Friday, March 31, 2017

Blended Chaos

I looked at the calendar today (March 30th) and I instantly remembered. Today marks one year since my bonus kid, Kendall, came to live with us full-time. The circumstances that led her here were awful. If it were up to me, I would share all of the gory details, but out of respect for my man and my family, I will spare you the details. Just know that it was ugly.

And when I think back on that time, I am flooded with emotion - frustration being at the top of the list of emotions.

Can I be honest with y'all for a second? I wasn't prepared. When she came to live with us, I was about 4 weeks postpartum. I was exhausted. I was hormonal. And I was overwhelmed. I was stumbling through each day as a mom of 2 and, just like that, we added one more. So, essentially we went from 1 kid to THREE kids in a month's time. And it was TOUGH. At the height of my exhaustion and raging hormones, I entertained the idea of packing up my shit (disclaimer: I love Jesus, but I cuss a little), taking my 2 kids, and running for the hills. After all, who wants to deal with all of that (including, but not limited to, a vindictive baby mama, an emotionally wounded, attention-starved child, family court, a self-serving court appointed attorney, and a husband whose focus was understandably divided) RIGHT AFTER GIVING BIRTH.

During a time when I was too overwhelmed, too tired, and too hormonal to cry out to Jesus and trust Him through the process, I leaned on my community. We have been blessed with friends, like family, who prayed for us, prayed with us, encouraged us, and even brought us meals during that tough season.

When the dust finally began to settle, I started to see that season for what it was - a journey that was meant to be. The situation and all of the circumstances were no mistake. So, I had 2 choices: 1) be a bitter victim, or 2) embrace the season, embrace the lessons, and, most importantly, embrace the little girl who wasn't mine by birth, but by love and marriage.

We have all grown this year. All of us. It's still tough some days. It's hard to effectively raise a child when you continue to NOT be on the same page with the other parent. Our deep, deep desire is to always do what's best for Kendall. But when she's not in our care, we pray, and we trust, because we are ultimately not in control anyway. Because of this situation, I am reminded of this truth often when it comes to not just Kendall, but all of my kids. While we have influence in their lives - especially during these formative years - God has a very unique and specific plan for their lives. That truth gives me peace.

I used to think that being a stepmom was a thankless job. Stepmoms are often thrust into the role as "mother", but don't always have authority to make decisions. By God's grace, I have slowly but surely begun to change my tune. Rather than being hyper-focused on what I can't do or frustrated about what I have zero control over, I have tried to focus on what ultimately counts - loving Kendall. Being a positive influence in her life. Becoming someone she trusts. Being a woman of integrity. Showing her, through my relationship with her dad, how a wife loves and respects her husband. Showing her the importance of pursuing healthy community, healthy friendships, and healthy, God-honoring relationships with men. And, showing her, through my example, that giving (of her resources, time, and talents) and serving others is where purpose is found.

Shouldn't this be true for every relationship we encounter? If we list out the things we can control and influence, and focus on those things, there is just simply not enough time in the day to focus on the things we can't control.

I am embracing the journey. And I pray all of you out there stumbling through a similar journey find peace and learn to embrace your journey.

We survived our first year as a family of 5. One year down. And, Lord willing, many, many more to come.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Challenges + Choices

I know, I, who do I think I am coming back on the scene after all this time?! I wanted to share something God placed on my heart yesterday and there is no better place to journal those thoughts than this little blog that was once such a fun little project of mine. Who knows...maybe I'll get my thoughts together more often and post more. We'll see.

Anyway, back to God. And my heart.

So, my party of 5 stopped by a kids shoe store yesterday that is going out of business. Kendall got 2 pairs of shoes...sneakers and a dressy pair. As we were checking out, I noticed a shoe donation box behind the register, so I asked her if she wanted to donate the pair of sneakers she had on. She gave every reason to NOT give the shoes away, so I called my hubby over to join the conversation. He reminded her how blessed she is, and challenged her to think of others, and she reluctantly decided to take her shoes off to donate. She put the old shoes in the donation box then went to open the new shoe box and discovered that we accidentally bought the wrong pair! In all the chaos, she had put down the pair she really wanted and handed me the wrong box. We started looking for the right pair and realized that another little girl had grabbed them and was trying them on. We stood there for a minute trying to figure out what we were going to do, and the little girl's mom handed us the box and said they didn't want them. Even though the shoes were final sale, the salesperson let us do an even swap since we hadn't left the store.

Crisis averted.

If Kendall had decided not to donate her shoes, we wouldn't have known that we bought the wrong pair of shoes (wrong size, too) until we got home. And then it would've been too late because all sales were final.

My hubby pointed out something that wasn't obvious to me at first...but isn't that how life works sometimes? We are often faced with challenges. Hard challenges. And we have to make choices. Sometimes those choices involve great faith and sacrifice, which can be scary not knowing if going with the harder choice or sacrifice will pay off in the end. That's where faith comes in. When we believe that we don't have to walk in fear and trust that God will work it out no matter what, we are free to take risks and free to give...not holding things so tightly. And just sit back and watch God blow our minds.

So, it turns out that Kendall's shoe donation challenge wasn't just a lesson for her. It was a lesson for all of us. And I'm so grateful to be able to see God in the little, sometimes totally random, life moments.

Thanks for letting me get that out, y'all. I hope it encourages someone out there.

See you in another 2 years. Just kidding. Maybe.

For good measure, here is a somewhat updated photo of my crew. Because I just realized that the last time I posted, we were still a party of 4. Yep, had another baby & everything. Shameful.

I mean, look at her...she's a whole year old. My little Tori Elise. 

I am blessed for sure.
Happy Monday! xo

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Life Lately

Once upon a time, blogging was everything to me. It was my creative outlet. A place to share my thoughts on style, faith, family, friends, DIY, and the like. And then...I had a baby. And suddenly, my weekly blog posts turned into every other week blog posts. Then eventually monthly blog posts. And before I knew it, a whole year had passed since I blogged last. Some days I miss it. But most days, I don't think much about blogging. Because you know is just busy. And when I actually get to sit down and breathe for a second, the last thing I think about is blogging.

But...I do want to find a way to fit it back into my routine. I don't know...I'll figure it out at some point. In the mean time, for those who faithfully followed or subscribed, I figured I'd bring you a life update.

Let's start with family. Family is wonderful, crazy, and frustrating. I'm sure you can relate.

Marriage is pretty good these days. I shared awhile back that we were in a weird spot. I think we were just trying to figure out life with a baby. And there was a lot of selfishness going on. But at some point, we trusted the Lord and started believing the best in one another. We found our way and started to actually implement all some of the nuggets and tools we've collected over the years. Grateful for my man. He's a good one most days. ha.

My baby is now a toddler. A beautiful, rambunctious, talkative,  and tantrum-throwing pro. She fills me up in so many ways, but drains me all the same. I love watching her grow and become such a fun little person.

Kendall, my bonus child, has lived with us full-time since December. She might be one of the smartest, most talented kids I know. But she struggles socially and relationally which manifests itself in lots of ways. Most of those 'ways' test my patience. Heck, they test every single one of the fruits of the Spirit. Every. Single. One. Having her with us full-time has been quite an adjustment for all of us, but we've all grown in the process. Including her. And that keeps me encouraged.


Next week, I will celebrate my 9th anniversary at my company. 9 years. Craziness. Some days it feels like 9 years have gone by, other days it feels like I just graduated from college and started working here. I'm grateful for all of it though. I've learned a lot here.

Then, there's this new-found passion.

The very thought of network marketing used to make me cringe. I never wanted to knock anyone's hustle, but I hated being invited to parties and such because I always felt such pressure to buy something I knew I didn't want, need, or would use.

And then God brought Plexus Worldwide into my life. A company built on integrity. A company that allows you to start a business for $34.95. A company that promotes health from the inside out, starting with gut health. I have encountered testimonies of people who were really sick...and I don't mean 'runny nose' sick...I mean chronic pain and autoimmune disease sick...and someone along the way shared Plexus with them, and now they are healthier than ever. No more prescription drugs and no more pain. And even better, people are losing 40, 50, 75, 100, 150 pounds of weight that they could not get off with regular diet and exercise, or any other weight loss or supplement system. So this is my help people find freedom from all of the things that ail them physically and financially.

I shared my 'why' with friends via YouTube. Check it out.

So that's life in a nutshell. Still finding my way. I want this life of mine to reflect Jesus and honor God. It's a marathon, yet tomorrow is not promised. So I'm doing my best to live boldly and not allow the little stuff to weigh me down.

As far as this little blog is concerned...stay tuned. I hope to be back again soon. xo

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Body After Baby

When I was pregnant, I ate like a 250 pound grown man. I rarely told myself no. I gave into most all of my cravings. And I craved the worst things...fried chicken tenders from Raising Canes, cupcakes, gum balls, popsicles, just to name a few. Frankly, I went nuts. I remember looking in the mirror in my 9-month and thinking to myself, "what in the world have you done to yourself, girl?" 

By the end of my pregnancy, I had packed on nearly 50 pounds. The funny thing is I wasn't super worried about losing the baby weight. I figured since I've been relatively thin my whole life and my parents are (and have always been) in pretty good shape, I'd be OK. So imagine my surprise a month, 2 months, and 3 months after baby was born, to find the weight still lingering. I found myself feeling pretty frustrated by the amount of time it was taking to drop the pounds. Sometime between months 1 and 2, I decided to get serious and ordered Focus T25 and joined a T25 Facebook accountability group. So yeah, that didn't go so well. I lasted a solid 2 weeks and decided that being a new mom was all the work out I had energy for. And let's be honest, I've never been that great at sticking to any kind of fitness regimen.

Fast forward to today. Turns out I was able to lose the weight without working out, after all. Nearly 6 months after baby, I'm back down to my pre-baby weight. BUT my body is SO different. It's a bit...fluffy. And everything fits differently. Everything. So I'm not off the hook just yet...looks like I'll still need to work out to get rid of the fluffy middle and extra meat around the hip and thigh areas. I've also been surprised by certain body parts that have become, shall we say, saggy. Pretty sure I've always wanted bigger boobs, but not the big, saggy kind. Sheesh.

Anyway, I try not to beat myself up about it. Rather, reveling in the fact that the Lord equipped my little 'ol body to carry a baby full-term. That's pretty amazing. And worth a little extra fluff.

cargo jacket & dress: GAP Outlet // boots: Nine West Outlet
necklace: Francesca's Collections // Michael Kors bag: consignment
sunglasses: Rayban

Linking up:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Month {6}

Before Ryann was born, I was told by lots of moms that 6 months is one of the most fun baby stages. And it's so true. Her little personality is so funny. She's very aware of what's going on around her. She's sitting up by herself now and it's so, so cute watching her play with her little toys. She really is a happy, smiling little nugget. 

16.14 pounds
26.5 inches
Wearing 6 month clothing & size 3 diapers
Killing 6oz of either breast milk or formula every 3 hours
Started her on organic oatmeal cereal at 5 1/2 months
Introduced avocado recently and plan to try sweet potatoes this week
Her first little tooth is coming through 
(with the help of Hyland's teething tablets and lots of teething toys, teething has been manageable so far)
Sleeps about 10 hours a night (9:30p to 7a)
Army crawling/scooting
(she's able to get up on her hands and knees - I expect she'll be crawling within the month)
Sitting up like a pro
I removed the infant sling in her baby tub - bath time is a blast - and very wet :)

Recap of months 1-5:

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

6 months. Wow. I was just thinking the other day that if the next 6 months fly by as fast as the first 6, I'm in trouble. Still doing my very best to savor every single moment. I really love being her mommy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Houndstooth 2.0

skirt: JC Penney, old | similar
graphic tee: Old Navy, old | similar
cardigan: Express, old | similar on sale
booties: DSW
necklace: Forever 21, old | similar
sunglasses: Rayban
bag: so old...don't remember | similar

Remember my ridiculous rant about houndstooth? Well, turns out I'm a fan of this print. I'm totally guilty of defaulting to head-to-toe black and white with a pop of (various shades of) pink. It's easy and it works every.single.time. So mixing black and white together in a fun little pattern (ie houndstooth) = genius. 

I bought this skirt over a year ago but never got around to wearing it before my waist line started to expand. I love it because it can be dressed up or down. For a more casual look, I could totally see this exact outfit with Chuck Taylors and simpler accessories. And I actually dressed it up a couple weeks ago for work, pairing it with a red peplum top, black tights, and black boots. 

In other news, the first day of spring is this Thursday.
I seriously am SO over this bipolar Texas weather. Really looking forward to the warmer temps ahead.

Hope you're having a fab week so far! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

White Sneaks + Black Tights | Testimony

I traveled to California this week for work. I've always packed pretty light, but I try to pack even lighter these days since I have extra equipment to carry (breast pump). So other than the Chucks I wore on the flight there, I only packed 1 pair of heeled boots. I realized the other day as I repacked my bag to fly from Orange County to San Francisco for the second half of my trip, that there was no way I was going to try to trek through the airport with my boots on, so I slipped on these dingy white Chucks with my black tights, blazer, and dress. Oh, yes I did. I definitely got some interesting looks but I walked through that airport proudly with my black tights and white shoes.

So allow me to explain why this is such a big deal for me. Because, let’s be honest, it’s definitely NOT because I was trying to intentionally break any fashion rules. There was a time in my life when I would've cared so much about what people thought of me for – {gasp} – wearing white sneaks with a dress and black tights. I’m sure that sounds so trivial and self-absorbed to most of you, but it’s true. I was incredibly insecure. Incredibly.

It started at a young age. I remember being very conscious about how my hair was styled in Kindergarten. Kindergarten, people. A time in my life where I should have been worried about Barbie dolls and finding enough restraint to not eat glue, I was worried about my hair. To this day, I’m not sure where all of that came from. I didn’t grow up with a mom who was overly obsessed with her appearance…she never talked about her weight or physical insecurities in front of me. I always viewed her as a confident woman. She was also pretty deliberate about not letting us watch smut TV or exposing us to media influences that often shape a young girl’s world view. So, yeah, it didn't come from her.

As I got older, I became even more aware of my appearance. Aware of my perceived flaws. Always having a deep, deep desire to measure up to an ideal of beauty that seemed unreachable. Like most kids, junior high and high school were especially rough for me. I was super skinny, flat-chested, had a long neck, big nose, and big forehead – I often felt tormented in my own skin. Bangs were an absolute necessity to cover my forehead and I stuffed my bra for years. Even though I hung with a crowd that was considered “cool”, I still felt very…uncool. I constantly tried to overcompensate my feelings of insecurity by talking down to other people, involving myself in gossip, and spreading rumors that almost got me beat up on more than one occasion.

The insanity didn't stop after high school. I continued to search for validation and some ounce of confidence through toxic relationships and material things…even to the point of shoplifting when I couldn't afford what I wanted.

In late 2003, I got into some trouble with the law. I was disappointed in myself. So many questions flooded my brain: What is wrong with me? How did this happen to me? Why am I so discontent with my life? Why am I constantly seeking affirmation from people and things? What am I missing? I continued to search for answers to these questions but kept coming up short.

But God.

A couple months after my brush with the law, the Lord strategically placed me right smack dab in the middle of a campus ministry event. I watched these people…talking about a Savior who could deliver you from yourself…out of the darkest of places. Of course, my interest was peaked because I was in a dark place. 

Growing up, I always believed there was a God. And I believed in Heaven and Hell. But that was the extent of it. I didn't have a personal relationship with God and didn't really know I needed one. I don't recall ever hearing the Gospel before this point. When I look back at that time, it is clear to me that God had been pursuing me for a long time and my heart was slowly but surely turning toward Him. The circumstances I was dealing with made it possible for me to actually hear the Gospel this time. 

The message was so simple.

I am a sinner before a holy, blameless God. And there was nothing I could do in my own power to change that fact. Oh and by the way, even if I had a million dollars to change all of the things I didn't like about my appearance, I am still a sinner and I would ultimately never find complete healing and fulfillment through the worldly things I was chasing.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

The ultimate consequence of sin is death. An eternity spent apart from God.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Dang. That sucks. Really bad. Death? Man. But to know God sent Jesus to save me from my sins. Wow.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

So you mean to tell me that God sent His only Son in the form of love on us and show us how to live as God intended...only to die a brutal death? But how relieved I was to know that He HAD to die because He took my sins (and all of the sins of mankind) with Him to the grave. And with his burial, our sins (past, present and future) are buried. Jesus was perfect. Sinless. He didn't deserve to die. But it was the only way to restore the broken relationship between God and mankind.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

I didn't make a decision for Christ immediately. It took me a little while to digest these truths. And frankly, I was a little taken back that I had been thinking all that time that I was a "good person" and deserved to go to Heaven. As simple as the Gospel message is, it was a lot to take in.

But in March 2004, I accepted God's free gift of salvation. Praise the Lord.

So, my appearance...I look at myself much differently now. To know that God carefully stitched me together in my mother's womb makes my heart flutter a little bit. He thinks I'm beautiful. He made me (Psalm 139:14). How amazing is that? Don't get me wrong...I still have plenty of days where I feel a little insecure. It's frustrating sometimes when my hair isn't right or when I feel and look a little frumpy. Oh and P.S. this gut I have left over from pregnancy...yeah, can't say I love it.

But He made me. Made me to be so much more than a pretty face and a perfect body. Made me to love Him. Love others. Serve others. Do His work. Excel in the gifts and talents He's given me for the purpose of increasing His Kingdom with more people that are in the exact same place I was in. He made me to be a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, wife, and mother.

So I look at this body, this nose, this forehead, this long neck so differently now. He made me. And He loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me. And this is why I can wear black tights and white sneaks proudly through an airport and not care what other people think about it. Because He made me. He saved me.

Oh, and I absolutely love that He uses such random moments like me deciding to wing it and wear white shoes and black tights, to remind me of the work He's done in my life. Love it.

If this is the first time you're hearing/reading these truths and want to know more, please email me.
Would be honored to talk to you about my journey.

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