feel the love, fill the home

13mos2I am so thankful I have twins, not because twins are just neat,
but because the girls have a sibling.
The girls are more fun than I ever imagined.. Their personalities are hilarious and I wish I could embed their interactions as their relationship develops in my memory forever. They’re just so sweet… God’s grace in diapers, you know?  One of my heart’s deepest prayers is that they have a relationship of depth and that they truly know, like, and trust each other. That they have a character and personality that encourages and invites. One of the other prayers I have is that the relationship the three of us share is one of not only depth, trust, and like but that we know each other. That the Lord continues to mold and shape me into the woman and mother that will be able to lead and guide, impart wisdom, and teach them well in every area of their life. My goal is that they leave my home well rounded and prepared to live on their own and be successful.
Our relationships are such an enormous deal to me because the Gospel is grasped, understood, and  lived out in relationships and I want them to get it early on…. in the comfort of their home… with people they have to endure because they aren’t old enough to move out. Or know any better. And, they’re going to like it.
Which is why my home is such a big deal to me. It’s a sacred space. So much happens within the walls of a home and my prayer is that I create a comfortable space and that I am who the Lord is calling me to be (kind & gentle before anything else).  All of our hopes, dreams, fears, success, and failures will be exposed and will either produce a confidence or brokenness.13mos
And, I know all of this may sound half control freak-esque, but I know that if I’m not intentional about what the Lord has put on my heart, I will for sure miss the mark. More than getting it right, I want to chase this passion the Lord has put inside of me.  I didn’t come from a home where all of this was a part of the fabric, so I have to be even more so intentional and aware of creating a space where relationship & Christ is the focus.
Joyfully, with peace and fun we will fill our lives with love and laughter. A serious matter but when the focus is Jesus we will smile wrinkles and memories that bring belly laughs and smiles across our faces. When you think about it, how huge of a deal is the day to day state of your home life when future generations are influenced by what is happening in your homes today? Our homes and are where we learn how to relate to the world. It’s within the relationships of those we share our couches with and pass in the hallways that we learn how to hold a conversation, how to stand up for ourselves, be forgiving, how to be love in action, and show ‘no matter what’ kind of love…. Our homes are where we learn how to compromise, share, work as a team, mentor, become teachable, work through issues, pray for others, ask for prayer, support, encourage, & serve.
We learn how to deal with conflict and how to celebrate… Our definitions of love, our ability to accept ourselves and others, our capacity to dig deep, our work ethic, and who we are is established in our home. one year shoot
While we’re still settling in and as I Clorox everything, I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed over our home. A home where beauty will be given for ashes, a home where healing and new beginnings will ignite life within the walls of this house we share.  Prayers about what will happen during our time here, prayers about my hearts goals and intentions, how the girls will grow…. prayers about how God will use us in this home are constantly thought, whispered, written, and spoken.
I know that the quality of their future deeply depends on how well they are loved, disciplined, and reared now. Parenting is the greatest calling that is a whole lot less about how great we are and how cute our kids are but more about how great our God is. So far, so good and we’re enjoying every moment.
Post Jam: I Get to be the One by JJ Heller
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welcoming fall + embracing change

campshoot4Lately, things have been what I’ll call “emotionally trying” and while my desire to keep my space authentic and real, I’ve had a really tough time with being open about the struggles in my marriage. Add in juggling kids, work (and all the extra that comes with it), and working to build business,  I don’t have much time or energy left at the end of the day.

But, a camping trip with a couple of my friends and their families was interestingly timed. I almost backed out as I thought this family camping trip would be really awkward for my family given our state. Although I knew it would be fun, I struggled with going. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with my deep urge to isolate and be alone when I’m emotionally overstimulated and when I’m in process overload and just want to decompress alone.shoot5

But, I’m so grateful I decided to go. The girls had an amazing time; they played, Logan ate a little dirt, they slept in a tent, Rhyann threw massive tantrums (which she didn’t do before and hadn’t done since camping! lol), hung outside in their pack and play, and just hung out. I had an opportunity to really spend some time with a couple of girlfriends – one who I’d met pre-Plexus and the other I’d met through Plexus – and it was so refreshing. It was nice to share life in the peace of nature. There’s a peace to the “woods” (i.e. camping site) that is just calming. The weather was beautiful and we had such a great time. I’ve been saying over the past couple of months that saying ‘yes’ to a scary, new thing. Sometimes a “yes” + an eye roll to things we aren’t necessarily totally thrilled about can really lead to some really amazing people and experiences. Plexus is one of those things and this camping trip was another. Incredibly excited one day, annoyed the next. But, as soon as we settled in, I knew it was going to be such a sweet trip. It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. It was “real life” camping complete with fires, s’mores, cold morning and nights, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, talking around the fire bundled up…….. it was so good. I’m thankful we had the opportunity to experience it with such great friends!

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Blurry, but still so sweet photograph (compliments of my very amateur skills) of my little bears.
No fear about the girls sitting in the (slow) street; there was a  State Trooper who was behind me while I was shooting the girls. campsiteOur “section” of the site… We were with a group of about 50! 

 Although, it was the last family event/trip as an intact family, it was a good trip. Sad, but I do believe it’s for the best at this point. I’m thankful that we both get it. We both understand the situation and how things came to be. No one is blindsided; while there isn’t total agreement on how things ought to shake out, there is understanding. And, that, for me is important. I’ve said before here, how we friend better than we husband and wife. So far, things have been good and easy given the circumstances. After a year plus of choices that weren’t in favor or the best interest of our family or marriage, dishonesty, and cheating & affair. What made/makes it so hard and difficult is knowing that so many other things & people were chosen over me/us (the girls and I then our marriage) in such blatant and intentional ways. It adds a deep and lasting sting to the truth. But, in addition to some really poor responses combined with lots of grace/forgiveness/opportunities  mixed with multiple efforts to help straighten somethings out, I felt it was time to part ways. I don’t know how things will shake out in the future; I’m not focused on that. So, questions about “what if” aren’t on my radar and my answer will be “I’m not thinking about that right now”. My thoughts and efforts are geared toward being the best momma and Alaina I can be. Towards bettering myself and building my businesses and raising my girls. I want to have the best relationship with their dad as I possibly can for my daughters. No matter what happens, I want them to see unity (for their sakes), grace, friendship, and kindness. They don’t deserve to be surrounded with chaos, bad mouthing, and anger. campsite2I’d say we’ve done a pretty decent job, given the fresh wound, of managing, adjusting, and responding to life as it is now. I have this picture in my mind of what the new dynamic could look like. How we could sort of mesh our individual lives and still raise our daughters as one unit. Not sure how that works or how it can work…. I just believe that we can make it work us. And, no, I have no idea what the holidays are going to look like, we aren’t there yet. One day at a time. It’s been a really rough couple of years and in the midst of figuring life out, we’re both need to heal in so many ways.. worrying about what’s going to happen over the next couple of months isn’t on today’s agenda.

There is a peace and calmness now…. I do very much feel that I’ve made the right decision. The fact that our family is broken. The fact that we’re a statistic in more than one way…. the fact that this “wasn’t supposed to happen” is hard. The fact that we weren’t able to pull it together and come out holding hands with a sense of pride and beaming smile that said “We beat the odds” hurts. The questions that will likely go unanswered because I’ve said all that I will pretty much say in this post, the chatter, the looks, the disappointments and assumptions are hard. Will be hard for a long time.

There are a few songs that I belt out and raise praisy hands to when I hear them on the radio, songs that I’ve downloaded to my iPhone that speak truth and give comfort. Because, this is hard. In life, we have lots of W’s and we have lots of Loses…. if there is one tally mark in either column, marriage is supposed to be that one tally mark in the W column. Fortunately/unfortunately, I know a lot of single moms my age who are rocking it. I mean, are raising their kids with integrity, lots of Jesus, and who are kind and manner able, obedient, and who are enjoying life as a true child….. So, I know it’s possible & I know I can do it. I know we can raise these babies well, even if requires a bit of creativity.

End ramble. Here are the songs.
Colton Dixon- Through All of It
Finding Favor – Cast My Cares
Blanca – Greater is He {my favorite!!}

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marriage. redemption. hope.

FullSizeRenderY’all when I say I’m tired. I really mean I’m whooped. I really mean that I have a ton and a half of things to get done and I can barely function. I mean that my ability to feel is at an all time low and smiles are rare. I mean that I’m emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted. I’m seriously only getting by with a whole lot of screamed and whispered prayers and the belief that Jesus knows that I know his promises to me won’t fail even when I disobey and suck at responding in the right way. That when I don’t have the energy to pray or to speak or to function the Holy Spirit is doing all the work for me.

My girls are a banging 8 months on Tuesday and they are rocking right along. I’ll spare the details of all the fun stuff they’re doing until I post about their 8th month but know that I don’t have the energy to care that my kids aren’t reading or know body parts or signing the three words I’ve been working on for 8 months (well, I am a bit salty about that one) because I mean, they’re 8 months. I’m trying to keep them as little as I can for as long as I can. But, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the droolly, chubby goodness of my 6 month olds.

IMG_3656We took family pictures a couple of months ago for the girls 6 months photos. It was supposed to be their photoshoot alone but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get pictures of us all during such a sweet time. So, just about everything went wrong but I think everything also came out perfect. They were miserably hot the whole time and barely smiled. At least I’ll never forget their annoyed faces. Awesome. 🙂 

The photoshoot was a bit awkward because Thomas and I have been walking through what can only be described as the fiery pit of hell for the last year and a half. I’ve been fighting for my family like mad but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. For a moment, I looked at these pictures and saw evidence of reconciliation and redemption. Of  hard work paying off. Of all the weight and stress being worth the new found habit of grinding my teeth and functioning pretty much as a single parent. Worth enduring and the persevering the ugly, painful, and humiliating.IMG_3641
It’s swallowing the yuck and waking up ready to dig your heels in and work not knowing what the day will bring. It’s not understanding the chaos that’s happening around you but still needing to function for yourself and your kids. Still needing to work and friend and mama and sister and be wholly present in every role that you play without allowing the heart hurts of life to distract you or cause you to be anything other than what God calls you to be everyday – a peaceful, joyful, kind, loving, and nice. Besides, being nasty never made any situation easier to deal with.

“I’m too busy to worry about this….” – how I learned to let go. Thankfully. Because I was. And, I still am. While a marriage should be the one thing in your life that gets the largest percentage of your energy and efforts, for me it was very much like tossing out buckets of water while holes were being drilled at the bottom of the boat. That I had no time for. I was busy being productive…. I could and did accept a lot for a long time, but with accepting came a lot of worry, frustration, disappointment, sadness and everything negative that prevented me from showing up when I needed to.IMG_3634-2But, it’s a marriage. It’s a commitment. It’s a union of two very imperfect, sinful people who are trying to get it right. Two people who desperately need the Lord. Two people that have quirks and wants and feels and habits and dark places that they don’t always understand. Two people who have hurt and are hurt. Two people who have to practice patience, forgiveness, living with understanding, respecting, honoring, and selflessness. Two people who own fault and responsibility for every step of this life we have together – the good and the bad.

The real deal is that happiness isn’t always found where it “should” be found and it doesn’t look the same to everyone. Finding & holding onto it doesn’t always happen as smoothly and seamlessly as you think it might, like you dream it would. Especially if you’re a hopeless romantic and watch Disney movies your whole life.

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But, then reality kicks in and even movies like Dear John, The Notebook, and The Vow disappoint you when you finally come to accept that the characters are real people living out fake lives of fake people. (Although The Vow was based on a real life couple and I will forever believe Noah really does exist.)….. life doesn’t happen like that all the time. And, if it does, when redemption actually occurs and a couple is able to come back together and make things “right”….. it takes a lot more time, effort, and forgiveness than a 180 minute movie can show. It requires a lot more work that the producers are willing to reveal. And, commitment to a person who is literally making you want to peel the top layer of your skin off is never going to be enough. Ever. You’ve got to a have a resolve and commitment to something greater that helps you to get through the muck – whatever your muck looks like, you can get through it. But, never on your own, never without a world/life view that requires more of you than pleasing yourself. It’s just a matter of want to and a game plan. Toss in a couple of kids and priorities shift is even greater. My goals weren’t so much my happiness for it’s own sake, but my sanity so that I could mother well with self control, integrity, peace and joy. So learning how to do that in the midst of insane chaos has been difficult but so good at the same time. Of course I wanted (and still want) my family to be intact but intact/miserable/dysfunctional/stressful didn’t look as attractive as co-parenting/peace/joy/security.

Right now, after a lot of counseling. Some time a part. A lot of exposing. A lot of struggling. A lot of growth. A lot of pure crap….. I’m still working. and, really hoping that this time will be the last time we have such a hellacious year. IMG_3602-2-Edit

At the end of the day, life happens and things fall a part no matter how great our efforts are – we (as people) are selfish sinners. I still believe that all things work together for good… I still believe that God has this epic plan for our lives that will bring him so much glory…. I believe that the Lord wants for us, expects for us to be light, and peace, and salt, and joy in the darkest, most chaotic, the nasty, and hateful parts of our lives and the lives of others around us. We can do it. We can do it because he offers it to us – it’s simply a matter of us reaching out and taking what is offered to us by Christ himself. We aren’t all taught how to be peaceful in chaos, but we can learn. We can learn to be givers, we can learn to be thoughtful, we can learn how to do what’s necessary in order to live a God honoring life. Not knowing how to do something should never stop us from putting in the effort to do better.IMG_3666

As with newborns, there’s no New Owner’s Manual when you marry and have to learn to live with your mate. Just as you have to learn to adjust to parenthood, understanding your child, and figuring out life with a new little life, you have to do the same with your spouse. Learning as you go gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with both your spouse and God, so…..it’s beneficial in the end.

The rough part about marriage is that people change over time and they don’t always communicate these changes well or even understand them. Our sinful nature can take root and guide us down paths we never intended to go. And, it’s scary – for both sides. I believe the general assumption is that we’ll all grow and mature and move forward in life.. when you’re married, the hope is that you move forward in the same direction and at the same pace. The assumption and hope is for peace and love and happily ever after; understanding that it takes more work for some than others, we don’t compare yards but do what we have to do in order for our yard to be at it’s best. That we want our yard to be at it’s best. Assumption. IMG_3631-2

The truth is that relationships requires a vulnerability, honesty, and transparency that can be difficult to accomplish when there’s personal confusion and chaos, when personal demons show up. When we aren’t comfortable and confident within ourselves. But, it can be. And, regardless of what happens, I believe that, too. It’s more of an issue of willingness than ability. Be willing. Be willing to work hard and be peaceful. Be willing to trust God with it all and stand in his shadow as he works things out. Even when there are days that I know we both are still here because its easier, God’s grace covers us. We are always covered and that grace has kept us…. even through the pits of hell.

What Thomas and I have realized is that we friend really well… a lot better than we husband and wife. I’m hoping that we can learn to find some sort of balance so that we can husband & wife just as well. But, until then……. we work and work and work.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know thatthe testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

And, because it’s important, you can find the girl’s outfit here:
Crowns: Love Crush Bowtique
Onesies: Lola and Darla
Moccasins: Potato Feet
(mama made the tutus… sorry! lol)
Both my skirt and top came from Dao Chloe Dao!!

And, Christin Armstrong (@christinshootspeople). Always.

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