I don’t have a bunch of fancy words about this but I’ve been working on a new little online corner that feels a bit more natural for my writing skin.
It’s finally ready.
And now I’m going to ask you to do something totally inconvenient. Will you follow me over there? Subscribe? Add it to your reader? It’s called sweetwater and I hope it will be a fresh spring in your life.
So. Less words here. Most words there. All the words there, really.
Are you in? Just click right here. Or type this into your browser: thesweetwaterblog.com.
I like you very much and I hope we can continue our little walk together. Smiley face.
If you receive posts from handmade recess by email, you can subscribe to receive posts from sweetwater right here.
Summer mornings are a race to scoop up the dwindling coolness of just before the sun rises. If I scoop it up and stuff it in my pocket, I can hold it like an ice cube melting when the heat rises. In the early, early morning, the bird song is full and loud. I try to count but I get lost. There are few people and few machines and few the world is awake noises and so the bird song walks right up to me and surrounds. It’s beautiful. Soon the air will encompass, simultaneously carrying and pushing against with it’s humid hands. Summer air is musky, heavy with gardenia and jasmine. And the sunrise. The sunrise is pink and yellow and orange. The flowers have faded but the sky puts on her show.
It’s our secret, you know. And I pray for you.
I pray that tomorrow you will force your bright blue, green, brown, grey, caramel eyes open just a few minutes earlier. Do it when the world is still covered in hush. I pray that you will tip toe across your carpeted, hardwood, creaking floors and slip right out your door.
Five minutes. Twenty minutes. An hour. Whatever your heart can muster.
And I pray that when you step outside, you scoop up the last vapors of night coolness that are wisting away from the ground up. I pray that you will scoop up grace, too. I pray that you rub it into your heart good. That you’ll understand that you never could keep up the redeeming work and that since the beginning of the beginning, God knew. He knew that you would falter and He knew that you would stumble. I pray that you will know that Jesus wrapped himself up in our skin not so much because God desires perfection but because He desires us. And never any less when we can’t and never any more when we can.
I pray that when you come up short tomorrow, you will understand that the faltering does not condemn you and it doesn’t steal all of the growth away either. I pray that when you come up short, you lean into Him. And. That you hear the balm words of my husband’s coaching heart to mine: You feel like you’ve made a mistake? Don’t beat yourself twice.
I pray that you will find the grace salve still there and that you rub it in deeper. And deeper still.
the dead weight of nubbin arms and pudgy belly are soft on my heart. his tears trail down onto my shoulder. his sniffles and warm breath are a balm.
it’s a moment after discipline. it still hurts me every time but we follow through anyway.
bedtime now and as he sinks-still wet with crying- into his downy comforter, i lean in for a kiss.
and he is all uncontrollable giggles. there is no gentle transition. no tickling. no silly joke. it’s like he was standing with his toes curled over the warm cement edge and he just jumped. sniffly tears to belly laughs in one big splash.
i laugh with him and i pray that God will teach me that. how to let laughter rumble up in me even when i’m still holding onto hurt, disappointment, anger. how to let joy sink those soft lines deep around my eyes even when the tears roll out. how to heal.
I met Jessi Connolly on a coolish late April morning over a year ago. We had introduced ourselves through comments on her blog and had decided to try our luck live and in person. She walked up with a black picnic basket, Starbucks in hand, her hair in wispy bun and three little shadows bouncing behind her.
It took five minutes to get to the good stuff. We sat on a park bench and plowed our way through that fumbling, unsure investing of a beginning friendship. It wasn’t a question that we would be friends. And soon.
The next time we met she slid a piece of paper toward me. I had shared a passage I was praying over a specific area of my life and she made it into a beautiful scripture print. And that has been the thing every time. Every time I talk to her-and for the months that we got to be right here in the same city-it’s like she keeps sliding those silky pieces of paper across the table to me: she’s real and she encourages and she always makes much of God.
Here’s the thing. Jessi’s written an ebook and I have read it. It’s good. It’s great, really. Be Quiet and Say Something is like sitting down at Starbucks with Jessi. It’s like a lunch and playdate at Chick Fil A. It’s like sitting on her couch with your knees tucked in and your heart hanging out. Just like it. What she says? Is fresh and authentic and accessible.
If you are a blogger or a writer or both or a reader or a mother or a friend or a daughter, I know you’ll draw wisdom from Jessi’s words. She shares her journey to surrendering her influence-and we all have influence-to make much of God. It’s a journey through intentionality and sharpening to freedom. It’s simultaneously lightly funny and directly heart piercing.
You can purchase and download Be Quiet and Say Something right here. It’s $7.99. If you want to be challenged to surrender your story for God’s glory? I know you’ll be blessed by Jessi’s heart.
This year began in a flurry. I was resolved to be better and brighter and more minimalist.
I bought a book on time management.
I took notes.
I made lists.
There are many treasures I gleaned from that time but my most favorite has become my regular Tuesday morning with this lovely person.
She’s been a part of my life since I graduated from college. Sometimes in my life more than others. But lately, it’s been more.
I looked at my friendships, the types. And I resolved to invest a bit more in a few of them.
Investing in fellowship can be exhausting and fumbling and almost always involves me embarrassing myself. But I do it anyway.
And when Mary Beth mentioned that she wanted to tell her story through writing, I did something.
I sent a sheepish email wondering if she would read a book with me. We would read. We would write. We would meet. We would share.
Every other Tuesday-and sometimes more-I stumble over to her house after school drop off. She writes in a notebook. I like the clickety-clack of the keys so I bring my computer.
And we fellowship.
Here are four things I’ve learned about investing in fellowship:
- It doesn’t require cleaning up. In fact, it feels like home when I come over to her house and there is laundry to be done and paperwork in a just barely nice, neat stack. I show up in my yoga pants. She has coffee in hand. Her little people shuffle in and eat cereal with our smallest person. If she comes to my house it’s the same thing. My sink is full of dishes and my floors need to be swept.There is no pretense about this.
- It’s incredibly inspiring. We sit in her homeschool room, which is the perfect warm shade of flax. She has an old schoolroom chalkboard with a poem written in dusty yellow chalk. Oh, there are books upon books and a lamp that’s clear and industrial and perfect with its burlap shade. Sometimes she makes me try delicious leftovers or some new thing she’s discovered for breakfast.
- It costs something. I could be cleaning, running errands, rambling through to do lists. She could be schooling,getting ready for her day, being quiet, serving others; her list is long and her heart moves out.
- It heals and it sharpens. What we write? We’re just recording the glorious everyday, not thinking about publishing or blogs or any other thing than just processing life. And you know what happens. We cry. We laugh. We minister.
It’s worth every cost. Every one.
Here’s what it took: one sheepish email and a bit of creativity. I do that fumbling, embarrassing investing because this is how we are made. We long to be known. And God is always enough for that. But He dreamed up added blessings for us in His children and His making us a working, flexing, dependent body. And I’ll tell you what. This true, pinch it in your fingers fellowship? It ministers grace to me like you wouldn’t believe.
I like to sit on our little tweed couch with the tiny blue threads weaving through a goldy-taupish soft color and tuck my knees in. On an average evening, that is my perch while my husband sits in our inherited and plaid rolled arm chair with the ottoman, his feet resting from the long walk of a day of work. He goes through a pair of tennis shoes every year. True story.
About a month ago, we had tumbled into our routine after a day full of hither, thither and yon.
There I was. Knees tucked in. And I was talking through a crisis of conscience about writing and feeling small but wanting to feel important and noticed.
“I don’t see you working on it.”
He has that way. Of making seven words wallop you like a sucker punch. You can’t even catch your breath. He looked right at me and he said it.
And he was right.
I have a small something that is so big to me and it is just for me and I have been talking about working on it for months. Instead of doing the thing my heart was tugged by, I was worrying over what I should be.
It stung for a few days. And I know myself so I shared it with a few heart friends so that I could not avoid trying, starting, maybe failing again.
And then I did something. On a Saturday morning, I got up early. I fixed my hair all wispy-like and I put on my favorite pair of jeans. The ones with the rip at the knee. The ones that are barely holding together. I put on a creamy orange t shirt and a grass green cardigan. I didn’t need to match because I was being a writer. A big girl, serious writer.
I went to Starbucks.
And there I forced my earphones in and I let the music flow over me and I started. I wrote.
It was 7:00 on a Saturday morning and a steady stream of people were coming in and I could not silence the Tom Hanks voice bouncing around my brain as I could just barely hear the orders rattled off. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!
That steady stream was a life giving rhythm and even though they were probably off on some great adventure of a Saturday and my adventure was through story words, I felt connected to them.
I started. And I’ve done it again and again. And do you know what? A tiny stream of life was awakened in my heart.
Starting is a powerful thing. Planning is good. Preparation is to be honored. But just making that first inky line on paper or clickety clacking away a line of rounded black letters into blank white? There’s power in that.
Often, just after a hit publish? I squint shut my eyes real tight and I hold my little heart words out and I try really hard not to take back or explain away or hide. And I love it when you all respond. I’m so, so glad to know that all of this redeeming God is working in my heart effects others for Him. I hope more than anything it does. Because when you are crying into the very chicken and corn you are cooking on a warm summer night over what He is teaching you and you are shaking your fists just a little bit it feels awful good to know that even if your heart is prickly, still He is using you.
So. Let’s talk about starting today. Do you need to air out that thing you need to start? Just say it. Do you have some glory filled story of how you started something He dreamed up just for you? Encourage others with it.
I didn’t think I could love mornings more but I can. Mornings are a constant surrendering for me. I get up early looking for more time to just be. Which is good. But I find that I’m having to just be with open hands, willing to give that time over to being intentional. I have a wish for you. That you would love mornings, too. It’s a secret between you and me, ok? But if you want to know pink light kissing your skin while everything is almost yellow and you can actually hear the world instead of people noise? Embrace the early morning.
Every afternoon we have been setting aside an hour for reading. We choose one summer reading book and one library book and the house is quiet and my heart is happy. For half that time, I sit down near our girl and I read, too. I find that somehow it helps that I communicate physically that I am available. If I’m dashing all about, there is more resistance and there are more questions. My favorite spot is on the settee in the dining room where we are a jumble of legs and words.
And in the evening, we’ve taken to playing Uno. Over and over again we play. We get lively and fierce games going until someone finally wins and we all shake hands and shout, “Good game!” If you’ve never heard a snaggle-toothed four year old with a lisp and a southern accent say, “Good game!” and “I winned!” then I pray you will soon.
That’s when golden things get tarnished.
Because if you have to go one more day swallowing that deep down, heart want you might burst. You wonder. Isn’t this a good thing I want? Isn’t this meeting my need? Isn’t this a promise?
And it is.
But you wait anyway.
Because God doesn’t give that way.
Just the other morning I was standing in our upstairs bathroom. The one with soft green walls and the tiniest doors on the window that open in. I was looking out over the dogwood tree in our front yard. If you stand at that window early in the morning, you can see the sun tippy toe it’s way up and you can feel the orange and pink light creep over you.
I was standing in that bathroom and I was letting golden things be tarnished, golden moments that are meant to be kept safe and treasured.
When you listen to the right now of a heart longing loud enough, it will start to tell you that golden moments here and there are good but why not more?
I walked away from the window and I looked at my reflection.
Manna. Isn’t that what golden things are? We wonder. This? This is enough when my deep down, hurt-want is sawing away inside me?
It’s the same thing the Israelites wondered, the very question in the meaning of the word. This is your provision, Lord?
And it is. It is there every morning in abundance, covering every bit of life.
But wasted? Hoarded? Left for something else? Bitter.
God allows hunger.
It hurts like the dickens. But He doesn’t starve us of His goodness. He doesn’t starve us of golden moments.
There they are like the morning dew just waiting to be gathered and ground and baked; pressed down and full of who He is.
Will you share a golden thing? Your manna for today? And let’s let that wash over us.
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
We have a very brave one in him.
Right there I turned to our girl and wondered at God’s imagination.
A happy accident at the meerkats. I put my camera down by my hip. These brown eyes are, I like to say, saucers of spilled out coffee all rich and deep.
This girl danced in all her finery today. “Mama,” she said. “I got lipstick on my bow. Do you think anyone noticed?” I put my arm tight around her, wrapped her up in the warmth of my heart pumping big for her and breaking just a bit and said, “Nope. Not a one.”
There are things about my life that sometimes rub raw. To be honest, in these places, I’m always pinky-tender with the reluctance and freedom of surrender.
I wish we owned our own home. One where I could pick things like countertops and appliances and carpet, especially where the carpet goes. And I wish we could have grass instead of dirt. I wish we lived in the suburbs instead of the city, the suburbs where my children could walk or ride their bikes without me.
I wish my husband didn’t have to work on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve and Memorial Day. I wish that sometimes he didn’t get midnight calls. Even though I know about what he does. About how much just being there for a child who has been abandoned in heart or in body or in circumstance means. I know what it means. There is only one Water that can fill those dry wells.
And even as I am wishing. I know. I know that everyone wishes. That everyone is uncomfortable. That everyone is pinky-tender with the reluctance and freedom of surrender. And I know, too. I know, being a child of the 80s, that nothing gold can stay. Pony Boy was my favorite in 8th grade when I had braces and bouffant bangs and dreams bigger than my paper heart could hold. And I know now that I don’t decide what is golden, those things so hard to hold that make a life shine bright. Gold isn’t wishes and might’ve beens. Gold is today. The rough and the raw.
There is a baseball field on the campus where we live. It’s right behind the church where Truth goes out to bottomless well-hearts. The lines aren’t as straight but just this weekend my husband took our boys over to play ball. The girl child and I stayed back where I started laundry and swept and put things straight. It felt good for just a minute to sweep away crumbs and tiny pieces of dirt.
And when it was time to clean up and bed down, I didn’t call. I walked the 50 short steps and I stopped right behind the church. The sun was casting filtered light-yes, golden-through the tree behind me. I cupped my hands and I yelled down the alley behind that church and I called home. There was a warm breeze and I wondered. I wondered, who am I to say that this right here is not as golden as can be.
In January I excised a fairly large portion of who I have been for the past four years.
At times it has felt like I would never be finished with the cutting away, sure that it would go on and on.
I’m still under the knife.
Lately, I’ve found something unwelcome in the space where there used to be success in measurables.
I knew that I would lean in to writing. But it’s sort of like a specialized tumor removing surgery. You have to keep going back until you get all of it and I have struggled with feeling very small.
Like I don’t have much of importance to say.
This is change. Change cuts away all of the self dependance and all of your standing firm on what you can do until you rest in what is really true. Until you know exactly what your story is. And it doesn’t start with you.
Sometimes the only way out of the insecurity is to walk right through it. To let it be the laser edge to your change blade, making you question why you’re in this thing in the first place.
Here’s the thing. You feel insecure? You’re not alone. Use it. Use it to discover exactly what your story is and why you need to tell it and when you need to tell it and how you need to tell it.
And then do it. Don’t avoid. Don’t pretend that you don’t care because you are afraid. Don’t rush your turn. Be patient. Maybe you have to let things dwindle first, be cut away. When you get to the good and real and honest stuff, then you tell your story.
I have been doing my fair share of walking through and watching the dwindle and surrendering to the knife. I’ve had to let go of plans. I’ve had to say no. But, I think that I am beginning to see the bright light at the middle of my own story.
The unfurling is beginning and I’m so happy to share it with you.
But what about you? What does insecurity do to you? Change? Maybe you have some encouragement for others. Share if you’d like!
It’s Sunday night and my husband is at the grocery store for me.
He offered. I gladly accepted.
It’s quiet here. And I was thinking about you. About today. Today I wore a dress that my mama bought me. It’s long and flowy and navy blue. And I wore dainty jewelry and braided sandals.
I wore my hair up and to the side.
There’s just something about feeling beautiful. Not perfect. Just lovely.
I wanted to take a picture of it. But I was worried that you might not think I was beautiful. Even though you are loving and wonderful and I’m so glad for each one of you.
I really care that you think I’m beautiful. And then I remembered something I had shared in church this morning. In church where we are talking about how deeply grace cuts and how completely grace heals. That healing cut, you know?
Last Wednesday found me in the Atlanta airport. In one of those lose the battle and win the war moments, I was shuffling through all the traveling bodies searching for milk.
I’ve been doing some real work on my heart and how I eat and what I eat and how I work my body and I was feeling good. I had on my favorite flowy tank top and my most favorite worn in jeans. They were rolled up just so. I felt comfortable in my skin.
Until I looked over and there was this perfectly beautiful, awesome, I’m-sure-she-bakes-cookies-and-runs-5-miles-everyday-and-keeps-her-house-spotless-and-look-at-her-adorable-outfit woman. She was really pretty.
My shoulders slumped under the weight of feeling very homely next to her loveliness.
But. And I believe this was the Lord. A question whispered by me.
Who says? Who says that I’m not beautiful, too?
It was the loudest whisper I’ve ever heard, still filling my ears with it’s wooshing and rustling up my heart.
The One who is a Master at forming and who lovingly whistled sweet songs over me as He looped and stitched me together? He is who decides on beauty. So I walked a little straighter. And I took this picture even though I hate pictures of myself because I never feel pretty in them and I worry that others will look at all my faults. Also I forgot to put lipstick on.
Brick by brick. Brick by brick He is starting to rebuild my undoing.
Edit: I so appreciate all of your sweet comments. I am going to receive them without swatting them away because I know the heart you gave them in. But. I hope, too, that wherever you feel homely or burdened by comparison you hear this whisper louder than any other thing.
Sometimes I like to think that I am still a young mom. But I think I am really a youngish mom. There’s no crib in my house. No diapers. No bottles. No diaper bag. No regular nap schedule. I don’t even have any sippy cups.
So I want to say something to you as someone who is almost both feet into the school age years. Your life will change.
Where you are right now? It’s physically exhausting. It’s late night feedings and blowouts. It’s early morning breakfasts and morning naps. It’s temper tantrums. It’s “No touch” over and over again until you start to think about how funny touch sounds and then you realize it’s time for dinner and you don’t think you can stand up one more minute. It’s opposite napping schedules. It’s carrying the world’s biggest bag with a million compartments but somehow you still can’t find the wipes when you need them.
It’s also baby smiles and dimples. It’s being able to rest your little one in your lap because he doesn’t come up to your shoulders. It’s not stinky shoes yet. It’s sweet, sweet baby breath and that first smile that you make yourself a fool over so you can see it again.
It won’t always be this tiring on your body. Soon, your work will be the work of the heart. And, that? Well. It’s tough stuff. But the physical makes way for the emotional.
So. How do you find the restart to your day when every minute seems taken up with meeting needs?
1. You take what you can get. Maybe there is a natural break in your day. Mine is right before my older two get home from school. Here’s how I know it’s ripe for hitting the refresh: I’m plumb wore out. I want to rush out of everything. I’m ready to check out and looking for anything to fill me up. Also. It’s when I get yell-y. Unredeemed, that time looks like me running after a bunch of things (hello, internet) that can’t really fill me up so that when it’s time to be focused, I’m restless. Maybe it’s naptime for you or mid-morning or just any old time.
2. But maybe you have to take what you can make. If it’s fifteen minutes while one is sleeping and the other one is watching tv, you can make that time listen to you. Maybe you lay on the couch. Maybe you find a quiet corner and read or stare or try to get the oatmeal out of your hair. Maybe it’s while you are washing dishes and you play some kind of music good and loud.
3. Whatever you get, take it and be thankful for it. Fifteen minutes spent wishing they were thirty instead is not life giving. Five minutes can be enough if they are used wisely. Know what gives you life and what is just a band-aid for your restless heart. Treating the symptoms is not the same as treating the cause.
4. Don’t aim for perfection. Starting a new day in your heart and mind does not have to look the same everyday. When you feel about to give out, press in. Start over. However you can. For me, the goal of starting a Second (or more) Day is to be present, not to be perfect. I’m trying to use that time to do two things: eliminate things that would distract me from being present and refresh my heart and mind so that I can be focused on my children. I don’t always get to do both things. I certainly don’t get to do them perfectly. And sometimes? I have to put my head down and push through. But, usually I can find at least five minutes to step away and focus back on what’s important.
Here’s the thing. Right there in the midst of your hands-on, scheduled out kind of days, I want you to know that I see you. And I want you to know that I see the light for you. I believe for you that even if your day is overwhelming and exhausting and full to the brim, there is redeeming and refreshing available to you.
Edit: As a sweet friend was sharing something with me, I realized there was another thought to be borne out in this process. Parenting will always be hard and sharpening and unexpected. There may be seasons or circumstances that go seemingly unchanged. That battle? For heart change when the externals don’t? It’s even more important. Sometimes hard things stay but God’s refreshing stays even longer.
Full disclosure: this is a picture I took of a vintage photo I found.
It is 1:24 pm on Monday afternoon and I’m giving myself 6 minutes to write a post.
I have loved hearing from y’all about your Second Day. Listen. I’m being bossy. But you need to know about your Second Day. It’s just that good. It didn’t start with me but I’m so glad I know about it.
Yesterday? Yesterday I started my Second Day at 7:30 pm. We went to Austin on Wednesday. We got my sister all married up. I didn’t take one real picture. We boarded a plane in dark and rain yesterday morning. And we set foot in our sweet hometown at 4:30 yesterday. It was a long and hot five days. But, good. But, hot.
I had cleaned and scrubbed up our house and put some sparkle on it before we left. And do you know that by 7:30, even though we hadn’t done really any living in it because we basically walked in, turned on golf and laid around talking about how tired we were, it was a hot mess? So I started my Second Day. It was kind of awesome. I washed off all the sharpening of two two hour flights. I took a deep breath. I discovered that we didn’t actually finish the math packet that we thought we’d finished. I shuffled said math packet assignee down the steps and we finished that thing. And, then. Then I watched The Amazing Race with my husband even though Bopper and What’s His Name weren’t in the running anymore.
The thing about your Second Day is that it is just about the best way to physically walk out redemption and love. I do it because I love my people. It always makes me appreciate what is before me and many times it gives me grace eyes to see beauty instead of failure in my First Day.
It’s never too late in the day. Maybe you need to start your Third Day? Or your Fourth? There’s not a moment that is beyond God’s redemption and refreshment.
That breaking moment in the midst of your day? Can I pour something healing and wonderful down over it?
It’s called your Second Day and my beautifully hearted friend Jessi taught me about it.
At the very moment when you are just about to give out but your day calls for you to give more, make a shift. Start your Second Day.
Apply it this way: Back up a few minutes. I shoot for 30. Or 60 on a really, really everything is right in the world day.
Split your back up time in half. First, do some things that bring you peace and prepare you for what is next. I try to do as many as I can of those everyday things that suck life and marrow out of me if they are left undone. You know the drill. Dishes. Tidying. Clean off the desktop. Write that email. Do whatever it is you do with that pesky spreadsheet (I don’t know because I am one of those weirdo right brained people). What you want is to trick your mind into thinking that things are fresh instead of mind tired and frizzled hair feeling. Just trust me.
Now. For the second half. Do something that is only life giving. Maybe you read. Maybe you write. Maybe you pray. Maybe you draw. Maybe you walk. Maybe you listen to music or nothing at all. Maybe you’re an extrovert and you do extroverty things (I wouldn’t know because I’m one of those stubborn introverted types). Whatever your thing is that makes you feel full and alive and at rest. Do that thing that speaks to your heart.
And then? Then you start your Second Day.
Shifting like this has brought some kind of fierce refreshing into my day. Oh, there are days where I just put my head down and steamroll through. That’s ok, too. There’s victory there. But the days when I get to walk through my little Second Day rhythm are becoming quite the treasure.
Will you try it? And will you come back here and share about it? I’d love to know.
Today done flat wore me out. My hair is going every which direction and my words aren’t good anymore and every response I’m making is clipped with frustration. Because where am I in the midst of this? Of the powdered sugar caked on the counter. Of the popcorn covering the kitchen floor. Of the papers strewn about the dining room. Of the Zaxby’s drink from two days ago that’s still sitting on that table in the den. (Thank you for Zaxby’s, Lord. You know I love it.) Of deadlines unmet and receipts unreconciled. I don’t even know if I have clean underwear for tomorrow. And there’s that book, magazine, whatever that I’ve been wanting to read for days. I think it has jelly on the cover.
I’m thirsty, ever so thirsty, for refreshing. And this stony heart, the one that I was born with? It keeps telling me that I’ll quench my thirst reading just a few blogs or in five minutes checking my email or two minutes more on facebook. If I can just sit down.
But there’s only One who ever broke stony rocks and made water come spilling and trickling out. And that is You. If it’s not You then I’ll just be parched.
And so I will wash the powdered sugar off of the counter because it’s work you’ve given me to do. And I will answer that 7 plus 7 is 14 even though I do NOT want to. I will do that paperwork that has been waiting for three weeks. I’ll even do the laundry.
And I will look for you. In every single thing I do, I’ll look for you. And I’ll do it because you gave it to me not because I have to be good. If this is the work you’ve given me then You are in it. And I’ll believe that even though it is work, because You are in it then even this stuff of my hands can be refreshing. If I don’t give in, then you’ve promised I’ll reap. I’ll reap and I’m believing that it will be margin. It will be refreshing gifts from You to my heart, things that give me life.
Amen and Amen.
Whatever your 3 pm looks like, maybe you have a verse or encouraging truth that you turn to. Would you share? I’d love it if we lifted each other up.
I did something I haven’t done in a good long while yesterday. I took an honest to goodness sabbath day. We worshipped with our church family and then I came home and stayed in this one spot for a good remainder of the day. I read books and magazines. I had hand drawn pictures delivered to me. I also got shot with nerf guns and had to help break up a few wrestling matches gone wrong. That, my friends, is what we call pure T wrastling. But we were all here and we just stayed here.
More than ever, I am realizing that priorities don’t simply happen. I have to make space for them. Except sometimes I don’t and them I’m totally perplexed by the fact that I’m caught up in doing a whole lot of stuff that isn’t life giving.
I am also convinced that our four year old LITERALLY (Chris Traeger) lays himself flat in the dirt and then proceeds to roll and frolic in it. The other day he came in and there was dirt swirling off of him. It’s a sight, to be sure.
I’ve also been writing more thanks to a dear friend and every other Tuesday morning with her. We read. We write. We share. Some of it trails over here but some of it I’m holding on to. I’ve been a bit unsure about what this space is supposed to look like. Yes, still. But last week I took some time to ponder: why do I keep coming back to this place instead of keeping it all close? It helped to think intentionally.
Also! I always dread Monday when it’s the late afternoon on Sunday and the best light is almost filtered out. It’s the early mornings and the other non-weekendy things. But! Something happens on Monday mornings. I don’t know but that I’m really loving them for their fresh starts and new goals and hopeful breezes.
My pocket perfect moments come after a long day. I feel the tired in every bone.
And as I gather up random papers scattered throughout our house, I find it. A piece of my precious paper that she requested to perform an experiment with a jar of water and a tiny flashlight. Looking to create rainbows.
A chart labeled: “Yes, Renbo” and “No, Renbo.” Her scratchy hash marks making my mind run ahead. She had scrambled outside and in. Sought rooms filled with light and rooms shaded from the clear, afternoon sun.
She sat down across from me filled with the joy of having run after her creativity, making something she loves. Her eyebrows lifted to the tippy top of her face and her toothless grin crept wide. Her deep brown eyes basins full of stories over time, space, feelings.
She always asks to look for the rainbow after a storm. Always.
I never even think to.
This moment? My rainbow.
And later as I fold her fancy new basketball shorts, the deep and bright purple ones, I wonder at something so small. That something so small could cut so deep.
It’s a healing cut and this rainbow of a girl is teaching me to believe in my Promise Keeper and His grace toward me.
Our friend, Lynn, took this beautiful picture of our girl. Thank you, Lynn!
And an answer tip-toed over my brain. Something I’d heard in Bible study yesterday.
Because He is enough and He knows better.
I look around and I see so many people walking beside me under the burden of why.
Why the loss, Lord?
Why the pain, Lord?
Why the infirmity, Lord?
Why the poverty, Lord?
Why the no, Lord?
When You could split open the sky and make everything ok. Why?
Better. It’s the most painful answer I’ve ever had to stand under.
It doesn’t feel better to walk through pain and know that He could have stopped it. It doesn’t feel better to know that He saw the pain coming a long way off and in His love He watched it walk right up and make itself known to my heart, ripping and tearing and stomping it’s way through my life.
It doesn’t feel enough when the very, absolute thing you wanted most in the world is ripped from you. It doesn’t feel enough when you don’t even know how next will come or when. It doesn’t feel enough when you just plain don’t know how you’ll get what you need.
But it doesn’t change anything. He is enough and He knows better.
And that is why I sit down in my favorite chair on a bright spring morning. I listen to the birds chirping and I surrender my why to Him.
Because even though He is enough and He is better smarts like the dickens, it also heals.
And in just enough time, I might not know why but I’ll know Him more: enough and better.
You feel this? Share if you’d like.
Hi. It is Spring Break here. This morning we picked strawberries. Because it is basically summer. I have a sink full of them and plans to make a good bit of this salad dressing because my children will even eat raw spinach under it.
Here’s how I view Spring Break: Oh, goody! No rushing in the morning! We. Don’t. Have. To. Go. Anywhere! At all.
Here’s how my kidlets view Spring Break: What are we going to do next? Hmmm?
Unfortunately they do not buy into my homebody philosophy. And so I will try to provide a few fun things to do and then we will scurry home for afternoons of rest. Our oldest, especially, would flit from one thing to the next if I didn’t take up the banner of guarding our time. And I would be perfectly content to not leave home for an embarassingly long time if he didn’t speak the love language of people all the time.
I have lowly goals for this week. I would like to finish painting my kitchen chairs yellow, a project I started last summer. I think?
Also. I would like to catch up on my ironing. I don’t know why. Somehow I feel like I have accomplished something when everything is ironed. Of course, I rarely test this theory.
When it comes to housekeeping, I am the weakest link. For two weeks, I was a gold star cleaning lady when it came to our house. But, you know what comes before the fall. Last week? My house liked to say she was a hot mess. On Saturday, I got a bright idea: family cleaning morning! We picked out a movie on Redbox. And then the idea was to clean like crazy until we were all done at which time we would watch our treasured up movie. In my mind, it was going to be fabulous. It was something less. But we did it.
And! We finished the desk. Here it was fresh off the curb:
And here it is after some paint and a new top. My dad had the plywood, trim and stain already and I had the paint. I believe the total investment came to $1.00.
I am not even lying when I tell you that we lived with the table just like that, right across our dining room and major walkway in our house, for at least two days.
I want to remember how yesterday, in the quiet of a rare peaceful homework time, I heard the hum of water running.
“Little One?” I called. “What are you doing?” He was washing the red bits of crayon off of his yellow crayon. His little nubbin hands wrapped around that fat yellow thing. So assured.
I want to remember how our wiry oldest one pulled TWO! new library books out of his bag. His words spilling out so fast.
And we broke the teacher’s rule. One whole book start to finish before the next one. But that shelved book smell and the crinkle of the cellophane wrap and the promise of adventure were too much. I want to remember the bright blue of his eyes and his smattering of freckles all filled with the the hope of something new.
I want to remember how it feels to be close after sharp words and bruised egos. When the hurt is still raw, it helps more than anything to be close-pacing my breathing to my husband’s.
I want to remember how 11 years have changed him from wisp to solid and how he breathes so steady. I want to tuck away how a morning walk told me that it wasn’t all that important and the soft breeze of the fan felt fresh when I said no to hurt and yes to healing.
I am storing up. Stashing away the ruby toned moments that I so often overlook in my listing and in my perfectioning. They sparkle, shimmer, shore up.
Hey, Mary-Beth? You and your french fry cravings won the print! Email me! I’ll get you set up with Jessi. I loved every single comment on that post. Y’all play along so well.
Well. Here’s some truth. Lately I have been a bit of a Gideon, looking for God’s goodness in the exact answer to my exact prayer.
The sweet and good thing about Him is that He isn’t moved by my stomping foot and shaking fists. He is staid on what is best for me. On what is best for others.
So. Instead of lamenting the themes in my life and wondering why He doesn’t answer the way I would like, I’ll do this instead.
I’ll thank Him for the opportunity to serve that took me past this old, well loved science table. Just free. On the side of the road. I used to be too proud to pull over and load up. But not anymore. The thing is that I’ve been looking for a writing desk of sorts for our oldest. It turns out that children actually do grow and nine-year-olds don’t really delight in sitting at preschool sized tables when they’re masterminding lego creations.
I was worried it might be too well-loved to be brought back but my daddy laid eyes on it and now we have a plan. We’re working together. He’ll build a new top and I’m cleaning up the the base with some fresh paint. For now we’ll leave the slots open for books but I have no doubt that my father can whip some drawers up if he needs to. If you don’t know about my dad and his skills, then read here about how he built a bed out of my dreams and airy sketches.
I’ll thank Him, too, for a spring walk with that very same nine-year-old. We ambled through our neighborhood listening for the springtime bees and wondering at some magnolia branches that shot ram-rod, straight up. And at the end? When I said thank you for this time? He said that it was fun. I had to sop up that earnestness he gave me, his freckled face and grin like hot gravy on a flaky biscuit.
It’s a sickness, really. But I’ll thank Him for sweet and new friends who come over and rearrange with me. I can’t seem to leave anything be for too long. But I’m letting this settle in a bit before I make any decisions. Small changes can make the light shine brighter and the space seem freer. And soul friends make you feel just a wee bit less like a hot mess.
He’s in the business of this, our great God. Of giving small joys for us to treasure and store up if we’ll quiet our stomping foot and release our shaking fist.
***giveaway now closed***
I am about to recount a most embarrassing story about me and middle school. So. Let’s pray for my heart.
But, oh, how I liked that boy. In my mind, he would ask me to dances and to his soccer games and we would be married after which I would become the most successful working girl you ever did see. Always, always there was-only for me to hear-a soundtrack of stolen whispers and bathroom chatter that I dreamed up. I imagined a kind of social redemption that was coup like.
The problem was that I was so pinky tender with a lack of any kind of confidence that there was no way to reconcile my mind world and my world world. I couldn’t even talk to him.
But I was desperate to be noticed. By him. Or anyone, really. But mostly him.
And, so on a day when I had gone to the counselor’s office for some everyday thing, I got a lightning bright idea in the seventh grade hall. Right there in a dull green tunnel of lockers.
If I had some sort of story, some sort of sad and romantic part of me, then he might notice. Right there in that tunnel I decided that a family emergency had called me to the office and not some everyday, middle school kind of thing like a forgotten lunch box or musical instrument.
That lie story spread it’s arms quicker than quick.
Until everything came crashing down at my evening soccer practice when my family and school life collided. Right there in front of all of them I was exposed. I felt sicker than sick. I hated myself.
And that one boy didn’t even notice me.
I don’t hate my seventh grade self now.
I don’t know why I’ve been thinking of her but that scraggly toothed, big haired girl has been wandering my heart lately. Sometimes she tries to quick throw some of her insecurity into my heart still.
Maybe it’s opening my life and home to some 20 something women. Maybe it’s having a six year old daughter who even today came home a bit rubbed raw.
The thing is that we are all desperate to be noticed. And as my tender little smidget of a girl recounted the grainy sand in her day, I was thinking even then of this verse.
Psalm 45:11 by Naptime Diaries.
And how does a six-almost seven-year old know this? How does a 20 something year old darling thing know this? How does a 35 year old wild-haired, cowlicked, raw bit of a thing really know this?
I don’t know but that we etch it in. Over and over again we rub this soothing salve over our sore hearts until it leaves lines behind.
You need to dwell on this?
I’d like to give this Naptime Diaries print to one reader. Let’s keep it simple. Leave ONE! comment. Tell me something. Something true. And then I’ll close this thing up on Sunday night and pick a winner.
Last week I sat drinking unsweetened iced tea (dumb diet) across the table from a lovely heart who has more life experience than I do.
This change I am seeking is going to require all of my thinking parts.
I want to delight. I want to cherish. I want to pour out love, love, love.
Homework time is a major battlefield. I feel tired. I’ve been up for years, it feels like. I’ve been in the physical world of a four year old. I feel not enough. And I’m just done.
But it’s a gift that I am able to be here in this moment. And it’s the sweet pulp of our day together.
And so as my words poured out over unsweetened tea and devilishly tempting coffee smells. I said it.
What is my part in redeeming this time?
The simple answer that came back was fresh air to my not good enough, work harder heart.
What would make me look forward to it?
And that very afternoon, we positioned ourselves right under the window where the absolute best afternoon light splashes in. It’s the kind of light that makes you want to do something fancy and important.
And we spoke God’s Word over and before that time.
And there was soft music. A bit of Sandra McCracken is always a good thing. Or the Wailing Jennys can make romance out of first grade spelling words.
Today? I think we will selfishly pilfer every camellia off the bushes just around the corner so that we can have a table full for tomorrow. Wednesday and Thursday are always hardest. The best part is that the quince is about to bloom and I cannot wait to look through wiry, white bloomed branches at third grade math.
There is peace in this time now and I am feeling less and less the pull to rush out of it (sometimes). Sometimes it is still hard and groan filled but we will do it anyway.
I was stuck in unlocking the mystery when all I needed was just to bring the sweet gifts to the table.
This isn’t about perfection. I’m trying to keep lofty expectations at bay. This is just about being present. Being Present. It might be grumbly on their part or mine. It might mean doing math that I needed a tutor for. It might mean digging in and pushing through and it might not feel delightful right this very minute. It might mean that I have to stop the whirlwind of a to do list that I was never going to finish in the first place. But they are worth it and I want them to know it. It’s a tiny portion of my day that I can stop and let be redeemed.
Are you on this journey, too? I’d love it you’d share.
On Tuesday I just hit publish and closed my eyes. And then there were three Valentine’s parties and baseball practice and a booming headache. And then I didn’t have appropriate words for your encouragement. Thank you seems too simple sometimes. You can rest in this, though: I have sufficiently heaped question upon question on my husband. What about sharing and when is it too much and why am I blogging and I’ve just got to keep it true, right, and am I having a bad hair day, like really?
Thank you for continuing to be here even as I am working out what in the wide world this space will look like.
So. How’s about a bit of here and there on the state of life right now in my four walls?
The Valentine’s garland is still up. I have never decorated for Valentine’s so I don’t have one clue about when I’ve crossed the decorations up too long sad line. I didn’t really choose a word for this year but it appears that love is going to be a theme for me. I’m finding that I want to know more and more about what a costly love looks like and how it acts. I know where it begins-God’s love for me so rich and deep-and that is where I’m staid right now. But really the garland is still up because I keep forgetting to take it down.
On Wednesday night Tom and I went on a little date. And when he walked in with basketball tickets? I won’t try to pretty myself up here. I was like, whaaaat? But he L.O.V.E.S sports and he loves our school and so I said ok. We ate dinner at a dive, where I got a pimento burger and he got an $8 steak which was apparently very tasty and famous. And then we proceeded to have the most fun at the game. Simple is almost always best, I think.
Also. I got an iphone on Friday. I feel silly writing about it. But Tom and I have been talking about this for two years. And my phone was beginning to do very unfriendly things. I’m not sure how to paint a picture of my face when he casually told me it was time to get one.
In a fit of naivety I signed up for the The Biggest Loser at Tom’s work. Oats and sweet potatoes and brown rice are my constant companions. Except for when I have to substitute a healthy oil and then I’m just mad.
This scrappy little beauty is making a home in our backyard and I’m so glad.
On Saturday we picked flowers.
And last night we worked on valentines well into dinner time.
I’m trying to be more enthusiastic about the day, having been a sort of Scrooge about the whole day for many years. We have garlands. And special snacks.
And so I committed to helping with those little notes until they were done even though I knew I had Bible study and I didn’t have my memory work done. But I kind of knew that my girls would be forgiving because my face bore the splotchy details of a good afternoon cry.
And that is where I am right now. I’m in that place where I’m standing in the corner of my kitchen at 4:30 in the afternoon while words and tears spill too fast for my husband to catch them.
I’m struggling with my voice in this space. If this little corner is going to be a place of honesty and encouragement then I need to tell you that I am in the middle of the kind of transformation that takes a good bit of tearing down before the building up can happen.
There isn’t enough I can do to stave off the undoing. And I’m just barely seeing that it’s not by accident. That way down deep in the foundation of my being is crooked stone and all the things I’ve built on it must come down so that every part of my being can rest upon the Corner stone. On Christ Himself. But, first? I’ve got to come up short over and over again until I see that I cannot good deed my way through this life.
This feels dark for Valentine’s Day. Except it’s not. Because I have hope laid up for me. It’s all stored up-boiled down and packed in-and it’s telling me that when all the tearing down is done and the new is being built up I will be stronger. And I will be freer. Free from the emptiness of doing, doing, doing. Free from perfection chasing.
Plus! There is Valentine’s garland.
In January I ran a half-marathon. I’m sorry I was away from this space then. But. I took each of you with me.
It’s a Saturday morning and I’ve just run 11 miles.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I say. Standing in our bathroom. My body in rebellion. Hot tears burning rivers down my face.
“But you’ve done it.” He shuffles past me. It’s my last long training run.
And two weeks later I’m standing between centuries old buildings at the start of a half marathon.
He’s just squeezed my hand and made his way back to the car. Meet me at mile nine.
I won’t see you for nine miles, I think. Today that seems impossible. Even though I’ve already done it. It seems too far.
Before I know it, I’ve paced it four miles. Four miles through an old port city that’s peppered my summers since before I can remember.
Five miles until I see you.
And now it’s just railroad tracks, open spaces and put your head down. Dig in.
Three miles until I see you.
One foot. Two foot. Music filling my ears and an ice cold wind battering my body.
And I see him.
“I’m struggling,” I say.
He says words but it’s nothing compared to the moment I first saw him standing on a forgotten corner with broken beer bottles and empty train tracks. Looking for me. Doubt is weighing. But he promised to be there and there he is.
And now it’s the hardest.
Four miles until I see you again.
Four miles of every step is hard. Four miles of I can’t do this anymore. Four miles of muscle ache. Four miles of just trying to control my body.
I start to count songs. 20 songs until I’m there.
10 songs until I see you.
Just put one foot first. Then the next.
I round the last corner. I know I’m almost there. He’s made his way.
“You’re almost there. Just around this building.”
“I know.” He smiles. Claps. Walks behind me.
They call my name but I can’t even hear it.
He meets me across the finish line.
I don’t even care about the medal or the music or the party. I just want to be with him in the quiet of the car. My introvert is showing.
It’s, too, that I’ve come to the end of myself in the most physical of ways. I’ve been Sustained like never before. Every step a prayer answered. I don’t even have words for this part yet. Except that I want to be back in this. Not the pain. But the believing and the depending.
And there is something about uncertainty and pain. The sweetness of not knowing how we’ll do it. Or even what to say. That can bind two people together in the strongest way.
We are tethered in tandem.
Snippets are little random bits of my life that I like to share with you.
I think we might need to have a small yogurt intervention. The flavored stuff is for my boys. They L.O.V.E. yogurt. The unflavored, protein-filled, i’ll-eat-it-if-i-have-to greek yogurt is for me.
Somehow we made it all the way to first grade for the second child without having to construct a diorama. It’s a very different experience working on a loose creative project with my crafty girl. She has verrrry strong opinions about every tiny detail and generally has a bigger vision than the project will allow. Also. She calls it a diOOOHHHHHraAAHHma.
I have a confession. Homework time is not my favorite time of day. My energy is low and my children are just done sitting still. But. Because we have chosen school school it’s really the first fruits of our day together. We are working on redeeming homework time. This was one uncharacteristically cold afternoon. My gidget girl sipped on hot chocolate and I had a homemade mocha.
Now. I would like for you to use your best imagineering skills to picture the look on my husband’s face when I pointed to that blue framed senorita and said that it was the only thing in the world I wanted for Christmas. Then imagine the internal “Wait? Is this tacky? Or is it quirky?” dialogue that I had with myself for at least thirty minutes. I’m still not sure but all sales are final so there she is up on our wall. I made a very bold and declarative statement this year that I want to start collecting real art-type things. Also! The beautiful scripture print is this one from Naptime Diaries’ shop.
This little person right here went and turned four while I was on my small hiatus. It simultaneously rips my heart seams and overwhelms me with joy.
If you think for a minute that that face-right up there?-is not true to his forever energy and ham-ishness then I would love to have you over around, say, 2 pm. Just this morning he tired of helping me clean the bedrooms and I consented to let him rustle up his own fun in the backyard. I couldn’t exactly keep my eyes on him from the upstairs windows so I snuck down just to make sure he wasn’t running wild and free on the street. I found he had set up a bucket for a tee and a frisbee for home plate. He had assumed batting stance and was lightly tapping the bat on his frisbee slash home plate. Never you mind that this particular bat is his sister’s and pink as the day is long. Pink will not stop him. He MUST! play the baseball.
I’m terribly sentimental about everything he does, trying to stuff every tiny bit of what’s left of his young childhood into the pockets of my mind. It’s just that this birthday feels sort of milestone-ish since he is the youngest and here I go transitioning out of babies and toddlers and soon preschoolers.
It’s already strange enough to have a nine and six year old walking around in my life, promising to be taller than me. What to do when the baby fat and tiny fingers and still toteables are gone? I suppose we’ll make our way in tiny steps. It just feels awful big when you’re standing at the edge of it. Big but joy-bringing, too.
I started 2011 with the gusto to take more risks. Grow my business. See just how much energy I could eek out of my life and into my little plant of a thing.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I am an artist. Not a businessperson.
Sometimes you have to be both. But sometimes you don’t.
Beautiful things have grown in me as I stretched to the far end of my boundary lines. I wouldn’t trade the things that have been added.
But a calling came stronger than the stretching.
Do you know what love is?
Love is releasing a perfectly good thing because it isn’t the best thing.
handmade recess (the shop, the shows) is a perfectly good thing. I am good at it, thankful for where it has gone this year.
But it is not the best thing.
Right now the best thing for me is to serve my family in love.
Right now the best thing for me is to turn in to the beautiful gift of my marriage. Please do not worry. We are better than ever. I just won’t take it for granted.
Right now the best thing for me is to lay a groundwork of grace and love in my children’s hearts so that they will never-not ever-doubt that they are loved and Loved.
Truth? It’s easier for me to focus on my gifts used in my business. Those made things? They do what I want them to. I feel more capable with them.
I don’t feel at all equipped for this season our family is in. We’ve entered the heart boundaries part of parenting and even though I’m not always physically worn out, my heart is heavy, heavy, heavy with these choices. It’s going to take all of my energy, this transforming. I don’t carry all the weight. I AM does. But, still, I must keep my focus.
There is laughter running through my mind right now as I imagine my husband reading this post. I’ve used 342 words to say this:
I am almost completely giving up handmade recess.
You can find my products at this amazing store in Atlanta, Georgia. And. I might have a little holiday shop if I feel like there is room come Christmas. I’ll still be pursuing my artistry. I’m just letting go of the burden of the business stuff. It was stealing too much of my heart.
This space? Will go on. It’s one of my favorite things that handmade recess has given me. Pursuing writing years after I studied it, packed it away, has brought me so much joy.
I’m not sure what to expect in this space, except that I l will live my life and then I will write and then I will post it here. Not the other way around. I said it last week: it’s my heart that this be a place where your failure-feeling is checked, where you find a kindred spirit, where you feel encouraged to always choose what is best no matter how afraid you are. And. Where you glory in the fact that you are clay.
And? Just one caveat: please know that this is my choice. It may not be yours. If you work out of the home (I still do…just differently), if you work away from home, if you stay at home, if you stand on your head 15 times a day? I think you are awesome. Ok?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. A hundred times thank you for the grace of your comments and emails and tweets (even!).
If you don’t know what it is like to step out of the blurred lights of life moving fast and boil it all down to what is essential to you then I pray that you will soon.
I’ve pursued quiet. I’ve cleaned and organized only to end up right smack dab in the same old chaos.
I’ve prayed about this space and the work of my hands.
And I have some answers.
But, mostly? I have been trying to scoop up my moments.
I could pour it all out here in one long, winding post. But, instead. I think I will share the whys and wherefores slowly.
Because I’m learning that my heart is just that. To share my Redeeming with you in the hope that you will be softer with yourself, that you will be more pliable in His hands and that you will be brave.
Friends? I am going to take a few weeks off from blogging.
The thing is that the last three months, excepting the beauty of Christmas and being with family, have been overly full. I feel overwhelmed. And a bit disappointed and disappointing.
My life is a tiny bit singed from a constant rhythm of putting out fires.
When the scale’s balance tips, you do what you have to do to survive.
But. I want to do more than just get by.
I need to take some time to get back to what is life giving and hope inspiring and anchor holding.
We’re told not to let small things become big things. But. The way to do that? Is to be faithful in the small things.
And I’ve got to find my way back to that for my family.
My husband and I had been dating for three months when my Daddy rolled into town in our family’s first edition Dodge Caravan. Backseat removed.
We loaded up all of my worldly possessions and I pointed my van in the direction of Roanoke, Virginia.
A freshly degreed teacher, I had followed my heart to urban ministry instead of to the classroom. For a romantic like me, it was the greatest movie ending to my young adulthood.
And on that early summer night? Months before? When the air was not quite solid yet and I looked across the front seat of my car at the boy I had not liked and then tolerated and then counted as a dear friend? When I looked across that car and I saw it in his eyes? That he was choosing me?
I knew. I knew I’d be leaving soon. I knew I’d be caught up in something bigger than myself. I knew that God was going to rip my heart apart and I might not have much to give to him. But I said yes anyway.
I didn’t know if we could make it. But I’d waited 22 years to have a boy choose me.
“I love you,” he said as he pushed flowers at me, me loading all of my life into the back of the van my parents bought when I was in 8th grade. I said yes.
Whatever this means. Yes.
We didn’t make it.
By November we were coasting on the fumes of our summer love. Phone calls relegated to Sunday nights by fledgling youth ministries and down and dirty loving you right where you are ministry. Me, trying to be present right where I was. Loving the parts of the city that I’d been taught to avoid. Him, staffing an inner city golf ministry (you read that right) and winning hearts and pointing Up.
We couldn’t make it. And so we let our fingertip hold loosen.
And I cried for him every day after.
Months later, I found my way to the classroom and home and he was here.
It didn’t happen right away.
Half a year had passed and we were awkward around each other. Shaky. Nervous. Unsure.
We avoided. We took turns sharing friends.
And then on a hot July night, he chose me all over again.
We were married on December 30, 2000. Eleven years ago today.
There are things that are meant to be kept close. I’ll always keep them there.
But know this. It has been my privilege to know this man and be called his wife.
He has a way about him. And it’s a secret only for me: a bulldozer of emotions and questions. He’s taught me what it means to let who you are unfold in the most surprising way. He’s shown me that no one will ever see his heart the way I have. It’s a secret only for me.
Are you the type who hangs every bit of her hat on performance? I’m convinced that God lovingly allowed in me the propensity to say every wrong thing at the wrongest time. To be clumsy. To be awkward. I win at that; you can be sure.
But all these wonky heart shapes and uneven lines? They are on purpose. Because I’m sure He knew that I would try to make my value equal to my performance. And so I am learning to stop and thank Him. I mean really stop. And really say my thanks to Him that I am not perfect. And that other people see that from time to time. So that I won’t get caught up in wondering why, why, why do I have to be so messy? In front of others?
So I stop asking why. I start thanking Him. Thanking Him for that very time when I said everything so wrong or so silly or so not funny or so not encouraging. For that time when I missed giving grace or shoring up or just plain showing up.
Because it’s in the wonky shapes and uneven lines and my mess showing that I am reminded that I never could perform my way to Him. I never could. Not to His love for me. Not to His life for me. Not to His gift for me.
So. This is Christmas. On His fresh born, God in full, Man in full, Savior completely birthday, I will thank Christ. Thank Him that I never could perform my way to Him. Never could song and dance my way to value. Thank Him that He covered that distance for me.
Merry Christmas, friends. I’ll be turning in for a bit. I’m so thankful for you. Smiley face. See you in the new year.
Today? There is a place prepared for you. A place of rest. That little Baby? Born on Christmas? He’s promised rest for your weary walk. Celebrate Him by offering your heart to be His Bethlehem.
God’s grace? Jesus’ gift? Every bit of color and loveliness in our lives today. Every bit of color in this season celebrates who He is.
Mary was a ponderer. She gathered up the truths of who her little fresh born son was. She sheltered the good news of his birth. She nuzzled all the things of who He was right down in her heart and she thought on them.
Pondering is an important reaction. To think on God. His ways. His heart. His will.
The shepherds? They rejoiced. They went their way barely able to contain the joy of having met God’s answer to our world. They were sopping wet with the truth of Christ. They poured that water out on every single soul they met.
Right this very minute the church down the street is ringing it’s bells. Literally.
Shepherds? Why this jubilee?
There’s a time to think. A time for quiet treasuring. And there’s a time to rejoice. Out loud. Together.
It’s jubilee time. All this week. I’m going to let my words take a back seat. Instead, I’ll be here with quick glimpses of joyful moments. They might be simple. They’ll probably be everyday. But they will be full of jubilation.
Leave a link to your blog in the comments and we’ll all join hands in celebration.
Hi. We’re in full on Christmas mode now. Would you like to see?
I’m linking up with my friend, Nester, for her annual tour of homes.
Hi. I’ve survived an indie craft show. And last week? I had a little open studio for local customers. I have the best locals. Really. It’s a joy to spend an evening with them.
I still have a nice little selection of ready to ship products.
The shop’s updated. I’ve even listed a few hand towels that are usually reserved for shows.
Order by December 18th. And then? Vacation Mode. Smiley face.
Sign up in the sidebar for a coupon code. The newsletter goes out at 8 am tomorrow morning.
Sometimes I want a technicolor dreamcoat kind of life. All dripping off the pages and loud and full of adventure.
I want to skirt around the edges of life lived boldly or walk straight through it.
I want to be so bright and on fire.
Like our youngest.
Living life as committed as he can.
He plays air guitar with wild abandon.
“Yes!” he yells with every ounce of energy, a fist pump and the soft lisp of being snaggletoothed already. He’s over the moon about a cookie or baseball or his favorite t shirt with his dentist’s name printed all over it.
Sometimes I want to be technicolor.
Most times I want to be technicolor.
But worry. Busyness. Self. Pull all of the saturation out until I’m just tinged at the edges with what should be the beauty of my life.
A technicolor dreamcoat kind of life.
We’ve got four pretty, waxy and full boxwood bushes in our backyard.
And I’ve always coveted those preserved boxwood wreaths.
But not so much the price. I don’t covet that.
So. I googled all around and discovered that it’s pretty easy to make your own. And cheap, too.
Here’s how it went down.
First, I basically did everything that this tutorial instructed.
I hustled myself down to Jo Ann and got some green floral wire and a wire wreath form. I believe that I paid $5 total for the pair of them.
The night before I wanted to make the wreath, I cut a big pile of boxwood and soaked it in water until morning. I’d read somewhere that soaking would prolong prettiness. You can actually preserve your own. It’s just a matter of dipping your clippings in glycerine and letting them dry for three whole weeks. I had this grand idea last week so no preserving for me this year.
Basically, you group then wire then group then layer then wire and repeat. It’s really easy (and much more detailed in that tutorial I linked to up there) and I did it in the span of about thirty minutes with my darling friend Mary Beth supervising.
P.S. Just a note about Mary Beth. When I posted a picture of my ironing pile two weeks ago? She drove over and took it from me without letting me get a no in. She ironed all of my clothes. Did I already post about that? It was the most beautiful service and friendship.
Back to the wreath.
It’s right at home on my mantel now.
Hi. Oh, I hope your weekend was lovely. We’ve finally got the tree up. Only lights right now but I’m slowly making my way to having some festiveness around our house.
I’m going to be sharing some crafty type things with you this week. But. Before I do that, I’d like to speak to comparison for just a minute. When I share bits of my life I do it because I like to share with you. I do it because I have to tell the story of how a mess of a girl can be redeemed. I do it because I want you to know that I’m in the trenches of everyday life with you. I don’t do it to present some false image of perfection or all-togetherness or lookee! here. I can’t bear to think of you walking away from this space tearing yourself down. I know that misery. I CAN bear to-even delight to-think that you’ll walk away from this space thinking that what I’ve shared-my life-is not that special or pedestal worthy. I’m just like you with dirty dishes and ironing piles and messy bathrooms and failures. Ok?
I love to learn from others. Love to. In that spirit, I’m sharing here today how we mark Advent.
It started over Thanksgiving with a cloudy afternoon and some Christmas music.
This year, I ordered Jessi’s advent calendar.
The little people sat with me and ate ice cream.
They made lists of what they’d like to do to celebrate Advent. NOT! gift lists, which is apparently very hard to distinguish when you are three and six. This one right here might have just drawn a picture. I’m not sure where the biggest little person was this afternoon. But his, list? Oh his list was a delight. It included caroling! Caroling! You have no idea how much that made me smile.
I already had some white paper bags. So we put each of Jessi’s cards in the paper bags. And then, I printed out the Christmas story, pieced together from Matthew 2 and Luke 2 and then split into 24 days. I grew up celebrating Advent as a liturgical season so I love the idea of drawing out the story in anticipation of Christ’s birth.
I had some cardstockish paper lying around so I cut it down and wrote numbers on it. I printed out our activities, too. I slip them in at some point during the day. I’ve tried planning it all out ahead of time and that never works for us. So. I can decide at 6 pm on a Monday evening that our surprise activity will be to read a Christmas book because it has been a crazy day and we’re all tired and you can see that the term activity is used very loosely around here. Activities are mostly things we can do at home like reading or eating a candy cane or drinking hot chocolate or making a popcorn garland. All of the bags are stacked in a basket in the dining room with some clothespins.
I ran the extra paper through the sewing machine and strung it along the mirror. We clip up each day’s card as we contemplate and celebrate Advent together.
It doesn’t matter what kind of Advent calendar you do. It’s a joy. We’ve done the cubby kind and the chocolate kind but whatever kind we do, my little people are always, always so excited to see what the day holds. They fight over who gets to pull out the verses and who gets to read them and they wonder all day long what we’ll do in anticipation.
And! It’s not too late. I believe we started our advent calendar on December 10th last year. So. There’s grace.
How do YOU celebrate advent?
“Come to my basketball game?” he asks.
A team of girls with lives right now crammed into a temporary home. And all the hurt and wondering and the everything else is dripping off. It’s running over and out. How can a person find home when home is not with them?
And we rush through dinner. A bean soup. We swallow it down almost too hot. That tingling feeling of a singed tongue.
We rumble in at half time.
“Daddy! Daddy! We love you!”
My little voices join cheers for Blue.
And then. A tall and beautiful young girl stands at the free throw line.
She makes it. And you have never seen such joy. We all. All of us. We scream and rejoice and she can’t even believe it. This moment of joy and this moment of celebrating her. She can’t even get back down the court.
Because she made it.
I don’t even know her name. She’s new. And so I just hoot and holler. What else? What else can I do?
And it’s the fourth quarter. And there he is. Crouched on one knee. His face in theirs. Pouring love and instruction and I-am-heres and mercy and gentleness all over those young and beautiful hearts.
And we share that with them. Because he has too much for us. He has to give it. He has to.
And all of the sudden it’s Tuesday morning and my youngest and I have used up three Magic Erasers cleaning the bathroom floor.
I’m jealous for that moment. When all I had to do is sit just behind him. And watch him at his calling. And I’m wondering where the adventure is in my Tuesday chore?
But I suppose it’s right there. Right there in serving him, in welcoming him, in nurturing him, in rushing through dinner-burning my tongue on my hot, hot soup so that I can catch just a glimpse.
Of God. Using him. Broken and bruised. To love the brokener and bruiseder.
Hi. It’s Friday. Smiley face.
I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. We ate lunch with the University of South Carolina football team. My husband does it every Thanksgiving but since we usually have family in town, we don’t go with him. It’s such a special thing. Some of the children who live in the children’s home where Tom works can go home or to a relative’s house for holidays. But there is a good portion who can’t. And so the WHOLE-and I mean all of those huge football players-team eats lunch with our children. For the last two years, they’ve had our little group out to the stadium for a catered lunch. Before that, they would come to us. It’s really special. And sweet. And I wish you could have seen my nine year old’s face when two of the players sat down next to him.
We had a fun little dinner later for just our family complete with table decorations courtesy of our sassy sue. It was pretty fancy.
But. Today is Friday. And we’re going to celebrate my birthday. And we might go to the movies. And it’s some kind of big shopping day, right? So. Stick with me to the end. Spoiler Alert: coupon code. Smiley face.
So I’ve got a few new goodies in my shop.
It took me a few days to inventory everything and get some new pictures of what was left after Indie Craft Experience.
And I decided to put some new items in the shop for today.
This little bag? It’s an absolute favorite of mine. That geometric trim? I found a seller in France. Yep, France.
And this purple is so sweet and lovely in person.
There are several more new items over there in my shop, too!
So. I’m nothing if not a follower. And today is a day for sales, right?
How about you use the code BLACKFRIDAY11 for 25 % off your purchase. I think that’s the biggest coupon code I’ve ever offered. It’s good until 8 am tomorrow morning.
She’s making the most beautiful necklaces. I have one. I wear it too much.
She takes vintage necklaces and beads and puts them together in the most unique and beautiful ways.
Today? If you order one? You get a special surprise treat. Could be earrings or a bracelet or another necklace.
there’s a thrum building.
it’s the just a bit mores and the striving and the if onlys.
it’s the restlessness of a heart grasping for something more. something else. somewhere else.
maybe your house doesn’t feel like enough. if you could just fix that one thing.
maybe money is thin. if it would just stretch and not give out.
maybe you aren’t who or where you thought you’d be last time around. if you were just better, brighter, bigger.
there’s a thrum building.
a restlessness eluded by happiness.
i hope happiness and joy creep up and hit you so hard in the chest that you can’t even catch your breath. that tears sting your eyes.
i’m praying it for me, too.
it’s not the road to abiding joy.
stop. notice. let the joy of your everyday life smack you to the core.
it’s going to smart. so much.
but. it’s the only way to resist the underlying discontent that can snake it’s way over our hearts at this time of year.
not for not enough. not for just a bit more.
this life given to you is enough.
stand under that hope. it’s right here.
even if it crushes you. even if you can’t breathe because it hits you so hard.
1. Indie Craft Experience was good. I don’t have any pictures-not shocking, I’m sure. It’s just that a show is a blur of setting up and waiting and engaging and it’s selling. And selling is exhausting for me. But. It was a good weekend. I got to make some sweet connections. And. My booth neighbors were adorable: a new take on pillows and as soon as she gets set up on etsy, I can’t wait to share more with y’all.
2. Saturday was my 35th birthday. Smiley face. I’m not sad about getting older. Were you wondering? We haven’t even had a chance to celebrate. But! It appears that Friday has been set aside to do some fun family things together. Since it was my birthday on Saturday, I was determined to finally get some latte bowls from Anthropologie. And! After getting lost, calling my mom and making her look up the address and breaking out the GPS my dad gave me that I swore I’d never need, I got those bowls four minutes before closing time.
5. I have fully surrendered to the grandma. So. After 8 pm, if I sit in one place for longer than five minutes, I’m asleep. Out. Completely. And I’ve given up on evening tv. As a result, I save up all of my favorite shows for sewing or ironing or folding laundry. Sometimes I get woefully behind. But there is one show that I never, ever, absolutely don’t get behind on. Parks and Recreation. I think that Ron Swanson might be one of my best friends.
6. We are going to be just our little family for Thanksgiving. Don’t worry. I’m not sad about that either. We have lots of great extended family time. Honestly, I’ve been bone weary. And Tom’s schedule is about to be crazy town. And so we are turning in. It’s just a heart call right now. Turn in. I’ll be crafting with my girl. And I think we’ll brave the crowds and take in a movie. A crowded movie theater with paper cup and popcorn sounds and everyone talking to the screen is my love language. We’re going to turn in.
7. I’m thankful for you. Smiley face.
I previewed these sweet gift guides earlier this week. Let’s talk about them a bit more.
The riley was born out of my frustration with handbags. Making them can be overwhelming. It’s mostly because I’m extremely picky. It started to become overwhelming. And so, I had decided not to make a larger bag anymore. Until we were on a roadtrip and I started to dream about dyeing fabric.
I truly love this bag. I used mine for Relevant. I stuffed in my laptop, several books, wallet, ipod and accoutrements and lots of other little bits like lip gloss and a cell phone. It’s not a huge bag but it’s very utilitarian.
And so much more convenient than a bulky duffle bag for a quick trip.
Hasn’t Anna done an amazing job on these? I’m so thankful for her!
To be honest, things are a bit crazytown around here today. This weekend, I’ll be participating in Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta (Please come and say hi if you are in the area!). ICE looks amazingly fun. But. Getting ready for a show like this one usually means I am a ball of why-am-doing-this and how-can-I-work-faster. It’s probably fun to watch.
In preparation for the show, I’ll be putting my shop in vacation mode at 9 am. So. If you’ve been eyeing something and don’t want to leave you owning it up to chance, go ahead and purchase it this morning. Everything not sold is going with me. Smiley face.
It’s red ribbon day. Red ribbon day means a red shirt.
And the only red shirts my girl has are an explosion of Christmas.
So I put her in a purple shirt. Because one cannot wear a Christmas shirt on November 4th.
We are two sides of the battlefield, her with armies of will amassed and me with armies of habit and rules standing behind me.
We try a blue and red striped dress.
We try a headband with a red flower.
Nothing will do but a red shirt.
And so I climb under the covers and play the parenting tag game with my husband.
“I should just let her wear the Christmas shirt, right?”
“Yup.” He shuffles around preparing for the morning car line. It’s his turn today.
“Hey. You can wear the red shirt,” I yell out as I stay tucked away in my bunker of heavy down comforter and flannel sheets.
She giggles. “I’m wearing my red shi-irt,” she sings out as she skip jumps down the stairs.
I’m of all the all or nothing camp. And I cling to my rules.
But today–on November 4th–she is wearing her Christmas shirt.
A surrender that took too long.
Hi. Today we’ve opened up the holiday shop with lots of fun goodies and gifts for your loved ones.
Let’s start with the riley.
Anna and I dreamed up a night away all around the riley. It’s hand dyed and very versatile.
You can find a rainbow of colors right here in the shop.
Next, the janie; our other new bag for 2011.
It’s perfect for a night out, especially to the movies.
And you can find plenty of janies right here.
The mini is a bestseller.
It goes from work to night out and from inside your bottomless bag to a sweet little clutch.
Find a mini for every type of girl right here.
And we won’t forget our sweet little zippies and wallets!
A regular old day is always brightened by the fun and function of both of these accessories.
And! We’ve got holiday bundles for you, too. Ashley-Morgan has paired up some sweet bags and wallets and we’re offering them at a great price together. Find them here.
I came away from Relevant with an unanswered question about my writing. What if I were more disciplined with my writing? Stretched a bit? I’m hoping to make room here to explore that a little. And I’m starting withFive Minute Fridays hosted by The Gypsy Mama. The idea is to write. Five minutes. No editing. Just write.
There are things in my heart that I never knew. Places I did know but never thought I could go.
And all of the sudden. I can ask. What if?
Sometimes the everyday is just putting your hand to the plow. And then doing it again. And then doing it again. It’s your portion.
And it’s not that that isn’t good. To just go one more day. And then one more day after that. Because you learn. You learn that you can do that. And you learn that it’s everybody’s portion sometimes.
And you learn that God is the God over hand to plow. He just is. And His goodness is there, too.
But, then. All of the sudden. He allows what if. He whispers, “Go there.”
And you look up. You’ve plowed that field. You’ve tilled the ground. You’ve painstakingly-seed by seed-planted. Index finger and thumb grabbing over and over that tiny seed until it is habitual.
That field has grown. You’ve grown. And so. You are finally to what if. What next?
Somehow you got here. You don’t know how except that it must be hand to plow and hand to plow and hand to plow.
You don’t know how except that you didn’t expect it at all.