My Facebook is Full of Lies.

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I have a few confessions to make about the photos you see on my facebook feed.

In this picture, you see two happy, smiling little boys. What you don’t see is my Husband, not home, because he’s busy working his tail off to provide for our family. You don’t see me on the other side of the camera, running on fumes and counting the minutes until bedtime so that I can do something as simple as pee without someone crying for me. You don’t see that Aiden was showing his stubborn streak and was fighting every request I had of him, all night long. You don’t see that Asher hadn’t napped all day, and this photo was snapped in the thirty seconds of contentedness he experienced while snuggled up to his favorite person.liarIn this photo, you see my babes staring into each others faces, seemingly overwhelmed with love. You don’t see that Aiden is only wearing underwear, because I had given up the fight to get him to keep on any other clothing. And you don’t see that two seconds later, Asher nailed him in the eye with a finger.  liar2 In this one, you see a happy, relaxed baby. What you don’t see is the pile of laundry to the left of the frame that I STILL haven’t finished sorting through days later. I’ve pretty much accepted that I won’t get caught up on laundry until all of my children have moved out. liar3 In this photo, you see my squish gumming the heck out of a pickle. And loving it. What you don’t see is the loud, screaming, and embarrassing meltdown that followed moments later because he was overtired. liar4 In this picture, you see my overachieving 5.5 month old pulling himself up on the leg of my yoga pants. What you don’t see is that I’m wearing yoga pants because I still can’t button my pre-baby shorts, and they are showing no signs of fitting comfortably before this summer ends. You don’t see how much pressure I put on myself to lose the baby weight, and how upset I get when the scale doesn’t budge.liar5 In this one, you see my ham of a five-year-old, grinning from ear-to-ear. You also see the pile of books I’ll never have time to finish reading on the end table. What you don’t see is the aforementioned pile of laundry to his right, the thin layer of dust on the bookshelf behind him, and the reward chart in the background that still says “June.”

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I’m never trying to be something I’m not when I post these pictures to social media. I put our happiest moments on social media to show our friends, family, and acquaintances, and accidentally, it paints a picture about our lives that just isn’t true.

I’m not a perfect housekeeper. My house appears cleaner because I’m good at keeping the toys, and the laundry, and the books, and the mess out of the shot. (Did I mention the toys?)

I’m not a perfect wife. My Husband almost always comes home in one of the two craziest hours of the day. First thing in the morning when I’m trying to get Aiden to school, or during the pre-bedtime witching hour full of baths and books and everyone pulling me in 20 different directions. He usually becomes the focus of my frustration and I snap at him and then I feel like the worst wife because it’s not his fault I’m so frustrated. Luckily, he usually sees that frustration and gives me some grace, but that doesn’t mean he deserves it.

I’m not a perfect mom. My kids are loved. SO loved. Overwhelmingly and unconditionally loved. But sometimes, before bedtime hits, I am just so ready for them to go to sleep, and for a moment of peace and quiet that I find myself counting away the minutes. Aiden’s whiny voice grates my nerves and Asher’s clinginess, instead of feeling like a special bond between us, starts to feel like I really wish he would be a little more independent sooner rather than later. Then they’re finally asleep and I sit in the quiet and try and decide what the heck is wrong with me because I start to miss them. I think about how quickly this season of our lives is passing, and my heart aches for more time.

My photos often portray me as having it all together, but I’m human. I’m exhausted, I’m behind on almost every household chore with zero sign of being caught up anytime soon, and I make it through each day with a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. But where there is so much chaos and exhaustion, there is also so much love and so much happiness. It’s a beautiful mess. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

broken.

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So, I’m in Tennessee this week with our church’s youth group. I’m surrounded by hundreds of the most amazing students and leaders I’ve ever met at this event called HSC. (High School Camp)

Before Monday, I knew maybe three of the two hundred people from our church alone. Those who know me, know that something like this is WAYYYYY out of my comfort zone. I hate being uncomfortable and feel awkward around people I don’t know. The last few weeks I’ve been filled with anxiety while planning and praying for this trip. I’ve been asking God to please explain to me HOW IN THE WORLD he wants me to lead these girls when I’m so lost and broken myself?

I say that I’m broken. Who isn’t? Who DOESN’T have some sort of “brokenness” in their lives?

God uses our brokenness, our faults, our imperfections, and our fears to tell His epic story just like He uses our victories.

Maybe broken isn’t the word. I’m not sure. All I know is that with all of the stupid mistakes I’ve made in my life, I wasn’t confident coming into this week that I was the type of influence these girls so desperately needed.

The first night, I figured out why I’m here. The kids were instructed to take the biggest lies that the world has taught them to believe about themselves and write it on the bottom of their shoes. This way they could walk around on them the rest of the week. The lies they came up with instantly brought me back to myself ten years ago.

Ugly. Fat. Freak. Slutty. Different. Misunderstood. Useless. Stupid. Weird.

The list went on.

These girls are me. We are the same. Ten years later and I STILL struggle with these same insecurities. THIS is why God made everything line up perfectly so I could be able to be here. I was here to show these girls that God is so much bigger than their insecurities.

I could feel my heart breaking as they were listing off these insecurities without pause. Why is it that we as human beings are so full of negativity and judgment that we can cause a young girl to hate herself and be so insecure before she has even started high school?

In that moment, I realized that I’m not as broken as I tend to believe I am. One of my girls suggested that we make a list comparing how we sometimes view ourselves and how God sees us. This is what they came up with:

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Think before you open your mouth to call that quiet girl beside you a “weirdo.” Maybe she’s just too shy to make friends. Pause before joking about that “fat” or “ugly” girl, your words will follow her for many, many years. That “freak” you commented under your breath about? She’s beginning to believe that being different is a bad thing instead of believing that she’s fearfully and wonderfully made to be unique by her Creator.

My girls are about to enter their first year of high school, so I’ll leave you with what I left them with after our small group discussion tonight:

“I will show up and take care of you as I promised. I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

A Letter to My Little Boy.

April 14, 2014

Dear Aiden,

You’re only three. You can neither read nor understand this letter at this point, but one day you will.

The night that I learned you would be coming into my life was the single most amazing, yet terrifying night of my life. I would be lying to you if I said it has been easy since then. But every moment has been 100% worth it.

The minute I first saw you growing inside my belly, and saw your heart beating, I fell head over heels in love. I loved you more than anyone or anything else in this entire world, and I hadn’t even looked into your eyes yet. You were my son, and I was your Mommy.

1The moment you were born, I held my own breath as I waited to hear your first. You let out that cry, and I cried with you. Tears of joy because you were mine.

Fast forward a few months, and you were growing into this beautiful little human being. I still couldn’t believe that you came from me. You were already so handsome, and so incredibly smart. I loved you with my whole heart.

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When you were almost six months old, my life was turned upside down when your father and I separated, he moved out, and it became just you and me. I was twenty years old and scared to death that I would never be able to provide everything you needed. I wanted to give you the world, but could barely afford your diapers. How we made it to this point, I’ll never know. I believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and I make sure to tell you this all the time.

Fast forward a few more years. Now you’re three years old. Almost four. I thank God every single day for giving you to me. You make my heart so happy. You are still so incredibly brilliant. You are so independent too, which secretly breaks my heart because you never want my help with anything. You’re stubborn and rock-headed and getting you to listen is often the most frustrating part of my day.

But I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I hope to teach you.

1) Life can be unfair. There will be bullies that will tease you because you are different from them. People will be mean and sometimes they will hurt your feelings. There’s not much you can about it other than just ignore them. Choose your friends wisely, and if you choose the right ones, they will stand beside you through anything. Cherish those friends, stand up for them, and love them. Things will rarely go the way you plan and there will be days when you will question what the heck God is doing. Instead of letting these things break you, push through it. Accept that disappointment happens sometimes, and still chase after your dreams despite what “might” happen.

2) Love life anyway. You have one life, and just because it doesn’t go the way YOU plan, doesn’t mean it’s not going the way HE planned. Don’t hide from life because you’re scared something will go wrong. LIVE. Be open to new things, fall in love once or ten times. Get your heart broken and then fall in love again. Get married if you want to. Have children of your own if you want to. Do whatever you want to do with your life. 

3) Love Jesus. This one isn’t always easy. It’s easy to love Jesus in private, but not so much in public. You don’t have to strap on an “I love Jesus” flashing button, but just show it in your actions. This is something I’m still working on teaching you now, as well as learning myself. I don’t think either of us will ever stop learning how to do this.

4) Just LOVE. If you have to live by one word, make it “love.” Love your family. Love your friends. Love your future spouse. Love your future children. Love your neighbors. Give every person you meet a smile, you never know how it could change their day. Love people even when they don’t deserve it. Love your enemies because usually it’s they who need it most. Aiden, just LOVE. That’s the best advice I can ever give you. 

Aiden, I want you to always be the best YOU that you can be. Always be proud of yourself. Even if you’re different. You were created with a purpose that requires you to be unique. Be confident, but not arrogant, and be okay with failure. Failure is where you’ll learn some of the greatest lessons in life. Admit when you’re wrong, and be humble when you’re right. Be compassionate, be forgiving, be faithful, and always believe there is something so much bigger than yourself and a purpose for everything that happens. Be courageous and strong, because life is hard work but worth the effort. Be thankful for the blessings in your life, and be content with what you have. Be honest and loyal, and stand firm in your faith. Be what God intended you to be.

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I am so proud of the amazing little boy you are, and cannot wait to see the wonderful man that you become. I will be here beside you, supporting you and holding your hand. I will always be your biggest fan. Know that I love you SO MUCH, and I always will. You are my sunshine, and I love you to the moon and back.

Love always,

Mommy

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Getting to Know Me.

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Since I’ve recently gained so many followers (YAY!), I figured it was time for a “getting to know you” type of post. Here are thirteen things you may or may not know about me:

1) I believe in God. I have a great relationship with Him, but didn’t really establish that relationship until after Aiden was born. I don’t, however, attend a church regularly. I wouldn’t be opposed to it if I found the right fit.

2) Aiden saved my life. I was partying hard and making stupid choices when I learned I was pregnant. I stopped doing everything that I shouldn’t have been doing the moment that pee-stick said “positive” and never looked back.

3) I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Yeah, I know what I said. I’m almost 24 years old, and I still waver between two career options. Right now, my plans are to go back to school and get my CNA/Doula certifications, and then go back to work doing that once Aiden starts kindergarten a little over a year from now. I’ve also considered both teaching and writing.

4) I’m writing a book. But I’ve changed the subject three times, and will probably change it at least once more.

5) I’m extremely indecisive. Whether it’s a blog topic, career choices, or just what to eat for dinner, chances are that I changed my mind multiple times before making a decision.

6) Moving to Cary was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. And despite things rarely going as I plan, I would make the same choice again if given the chance.

7) I am addicted to espresso. It’s hard not to be after working in a cafe for almost five years.

8) My heart lies with working close to special needs children/adults. Spending three summers volunteering at Camp Barnabas taught me so much about life, and things about my relationship with God that I can’t even find the right words for.

9) I desperately want to travel to Africa. I was going to go in Summer 2010 to intern at an orphanage in Uganda, but those plans changed when I learned I was pregnant.

10) I want to be a foster parent/adopt older children…eventually. It doesn’t matter their background, ethnicity, or age. It’s just something I’ve always felt led to do. But that’s wayyyyy in the future, at least in my plans.

11) Some of my favorites are…Color: Teal, Food: Popcorn, Book: Harry Potter Series, Movie: TOO MANY, TV Show: Grey’s Anatomy..since 2004, Holiday: Christmas.

12) I’m an Alpha Delta Pi… til the day I die <> ❤

13) I’m mildly very obsessive. I have two color-coded calendars, one planner and one dry erase, and compulsively make lists for everything from spring cleaning to groceries. My closet is also (usually) arranged by color. No shame. 

 

So, there are thirteen things about me! Any questions? Comment below!

 

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For more frequent Aidenisms, follow me on Instagram @taydellac

Elf Diary 3: Elf on the Swing?

Apparently Buddy got into my craft stash last night and made himself a swing using my ribbon, and a toilet paper roll!

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Buddy also wrote Aiden (who has been EXTRA…ummm…three-year-old-ish the last few days) a note reminding him to be NICE! And to make a Christmas list so that Santa’s helpers…aka the Grandparents… will leave Mommy alone! 😉


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By the way, if you decide to try this one, you need some weight inside the TP roll to counter the weight of the elf’s head. These seashells worked perfectly, and Aiden couldn’t see them from his angle.

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Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates on new posts (including Elf shenangians) straight to your email! Link is underneath the photo to the right of this post. 🙂

Humbled.

I was an extremely selfish person.

I liked to sleep, I liked to be lazy, and I only cared about myself. I would like to say that this changed when I became a mom, but I can’t. It changed over two years before Aiden was even conceived.

My whole worldview was shattered in 2007. 

I almost didn’t even go. I was sixteen, the person I looked up to most at the time had died a month before, and I honestly didn’t care about anything other than myself, and my “boyfriend” at the time. I was angry at God, and completely closed off to any sort of message He may have been trying to send me.

Rewind a few months. The director of the camp I worked at the previous summer put this trip on the table. It was a place called Camp Barnabas. It had been on an episode of Extreme Makeover a few years before, our director was friends with that director, and she wanted to know if we wanted to volunteer for a week.

I said yes, mostly because my friends were going. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My youth pastor, Art, came home from Afghanistan for a few weeks and I told him about the trip. He was SO excited about it. His advice to me was, “Switchfoot said it best: Maybe we’ve been living with our eyes half open, maybe we’re bent and broken. I dare you to move. Yes, I know it’s two different songs, but you get the point.”

I started to get excited!

Camp Barnabas is a summer camp for kids and adults with special needs. These range from autism and hearing-impaired, to physically and mentally disabled, and wheelchair bound. Campers get to swim, canoe, ride horses, zipline, and any other activities you would imagine a normal summer camp to consist of. We were going to volunteer during a week with physically-disabled campers.

A little over a month before we left, Art was killed in Afghanistan.  Read about it here.

I was angry..no, livid with God. And it showed. I didn’t even want to go on the stupid trip anymore. 

But I did. 24+ hours in a van with way too many people, an overnight in Nashville, and a lot of carsickness later and we were in Purdy, Missouri

We went through hours and hours of training and classes to “prepare” us to be the 24/7 caregivers for these campers. The night before they arrived we sat down and chose our campers, and prayed with each other for strength and guidance. It was overwhelming, and I remember being so anxious about the campers arriving.

The way Camp Barnabas does the camper arrivals is amazing. The cars line up, and one-by-one campers get out, have their names called out over the loudspeaker, and the counselor assigned to them comes to greet them while the remaining hundreds of counselors and staff members scream and cheer in the background. 

My camper’s name was Jackie. She was a 52-year-old woman who was legally blind, wheelchair bound, and full of opinions. Over the next few days, she wore me out. The first couple of days were rough. I was still learning her routine, and getting accustomed to putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own. (That’s no easy feat when you’re sixteen and selfish). She was completely dependent on me, and that alone was overwhelming. Overwhelming and humbling.

“…but all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has opposed the proud, but takes delight in the humbled.” -1 Peter 5:5

And He did. I was so humbled by this experience, and God used it to show me that although I was so angry with Him, he was still there. I have a hard time putting the experience from that week into words. Jackie got to go canoeing with me and swimming with me. She got to dance with me and even go down a waterslide. Jackie couldn’t even use the bathroom or see where her food was without my help. These are things that we often take for granted as completely healthy human beings.

She and I prayed together, and then cried together the day she left. I was supposed to be the one to change Jackie’s life that week, but honestly, she’s the one who changed mine.blog3 blog5 camp blog2 blog4 blog

I did return to Camp Barnabas for two more weeks before becoming Aiden’s mommy, but those stories are for another day 🙂

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A Single Star.

I’m not a very open person.

Which is funny, because those who know me best know that sometimes I can be a little too open. I have to wholeheartedly trust you before I’ll disclose an OUNCE of information about my personal life. I have a lot of history. But who doesn’t? So many of things that I have gone through have just molded me into the heavily guarded person that I am today. I didn’t let people in easily before I had a second heart to worry about, and I for damn sure don’t now.

I’m working on that. And I’m working on being more open about the things that make me, me.

I’ll start by telling a story about the man who saved my life.

People often ask me about my tattoo. It’s just a simple, small, purple and blue shooting star placed on the top of my foot. I always get the “aww that’s a cute tattoo,” or “why would you get such a random tattoo?” questions.

When I was fourteen, I was a brat. I was mean to people, I was rude, I was hurting. I was just in a dark place after getting out of a “relationship” that I was too young to have been in in the first place. The ONLY person I ever confided any of this in, was this man that had been a relatively constant person in my life from age 11-12, and he was also my youth pastor.

His name was Art Lilley.

Art was the most grace-filled person I have ever met. His relationship with God was inspiring, not just to me, but to everyone he came in contact with.

When I was around sixteen, he was driving me home from our youth meeting one night. We were talking about a mission trip that I was planning to go on the following summer to a place called Camp Barnabas (that’s an entirely different, yet amazing story). Camp Barnabas was a camp solely for special needs campers and I wasn’t feeling confident enough in myself or my faith to feel prepared to go on the trip. I remember asking him, “How is it that you are so secure in your faith?”

He said, “I’m not.”

This threw me to a place of pure speechlessness, which doesn’t happen often. This man, who was the reason I had handed MY life over to Christ, was sitting here telling me that HE’S not secure in HIS faith?

He saw my confusion and continued, “Taylor-Leigh, I know that I’m going to heaven. And I know that when I get to those doors, Jesus is going to look at me and say ‘In a minute, I’m going to turn off every, single light in the world. And for every person that you have led to me, one star will light back up.’ And I want EVERY star to light up, not just a couple here and there.”

That conversation stuck with me forever. A few weeks later, Art deployed to Afghanistan. I signed up for my trip, and everything was set to go.

A month before I was to leave, I was on a bus full of children when I got the call that Art had been killed in action in Afghanistan.

That night, I was sitting on the porch swing reminiscing about the impact that this man had on my life. I remembered the night in the car, and the story that he told me. I remember looking up, and just collapsing into tears.

Every single star in the sky was shining more brightly than I had ever seen in my life.

One of those stars, was me.

And now I have the permanent reminder of this man who saved me in the form of a simple, small, purple and blue shooting star placed on the top of my foot.

So that’s the story of my cute, random little tattoo. It’s so simple, but reminds me of where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, to be humble, and to be grateful.

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