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Somehow the holidays have come and gone, and it is just another day in the life of 2013.  The Christmas season swept me away into a frenzy of excitement.  This was my first winter season in quite some time with a significant other in my life, and it was one of the best times to date.  The sense of family and the joy of sharing the intimate moments of that family life with someone you really care about was more than I even thought of asking for.  Not to mention it was Aiden's first Christmas that he was really able to get into the festivities-watching him take part in the opening of gifts and decorating the tree was precious.  Jr. even took us to the Christmas Eve service and we sat in the back and got to listen to Aiden's innocent little voice coo along to the carols like the angel that he is.  

Christmas day was one month with Jr., which may seem juvenile to celebrate but for two people who have been single for so long, we could not let it go by unmentioned.  We did our gift exchange and went bowling with my North Carolina family, and than joined in for the big family dinner and celebration.  The sport he is, Jr. fit right in and won everybody over...not really surprised.

There literally has not been a day since that we have not been together-most of the time all day long.  We have had many mornings of making each other breakfast and watching cartoons with Aiden, afternoons of taking walks and cuddling on the couch, and nights of sitting on the floor in Aiden's room reading him books and colouring with him.  Along the way we even sprinkled in a few dates alone, but it has mostly been homey, family time.  Saturday I got to meet his whole family, all who welcomed me kindly into their home.  Than Monday night we rang in the New Year together dressed to the nine's "dancing" the night away.  It has been a crazy fun time, and now today life has had to go back to normal.  With work and school and editing and Aiden, it is business as usual.  And yet at the back of my mind I keep smiling reminiscing about the special times we just spent together and the leaps and bounds our relationship was able to take in such a short time due to those memories we made together.  

Not sure if you caught on...but I have fallen for this silly boy.  God dropped him back into my life and Jr. immediately stole my heart.  He has cared for me in a way no man has ever been capable of, and he has been softened me into the woman I think God has always created me to be.  There is no way to begin to describe the love I feel for Jr.  I know it sounds like a silly romance for kids, but sometimes you just know.  I know this is where God wants me to be and this is who he wants me to be with, and I see all the potential for greatness.  Needless to say, I am feeling very blessed.

Coupling...

Sometimes it is so difficult to start a post because I cannot even begin to describe all that God is doing in my life.  This year he has completely destroyed my life and recreated it into far more than I ever thought possible.  My beautiful son is healthy and growing strong, my work is going fantastic and my bosses seem very pleased with my progress and enthusiasm, and than to top it all off...

*drum roll please*

Last night I started a new relationship.  

Like I said, there is literally no way to describe the way God has been moving my life.  Two weeks ago I wasn't even dreaming of having somebody in my life, and than God moved.  Sometimes our timing is not God's timing.  When I wanted a relationship four months ago God closed the door...but than two weeks ago he reopened it.  A habit of mine is to try to plan everything perfectly in my head so that I can't mess anything up, and I am slowly learning that God wants me to trust in him and not in my preparations and planning and organized timelines.  

So I finally got the okay from the Big Man Upstairs to be with a wonderful guy I have been interested in for 6 solid months.  Am I going to get sappy and start talking about happily ever after and start pinning wedding ideas?  HECK no.  Jeez people, who do you think I am?  I don't honestly know what all this is or what is going to happy...but I am relying on the fact that God is in control this time around and that is all I need to know for now.  So, individually and as a couple we have done a lot of praying and a lot of leaning on God, and so far that seems to be working for us.  To be in not only my first adult relationship but my first Christian relationship...I can't even begin to explain the difference it makes.  

Feeling very blessed.  Not just because I get to say I have a boyfriend...but because I don't get to take any credit for it.

Fall-ing Into Step...

This has been such an incredible season.  Granted, Fall is my favorite season and November my favorite month, so I was already pumped to get into the swing of things-but man, has God surpassed my expectations yet again!  I am so over-joyed with how everything has turned out for the better, despite many bumps in the road, and my optimism never ceases to rise at this point.

After Aiden's second birthday I thought things couldn't get any better.  I was taking a little break from work after a rough ending at my last job.  Despite feeling pretty beat up by the situation and frustrated by the inconsistent jobs trend I had been having, I was still very grateful to have some time overlapping Aiden's birthday to really focus on him and regroup.  Thanks to a push in the right direction from God, and some encouragement from my parents (especially my Dad for telling me to be patient and wait for the right job instead of jumping for any job) I landed exactly the sort of position I have been dreaming of for years now.  Just a week after receiving my final paycheck from the bakery I got a call for a receptionist position at a company that, to be honest, I forgot I even applied for!  Not only is this job in 5 minutes walking distance of my house (and next to Starbucks, ha!), but it is also the best pay and incentives I have ever received at the highest level of professionalism I have ever been able to work in.  Now I am working significantly less hours but still making way more money.  Plus, I get to sit most of the time, which is a huge relief for the sciatica issues I've struggled with since my pregnancy.  

You cannot imagine how humbled I am that God sought this out and arranged everything for me.  Despite all the craziness in the world, despite elections rolling around, despite a catastrophic hurricane, he took time out to notice that I needed direction and he guided me to the perfect fit I've been too stubborn and impatient to wait for.  

On top of that, I finished my first semester as a full-time student much stronger than I anticipated, and I am now two weeks in to a new semester and loving my classes.  By the end of this term I will officially be a Junior and over half-way through with my degree!  The feeling of accomplishment and the light at the end of this very long and winding tunnel is not lost on me.  Every time I look at my Program Evaluation and see all the classes and grades filling in and all the green notes marking sections of my program completed I feel relieved to know the end is in sight.  

Even when I lack confidence in myself, God has a higher plan in store and he really does work all things together for good and for his glory.  Knowing that he believes in me is enough to keep me going one day at a time, step by step.  If he can do this much in two years with the shambles of my life I handed over to him in October 2010, than I am so anxious to see what he has in store for my future.

My Two-Year-Old Pumpkin...

This has been such a week, I don't really know where to start or what to say-so I will focus on my sweet little boy and the milestone he hit this week.  This past Thursday, my sweetheart turned 2-years-old, and he had a great day!  We went to his favorite park, his Grandpa bought him a nice Mexican lunch, he played out in the yard all afternoon, and than we had a fun family party featuring none other than Winnie the Pooh!  I made him homemade spaghetti just like last year and he got lots of fun presents, and he was a champ all day!  At the end of the night I knew it was a success when he came up, crawled onto my lap, and kissed my cheek-just because!

Although he is definitely in his "terrible-two's", and he is getting pushy and needy and having typical two-year-old behavior problems, he really does have such a beautiful heart.  Underneath his "me and mine" prevailing attitude and his random temper-tantrums and the testing of the waters and trying to be independent, he is such a cuddly, soft-hearted, sensitive Mama's boy.  Aiden will still run up and hug you and whimper alongside you if you get upset, he will apologize to the characters on TV if they stub their toe, and he never forgets to run around the house and kiss everybody goodnight at the end of a long day.  I am not unaware that he has suddenly turned quite rotten-but he is still my rotten lil monster and I love him so much.

After going through all the old videos and pictures of him, I cannot believe how much he's changed.  He still seems so small, walking around the house with his Winnie the Pooh slippers (and insisting on going to the grocery store in them too), but than I see videos of him just learning to crawl, and walk, and babble, and I can't believe the little man running circles around me now.  A year ago he would only drink water and eat cheerios and fruit, and now his favorite food is cheese and Chipotle's cilantro rice and a sippy of apple juice.  A year ago he could only say Mama, Nana, and Dog-Dog-now he rants about all the characters in Winnie the Pooh and what happens in the movie.  He also has silly phrases like "Sure do" which is his way of saying yes, and "Oh bother", and he will even count to four in Spanish and ten in English.  A year ago I was washing a pile of Flip diapers every other day and nursing him every two hours, and now he is potty trained and nursing only twice-a-day as I try to wean him.  

My Aiden is hilarious, and sweet, and smart, and I wouldn't have him any other way.  In the past week he has sat on the toilet and screamed "I LOVE POOP!" and when he overheard my mom saying "I'm gonna die" he repeated "Aw yea, die!"  The other week he was sick and his nose was running and he insisted it was bees.  His silly antics keep a smile on my face.

There is nothing I would not do for my lil pumpkin.  

Even if he drives me nuts...ha.

Drawing Near...

There's no point beating around the bush so I am just jumping right into it-God has been SO good and faithful to me this month.  Words cannot express the wonderful journey he has been taking me on, nor how grateful I am of his unceasing presence every step of the way.  Without a shadow of a doubt, I am a truly blessed woman.

A month or so ago I started a new job that ended up being twice the hours I was expecting it to be.  At the same time I also started schoolwork full-time so that I could finish up by 2014 and be able to move on with my life, and I began driving lessons and saving up money for my first car.  Without knowing how I would handle full-time work and classes and an almost terrible-two-year-old I literally had to dive in completely blind but knowing that God would catch me.  Not only did he, but he went above and beyond what I even was bold enough to pray for.  Aiden has handled all these transitions like a true champ, my work fits me perfectly and is great pay, and my school classes are actually the easiest part of my week.  Somehow even with a fraction of the free-time I used to have, I am getting more and more done than I ever intended on doing.  It honestly feels somedays like God is supernaturally stretching my time as far as it will go so that I can get everything done, and yet without fail everyday he makes sure to leave just enough quiet time so that I can dig into his word and fall at his feet and thank him.

There is no way I could do any of this without Jesus.  As cheesy as some of this may sound, it is a truth I am finding to be more and more true the more I keep having to take on.  I am humbled God would even take so much time out to encourage me along the way, and yet he does.  Just today a childhood friend of mine came over for a playdate with our kids and blessed me with a beautiful, thoughtful little card that brightened up my whole morning.  

With my favorite season quickly coming up, Aiden's birthday a month away, and the holidays just around the corner, I could not be more thrilled with all the sudden ways my life is progressing.  More importantly though, I am so excited about the direction my relationships with Christ has taken.  God was not kidding when he said "Draw near to me and I will draw near to you".  He really means it!  

Bright Future!

Oh me, oh my! Not going to lie, I am feeling pretty great about life right now.  True, I am slightly terrified about my near future, and that's putting it lightly, but the turn my life is taking and the progress I am making is very exciting!  Every time I think I don't have the time or the strength to handle one more level of responsibility, God delegates a little bit more than I am prepared to tackle and reassures me that he will be there to walk me through it.

Three weeks ago I started a new job at a bakery and it has been going great.  The people I work with are lovely and I feel like I fit in immediately without even trying.  The job is fun and right up my ally, and of course the money is great! I am working more hours and making better wages than ever, which at the end of the day, opens up so many opportunities for Aiden and myself.  I've been able to get both of our savings accounts up and am excited about starting to save up for my first car!  Hopefully I will have enough by my 24th birthday next year!

As of tonight I have also finished my last term as a part-time student with a strong 3.96+ GPA!  That means in two weeks when my classes start up again, I will have 51 credits earned, 6 anticipated, and a good head start to success!  Working more hours and than doubling my school work is of course scary, but I feel like this is what God is really wanting for me to do improve Aiden and I's future prospects.  I am so excited to be a Junior by the end of this year, and so relieved to see an end in sight for my very long and windy road of education.  

God has been so good to me.  He is keeping me strong and optimistic and energized for each of these little battles in life.  He has given me a beautiful boy that I fall more in love with every second of the day, even though he is quickly entering the dreaded "terrible two's".  I can't believe how smart he is!  Within three days he learned how to use the potty, and he is signing, singing, and talking more each day!  Even my walk with God is considerably improved in the past few months as he has been wooing me nightly with his word and showing me the extent of his love and grace towards me.  

Thank you God...could not have done this without you.

Swiffer Lies...

You know those Swiffer cleaner commercials where the stay at home mom cleans with one of their products, and saves so much time she gets to sit on the porch and drink coffee, or read a book she's owned for ages, or in other words, breath.  I should star in one of those commercials-that is, when I get a break.  If only it could be as easy as buying the right wet mop.  Really, things are not bad at all, just so hectic.  It's almost embarrassing writing another entry where all I have to say is that life is topsy turvy...again!  That's just the reality of it though, so I might as well embrace it.  

God finally blessed me with a new job, that so far, seems to be a much better match for me than the one I left.  Just the fact that I make significantly more money has helped me feel validated for leaving Sweet Frog without a plan.  Many people thought I was crazy or fickle or had too high of expectations and should wait to have a job in line before putting in a two weeks notice, but somehow I just knew it was meant to be and that God would come through, and he has!  Now I work as a kind of server in a cute little bakery in a European shopping center.  Working at Upper Crust Bakery is like a culmination of all my other jobs.  And did I mention, the pay is great?!?  My training should be done soon, just in time for my full-time course load starting in 4 weeks.  

Oh, and did I mention in the midst of all of this I decided it was a brilliant idea to potty train my nearly 22 month old baby boy?  Because, of course, while everything is upside down and inside out there is no better time to add to the chaos than to top it off with a randomly squirting toddler running around butt naked.  Potty training day one began with him actually going in the potty only because he was crying so hard it made him pee.  Than it continued with singing the "A, B, C's" while he was sitting on the toilet, and once it got to "L, M, N, O, P" he proceeded to grab his crotch and scream "PEE!"

So proud.

"He does not fail"...

Today my devotion took me to the book of Zephaniah, which I honestly have not paid much attention to before.  Now it might be one of my favorites, as it has officially been tyrannized by my pink highlighter.  It took me a whole page to jot out the many ways it impacted me and the verses I wanted to remember, and I still left out so many noteworthy things.  

If last time I said that life was proving to be a whirlwind, than now God is just showing off how completely in control he is and how little control I have.  I went from a wonderful week of complete, hopeful bliss, to coming home one night from an awesome evening to find out that my Grandma's ALS had taken a turn for the worse...the very next morning I had to make the decision to bring Aiden with my parents and myself to Indiana to visit her, "just in case".  Our first visit proved my worse fears to be feeble at best. God has graced me with a very sensitive child, so I am forced to hold it together in spite of all the overwhelming emotions so as not to scare him any more than he already is.  He actually has been quite the trooper, and I am blessed to have his unswerving joy be my ally in this time of grief.  

To top it off, though now seemingly trivial, the day we arrived here was the 26th birthday of Aiden's father.  The cruelty of that realization in the midst of family suffering seemed nearly unfair. Especially since, in a recent turn of events, I found myself tiptoeing on the border of my first "crush" and rejection since the two years since I left him.  Lets just say, the poetic irony did not escape me, nor was it appreciated.  Normally I have the solace of being attracted to someone and after being considered "just friends" being able to lick my wounds with the comforting revelation that they were in all actuality a horrible person, a terrible fit, or a complete fool...or some other equally demeaning condemnation to assure me that I am better off without them.  This, however, was the first time that afterwards I was faced with the harsh fact that there was not a single flaw or debilitating characteristic to point out...in fact, he was barely short of perfection, and I esteem and respect him more than I have any man in quite some time.  So now, my biggest comfort is knowing that I have obtained an incredible addition to my life who I have the honor of calling a friend.  I say that with the upmost level of sincerity, because I do feel blessed to know him and wouldn't trade in the easy-going and rapidly growing friendship we have formed, based on honesty, respect, and a faith in Christ, for any amount of romantic possibilities.  

Which all brings me back to my devotion today.  Hungrily reading the words of the Lord spoken through Zephaniah, I found the comfort I was looking for.  That God does not fail, that he has an overreaching plan, that he is awesome in all his ways, not just the ones that we enjoy, and most importantly, that he is with me and delights in me.  In a time of loss, rejection, and utter confusion, it is incredible to find grace and favor with a God who is "might to save".  No amount of bereavement can take away from the beauty of knowing that you are loved by a Father who *IS* perfection.  Thus, I leave you with his words of love that he wrote on my heart today...

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
~Zephaniah 3:17~

<3

"To Be..."

Not gonna lie, life has been pretty random lately.  Lots of ups and downs and all arounds.  I left my job after only working there 3 months, on the faith that God would provide me with a new job that would be more manageable.  Found out my mother has some precancerous cells that will need to be operated on in a few days.  My baby cousin, Grayson Brooks was born on the 12th via a last minute C-Section.  And I am just weeks away from being a full-time online student, meaning I am just two years away from graduation.

With all the craziness I really needed a break last night.  It is not often I give myself the chance to get out and socialize just for the heck of being around people.  Sometimes I just need the chance to be an average 22-year-old, not a 22-year-old single mother still inching along towards independence.  There is no way to express how much last night meant to me.  To be able to breath and laugh and talk and fellowship with a group of friends who I really connect with on a deeper level was amazing.  To be able to pray over a good friend who led me to the group as she follows God's call to missions in Uganda.  To just "be" for a night.  I came home so excited and energized I couldn't even sleep!  For hours I stayed up just staring at the ceiling, giddy from freedom.  

I love my Aiden.  But every mom needs a break, and they should take them when they can get them or else you just crash.  It is impossible for me to be the best mother I can be if I don't take the time to also be the best me I can be.  And good Christian friends are what encourages people to be better.  

Feeling very blessed.

Independence

With Independence Day being tomorrow, it is nearly impossible not to feel a little patriotic, a little rebellious, and to feel a little hunger for more of one's own liberty.  I have now spent the past four days alone with Aiden, and we have faired really well.  Weekends like these when my parents are away tend to show me that I could really do this whole "motherhood" thing on my own if I really had to (or more importantly, could afford to!).  Now more than ever I feel eager for whenever that day will come.

So much has to happen first though, and I can feel the wheels already in motion!  Last week I dropped off my two-weeks notice at work and I have actually spent the past month or so looking and applying for part-time work.  Not much luck but I have lots of hope that God has something already laid out and I just have to keep working towards it.  Then, yesterday I signed up for my first semester of full-time classes which will start the first week of September.  For about a year and a half now I have done part-time classes, slowly inching my way towards a degree, and I am finally ready to speed up the process. Aiden is older, more independent himself, and he gives me much more freedom to get necessities done.  I am really excited (and scared) to take this big step.  If I keep up the hard work than by 2014 I will be graduated and hopefully have a real job that pays well enough to move out on my own.

As anxious as I am to move out, it also worries me.  Not because I will likely catch the house on fire, and not even entirely because I'm terrified of robberies.  But Aiden is just so attached and used to living with my parents and I am worried it will break his heart.  This is all he has ever known, and this weekend with them gone he keeps calling out to them and looking for them and asking me to phone them so he can hear their voices.  In the long run I know that he will adapt and it will be better for us...but it just makes me sad to think about the impact it will have on him.

Oh, and I also got my drivers permit for the first time ever!  So I can start practicing and hopefully have my license soon, maybe even by the end of the year?  That is a HUGE milestone for me since I am a good 6 years behind the game in that department of my life.

So many changes, so much further to go, so much to get done...but I can almost see the light at the end of this very long and windy tunnel...and that and Aiden's smile is enough to keep me going.