9 Comments

The Past Two Years

“Oh, Lord, please let this next season be an easy one. We’ve been through so much and we just need a rest, we just need to get our heads above water. Jesus, please, let whatever is next for us be a breath of fresh air”

I prayed these words every day for five weeks as I sat in the NICU and held my impossibly tiny, naked newborn on my bare chest and waited for him to grow.

I never considered that our long hospital stay was, in fact, our breath of fresh air.

— — —

Five days before Edmund was born I boarded an international flight from Skopje, Macedonia to Portland, Oregon. I was 30 weeks pregnant, bleeding, and I knew our baby was coming soon but he couldn’t come in Macedonia — no hospital in the country was equipped to care for a baby that premature. So we booked tickets back to Oregon and an unknown future. As soon as I deboarded the plane I was rushed to the closest hospital and Ryan woke up to a Skype call telling him he needed to change his plane ticket and get to Oregon now.

Edmund was born perfectly healthy, with his dad by my side, and we basked in the joy of our new baby, at least as much as parents of a baby who was born too early can. But uncertainty piled on uncertainty. How long will Edmund be in the hospital? Will he have long-term complications? What home will we go to once he’s released? Where are we going to live? Where will Ryan work? Will we go back overseas? What is life going to look like now?

Continue reading


1 Comment

Life lessons my sourdough starter is teaching me (or at least reminding me of)

sourdough starter

Just over a week ago I mixed together some flour and water and left it on my counter to ferment. Guys, this was HUGE for me.

I’ve wanted to enter into the world of sourdough for quite some time but the whole thing seemed daunting. There was such a steep learning curve, so much that could go wrong and I had a hard enough time keeping up with my kefir and kombucha I wasn’t sure I could handle one more living organism (in addition to my two children, of course).

But I wasn’t able to bring my SCOBY for kombucha and though I dehydrated and brought my kefir grains I can’t make it because all the milk is shelf-stable. My time, brain and counter now all have space for sourdough.

I watched videos, read blogs and did as much research as I was able to with the preschooler on my lap while the toddler slept. Finally, I was ready to dive in. For five days I diligently added flour and water to the fermenting and increasingly bubbly glob. On the morning of Day 6 I mixed up a basic bread dough, kneaded for 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes!) and waited for it to rise. That part didn’t seem to be over successful but I stuck it in the oven anyway, figuring it would turn out fine.

I successfully baked the worst loaf of bread in history.

I looked at what was left of my starter and felt betrayed. I had nurtured and cared for it and I spent 45 precious minutes of my Saturday morning getting sore muscles. What I got was a in inedible brick.

While I discovered I haven’t learned very much about baking sourdough bread (it’s a whole different ballgame than yeasted-breads) I am being reminded of some important lessons that not only apply to learning a new skill but to all of life.

worst bread

These are nothing new and I’m not sharing any great insight or wisdom, but hopefully this can be a gentle reminder of what you already know but seems to be easy to forget (or am I the only one who needs to be constantly reminded of the basic lessons she’s already learned?).

Things seemed hardest before you start

Like I mentioned, I’ve wanted to start sourdough for some time but the idea of making my own starter intimidated me and kept me from taking the plunge. Turns out the making a starter is easy, like really easy.

Sometimes what holds us back from going on an adventure, taking a risk or just simply doing something new might not be as big of a deal as we think it is. That doesn’t mean everything will be easy, but it might not be as intimidating once we’re in it. We just need to take that first step and find out.

Grace, grace and more grace for yourself

The morning after I baked my brick of a loaf of bread I attempted to slice a piece. Crumbs were flying, my knife was bending under the pressure of my arm and I kept complaining to Ryan about how terrible it was. Eleanor, bless her heart, came into the kitchen and said, ‘Mommy! It looks good!’ She was entirely wrong but it was sweet of her.

For lunch I attempted to make PB&J sandwiches from a few pieces of the very middle of the bread that were somewhat salvageable. I really should have just gone to the bakery for a real loaf of bread. When I served the ‘sandwiches’ to the kids, Eleanor again kept telling me how good it was, that she really liked it. Any time I said something negative about the bread, she would counter me. In the end I gave them leftover Canadian Thanksgiving pumpkin pie for lunch.

More often than not, we are more critical of ourselves than others are. We are ready to extend grace to those around us but withhold it from ourselves. We set unrealistically high expectations and feel like failures when our lives don’t match them. But those closest to us don’t expect as much from us as we do. We need to let go of our lofty ideals, do our best and be content with that. Everyone else is.

rising dough

It’s better when you have someone to walk alongside you

While I did research sourdough baking methods, it would have been much more helpful to have someone who has already mastered the skill standing with me in the kitchen, walking me through each step. She could have told me if my starter was really ready, how much flour to add, when the dough was kneaded enough and when it was done rising and ready to go in the oven. I’m just guessing, learning as I go and making a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided with some expert insight.

While it’s helpful to have someone to guide us as we learn a new skill, it’s even better to have someone walk alongside us as we learn how to live life well. I’ve never had an official ‘mentor’ but there have been people in my life who have helped me navigate new seasons or sometimes just get through. When we enter into a new phase or start an adventure the wisdom another person who has been there can be invaluable and can give us a proper perspective. And it just might save us from making a few mistakes.

Life is in seasons

If you’ll notice, my bread is 100% white flour. That does not make me happy. Part of the reason I got into sourdough is because the fermentation that takes places helps make the bread easier to digest so it does negate some of the harm of the white flour. Even still, my ideal would be fresh, organic whole wheat spelt flour I ground myself. But right here, right now all I can afford is white flour and I doubt I could find spelt berries in this country. One day I’ll have better flour but that day isn’t today and I’m coming to terms with that.

Our lives ebb and flow, moving from one season to the next. Some seasons are really enjoyable and we don’t want them to end, others can’t end soon enough. When we live in recognition of this, we are better able to be content in our present circumstances, not be overwhelmed by difficulties and savor the good times even more.

decent bread

Time, it takes time

I expected to bake a beautiful artisan loaf of bread on my first attempt. It didn’t happen. My second loaf was better (not pretty but edible and it tasted yummy!) and I am anxious for a third attempt. I’m doing more research, learning and getting opportunities to practice. These take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s a reason there’s a difference between a professional baker and me!

It can be hard to just wait while circumstances, opportunities or relationships come to fruition. While there are times to act and get things going, some things only happen with the passing time and there’s nothing we can do about it. We just need to be patient and let time do its good work.


5 Comments

My two greatest fears in moving abroad (and why vulnerability is hard for me)

Greatest Fears

Vulnerability is not my strong point. I appreciate and admire it in others but me getting vulnerable? Woah – not gonna happen.

I’m an encourager, a support person, a biggest fan. That means I listen to other people and I affirm them. I love telling others I think they can do it, that they’re great and that they matter (at least I try to do this — I’m still learning).  But I don’t like when the tables are turned I have to share and be the one whom attention is given to. And I’m also terrified that if I let people really see me, they won’t like me. That they’ll see that I’m nothing special, kind of boring and there are boatloads of people more worth their time. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not but I definitely am selective with what parts of me I share. And because I really want to encourage others I don’t mention the areas I’m struggling in or the challenges I’m facing. In my mind it’s just better for the other person if I don’t burden them with my own messiness.

Continue reading


5 Comments

Backpacks, stories and faith

Backpacks, stories and faith

It’s been two weeks since we left Oregon for Skopje, Macedonia, our home for at least the next six months.

It’s a crazy thing to do: pack your family’s life into seven checked bags and six carry-ons and move to a country you’ve never been to, where you don’t speak the language and put yourself in the hands of complete strangers.

It only took long enough for us to hit cruising altitude on our flight out of Portland for me to wonder, ‘What the hell are we doing?’.  The fact that we were on a redeye, I’d hardly slept the night before and the kids were restless might have had something to do with it, but the thought crept into my head and stayed with me for the rest of our travels (which was a total of 30 hours – I don’t know how we survived). Continue reading


Leave a comment

A day in the life

House

I always love hearing or reading about other mom’s everyday lives. I usually learn something, am convinced to incorporate something new into our family life and I am always encouraged. I’ve wanted to do a post about what a ‘typical’ day looks like in my life for a while and I realized I am quickly running out of days in Oregon (20 days until we move to Macedonia!) so this is my chance. I’m not one to look back but I do enjoy remembering so while I do hope you can get something from this, I am also glad that I have one day of our time in Oregon captured in detail.

Here’s what Thursday, August 21st, 2014 looked like for us: Continue reading


2 Comments

Pessimism, Optimism and what Faith has got to do with it

Pessimism Optimism Photo

I’ve always been an optimist. I’ve always believed that things will turn our all right in the end. In high school a teacher nicknamed me ‘Annie’ because of my sunny view of life.

While in university I really believed I could change the world and was convinced I would maintain my high ideals and not become cynical like most people eventually did.

I would always have hope. Continue reading


Leave a comment

6 Small Habits to Increase Contentment – Guest post at Red+Honey

6 Small Habits to Increase Contentment When Life Isn't Easy Photo

I’m posting at Red + Honey. Read the teaser here and click over to read the rest. While you’re there, stay a while! It’s one of my favorite blogs and I am constantly blessed by it.

The couch is covered in unfolded laundry. The kitchen sink is pilled with dirty dishes. My unchecked ‘to-do’ list mocks me, my weekly goals are untouched. It’s already half an hour past bedtime and the kids are still running around, not even in their pjs. My husband asks where his work clothes are and I hear a child scream out through hot tears, ‘He hit me!’

What I want to do in this moment is scream, cry, run away. I want to be as far removed as possible from the responsibilities and pressures of managing a home and raising a family.

But what I need to do in this moment is to choose joy. To choose love for those entrusted to me. To choose contentment. Click here to read more…