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.

 

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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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May 10 2016

This Quiet Moment

I recline here, with my six month old miracle balanced on my lap, leaning into my breast. His rosy cheeks and sparkly eyes put butterflies in my stomach. Wearing nothing but a brown cloth diaper and an amber necklace, there he is, my precious little cherub. I stare at the dimpled elbows and soft skin he presses up against me. I hear crickets and the sound of a spring breeze fading into background noise as his lips and tongue make tiny noises of contentment and joy.

This.
This is bliss.

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A quiet moment in the midst of a loud and busy life.

Laundry, dishes, meal planning, specific educating of ever expanding minds & quickly forming worldviews… these things melt to the periphery as I embrace the quiet delight of pudgy baby hands and full-throttle snuggling.

I was made for this.
To embrace this.
To enjoy this.
This.

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May 03 2016

Photography Challenge, Week 18

Published by under Photography

Week 18: Artistic, Texture

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Apr 27 2016

Photography Challenge, Weeks 13-17

Published by under Photography

Life has been a bit crazy. And while I have been using both my Nikon and my iPhone a good bit recently, I have not been able to take the time to sit down, upload photos, and share anything with y’all. Until now. So, here you go! I will cram a few weeks of experiments into one little post, and hope it at least makes you smile. It will also serve as a reminder to myself not to let so many weeks get away from me when it comes to looking & experimenting through my lens…

Week 13: Portrait, High Key

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Week 14: Zoomed In Landscape

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Week 15: Artistic, Metal

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Week 16: Portrait, Movement

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Week 17: Urbanscape/Cityscape

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Apr 25 2016

Simeon James had a Half Birthday!

Halfway to that first birthday milestone… how can it be?!

I’m head over heels in love with this delicious little bundle.

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Apr 01 2016

Long-distance and Long-time

Five years ago right now, I found out I was pregnant with my ninth baby, who came on the heels of six consecutive miscarriages.
Five years ago right now, we began the process of building a home out in the country.
Five years ago right now, a friend of mine emailed me a crazy idea.

Boy. That was a busy year.

I now have a four year old Asher to show for that year.
I now have lived in this home, which we had built out in the country, for four years.
I now have participated in sharing a Pregnancy After Loss devotional, our free ebook download, for four years.

So many big things were obviously going on back then, and honestly, they continue to. Sometimes it is hard to see the growth of such blessings. It felt like so much big stuff back then, but when looking through the proper lenses, I can see that God is continuing to do great big things with those very seeds from five years ago. My friend Kristi reminded me this week that it was four years ago that R&R went live. What an exciting day that was for us! And today, she shares a little here about the growing process of our Rainbows & Redemption devotional to give a little special insight to the planting, blooming, and pruning progression.

Later this month, I will get to see Kristi in person for the second time ~ the first time was three years ago. I’ve known her long-distance for 5 1/2 years, as God has taken each of us on similar yet different journeys. We met online when we were both pregnant-after-loss, once: she was pregnant with her little Kyria, I was pregnant with my Peace. Neither of us were having a good time of it at all. We ended up delivering our precious little first trimester babies, three thousand miles apart, that November, in 2009. We have both had more pregnancies since then ~ my Asher and her Caleb were in our bellies while we wrote and edited R&R, so we shared wild roller coasters for months at a time. We have each called one another in moments of panic, straight from our own home bathrooms… because we were either starting to miscarry or had gotten less-than-encouraging blood test results or were worrying our brains to a fritz psycho-analyzing every little twinge and symptom and dream while PAL.

How good it continues to be to know that I am not alone.

We may be separated by basically the entire United States (she is at the SE corner while I am in the NW corner), but we are still there for one another, especially when it comes to specific niche topics. Things like miscarriage and related babyloss topics. Writing, specifically when it comes to words of encouragement. Homeschooling. Rainbow babies.

I hope to continue sharing life, prayers, and writing with Kristi as time goes on ~ my long-distance and long-time friend.  God grows beautiful things from little seeds. Like babies. And friendships. And books. Blessings.

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