My First Time Being a Puppy Parent!

After puppy-proofing the apartment last week, Kevin and I were ready to take the plunge and become puppy parents!

Last Saturday we picked up our sweet little puppy. Introducing the newest addition to our family: Penny!

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Penny is a sweetheart! She’s a great mix of playfulness and cuddliness. And doesn’t she have the cutest face?

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Of course, having a puppy means lots of training and house-breaking. So far potty-training her has been very successful. Penny is learning quickly. She has had one accident in the house, but besides that she has gone out in the yard.

I’d say we have been so successful with potty-training [thus far] because we’ve learned from observing Kevin’s parents as they were house-breaking puppies. They’ve had many years of house-breaking experience, and they’ve been a great example for us.

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Potty training a dog takes constant attention, noticing their behaviors, taking them out after each activity (like playing and sleeping), and just basically taking them outside constantly!

Penny is even starting to go near the door when she has to go to the bathroom. Part of the success may also be due to the fact that border collies are known to be quick learners.

Crate training has been a little bit harder. We put her to sleep in her crate at night and then we close our bedroom door. The very first night when she started crying, it broke my heart!

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First she’ll cry herself to sleep. Then every 2-3 hours she will cry and whine, telling us she needs to go to the bathroom. After we take her out and put her back to bed she’ll cry for about 10-15 minutes.

As you can imagine, these past few nights have not warranted much good sleep. I definitely have a new appreciation for people with babies! I don’t know how new moms do it!

But besides being somewhat exhausted, being a puppy parent is such a joy! We love our sweet Penny. I’m so excited for this new chapter in our lives!

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My Life This Week

It’s been an exciting week in our house. Kevin and I decided this week we want to get a puppy!

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I wanted to give him something really special for Christmas, and naturally a puppy was one of my ideas! But since getting a puppy is a big commitment and lifestyle changer, I wanted to make sure Kevin was on-board with the decision, too.

We decided now is a good time for us to get a puppy, so Kevin agreed to let me give him this spcial gift (took a LOT of convincing, let me tell you…) 😉

We’re getting a border collie! It’s a girl, but we’re not totally sure on the name yet. I’ll be sure to update you all with her name and tons of adorable pictures. 🙂

With our puppy on the way, my big project this week was prepping our house for our new little one!

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First off, I specifically wore my new white dress pants (or, “cigarette pants” as my coworkers call them) this week because I won’t be wearing them again until our puppy is potty trained…

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I also puppy-proofed the house…Moved things up off the floors. Moved Christmas ornaments higher up on the tree (yes, my Christmas tree is up!). Placed Christmas gifts in a tub instead of sitting under the tree.

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I set things up in advance so we’re ready when she gets here. Put-together the new crate. Placed food and water bowls in the kitchen. Hung the leash and some plastic bags next to the door (trying to make potty-training as smooth as possible).

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And of course…I got the carpet cleaner out and ready to use! Now all we need is our puppy!

I’m so excited for us to be puppy parents!

 

Five Reasons to Smile

Well, it’s been a month since I’ve last written anything. Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t (months do fly by quickly!). Either way, I wanted to let you in on where I’ve been for the past month and share a tiny bit of my personal life with you.

To explain my absense, let me rewind a little. I don’t think many people know this about me, but throughout college I struggled with depression. That depression only got worse my senior year, as I was in the midst of working two part-time jobs, attending school full-time, planning a wedding, and trying to keep up relationships with my friends, family, and long-distance fiance.

busyI felt exhausted and over-worked. I was running on empty. I felt hopeless. I was irritable. I just remember working shifts at Long John Silvers and finding it hard to smile and greet customers. I felt like I had nothing left to give. I sighed a lot.

And even more, my depression affected the way I viewed myself. I felt so far away from God, but I told myself it was my own fault. I had neglected to seek God, I had neglected to read my Bible, I had put him on a shelf for so long and I “knew” that God was done giving me another chance. I felt like damaged goods. I felt worthless.

Suffice to say, I was at a very low point by the time I graduated college. And, because stuff like that doesn’t just disappear overnight, this was the baggage that I came into marriage with.

heart handsLuckily, my husband doesn’t let me continue to live in that pit of despair. He is ever speaking truth to me. He reminds me that I have worth in God’s eyes. He is patient and loving.

His unconditional love plus the general joy and excitement that comes from being a newlywed shook me out of that dark pit I was in. My depression waned during our whole first year of marriage.

And then all of a sudden the end of July came and there I was again in that low place. I felt like I had to make a conscious effort to smile. I was sighing all the time again. I gave up on my goals. Everything just felt hopeless. And when it came to blogging, I figured it was futile: who really cares anyway?

So to be completely honest, that’s why I haven’t written in such a long time. I’ve been a little preoccupied with trudging out of a “pit”.

When I am depressed, I believe the absolute worst about myself. But this past month as I’ve been working through all of this, I have found that one of the biggest weapons to combat that is the truth of God. I have to remind myself that those negative, self-shaming ideas are lies. The truth of God says that shame and guilt that cuts us down and makes us run from God is not from God – that is straight from Satan.

clouds2 Corinthians 7:10 says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

I have been clinging to that verse. When I am at a low point, thinking the worst about myself, feeling regretful, guilty, or ashamed, the key is that I have to ask myself, “is this guilt I’m feeling drawing me closer to God, or making me feel like there is no way that God could ever love me?” If it’s the latter, then I can know without a doubt that it is not truth.

Because, see, God is a loving Father. His intent is always to draw you closer to him. So if my thoughts and feelings are pushing me further away from him, then I can confidently call them what they are: lies.

I don’t know about you, but that gives me at least a little hope. That gives me more confidence and freedom. And even though remembering that truth doesn’t just magically make depression go away, it at least gives me the boldness to silence the lies and draws me closer to the One who will carry me through the dark days.

You’ll be happy to know that lately I’ve been feeling a whole lot better! I think a lot of it was adjusting to a new routine, dealing with emotional and physical exhaustion, on top of other stuff in my life right now.

happyThough my regular goals went out the window because of this, lately I’ve had a new goal: discover the things that make me happy and surround myself with them.

This past month, there were days when it felt hard to smile. I don’t want to have to struggle to smile…how awful is that?! So I’m starting a list of things that make me smile. Things that warm my heart. Things that make me feel warm and fuzzy.

This is just the beginning, but I thought I’d share it with you. And if any of you out there are going through the same thing, I hope that you can find one thing that makes you smile today, too, and surround yourself with it. Even if that means listening to one song or replaying one movie over and over. Do it. Smile. 🙂

  1. Frank Sinatra/big band music
  2. The movie You’ve Got Mail
  3. Christmas
  4. Autumn – pumpkins, Thanksgiving
  5. Doug the Pug

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(Photos from the Doug the Pug Facebook page)

3 Hard Choices For A Whiney, Wishful Control-Freak

Not quite two weeks ago, my husband Kevin graduated from his 10-month long Residency Program. As you may know, he was selected to be in the Leadership Institute at Christ’s Church of the Valley. The program ended on May 7th, with a graduation ceremony for all the Residents.

Leadership Institute GraduationThere’s Kevin along with all of the 2014-2015 Residents. He’s at the far right with a blue shirt, 2nd to top row.

I’m so proud of all that he has accomplished and all the ways he’s grown and been stretched. These past 10 months of intense training not only better prepared him to be a pastor, but to be a godly man and husband. By being here and learning from some amazing people, I know we’ve set a firm foundation for our marriage and ministry.

But with the graduation behind us and the celebration over, we’re in the midst of a difficult time. The majority of our close friends have now moved away. Kevin is still job-searching. We’re trying to make future decisions even though we’re forced to live day-by-day.

We are struggling with feeling discouraged at times. I sometimes feel disappointed that we haven’t moved onto our next chapter, when others have already started theirs. I feel STUCK. Like, I know we’re done here, yet we haven’t started anywhere else.

I’m here saying, “Okay, God…it’s time! Let’s move on now! Provide a job for Kevin, okay? I have a whole dream life planned out that can’t start until we can move on with our lives!”

In times like these, in difficult and miserable times, it seems like there is no other choice than to be, well, miserable! But I am continually reminded by God that even in this annoying time of waiting and uncertainty, I still have a choice to make.

So these are the choices I’m going to make right now:

1. I’m going to appreciate this unique time in life.

Even though it’s sad to say goodbye to so many close friends and even though it’s annoying to be stuck in a state of “limbo,” I have to admit that right now Kevin and I are the most free we’ve ever been and probably will be for a long time! We have very little obligations or engagements at the moment, which leaves us free to spend quality time together.

Just last weekend we got to spend almost all weekend just doing fun things together. We started a Harry Potter movie marathon. We went hiking. We went couponing. We played Mario and couldn’t stop laughing at how often I kept dying in the game.

I have the rest of my life to be full of obligations — people to see, places to go, events to fill up the calendar. And don’t get me wrong, those things are GREAT! I love spending time with friends and attending fun get-togethers.

But right now I have a very special time where my main obligation is enjoying life with my husband, and I want to soak it up. 🙂

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2. I’m going to live NOW.

I’m a dreamer. I think it’s a part of why I love planning so much. I love the idea of possibilities. I love thinking about what could be.

Thus, I also have a tendency to think, “My life will start when…(fill in the blank)…” For example, “My life will truly start when I get married.” Or, “My life will finally start once Kevin and I have our own house.”

I have these ideas of what my perfect life should look like (which, at the moment involves having a yard where I can have a hummingbird feeder and grow tomato plants), and until I get there it’s like my life hasn’t actually started yet.

But if I keep living this way, one day I’ll wake up and realize I never really lived at all.

I will spend my entire life wishing for whatever comes next.

So right now, that yard for a hummingbird feeder and tomato plants will have to wait. Even though my life isn’t where I wish it was, I am choosing to live RIGHT NOW. Life doesn’t start tomorrow. It’s already here. I’m going to grasp it and live it to the fullest.

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3. I’m going to trust God by having JOY!

Last weekend at church, this verse popped on the screen and it really hit the spot:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I leaned over to Kevin and said, “So that’s what God’s doing right now…he’s working on our perseverance.”

Let me tell you, my perseverance is pathetic!!!! (Uh oh, I hope I’m not giving God any ideas about making us wait even longer…)

I know that the situation that Kevin and I are in is hardly a trial compared to the sufferings of others. Compared to those who wonder if they will eat each day, or compared to those who are enslaved in trafficking, or compared to those facing terminal disease, Kevin and I have it pretty easy.

While I am so so grateful for all the blessings we have, can I just say that, comparison or not, this situation is still trying for us? It’s still frustrating. And it can be easy to be frustrated with God.

Yet, because I know that my God loves me, I am choosing to trust him. I am choosing to have joy. Why should I be joyous in a frustrating time like this? Because I know my Father in Heaven has BIG plans, and he has invited Kevin and I to be a part of them. He has a place and purpose for us.

So, I know there is good coming. And in the meantime, I know that God is only refining me to look more like him. So, it’s basically a win-win situation. Whether we’re in a trial or not, God’s good purposes are still unfolding. Knowing that truly gives me joy.

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These are 3 big choices that aren’t easy to make. It’s a lot easier to whine and complain (which, I have done a lot of already). But even when things seem out of control, I still have control over at least one thing: how I’m choosing to respond to our circumstances.

So here’s to living life to the fullest right now, because I have faith in a God who is God of my present and my future.

Reflections on the Life of a Great Man

It’s been almost two weeks now since my grandpa Erich passed away. Between all the busy-ness of flying back home to St. Louis to be with family and attend the funeral, the times of mourning, and the busy-ness of Kevin’s graduation and saying goodbye to friends, I haven’t made time to write lately.

Even more, in the midst of sadness, new blog ideas definitely took a back-burner in my mind as I processed the death of a very special man.

But I’m ready to write again. And what a better way to pick back up than to take a moment to reflect on the life of my grandpa?! I believe that we can learn from every person, experience, or encounter, if we would just take some time to observe and reflect. Over the many years I spent as his house, I certainly learned a lot from my grandpa. Even now that he is gone, I learn about the person I want to be when I reflect on his life.

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1. He let me be a part of his hobbies and routine.

Some of my most cherished memories are those growing up at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I adored my grandparents, and it wasn’t because they bought me all sorts of gifts and toys. My grandparents gave me the gift of their time. Growing up at my grandpa’s house was special because he let me join in on his every-day life. My grandpa let me spend time in the shed with him (until I got too bored and decided to go run outside and play!). My grandpa let me help him feed the cows and barn cats. My grandpa let me help him find dandelions that needed to be sprayed. All of those little things meant so much to me because it was in those moments that my grandpa shared his heart with me.

As a friend, and probably someday a parent and grandparent, I want to be like him. I don’t want to rely on gifts to form a relationship, but on genuinely sharing life with each other. I want to share my hobbies and my every day duties with my children and grandchildren. I don’t have to change around my life for them, I just need to be willing to invite them into the life I already have and share it with them. I want others to know that they have a place in my life.

2. He was a hard worker.

Though my grandpa had retired by the time I was around, I’ve heard the stories about how hard of a worker he was for his family. He would work a full-time job at McDonnel Douglas and then still come home and tend to the farm. He did what he needed to in order to make ends meet. Even as he got older and his body faced health issues, he would do all he could do keep up the farm and the house. My grandpa was determined to get the job done.

…And then here I am, constantly saying how I’m ready to retire! Ha! I want to be as hard of a worker as my grandpa was. I want to do the job well. And I want to do it humbly, without complaining.

3. He had a good sense of humor.

In my experience, my grandpa was definitely more of the strong, silent type. He wasn’t a man of many words. But I do know that he liked to laugh. He had a great smile. I can faintly hear the sound of his laugh as he would tickle me as a child, or push me on a swing. When my grandpa laughed, you couldn’t help but smile along with him.

I want to exude joy and laughter. There are times to be serious (as he was many times), but also times to laugh and revel in the moment. I can sometimes get so caught up in the stresses of life, that laughter is far from me. I want to find simple joys every day to make me smile.

Grandpa 1Grandma and Grandpa in the photobooth at my wedding!

4. He was devoted to his wife.

My grandpa was married to my grandpa just shy of 68 years. And even up til the end, he continually cared for her. Even when her health started to fade, he took on the household duties she couldn’t do…laundry, cooking, shopping. He visited her in the nursing home. He loved my grandma.

I want to be devoted to Kevin for the rest of our lives. Even in the hard times (which I know there will be), I don’t want circumstances to affect our commitment and relationship. I want to care for him forever, no matter what that looks like.

5. He lived a full life and faced death bravely.

My mom told me that near the end, my grandpa said he was really ready to go. He was ready to face death, and to see Jesus. He said that when he saw Jesus he would sing the old song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” My grandpa was able to say such things because he lived a full life. I know that he and my grandma went on some amazing trips and had tons of unforgettable experiences. He had meaningful relationships. And he had faith.

I want to live a life such as that, so that I am ready to face death. Of course, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I have no reason to fear death and I know my life is in God’s hands. However, I want to live this life to the fullest. I want to soak up every opportunity and make meaningful relationships. I want to do something great for God with the time he gives me. When I’m old I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I lived it well.

You see, I want to be like my grandpa.

Grandpa 3Grandma and Grandpa at my wedding.

I know there are so many more things I can learn from my grandpa’s life. He was a very special man to me. It is weird thinking he’s, just, not here. At the funeral, all our family was gathered so it felt like grandpa should be there too. Such a strange thing. I do miss him.

But not only do I miss him, but I miss what used to be. I miss those care-free days growing up on his farm. I miss the simplicity. I miss my grandparents as they were in those cherished memories, before so many health issues took their toll. I am saddened to think that I will never make any more of those types of memories. I am sad to face the end of a chapter.

But of course, the end of a chapter only means the start of a new one. And a great reason to make these stories great ones: to honor the life of my grandpa and to, hopefully, one day be the type of person he was.

Grandpa 4Grandpa and Grandma with their grandchildren at my grandpa’s 90th birthday.

Erich August Brakensiek, January 21, 1925 – April 29, 2015

My Adventure in [Making] Cloth Diapers, To the Glory of God!

You might remember one of my goals for April was to finish sewing cloth diapers for a friend. I’m excited to say that I accomplished my goal! It was my first time sewing these and it was definitely an adventure.

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I think these diapers look so cute, I just had to share with you! 🙂

I learned a big lesson while making these diapers…I made a mistake in my fabric measurements. The pattern has the measurements for one diaper. I was planning on making three diapers. So, logically, you’d think that to make three diapers, you should just multiply the measurements by three, right?

That’s what I thought. But when I went to cut out my pattern pieces, somehow I had enough fabric to make way more than three diapers. I was pretty peeved that I had spent money on fabric I didn’t need! I was convinced the pattern had lied to me!

Suddenly the lightbulb came on: I only needed to multiply ONE of the measurements by three, not BOTH the width and the height. The height of my pattern piece stays the same for all three diapers, I’m just essentially multiplying the width by three in order to create three diapers. Or, vice versa. Thus, I had actually bought enough fabric to make NINE diapers! (If you don’t understand anything about laying out pattern pieces on fabric, just trust me when I say I made a dumb mistake…)

Yeah, suffice to say, I felt like an idiot. But hey, I inadvertently accomplished another goal of mine for this month: make a mistake and learn from it. Additionally, when I first decided I was going to make these diapers for my friend, I considered the future potential of making these to sell. Maybe I just accidentally kick-started my cloth-diaper-making business! 😉

My stupid mistakes aside, I’m proud of the finished products. I made mistakes along the way but with each diaper I learned how to improve. And I will seek to continue to improve as I get feedback from Breanna on how well the diapers work.

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It is really amazing to be able to use a talent and skill that God has given me to bless others! I first decided I was going to make these for my friend Breanna because she was telling me how expensive cloth diapers can be! Even though it’s generally cheaper in the long run to cloth diaper your child, there is definitely a higher up-front cost.

As Breanna didn’t start cloth diapering her first baby until the baby was a little older, she didn’t have any smaller diapers more fit for a newborn baby. I decided that this was a gift I could give her that would come from the heart and my own handiwork.

Here I am with Breanna at her baby sprinkle and to the right is a picture of me with baby Peter, who I made these diapers for! I’m holding him only 13 hours after he is born…he’s the newest baby I’ve ever held!

 

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My thoughts from this diaper-making experience are simple: what hobbies or skills do you have? How could you use that to bless others?

If you can sew, who could you sew a special hand-made gift for? Or have you ever considered sewing simple clothes to send overseas to impoverished people? I’ve heard of ministries that do that and it’s something I would love to start doing one day.

If you are good at scrapbooking, drawing, stamping, etc, perhaps you could make beautiful cards that you fill with beautiful words of encouragement for someone who is having a rough time.

This isn’t just for us craftsy-type people either: if you’re skilled with cars, you could offer your car maintenance services for free to a single mom or a college student who can’t afford car work right now. If you’re a plumber or electrician, you could volunteer your services for free to you church. If you are good at yardwork, why not offer to help the widow down the street with her yardwork and lawn mowing? If you grow the most prized garden, why not share a bouquet of your flowers with some ladies at a nursing home?

There are so many more examples and possibilities, these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head! No matter what talent or skill we have, there is some way you can use it for God’s kingdom. It is amazing to think that God can use something that is just a hobby or common knowledge to us and use it for his glory. We certainly worship an amazing and very creative God!

Comment below, what ways do you use your hobbies to bless others?

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