The Key to Lasting Happiness

There is security in wisdom, don't you think?

Security: The quality or state of being secure, such as:
afreedom from danger - safety
bfreedom from fear or anxiety

There is security in wisdom.

Google defines wisdom as the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. The Bible says that wisdom will bring us honor when we embrace it, and that the person who discovers wisdom has found a priceless treasure (Proverbs 2).

You know what doesn't bring security? Ignorance. Recklessness. Thoughtlessness.

I've been in plenty of situations where I've felt insecure. I've made some really ignorant, reckless and thoughtless decisions. And to be honest, I've repeated the same bad decisions more than once. There were consequences, yes, but when you're reckless, consequences don't phase you. When you're ignorant, you can't feel the weight of your choices. And when you're thoughtless, you don't even consider how your choices are impacting others. I've been there - I've been all of those things multiple times - living insecure, shallow, and unfulfilled.

Today when I was reading through Proverbs 2, I realized something: There was a time when my pursuit of happiness and lack of wisdom left me empty - ignorant, reckless, and thoughtless.

For so many years, I chased happiness. Our culture places so much weight on happiness that when we aren't "feeling happy", we think something's wrong - we're missing something. It's a scary way to live, as it basically makes us believe that we should always and only be chasing what makes us happy - all the time. "If you're not happy, do something different." And that happiness is whatever-makes-you-feel-good happiness. So when our friendships and marriages and jobs aren't on cloud nine, they must not be for us - that's the message society is preaching, and so many of us are clinging to it. But chasing happiness only left me feeling vulnerable, insecure, and impossible to please. I loved Jesus and I wanted to live for Him, but the honest truth is that I was simply chasing happiness, and it was all about me.

The world tells us that happiness is found in what makes us feel good. But the WORD tells us this:

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding;
For her (her=wisdom) proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her grain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is like a tree of life to those who take hold of her.
And happy are all who retain her.
(Proverbs 2:13-18)

There's security in wisdom because wisdom is the key to true, lasting happiness and peace. Wisdom is knowing who He is and what His promises are. Wisdom is knowing that your true identity is described in these three words: Child of God, and believing that it trumps all else. Wisdom is recognizing and believing that commitment trumps circumstances. Wisdom is sound discretion based on His principles. It's making hard decisions that may not feel good, but that honor Him. Wisdom brings true peace, and true happiness - the kind that remains even through the trials.

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My son, let them not depart from your eyes (wisdom, understanding, knowledge),
Keep sound wisdom and discretion; So they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.
(Proverbs 2:21)

There is security in wisdom, friends. How do we gain it? We spend time in His word, learning from the stories and imprinting His promises onto our hearts. We spend time with Him, asking Him for wisdom and trusting that He will give it to us. We surround ourselves with wise counsel and wise friends - those who love Him more than themselves, those who seek security in Him. We don't expect them to be perfect, no, but we seek those who want to know Him and will journey with us.

The little moments that bring happiness are a blessing, they really are. But don't let the fleeting moments define your happiness. Find peace and lasting happiness in the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that come from knowing Him. 

It's a wild and wonderful journey, friends. We're in it together!

xoxoxo,
Tamara

How I'm Changing My Mornings From Chaos to Calm

Morning time: The inevitable chaotic rush to get to where we're going. For me, the daily disappointment. You see, my plan for the morning is always to wake up before the kids, delve into the Word, enjoy a hot cup of peppermint tea, and just soak in all the dreamy morning glory. Sometimes I get super ambitious and I plan to exercise in the morning, too. But the truth, friends? The truth is that my mornings are more like a chaotic scramble - me scrambling to get the kids ready, find socks, make lunches, and get there on time. I know you get it. I likely stayed up way too late the night before because those precious hours after the kids go to bed are my only hours to work on my projects, or catch up with friends who are also up late on Messenger. I likely thought about going to bed at 10:00, and thought about how I need sleep and really want to wake up early the next day to soak in the morning glory. Yeah, I thought about it.

That night, when I finally make it to bed, I set my alarm for 6:00am. I put my phone down. I pick it back up and think, "Just in case I don't wake up..." and set another alarm for 6:05. And then another for 6:10. Laugh, go ahead. I *know* it's ridiculous. You know what's more ridiculous? Sometimes, I (somehow) turn off ALL of my alarms and keep sleeping. Because I'm exhausted. Because I stayed up too late thinking that "me time" was best found after the kiddos went to bed. And then, chaos. Rushing. Frustration. And my hope of morning glory is gone.

You know what I really need? Discipline. I need to have discipline. I know that what my soul needs is time with God in the morning - time to be fed spiritually, time to talk with Him. I know it and I want it, but often times I get sucked in by the "right now", and ultimately my soul isn't fed. And you know who suffers when that happens? Them.

The times that I do have discipline - when I get sufficient rest and wake up before the kids - morning glory. When I make time for Him in the mornings - when I get in the Word and spend uninterrupted, quality time with Him, the rest of my day is always better. I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to conquer. When my soul is fed, I'm better - I'm a better wife, mom, friend, and stranger. Discipline, friends - I need discipline.

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Have you been there? Do you long for that time with the Lord, knowing that your days are better when you start them with Him? You know that how you spend your mornings will carry on throughout your day, but you struggle to make it a priority. I'm with you. Truth is, the late night hours are fun, but they're shallow. They bring me temporary joy, but not the lasting kind that fills my soul. I know what I need. And here's how I've been working to prioritize:

  1. Know my why.
    Tell me to go to bed and set my alarm for 5:30am so I can wake up before everyone else, and I'll just say no thanks. Tell me to do it because the rest of my day will be better because of it, and my time with my kids in the morning will be quality, and my soul will feel fed - now we're talkin'. Sometimes we need to be reminded of our why.
  2. Make myself accountable.
    We all need a little accountability, don't we? If I really want to stick to something, I ask my hubby to hold me accountable. I ask him because I know he's a stick-to-it kind of guy. Even when it means saying no to fun (I suck at that), he'll hold me to it. Find an accountability partner and be honest with them.
  3. Set my alarm and put it across the room.
    This sounds ridiculous, but it's changed my mornings. I can't explain how, but if my phone is next to me on my nightstand, I somehow manage to turn off *all* of my alarms without even realizing it. Maybe I'm half asleep? I honestly have no idea. But if my phone is across the room, I have to get up to turn it off, and that's half the battle, isn't it?
  4. Prep the night before.
    This is something that Dale Partridge over at startupcamp.com taught me. 3x5 index cards are lifesavers! Before bed, take an index card and write your top priorities for the morning. Pray, read the Word, exercise, write, etc. Whatever my top five are, I write them. Then, when I wake up, I have my list ready to go - there's no wondering what to do, what to read, what I should spend my time doing. For a heavy sleeper/slow to come to it kind of gal, this is a game changer.
  5. Grace.
    Look guys, I haven't mastered this. I'm a work-in-progress, even though I know what works for me and what doesn't. Discipline. Practice. Grace. Just because I fail one morning, doesn't mean I'm doomed to chaotic mornings for the rest of my life. I'm learning to have grace with myself. The more I practice these tools, the more consistent I become, and the easier it is to have grace on myself. I know I'm working towards it, and that feels right.

All of this is simply to say this: Start your day with Him. Your mornings don't have to be chaos. Regardless of your season of life, starting your day in the Word will *change* your days, and I mean change them for the better! If you're already doing this, you know it's true. And if you're not, will you join me on this journey of turning our mornings from chaos to calm?

xoxoxo
Tam
 

"I met God in the morning
When the day was at its best,
And His presence came like glory
Of the sunrise in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O'er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed.
But the winds that seemed to drive them,
Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind.
When I too, had looked the moorings
With the Presence left behind.

And I think I know the secret,
Learned form many a troubled way:
You must seek God in the morning
If you want Him through the day."

- Ralph Cushman

Nope

Have you ever had one of those days where you're just overwhelmed with your to do's?

You get me, right? Those days where your to do list is never-ending, there aren't enough check marks on it, and there's no end in sight. It's all good stuff, but it's just so much stuff. You're wondering why you committed to so many - too many - things and you're feeling defeated.

If you're a mom, add in the fact that, of all the days, your kiddos just really need you today, like a lot, like more than usual, and you've just about had it with all of your responsibilities.

"Please don't even ask me one more question or require me to think about anything else, because I just don't have the capacity right now."

Have you been there? If you have, you're not alone.

You know what I've noticed? I've noticed that I do this to myself. It's taken me a LONG time to come to this conclusion, but I'm certain it's the case. And in all fairness, I don't do this to myself, knowing that I'll have days like this, but I do it to myself by saying YES to far too many things. And guess what...

When we say YES to one thing, we say NO to something else.

I say yes to a lot of really awesome things. I say yes to things I love to do (and sometimes I say yes to things I don't really *want* to do, but feel obligated to do). And you know what? I've always been a yes girl. I like doing things, helping with projects, taking the lead, getting stuff done. And if you're a yes girl, you know that means that our schedules fill up very quickly. Are you with me?

When we say YES to one thing... you know the rest.

You know what else I've learned lately? Just because something is good, doesn't mean it's good for me *right now*. And it has to be true, because saying yes to alllll of the good things is simply too much. And you know who suffers when there's too much on my plate? I do. My kids do. My husband does. My time with God does. And girls, those are the most important things in our lives, not the things that should be suffering.

Truth is, when we say yes to too many things, we miss the best things. Our patience is tested. Our marriages start to crumble. Our kids act out. Our homes aren't well kept. Dinner is definitely not on the table (and everyone's starving). Life just doesn't feel peaceful, and we wonder why.

So what can we do?

Take a moment to evaluate your day, your schedule, your responsibilities. What are you saying yes to that, although it may be good, isn't the best for you right now? Then, think about the things you're missing out on because of those extra yes's. Talk to God about which things you should be saying YES to, and which things you should be saying NO to. He'll lead you if you'll let Him.

Say it with me girls... NOPE.

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It's something we need to practice saying, so that we can say yes to the things that matter the very most. Because someday we'll look back and be really, truly thankful we did.

Don't feel strong enough? Don't worry. He is.

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29–30)

"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3)

What Everyday Bravery Really Looks Like

Let’s be honest, girls. Being brave doesn’t always look like the scenes we see in movies – you know, the ones where the heroes save the day with their super-human bravery. Real life BraveGirl bravery doesn’t usually look that glamorous, does it?

You know what’s brave? Obedience. Obedience is brave. And I’m not talking about going to church or loving your neighbor. Yeah, those are both crucial and important, but I’m talking about a different kind of obedience. I’m talking about the “I just want to GIVE UP, but I KNOW that Your will for me is greater than my circumstances, so I will trust you, and I will choose you” kind of obedience. I’m talking about making hard choices that don’t *feel* good all the time, because we know they’re right in His eyes.

Maybe it’s your marriage. Or maybe it’s a relationship with a friend or loved one. Maybe God is asking you to take a leap of faith, and it’s so, so scary. You feel inadequate. Maybe you made some really bad choices and you feel like you’re too-far-gone…

Want to be brave? Be obedient. Stand firm in the truths of His promises. Make the choice that, although it seems harder, you know will honor Him. Want to be really brave? Take the lie that you’re not good enough, not strong enough, not worthy enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, or not capable enough, and throw it in the garbage. Then take the garbage out to the dumpster and leave it there, because you don’t even want to *smell* that lie when you open the garbage to throw something else away! Throw. it. away! And then, choose Him. That’sbrave.

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You are MORE than a conqueror!
You can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives you strength!
You ARE enough because of who you are in Him!
You are NEVER too far gone!

Get in the word and read what He has to say about your circumstances. Get on your knees and surrender to His will. Put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle. And once you do that, trust Him. Even when the mountain seems too big, trust Him. Reject the lies and choose Him because you know that He is (was, and always will be) faithful. And then choose Him again… and again – sometimes every minute of every day, knowing that it will all be worth it in the end. That’s obedience – that’s Brave.


Shared with joy over at www.bravegirlcommunity.com.

The Guy I Get to Call Mine

Twenty years ago, I laid eyes on this handsome guy (actually, I laid eyes on his modeling headshot that was taped to his baby sister’s desk in 5th grade), and I got butterflies.

After meeting him, I was in ten-year-old love. I knew I had to marry the cute teenager who gave an awkward ten-year-old like me the time of day. He wasn’t rude or too good for me. He genuinely cared about me. Ok fine, he genuinely cared about everyone because he’s always been amazing like that, but in my eyes, he cared about me, and that mattered. So I declared our future together to his family and friends!

Fast forward eight years. Though we each had our own, very different lives, we somehow stayed slightly in touch over the years via our bleep bleep Nextel phones... mostly me bleeping him so he wouldn’t forget about me!

One day, after I returned home from my first year of college, we re-connected. I’ll never forget that day... It felt like love at first sight. And in a strange, overwhelming, unexpected way, we knew it was exactly what God had for each of us. And a year later, we were married!

And now? Now I get to call the guy that stole my ten-year-old heart my husband. My best friend. My perfect provision. Ten years of marriage and four beautiful boys, all with this hunk.

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Can I be honest? I wish I could say it’s always been a fairytale. But friends, it hasn’t. We have faced some serious obstacles. We’ve come unbelievably close to quitting. It’s been HARD at times. But you know what? What we have, it’s always been worth fighting for. Even when we didn’t feel like it. Even when we didn’t know it, it was worth it.

It’s not easy, friends. It’s easier to quit when times get tough. But man am I thankful we fought for us. And now, today, those butterflies he gives me are a beautiful reminder of who he is, who HE is, and the incredible blessings that come with obedience and commitment. Fight for it, friends.

God is so much bigger than our circumstances guys. When we say yes to Him and can truly deny ourselves, miracles happen. Straight up miracles.

Thank you for choosing me, Arami. Then and today. I love you like crazy. ♥️

xoxoxo,
Tam

There Will Be Bad Days

There will be bad days.
There will be days when you want to pull the covers over your head and just stay there.
There will be days like this, when you don't want anyone to call on you, ask favors of you, or tell you what to do.
Yeah, there will be bad days.

When my kids are having a hard day, I try to sit down with them and get to the bottom of their frustration. After all, bad days don't come without reason.

Usually, once we figure out the reason for the frustration, we are able to talk through the issue and work towards a solution that not only solves the problem, but also serves as a reminder that our days are what we make of them.

They can choose to let their circumstances determine their attitudes, or they can choose joy... regardless of the circumstances. Joy doesn't mean everything is worked out. It doesn't mean there aren't struggles. Joy isn't circumstantial happiness. It's a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It's trusting that God is bigger than any circumstances. Is it hard to do? Absolutely. But is it worth it? Yeah, yeah it is.

I learn some of the best lessons from my kids. Though, sometimes it takes me longer to learn them!

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There are bad days.
There are days when I want to pull the covers over my head and just stay there.
There are days like this, when I don't want anyone to call on me, ask favors of me, or tell me what to do.
Yeah, there are bad days.

When I'm having a bad day, I often take it out on the people I love the most. I don't want to, but ultimately it's what happens, and I always regret it. My short temper, lack of attention, and just plain old grumpiness tends to spread like wildfire. You know what I mean.

Today, after a very long (and loud) trip to the grocery store with my two youngest should-have-been-napping boys, I was reminded of the lesson that I so often teach my boys. I don't have to let my circumstances determine my attitude. I can choose joy. I know this, of course, and repeat the lesson verbally more often than I can count. But actually practicing it? I need some more of that!

On the way home from the store, Mace softly said, "Mama, are we gonna have a good day still?" I was silent, and was instantly convicted with the lesson that I've taught him so many times. Sure, I can be frustrated ALL DAY about the trip to the store. I can be short with my kids, neglect my responsibilities at home and just be grumpy. It would be easy to do that. But I don't want that for them. And I don't want that for me. I want joy. I want to be a mama who lives what she teaches, in a real, honest way. It's a choice, friends. It's a choice every single day.

So today, even though I feel just a little bit grumpy, I choose joy. And I hope you will, too!

The Lost Art of Learning

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Some days I stress over what he's learning, wondering if it's enough. Can he say enough words clearly? Are his fine motor skills up to par? Can he follow two-step instructions? Will he be ready for his Kindergarten entrance exam in four years??? It sounds ridiculous, I know. But as mothers, those are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. 

Sometimes I get so caught up in the "learning", that I forget that this is learning too...

You know, being outside and exploring.
Climbing up the ladder, sliding down the slide.
Stopping himself before he hits the ground.
Getting up again and again.
Laughing.
It's learning! 
He's developing. 

And while reading, writing and arithmetics are all crucial parts of him developing, so is this. So is every moment that he spends exploring and adventuring.

Hey moms, don't let those thoughts of comparison tell you that your child isn't smart enough, developed enough, or learning enough. Of course we should teach them to read, write, and do the things that they must. But also, open the back door and go play outside with them! Let's allow them to learn, to explore, to adventure, to laugh, and to be little. Let's embrace the lost art of learning.

And you know what? The more I embrace this... them being outside, exploring and adventuring... the more I learn, too.

"There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forrest." - Charlotte Mason

Turning Thirty is Like Stopping at a Stop Sign

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I can't say that I'm not emotional about turning thirty - I am. At first it was a sad kind of emotion... sad because getting older scares me. Sad because I'm reminded that time isn't waiting for me, and sad because my time with my husband and babies must only be getting shorter. Insert internal panic and sudden anxiety. Then I felt silly for being sad. Stop it, Tamara! Be thankful that you *get* to turn thirty. Celebrate your blessings! Be thankful that you have more time. Yeah, be thankful.

After feeling thankful for a short time, I found myself feeling emotional again. And kind of ridiculous. Why am I, Tamara, who is *not* very emotional, so emotional?! 
Answer: I have no idea. Insert eye roll this time.

Here's what I do know: My heart is overflowing with thankfulness. As I reflect over the past thirty years, I see a story of a little girl who was so loved, then broken, scarred, and chose a path of turmoil more than once. In my thirty years, I've seen and done some detrimental things, but by the grace of God have been ultimately and completely redeemed. And it's no little thing, friends. It's a tear-jerking, emotional-getting, shout it from the rooftops kind of redemption! God is good.

Maybe thirty is one of those milestones that makes you stop and reflect on where you've been and where you're going. Maybe thirty is a like stop sign, and as you approach, you have to stop and look all around. You look behind you, you look all around you, and then you look ahead.

Whether or not you're turning thirty, I challenge you to pull up to this emotional stop sign with me. Take a moment to reflect: Take a look in the rear view mirror - what do you see?
Then look around you - who do you see? Lastly, look ahead - what lies before you?

Often times we stroll through life and just pull the California Stops through the stop signs - you know, where you don't actually stop... you just kinda roll right through. It's easier that way. Looking back isn't always easy, in fact, it's hard most of the time. And looking around takes being intentional. We like to look ahead, but we forget that we first have to look both ways to make sure we're safe before proceeding to our destinations. What good is stopping at a stop sign if you're not going to look around you? And how safe is it to speed through a stop sign and not even pause at all? But don't we do that in our stop signs of life? 

Friends, if there's one thing I've learned in my thirty years of life, it's this: you're never too far gone, and it's never to late to stop, reflect, and re-direct. I know, it's heavy, but it's true, and I'm living proof. And what good is redemption if you don't share it with the world?

Turning thirty is like stopping at a stop sign. Yeah, that's it. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling so emotional. Looking back is hard, but looking around, for the first time in a long time, feels safe, feels right. And it doesn't just *feel* right, it IS right. And that, my friends, is worth a tear or two.

So long, twenty nine. Surely thirty has incredible things in store.

 

 

 

You Inspire Me

May I always remember your excitement for life, for sharing your stories, for your adventures.

May I always remember the look on your face, ones like this, as you would share about the things you learned and your plans for your future.

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May I always remember your expressions and enthusiasm, and may the thought of them always encourage me to be a little more like you - excited, positive, eager, and adventurous. You inspire me, Little A. You inspire me to see the adventure in life and to find the good in things. You make life so much fun. The world is better with you in it.

P.S.
Mamas and Papas, tell your kiddos (out loud) that they inspire you. Be honest with them and tell them that you want to be more like them, and tell them why. Just because they're kids, doesn't mean we can't learn from them or be inspired by them. Be real with them and they'll be real with you.

Third Grade

Tomorrow he starts third grade, and I'm feeling just a little bit emotional about it.

Sometimes I treat him like he's a little adult. I expect a lot from him - he's an exceptional little eight-year-old. He asks questions that baffle me, says things that inspire and challenge me, and loves people in ways that truly teach me. He loves the Lord so fiercely. Exceptional is the only word I can think of to describe it, and that's why I expect so much of him.

But then he does this. He sits at the table, sound effects louder than the music I'm trying to listen to. He sits and he plays. His little guys fight and knock each other over. He laughs. And then I remember, oh yeah - he's eight.

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It's easy to expect a lot from a boy like him. And I believe I should. But I also have to remind myself that, yeah, he's eight. And eight is good. Eight is innocent. Let him be eight.

The journey of parenthood is a wild ride, isn't it? It's full of joy and excitement, disappointment and heartbreak, realizations and growth. I never knew that I could have contradicting feelings at the same time until I became a parent. 

So with joy and heartbreak, tomorrow we start a new chapter - an amazing chapter. Our biggest boy is starting third grade, and we couldn't be more proud! 

Do big things for the Lord, mijito. I know you will.

Stand Tall

Although my mommy heart would love to keep all of my babies home forever, our ultimate goal is to raise young men of God who will ultimately transfer their dependency from us to Him. And you know what? While it does start with a decision to make that the goal, it's truly all in the doing.

Integrity is developed, character is built, and love is practiced. None of these great virtues are one-time choices - in fact - they are all compiled of lots and lots of choices, ones that are made every day, every time.

Will our kiddos make mistakes? Be scared if they don't. But it's from their mistakes that we can teach/show them what it means to respond with integrity, with Godly character, and how to earn trust again. 

You know what that means? We have some choices to make too. Because to truly SHOW them what it means to live lives of integrity, Godly character, and love, we have to actually... you know... live it. We have to choose it - every day, every time. Even when we don't feel like it, even when it's hard.

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Standing tall doesn't mean we won't fall. It means, when we do, we get back up and stand tall again. Making these choices isn't the easy way to live. It's easier to be selfish and lack integrity. But, speaking from experience, life is much more full when we choose to stand tall and choose Him. And that's what we want for them, for our kids. It's not easy, but it's worth it. 

So, with our goal in mind, we will press forward, trusting that all of this hard work - every day and every good choice - will result in strong, integral, loving men of God. What an honor it is to be their Mama.

Stand tall my boy. Stand so, so tall.

Family Fishing: No Fish, Yes Lessons

Not every attempt at a family outing is successful. Babies get fussy, kids get grumpy, and sometimes things don't go the way we hoped they would. Often times we return home feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and discouraged.

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Today I was reminded that my attitude towards the "bad days" is ultimately what teaches my kids how to respond in real life situations. We can be upset and tell them we're never going again, or we can use it as an opportunity to talk through things, show grace, and plan how we'll do it differently next time. Getting upset and making threats is easier, but talking through things shows our kids that we believe in them, and teaches them how to communicate through tough times. 

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It's never too late to start talking through things with them, by the way. Bad days are inevitable. I want to show my kids that the bad days don't change who we are as individuals or as a family.

I'm so thankful for a husband who leads, loves, and challenges me to be better every day. Life is better with him.

Until next time,
Tamara

Digging for Treasure

Yesterday they played in the sand for hours, digging and searching for treasure. 
Do you ever feel like you're digging and digging, but never seem to find the treasure?

When it was time to come in, I asked how his treasure hunt went, and he replied with, "It went great! We found lots of treasure!"

Surprised by his answer, I turned to find him holding a pile of rocks that, in my eyes, were not the treasure I would have searched for. Yet, somehow it brought him extreme joy.

In that moment, I was reminded that, often, the treasure is not shiny gold or a sparkling gem. Often, the treasure is aged, worn, and unexpected.

Looking for treasure? Let's not keep our eyes so focused on what we want the treasure to be, that we toss out the true treasure we discover on our journey. The treasures of love, giving, sacrifice, commitment, and perseverance, all of which bring such unexplainable joy. Let's find joy in the journey and rest in the comfort of knowing that the ultimate treasure awaits us on the other side, should we choose to accept it.

Nourish to Flourish

Flourish: To grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

I want to flourish. Like, deep down in my soul I want so badly to flourish. I want to be constantly developing in a healthy way, and in every way! In my relationship with God, in my marriage, with my kids, in ministry and my relationship with friends - in it all. I don't want to be stagnant.

But who here knows that in order to flourish, we need nourishment? To nourish is to provide the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition. We need substance - nourishment - to grow, to flourish.

For so long, I've been seeking nourishment in the things I do. I've served in many ways, started many ventures, and read countless articles and books, spending lots of time seeking that growth, that fulfillment. And I've done most of it with the right intention - to grow, to help, to provide opportunity for my family, to nourish what was drying up. I've failed countless times and learned so many lessons on the way. And yes, I have grown. But you know what's been missing for the past eight years?

This:

Don't get me wrong - we've made some incredible memories as a family over the years, and I've been so blessed. But you know what I've missed out on? Childhood. I can't say there haven't been moments of it sprinkled here and there, because there have. But not enough. There hasn't been enough childhood, enough letting them be children, enough of this. 

You know what I mean, right? It's not always easy to ignore our projects to go play outside or read a book twenty seven times. But like I said in one of my previous posts, when we say YES to one thing, we say NO to something else. For far too long I've said yes to everything else and no to my kids.

But you guys, this is a praise report! Because you know what I've been doing? Saying yes to what matters (and no to the things that matter less). And you know what? I've never felt so nourished. Yeah, my house isn't caught up and my to do list doesn't have many checks on it. I've taken care of the essentials though, and I've tried to enjoy doing it. But mostly, I've been stopping, breathing, and taking in the nourishment that is childhood, the joy that comes with enjoying my children. My soul feels so nourished. And the best part? With nourishment, comes a flourishing life.

What does flourishing look like to you? I've come to learn that, for me, it's having peace, joy, and self-control. You know how hard it is to have these things when you're not nourished?! But give me nourishment, and I will flourish! I won't be perfect, of course I won't, but I'll flourish. 

Friends, may this be a reminder to you to stop, breathe, and take some time to nourish your souls. Spend time with God, and spend time with your family. Parents, enjoying your kids - making time for them - will nourish your soul, I promise. Spend some quality time just enjoying your family.

Nourish to flourish. 

Until next time,
Tamara

Say No to Say Yes

Do you ever get so busy that you forget to let your kids be kids? You know what I mean. Your planner has no open space and there just aren't enough items checked off on your list. You have no food to cook for dinner (not even frozen chicken nuggets - you used those already), twenty six loads of laundry to do, photos to edit, and really grumpy kids that keep asking for the same thing over and over again. You definitely don't have time to facilitate activities - go use your imagination.

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Sadly, I have these days quite often. Confession: I've come to the conclusion that I'm addicted to busy. It sounds crazy, I know. But it's real, friends. Don't get me wrong - I am blessed to get to do some amazing things: women's ministry, our ad agency, photography, our car club, blogging, etc. And I love them all so much. But you know what? I too often let them fill my days (like, all of them), leaving very little time for my kids to just be kids.

Kids need to roam, explore, adventure. They need to dig, get dirty, fall down, and be allowed to take. their. time. Don't you ever feel like they're just forced to tag along and adhere to your busy life... and quickly?  We've all done it. None of us are perfect. And here's the thing: sometimes there are things that truly need to get done. Errands, grocery shopping, paying bills, building your business, whatever it may be. And that's ok! But what isn't ok is being addicted to busy, which in turn prioritizes lots of other things over our kids. Hi, I'm Tamara, and I'm totally guilty of this. I have a really hard time saying no to busy and yes to these four little crazies that call me Mama. Who here knows that when we say YES to one thing, we say NO to something else? So when I say YES to busy (as in, things that I don't actually have to do, but choose to do), I say NO to time with my kids.  

There's something magical about seeing your babies roam, isn't there? Something beautiful about seeing them play with rocks and sticks and flowers, exploring God's creation. It's moments like these that stop me in my tracks, slap me in the face, and remind me WHO my priorities are, and also who God has called me to be. 

I want my boys to know that I put them before being busy. I want them to understand that I say NO to other things so that I can say YES to them. I want them to feel what quality time together is, and I want them to see me being intentional about making it a priority. I want their childhoods to be spent exploring, adventuring, and discovering - not stuck in a car or watching a screen. We'll drive, yes. And we'll watch plenty of movies, too. But I don't want them to look back and see those things as their childhood. I want them to remember our family time, whether it's playing a board game or being on a crazy adventure. The quality time.

I thank the Lord for His grace and the constant reminders He gives me to take a step back and re-evaluate my priorities. I'm far from perfect, and I'm sure I'll find myself here again. But may this be a reminder to us all to stop, breathe, and let. them. be. little. 

What will you say NO to today, so that you can say YES to them?

Until next time,
Tam

Facing the Giants

I'll be honest - I was nervous about him starting Kindergarten.

Admission: At walk through, I couldn't help but notice the other kids talking. It wasn't what they were saying, but how they were saying it - clearly, intelligible. My mommy panic set in and I started listing reasons in my head why he's just not ready for this. He's not like them. He has delays. He struggles with transition! They'll make fun of him. He'll feel inadequate. Run!

The first few days of school didn't help. He cried every morning, begging me to take him home. He'd eventually settle in, but I left the classroom crying every morning. I knew he wasn't ready. But, every afternoon at pickup his teacher would tell me what a great day he had. He's making friends, playing well, loving school.

And today? Today he walked straight to his classroom, got in line, turned to me with a wave and said, "Bye Mama! I love you!" Then he turned to his friends and started talking. WHAT? But! No, you're not ready for this!

But... he is.

Friends, do your insecurities and fears for your children ever do this to you? I often allow my anxiety to take control, holding me back and preventing me from embracing their journeys alongside them. What my kids need is a mom who will stand tall and challenge them to face difficult and uncomfortable situations, not give them reasons to step back or quit. They need a mama who will teach them to transfer their dependency from her, to Him.

Today it's kindergarten, but tomorrow it's bigger, stronger giants. And I want to raise Davids.

My big boy, so courageous and strong. I want to be brave like you, Zavi boy.

 

Until next time,
Tam

The Step

This step, the same step that I sat on when I was one year old... and two, and three.

This step takes me back to watching the trains go by, looking at the stars, singing songs while Grampi played his guitar, eating sandwiches and running barefoot. This step opens the floodgates of memories... playing house, running through the sprinklers, the butterfly call, building birdhouses, and so much more. It reminds me of how amazing my grandparents are, and how blessed I've been to do life with them. It's more than just a step to me. I see the sparkles of my childhood in that step, and it takes me back to times I will forever treasure and hold in my heart. And now, to see my boy sitting on my step, it fills my heart in an unexplainable way. 

Friends, stop to capture the places where real life happens, the places that will someday take you and your family back to the good ol' days. After all, these are the good ol' days in the making!

Until next time,
Tam

Capturing Moments

Sometimes, in the moment, we don't realize how much we'll treasure the memories being made. The chaos that comes with being a mom (or dad) seems never-ending at times, and we often find ourselves so consumed with making opportunities for memories to happen, that we forget to stop and enjoy them. 

If you're a parent, you know what I mean. Family vacations, trips to the fair, or pretty much any adventures that we manage to plan seem to come and go faster than we'd like. All of the planning, packing, actually getting there (despite the chaos), and just plain exhaustion sometimes make it difficult to be completely present and enjoy the moments we've somehow created. 

But then, this happens.

You know what I mean, those moments that, despite your exhaustion, you stare at your babies laughing and just kinda lose it? You feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy, excitement, and rejuvenation all at once, and are reminded why you do what you do.

The photographer in me says this: Capture THOSE moments. The ones that happen when you least expect them to, but that change everything. The ones that your photographer probably isn't there for. The ones that make you *feel* something. Capture the moments that define your *why*. Use your camera, use your phone, use whatever you can - but capture them. Because those are the moments that we'll look back on and cherish the most.

P.S. 
This photo was taken (and edited) on my iPhone. It's low quality, kinda blurry, and it's one of my favorite pictures ever. 

Until next time,
Tam