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.

 

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.

A Little Bit Broken

A little bit broken.
That’s how I feel on my best of days.

Rough around the edges. Stained on the inside—and sometimes on the outside. Cracked here and there, a chip or two gone missing. Things leak out, sometimes because I spill them and sometimes because I am incapable of holding them in.

A chipped teacup with some leftover flecks of dried out tea leaves nestled in the mar—parts of my story that rest mostly in these shadowy cracks. Add some water, swirl me around, and you will see my beauty mixed with my pain. Which parts are the most lovely is difficult at times to ascertain. The dark bits swirl around, and eventually settle on the bottom. Take a sip, drink the water—it is flavored by what came out of the chips & cracks that had been hiding, but it is the water that carries it to your tongue and that flows into you and satisfies the parts of you that were longing to be quenched.

I am useful despite my imperfections. Perhaps all the more because of them.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

 

The Lord meets me in my brokenness and comforts me. And then He gives me the ability—the empathy—to reach out from my own chippy cracks to meet others in this same place and comfort them. He gives Himself to me in a measure that is truly immeasurable, and then He makes my cup overflow so that I can give a measure to someone else. We pour into one another, often from the lip and more often from the cracks.

Sometimes I wish I were a perfectly kept, shiny, whole teacup without stains and chips, no hidden leftover tea leaves and no cracks threatening to leak little drips or big splashes. It gets messy—I like tidy. But I trust in the Lord my God, who created me to be His vessel, and He holds my broken self in His loving hands even now. (Psalm 31:14, 12, 15) Who is it that made me? Who cares for me? Who numbers my days and has already prepared the good works that I shall do? God my King, the Potter who forms us in His clay—who creates us, molds us, changes us, uses us, and even chips us—as it seems good to Him. (Jeremiah 18:3-4)

When I remember these things, I am reminded and comforted—all over again—that sometimes it is the chips and the stains that bring Him the most glory, that do the most to reach His people, that give me opportunities for greater good for the Kingdom, that make me useful and beautiful at the same time.

I am not meant to be left on a shelf. Beauty does not mean untouched, unchipped, unstained, unused. I am meant to be used for His glory, poured out for God’s people—after all, I am made in Their image, I came from clay, but I am a reflection of Him who poured out all of Himself for His people (Isaiah 53:12), and in the little ways He has prepared for me, I imperfectly image that pouring, that dying, that bleeding & brokenness. And that imaging and imitating is perhaps the most beautiful of all fragile things.

 

Brokenness doesn’t automatically bring us to the thin place,
the sacred place where God’s breath and touch are closer than our own skin.
Heartbreak brings us lots of places—
to despair, to bitterness, to emptiness, to numbness, to isolation.
But because God is just that good,
if we allow the people who love us to walk with us
right through the brokenness,
it can also lead to a deep sense of God’s presence.
When things fall apart,
the broken places allow all sorts of things to enter,
and one of them is the presence of God.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p94~

It Gladdens our Hearts

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Wine is simply water
that has matured according to nature’s will…
God gave us wine to make us gracious and keep us sane.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p93~

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With wine at hand, the good man concerns himself,
not with getting drunk,
but with drinking in all the natural delectabilities of wine:
taste, color bouquet;
its manifold graces;
the way it complements food and enhances conversation;
and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions,
to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality,
and to bring the race, for a few hours at least,
to that happy state where men are wise and women beautiful,
and even one’s children begin to look promising.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p91~

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When you eat, I want you to think of God,
of the holiness of hands that feed us,
of the provision we are given every time we eat.
When you eat bread and you drink wine,
I want you to think about the body and the blood every time,
not just when the bread and wine show up in church,
but when they show up anywhere—
on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p17

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Psalm 104:15
…wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Morning {Motherhood} Glory

 

The glory of motherhood comes camouflaged in so much chaos.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p198~

 

This morning, after waking my soul by praying in the dark under the warmth of a duvet, I managed to pull myself out of bed before the kids were even stirring. Kissing my husband goodbye is always bittersweet—sending him off to tame his portion of the wild, to tend the domain put into his hands—getting kisses for the kids, and extra for myself to carry me through until our lips meet again. A new day, new mercies. Even old things feel new sometimes, like these soft morning kisses that spark my soul.

I shuffle out of the bedroom, turn on music and set lavender candles ablaze in the hushed morning. Sunshine not yet streaming over the foggy hills in the east, I start the fire, put away dishes, put in a load of laundry, proof yeast & set the mixer kneading, make a dark cup of coffee. I set out little bowls of raisins & Cheerios, with cups of milk alongside, and vitamins resting in the spoons. Chairs lined up on one side of our table—one, two, three. I pause for a moment over the mercy that that number is. Three.

I dress in my workout clothes and put a heating pad on my back, then sit at my desk with coffee and books and blogs and Scriptures. I empty myself in spirit and ask the Lord to fill me up with Himself. I find Him in friends and pastors and authors. I find Him in a couple short email conversations.

Then I find Him in one of my favorite places, wrapped in the softest skin, whispers and muted footsteps coming down the stairs. The gate at the bottom of the steps creaks. I see two little red heads and four bright blue eyes peering secretly around the corner at me. They begin to sneak on tiptoes around the kitchen island, coming up behind me to surprise their mommy. I pretend not to know, to play their game, to give them joy—which then gives me joy right back. Boo!

Giggles ensue. With many kisses, a dozen tight hugs.

They run to their little sister’s room, eager to have her join their antics. They know we are incomplete without her. Soon a little caramel topped girl, dolls tucked under each arm, joins the tiptoeing, the giggling. I can no longer hear my own thoughts, the psalms that are playing on the stereo are drowned out, the beeping washing machine and oven timer might be going off but I wouldn’t know it.

Eventually, three sets of tummies begin to growl, I put my books back in a stack in the far corner of my desk, then help three little bums to their chairs. Three sets of hands fold, three copper topped heads bow.

It’s quiet, I hear lungs breathing and noses sniffling. I hear the fire crackle, outside raindrops, the spin cycle on the washing machine. Three little miracles, quiet here knowing they are about to give thanks to their Creator, preaching to one another their faith even as it comes out their folded fingertips in routines. This is a holy moment, holy ground, even with mundane Cheerios before us and an empty coffee cup in my hand—because we are quiet in the presence of God, Who is always with us, and this is one of those moments where my children talk with Him together, and where we praise Him for His provision of both big & little things. In one breath, with the pandemonium suddenly subdued, this moment and this place feel purely consecrated.

Who wants to pray? I whisper, almost afraid to ruin the sacred moment.

I do it, the littlest one whispers right back. And she does—in a hushed tone, with entwined fingers and bowed head, and eyes rapidly blinking because she doesn’t yet know how to keep them closed tight. Unprompted, she prays: God. Thank You. Food. Milk. Vitamins. Daddy. Mommy. Gabriel. Asher. God. Thank You. Food. Bless us. God. Thank You. JesusnameAMEN.

Hands unfold to grab for spoons, heads start to bob with chatter and laughter. Chaos returns with giggles and spilled milk and Cheerios on the floor and asking for orange juice and shouting when someone notices it’s raining or there is a robin on the fence or half a dozen deer right outside the window.

I stand back and revel in the noise, trying to hear my own thoughts. The way these things are so simple and so profound at the same moment. I lay out schoolbooks and coloring books, wonder if I will find time to exercise, put the cereal bowls in the dishwasher, stop a squabble, add another log to the fire, let the dog out, help the children exchange cozy jammies for clean clothes. Coffee is gone and breakfast eaten, the music plays on, the fire roars, the candles flicker. Deep breaths: the day has begun.

This is a good life. The repetition, the routine, the mundane, the small, the quiet, the noise. They are big to me—huge, in fact. And they are beautiful—glorious.

The Lord is here, present, with us—Immanuel. In the quiet moments and in the loud chaotic ones. I expect today, like every day, will hold many of both.

 

Only miracle is plain; it is the ordinary that groans with the unutterable weight of glory.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p99~

faithful body image

What does the world mean when they speak of having good body image?
The test is simply whether you can look in the mirror and love yourself.
Can you see your body and love it?

But for a Christian woman this question should be completely different.
Good body image for a Christian woman means being able to look in the mirror and love God.
If you can look in the mirror and thank God for the body that He gave you –
that He spoke from nothing when He called you to life –
when He made your heart beat in a secret place,
when out of nothing He crafted you and gave you life.

When you can thank Him for all the challenges that come with this body of yours
because they come from His hand –
this is a far deeper joy than loving yourself.

This is not the shallow joy of having good body image,
but the deep security of having faithful body image.

Pursue that – because it is pursuing your Creator.
Thank Him – for His gifts to us are overwhelming.
Image Him, even as we see ourselves.
~Rachel Jankovic~

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Eight years ago, he asked ~ eight years ago, I said yes.

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This ring brings me so much joy every day, reminding me of the bigger joy it represents.
Wow.

Song of Solomon 2:10-14

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

This is where I live

I feel like this picture captures so much of my life at the moment.
Of course this is actually my yard/view so this is truly where I spend my life.
And much of it is spent in my husband’s arms.
Some of it is spent smiling, some of it is spent trying to smile.
And while so much of it is spent in the storms right now, there are rainbows, and I seek to bask in that reflected glory.

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