Teaching People…

I have been contemplating a lot about teaching lately… Everyone says that there comes some kind of slump at the end of February… it seems to coincide with spring fever! So I decided to talk to myself, and pray with my Lord, about things quite a bit this week.

I finally got tired of constantly re-requesting Teaching From Rest from the local library, so last week I went ahead & Amazoned it (yep, I used that as a verb – I’m cool like that). It’s much happier to have this sweet, encouraging, accessible book at home on my own desk.
I have recently gotten more addicted to perusing Sarah Mackenzie’s website and instagram. Last year, her ideas about spiral notebooks totally changed the way our homeschool (and life!) works – this year is far and wide smoother and sweeter than previous years. Steven and I credit a lot of that to the simple, wise implementation of our spiral bound notebooks (our children simply refer to The Lists, and yes, in their eyes they are quite capitalization-worthy). Hands-down without a question, we will be doing it this away again next year, in case you were wondering!

I’ve been teaching some fun music classes at our weekly homeschool co op this winter, and am about to jump into teaching some new things in the spring session! I’m pretty excited about it. And I actually enjoyed teaching music theory this winter a lot more than I thought I would. :) My students were great, and the curriculum/notebooks I was able to compile over Christmas break worked really well! I am so thankful for God’s grace in the details.
I do find that I am still a newbie at teaching other peoples’ kids, and some of the more seasoned moms have reminded me recently that when I am sassed or disrespected, it is not only in the best interest of the classroom at the time but also just one more way I am teaching a student, to send the student to their mother for instruction and correction. I am ever so thankful for the more seasoned mamas who have so much grace and generosity with newbies like me!

Yesterday I was also approached on the subject of teaching children about Sunday worship. It was an interesting little conversation, and got me pondering the issue a great deal more. Interestingly, I had just listened to a podcast on the subject last week, so I had already been mulling over some principles and methods before the conversation even came up yesterday.

Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that I am teaching math, teaching English, teaching music… teaching subjects.
But the reality is that I am not teaching things.

I am teaching people.
In fact, I’m teaching my favorite people in the whole world!
While I am teaching brains, shaping cultures, instilling eternal souls with a variety of life,
I’m essentially continuing on my journey of creating people.
Sculpting, molding, shaping, filling.

I show them what to love and how to love.
It’s a big job. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming.
I don’t want to get caught in the trap of stressing over methods, curricula, schools of thought, schedules.
I want to focus on teaching precious people how to love true, good, beautiful things.

This takes time and thought and joy and peace and grace.
It also does happen to take books and pencils and instruments and keyboards and recitation and repetition and trying-again.

And yes, it definitely also takes a sense of humor and a pot of coffee every morning. :)

 

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?

Beauty for your covering

Okay friends… this is outside my norm. Outside my comfort zone. But I love to share things I love. And these things called LillaRose FlexiClips fall broadly into that category. I love these. They get my hair to look gorgeous (whoa- that might have been said all too confidently, haha!) in two minutes flat, and are super versatile. I’ve only had three clips since April, but I am addicted to them.

So since I am buying a few more this week, I wondered if anyone else wanted to join me in some mid-summer shopping to help get our hair off our necks during this heatwave!
    
Aren’t they pretty? They are seriously the best hair things ever. Long hair, short hair, thin hair, thick hair… the special FlexiClip things are life-changing. You can see how to figure out your size and some hairstyles online. And since I “need” a couple new ones for Evangeline and me (with the heat, we like our hair up every day!), I just thought I would share the love with one of these online party things. 😉
Those three pics above are a couple of the ones that I want to get… clearly, the ballet slipper is for my 3 year old daughter who loves all things pink and frilly. The other two are for me, because I want to add some variety to my hair accessories.
I have a silver celtic knot one, Evangeline has a pink daisy, I also have an emerald one (I don’t think it’s a current style anymore) and a really pretty crystal one that is also discontinued. I am hoping to get the ballet slipper and the ladybug for Evangeline. 🙂 And I also want to get myself one of the leather ones, and either the Keeya or the Roman Stone for myself as well. I wear them almost every day… so variety is nice. 😉
At any rate, this is kind of last minute… 🙂 But I’m hosting a little online ordering party to share the love. LillaRose sells other things besides these clips, like head bands and bobby pins – and they are beautiful too, but it is the FlexiClip that is just amazing in my book. I can do without the other things, but the FlexiClips are now an indispensible part of my daily routine. I was hard to convince that my thick, unwieldy hair could be used in these successfully. But they can! They don’t fall out, they don’t break my hair, they don’t give me a headache. Amazing. People are constantly asking me how I fix my hair, or what the clips are, and it is so fun to take it out of my hair in order to try it out on someone else – and then the happiness I see in their eyes when they realize they can quickly & easily have a pretty hairdo too?! It gives me goosebumps.

So click here if you want to browse around and see some of the pretty things you can get. You can order things through this link for the next few days – through Monday night 8/1 (although I can extend that if you need).
So if you order through Sunday, you will get to use the July special… if you order on Monday, you can get the August special. Or if you’re like me, you may just want to do one of each! 😀

I have to deal with my hair every day of my life.
God gave it to me for a glory & a covering (just ask my 3 year old daughter why God gave her such beautiful hair, and she will tell you that!).

So spending a little extra money on something like this that will help me to enjoy the gift of my hair, and lift my spirits about this golden crown of locks each day, without me needing to spend much time on it… because let’s be honest, my entire “getting ready for the day” routine simply can’t take more than ten minutes (maybe 15 on a Sunday)… it’s worth it. I hope you enjoy pursuing beauty, too, as you embrace your glory & your covering for the praise of God our Creator!

Peace, love, joy, and beauty! 🙂
Melissa

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.

Savoring Friendship & Cookies

It was obviously an early day of spring.
Grey clouds and blinding sunshine danced together.
Robins were bouncing happily around outside while it rained.
The fire roared in our living room stove, schoolwork was spread on the table,
the baby was fussing, and the big kids were doing anything but focusing on their books.
I was fighting a headache with Tylenol & caffeine to no avail.

Grasping for a lifeline of sorts, I popped off a quick note to a dear friend,
the kind of friend who is more like a sister than not,
to ask her to pray for me.

She wrote right back.
She thanked me for sharing my needs and expressing my heart.
She gave suggestions that were rooted in love.
She jumped into a gap for me and filled it with prayers, love, compassion, friendship.

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I shared a list of things with her that was making me thankful.
Across a distance of 375 miles, she gave me a virtual hug and a shoulder to lean on.
Together, while apart, we sought the Lord as well as praised Him.

She in her kitchen, surrounded by her little blondies.
Me in mine, surrounded by my wee gingers.

Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people that we’re close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p49

Then I noticed she sent me something else ~ a link to a recipe.
“If you need something sweet to eat today, here’s a link to a recipe we are making,”
she said, along with three pictures of her children helping her
stir batter, eat batter, and put trays of cookies in the oven.
“I wish we could share hot cookies and ice-cold milk with you this afternoon,” she added.

That’s when I decided it was time to stoke the fire,
strap the baby onto my chest,
put away the schoolbooks,
and take three sticks of butter out of the fridge to warm on the counter.

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“Butter is out to soften!!” I told her,
declaring that we would make the best of it,
and we would join them in the baking efforts of the day…

and we spent the next hour or two occasionally popping messages to one another
on our progress in our own little worlds of flour, sugar, aprons, and children licking their fingers.

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My children and I were able to not only connect with one another and savor our relationship,
but we were talking about these far-away friends & taking pictures to show them,
connecting in creative ways with these friends even when distance separates us.

When joy and grace are shared, it multiplies in ways indescribable.
When friendship is savored, it builds bridges undeniable.

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The short of it is that you really just need to click here and try the recipe out for yourself.
And then, once you have, share the link with a friend.
And share pics of doing the same thing as one another, even if separated by miles.

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It is good to savor friendship.
It is good to find unique ways to share life together with those you love.
Even if it is two mamas with their little ones at their sides, separated by 375 miles,
we can still share life & friendship & motherhood & cookies.
Creativity can be both warm and delicious.
Just like friendship.

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In our own unique way, my children and I
shared hot cookies and ice-cold milk
with the dearest of friends ~
our hearts were encouraged
while souls were fattened
and tongues rejoiced!

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I know of no other recipe for making a good-bye bearable than the promise that the God who goes with us and stays with them will be the bridge connecting us, no matter how far or long the distance.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p95~

The New Commandment

This morning over at Olive Tree, I have the privilege of sharing some thoughts on the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples before He was captured.

After Judas left Jesus and the other disciples at the table in the upper room, some of my favorite parts of the Holy Week narrative take place. They are common, familiar, lowly, home-centered—perhaps that is why they prick me especially poignantly, as I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling mama of four small children. I am daily surrounded by the common and the lowly. Morsels of bread, washing off dirt, and commands to love one another are tools of my own trade.

Come visit me there, as we contemplate the enormity of Christ’s commandment, with its new distinguishing factor of imaging our Savior… as we ask questions of ourselves, about taking up crosses and washing dirty feet… as we walk through Holy Week in anticipation of Good Friday, the darkness of Saturday, the brightness of Resurrection Sunday.

Giveaway Winner, #4!!

Like the rest of life, even things like online giveaways don’t always go as you plan or expect! Right after I discovered the winning comment, our power went out… which means no internet (nor lights nor water, etc)… and it did not come back on for over thirteen hours. So, please forgive my tardy post & announcement. We are very joyful to have our power returned today.

Back to the point though!
Yesterday, the day I was supposed to announce the giveaway winner, I realized I had six entries.
And in our game cupboard we happen to have six sided dice (who doesn’t?). 🙂

So a little roll of the dice, and up came:

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Number Four!

Comment number four came from Samantha,
who will soon be receiving a copy of The Loveliness of Christ!

Congratulations, Samantha!

For everyone else, don’t be dismayed ~
I plan to have another giveaway during the Advent season,
which will probably be upon us a lot sooner than we think!

Thanks for participating in Joyful Domesticity’s first giveaway,
and please keep reading & commenting.
May God receive glory for our conversations here.

Grief Has Become Part of Me

Living through grief takes courage.
Looking back at the darkest parts of grief takes courage.
Living life after grief takes courage.
Looking ahead to see that the darkness isn’t always so thick takes courage.

Isaiah 61:3
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

I am amazed to look back over the last eight years since my first baby died and see how far God has brought me, even though that grief has been compounded eight times since then.

  • I smile and laugh. Daily.
  • I have children. Even some here on earth. Wow.
  • I can see others’ babies & stairstep children without feeling like my heart is going to implode. Sometimes I can even hold someone else’s baby. Even marker babies.
  • I often see those maker babies (who are turning into marker children) as joyful ~rather than painful~ reminders.
  • I can buy baby gifts or maybe even attend a baby shower without weeping.
  • I don’t have daily anxiety attacks that my husband or one of my living children is going to die.
  • I see all the reminders and memorial items in my home as comforts.
  • I speak of all of thirteen of my children, including my nine in heaven, with gladness and thanksgiving. There might be twinges of sadness and what-if, but there is no despair.
  • I can write about my grief, my miscarriages, my emotional or mental or spiritual struggles, with honest humility rather than humiliation.
  • I find immense joy in Christ my King, to whom I belong ~and to whom my children each belong~ and find ever growing trust in His sovereign goodness.
  • I have a marriage that has been tested by the fire of grief ~including our own version of infertility called uRPL~ which is stronger and deeper and richer than I knew it could be at only 8 years into our covenantal union.
  • I can give of myself ~including my heart, my tears, my experiences, my prayers~ and no longer have to be primarily on the receiving end of comfort or encouragement.

(for similar perspectives from a dear friend of mine on the “then” and “now” relating to miscarriage’s grief, see what she shared here & here)

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I can look ahead to the future with hope and joy… and that happens to include looking ahead to my eternity in heaven, where I trust the Lord will reunite me with the covenant children I continue to miss, right through my new normal and through my embracing of life as it is. I have hope. I have joy. Not only for eternity, but for now. Because of Christ. And His work in me.

Grief changes so slowly most of the time, that it can be hard to notice the changes.
And then maybe after a big chunk of time, suddenly you turn around and see it:
the darkness is not as thick, perhaps the darkness has even lifted.

Sometimes I have felt guilty for those moments when I realize the grief is not as thick.
As though I am not adequately marking the lives of the children who I have lost to heaven.
As though working through the grief and assimilating it into my life is a negative thing.
As though grief is more of an eternal roadblock than a continuing road through my life.

But it is okay… in fact, it is not only okay and normal, but it is truly good… that life continues going on, moving forward, taking new shape. It is good that our grief does not cement our feet in one solid place for the rest of our lives. It is good that someday, somehow, the Lord brings us down the road again. He continues to shape us and mold us, recreating us to some extent, incorporating our past ~including our grief~ into our new normal now & for the future.

I am not the same person I was before I suffered the grief of miscarriage.
Part of who I am is the mother of children in heaven.
My grief, my fertility struggles, my suffering ~ it does not define who I am, but it is part of who I am.

So if you are in the thickest parts of grief’s darkness ~ it may well feel like the clouds will never lift, but someday you will see the sun shining again. You will have new shades & shadows to yourself, you will see through new lenses, and nothing will be exactly the same. And because of our God who is the God of grace & redemption, that’s actually a good thing.