Silver & Gold

I think of multiple things when I see the phrase “silver and gold.” I think of my nearing-forty hair color. I think of my collection of dangly earrings. And I think of friends. You know, thanks to the old sing-songy phrase: “make new friends but keep the old” which I believe came from the Joseph Parry poem:

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test –
Time and change – are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
Friendship never knows decay.
For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die,
New friends must their place supply.
Cherish friendship in your breast-
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

I am not yet four decades old, but I have been through a variety of seasons with a variety of different friends. Haven’t we all? And what a gift they each are. Each friendship has had its own sweet purpose and presence over the course of my life.

Interestingly, I have lived in the same little country town since I was 14 years old, with just a few years’ stint in the city suburbs thirty-five minutes away. Specifically, I have lived in this home for nearly a decade with my husband. Yet it is only this year where it seems we have finally begun to put down local roots. For years, the only thing we did out here in the country was eat and sleep and school. My husband’s job was an hour away, church was an hour away, co op was 45 minutes away, most of our friends were 45+ minutes away… I distinctly remember Steven calculating out the ridiculous number of hours per week he spent in the car (generally 14!) not long ago, and gently pondering the idea of moving into the city.

It is hard to feel incessantly disconnected.
It is hard to feel like opening my home in hospitality brings more burden than blessing. How many times have I heard, “Oh we’d love to come! Wait: you live WHERE?”

This is the year where God is showing us where we are planted. I can’t help but think of the cheesy old Mary Engelbreit print with the sweet little lady watering her flowers under the sunshine with birds nearby, and the banner “Bloom where you are planted” front & center. Pithy and impractical in my story for decades. Until now.

Bloom Where You Are Planted -Mary Engelbreit Artwork | Bloom where you are  planted, Bloom where youre planted, Mary engelbreit

Just a few months ago, my husband began working from home. Just this spring, we have begun attending church only five minutes down the country road — and that doesn’t simply mean warming pews on Sunday mornings beside these folks, but actually getting to know our neighbors and pursuing relationship with people in our own little town. Just this month, we found out that we will be doing a new homeschool co op with people who live within 10-20 minutes from us.

Our roots are beginning to go down right here where we live. And while this may seem completely ordinary to many people, it is completely life-changing to me. Except for living a 1/2-mile walk through the woods from my parents’ home, we have not dug down into our own community and made connections nearby. This is changing.

I recently read “The Turquoise Table” by Kristin Schell as a follow-up to Rosaria Butterfield’s book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key.” Both books are definitely more easily applicable to an urban or suburban living scenario than a farm-country locale like mine. But the heart and purpose behind both books is still important to me, and I am eager to find ways to apply the principles faithfully, even if my methods will necessarily manifest differently.

So as we make new (local!) friends but seek to keep up somehow still with others who are further away and no longer as regularly in our habitual life, I pray for ways to mingle the silver and gold together. I know it won’t be seamless, nor ideal, nor easy. But it is my hope. For the sake of my children, even if not for myself. I have specifically exhorted my children to tell me when they miss a friend, and I have promised to do my utmost to set up phone calls or play dates when they do. In the meantime, we are embracing the Marco Polo app and the good old USPS… and seeking to graciously, gracefully pursue new friendships with those on our road, in our farm town, down the pew, and joining our new co op. It is good to begin knowing so many more images of our God.

Feasting Through Advent

A practice that I have enjoyed with my family in the last few years is focusing on feasting and hospitality for the duration of the Advent season, and actually right up through Epiphany when possible. I think it stemmed from two different traditions: one, with family; the other, with friends.

The first, with family, stems from my childhood. I grew up in a Silicon Valley suburb in California, living within two miles of my entire maternal side of the family, which consisted of five generations for almost a decade. Many of us attended church together every Sunday morning, and I still love remembering the long pew we filled in the balcony of my childhood Bible Church. A pillar for about a dozen years in my formative years, that place still makes cameo appearances in my dreams and holds a tender spot in my heart. But even the relatives who didn’t join us in worship on Sunday mornings, joined us for Family Dinner on Sunday evening. There was always a standing invitation (and, honestly, expectation) for family members: 6pm Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s house. Those evenings of food, loud table conversation, helping in the kitchen, reading the funny papers with my Great Grandpa, watching America’s Funniest Home Videos with my uncles, and pitching in with my little cousins planted in me the love of tradition, family dinners, and generational living. After we moved away from CA, and all of our relatives, the tradition died – and it was dearly missed.

The second tradition root is the annual habit of sharing an Epiphany feast with friends (alternating between their home and our home). As a way to reconnect and celebrate with longtime friends at the conclusion of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany narrative, we have actually managed to keep this annual celebration for roughly a decade already, and I thought it would be fun to extend that idea to other friends as well.

Those are the two backstories which grew into my current practice of Advent weekends. It makes for an intense month of hospitality – but what is the Incarnation about? Ultimately, it is about the most intense hospitality imaginable. It is my joy to nibble at the edges of that glorious example of generosity and grace.

On Saturday evenings, we have an open invitation to family to join us for our Advent feast. This is the uppercrust version, where we have fancier foods, use goblets and china, sing hymns, read Scripture & a liturgy, have candles flickering all over the room to light the darkness, and light the candles in our advent wreath. We also give a group gift to our children after the meal, reminding them that the reason we give gifts is because we have been recipients of the ultimate gift of Christ. The gifts this year have been Advent calendars (the classic chocolate-a-day), matching flannel pajamas, a board game, and an outdoor game. This year, my parents and my grandma have joined us every Saturday evening, and it has been an enormous gift.

On Advent Sundays after corporate worship, we have a family over to share a simpler meal and fellowship & play & rest together, in the wake of Jesus coming to make all things new and spread the Gospel to all peoples. We usually have some variance of soup and bread and dessert to share, although a casserole in lieu of soup has been just as simple this year. We set up the meal buffet-style, often use paper plates/bowls, and have no set liturgy (but are always glad to hand out hymnals and carol together).

These four weeks of hospitality, fellowship, feasting, and anticipation are something our family looks forward to throughout the year. And each year, I think I grow personally in my skill & joy of hosting. Be not deceived: it is hard work! But by God’s grace, I am learning to focus on the aspects of it which actually matter (filling bellies, fattening souls, engaging minds, encouraging hearts), and letting go what is unnecessary or selfish or perfectionistic.

The hope of Advent is almost fulfilled… the joy of Christmas is almost here… the light of Epiphany is on its way…

We are Christmas people! Let us feast together & rejoice!

Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, 2019

Joyful Domesticity Summer Reading Challenge

One of the things I really love about homeschooling is how each of our family members both contributes and receives from the culture in our home without much contradiction from outside input. We are constantly discussing, evaluating, and sifting what we see, hear, and experience through our Christian worldview and family culture. I have posted before (it seems so long ago) about the main loves in our family and home ~ broadly stroking, books & food & music.

This last year, perhaps more than any other, our love for books and love of story has been quite pronounced. I have long loved the Read Aloud Revival, and have enjoyed the community of membership there this last year. I have found encouragement and validation and camaraderie over literature there, and it brings delight to my heart. I have also found a lot of encouragement and camaraderie at Simply Convivial and Scholé Sisters this last year, thanks to the community-building efforts of my friend Mystie. It is such a blessing & boon to know that I am not alone in my journey, even if many of my connections necessarily happen online.

Something that I have loved every summer with my children is pursuing a variety of reading challenges. We participate in Read to Ride, Barnes & Noble’s summer reading journal, Pizza Hut’s Book It program, and we have also enjoyed summer reading challenges from Exodus Books and Veritas Press in the past. This summer I have crafted a slightly more personalized take on it for my children. They will get to put stickers on their completed squares through the end of August, and there will be rewards for every dozen squares marked off. You may notice that there are a few specific books and authors ~ these are to help my children & me keep up with the Family Book Clubs my friend Sarah & her Read Aloud Revival team host each month. And then we love taking rabbit trails from those ideas, exploring more of the authors & illustrators we meet there, and build a lot of our library holds list from that. But the majority of these challenge boxes are much more open, more free. It is up to parental discretion whether a book can be used to check off more than one box, or whether each book should only qualify for one box at a time.

REWARDS for every dozen checked boxes:

  • Ice cream sundae
  • Movie date
  • Staying up thirty minutes late
  • Cookies & lemonade picnic
  • Choosing a new book on Amazon
  • Visiting local amusement park (with free tickets!)

I will also be sharing some of our favorite titles and authors that suit some of these categories, to encourage your own library holds list to grow!

Please feel free to print and enjoy Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, and fatten the hearts & minds of your family this season along with us! And if you are so inclined, please leave comments sharing some of your favorite authors, illustrators, titles, and wins so we can learn from one another.

He Yet Lives for God’s Glory

It has been brought to my attention three separate times over the last ten days or so that not everybody knows how Nate Wilson’s surgery turned out and how his prognosis is at this point. My bad! 🙂 Life has been busy to the point of chaotic-with-good-things. And, to be fair, nobody posted anything in the comments section on that post asking about he was doing, so I just kept forgetting to take the time to update y’all. But since I have been asked three times in person recently, I am finally taking time to let you know, Nate’s surgery was successful, he lives, he is continuing to heal & recover, he is pretty proud of his amazing scar & titanium plate, and we can turn our prayers into praises lined with requests for Nate’s continued improvement (for relief from headaches, for improved balance, for victory over an infection) and for his resuming of life as normal (is there such a thing?) as a sharper, finer, stronger image of God.

Here is a video from N.D. Wilson himself, to give you the best update details.

https://www.facebook.com/ndwilsonbooks/videos/10154328893827133/

Praying for Nate

This morning, we continue in our prayers for one of our Christian brothers. The son of the pastor who baptized me twenty years ago. A man who married a girl from Santa Cruz, whose family and mine intersected about thirty years ago through our churches under the California sun. A man who has broadly and deeply blessed my home through his writings. Nate Wilson, known as the author N.D. Wilson… which, by the way, he took that signage practically on a dare from his sisters when he was a teenager, and because his favorite authors also went by initials (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton…).

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Nate’s nonfiction books Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl and Death By Living have made a huge impact on me. If you have not read them, you seriously need to pick up copies! Of course, my children would tell you that you have to read Leepike Ridge and 100 Cupboards and Boys of Blur and Ashtown Burials and Outlaws of Time. My boys were thrilled to be able to hear Mr. Wilson talk at a conference last month, and then the next week to attend a lecture he gave at a local Classical Christian school. Each boy even got their own copy of Outlaws of Time autographed by Mr. Wilson, and then they both spent the rest of the day devouring their books and becoming fast friends with Sam Miracle.

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But now their beloved author (right up there with Shel Silverstein and J.K. Rowling for Asher & Gabriel respectively) is undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor… in fact, at this very moment he is under the knife in Los Angeles… we have been praying daily for him over the last couple of weeks. The boys wanted to send handmade cards and a banner they made, so we were able to share tangible reminders for Nate, Heather, & their 5 kids that they are brought to the Lord by many people during this trial.

I was able to listen to this podcast for a beautiful testimony from Nate himself (along with his sisters) about “Steve” the tumor and how this new trial has impacted their family life, their faith, and challenged the Wilsons to live truthfully & without hypocrisy. I think my favorite line was something to the effect of, if we will accept chocolate chip cookies from God’s hand, I need to also be willing to accept things like brain tumors.
And this morning the kids and I watched this video where Nate spoke about Steve (the tumor!), the gnarly scar he will bear around the left side of his head, and his gratitude for the trial & for the particular type of tumor it is. I wish I could tell you how it blessed my sons to see Mr. Wilson’s demeanor. Asher was touched deeply by Nate’s humor, and Gabriel was encouraged by his blatant bravery.

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The hand of the Lord has done this
in whose hand is the life
of every living thing
& the breath of all mankind

He uncovers deep things
out of darkness

& brings the shadow of death
to Light

~Job 12:9, 10, 22~

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We will continue praying lots today for this Christian brother of ours, for his family, and for the testimony God is giving him in this new way. Won’t you join us today in praying for his surgery? And in coming days for his recovery? Let’s gather around God’s throne and remind him constantly of His image-bearing son N.D. Wilson. Nate writes trials and suffering and challenges into his stories for the characters he creates… and now he is embracing his own trial & suffering & challenge as a character in God’s story. Let’s cheer this man on as he rests in Christ, riding this bull with grip & glory, drinking in Living Water while his branches groan.

If life is a story, how shall we then live?
It isn’t complicated (just hard).

Take up your life and follow Him.

Face trouble.
Pursue it.
Climb it.

Smile at its roar like a tree planted by cool water,
even when your branches groan.

~N.D. Wilson, Death By Living p83~

…and just for fun, I am going to show some financial support to Nate’s family today by padding his paycheck today via Amazon, and getting some books to keep for gifts ~ I encourage others to do the same, if you are able. You won’t be disappointed…

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~

True Friendship

Friendships are vital to the life of the Body of Christ. They warm the heart, rejoice in victories, and give empathy, understanding and support in trials. Friends are great to chat with and to have fun with but my best friend must be God and after that my husband. Nurturing the children comes next. These are the priority relationships that the Lord has given us, and these are the ones that we will have with us all of our lives. After God, husbands, and family comes the church. We are to extend hospitality to other believers, edifying each other. If our friendships are taking away from those priorities, then we have adjustments to make. Don’t let other people take precedence over your husband and children.
~Kim Brenneman, Large Family Logistics, pg91~

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True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p50~

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Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p50~

the goodest of friends

We got to share meals and space and time and conversation with some of our “goodest” friends (in my son’s words). The kind of friends that you do not get to see more than a couple times a year, but who never feel like you’ve lost time with during the in-between. They are the kind of friends that you want to grow old with, and swap grandkid pictures with when we’re grey, and take annual summer vacations with, and create traditions with. This is a family that is like family to us. We are so indescribably thankful for them, and how God lets us cross distances to stay close.

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…There are things you can’t know,
and questions you can’t ask,
and memories you can’t recover via email and voicemail.
It was about the being there,
about being there to really see
what’s exactly the same and
what’s totally different about each one of us.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p63~

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Share your life with the people you love,
even if it means saving up for a ticket
and going without a few things for a while to make it work.
There are enough long lonely days of the same old thing,
and if you let enough years pass,
and if you let the routine steamroll your life,
you’ll wake up one day, isolated and weary,
and wonder what happened to all those old friends.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p65~

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Good friends are like breakfast.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p65~