it is well

Stevenson, WA

I wake up every morning with a deep ache. My heart feels heavy, my stomach often ill-set, yet it is well with my soul. I go about my days wanting someone I can’t have; missing what could be and what was. Each week that passes I wonder, will I ever get used to living without him? Will I ever lay down my head and go to sleep feeling satisfied though I cannot kiss his cheek or tuck him into bed? No need to visit his room in the middle of the night and make sure he’s still breathing, because he has already drawn his last breath. With every sunrise my heart breaks over and over and over again, yet even in my brokenness it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

Every year that comes and goes just puts more space between us, allowing others to assume time is healing the wounds, when in actuality I wish he wasn’t such a distant memory. The further removed I am from his death, the more final and empty it seems. I will live the rest of my life navigating through the stages of grief as they repeat at random and without predictability – plunging me in and out of depression and then back into denial – but this is just me forever loving him with the same growing intensity as I do my living sons. When his 5th birthday passes uncelebrated, and there’s no discussion about where he will go to school, no teaching him how to ride a bike without training-wheels…. I will feel every missed milestone like a knife to the chest but it will STILL be well with my soul. I have no idea what eternity looks like – whether or not I will get to raise him and experience the things I long for with all my being – but even without knowing what’s to come, I trust that it will be better than my simple mind could ever fabricate and therefore, it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

I now have tangible proof that there was illegal practice involved with my son’s mistreatment, along with many warnings that I should not speak such things unless I want to be taken for all I’m worth, but somehow it is unexplainably well with my soul. I could place blame on the negligent individuals for their actions, letting anger and bitterness boil up inside like a smoldering mountain, but instead it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

Though sometimes it seems easier to go the way of hatred, I have found that forgiveness let’s me live more free. The emotional stress tends to be physically taxing, but letting my burdens lay at the feet of Jesus instead of dragging them behind me like a deadweight… well this allows my mind and body to find retrieve. Understanding that I can do all things though Christ, yet NOTHING without Him is a dependency that even my wildest-of-hearts gladly yields to. Like discovering a thought-to-be-mirage is in fact a REAL spring of water in the desert, I continue to soak up refreshing nourishment in the most dry places, and I’m reminded that it is miraculously well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

And to the naysayers that would challenge my choice of beliefs, you must know that even if all these things my faith-eyes see turn out to be nothing more that a fantastical idea that got me through the worst of my travels, the peace that goes beyond my comprehension would still make it worth it all — so, IT IS indeed WELL with my soul.

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” after the death of his 2-year-old son, and the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The Spaffords later had three more children, then on February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner died (the age of four) of scarlet fever. I plan on getting the words “it is well” tattooed on my arm soon, as it speaks to me in so many ways. If you’d like to buy this it is well tee (or any of the cute items from @ShopHelloGrace), she has kindly setup the code: MCR15 as a special discount for my readers! Love you ALL and thanks for stopping in ❤

XOXO,

 – Brittney

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
A song in the night, oh my soul!”

It is well, it is well, with my soul”

by Horatio Spafford


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It Takes an Army

If you saw this “picture perfect” post pop up on my Instagram feed last week, you might’ve made some inaccurate assumptions about the events surrounding how that sweet mama-moment came to be…

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… So I feel there is something that needs to be said:

I’m constantly hearing other moms talk about how NOT glamorous their lives are in contrast to those around them; feeling inadequate and “homely” when comparing themselves to the PERFECTION that they see in other people’s lives. But I tell them this – the truth is, I highly doubt there are many photos being posted on IG that are really and truly as worthy-to-be-envied as they may seem. Behind every gorgeous selfie there are 150 outtakes, behind every home decor staging there’s the removal of everyday messiness, and behind the “mama-blogger-status photo shoots” there are the MELTDOWNS! It takes hard work getting kids to cooperate sometimes, and even more work on top of that to find a day where the sun’s shining, clothes are clean, hair is done, makeup is on, and we actually have a moment to leave the house in between naps! So let’s just cut the crap and get this straight: no one’s life is as flawless as it may appear, nor should any of us ever feel even a twinge of jealousy when scrolling through our social media feeds. Why compare somebody else’s BEST MOMENT (after all, they deemed it post-worthy) to YOUR behind-closed-doors REALITY. Parents: We’re all in this crazy human-growing gig together, and we all know how difficult the unfiltered ins/outs of parenting can be – so let’s encourage one another and be each other’s cheerleaders! Let’s celebrate the wonderful and exciting moments as a team, and be there as a support system when things are going…. well… NOT so wonderful. 2 Corinthians 10:12

Here are a few of my favorite outtakes behind last week’s ATTEMPT at a photo shoot! It took an army of help to get this scattered squad in line, but we pushed through the tears and  e v e n t u a l l y  had a genuinely fun time together. The end result: a precious memory, pictures of my boys wearing their matching “be still and know” tees in honor of brother Cruz, and one really good photo that made the stressful morning all worth while. It’s really one for the wall, you guys! (And by wall I mean, the imaginary family photo wall that I have YET to hang in the stairwell lol #dontjudge)

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Just seconds in, Valor was NOT having it, and Ezekiel was fighting his own tears about taking a break from cousin Jaden…

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Then Z was upset about wearing his coat, and pouting that I put his hair up in a man-bun. (He’s had this adorable haircut for a while now, but refuses to ever wear it up like this!) I just started laughing at their sudden onset uncooperative behavior…

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Ezekiel gave Valor a kiss which is a nonstop occurrence around our house, but of course his response was MORE TEARS haha!

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And now we finally arrive at the moment (20 minutes in), where Valor takes a huge breath – blotchy face n’ all – and decides he’s gonna be happy for no apparent reason 🙂

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^^^ Me saying, “I should have known this day would go like this…….”  ^^^

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Valor is clearly too big for this size 6 mo tee from @bestillclothingcompany, but these tops were the main inspiration behind the photoshoot to begin with, so let’s just take a moment to adore the big baby in a belly shirt!!!

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#MINORadjustments

if only he'd let me put is hair up more often :(
^^^  If only he’d let me put is hair up more often 😦  ^^^

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Look how cute they were being! I love seeing their blossoming relationship unfold.

When Cruz was in the hospital, the owner of Be Still Clothing Company sent me an encouraging note about the faith-filled inspiration behind her brand, along with a thoughtful care package full of shirts and trucker hats for the family – one of which was a sweet little tee for Cruz. At the time, I wholeheartedly believed Cruz would be coming home with us, and I looked forward to the day I’d be dressing him and Ezekiel in their matching clothes. After he passed away, I put Cruz’s shirt away with all his other keepsakes, and thought I’d never want to put it on another child… perhaps I wouldn’t even have another baby??? So, you can only imagine what it felt like to retrieve this smaller-than-remembered-shirt from the attic and do these precious pictures with Valor! Life today often leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth, but I feel so incredibly thankful and blessed beyond ALL reason that God gave me these two miracles to raise. With a 50% chance of needing a liver transplant, both of these little dudes live to remind me  e v e r y  day of the love my Father has for me ❤  Every morning I wake to find them breathing, I feel grateful.

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^^^ this is one of my favorites ^^^

ootd

style icon tip: sweatpants and pumps for an ironic combo

 

In case you’re wondering which came first – the post title or the army jacket that so fittingly goes with the title – it was definitely the jacket. It’s like, I knew when putting on my outfit of the day that I needed to be up for a challenge 😏😉  (the heels and sore feet however are another story!)

>>> to buy SUPER cute & inspirational clothing for you or your kiddos, click on the image below! <<<

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

XOXO,

– B

be still clothing company

Psalm 46 (ESV)

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

They Grow Up When We’re Not Looking!

I feel like I’ve done EVERYTHING to cherish EVERY moment with Valor – because I understand how fragile and without-guarantee life is – yet somehow this little guy celebrated his half birthday yesterday (Z is already 4 years!) and I have no idea where the time went! I sometimes wish kids could stay small forever, but then again I’m looking forward to their future, full of so much anticipation and excitement! I think I just love and enjoy ALL the stages of parenthood… although, the current stage Valor is in might be my favorite with him yet! He’s such a ham, and I can’t seem to reach my fill of smooches and munches!

#ValorGrowthChart

He went from just laying next to his #ValorGrowthChart lightbox, to suddenly ^THIS^! What a little rascal!!!

(You can buy this fun @TypoShop lightbox for 30% off at CottonOn!)

#ValorGrowthChart

#ValorGrowthChart

OH, SWEET HAPPY BABY!

He really is the happiest, easiest baby!

(I think he knows Mama needed a little TUB OF JOY!)

 

MILESTONE CALENDAR:

  • all he wanted for Christmas was his two front teeth and he got them (well, the bottom ones anyway)!
  • Jimmy Fallon was right, Valor’s first word is “Dadadadadadadadadadada……….”
  • running into the kids’ table, rolling over my toes – Valor’s favorite event of the day is cruising in his Combi Car (aka his walker)
  • if his frustration and anger don’t get the best of him he may be crawling soon, but for now I guess we’ll settle for the pushup-scoot-scream-rollover routine. #temperTEMPER!
  • got milk? Valor can’t get enough of his booby milk and oatmeal, but has yet to acquire a taste for much else
  • this chubba is pushing 20lbs and wearing 18+ mo clothing…  so I guess we don’t need to worry much about his noted disinterest in food quite yet!
  • time to lower the crib… this feisty explorer has decided to start climbing his way through life, and he’s strong enough to do pretty much anything he sets his mind to
  • mommy is feeling like a new person, because teething-pain has finally subsided and V is back to napping and sleeping through the night again… WHICH IS WHY I’M BACK HERE BLOGGING!

I might be crazy but I’m already planning his 1st birthday! I figure time will fly by anyways so I better get a head-start, plus I think it’s therapeutic for me to put thought into things like CELEBRATIONS, especially when Cruz’s 2nd Deathiversary is coming up exactly one week from today. (Oh how I miss my little fighter boy!) I don’t feel bad for going a little over the top for Valor’s 1/2 birthday (do people usually blog about half birthdays?) and I won’t feel bad for throwing Valor an insanely BIG first birthday because I think  e v e r y  year our children are alive on this earth we should throw a huge party. I used to think birthdays seemed selfish – because it’s like the one day a year where our kids get bit by the it’s-my-party-and-I’ll-cry-if-I-want-to bug, and they think it’s ok to suddenly act spoiled rotten – but now it’s simply a day where my heart is rejoicing, and I want others to come and rejoice with me “prodigal style” 😉 Luke 15:22-25

What are your thoughts, Mamas? Is it just me or are we gonna look back one day and wonder where those 18 years went with our college-bound BABY wishing we were still corralling our never-ending-question-asking kindergartener!? These are the days… oh yes, THESE ARE THE DAYS.

XOXO

always on the go...

always on the go…

 

Buy your own Combi Car HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it’s TRADITION!

Up until my life didn’t allow for it, I was a Holiday snob who was adamant about keeping traditions alive. I grew up going to the same tree farm every year, hanging the same eclectic ornaments, setting out the same sentimental trinkets, decorating the same mint-frosted gingerbread men, using the same singing-snowman cookie jar… and heaven forbid anything ever be different! However these past few Christmases have been anything but traditional. We bought our house in 2012, yet (if all goes well) this will be our very FIRST year to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas at the colonial! Can you believe it!? I can’t tell you how fun it was to go back to Hagg’s tree farm this year with a baby!

Although it was sad to take this extended-holiday hiatus, it was also quite refreshing. I was obviously frustrated that last year’s #plumbingproject hijacked yet another year of home-for-the-holidays, but I fully enjoyed the once-in-a-life-time situation of living with my parents as a married woman. I mean, who doesn’t want 3 months of Mom making dinner most nights and offering to help you with the laundry???  I’d rather have those unordinary occasions logged away in my memory-library than have  e v e r y t h i n g  go according to plan just for the sake of ritual. I’m not saying my sentimentality or desire for normality has evanesced, but often the things that (we think) mean a lot to us are not important at all. (We might place meaning on something, but that doesn’t make it meaningful.) My BEST Thanksgiving to-date was Thanksgiving 2013, spent in a hospital bed with Cruz. While most of the country was gathered ’round tables garnished with turkey and stuffing, my little babe lay starving… so I chose to fast instead of feast. Now, how’s that for untraditional?!

But although I may not seek or rely on consistency in my own life as much as I used to, it’s still important to me that I provide a more “reliable” environment for my kids while they grow up. In an ever-changing/unpredictable world, traditions are a great way of creating the feeling of stability. I’d like my boys to look back on their childhood someday and have anchoring memories that will hopefully draw them home for Christmas, no matter how far away they may be. ❤

Christmas 2015

If you’re anything like me, I had a hard time figuring out which traditions I should and shouldn’t carry into adulthood. When you get married, suddenly you’ve got twice the amount of parties, twice the gift-exchanges, twice the dinners…… which equals twice the time, money, AND extra pounds! I found myself feeling anxiety instead of relaxation, and suddenly the hilarious Vince Vaughn movie Four Christmases became all-too-real!

So… this predicament many of us find ourselves in just begs the question: HOW DOES ONE ESTABLISH THEIR OWN FAMILY TRADITIONS???

Extended family get-togethers grow so large after you + all your siblings/cousins start having kids, and eventually some of us have to go our separate ways to start something new. I think the temptation with traditions is to try continuing allllll the silly little things – the food, the activities, the gatherings – but just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean you still have to! The pressure to live up to “the good ol’ days” can almost squelch one’s ability to enjoy the NOW-moments taking place; while you’re busy stressing over an under-appreciated 12-course meal, you could be sitting with the kids sipping the homemade hot-cider you made for the first time. The gift budget may have fallen short of your unrealistic expectations, and the peaceful-present-opening might seem a bit more chaotic than you remember it to be, but these odd and unfamiliar happenings are not bad, and they might even be the NEW traditions starting to unfold for your little family. So revel the perfect imperfections, and stop trying to recreate the past!

Your Holiday Tradition Guide

When picking/choosing your family’s traditions, it’s best to keep it real simple. I used the old English rhyme for brides (minus the something blue)……

Something Old

This one is sentimental. What are the things you and your spouse did as children that meant the absolute most to you? You may or may not have grown up with similar traditions, and some of you may have come from different beliefs or religious backgrounds, so pick 1 – 2 things each of you did, and be willing to compromise with conflicting traditions (i.e. You always opened presents Christmas morning, but he opened at midnight on Christmas Eve, etc). When the two of you cannot agree, maybe it’s time to consult the kids!

Something New

This one is personal. What is something unique/special to your family that could become a NEW custom? Maybe you happened to go on a movie-date after your first Thanksgiving together as a couple…  so why not make that the end to every turkey dinner from here on out!? Maybe you were so broke your first year of marriage that you bought nothing but lottery tickets for each other… so why not put Holiday Scratch-Its in the stockings every year!? (and be THOSE parents who reminisce with their kids about the same thing over and over 😉 )

Something Borrowed

This one is casual. The best way to establish an arbitrary custom is to adopt a preexisting tradition from someone else. What have you seen your friends doing with their families that looks enjoyable/entertaining? What’s trending on social media? Read the December issue of Family Fun magazine to see what Disney is suggesting, or look up the Top 50 BEST Traditions online… there are some GREAT ideas out there! (And don’t be afraid of the ones that are out-of-the-box or opposite of how you’re used to doing things.)

Something TO:

This one is charitable. Christmas should never become about us… it should always be about others, right?! Every year, giving TO a cause or charity should be of highest priority, and you can make this process fun for the whole family! Whether it’s taking your kids to Target and letting them each select items to fill a shoebox for a child in need, or writing/drawing thoughtful cards to the child or soldier you support…… this tradition of giving instead of receiving will become the most fulfilling tradition of the season. Checkout these #GoodforGoodness’Sake ideas!

 

Note that these are my suggestions for creating new traditions, but I’m in no place to suggest what you should do with ongoing family commitments etc. My husband and I get invited to 6 different family gatherings every Christmas, plus 2 work/ministry related parties, and we don’t even come from blended families. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those of you who have more! Before we had Ezekiel, we did our best to make an appearance at each location, although most of the time the get-togethers would be scheduled for the same day/time… so we had to alternate years. But now that Ezekiel is older, we’ve made it a priority for him to see his immediate cousins, aunties/uncles, grandparents, and GGs (aka great grandparents), but we don’t stress over making it to everything else. If we happen to be available for anything broader than that – which RARELY occurs – then we feel blessed to have an opportunity to reconnect with the families we grew up with as well! I wish life wasn’t so complicated/busy, and it’s sad that family traditions have to go through these awkward and sometimes hurtful changes, but I feel like I’m doing the best I can to keep  e v e r y o n e  happy.

If you still want more ideas, here’s a list of The Strickland Family Traditions!

I hope I helped solve at least one dilemma you’ve been dealing with in regards to the starting/stopping of family traditions, and please feel free to share YOUR unique ideas for everyone to read in the comments as well! I WANT TO HEAR THEM!

Happy Holidays, Everyone! Just 16 days and counting!!!!!!……

Baby's 1st Christmas

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