Cranberries

I don’t know why, but I love the Cranberry books. Cranberry Christmas, Cranberry Thanksgiving, Cranberry Easter, we even have a Cranberry Halloween book while my family doesn’t really even “do” anything for Halloween. I just love the stories, the characters, the artwork.

But I also really love cranberries: they are just a delicious, pretty, little tangy fruit. Ha! I remember loving a particular cereal when I was a kid that had cranberries and walnuts in it. It felt like a very grownup thing to enjoy, and I thought it was super special when my mom would let me put a box in the cart when wandering the grocery aisles with her. (Have I mentioned that I am a second generation homeschooler? I did ALL the errands by my mom’s side, and sometimes we were even bold enough to run errands before 2pm… that was our kind of brazen rebellion back in the eighties and early nineties of California living.) My mom was big into country style shabby chic arts & crafts… and for a handful of years she partnered with a friend to do a Christmas market they called Cranberry Corner. I’m not sure I have ever asked her exactly why she chose that name. But I still remember it! And I remember the ambiance of that annual event, the pungent smell of cinnamon & a tart sweetness. Perhaps it was a cinnamon-cranberry candle burning in the back! My mom was also keenly into potpourri at the time. It was the nineties, after all.

I also have always loved my mom’s homemade cranberry sauce. Nothing particularly unique about it: just fresh cranberries with sugar, water, and some kind of orange flavoring – usually zest. She also occasionally made cranberry muffins and put dried cranberries in our trail mix or granola. I was never a big fan of raisins, but I sure enjoyed their cousin, Craisins. Yummers.

So here I now find myself continuing to love cranberries. But my kids don’t have the same affinity for them. So I’m trying to find ways to incorporate some cranberries into my kids’ holiday traditions. This year, I made a cranberry-pecan coffee cake for Thanksgiving Day morning. It paired perfectly with a side of crispy bacon and a hot latte… well, the kids had milk, but the latte is my favorite. Anyway, that is definitely a recipe we would enjoy again. We have had homemade cranberry sauce twice so far this season (including once when I added a splash of frangelica liqueur, which was a lovely touch). But I still want to try something else.

I think I may need to whip up a batch of cranberry orange muffins to start our Saturday with some zip. And then to pair with a pork loin roast tomorrow evening for our second Advent dinner, I think a cranberry apple chutney might work really well. And if I have any cranberries left that make it without getting gooey in the fridge by next week, I would love to try a cranberry balsamic chicken with cranberry brie bites on the side and cranberry apple upside-down cake for dessert.

It’s time to plan and prepare some more meals. It is just more part of the joyfully domestic life as a full time keeper of home, with seven people living here full time. There are no fewer than twenty-one meals a week which need planned and prepared to some extent. Perhaps breakfasts are mostly haphazard scavenging by the children on most days, but I need to be sure we have muffins or eggs or cereal or oatmeal available. That in itself takes some level of planning on my part. Lunches are often quick things to cook or compile, often just the heating up of leftovers and adding a side of fresh fruit and a cup of milk. But dinners can honestly be the bane of my existence sometimes. I go through seasons of loving the dinnertime routine… but often it is a rotation of cookery that simply feels like work without the pleasure. I know my people need fed well, so I do my utmost to use healthy ingredients and prepare tasty meals. But it honestly CAN get to be a bit monotonous and predictable and uninspired. Sometimes I ask a friend for new ideas. Or I will even just call my sister-in-law and ask, “what’s for dinner?” A friend of mine had dedicated a category of food for each day of the week (Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday is chicken, Thursday is soup or salad depending on the season, Friday is pizza, Saturday is leftovers, Sunday is takeout, Monday is meatless…) just to have a starting point. When I was preparing for my fifth child’s arrival, before I even knew that bedrest was looming on the horizon, I compiled a list of our family favorite meals and posted it on the fridge. So if I ever felt too sick to come up with ideas based around food myself, I could just have a family member glance at the list for inspiration and we would move forward with it… sometimes with Mommy sucking on peppermints while trying not to smell anything meat-based or heated and seeking to avert my eyes from certain things because they would absolutely turn my tummy just on sight. (Honestly… blackberry jam and ground beef are pretty much ruined for me for life.)

But so much of holidays are based around foods. So how do we maintain beloved traditions while not letting the grow stagnant? How do we make holiday meals our own? How do we incorporate our children into the planning, the preparation, the cooking, the work AND the delight?

For my part, I take what I loved from my childhood and mix it with what my husband tells me he loved from his childhood. And we take a few things from each… then we try out different things on our kids like guinea pigs. I try to log what is delighted in while tossing aside what wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Sometimes you know it is an instant hit (like when Grandmama makes homemade donuts for everyone after cutting down Christmas trees on family property… and all ten grandkids devour them, declaring it to be a new annual must), while other times it takes a couple of tries to know that it has made the cut (like hosting weekly Advent meals… not because of any particular recipe, but because the energy of a mama wavers & wanes from time to time thanks to motherhood and hormones and any number of other things).

So I am learning. Growing. Trying. Often succeeding. And praising the Lord for the lot of it. He is good. I am only fourteen years into my own specific homemaking, but I helped my mother before that, so I might be a couple of decades into it. And honestly, sometimes He gives me something as simple as a cranberry to remind me that this is good. From stories to memories to recipes ~ these are the things of which memories, traditions, cultures are made.

Gather

I feel like I’ve never wanted a big old “gather” sign on my wall more than I do this year. It’s like our eyes are all opening to all kinds of things. Like covering coughs with elbows rather than hands- or washing your hands on the regular to remain sanitary- or that we actually do believe corporate weekly worship is important and needs to include singing. Other things I learned this year have included things like: my babies adore my parents, and ought not be kept from them- staying home for twelve weeks in a row can actually be an enormous gift- hugs & handshakes are not scary nor death-sentences- and welcoming people into our homes for various hospitality can not be taken for granted.

If you have ever had family drama surrounding holidays and extended relatives… that whole rubber band type stretch of how much you can fit in, or whose year it is (as though time spent with your family were a bargaining chip or hot commodity rather than an undeserved gift)… well, I’m pretty sure 2020 took the cake AND the icing on top.

So how about that “gather” sign, hmm?! I keep thinking I just need to rearrange some things on a wall or two… but then again, there are timeless options that I really want even more than that… because solagratia.co has this gorgeous option. Actually, let’s be real: they have LOTS of gorgeous options that would bless your home as well as mine. Consider that my unapologetic advertisement for a shop I love, as well as a resource I am saving pennies for myself!

All pithy pleasures aside, gathering for Thanksgiving this year was splendid. And because my family as well as my parents all have immunity to the bug that is trying to take over the world (tongue is in my cheek…), we felt zero guilt or shame in joining my brother’s family for the day. Honestly, we are basically just one big family anyway. They were in our pod from day one (literally! March 14!), and our kids are actually cousins but love each other (& treat each other) an awful lot like siblings. If there is a cousin-sibling hybrid out there, I guess that’s what these ten munchkins are.

I was happily assigned baked goods for the family feasting table. I made sourdough rolls plus six pies (pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate chess). A week later, we are finally licking clean the last of the pie plates. Of course we followed Thanksgiving up with two Advent meals for hospitality & celebration… so we have not been dieting our way through the pie plates.

But here is the real point of the celebrating, the abundance, the joy, the feasting, the hospitality, the pies that are decadent down to the last crumb: Christ has come to make us new, and He is coming again to finish the good work He began. He proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished”! And this is the best news for us as His people. Because it is finished, because He lived & died & resurrected & ascended, He will come again in glory! And from now until then we aren’t just waiting around for the good part of the story. We aren’t just wondering how to endure this life until we reach the life to come. No indeed, may it never be. This life in the meantime is a gift! It is our participation in the early/middle chapters of the story. It is our opportunity to imitate Him, to practice worship through work, to learn abundant grace by abundant giving, to learn immeasurable joy by immeasurable gratitude.

Gather. Feast. Sing. Show your gratitude through gifts like thanksgiving and gratitude-gifting. This is what Christ equips us for: good works. Let your hands get to work. Sweep the floor, make some food, fill the bellies of neighbors and strangers.

Be overcome with abundance. Because that’s exactly what you are.

A Break for Breathing

It may seem as though even I were new around here now, it has been so long since there has been any update here on Joyful Domesticity. This has been a break for breathing, a season for a deep breath. A season for new journeys, and adjustments to old paths that take new winding turns.

For anyone who is genuinely new to glancing around Joyful Domesticity, please allow me to briefly introduce myself. I am Melissa Joy, a second generation Christian homeschooling mother in the Pacific Northwest. I have been married to my husband Steven since 2007, and we have been deepening our walk with each other & our walk with Christ ever since. One way He has broadened our faith and deepened our theology is through the sanctification of parenting: what a joy, what a privilege, what a hope, what a responsibility! He has blessed us with fourteen children: nine in heaven, four in our home, one in the womb.  Our journey of recurrent miscarriage has been very shaping and honing, of our individual spiritual lives as well as of our family culture at large. I continue to endeavor to reach out in empathy, compassion, understanding, and aid for other grieving mamas. I continue to learn much from the experiences and community God has put in my story.
We homeschool our little band of redheads on family property in the countryside in a Classical Christian model, emphasizing truth, beauty, & goodness through the means of books, music, science, math, art, books, language arts, penmanship, computer skills, books, history, geography, handcrafts, theology, and more books. We delight in embracing life together in our home, our homeschooling community, our church family. My husband operates a company called Olive Tree Bible Software with passion, patience, and diligence. I recently began an endeavor called Paideia Northwest, where we aim to host an annual conference in Northeastern Washington state for Christian mothers raising, educating, & loving their children for the Kingdom of God. It isn’t a money-maker, it is more of a ministry, as my heart longs to see Christian mothers band together in love and encouragement despite differences of practice, method, or even theology.

We have four sons, with one daughter directly in the middle. At this moment, our children are Gabriel (11), Asher (7 1/2), Evangeline (6), Simeon (3 1/2), with the littlest brother’s arrival anticipated in a matter of weeks. God has been continually gracious toward our family, and we are humbly grateful for His intense benevolence. There is no more challenging yet rewarding chapter in my life than motherhood ~ with its many facets.

While I have taken recent months to focus on my tangible home, replete with books and babies and bedrest, I hope to make a somewhat more regular presence here at Joyful Domesticity again. To share what God is doing in my heart, my home, my journey to the Kingdom. I am nothing particularly clever or wise or unique, but I have a heart that is eager to uplift, encourage, and share the sharpening of Christ mutually with my sisters in Christ both near and far.

For the glory of the King, the furtherance of His Kingdom, and the joy of the home! Cheers.

Hungry for Healing, Part III

Hungry for Healing, Part III
The Apple Pie

A number of months ago, I made an apple pie for my husband. Fruit pies are his love language. He loves when I get the crust just right. But he could probably revel in the filling with delight even if the crust weren’t flaky enough or got too browned around the pinched, ruffled edge. He simply loves pie. Really can’t live without it. And as long as it tastes delicious and close to heaven, he doesn’t care what it looks like.

While I washed, peeled, and sliced apples, I recall meditating on trees and fruit and baked goods. I contemplated Rachel Jankovic’s comment once that “trees which have borne much fruit should no longer look like a sapling.” I thought about God growing my tree, deepening my roots, expanding my trunk, filling out my branches, producing my fruit, and performing the harvest year by year. In her book, Loving the Little Years (which I haven’t read in a long time), I remember Rachel’s musings on trees and fruit: “The branches are our responsibility, the ground is not.” “The more fruit you make, the more fruit gets used.” “You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it.” “Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing that you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

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While I blended flour and salt together, and cut fat into its grains with dedication and delight, preparing to wrap, enfold, cover, and encase those apple pieces… I thought about the process with a sense of recognition and familiarity. I remember texting a friend of mine to say that I was writing a blog post about apples, apple pie, body image, and mom life. I remember telling her that I had been peeled, cut, seasoned, aged, and baked – that I was realizing I was no longer an apple, but rather a pie. I vaguely recalled Robert Capon saying something which planted that seed.

I never hit publish on that. Partly because I lost steam, partly because I wasn’t ready to really expose my struggle.

But the image has not strayed from my mind. I’ve written and rewritten thoughts about this numerous times. None of them felt right. But the repeated phrase Jonathan Rogers told me this winter was to trust my instincts and to worry less about what I write. So this morning, I don’t plan to edit, rework, or nuance. I am writing stream-of-consciousness style, for better or for worse. It may be a jumbly, hot mess. That’s pretty much the state of my work these days. It’s simply true.

At nearly 35 years old, raising four children full-time, with thirteen pregnancies and a host of health & hormonal nuances under my belt, I am a woman learning to live post-anorexia and post-bulimia, loving my smile lines, embracing the little streaks of white dappling my carrot top. I think about Nate Wilson’s poetic phrasing in Death By Living when he said that his grandmother was the tree from which apples fell and grew, from which apples fell and grew, from which apples continued to fall and grow.
Apple trees produce apples, which contain seeds to produce trees, which will produce apples, which contain seeds to produce trees…

Apple tree in old apple orchard horizontal.

I am not alone, stagnant, isolated, an island. I am an apple. I fell from a fruitful tree, I was sown and sprouted. I grew into a sapling.
But the rub comes when I fail to acknowledge that God has continued to deepen my roots, increase my fruit, lengthen my branches, and strengthen my trunk. I am not the girl I once was. I am not the firstyear fruit producer I had been. And while I love the imagery of remaining the tree, of looking forward to the days of needing my branches propped up, of having burls and truly gnarly bark thick with wrinkles and creases – there’s something about the idea of moving from the orchard into the kitchen that delights me.

I’m a baking addict, so that’s one thing.
I love flour, sugar, fat, spices.
I adore the sounds of thick syrupy fruit bubbling on the stove, and the schunk sound my knife makes as it slices through crisp apple flesh.
Even just imagining the smell of pastry in the oven makes my salivary glands dance.

And then there’s Father Robert Farrar Capon.
The man who really introduced me to onions.
The one who started me realizing that my hatred of my body and my war with food was truly a spiritual battleground, and I wasn’t seeing victory.
He is the one who reminds me that, yes, I fell as a crisp, ripe, firm, shapely apple from a strong and faithful tree. But when God took that apple, He didn’t set it on a shelf to be kept the way I was harvested from the tree of my lineage.

I was plucked in order to be used.
Apples are meant to give nourishment, to give joy.
I am meant to give life, nourishment, and joy too.

And just like the apple that is used up for those purposes, I will not be left the same.

Rachel Jankovic wrote, “our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of joyfully giving your body to another.”

She goes on to say, “make sure you aren’t buying into the world’s propaganda. While there are a great many rewards, the sacrifice is very real… [and] the answer to these obstacles is not to run away in fear as the world does, but to meet it with joy, and in faith.”

My life, my calling, my homemaking, my motherhood, my faith – these things call me to be used for the good of others, to give myself away, to be used up, to savor, to become considerable, to be relished.

As Robert Capon said in a beautiful benedictory passage in The Supper of the Lamb,

May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable… And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed… Eat well then.

I will determine, then, to turn from buying into the world’s propaganda. I will meet these obstacles with joy, and in faith. I will embrace my season of apple pie as sweeter and fatter than my firm and slender days as an untouched apple straight from the tree. I will endeavor to appreciate my softened body with a heart of thankfulness rather than a sense of resentment. I will seek to glorify God with this sweet season of bodily life, not grasping for control over the size of my jeans, the fit of my swimsuit, the taut of my belly skin, the roundness of my cheek.

May I be used. May I be molded, remade, served up as something even more marvelous than I was to begin with. And may I see joy and glory in the process and in the result. Not because my determination is a victory. But because God is in the business of making things new, and I want to give myself up to Him as He works new things in me and through me. Muffin top and all.

Glory be.

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“for to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps…
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 peter 2:21, 24

Being Real

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I don’t do social media. I am trying to be better about not spending much time every day even on emails or blogging.
I think my personal biggest temptation is to look sideways and play the comparison game, especially with other mommies. Other moms (either celebrity or personal friends) seem to have it all together. They are thinner, stronger, prettier. They have better complexions and fewer grey hairs. They have kids with perfect table manners and “yes ma’am” down pat. They craft with their kids with the best of the Pinterest folks without getting glue and glitter all over the house… or at least the other mamas don’t seem to care about the messes and have magic fairies who tidy up. Their kids can cook, clean, and organize circles around even the most put-together Rubbermaid-queen mamas.

That’s what I see anyway. I see other lives through filters. Rosy glasses. Carefully selected snapshots. Snippets of seeming perfection.

What I see here without filters, through my dirty & scratched old glasses is every moment of my life. I don’t take time to put on makeup every day. I don’t remember to wash my hair every week. I can’t remember the last time I exercised on purpose. There are occasional foodie moments (like my loaves of sourdough I’m trying to perfect) or crafting successes that may make me want to take pictures and sign up for an Instagram so I too can show off my domestic prowess!

But I’m too busy wiping bums, sorting laundry, stoking the fire, reading history books and Bible stories with the children, finding lost mittens, feeding mouths that never seem satiated, and doling out new school assignments by the hour.

No time for blogging.
No time for taking pictures, even though I have both my Nikon and my iPhone on my desk. Right here in the kitchen. Center of the chaos.

But this is reality.
It’s my life.

This is the MOST WONDERFUL JOB IN THE WORLD.
I do not want to trade it for anything!!
(And yes, if you happen to see my tear-stained face, it’s true: I still struggle with the desire to add more crazy kids to the already-chaotic mix, and it is a real heartache to the depths of my soul that I can not.)
I love my job as Senior Domestic Engineer and Vice President of Clan Development.

And simultaneously, this is the HARDEST, MOST EXHAUSTING JOB IN THE WORLD.
I daily feel unfit for the position.
I am unworthy of the privilege and overwhelmed by the responsibility.
How often I have to take deep breaths, cry ugly tears, and grab a handful of CheezIts… I won’t actually admit.

I want to be real.
I want to share the ups and the downs.
I want to let people know that I love my work, and that I am sometimes overwhelmed by it.
I also want my friends to know that I am not overwhelmed because I am ungodly, not spiritual enough, don’t pray long enough, or am a less-than mommy.
I am a specifically created woman, with a unique frame and a highly sensitive nature (click here if you want to know what that means).
I am (in the words of a dear friend) a recovering people-pleaser.
I am a truly imperfect perfectionist.

So I’m seeking to find opportunity where I can carve out more moments to be real.
To share the real.
To give glimpses into the incredibly amazing, joy-filled, beautiful, chaotic, messy life I have.
Out in the country. In the home I designed with my husband. Balancing work and play, grief and joy. Raising the children we created together. Homeschooling these sweet brains that are way too intelligent for my good. Discipling these incredible hearts & souls for the Kingdom of God.
I cook good food here to feed real people. I (try to) clean and organize this home. I fill it with books by the dozens (thank you Goodwill for shelves full of 49-cent page turners!!).
This is where mistakes and messes happen. This is where Grace and Forgiveness takes on flesh. This is where we need Lysol wipes and plenty of Bath & Bodyworks soap pumps. This is where I fall into bed at night feeling like I can not bear another moment with sounds and lights and people and demands… but where I also do not want to miss a moment with these delightful beings in this precious place.
I am sad when another day ends. But also relieved.
I am delighted when another day begins. But also overwhelmed.

There’s not much more real than that.

Here’s hoping God grants me occasional moments to continue being real with you.
I long for my words to capture where the joy, the grace, and the freedom really is.
So I can embrace my calling, my life, my messes & my beauties, my joys, and my struggles ~ and not feel like I have to hide.
I don’t have to cast sidelong glances elsewhere, and crawl back into my hole.

God made me. For His glory.
And that’s got to be totally enough.
Really.

Journey Bread

I have been baking bread for my family since I was pregnant with Gabriel… that’s a good nine years of healthy, delicious, economical goodness right there. I have come up with a couple different staple recipes that I can whip up easily and consistently. My typical loaf bread includes whole wheat (ground right in my mama’s basement), oats, cornmeal, honey, and extra goodies like flax and millet when I can manage it. I call this Family Bread and it’s basically our daily fare (not that we eat bread every day, but you get what I mean). Then I came up with something I call Canaan Bread which includes milk, honey, olive oil, sea salt, and potato flakes ~ it is our special occasion bread that makes light, fluffy loaves or rolls worthy of being related to the promised land!

This year for Christmas gifts, I have been baking up bread (three loaves at a time) to deliver to neighbors and friends. It is a little more practical than some options, and honestly it seems like folks are genuinely pleased to have a healthier alternative to cookie plates (although really, if you want to bring one to MY house, none of us would mind!). I made pretty labels for the loaves, including Scripture from John 6.

Jesus said, “This is the work of God;
that you believe in Him whom He has sent…
For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world…
I am the Bread of Life;
whoever comes to Me shall not hunger…
For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him
shall have eternal life…

John 6:29, 33, 35, 40

Plus, for our neighbors (whether they have a relationship with Christ, we don’t know), I tied a copy of the current Our Daily Bread issue to the bottom of the loaf.

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I have had the kids each take turns helping me bake the bread on different days. Today was Evangeline’s day to help bake bread.We were going to make my Canaan Bread today, so we could deliver some loaves to friends tomorrow morning at a playdate… with a couple little tweaks, because I added some sourdough starter I’d had proofing and decided to toss in some whole wheat too…

Evangeline helped me put honey, milk, warm water, olive oil, sourdough starter, dry active yeast, and whole wheat flour in a bowl. We let it rest and proof while we ate breakfast (Mommy poured a cup of coffee, but only got one sip in… hmm… red flag anyone?) and read our Bible and Advent lessons for the day. Then Evangeline and I returned to our baking project. It may have looked like just a gloppy mess but oh! It bubbled beautifully and smelled so yeasty and sour and rich! I love that part of the process so much.

We added sea salt, quick oats, potato flakes, and high gluten bread flour, and got the dough hook working on the kneading process for us.
Everything was going smoothly, it seemed, while Evangeline manned the controls on the side of my KitchenAid mixer. Gabriel was practicing piano, Asher was working on a math page & singing at the top of his lungs, and Simeon was fussing at my feet so I picked him up & snuggled him on my hip. But the gluten didn’t seem to be developing properly because the texture of the dough was not getting stretchy and smooth. Evangeline wanted so badly to jump ahead to the part where she gets to punch down the dough and knead it into a loaf shape! I wanted so badly to gulp down my cup of coffee! But frustration was mounting, because clearly our bread was not verging on the bliss of Promised Land today.

In a Hail Mary fashion, I decide to crack an egg into the mixing bowl and let it get worked into the dough… but in the process of trying to stop the machine with a preschooler on a stool and a baby on my hip… attempting to crack the egg with one hand (because there are times, yes, where I can manage to pull off cool tricks like that… hah! thank you, Food Network and The Chew…)… my elbow knocks down a cup of flour and I accidentally crack the egg onto the floor.

Oops.
That’s right; I totally could have grabbed a fork and started whipping up a batch of egg noodles right on my kitchen floor…
You know, if it weren’t covered in dog hair and coffee grounds (and the bowl of Cheerios the baby threw on the ground).
Because in all honesty, my plan WAS to vacuum after the bread was in the oven!

For some reason, it seemed smart to plop the baby down on the floor so I could grab a spatula and a roll of paper towels… but of course the pile of flour and ooey gooey raw egg on the floor looked entirely enticing…
So yes, my 14 month old makes a bee line for the mess!
Meanwhile, imagine the loud piano combining with a kindergartener’s version of silly math songs pounding in your ears…
and just to top it off, my daughter jumps off the stool and tries to lend a hand with keeping her little brother away from the mess…

In one of my less glorious motherhood moments, I yell at the baby “no no! no touch!” and holler at my daughter to back away, and follow it up with a quick shout to the boys to be quiet so I can think straight about how to clean up this mess!
Yep.
That’s me.
Mom of the year.
Trying super hard to do my best at training my kids up in a Christ-centered, home-centered, family-centered, grace-centered home education.
Let’s just say, it’s a good thing I don’t have things like Pinterest and Instagram because you would not see a picture perfect snippet of me this morning.

I got the mess cleaned off the floor, shot off a few frenzied texts to my husband, and started to laugh at the whole situation.

I mean, really.
And all of a sudden I realize that my Canaan Bread is really much more like the 40 years in the wilderness today! It was punctuated with fussing, hunger, noise, frustration, faith to believe what I can not see, and me trying to take matters into my own hands when it’s not going exactly according to my picture-perfect-plans. That’s when I named today’s bread Journey Bread.

What I needed was grace. Saving grace. I needed cleansing waters and leaven for the lump.
I gulped down some coffee and took some deep breaths while I considered these things.
Then I had my daughter crack an egg into the bowl (yes, yolk & white successfully made it into the bowl this time) while I dissolved a bit more yeast into warm water, honey, and bread flour. Finally, we got it all kneading together and it was obvious that the glutens were developing properly now.

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We were beginning to see the fruit of our labors coming back together, and I couldn’t stop laughing at the previous antics.
I even had to text my grandma, asking her about her own memories from motherhood. I know the days can be long but the years are short. I know that babies don’t keep. And I want to know what a great-grandma recalls from her own motherhood journey decades later. What parts do I take pictures of? What snippets do I write down?
Do I just want to remember the weekly ritual of baking bread with my kids?
Do I want to remember the prettily packaged loaves we delivered to friends and neighbors while it snowed?
Do I want to remember the spilled flour and the egg I cracked onto the floor?
Do I want to remember the cacophony of crazy noise and the scramble to figure out how to clean the mess, protect the children (from the horrors of possible salmonella, of course, haha), regain my sanity, and rescue the dough before it completely flops?

All my grandma responded with was I wish I could remember more of those years!!
She didn’t say which parts she remembers. She simply shared her longing to remember what the years held.

I don’t only want to remember the picturesque moments. I want to remember living life.
I want to remember the journey. To remember God’s faithfulness even when I fussed (and when the children did too).
Something we love about Scripture, about the Gospel, is that we get to see the narrative including the tensions. It doesn’t let us just skip to the end and see how it all turns out in the New Jerusalem. Nope. It’s about the journey. Faith. Saving grace. Clinging to what we know and asking God to clean us up because we keep making messes out of things.

And you know what? It is good to laugh at myself. To revel in good things like noisy kids and a messy kitchen.
It is good to send frenzied texts to my husband… he needs snippets of what my days are like so he can more fully appreciate what he comes home to at the end of a day… right? :)

Oh my word – it’s a day! I may have been trying to bake bread with our daughter, while holding Simeon in one arm and cracking an egg with one hand… I just might have knocked a bunch of flour on the floor at the same time I cracked the egg onto to the floor instead of into the bowl…I might’ve totally tweaked my neck while trying to clean up the mess and keep the kids away from it…
This. Is. My. Life.

Bless him, my husband responded, “and I don’t know how you do it.”
To which I promptly admitted three little worlds: massage & coffee & wine.
And to top off the morning of laughing at myself, I added,
Oh. Probably should’ve been “Jesus” & “God” & “Grace” but you know… #realitycheck

Domestic Outfitting by “Little Outfitters”

Excuse me, please, while I take a moment to give a proper shout-out to my friend Hollie and her home business, Little Outfitters. Ladies, I want to have babies, decorate my house, and be up to my elbows in flour just for excuses to use these things! Save your dollars or create a Christmas wish list, because you need to be prepared to fall in love with these simple, classic linen delights.

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From the very title of my blog, you should be able to tell that I love pursuing joy and also domesticity. These two things are what I feel called to. This is my realm. It is where I am called to take dominion, to dive in deep, to be passionate. I pray that God would help me attain real joy! And that He would bless my efforts in the domestic realm! I long for Him to be glorified through my small hands as I work toward those ends.

You know what’s really fun though? When the work of joy and domesticity overlap and intertwine so fully and organically that I simply can not separate the two.

And that happened to me this weekend.
I had the delight of making an investment in my friend’s business, and planting that seed not only gave joy and fruitful labors to my friend Hollie, but it also gave me great joy and fruitful labor!
Now. When you order something from Little Outfitters, of course you will get to look forward to the happiest mail-day. You just might want to leave cookies & milk out on your porch for the postman. Because yes, it will feel like St. Nicholas himself just dropped by to delight you.
I had the special privilege of the shop owner herself hand-delivering me my package (shh! don’t be jealous! I made & shared homemade turkey stock and fresh rolls to slather with butter… so you could say I deserved the hand-delivery, right?!)…

And do you know what she brought me?

A brown paper package tied up with string!

That’s right, friends. Just a few of my favorite things. (that song is now stuck in your head… you’re welcome…)

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But did I rip right into the package? Oh no I did not. I savored it.
First, I let it sit on my desk while we indulged in turkey juices and warm gluten. And wine. A good bottle of red wine goes with just about anything. Including domesticity. And it is clearly a companion of joy (lest you question my reasoning, check out Psalm 104:15, Judges 9:13, or read this for some thoughts).

Soon though… I carefully untied the twine and opened up my brown paper package. I don’t know about you, but I am into the details. Let’s just say that while I could have excitedly ripped through this package in two minutes, there was no way I would miss out on savoring the details.

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The stickers! The perfectly folded tissue paper! The thank-you note (hand written to boot)! The lovely handmade tags attached to items with dark bulb pins! The packaging of the hair bows, which includes reusable bags and preciously printed brand cards!

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And then after oohing and aahing over every inch of packaging, I finally got to indulge in fondling my linen delights myself. The soft linen in its beautiful shades just call for enamor. Seriously.

And then the fun began, because my daughter and I got to share our kitchen and our baking messes with Hollie’s camera lens in a brand shoot. Talk about a sweet blending of joy and domestic bliss!

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Here is a little glimpse… and take note... my daughter and I are loving our cross-back linen aprons in flax… and I think I want a hairbow in every color… because yes, I will probably be borrowing them occasionally from my daughter’s accessory stash!

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Please pop over to Little Outfitter‘s Instagram and say hello.
Consider domestically outfitting yourself.
I’m considering hosting a giveaway… hmm… any takers?

He Makes All Things New

Acts 14:15

“…we bring you good news, that you should turn from vain things to the living God
who made the heaven and the earth and the sea
and all that is in them.”

Revelation 21:5

“And He who was seated on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new.

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar that focused on motherhood & building culture. One of the first things that really struck me in the conversations was when the presenter made the statement that this has never been done before. As a mom, as a homemaker, as a housekeeper ~ I can wonder sometimes why my job description feels so hard, so complicated, so downright daunting. I mean, really: this has been done for centuries. There is nothing new under the sun. Meals have been cooked, houses have been cleaned, homes have been made lovely havens, laundry has been endlessly done, hearts have been trained in the nurture & admonition of the Lord, brains have been educated, skills have been taught, books have been read, catechisms & Scriptures & musical pieces & multiplication tables have all been memorized… over and over and over again, generation upon generation, for centuries.

And living in the modern era of computers, washing machines, microwaves, riding lawn mowers (we do have 10,000 sq of thick grass!), and 2-day delivery of a thousand sundry items from dear old Amazon Prime, I should really have a heck of a lot easier time than many of my predecessors. In fact with reference to homeschooling, I should even have an easier time than my own mama did, who was something of a pioneer in the homeschooling world back in the 1980’s Silicon Valley. There were not the options of tutors, co ops, curriculum abundance, and things like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association were pretty cutting edge.

This can all make me easily wonder, So what’s MY problem?

And this brings me back to a little conversation from the webinar last month, where the idea was posited that this has never been done before.

Hm.

I am doing something new and groundbreaking and fresh and never-been-done-before.

Really???

Well. Yes. In a manner of speaking, with a certain perspective.

I have never done this before.
These particular kids have never done this before.
This specific family with these specific goals & ideals & worldview have never traveled this journey before.

Every day, I face a new phase of my calling.
Each morning when I wake up, not only am I older, but my children are older.
We break new ground every morning.
I have never parented an eight year old before.
I have never taught preschool and ladylike lessons to a daughter before.
I have never taught a child to cook before.
I have never managed a budget for a family of six before.

This is new. Every day. For each one of us.
I need to remember to keep this in my perspective.
Neither I nor my children know what we’re doing, have it all down pat, and know it all by memory.
We learn as we go.
Just like every other woman before me.

And sure, I have amazing modern assistance at my aid (hello, Google!) for everything from laundry scrubbing to coupon clipping to crockpot cooking to finding any answer to just about every question my curious little people could ever ask me (and I don’t even have to drive to the library anymore to figure out the dewey decimal system and pore over volumes to locate mediocre answers).
But I also have modern distractions, and unrealistic levels of comparison & expectations right at my fingertips.

Even when it comes to the grand blessing of living in this modern world and having practically the universe at my fingertips has both its pros and its cons.

It is okay to feel like these things are new.
I am made in God’s image.
And just like He once created the world, and all that therein is,
He continues to make all things new.
So while there was a time of beginning and firsts for me,
I too reflect Him when I realize & acknowledge & embrace
that I am also in the lifelong business of making all things new.

Creating precedes recreating.
And until my King stops time by His ultimate renewal,
this cycle will continue.

This is good.
It glorifies Him.
He continues to create and recreate (to once again make new)
even through my weary hands and often feeble attempts.
And I am thankful that He has chosen me, and my little people, for this good and hard journey.
I am thankful for simple words from other women in the trenches.
Simple reminders of basic truth.
Reminders like, “while it feels like this has been done before, it really hasn’t been.
You are breaking new ground every single day.
And groundbreaking things can sometimes break your back and strain the muscles.
It’s part of your calling.
Simply be faithful.”

Amen.

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.

 

Enjoy It

snuggle my bebe

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.