On Being Content.

The other night, I was reading through this post that I wrote in October. I remember crying as I was working through the writing process and feeling so embarrassed and just waiting for the opinionated people of the internet to tell me all the ways I'm a terrible mother, a selfish wife, and a lost child of God. Those were all the things I was believing about myself and on top of that, I was in the middle of a serious crisis of faith. Zach and I both were. That was such a messy month for us. We're barely three months out of that and things are so completely different. We are both in a completely different state of mind and heart and I'm so thankful that we climbed out of that fog zone. That life of BLAH. Always waiting for something, always questioning, always wondering. It's amazing to be past all of that.

We are so content where we are right now. Not that we don't want things to change, we definitely do, but we finally understand that where we are right now is a season. Admittedly, it's a much longer season than we intended and we've made some not so great choices to make this season last longer than necessary, but here we are. Once November hit, and we decided not to try to rush out of my parents' basement, my mind and my heart were completely at peace. I know that's some cheesy jargon I'm using, but I don't know how else to describe it. One night, I was sitting on the couch, looking around the basement and I thought to myself, "We have to stay here until the baby is born. This is where we live. This is our home." As soon as I thought the words, it was like a million bricks were thrown off my back and I could breathe again.

We've been in this basement for a year. We've dealt with comments and whispers for a year. We know we've disappointed our family and friends by stepping down from ministry and pursuing other avenues of God's work. We know that from the outside looking in, our life looks like it's a mess. We live in a basement with our two (almost three) children. Zach's been through several jobs this year and he just quit his full time job to pursue starting his own business. And because I write pretty openly about our life, people tend to assume that's there's nothing left to the imagination, so a lot of assumptions are made about our financial situation that are just simply not true. This past year, it has been so difficult to hold our head high and have confidence that we were doing the right thing. We had so many people throwing opinions and suggestions and advice at us and it was so disheartening.

But now things are different. We still hear whispers and comments and we know that the majority of people in our lives just don't get it, but we are 100% content and 100% confident that we are making the right choices for our family. It's so amazing for me to be able to say that I am content.

Getting pregnant so soon after Emery completely threw me. Still living in my parents' basement embarrassed me. Writing ebooks that all but flopped discouraged me. Well meaning Facebook messages from concerned friends emotionally drained me. Strangers on the internet commenting about my financial and life choices angered me.

And now, none of those negative emotions are left to take room in my life. Having confidence about our lives and our path and our choices has completely revolutionized our home. There are so many amazing things that are going to happen to us this year. We know that without a doubt. But those amazing things and those circumstances won't be the reason we find happiness and contentment and peace. We've got that right now, in the valley, as we climb our way out.

And it feels stinking good.

When I Lose Focus.

So, here's something that I haven't really talked about on the blog that much. At the beginning of November, Zach quit his job. It was at a really great company and he really enjoyed his bosses and his coworkers, but things just weren't working the way we thought they would. After many discussions and a long prayer and weighing options process, Zach followed what he felt God was leading him to do and he quit his job to pursue starting his own marketing consulting business. We went through all of the emotions, of course. Who quits their job, fully supported and encouraged by their wife, in her third trimester of pregnancy? That just sounds idiotic, irresponsible, irrational, and dumb. But it was the right thing for us to do. It was the first decision we've made in a long time that felt fully led by God. You can do with that what you will, but we had (and still have) such peace about it and not for one second have we doubted that decision. We know we're exactly where God wants us to be, doing exactly what he wants us to be doing, and we haven't felt like that since we decided to step down from our youth pastoring position 2 years ago. It's been 2 years of feeling like God had abandoned us and now we realize that we just weren't listening to him in the first place. The plan was always to leave our ministry position to pursue self employment, but we let well meaning family and friends and the fear of what people would think hold us back. So we've struggled and wrestled and now we're back where we should've been two years ago. But anyhow. I digress.

When Zach quit his job, I was doing pretty well with blog income. In fact, I was doing so well, that we didn't tell any of our family members that Zach had quit his job for over a month and no one noticed a thing. I was making several hundred dollars a week, enough to fully pay our bills, on top of the money I had saved up in my paypal account from different projects and things I'd done over the summer. I was doing really well.

Zach and I have gone through a serious spiritual revitalization over the past few months. We'd all but abandoned our relationships with Christ because of our stress, our fears, and our frustration with him for not speaking clearly to us. We took things into our own hands and the distance between us and God grew and grew and grew. When we started seeking God's will for our lives again, and Zach quit his job in complete surrender and obedience to what God was saying, I also had a decision to make. A tough one. A not so cut and dry one. While Zach's God led decision was to leave his job, start his own company, and become his own boss, the decision I had to make was to keep doing exactly what I was doing, but walk away from the income aspect of it. Terrifying. But it was what I needed to do. It was the right thing to do. I knew it was right like I know my hair is brown and my skin is white. I wrote about that whole process here.

I decided to stop taking sponsored posts and to stop actively pursing an income from this blog. It even hurts to type that out because I know how to make money from this. I know how to provide for my family using this space, but this isn't the season for that. I know that what I should be doing right now is writing and only writing. It's not my job to bring in an income and support my family. That isn't what God has called me to do. He's called me to be a mother to my children, a wife to my husband, and a writer of honest and sometimes ugly truths. That is who I am right now.

But sometimes I lose my focus.

That happened this week...hence the serious lack of content except for one post on baby holes and one post riddled with affiliate links. I panicked. I forgot to trust. I forgot that we're doing exactly what God has called us to do and he has never failed us. Ever. Why couldn't I just trust? I had a full day of, "WTH, God?". I was stressed, unhappy, cranky, and frustrated. I took it out on Zach and on the kids and sent a few "Ya'll just pray for me." texts to my incredibly non judgmental friends. I hustled to try to sell some things, make some affiliate income, and get us out of the temporary setback we were in.

None of it worked.

You see, I know what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I know I'm supposed to be taking care of my children and my household first, and writing second. Not blogging, necessarily, just...writing. Every time I step away from that and try to take things into my own hands, it yields nothing. I am not supposed to be the one providing for my family financially and I don't know why I can't get that through my thick head. When I lose my focus, when I lose sight of what I know that I should be doing, my life falls apart. It's like trying to grasp sand. Just pointless effort and fruitless endeavors and I have to stop. I have to remind myself who I am and what I'm called to do, right now, in this moment. And I have to trust.

It's kind of awkward to share such a personal and fresh life situation, but writing in the moment is all I know to do and I know that a lot of you guys are in the same small business/entrepreneur/trusting God to work things out stage that we're in right now. But really, please don't think we're over here starving and struggling to pay bills, we're absolutely 100% not. We're definitely ok and Zach's business has finally started to gain momentum and he's picking up clients and God is blessing his hard work. I still feel the pressure to help out, but that's mostly because I have what we call "debt free tunnel vision" and I'm kind of obsessed with paying off our debt this year. All that will come in due time, but for now, I just have to sit back and stay focused. Things don't work when I step outside of my calling. When I try to tell God what's up. When I try to be who want to be, and not who he has called me to be.

When I lose my focus, things fall apart. Who are you supposed to be right now? Be that person, and nothing else. Fully embrace whatever role you're in, if that's the role you know you're supposed to be in. If that's being the full time financial provider, rock that role with pride. If that's being the stay at home parent and only that, rock it, embrace it, and don't try to step outside of it. We can only do so much. Do what matters. Do what you're called to do. Keep your focus and trust.

Have a great weekend, friends, and please bear with me as I am inevitably going to muck things up and lose focus again. I have one more sponsored post commitment to wrap up next week and then I'm done for a while. Sigh. Let's do this.

Roll To The Middle

The college Zach and I attended was a close knit family. There were only 30 or so students in our graduating class, around 250 students total. Because the community was so small, all of the professors lived on campus and we had close relationship with them and their families. All of the professors' kids loved Zach. He was so cool with his skateboard, his long hair, skinny jeans and guitar. One little boy in particular, Ethan, absolutely adored him. Our first semester in college, Zach and I were just friends. We started dating the last week of school, but even when we were "just friends", we were absolutely inseparable. You didn't see one without the other. We just liked hanging out. Best friends status, you know? Well, one day I was eating lunch in the cafeteria with another friend when little Ethan came running over and asked me where Zach was. When I told him I wasn't sure, that I hadn't seen him for a few hours, he had this odd look on his face; a mix of confusion and disappointment. And then he said, "But you're his bookmark!" I'm sorry, his what? I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him what that meant and his answer is still, to this day, one of my favorite things anyone has ever said about Zach and I.

"You're his bookmark! Whenever I need to find Zach, I just find you and then I'll find Zach."

His bookmark. What a sweet and brilliant observation. We weren't even a couple yet and I was his bookmark. Zach and I have always been that way. We just dig each other. We like to be around each other. He makes me laugh and I make him groan and there is no one in the world either one of us would rather be hanging out with than each other. I choose him every time.

But what happens when I'm not his bookmark anymore? When his bookmark can't even find him? We got a little taste of that a few months ago and it was ... scary. To say the least.

It would take too long to explain what brought us to the place we were a few months ago, so I'm going to save that for my future book. For now, I'll just say, that I woke up one day and realized that Zach and I were not on the same page and we hadn't been in  a long time. We still had a great relationship, still had great communication, but there were a few pieces missing and we were both refusing to acknowledge them. I was the first to call it out. I sat down across from him at the table one morning and said, "We're not on the same page anymore and it scares me."

That began a long series of conversations. Every day. We talked. And we talked. And we talked. Well. I talked. He listened and processed and barely said a thing. I felt the distance between us. Things were great in our relationship otherwise. We still went on dates, made each other laugh, did the married folk dance, but there was this unspoken thing. This piece of him that I felt like I was losing. A piece that I didn't "get" anymore. A piece that I wasn't sure he even got anymore. I was scared. I couldn't tell you what I was scared of, just that the fear was there. Fear of the unknown, I guess.

There's this song by Sara Groves called "Roll To The Middle". She sings about her and her husband's really big fight and how they said things they didn't mean and called each other names and all things married people do to hurt each other. The lyrics say:

 "All the complicated wars, they end pretty simple. Here when the lights go out, we roll to the middle. No matter how my pride resists, no matter how this wall feels true, no matter how I can’t be sure that you’re gonna roll in too. No matter what, no matter what, I’m going to reach for you."

It's funny how you listen to a song long before you ever need its wisdom, but somehow it stays with you and becomes a part of you. Those words have carried our relationship this far. Not in and of themselves, of course, but when things get bad, we both think of that song. I often ask myself after a big fight, "Am I going to roll to the middle tonight?"

In good times, and especially in bad, I'll roll to the middle.

Even when I feel lonely, and hurt, and confused.

I'll roll to the middle.

Even when he doesn't deserve it. .

I'll roll to the middle.

Even when I'm the one to blame and I'm not sure he'll meet me there.

I'll roll to the middle.

Especially when I'm afraid I'm going to lose him. When I'm losing myself. When I feel like we don't know each other anymore.

I'll roll to the middle.

Every time. No matter what. As a matter of principle, as a matter of covenant. Even when everything in me screams to run away and never look back.

I'll roll to the middle.

And that's where we found ourselves a few months ago. In this roll to the middle situation where we had to be honest, have hard conversations, make tough decisions and find ourselves again. And we did.

But first, we had to roll.

A Look Back at 2014

Oye. 2014. It's almost over and I have mixed feelings about it. When 2013 was coming to a close, I was happy to see it go and excited about what 2014 had in store for us. But now that 2014 is ending, I'm just not sure it was all I'd hoped it would be. 2013 was a  BIG year. 2014 was a year of waiting, and trusting, and silence. My 2013 recap was basically a month by month play by play, but way too much happened this year for me to even try to start mapping it all out. So let me just draw out a few of the things I've learned this year in the different areas of my life. Spiritual Life : 

This has been such a tough year for my relationship with God. We thought moving in with my parents was a temporary thing. Three months tops. But no matter what we did, we couldn't break even every month. We prayed and tried to trust that God had his hands in our lives and would work everything out, but the more time went on, the less we trusted. Zach and I weren't getting any answers about what steps to take and what decisions to make, so we just started taking steps and making decisions. All under the umbrella of "being intentional". But we were not being intentional. We were listening to all of the voices around us telling us what they thought God wanted for us, and what they thought we were focusing too much on. We struggled with our callings, with our purpose, with lack of direction. It wasn't until around September, when I was able to get away for a few days and drown out the voices, that I realized our priorities were wayyy out of wack. We were focusing too much on what people would think if we did what we truly feel called to do. We were afraid of disappointing our families. We knew people were whispering and it was frustrating and infuriating and emotionally exhausting.

Nothing was making sense in our lives. All of our striving and struggling and we had nothing to show for it. Zach and I were both frustrated and angry with God, but we weren't talking about it. Our focus was on Zach making his sales job work so we could move out of my parents' basement. But it wasn't working. No matter what he did, it wasn't working. When I got back from The Influence Conference, I had clarity and direction and just had to sit back and wait and let God work on Zach's heart. It was the first time the two of us haven't been on the same page at the same time. It was scary. I was scared. So I just prayed. And tried to shut up and be patient and wait for Zach to lead our family. And he did. We made a HUGE career and life decision that I'll write about another time, but ever since that day, we've never been more sure of where we are and what we're doing.

My big spiritual take away for the year is this : When God is not the absolute, number one priority, nothing else will ever make sense. As soon as we put him back on the throne as the King of our lives, everything started falling into place. I can't wait to share with you all the cool things that are happening. Sorry to vaugeblog, but soon. Promise.

Marriage :

Zach went through a lot this year as a husband and father and provider of our family. Losing his jobs last year, moving in with my parents, delivering sandwiches, and "failing" at his sales job was absolutely humiliating for him. I didn't make it any easier. I pushed him and nagged him and told him all the things I thought he should be doing. I saw what his pursuit of his sales career was doing to his soul and I didn't like it, and I didn't hide it. I've learned that I need to be his biggest fan, even when I'm not. Even when I don't want him to be doing whatever it is he's doing, I have to trust him, and I have to cheer him on. He needs my support and when I don't have his back, he doesn't function well. He needs me, and I didn't realize that until I saw what my lack of support was doing to him. I've learned that I need to (occasionally) just shut up and love him.

Other than that, my big marriage take away from 2014 is this : Be more careful when having sex. Cause babies happen.

Motherhood : 

This whole year has been a journey of priorities and balance. When it comes to motherhood, I'm a mess. I don't have it figured out and I fail every day. Part of that is because I put a lot of pressure on myself. I used to compare myself to moms that I thought had it all together, but now ... now I have the confidence in my messy motherhood to call BS on that whole pretty motherhood picture. I have experienced so much positive growth this year. I've learned to be more hands free and present with my kids. I've learned the beauty of being intentional in motherhood and happening to my days, instead of letting the days happen to us. But the biggest thing? I've learned to lower my expectations and give myself grace. I don't have to do it right every time. I can celebrate little wins, and forgive myself for all of the fails of varying degrees. I don't feel pressure to be anything more than who I am as a mom right now, in this moment. 2014 was the year that I took back my motherhood and started to truly own it.

Personal Life : 

Zach had to remind me to even reflect on this, which makes it apparent that I don't focus on myself enough. So much of my identity is wrapped up in who I am as a wife and a mother and a blogger, that I often forget that I'm an individual outside of those things. And because of that, I don't think I've had much growth personally this year. Outside of motherhood, outside of marriage, outside of being a writer, I haven't changed or pushed myself too much. I didn't do a lot for just me, Kristen, the person not the role, this year. Hmmm. Now I need to go take a look at my 2015 goals and see how I can push myself  to grow in the new year.

This Blog : 

SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED THIS YEAR. I can't even. I don't even have words. I mean I have some words. Actually, I could write an entire book about the way this blog and this community has affected my and my family's lives this year. This has been the year of When at Home and I just don't know how to coherently put into words what it's meant to me and my family. You guys have been my encouragement, my friends, my support, my validation. You've helped me put food on my family's table, clothes on my kids' backs, and presents under our Christmas tree. You'vedone miracles for my self esteem and confidence in who I am as a writer and as a woman.

I'm not naive enough to wrap up my entire self worth in what people on the internet say about me (cause that can go both ways), and I take every email, every message, every comment of encouraging words, with a grain of salt, but I honestly never accepted my talent and my calling as a writer until this year. I never thought my words would make an impact on anyone. Ever. But because of you guys, my words have reached over 3 million people since the beginning of January. That's crazy talk. Just crazy. I love you, When at Homies.

Some cool blog things that have happened : 

Went viral three times : Let Your Husband Love You || Are You Lonely Mama || The Shame of Baby Number 3

Featured on Huffington Post. (wut)

Launched Thrive Intentionally 

Started getting recognized in public. Still weird for me, but I love meeting you people.

This video.

Went to two conferences and had two totally different experiences. Alt Summit || The Influence Conference

All in all, 2014 was cool, but 2015 doesn't even know what's coming for it. The LaValleys are two steps ahead of the game and we're about to kill it. Watch out, ya'll. Big and awesome things are coming your way and they look a lot like US.