Jun 27 2016

Time’s Passage

Nine Years

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Eight Years

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Eight Months

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Jun 27 2016

Photography Challenge, Weeks 21-24

Published by under Photography

Week 21: Artistic, Fantasy

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Week 22: Portrait, Focus on Hands

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Week 23: Landscape, Weather

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Week 24: Artistic, Sparkle

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Since I am so behind on these, I am giving you two peeks
for each week’s inspiration.
I can’t say I really felt like I hit any of them
nail-on-the-head…
But I had fun trying different things,
so it’s fun to share them anyway. :)

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Jun 22 2016

There are Days…

There are days when I am THAT mom.

When I bring my daughter to storytime at the library even though she is coughing with a bark like a seal. When she sits in the front row, squished between total stranger toddlers, and proceeds to loudly make friends between conversations, giggles, coughs, and interacting with the storytime leader. Not a wall-flower, this one. She made her presence known. Hand on hip. Ponytail flip. Giggle, cough, hack-up-a-lung.
Not only that, though: it’s also a day when I have baby poop on my fingers because I was dumb enough to see if the baby had filled his diaper, checking by feel rather than by sight or smell.

This was one of those days where I kind of felt like half the people, everywhere I went, must have been staring at me with wide eyes, wild cynicism brewing in their heads, stifled giggles behind their hands.

But instead of getting frustrated and focusing on what could be seen as mistakes, oversights, or faux paux… I just embraced it and smiled at myself. I giggled inwardly at my half-baked, tired little crew. Sick and poopy, to boot.

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I’m happy.
I’m blessed.
I have way more goodness and God’s grace in my life than I can describe or deserve. (which is why it is called GRACE, after all)
Nobody fell into a gorilla cage.
Nobody was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator.
I didn’t forget a child, strapped in a hot car while I went shopping.
There was no pickpocket, carjacker, or insane gunman on the scene.

It has been “one of those days.”
Where things are imperfect. And everybody seems to need a nap & an attitude adjustment.
But there are days, like today, where the imperfections just add to my joy and up my daily giggle quota.

There are days where I’m THAT mom.
And I couldn’t be more thankful that God has given me a girl (even when she’s sick), a baby (even when his poop gets all over me), a car to drive us around, provision to fill up the grocery cart again today (even though I already did it yesterday too), two big boys who are exhausted & sun-crisped from soccer camp, and a messy home (laundry room has a mountain in it, and please don’t check the kitchen sink out today)…

There are days where it’s just THAT good.
And I love it when I have the eyes to see it.

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Jun 21 2016

Be Encouraged, Mamas!

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I recorded a little voice memo for myself not long after my husband bought me an iPhone.
“Be encouraged. The work you are doing may be hard, and you’re in the thick of it.
But you are doing GOOD WORK.”

I often think about the good works God planned long ago for me to walk in.
Ephesians 2:10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Good work of doling out cough medicine when little chests are croupy.
Good work of a shopping trip through the grocery store with four little ones in tow right at naptime.
Good work of getting everyone up, dressed, fed, pottied, and out the door by 8am for sports camp or VBS.
Good work of saying yes to park playdates with Auntie & cousins.
Good work of saying no to too many other playdates or too much martial arts practice.
Good work of washing diapers, wiping bums, changing sheets, washing towels, serving Goldfish & blueberries for afternoon snack.
Good work of disciplining little wayward hearts.
Good work of practicing self-denial and self-control on my own part.
Good work of admitting faults and asking forgiveness when I too give in to my own wayward heart.
Good work of planning dinner for tonight, even if fruit salad and tortellini is as far as I’ve gotten so far.
Good work of kissing booboos and covering owies with bandaids.
Good work of providing reading material, piano books, math facts worksheets, and audio books.
Good work of praying with my children, even if I feel like it is a wrestling match just to quiet them for giving thanks.
Good work of running errands, driving kids to events, fellowshipping with others, washing dishes, unloading groceries, and having an afternoon cup of coffee to ensure I make it through playtime, dinnertime, and bedtime with open eyelids.

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I may not be on a short term mission trip in Africa, evangelizing people who have never met King Jesus.
But I am on a long term evangelical mission right here in my own home, discipling little people who do know King Jesus and who desperately want to serve & love Him better.
I am in the business of Good News sharing, Gospel living, Kingdom expanding work.

I am in this for the long haul.
I’m doing my best.
My little disciples spend some days as faltering as Peter
and other days as unassuming as James.
I try not to spend too many days as doubtful as Thomas.

This is the work God has given me to do.
Right now.
Right here.
For this is the time and the season for it.

Oh! It is hard work. But it is GOOD.
And sometimes, I just have to remind myself of that.
God Himself prepared these works for me to walk in.

I spend a lot of time and energy and heart being an encourager.
I write notes of encouragement all the time.
It’s something I am known for, and it’s just because of Jesus’ grace.
Being an encourager-of-others is a good work God has called me to.
Of course my children are one of the main groups where I pour myself out in encouragement.
My husband also needs my encouragement, and I seek to find the ways that best encourage him.
I am continuing to grow in this skill.
I want to hone this good work to which God has called me!

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But I admit that there are too-often times where I feel a lack of encouragement myself.
Where is my report card?
Where is my annual review?
Where is my own to-do list all neatly checked off & squared away?

There are days when nothing is as sweet as a kind word of encouragement while maneuvering a large unwieldy grocery cart…
You know the moment…
The moment when I think the cart is so top-heavy and overloaded that it might topple over at the next aisle corner…
The moment with one on my back, one in the cart seat, and one on either side of me (“at their station” ~ which phrase may only make sense to those other young mamas who have read much Rachel Jankovic!), but all four making conversation with me in a simultaneous cacophony…
The moment where I’m so hungry I might pass out, the baby smells strongly of spit-up, the big kids ask if they can break into the container of blueberries, and suddenly the three year old declares they are in imminent need of a potty break.

That is the moment when, recently in my experience, an older woman with grace and joy and kindness (and smile lines!) simply said to me, “you’re doing a good job, mama.” I thought I heard the angels singing.
She smiled, I said thank you, my kids smiled at her and tried quickly introducing themselves all in the same breath, and we continued on.
Not four aisles over, an older gentleman with life-worn hands and the passage of time spilling from his eyes touched my arm gently with his hand, saying, “you’ve got good kids. They must be loved very much.”
I responded, “oh yes I do and yes they are! I can not even tell you.”

Like a cup of cool water.
The reminder from been-there-done-that perspective of older, wiser folks.
The encouragement that this is good stuff.
It may be hard, it may be heavy, and there may be moments where I wonder if it’s all truly going well.

Weeks later, I am still lifted up and encouraged by the words of those two people that day.
In the interim, I have been able to dip my own ladle in and share some of that cool water with others.
A cranky looking pregnant girl who had that familiar look of large discomfort – I simply told her she was beautiful.
A mom with little children acting like monkeys, who looked like she was about to totally lose her cool – I smiled at her understandingly and said, “I get it. I would offer you some chocolate, but I don’t have any! I’ve got gum!” She didn’t want the gum, but she appreciated the laugh and the moment to catch her breath.

Be encouraged, mamas.
Encourage one another, too.
Walk in the good works God prepared for you.
And when you can’t see the goodness, just believe it.
It takes faith.
But that’s encouraging too.

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Jun 02 2016

A Child’s World

I set my children up with some map puzzles this morning.
The eight year old with one of the world…
The four year old with one of the United States…

But apparently it has been a little while since we’ve done geography on this level,
because the younger one suddenly bursts out,
“Mommy!! Mommy!! Neverland!! I found Neverland!! I found it!!”
and then the older one gets a puzzled look on his face and responds,
“But I thought I had it…”

What puzzle pieces are they holding?
Gabriel is holding the Netherlands
while Asher holds Nevada

Yep. I live in a child’s world.
Where reality and imagination mingle and blend.
Where the idea of Neverland being found on a real map
is as reasonable as a stop in America or Europe.

It is full of wonder and beauty.
As it should be.
Because, after all, our world was made with simple words.
Magic.
God’s best magic.
“Let there be….”

We do live in a magical world,
made by our Father’s spoken command.
If we have the eyes to see it,
we can embrace the fact that fiction is simply a reflection of nonfiction,
imaginary lands a reflection of the magical world in which we actually dwell.

May we have the eyes to see the glory of the world we live in,
a world created by a loving Father for His children to cultivate.

2 responses so far

May 25 2016

Seven Months, Speechless

My sweet Simeon,
seven months old,
with his mommy
who is still speechless
that God gave me this boy

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May 24 2016

Photography Challenge, Weeks 19 & 20

Published by under Photography

Week 19: Portrait, Messy

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Week 20: Landscape, Nightowl

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May 17 2016

Real Beauty

As women, we ache to believe that
real beauty can be found in the midst of imperfection.
We are crying out for permission to lower our standards.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p47~

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I see beauty all around me.
I see imperfection all around me.

I am looking to my Lord to help me see
not only imperfection in myself,
but beauty in that imperfection.

I am seeking to find joy not only in the work God has given me
but joy in the body He has given me to use for that work.

I am seeking to glorify Him through the imperfections,
rather than to negatively focus on them.

Lord, I believe.
Help Thou my unbelief.

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May 14 2016

Feeling At Home

It seems to me that women typically experience shame about two things~
their bodies and their homes.

… What people are craving isn’t perfection.
People aren’t longing to be impressed;
they’re longing to feel like they’re home.

If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul,
they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest,
no matter how small,
no matter how undone,
no matter how odd.

…it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance.
You’ll miss the richest moments in life—
the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence
through the actual faces and hands of the people we love—
if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door.

~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p109~

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Home and body. Yes. These are definitely the two places where I feel most tempted to adhere to unrealistic standards. Where I grasp for perfection. Where I give in too easily to fears. Where I do not hold open hands. Where I look and focus. Where my eyes and heart are distracted.

I don’t want to miss the sacred moments because I am navel-gazing.
I don’t want to miss out on how much my children love to snuggle me because I’m soft instead of flat.
I don’t want to miss out on how much joy a messy, lived-in home brings my family & friends because I worry it won’t look well-cared-for enough.
I don’t want to miss out on sharing my home.
I don’t want to miss out on sharing my body.

I want to open my home with wild abandon at a moment’s notice and not worry about what others think of me because of what my home does or doesn’t look like.

I want to relinquish my fears, giving my body with joyful recklessness to my husband without worrying that he will be bothered by the increase of grey hairs, wrinkles, spider veins, or softly thickening rolls.

I want to use my home and my body in ways that please God and glorify Him, rather than worry about whether we look like the moms and homes in ads or magazines.

My home is an extension of my body.
My body is another type of home.

They are very connected.

Not only was my body the first home of thirteen children,
I want my body to still feel like home to my family.
I want my embrace to feel like home to my children and my husband.

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Sometimes I just have to admit to my husband, I don’t feel at home in my own skin.
But the thing is, it is more important that my body feels like home to my family than that I feel at home in it.

You know that feeling of rest, of haven, of comfort ~ that feeling you get when you are home?
That may be in the home of your parents, your childhood home, perhaps even a grandparent’s home.
That may be your current home, the home of your newlywed season, the home of your childbearing years.
I have the feeling we will feel that feeling in different places. Maybe in multiple places.

But I think I really feel most at home in the embrace of people I love.
When my mama lets me rest my head on her shoulder. She feels like home to me.
When my husband intertwines limbs with me and lets me rest my head on his chest. He feels like home to me.
When my children press their little bodies up against mine and snuggle into every nook and cranny and curve. They feel like home to me.

It isn’t about outward appearances.
It isn’t about perfection.
It isn’t about what the world thinks.

It is about feeling at home. It’s about others, not myself.
It’s about comfort and grace and being used up for the sake of life & joy.

I want to feel at home. In my house and in my own skin.
But more than that, I want others to feel at home. In my house and in my embrace.
I want to create a physical home that is a haven.
I want to use up my physical self for life and joy.

Ultimately, I wasn’t made for this world anyway.
My real home is heaven.
And I have generations on either side of me already there.
I can’t wait to be at home with them.

 

3 responses so far

May 10 2016

Enjoy It

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What is one of the first, last, and most common things that an older & wiser woman tells a young mama? Enjoy itEnjoy these days, because they go by all too quickly.

Oh! Don’t we know it!

I do not begrudge the sentiment by a long shot, nor do I hold it against the throngs who have thus sought to encourage me. (And, yes, I too have said it to others!)
But what I would really love to know is HOW ~ how do I enjoy it? What are the secrets to embracing the chaos with joy? Where do I uncover secrets for how to capture the beauty in the mess? When will someone explain to me exactly how to soak up life in its moments rather than being pummeled by its speed?

I know that I should enjoy this.
And in all honesty, there is nothing I enjoy more than motherhood.
Nothing!

But there is also nothing harder.
Nothing challenges me to the extent that motherhood does.
Nothing else pushes me to these limits.
Nothing makes me long for quiet moments lying between cool cotton sheets like the chaos of four children, homeschooled by little old me, in a big house in the country.

I enjoy cooking. And baking (yeah, especially baking).
I enjoy a tidy, ordered home.
I enjoy washing dishes and putting away the laundry.
I enjoy dressing my children.
I enjoy undressing them and bathing them and watching them splash in bubble baths.
I enjoy reading books together and having educational aha moments.
I enjoy being the one my husband comes home to.
I enjoy being the woman who makes his lunches, irons his shirts, listens to his thoughts, and entwines my legs with his at night.
I enjoy waking up to the sound of “moooooooommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!” through the monitor.
I enjoy answering questions, especially when I know the answer.
I enjoy planning outings and projects and schedules and parties.
I enjoy homemaking.
I enjoy turning chaos into order, mess into beauty, strife into peace.

But in recent weeks, I have wondered: “Do I enjoy MY LIFE?”

What a strange thing. Individually, I can not say that there is honestly any single aspect of my life which I do not enjoy.
I count myself among the blessed few in God’s wide creation that truly enjoy each thing He has called me to do.
But collectively, when it is all shoved together into the short 24-hour windows that He has allotted for me, I find it very hard to enjoy life.

I struggle with feeling like I deserve to enjoy my life.
I feel guilty if I find myself enjoying it fully.
I’m always thinking of twenty other things I should be doing rather than sitting still and enjoying a moment.

(Tell me I’m not alone.)

When I am on my deathbed, if I am coherent at the time, would I say to anyone, “I wish I had vacuumed more regularly? I wish I had cleaned my home on a schedule? I wish I had stuck to a meal plan? I wish I had sent my children away from me each day to be taught by someone else? I wish I had spent more time on the computer?”
I sincerely, highly and deeply, doubt it.

I will, God willing, look around at my descendants and those who I love most, and say, “My only regret is that I did not put aside futile things more to enjoy each human soul God put beside me each day.”

Thirty-two years already into this life, and no clue how many years yet the Lord has written into my story on earth.
But I am trying to get a handle on this thing called life.
Learning how to walk and drink ~ the basics, really.

Does it matter how many dust bunnies are found beneath my couch?
Does it matter what size my jeans are?
When I am older and grayer, will I look back in my memory banks or gaze through photo albums and simply critique the flabby abs of my thirties or the dog hair & country dust on my wood floors?

I should hope not!

These flabby abs were hard to fight for.
Damnit if I allow myself to succumb to peer pressures which make me think I’m less-than because I am no longer a size two.
This body brought thirteen more eternal souls into God’s Kingdom.
I spent nine years giving my body to the work of fattening heaven and earth with children ~ I will not give up my remaining years to agonizing over the evidence they left behind.

These wood floors in my country home are a tool for our life, not the point of our existence.
Phooey on me if I give in to the false assumption that cleanliness is next to godliness because my home doesn’t always sparkle and smell of white vinegar & lemon verbena.
This home is to be used for a blessing, a haven, for those who live here and those who visit here.
Rather than wasting my days scrubbing this place for the sake of appearance, I need to drive Matchbox cars on these floors, crawl alongside my baby through the dust bunnies, and have tea parties on the rugs. Rugs which, by the way, have a clever skill of hiding immeasurable imperfections.

I will enjoy this life.
I will enjoy these children.
Not only the individual events but the collective gathering of people and tasks and weeks.

My personal weakness is to find fault and focus there. To feel guilt over embracing blessings.
But what has God called me to do? To be faithful. To enjoy Him.
May He grant me the daily and hourly strength to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.
May the God of heaven and earth reach through my weak flesh and grab hold on my faltering heart, causing me to fully enjoy what He has given me to do in this life He has called me to live.

Amen.

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