Saturday, March 8, 2014

Your House. My Home.

We've had our (my) house on the market since late fall. Sure, the timing of listing was probably lousy but I think I was just so excited to be taking the next step in my relationship with Charlie that I just jumped in, full force. (And my patient husband is pretty much always supportive of my crazy decisions, no matter the timing, that he didn't object either.) Well almost five months, twenty-some showings, and a few shed tears later the house is still on the market. Tonight I sit here reflecting on some of my first memories of my house...and it hurts my soul to think someone else doesn't love it as much as I do.

You may remember my crazy house debacle a few years back. You can read about it here and here. But once I got settled into my house, it truly became my home. I have lived in this house for more than half of Lilly's life and for most of Anderson's. I have had a first date with my future husband in this house. I have come back to this house as a newlywed. I have sent kids off to first days of school in this house. I have celebrated birthdays of my kids and my cousin and my self in this house. I got ready for my wedding day, in this house.

This house is the first major thing I did after Aaron moved to was the first step to my independence. It provided the security and the stability that my children so craved and deserved in their very young lives. The sense of pride I had in buying this house, completely on my own, is something I'm not sure I'll ever be able to top. I made changes almost immediately after I moved in...some I maybe regret (read: grass green walls in the dining room), but just knowing that this house was mine and I could do whatever I wanted to it..! My heart and soul is painted, landscaped, and decorated throughout- top to bottom, inside and out. I made this house my home.

As I sit here tonight, devastated that a couple who looked at it for a third time found flaws in it, I struggle with seeing God's plan for my family. I've wanted so badly to sell this house and be able to "start fresh" somewhere as a family of four. I question our motives in selling. I doubt the walls that have held my life together for the past four years. I hold on to a very small sliver of hope that "the right" family will come along and fall madly in love with the place we call home. And yes, I realize how incredibly selfish this all seems...thanks be to God that we have a lovely home that keeps us safe and warm. Tonight I will cling to that thought, over and over, and think of those who are selling their home because they HAVE to, and not just because they choose to. Amen amen amen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Do Life Differently. Be Different.

I tend to be somewhat negative at times. Probably a lot of the time. Ew. I sometimes oftentimes complain about my sore muscles from the workout with my trainer. I frequently get annoyed with my workload at the office. I occasionally compare myself to people around me. Regularly I discuss my disdain for my those around me the second I get home. Oh, my poor husband. However, when I hear those around me do these same things, I want to stab myself in the eye with a fork. I think to myself, "Oh here she goes again. Complaining again. Really lady? Get OVER it." Yep, that's me. Always quick to point out the flaws in others, easily annoyed with other people's complaints, always deflecting my ugliness. I stink. 

So a couple nights ago, I posted a video on Facebook of my pastor's sons. They have set out on a mission to raise awareness of the water crisis across the world. You can watch here.  But this is not just about the world's water crisis (although, please watch. You will be changed. You will want to DO SOMETHING). So no, this is not just about cute little Isaac and Aaron's mission to help kids across the world (ah, good stuff), but more about little ole' me learning a lesson on what really matters in life (read: a giant smack upside the head to snap me back to reality).

So I thought, what IF I started living a life that matters? What IF I stopped complaining. What IF I stopped sweating the small stuff. What would that look like? What if people didn't come to me to talk negatively? What if they knew that I wasn't going to entertain their negativity anymore? What if I stopped being a part of the problem, and started being part of the movement to improve lives?  

Because at the end of the day, it just doesn't matter how many piles I have on my desk. It doesn't matter that I feel overwhelmed assisting in another department. If I'm doing something to improve someone else's life, I should be rejoicing in my work. It doesn't matter how sore my body is from working out, I'm doing something to improve my health. It shouldn't matter how early I have to wake up to do my Bible study alone without my kids interrupting, because I'm learning more about God's Word, and really isn't that the point? It really shouldn't matter how messy my kids' rooms are every single second, because they were playing together for hours on day nine of school being canceled. And really, shouldn't I be thrilled that they're getting along, making the mess together instead of fighting with each other and crying because they can't go outside in the negative temperatures? So I ask.....

What if, just for today...
You looked at what you have around you and were just simply thankful? 
You looked at your aging parents and thanked God for another day with them? 
You looked into the eyes of your children and only felt the overwhelming love you have for them? 
You looked at your to-do list and were grateful for a career, at a time when many others are unemployed? 
You looked at your co-workers and congratulated them on a success, no matter how big or small? 
You looked at your husband and told him how much you appreciate him, and really really really meant it? 
You called an old friend to tell her you were thinking about her? 
You prayed for someone who you hadn't thought of in years? 
You forgave someone who has hurt you? 
You spent time alone in God's Word? 

What if we spent half as much time lifting someone up as we do putting someone (or yourself) down?
What if we spent as much energy into being happy as we do into complaining? 
What if we spent as much effort into doing something good as we do into worrying about a situation? 
What if we spent as much energy into doing our work as we spend complaining about how much we have to do? 

Today is a new day. It's a chance to be different. It's a chance to be better. It's a chance to start fresh. Be a positive force in the lives of those around us. It's an opportunity to lead. It's a choice. 
I choose to be happy. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

All I Want....

We sang a song today at church that truly moved me to my core. We've sang it many other times before, but for some reason today it just hit me how true and real the lyrics were and what they were saying. The song spoke to me in a way I couldn't fully explain even if I tried. The part in the song that plays over and over in my mind is Jesus, Jesus, All I want is to be like You. Jesus, Jesus, All I want is to be like You. All I want, all I need, is more of You, Less of me. Take this life, Lord it's yours. Have my heart, have it all. I look at those lyrics and I realize I sing my heart out to this song, but I don't live those lyrics even a little bit. I look at my life and I realize I don't live at all like Jesus. I don't put Him before Gretchen. My pastor made a good point this morning and it keeps replaying in my mind over and over. He said "If you spent more time looking through your friend's vacation album on Facebook yesterday than you spent in The Word, then you're not spending enough time with God." Ouch. I spend a lot of time on social media. I've gotten better about not doing it when the hubbs or the kids are around (and boy do I still have a ways to go), but I still check Facebook or my email first thing in the morning before I even open my Bible.
I don't even know what else to say. I guess I just realize I have so much to work on. I'm a little disappointed in myself knowing the sacrifice that He made for me, and I don't even spend half the time in the Word that I do on Facebook. It's pathetic.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Little Baby Toofers!

Anderson finally lost his first little tooth!!! The little thing had been wiggly for weeks and I feared that he would lose it in Minnesota over Christmas break, but thankfully it held on! After a brief freak out (from me and Lilly, not from Anderson) about the blood, Charlie managed to yank the booger out and there it was! Andy's first tooth! Oh it was the most perfect little tooth! Soooo tiny! 
In our house we "grow" our teeth in water. We don't do the traditional tooth-under-the-pillow. I have NO idea how this started other than I know my mom used to do that with our teeth...looking back I think it's because my mom went to bed early and we were light sleepers (much like my kids). Whatever. It makes sense. And that's what we do! 
Well yesterday, Anderson plopped his tooth in a glass of water and placed it on the counter. The tooth fairy always delivers money during the night, so he left the glass there and went on with his day. The evening went on much like any other night. I made dinner while the kids played. And then we ate dinner. We were all sitting on the couch later that night when Andy mentioned something about his tooth. And it hit me. His tooth. His tooth. In that glass of water. I covered my mouth in shock. The kids looked at my giant eyeballs, my husband searching for an answer. "Charlie, in the kitchen. Kids, stay here." I walked into the kitchen and realized that I had dumped that glass of water, with Anderson's first little tooth in it. It was gone. Down the drain.....
And so I did what any good mother would do. I found Lilly's first tooth and plopped IT  into a glass of water. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blizzard Shmlizzard

This polar vortex (even the name angers me) messed up a lot more than just the roadways in this area. For the past five days, I have been a hottttt messss because I've been without my kids.
Saturday morning, Aaron and I arranged to meet in Chicago so I could get the kids back from their MN vacation. Charlie and I left bright and early, trying to beat the blizzard-like weather that was headed our way. We made it two hours into our trip when we learned that Aaron was trapped in MN due to icy roads and wouldn't be able to make the drive to Chicago. My heart was broken, but I knew he was doing what was best for the kids. Of course I didn't want them to be in danger on the road. After a brief meltdown in the gas station parking lot (behind sunglasses of course), Charlie and I turned back around and headed to Fort Wayne, knowing it would be at least three days until one of us would be able to make it back to Chicago. Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe it.
Seventeen inches of snow fell that following day. Charlie and I made the most of our time stuck at home...lots of shoveling, tons of Redbox movies, way too much take-out, and lots of moping around about being unable to get to the kids. Day one of work being canceled passed us by. Again...movies, shoveling, was fun for the first 24 hours. Then Tuesday came and we were once again surprised with closures at work, but with that excitement came the realization that they were closed because of the horrific road conditions. The kids flew in from MSP to ORD Tuesday morning. Their flight arrived at ORD at 10:09 am. My brother (aka MY HERO) met them at the airport to swoop them up and take them to his place until Charlie and I made it there later that afternoon...except that never happened. We woke up Tuesday morning to frozen pipes. The ridiculously low temperatures the night before (oh say at least -40 with the windchill) had left our waterways inaccessible. And more than just not being able to shower, we had to get the pipes thawed out before we could hit the road for Chicago. We did not want to come home to busted pipes. Three hours later, we had water again and were on the way to reunite with my precious babies! Two seconds into the trip I realized this was going to be nearly impossible. My husband (my very very very patient husband) pulled onto the nearby highway that would take us 93 miles into our three hour trip...three cars in ditches, one fishtail of our own in which we barely missed a passing pickup, and a lot of "hunny slow down"s from me, we decided that it just wasn't worth it. We could not risk the drive. A call to my brother letting me know he could keep them for the night, many texts back and forth to my mom telling her the road conditions, and one MAJOR meltdown from me on the side of the road, and my husband and I were headed back towards home, once again, without my babies.
I can honestly say I've never felt the emotions that I felt that day. I sat there in the car thinking that I was the worst mother in the universe...I mean, what mother would go an extra five days of not seeing her kids? What mom would let a little blizzard keep her from getting her kids back from their ten-day-vacation? What mom would just give in and turn around for a second time? It sounds overly dramatic, I realize that...but my heart was shattered. My eyes were swollen from crying, my hands were wet with sweat, my face was pale from the fear of the short drive we'd done in the horrible road conditions...but mostly, my heart just ached with pain. I needed to touch the little faces of the only two people that really mattered in that moment. I needed to kiss the cheeks off those perfect little faces that I hadn't seen in almost two weeks.
My brother (see also, hero) had the kids so I was able to FaceTime with them a couple times. He sent me pictures of them and kept me updated on everything they were doing.  First thing this morning, Charlie made the trip to Chicago to get Lilly and Anderson. I had to work, but Charlie kept me updated on the road conditions, which were still pretty crummy today and he let me know the very instant that he had the kids and was heading home with them. A precisely 5:04pm today, I pulled into my driveway and out ran four little legs of the two most beautiful babies I've ever seen in my whole life. I can honestly say that I think they were just as happy to see me as I was to see them. It was the best reunion I've ever had.
It was hard to let them out of my site tonight. And it was even harder putting them to bed. I wanted to keep them up late, but they were both snoozing off on the couch. Anderson was all cuddled up on Charlie and Lilly was all nestled up on me. For the first time in the past five days I feel like myself again. My family is all back together and I pray it is a very long time before we're all separated again.

Thank you Dear Lord for keeping my family safe over these past few days. Thank you for being with my husband as he traveled today, and for the patient man that he is. Thank you for the happiness that my kids experience and thank you for keeping them comfortable during these transitional times. Thank you for my brother, for his love of my kids, and for the protection that he brought to them. Thank you for blessing me with family like this- family who helps out at a moment's notice, without even thinking twice. Thank you for bringing my family back together today and for the days we get to spend together again. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

They're All Gone

I typically write on the eve of my kids' long trip to MN. I guess since they weren't in MN all summer (you remember that fiasco), I was a littttttttttle ready for the long break. I realize that sounds like the worst thing a mother should say. But after the hectic (yet amazing) year that we've had, I was ready for the break from reality. The kids in MN, my husband in MT. It was the seemingly perfect setup for a stressed out, tired, and emotionally drained mom and wife.....Except that it wasn't. Less than an hour after I was home from dropping the kids off in Chicago, I sat down thinking that I would relax with a bottle of wine, a romcom from Redbox, and put the cleaning that I promised myself I would do while they were gone off until tomorrow. And then I got a text from our realtor saying that we had a showing the next day! Oh brother! So I put the wine away, paused the movie, and got to cleaning. Of course my house isn't terribly messy, but there were Christmas presents that needed homes in our already crowded house, kids' sheets to wash, and clean clothes from the laundry to put away. A few hours later, I was done. Ready to relax. Except that I didn't. It was almost 9:30pm and I took my lonely self upstairs and went to bed.
Every time the kids leave, I think of all these great plans I'll make. The friends I'll catch up with. The tasty restaurants I'll try out. I think of the cleaning I'll get done. The naps I'll take. But I never do any of those things, and then before I know it the kids are back and we're back to the chaotic day-to-day routines that are our lives! And I kinda love it. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013


This year was the second time I put my blog link on our family Christmas cards. In the past, it was a great way for out-of-town family to keep connected. This year, my intention is to be much more family-focused and less Gretchen-focused on my blog (don't worry peeps, I promise not to write about every little milestone my kids cross...although Anderson is about to lose his first tooth and I'd be lying to say I'm not a wee bit sad about the enormity of this. So don't be too disappointed to read about the loss of my baby's lateral incisor. You've been warned.) This blog never started out with a greater purpose. It was simply me putting down my day-to-day journey through my un-directed life. Now I realize how much more there is to this life and I don't want to miss anything about it. As with every year, my goal is to document more. More of our marriage. More of my kids' growth. More of our family joys. More of our real (messy) life. Oh I absolutely love our life.  If ya'll don't mind, I'd like to write a quick note to each member of my little family and let them know what they've meant to me over the past year and where I hope we'll all go in the coming months...

You are my absolute true joy. You are so much like me, good and bad, that it sometimes scares me. I've seen you grow so much over the past year. You've accepted the changes that have been thrown your way this year with mostly grace. I feared so much at what my marriage may have done to your growing mind and changing heart. I worried that you would feel unneeded, unloved, confused, or even angry. I've not seen these things in your behaviors, and if I'm being completely honest I'm a little shocked. I'm not sure I could handle these changes at such a confusing young age. I'm proud of you. And thank you for all you've done for our family over the past year. You continue to be my very best friend...I wish it would stay that way forever! You're a very pretty little girl! You change before my eyes daily. I've watched you become quite the little writer this year, even starting your own blog and writing in many different journals. You are so incredibly helpful with your brother, especially at school and with the bus (Bus 2 Bubbs!) I love seeing your beautiful soul. My hope for this coming year is that you continue to write, that you continue sharing your heart with people around you. My hope is that you'll come to me and Charlie with any problems or concerns that you have and that you always know that your heart is safe with us. And most of all,  I hope you and your brother get along better this year! Hehehe!

My little gem. I've watched you grow so much this year into the little boy who now touches frogs, dreams of owning an ATV, and has a very good man in his life to mimic. I apologize for the things I made you miss out on in the past...but I never really liked frogs or slimy things! I'm grateful that you have Charlie for those things now! hehehe! I'm proud of your educational milestones. You're a smart little man and I'm SO proud of you for that. You are so goofy, and though sometimes we have to muffle it a bit, my hope is that you'll never lose that personality. You pick up on things so quickly and you can build a Lego set like it's nobody's business! Holy cow! It's super awesome! My hope for you over the next twelve months is that you continue learning every single day. That you use your silly behavior for good. That you continue loving me like every son should love his mommy. I pray that you appreciate the things we have in life. I hope you discover more and more "manly" things with Charlie, and most of all I hope and pray that you don't break a bone doing something crazy! (and stop telling me I'm afraid of everything. Trampolines ARE dangerous and you're NOT getting a bike with shocks this year so stop asking!)

My one true love. This past year has been incredible, emotional, overwhelming, romantic, special, and even hard. You continue to stick with me, support me, and love me. You are as patient as one man can possibly be. You have given up your house, your dogs, and everything you've known for the past 31 years, all to move here with us. You have gone from a single, simple man to a husband and a father of two crazy babies.  I have learned so much from you. Your faith. Your patience. Your behavior. You have shown me what true love means and you've made me feel safe and protected. My hope for you over the next year is that you'll continue growing in our marriage. I hope that you'll continue to lead our family in a way that is Christ-honoring. I hope that you never stop learning, never stop studying me, never stop growing in your faith. I pray that you continue to learn what your role is as a father to Lilly and Anderson, and the enormity that it is. I pray that God blesses our family, our marriage, and these kids in ways we never imagined. 

Happy New Year's, all.