new but good.

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The best thing about being a middle school mama so far is the extra alone time I get with my oldest every day. After the two niblets go to school (and they are two peas in a pod: look alike, laugh alike, and my little wild one is about to catch up with his sister in height), I get thirty minutes with just our big guy. I have loved it. He talks and I try to listen. Sometimes we just sit in the same room and do our thing.

We’re close enough to walk to his new school. This has been a sweet gift, too, as he was ready for some independence. Yesterday, I was able to leave a little early and meet him further into his walk home than normal. We chatted a bit about his fantasy football team, his science quiz and all the other things. I love who he is becoming.

The truth is that I felt a little heartbroken at the end of last school year. I felt so sad that we were already through with elementary school and the safety of young childhood. I worried that I hadn’t held that time precious enough. I am so comfortable with those younger years and I felt at a loss for how to navigate the pre-teen years. It has not been without some bumps; we are definitely outside of the safe (and he would probably say too small) cocoon of the elementary years.

But.

It has also been delightful.

the order of things.

On a Sunday afternoon, I’m laying down on the couch, my knees tucked in and my earrings flung onto the coffee table like I don’t lose one of a pair all the time. I have many a lonely earring. I’ve got my college quilt pulled up to my chin. It’s worn so threadbare that it is basically transparent, most of the seams and piecing frayed and ragged. The world is that hazy, dreamy mix of half-closed eyes, Sunday afternoon golf and sun streaming through the windows.

My eyes almost close when my youngest saunters up and takes ahold of my face.

Mama, did you know you’re so cute?

I want to always, always, always have that moment right there at the tip of my remembering brain. I want to remember his nubbin fingers and warm skin on my face. I want to remember how he grinned wide, snaggletoothed and impish. I want to keep close how my heart soared and his caramel eyes squinted with a smile.

I also want to be like him: freer to give praise and see beauty. I could list out all of the reasons for NOT beauty in my life. But not today. Instead, I long to see like my six-year-old does.

I’ve spent the summer studying it, learning how to reframe my definition of beauty. And I’ve decided to step out from under the heavy burden of a broken world’s gospel of same, unflawed, only good things on my terms beauty. Instead, I’m going to embrace the true Gospel’s beauty of surrender and open-handedness and humble acceptance that my life-spot and all of its accoutrements do not dictate God’s beautiful hand at work in it. What’s happening all around me, how I feel about myself, all of the particulars of my life do not get to say that my God is not good. But. My God’s goodness (bestness for me) gets to–does– color my world with beautiful, beautiful things.

I’m cupping my life in my hands and telling it this: you ARE full of beauty.

the importance of being a beauty hunter.

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I’ve been beauty hunting this summer. With each day, I am realizing how important this is for me. Most of the things I’ve scavenged up and stuffed in my remembering pockets are just ordinary things. Nothing extraordinary has happened. My kids have fought with each other. I’ve lost my temper. I have a preteen. No miracle answers to prayer requests have come. I haven’t seen big dreams come to fruition or start. I haven’t lost those elusive twenty pounds.

And that is why it is so important for me to beauty hunt.

It’s because I feast my little eyes on inspiration and turn that into prescription and a whole lot of diagnosis. It’s because I inch toward the belief that perfection is the best thing. It’s because I let pride rise up and rob me from the beauty of sitting in my smallness. It’s because I push and push and push against the boundaries of my life with my striving fists. It’s because I’m a peacemaker, a people-pleaser and a top notch avoider. If you’re wondering: that looks like a follower with a healthy bit of dreamy-eyedness and some difficulty with intentionality. Sometimes I forget what is important to me in the wild scramble that can be everyday life.

I’m not really gifted at push back (It’s the whole people-pleaser/peacemaker thing.), but this strong shove that is a beauty hunt is vitally important. Otherwise, I will fall for every try harder, every bitter pill that is just settling, every be bigger, every perfection lie.  I need this. I need this; I need this; I need this.

You, too?

about beauty.

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Like a sucker punch to the gut, I am now the parent of a 6th grader, 4th grader and 1st grader. Real talk? I am feeling an ache over the passage of time. There are no more babies. Soon, my youngest will lose his snaggle-toothed smile and soft childhood belly. Nubbin fingers aren’t meant to last forever. I can still hear the way the pleather on the hospital sofa bed crinkled as Tom tossed and turned the night we held our first child in our arms. I can still see bright pink and green curtains we hung in our girl’s nursery, the ones with the huge, white grosgain bows. I can still feel the soft in and out of my wild youngest’s fresh breathing.

I know the difficulty that is in the years behind me. But I know better than ever the beauty, too.

I spent a good chunk of last summer studying Psalm 16. David penned one of my favorite verses in this beautiful Psalm and I just wanted to know how he could say with surety that the lines around his life were in beautiful places. I still do.  As I studied, I settled on a simple statement: There is beauty here. It wouldn’t have been easy for David to say. When David wrote Psalm 16, he was either cornered by Saul’s army or nursing the wound of hearing no to one of his good and beautiful dreams–to build a temple for his God. He was either done for or done in. About to be destroyed or about to be overcome with disappointment. And he said: Surely, there is beauty here. I’ve learned, am still learning, that it was in the believing and then the looking. He knew his God. He knew his God’s goodness. He knew what good really means. So, he looked and he saw. He saw beautiful things.

God is shifting the boundary lines in our family. These heart houses that are living in my tiny corner of His kingdom are walking in wider spaces. It’s beautiful and I’m not afraid of who they are becoming. Still, I’m sort of standing at the edge looking back over the things that have passed through, a good place but not one for lingering. I’ve walked the lines enough to know that there is going to be some narrow living in this time. I’ve learned to believe with everything in me that the most imperfect and dazzling beauty grows in the narrow places.

There is beauty here. In the narrow place. In the wide place. In the exhausting place. In the restoring place. There is beauty here. I’m holding this banner high over me–especially this summer–as I ask God to make my eyes beauty-sensitive and my heart love-motivated. I don’t want to stand at the edge of the past or at the forefront of the future, fear filled and fighting to avoid or go back. I want to be present today, right here in the lines God is drawing and shifting around me.

I’m going to be reminding myself everyday that there is beauty here. I’m going to be training my eyes on the moments that are just full and bursting with Him, even the ones that feel a bit sandpapery. And I’m going to keep track of them. I’m doing it for me but I’d love to invite you along ,too. I’ll be using #surelybeauty on instagram. Either way, I hope that in the thick of today you’ll stop and remind yourself that there IS beauty right here.

what sunrise brings.

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I woke up early like forever and always, but I didn’t use my time well (also like forever and always). I left late.

I couldn’t get the weight room door unlocked at Tom’s work. My best intentions seemed to be wisping away from my morning grasp.

I gave up and walked home in a huff, wrapped in the hot anger of frustration.

I snapped Grover’s leash on, wrangled the door open and stomped down the front steps. The air was already thick and hot in preparation for a ninety-four degree day.

Except! Except for the most contradictory and stubborn cool breeze that picked this morning to blow through.

We walked. I prayed for a changed heart, for a pleasant countenance to meet my small people as they bounded down the steps when I returned.

When we were almost home, I saw sunrise. I chased it a block past my house, something I can’t seem to help. We stood there for a handful of minutes on the corner by the church and the streetlight. Grover’s tail swished through summer-ready grass.

The felt burden of my forever and always is heavy with failure and frustration. But this? This is His. Forever and Always. Light and lovely. Pink-tinged with hope. Blue-swathed with faithfulness. Breeze-lifted with newness. Bright and beautiful.

i am an imperfectionist.

imperfection

lived

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Six or so years ago we were living in our second parsonage. It had blue outdoor carpet in the bathroom, the teensiest kitchen and nothing more than primer on the walls. We would live there for only six months, we said.

We lived in that little house for two and a half years. At first, I could only see the orangey kitchen floors and the heavy, very old cabinetry and white walls everywhere I looked. I could only see that here we were still right where we had been and it didn’t feel like a thing had changed. I could only see the blue carpet in the bathroom.

But. Things happened. We pulled out the blue pile carpet and we stuffed a handmade island right in the middle of our teensy kitchen. We had a baby. He slept in a bassinet in the breakfast room turned laundry room at night. Life happened and even though I felt stuck, we were going somewhere.

At some point in that two and a half years, I happened upon a blog about home and imperfection. Even though my mama had always told me that a house feels like a home more and more as life brings you collections of things, I had fallen into the big box trap. All of the my storied things felt used up in the face of the picture-perfection big box stores sold me. But when this woman who was just writing her story talked about imperfection and beauty, something clicked and I listened. I started living in my home. So many things happened in those two and a half years, but the most precious thing to me was the part when I started sighing a home sigh when I cam home instead of a not enough sigh.

I can’t even believe it but somewhere along the way, I became friends with Myquillyn. And now she has written a book. I’ve read it cover to cover, including the copyright page because I didn’t want to miss one single jot or tittle. The truth is I was going to be biased. It didn’t matter. This book is lovely and real and a true story about God’s faithfulness, sandpaper seasons, contentment and showing up in the midst of all of that. It’s beautiful and glossy and a treat to read. Also, I cried a good bit. If you’ve been living a wanderer, renter, up and mover, never lived anywhere longer than a few years type of season, you will especially be so encouraged and challenged by what Myquillyn shares.

The Nesting Place releases today. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m still living the truth of imperfection. Peacock green tiles in the kitchen. A dirt pit for a backyard. Stains on the stairs. Smudges and marks on so many walls. A bunch of hand me down furniture that has come together to tell the story of our family. I’m still fighting for contentment. And this book? It’s just what I need. I plan on reading it over and over again.

I think you’ll want to, too.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you!

saturday.

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is for spending more moments lost in this book. It releases on Tuesday. I am so biased, but it wouldn’t matter. This book is about so much heart and home, and it is good. I can’t wait to share more!

is for running my girl’s first 5K with her.

is for catching 20 minute cat naps under a ceiling fan on high.

is for four hours at the ball field and finally remembering sunscreen.

Amazon links are affiliate links.

things that start in small places.

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We were standing on the playground, our sandaled feet planted down deep in sand. Our older boys were entrenched in a baseball game and we were keeping young ones busy. We pushed swings and dusted off sand-covered knees and talked about our lives. I was sharing about a verse that had come to mean everything to me: about how Moses reminded the Israelites that God is in the business of doing upside down things like nourishing us with things we can’t know or produce so that we will lean into Him more. I was all excitement sharing about root words and our very own form of manna.

This was my teacher-hearted friend, my teacher-gifted friend. She was pouring her heart into a Sunday morning class full of young women whose hearts were for the Lord and His plan. It was good to break open my heart and let all that I was learning spill out to her. She asked me a question that I didn’t know would be a spark in my life, blazing up long dormant desires and pulling in old things I thought my life had left behind.

“Would you like to lead a Bible study?”

It was a surprise. I told her I would pray, but I really didn’t need to. I knew the answer was yes. That summer, I welcomed a small group of women into my house. Initially, I was so nervous the girls had to tell me what to do.

It snowballed. I led more studies. I agreed to serve in the class. I spent close to three years there: learning, meeting, studying, growing. I sat at the feet of my friend and learned how to teach through books of the Bible and humbly serve. I taught lessons and grew at the hand of my generous friend.

That was a beginning in my life. It wasn’t fancy or grand. It all started in a small place, a place where God was taking one verse and wrecking my perceptions of the world. It’s a thing with us women, isn’t it? This desire to connect and share and learn and grow. We have it in different types, evidenced in different giftings. But. Most of us want to be woven into a community where we can give and learn from each other.

This Thursday night I’m going to be offering a class–a conversation, really–through the Influence Network on this very subject. It’s for women that have a heart to connect, serve, give and learn. It’s for women that feel tugged by that need and don’t know what to do with it. What in the world do we do to serve and love and give to the women in our lives? Where do we begin? How do we overcome obstacles? How do we start? The short answer is Jesus, but I’d love to invite you into this conversation as we look deeper at God’s call and our heart. This class is for any woman who has felt a need to connect and give, even if the what is hazy and the how isn’t clear. You can sign up right here.

for when you don’t know.

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Four years ago, my husband and I spent night after night kneeled over one of our children. We were begging God to give us wisdom, peace, guidance and insight. We were begging Him to work miracles in that little heart sleeping soundly. I still remember the afternoon in the preschool breezeway where I had to wrestle that little heart and body into our van. I can see so vividly the look on that other mama’s face as I forced one of my other children into her arms with I-need-help filling up the corners of my eyes. I hope I can be her for other mamas, just there and steady and gentle. I’ve never seen her again.

There are other moments just like that one, moments where I felt sad and angry and hurt. It was a sandpaper season. I had been unsure as a parent before but never so overwhelmed with feeling totally out of answers for how to steward my child’s heart. I felt lost. In over my head. Ill-equipped for my calling. My weaknesses and fears about my own heart ballooned and pushed peace out.

I needed a mast to hold fast to, steady and solid. I found it in a memory verse for Bible Study. We were studying Daniel; how he resolved to stay true to his belief, how God gave him insight no one else could grasp. I stumbled on a few words in the second chapter about how God is the one who reveals the things that are deep down and hidden away.

I clung to two verses like I never had before. I went to God over and over again and reminded myself that He knew and He was trustworthy. I confessed that I was afraid of what I couldn’t see and declared that I would believe that He could see what I couldn’t. I asked Him to show me how to love a little heart right then and there and how to shepherd a fierce and big spirit for not yet. And I resolved to believe on Him whether He chose to reveal the deep and hidden things or not.

God knows and He is trustworthy. There are things so deep-rooted and packed away: things that feel unreachable, unknowable, unsolvable. He knows and He is the One who can show us the way. Everything truth and light and real dwells with Him. Even if He doesn’t show us all the answers, God is the way through to the light. We have only to lean on Him.

We still have moments that seem like a mystery. I still wonder at how to be what my children need from me, pray joy and contentment over them. I know life will bring many more not-knowing moments. But. Salvation is from the Lord and I see, too, how He takes a little heart and makes it new. Emotions still run wild here and there but repentance is quick to lap up behind these days and I know where that comes from.

And I still cling to His Word, especially Daniel’s beautiful prayer.

a bit of a different subject or some thoughts on clothing and girls.

Today’s post is a total departure for me, but it’s something I find myself talking about often with other mamas. I’m passionate about how my girl presents herself and wanted to share here with y’all. I’m not affiliated with these companies/offers in any way.

Raising a girl with brothers is something. In this family it has grown a wild and free and feminine and secure and dirt-loving spirit that I can’t begin to feel adequate at stewarding. One of the things my husband and I feel strongly about is teaching her to live and walk out of her Lovedness. Sometimes that is so easy because of her bold heart. However, I have found that this culture’s obsession with appearance is an enemy in ways I didn’t imagine. It’s a paradox that rubs, that we push youth on the aging and with the same hand force age on the youthful. I’m talking about clothes. It’s something I don’t write about much here but it’s important to me. It’s important to me that my girl stay young and free and learn that modesty isn’t antithetical to that freedom and naivety. So. In that spirit, I’m going to share a few items that jive with my strong convictions about her precious girlhood. These are just things I love that I want to share with you.

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My friend Hayley and her husband just launched a new children’s clothing line, Wildly Co. I love their heart for ethically produced, moderately priced, wearable clothing for children. There is a simplicity to the whole idea: a line of clothing that is well-made and completely interchangeable so that you build an easy wardrobe for you children.

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My friend Leigh and her family have such a heart for adoption. I was able to witness God working out His plan for their family with their son and I’m so excited for them as they pursue a domestic adoption. They’ve partnered up with Chrome Buffalo to offer these totally wonderful shirts that come in youth and adult sizes. Today is the last day to purchase these shirts and support Leigh!

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Allie Mac is a local clothing line that has grown out of the lovely heart of my friend Allison. Allison is passionate about women seeing their beauty instead of striving to be someone else. She’s begun selling Mini Macs for girls and I love that you can customize them and let your girl have some say in it.

shorts

Finally, these aren’t as cause-worthy or handmade or anything like that, but these shorts from the gap are adorable and not too short. We already have two pair and I love them. So does my girlie. I’m so grateful for the four-inch inseam. I’ve found that much of what is offered for the almost pre-teen set is either short short or low-rise, and I’m really weary of it. The gap is running a 25 % off sale right now, but I know they often offer 40 % discounts.