Thursday, February 18, 2016

True Love

My husband's birthday is tomorrow, and this has inspired me to break out my old friend, the blog, and put pen to paper about what I have learned about true love.  (Although my witty son, who just pre-read this for me, asked me if this was an expression because I am not actually putting pen to paper.)

Zach is the epitome of true love to me.  When I try to tangibly think about our God's great love for me, I first think of Zach's constant, selfless, unconditional love, and this helps me to better begin to comprehend's God's love for his people.

Our love story began in college when we were just teenagers.  We locked eyes often, talked for hours, snuck around campus late at night to find quiet places to talk, and prayed about each step of our relationship.  We prayed when we had our DTR (define the relationship) talk, we talked at great length about what it would mean to say the words, "I love you," and we decided up in a tree overlooking Lake Valentine that we wanted to get married.  We shared our first kiss the night before I left for the semester to go on a study abroad trip, and we really fell in love when he came to visit me in England for a week and we traveled the country together.  He proposed Thanksgiving weekend in a quiet moment by the Christmas tree, and we couldn't help but wake the whole house to tell them.  My heart ached when he left for four months to go study and serve in India during our engagement, and we couldn't stop kissing when he came home.  He was a bundle of nerves on our wedding day because he did not enjoy all of the attention and pressure of being the one to look at, but it was still a sacred day, indeed.  We spent our honeymoon in the mountains of Utah and have not stopped holding hands since.  He knows me better than I probably know myself.  My eyes still brim with tears when I think about him and our love, and our eyes still speak thousands of words of love when we look at each other.  And although the romance of flowers and whispers and glances and kisses are still alive and well, it is so much more that has made what I have learned is true love.


True love is holding back your hair while you throw up, sick and pregnant.

True love is washing the vomit-covered bedsheets from your toddler while you bathe that sick little one in the middle of the night.

True love is setting the alarm to not sleep through a newborn's feedings and offering to walk the crying baby so you can get back to sleep after that feeding.

True love is washing the dinner dishes so you can have the easier job of bedtime reading on the couch with the kids.

True love is giving you the bigger scoop of ice cream or the cinnamon roll from the middle of the pan.

True love is responding so calmly after a sobbing phone call that you lost it with your kids and are a terrible mom - "You are amazing.  You can do this.  I love you."

True love is coming home early from an out-of-town work trip to be away from you for less time.

True love is mowing lawns in the summer to make extra money to put food on your table and send your kids to piano lessons.

True love is helping carry up piles of clean laundry to the kids' dressers, even when he forgets every single time which drawers belong to which kids.

True love is making you hot tea at night and bringing home an apple pie for dessert.

True love is letting you cry at night when life feels too overwhelming and praying over you as you fall asleep.

True love is saying sorry after a loud and painful fight, hugging you and agreeing to come together once again.

True love is saying day after day after day, "I love you.  I am here."

True love is always doing the driving on road trips.

True love is bringing home your favorite coffee from Starbucks.

True love is offering to get up with the kids morning after morning when you are pregnant and tired.

True love is picking up your medicine at the pharmacy.

True love is putting toothpaste on your toothbrush at night (seriously, he does this).

True love is still calling you beautiful even when you have gained weight and have a road map of stretch marks across your stomach from the privilege of carrying babies.

True love is not caring whether or not your legs are shaved or if you are wearing make up.

True love is picking up tacos when it has been too long of a day to make dinner.

True love is pointing you back to God, reminding you of truth, and encouraging you to keep perspective when life gets hard.

True love is choosing every day to believe in you, to believe in your family, to believe in your marriage, and to never ever give up.

My husband has taught me all of these things about true love, and I am so deeply thankful for God's gift to me in giving me Zachary Douglas Schmidt as my husband and my true other half.

He is strong and authentic, brilliant yet easy to talk to.  He is fierce yet gentle.  He is devoted and faithful.  He is silly and fun and loves with a passion.  He is quite literally my most favorite human being in all the world, and I want to celebrate him well!

Happy Birthday to my one and only true love.

Thank you, my love, for showing me the most beautiful picture of true love.  And may you have your best year yet ahead of you!!!

I love you.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sometimes We Need a Shift

Last week, I was talking with my bestie, Kim, who lives in Michigan.  I was sharing the woes of my sons not listening, not being motivated very easily, and my getting frustrated.  We had started a chart for them for their weekend screen time, crossing out fifteen minutes at a time when they were not making good choices with their obedience or attitude, etc.  Kim wisely suggested, "Why don't you turn it around to be a system of EARNING screen time instead of taking it away??"  And of course, I thought, why have we never thought of this before?!  But that is why we need share our stories, big and small, and let them give us different perspectives.

You guys, I had to hop onto the computer this morning to quickly share that the past three days of my life have been completely different!!!!  And I am not kidding!!!  We hung little charts on the wall for Micah and Samuel (and when I say "chart," I mean a sheet of paper with their name written on the top with a sharpee marker...nothing fancy) and told them that every time we caught them obeying quickly, helping with something around the house, or showing kindness, we would give them a star on their chart.  Each star would equal 10 minutes of screen time and they can earn up to 200 minutes maximum (100 for Saturday, 100 for Sunday).  This is a bit more than we had otherwise been planning, but we wanted the incentive to be exciting and make sense number-wise, too.

Immediately Monday morning, the boys unloaded the dishwasher without being asked.  When I said it was time to start math, they got out their books and started right away.  The past three days, they have literally been looking for ways to earn stars.  At this moment, they are loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes from breakfast (and I never asked them to).  As I was toasting bread for breakfast, they rushed to fill cups with water and orange juice and asked me, "What do you want to drink for breakfast, Mommy?"  Seriously.  They have worked hard at their schooling, they have helped with their chores, and they have sought to help each other.  It has been glorious.

Overnight, our home became more positive, more encouraging.  The kids are cheering for the boys when they earn stars and instead of me groaning and taking minutes away from their screen time, I get to be their cheerleader instead.

Maybe this will only last a few days or a few weeks.  I'll TAKE IT!  It is awesome to watch them excited and motivated to obey, and I am SO grateful for that conversation with my friend who had the wisdom to suggest I change things up.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little shift.  A little shift in perspective or a shift in practice.  Sometimes we just need to start something over or start something new to focus our hearts and our attitudes on what matters.  And it makes all the difference.

So here's to a new day, a fresh start, a new tactic!  May it bring joy to your day, friends!

And I am off to school my boys, who I'm sure will be eager to do their math with a good attitude and earn another star!!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

On the 21 Martyrs

Tonight I cannot shake the brutal deaths of 21 Christians in Libya.

21 martyrs for Jesus

I even asked my husband, "Are you sure this story is REAL?  Is there any chance it is not real??"

I really wanted to believe that this was, perhaps, some made up story for the Internet.

The fact that these kinds of things do, indeed, happen around our world in our current time is just beyond my comprehension.  That people could be beheaded for their faith and taken from this earth much, much too soon is hard for the sensitive, happy-ending-lover that I am.

So as we talked and prayed for these martyrs, their families, and the persecuted Church around the world, I started feeling convicted - OH SO convicted for the things that can occupy my energy in a day.

I started listing all the things I could possibly spend energy on - putting ponies in my girls' hair that match their outfit.  Making sure my son's pants aren't too short or that my other son wears a pair of jeans that don't have holes in them.  Discussing if my kids should eat one treat at the end of the day or two.  Worrying about the way my ponytail looks or the fact that I am not losing my baby weight like I'd like to.  Making sure my bathroom is clean before the next person comes over and uses it.  Rushing to be on time to dance class.  Thinking it'd be nice to have more money to spend at Hobby Lobby.  Worried that someone will come over and see the dust bunnies under my couches.

We spend time on the ultimate "first-world-problem" debates: immunizations, circumcision, education, organic eating, essential oils, forms of discipline, earth origins, and so much more...

We spend time checking Pinterest and the mirror and our bank accounts and our cell phones and all of a sudden I am thinking...


The fact that I could literally be looking for flowers for my girls' hair that match their outfit while people on the other side of the world are being KILLED is too much for me.

I want to change.

I want to look at life differently.

I want to worry less.  Pray more.

I want to spend my energy on things that are eternal.

I want to spend my energy teaching my children how to love well, how to forgive when others may wrong them, how to live like Jesus, how to be TRUTH TELLERS and HOPE SPREADERS and JOYFUL LIVERS.

I want to spend MORE time teaching my kids about Jesus than cleaning my bathrooms.

I want to spend MORE energy raising my children up to build God's kingdom, to be soldiers in his army, to war against evil than I do fluffing pillows and cleaning counters and putting on lipstick.

This story of these martyrs is haunting me tonight.

But I hope it doesn't stop affecting me.

I hope I remember it and let it change me.

Oh, God, let this story continue to change me!!!

May I remember perspective and keep choosing what matters and what lasts!!!

I'm not saying that I am going to stop cleaning bathrooms or stop doing my hair.  I am still going to put oils on my kids when they're sick and am going to keep buying organic milk.  I am not trying to diminish the value of so many things that are components of our life - the way we eat, the way we spend our time, making our homes hospitable, disciplining our children, going to work, having fun, etc.  I am just hoping that we could have a better perspective on life, a richer way of looking at things.

People are being killed for being Christians and I, for one, want to work hard to stop the evil in our world that causes things like this to happen.

I don't know what to do with this, you guys!!!  This is so awful!  So huge!

But I DO know that I can keep pressing on towards a better attitude, a calmer, more centered heart, a more submissive posture toward the Spirit and his leadings in my life in my comfortable, suburban life in the rich, free country that we live in.

I DO know that I can ask God to help change me and focus me on what matters in this life.

May we continue to spread love and hope and the message that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life so that we can usher more people into God's kingdom for his glory!!!!

May it be so, Lord.

May it be so.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best of 2014

This past year was full to the brim.  Our days are naturally packed with schooling and chores and children.  Our weekends are packed with family events and trips and church and out-of-town company.  Our months and seasons fly by, and before we know it, another year is done.  This year was so good.  So busy, so tiring at times, but so good.  We added another member to our family, we took several trips together, we moved to a new "miracle" house, and we grew more in love and gratitude for one another.  I picked out my favorite photographs and/or moments from our year.  Here goes!

Ella took her first dance class.  This picture is one of my favorites of all time.

I think I love this picture so much because it just captures our day-to-day.  Still finishing math late in the day, cutting carrots to steam for dinner, sitting together at our old, worn table, doing our homeschooling life.  Those are  moments I love.

Sophia turned TWO.  She drove us crazy and had us pulling our hair out and counting the hours until bedtime many, many days, but man, does this girl have our hearts.  She is precious and brilliant and hilarious and such a little communicator.  We know exactly what she is feeling, thinking, wanting at ALL times.  She is amazing.  Love this girl.

My niece, Addison Jo, was born on Zach's birthday!  My girls love and cherish babies.  Addy is probably one of Sophia's favorite people in the whole world.  Precious.

Sammy turned FIVE this year.  His smile just melts my heart.  This year he learned to ride a bike without training wheels, he took off with his reading, and he continues to be into maps and calendars and numbers in an amazing way!  He adores his big brother and wants to do everything with him!

Zach and I got on a plane for the first time together in years and headed to Napa Valley for my sister-in-law's gorgeous destination wedding.  Zach and I just soaked up every bit of our five days from home!  It was lovely in every way!

This is one of my favorite pictures of the year because of its amazing memory!  At Leah and Danny's wedding, Zach suddenly let loose, threw all self-consciousness out the window, and danced like a crazy man in the middle of the dance floor.  I laughed so hard my poor pregnant belly was working overtime!  Best. Moment. Ever. 

I just love this Easter picture of us being silly.  We laugh A LOT in our family and I can't imagine it any other way.

It was a rough pregnancy with Miss O but I do so treasure pregnancy and its miraculous process.

Ella's first dance recital.  I mean, there are no words for the cuteness of these two on stage.

Highlight of the WHOLE year - Miss Olivia Grace Schmidt's birth on May 6.  How I love our precious, baby girl!  She is joy and peace wrapped up in one tiny little body.  Babies are the most amazing of gifts.

My mom grabbed her phone and snapped this picture right before taking the kids to the hospital to meet Olivia.  One of our favorite pics of all time!
Our other kids arriving at the hospital to meet Olivia was one of the most tender and special moments of my life.  Love.

One of my favorite pictures of the year - sweet Olivia as a sleepy newborn.

Love this pic because this shows the kids at a musem with our homeschool besties on one of our many adventures.  We are so blessed to have friends to do field trips, science projects, and service projects with!  

This picutre was from our Open House we had at the end of our homeschool year, where they got to present some of their work to their grandparents.  We are so thankful for the gift of homeschooling!  It is becoming one of life's greatest callings and adventures of my life!

There is SO MUCH to say about this, but this is the MIRACLE house that we moved into the end of July.  My in-laws moved out of state this summer and are renting out this incredible house to us for an amazing rate.  I told Zach a couple of years ago that, on paper, we would never be able to move out of our 800 square foot townhouse.  I remember saying, "It would have to be a miracle from God."  This, friends, is our miracle from God.  And we love EVERY single thing about it.

This summer brought lots of fun play time, beach time, family time with my kids' best of friends, their cousins.

My girls.  We had a summer cooking club night and I savored every moment!  SO thankful for these girlfriends in my life this past year.  Ones who let me laugh and cry, who helped me move, who cheer me on, who hold my baby, who love me well!

Ella Jo turned FOUR this year and this picture is my all-time favorite of her.  She could not exude more joy if she tried!  Oh, this girl.  Bless her sweet, full-of-passion heart.

At the end of the summer, on our annual camping trip with our church family to Wisconsin, Zach AND Micah were baptized.  So sacred and special.

This year was all things Harry Potter for our Micah, who turned EIGHT this year.  I can't believe I get to be the mother of this kid.  He is amazing.  And he adores his baby sister in the most remarkable way.  I am so blessed to have his help!  (Also, thsi picture shows Micah's hematoma from his scary bike crash this summer!  We were so thankful he was okay!)

One of my favorite pics of these sisters and besties.

Olivia's smiles lit up our 2014!  Literally!

The Frozen/Potter Birthday party was a success!  It was also extra special because it was our first party in our new home, and it was something we never could have done in our old house!  So fun to fill our home with family and friends!

If Micah's year was all things Harry Potter, the girls' year was all things Frozen.  I think "Let it Go" could be deemed the theme song of our year.

Couldn't leave out the first day of school pic!

The annual scarecrow growth chart pic at our favorite apple orchard quickly became my most favorite of our 5 kids!

Zach and I got to attend our 10-year college reunion at Bethel University.  We also got to show our kids around the place where we met and first fell in love.  Such a sweet time!

We got a FREE swingset and had help setting it up in our backyard!  Excited for the many memories that will be created on these pieces of wood!

Olivia and I got to travel to Grand Rapids to meet my niece, Anna Joy, and to spend a few precious days with my best friend, Kim.  Praying for a sweet friendship for our girls, too.

This picture was taken on a little family getaway to Milwaukee where we had such fun together and just LOVED escaping the busy pace and endless chores to just BE together!

Halloween, of course!

Again, one of my favorite pics of this year, taken on a special trip downtown to the American Girl store when our dear friends from Minnesota were in town.

Love this crazy pic of all 13 cousins!

Love this one of the kids making toilet paper mummies after reading in our history book about the ancient Egyptians and their pyramids.

I love this pic because it is a candid of my husband and his huge smile.  I could not love this man more.  He is one of life's greatest gifts that leaves me totally humbled.

Brothers and best friends

Out to our annual "fancy" dinner in the city on our Christmas date as a family!

Can't resist the matchy girlies!  

And our last family picture of the year!

I know there were hundreds of moments and people and gifts that are not captured in this post, but I wanted to capture some of our highlights.  There were days that were so stressful I just cried.  I thought our house would never be unpacked.  I felt like our kids would never catch up on sleep or like I would never be rested again.  There were many days that I felt like a failure and didn't know how I would get to the end of the day.  But I love looking back on all the GOOD that happend.  Our lives are full and rich and I am truly celebrating the year that was 2014!!!

Here's to 2015!

Here's to more love and less judgment, more messy and less perfection, more gratitude and less comparison, more laughter and less tears, more faith and less fear, more contentment and JOY and peace!!!! 

Here's to ALL of this in 2015!!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Six Months!

Lately I think about my blog in the same way you think about an old friend that lives far away....wishing you had more time to talk and catch up but life keeps moving on.  And so it is for me and writing.  Pretty much every day, there are things I want to write about - happenings in our family I want to capture, recipes I want to share, encouragement for other young mamas doing the day-to-day.  But life keeps moving.  The calendar keeps filling.  I keep making meals, folding laundry, tucking in toddlers, grabbing out the ice pack for boo-boos, brushing teeth, combing little girls' hair, driving to the store, reading books, grading math tests, spending time with people in our life, and at the end of each day, I am full and tired.  So the blog keeps waiting.  Maybe someday, it will be my season to write regularly, to share all my thoughts.  Maybe to even write a book (a lifelong dream of mine).  But for now, I will furiously type here and there, trying to capture some of life's beauty.

Today it is the beauty of my baby.

Today, Olivia is six months old.

My. Heart. Is. Captured.
This girl...this girl is the most smiley, relational baby.  She is full of happiness and energy, drooly grins and loud squeals.  Her smile literally bursts so big.  She waves her arms up and down.  She kicks her little legs and does that adorable full-body-excited thing babies do.  She rolls around now, right off her playmat, and she puts everything she can reach in her mouth.  She still nurses regularly and [mostly] sleeps through the night.  She is starting to take more consistent naps and is starting to break out of her swaddle.  She loves the Ergo and has something in her mouth almost all the time.

In the past six months, Olivia has been to theater showcases and countless restaurants.  She has been to the gymnastics gym, the zoo, museums, and coffee shops.  She has been to a wedding and a funeral.  She's been out for girls nights and to Bible Studies.  She has been to Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Lake Geneva, and St. Louis.  She's been on the train and has spent hours in the car.  She has been to the parks and the apple orchard and to fireworks and the parade.  Her life has been full to the brim of people and smiles and songs and cuddles.  She has been with me wherever I go, like my little sidekick.  And I can't imagine it any other way.  She rolls with life like a fifth-child champ.  She is a rockstar.

I love how a baby can bring out the best in everyone in our family.  My kids melt when they see her.  Six months of being in our family, and they still argue over who gets to hold her next.  They love to hold her and kiss her, play with her, make her smile, and carry her from room to room.  This baby is one loved little treasure.  They all change their voices to talk to her in a higher pitch and still get excited at her smiles and her rolls.  It is precious beyond words, and it is one of life's greatest joys for me to watch my children loving on each other.

Olivia Grace, I cannot imagine our world without you.  You are beautiful and wonderful and fearfully made.  God's works are wonderful.  I KNOW THAT FULL WELL.  

Praise Jesus for your little life and for the joy you bring to our family.  You are loved beyond words, Baby Girl.  You are a miracle and a treasure.

Happy Six Months, Livi!!!!

One Month

Two Months

Three Months

Three Months

Four Months
Five Months

Six months!