On The Other Side Of Diapers

When I was pregnant with my third baby I remember the intense urgency I had to get my firstborn fully potty trained. We had moments of success but we were far from saying that we had officially potty trained him. My soon to be middle child was barely going to be eighteen months old and I knew I only wanted two kids in diapers at the same time, NOT three.

Baby number three arrived and during the day time we were down to just two in diapers, and that felt like such a relief.

It seemed like our days consisted of poop, pee and analyzing both of those things for each kid. Changing a newborn, changing a toddler and rushing a preschooler to make it to the potty on time.

In fact besides eating, I’d say everything in our lives revolved around the “number one” and “number two” issues of life.

It felt like an outrageously big ordeal to go get groceries. (Ok well it actually still does if I take all three.) But really, to time it all just right that everyone ate, had clean diapers or had just gone potty so we didn’t have a major bathroom event seemed so big and so daunting.

Sometime this past year that newborn, now over three, potty trained himself. I don’t even really remember when it was (last baby problems), but it just kind of happened.

This massive victory came to us almost completely unrecognized until one night I went to find a diaper wipe to clean something off my son and realized we didn’t have any. I was kind of annoyed.

“Where are all the diapers wipes!?” I demanded to know.

“We don’t have any, I don’t think we’ve bought any diapers in over a month!” my husband answered with some excitement.

WOW! That’s a big deal! That’s a lot of savings! This was a huge milestone for us. We were on the other side of diapers and we hadn’t even celebrated it!

I find this is the case with so many areas of my life. Some issue consumes me for so long and then it’s suddenly finished with and I don’t even take a moment to celebrate that I won that battle.

This past week I was overwhelmed with some things with our store and wondering how I was going to get certain items restocked in time for Valentines Day.

I was really worked up about it and started ranting to my husband about how I don’t want our reputation to be that of a sold out, under stocked shop that never has what you need. (For the record, it’s not good to talk to me about anything remotely serious after 8 pm, it will only end in over tired tears!)

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” My husband slowed me down.

“I get what you’re saying, but can I just remind you that months ago you were crying and stressed that no one would come in to your store and shop and what if we were risking so much for nothing! And now you’re selling out!? That’s a big win! Yes we need to solve some stock issues, but wow, babe, you’re doing a great job!”

Because I get more stubborn when I’m over tired, I unfortunately didn’t melt into a pile of appreciation over his deep encouragement right then, but I did the next day! (He knew he would celebrate that win eventually!)

It’s so important that when we find ourselves getting caught up in the intensity of life that we can celebrate the steps we’ve taken, the difficulties we’ve overcome and the challenges we’ve rose above, or even just survived!

I want to be one who can do that for myself, not simply fall apart and need someone to remind me that’s things are ok (although, who doesn’t appreciate that?).

I also want to be one that is so able to see the treasure in another that if they are the one needing to be celebrated, I can whip out a mental list of things they’re doing well!

How about you? Do you need to take a moment to celebrate something you’ve come through? Maybe you don’t even realize it, just like I almost missed the fact that we were on the other side of diapers!

You’re doing a great job and if no one else tells you, let me be the one to say, take a moment and don’t let a victory, big or small, go uncelebrated!

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Becoming a Treasure Hunter

Out of all the lessons I barely began to learn in 2017, there is perhaps none greater than that of becoming a “Treasure Hunter”.

A man named Johnny Enlow (you might want to remember that name for future posts), spoke about becoming a treasure hunter at the conference I attended in February.

I saw this first hand in my life when we started to look for another house. We had put our much-loved, and only recently finished, house up for sale. By this time we knew that we were going to be starting the store.

I was still thinking small and I specifically was looking for a house that had an oversized garage or room to build one so that I could run my store right out of it.

We looked at every possible house remotely within our price range. So in our town, that was two, maybe four if we were approved higher than we expected!

I was pretty discouraged about the choices but one in particular stood out as the right choice on so many levels. It was a corner lot with room to build a big garage and close enough to the school my kids could just walk over for lunch every day.

It seemed perfect.

There was another house we looked at. Instantly I hated it. As we left that day I told my husband “I don’t know what it is but I just have a bad feeling about it.” 

What I thought was a deep intuition, turned out to just be plain dislike.

I walked by the house we wanted every day and asked God to save it for us until we sold our house.

The day after we got a firm offer on our house, just days before we felt we’d be in a place to make an offer, my realtor called and told me the house had sold.

I remember where I was standing in the bread isle of our local Co-op, my hand shaking and trying to fight back tears.

It was the only real option and now our house had sold.

To say my heart was broken was an understatement. I should have been experienced enough now with buying and selling houses to not get attached until it’s a done deal, but in my mind that one was perfect. I had renovated it in my head, imagined exactly how I’d set it up and just what I’d make for all those hot lunches at home.

Time went on. We sold our house and the dates all lined up for exactly when my mom was moving away and we were able to rent her house so we weren’t stranded.

We tried to be patient for something else to pop up. We looked at other houses. Finally, I knew we had to look at the house I hated.

When I told my husband what I was feeling, he just laughed, since that was the house he had felt was the most sensible all along.

I don’t really like sensible.

I knew every single thing I disliked about that house. I memorized them all and had purposed in my heart to never go back and look at it again after our first visit.

Andrew knew I must be desperate, and I was.

By this point we had renovated a space on Main Street, opened up shop and sent the kids back to school. It felt like the last chance to move before the snow.

The morning that we went to see the house I hated again, I remembered that I had committed to becoming a Treasure Hunter.

I prayed with all my heart:

“Lord, illuminate the treasure to me in this house. If this is your plan I want to see the good and move forward in faith.”

We pulled into the driveway and instantly everything felt different from when we had been there before. Even the yard looked much bigger than I had remembered!

While walking through the house it was like I saw gold shining all over it. The vision flowed for how it could look and the renovation didn’t seem as daunting.

We felt full of peace that this was our home. We wouldn’t just walk into it and enjoy it the way it was, but we could see the treasure of what it could be.

There were two others guys who learned about being treasure hunters. Their names were Joshua and Caleb. If you’re familiar with the bible you probably know about them.

God had given the Israelites a land and told them that it was good. But a group of twelve went to scope it out.

Ten of them were just like me when I looked at our house the first time. They just saw a long list of problems and issues that felt overwhelming to face. They reported back to their people that the job was just too big, and it was all just too hard.

Joshua and Caleb came back with a different report.

They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.
(Numbers 14:7 & 8 NLT)

They saw the treasure! The good in that place and they knew that if God was for them, he would help them get there!

I’d love to say that my house has cemented this lesson deep into my heart, but the truth is I’m fighting everyday to be a treasure hunter. My eyes have been trained to see the danger, the fear, the possibility of what could go wrong and I have a strong self preservation instinct.IMG_1482

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(More has been done since this picture, but you get the idea!)

But what seems impossible to us humans, God laughs at and reminds us that with Him nothing is impossible. The more I experience this, the braver I get.

I pray today that God will illuminate the treasure in whatever unsettling or even terrifying situation is staring you in the face and that you move forward in the confidence of faith, knowing that if God is for you, nothing can be against you!

Birthing A Dream

“I had a dream last night you were pregnant.” I was surprised by my husband’s unusual dream and the fact he even remembered it by morning.

“Well that sounds like a nightmare to me.” I joked back.

He went on, more insistent that this was a significant dream.

“No seriously, I had a dream you were pregnant and everyone was congratulating me and then a good friend of mine said this would be the toughest one to support you through yet. I really think it means something.”

“Well as long as it doesn’t mean a real baby, than I am open to it.” I said laughing.

That was early December 2016. I had a stirring in my heart that something was changing. Something was coming. I couldn’t see what it was but I could feel a shift was about to take place.

I read the verses in Luke 1:38 again and again. The ones where Mary just finds out she’s expecting Jesus and in a bold move of faith she says to the angel Gabriel

“This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord! As his servant I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.”

I accept what He has for me. May it all happen.

I declared it everywhere. In my sermons, my journals, my prayer walks.

My first trimester was here.

Then I went to a conference where I had an encounter that showed me I was called to start something in business. (That will be a story for another time.)

The days and weeks that followed were bursting with questions as the Lord showed me that he wanted me to start a “clothing store on a mission” in our town . I wrote in my journal on March 16:

“Thank you for teaching me that “big” for me is tiny for you. I’m going to have to hold that in my heart as I pursue business and this whole process. I know I am going to grow a long in confidence through this.”

We had officially entered the Second Trimester. I was finally “showing”. The news was out. Crazy or not, we were going to follow in obedience and start this store.

This is where the hard work began. And where we experienced the reality of this “pregnancy” being the hardest to get through together. I woke up at 4 am every morning to write my business plan in quiet before I went to work or stayed home with the kids. Andrew and I wrestled through finances, building plans, goals and the purpose.

As the dream got closer and closer to coming into the world, I became more and more difficult to be with. My brain was consumed with birthing this store.

July 2017 I told a friend I was so pregnant and uncomfortable with this dream I felt like I just needed it OUT. But the big push was still to come. Renovating our building and setting up shop. 

 

Opening day arrived almost 40 weeks to the day of that pregnancy dream my husband had. By this time we had forgotten about the dream and hadn’t kept track. It wasn’t until closing time on September 2nd that I realized the significance.

The shop was born. But the work was just beginning. We had entered the newborn stage. 

I could not have imagined when I was in that “dream pregnancy” what God was doing, what he was teaching me, what he was preparing us for.

I believe with all my heart that agreeing with God’s declarations over our lives lead to unlocking his goodness and grace in greater measure than we could ever imagine.

As I stare into 2018, I declare again “I accept whatever He has for me.” Big or small. Audacious or reasonable. Out of the box or right inside. I am his servant and I want every good and perfect thing that comes from above, every circumstance that pushes my roots deeper and every challenge that strengthens my faith.

May everything he is speaking over you, and me, come to pass. 

Hello Again

“I’ve worked so hard on this blog. Like 5 years. I feel this tug to lay it down for a year and not touch it. But I’m fighting it. What do you think?”

I text this to my sister after wrestling with whether or not to be obedient to the tug on my heart. I knew it was God. Some people have asked me how I know, and I can’t explain besides the fact that when you get to know someone really well, you know their voice. You can tell what they’re trying to say without having to spell it right out for.

She text back pretty quick, and simply said: “Monica. I know you. If God has told you to lay something down, you better not touch it because you are going to be picking up something even better than you could imagine.”

That was the final confirmation I needed to humble myself, risk losing the wonderful 400 people who faithfully followed my blog (I know, not really that impressive!) and say a brave yes to what God had in store for 2017.

One quick blog post can’t recount the miracles that took place this past year, or the incredible pain I walked through. Contending for God’s best in our lives is never easy. But it’s always worth it.

I finished that year unsure if I was going to restart my blog. But then I read Romans 12. Over and over and over again. I couldn’t get out of it. But the line that stood out to me, rolled around in my head constantly is found at the end of Romans 12:17.

“Plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.”

The fire in my heart exploded again and I knew instantly I needed to write once more. There are many things I can be doing with my life, but I truthfully believe that transparency and opening my heart to you again will encourage others, and ultimately restore part of myself as I practice being brave again extending my story, fighting the fear of what others may think.

I have so much to share from my year on a break, and I know we will learn so much more together this year too.

So my friends, I say “Hello Again.” Welcome back to my virtual kitchen table. Welcome back to “Monica Switzer Blog”. Get ready to hear some wild stories, cry some real tears and laugh too, as we set out on an adventure to “plan our lives around the noblest way to benefit others.”

With gratitude,

Monica

One Last Blog

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I’ve imagined over and over how I would introduce this post. Typed, deleted, typed, deleted.

No words truly encapsulate the agony I’ve been going through to step out and obey the Lord in multiple areas of my life heading into the new year.

The plain and simple truth is that God has asked me to take a blogging break for 2017.

I’ve been seeking the Lord on what he needed me to know on a personal level about this new year.

My heart has been full of ideas, projects and goals for the future. When I sat down to really pray into what the Lord had for me he has spoken words like “wander”, “enjoy”, and “deepening”.

For over five years I’ve poured out my heart to you. Some years more than others. This blog has been a life line when I needed something to focus on, a platform when I needed to disciple, a creative outlet when I needed to inspire.

It’s been a dream. A dream that still hasn’t died.

But it’s time to lay it down. For a season at least.

This year holds some pretty crazy things for me. Events that are going to push me so far beyond my comfort zone that I get butterflies just imagining it.

Things that are going to take focus. And the Lord wants my whole heart through it so he can truly deepen me the way he needs to in order to prepare me for the next level.

I was reading Chip & Joanna Gaines book, The Magnolia Story, and Joanna told the story of how she had to close her shop down when her kids were young. This shop represented a big time dream, but she trusted that God knew what he was doing.

When the time came to pick it up again the Lord radically blessed it and has used her dream to reach millions.

I don’t know what will happen with my blog, this symbol of my dream, but this I know:

“We are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life.”

Hebrews 10:39 (The Passion Translation)

Friends, there is so much I want to share about what could be on the horizon and what I’m sensing this may all be about, but truly my heart breaks to express the season I’m entering into. I personally have never found deepening easy.

But it is always, always, worth it. 

I pray for you that this year would hold incredible encounters with Jesus that change your life and your heart forever. I pray that when we reconnect next year that I would hear stories of the deepening work that God has done in your heart too. I pray that whatever you face, your courage would be strong and your heart would be brave in the Lion of Judah, our Lord. May health, wisdom and overflowing love pour out from you this year.

I will still be on Instagram probably posting outrageously long captions sharing my heart through my photos, because that’s just who I am, so you can stay loosely connected to me that way!

Thank you for your tremendous love and support the last number of years.

With love, tears and many blessings,

Monica

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3H Club

Almost every December I feel ready to quit. Ready to quit every thing. Being a mom, a wife, a blogger, a pastor, or even a functioning human being!

It’s never actually an emergency. I’m simply tired.dont-quit

I read this quote a while ago and it summed up perfectly what I’ve been learning in 2016. Rest more. Rest daily, rest weekly, rest monthly and rest yearly. I’m seeking to become proactive with rest so I don’t burn out.

While some people amp up their schedules come Christmas time, I’m seeking out rest. It might sound idyllic and easy but in a world where there is a “glorification of busy” and exterior pressures to make my Christmas list two miles long, it’s hard.

My longevity in life is going to come down to how well I can manage to rest. I’ve found that this principle works on so many levels. If I lay down for a few minutes at lunch time, I will be more productive in the afternoon. If I don’t, I will grumpily (is that a word?) haul myself through the day and just make it to bed time.

But if you know me I’m not much into surviving.

To thrive you need to grow. You need water, sun and rest. You need to exercise and sleep.

I was doing a workout the other day and I was feeling quite pushed for time and like I really didn’t have room in my schedule for it that day.

I heard the Lord whisper “How are your H’s?”.

“Umm, did I miss something? What are these ‘H’s’ you speak of?” I joked backed.

“How’s your home? How’s your health? How’s your happiness?” His voice is so calm and gentle in these moments.

I knew with instant revelation what he was talking about. My home is my family, my kids, my marriage and then everything associated with my house. My health is my spiritual and physical wellbeing, and my happiness is my overall joy in life.

These were three great questions, and I answered honestly.

My house is in a pretty good shape. We’ve had good times with the kids, I had a date on Friday, and while my house isn’t “deep clean”, our bedrooms are tidy and we are relatively caught up on laundry.

My health…hmm that’s a tough one. Physically, I’ve been worn out. These last couple month of figuring out my PMDD (read here) has been exhausting and I’m still building my body back up. Spiritually, I’m enjoying all you say, Lord. I’m excited about our relationship.

My happiness, or joy, is day-to-day depending simply on how much pressure I place on myself and how much margin I have in my schedule.

This little conversation with the Lord was so good and so proactive. He reminded me that I had felt that December needed to be focused on rest. I chose a book to enjoy and I’ve been watching extra shows in the evenings and fitting workouts into my schedule to strengthen myself.

I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to give up. If we are tired, we need to learn to rest. We need to learn to rest before we get too tired. When you live a life that aims to change the world, building rest into your routine is vital.

This world needs you healthy. The world needs us to have healthy homes, healthy bodies, healthy spirits and healthy hearts.

How are your H’s? 

May this be a restful December and joy filled Christmas! 

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Happy “One Year” to our little Fixer Upper!

One year ago we got possession of our new house! I can’t believe it’s been a year. This was the largest project we have ever taken on. I say WE because while Andrew renovated this house for us to move into, I had to carry a lot of extra work at the church, with the kids and at the house we were living in.

There was one point went we considered selling it half-finished because we were so stressed. That week we asked some people to pray with us and the Lord came through big time! He gave us strategies we hadn’t thought of, released more money where we thought we had run out and reminded us why we needed to do it!

I remember one time I was over at the new house helping Andrew. He had demolished a room and my job was to shovel all the gross stuff into five gallon pails and carry them outside. I don’t know how many trips I made that day, but I ended up filling three massive garbage bins and leaving with a sore back.

The little moments I was able to spend working on the house gave me a deep respect for the project Andrew was heading up. He blew me out of the water with his abilities!

In honour of this special anniversary I want to share some of the pictures from our house over the last year.

It isn’t quite finished but we are crazy close to our goal of finishing it all by December 31, 2016.

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One year ago tomorrow we knocked down the wall between the then bedroom and kitchen/dining room. The kid’s loved it as we were slightly Chip & Joanna obsessed and were counting down the days to our own “demo day’!

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Many cold and dark days with no heat and or lights hooked up!

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The kids were troopers with the endless trips to Home Depot or Lowes.

bedroom

I can’t even tell you how many times we stood up stairs re-mapping out the bedrooms. We managed to use wasted space and reconfigure the upstairs into four bedroom from three bedrooms!

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The kitchen was a very exciting day! It ended up being more stressful than we imagined because our countertops, sink and finishing pieces ended up being almost five weeks late. We moved in thinking they were arrive any day.

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Andrew built this island. We were at the end of our kitchen budget so he reused out old table top for the counter that we can choose to replace one day if we want to.

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We raided my mom’s basement and found some old stools that Andrew cut down to counter height and painted.

new-sink

Another happy day! The farm sink and counter tops arrived! It had been a long few weeks without them!

oven

I loved this stove when I saw it in the store but it was way above our budget. We found the same one in the aisle over with a ding in it that would be easy to paint, and it was marked down by $900! I made muffins pretty much right after we got it in!

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Someone else loved the farm sink almost as much as mommy!

dining-room

I’ve been so happy with the “feel” of the space. It’s so cozy some days it’s hard to leave!

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The latest addition to the kitchen! Subway tile back splash with charcoal grout.

coffee-bar

This was simply a design piece that I fell in love with and it fit so perfectly in this little space beside the exposed brick.

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We always enjoy hosting, whether there is still more to be done in the house or not!

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The shiplap wall is one of my favourite parts of this house! Original from 1921!

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It’s hard to get a good picture with Christmas lights! I’m enjoying our first Christmas season in this house.

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I am so happy with the decision to paint the doors dark. I love the contrast to the white walls.

front-foor

This shared the story of this front door on a previous post that you can find here.

There is still lots to do, and it’s far from perfect. There are layout flaws, mistakes we made and lots that we learned. Almost every wall has been damaged by the kids to some degree already and we gasp every time someone drags something across the new floors! But it really has been an incredible year and yet another way God has shown his faithfulness to us.

And yet another way my husband has blown me away! (You’re pretty amazing babe!)