Tomorrow is my first full day back in the office-
Thankfully I am only working part time this week to help transition back into work, but regardless, this will be my first full day away from the little one.
It's so crazy in how a short two month time span, you can become so attached to such a tiny little being.
Even though I'm not very excited for tomorrow, I do have to thank all those wonderful mommas out there who gave me some great advice on heading back to work- THANK YOU!
The advice received was especially valuable tonight.

Tonight I had a checklist written up and was in the process of marking things from it off in hopes of reminding myself of everything I still needed to get done tonight and what all I need to take with me tomorrow.
And of course, tonight was one of those nights where Phoenix just wasn't ready to settle.
As I watched those minutes tick away, I started panicking that I wasn't going to get everything done that I needed to or else I would be up super late.
All I could think in this moment was why couldn't my baby just fall asleep and why of all nights did Dave have to get home late.
For a brief moment I started feeling both very much alone and very much frustrated.
But then I felt a gentle reminder tugging at my heart.
Make the moments you do have with your little one matter.
It suddenly hit me that the whole reason I was panicking was because I'm not looking forward to leaving my baby behind.
So why was I wasting these precious moments where I did get to be with my little one?
Why was I treating my baby as another thing to check off my list instead of valuing another moment to bond and connect?
Why was I forgetting that sometimes the most  important things aren't always doing but just being. 
And as I sat there thinking, I realized nothing needed to be rushed- it would all happen in its own time and that it would all get done in the end (even if that meant sleep deprivation).
And as I gently rocked my baby to sleep, I sat quietly with him for a few extra long moments, finding both thankfulness in this moment as well as contentment in the time we do have together.

Last semester my friend Natalie and I started a women's small group.
We both were looking for ways to connect with other women in our church, when next thing we knew Dave was talking us into hosting our own Bible study on Sunday mornings.
It's been a really fun experience so far and I'm loving all the new women I'm meeting through this!
This current semester we are doing a study on Jen Hatmaker's book, 7.
I'm really enjoying it so far and really feel like it's going to challenge me far beyond my comfort zone. It's also been a refreshing perspective on what fasting is and how I can incorporate fasting into my own life.
Just a quick synopsis for those of you unfamiliar with the book, 7 is about Jen Hatmaker's seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of over-consumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:

Food.
Clothes.
Possessions.
Media.
Waste.
Spending.
Stress.

Only seven foods for a month. Only seven pieces of clothes for a month. Give away seven things we own a day for a month. Eliminate seven forms of media for a month. Adopt seven substantial habits for a greener life. Spend money in only seven places. Practice "seven sacred pauses" a day and observe the Sabbath...a deeply reduced life to find a greatly increased God.

For our Bible Study, we've decided to take one week for studying each chapter and then the following week we take the concept and create our own type of fasting for the next 7 days.
This week we reviewed the chapter on Food. Now in Jen's case, she chose seven foods that she was only allowed to eat for a month (no spices, sauces, etc). For her fast, she went with chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. Her friends who were doing this challenge along with her chose 7 different third world countries and ate diets similar to these countries.
Now since I'm breastfeeding and know that some foods just "work" for me and my supply, I decided choosing only 7 foods might not work the best for me unless I strictly wanted to live off Gatorade, oatmeal, and belVita Oatmeal Cookies.
So instead, I decided to take a cleaner eating approach, to eat more with intention than by convenience.
I guess somewhere mid pregnancy, I replaced my balanced diet with bagels, pizza, and doughnuts because... well... pregnancy. But then it hit me post baby that yeah I was still working out, but I wasn't taking care of my body and probably wasn't sharing the best nutrients with my baby. 
It hasn't been the easiest week so far, especially because I haven't done much grocery shopping, but it's been so good for me to really think about the things I'm eating and consuming.
It's also changing the way I pray, not just praying out of convenience, but really taking the time to pray intentionally.
I've also noticed how much less waste there is within my fridge as the well meaning vegetables are now actually being consumed and food that's sat in my pantry for the last year is now being utilized.

I'm really excited to keep reading through this book and to really stepping outside of my convenient norm.
[More to Come]

Has anyone else read through 7? What were your thoughts on the book?
Have you done a similar challenge?

You look at your clock,
It's 3:45AM, time to start out yet another morning because baby doesn't know how to tell time yet and that for the regular human population, this time is just way too early.
You stir around, mustering up the energy to feed and get the little one back to a nice peacefully sleep.
Realistically you know you should be following suite because Lord knows when you'll get your next power nap (because let's be honest mommas, at least in this stage, there's no such thing as sleep...just lots of little power naps) but you have things that need to get done for the day, and you still have to pump anyways, so why not stay up just a little longer. Cause sometimes motherhood gets mistaken for being invincible, though I might add there's definitely a level of superhero that comes with the title.
You finally finish and decide that power nap is definitely in order, but as you slowly begin to drift off to sleep, you are once again reminded by a not so tiny cry that you've missed your window and its time to feed again.
And of course, it's one of those days where a feeding turns into an all morning event where little one rotates between eating, sleeping, and sheer panic when they realize they fell asleep yet again...what a vicious cycle.
You finally get yourself and the twenty other items now deemed essential out the door (baby of course being your number one essential), you're possibly feeling a bit cocky because you are only a few minutes late to church and that feel like that's a major parenting win.
Driving down the street, baby of course is a tad fussy but thankfully the drive lulls them to sleep and once again you feel a tad bit victorious and that this morning might end up shaping up after all.
You even get a chance to grab a cup of coffee, and by now you're feeling quite full of yourself.
You go to sit down and of course, baby senses this because we all know babies have this incredible sixth sense to know when you're doing things like eating, relaxing, or showering, and they begin to fuss.
You pick up the little one, trying to calm them, when you notice a tiny wet spot on the back of their sleeper and you secretly know that they've had a major blow out in their diaper.
You think, well maybe its not that bad and I can wait until our group is over.
Ignoring this small problem you go on with the discussion at hand, to realize a few minutes later that there's now a wet spot on your jeans and you know deep down that the blow out has spread and can no longer be ignored.
Nonchalantly you try to maneuver you & the baby down to the floor, thankful you remembered diapers and a change of clothes.
At this point, you're trying to still engage in conversation while baby wiggles around and you secretly pray that they don't land their foot into the dirty diaper.
Things get cleaned up and you go to pick up baby only to have them spit up all down their new outfit and of course yours as well, but by now spit up doesn't really faze you because you no longer can remember a time where you didn't end up with spit up on you at some point throughout the day.
As you go to make your way finally back to your seat, baby of course (not so quietly) decides to inform you that they are in fact hungry again, which is total amazement to you because of their prior 2.5 hour feeding that took place earlier that morning.
You feed and the little one finally falls asleep just as group is finishing up.
You go on to survive that afternoon, even with another long feeding session. 
You manage to get a small nap in during that time, which of course feels like another glorious win until you notice that baby not only smells but both you and your little one are soaked.
After changing another explosive diaper, you know baths are now definitely no longer an option, but of course it's time to feed again so you wrap baby up in a blanket (because there are no point in clothes at this time) and begin another long, treacherous journey. 
Baby of course fights this and sleep, because once again, time and clocks are irrelevant.
By now it's nearing 9:30PM and you remember that some people still eat this thing called dinner and you wonder if that will be an option for you tonight.
Finally, as you win another small victory point, you lay down baby in the swing, run to the kitchen, and   look for the easiest & quickest thing to eat as you hear baby starting to stir again. 
After another small battle and struggle, baby finally conks out and by now you're really wondering if you should shower to remove the layers of spit up and pee, finally caving because you know you can smell yourself.
You're eyes are heavy with sleep, which is nothing really new either, and you make your way to bed only to remember that you still have to pump despite the sleep, despite the achy boobs.
By now, you're bordering between madness and sanity, and you think to yourself that you really don't know if you can manage to do this again tomorrow, when a small voice speaks to you saying, remember, this is what you prayed for.
And you think back on the years your heart ached for these moments, and you remember how you would have given anything to be right here, right now.
And you silently say a prayer as you look down and see that precious little thing sound asleep.
And you know deep down that you wouldn't trade any of this for anything in the world.


What does it mean to be a good Steward of your time? 

I was pressed with this question all week as I prepared to speak at Oasis (our college ministry here in Brookings) last Sunday.  For the last few weeks we have been studying how to be a good steward and I was looking to share my thoughts with the college students on how to manage time well.  I felt in order to really address my thoughts, I first needed to set a precedent that effectively explained stewardship. To steward is to take care of something that is not ours; it's something we are to manage or look after.  For instance, what we do with our time. In order to steward our time well, we have to first understand that the very essence of time is not ours.  We have been given an allotted amount of time by a God who is time.  Now, I’m not going to break down the omnipresence of God because I fear I wouldn't do it justice, but it is something that is fun to think about.  

I think in general, time can become a very prized possession. Why you ask? Time actually has a lot of characteristics that make it appealing; it can heal and fly, it’s something we can steal, make, take, and save. It is something we often waste, spend, and lose. Employers have found that time is often a better incentive than money.  Companies are now offering more vacation time and better working hours then pay raises. People want more time and know they don't have enough of it.

So then my question still remains, now that we have explained stewardship and time,  How do we steward our time well?   I wanted to look at a James 4:13 to give reference.  

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

For those of you who know me, one of my favorite past times is backpacking and hiking.  Now, I have learned a lot since my first hiking trip, but initially I made a lot of rookie mistakes.  On my very first trip, I carried a party grill and canned spaghetti.  This was not a good moment. For those of you who don't backpack, this is a very amateur mistake and I paid the price of quite a heavy load to carry over the course of my trip. Then I started getting into lightweight backpacking where we would walk for 10-20 miles a day with all of our essentials on our back.  We would always compete to see who would have the lightest pack, needless to say I still never won. 

While I was in college, I had a pretty busy schedule so I always looked forward to our school breaks.  I would usually set out some goals that I wanted to accomplish on my break like I wanted to read more, pray more, or be more intentional with my thoughts.   So when I started hiking, I would always bring a book with me.  I planned to read it every night before going to bed.  I don't mind reading and I knew that I would have a lot more free time while on the trail, or so I thought.   Needless to say after a 15 mile day, my body became very tired.  We would get to our campsite, set up tents, make dinner, laugh about our daily adventures and then head to bed. I would do just about everything I could to try and read a chapter a night but I always ended up falling asleep with my headlight on.  Now, this caused a little bit of an issue because my headlamp would be dead by day 2 and I now was carrying a book around with me everywhere we hiked.  This book would add a couple pounds to my pack and then became dead weight.  You see, I fell under the tension of trying to instill new habits in my life during our break, but not creating complete lifestyle changes. I never read before bed while in college because I would fall asleep, so what led me to think that I would do something radically different on this trip that I wasn't doing in my day-to-day life? How could I forecast new habits on tomorrow when I wasn't even being intentional with them today?

Now lets reflect back on James 4:13 real fast.  He blatantly says to not claim what tomorrow will hold because in reality, we have no idea.  What gives us the authority to claim any truth about tomorrow?  James claims that “as it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes, all such boasting is evil”.  Man that is powerful. I can’t think of how many times I have allowed my procrastination to hinder what God could have done through me.  

So the thought I want to leave us with today is not to live in regret over what we have not done, but it is calling us to action.  James is telling us to have a right perspective on our lives (we are but a mist), and when we sense God calling us to action, we need to do it.  Instead of telling someone that we will pray for them later, Why not take that moment and DO IT?  If we KNOW the good we ought to do, then we need to be obedient and DO IT. Don't prepare to carry the dead weight of a book around tomorrow; start reading the book today.  

- Dave
It's getting bittersweet nearing these last couple of weeks of maternity leave. 
To be honest, I don't really want to think much about returning to work full time, but I feel like it's this unavoidable thing that's coming near very quickly and I'm having to come to terms with it. 
Now, don't get me wrong, I love my job and I'm looking forward to seeing my coworkers again, but I just have this really strong feeling this is going to be a fairly hard transition.

Maternity leave overall has been a very interesting. The first couple weeks of being off work were actually a really hard adjustment for me. Being a new mom definitely comes with its struggles no matter how rewarding or worthwhile it is.  It was such a crazy experience to suddenly be taking care of a newborn on top of lack of sleep and raging hormones. I feel like most times I stay fairly level headed emotionally, but man, I had  some really rough days where my thoughts would be racing and I'd just be a crying mess. Dave was here the first week which was really nice and he was SO helpful with the transition. So were my parents that first weekend they were here, and I loved having their care & support. But then next thing I know,  I'm suddenly all alone at home taking care of this little babe all by myself. Thankfully, Phoenix is a fairly easy baby and I feel like I was able to pick up on most cues pretty early, but I really struggled to know what to do with all this free time suddenly. It also didn't help that I started my leave a month earlier than I anticipated (funny how kids can change things) and there were a lot of loose ends I was still trying to tie up and things I was trying to plan for my time off. I would be home too exhausted to do anything, but when I would sit around I would feel so guilty. And then there were the days where they just weren't good and I'd blur my way through it to realize I had "wasted a day" (Which looking back now, I realized these days are the exact reason we have maternity leave).
 It was hard.

But then the weeks got easier, and I really loved the cuddles everyday on top of having this time to regain what little sanity I may still have.
It also helped that Dave's parents came to stay with us a few days (so nice to have them!), we went to Florida for Christmas to surprise family (and survived traveling with a newborn!), and then my parents came back to stay with us a while longer (miss them!).
And now, as I feel like I'm starting to be productive again and getting into a new routine, it's almost over.

It'll be fun to see my coworkers consistently again and once I get a new routine established it will be a lot better, but man, I'm going to miss my little man.
I'm going to miss our quiet mornings together and our afternoon naps.
I'm going to really miss all these little moments of watching Phoenix grow.
Thankfully I have an amazing supervisor who has been so supportive in this process and is working to help make my transition as easy as possible. 
I'm also so fortunate to work with other full time moms who I know will also be a great support system, 
but man, right now I'm really wishing I lived in Canada and had a year leave.

So I guess I'm writing this to be honest with what I'm feelings and to get some advice from you other mommas who've been in the same boat.
What did you do to adjust going back full time?
What are some things you all suggest I do before returning to work (lots of baby snuggles are already on the agenda)?
Any good coping mechanisms?

*Thanks in advance!*
Now to go cuddle up with the little one!
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