faith

The Art of Lounging

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"There remains then a Sabbath Rest for the people of God"

Gemütlichkeit.

Its quite a mouthful of a word, even when one is a fluent in the german language. Perhaps that is appropriate because in this tiny word, there is so much to be found- so much wonder squeezed into those 13 letters. Although we don't have a word quite like it in English, in German it means, "a space or situation that is warm and cozy, that induces a cheerful mood and peace of mind without a need to hurry or worry, and with a connotation of belonging and social acceptance." It sounds a lot like Home.

In the winter months especially, this warm and cozy atmosphere is sought out and crafted in Germany, as well as the Scandinavian countries that also bear harsh winters. Candles are lit, fires crackle in the hearth, tea kettles whistle often and families recreate indoors and out, intentionally, together and with cheer. Its as if the entire culture has recognized that to survive the months ahead, they must light a candle in their darkness, cultivate beauty and seek out meaningful community. They know warmth must be made, rest must be had, and that they ought not to be alone.

In North America, we are pretty horrible at resting. We are a people of extremes and we hate to slow down. We struggle to cease striving.

And yet, in myself I can feel in my very bones a crying out for sleep, for rest, for renewal. I long for the new life promised in the Spring, but I struggle to allow a season that is fallow to have any place in my life. The thing is? Without rest, nothing great is going to grow. Without that time underground, soaking up nutrients, building strength in the dark, those bulbs planted in the fall are never going to burst forth as glorious daffodils. Quiet seasons intentionally investing in our inner life matter greatly. They bear beautiful blossoms in due time. 

Read more about what I'm sharing about rest today HERE.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi friends! Just popping in to say Happy Thanksgiving! I woke this morning feeling unprepared and a little unfurled. This past week held work on marketing projects that started to eat up my calendar and my babes were struck with high fevers and up for hours each night. All the crafting I had planned didn't happen, all the historical readings I'd laid out remained still on their pages. My baking efforts resulted in one very simple apple pie and none of the Pinterest worthy cinnamon bun and bacon turkeys I'd dreamed of waking my children up with this morning.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is currently trumpeting just blocks from here and we are home, missing it.

Pretty much, this Thanksgiving feels like a big 'ol giant flop.

And yet somehow I woke today with hope bursting. I just had to share it. The reality of this day just hit me. . . . hard. Maybe more than ever because of my feelings of weakness and failure.

I've been pondering how interesting it is that it is this day that ushers in the holiday season. It is with a heart of thanks that we prepare for Immanuel.

To offer thanksgiving today means that we recognize that a gift has been given. 

To give thanks, first we must receive.

So, we enter into Advent this week, the season of waiting for the nearness of God, in anticipation for the greatest gift ever given, with hearts and lips fresh full of thanks.  

Do you know the gift?  

Have your hands opened and taken hold of the generosity of God? He has given us his very self and to live every day in the grace what has been offered to us in this season orients our hearts to a Person whose very nature breathes thanksgiving through us every day of the year.

Friends, may our thank you's today, be the first step in receiving 'God With Us.' He is here, even when we fall apart, even when we fail to meet our own expectations. He never fails us.

Happiest Thanksgiving to you and your families!

Kristen

 

 

Mapping the Geography of our Hearts and Affections {Remembering the Girl Who Sings}

I'm often asked if I want to return to the West. If the pressures of city life have squished us too far, if we have tired of apartment living, of navigating the urban grid and all the challenges that come with city life in general. 

Do I Ever Just Want to Go Home?

The answer is yes. Every. Single. Day.

And  the answer is no. Because somehow my life has become much greater than my own preferences and affections- and I'm even forging new ones.

The video shown above is my valley. It feels like home. Always. It is constant and full of my history- full of my family's history for several generations. Those mountains? They orient me. I never realized how much I relied on them to know north and south, east and west. I never realized how much I relied on them to know myself. . . . not until I'd left and seen that most of the world offered an endless expanse of flat land. Directionless. 

The geography in this valley is my comfort. Plucked from it, I have experienced a sense of loss, of being lost even. Without a compass, without sign posts and markers to map the way- how does one orient their heart? 

Where is our true north?

Taking a good look at what we long for is a great indicator of what we put our hope in, of what we cling to, what we defend at all costs. . . . . and where we direct our affections. I've had to ask myself what holds my affection most- what is my first love? Often, the answer has been whatever is known. In my past, in places I hold dear, in people I love. Then the whisper comes. . . "love the Lord will all your heart." Is Christ my first love? Is my home and rest and hope and satisfaction in him? 

There is only one love that will truly fulfill and make me sing. Our voices, our personalities and our passions are squelched when our hearts are restless, chasing after anything else to be anchored by.

We will never be free to say yes, to venture, to embrace, or to journey with God, until we let go. The prayer of my heart has become a song lately. Embrace and let go is the rhythm beneath the melody.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, where we walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. . .that my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior." -Oceans

I want to live wildly, and among the wild, because that is my calling- it's part of my story. 

I must choose whether to orient my heart to the past or to the story God is writing for me- however uncomfortable that makes me! 

This song has me asking- can I be called out to live in wild places for the benefit of others? My son also makes an appearance as the little boy running through the woods in this video. . . Thanks times a million to Andy Mineo for inviting him to take part in sharing the message of your music!

And that I may never forget that where I am right now is exactly where God has me. And maybe you too friend? 

What do you long for that keeps you from living life fully right where you are?

Where can we give thanks together for where God has you right now? What might the Spirit be nudging you to release to him so that you can take hold of something greater?

Praying that we may each rightly embrace what God has given us today-and let go of what grips our hearts and keeps us from a song of freedom. It's in that space that our true home starts to be seen to us as beauty. 

So thankful you are here,

Kristen  

 

Its Time for us to Dress Like Daughters {Remembering the Girl Who Sings}

I come from a family of musicians. Although I am the least skilled among them, its a requirement that we all sing. We share memories and and sayings and inside jokes through songs and quips. When we pass butter and tongs getting the Christmas table set, when we peek in to whisper good morning to our children (or want to embarrass them in public!), when we ask a blessing each evening over a shared meal. . . there is always a tune in the air.  Musicals are our jam- and we know all the words and hold heated convictions about every version ever made. We mark seasons of the year by which musical befits it: Meet Me in St. Louis is always for Autumn, while the Music Man is thoroughly enjoyed in the Spring. This will either endear you to us, or annoy you to bits, because we just can't sit and watch- we have to participate and sing along! With this background, it was impossible to experience childhood without Eliza Dolittle at center stage. Her story captivated me.

The cockney girl who dreamed of being a fine lady finds herself the object of a bet between two gentlemen, Colonel and a prideful linguist, who believes he can transform anyone from an urchin into something elegant, with enough skill to fool even royalty. And so begins the story of My Fair Lady. . .

Henry Higgins taught Eliza Dolittle how to pose and pretend. He fancied up her speech and walk, the rhythm of her days and with all his might squeezed out every ounce of un-refinement that he could. He never said much about who she was before, he just moved her toward being a lady , something better. And so a girl pretending, and nerves shaking and a mind racing to do everything just so was presented and passed off as something grand. 

The cockney though? It bubbled there right under the surface, always ready to pop out at the wrong moment, always bringing a measure of fear to dear Eliza's outings. Would today be the one where her control would buckle? Where she would be found out for what she really was? 

This was a girl who had no wild dreams for herself. Her mind's greatest imagination had been a dream of being a girl selling flowers in a real shoppe. . . never to be so important as to stand among kings, never to be noticed.

But then she put on that dress.

Heads turned. Kings called. Men and women of consequence beheld beauty in her. She had their ear and attention. She, only she, had to believe it was all true, that it was all real. That she was real. She was the last and most impossible to fool- she had to believe she wasn't the street dweller she knew she was. She had to believe she was fine. She had to believe that her clothes had transformed her.

We are, each and every one of us an Eliza. And its all true, every bit- the clothes do make the man. . .  and the woman.

So what are you wearing?

What clings to your skin and sways when you move? What sashays and twirls when you dance with joy and wraps round you and tickles your cheek like the softest scarf?

I've spent far too many days wearing fear. Wearing insecurity. Wearing comparison. I leave the house hoping no one else notices my sooty parts- I've been a great pretender. And perhaps none of us can pretend quite so well as Eliza, but the beautiful part of our story- the foundation of our entire identity, is that for us, there is no need to pose. We are daughters of the King. We must be enveloped in the garment he has wrapped us in. White as snow. Sheer beauty. Loveliness. A new identity clinging to us, becoming us.

If we're really ready to dress like daughters, we must clothe ourselves in Christ.

When we put him on, we wear our new clothes forever. Never to fade or be mended, just glowing white and starched beautiful forever. No matter how tattered the girl beneath the petticoats may feel, no matter how often she wonders if she will be found out, the dress sets her before the King. Her clothes make her.

As we dive in to the foundations of who we are- who we can be as a girl who sings- let me ask you, Have you put on Christ? Do you know that your whole self is set right, your whole status and being and refinement and and beauty rest squarely on his shoulders? 

Ask him to show you today where you can cling to him. Ask him to show you that you are his daughter. The daughter of a King, welcome in his court, one who may hold his attention, one who he sees as beautiful.

For reflection today- perhaps to write out, to ask God to make alive in your heart?

Galatians 3:26-27; Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 91:4; Galatians 4:7

 

The God Who Visits A Second Time {Remembering the Girl Who Sings}

Y'all. Y'all. I'm not even from the south and I have no other words. I had no idea my 31 Days of writing would begin this way. Sheer mayhem. With company from out of town, with illness striking, with a spur of the moment adventure to the country....what a whirlwind this past week was, and what a gift. I'm not convinced I can do anything well on a tight deadline and even though the bones of this series are written, I couldn't give the final push this past week to publish posts here. And do you know what was swirling in my mind while I let things fly off the rails and couldn't be in this space writing?

Psst. Psst. I knew it would go down like this. I knew you couldn't share your story well. Couldn't be consistent, couldn't be faithful. Do you even have anything worth saying?

Lies. Every one. And you know what takes a girl with a song in her heart straight down into a deep pit of hopelessness? Listening to any of 'em. In my ideal series, a different post would hold this Day 2 spot, but you know what? I think my week went haywire so I wouldn't miss this word for you today. A word I hadn't counted on sharing that wedged its way in to the narrative because I needed to feel it and know it and remember it again too.

So here it is girls. . . . .

God's plan will not be derailed when we blow it.

It just won't.

Do you feel like you've blown it?  My guess is that if you are here with me to Remember the Girl Who Sings, you have the sense of having lost her.  Maybe you wonder if you even deserve to have her back- to be full of joy again. Maybe you feel like you missed your chance to flourish because of poor choices or unbelief. Maybe you've never even known what it looks like to experience the joy of the Lord, to sing a song of purpose and freedom and hope, and so you are reading here today because you long so, so much for something more. Maybe you wonder if a life lived fully and passionately is even within your grasp.

You know what truth I can't escape when I read my Bible? The people God choses are very seldom the people we would choose. They are typically arrogant or lack faith and are almost always insecure. They have made mistakes again and again.  

For a long time, my least favorite person in the Bible was Jonah. The dude just could not pull it together. I think reading about him and judging him made me feel better about myself (true story). So, Jonah opposed the will of God, and ran away to avoid speaking to the people of Nineveh, because he didn't think they were worthy of God's mercy. These people were a brute force in Jonah's time and he had likely seen destruction in their wake. He did not want to see them experience God's favor. . . the favor that he clung to, the favor he thought came from all the ways he was living his life the right way. 

You can probably already see why I don't like him. I see just a little too much of myself in this guy. Poor Jonah, it took being swallowed up in the belly of a fish for three days before he obeyed. Yet even after seeing with his own eyes the people he despised come to repentance, after seeing God's will complete, Jonah's heart didn't soften. He went to whine about it all under a tree.

Moses on the other hand has always seemed so heroic to me. But if we take a closer look, the truth comes out that he was pretty brash and arrogant, at least at first. The book of Acts tells us that he had a passion for God's call on his life, to identify with his people, to be the one to free them from their oppression. He thought he would be welcomed as their rescuer by asserting himself. Nope. Moses jumped the gun. 

“When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.  He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." -Acts 7: 23-25

 So he ran. He hid in the desert for forty years. 

I've hidden too.  

But we serve a God who visits a second time. 

He came again to Jonah. After three dark days that must have felt like death, our God came again. He wrought mercy on a nation that was wretched. 

He came again still, only this time, God Himself anguished for three days of death. 

He brings mercy to me.

He came again to Moses. He said, I AM. I am the author of it all. I am transcendent. I am holding all things together. I am enough. He rescued a people.

Then he came and was I AM in the flesh. He was enough. 

He rescues me.

The greater Jonah emerging after three days of death has come. The greater Moses, delivering us from bondage, is with us.

He not only comes again to use us, now he dwells with us. In us.

He is the God who visits a second time and a third and a fourth. . . . his plan will not be derailed by us, by what we think we have lost or have left behind, because his plan is really not about us at all. Its about Him. 

He has called you to find your voice, to seek him. . . to sing. He is visiting you again. Nothing is going to blow that. 

Singing with you with great hope today and clinging to him as we study together this month,

Kristen

31 Days to Remember the Girl Who Sings

31 Days to Remember the Girl Who Sings

The last few years have been hard- I've been stretched beyond what I thought I could bear, questioned who I was as and what my life was all about. There has been grief and crises, a big move and plain old normal life issues all piled together and in wading through, I began to just cope and react and not really thrive. When you begin to emerge from difficulty or particularly harried  seasons as mom with young children, its sometimes hard to even recognize yourself. So when a moment of delight comes, when you find yourself singing your heart out or fully embracing beauty, it can give you a little jolt. Perhaps like me, you've found yourself in a moment of joy, reclaiming a bit of your true self and said, "Hey, don't I know you?"

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What Would You Give For True Joy?

Recently my sweet friend Misha asked me if I'd write about Joy over at her blog- more specifically "What I've learned about joy." I have loved Misha's writing for years and when we transplanted our crew to New York City, her own family's story was a huge encouragement to me! I was flat out honored that she asked me to share with her readers. The pursuit and internal fight for joy in my life has been a major theme for me the past two years and I felt that her invitation was a chance to bring all my thoughts together and spend some time reflecting on What I had actually learned. I knew I'd been in a thick process, but I honestly hadn't taken time to get all my thoughts on paper and form conclusions about the big lessons that had emerged.

I wrote an article and was ready to ship it off to her and then, in our sweet little hometown where we retreat for the summer, crises hit. Wildfires raging every summer is nothing new here, but this year the damage has been beyond what any of us who see "fire season" as the norm have ever experienced. All my thoughts shifted and I started to pour out something new in my journals. Misha was so gracious to let me send her something new, something birthed in the midst of fire that describes my heart so much better than that first draft! I'd love for you to join me at her blog, The Offense of Joy and read my thoughts about fighting for it. Then stick around and explore Misha's writing- it is such a gift!

Here's the direct link to my article: Finding Joy in the Middle of Fire

Awakening Wonder

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Mornings here....

Look quiet and cozy lately. We are all waking just a bit later, going just a bit slower. Its a bit of a fog really, this is the time of year that always finds me questioning if what we are doing in our homeschool is enough. The days feel a bit lazy, we've settled into our rhythm enough to know how to bend and break the rules, and then we begin to lose our sense of routine altogether.  We've been plugging away at learning goals long enough to see the gaps (right along side the progress, but the gaps tend to stick out most to the isolated mothers teaching at home, don't they?) After the sparkle of the holidays fade, I can even find myself feeling a little stuck. I know my children feel it too. We reach a place each winter where wonder has faded and we are just going through the motions.

When I feel like this, I tend to freak out that we might not meet our yearly goals and its really easy for me to think we need to do more workbooks, toughen up our load of the fundamentals and in every way make our lessons even more dull. After a week of torture, I'm typically ready to quit, I'm researching charter schools on the internet and then...and then.... I circle back to where I should have began in the first place- in quiet prayer.

Inevitably, the quieting of my own heart is the game changer. Renewal in those moments always comes when I ask one question: Why are we doing  this, why are we really, pouring ourselves into days schooling at home? Why did we get into this in the first place? And, is it central to how we are living out our present? Our yesterday and tomorrow? The answer that follows, usually poured out among the pages of my journal, becomes the vision and sustaining force for the rest of our school year. 

Maybe this is what January is for? To shake us up and settle us down into something true, to traumatize us as we reach the end of our own wills and to give us cause to fight for lasting vision.

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So why are you doing this? Have you asked yourself lately? 

To connect with hearts. To inspire. To live beautifully. To let learning spill over and mingle with real life. To avoid the stodgy classroom. To experience flexibility and adventure together. To watch eyes brighten right in front of you. To reclaim your own education. To meet out of the box needs. To be together. To embrace home.

My reasons might be very similar or very different from your own, but  I'm guessing we could all use a reminder of them. I'm often asked what books inspire me, and I keep coming back to the same old few. Like true friends they remind me, year after year, about the "why" of homeschooling. Spending time in their pages refreshes and awakens wonder in my heart to keep me going. In no way an exhaustive list, here they are. I pray they can awaken the same wonder in you and help you kindle your mid winter spark. 

For the Children's Sake 

Transformative for our family.  Susan Schaeffer Macauley is the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, whose theological and practical writings have greatly impacted us as well. She shares her own family's journey toward finding an educational philosophy that embraced Biblical discipleship and dignified children. A must read.

Educating the Whole Hearted Child

Written by our dear friends and mentors, no other book has changed the course of our family's life (save the Bible) like this one. It is life-giving, casting a vision for home and learning that has literally steered the course for us. Intelligent, practical and wise, it is the book we visit again and again.

Charlotte Mason Companion

This book nurtures my heart as a mom. I feel inspired and cared for every time I visit its pages. Poetic and gentle, reading it at once gives practical wisdom you can implement right away, and leaves you feeling as if you've just had coffee with a dear friend. Highly recommended. 

When Children Love to Learn

A wonderful follow- up to Schaeffer-Macauley's book, this is written by the celebrated educators and founders of Ambleside International Schools. It offers a practical curriculum approach using Charlotte Mason's methods for children learning in school or at home. Also wonderful for traditional educators and parents!

A Home Start in Reading

So often in the little years, the task of teaching reading feels monumental. This book simplifies and gives a practical step by step approach you can implement right away (at any stage of teaching a child to read). This year, as I teach two older children, the task of teaching reading to my younger two, who need a very intentional and watchful eye, is overwhelming to me- this book is worth its weight in gold. So thankful for Beechick's frank and common sense style. Like having a mentor or reading specialist right along with you.

Read for the Heart

My friend Sarah is a brilliant storyteller. After a childhood grounded in delightful literature, there is no one I trust more to help me pick a title for my own children. She has compiled the loveliest collection of books for every topic and area of study here in Read for the Heart. If your children are longing for inspiration through story this winter, you'll find titles to share with them here. A must have for every family library.

So what would you add to the list? What are your go-to's that nourish you along this road? What do you pull out again and again?

On Creating Sacred Space

 In my adult life I have lived in three different countries and the Pacific Islands. I’ve settled into eleven different homes in my thirteen years of marriage.  (Really. Eleven!) After all the moves, all the starting over and after being the “new girl” again and again, I’ve come to to long for places that are familiar, that anchor me in time and space, places that nurture a sense of safety and stability. I’ve come to long for home  in the deepest parts of my heart with an ache I can only just begin to describe with words.

When our family moved from Germany to the United States, my husband and I found ourselves back in our hometown, rather penniless and rather tired… and right in the middle of the dry season. The caramel yellow of the hills and the constant dust seemed to echo a fatigue that matched our own. We had lived in a 12th century hunting castle in Bavaria, steeped in rich community on a missionary base, and I found myself often longing for the green of the hills that surrounded our small village, for the food and shared tables and quiet of the country. Among the strip malls and billboards of the western United States, I craved the sights of old architecture: churches and buildings lovingly updated and restored through the centuries, looking forward, but not quite letting go of the past. My oldest was just two years old at the time and in my days of caring for her and entrenched in the mundane tasks of setting up a new home that I wasn’t very fond of, I sensed a growing discontent with my surroundings, with relationships, with our pauper circumstances- it all felt so bland and gray a little hopeless.

My daughter and I had visited all the libraries, parks, pools and riverbanks I could remember from my own childhood and on a lark, I decided to do a bit of exploring.  I was on a quest, really, willing myself to find something that would stir excitement.  We found ourselves at a small French bakery I’d enjoyed visiting in high school. Appropriately named The Anjou for its location nestled in the heart of a beautiful pear orchard, the scene was idyllic!  The bakery had transformed an old barn into a haven, with a front porch lavished in flower pots and the sweet smell of fruit ripening in the orchard to engulf our senses.  I was captivated by the simple beauty of the place as we savored butter croissants and patted the head of the resident old lab, Fritz.

At that very moment, something awakened in my heart. I became aware of the lime green patio furniture and the contrast it brought out in the grooves of the old slab floor, my baby girl’s dimpled hands seemed softer than ever as she held on to me, and her laughter was infectious as she played with the dog that was bigger than she was. The sun in our eyes lit up that space and I drank in every single drop. I felt at home, not in memory or association, but in a sentimental feeling, in the connection that was knit between the beauty of this bakery and my own personality. 

This physical place had an unspoken ability to nourish my soul and fill it with beauty and light at a time when everything else felt as dry as the hills. 

Just being there felt right, and for the first time in weeks, I saw my life through a lens of beauty and hope, instead of dust . . . . .Read the rest HERE

 

Freefall to Fly

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"Every woman is in some way searching for or running from her beauty and every man is looking for or avoiding his strength. Why? In some deep place within, we remember what we were made to be, we carry with us the memory of gods, image bearers walking in the garden. So why do we flee our own essence? As hard as it may be fore us to see our sin; it is far harder still for us to remember our glory. The pain of the memory of our former glory is so excruciating, we would rather stay in the pigsty than return to our true home." -Brent Curtis and John Eldredge in "The Sacred Romance"

 Rebekah and her cutie family in NYC

Rebekah and her cutie family in NYC

What makes your heart sing? What is that one thing that you love to do, that stirs your heart and makes you feel alive? Whatever it is, its something God placed in you, as he delighted over you, as he wove you together in your mother’s womb- it is, as Rebekah Lyons calls it, “your birthright gift.” Did you know you had one? Sometimes as moms, in the busy years, the years with tug a pull and very, very little margin, we can forget those gifts were ever even there. We can forget who we truly are.

I’ve spent a good long while in seasons that felt too busy to breathe, too dark to see any light. They felt crushing and I felt so alone, so far from what I thought my life would be like. At the time I couldn’t imagine any other mom felt like me, so out of control and displaced, a bit lost and beat down, a little too shabby to cultivate the dreams that had been stored up in my heart.

It is still a rare delight when a story feels a part of my soul almost instantly, when before I’ve finished the prelude, I’m already in tears as I nod and agree and see some of my own story woven in the fabric of words expressed. Freefall to Fly was one of those rare delights. Rebekah Lyons shares her own journey of her family’s move to New York City, her own struggles of how anxiety and fear began to lead her into a downward spiral that ultimately led to total surrender to, and a tender rescue by a loving Heavenly Father.

I'm so thrilled to share the journey of this life before the Lord with my sweet friend and honored to be able to write about it today at The Better Mom. Would you join me there?

xx Kristen

 

 

Something Beautiful Born of Something Buried

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I buried my blog.  

Something in me has been stirring for a good long while- rumbling in my belly : A vision of rest. For the parched, for the weary, for my sisters who feel alone, for the ones who feel the squeeze of motherhood, the disillusion of a life that doesn't look quite like they thought it might, or maybe, like me, the hectic pace of a large city. We need water. We need a thirst quenched deep, and a tall glass just won't do. 

I buried my blog for a while to let my thoughts swirl and while it was underground I thought about just letting it go to seed- I thought about how I really want to spend my days, carry out my minutes, fill my home and I said out loud no less than a few times that I was done with this business of sharing my heart  with you all. I just craved quiet. 

And somehow in the interlude, in the place where my cries met God's beauty, he whispered that you just might need some quiet too. The very thing I was to create was the kind of place I desperately long for: a place where we can gather beauty together, where we can find safety to pause and inspire, to foster eyes that see the light... to remember who we truly are.

Kick your feet up and catch your breath. You are welcome here.

Here's a bit more about what I'm up to : About

The Day I Lied to My Son {On Squeezing Ideals into Reality}

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Over a month before his big 7th birthday and my son was already counting down the days on the calendar- jumping, big eyes wide with anticipation- antzy to his very core. “How many more days, Daddy? Can we wake up and spend the whole day as ‘the boys’? Can we go to the museum? Can we go to ice cream?” My husband is Even Steven, Steady Eddy, Mr. Cool under pressure, always- but I could see his face take on a strain as he asnswered that he wasn’t sure what the day would hold, but he knew it would be wonderful.

As Jones ran out of the room daydreaming, Josh turned to me with a straight face to let me know an unavoidable business trip was going to keep him away until the day after our little guy’s birthday. Heartbreak.

I wish I could say my intitial response was one of understanding, that I embraced my man and saw the ache it created in him. I wish I had acted wisely right out of the gate and been calm, loving…wifely. You can probably guess I didn’t go that route. My anger started bubbling right up to the surface, quick. Words flew like darts at this man I love. I questioned how he could let this happen, how we had become so wrapped up in Our crazy life that work trumped little boy birthdays… Was this what our family was headed towards more of? I got some good jabs in about priorities as tears began to flow and I huffed away, already embarrassed by my behavior. I just wanted out. Just get me out of this city, out of the busy, out of the traffic and this hectic pace that is eating away at my family. (I know you're all shocked at my level of high drama here)

Ideas of escape become my cozy friends when I feel I just can’t keep going, when my ideals don’t seem to fit into nice little boxes of birthday parties and family dinners and peaceful mornings and organic everything. I always want to run. No thought to where I might go, but just escape. Just ease. Just not something to work through. I’m thankful I have a husband who sticks with me through all my rough places.

Apparently, there really is a benefit to actually talking about things. We got creative. Out of the ashes and my bad attitude, we crafted a plan that included a white lie and a little re-jiggering of the calendar. We decided to just wait and celebrate Jones’ birthday the day after his actual birthday,but because we tend to go big with celebrations around here, and to avoid crushing his tender dreams of a birthday spent with dad, we wouldn’t tell him ….The 11th would just become 10th. Ba dum bum. We joked that all of society’s fears of homeschoolers brainwashing their children were realized in our home as I lied about the date on the calendar for a solid week. I phoned grandparents and asked them to bump the date for breakfast shout outs and Birthday Song singing skype calls. I bribed the older girls with candy for helping to keep our secret. Only one of them called me out on being deceptive, which I considered a win.

I did spend a teeny bit of time feeling guilty before I realized how awesome this all was. The day went off without a hitch, we were together celebrating as a family, Jones spent his day just as he envisioned with his daddy, out on the town and feeling beyond loved on and I supported Josh in the process.

I snapped the picture above of Jones on his actual birthday and now its one of my favorites. He had just asked me how many hours until Daddy would arrive home and how many hours until he would be seven before walking me through his plans for the next day- he was so happy and so oblivious to the fact that he was already standing tall in seven year old skin. This picture was for me- my own momento of the day my boy started to stretch into being big.

I’m certainly not advocating that anyone lie to their children. I’m not even sure if its something I’m proud of or just really thankful  that I got away with, but here’s the thing: I realized there will be many times that I will have to squeeze my ideals into reality, into my limitations. And every single time, I will be faced with the choice to do so with grace or in a huff, with creative saavy or growing bitterness.

We all have our own calendars to stretch and tender hearts to preserve. Somehow, someway, wherever we live, whatever the context of our families, each of us will be forced to adjust. We adjust mealtimes, schools, cities where we live, friends we link arms with-we bend our lives in ways that can make us dizzy so that it can all squeeze. We might not have it just as we please or envisioned, but we make it fit- like a birthday the day after, we work with what we have before us.

We can't escape this work if we seek to truly find our way. There have always been and will always be spaces that must bend to create the moments that truly matter, to craft the kinds of homes we want our children to be anchored in and that we ourselves want to return to each evening and put to bed each night.

So, what do you adjust to make life ‘work’ around your place? What do you give up or change to find a fit with your crew? What have you let go of or stretched until its felt worn out?

On Pulling Weeds

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July is here. This is the month when I was planning to be fully immersed in the smell of new baby and bliss out nursing and snuggling and counting teeny toes. Instead, I drove my kids up to the cemetary on the hill to see where their baby sister is buried. 

We walk slow, across sweet pavers laid in a line by some kind soul.  The stones guide through the graves of young children. Reading the names and dates makes my stomach churn. Three months…three years… all these markers tell a story. Some of these stories I know, I remember. Others go back and back before my time or my family’s time in this town. Mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters hearts are wrapped up in this earth. My eight year old begins to read the names, one by one. I feel like I could be sick, but I somehow manage a smile for my other babes, new to this place. I want them to be comfortable here. The walk leads us to a small flowerbead. It is pure grace. It was purchased as a gift to families, to hold small children who never took their first breath. 

I can’t walk there without wondering who possessed the thoughtfulness to create this space. It seems inspired to know that mamas holding tight to hope and promise and affection so hard inside their swollen bellies would need a place to grieve when inside of a day their babies are gone from them.

Who tilled this earth and laid the stones here? Did they know it would bring healing like this when they wiped away sweat as they labored? When dirt rubbed into calluses and worked its way deep under fingernails? I hope they know. I hope they know this ground is sacred.

I found myself starring, taking in the feeling of the place. Watching my girls run a circle around the flowerbed, giggling, full of life. One can not help but observe the paradox. As my eyes wander I see it. Right by the purple flowers my baby girl is burried beneath is a giant weed. Tears flood over me, half unexpected, and I stomp over and just yank it…hard! I am practically shaking, as more weeds around the blooms crowd my sight and I start hacking. There is a lump in my throat and all I want is to punch and beat something silly.

My fingers are muddy, I’m just tearing now, faster… I am almost manic and the ruddy roots don’t stand a chance. I’m not afraid to bleed from the prickles and pokes, I just want them gone. I want there to be one less killer of life in this place, one less piece of ugly that takes the sunshine away from the vulnerable. Protecting these flowers, the sentrys of all these departed children, suddenly feels like the most important undertaking I could throw myself into. I want to just scream at the devil,

You will not choke out one more ounce of life today! Not while I am here! Do you hear me?!

The rest of the story today is at Mom Heart Online

The Legacy of Their Own True Selves

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After the final kisses, the final prayers…after the last story book is closed and toes are tucked tightly beneath quilts- I sip my tea. Every night I drink it in, leaning with one ear bent toward the hall- hoping tonight might be just the one where bed time goes off without resistance.  But the creak in the wood below my feet betrays one of my babes headed my direction. 

Up. Again. Deep Breath. 

Peeking from around the corner, almost whispering…"Mom? Will you pray for me again?” 

I can see the look in her eyes, the questioning behind the pools of brown sugar staring through me. She’s aching…wondering if my answer will be an embrace or if I’ll send her back to bed in frustration.

Right there- those eyes- they startle me. I am earnestly shaken by my own eagerness to send her on her way- to speed through the sacred and deny the giving of a blessing.

I’m stung by the memory of being a wide eyed child, still awake, longing for assurance, to be held and wanted. My mind wanders further…How many times have I longed for the goodness of God himself, for all the gifts the Scriptures tell us he longs to give his children and how many times have I wondered, as my sweet girl is now, if I’d interrupted him by taking too many trips down the hall after lights out to be worthy of favor? Too many.

And yet, God gives so freely. So generously. He waits for me to want him and delights in my coming. 

I’m guilty of forgetting this. I have lived too many moments acting like I am still something old and not my own true self. The real me is redeemed and reconciled and made new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 2:17 

And this is what I want to give, this is what I want to leave to my sweet, wide eyed girl, what I want to leave to all my children: Something new: the announcement and reminder of their own true selves. 

The real me lives out of a place where I know I am familyThe real me knows that I am a beloved daughter, a child of God he loves to lavishly care for.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs with Christ.” -Romans 8 :18-17a

And right there in my hallway, walking my girl back to her bed, I can see clearly that the love I freely give, right this minute, the blessing I bestow on my child, the delight I take in holding her hand pours into who she knows she is: Beloved Daughter.  My love for her is what God is using right now to reveal His love for her, to display his glory to her young heart, to generously meet her needs and comfort her soul. And the sheer pleasure I show in being  with her pales in comparison to the delight over her that comes from God alone. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3: 17

My sweet child- right in my arms, gently asking for a blessing…what an honor to be the one to bear it unto her. I cup her chin and kiss her head and we bow and I can feel her small body relax. Restful assurance of being loved fills her soul,  deep breaths overtake her, and she falls asleep.

Finding Light {At Mom Heart}

Finding Light {At Mom Heart}

Sometimes when I am on my best behavior,  I can make a game out of the tasks that come with the  keeping of a home. Other times (which I think are more often) I remind myself of that awful nurse in The Velveteen Rabbit. You know, the one  who had no love or understanding of the soul and beauty of the nursery? The one who never understood  the real magic that lay behind The Skin Horse, the beloved Rabbit or even the mechanical toys. I always looked on her with such pity as a child. Did she even know she had been this close to something so wonderful and so rare and that she had missed it? How dreary to be that type of grown-up.

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Wide Open

Wide Open

“There had been a time when the world was full of blank spaces, and in which a man of imagination might be able to give free scope to his fancy. But…these spaces were rapidly being filled up; and the question was where the writer was to turn.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Writing Grief Part III- An Education

I read about miscarriage at home and felt prepared. I highly recommend reading this linked resource to anyone facing similar circumstances. It was invaluable to us. I also found an article about how to support someone experiencing miscarriage and emailed it to my mom and my husband. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to have anyone ask me how I was doing. Answering ususally led to a breakdown of tears. So, having something already written to pass along was all I could do. I also was so encompassed with grief that I did not know what kinds of questions to ask. 

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Writing Grief Part II- Discovering a True Christmas

Writing Grief Part II- Discovering a True Christmas

It seems strange to celebrate and be feasting at a time when our hearts are naturally full of sadness and loss. But we are remembering the beauty of Christmas in this. Our lives are messy. They are complicated. They are broken. And the beauty of this season of Advent, of waiting and preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus, is that he does indeed come! He cuts right through the hurting of our hearts, the darkness of our communities, the bleakness of our sin and he is Emmanuel; God with us.

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Writing Grief

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Our first blurry shot of our little Peanut November 2011

This new year, I had planned to tell you I was pregnant with our fifth child. I was waiting, for the first time ever, to share the news only after I was out of my first trimester. I was waiting because even though we want to welcome as many sweet babes as the Lord gives us into our family, I was scared and in shock,  processing about what life would look like having five children in the city (read: freaking out about how crazy it was all going to get!). I needed a sense of quiet to bond and attach and begin to ready myself for this new little person.

The journey to welcome this child was a deep one inside my heart. I think in a way my fears about logistics and stares and the “can I really do it all with five?”  kind of questions that came allowed me to embrace this baby with added sweetness. Because, to be honest, it wasn’t natural for me. It was something I fought for, intentioned in my life. Welcoming this sweet one was, in many ways, a battle wrought in my heart to trust God fully, to receive the gift of a life and to choose joy.

And it changed me. I experienced such peace and expectant longing for this sweet baby. I started having dreams of holding a newborn close on my chest. I began shopping for the latest technology in cloth diapers…

But, today I am not writing to tell you that I am pregnant. I am writing to tell you of our loss, at 15 weeks , of this sweet child. I really don’t want to be writing this here. Some days, I don’t want to engage or write at all. I would rather go on not talking and going slow; staying home and relying on the comfort of my family and a few good friends for times when the tears flow. But, writers…we annoy even ourselves with the compulsion to tell a story.

And, I think this is a story that needs to be told. Because of the mamas I have met in the last few weeks that have honored me with their own stories, with their own wounds, some never feeling they could say out loud that they grieve still… I know I can not be silent. 

So for the next few days, I’m sharing the story of my miscarriage here. Boldly, earnestly, and above all with hope. Hope that those of you who need more space to reflect and grieve might carve it into your regular life somehow, that those who want to love alongside a hurting mother will be further equipped, and that in sharing my story, it will prompt you to share your own. My greatest hope is that as we trust one another with our words that we will love and listen well and bring honor to the memory of our little ones.

I would love for you to join me.

Writing Grief Part 2- Discovering a True Christmas

Writing Grief Part 3- An Education