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

Hungry for Healing, Part II

Hungry for Healing, Part II

For almost as long as I can remember, two physical features have been identifying features about me. Someone might ask, Melissa? Which one is she? and in a room full of people someone would simply have to say, she’s the skinny girl with the long red hair.

Those two terms have been about as defining to me as my homeschooling, my love of books & music, and my Christian faith. How’s that for a slippery position?! Skinny and redheaded. Because now at 34 years old, I am no longer skinny and the number of greys in my locks increases regularly (just ask my tweezers – we can’t quite keep up anymore).

How is it that I have allowed secular media and modern American culture to speak so broadly into my life?
Why is it that I have not been able to overcome this temptation, this struggle, this idol, this sin?
Where in the world did all of this hurt and pain and shame stem from in the first place?

The first time I viscerally remember feelings of shame surrounding my body was in a ballet class I adored, standing at the barre in front of the wall-sized mirror. Rather than my usual teacher, Miss Tammy, who was soft, sweet, and relaxed, the studio owner was teaching my class that day. I don’t even remember her name, I just remember the feelings of stress and shame I felt when she walked near me or gave me directions. On this particular day that stands out in my memory, she was adjusting my posture and probably some position, but all I really recall is her finger pressing into my abdomen and saying getting a bit chubby… I was eight years old. Eight.
After that, I remember really paying attention to my mom’s exercise routines and Jenny Craig diets. I picked up on the fact that she ate differently than the rest of us did – she ate “diet food” but cooked “regular food” for the rest of us – and I came to believe that that was a goal to tuck in my pocket for womanhood. Skim milk and diet soda were the norm, and the reasoning behind it in my head was to stave off fatness. My grandma always called me her “skinny granddaughter.” These were not things that happened out of purposed negativity – it was simply my life, and they are the things I remember about my childhood.
Then in my teen years I became entangled with a boy. A boy who wanted to be a man and continually fell short. Who manipulated me into believing him when he made compliments like, “you look pretty today – pretty and skinny.” I literally have journals full of these manipulative comments. Sneaking notes to each other in homeschool classes or after church, gigglingly talking about turning 21 someday so we could get married, me listening to turns of phrase that I did not even realize at the time were harmful, manipulating, controlling. It brought me multiple levels of shame and suffering which still infiltrate my life on a regular basis. Not the least of which is the skinny factor that he pressed into me. And as I felt more controlled and manipulated by him over the course of about six years of secrecy, the feelings of being spun out of control turned into actions of grabbing for control over the only thing I thought I could grab with both hands – my body. If I could not control anything else in my life, I was brought low enough to think that at least I could control the number on the scale and the size on my clothing tags.

While I don’t honestly know when I really gave in to letting the spiral control and pull me under, the seed was planted when I was eight, it was watered and fed in my preteen years, then sprouted and cultivated between about 14-18. By the time I entered college the temptation and struggle had taken root enough that I can now say it became a besetting sin and garnered enough of my focus to be an idol.

There are years of my life that are basically gone from my memory banks. I don’t know if it’s from a lack of nutrition and sleep or PTSD or a lethal combination thereof.
My tendency toward anxiety and OCD grew. I cared about a facade of perfectionism, straight A grades, and size 2 jeans. Maintaining the physique that would draw people toward my pretty clavicles, hip bones, wrist bones, and long red hair. Eating just enough in front of people so they wouldn’t question my habits. But flat out refusing to eat when I could, and coming to the point where I would eventually just forget to eat. Even now, I could definitely go 24 hours without anything but coffee before noticing it (and that’s only because I can’t get away from the comfort of holding a warm mug of aromatics). Old habits don’t die easily.

I was telling someone recently that it absolutely astonishes me that as a conservative Christian woman I am flabbergasted by some of the bad words I let take over my life. Want to know what those bad words are? Old and fat. That’s right: three letter, commonplace words that are as abhorrent as ugly itself.
That is where I have allowed our culture and mainstream media to infiltrate my worldview, to my own destruction. And I will be hogtied and hamstrung if I allow it to go on to the next generation and hand it down for their destruction.
In biblical culture – heck, in much of all culture, historically speaking – old and fat are words of goodness, blessing, prosperity, honor.
I want to see through that lens. I want to embrace that worldview.

In Rachel Stone’s book, Eat With Joy, she says, “it doesn’t help that images of extreme thinness are everywhere. Even the most seemingly mundane objects show the trend: the girl on the Morton salt container or on the bottle of White Rock water is thinner than she was twenty or thirty or fifty years ago. My children’s Candy Land game (made in 2010) shows highly idealized, thin female characters and muscular male characters, whereas in the 1984 version I grew up playing the characters were, if anything, a little chubby.” (p90)

Where are the role models for my children to show them the beauty of a wheat-heaped belly? that your navel is beautiful when in a rounded bowl rather than sunken between two jutting pelvic bones? that Song Of Solomon was right in praising the rounded beauty of the beloved bride?

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…Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.

And here is what I realize now. I am their role model. It must begin with me. It must begin with the things I bring to them. And it can’t just be the words I say, the books I read them, the videos I let them watch. It also starts with my very own body. This physical set of flesh and bones and blood and fat and freckles that God has given me, where I grew these children in my belly, where I nursed them on my breasts, where I carried them on my back, where I cradled them in my arms; where I still snuggle them tight, hug them, kiss them, lift them up; where I teach by example what health, beauty, and loveliness are.

“The words we use to talk about food and bodies matter, as well, because they nourish and shape and feed us — or poison, warp and starve us — every bit as much as food does. Who can eat gratefully and joyfully while thinking, I’m an ugly pig who doesn’t deserve to eat? I couldn’t. Who can eat with real pleasure when the table talk centers on dimply thighs, flabby bellies, calories, cholesterol, and what’s ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’? No one can and such talk actually fuels disorder…” (Rachel Stone, Eat With Joy, p101)

My children make me hunger to be whole, to find healing, to shed the shame.
They make me long to love and embrace things like getting older and getting softer around my corners.
want to stop plucking out my grey hairs. I want to stop worrying about my muffin top.
I want to focus on truth, goodness, and beauty.
And this is my next step along the path of how I pray to get there.

“As Christians dealing with human hurts,
we have to remind ourselves again and again
that we are not called to be successful,
but to be faithful.
Our first directions come from the way Jesus told us to live,
not from what we think will work.”
(Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less)

Walking in the Way

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Come, sweetheart… come for a walk with your mama. It was not long ago that I carried you every time I went walking, but then you grew a bit and began to stretch your legs. Another little one came along then, and I carried him in my arms while holding your hand tightly in my grasp. Keep you from tripping, stumbling, sidling into the ditch or losing your boot in a puddle.

But today my arms are swinging, my palms holding nothing but the breeze. You are walking on your own, but not too far away. The little brother is having his first ride in the stroller. Big sister pushing. Mama’s eyes constantly on you both, giving direction and correction, gently guiding without grasping.

Parts of the path are smoother than others. When you walk along the smooth parts without the dips, the bumps, the stray gravel, things feel more carefree. The burden of the stroller is easier to push. Isn’t it fun to run and laugh and feel that sunshine all around?

Other parts of the path are muddy… watch out, don’t get stuck there… dig your heels in, really use those muscles, push through. If you go helterskelter through the muck, it is going to splash onto you, stick to your boots, cling to the hem of your dress… better to have diligence and self control and constancy as you work through the muddy puddly parts. Keep the little one protected from the muck. If you get too messy, it’s likely that it will slosh onto him too. Get that burden through the puddle and onto the other side.

Yes, I will help you… take it? okay, this time I will… I can see you are weary. I’ve done this before, I know this walk and I recognize the muddy puddle to. Take my hand, I’ve got you. Let me push the stroller for a little while as you catch your breath. It’s good to know you don’t walk alone, isn’t it? I love to feel your hand in mine, see you smile up at me, little image of who I once was, the one urging me on toward who I am becoming. We go together along this path, at the same time, hand in hand, yet in different places. I started along it sooner, I will stop before you do. Until then, let’s keep walking.

Oh yes, sure, you may have the stroller back. I’ll let your hand go again and keep my eyes on you as you continue pushing that burden ahead.
I love to see you delighting in the world around you, my girl. I love watching you take it all in, observe, indulge, taste and discern.

Why do you keep looking backward, glancing behind you with a look of fear? No, there is no car coming on our little path. No, there are no mountain lions here. How do I know?… oh… um… I just do.
Things are getting a bit wobbly now, sweetie, keep going forward and watch where you are walking. I know it’s fun to make zigzags and loopy lines along the way, but you must be careful not to stray. Mommy is not holding your hand… oh sweetheart, can I take the stroller now? Can I hold your hand? Will you stay closer and walk more carefully with me? I worry you may trip… don’t stumble… what if I can’t catch you?

You are running forward while looking behind… you are forgetting to care well over the burden you are pushing… look out! a ditch!
Silly little girl I love, look at the wheels, stuck in the stones, baby nearly toppled over, you slightly scraped your knee.
Do not run from Mommy, do not fear what is behind you, you do not have to fret so.

There we are, let me help you back onto the path. Let me settle the stroller wheels for you in the right direction. Hold firmly to the burden while you are moving forward, and keep your eyes focused mostly on where you are going. There, that’s it. Good job… much better! Doesn’t it feel good to keep set on the right way?

Oh, do you see those puddles up ahead? How will you prepare to meet them? Is there a wise way around them? Is the only way through them, with steady step and a firm grip on the burden you are pushing along? What did you say? Oh, yes of course I can help you push it through this set of puddles. That was a wise way to work through them. You saw the trouble coming and knew to ask for someone with a firmer grip and more experience with the puddles and the path and the burden. Well done. Keep your hands on it and your gaze fixed where you need to go… I will simply add my hands to yours and give you the confidence that you don’t have to do it alone. Together, we have more strength, more solidity, more stalwart tenacity. Companionship does ease the burden. I would rather laugh with you and cry with you than do either one alone.

You did well, my sweet. Look at you, smiling in the sun and making your own breeze with your speed. Yes, your eyes are facing where you should be going, I see the skip in your step, your face to the sun, your hair blowing like a veil. Yes, I see those beautiful little flowers growing there beside the path. You’re right, they are lovely. Would you like to stop for a moment to enjoy this expression of beauty? Shall we pick one to tuck behind your ear, carrying with you a token of delight? You are bringing some mud along the way, it would be a nice counterpart to have a sweet violet also.

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What’s that you say? Why yes, I do see that patch of bumpy gravel. Yes, you may try to push through it on your own. Remember, I am here if you need me. I will encourage you with my words unless and until you need me to give you a boost with my hands. I think you’re prepared for this. Your eyes are focused on what is coming, your hands are gripping the burden. You have traces of both past difficulty and past ease… on your hem, tucked behind your ear… determination in your eyes, fire in your soul.

Don’t forget the little one you are caring for! It’s not just about you anymore. Be watchful and take care over that which has been entrusted to you.
Yes, you came across the bumps without falling to the side nor losing a handle on the burden you carry. You were watchful, careful, alert. Continue steadily on, yes, you are doing fine. I’m watching you, the same path beneath our feet… I am slowing down, you are moving on ahead…

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Oh my sweet little girl, yes… yes, I am proud of you… we made it to the end of our walk for today. You did well. You proved true. You did faithfully.

And tomorrow, let’s walk along the way again, shall we? I’ll stay near to you again. We will face the same walk with possibly different terrain. Perhaps there will be rain, with more mud and deeper puddles and sticky ruts. Perhaps the sun will burn our necks, and the path will be so dusty we can’t help but cough. The violets? Hmm, I don’t know… keep your eyes open for whatever beauty pops up along the way, because often there are different beautiful flowers at different times in different places… simply watch for them, and when you find them, recognize them and delight in them… and yes of course, do remember to carry some of that fresh beauty with you.

We will continue walking together as the days go on. I will enjoy it while we have it. Each other. And the way to walk. Together.
I no longer carry you, but I walk beside you. I’ll still be near.
The day is coming all too soon when you will be making the walk on your own.

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?

Big Kid Joys

I love babies. My mom might smile and tell you that’s largely because I’ve had “easy babies.” But let’s be honest: to at least a certain extent, babies are babies, and babies are also honed by the hard work of their mama. So while God definitely did give my babies their blessed personalities and natures, He also has used the hard work of my hands, my time, my tears, my discipline, my prayers, my tactics… It’s not like they have grown up into “easy kids” in a lot of ways. So I think it might be safe to say that I’m GOOD at babies. I’m not quite so good at the preschool season. Not yet anyway. I am praying for grace to get there! 🙂

There are lots of joys that I can easily place my fingers on when it comes to my baby. Each one of my four children has brought me immense joy, and there is nothing I have loved (yet!) more than their babyhoods.

Perhaps that is one reason that I struggle emotionally with having the baby years closing behind me. In another couple of weeks, my baby will be a year old. That is, officially speaking, the end of infancy and the beginning of toddlerhood. This is the first time I’ve come upon a child’s first birthday without being/having been pregnant again. It will be the first time I have celebrated a child’s first birthday without the huge shadows of grief & fear. (I was pregnant with Promise on Gabriel’s 1st birthday, and had just miscarried Glory shortly prior; I was pregnant with Evangeline on Asher’s 1st birthday, and utterly terrified; I miscarried Heritage just two days before Evangeline’s 1st birthday, and was grieving immensely the death of her baby sister.)

Now the only shadow I sit under is the unique heaviness I feel upon knowing that this is the last time I will celebrate my child’s first birthday. (Praise the Lord for the hope of grandchildren!) I have had so much joy with my babies.

But here’s the thing I want to emphasize: there are going to be so many big kid joys in the future.
And this is one of the things I am just now discovering.
Perhaps it is because my friends’s kids, and my nieces & nephews are largely younger kids too. With a couple of rare exceptions, the folks we tend to hang out with on an intimate level are either in the same season of life we are, or are even a step or two behind us on the path.

And I need to know that the biggest joys of motherhood are not exclusively behind me.
Because, in all honesty, that is one of my big temptations, one of my big fears.
The baby years are familiar to me, they are joyful and comforting and deliciously sweet.

I am only barely beginning to see what some of the future joys may be.
The challenges of the older years seem to express themselves more easily.
I know there are hard times ahead. (Oh boy. It looks like menopause may intersect with puberty… that will be fun.)

So I need to start writing down the big kid joys as they come.
I need to look ahead with happy hope.
I need to laugh at, rather than fear, the future.

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I need to remember that resurrection follows death, in God’s economy.

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

~Rachel Jankovic~

Yesterday, my 8 1/2 year old (who is, by the way, beginning now to show me lots of big kid joys!) came grocery shopping with me. Now, that’s not unusual. But the unusual factor is that we did not have the 4 & 3 year olds with us. Simeon rode around the store strapped to my chest, I led the way with list in hand, and Gabriel took the initiative to choose a cart & push it along behind me. He was very intentional about letting others go first, about being a gentleman, and about jumping in when he saw an area to help. We talked about math a lot while we were shopping; figuring out which were the best mozzarella and parmesan purchases to make, based upon price per ounce, for instance. We did a good bit of math in our heads but also pulled out the calculator on my phone to help us with minutia.
But the biggest joy to this mama’s heart yesterday hit hard when he pushed the cart into the checkout line for me, while I ran back to the baking aisle to pick up a bag of powdered sugar. When I came back to him, he explained that he did not want to load the groceries onto the conveyor until the older woman in front of him was out of the way, because he wanted to give her space; but then he did not want me to lift a finger (except for the 17lb pumpkin…) because he wanted to do the heavy lifting. 🙂

He did not wait to be asked to help. In fact, he did not even ask if I wanted him to help.
He simply saw an area where he could help, and his servant-heart jumped into gear.

There also was not a bagger at our checkout line, so Gabriel helped bag things and placed every single bag into the cart.
By the time we reached the car, and it was time to buckle in his baby brother and help me put all the bags in the back of the Pilot, I was bubbling over with happy, humble thankfulness. To God and to my big boy.
I told him so.
And then when given the option of two “rewards” of a sort (two different reward systems we’ve got going on currently), he chose the option that would also affect his siblings, rather than the option that would only affect himself.

These are good things. They are big deals in the moment. (Sure, I understand they are not huge in the grand scheme, but my prayer and hope is that they will lead to huge good things in the bigger picture of our future.)

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There are also big kid joys like bowling league. Ballet class. Kids following their daily activities lists without me needing to micro-manage every hour of their day. Kids who basically fight over who gets to help Mommy set the table or wash the dishes. The joy of being able to play Carcassonne with my son, rather than always needing to play Chutes & Ladders; of being able to play real Monopoly, rather than always the Jr. version. The joy of watching my son both tithe & serve in a worship service with a happy countenance and willing heart.

Oh. And losing teeth. That’s a uniquely big kid joy, too. 😀

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There are definitely joys behind. These moments and memories will remain dear to my heart.
But knowing that there are joys ahead is a huge encouragement & blessing to me.
Experiencing the firstfruits now gives me hope for the future.

I so truly love the season of life where my sweet little branches develop beautiful, strong buds.
But now I am beginning to see the beauty of the buds opening, and the petals beginning to open little by little.
And I have hope that when the blooms are fully open, the true fruit will begin to show itself.
And someday, oh someday… those fruits will come off this tree… and I want to have joy & thankfulness about it…

So cheers to the future! Watch me embrace the next phase, as we move into big kid joys.
May God be my strength and establish my roots,
so that the sap is flowing thick & sweet for nourishment all around.
The roots are deep.
The buds are beautiful.
I can’t wait to taste the fruit.

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Adorned

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Last month, I had the sweet opportunity to host a little online party for LillaRose hair accessories, with my friend (and LR consultant) Kristi. To kick it off, we pulled together a small GoogleHangout time where half a dozen ladies from all three major US time zones got to laugh together, talk about hair, and watch Kristi demonstrate some fun hairstyles and products. In the midst of it, I actually got to hear the voice of a long-time penpal of mine… I wish I could remember when we actually began communicating… but I am certain we have written each other since I was about 15… so, we’ve known each other to some extent for 17 years, only ever through writing, until a few weeks ago. (((Samantha, you bless me.))) There were a couple other ladies that I had only communicated with online as well. Plus, Kristi is someone that I met online in 2009, but have visited in person twice in those seven years.

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At any rate, this was a unique little group and reminds me once again what some of the blessings are from living in this modern era. If someone like Martha Washington or Laura Ingalls Wilder or even my own Great Great Grandma Martha were to peek through the veil of time & peel back the mists of heaven, their eyes would grow big with wonder at what magic I was conducting:
Faces, live with movement on a screen.
Voices, clearly heard and easily conversing.
Miles and miles of distance between each one.
Invisible technology making the impossible possible.

But what else they would see would be familiar:
Women gathering together to encourage one another, to pursue feminine loveliness, to laugh joyfully, to connect with words and facial expressions what our hearts and emotions long to communicate.

As women, we long to be adorned.
As Christian women, we specifically long to reflect beauty in being Christ’s bride.
We long to be like Queen Esther, like the Proverbs 31 woman, like the faithful laboring women Paul commends.
We want to be fruitful, make an impact, leave an imprint.
We also want to be loved, needed, useful, fulfilled & fulfilling.
And deep down we even have a need to be beautiful, lovely, adorned.

Now. Hear me.
I’m not saying we need to conform to any specific definition or description of beauty.
But I think it is a very godly thing to pursue beauty and loveliness in the realm of femininity, of a physical nature and also of a spiritual nature.

Of course we can not put our trust or our hope in physical beauty.
Scripture tells us very plainly that beauty is fleeting, coupled with the vanity of charm.
But Scripture is also very plain about speaking admirably of beauty, and the way God created women to be attractive for His glory. He is enthralled with the beauty of His beloved.
Did you get that? Enthralled!! With BEAUTY!

I don’t know about you, but that is something that I should put up on my bathroom wall.
Or tape on the mirror.
Or tattoo on my eyelids. (Okay, maybe not.)

But this is turning into the long version, which is clearly my normal realm of comfort when it comes to words.
The short of it is this:
God loves beauty.
He gave us beauty.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing, enhancing, or highlighting the feminine loveliness that He gave us when He knit us as individuals.

 

So while you focus on beautifying your inner self (first things first, right?),
seeking a gentle and quiet spirit whose beauty is not fleeting but eternal…
Do not be afraid or ashamed to pursue physical loveliness.
While you are outwardly wasting away, inwardly you are being daily renewed (2 Cor. 4:16)
so remember that your King is enthralled with your beauty.
Beauty of all sorts.
You are altogether beautiful in His eyes, with no flaws (Song of Solomon 4:7).

Do not rest solely (1 Tim. 2:9-10) upon things like gold, jewels, expensive frocks and finery (or Lilla Rose hair clips!),
but be at peace in your heart, knowing that both inner & outer beauty is… well… lovely.

Think on these things.

You are more precious than rubies.
You are a tree of life to those who hold onto you.

Fear the Lord faithfully.
And be beautifully adorned.

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

Real Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, I believe.
Help Thou my unbelief.

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.