Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Adoption

So, I should preface this post by confessing to being up way, way past my bedtime. I've spent the last hour cutting out batman masks and taping them to toothpicks. SO, if I say something that makes you feel awkward, can we just agree to blame batman toothpicks? Thanks.

We just got back from an overnight trip to Nashville, which means nine hours in the car, six hours sleeping, and ten actual waking hours spent in the city. (I may have done that math wrong because, batman toothpicks.) The trip was a little more whirlwind-esque than our usual day-to-day lives (like five-hundred times more so), but Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God tour was happening at the Ryman and it felt like a good idea to go.

The thing about Nashville is that I spent four rather significant years of my life there in my early twenties, and being back in the city felt a bit surreal. Every street had a memory attached, every building reminded me of someone I'd known or something I'd done over a decade ago. It felt a little like a city of ghosts to me last night. And in the midst of all that weirdness, I couldn't help but compare the self I was 11 years ago to the self I am now, which made for a crazy handful of feelings that I'd really love to talk with you about over coffee for about five hours.

But, I digress.

Here is what I really need to talk about with you right now: ADOPTION. During the intermission of Andrew Peterson's BTLOG, he showed a video from ShowHope.org and if I hadn't been totally and completely boxed in to my corner of a wooden pew, I would have ran to the lobby and purchased one of those classy plastic glasses of wine I kept envying the people in front of me for having. But, I couldn't escape and so I sat there and felt my back stiffen as I braced myself for a heartbreaking/heartwarming story of a mind-numbingly precious, special-needs, orphan girl in China. My throat literally ached at the end of it with the valiant effort I had made trying not to ugly cry there in the bright intermission lights.

Y'all. I have yet to write anything about this situation with adoption in my life before, but I feel like either I have to start writing about it or I will drive Matt literally insane from my pulling an adoption filibuster every time we have atleast 5-7 minutes to talk without interruption. I don't mean for this to happen. I just have a running monologue in my head going on about adoption most of my waking hours. It's weird and Matt is probably starting to wonder if I think about anything else. I do: chocolate and Fixer Upper.

I've known for a long time that adoption was probably supposed to be part of my story, and when Matt and I started talking about marriage, I mentioned it. Now I mention it a lot.

The issue with adoption and me seems to be that every single video I see about adoption, every picture of every orphan that flashes on my computer screen, every mention of a child without a family in a newspaper article, they all have Mae and Sam's face. I can't look at or hear about one of those children and not picture one of mine. It makes me want to adopt a hundred children. All. The. Time. 

I did have a moment of realization last night when my throat nearly closed up over the potential ugly cry I was holding back during that video. Something about becoming a mother to my two children, who I love in a way that I don't even have words for, has tripped some wire in my heart that makes me almost catatonic when I see images of children who are abused or neglected or unwanted. I've crossed some line somewhere that makes me unable to unsee those kids, and also makes me grieve their lot in life in a way that is right, but that can sometimes have an element of hopelessness to it. Last night, I wondered at the intensity of the emotions I feel when it comes to adoption and the great need associated with it, and if those emotions are a little too similar to the grief of "those who have no hope" (I Thess. 4:13). I think I need to wander around in that possibility for a while to determine if I've been seeing orphans through a gospel-empty lens.

Regardless, I can't get away from this feeling that the word adoption is somehow being needlepointed onto my heart. It sits on me a lot more than is comfortable lately and the things I prayed for years ago that would make it possible for us to adopt are starting to be realities. And, so, it's hard not to fill out the forms online right this second.

Matt isn't as sure as I am about this whole thing. And, I get that. He's so open, though, and the amount of patience that man has with my constant wall of words about adoption is pretty commendable. He probably needs a medal or something.

So, here I am, still thinking about that video, still wondering how adoption is going to fit into our story, still hoping that there is a child out there somewhere who is on a divine trajectory into our home and our hearts.

And, so, I wait. And wonder. And wait some more.







Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Good, Hard Work of Motherhood

So, I had the chance to speak at a moms' group in Tennessee last week and while it was kind of intimidating to be talking to other mamas about being a mama, it was also kind of freeing. I told them about the time our kids flooded the bathroom just as company was coming over for dinner and about the time Sam brought one-week old Mae to me, dangling by one arm, after having just pulled her out of her crib (insert large-eyed emoji face here). I also shared about how we drug Sam all over Dollywood last week while he had an escalating fever, which we didn't know about yet, and instead kept telling him to stop being "so grumpy." (I apologized 500 times to him afterwards). Basically, I laid it all out there so they'd know that I am in no way some ideal version of a perfect mom who never burns dinner and only instructs her children with straight scripture verses.

Nope.

Now that you know that I am totally in the trenches with you, I'll share a few of the things I shared with those sweet mamas in Big Orange country last week...

Firstly, have you read the article "Your Child Is Your Neighbor" at the Gospel Coalition's website yet? If not, go print that out for yourself and read it out loud every morning before commencing parenting. I'm considering having it tattooed on my forehead so that I see it every time I spend 23 minutes applying all my anti-aging products every morning and evening. It's that good.


OK, so along the lines of our children being our closest neighbors and all that that means biblically for us as parents, here's a verse that reiterates that same idea:

John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends."

If you have small friends (a.k.a. children) in your home, eating, sleeping, playing, doing somersaults on your dining room table, then you get this verse in a particularly personal way. Laying down your life for your small people is just what you do. It's like breathing and sleeping and riding a bike at this point.

Maybe you've just had a baby for the first time and you're figuring out that this motherhood gig asks for literally all that you have and then asks for a little bit more.

Some days it feels like too much, like too big of a sacrifice. And those are the days where I daydream about running away to the mountains or the beach or to Tar-jay.

But, what you and I are doing when we hang in there and keep offering our whole selves, when we keep showing up, when we keep laying down our lives for the crazy little people who live in our houses, this is a valuable thing.

Every sticky, peanut butter-scented, dirty-diapered, Lego-covered, crayon-graffiti-ed moment matters. And I don't mean that in an, "Enjoy every minute because it's over so quickly"/grandma-in-the-grocery-store" kind of way. I mean it in a Kingdom of God kind of way. In a Larger Story kind of way. In a God is using you in his Redemptive Plan for the World kind of way.


You and I are participating in the redemption story that God is writing when we faithfully do the hard work of motherhood.

Everywhere you look in our culture today, the idea of mothering children is being devalued. It's an inconvenience, it's a drudgery, it's less important that a million other things.

I was listening to NPR the other day and on a humorous show called "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," they discussed how, in a new scientific study, German scientists had concluded that "having children is the worst thing that can happen to you." Worse than a divorce, than a spouse dying, than losing your job. They laughed about it, but I couldn't help feeling sad.


It reminded me that that mentality is backed up by the almost 58 million terminated pregnancies that have taken place over the last forty-two years.

Every day a child's value is placed lower than: a job, an education, a busy exam schedule, personal freedom, relationships, etc.

But, as one author has so wisely put it, "Children are not a distraction from the important work. They are the important work."

Right now, for me, as a mama of two little people entirely dependent on Matt and I, that important work includes:
   
 - cleaning the rug on my hands and knees after someone has had the stomach flu
 - taking care of the accidents of potty-training small people
 - cooking dinner during the time of day when I am the most tired and am also wielding sharp knives while my children wrestle around my ankles    (I like to call this my "recipe for disaster").
 - buying my child a new coat instead of the pair of boots I've been dreaming about for five years.
 - getting up fourteen times during the night to comfort a sick or frightened child

And the list could go on. This is all included in the good work of motherhood and all of it has value.

There are so many children who don't make it out of the womb because they were deemed less valuable than something else. And there are so many children who make it out and then spend their childhood being neglected and abused and unloved. YOUR children have been given the gift of being yours, which means they are loved and wanted and treasured.



Don't underestimate your value in being their mama.

In our little mama communities, it's so important that we remind each other that this season of little people is valuable, that mothering is valuable, even when it feels so mundane and isolating.

Let's choose not to use terms like "mom fail" or "bad mom" to describe our mothering. Because that's not the story that God is writing for you and for me. He's using mamas like us in his big, huge story of redemption as we sacrificially love our children. Let's not waste any of our precious energy tearing ourselves or other mamas down.

Let's speak life over each other. Let's SEE each other as valuable and say it out loud.

As you give and give and give to small human beings who cannot pay you back, to those who are too small to even speak a "thank you," to those who don't understand the life-sized sacrifice it is to be their mom, you can be confident that you are participating in the redemption that God is working out in the world.

As you daily lay your life down for your little ones, God's redemption is being worked out in your home and that will absolutely have repercussions in the world outside the walls of your little house, whether you ever see it or not.

Don't underestimate your value as you do this beautifully hard work of motherhood.

You have value. Your work matters.

Go forth boldly, mamas.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

All The Feelings I Am Having About Being Almost Forty


My grandma will be ninety years old this next spring and she still lives on her farm in South Georgia, where I have a thousand memories of naming cows, petting goats, jumping off hay bales in the barn, walking with my granddaddy down the worn path into the fields, and eating bowls and bowls of buttery grits in my grandma's kitchen.

My dad and I drove down to visit my grandma a few weekends ago and while I was there I had a chance to do some reminiscing, which is a luxury I almost never get to indulge in. (I think that may have something to do with every one of my waking moments being filled with unending cries for "Juice!" and "Shows!" and "Snacks!")



Being somewhere for twenty-four hours without Matt or the kiddos opened up the floodgates of complete thoughts, childhood memories, and emotions that I've been vaguely unaware of since 2009 (Sam's arrival on Earth). I felt a little teary, the good kind, during a large portion of those twenty-four, rather non-eventful hours. There's something about being in a place that lives and breathes in a rhythm that isn't hurried or overly busy or straining to be something that it's not. Places like that remind me that most of life's beauty is often tucked into the pockets of the simplest things.


The sunset that night we were there was fiery red and orange and it backlit the horizon behind the trees and the fields and the barn. My grandma saw it through the window and called us all to come look at it. Something about her appreciation of that sunset, despite the reality of her daily life in an aging body with all its aches and pains, was significant to me. There was something poignant about her valuing that display of beauty in the sky that night and it made me hopeful.

I think my grandma is most likely 24 years old in her mind and the reality of her 89 year-old outside seems so incongruent with her youthful spirit. It's hard to see someone who has always been so vibrant and energetic making her way into the last season of life. But, at the same time, she still drives her shiny red Buick to get her hair done every Friday morning and she still gets "gussied up" to go to church, and her eyes still light up when she sees my two little ones running around her yard hunting for pecans.


Lately, I've been having a hard time with the fact that at 37, I am no longer a proverbial spring chicken, which mainly means I've had to ban myself from shopping at American Eagle. I've also been spending some free time researching magical wrinkle potions and solutions to crows' feet. It's been a little bit of an issue for me, and as it turns out, Matt's kind of over hearing me whine about it. Apparently, he doesn't feel the same angst over the fact that my neck is starting to look older than my face. I, however, am considering a Kickstarter fund to "Save My Neck." Feel free to join that.

But, despite all the weird emotions I'm having these days about my fears of getting old, I'm struck by the simplicity of the life my grandma is living right now and how she's not whining about her lost youth or her less than perfect skin tone. She's too busy taking in a late summer sunset from her back porch. And this reminds me that the kind of beauty I should be wanting isn't something I'll find in a $78 bottle of "magical" skin-firming cream.


I remember hearing Beth Moore explain once that, in her opinion, women increase in beauty until age forty, and after that, they increase in wisdom. Part of me wants to tell Beth to keep her mouth shut because at 37, that means I've got approximately 2.5 years left to be remotely attractive. And yet, at the same time, I'm starting to see in an up close and personal way that youth very literally fades and, if I'm honest, I really do want to value wisdom over what I look like in the mirror. I'm slowly starting to believe that the state of my heart really does matter a bit more than the state of my skin.

I hope that if I make it to 89, that I won't be sitting around feeling bitter about my gray hair or my imperfect complexion. I hope that I'll be standing on my back porch watching the sun light up the twilight and that I will still feel grateful for simple joys.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Pretty Stuff Matters

{Sidenote: I wrote this post about a month and a half ago. And then I took a part-time job. So, here I am posting it six weeks later, thus the frequent references to summer...}
                                                                             
This summer was full, the good kind of full. Our little family swam at the pool, we went on day trips, we ate ice cream, we had friends over for dinner, we went to the circus, we went to the movies. You get the idea. Good times. And while I love reminiscing about all that fun we had and I'm so genuinely grateful for it, I'm also not complaining that school has started back and that I have an hour here or there to have complete thoughts. Alone. All by myself. Just me and a jar of Nutella. 

But, while all that carefree, summery fun was happening, there were a lot of things happening in the world that weighed pretty heavily on me and kept me up at night wondering what the heck was going on out there. I won't make a list of terrible world events for you, because I'm fairly sure your Facebook feed and email inbox was full, like mine was, of petitions and updates and news reports of all sorts of disheartening things.

In the midst of that influx of heaviness, I felt my heart being weighed down a little more each day. At one point, I even found myself wondering if it was okay to enjoy going to see a movie or eating out at a restaurant anymore. In light of all the suffering and grief bombarding my inbox and my mind, I subconsciously started to question if it was okay to even be happy. I felt guilty about how comfortable our home is or about the fact that I sometimes go shopping for things that aren't really necessary. Guilty for thinking about anything other than all that terrible suffering.

All this to say, I think I let my perspective get a little skewed. The fact is, I can't make the world's suffering go away by refusing to feel joy or ignoring the good and beautiful things about our life. 

{That isn't to say that I should pretend like suffering isn't happening or that I don't act whenever I can to relieve someone's suffering. Of course, we should all be intentionally pursuing ways to do that, because if those of us who know the Redeemer of All Things aren't offering actual hope and sharing real joy with the suffering, who will?}

Genesis 12:2 talks about God blessing Abraham so that others can be blessed through him. I think God is absolutely still doing that now, through us. SO, I think a conclusion I'm coming to is that, regardless of what's happening in the world around me, God's goodness in my life isn't something to feel guilty about, but rather something to enjoy, and perhaps more importantly, to share. 

The other conclusion I'm coming to is that beauty matters. Even if the world is falling apart, it is still important, even necessary, that we recognize and enjoy and create beauty. It's a vital part of our humanity and of the way we reflect our Creator. C.S. Lewis' classic chapter, "Learning In War Time," (Weight of Glory) speaks to this. Essentially, his argument is that learning and creating and appreciating beauty are always valuable, regardless of the volatile state of the world. Beauty transcends all of that turmoil and by appreciating it in all circumstances, we reaffirm our human-ness and our connection to a world that is completely other from this one. A kingdom, in fact.

And so, in light of this simple revelation I had and am still having, I thought I'd share a few pictures of the things that have brought a bit of happy, or I should say beauty, to my little beating heart recently: 



A cup of tea and pretty magazines. Le sighGetting to read a magazine cover to cover feels like the ultimate luxury now that I'm a mama to two. Add a chocolate-filled croissant and this situation is basically elevated to the equivalent of a mini-spiritual retreat in my house.

Here's our guest room after I added a fun "Hello" sign that my sweet (and crafty) friend Sarah May made. I still have some work to do on the bookshelf and I'm planning to actually hang the Swedish alphabet sign in the left corner as soon as I can figure out how to do that while someone small isn't also jumping on the bed.



                                                                            

A pretty party dress is always a good idea. This one has fancy(ish) gold threading, which you can't see in the picture, but it makes it sparkle. 





We went on a short vacation with our family recently and this was the day after the day that it rained buckets on us. There's almost nothing better than staring out at the ocean and dreaming about what's on the other side. 



I see these little collages of pretty things on Instagram all the time, so I thought I'd just make one of my own with some of my favorites. * The pillow is a little anniversary gift that we found at The French Market cafe and bakery in Pine Mountain, Georgia (site of my run-in with Kirk Cameron earlier this year. Ha.)  * The perfume is Marc Jacob's "Honey," straight from a T.J Maxx's shelf. * I finally found a planner that wasn't $500 and, obviously, it came from Tar-Jay. * Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is one of the best food memoirs I've read and I highly recommend it to you if you love food, friendships, and Jesus (not necessarily in that order.) * The candle was a gift from my friend Alli and it smells as pretty as it looks. * Those candies are Chimes ginger chews and they're the perfect bit of sweet/spicy after dinner. * Lastly, the Handy-Tizer hand spray is from Rinse, a local store that offers handmade soaps, lotions, buttery lip balms, etc., all made in-store from natural ingredients and essential oils. Check them out at www.rinsesoap.com.

There you go, friends. What makes your heart sing when you look at it, taste it, hold it? What lovely thing is good at reminding you that there is more to this world than Facebook and scheduling and fast food? I'd love to know. 

Every single day, do something that makes your heart sing. -Marcie Wieder




Monday, September 28, 2015

How to Make A Difference and Dinner at the Same Time

I heart being a stay-at-home mom, and feel super grateful that
the man I married is on board with being the main breadwinner of our home. (sidenote: I did take a little part-time job recently, but more on that in another post).

But, even as I love the job I've got raising my two munchkins, there are times during the day when I'm elbow-deep in dishes, or knee-deep in laundry or being buried alive by the obscene amount of Legos that live in this house, and I find myself feeling grieved for the world outside the walls of my house and grieved by how limited I am in my ability to help. While I fold laundry and cook dinner, I mull over all the stories of suffering in the media - stories of refugees and unwanted children and abused women. And sometimes I can't help but wonder if I could relieve at least a small part of that suffering if I wasn't over here sorting socks and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

Even while I'm confident that I'm doing exactly what I should be as I raise these children and keep our family washed and fed and hugged on, I can't help going over and over in my head all the things I wish I could also be doing, being, offering to provide some relief for someone, somewhere.

Anybody else out there feeling any of that with me? 

Well, if so, I have a couple tools to share with you to enable you (and me) to reach outside of our little worlds and into the lives of those who need hope and rescue, all while we're still keeping up with the laundry and cooking dinner for our people.

Online for Life's Prayer App    
www.onlineforlife.org.                                                                                                               

You get real-time updates on your phone about women considering abortion so that you can pray as they meet with a counselor at a crisis pregnancy clinic. The app will text you if and when that woman makes the decision to keep her baby. It's hard not to feel the tears well up when you get a text like this one: 

"Baby number 3394 was just saved in Detroit, MI. Thanks for praying."


You can watch a video explaining how it all works at www.prolifeapp.com and download the app at the Apple Store. Such a great way to be a front-line prayer warrior for women and their babies!

The second suggestion I have for you is:

Noonday Collection Trunk Show
www.noondaycollection.com 

You may already be familiar with then, but if not, essentially, they set up avenues for women in struggling countries to sell their handmade jewelry and accessories, giving them the opportunity to support themselves and their children in a dignified, professional way.

Between now and November 1st, any trunk show you host (set up by a Noonday representative), will give 10% of its proceeds to a family in the process of adoption AND enter them into a drawing for a $14,000 grant toward their adoption costs. What a great way to have an impact on a child in need of a home without ever changing out of your yoga pants, well, unless you have a fancy trunk show and need to put on something with less spandex.

Here's the link with all the information you might need to be a hostess:
http://www.noondaycollection.com/pws/homeoffice/tabs/host.aspx
So, there you go. I hope you feel as encouraged as I do about being able to have even the smallest impact on lives beyond the borders of your yard. I'd love to hear ways that you have found to make a difference while also making dinner. (-;

Friday, August 14, 2015

Confessions of the Fall-Obsessed

It's the end of summer, sort of, at least according to our family schedule. However, here in the Deep South, the weather is stubbornly indifferent to the fact that school has started and that GAP is happily marketing their fall cardigans and skinny corduroys. Starbucks, and every other coffee shop from here to Portland, is gearing up for their pumpkin-spice latte-palooza when they'll push that beverage like it's a drug and droves of people (myself unabashedly included) will run to order one like we've spent the last ten months in PSL detox.

The perfect apple-picking hat.
Within mere weeks, women will overtake social media with declarations of their unbounded love for tall boots and they'll wear them like autumnal badges of honor with their darkest, skinniest jeans. And soon enough, floaty scarves and puffy vests will be as ubiquitous as the Kardashians, and all this before our awkward summer tan lines have even come close to fading.

And yet, where I live, it's still absolutely and completely summer and so all this almost-fall-ish business is making my autumn-loving heart a little overanxious for this hot and humid season to wrap itself up.

I want it to be fall already. Actually, I want it to be fall all year long. Sometimes I wonder if this is some sort of clinical condition that I have, this pining for days when the yard is covered up with multi-colored leaves and I'm snugly buttoned up in my cardigan, cradling a steaming mug full of tea with both hands. Oh, and in this perfect fall moment, there's also a flannel blanket tucked around my feet and You've Got Mail is streaming on Netflix and the pumpkin cookies I just baked are cooling in the kitchen. And maybe there's also a pumpkin spice candle burning somewhere in my house.


This fall obsession business could be a sickness, really. But, if being clinically obsessed with fall is wrong, maybe I don't want to be right.

Sometimes, to make myself feel better about it still being summer, I order a latte and sit in the car with the air conditioning on full blast, staring out at the sunny day, imagining that it's not a blistering 97 degrees or that I could bake Break and Bake cookies on my dashboard if I turned the car off for approximately four minutes. (#gross)

Let's get cozy. (wistfullycountry.tumblr.com)
I'm aware that I have become a complete and utter stereotype with my love of cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, pumpkin farm visits, etc, etc, etc. And, while all that's true, I genuinely think there's more to my affection for this particularly fleeting season. There's something nostalgic and romantic and magical about autumn that can't adequately be expressed in any kind of way that captures it well enough.

Even in the midst of all the PSL drinking and burning candles with names like "Harvest Farm Apple Caramel Pie with Roasted Marshmallows" while wearing my coziest GAP cardigan,  I can't help feeling a little miffed at all the commercialism that swallows up fall every year.

Starbucks has brilliantly cornered the market on a beverage that has come to signify the official start of the fall season. And, while I obviously can't deny my love of a steaming PSL (despite it's 5,640 calories and possible pesticide residue, if you believe Food Babe), I wish that a marketing department's bottom line wasn't so obviously overshadowing the beauty and quiet melancholy of the season I love best.

Yes to this.
 (danielfaro.wordpress.com)
I read an article the other day that tried to parse out the reason why people, women especially, love fall so ardently and the author theorized about romanticizing a particular period of time or lending significance to a time of the year based on events or experiences one might have had in the past. And maybe that's true. Maybe the allure of fall has something to do with the fresh start a new year at school might have represented or, if you're Southern like myself, perhaps the allure is simply the hope of glorious relief from three months of HOT.

For me, fall's appeal has something to do with the way my perspective changes whenever the shadows begin to lengthen and the sunlight slants through the trees in the late afternoon. I love the feeling that nature is giving itself a rest and that the summer riot of the growing season is finally taking a breath and giving in to the repose that nature demands. The slow march to winter, the gradual quieting of nature, the leaves lit up like the last glowing embers of a dying fire. Autumn is nature's long and golden sigh before it slips into its winter sleep and I plan to drink in each and every fleeting minute of it.

And so, despite the heat and humidity outside my window and the fact that fall won't arrive in my part of the world for at least another six weeks, here's to anticipating it's coming and savoring its moody loveliness.



It was November,
the month of crimson sunsets,
parting birds,
deep, sad hymns of the sea,
passionate wind songs in the pines.
~
L.M. Montgomery


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Golden Culottes: Why Legalism is A Really Crappy Substitute for Grace

I need to talk about culottes right now and I'm hoping that doesn't make things weird between us. I'm also hoping that I'm not the only one whose history with culottes (particularly in middle school) has resulted in a possible need for culotte-related therapy. 

As it turns out, the fashion world is completely out of new ideas and has resorted to bringing back culottes. This might be hard to wrap your mind around, because culottes look good on zero to possibly two percent of the population. I also need to point out here that, according to my extensive online research, George Washington and John Adams were known to have worn culottes. This historical fact alone should really be all anyone needs to deter them from ever wearing culottes again. And, also this picture:


My personal experience with culottes culminated in high school when I was part of the illustrious, and also fashion-challenged, Flag Corps. One fateful year, someone with administrative powers decided it would be a brilliant idea to have us wear handmade, pleated, knee-length, golden-yellow culottes as part of our uniform. (I'd share a picture with you, but tragically, they were all lost in a fire. Ok, that's not true. And also, my mom has one framed.) I kept that pair of glow-in-the-dark culottes for some reason. Maybe as some sort of reminder that culottes the color of Country Crock margarine happened in my life's journey and that they will never. happen. again. (triumphant fist in the air).

The school that required the golden culottes was where I spent sixth to twelfth grade and I absorbed a whole lot of information during that seven-year period. If you needed obscure facts about Charlotte Bronte, I should have been on your rotary phone speed dial, If you were wondering which biblical character rode a talking donkey, I was your girl. I knew loads of facts and I memorized reams of scripture. College was pretty much a cake walk compared to the intensity of the work load I had in high school. 

In addition to all that knowledge, when I graduated, I had also amassed a pretty enviable wardrobe collection that included one pair of pleated blue jeans and a plethora of culottes, knee-length skirts, non-sleeveless shirts, white leather Keds and panty-hose. I may have also owned a skort. 

Maybe you've assumed this, but our school was strict about wardrobe. And by strict, I mean there were random skirt-length checks where we had to kneel down with our knees touching the carpet and then a female teacher would measure the distance between our skirt hem and the floor. I was reprimanded one time for wearing a skirt 1/4 of an inch too short.

I lived in mild fear most days of being reprimanded for something I was wearing/doing/contemplating that could somehow be considered inappropriate.

The rather sad thing about that is that I tried really, really, really hard to keep all the rules about dress codes, and the six-inch rule between girls and boys, and the blue handbook of regulations we were all issued on the first day of school (i.e. no PG-13 movies, no going to proms, no dancing, no bare shoulders, etc.). And yet, despite my very sincere, very fervent efforts to be a rule-abiding, worthy student, I still managed to be called out for the occasional questionable hemline or passing a note in class. 

Years later, I can see all those rules for what they were (i.e. Over. The. Top.) and also for what they were not (i.e. Sanctifying). Trying to follow all those rules didn't make me good. It just made me neurotic and jumpy and an uber-legalist.

"Wait, why am I wearing culottes right now?"
Even twenty years later, that weird pull of legalism* is strong and I can still find myself believing that successful rule-following equals being valuable somehow.

Thankfully, part of my story also includes being part of a church in my early twenties where grace was a big deal (lest you be concerned, they were Presbyterians and so they also loved doctrine). At first, I was skeptical of all that grace, like maybe all those people were living a little too free and needed a big dose of "rules." But, the allure of real, gospel-rich grace was pretty overwhelming and it didn't take long before I was all in.

Grace trumps legalism all day long. And also, yoga pants are the antidote for culottes.

I still wrestle with wanting to seem like I have it all figured out and can get all worked up because I can't seem to attain my own ideas of perfection. But, when I find myself feeling shamed by my inability to keep it together or do everything just right or take my vitamins on a regular basis, I want to remember why I don't wear culottes anymore. There are two reasons actually:

1. They look like the picture on the right:

2. Romans 8:1-4

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh,could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

*Just in case you needed clarification on what I mean by legalism: "dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith"



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Speaking Life: Thoughts on the Issue of Abortion

I saw our son for the first time when he was barely the size of a peanut. At twenty weeks an ultrasound revealed that he was, in fact, the boyest of boys and we named him Sam, which means "Heard of God; asked of God." And that's what we had done, like Hannah, we asked God for Sam for fourteen long, sometimes unbearable, months. And then there he was, a little nugget on a grainy screen, hardly visible, and yet the most beautiful picture I have ever, ever seen.

Soon after our next two pregnancy tests told us "Yes!" to a baby, our doctors told us no, that we wouldn't be meeting those children, would never name them or hold them and we grieved faces we would never see. I remember one of the doctors who was more compassionate than the first, told me that his wife had lost a child in miscarriage and how he knew that even at just a few weeks gestation, the feelings you have for that child are already deeper than you could have imagined. And so is the grief when the ultrasound screen reveals that they will not be coming home.

Mae was born a week early because, as a second time C-section patient and an "aged" mom at 35, the doctor wanted to deliver her before her due date for her safety and mine. At 39 weeks, she was born perfect, just as perfect as she had been when we had seen her in that ultrasound at 8 weeks and again at 16 weeks when the technician showed us the fully-developed bones in her pinky finger, which apparently meant she wouldn't have Down Syndrome. I remember marveling at the fact that we could see every detail, her eyes and her nose and her perfectly tiny feet. She probably weighed less than half a pound at that point, but she was fully herself, fully Mae, fully our daughter. And we loved her more than we had words for.

In light of those joyful and heartbreaking chapters in my story, every time I read a story about abortion or about militant women's rights activists or about the politicians whose campaigns benefit from Planned Parenthood's donations or the companies who give and give to organizations that encourage women to abort their children, I find myself reaching for my babies. Just this morning, after reading yet another rebuttal of the recent videos that surfaced about Planned Parenthood's selling baby parts to "simply re-coop costs," I scooped up Mae and sat with her in my lap, pressing my lips against her hair and feeling grief over those babies who have been discarded like so much tissue and medical waste. And I realized that, very literally, the only difference between those babies and my own, is the grace of God in my life and my heart and my story.

I don't know exactly what our response as believers should be to the abortion crisis in our culture. Sometimes I think that we should rush the Capitol steps and petition Congress to, for the love, stop bankrolling the death of innocents. Other times I want to loudly boycott all the businesses who gladly send money to organizations who facilitate the unraveling of small children's bodies. And then there are the days when I want to wholeheartedly promise every woman considering abortion that I will adopt their child and love it like I gave birth to it myself. The range of emotions I feel about this issue run from grief to anger to fear to despair to grief again.

But, regardless of all those emotions, what I cannot stop coming back to is this: Jesus loves each and every single person who is involved in the business of abortion. Every doctor, every nurse, every abortion clinic director, every businessman who funds them, every politician who votes to make it legal, every blogger who writes with misplaced passion about why women should be able to do what they want with their bodies, every women's rights activist, and perhaps, most of all, every mother who ever made the terrible and grievous and heart-wrenching decision to choose death over life for her child.

That woman is not the enemy. She needs compassion and grace and forgiveness. In the very same desperate way that I do.

A few nights ago, as I went on and on to Matt about how angry I was about all the people who are part of the abortion machine and all the people who thinks it's okay to abort babies and all the people who rant and rave about their right to "choose," he just looked at me with grace and compassion and said this: "The principalities and the powers of this world are the trouble. Everybody else, Jesus is trying to rescue. Everybody." And, he was right. He is right.

You and I are not going to solve this abortion issue by being mad or by boycotting companies or by calling politicians and threatening to not give them our vote (that's not to say we shouldn't speak up.) You and I can never fix this problem. But, what we can do is show Jesus to the people who are fighting so hard and so desperately for something we oppose. We can offer them compassion and grace and hope and life.

I have no idea what that looks like most of the time. I'm thinking it might be something as simple as volunteering at a local pregnancy resource center. Or praying for a friend's teenage daughter who just found out she's pregnant at 16. Or donating to organizations who are providing support and counsel for abortion-minded moms and for the broken-hearted ones who have already chosen to abort their babies. Maybe it's adoption or supporting another family who's struggling to come up with the funds to take home a baby without a family.

I'm beginning to realize that the anger and the grief I feel about the abortion issue isn't really helping anything or anyone. And so, here I am, trying hard to figure out what will actually have any impact. What will honor the lives of the babies lost, what will give hope to the desperate women who are faced with an awful choice, what will help more women choose their babies despite the odds stacked against them, what will speak the language of Jesus over this heartbreaking issue.

Whatever I can do to speak life over the hurting ones I come in contact with, I want to do that thing. Whatever it is, at whatever cost.

Maybe that thing for me, and perhaps for you, will simply be taking small steps of grace toward those we disagree with the most. And maybe, if we do that, they will see Jesus, the Restorer of broken hearts and broken people and this broken world we live in.


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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fear Is A Very Bad Life-Coach

My house is quiet. The boy is at Grandma's and the girl is napping and I am eating chocolate chips like it's my job while also pondering the fact that being an introvert and a stay-at-home mom sometimes mix like toothpaste and apple juice. (According to Sam, that's a deadly combo.)

But, moments like these help me survive the chaos and the usual lack of quiet. Well, moments like these and chocolate. And also wine. And sometimes cheese, if we're making a comprehensive list here. And if we're making a comprehensive list, then I should probably add Jesus. And now I'm thinking I should delete all the others things on my list, but I'm trying hard to be authentic here. 

Ethel the Bunny and Mae
Sometimes, after a few weeks of being busy and traveling and hosting and toddler-carrying and preschooler conversationing, I am DONE. I don't realize it until I get to the very last drop of my extroversion and then suddenly, the introvert in me just says, "NO." And, that's my cue to start making space somewhere in my day to be quiet, to reflect, to process something, anything, or else

In desperation, I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. this morning. "I'll read and pray and ponder life and maybe even blog," I said to myself in blissful naivete. And then my phone alarm woke me at that ungodly hour and I didn't even consider getting up for a second. But, despite my total lack of fortitude, God provided this little "space between," if you will, for me to take a breath, eat a handful of chocolate chips in peace, and write some things down.  

This weekend we traveled back in time, or so it felt, to a place we lived for two years when Sam was quite smaller than he is now. We've been gone almost three years and seeing old friends and revisiting familiar haunts was life-giving. Granted, toting two small humans around all weekend whose little schedules were out of order did take it out of us a little. But, it was worth it a thousand times over and I think we both came home with renewed hearts and a brightened, hopeful perspective on friendships and community and the necessity of time required for building those.

Sweet friends on the mountain we visited. Also, that look Mae is giving Elijah.
The best part, besides the "Deb Tucker" cookies we enjoyed in two different friends' homes, was the conversations I got to have with wise friends who know me well enough to speak truth into the little spaces in my heart that needed attention. 

Ethel the Bunny was a bit of a draw.
I talked. A lot. Like until midnight:thirty Friday night. I also paid for that by being in a fog the rest of the weekend. Apparently, being thirty-seven and staying up past midnight don't pair well together. But, regardless, I got to tell the part of the story that we're in right now and it helped to talk (and talk) about it with someone who gets it and who knows me. 

And after all the talking and the sharing and the explaining of all the feelings about babies and adoption and possible job ventures and marriage and friendships, my friend Carli mentioned something that has been swirling around in my brain since Friday night.

She pointed out that fear is a very bad reason to do something, or not do something, for that matter. I suppose it was pretty obvious that in the midst of decisions that need to be made, I am being pinned to the ground by fear lately. Fear of making a mistake or of losing something important to me or regretting a decision once made. Fear of nothing and of everything all at the same time. 

I think I knew that my heart had been reacting out of fear lately, but having a friend gently and graciously point that out was necessary for me to really see what was happening.

And, so I left our weekend with a new awareness of these two things:

Fear is a very bad life-coach and
Friends who speak the truth to me with grace and kindness are on par with oxygen.

I hope I can be brave enough to hear truth from friends and loving enough to offer that back to them. Both may stretch the limits of our friendships, but expanding the boundaries of our relationships with one another enables depth and connection that keeping each other at arms' length never can.

Maybe we can be brave together, speaking truth (with grace) into the hard places, and find our hearts being knit together in ways we could barely even have hoped for. 























Tuesday, July 7, 2015

All The Terrible/Wonderful Reasons to Have/Not Have a Third Baby

I never really liked children before I had a couple of them. I sort of prided myself on not really being "into" kids, unlike my sweet freshman roommate who only included small children in her wedding party. She was a kid-whisperer while I was afraid to keep the nursery at church once a year. A psychiatrist would probably chalk my issues up to being single until I was 29 and harboring a secret fear that babies were not ever going to be a part of my story.

But, then, someone tall, dark, and handsome swept me off my feet and married me in my parents' front yard almost eight lovely, hard, and full years ago. And the possibility of children suddenly became a real thing and the desire to have them unexpectedly became an overwhelming, heart-rending need that nearly consumed me for about a year and half.

Literally, the week my OBGyn wrote "infertility" on my chart at her office, we found out Sam was being woven together inside my middle and subsequently in my heart. He's five and a half now and possibly the complete opposite of what I ever imagined a child of mine would be like and also the perfect version of any son I could have ever have conjured up.

About four months after his first birthday, we were pregnant again and a teensy bit overwhelmed by that fact because Sam had about the same amount of energy as a pack of wild monkeys, if monkeys traveled in packs, which according to Wild Kratts, they do not.

That summer we lost that baby to miscarriage (you can read that story here) and the following summer we lost a second baby (you can read about that here.) And, I thought that might be the end of having babies for me, which was more than a little heartbreaking.

But, if you have any connection with me in person, online, through a second-cousin four times removed, then you may have heard that those two summers were not the end of our baby-having. Mae made her sweet way into our family two summers later and I'm not sure if I can ever begin to put into words the deep, deep hope fulfilled that she is. She is a tangible representation to us of God's redemption of suffering and hard things.

Unbelievably to me, it's been almost two years since Mae made her debut, and we are loving this crazy, exhausting, beautiful life with our two sweet babes. And, for the most part, I feel content.
But, there's something stirring in my heart lately that's keeping me awake at nights and distracted during the day. Every baby picture uploaded to Facebook instantly makes my eyes water and the chance to hold a friend's beautiful ten-week-old last Friday almost put me over the baby fever edge.

And yet, there's a lot of fear intertwined with all these happy thoughts of snuggly newborns. I could make you a pretty ominous list of the litany of reasons why I'm scared out of my mind to do the baby thing again. At the top of the list is the fear of losing. Losing a baby, losing my freedom, losing normalcy during the season of pregnancy, losing sweet time with Sam and Mae, and figuratively (or maybe actually) losing my mind.

I should also add to this list the fact that twins run in our family like you would not believe. And I'm 37, which puts me over the cut-off age for having a "normal" pregnancy, according to the medical community (who also used to refer to pregnancy after 35 as "geriatric pregnancy." Let that sink in for a minute.)

However, the thought of a new little one joining our family, adding to the faces at our table, giving Sam and Mae a brother or sister to love, having one more chance to live out a baby story and see our hearts stretched to the limit with love and then stretched a little more, all these are reasons I can't stop wondering if maybe it's time to let my heart unfold a bit and move toward the possibility of another small person in our family.


 To add to the baby frenzy going on in my head, I'm also reading Adopted for Life by Russell Moore right now and have been for, oh, about three months. I finished off a novel in three days this weekend so I'm obviously running a little slow on Russell's beautiful treatise on adoption. But, it's hard, y'all. I love it, but it's pulling on the strings of my mama-heart in ways that feel a little uncomfortable. I'm drawn to his depiction of adoption, both spiritually and practically, but I'm not sure what it would look like to add to our family in that way. I want to more than I have words for, but, I'm afraid. That's a theme here, have you noticed?

So, I'm laying awake at night lately trying to sort all this out and, to be honest, it's beginning to unravel me a bit. The thought of a third child feels like a necessity at times and at other times I wonder if we should just get a dog. Don't be scared. I totally realize this is not the same thing. But, adding a fur baby to the fold feels a lot less daunting than a real baby who could turn out to be the rebellious one who sends me to an early grave over tattoos and body-piercings.

But, the questions still weigh on me. And so does the longing and, maybe even some fragile hoping.

Are we supposed to extend the boundaries of our family and welcome in one more, either the usual way or the adoptive way? OR MAYBE BOTH? For the love (a la Jen Hatmaker), I am all sorts of angsty about this question and Matt keeps calmly reminding me that none of this is up to us. Thank goodness for him or I would be on twelve different kinds of anxiety medication. Instead, I'm just on a regimen of dark chocolate.

I have no way to sum any of this up or come to any helpful conclusions. Only that Jesus knows if we need another person (or two?) in our family. I realize that the issue here is that I need to pray more. (You were planning on writing that in the comments, weren't you.)

And so I wait. We wait. And wonder if we're supposed to be a family of five. Or not.

Waiting is hard.










Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dear Wardrobe, Goodbye.

Once upon a time, I loved a skirt.

The year was 2003 and I was still a newbie in the work-a-day world. I had just been hired at a concert booking agency just outside of Nashville and the girl whose position I was filling had a fantastic sense of style. The time I spent with her being trained for the job was also something of a week-long fashion show because that girl knew how to dress. And, sadly, I did not.

One of her outfits that week included a long, ivory skirt with a minimal black plaid design in light wool. It was somewhat fitted from the waist to the knee and then just barely skimmed the floor, with a kick pleat in the back that reminded me of something a woman might have worn a hundred years ago, which obviously made me love it that much more. Normally, I would semi-frown on the idea of buying an item of clothing exactly like someone else's, because that's, well, awkward. But, if there is such a thing as a dream skirt, this one was it. The questionable journey of my wardrobe's life found its destiny in that skirt and so, I did what was necessary. I purchased it for full price, which I'm pretty sure was around $85 (big money for my 24-year-old self). And, let it be known that I have never regretted that purchase for a single minute. Even when I seriously wore that skirt to the office while the girl who owned the original one was still there. That skirt managed to epitomize the way I had always wanted to dress but was never able to because I grew up in the fashion wasteland that was the 90s.

But, I digress.

That purchase was a major anomaly in my history of buying clothes. I typically don't fall in love with articles of clothing AND I almost never buy clothes at full price.

To be clear, I like pretty clothes. In fact, I had literal (though tiny) tears in my eyes when I walked into Anthropologie recently, because, well, it's beautiful, and it's basically where my closet wants to go when it dies. But, the price tag situation at Anthropologie is somewhat dream-dashing and all I can think about when I see a pair of jeans for $198 is that I could support five missionaries in India for that amount. Seriously.

So, is it even possible that the desire to have lovely clothes doesn't have to be completely in conflict with also valuing being frugal?

Oh, but it is.

Once T.J. Maxx and I began our beautiful and somewhat dangerous relationship, shopping at the mall for me became as obsolete as renting a movie at Blockbuster. I can only imagine the sense of failure I would feel if I bought a $100 dress at the mall only to discover one almost exactly like it for $25 at T.J. Maxx. Or, better yet, on Amazon with two-day free shipping.

I cleaned out my closet a few weeks ago after reading a motivating blog post called Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe, which made me realize that my dependency on yoga pants as a wardrobe staple had to end. After years of buying cheap t-shirts, shorts and "athletic wear" at Old Navy and Target, I had a closet full of junk clothes. And at 37, wearing a faded t-shirt with Harvard stamped on it and a pair of drawstring shorts from Old Navy is just a little bit sad. Two babies and the obvious realities of aging have necessitated that I step it up a bit. And so, out went the too-short shorts, the raggedy t-shirts, the slightly flared jeans (that I secretly hope will show back up in the fashion "do" list eventually), the strapless dresses, and anything else that had been worn before I turned 30. It felt like therapy tossing all that stuff into a big garbage bag, all ready for it's new life at Goodwill.

Now, here's the part where I explain one way in which frugal and fancy can bump right up against each other. I found a company online called Twice that buys and sells gently used clothing, purses, and shoes. A few of the things I had decided to cull from my closet were nice brands and still in great shape, so I figured I'd give Twice a try.

I mailed around fifteen items to Twice and about two weeks later got an offer for my clothes, a cash offer and an in-store credit offer. I took the in-store credit offer of around $60, added a 40 percent off "new customer" coupon, and bought myself the first fancy purse I've ever owned. The day it came I laid it on the bed in our room and found myself wandering in every little bit just to gaze at it and feel the fabulously soft leather. AND, despite it's $100 price tag on Twice ($195 originally), I paid $0.

So, the moral of the story is, even cheap-ish shoppers like moi who love pretty things but don't want to overspend can find practical ways for fancy and frugal to meet.

Honestly, it's a bit out of the ordinary for me to talk about skirts or a purse or shopping. I'd much rather be talking about the book I'm reading (Bread and Wine) or what my kids are doing (Mae's counting to twenty. What?) or what's for dinner (burgers, chips and salsa, and homemade ice cream). But, despite the somewhat shallow topic of skirts and purses, I'm going to file this post under "practical-ish." Get rid of your old stuff, buy pretty new stuff for cheap, save money, and support missionaries.

Win, win, win and also, win.

Hope you get the same satisfaction I did cleaning out your closet and maybe even finding your own fancy purse (or dress, or jacket, or shirt...) at Twice.

Now, go clean out that closet! (she said in her most encouraging, non-bossy way).


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Family Faves: Five Recipes I'm Wearing Out Right Now

I didn't learn to make edible food until about three months into marriage. I was 29. Before that, I ate a lot of Kraft macaroni and cheese, cereal and Wheat Thins. Matt told me I pretty much ate like a fifth grader when he met me. Sad and also true.

Fast forward 8 years and I'm slowly coming into my own in the the kitchen. I still burn bread beautifully and sometimes the exciting new recipes I try turn out to be The Worst and I may or may not serve hot dogs almost once a week. BUT, I'm also having some success here and there, which makes being in the kitchen 45 percent of my life less of a chore and more of a, dare I say, joy?

This blog doesn't have any delusions about growing up to become a food blog, but, there are a few recipes that I keep coming back to lately that I thought I'd share with you:

Giada de Laurentiis's Marinara Sauce: A friend of mine introduced me to this recipe for marinara when she brought her family over to share supper with ours on the deck one evening last fall. The men grilled chicken on skewers and we had a big bowl of pasta and crusty bread, which was life-changing when dipped in the warm marinara. This recipe is super easy and totally kid-friendly. Bonus: It's a great way to sneak vegetables onto your kids' (and your own) plate. Win Win.

Steamy Kitchen's No Knead Bread: This bread is easier than it should be. All you need are a few basic ingredients, a big pot, and some good butter. Yum.

Lisa Leake's Pumpkin Muffins: This recipe is from Lisa Leake's 100 Days of Real Food cookbook, which is semi-changing my life right now. I make a big batch at the beginning of the week and serve them up for the kiddos' breakfast every morning along with a side of bacon and apple slices. Note: I use whole wheat flour rather than the spelt flour, mainly because I'm not sure where to even buy spelt flour in my small town.

Jami Nato's DIY Tacos: If you're looking for a basic meal that your kids (and your husband) will want to hug you for, this might be it. All it requires is good ground beef, some spices, tortillas and toppings. Perfect week-night meal.

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Obviously, you need a dessert recipe because what's the point of living if there isn't a little dessert after dinner? These are simple and yummy and decidedly not fat-free, so, pace yourself. (I speak from experience.)

OK, I realize three out of five on my list of recipes are baked goods. Vegetables and I are in a complicated relationship right now, but I think we're working things out. In other words, I'm trying to introduce a few more vegetables into our rotation before we all come down with scurvy (insert scared face emoticon). Just kidding. Sort of.

How about you? Do you have family favorites that you keep coming back to?







Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dear Husband, This Is Why I Spent $100 at Target Yesterday

Maybe I've mentioned this before, but I'm a stay at home mom, which means I spend roughly 90% of my existence chasing small people around the same few rooms all the livelong day. And while I'm keeping my eyes on said small people, making sure they don't go swimming in the toilet or eat tubes of lipstick, I find myself constantly taking stock of the little world we live in. And by that I mean, I imagine all the many projects I could possibly start around the house and subsequently drag Matt into after I get in over my head.

Here's an abbreviated version of my current to-do list (which is an ever-changing rolodex of semi-creative "genius"):

~ The little table behind the couch, which I'm dreaming about painting yellow.
~ The dining room chairs which need re-upholstering due to excessive crayon and Play-Doh abuse.
~ The ten-year-old desk from Target in the guest room that's begging to be painted a distressed white.
~ The blank wall above the desk which would be perfect for the floating shelves I've got tucked away in the closet. (I just need someone tall and handy with tools to hang them for me...)

Essentially, I have a running to-do list that would make Matt's hair stand on end if he could actually get his hands on a typed-out version.

And then there are those innocent little trips to Tar-jay and T.J. Maxx where I find myself wandering through the home decor section as I mentally redecorate my house with all the things on the sale end-cap. I've learned the hard way that I am physically incapable of leaving Target without $100 disappearing from our checking account. Every. Single. Time. (I'm starting to suspect dark marketing subterfuge in the board rooms of Target's headquarters and I'm pretty sure Dateline needs to get on that expose' pronto.) This situation is also why my family should always live at least twenty-five minutes away from a Target, minimum. Then there's T.J. Maxx, which is another dysfunctional love story that deserves its own, very lengthy, somewhat emotional blog post. 

But, somehow, in the midst of all the semi-impulse buying (which I'm exaggerating slightly) and project-starting, there is something important happening.

I, dear reader, am home-making.

I'll give you a minute to roll your eyes (if you're my husband) and possibly even smirk over how I'm about to draw a connection between impulse Target-buying and the beautiful and crucial art of creating a home for my family.

Making a case for chalk paint, crafting felt and Target end-caps sales being significant parts of home-making might be a bit of a stretch, but the value of making a home beautiful and the indispensable role of the person who makes that happen is inestimable (says the homemaker humbly).

Do you know who's responsible for turning our house into a living, breathing home? Moi. Matt's a little preoccupied with excessive amounts of yard work and taking the trash out and other household chores that I'd rather not do. And in his free time, he's more interested in rough-housing with our little people and maybe getting in a little Sports Illustrated reading than re-arranging furniture and distressing picture frames. And, that's good with me. I'm happy to assume the role of picture-hanger, knick knack arranger, organizer of shelf decor, painter of old furniture, and basically the CEO of all the pretty stuff and the places it should go.

I realize we could make do without my puttering around looking for just the right place for an old eggplant-colored pitcher that was a wedding present to my grandparents sixty-five years ago. But, that pitcher will play a small part in the bigger picture that is the home I'm creating, which is only made more beautiful by pieces with stories to tell.

Friends, I promise I'm not advocating that you blow your household budget at Home Goods or that you obsess over your house to the point where no one feels comfortable sitting down on your perfectly fluffed couch pillows. But, what I am saying is that the art of making a home is worthwhile. You might not think it matters to your husband and those little people you made together, and they might not even realize it matters to them, but the effort you put in to giving them a home that feels beautifully and intentionally created will offer them that proverbial, and somewhat indefinable, sense of feeling at home.

I do a lot of other things to keep my household working (i.e., cleaning bathrooms, cooking dinner, LAUNDRY, keeping the grocery list on budget most of the time, etc.), but the small moments when I work to make our home a lovely respite, a place for rest and comfort and sanctuary from the outside world, that time is just as valuable as the practical tasks that are always and forever on my to-do list.

At this moment, there are blue chalk handprints on the pantry door, someone's (shout out to Mae) pumpkin muffin crumbs are scattered on the den rug, and nobody's bed is made right now, so we're not living in a perfect house by any stretch of the imagination. Also, I'm not the craftiest or the most skilled at decorating and my budget for anything extra for the house is rather small (Matt would say non-existent).

But, here's the thing, there is redemption even in the simple act of home-making, of making your family's house into a home that is lovely and welcoming. Restoring, creating, making things new: these are ways that I can reflect a redeeming, creative, restoring God. There is real beauty in that which gives this imperfect, Target-loving, home-making mama some hope on an allergy-full, kid-crazed, it's-almost-summer-and-I'm-freaking-out-a-little kind of Thursday. 

Here are a few places I go sometimes for a homey idea or two:

Why my bed hasn't been made yet.
http://therusticboxwood.com/
http://www.younghouselove.com/
http://www.thenatos.com/
http://www.thenester.com/




 





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