde pixie cut, one with shoulder length brown bob, and another with long red curls, then think, “Ok so, judging by these pictures you want to look like …. a girl.”

 These are the clients that tell you they want their hair cut… but when you ask them if they want layers or face framing or texturizing, they get frustrated and say, “I don’t know! Just shorter!” You do your best to cut their hair exactly around the parameters of ‘just shorter’, but when you turn them to face the mirror for a look at the final product their face automatically clouds over with an, ”Oh….that’s not exactly what I was wanting…”

I’m sorry, did you confuse this salon with ‘Madame Ruby’s Psychic Readings’ down the street?

 

The Cheapskate Clients

These are the clients who wipe your salon out of free samples because they ask for 10 every time they come in because they don’t want to pay for a $10 bottle.

These are the clients that will find any possible thing they can complain about, and call your manager saying, “Yeah, um I was happy with my haircut and everything, but she kind of pulled my hair when she combed it…” all in the hopes of getting compensated with a free blow-dry or deep conditioner.

And my personal favorite… these are the clients that call six weeks after their first appointment and tell you they’re no longer happy with their hair color and want a redo…. you refrain from telling them that the reason they’re no longer happy with their color is because they now have six weeks’ worth of grow out and are due to come back again, because you know they’re well aware of this and just want their hair done for free.

 

All in all, I love my job. Clients like these are (thankfully) few and far between, and though they can be a bit frustrating in the moment, they do make for fabulous dinner table stories and entertaining blog posts! 

Travel Blog: Playa Del Carmen, MX

Early this morning my hubby and I got back from a four day/five night trip to Mexico. We had such a wonderful time! For those of you interested in knowing all the juicy details of our adventure, here you go!

Feb. 11, 2016: Honey, we have arrived!

When we first checked in at the airport, I almost had a heart attack. The security guard looked at my passport and said, “Sorry, this name doesn’t match your ticket. It says West.” Ahhhhh! How could I have forgotten to change the name on my passport!? I was sure our whole trip was going to have to get canceled. Thankfully though, I gave him my ID and he said that would suffice. Whew!

We landed in Cancun around 10:30 pm after a quick 2 hour flight. Since we got in so late and didn’t know our way around public transportation yet, we decided to bite the bullet and pay for a private shuttle to take us down to Playa Del Carmen (via USA Transfers). It was quick, simple, and they dropped us off directly at our little bed and breakfast, Buen Dia Playa. Located in the quiet, beautiful community of Playacar, we felt safe and at home the moment we stepped out of the shuttle. I found the house on airbnb.com and it was owned by two Italian guys who had relocated to Mexico.

The keys were left in the lock with a sign on the door that read “If you need anything call… the internet password is…” so we wandered in and found the house empty… except for some dude passed out on the couch. Since it was after midnight, we assumed the owners had just gone to bed (maybe that was how Italians did things?), and decided to make ourselves at home. We headed up the stairs where we easily found our room and promptly passed out. (careful not to drink the water while brushing our teeth! neither of us wanted to meet Montezuma)

Feb. 12: Cenotes Galore!

Our alarm went off at 7:00 am (way too early for vacation!), but it was for a good reason…. we were headed on an adventure tour! We quickly got ready and headed downstairs, where we were met with a look of shock by a shirtless Italian man (really, we should have been the shocked ones…). He said a bunch of stuff in Italian while gesturing to the door, the key rack, and the upstairs. While we had no idea what he was saying, we knew he wasn’t angry with us as he kept smiling and laughing. Finally we were able to figure out that the Italian owner who spoke English was out of town, usually they don’t leave the keys in the doors, and that he was the guy passed out on the couch. He gave us our keys and we headed off to the pickup spot for Aventuras Mayas.

Once the shuttle dropped us at the site (way back in the boonies) we were greeted by our tour guide who explained what we would be doing for the day. First up, an ATV ride to a cenote lagoon! The ATVs were the big fancy ones, and I rode behind Adam. It was a fun ride with some good bumps and mud holes. When we arrived at the lagoon, we were ecstatic to find a huge zip line going into it. It was a dreamy location, the water was so clear and warm, and the zip line was a blast. (probably one of our favorite things we did the whole trip)

cenote

After drying off we took the ATV’s back to camp and then geared up for more zip lining. It consisted of three tall towers in the middle of the jungle that just about gave me a heart attack. I got stuck in the middle of two out of three of them and had to get rescued. Definitely my least favorite part of the “adventure” haha.

aventuras-mayas

Afterward we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed into a cenote cave. There were bats flying all around (really cool!) and the cenote was just beautiful. The water was about 20 degrees colder than I like but the experience was so worth it. We snorkeled through the cavern, keeping an eye our for stalactites above our heads, and stalagmites below us in the water. This was another highlight of the trip. Definitely not something you can do in Texas!

cave

After we finished snorkeling they provided a buffet lunch and then took us back to our hotel. We needed to grab a few things and hit up an ATM so we walked down to the local shopping area where we ran into this adorable little creature. You have no idea how excited I was!

monkey

We spent the next two hours back at the B&B having one of the strangest/most fun conversations with our host, Nicola, out by the pool. Between the little bit of Spanish we each knew, gestures, and our phone translators, we were able to understand most (I think?) of what the other was saying. And if we didn’t… well we had fun trying! We shared our rum, he shared his wine, what more could you need to start a new friendship? ha!

After getting ready for dinner we took a taxi to a restaurant called Alux Caverna. Literally… it was a restaurant in a cenote (that’s right, cenote numero tres for the day!). The ambiance in this place was seriously the coolest I have ever experienced…. but to say the food was a disappointment would be an understatement. We both ordered the T-bone and it was literally so fatty and unlike any texture we had ever had that we actually asked the waitress, “This is beef…right?” (it was). Not only that, but it lacked any sides! They literally sprinkled three baby corns on top and called it a meal (an expensive one). Even the cheesecake was a huge letdown (and I very rarely get letdown by cheesecake). It came out the size of a sand dollar and well… maybe it was for the best, since there was less we had to force ourselves to eat.

This was the view from our table (that’s water at the bottom). Like I said, ambiance was amazing… but I’d recommend just going for drinks.

cenote cave

Feb. 13: A Day of Rest

On our second day we got up and enjoyed the yummy breakfast made for us at the B&B. We enjoyed all the cool outdoor space and listened to a sermon up on the roof before checking out. (aren’t these bar swings the coolest!?)

roof

We then took a taxi to the Grand Hyatt (where we would be spending the next two nights) and left our bags at the concierge while we went to grab some lunch at Yo Amo Tacos. The tacos were yummy, but the sea bass ceviche was DELICIOUS. I couldn’t get enough of it.

ceviche

Back at the Hyatt we got settled into our room. The contrast between these two places were night and day. The B&B was quaint, homey, and made getting to know others much easier. However, the Hyatt was luxurious, right on the beach, and had a much better bed and pillows. We spent the next couple of hours laying out and taking a nap. It was glorious.

beach

After the sun went down we decided to wander around town. There was a group of four guys playing music up on the second floor of the outdoor mall, and they were absolutely amazing (check out my facebook to see a video)! We stood and listened to them for a good bit before wandering back toward the beach. We stumbled across a restaurant settled right on the sand and had a couple drinks and some wings while they played live music. They even had salsa classes! We danced a bit but mostly just relaxed since Adam had a bad headache. (we both know he just wanted to get out of dance class… lol jk babe)

beach sit

Feb. 14: The Day We Didn’t Really Do Anything 

Our attempt at sleeping in didn’t work (once again), because we are perpetually on baby-time, even when said baby is all the way back in the Sates lol. However, the wonderful breakfast we had at Impreste was totally worth it. For 190 pesos each you got tea or coffee, fresh made juice, yogurt and fruit, a basket of freshly baked muffins and pastries, and your choice of a main entree. I picked the eggs benedict with smoked salmon (sooooo yummy), but I can’t remember what Adam picked. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, and we both loved it.

12729145_10204295811070050_1696122945390859773_n

After breakfast we did some shopping on 5th avenue. There were lots of high end shops, but I wasn’t very impressed with the souvenir type stuff. Every shop seemed to have the same cheap stuff, and we were hard pressed to find any quality handmade items. We did end up finding some beautiful hand painted wine glasses and a mini bongo set for Landon.

We laid out on the beach for an hour or so but I wasn’t feeling very well so we went back to the hotel room and I took a long nap. After I woke up we ventured out into the local part of town to track down the restaurant my Dad raved about, El Fogon. We ordered the arracherra especial, and boy was it good! And cheap!

I still wasn’t feeling great so after dinner we went back to our room and paid way too much for an on demand movie before going to sleep.

Feb. 15: Walking, Collectivos, Buses, Oh My!

We checked out of our room and left our bags with the concierge before walking to catch a collectivo to Akumal Bay. The collectivos are big white vans that go up and down the main free way and are used by the locals (and smart tourists, because they’re really cheap!). They dropped us off on the side of the freeway and we walked down to Akumal and were told that we couldn’t swim with the sea turtles (the whole reason we had come!) because there was a strike on the beach and it was closed.

Frustrated, we decided to walk down to another restaurant my parents had recommended, La Buena Vida, and try to make the most of our time there. The restaurant was right on the beach and was such a relaxing location. We both had chicken quesadillas and then climbed to the top of the watch tower and enjoyed the view from up high.

tower

We still wanted to snorkel with the sea turtles so we headed back to the bay, and sure enough the strike had ended! We rented some gear and dove into the cold ocean. We saw (and touched) two turtles, but other than that there was nothing to see. It was Adam’s first time snorkeling in the ocean though, and seeing a sea turtle, so that was cool.

turtle

Kind of at the last minute we decided to catch another collectivo and head down to Tulum. We weren’t expecting much, but it was really incredible! It was really neat walking around and picturing what it was like in it’s prime. This picture just doesn’t do the striking landscape justice.

tulum

After making our way back to Playa Del Carmen (we ended up walking over 7 miles that day), we picked our luggage up at the Hyatt and then ate dinner at a restaurant off 5th street that was tucked back into a really pretty garden. I had what was called “chicken cake” which they said was like a Mexican lasagna, and it was really yummy!

We then made our way to the ADO bus station and took the bus up to the Cancun airport. (the public buses in Mexico are so much nicer than ours!) We then hopped on a shuttle to our hotel for the night. After getting settled into our room I called down to book a shuttle back to the airport in the morning, but they told me they only shuttle from the airport to the hotel (what!? who does that??), but assured me they would have an affordable taxi waiting for us.

Feb. 16: Home To See Our Boy!

So the next morning we walk down and they tell us that the 2 minute taxi ride is going to cost us $17 US! That was more than we spent on all the taxis combined over the course of the weekend. But it was 5:00 am, we were in a rush, and they knew they had us. (sneaky Mexicans! lol) We figure if that was the most trouble we had, we did pretty good.

I slept most of the way home and Adam watched The Martian. It was so good to see our little boy again once we got off the plane! Over all we had a wonderful time, and I would definitely go back to Playa Del Carmen. It had everything – great beaches, restaurants, nightlife, adventure, public transportation, etc. If you ever get the chance, go! Viva La Mexico!

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