Category Archives: girls

When You Just Want To Be A Better Mother– How We’re Saved Everyday

I turn over, bury head underneath covers against morning light, trying to sleep away the fogginess from staying up too late the night before. I finally tumble out of bed, equilibrium rolling and room’s floor shifting. The unlevel wooden floors of this ‘ole house don’t help much.

My hair a ratted nest, I grab my water and chamomile tea cup and head for the kitchen and freshly brewed coffee, hoping for one of those heart cookies Husband left for us this morning.

Upon entering a little too sunshine lit living room, Ivy informs me that the little ones ate all the cookies and left none for anyone else. So the first duty of the day before I can even brew a cup of coffee is to discipline my little ones.

My wee one asks, “Out, Mama?” and I call back, with a warm smile, “Yes, cutie pie, you can get out.” “Yay!” she cries, and so the day begins. I cozy up on the couch and drink coffee, find the recipe for Lorna, mourning that I didn’t prepare and buy ingredients ahead of time for us to do our normal tradition of baking sweets together, all of us hens in the kitchen, clucking happily away.

That won’t be this year, because I botched it up. I have no one to blame but myself. I know there is only a vapor, a moment of time to create memories with these girls, and then they’re gone. Teaching them to bake, sew, and do fractions, how to find the right man–I only have a blink for those things and then they’ll be off, teaching their daughters.

I go into the kitchen, awake now, and tell Lorna I want to make the pancakes, all of us together. It’s Valentines Day, after all, I tell her. I am seized with new hope and get out the heart-shaped cookie cutter, place it on the griddle. I pour in the chia seeds and flax seeds, because I’ve been wanting us to eat better, but have lacked the energy. Zeal settles upon me and all of the sudden everything must be perfect. We are going to make heart-shaped pancakes, and it’s going to be awesome. Ivy will wash while I ladle thick batter onto sizzling heat, Lorna will measure out the dry ingredients, then Ivy and Bella will both come and stand on the stool and ladle the last of the batter into the hearts. And we’ll do it all with smiles.

Then the coffee kicks into over-drive, because in an instant I go from happy zeal to irritated and my face and body is hot all over. My blood pressure feels elevated, heart beating way too hard and fast in my chest. I fuss too loud at Ivy, underfoot, not obeying my request to wash and she walks away lips trembling. One tiny is yelling my name at the top of her voice over and over, the other tiny is provoking her, loudly sing-song-ing “Wah-wah-Wah-wah”, and the pancakes are burning. I can’t find my Wise Words For Moms discipline and training chart, I ruffle through the tray on the fridge and it goes crashing to the floor, contents spilling. Lilly is standing right below me now, crying, clinging, the pancakes threaten to turn black, sizzling fiercely, eldest daughter watches me with big hawk eyes, and I’m much too keenly aware of the impression my actions are making on her as the clock ticks on the oven. Everything begins to close in too tight around me, and I turn around and shout at Bella to just. shut. up!

Lilly begins to wail and snub and I realize she thinks I’m yelling at her. I sink down to the floor, look at the tear running down her little face, and grab her, fold her into my safety and nurture. I begin to cry with her, and she pulls back, looks at me. I sign that I’m sorry, rub my chest with my fist. “I’m sorry,” I sob. Tears run. She sees the sadness on my face and her lips turn down and tremble. Her eyes have huge questions in them. I call to all my girls–come here, come to me.

I tell them Mama is sorry that I got aggravated and angry and sinned. I tell them the bible says do not sin in our anger, which means that while it may be completely natural to get irritated or angry at times with someone, what’s important is what we do with that anger. We are to love them in our anger and not sin against them. Mama sinned, I say. I yelled, I disciplined you in anger and that was wrong. I look each one in the eyes and tell them. I tell them Mama needs Jesus.

I crumble over and my body racks with sobs in confession, so good for the soul, so good for their little souls.

I fall forward because really, when I make lips tremble that I swore to protect, who can save me then? I let the repentance wash over.

It feels like a powerfully good strong cleansing.

I tell them of Christ’s pilgrimage to earth and to the cross. He wasn’t of this world, and if He’s a pilgrim, so am I, human but also spirit.

I tell how that he comes into Mama’s heart and takes away all the sin because of that cross, and how it makes me a better Mama, and all the things that I can’t do on my own? I can do them because of Him. I look straight into Lorna’s eyes.

Even Christ crumbled, even his body fell forward in agony, head bowed, the grief racking his body as he begged His Father for another way. He was torn between spirit and flesh. He was human.

And there I sit, feeling so human, looking straight into her big green eyes, taking me in, every bit of me. I direct it to her because I know she cries when she is in trouble, not because she has been found out, but because she is frustrated with herself for sinning. And so I tell her the secret that Christ knew, that Paul knew, that I know now– “You know how when you want to do good, the right thing, instead you do the wrong thing anyway?” She nods.

“Well, that’s what happens when Mama sins, too. I want so badly to be a good mother and to do the right thing. You understand that, right? But Jesus is the only one who can help me with that, because in my own sinful nature, left to my own evil heart, I would choose wrong every time.”

She nods again.

Lilly points at herself, her lip tucked downward and trembling. I know what she wants to say and can’t.

“Are you sad?” She nods, “Yeah”.

She points at me, her lip still down, her eyes speaking a thousand emotions. Oh the way children can see into a soul.

“Mama is sad too?” She nods yes. I hug her tight, tell her I’m okay and I hold all of them close. I promise them a great rest of the day and it is.

Jesus is love and He is God with us, saving us over and over and over again. Every day.

Valentine Heart Streamer Window Treatment

Source: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/02/weekends-are-for-love-books-on-marriage/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29

Some of the things we worked creatively on this year: 

Buttermilk Heart shaped pancakes made from scratch with whole wheat flour, chia seeds, flax seeds, blackberries, blueberries, with honey butter, pure maple syrup, and cinnamon.

Strawberry cake with cream cheese icing, red sprinkles and strawberries.

Red velvet cupcakes with fluffy white frosting, melted 100% cacao, shaved 100% cacao, topped with a strawberry!

Arts and crafts from last year:

*Edited re-post from the archives

Linking with Imperfect Prose:

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Missing Jesus {And Gratitude}

Ivy dancing in the morning light, golden waves triveting around her shouldersher child-reverent face, turned up to the light, arms spread wide, and I think how she must be worshiping right before the throne.

The song plays…

 “So how can I thank you, What can I bring?

What can these poor hands lay at the feet of the King?

I’ll sing you a love song

It’s all that I have

To tell you I’m grateful for holding my life in your hands.”

She doesn’t know I’m watching and then she catches a glimpse of me and I smile warm, heart right proud and the oil of my approving love, it pours over her head and saturates her head to toe, cleansing out so much uncertainty.

She smiles shy. My soul sees hers. “You are precious.”

She turns down the music, looks at me. “Really?”

“Yes, you sure are.”

She smiles and continues to spin, this whole world, the morning sun and my heart spinning with her. These old wood floors and 100 year old walls creak and groan in honor of the Creator.

I can literally feel the weight of His glory come down like a thick cloud, a good cloud, like the haze of sweltering sun in a 17 year old girl’s free summer on the beach.

I am brimming over now.

Peace descends and in the fury of her innocence,  I am turned inside out and my heart swells, all the cracked, stony places soaking up the grace.

Because I’m thinking, “When was the last time I spun around like that, arms thrown wide open in abandon, face and heart lifted up to God?

When did I last forget about time and this space of all that must be done now, this moment with all the worries it holds and just breathed in and out?

Just breathed in and out the God-grace, the living waters that quench my aging and weary parched throat.

When did I last become like a child and turn face up to Heaven, to the light, in wild hope and trust?

When did I last have that child-faith that doesn’t question the One, the only Father who takes care of the child?”

And I heard God say through my daughter—that I don’t hunger near enough.

He has awakened me to it, though–really stirred life within–told me I am His own–His beloved–He is wooing me–the God of all creation. He loves, He loves, He LOVES me! He tells me when I wake in the morning to the sunrise softly glinting through curtains, “This is for you! It’s all for YOU!”

His pursuit of me makes me hunger more for Him. And this revealing of my lack? It is Him lavishing love so thick.  And I want to love that thick.

Oh, that I could abandon everything, leave behind myself just to follow hard after him.

That my words with my girls would be tender, that He would love them through me, that the truth in my ways would speak of Him, that I would find myself rocking and soothing the orphan babe who has no human touch– no one to hold her, that wisdom would be on my lips.

That I would show them grace because we dance to Elvis Jailhouse Rock , Black-Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow, or Toby Mac, and we laugh, and wine is on the table, and we pray for God to help us love one another and take care of one another better, and our evenings aren’t filled with sitcoms or internet gaming and socializing, but we are playing love-games at the supper table and running and swimming and living life, and reading that we are God’s princesses at bedtime. We read how that when we’ve been the prodigal, our Father King, He always embraces us with tears in his eyes and overwhelming love and puts a ring on our finger and a crown on our head and there is no shame in the presence of Daddy-King.

And as my daughter twirls in light, I have this growing, gnawing ache.

I miss Jesus.

Gratitude: #902-916

Through giving thanks for the small, everyday things and snapping shots and noticing these brief moments captured in my lens– a frame of light caught in her hair, angling the camera to get a different view of the sun streaming through leaves, running through my backyard, awe-inspired–to get a shot of a hawk–I have learned something extremely valuable in life: through thanksgiving and awe, praise and glory-giving back to God for His creation, for all His gifts, is where I find joy, this elusive gift I have sought for half my life-span.

#902 trip to Destin with just my mom and sister…bonding time…

#903 girl talk with my sister about real-life issues…

#904 hard eucharisteo…one of the hardest talks I’ve ever had to have and probably ever will–with my mother—all of us working through difficult emotional spaces

#905 relaxing on the beach…listening to waves…

#906 napping on my beach blanket…all of us quiet…

#907 “What happens in Destin, stays in Destin”—a little saying coined by my mom…~smile~

#908 sunburns and fighting through physical pain and being grateful for today, a good attitude and laughter our medicine

#909 Bella’s argument: “It’s. Not. My. Birthday yet!!” when we would tell her happy birthday. Apparently it isn’t really a birthday until there’s a party?

#910 Her five-year-old-lisping into the phone to her daddy that she had a great birthday and had a cake—a chocolate one, and everybody enjoyed themselves at her birthday.

#911 My eleven year old daughter who isn’t very affectionate, crawling into my lap or hugging me and nodding up and down when I ask if she needs Mama love. Melts my heart.

#912 Hard eucharisteo…confronting issues and growing in Christ with sisters, in grace and love—seeing the fruits of this in me and others…

#913 My director calling just to encourage me and to tell me not to be nervous…

#914 How I, usually so unprepared, up ‘til 2 am, somehow arrived more-than-enough prepared and I for once felt what it was to be a leader…the grace of God growing these skills in me I didn’t know I had inside…Him pulling these out—me being brave and following him…

#915 My amazement at the confidence He has given…

#916 Learning that humility isn’t a heavy cloak of being less than that we wear, but it is an action, a serving, a loving, a confident knowing who I am in Christ, forging ahead in the path made straight for me, using the talents He calls forth from within, abandoning the things I hold onto so tightly—fear, distrust, pride, selfishness, woundedness and I answer His call, unaffected by others’ criticisms or praises. Giving praise to God that this is finally. becoming. truth for me and reality I can see as I walk out my daily life!!!

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably making vegan pad thai or whole-wheat cookies with my girls, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love  you!  Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my thankfulness. I love all of you.

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Little Ballerinas

Papers scattered, computer on my lap, soft couch cushion underneath, I look at the little faux fire blazing and type away, lost in a sea of cyber-words. Four year old Bella’s large blue-orbed eyes find mine, grounding me, and she asks, “Mama, will you come play ballerina with me?” My legs crossed indian-style, a smile playing on my lips at her angel cuteness, I tell her yes, in just a minute.

When I finish writing to a friend, I walk into their room, toys strewn about, pine floor barely peeking through. “I’m ready to play ballerina now. What should I do?”

“You be the teacher, Mama. Yes, you have to wear a ballerina outfit like us, a teacher-ballerina outfit.” Excitement lifts them up on their toes, and their voices jump decibals higher. I laugh at them, and tell them the first thing to do is to pick up all the toys so we have room to dance, and I will be back.

So feeling extremely silly, I go find tights, a slip-skirt, and black leotard-like top. Their eyes shine when they see me and when I turn and twirl into their room, clapping my hands and calling, “Okay, class, line up” in a sing-song soprano, they little-girl giggle and I see them really looking at me, in a new light. Their innocence betrays them and their fresh God-image faces reflect rapturous joy and that I must be doing something right.

I put in Handel’s Messiah and I have them to plie’ and do stretches on the bar and I spin and teach them a dance. They go leaping through the air. The early morning sun’s rays catch them in all their beauty–just in this one moment, this moment that will never return.

I have never felt sillier nor have I ever felt more free.

I go over to the player at their request and we play “Musical Ballet”. When I stop the music, they are frozen in their lifts and little girl twirls, and this is a perfectly freeze-framed moment for a mama.

Time really does seem to stop. 

They hold hands, all four of them, and they go ’round and ’round in the neverending circle of sunrise’s gleaming hope, it streaming across their faces. The shadows fall but I don’t see the shadows–I only see their souls radiating and shining light, and it makes them so alive.

It bedazzles me and I’m enthralled because I don’t know how it happened, but I am caught up in the way a dimple beams at me, the way a soft cheek captures warmth right there, the way Lorna’s wavy golden locks waterfall over her small framed shoulders, glinting light glorious.

In our crazy kid-energy afforded by play, I sat on the little woven rug in front of the dollhouse and helped them shine it new, and glued down miniature furniture so tiny hands could not break it–a love-project put off for many months.

When we were finished, my daughters were so proud and I was proud too, to call myself Mama.

We tasted contentment’s sweet milk and it delighted us and we drank in the nourishment at joy’s swelled hope.

We danced wild, laughing, letting the morning carry us smoothly along right through freedom’s doors into wide-open joy.

Gratitude:

#584 How when I ask Bella to help Lilly into her boot, she says, “I can’t–I promise, because I’m just a little girl.”

#585 How Bella furrows her brow at me, “Mama, Ivy slapped me on my ankle,” holding up her elbow, and I absent-mindedly lift up the elbow of my sink-water drenched shirt, she says, “No, Mama, not your ankle, MY ankle!”

3 ugly-beautifuls gifts…
#586 taking care of sick children
#587 with Hubs sick, eldest daughter helps
#588 germy, dirty house now sparkling

3 gifts from the past–that help me trust the future…
#589 relationships in church body mended–stepping out on a limb trusting Him to catch me
#590 hurts in family past getting some healing
#591 my favorite book, old and tattered, given by my Grandma, being the first read-aloud the girls and i do together, taking turns

a gift dull, a gift shimmering, a gift cleaned…
#592 antique table given by Granny showing wear and marks from children as I snap a picture of little hands grabbing cinnamon rolls
#593 beautiful floral designed diamond engagement ring given by Husband
#594 knit blanket washed and couch scrubbed, floors shiny for sister to come over to watch nieces while me and Husband go on day-date

3 gifts at 3 p.m…
#595 warm, soft breezy day,
#596 blanket on the porch w kids piled up & popcorn,
#597 me on the swing writing my thanks

#598 Ivy’s reverent whisper of conviction as she stares out to the yard,”It’s a beautiful day today.”

3 gifts green…glorious signs of Spring!
#599 thick clover in the backyard

#600 shoots of life coming up in pots

#601 tiny buds on my favorite spring tree blooming

3 gifts wore…
#602 turquoise studded silver bracelet given by Granny
#603 soft, comfy scarf given by sister
#604 gorgeous shirt gifted to Husband that looks smashing on him!

3 gifts hard to give thanks for…
#605 making it on very little these past few weeks until our finances get worked out–being creative with making money stretch
#606 muddy, swampy back yard, rain making green life come up, me and girls sloshing around in rainboots and clogs
#607 nice, huge pile of tree limbs from tree that fell in yard to make a bonfire–smores makings bought, weinies, drinks, and wood too wet to burn–so we take our smores inside to the stove and happily eat up

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In the Middle of A Winter Season…

In the middle of winter’s bleak grayness and dark, the sun withholding, snuggling on the couch with my girls trying to stay warm, bundled up with hand-crotched quilts made with love, I day dream of escape.

As they run around and around the house screaming, me trying to keep them calm and failing, the world outside too dreary for them to enjoy and my head suffering the consequences, I look at pictures of places warm and carefree and I wish desperately.

I’m caught up in this negative frame of mind that says it will never get better, I’ll never have a moment’s peace, these children here since the day we got married–this sleepless chaos all I know.

I am in deep love with all my babies, but with each new baby, came more responsibility, more weight on our marriage, nights sitting up feeding and rocking, nights and nights of Mama not sleeping for years on end, and with noone to keep them, a small break to refresh myself rarely possible.

With each new little one came more depression and more anxiety, and though those around me said they were amazed at how I held up, I must have hid it well because what they couldn’t see was that I was breaking down inside little by little.

On the outside, I was brave and smiling, but on the inside I was a broken, hollow shell, cracked and afraid of failure.

With it all came more grating of myself and less and less chance of breaking free in flight, of pursuing the solitude that I wantingly crave, of getting normal sleep and feeling sane.

The days became like sandpaper against my selfish desires and dreams and my wishing on stars, hoping for the mountain air, reaching for beaches white and seas of sparkling jade became just candles blown out with the secret longing, only curls of smoke left in the wake of duty.

There have been times I thought that my flesh would get so torn with exhaustion and the fight to keep going that my body would go down to the deep. I have longed for Heaven and it’s wiping of tears, of sorrows and toiling no more.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this God began to whisper to my heart…”My dear child, you are not alone. I suffered too. Now you suffer with me, you drink of my cup, and this is how you know me deeply.”

                                   
                                         {old pictures of the girls playing in the snow}

And the more time that eroded self, the more their screaming demands washed down the dirt-packed high expectations of my needs, and did a cleansing of the heart and soul, running down and pooling at His feet, at the base of the cross, the louder I could hear Him uttering,

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”–Jesus, John 6:53-58

So in the middle of this unceasingly busy world of mine without rest and little comfort, if the cup and the bread are symbolic of my suffering with Christ, of my proclaiming His death, then everyday I am drinking down and I am partaking of the bread of suffering.

Every day that I stay here and I don’t escape and I bend low, this serving-place becomes hallowed, and the edges of me are scraped and sanded raw and I bleed and I gape open, arms stretched out, hands pierced just as my Christ was holed straight through, the obvious scars I can’t deny.

I am in deepest fellowship with Him, when I know Him intimately in His suffering.

And I know that I won’t do it perfect–I will forget, and my tongue will lash out at little ones when I am bone-tired and my mind can’t keep up with the whirl-wind.

But I press on, and moment by moment, I let Him teach me how to suffer with Him. I keep my heart soft and I remember to drink down fully of His cup and to ravish the bread of His body, because this is the only way to die to this flesh that I’m in. 

My little one comes up to me and I bend low and I stretch out arms and take her in, the edges of me becoming softer, my love for her bleeding out.

Some quotes to meditate on if you have time to read–they are very rich and stimulating to thought:

          “Suffering is getting what you do not want while wanting what you do not get.”–JI Packer

“There is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial”–CH Spurgeon

“All the children of God are destined to be conformed to Christ. The more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ: Philippians 3:10 – 10 ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 – 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.’ “–John Calvin

“He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly. For they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross, evil and the evil of a deed, good. God can only be found in suffering and the cross.”–Martin Luther

“If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love.” –John Stott What Christ Thinks of the Church: An Exposition of Revelation 1 – 3 (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2003) 35

“I’ve never heard anyone say the really deep lessons of life have come in times of ease and comfort. But, I have heard many saints say every significant advance I’ve ever made in grasping in the depth of God’s love and growing deep with Him, have come through suffering.” –John Piper

“None of us can come to the highest maturity witout enduring the summer heat of trials:
As the sycamore fig does not ripen unless it is bruised
As the corn does not leave the husk without threshing
As the wheat makes no fine flour unless it is ground
so we are of little use until we are afflicted!” –Kimber Kauffman, pastor College Park Baptist Church, Indpls IN

“Programs, systems and methods sit well in the ivory towers of monasteries or in the wooden arms of icons. Head knowledge comes from the pages of a theology text. But the invitation to know God – truly know Him – is always an invitation to suffer. Not to suffer alone, but to suffer with Him.” –Joni Eareckson Tada

Gratitude: {since I’ve been out of the blogging community, a culmination of the past few weeks}….

a gift found at 11:30, 2:30 p, at 6:30 p…

#535 hearing my father preaching for the first time in many years
#536 all of us eating chips and dip, cookies for Sunday lunch and curling up on the couch
#537 Husband putting the children in bed while I’m lying on the couch with a migraine, him quietly telling them to leave Mama alone

#538 Lorna blending berries for my juice fast

#539 girls running around the house, squealing with delight and the thrill of their Daddy hiding and jumping out to catch them

3 gifts overheard today, all gifts…

#540 Lorna talking to her horse as she leads her to the pasture, “You should be ashamed of yourself that you step in your own poop.”
#541 Ivy’s synopsis: “Mama, don’t think of it as a green swamp; just think of it as a candyland!” –on my green juice
#542 Lorna’s “I can’t tell you, Mama, because it’s a surprise.” and her running off excited in her planning.

3 gifts found in writing…

#543 this scripture: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom. 4:16
#544 this gift listed a while back: “husband’s forgiveness in my failings reflecting God’s goodness”…yes
#545 just this post–oh the beautiful and poignant poetry Ann pulls out of her heart here!

#546 Bella’s excited announcement: “Mama, when I told Lilly ‘That’s a rag,’ she said, ‘Oh’!”

#547 When I go to pick up Lilly to change her, Bella’s four-year-old observation, “I think she smells like poopy!”

#548 When I start changing Lilly, how Bella tells me confidently, “I can do the buttons.” then “See? I can do it.” Her need to be seen as a respected individual.

#549 light from lampost rippling across the lake at night

#550 running in silence, the stillness all around me, the dark falling down, taking in deep breaths that I didn’t even realize I needed

3 gifts found when bent down…

#551 my baby’s sugary-soft cheeks
#552 beautiful white and yellow daffodils peeking out at me from deadend grass, radiant in winter

#553 heavenly laughter that makes me soar as i am bent over my baby, bodies close in taking care of her,  tickles and kisses

one gift stitched, one hammered, one woven…

#554 beautiful hand-stitched quilt of Sunbonnet Sue handed down
#555 Husband’s canvases nailed up high on wood, him painting away, happy
#556 the way our family days all weave together, tightly, God holding us together, all the messy and all the beautiful, securely held in grace

3 gifts found outside…

#557 me taking pictures of daffodils on a warm day…signs of spring coming…while Lilly runs atop stones and Husband and I laugh at her determination and tiny cuteness

#558 girls bringing me vase of miniature daffodils they picked in woods for Valentine’s Day
#559 proud blue jay flitting across the yard in his splendor

a gift broken, a gift fixed, a gift thrifted…

#560 my heart, broken and contrite before God, going on faith and out on a limb, and loving with wild abandon
#561 putting fears aside and loving, in spite of possible rejection, and a woman teary-eyed telling me she loves me–this repaired relationship and how this brought long-awaited healing for me in the body of Christ–extravagant grace!
#562 running shoes loaned to me by a friend

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Join me at Ann’s for a beautiful story on stress and more thank-you’s to God?…..

Also sharing with L.L….

On In Around button

Laura @ Playdates With God…

and Jenn….

What Is Love? {A Belated Valentines Post}

Love is…a smile between lovers at their baby playing cute in the middle of an argument

Love is…letting Husband have the best piece of salmon (or cake)

Love is…a father saddling up all of the horses for his daughter and granddaughters, working his way from horse to horse with passion and lightening speed–all for an hour ride

Love is…reading a book to them anyway when I’m dead tired

Love is…Husband coming in the door with a beautiful blender for my juice fast after some heartbreaking news from the doctor

Love is…Husband going into town for wine on Valentine’s Day…his idea

Love is…staying is all of us being at home togther on Valentine’s Day, crafting, baking, making home happy, just being

Love is…hearing someone’s point and validating their feelings even when you think they are wrong

Love is…reaching out for that connecting hug anyway when things are really difficult between you and someone

Love is…putting down my camera to take a little one with an infection to the bathroom when she asks for help, her brow furrowed, pleading with her eyes

Love is…apologizing to my girls when I slip up, when I sin against them

Love is…cupping someone’s face, looking into their eyes to tell them you love them, to make sure they believe it

Love is…looking over an offense, forgiving the unforgiveable

Love is…believing the best in people, refusing to believe a lie

Love is…fellowshipping with friends that wounded you, only through grace, no record-keeping

Love is…desiring to see others happy, even when things aren’t going well for me

Love is…making little of myself and thinking more of my neighbor

Love is…Sunday after Sunday, working at getting past the surface smiles and really getting to know my brothers and sisters, really seeing them

Love is…a man hanging on a tree, the One Man who took all God’s wrath for us, the all-time ultimate illuminary display of love

Love is…make up your own?…..

Valentine Heart Streamer Window Treatment

Source: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/02/weekends-are-for-love-books-on-marriage/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29

                                Bella and Lilly watching Winnie The Pooh while the older girls help
                                                                         bake….

                                                                                                                                    


White Chocolate and Cherry Shortbread Cookies {our white chocolate didn’t melt, so it didn’t make it onto our cookies}
Source: Loveandoliveoil.com via Ann Voskamp



Valentine twig arrows…the girls had a lot of fun making these…even Lilly helped!
Source: carolynshomework.blogspot.com via Kellie on Pinterest




Valentine Confetti
Source: Nest of Posies

Gazelle-Sprinting

It is late afternoon. My daughter and I have already done our exercise for the day and now we are outside in the warm Southern winter sun, it glancing only briefly from behind the clouds and trees, the orange orb caressing the back of our heads in heated strokes.

I’m relaxing in my hammock under the maple with it’s bare limbs meandering upward and jagged, and I’m doing some thinking and writing. I’m enjoying my writing, but I feel a little restless and slightly off-kilter.

Then the girls come up to me, panting and ask me to play tag, blinking their request at me, their eyes full of uncertainty and it anchors me.

I look back at them and I feel energized because I’ve been practicing. I’ve worked out hard and I’m ready for anything they ask me to do.

I jump up and their faces shine excitement and the world shifts back into place.

I chase my daughter who is almost as tall as me, and she chases me all the way around our house, under the shade tree and around the perimeter of our large yard. I stay ahead of her, leaping over fallen branches, acorns crunching underneath my shoes, and this is no small feat, since my long-legged girl sprints like a gazelle.

When their father gets home and finds us in the backyard, he is easily coaxed by his little girls to join in the game.









I watch him dodge this way and that, pretending to run fast for the little one while she chases after him, and as I stand there and watch, my face flushed with the thrill of it all, I remember why I married him.

I flush with something else.

A powerful love.

It wells up inside and makes me aware of what’s between us.

The children pull him to the ground and fall on him in laughter.

It rings out and all around and envelopes us.

We all carry the high spirits inside to face the work that awaits.



Gratitude:

3 ways i glimpsed the startling grace of God…

#476 when i talked about being afraid, all the women one by one around the table, admitting they were just as fearful

#477 women opening up and being honest, how freeing it is

#478 husband telling me he will take the children to church so I can rest and have the night off

one thing i wore, one thing i gave away…

#479 a purple and red hand-sewn flower headband

#480 clothes waiting to go to a teenage girl

3 ways i witnessed happiness…

#481 Sunday worship service melting all of my hard exterior of pain

#482 having a new running partner–that I wasn’t too afraid to ask–pure grace!

#483 the comfort of Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s–like going back to my childhood

one gift that made me laugh, made me pray, made me quiet…

#484 this post…oh how it made me laugh out loud! you must read!

485. my blogging friends, little Kelly in the children’s hospital with lukemia, God waking me in the middle of the night

#486 a friend tells me i’m a beautiful person, on the inside…makes me a little speechless

3 gifts from God’s Word…

#487 this verse: “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land…Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:11-13

#488 the Psalms that quiet my soul

#489 Romans 8:28 through the end of the chapter–our family portion of scripture

a grace in the kitchen, in the weather, that might never have been…

#490 kitchen countertops, slow-going, but being finished

#491 nice, warm weather in January for me and the girls to play outside in

#492 our little Lilly Claire, our last, our surprise baby

3 gifts i saw only when i got close-up…

#493 the fanning of Ivy’s long eyelashes, the green flash

#494 the adorable soft pink of my cat, Pumpkin’s nose

#495 Lilly’s stubby toes, her lifting them up to me, wanting me to pick out the fuzz in between them

one thing in the sky, from my memory, one ugly-beautiful…

#496 a bold blue jay and Bella’s “Look, Mama! A blue bird!”, pointing her little finger up

#497 all the work-days, and lazy-days, all the days of hanging suspended in the hammock, of gardening and planting and transplanting flowers, of putting wine bottles in earth for borders, all the days of swinging on the porch and watching the kids play, of bright summer sun shared by us all

#498 laundry and watching Little Women with my girls…giving me an opportunity to get my hands dirty and serve, to make me softer around the edges, a sweet moment shared with my girls

one grace wrinkled, one smoothed, one unfolded…

#499 rain on the window, how it makes my vision a little warped, a hard washing and cleansing

#500 how Husband can soothe me….you can read about it here…

#501 Ivy and Bella’s small hands unfolding to me with a beautiful gift…dandelions for me to make a wish



…you will be blessed to follow me over and read these blogs…

Shared with Ann…

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Laura…

L.L…

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and Jen…

href=”http://findingheaventoday.blogspot.com/”&gt;“>

Holy Work {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #16}

Ivy comes to me while I’m at the computer, and I seize the moment to pull her close, nuzzle her hair, breathe in the scent of her. I tip her face back and cup it in my hands, look into her eyes.

“Do you know you have the most beautiful eyes in the whole world?”

Her eyes get wide and round as she gazes into mine. She happily flutters her eyelashes at me.

“Do you know that you are a funny girl and you make Mama laugh and you are a joy?”

She smiles shy up at me.

“Do you know you are God’s child?”

She nods her head up and down, solemn.

She glances at the screen at what I’m writing, and asks, “Mama, why are we God’s child?”

I wrap my arms around her and say, “Because He made us. But do you know how you really know you are His?”

“The bible says that you are His if you confess your sins to Him, and ask Him to be your Savior, then He takes all your sin away because He died on the cross so that He could do that, remember?” Her eyes flicker remembrance and she nods.

“And then you can go to Heaven to be with Him forever and ever.”

“Oh.”

“Mama? Does God give you work in Heaven? like hard chores?”

“No. We will worship Him all the time. But He may give us some holy work to do–you know, like how the angels’ jobs are to watch over the earth? Well, He may have something like that for us to do.”

“Oh.” Her mouth turns down sad. I’m sure she must have imagined a magical play land.

“You know…Heaven has streets made of gold, and the gates are made of beautiful pearls.”

Her eyes light up, she smiles at me and bounds off, the conversation carried with her in her play, pictures of purest gold and brilliant pearls in her head.



Gratitude:

3 things about myself i am grateful for…

#437 my health

#438 the desire to be at home with my family raising my girls

#439 that God blessed me to be able to have four babies

a gift outside, inside, on a plate…

#440 picnic on a blanket with my family, me lying on my back, sun the orange orb behind my closed lids

#441 clean, freshly scrubbed couch, bare floors

#442 Southern-style chicken and dumplins cooked by my Granny

3 lines i overheard that were graces…

#443 Lorna picking Lilly up, carrying her off and snuggling her, telling her, “I just love you. You are the sweetest baby.”

#444 Lorna’s confession “Mama, I can’t stop thinking about Kelly (a little boy with lukemia at our church). He’s my buddy.”

#445 Lorna’s “You know, Mama, me and Ivy haven’t fought and we have been getting along all day! It’s because last night when we were arguing, Ivy was upset and I asked her why and she said she was sorry about all the things she ever did to hurt me and so we just cried together.”

one gift old, new, & blue

#446 my great-grandmother’s hand-made patchwork quilt that covers my bed

#447 running gear from my parents

#448 Lilly’s baby-blue eyes

something i’m reading, something i’m making, something i’m seeing…

#449 Holy Experience blesses and wrings me out everyday and flows over onto my family…also starting Forgotten God by Francis Chan

#450 a holistic, Christ-centered peaceful home for my family

#451 my husband loving me through my anxiety and worry, calming me with his strength

one thing in my bag, my fridge, my heart…

#452 new running gloves

#453 fresh pineapple

#454 forgiveness! joy! God’s radiant love!

3 graces from people i love…

#455 my father saying while he’s in the hospital that he knows i have a family to take care of

#456 husband telling eldest girl to help put little ones down for naps so Mama can have a soak in the tub

#457 my Granny’s hands, serving and cooking for us in her kitchen

light that caught me, a reflection that surprised me, a shadow that fell lovely

#458 softest morning’s patch of light streaming in through window and landing across my bed in shadows

#459 catching a glimpse of me with baby in towel on hip as i carry her from the bath

#460 evening’s shadows illuminated lovely by soft candlelight as i cook

a gift in your hand, a gift you walked by, a gift you sat with…

#461 Lilly’s soft chubby hands in mine, the way they feel like silk on my face when she climbs in the bed to stroke me and wake me.

#462 walked by a lady in church, gathered up my courage and introduced myself and God used her practical caring to loose chains of fear that had bound me

#463 sitting with my husband in the sanctuary, the sacred union of marriage, how His presence cradles and soothes me.

a gift that’s sour, a gift that’s sweet, a gift that’s Just. Right. …

#464 pomegranates

#465 Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk

#466 buttery cinnamon granny smith apples

3 yellow things that strike me as fresh mercy…

#467 tiny green daffodil shoots coming up from hardened winter ground

#468 the hope for something shooting up yellow

#469 the sun coming out after the cloudy, dreary rain

something above me, something below me, something beside me…

#470 grey, cloudy skies

#471 beautiful, shiny pine floors in this old house

#472 my bible

3 sounds i hear…

#473 drip-dripping of steady rain

#474 Lilly squealing happy as she goes down the slide

#475 my phone ringing, Husband calling to check on me

Join in on the Joy Dare 2012! Are you thinking about starting a grateful, grace-counting list of your own? Lack motivation and need a little inspiration? Head here to join the Joy Dare and get the free printout with all the crazy-grace prompts you need!

“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”–Erasmus

Join me at Ann’s for more counting graces?…

And at Jenn’s…

And at L.L.’s place for poetry and quiet reflections…

Seasons {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #10}

I’m not so much sitting as I am reclined back, feet propped on suspended laziness under the maple tree, head resting against a pillow, listening to leaves rustle, sway and fall in the cool breeze of Autumn air, the warmth of the sun wrapping me in my cotton cocoon.

This is the dual season of fall and winter in the Deep South. The strong arctic wind blasts of snow are somewhere far away to the North. As I sit here (recline here), I notice the Spider Lillies are in bloom in our backyard. Lorna walks up to me and says, “Mama, the spider web flowers are blooming!” and my heart smiles warm.

It’s a full circle of life moment, when I recall all in one breath how my Mama, as a little girl, always enjoyed the spider lillies blooming in the fall, how Autumn has always been her favorite season, how as a small child, I brought the delicate spiny autumn inside for her to put on the sill, and how I, as a young girl, wrote poet’s lines about my favorite flower and pined for a love lost on leaves blowing in the fall.

Now my daughter knows the joy of them and their meaning–the ending of one season, sad as it is, but the beginning of something far greater than we could imagine.

God sees the bigger picture, doesn’t He?

We never fully see, but thinking that we can see, our perspective grows jaded and gloomy, like looking through a glass darkly, and we doubt and lose hope.

And we feel the pull and the dull ache as all the shallow, hard, dry places where seed has been swept away and not allowed to grow are carved and etched deep,

God’s mighty hand grasping, pulling, tilling, and gently plowing so none of the soil is lost but all is repaired, refreshed and He moistens the soil and awakens it by putting in new soil.

Something new–I can only explain it as the mystery of the blood pouring down,

is birthing life in me, the light of that glorious sacrificial gospel spilling red and rich upon my heart.

Red and rich and delicate because all this frailness, this sin-wracked body that I live in, must be willing to receive like the thin webbing of those autumn flowers–and they shoot up, the blood liveliness–

that aliveness –from Earth’s fertile soil, that soil dark and dying, the depths of decaying rottenness giving life–like the life-blood shooting up from veins as nails drive into His hands and feet.

And the seed cannot reproduce less it die first.

Then, through suffering with Christ, we are awakened and all we have to do is accept the sacrifice on our behalf and the blood shoots up, alive in us, making us alive to Him.

And I’ve been grafted in–in the midst of a desert-wandering life–he has drenched me in the life-blood and called me His own.

I watch my children, all the golden halos of them, dancing in the flowers, running and laughing amongst the red webbed flowers, and I run after them, and I think this is how God sees me:

just a child brought home, all of us dancing in all this grace, soaking up the moments given, the seconds and hours and days birthed out of love for us and I stand grateful, for it is just a season, a changing, a dying so that something greater can be birthed.

And this, too, shall pass.

Gratitude:

#399 this season of desert-wandering…and knowing that God has a plan for it all

#400 these hard two weeks of trudging while Mr. Simmons works overtime…sun up to late nights cooking suppers, baths, devotions, eating suppers all together and bedtime stories and putting little ones back in bed over and over when they hop out…can i say thank you, once again, even for this? can i really lift up a thank you to God–even now–when i’m exhausted? are the worn places that i feel really making me a velveteen mama?

#401 large cartons of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes

#402 a mentor-friend, so kind and gentle, keeps writing and checking on me, offering support, advice and comfort for me to lean into

#403 a few loyal friends who keep writing, calling and just keep being there for me

#404 the way their smiles make the day seem brighter, the sun a halo on their heads

#405 a new exercise routine that has me feeling better and more like myself

#406 my sister, my mother and me all together at the movie late in the night on Thanksgiving…girl time and my mother’s “I’m glad we did this!”

#407 Older sisters wanting to give Christmas gifts to younger sisters

#408 these changing seasons…knowing that whatever comes, God is nearest in the hard times, in the pain, in the hurt. He is here.

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #6: Endurance

It’s Sunday evening and we are running alongside one another, Lorna and I. She says to me, “How far are we going to run?”

“A pretty long ways,” I hesitantly tell her. “Well, how far is that?” she asks.

“Four miles,” I say, thinking how my feet fall in rhythm with hers.

“FOUR miles?!” she pants it out incredulous.

After several minutes, she stops to take a walk break, and I slow down for her. I tell her to take a deep breath, look at the beautiful sunset, the moon sort of sitting in the sky, and pick up her pace.

After about a fourth of a mile, she needs another break, and I tell her she can just as soon as we get around this curve.

“When are we going to run fast?” she questions me, just a tad impatient.

“We aren’t. This is a test of your endurance, not your speed. This is a test to see how long you can last.”

“Oh.” She thinks for a moment.

“Well, what’s the answer?”

“You tell me. Show me what you can do.”

She sighs a muffled groan and we keep on in rhythmic stride. Pink and orange sunset hangs low over wheat fields silent in winter’s first cold gales and the sun dips to kiss the trees. We run past cows grazing and she points out a baby calf to me.

On the way home we break into a fast run and she beats me to the house, my daughter with the long legs and the inquisitive mind, my daughter who doesn’t like children’s movies anymore, who reads my One Thousand Gifts book, and who is becoming a woman way too fast–

my daughter with whom I am so grateful to be sharing these moments with.

Gratitude:

#365 Bella, grabbing Lilly and enfolding her in a tight embrace, and wrapping arm around her ears when the train comes so she won’t be afraid–how they care for one another

#366 how Lilly is so submissive and leans into her big sister until the train passes

#367 time carved out to breathe–driving to meet a friend to run–feeling alive and how I tell her the thing that is really important–how much I am grateful for her

#368 another date with Husband–him taking such good care of me–getting me out of the house–sharing a sandwich and getting coffee–him sitting next to me, shielding me

#369 Husband calling everyone over without me knowing because I am sad

#370 Sunday lunch around the table the way it should be–steaming hot greens, chicken, brown rice, cornbread and rolls–everyone helping their plate and passing the butter

#371 good, rich time spent with family–hearing their voices and laughter ring off the walls of my home–all of us smiling and giggling at Lilly’s antics and sharing the best sour cream and pear coffee cake with espresso in my grandmother’s china.

#372 sitting on my porch swing with my mother and talking like old friends

#373 a Sunday evening run with my daughter that’s big enough to keep up with me

#374 the beautiful sunset I take in as I run, God’s creation, that I’m seeing it all and appreciating it all for it’s simple beauty

#375 God’s amazing love and shepharding care for me

#376 that I felt like picking flowers in the backyard and arranging them in vases for the kitchen–a sign I’m getting better

#377 the branches with red and golden leaves that I took straight inside and put in a tall vase on our dining table after Husband plucked them down for me

#378 how when I am sad, but don’t show it or say it, but Husband knows anyway–that’s love

#379 how God is branching me out and making me reach out farther and higher in worship and love toward His children

#380 this recipe to Pumkin Latte cupcakes pictured here–how it makes the house feel and smell like fall! And little chubby hands reaching for yummy goodness!

Join me at Ann’s today for counting pure graces and gifts from the Father:

at L.L.’s place, Seedling In Stone:

On In Around button

at Jenn’s for Soli De Gloria:

and also, join me here as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week!

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

Giggles

In the harshness of dark and responsibilities weighing heavy–they all have had baths, supper finally eaten at 8:00, teeth brushed, and now time for prayers and a story–I try to make sense of time and how it seems to rush away from me, leaving me here, empty, with all my stress and worry.

I am trying to get everything done so that when they at last fall asleep, Mr. Simmons and I can watch a movie, snuggled up.

But I hear squealing coming from their room, and I realize that he is not cooperating with the plan. I peek into their room to see what the commotion is, and see pillows being flung, laughter escaping little mouths, and eyes wild with excitement. He is in on it too.

I could get annoyed at the plan being sabotaged, as I have in the past and tell everyone to calm down so that my nerves can rest. But I don’t. I have learned a new motto: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em–at least when it comes to the lighter issues of life, and when it applies, and I whole-heartily believe it applies to pillow fights.

So I join in on the pillow sacking, and the girls run from me, in squealish fright, eyes wide with merriment. Mr. Simmons grabs a pillow and sacks me and I stand bold and pretend to hit him with all my might. (Of course, we all hit Mr. Simmons harder than we do each other because he can handle it–isn’t that the way with Daddies and heroes?)

While Mr. Simmons is preoccupied with being tackled by eight tiny hands–even little baby Lilly, who we heard grunting in her crib, wanting in on the fight–I run and retrieve my camera to capture the moment. Lilly toddles over, unsteadily holding baby-sized pillow over her head, mimicking her sisters in their ambush.

As Mr. Simmons becomes too tired to continue, and the room begins to quiet, all three oldest girls are in a trio huddle, and I try to snap a frame of them, only for them to fall backwards in giggles on the bed.



I capture their sweet giggles, as Mr. Simmons stands in the doorway watching. Ivy has a contagious, innocent laugh, her body slumping back with the limp happiness, reminding me of the sweet gigglish bunny of the cartoon Robin Hood. She rings pure joy, the echos reaching my very soul, and I know…this is what life is about. This is contentment, this is savoring the moment, this is wisdom…slowing down just to hear her laugh, just to taste the sweet joy of them, their faces all flushed tingling happiness.


My gratitude:

#236 tree tops bowing in storm, the way i do before God and His mercy

#237 pine trees swaying–one last dance before winter’s bareness

#238 wings flapping past window pane

#239 from my perch at sink, a close-up view of tiny bird on her wire perch–her distinct lines, soft belly hair, and ruffled, white-streaked tufts of mohawk adorned head

#240 how the green lush is greener against the grey sky

#241 grey skies that lend to me staying in my context and settling into family games inside while it pours outside

#242 feeling useful

#243 that i can again do tasks for my family that require a lot of me

#244 making food to fill their bellies while Husband practices guitar with eldest daughter and little ones play with dolls

#245 that they are learning music together

#246 pinkness of salmon

#247 a new food and fitness plan for me, bedtime routine for all 6 of us

#248 that he read scripture before family card game on our Labor Day together

#249 candles’ soft glow on table

#250 children’s laughter and my learning to just let go

#251 tiny brown paper heart handed to me in the middle of my chaos of emotions and her angelic voice, “i love you”

#252 Husband calling into work and spending the whole day being lazy with me, just for us

#253 napping in the hammock with Husband, reading aloud together “The Mystery of Marriage”

#254 being on time

#255 peacefulness

#256 realizing that i long for home when i’m out and the familiar smell when i walk through the door

#254 date night twice in a week’s time

#255 Husband taking me to Joann’s and buying craft supplies to keep my mind off things

#256 us reading scripture at the supper table and him choosing the Psalms because he knows that it soothes me

#257 the two of us, one, praying together at bedtime

#258 Lorna’s prayer: “God, thank you for everything we have, and without all the things You have given us, we would be very poor. Please help the children in Africa, and Brazil and Australia that don’t have anything to eat and please give them more than just one room in their home and take care of them. Amen.”

Counting 1,000 grace filled moments to be thank for…with Ann…you can too: