On Identity

A friend and I were getting together after not having seen each other for a few years. She told her kids they were coming to see me and Brighton and she scoured my Instagram for a photo to remind them of who I am. When we met up she said she couldn’t find any photos of me. And she said, You know, you’re not just a mom, you have an identity apart from that. I laughed and said "I know, I know", but really ... I've forgotten. 

I had Jon take a photo of me without Brighton and I felt SO awkward. I honestly didn't know what to do without my "accessory". Brighton has become somewhat of a security blanket. She is my way out of places I don't want to be, she is my excuse when I'm feeling introverted at the park and decide it's time to leave, she is my conversation piece when I don't know what to say. 

Last week I stopped by Jon's work and ended up being a part of a Facebook live conversation about social media and I left feeling so excited because I felt like I actually contributed to society and participated in some real "adult" stuff. As soon as I said that out loud to Jon, I heard the Lord reminding me that raising a decent, Christ-loving human being is just about the most important "contribution" to society anyone can give. Ok God, I hear you. 

I've always known I wanted to be a mom and as we came closer to starting our family I had a feeling that I would want to be home, but I also love writing so I knew that my dream world would be to stay at home while working as a writer. And here I am, doing that. What!? But the enemy is so cunning because he has continued to wage war on my sense of worth and identity. In every season it's something new, right? As a teenager, our worth and identity might be coming from the accolades we receive or how many people viewed our LiveJournal post (Xanga? Myspace? No?). In college, it might be our grades, then in marriage, we battle with our identity becoming wrapped up in our husband, and now as a mother, I have to fight to keep my identity from being too closely intertwined with my work and with my daughter. I am a whole woman apart from Jon and apart from Brighton. I love them both, and they have contributed a fullness to my life, but they don't complete or define who I am. 

My identity is in Christ. 

  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made - Psalm 139
  • I am His masterpiece - Ephesians 2:10
  • I am justified and redeemed - Romans 3:24
  • I am accepted - Romans 15:7
  • I am set free - Galatians 5:1
  • I am chosen - Ephesians 1:4
  • I am forgiven - Ephesians 1:7

Do any of these strike a chord with you? As I read these over and over and "masterpiece", "accepted", and "chosen" keep standing out to me. It is SO easy in society today to feel like we are none of these things. Not enough likes, not enough followers, not enough friends, not enough invitations ... but God says I am His masterpiece, I am accepted, and I am chosen. So who CARES if I'm missing out on something? Who cares if that girl is doing something I'd like to be doing? God accepts me as I am and has chosen ME for a purpose. And that purpose is one that no one else was intended to fulfill. That is a serious pill to swallow, people. I need to learn to be faithful with (and grateful for) what is right in front of me so I can walk in that God-given identity and purpose.

My goal for 2018 was to live more simply and a big piece of that involved simply being me. A sort of stripping away of all the junk, the lies, the insecurities, the facades. That's the whole point of this blog: to talk about reality. I'm not a stylist, I'm not some sort of outfit of the day mom maven, food critique, or workshop hostess. I'm just a mom trying to figure it out and remember that it's ok to be "figuring it out". Despite our faults, despite our failures, even despite all of our accomplishments and praiseworthy moments, our identities have big, thick, gnarly, moss-covered roots that stem from an unchanging God.

Sometimes we all just need a little reminder that we a masterpiece, we are accepted, and we are chosen. Let's rest in that cozy bit of truth.

On living simply...

Jon and I sat down and talked about what we wanted for 2018, and amongst many hopes, dreams, and prayers, a few keywords resounded: simplicity and rest. 

I want this year to be a year where I don’t get caught up in the game of comparison, but instead, rest in the truths Jesus tells me and focus on what I love and care about. No more getting caught up in what OTHER people care about, or what OTHERS think should matter. 

This year, we are focusing our eyes on what matters to us and living simply. I am choosing to REST in the peace of Christ, like David describes in Psalm 23. (1-3, 6)

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

God, you are my shepherd and provider, I don't need a single thing! What would it be like if we actually lived like that? I want to live this year in those lush meadows of peace. And gain focus on my life and dreams by letting Him guide me in the right direction.

Minimalism is such a funny word and has so many different connotations that come along with it. There is an extreme view where someone might picture a home with nothing in it other than the absolute essentials. There is a view where perhaps someone might envision people living in tiny homes. However, one of my favorite podcasts describes it (in my opinion) perfectly and she says minimalism, or living simply, is more about living a life that is simply: you. It's about learning what to say yes to, what to say no to, and having confidence in who you are and what you're about. 

I've been thinking about this so much lately and this primarily started because we spent the first 8 months of Brighton's life living in a small, 800 sq foot 1-bedroom apartment. We were forced into "minimalism" by necessity. We shared one tiny closet between the three of us, and had no spare room for the swings, the bouncers, and the toys, let alone an actual crib! When the nesting set in, I was throwing away everything. I realized I could no longer deal with the clutter and anything that didn't have a "space" needed to go. I started clearing out my closet and getting rid of things I didn't truly love so I could invest in staple pieces I did love and would last me longer. I felt free! 

So, as I've been thinking more about this "simple living" life, I am trying to find new ways to incorporate it more often. It's not just about "stuff". What I'm learning is that it's truly about knowing what's important to you. One host of the podcast suggested asking yourself "is it useful" and "is it beautiful"? If you can't say yes to one of those things, toss it! What is useful and beautiful to each person will be unique. For some people, the collection of antiques is a passion and their cabinets may be full of crystal treasures for the eye to behold. For me, I am loving simple. And I want this to pour into every aspect of my life, not just with possessions.  

To be honest, a lot of this has continued to stem out of necessity, but I don't mind because it has been so freeing, But, if I'm continuing to be honest, there are many days where it's difficult to remain proud and confident in my "simple living" mentality. Everyone is in the hustle; get a bigger house, get more clothes, new trends, new toys, better car, new hair ... it is just so exhausting and darnet, sometimes so enticing. It's difficult to not get swept away in it all because the reality is that none of it is inherently wrong.

But what Jon and I continue to find ourselves discussing is that we never want to overextend ourselves just to achieve what's "bigger" or what's "next". We want our lives to be full of margin so that we can enjoy the little things in life and be generous as often as possible. 

Living in a small apartment is a big source of insecurity for me. To me, at this point in my life, we should be able to afford more, have a real house, and at least have a guest bedroom and a yard for a dog. But the reality is, we live in southern California and our life looks different than that. I am someone who always dreamed of having the home where people would come all the time. Where I would have people over for dinner regularly. For 5 years, I let my insecurity of living in a small apartment stop me from doing what I love. I have let the lie that I need to have a bigger home dictate how I interact with my community. 

But moving forward, I want to remove the pressure of "society" to have more. I'm not going to apologize anymore for living in a small apartment. I love that our place is small and I love that I don't have more house to clean than I can handle on my own. Do I want a home someday with a yard? Yes of course, but I prefer cozy and quaint to large, unmanageable, and debt-ridden. I don't want to have to hire a maid in order to know that the dust isn't piling up in the hidden corners of rooms we never use.

I love that Brighton doesn't have a closet full of toys. I love that she needs to be creative with what she has and learn to go outside, rely on books, and the Tupperware that we have in the bottom drawer. 

I'm not going to feel sorry anymore that I don't go shopping all the time to stay on top of the trends. It's too exhausting to keep up anyway and most of the time I'm lucky if I make it out of the house long enough to have anyone to impress. 

I want 2018 to be a year of focus and simple living. A year where I learn to say "no" to things so I can say "yes" to the right things. A year where we put down our phones more often to take in the sounds, the sights, the smells around us and not worry about it making a moment in my Instastory. A year where we quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and be proud of where we are at and the process we are going through. A year where we decide we don't need more "stuff", but make more moments. 

So, here's to: 

More books, less screens

More simplicity, less stuff

More freedom, less fear

More presence, less comparision

More quality, less quantity

On Grief

Over the past few weeks, three people that I knew have died from cancer. Although I didn't know any of them very closely, I spent time with them or their family in some capacity and the grief is hitting me as though they were my own family. I suppose in a way, they were. The grief from a death by cancer is personal because my Nonna died a few years ago from that same silent killer. So, the people who have passed recently, they are not only family because I worked with them, or call their children friends, but they are my Nonna. I am reminded of her final days and how every moment I spent with Nonna I was trying to soak in everything. I hung on every word that she said trying to remember her accent, trying to record the words so I wouldn't forget them. Trying to take in the details of her hands that had cooked us so many our of our favorite meals and trying to imprint on my memory the special way she would say my name. 

My nonna always told me I was her angel and that I saved her life. During her first round of cancer, she had a surgery to remove the masses that were on her ovaries and diaphragm. I stayed the night with her in the hospital and I woke up to the sound of her not being able to breathe and quickly called the nurses in who were able to help. My nonna was always convinced that if it wasn't for me, she would've died in that hospital room. Maybe that's true, who really knows, but the bond we shared throughout my life was strengthened that night I spent with her and I wished that when the cancer returned I could've done more to help her. 

I recently came across something I wrote just after my Nonna died and I had never shared it because everytime I read it the grief was unbearable, but today I read it and with a tear in my eye I smiled remembering these precious moments

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2014

Today, my husband, my brother, his girlfriend [now wife] and I went to Nonno and Nonna’s house to make her dinner. Nonna was laying in bed when we got there and we slowly helped her out so she could sit in the recliner. I brought my computer so I could show her some home videos of when my brother and I were no more than 5 and 6 years old. I saw her light up again. Color came back in her face and she was laughing and reminiscing about how bossy I was and my brother's shyness.

As my brother helped her out of the chair and into the kitchen, she lost all the color in her face and had to lay back down. She curled up on the couch, breathing slow and deep. Everyone gathered in the kitchen to eat and I sat by the couch. She grabbed my hand, pulled it to her face and just lay there with her eyes closed. She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you have to see me like this.” Trying to hold back tears I said, “No, Nonna. I love you so much.” And she just pulled me closer to her chest and as I could feel her tears come, I couldn’t hold mine back anymore. She put my face in her hands and looked into my eyes and with tears in hers, she said, “you just remember that in the end, it’s just you two. No matter how many kids you have, in the end, it will just be you and Jon. You love your kids. You do your best to teach them right, but you always take care of Jon. God first. Then Jon. You don’t always have to be right. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes he’s right, but you always have to love. And you remember to not worry about tomorrow. And yesterday is already gone. Today is the most important day you have.” It was as if this avalanche of thoughts and advice were flowing out of her, knowing she didn't have much time to share.

I looked at her and said, “Nonna, I just hope I’ve made you proud.” She said, “You have always made me proud. In everything you have done. Even when I didn’t like it because I knew you would work everything out and you would be ok.” Then, she said, “You are my namesake and I will always be looking for you and after you. I will always be with you, no matter where I am. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell you that there has always been a special corner of my heart that was only for you.” 

As much as I wish we didn’t have to have moments like these that are so terrifying and emotional, I feel so blessed that we had the chance to sit next to Nonna and let her tell us everything. And let us tell her everything. So, in the end, there are no regrets. She said she was GLAD God gave her cancer because it has allowed her the opportunity for moments like those. She said she wasn't mad at God. “People get mad at God and that’s stupid. He always knew what would happen. And He has allowed me the chance to do everything I ever wanted in my life. And I have been so blessed.” 

We laughed together as Nonno tried to explain to everyone in the other room that he and Dominic are actually smarter than the people in the room that went to college because they let everyone else go to college FOR them. She reminisced about a time I tried to run away from home. She only lived a few doors down and I showed up at her door and didn’t say anything, but she knew. (Because she always did.) She said, “You were so stubborn. So strong-willed. And you would never take any shit from anyone because you are strong. Always be strong.” She beckoned Jon to sit next to me because it was his turn to receive her wisdom. She spoke of love, and fortresses, and said, "Jon, I love you because she loves you. And because you love her. In the end, because of your love for each other and your love for God, you will be ok. Just remember that.” 

Dominic and I helped her up to go eat in the kitchen. She sat in her chair and leaned on my brother as he fed her dinner. Something about that scene was powerful to me. Both beautiful and heartbreaking. Nonna, who was such a rock and centerpiece to the family, who had once fed us as we sat on her lap, was now receiving the love and sacrifice she had shared for so many years. When she felt too weak to continue at the table, we brought her back to the couch where she grabbed my hand and made me hold it on her chest as she breathed deeply and slowly ate her dinner.

I don't ever want to forget that moment. I never want to forget what she said to me because I know that she intended for me not to. I write and I remember that this is exactly why writers write. For the real moments to be shared and remembered no matter how painful they are. Because people want to know they aren’t alone. 

At the end of the evening, Nonno decided it was time for Nonna to go to bed. He came over to her, leaned over and said, “I wish I could help you up. Well, I never could and I never will.” So Nonna laughed and told me, “I was always too heavy for him. He couldn’t even carry me across the threshold!” I said, “well it’s the thought that counts”. Nonno started dancing and said, “58 years of paradise. Well, you know what they say I guess. All things come to an end.” I said, “They come to an end here Nonno, but you get to keep dancing in heaven. And there, Nonna will be weightless and you’ll be Arnold Schwarzenegger”.

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Not long after that, Nonna would go home to Jesus. My dad, my brother, and I were there, holding her hand and though in that moment we were filled with grief, I was praising God that she wasn't in pain and that she was home. A friend posted this quote upon the recent passing of a friend, wife, and mother of 4. It's from The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now...Come further up, come further in!”

How beautiful a picture it is. The dichotomy of the grief we feel when we lose someone we love. We mourn the loss of their physical presence, and yet rejoice that they have come home at last. I miss my Nonna. There are days with Brighton where I think of her and know she would've loved her. And like a gentle breeze, the grief comes and goes, and is replaced with peace. 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to collect the harvest; A time to kill, a time to heal; a time to tear down, a time to build up; A time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance; A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up; a time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance; A time to search, a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, a time to throw out; A time to tear apart, a time to bind together; a time to be quiet, a time to speak up; A time to love, a time to hate; a time to go to war, a time to make peace.

On Grace

It has been a little over a month of living in Orange County, and it's just finally starting to sink in. We have been back and forth between San Diego and then spent a week in Hawaii, so this was really my first week up here without anywhere to be or anything to do. 

A few weeks ago was our first time at church because we've been out of town every weekend and I was teary-eyed from the moment we were parking to the moment I left. (Ok, I've actually been emotional all day.) It hit me that this is real. We were searching for the toddler classroom to drop off Brighton, looking for a new place to sit, not recognizing any faces, and it hit me that this is our new Sunday routine. Then Pastor Rick did an incredibly moving tribute to the Veteran's in the room and that made me even more emotional. I mean seriously, any military tribute can make me cry. After church, we went to lunch at a ramen place (which is legit and amazing), but that made me emotional because Sundays are usually when my family gets together for lunch. In the evening, they face timed us and they were all together and I had major FOMO. #emokid #copeland 

To be honest, this transition is rough. Becoming a stay at home mom, in a new neighborhood is not easy. And plus, 16 month olds are ROUGH. Don't get me wrong, Brighton has seriously been a dream child. She is happy, a great sleeper, eats well ... but this age is just non stop. She is fussier than usual, and constantly wants my attention. Anytime I try to do anything, she is right there, tugging on my legs and whining. Jon has been out of town this week, so by Friday I found myself feeling extremely alone. As I was driving to meet with a friend, I was listening to a podcast and the host was introducing her new cohost who was sharing how she has a 16 month old who is "there all the time." She started to share what an average day for her looks like, and I breathed a sign of relief as I remembered that I'm not alone, and my 16 month old is not the only one who is a little extra needy, testing the boundaries, and makes me feel like I say "no thank you" all day long. 

Man do I need grace for myself in this new season. Grace to say, "I don't need to be and do it all." I have never been a stay at home mom before, and I don't need to have it all figured out in 1 month. I also need to give myself grace if I'm not the crafty mom, or the the homeschooling type mom, or the mom who has every day planned to a T. Every mom is different, every baby is different, and I have to give myself grace to discover who I am as a mom and not who I think I should be. I need to give myself grace to fumble through this new learning curve in motherhood. I need grace to fumble around creating an entirely new community (which, by the way is extremely difficult when you are introverted and your days are determined by your toddler). We all just need more grace. More grace for me, more grace for you ... and you get grace, and you get grace and you get graaaacceee (channel Oprah here). 

While we were in Hawaii, Brighton was watching something on my phone while we were at dinner (something we never allow) because her body clock was off with the time difference and she was losing in at the dinner table. And honestly, we were just trying to enjoy our last meal on the island. Of course, we hardly enjoyed the dinner because iPhone or not, we still had an exhausted and emotional 16 month old and on top of that I was feeling like a terrible parent because she was on my phone. But I had to remind myself, "this is not the norm, she's not on your phone all the time." And I thought of all the parents I silently judge because their kids are on screens and realized I need to give them grace too. 

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Being a mom is really hard work. I spend the entire day trying to entertain and keep a human alive, and then when Jon comes home I just want to shut off, but I need to get a second wind because now, I need to be a good wife to him. I'm not complaining, I honestly love it. I love being a mom and I love being a wife, and I want to be good at both. But it's just reality that it's exhausting! So right now, I'm learning to have grace for myself and learning when to say "no" so I can say "yes" to the right things. And when I think about it, we are ALL trying to figure life out no matter what stage we are in. To the newlywed, you go girl! You figure marriage out and give yourself grace because living with someone isn't easy! To the mom with multiple kids, you go girl! I'm exhausted with 1 so I can't imagine 4, so more grace and more power to ya as you figure out carpools and extra circulars and your own personal sanity. Grace grace grace. 

This is just the beginning of a really exciting adventure. But adventures are still messy. Adventures have twists and turns and ups and downs. They have their grapevine on the I5 going through Bakersfield when you want to turn around and they have their accidental side road discoveries full of deer and orchards. So right now, even though I feel like I'm driving through mud, I just have to keep my eye out for the little bits of magic that are revealed each day, and remember that this is just the beginning, and there is so much in store. 

On Change

"God is thoroughly committed to finishing the masterpiece He started in us. And that process means one major thing: change." 

I've always been pretty resistant to change. I'm one of those people that typically likes things to stay exactly as they are, even if those circumstances are less than favorable. The year leading up to Brighton's birth there was change all around me. Friends were moving, jobs were changing, it felt like the world around me was a bit chaotic and I was stuck in cement with nowhere to go. It was the first time in my life where I was wishing for a change for myself. So not only were circumstances feeling a bit unknown, but I was also becoming a mom for the first time and that in itself was extremely overwhelming. 

Almost 18 months later, here we find ourselves on the brink of a big change and a storm of emotions tends to well up inside of me, but continues to be silenced by the peace that only God can give. 

My husband Jon was offered a full-time position at Saddleback Church in Orange County, which will move us from our San Diego home, family, church, community, and everything I have known for 29 years of my life. Jon spent 5 years in the Marine Corps, so he is no stranger to moving and spending time away from family. The longest I have lived away from my hometown was the 4 months that I studied abroad in Italy. Now I know many people may be reading this thinking, "Vittoria, Orange County is an hour away" and let me assure you that I am very aware of it. But this means change and change and I are not friends. 

At the beginning of the year, Jon and I did something we had never done before and spent some time thinking about the year and wrote down a few prayers we had and committed to praying about these things and seeing how God showed up. Well, He showed up. Not in the way we imagined, but ask and you shall receive. Jon is an incredible artist and craftsman and has been doing a great job running his own business, but being the people person that he is, he was noticing a big void in his life that comes from being a sole proprietor and that is working with people. I, even though I love my current job, want to spend as much time as possible at home with Brighton while I can. So we knew something needed to change.

Enter: Saddleback. Jon's best friend who currently works there mentioned a position that opened and Jon felt like it would be a good idea to look into it. Months would pass and we would go back and forth on whether or not it would be a good decision. I was extremely apprehensive to make the move so I asked God to give me some confirmation about this. Over the course of the next few weeks, I would hear from multiple sermons, friends, and books that I was reading, different quotes or encouragement about the upcoming season being a season of "change" and how many people would be "moving". I couldn't deny that God was speaking to me. 

In her book, Love Lives Here, Maria Goff says, "Jesus left his hometown. Mary left her reputation. Moses and his people left Egypt. Noah left everything. All of these heroes in the Bible let go of something in order to grab hold of something else. They got rid of what was convenient to make room for what was necessary." I actually cried when I read this because it hit home. I knew that God was asking us to leave what was convenient and comfortable to make room for what was necessary: His Will. 

There are countless other confirmations we received and favor that has been poured on us through this process that can only be explained by God. (This post is already terribly long, so if you want to know more, let's talk!) So, here we are at the end of September 2017 getting ready to move to Orange County with still a lot of unknowns. Let's face it: God never said He'd give us all the answers, He just asked us to trust Him and be faithful. So here we go. As terrified as I feel, I also feel like I am on this brink of a profound freedom; Freedom that can only be found when we are fully trusting God and leaning into His promises because it's all we have to hold onto; Freedom that can be found from taking risks despite my cautious nature; Freedom that can be found with a totally blank page as we start a new chapter.

I'm excited to take everyone on this journey with me as Jon and I navigate some uncharted territory in our marriage and as parents. And friends, let me encourage you that He is good and faithful. Following God is not easy. It's often difficult and painful. But it brings me to tears to think of His goodness and the fact that He's got it under control. Ok, maybe the tears are because I'm thinking about moving. But you get it. I know despite the challenges we are inevitably going to face, it's all going to be ok. It's going to be more than ok because He wants to give us more than we can imagine! 

On comparison...

We hear it all the time: "Comparison is the thief of joy." And yet somehow, we still find ourselves in the slimy pit of comparing our lives to those around us and even worse, those we don't even know (thanks Instagram). I've also heard it said that the main issue is that we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reels. So true, but still, I compare. 

I'm laying on the floor, no makeup, wearing pajama shorts, hair unbrushed, and toddler drooling all over me, while mindlessly scrolling through the photogenic, the picture perfect, the moments worthy of sharing with the world and think: I'm not doing anything with my life. No, I didn't just think it. I said it. And my husband looked at me and said, "Your life is so meaningful. And you are doing incredible things. You are raising a little girl." And still, despite his encouragement, I had all my reasons lined up as to why he wasn't right. Pathetic, right? But so real. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Recently, I've been attempting (and often failing) to see the simple, mundane, behind-the-scenes type stuff as meaningful. They matter. I am robbing myself of the joy that every day holds because I am looking at other people's lives (well, their social media lives) and declaring that my life is dull, meaningless, and I need to do something with it. When in fact, Jon is right: I am doing something meaningful. I have a job doing what I love (writing) + I get to raise a beautiful human + be a wife to an incredible man. I realize many people wish they had the opportunity I did. Sure, I'm not 23, single, with all the time in the world to pick up new hobbies, travel the world, have people follow me around to take my photos, buy all the new clothes, and color my hair as often as I'd like. I have a lot of friends doing incredible things. I run in a circle of friends who are actors, authors, world travelers, war stoppers, Broadway performers, community builders, change makers, business builders, celebrity photographers ... should I continue? You get the drift. But God has me here for a reason. How quickly I forget that.

Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." I love The Message translation of verses 7-10 (emphasis my own): "Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."

To JOIN HIM in the work he is doing. The work he prepares for us. The work we better do! Talk about perspective. Goodness Vittoria, it's not about you anyway. But the other thing I love about verse 10 is the use of the word "workmanship". In Greek, the word used was "poiema", which means poem and I just think that is so beautiful. I love to think that God sees me as his poem. I am his workmanship. This not only tells me he cares about me, but also that I have a purpose. And my purpose (in this season at the very least) could be the unnoticed, mundane, behind-the-scenes, changing your world at home kind of work. And that is just as beautiful. 

Even if I'm not living in Beirut, educating children orphaned by the refugee crisis (No kidding, I listened to a podcast today with a couple who is doing that. Another "what am I doing with my life" moment.) my work matters. I have to believe that my purpose is significant to God - all our purposes are equally significant and important - whether we have 1 million followers or 100. Whether I have a photographer following me around or a toddler drooling on my face - we just need to quit comparing and water our own grass.

Psalm 37:4 is always quoted because it's inspiring. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." But verse 3 was recently brought to my attention: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." Dwell in the land. The grass is greener where you water it. I want to be better at watering my own yard instead of looking at everyone else's and willing it to wither. I think God is asking me to dwell right where he has me and just keep tending to my own land, which in turn would help me delight in him so he will give me the desires of my heart. Because who knows, I may not always be the one behind-the-scenes.

So what does it look like to quit the comparison game and water our own grass? I'm not sure! I don't know that it requires the extremes of deleting all social media and hiding in a hole like I'm sure we sometimes feel like doing. (Although a little break from social media never hurt anyone.) I'm looking to find the answers too. So, if you've ever fallen into the pit of comparison, we're on this journey together! Let's be people who strive to encourage each other to be present and more thankful to God for each season, job, home, etc...that he currently has us in. 

On Anger + the Heart

Tonight, the dishes are piled high and toys are all over the floor, but I needed to take a moment to breathe through writing (with some trashy TV in the background). 

I am writing this just a few hours after reconciling with a friend with whom I let my anger get the best of me over the last few days. I'm reflecting on my emotions and feeling convicted about it being time to change. 

In Mark chapter 7, the Pharisees were asking Jesus why His disciples ate food with unclean hands. Jesus responds by saying that what is outside of a person can't defile them, it's what's already in them that does. As usual, His disciples still didn't get it, so they asked Him to explain the parable again. Jesus responds: “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”

Think of a water bottle full of water. When you shake that bottle, water will come out. Not soda, not lemonade. And it's the same with us. The conditions of our heart are revealed when we are shaken, tried, and tested. As much as I'd love to say a lovely unicorn scented and golden aroma exudes from me when I'm shaken, I have to admit that it's been anger. 

Over time, I have discovered that when I am sad, disappointed, or even grieving, I tend to respond with anger instead. I've actually become comfortable with my anger. How insane is that? Generally, I have no problem speaking up or speaking out, even if it may rock the boat. But when it comes to those that I love deeply, I will bury my sadness, hurt, disappointment, and anger deep inside. I am filled with anxiety at the thought of the people I love most being upset with me. So I will apologize to no end, make peace at all costs, and bury the anger deep inside. And so, when I am shaken, the anger rises back out. It is both painful and healing to share this because I'd rather continue to appear like I have it all together. But maybe I haven't been fooling anyone all along. (And if you haven't been fooled, and you've continued to tolerate me, then God bless you and thank you! I'm talking to you, Jon.)

I have learned a lot about grace and joy since marrying Jon. Ever since we started dating, I always felt like he has shown me a bit of God's character and how He loves me. And now, as I experience life through Brighton's eyes, I learn even more about grace and joy. When she doesn't get her way or when Daddy leaves in the morning her momentary affliction is immediately cured by bouncing a ball her way or singing "Do You Want to Build A Snowman?". Don't you wish it was that easy for us?

I suppose, however, it is. God gives us His truth. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flows the springs of life." We watch over our hearts when we reflect on His truth, His word. When we diligently watch over our hearts, the springs of life flow forth. Not the springs of anger, bitterness, depression, and dissension. When shaken, the springs of life will still flow forth because they flow from the heart full of truth, grace, and joy. I want joy, grace, mercy, understanding, patience, forgiveness, and love to flow out of my life into the lives of others. I want to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend who gives grace where it's undeserved, who has patience through testing, who finds joy in all circumstances, and who brings life wherever I go. 

What about you? Has your life been a sweet aroma for those around you? Let's commit to being women (and men) who watch over their hearts by filling ourselves with truth, so we can give life in a world that so desperately needs it!

On My 1st Turning 1

Brighton Rose. 6.14.16

Her name is so perfectly suited for her. It means "beloved" and she is that and more. Not only beloved, but she is also so bright. Everywhere she goes she brings joy. Being her mom has been the greatest joy I have ever known. All the cliches, all the cheesy sayings are all true. 

1 year ago, after 36 hours of labor, (and feeling like a total bad ass for pushing a human out of my body) she came into this world and we instantly forgot what life was like without her. "What did we do with all our time?!" We still can't stop staring at her. It's the strangest feeling how you can see a face for the first time but think, "Yes. It's you at last. I've known you forever."

Like a rose, this year has been beautiful, fragrant, but with a few thorns sprinkled through. We learned how to be patient and how to operate on little sleep. I learned more about myself than ever before. I learned I had the ability to be courageous and calm. I learned that trying to "do it all" is exhausting and that I don't have to get it all perfect. We have laughed so many laughs. We have cried. We have watched our baby girl smile, we have gotten excited over poop, we spent a few nights in Rady's after a fall from her stroller fractured her skull. She has spit up on every piece of clothing we own for 12 months straight. We learned that she is resilient and strong. I learned how to slow down and be present. We continue to learn about joy in all the little things of life as we watch her discover new things and as her eyes fill with wonder everywhere we go. She loves Frozen and when her dad comes home from work. She talks all day long and started walking a week ago. She gets overwhelmed with excitement when she sees a dog and claps her hands when her Nonno comes into the room. 

 

We went to Disneyland and Denver. We went camping and hiking, and out to Palm Springs. We celebrated my brother's marriage and rejoiced with friends as they welcomed their own babies into their families.

Last night, on the eve of her birthday, I was preparing her bedtime bottle and there were just enough scoops of formula to empty the box. It felt weirdly symbolic. The end of the box is the end of her infant year. Yes, I got emotional over formula. I'm only a little ashamed to admit it. #momlife  

When I think about the fact that my little girl is ONE I am at a lost for words. I was made for motherhood. It is the single most incredible, refining, challenging, frustrating, and glorious thing I have ever been a part of. Happy birthday my little bright one. You are my joy. You are my love. And I thank God every day for the gift of being your mother. 

On Being 29...

A few weeks ago I turned 29, and a lot of people have made comments about next year being the big 3-0. What's my "before I turn 30 bucket list"?! What do I hope to accomplish? What have I learned in my 20s? 

So naturally, I spent a bit of time thinking about this "bucket list" and I got stuck. I honestly couldn't think of anything I really hope to do. (Except get a tattoo. I'm stuck on overcoming my fear of the commitment of getting that tattoo darnet.) What kept coming to mind was WHO am I, not what I wanted to accomplish. 

Over the years, I realize I have become comfortable with being an anxious, bitter, melancholy version of who I am, and I want to be done with that. To admit some of these negative qualities isn't easy. Because who wants to talk about being a bitter, anxious, negative, controlling person? It's not that I believe that's all I am, but unfortunately, those qualities tend to rear their ugly head more often than the qualities I'd love to possess. And even more unfortunately, I have become so comfortable with being that way that it is almost frightening to think about what my life could look like if I was joyful and let God do all He says He will do. Has anyone else ever gotten to this point? How sad to think it's been so long since I focused on being who God wants me to be and who God says I am, that I am more comfortable being someone that I am not happy with.

I can't be the only one who feels that pressure of being an adult! Figure it out, get your life together, get a good job, pay the bills, make the meals, discover your purpose, clean the house, stay in shape, keep a baby alive...I mean, most days I get up and legitimately think, "I can't adult today." I am so apologetic to my husband because I think this downhill slope sped up when I got married. It's not his fault. Joy, spontaneity, and carefreeness, all come very naturally to him. Maybe I just thought, "Vittoria, you're a wife now. It's time to get your act together and take care of business." But I don't believe that's what God wants for me. Because in the process I also stopped trusting Him to take care of us. 

Maria Goff, in her book "Love Lives Here", says "Somewhere along the way, a lot of us misplaced our childlike imaginations and stopped believing we could either get around the lava or build something beautiful on top of it when it cooled. We began to question what was possible ad what we're actually capable of We ran and fell, or tried and failed, or risked and lost. Doubt and fear crept under the door and distracted us from who God made us to be. The disappointments in our lives become like volcanoes, and if we're not careful, we'll just see the lava, not the way over it."

Somewhere along the road, I stopped dreaming. I became so practical. Somewhere along the road, I let being an adult consume me so much that I lost the person that would break out into song without shame, who would take on new challenges without fear, who allowed herself to experience joy in all circumstances. I refuse to have a funeral for that Vittoria. That Vittoria needs a kiss from Jesus to bring her back to life. She's somewhere deep inside, I just know it. So instead of growing up, 29 is going to be my year of becoming a child again.  

I want to quit worrying about tomorrow and be present today. I want to have joy. Gosh, I miss the joy. I want to be spontaneous. I want to enjoy all the little moments throughout each day. I want to trust the Lord to provide for all the needs I am so stressed out about. I want to fully enjoy every moment with my daughter. I want to serve my husband better. I want to rest. 

Every so often, the Lord reminds me what my name means. I'm not claiming to hear the audible voice of the Lord here. It's just that sometimes, I suddenly think about it and I am not a believer in coincidences. I know that is the Holy Spirit nudging me to remember who I am. Vittoria = victorious. Vincenza = conqueror. That overwhelms me a bit. I feel like having a name that means victorious conqueror means I should be conquering a few more things in my life than I am. So 29 is going to be a year where I claim victory over the pirate I've become and reclaim the lost (girl) inside me. And I hope I can encourage others to do the same.

On Feminism and Beauty and the Beast

Can I talk about Beauty and the Beast for a second? I’m no movie critic, but let me just say: magic.

This story has always been my favorite. For starters: the music. Just magical. Every time I hear the score of this movie I get chills. The chills are for real people. And then there’s Belle. Strong, independent, smart, adventurous, fearless, book lover, convicted…she is a winner. I have been anticipating this remake since it was announced, and I was not disappointed. But when it comes to Disney Princesses, I’m difficult to disappoint.

I’ve followed Emma Watson for a while now (big Harry Potter fan too) and I have a lot of respect for her. She really is a lot like Belle. One of my favorite things Emma (we’re on a first-name basis here) has been doing is hiding books around the cities she visits for people to find and enjoy. Because I follow Emma and her endeavors, I find myself pondering the issues she is so passionate about. Feminism is a hot topic today, and I will in no way claim to be an expert on the issue, but I do my best to understand both sides to the argument, and ultimately I believe that both men and women have something to bring to the table that is unique. There are things men can do that maybe women can’t do as well, and inversely, things women can do that men can’t. (Birth...hello.) I find this beautiful. I love the way God created us so differently because we need these differences to complement each other. I don’t know that I would consider myself a feminist in the way that it is typically defined, but I do believe in the power of a woman, her influence, her mind etc… I believe there is beauty in mutual submission, and I certainly believe that people should be treated with love in all circumstances. Anyway, this blog post isn’t meant to be a tribute to Emma or a debate on feminism, she just inspires me. 

So. As I left the movie today, I dreamt about the woman my daughter will become and the qualities I hope she has. I have always loved Belle because she wasn't a damsel in distress. She did need saving in her own way, but she was a strong, intelligent woman, who saw beauty within.  (No, I don't want my daughter to BE Belle. Just saying, she's awesome.)

1. Love

For me, feminism isn’t the issue. Love is. It always is. Learning to love one another, celebrate our differences, respect one another, propel one another into greatness … I believe these are the actions that will change the world. Not comparison. Not hate. Not trying to bring others down to get to the top. Simply loving those around us. I have to admit, I am not always the best at doing this, but by the grace of God I pray I can become better at it, so my daughter can learn it well.

2. Fearlessness

As someone who deals with anxiety, and has spent many years making decisions based on fear, I hope my daughter lives a fearless life. When I got pregnant, my determination to fight my fears and anxiety became all the more real because I didn't want my daughter to learn that from me. I want her to be fearless in following the Lord wherever He will have her go and fearless in following her dreams. 

3. Passion

I hope she never feels like her thoughts and opinions don’t matter. Because they do and because changing even one person’s life can make the world of a difference. I find myself often getting stuck there. Do you? What difference can I really make? No one cares what I think. I don’t have a platform like Emma to change history. Isn’t that where Satan would love to stop us? If we believe no one cares, eventually I believe that we stop caring. And if we stop caring, who will? We need to be an influence wherever we can. Whether it’s with 5 people or 5,000 people. So I hope Brighton is passionate about making a difference and being faithful in the small, so God will trust her with larger territories. 

4. Love for learning

I feel like wishing intelligence on my daughter would imply that there is an option for her to be unintelligent, but I think that being intelligent is the willingness to keep learning. For example, my husband was never good in school. He doesn't consider himself the best reader, and didn't excel in a classroom, but the man is by no means unintelligent. His willingness to learn new things, try new things, and refine his skills is what has made him who he is. And he is dang good at what he does. So I hope the same for Brighton. She might not be good at math like her mom, or reading like her dad, but I hope she never stops learning, and always seeks to grow. 

5. God fearing

Above all, I hope Jon and I can leave a legacy that encourages Brighton to love the Lord with all her heart. To pursue Him, His heart, and His desires for her because He has the greatest plans in store for her if she would only be fearless, passionate, loving, learning, and God-fearing!

Funny how a fairy tale can actually make you think about real life issues and the legacy you are leaving, huh?