Leaving Edisto Island looks like this: first, you drive past the one grocery store and hardware store,  then the bookstore and pink building that used to hold a gift shop and the house with the mattress swing in the front yard. After that, you reach the gas station and the barbecue place and a little ways down the road you drive between two white, old, moss laden churches. Right before you drive over what we like to call the big bridge, you pass Geechee Boys where you can pick strawberries in the spring and sit in their big red rocking chair. Once you drive over the big bridge, mostly marshes carry you right on up to the four-way stop in Hollywood, South Carolina.

I’ve been counting all of those landmarks backwards and forwards every summer since second grade, when we first spent a summer week on that slow island. It’s and-then-some now since my parents made a home on the backside of the island. It’s the part where the ocean is really the sound and you can see dolphins just about any old time.

We counted the leaving landmarks on Labor Day. We had rushed down for an afternoon, spend the night, pile in the car, drive back quick type of visit. We were smushed into the van with tires rolling back home. I could smell coconut swirling up from the back and my skin was still a bit greasy, hot and pink-tinged. Everyone was grainy, sandy and moping back toward real life.

I was caught up in that moment–bemoaning falling back into the rush of the everyday–when I noticed the first yellow flip and flutter on the side of the road. We were in the salty, sour, marshy part of the trip and it seemed like just a trick of sunlight on a weedy leaf. I saw it again. The soft and quick beating of tiny yellow wings: sulphur butterflies. I saw another one and another one until I decided I might as well go on ahead and count them.

I was well into the twenties when Tom called me back to the present with a question about school or sports or some other obligation type thing.

“I’ve counted twenty-seven butterflies since we crossed the big bridge,” I answered.

“28.” He jumped right in.

And then we were all together: five people watching every tall, straggle of a bush looking for that drip of God’s yellow paint fluttering up and over. A few were orange. A few were monarchs. Most were the purest, lightest, brightest yellow–straight from a loving Artist’s hands. We counted down backroads all the way up to the edge of the highway, the place where we joined the rest of the world on I-95 and bustled on.

110. We counted one hundred and ten butterflies that day.

Some memories come ready-made, already taking shape against a white screen with blinking letters. Others fight against being shaped and bound with words. This is one of those memories. I’ve wanted to write it down since that day, that moment–already trying to tie it down. This one strained against being turned into a lesson to be tucked away for later.

For one hour on a late summer afternoon, my theology was absolutely my reality. My eyes watched and waited and hoped for something small but beautiful. Every moment we spotted yellow wings on a green background, we rejoiced like crazy. We added up in beautiful awe.

God chose a small and insignificant people to call His very own possession. He chose a small and young man to call the king of His very own people. He chose to reach out to us in the smallest yet greatest of ways: His own Son, wrapped in baby skin, laying in lowly hay.

Who am I not to esteem the small and count it every single time?

in the smallest of ways.

On a lark, I found myself with just my spunky little lady this weekend. Tom had a basketball tournament to tote some children to and at the last minute my boys decided to tag along (I’m still amazed that we are in the stage of parenting where we can decide to do things last minute and my children can go on work-ish trips. Dear young moms everywhere, this happens.).

We decided to make it a day where no sporting event of any kind was watched on television. I don’t mind it so much, but my girl has strong aversions. She’s got a long life ahead of her at home. Sunday afternoon football is something we DO complete with picking sides, fist bumping, boy yells and a little wrestling thrown in just because.

I had a grand plan of going to cheer on a friend and then strolling our city’s farmer’s market for lunch. Then, my car wouldn’t start and by the time our neighbor came over to help and we determined it was the battery, we needed to adjust. Instead, we got the car fixed and decided to spend the rest of the day at home–something we both love as introverts and homebodies.

She painted tiny pinecones and I didn’t even say no when she wanted to mix up purple paint and got blue all over the kitchen. We made chocolate cupcakes and watched a favorite movie and went for a bike ride (after arguing over who could operate the tire pump better). She looked at me as we looped around the traffic circle one more time and rasped in her low voice, “Can you believe we have the whole day together?”

I want to be a mother who knows her children. And I want them to know that I know them. I want to notice what they love and show up where they want to be and be willing to be uncomfortable for them. I want to guide them, yes, and challenge them and teach them but I want them to know that all of that grows out of the fact that I know them and I love them always and anyway.

That kind of mothering can be stewarded in a million different ways. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the fact that I might be doing too little and I might be doing too much. My motherhood doesn’t look exactly the same. But. This weekend was a reminder that being who I am and letting her be who she is and doing it together can happen in the smallest of ways and it’s good and enough.


what i learned in 2014



I can’t seem to figure out how to start this post. I started clickety-clacking away a few days ago because I wanted to join in community and share what I learned in 2014. It felt right to put words to some of the things I’ve been leaning into.

Except I’ve had a hard time getting the words to come. It’s probably a good bit of rustiness as I’ve let things lie quiet here for most of the second half of the year. It’s this, too: I’ve been doing some reluctant agreeing with God about some of my cowardly habits in my life like half-loving and coast-cruising.

I’ve had to swallow down the truth that avoiding doesn’t actually make things go away. That peace at any cost isn’t always the best answer. That hiding doesn’t bring healing. I’ve been learning that the hard work of truth is always the way to freedom.

It’s been remarkably undramatic on the outside but all swirly-twirly on the inside. I’ve stood on lines and told God that I plain didn’t want to. And then His Spirit has swept across my brain with good, healing, true, promises and reminders.

I’ve never been very aspirational. The heart things I really and truly and consistently wanted I have: a husband who loves me as persistently as a strong ox and three baffling plus wonderful children. Still, I don’t think Jesus meant that abundant life would come in hunkering down in the safe places. I think He meant hunkering down in THE safe place with the doors flung wide open for any to enter.

Here’s what I learned in 2014: Jesus is making something of me.

He is. The great creating Savior who is the beginning of all good things and who is full of room for all of His beloved ones, is making something-I don’t know what-out of wayward me. And it’s not a thing to be hidden away or guarded or fluffed all around by comfort. It’s not a thing to stand stalwart in one place. It’s a wild and wonderful thing. It’s a moving thing.

It’s a good and hopeful thing.

And the end is not in me. It’s in Him.

a tree most like us.


A handful of years ago we started a Christmas tradition that has become a favorite of mine. We didn’t start it because we were feeling fun or festive or nostalgic. We started it because we found out that my husband’s van needed new tires and brakes and a slew of other things that totaled up to double its worth.

Bunny trail: for five years my husband and I both drove mini vans. I married a man who will drive a mini van day in and day out. To meetings and guy type things and anywhere that four wheels will take him. He even took it hunting and once strapped a deer to the top and drove it home. He drives a different car now, but I’ll never ever forget how he didn’t bat one eyelash at driving that garnet colored thing everywhere. It’s good for me that I married a man who has the kind of faith that overflows contentment. I battle a strivey heart. He doesn’t.

It was the last year we owned that van that the repair bills loomed over our whole Christmas. So, when we walked through the Christmas tree lot, every price felt like too much. That year we decided we would buy the least expensive tree we could find and be done with it. It was a decision that was easier for him than for me as I favor trees with tops that brush the ceiling and spread their green, spindly arms wide. It’s embarrassing, but I was doing battle with my strivey heart.

It was a fine Christmas. We still watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer over and over again. We still made hot chocolate. We still strung twinkle lights everywhere. We still sang carols. We still searched for the just the right ways to say I love you. It was what it always has been and always will be: a season about a Baby wrapped up in our skin just to be close us, just to draw us close to a loving Father.

And this is our game now. We always, always look for the saddest, most lop-sided, shortest, wonkiest tree on the lot. We look for the tree that looks the most like our hearts: here, broken, healing, strivey, messy, wonderful and completely upside down.


just listening.

Lately, I’ve been circling around Joshua 6. The Israelites were at Jericho, one of the very strong and fortified cities that had rooted fear in the hearts of their fathers. Forty years before they had been afraid and it had formed a no in their mouths. They refused to go in to a good land that was the delivery on a promise.

Grace looked like 40 years and a new generation. It was an impossible-seeming thing to fell Jericho. But God had begun their redemption with impossible-seeming acts and He had kept proving that there was no thing impossible for Him. So He felled that city and He did it in a way that could only point to Him. There wasn’t a great army. There wasn’t a stealthy battle plan. There wasn’t even a traditional attack.

God told the Israelites to do this: walk around the city one time a day for six days. They were to follow the priests and the ark of the covenant (the sign of God’s presence). The priests blew horns but the Israelites were to be silent. On the seventh day, they were to walk around seven times. The priests blew horns but the Israelites were to be silent–until the seventh trip around the city. Then? Then they could shout with joy and watch what God would do.

Silence is scarce in my life. My eyes, my ears, my mind: they always have some voice running underneath. Always. I’ve been longing for seven long, good walks around my life full of listening with my words, my eyes, my ears and my heart. That’s where I’ve been. Just listening. Just trying to cast my eyes upon the Lord and His work.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the urgency of right now. There are things I can say and there’s a place to say them, whether it’s here or in my home or in my community. It’s easier than I’ve ever known to make commentary. It’s also easy to let all of that–my things to say and all the things that are said to me–crowd out God’s voice.

It doesn’t have to look like this. You can listen and speak. You can. And that’s good and sometimes best.

But sometimes It does look like this. And sometimes it’s best for your heart this way. Just to be quiet and listen for Him with everything that is in you. Just to say no to the urgency of right now and notice. Notice things like: the light on your dining room table or how your husband knows how to make you belly laugh right when you are determined that you won’t laugh one bit or how your favorite tree is just about to blaze up in yellow glory.  It feels right to let those things rest all over you for awhile before they take the shape of little black, blinking letters on a white screen.

I didn’t think I’d be away from here so long. And I’m not sure I’m back yet either.

I’m just listening.

new but good.


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.


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.






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.


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.


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.