Savoring December

img_6568

It’s getting close now. Christmas is coming – quickly. Every so often I’ll spot a countdown – “6 shopping days until Christmas!” – and I think I should probably feel rushed by it, but I find myself wondering why I don’t.

Maybe this year it’s the impending arrival of a newborn, but I’m in a savor kind of heart-space lately.

I think ahead to next year and things will be so wonderfully different. We will have a 10 month old baby boy, and an almost F O U R year old daughter. I don’t want to rush any seasons. Ever. 

We didn’t even get our Christmas tree until last weekend, simply due to the way our schedules lined up, and letsbehonest…some procrastination, too. We drove out to a local tree farm, and wandered around assessing the trees that were left to choose from. (When December is already 1/3 over, you don’t get much say in how pretty your tree is. You just pick one that’s the right size and doesn’t lean too far to the right or left. Also, when you only bring a small amount of cash with you, you find that your choices are even narrower.)

img_6777img_6748

Just like last year, Aven brought along her beloved Minnie ornament to “try on” the tree. Once Minnie approved, Brandon fired up the chainsaw and down it came. The sweet old man who owned the farm offered up s’mores, and we happily obliged. We sat around his big fire pit, eating s’mores for lunch and chatting.

It was perfect. In a very unperfect, ordinary way. 

img_6717img_6768

A couple of nights later, we strung white lights on our little “Charlie Brown” tree, as Brandon calls it. After a friendly debate regarding whether to start from the top versus the bottom of the tree (bottom – duh!), it was shimmering sweetly in the corner of our living room. Then, just before bedtime, my two-year-old asked me to dance with her in the light of the tree. Dressed in our pj’s, we swayed, twirled, and giggled as the Christmas music played. It’s a little early to say for sure, but so far that moment is the front runner in my favorite memories this season. 

//

We bank on the big holiday moments – Santa’s lap, the perfect gift, Christmas morning – that’s what we’re focused on. We chase those moments with anticipation, and we rush around, checking every box on our Tradition To Do List. But the truth is, the spark of the Christmas spirit starts small and is much, much quieter. Just like His birth all those years ago. Simple. Modest. Almost unnoticed. And yet? Special. So immensely special and undeniably significant. 

If our hustle and bustle gets too loud, chaotic, or restless, we may just miss the simple sweetness of this season altogether. So pay attention to the small moments. Intentionally look for them. (And when you find them, don’t feel like you have to document them with a photo or an Instagram story — #preachingtomyself — because some of my most unforgettable moments are stored up only in my heart, just like the dance with my little girl that I mentioned earlier.)

img_6720

I realize there is a certain busy associated with the holidays that we can’t exactly avoid, but we can choose to not let it overtake us and distract us. Always be on the lookout for the pause button and don’t be afraid to press it. I know there’s not much left of December, but there’s always, always room to savor the significant.

*Write this at the top of your to do list today: Savor > Hustle. And if that’s the only box that’s been checked at the end of the day, just consider yourself ahead of the game.

img_6862

Thankful.

Writing has had to take a bit of a backseat lately, for various reasons, but today it feels so good to get my hands on this keyboard of mine because I have something sweet and special to share.

 

I cannot believe I get to do this again.

This….

IMG_1404_ed

Carry a baby. Assist in another miracle. And become a mama all over again. 

Thankful.

It feels too special. Too heavy and light all at the same time. Too full and too happy and too much. 

Entering motherhood two and a half years ago thrust me into the wildest adventure of my life. It also plunged me into conversations, experiences, relationships, and issues I never even knew existed before. My eyes have been opened to so much, and among that, especially a greater understanding and gratitude surrounding this space of bringing babies into the world. I know it doesn’t always come easy, or when or how we hope it will. Have I mentioned how thankful I am? 

I notice I’m worrying less this go-around, and praying more. Praying over absolutely everything – mostly my heart, my attitude, my spirit…but also things like who will be clocked in at the hospital when it’s delivery time. 

I find myself craving less control, more surrender. And what I really want is for that essence to diffuse beyond these next six or seven months, beyond the day this baby enters the world, and settle deep into my everyday life as I walk through motherhood. Another prayer to add to the list. 

So here I sit, smiling from the inside out, gratefully surrendered to whatever He has in store. Thank you, thank you, Lord.  

IMG_0224_ed

 

 

Music to a Mama’s Ears

I’m a word person, no surprise there. But even if affirming words aren’t your “love language,” everyone can use an uplifting word now and then. And I’ve found that sometimes all it takes is a small piece of encouragement to refocus my perspective on how this whole motherhood thing is going.

So many times I feel ill-equipped for this huge task of raising a daughter, but thankfully this truth never changes: when I am weak, HE is strong in me. 

That’s some good news. 

So we can rest in the fact that we were perfectly chosen and have been perfectly positioned to raise our babies. Enough of this doubting and guilt and worrying. 

IMG_6720

So, two things I’d like for you to do:

  1. Find the phrase below that means the most to you. Write it somewhere you’ll see it today – your hand, your phone, your kid’s chalkboard…whatever works.
  2. Find a mom to pass them on to. Send out a quick text, comment on an Instagram photo, or tell them to your friend at the playdate today. Be the one singing the praises of moms in your circle, or the moms you pass in the grocery store. 

“You’re a good mom.”

“You are doing immeasurably better than you give yourself credit for.”

“You’re not in this alone.” (*Catch – you have to help them not be in this alone.)

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

“You were made to mother.”

“You inspire me.”

“You’re doing a great job.”

“Wanna make a Target run?…By yourself?” (*Must be prepared to catch baby mid air as mom makes a mad dash for the car)

“Hey, I could use some parenting advice… “

“Your babies are blessed to have you.”

“Tomorrow’s a new day!”

“___ year old’s are hard. But you’ve got this.”

“You are SUPERMOM.”

I sincerely pray some of these words put a smile on your face, hope in your heart, and buoy you up today as you walk confidently in your ability to mother well.

Moms: you are needed, cherished, loved, seen, and so so appreciated. Parenting is challenging, but no doubt – you can handle it.

So let this music of encouragement play in your ears over and over, until it sinks deep into your heart like a song you can’t stop singing. ❤

IMG_5368

S.

 

Dear Mama in the Making

Hi!

I just wanted to let you know I have a short piece published over on the Good Mother Project today! I love the encouraging and honest community they’ve built over there.

I would be honored for you to take a minute to read about a few things I’d like all soon-to-be and new moms to know:

“Dear Mama in the Making,

I want you to know that you’re my person. You’re my person, and I’m going to tell you why.”

….{ click here to keep reading }….

2016-03-22_0031

Talk soon!
S

What’s new?

Hey friends!

Over the last week I’ve been working hard to get my new site up and running! My sweet techie husband migrated my blog to WordPress (if I could insert the praise hands emoji here, I would), which doesn’t mean anything for you except that my url has changed to shannaleighwrites.com instead of belovednest.blogspot.com.

The purpose of this blog hasn’t changed: I hope you always leave here feeling encouraged, freed up, knowing you’re not alone, and with a new glimpse into God’s Glory through my story and hopefully, your own. And sometimes, we just need to laugh together at the crazy shenanigans life brings to our doorstep. Yes?

Whether you are someone who reads my words on a regular basis, sporadically, or if this is you’re first visit, I am truly SO glad you’re here. So grateful.

Please reach out anytime – if I can give you a pep talk or say a prayer, anything – it would be my honor.

IMG_6402

Talk soon, friends!

 

 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Finances


Carrying two mortgages will make you rethink your finances, mainly because you have no other choice. That’s the position we found ourselves in this past summer when we randomly (divinely?) found the “just right” house for us, before our old home was even listed on the market. It was a good practice for us to pay close attention to the money leaving our accounts every month. 


I am no expert in the realm of finances, but these are some personal goals and practices that I try to keep up as much as possible. 

1. Keep track of the outgoing. Online banking is helpful for me in this way since it’s always up to date and tracks all spending and bill pay in one place. 

2. No debt. Of course easier in word than practice, but less debt = less stress. We only have one credit card and use it sparingly + pay it off quickly. 

3. Charitable giving. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give that are meaningful to you/your family. One that is important to me is sponsoring a child in Thailand who I met when I was there in April. 

4. Where you spend is important. Whenever possible, buy from companies that provide safe environments and fair wages. Here’s one article that has influenced me on this topic. 

5. Accountability. My husband and I share accounts so everything is always visible to the other. Also – no large purchases without discussing first. 

6. Monthly/weekly allowance. Setting a certain amount of spending money for each week has helped us keep our small purchases like coffee in check. 

7. Make returns. If something doesn’t work or fit, or you just change your mind – take it back! Don’t just stick it away in a closet and forget about it. 

8. Online bill pay. Everything in one place keeps finances simple. 

9. Prayerful consideration over major changes or purchases. We did not decide rashly to buy a second home without lots of prayer and crunching numbers to make sure it was a smart decision. 

I don’t want to just streamline my finances for simplicity’s sake. I want to be a good steward of my blessings and resources, and make it a priority in life. 

I would love to hear any tips you guys may have! This is an area where I always have something to learn. Please leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂