February 22, 2013

A guest post, another sneak peak, and the bucket list

Dear friends and faithful readers,

Today is an exciting day. It's one a.m. (at least it was when I started this post ha) and my friend Marri just emailed me from her fabulous vacation in Hawaii to let me know that this post is up on her blog. She asked me a while back if I'd write a guest blog post for her using the word 'Journey' as my prompt. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of her guest post series, but I was also really nervous. Marri is a friend of mine from college whose blog, Werewolf Jesus, grew into a book that she's currently working to get published. Whenever I read Marri's writing, I usually laugh (a lot) with her/at her/at myself as I can see myself so clearly in her lessons and learnings. And oftentimes, those very same posts will get me really thinking and chewing on things and wrestling through those same questions and observations she raises.

I cannot wait to read Werewolf Jesus in its entirety, but while you're over at Marri's blog today checking out my guest post, you HAVE to check out a few excerpts from her book here! And while you're there, will you click 'Follow' and keep up with Marri's journey (both in life and with this gem of a book)? Thank you, dear ones!

Two other fun things:
1. Remember how I've been teasing you all with a special announcement coming soon and a few sneak peek posts? I'll let you know that somewhere in my post at Werewolf Jesus you'll find a little something about what I'm up to towards the end of the piece-- not the full story yet but we're getting closer!
2. Remember that bucket list up there? The 25 in 25 list? Well, in my book, getting published online is totally going to include writing a guest piece for Marri. It's something I worked hard on, edited, re-wrote, started over several times, had others read over, and it is now 'published' over at Werewolf Jesus. I'm crossing it off the list! (But I'll keep trying my hand at other submissions of my writing elsewhere too, just for fun!).

I'm excited for you to head over to Marri's blog today to read a little bit about my journey of trusting God with my dreams. Blessings and have a great weekend!!

Love and great excitement,
Mama Bird

February 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beloved

Writing again with Lisa-Jo and some wonderful friends over at Five Minute Friday. Want to join in?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back at Lisa-Jo's blog and invite others to join in.
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.

Tonight, with our prompt word, 'beloved,' I'm going to follow the inspiration of a friend of mine named Hilary who writes beautiful and raw and redemptive letters and reflections to herself throughout different points in her life. And I want to write a letter to the Heather who so badly needed (and still needs at times) to hear these words.

GO

Dear Heather at 8, 18, and all of the years in between,

Sweet girl. Somewhere along the line, you stopped believing in yourself. I'm not sure if it was the time you tripped on stage in the high heels as the princess' dying mother, feeling hotness swell up on your heavily make-uped face as the boy in the front row laughed at you. Or if it was when you started to look around at others and say, 'I wish I was different.' 'I wish I had the talents and brains of the girl at the top of the class,' 'I wish I could have the spiritual fervor of the other girls in youth group,' 'I wish I was as funny and beautiful as my younger sister.'

I'd love to hold your face in my hands and look you in the eyes and tell you how much you are loved. Just as you are. You focus so much on your freckles and bad skin and horrible eye sight, those legs that you call gangly legs, and the fact that every time you try to play an organized sport you get hurt. It's okay, dear Heather. I want you to know that that face is beautiful. Those long skinny legs are what make you a graceful mover and dancer! You feel awkward and uncomfortable in social situations, but one day you will be surrounded by the most amazing community of friends (spread out over the entire country) who love you BECAUSE you're you. One day, you will find the most incredible man that you'll realize God has been preparing for you all along, and he will love you without makeup, and when you're being silly, and when you cry the hard kind of cry that you never wanted anyone to see except for your momma. And most importantly, do you remember our favorite Psalm? I want you to soak in these words, girl, because they are the Truth that will get you through these hard times and eventually help you start believing in yourself.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

(Psalm 139:13-14)
  
God made you exactly as you are, Heath. And more important than the popularity you so desire, or the crushes and boyfriends and romance, or the success in the world's eyes, is the fact that you are BELOVED by a God whose love is more perfect and big than any other love you have known or ever will know. Know it in your SOUL, girl. You are beloved.

STOP

February 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Bare

 Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes flat and join in a chorus of raw, honest writing around her one-word prompts. Today, we write about 'bare.' Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link-up!
 
GO

The tree makes it through winter

Threadbare and barely breathing

But oh, still so alive.

It waits to burst forth with color and vibrancy

and so much life

with the call of spring

and a pulsing, steady bloom.

I look for that first small green bud,

a quiet pushing through,

persistent, surviving,

singing its quiet song of hope

amidst the cold and dark of winter.

STOP







Love in finding that hope of spring,
Mama Bird

February 5, 2013

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

And the giveaway winner is..... Zakk! He left the comment:
Hey Smeath I'm a follower and this is where I get my Emmett fix when I miss him! I would like to enter for the bird cut. Miss you!
I was so thankful for everyone who submitted a comment! Iwas actually pleasantly surprised that everyone who turned out was a person I already knew and I would have been thrilled if any one of you won the giveaway. I used Random.org to select the winner at random, but it turned out to be Emmett's godfather and our dear friend, Zakk.

I'm looking forward to sharing other goodies and creative projects with you in the near future, friends! I'll also be sure to post a picture of the bird papercut before I send it off to the lucky winner!

Love,
Mama Bird 

February 4, 2013

The Boldest Kind of Prayer

I believe in the power of prayer.

Faith, for me, could not be possible without that daily, constant conversation between myself and God. I am a big believer in 'praying without ceasing' and am not sure how I would get through my day from start to finish without calling upon my Lord and asking for His presence, His Truth, His forgiveness, His mercy and grace. I try hard to listen and be still, but I definitely do a heavy bit of the talking/asking.... but God has been doing some great work in my heart and has been teaching me some remarkable lessons in regards to prayer.

This past year or so has been a very trying one, starting with finding out in November 2011 that we were expecting, just a month into marriage. We had no idea what to do- we weren't prepared (financially or emotionally), we selfishly liked our lives and didn't really want to change them, our closest family was 8+ hours away, and there was no way possible for us to live on one income with the cost of living in Boston/afford childcare even with both of us working. It was kind of terrifying. After a few months of just praying that God would show us what to do, we changed the way we were praying. We had been clinging so hard to our desire for clarity and for the details of our future to be revealed to us. We asked instead for a deeper trust. Within a week, God opened our eyes to His plan, and it couldn't have been plotted more perfectly.

He led us to Southwestern Virginia in May- living in the basement apartment of my inlaws' house on a farm. Two months before the due date, which was perfect timing for us to find a new doctor, settle in, me to prepare for the baby, Neil to find a job, etc. But most importantly, it gave us the support of family that we so desperately would need later on. Although it is challenging, we thank God as often as we can for how sovereign He was in bringing us here, as we can see on an almost daily basis why it is so good that we are here.

The second lesson God has been teaching me about prayer is about praying specifically. When we moved here, we were living off of Neil's paycheck at Starbucks. It was wonderful that we had some source of income, but it was hardly covering my student loan payments, let alone expensive health insurance and hospital bills that we we knew were on the horizon, baby supplies, and eventually saving enough to move out on our own after paying down debt. For the first time in our lives, we took a huge step of faith and prayed specifically for the kind of job we hoped God could provide for him. We prayed with a very specific number in mind in terms of salary, for benefits (health insurance), work in a nonprofit, a positive office environment, a place that he could grow in his understanding of the finance world, and a boss that would encourage him and work closely with him. In August, Neil received a job offer at an art museum in Roanoke as their bookkeeper and financial manager, and this job filled every single one of our prayer requests, including the salary we had asked for down to the penny.

Most recently, we decided to pray specifically again in regards to finding a church community. We have really struggled since moving down here with isolation, lack of spiritual encouragement from others, and a genuine desire to find other couples/friends who are at a similar place in life. Over the Christmas break, we decided to put together a list of what we were looking for in a church and starting asking and trusting that God would prepare a place for us that we could put down roots, and that He would lead us in our search. And we're so, so thankful to say that God answered our prayers this past weekend ("down to the penny!") about the kind of community we were asking for. On Saturday night made up our minds to try a church about 20 minutes away that we've passed dozens of times on our way to town. We went onto the church website the night beforehand to look up service times, and perused the site to find out a little bit more. Neil was quickly scrolling through the 'staff' page when I looked over his shoulder and shouted, 'Wait wait wait! Scroll back up!' There, we saw a picture of a couple that I went to college with and could not believe were in this area! It was definitely great confirmation for us that God was leading us to try this church the next morning.

So yesterday morning we prayed in the parking lot before we went in, and I nervously squeezed Neil's hand before we walked through the doors. Almost immediately, a woman with a bright, warm smile looked at us across the room through the crowd of people chatting and sipping on coffee before the service. By the end of our talk with her and the tour she gave us of the church (including a really awesome children's section that I'd totally feel comfortable leaving Emmett in the nursery of), we had an invitation to a SuperBowl party and I had a new friend's phone number (a fellow mama of a 3 year old and an 8-month old). :) We were greeted this warmly again and again and again- by the pastor, another staff member, the kind man in the pew in front of us, and then eventually Jana and Matt (the couple from Gordon) who did in fact recognize me and even invited us out to lunch. Throughout the whole service, a wonderful sermon on the topic of the church itself, and meaningful worship through song and testimonies, Neil and I kept looking at each other with that knowing look. It wasn't until after our lunch with this kind, sweet couple with our connection to the North Shore and the new youth pastor and his wife (who also have a new baby boy!), that we were finally able to sit in the car and praise God for bringing us here. We believe (at least from our impression this Sunday) that God answered our prayer for rich community, a church with an emphasis on solid, Biblical preaching, a focus on small groups, a range of ages, other young couples and families, and a place with a strong children's ministry. God heard our cries for friends and community and was preparing a place for us in this church. We're so thrilled to join Jana and Matt tomorrow night in their small group, and we can't wait to bring Emmett next week for the service.

I know that we are taught that God always hears our prayers, and will always answer- whether with a 'yes,' 'no' or 'wait.' And I know that God is not my personal genie- I know that if I pray for a pony, or a million dollars, or an exotic vacation I can't expect those things to happen. But praying for specific requests is a really good reminder that God listens, He cares for us and our hearts, and He can do mighty, mighty things. We never prayed like that before, until we desperately had to. And I think the first and second lessons about prayer I've been learning go hand in hand- it takes a deep trust to pray specifically- it takes trusting that the Lord is capable, and it takes confidence that these kinds of prayers can be answered. We've learned this year how to pray boldly.

Maybe your bold prayers look different than ours do, but I know that praying with deeper trust and praying specifically has changed our lives. We are so thankful for it. Friends, I would genuinely love to hear. Are your prayers safe and comfortable... quiet whispers of hopes that you wish you could more strongly voice? Or are you praying boldly?

February 2, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Afraid

Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes flat and join in a chorus of raw, honest writing around her one-word prompts. Today, we write about 'afraid.' Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link-up!

I am the queen of 'what ifs.' If there is a worst possible scenario to be imagined, I have probably gone there in my mind. It's a dark rabbit hole, and once I start down it, it's hard for me to anchor myself in reality.

The other night, we went out to dinner with Neil's grandmother Opal. Emmett sat in his highchair, well-fed, but jealous of all of us eating. Opal mashed up a few of her steamed green beans and put some on a spoon to feed him. I held my breath and watched as he tried them. He made his 'yuck' face but then I saw the gag. My mama instincts kicked into high gear and I swiped my finger along his tongue and the roof of his mouth, pulling out slimy, mushy green bean remnants and I pulled my son out of the high chair as he reached for me to hold him. I may have overreacted, but I know that he isn't used to the texture and honestly, felt a little worried that if I didn't take control of the situation right away the choking would turn into a real problem I couldn't handle.

That night I dreamt about him choking on Legos (we don't have any in our house). And beads and buttons from all of our craft projects. And string cheese and curly fries and spaghetti. As the dreams continued I was further and further away from him and couldn't get to him in time to swipe out the items and clear those precious passage ways.

I woke up thinking about my two options:
1) Spend the rest of Emmett's life walking three steps ahead of him and clearing the world of all dangers in sight.
2) Take the necessary precautions to baby proof, and then trust God with the rest.

This choking scenario is not the only time I am afraid. It happens when we get on the road. When I'm walking down stairs with my squirming baby in my arms. When my husband is late coming home from work and my mind automatically envisions accidents, or muggings at gas stations, etc. etc. When I haven't heard from a family member in a while or get several missed calls in one day from multiple family members. When I start thinking about our future, us here in the basement apartment of my in-laws house on the farm, wondering when our debt will be paid off, if we are a burden, when we will ever be able to afford a house of our own... and the list goes on.

Living in the shadow of constant fear and anxiety is a burden God didn't intend for me to carry. I can play the 'what if' game and be afraid until the cows come home, but it won't stop bad things from happening, and it won't create a secure and comfortable future. And I will genuinely remain paralyzed by my own fear of the worst rather than living in the freedom that I can trust God to protect us, give me wisdom as a mama, and enjoy the life He has given me (anxiety free). The only possible way to stop being afraid is to trust and relinquish control to the One who has it all in His hands.

Around here, whenever fear and worry abound, we pray 'Into thy hands I commit...'

So today Lord, I pray

Into thy hands I commit Emmett's safety
my worries about the health and safety of family and friends faraway
my fear on the road when driving with Emmett in the backseat
my ponderings and anxiety about our future and finances and living situation
all of the what ifs that keep me from basking in your goodness and this rich life you've blessed us with...

Amen.

February 1, 2013

Love and giveaways, Mama Bird

Dear friends/family/readers,

After eight months of blogging here at My Little Bird, I've learned a great deal about the blogging world and my own blogging style and limits. I've reconnected with old friends and mentors, and have met some wonderful new friends. I've processed out loud my journey into motherhood-- a journey that I'm very much still new to, but so thankful to have had this space to share with you the ups, downs and in-betweens. And as I continue to settle in to my life as a mama (and living on a farm in Virginia!) I'm so very thankful to have you here with me.

This week, I reached 10,000 views on my blog, and almost reached 30 followers (at time of writing, we're at 28). In the grand scheme of some blogs out there, these numbers are peanuts. But for me, I really only entered into this space to stay connected with close family and friends when we moved down here in May and never, ever imagined growth like this in such short amount of time.

proof!

To celebrate these fun victories, new friends, and my thankfulness for YOU reading along these past several months, I'm hosting my very first giveaway AND I'm giving away an item made by me!

As I've shared a few times on here, I've been introduced since moving down here to the incredible art of paper-cutting. I'm kind of obsessed. I love the patience and precision that it takes to sit down and meticulously cut along the tiny lines. I like picking out the colors for the forefront image and the backdrop paper. And recently, I've loved designing my own illustrations for paper cutting.

So, starting today and running through Monday February 4th at 12:00pm, you'll have the chance to enter the giveaway for a framed original papercut of your choosing from the following three options. I'm including some pictures below to show the balloon papercutting in process so you can get an idea of what to expect:

-a simple 'Home Sweet Home' papercut
-a sweet bird-inspired Valentine
-a custom-papercut with a hot-air balloon and the name of your choosing (yours? a friend's? a sweet baby you know?)







To enter the giveaway
1.You must leave a comment below stating the papercut you'd choose if you win!
2. To get an additional entry, you can follow my blog on the side bar where it says 'Follow' and you can join the lovely faces of current followers. If you choose to follow the blog, be sure to leave an additional comment below to let me know. If you're already a follower you can leave a comment letting me know that as well

*Maximum of 2 entries per person, open to U.S. and Canada folks only- sorry!.

So excited to share with you some of my original papercuts, and SO excited for this giveaway. I'll select a winner at random on Monday evening and will be sure to contact the winner via email and post the winner on here by Tuesday. Thanks so much again for all of your support, comments, and incredible encouragement over here at My Little Bird! I'm so thankful for you, dear friend!

Love and giveaways,
Mama Bird