Finding wings, remembering how to dream, and saying goodbye to this blog...

Sometimes, a girl forgets how to dream.

I don’t mean passive dreams such as “Oh, I wish I would win the lottery!” or “I would have loved to be a ballerina.” Those are plentiful enough! I mean beautiful active dreams that get your blood pumping with purpose.

Like the ones you had during your engagement.
Before you had a bunch of beautiful kiddos...
When the bill-paying jobs, and the life sorrows, and the fatigued body and soul convince you that dream-building is for the “lucky.”

Sometimes we just have to put our noses to the ground and do the hard work; sometimes for years or even decades. But please, Jesus, help me never forget how to dream! Even St. Therese of Lesieux kept dreaming big even as disease slowly took away her physical ability. First she dreamed of being a missionary, then when sickness interfered, she dreamed of a new place in that mission field and lived that life passionately, albeit from her sickbed.

When my health was restored several years ago, I still kept my nose to the ground like a good mother and wife. But I was so used to clinging to the earth that I did forget to look up...and to give my old and battered wings a try.

Throughout my life, God has reformed the dreams of my heart. It is always startling. Always difficult. And always incomparably beautiful.
 

DETOX AND REVIVAL
 

I stepped away from this blog several months ago because I was completely saturated by all of the little diversions (not obligations) in my life which were draining me....

Hobbies
Social Media
Christian ministry

I had nothing left to give to my family and to myself. So tired. So discouraged. So needing to step away and find the courage again to give the next 20 years of motherhood the same passion that I had given to the first. I was more discouraged in homeschooling than I have ever been in over 15 years. Something had to give.

For the first few weeks, I detoxed from the internet beast and experienced alternating feelings of isolation and self-recovery. Ah yes… I remember how to think for myself! I remember how to allow space that isn’t given to every little and big cause, product, friendship, breaking news story. All of so good in many ways and also so fatiguing in mind and soul.

I don’t believe that God designed us to absorb the sorrows, joys, and busyness of the entire world. That’s His job! Rather, in the example of Mother Teresa, we are asked to expend ourselves serving those 1) with whom we have been entrusted, and 2) with those whom He sends directly into our path.

The internet sends EVERYONE into our path. That’s way too many someones. I needed to recover myself for His service in my vocation and I have done that somewhat. And it is from here that I share some major life changes with you.
 

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I QUIT
 

It was a true detox. I struggled. I felt the weight of my own isolation and was forced to face the reality of my internet “addiction.” I experienced heavy disappointment when I found that quitting so much seemed to bear so little immediate fruit in my daily life.

I didn’t have more time or energy. Because there are always more dishes, more laundry, and always more people needing those precious minutes and hours. Every time I reclaimed 10 minutes from a diversion, it was quickly consumed by the great work of my life.

So I fought through and learned to ignore the irritating scratching of the mundane on the chalkboard of my emotions. I slowly began to recall the key to any success and to embrace it:

DO THE WORK FAITHFULLY… WHETHER OR NOT YOU CAN SEE RESULTS.

So I worked and worked and slowly began to recall gratitude and peace in the moments of my vocation. My dishwasher broke (and remained broken for months) and I spent hours just standing at the sink, thinking, praying, talking to my oldest daughter. I let go of all outside aspirations and ambitions and just let God work on my soul. There was a lot of work to do… and there still is.
 

THE MISSING PIECE
 

The most important realization during that time however, was how deeply I missed my husband; my hardworking best friend who gives of his time down to the last crumb in service to his family. I was no longer absorbed in distractions that helped fill the void of his absence while he worked to support our family. I was focused on his home… and on him… even while he was away.

I felt the heavy weight of homeschooling and caring for 8 children without the regular presence of my hard working soulmate. And that is really when I hit bottom. I always thought that when finances got tight enough, that we would just tighten our belts, eat cereal for dinner, and be fine. I thought that cost of living increases and saving money would always be enough.

It was true to a point. But…

I never really thought that the price of financial security would mean that I would have to sacrifice the life I dreamed of with my best friend. His presence. My husband. My love.
 

RISE
 

As I examined my life, it struck me that I had much more to give that I hadn’t been giving in the right places. I am ashamed to say that there have been times in the past when I’ve given upwards of 40 hours in a 7 day week to kids’ sports practices and events/tournaments. I’ve given countless hours to my hobbies such as sewing, blogging, crafting, reading, exercising. All good things to a point.

But if I could do it over, I would reclaim many of those hours and pour them into supporting my husband so that we could realize some of the dreams of our early years. My husband's brother died this year... and he was only 4 years older than my husband. I can't continue to hoard the gift of my life and longer. 

What that means right now…

I’m taking all those gray-area hours and am going to be pouring them into my dream: the restoration of our home to first things.

I’m giving up Blossoming Joy and will be slowly transitioning over to a new site. The new place will allow me full freedom to pursue financial blessing for my family and also share the tremendous gift of healing which I have experienced mind, body, and soul in the last five years.

Blossoming Joy was starting to turn in that direction anyway but I’ve always had some scruples about monetizing this place. It is not my desire to nickel and dime the Catholic world with hobby projects. Which is why I need to move. I am ready to work and to serve with no gray area.

The Essential Mother will be a place of service to my family and to my readers. It will remain authentic and Christ-serving. I pray that it blesses. It is for you, for me, and for every woman who is caught between a passionate desire to serve in her vocation and the need to heal and rest and rise. 

My readers have taught me SO much about what kind of support women need. I have read your emails and comments and talked to many of you personally. My new efforts will have one focus: HEALING and restoration. For you and for my family.

We are definitely shaking things up around here and embracing the new adventure. I am going to be a homeschooling, working mother - something I never thought I would hear myself say outside of a desperate situation! It is a new season and I embrace it.

For my homeschool. For my husband. For my children. For myself. For my Jesus.

I will keep Blossoming Joy up indefinitely while I find a home for my writing and memories (many of which will find new life on the new site). And I humbly ask for your support as I enter into this new season.

If Blossoming Joy has ever blessed you or someone you know, will you please consider following my new site as well? You can follow me through your blog feed, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, by signing up for my email letter (which will be packed full of practical tips for a renewal of joy and health), or sending my name to someone looking for a speaker. And if you have a business and would like to collaborate, please send me an inquiry. I deeply desire to lift up and support other family and small businesses if I can. 

If you don't like my new digs, you can always unfollow later! But perhaps just for this moment… walk with me while I get comfortable in my new wings. If I wait until I'm ready, I'll never begin... so here we go!

God bless you all. For all that you have done for me. All the prayers you have offered for me. For your emails, phone calls, and letters. And for giving of yourselves so completely in the service of Love. You are amazing. You have blessed me. Thanks be to God for who He made you to be!

Posted on May 10, 2017 and filed under blogging, Family Life, Marriage, Womanhood.

Feminine, Functional, Modest {Lularoe Review}

LuLaRoe! You've been teasing me on FB for so long and now I can finally know for myself what women mean when they say:  "Aaaah... the butter soft leggings! Must have more!" I like clothes. I like soft clothes. I even like direct marketing because I love supporting small business and buying directly from individuals. So, I was already inclined to like LuLaRoe. All that remained was for me to actually try the clothes for myself. That was easy enough through an online pop-up store and through Megan who gave me the opportunity to review pieces from her shop. And now I am thrilled to share my experience with you.

(Before I go on... I want to invite you to join her online FB pop-up tonight 11/15 at 8:00pm through tomorrow. Coupon code and details at the bottom of this post.)

So... My fashion perspective is heavily influenced by my preference for athletic apparel and pretty skirts. I am an odd mix and confess utter fashion ignorance outside what I find personally appealing. I like modest but flattering, pretty but functional, and the ability to layer. Having said that...

I'm now firmly a fan of LuLaRoe. It's comfortable (like pajama comfortable), functional, feminine, and suites a modest wardrobe. And although my budget is limited, I'm happy with a few pretty items to improve my usually drab daily "uniform." Let me walk you through a few items with comments...

The RANDY shirt and MAXI

Maxi skirts are my all time favorite article of clothing (followed closely by the hoodie) so I made a beeline straight for the LuLaRoe maxi selection. I was not disappointed and would be happy to have a closet full of these. The drape is beautiful. The fit is perfect (and flexible). Many of the patterns and colors are quite pretty and timeless.

Sizing is flexible (attention post-partum moms!!) because of the fabric and broad yoga waist band - perfect for women who tend to go up and down in girth. I could easily wear this maxi through pregnancy beyond. (I am currently 5 months postpartum and in between waistband sizes.) I am a true size small and this maxi is a small. I think my next purchase would be an XS so that I could wear it at a little higher at my true waist for more styling options. But I love it either way.

Maxi with the Randy for a casual feminine look...

The Randy shirt really appeals to the hoodie and t-shirt lover in me while still allowing me some hey-I'm-dressed-in-big-girl-clothes-today dignity. I am not a fancy gal and would live in sweats and sweatshirts if it wasn't a completely pathetic way to advertise vocational joy. Also, my husband prefers that I wear grown up clothes now and then so that's important. 

So the Randy/Maxi pattern completely wins over the girly-girl-comfort-lover in me. Notice the Converse. If it feels like PJ's and running shoes, it's a win. LuLaRoe is a win. 

I would call many of LuLaRoe's pieces "Feminine Casual" because they really dress up the girl without being fussy. But many of the pieces can also be quite dressy and I love that flexibility. I chose simpler colors and patterns but the options are endless. The pics below I will call:

1) "Tying my shoe to showcase the beautiful maxi drape"

2) "Chunky scarf for the win"

3) "LuLa dressed up." This was a post-Mass pic and yes, I know you can't see anything. But notice the back of the head of the very handsome seminarian I happen to know and love? He has nothing at all to do with LuLaRoe but I love him and consequently, this photo.

IRMA shirt and LEGGINGS

As far as LuLaRoe goes, this is a very boring picture. I am not a loud girl so all of the crazy and colorful prints are something I have to work my way into. My idea of adventurous leggings is the pink ones I'm wearing in the picture below. High adventure I tell you! 

The Irma shirt is one of the most comfortable items I have ever worn, especially with the super soft leggings. The arms are more fitted with a soft, roomy body. The tail of the shirt is longer so it covers the behind. 

I have a small frame so I need to wear an XXS Irma. They run BIG. The one above is a size Small and I really love the style and the comfort (so soft!) but I'm going to share this one with size medium daughter since it fits her perfectly. 

So... yes... the leggings. Have you heard them described as "butter" soft? They are. They really are. I want to live in them. FYI... I do not wear leggings in a way that flashes my bum but many LuLaRoe shirt and dress styles cover nicely.

LLR leggings are known for their fun and sought after prints. If you love prints, you're bound to find something! If I ever take a leap out of my comfort zone with patterns, I'm sure that my Instagram friends will be the first to know. But for now... I'm sticking with boring solids.

CARLY dress

I was not sure which one of the darling LuLaRoe dresses to choose for this review and ended up going with the Carly since it seemed to provide great Winter nursing access (with leggings). I first selected a small and ended up exchanging for an XS. My frame was swimming in the small and it was not redeemable even with strategic knots and belts. The design is roomy so even the XS is a bit big for my frame. But... I found some great video tutorials for styling and liked the rosette tie in back in which to gather some of the fabric. See pics below to see how I tied up the "tail" and bring the waist in a bit. If I don't tie it, the back scoops down to my mid calf. Cute on others, not so much on me.

Before I bought this dress, I scoured the internet for an idea of how it fit. It can truly look like a different dress on different people. Check out Bonnie's blog for her review and pics. This dress looks adorable on her and dressy enough to wear to a wedding. I really like the print which changes the whole look.

Again... notice that I picked gray. But my little pink pocket screams "adventure," no?

Since drafting this post, I've also had the opportunity to try the Cassie skirt and the Amelia dress, both of which I love (a shallow kind of love not an agape kind of love, you understand). I'm very happy with some of my wardrobe adjustments and am pondering the idea that a nice piece purchased occasionally through friends is not a bad way to stay updated.

Shop with me tonight! 

I am a hosting a LuLaRoe Facebook Pop-Up with Megan tonight (11/15) starting at 8pm EST which will be open through tomorrow. Use the coupon code: blossomingjoy15 for 15% off!

If you've never shopped on Facebook, it's super simple. Simply join her shop page, be the first to comment "sold" on any item you want to buy, and fill out the linked purchase form. See you there!!

Megan's LuLaRoe Facebook Page
Megan's LuLaRoe Instagram

Posted on November 15, 2016 and filed under Beauty, fashion.

Why I Don't Swear Online {or Anywhere}

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away (okay, about 20 years ago or so), I had a potty mouth. Unashamed and completely habituated to vulgar and stupid speech, I spewed garbage like a trucker... or... like a typical secular youth. 

I was 10 years old the first time I intentionally swore and tried out my new edgy style on some young friends during a family visit. They had always known me to be quiet, shy, and well-behaved so they were a bit shocked; which, of course, was the intended affect.

My bad language progressed from an occasional and purposeful dart thrown at the unsuspecting, to normal, habitual use which too easily replaced decent descriptive language. It was an easy transition to make; first, because it was easier than using more intelligent language and second, because my peer culture was awash in filth and indecency. My choice of words went hand in hand with a descent into the moral decay of secular American youth. 

Fast forward to my young adult metanoia when I gave my mind, body, and soul to Jesus Christ. It was the first time in my life that I really understood, believed, and lived my Catholic faith. I felt free for the first time, alive, and completely consumed by Christ-fire. As the scales fell from my eyes and my heart burned with a convert's passion, I began to throw off the old to put on the new.

In that honeymoon stage of new faith, I was blessed with the gift of clarity about where in my life I had offended God and harmed myself and others. The Holy Spirit acted powerfully on my starving heart and busted open the door as soon as I gave my tiny yes. I went to bed hungry for that Divine Love and rose in the morning alive to His presence. The grace of conversion is powerful! And so, the scales and filth and worldly weights began to fall away quickly...

My defense of abortion fell.
My hatred of the Church fell.
My habitual lying fell.
My blindness to mortal sin fell.
My worldly view of myself and others fell.

I often wish I could go back to that convert honeymoon because it was intensely beautiful... like seeing the sun for the very first time after years underground. Painful yet exquisite. I am grateful to still have a recollection of that time to inspire me to keep my eye on the prize of heaven. True freedom, peace, and joy wait for me there.

But it was a daily struggle to chop away at the old habits and chains and to uncover who I was really made to be. One area that was obviously a problem was my speech habits. No one said "You have to do this to be a good Catholic." It was just something that I knew I had to do for Christ and for my own soul. I became more attentive to my words around my new Christian friends and realized that my crass habits did not match the change that was happening inside. I wanted to honor God, myself, and those who had to politely listen to me. 

‘But now lay you also all away: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy talk out of your mouth.’
— Colossians 3:8

So my tongue got a scrubbing...

First, no more OMG.
I no longer dropped God's name into a conversation as if it were a meaningless exclamation point. I kicked this careless phrase to the curb even before I stopped using profanity because it made immediate sense. Besides the super obvious 3rd Commandment, I was falling in love with Him. That relationship made me sensitive to the living beauty His name. At the same time, a holy priest taught me to pray in reparation each time I heard the name of God used carelessly by anyone (including myself): "Lord, have mercy." I was able to replace a bad habit with a good one and that made the transition much easier. (Read more here: Stopping OMG)

Next, no more filthy mouth.
Did my speech reflect what was going on in my soul? How did it impact my witness to others? How did it express my love of Christ? There was no question for me that this change needed to happen but it was one of the hardest daily changes to make. I had trained myself to use those words. They were as common as "hello," "goodbye," and "Taco Bell" on my youthful tongue. I had thought them, whispered them, wrote them, laughed them, screamed them for many years. And after all that, I fought sentence by sentence to purge it all and reclaim my speech for Christ.

Not at all easy. 

Language continues to be a struggle for me. In my stressful moments, certain words march to my tongue like a rebellious mob. I don't get anxious about it... I don't think I'm going to get struck down by a lightening bolt for a misstep... but I am careful to keep them reigned in. On the whole, I have conquered the tendency to slip into that aspect of my old life... into vulgarity that simply isn't consistent with the freedom and joy to which Christ has called me. But it will probably be a lifelong battle.

‘A dispersed and dissipated intellect given to frivolous talk and foul language produces many vices and sins.’
— St. John Damascene

Fortunately, the written word is far easier to control than the spoken word. I have time before I hit publish or send to make a better choice. I have not always taken that moment but I almost always have, and I take care to nourish the desire that keeps me in the fight. 

When I'm writing on this blog or on social media, I am often tempted to use those purged words. It would be SO easy... especially when I want to add strong emphasis... or to appeal to the current trend of edgy cool Catholic moms. But I'm not edgy or cool by nature or by conversion and it more consistent with my personal vocation to abstain from low speech.

It's a matter of courtesy which is an extension of charity.
Of femininity and gentleness, which is so rare.
Of respect for God and for others.  
Of disciplining a tongue that easily harms.
All things which I struggled to understand and learn during my conversion and beyond.

I understand the attraction to writers who are "real" and gritty. It is not always easy to connect with those who seem out of touch, too holy, put-together, or seem uptight and we gravitate to those who don't intimidate or frustrate in those ways. But I am not obligated to please readers, only Christ. 

For me, that means I will never drop an F-bomb on this site. Because even though it might pop up unbidden in my mind, my "real" is that I don't want to swear. My "real" is that I am often ugly on the inside but still fight to keep it reigned it. The most authentic thing I can give you right now is this:

Sometimes I want to swear and I choose not to. That's it. That is who I am. 

This is not a judgment against other bloggers or people you know online. I am not the arbiter of who should and shouldn't swear in the context of their public witness. But this small practice has helped me focus on Christ, grow in virtue, and mature in practical ways; and I enthusiastically recommend it to others as a fruitful discipline. 

I feel in many ways that I am less of a Christian than I was those 20 years ago. The fire seems to die as quickly as it is reignited and it seems like I have to fight harder for virtue even in the little things. But it is often these little things which help remind me of where I have been and where I long to be. I am so often tired. I am so often tempted to bitterness. I often feel old-ish and entitled to my worldly habits.

But He calls me back to innocence. And I will try. 

“I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.”
— Matthew 18:2
Posted on November 10, 2016 and filed under culture, Faith, Spiritual Life, Womanhood.