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.

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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.

saturday.

is for breaking out the big girl camera.

is for salted date caramels before breakfast. (I have made these twice now: once, with all medjool dates, good coconut milk and honey; another time with mostly medjool dates, cheap coconut milk and maple syrup. Conclusion? Use all of the good stuff for these. Honey makes the chocolate consistency better, in my opinion. And! These are not exactly like good, old fashioned caramel. But! They are tasty–and dairy, grain and refined sugar free.)

is for homemade chai lattes. (I’ve been taking the easy route and using a tea bag for spiced chai that I bought at Trader Joes, almond milk, a dash of vanilla and some maple syrup. I have a feeling that making it with black tea and your own spices is even better.)

is for afternoons at the ball park, running between games.

is for watching old Peabody & Sherman episodes.

is for studying, studying, studying.

tending day.

sunday

It’s midday on a Tuesday but it feels to me like Monday, since I lost mine to appointments and practices and hither, thither and yon. It’s not how my week usually ebbs and flows but this is life.

I’ve just cleaned the living areas of our house and I’m sitting down to a homemade chai with the hope that I’ll be able to cobble together a grocery list. My washing machine is working her hardest and whooshiest from the back of my house. I found a rotten potato in the kitchen, which explains the funny smell we’ve all been searching to end. The dining room table is clear for a few hours.

It’s my tending day. I tend and I think about yesterday, about how five o’clock came and I felt worn out and done in but the dinner still needed to be made. About how I slipped my rings off my fingers and plunged my hands into a bowl full of ground turkey, stirring up dinner. About how I felt the weight of hard questions with harder answers, hard questions with invisible answers and the uncertainty in between all of that. About how just when I was thinking with my feeler and about to topple over the steep edge of worry, God’s presence in me whispered a spring time bloom of a truth across my heart and mind. It tripped across not in words but in heart truths that can’t be captured by our language. I think about how He reminded me: He is God, good, for me, with me, Sovereign. If He goes with me? I can go anywhere. And He wants all my feeler-thought things because He wants me. I think about how dependance has become so much more meaningful to me than arriving.

It’s my tending day. I think, too, about how my children minister His sweetness and laughter to me. I think about Sunday morning, how I sat on the couch as the sun began to flood our den through the windows. About how I watched my eleven year old fit himself into a box and play spaceship and I don’t know how many more remembers I’ll have of a moment like that. About how my girl looked so precious in her new polka dot dress that I thought I might burst into a million bright-burning stars. About how my youngest can still fold up into my lap and put his warm cheek right next to mine, his nubbin fingers wrapped around my forearm.

It’s my tending day. And God tends my heart. He reminds me that worries and unanswered questions aren’t all of my story. He reminds me that He’s written both the raw and the resplendent into my life. I don’t always live in that tension well, but He’s written it that way just the same.

what I learned in march.

Today, I’m going to share a random list of things I learned this month. It’s a lovely idea my friend, Emily, has been posting about for a while now.

So. Things I learned in March:

I LEARNED AGAIN THAT ONE HOUR AND CHANGE IS NOTHING BETWEEN FRIENDS.

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I am absolutely privileged to call this lady my friend. Last week, I made the drive up to her house where I sat on her couch, loved on her dog and asked him to mentor Grover, paged through her new book that comes out on APRIL 29th (You will want to read it!), took pictures of her pond and flowering branches, poured out my heart and ate fudge pie that Edie had left the day before (Winning.). I have much more to say about this but the more I wrote the more I realized that it was becoming a blog post of its own. Bottom line: friendships grow in lovely and unexpected places and stopping time for a moment to nurture them is better than great. That canvas print is by my dear friend Jessi’s design shop, Naptime Diaries.

I LEARNED THAT YOU CAN USE A DRY-ERASE MARKER ON YOUR WASHING MACHINE.

Here’s why that’s important: maybe you saved up your birthday money and went shopping for an army green jacket you’ve wanted forever. Maybe you found the loveliest jacket–the last one on the rack–that was army green and a motorcycle jacket. Maybe it was a steal and you felt extra proud. Maybe you felt big city wearing it. Maybe you wore it practically everyday. Maybe you left it slung across the back of a kitchen chair, as you would OBVIOUSLY do when you want to take care of something well. Maybe your son spilled Chick-Fil-A sauce on it. Maybe you thought, “It’s okAY. I can wash it and air dry it.” Maybe you forgot about it and ran it through the dryer. Maybe it’s your nine-year-old daughter’s very chic, big city, motorcycle jacket now.

And that is why we should all follow my very wise (and dear) friend Caroline’s advice and use a dry erase marker on the washer lid to remind ourselves of what is in the washer but can’t go in the dryer.

I LEARNED THAT CHILDREN REALLY DO GROW UP AND OUT.

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Our girl’s nine-year-old birthday this week was just the loveliest day. We tricked her into thinking she wasn’t getting the very thing she has been wanting for months when it was wrapped up all along. The moment she realized it was intended for her? Etched in my mind and heart forever. In the midst of my trying to wrangle all the things just so, she very sweetly suggested that I didn’t have to “do ALL OF that” for her. I wanted to. I wanted it to be sweet. And not every day is like that. Not even. It was a sweet reminder that God is shaping my children and He has a vision for their hearts. I just have to bring my human attempts at stewarding them to Him.

I LEARNED AGAIN THAT COLORS ARE MY THING.

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My friend gave me that bright, floral painting. I love it. The end.

I’m linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.

saturday.

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is for special short people breakfasts like cinnamon roll scones. and for au natural scones since you are out of confectioner’s sugar and you haven’t tasted the goodness of cream cheese in too, too long.

is for the 7:30 AM rule: in your room, quietly being you, until the rest of the world wakes up.

is for watching first t-ball games of the season.

is for reading old favorites and new adventures.

*Amazon links are affiliate links.

about waiting and work.

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It’s the first day of Spring and we’ve had two full weeks of school with no snow, ice, freezing temperatures, fevers, sandpaper throats or hacking coughs. In so many ways, I am feeling swept up in new life. It’s how God made creation to mirror the way He regenerates our hearts and lives as we dip and surge through heart valleys and mountaintops. It’s sunshine and even the bitter smell of a Bradford Pear.

Sometimes I do feel wont to cringe that it is almost April and I don’t have a clearer vision of what my life is supposed to look like in this vast new season: a season where my boundaries are not marked out by naps, diapers, preschool drop offs and pick ups or feeding schedules. I don’t really trust myself with time management and, to be honest, I’ve battled the fear that everyone else is working harder than I am. Even as I verbalize that I see myself with a third baby nestled in my arms and wild wisps of hair framing my sleepless face. Younger me wants to take today me by the shoulders and give me a good shake.

I have tried to run ahead and build some things into my life that make me feel accomplished, covering over the best I can that fear. But God is faithful and Christ is enough. He doesn’t need my abilities and accomplishments. I am learning what it means to walk out the truth that Paul wrote about.

“We through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” | Galatians 5:5

Instead of scrambling ahead and trying to pull accomplishment and worth and an answer toward myself, I am learning heart-deep how to wait on Christ, the ONLY hope of my righteousness. I cannot pull righteousness or right living or inspired living to myself. Only Christ can work this in me. He rescued me in His timing. He will return in His timing. He does His good work in me in His timing. So, I wait for my only hope of righteousness to draw lines around any next thing for my life.

In the waiting, I see that the best gift I can give to Him and His body and my craft is be totally present in my own little neighborhood of His kingdom. I am beginning to accept that the gift I can give right now is to come back over and over again with love for my people, to pray that they would know head high and toe deep that they are Known and Loved. So, I focus on being totally present in the lives God has placed within my little spot of land-inheritance. And I stuff each of these moments pocket-deep, my stones of remembrance.

This right here is these things.

It is boys and muddy spring knees. It is how six year olds sing, “How Great Is Our God,” in their own key and at the top of their lungs over and over again while I cook dinner. It is learning that pre-teen emotions come and go faster than my own;  learning to be less carried by my own emotion and more rigging-like–something to cling to and find footing.

It is mothering a girl and facing all the expectations I carried along the way. It is understanding that God creates his children as He sees fit and not always in line with how I dreamed them up because He likes to do things upside down most times. And that is righter than right. It is learning who my God dreamed my girl to be and how I can love her well, her creative and wild and strong spirit with the windows always down and fingertips in the breeze.

It is looking for things that are true truth and not false truth, the kind that puffs up with promises but leaves me empty all the time. It is shifting from focusing on weight to focusing on wellness. It is taking another 30 days to eat well and whole (and not writing about it here because I am weary of talking about food) and to discover how food really affects my body. It is the smell of roasting winter squashes with garlic and onions and how your tummy rumbles the whole time they’re in the oven.

This is waiting. Watching. Cementing. Believing that God is my only hope and that His plan is good no matter how much I know of it.

a letter: hope.

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A letter to my self a year and a half ago.

I know. Right now, you are drawing lines in the sand. You’ve reached the end of how far you’ll go. You’ve surrendered as much as you’re willing. In a stand-off with God, you’re declaring you won’t go any further until He changes something, anything. Everywhere you look, you see a no from Him. The maybe nevers weigh so heavy on you. What you want is a good thing and your heart is pinky tender from the sandpaper of hurt feelings.

A year and a half later, you still won’t have what you want. That longing will go unmet.

But. You will have more, and you’ll see it on a spring-laden weekend in March. In the over and over again of asking God, you will begin to see with different eyes. The no and the fear of maybe never will still be there, stinging from time. But yeses will be louder. You will learn to hope in God and not what He can do for you, what you think He should do for you.

You’ll read this:

“FOR GOD IS SHEER BEAUTY, ALL-GENEROUS IN LOVE, LOYAL ALWAYS AND EVER” (PSALM 100:5).

His beauty will call up your hope as He casts the sun high in the sky and makes it’s warm rays stronger than the last grip of winter. You’ll be boueyed high on a quince bush laden with buds and the snow-petaled ground under a blush-blooming camellia.

His generosity will call up your hope as you jump to the rap on your door on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll watch little legs toddle around your yard, and that will give way to your other kind of neighbors–long on life and big on spirit. You’ll tromp through their backyard and feel a little pink-cheeked as you walk under their laundry strung overhead. You’ll feel His love course strong as you stand by the street and watch knowing hands guide your girl’s as she plants her tiny cabbage plant.

His loyalty will run strong on a Sunday when you open the curtains wide and let the light cast shadows across your bed. You’ll feel just a touch of that always and forever as you lay beside your girl and read. You’ll never want to forget they way she lays belly down and legs bent upwards, ankles crossed. How she holds her chin in her hand will call up a strong and end-of-the-world-fierce love in you for her. He is loyal to you, to you becoming whole in Him, however it might smart. And you will know that as you feel how hard you will fight for your girl course through you.

Right now? You are looking in the wrong place for hope. You are looking in the wrong place, but you will learn heart-deep that hope is the thing that lives inside you especially when there is still sandpaper in your life. You will learn that hope isn’t much about a when or why or how. Hope is about a Who. And He will be faithful to teach you that over the next 18 months.

beautiful us.

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Deep, deep down I have hidden away and held onto moments where the way I was made felt not the same. That time in middle school when I overheard a friend at the pool make an offhand comment about the way I looked. That older woman in church with the drawn-on eyebrows who always gave me wide-eyed, knowing looks when I ate a second oreo at the fellowship table after service. That boy in college who told me very clearly where I fell on the scale of beautiful. That teacher who made me feel small because I was too scattered, too disheveled, too much stacked against me to guarantee I could be made into anything.

We all have them, I think: moments where someone’s words meet our fears and our hearts twist lies into cobbled together, shabby looking pretend-truth. We hold onto them. We follow these lies swallowed as truth.  We run hard after them, wanting to dig our way out of shame, fear, guilt. We want to be just the same but our fear cries that we never will.

I have spent much of my life in this empty-ended relationship with how I was made. I have lived afraid of hearing that who I am on the outside is all there is. I have lived desperately working just to prove that I’m trying. I have swallowed words like those summer words born on middle school lips over and over again. I’ve lived afraid to even talk about it.

Now, I have a girl of my own and I’m just plain tired of this dysfunctional relationship. Shame doesn’t change anything deep down, really. It just makes for more hiding. Guilt itself doesn’t restore, and fear is an empty carriage with no driver, running wildly down bumpy streets. I want to know and believe the truth about how I was made, how we were made. When the time comes, I want to be able to grab my girl by the face and look into her coffee-spilled-out eyes and tell her something I believe, something I believe so much that it has actually changed me.

Because the truth is that not one of us is just the same. There are places where God desires and designs sameness: one Savior, one mind, one body of believers, one mission. When He made us? Sameness wasn’t a way to evaluate our value. In fact, He made us in the way of the Hebrew word raqam. We have been skillfully wrought. You and I have been made like beautiful, intricate embroidery. We were made to be varied and beautiful splashes of stitches that come together in His vision for our life. I like to think that He bent His strong and broad Maker shoulders over each of us and patiently pulled, knotted, criss-crossed the threads He dreamt of into place. He knows color and beauty in ways we don’t and He chose purple and green and bright yellow and the deepest pink you could dream up.

He made us tall. He made us short. He made us skinnier than a minute. He made us round and full. He made us bold and bright. He made us gentle and pastel. He made us full of emotional swaths and hard lines. He made us orderly and neat-rowed. He made us wild and messy. He made us a beautiful, intricate embroidery.

He made us in His image. And He is not a one-dimensional God. He is judgement and mercy. He is the law and grace. He is holy and approachable. If He wanted sameness walking around this dirt and water-covered earth, He would have made it so. Instead, He made us varied. He made us different. That is our value: we are not just the same. He is a creator God and every single thread of us reflects His power and ability to create beyond anything we could dream. We reflect His skillful ability to make beauty out of a broken mess of a thing. No thing is too broken to be made beautiful.

The standard is not others. It isn’t numbers or faces and bodies photo-reeled in front of us. This is the way of the world, to make systems and formulas and numbers in order to add up value. But, we don’t need a formula to calculate who we are or what we are worth. We need a Person. We need Christ. This is God’s vision for us, that we be moving in our varied and threaded nature toward being more like Him–like the One who asked, “Will you be made well, made whole?”. What if wholeness is walking fully aware of our stitched nature as He made it? What if wholeness is putting our hands to loving others instead of picking away at these beautiful patterns that He designed? What if wholeness is living free from the formulas and schemes and desperate grasping to feel valuable? What if it’s just believing God and acting like it?

What if it’s this:

Beautiful us. Beautiful Him.