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Well, if you’ve given up on reading my blog after this two month dry spell, I don’t blame you. I even debated discontinuing my posts indefinitely since I’ve most likely lost any followers I may have had in the first place. Then, as I sit quietly in our living room this snowy Saturday morning and reflect on the past two months, I realize that my blog posts are mostly for me anyway (if I’m honest). So I will just continue and you all may read (or not read) and enjoy (or loath) as you so desire.

I used to journal all the time. So often that I would go through multiple journals each year, always keeping an eye out for the next beautiful, blank book I would fill, often listing journals as a gift idea for my birthday and holidays. When Ben and I moved (both times), we hauled the big box full of my old journals with us. It now sits in the storage closet under our stairs. Now, with a baby to keep me busy and exhausted, I hardly find time or energy to write (similar to this blog I suppose). When I finally make it into bed, I am usually too tired to want to write about my life…unless I can’t sleep for the thoughts and emotions swirling in my head. Thus has begun the unfortunate habit of writing only when my mind is reeling with worry, frustration, anger, sadness, or (occasionally) extreme joy. As you can imagine, this has made for a very fragmented and unrealistic account of my life.

Perhaps the truth is, most days don’t really seem “journal worthy.” I’m not saying they are boring, or unenjoyable, or even “uneventful” per se (each day is full of plenty of adventure when you’re raising a child)…just typical. Nothing out of the ordinary. And the days that are “extra-ordinary” are also the days that exhaust me enough to keep me from writing…or keep me from access to my journal as the case may be.

Recently I’ve had a series of “extra-ordinary” days. Without going into all the gory details, I will just say that most of my family and friends would say I have “been through the ringer”, which I believe is a reference to being thrown into a washing machine- twisted and spun round and round until you feel dizzy, dazed and empty. They have exhausted me to the point that I have not journaled or blogged…waiting for the storm to pass and the dust to settle enough that I can reflect more clearly on all of it. Today feels like someone finally hit the ‘pause’ button on that washing machine and I am resting from the constant swirl.

And now, as I am able to reflect a bit, I am reminded of the parable of the sower and the seed.

I used to think I understood that parable- that it was about salvation. The sower being God, the seed being the gift of salvation, and the soil being a person’s heart. This is no doubt one meaning. But like most of scripture, it has many applications. God’s word is alive and He is able to open our eyes to deeper truths hidden in the words we’ve read a hundred times. So it was for me with this parable. I recently heard it re-explained in a new way. The sower is still God and the soil still the human heart, but the seed is any truth from scripture, any conviction of the Holy Spirit, any Word of God.  When the seed falls on our hearts, we can either choose to soak it in, nourish it, let it grow, change us and produce crop… or ignore it, in which case our hearts become harder and harder and that seed of truth becomes more difficult for us to accept. If we ignore it, we can only hope that God will try to sow that seed in us again. However, just as in the case of hard-packed soil, we must often first be softened through the churning process, which is never very pleasant.

Through these recent “extra-ordinary” days, I have been contemplating this parable (this truth) and hoping that whatever seed God is trying to plant, I am soft soil and it takes root and grows and changes me and produces crop…. because one thing I know is that I do not want to have to be churned again.

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So it’s November and we all know what that means…

Time to turn your clocks back and enjoy a week of waking up feeling rested at 6:30am.

Time to break out that box of winter clothes: coats, boots, hats, and scarves.

Time to buy more Kleenex, drink tea, and make soup.

Time to start daydreaming about where you might travel this winter to keep warm.

Time to take a family photo, learn how to cook a turkey, and exchange names for Christmas gifts.

November is also a time to PAUSE.

PAUSE and THINK and BE THANKFUL.

This is the month of THANKSGIVING after all.

I find today a particularly perfect day to pause and be grateful as I am right in the throws of Boden’s first “cold.” Runny nose, watering eyes, cough, excessive spit-up…the real deal. The poor little guy sounds like he’s sucking air through a straw in a cup at the end of it’s rope. His smile, though less enthusiastic, still appears on occasion but looks odd paired with the tears streaming from his red-rimmed eyes. We have him sleeping with his mattress on an incline to reduce nasal congestion and a humidifier to keep the dry winter air at bay.

And yet, through it all, I am reminded how blessed we are.

This month’s Real Simple magazine included an article on being present- staying focused on the here and now, being aware of your existence, and truly savoring the little moments that make up your life. Different people from different walks of life wrote about the ways that they remained present.

I think that’s hard to do in our day and age when we are focused on where we are headed, more aware of our desires and goals than simply living, and brush aside the little moments in a race toward the big events we eagerly anticipate.  So…I’m going to take some advise from these people who actually practice slowing down and focusing on the now.

Here’s a few that stuck out to me:

– Lulu, a 41 year-old Improv teacher, writes, “Listening is extremely important in improv- not just to what another person is saying but also to how they are saying it. That awareness builds a connection that keeps you in the moment.”

How many times have I “listened” to someone while thinking about something entirely different at the same time?

– Katie, a 36-year-old Muralist, writes, “I give myself as much time as possible to get work done. I start early, before people are out, and plan in extra days. That way, when others stop by to talk or ask questions, I can have a genuine exchange without feeling stressed and still find those essential quiet moments to work.”

How often do I plunge into my day without first spending some quiet moments to myself?

– Ashely, an 27-year-old teacher, writes, “One of the things I’ve learned from kids: Don’t focus on the end result; the process is more important…We get so much more our of every moment when we get rid of our tunnel vision.”

How much do I wish that Bo would reach the next milestone rather than appreciating all the things he is able to do now?

– Annie-Marie, a 36-year-old Naturalist, writes, “Spend 30 minutes at the park or any outdoor space on a regular basis…without listening to music or talking on the phone. Just sit there. At first you might struggle, because your brain is still busy with human problems: work, relationships, habits of the mind. Eventually nature will draw you out, and you’ll become part of the rhythm of your environment.”

How many days do I spend on my phone, on the computer, or just plain cooped up inside without breathing in the fresh air?

– Jesus, God’ Son, says, “do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

So, during this month of Thanksgiving, I’m hoping to take this advise and become more focused on the here and now. Appreciate the little victories. Stop and smell the roses.

Pause and be aware that I am living…thankfully.

Photo via Tinton Falls

Does anyone else recall the days of middle school, junior high, or high school when a week was set aside to showcase school spirit through a series of random (and rather absurd) themes? There was pajama day- the day that boys were thrilled that they were not only allowed but encouraged to literally roll out of bed and into school, and girls got up even earlier than usual in an attempt to somehow still look put-together wearing their cutest pair of drawstrings. Nerd day, wacky hair day, and superhero day all followed suite, each it’s own spectacular display of the students’ personalities. And finally it all culminated with spirit day, wherein students purchased school attire en masse boosting the revenue for sports equipment and school pride all in one fell swoop. The overarching idea of course was to bring the student body together at the beginning of a new school year and renew each one’s enthusiasm for another year of hard work and learning after the ever-to-short summer break. 

Well, here I sit in my twenties, married with a child, feeling like I am going through a bit of a “spirit week” myself. 

No, of course I’m not dressing up as a super hero or waving pom-poms (though some days I could certainly win the contest for pajama day and wacky hair day!) But I do feel a bit like I’m going through a stretch of time wherein my devotion to God is being renewed as I dive into a season of hard work after a long, self-indulgent “summer.”

Instead of daily themes, mine are closer to weekly (thanks to Bible Study Fellowship which has proven to be God’s main mouthpiece in my life for the past couple of months!). Between the lessons of motherhood, conversations, bible study, and life circumstance, the Holy Spirit is making these themes clear. Themes include: “submission”, “immediate obedience”, “resisting temptation”, “trusting vs. grumbling”, “daily commitment”, and “earthly vs. heavenly treasures.” The overarching idea is simple, but ever so complex and difficult: selflessness. 

Like the teenage girls on pajama day, during most themes I still find myself attempting to maintain my composure and learn the lessons without allowing them to impact my life. “Ya ya ya, I am called to submit to my husband.” But really, do I? What about when it comes to parenting, something I never knew I would feel so passionate about. Or “I know, I know, I am suppose to resist the temptation to sin.” But what about the ‘small’ sins, like complaining or self-indulgence? 

My “spirit week” is not as much fun as I recall the high school dress-up days, but I believe it is infinity more valuable and I am trying to remind myself that at the end comes “spirit day”… when my enthusiasm for this new season will be at its peak and I will wave my pom-poms like I just don’t care (about my own self-indulgent desires that is)! 

Three and a half months and I am ready to revisit Boden’s birth story.

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Boden’s birth was not particularly traumatic compared to many stories I have heard; but, that doesn’t mean it was easy.

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Giving birth is not easy.

Even the “easiest” birth has to be one of the hardest things in the world.

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JennaT_130710_022-2After Bo was born, everyone wanted to know his “birth story.” In particular, how long I was in labor.

That is a tricky question, as I’m sure most moms can relate.

Do I tell them the length of time I was feeling some sort of labor pains (close to 100 hours), the length of time I knew I was in labor (about 15 hrs), or the length of time I was in the hospital before he was born (5 hrs)?

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None of these figures seem quite accurate in my mind.

In some ways my labor seems to have taken an eternity. Three full nights of intermittent labor pains with little to no sleep accompanied by two days of worry, doubt, and frustrated waiting.

In other ways my labor seemed to have flown by. 15 hours? It felt like one minute I was eating dinner on the patio of Grove restaurant, the next I was in the bathtub, the next we were on the way to the hospital, and the next I was pushing.

To be honest, the whole things feels more like a dream than a memory.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a very poor long-term memory.While I can memorize songs, verses, and phone numbers quite easily, remembering my childhood or even what I did last weekend can be a challenge. So I take pictures.

Most of my memories are like a “big bang” in my head…a single photo exploding into an entire event or feeling.

This is why I knew I needed photos of Boden’s birth.  And why it’s taken me a few months to be ready to look back on these photos and experience the explosion of memory and feeling that would accompany them.

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My sister Brittany took these for me throughout my 5 hours of labor in the hospital (2:00am-7:00am). Sometimes I could hear the “click” and “snap” of the camera. Other times I was in a trance and could barely remain coherent, let alone notice the hovering lens.

One of the most surprising things about looking back at these images is how calm I appear.

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I remember the pain being very real, very intense, and very powerful. But I also remember the supernatural peace that rested on me.

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At times I was screaming inside my head, but outwardly I was simply breathing.

Later my dula would call this “breathing the baby out”… something she said she had never actually witnessed until my delivery of Boden.

My dula was a great support. At one point (around hour 9 of the 15-hour labor process…or hour 80 of the 100-hour ordeal, depending on how you look at it) I felt that I couldn’t go on. After 3 nights and two days of hardly sleeping and now the hours of such hard physical, mental, and emotional work, I remember barely having the energy to cry as I sat on my bed, sipped a cup of hot water with honey (to keep my blood-sugars up) and hung my head. She looked at me and told me that I needed to let go of my fear. My labor, though extremely intense, was not moving forward very quickly and would continue to “stall” if I did not let go and allow nature to take it’s course. Without realizing it, I had been tensing my body with each pain and mentally preparing for the next one. I was in the thick of it… terrified to go forward, yet knowing I couldn’t go back.

So I did. I gave in. I began to think of the pains differently. Rather than each one being a battle that I needed to survive and wishing for it to be over as soon as it started, I began to think of each pain as one more step closer to bringing my son into this world. And I welcomed each one, drawing it out to its fullest potential so that it would not be in vain. As soon as I felt the wave of a contraction, I would completely release my body into it’s current. I hung from Ben’s arms like dead-weight and mentally encouraged my body to create a smooth passageway for Boden’s entrance into the world.

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A therapist friend of mine once encouraged me to face a difficult future event by mentally imagining myself at that event as the person I wanted to be. To see myself walking, talking, and moving through that experience with peace, joy, and calm. Then seeing myself after the event, happy and proud of the way I had handle myself. Though I didn’t consciously think about this tactic during my labor, looking back, I see that I moved through it as the person I always hoped to be. Calm, cool, and collected. Not shouting or short or scared. I am happy and proud of the way I handled myself. Knowing it was not me, but the power of the Holy Spirit that is in me.

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I endured the suffering for the joy set before me.

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The joy of the new life I was privileged to birth.

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You know that saying, “sleeping like a baby?” I’m pretty sure it’s suppose to mean “sleeping soundly” or “sleeping like a rock” or something like that. Well, as a mother of a baby, I believe the saying needs to be revised. It should be “sleeping like a newborn.”  From my experience, my sweet little baby has not “slept like a baby” since he was about 6 weeks old… and I’m beginning to realize that I may partially to blame. 

When Bo was 6 weeks old, we moved him out of our room and his little bassinet and into his own room and “big boy” crib. I knew we needed to begin to establish healthy sleep habits, hence my frantic reading of the book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, which I would recommend. The book suggested that we pay close attention to Boden’s “drowsy signs” and put him down for naps straight away when we noticed he seemed tired. Then we were to only get him up when it was time to eat (not to change diapers, console, or play). It was a good plan and worked for a while… of course, somewhere along the way, I lost my resolve or my confidence in the plan and began getting Bo up before the end of his nap. When Bo cried midway through his nap, I would change his diaper and he would go right back to sleep. It was so easy. I knew it wasn’t Dr. Weissbluth’s method, but I rationalized that Bo would get more rest if he didn’t have to cry so long during his nap (of course, I never really admitted that this also saved me the agony of listening to his whimpers). So, we got off track and things just snowballed from there. 

Eventually we found ourselves in a very “unhealthy sleep habit.” Not only was Bo waking up from every nap with a wet diaper, but I also realized it was consistently happening 45 minutes into his nap (almost like clockwork). I found out from other moms (and another good book “Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp) that this happens when babies transition from one sleep cycle to the next- from “light” sleep to “deep” sleep. Ugh, in my attempt to help Boden sleep better, I had unknowingly interrupted his transition time and taught him to depend on me to get into his deep sleep cycle! Of course, this was not really a problem for Bo, but I was getting exhausted! If I was to remain sane, and truly help Bo get the rest he needs, the habit couldn’t continue. 

Now we’re both paying the price. 

It’s been just 2 days now of “baby bootcamp” in which I have stopped consoling or changing diapers at 45 minutes into nap time and it’s so tough on both of us! Poor Bo has to be so confused as to why mommy has stopped responding to his cries, and I am heart-broken hearing him call out for me. Though I can (and so badly desire to) take away Bo’s discomfort in the blink of an eye, I force myself to stand by and let him work through it on his own. I am still here, still watching over him and would never allow him to be harmed (as my mother always reminds me, “a little wet diaper never hurt anyone”), but rather than give in to the short-term gain of his comfort, I am looking to the long-term benefits that outweigh his present suffering. 

I was journaling last night about all of this and, after putting the words to paper, realized that my thoughts/feelings were probably very similar to the way that our Heavenly Father feels as he allows us to struggle. He is the Almighty, capable of taking away our discomfort, pain, and sadness in the blink of an eye, yet sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He sits by and allows us to work through hard things on our way. Always attentive and protective, but not always coming to our aide in the way we want Him to. Though we are so caught up in our present suffering that we cry out and ask Him to take it away, He sees beyond our current circumstances and, knowing what is best for us in the long run, allows us to work through it. 

Even as I care for this sweet little baby, I realize that in many ways I am just like him. I too am like a baby in my faith and my Heavenly Father is teaching me healthy habits (Proverbs 3:12). 

So, whenever I find myself struggling, going through a little “baby bootcamp,” I am reminded that my Heavenly Father will never leave me nor forsake me (Joshua 1:4-6). He wants what is best for me in the long run and the future benefits far outweigh my present suffering (Romans 8:17-18). 

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Sigh.

We made it.

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Boden is 3 months old.

In the world of babies, this is (apparently) known as “the turning point.”

From the first week of our lives as new parents, old(er) parents reassured us that the sleepless nights and complete lack of predictability would significantly decrease at the 12 week mark. Of course they all meant well, but honestly I tried not to listen because… well, I might as well admit it… I’m a pessimist. I didn’t really believe them, but oh how I wanted to! Or maybe the more accurate statement is that I wanted to believe them, but oh how I was afraid to! Afraid to be let down. Afraid 12 weeks would come and go without so much as a breath or change. We were both wrong.

The 3 month mark has turned out to be a turning point of sorts (as they said), yet it’s also come and gone without a major “to-do” (as I thought).

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Yesterday I went out to coffee with a friend. (side note: Ben has been courageous enough to watch Bo a few times while I’m able to have these short outings and what a world of difference that has made!) She shared some big news with me that she had started seeing someone. Very exciting. In the spirit of commonality, I eagerly announced that I too had “big news”! “Are you pregnant again already?!” she blurted. We both had a laugh and kept chatting as we walked (her with a chai and me with a non-caffienated fruity tea…oh how I miss caffeine). I finally told her that the night before Boden had slept 8 hours straight for the first time. “Wow,” she said, “that’s great. Oh, so what was your big news?” ….. That was it. In the world of babies, 8 hours straight is known as “big news.”

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After coffee, Ben and I went to two birthday parties back-to-back with both sides of our family. Of course the expected question was asked, “so, how is Bo doing?” and I was all too eager to share my “big news” that our 3 month old had slept through the night! The word was out, we had definitely reached “the turning point.” I couldn’t have been more proud.

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Last night…you guessed it… we barely slept, waking up every 3-4 hrs to feed or console our big 3 month old.

8 a.m. rolled around.

Sigh.

We made it.

Through the night.

Perhaps our big “turning point” will turn out be a bit more like a very wide bend in the road… not the kind that shifts you in your seat, but rather a slight drift that eventually takes you in a new direction.

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With a chill in the air, I was craving some fall treats! These are easy, tasty, and…not too unhealthy 😉

DAIRY-FREE PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE

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Ingredients:

– 1 cup ice

– 1 cup almond milk

– 1/2 cup almond butter

– 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

– 2 Tbs. maple syrup

– 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Blend and enjoy!

DAIRY-FREE MAPLE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

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– 1/2 cup Tofutti cream cheese*

– 1 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup

– 2 Tbs butter (softened)

– 1/2 tsp. vanilla

*this recipe would be sugar-free; however, I noticed that the tofutti cream cheese does contain sugar, unfortunately.

Combine with hand mixer. Scoop into a  zip-loc baggie and cut the corner to pipe onto desserts.

I just so happened to have some flourless peanut butter banana muffins in my refrigerator, so I iced those to make some delicious cupcakes!

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Do you know what you do when you have become pregnant unexpectedly 2 months after your wedding in your early 20’s?

You look at the bright side.

You revel in the fact that you will be empty nesters before your friends.

You make a list.

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Last night was Ben and my “date night”… also known as the night we spend a couple of hours pretending we are our old selves. We dress up. I wear jewelry. We hold hands. I have a glass of wine. We look into each others eyes as we talk. I remember that life is bigger than me and Bo.

As we wined and dined, we began talking about all of the things we would do when our little birds flew the nest…

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We will go on a West Coast Road Trip from Vancouver all the way to Mexico.

We will travel to all of those distant places people long to go but never have the time to… Australia, New Zeeland, and Fiji.

We will hike the Rocky Mountains.

We will scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.

We will ski the Swiss Alps.

We will visit the Holy Lands of Israel.

We will go back to Italy and “redo” our honeymoon.

We will run a bed & breakfast in a quant town.

I will go to Fashion Week in New York (or Paris!).

Ben will play golf at Augusta.

I will open a gluten-free bakery.

Ben will survive alone on a deserted island.

I will compete in a Mud Run.

Ben will catch a Marlin.

I will write a book.

Ben will eat a real banana straight from the tree.

I will read the entire Bible.

Of course, we may never accomplish all of these things, but I am guessing we will accomplish some. So, if we ever look at each other after our kids are grown and gone and say, “well, what now?” we will have this list to get us started.

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And in the meantime, I will accomplish smaller victories…

I will bake a whole cake from scratch.

I will run a 5k.

I will start a blog (wink).

I will read the Bible daily.

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What’s on your list?

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Today (well every day if I’m honest) I was craving a muffin. I LOVE muffins!

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Being gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) and sugar-free (SF) can make this quite a challenge. But, thanks to a new blog, Detoxinista, recommended by my friend, I have a new resource from some fantastic GF, DF & SF treats!

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I came upon this recipe today and had to post about it because the muffins have NO FLOUR whatsoever, are sweetened only with honey and bananas, are actually fluffy and light (unlike most GF baked goods which are typically as dense as bricks), and (here’s the best part) they are so easy and quick!

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Here’s a link to the recipe on Detoxinista… enjoy!

“I know thy works and thy labor and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil; and how thou hast tried them that say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2: 2-4

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It’s all too easy. Forsaking our first love. Working and laboring tirelessly in the name of love, but leaving behind the butterflies in exchange for a clean kitchen and empty trash bin.

Yesterday, as Ben and I were on our way to church- he driving and me in the back seat as is our new normal- I was faced with this truth. I sat next to Boden’s carseat cooing, singing, and talking to him and watching is entire face light up. I couldn’t resist his kissable face and held his hands so he would know he was not alone. I don’t remember exactly the words I used, but I said something to Bo and from the front seat, I heard Ben say to his son, “your mom used to say that to me.” He said it with a smile, and I smiled back, laughing it off, but I was shaken all the same. Was it true? Had I transferred my love from one to another that easily?

Bo loves music. Often I will play music from my computer as he and I go about our day at home together… and more often than not, I will sing along while smiling down at him, which he adores. Many of these are love songs- like “Gotta Have You” by the Weepies, “Free” by Zac Brown Band, and “Your Song” by Elton John- that I direct to his little blue eyes. Sometimes I can’t even get through a complete phrase without kissing his little wet lips just to watch him squeal in delight and turn his face to “kiss” me back.

Sometimes these moments remind me of the times when I was so infatuated with Ben that I could not resist kissing him! He always hated “PDA” (Public Displays of Affection), yet I would shower him with kisses as often as I could sneak them! I made him playlists and sang to him. Sometimes I could even convince him to dance with me in the kitchen when no one was looking. We haven’t done that in a while…

I also got to thinking about my true first love. My love for Christ. I can still remember those first years when I understood what it meant to be saved and to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I used to tear up during worship time at summer camps and write letters to God in my journal. The sad truth is that I was probably never infatuated the way I have been with these other men in my life. I have not found spending time with Christ irresistible or been tempted to display my affection for him publicly whenever I get a chance. What a shame.

This morning, I texted Ben at work, which is our typical morning greeting during the week when he leaves for work before I get up to feed Bo. He texted back saying that he had found an old love letter from me in his devotional book and that “it was nice.”

Today, I’m going to return to my first loves. I’m going to talk with Jesus and sing him a love song. Then, I’m going to write my husband a love letter. I’m going to remind him (and myself) how much I love him! I’m going to return to that thirsty love and give it some much needed water. I’m going to kiss him when he gets home from work…and maybe tonight we’ll dance in the kitchen.