Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Piece of Me

Guest blogger

Some days, I hold it together like a champ from diaper to diaper, from meltdown to meltdown. I patiently load and unload the car, buckling, tightening, loosening, unbuckling 4 kids still in car seats. I speak gently to overstimulated and overtired littles. I wipe snotty noses, snotty cheeks, snotty foreheads – somehow this stuff gets everywhere. all. winter. long. I sweep up the majority of what was served to the twins after breakfast, after lunch, after snacks, after dinner… Ok, except for when I save it all for after dinner…

Some days, at the end of these days, I fall into bed exhausted the way that we are meant to be exhausted after a day of good work. And some days, at the end of these days, I fall into bed exhausted.

And discontent.

I love that I get to stay home with these kids and be Mommy. And I have so many meaningful outlets apart from my kids that my discontent feels absurd. I’m at the gym 3 or 4 days a week, Bible study every Tuesday, a mommy workout group, orchestra rehearsal, and another Bible study on Wednesdays, book club twice a month, MOPS at two different churches. I am not doing this alone. I cherish these opportunities to take little breaks from the kids and focus in on my relationships with other ladies and my relationship with God. I cherish these opportunities because they make me a better mommy. They give me more of those days where I am patient, gentle, and the picture of joyful endurance. But then there are days like today.

By 7:15 this morning, I had tucked my sleepy oldest child snugly into my place in bed, nursed both of the girls, changed 3 diapers, and was out the door on my way to a friend’s kid-free birthday breakfast. After dropping by the farmer’s market (ALONE!) on the way home for some local organic chard, romaine, and asparagus, I walked in the front door and was needed. And needed. And needed. And needed. And tired. My boys played with legos for a good 4 hours today; my husband took the girls for a 45 minute walk so I could have a quiet time while the boys played outside. And still, I was tired. 

Some days I can put my finger on it, but this wasn’t one of them.

It has occurred to me several times over the last year that I love to write. I also hate to write, but mostly I love it. I particularly love to have written. A year ago now, I wrote a blog post. A YEAR AGO. And still, I think back to that blog post with great pleasure. I was on an emotional high for a month having accomplished – having completed – something creative and tangible. Something I was proud of – and yes, it was about the kids – but the writing was not the kids – it was me in a way that I don’t get to be me every day. And I’m ok with that, most of the time.

Today, my weariness reminded me that it is often not my circumstances that make me tired. It is not the demands of my kids that dictate how much I will open my eyes to see the joy that God has for me in each moment – and I do believe that He has planted joy for me everywhere. Sometimes I am tired because there is an essential piece of me – a piece God has knit into me – that I am ignoring.

I taught English for several years before signing up to be Mommy. My favorite class to teach was AP Language and Composition. I have always loved reading, and remain a voracious reader as a mommy – staying up late and carrying at least some reading material around in my car or purse “just in case.” There is nothing to hate about reading.  The writing thing is more complicated. Maybe because I don’t have anything personal at stake when I pick up something by someone else. Writing is baring my soul and my skill to be scrutinized. Once something is written, I have to reckon with it. And then the whole blog thing… to be scrutinized by others. That is risky. And personal. And thrilling.

So, here it is. And because it is, I will be a better mommy tomorrow than I was today. I will be a better wife – a grateful wife to the amazing man who kicked me out of the house to read and write and go to Trader Joe’s (ALONE!).

**This piece was reposted from Then Comes Grace.

Heather Fenton is a mama of two boys and twin girls, and is madly in love with her husband of almost 10 years, Mike. She loves music, literature, camping, and running and has a love/hate relationship with writing. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Organizing our Beautiful Mess

I am a creative spirit. I hate throwing things away because I know somehow, some way it could be recycled, recreated, reimagined in the future.

When I was a kid, my mom would send me to clean my room and I would emerge three days later having uncovered a mountain of books I needed to read and boxes full of all the great crafting stuff I forgot I had. Simply put: I was a pack rat. My college roommates were not too thrilled about this character trait. They let me have my own room while they shared.

Now that I am a wife and mommy, who spends a lot of time packing and unpacking for moves and travels, I have started to reform my ways.

A few years ago we moved into a smaller home with a bigger yard. There was a great master bedroom, another bedroom for my three girls, and a smaller room we needed to turn into a joint office for our non-profit and the jewelry business. We also needed to turn the garage into a functional warehouse space to house the jewelry and supplies. Did I mention one bathroom? Needless to say, everything felt tight, tight, tight.

Every time I sat down to work I would start to feel like the world was closing in on me. We decided to enlist a little help from our friend Brenda McElroy who had started a business called Organized by Choice. We needed some fresh perspective on how to organize our space to make it functional for our family and work.

Enter Brenda. She is a miracle worker.

She helped us talk through our goals. She gave loads of “gentle” suggestions on what to get rid of and what to keep.  She proved creative and encouraging. She helped my (pack rat) oldest daughter sift through boxes of art projects and supplies. She drew sketches on how we could organize our dual office space. She even went shopping for just the right organizers for our closets and desks.

Perhaps one of the most powerful things Brenda taught me is that everything needs to have a “home.” That word echoes in my head every time things start to feel overwhelming or cluttered. I pick up a bill, a birthday card, an old flip flop, a coupon or a gift card. I ask myself, does this have a home? If it doesn’t, I need to create a home for it or pitch it. This simple philosophy has empowered me to get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff.

**For more great tips from Brenda, check out her blog at

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS. She aspires to be organized. She lives with her hubby, Ericlee, and three daughters, Meilani, 7, Giada, 5, and Zayla, 2. They split their time between Fresno, California and Pignon, Haiti.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spring into Spring: 2014 Schedule

Jan. 9 ~ “Spa Night: Carving Out Margin in our Mess”

Jan. 23 ~ "Embracing our Birth Stories" 

Feb. 13 ~ “Growing a Heart to Serve in our Mess” {Jarod & Marissa Ramirez with a trunk show by The Haitian Bead Project}

Feb. 27 ~ “Digging into our Mess: Organized by Choice” {Brenda McElroy}

March 13 ~ “Recycling our Mess: Swap & Shop”

March 27 ~ “The Value of Self-Care for Mamas” {Dr. Sherry Wall

April 10 ~ “The Most Beautiful Story: Sharing the Gospel with Your Kids” {Lynnese Castle}

April 24 ~ “Relationship Mess: Navigating conflicts” {Scott & Michelle Hansen}

May 8 ~ Decades Mom Prom {Music, stories, prizes & more}

Growing a Heart to Serve

God has given me a heart of mercy for others. The widow. The orphan. The mom in need. These all tug on my heart strings. 

I recently heard author Rebekah Lyons say this, “Your calling is when your talents and your burdens collide.”

This was a reminder to me of why I originally jumped in to be the director of The Haitian Bead Project. Since I was a little girl I have loved all things creative. I always had some craft or art project littering my bedroom floor and brightening my walls. When I went away to college, my mom reminds me that I insisted on finding a college town that had a good bead store. 

Today I realize that I grew up in a privileged environment where my parents nurtured my creativity. As Americans we have lots of creative resources at our fingertips.

When I go to Haiti, my heart breaks consistently over the little resources the kids have to express themselves creatively. The mamas in the northern mountains cannot just run down to Michael’s or JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby for some yarn or glue or paints. 

Yet the Haitians still find a way using recycled resources to make beautiful things. That’s why I am so passionate about encouraging them in their creative gifts.

And just as I want to see the women in Haiti grow their gifts, I long for my own children to grow their gifts and hearts to serve. My husband and I have decided the best way to grow a heart to serve in our kids is to bring them along. If we are modeling service, if we are grappling with how to offer a hand up to the poor, if we are sharing our faith story with others, our kids should be a part of that adventure.

I know what you’re thinking. How can you serve others with your kids there tugging on your shirt, vying for your attention? There’s no doubt: serving with kids in the mix can be messy. They don’t always behave. Sometimes they get into the supplies. They are raw and honest and sometimes get hot and tired and cranky. The trade off is that my own children frequently model for me a heart of truly serving.

This past summer I found my 4-year-old outside our back door in Haiti with a box of band-aids. She was surrounded by a group of orphans. Every one of them was sporting a Dora band-aid and a huge grin. My daughter had offered them a great gift. She saw each one of them as important, human, her friends. She was on a mission to bind up their wounds. That challenged me in a profound way.

She was growing a heart to serve.

**Interested in more on this topic? Join us this Thursday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bridge MOPS group at The Bridge Church. Visitors are free. Dinner provided. All moms welcome.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS group. She is the director of The Haitian Bead Project, which works to give women in the northern mountains of Haiti jobs so they can provide for their families. She lives in Pignon, Haiti with her family every summer and travels there a few times a year.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Carving out Margin in the Mess

The start of a new year always prompts me to reflect. I find myself tracing the blessings of the past year and looking hopefully to the coming year. Perhaps one of the most powerful lessons I learned in 2013 (and keep relearning) is the importance of margin.

We have been a part of a life group, including 5 families (and a whole gaggle of kids), for several years. This year one member recommended a book by Dr. Richard Swenson called Margin. The premise of the book is to help restore emotional, physical, financial and time reserves to our overloaded lives.

We are all sleep-deprived, schedule-overloaded parents of preschoolers. We knew we needed to read this book. Just the title alone drew us in, convicted and inspired us. We were all hungry for the prescription for our marginless lives.

“Margin grants freedom and permits rest,” writes Dr. Richard Swenson. “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.”

As a busy, working mama of three girls I knew my load was heavy and my limits were few. My husband and I started making a list of the commitments and activities that took most of our time. In examining myself, I realized I would intentionally try to fill up the little squares on the calendar. I would write to-do lists just so I could cross things off and feel useful, but that wasn’t what I really needed. I needed rest. I needed margin.

“Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating,” writes Swenson.

In 2013, I learned to say no to a lot of things. I said no to sports and music lessons for my kids in the fall. I said no to meetings and more committees. I said no to 100% homemade meals. I said no to conferences I was invited to attend. I even said no to some things I really love doing like bringing meals to new mamas, birthday parties, holiday traditions. I said yes to more margin. 

Please understand: I have not arrived. I'm still learning how to rest and why it's imperative to my soul. Some days it just means getting a hot shower and that's about it.

My encouragement to you in 2014 is not to make more resolutions and heap more pressure on yourself. I urge you to say “no” more, to wrap yourself in grace. Protect your family time. Resist Facebook or Pinterest or Downton Abbey or Candy Crush or whatever else might suck your time instead of restoring margin. (Read no judgment here. You need to decide what restorative rest looks like for you.) 

Find more ways to help your family connect, to make your marriage sizzle, to rejuvenate your mama soul. Carve out time with your Maker. Rest. I give you permission. 

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of The Bridge MOPS group. She loves knitting, running and cooking to recharge her mama soul.

**We would love to hear from you! How are you carving out margin for your family in 2014?