My Everyday featuring ... Chrystal Smith

[#1] Share with us a snippet of your story.
Oh my, a snippet. That's tough :) My story is a long, grace-filled, complicated, twisty and turny, beautiful mess of a journey with lots of chapters... the good, the bad, the ugly, and mostly the glory-filled. I grew up in southern California, making sure my toes were never too far from the sand. When I was 14 I met a boy who changed everything about my life. I married him in 2001 and he's been my rock ever since. Raising our three boys (ages 11, 8, and 3) with him is the greatest blessing. On a whim in 2007 we decided to trade in our flip-flops for boots and moved our little family to the quiet suburbs of Austin, TX. Neither one of us had ever been to Texas and we basically bought our house site unseen. It was a total leap of faith. And, for us, the best leap of faith we could've made. I would've never guessed that the wide open rolling hills of the Texas hill country would feel like home even more than the sandy shores that I swore I'd never leave. We've been able to make our roots here and thank God every day for leading us toward a life far greater than anything we could've planned for ourselves.

My greatest passions are motherhood and healthy living. For me they have become almost one in the same. I'm on a constant quest to raise healthy little humans and to nourish my own broken body, despite the many health challenges that have been put in our lives. Multiple autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and autism spectrum disorders have pushed us to dig deeper into our health, lifestyle, and food choices. By cleaning up our diets and our home, we've been able to dramatically improve the health and well-being of every member of our family. Organic, local, grass-fed, all-natural, fresh, holistic, and free-range are all words that I get excited about. The benefits of making these things a priority in our home have been undeniable. And along with staying nourished physically, I also believe that an important part in raising healthy kids is to build healthy spirits and a healthy appetite for learning and doing good in this world.
Thrifting, hiking, traveling, volunteering, date nights, clouds, and pies are a few of my other passions. In no particular order.

Photo by: Wildflowers Photography 

[#2] What is your favorite part of the day with your little one[s]?
My favorite part of the day with my boys is probably a tie between dinner time and prayer time. These are the two designated times of our day where we are all in one spot, all free of electronics and other distractions, just talking and being present with each other. We try to make having dinner together a priority, even when it seems impossible to align all of our schedules. Sometimes it's dinner together in the car on our way to soccer, but we make it work. Our dinner time discussions are typically about the highs and lows of our days and sometimes it's just everyone talking over each other or just giggling about nonsense. Whatever the case may be, it fills my heart up every time.

Every night my husband leads our family in prayer. Even if he's out of town on business, he'll call and FaceTime with us. We each go around and thank God for all that we have to be grateful for from that day. My favorite part about it is that every day we tend to have more and more to be thankful for. I think that in taking the time to be intentional about saying all of our blessings out loud every day, we become more aware of the abundance of big and small gifts there are in each and every day. Even on the hard days, we always have something to be thankful for.

[#3] Name Three Instagram MOMS who inspire you.
This is so tough! I'm inspired daily by so many instagram moms in so many different ways. It has been such a blessing to get peeks into the homes and lives of so many wonderful women. I am constantly amazed at the inspiration and friendships I have gained from such an unlikely source. I can honestly say that every mom I follow inspires me in some way.
Three women (okay four, I cheated) who come to mind that inspire me in big and different ways are:
@wifeysinger: Hannah just overflows with love and wisdom. She is an awesome example of a woman with a giant heart for Jesus and someone who handles the unexpected with grace and strength. She is impossible not to love.
@christinesunflower: I've been lucky enough to meet Christine in real life and she is just pure loveliness. And she has the most adorable little sunshine-y girl and another baby on the way. It's a gift to be able to watch her grow into motherhood and see the way she loves her babies to no end.
@sduerre and @sehatcher81: These ladies are especially inspiring to me in this chapter of my life because of their amazing journeys with foster care and adoption. We are in the process of going down this path and these two moms (along with several others... you know who you are, ladies) have shown an honest and heartwarming portrayal of what to expect. The invaluable words of wisdom they've shared with me have been such an encouragement.

[#4] What challenges have you faced in balancing motherhood and your passion for creativity?
I would say that, for me, the challenge has been when I fall under one extreme or the other. There's been many days when I've given myself no creative outlet. When I've just been completely consumed with motherhood and all of the responsibilities that go along with it. The days when just the thought of taking any time for myself made me feel guilty. I think for the longest time the extent of my creative outlet was things like how to manage eating while talking on the phone and breastfeeding simultaneously... or perfecting my one-handed diaper changing skills (ha!). 

In 2011 I found myself toward the other end of the spectrum when I followed my passion to start a gluten free vegan bakery with a friend. I didn't anticipate how rapidly it was going to grow and I found myself completely consumed with keeping up with the endless opportunities that were coming at us. I was fueled by the connections I was making with the amazing customers, the feelings of accomplishment, the praise and feeling of relevance, and the passion for all of the creative freedom that goes along with starting a business. Meanwhile, my health and my family took a back seat. My youngest was a baby at the time and every day was a new milestone that I was missing. Even when I was there physically, my mind, my energy, and my focus were completely on the business. In 2012 I made the sobering decision to sell out of the business and walk away from that dream. I don't regret the decision and God has made it clear in many ways that it was the best choice for me and my family. I have a newfound appreciation for mothers who are able to balance demanding careers and family life while giving of themselves fully to both. I think that there are those who are able to juggle it all beautifully. I know some of these superwomen first hand. And after giving it my best effort, I will be the first to admit that I was not blessed with that super power. 

Over the past year I have been doing a lot of soul searching as to what a healthy balance for me is when it comes to pursuing creative outlets and being the best mother and wife that I can be. I realize the importance of having something that stirs my creativity and passion and fills my cup. I have become much more intentional about where my time and energy goes, while still making sure that I give myself opportunities to stretch myself and grow. I recently started a blog and I love the freedom that gives me to share my passion for cooking and family life and connecting with other like-minded moms. And being able to use my brain on things besides matching socks and building lego towers is a total bonus. I imagine as my kids get older there will more time for my creative pursuits, but for now I am grateful for the clarity in what my limits and priorities are. I've found that it's a complicated balancing act that looks different for every mom. And I can say that based on the sense of balance and contentment that I'm feeling in this particular season of my life, it's worth the effort and possible sacrifices to find that sweet spot.

[#5] What is a family tradition that you love sharing with your kids?
I LOVE traditions. I feel like that is where some of our best memories are made. We have lots of traditions in our house. You could even say I'm a bit of a tradition nut. To me, traditions feel like threading together all of the years with a constant string of memories that all feel familiar and different at the same time. Some of our traditions are simple ones that are a part of our everyday, while others are big ones that only happen once every 10 years.

I would have to say my favorite tradition in our family is our "Big 10 Trip".  I decided years ago that for each of my boys' 10th birthdays I would take them on a one-on-one trip of their choice as a sort of right of passage into the land of double digits and tweenville. For my oldest son's 10th birthday he chose San Diego. The zoo there is home to the only Pangolin in the U.S. The boy is very passionate about Pangolins, so this was a big big deal for him to see one in real life. It was such a blessing to have him all to myself for three days, just cherishing him in his happy place. I felt like we got to know each other better and connected in ways we never had. I'm already counting down the days until I get to take my other boys on their trips.

My other favorite (honestly, I have lots of favorites) would be our annual summer road trip. We head to California and Arizona to see family and we try to mix it up every year and visit different spots along the way. It's always an adventure and I feel like having that time of us all being together 24/7 for weeks at a time is something that I'll especially cherish years from now when all of our kids are off on their own.
[#6] If you could give us a peek inside your home - what image would you share and why?
This is our living room where most of our time is spent. I love the big windows that allow the sun to flood the whole room with light and warmth. We are a family of bookworms and I love it when we can all curl up together on the couch with our books. The cozy peacefulness of it just feels like home.

[#7] Share a photo you wouldn't typically post on Instagram but depicts real life happenings.
I call this dinner du jour. While I love making healthy, pretty, appetizing foods, truth is there's plenty of meals in our house that look like this... the dreaded microwaved hot dog (the grass-fed beef $7 ones on expensive gluten free buns, so there's that) with raw baby carrots, and potato chips. On a paper plate. Life is busy and crazy and sometimes it's all I can pull off. And, sadly, it's one of my boys' favorite meals. Go figure.

Be sure and follow @chrystalsmith on Instagram! You can also keep up with the series by following @kelliandvanessa or #myeverydaymoms