a bit of everyday on a Saturday.

newpillowsToday Springtime arrived bringing her blossoms and gnats and afternoon filtered sunshine. We stuck close to home and threw tennis balls on the roof of the building next door. The dog barked at every single squirrel on our block. Then he sat down all slumped up next to me and watched our youngest scramble to catch his falling, falling roof pitched ball.

Somewhere in my spirit this week, Springtime has been being born, too. I’ve been putting my hands to creating more and there is so much hope in that; in sitting down to forge something out of what you already have. One afternoon I finished off a few things in my girl’s room while I had her older brother keep her busy. After what felt like eons, I called her up to surprise her with pom pom trimmed curtains and a bright bedskirt and her paintings framed. Somehow I’d let that go for a year. And this morning I felt extra inspired so I put together some pillowcases from vintage trim I stashed from my former business and some Swiss dot I bought on sale last week. Now I want to make a million more.

Would y’all like to see more of my home? Sometimes I feel fuzzy about what I should post here.

wholeladiesI missed posting an update about Whole Ladies this week and I’ve been thinking about you all and how you encouraged me last week. I survived that birthday even though my van smelled like pizza for days after. It went off without much extra attention or explaining and I think my girl felt extra special. I also know that I have a very stubborn heart. I still feel mad over what I can’t have, especially when I’m tired or even when I’m wanting to celebrate. I am going to have to find the medium between enjoying good, quality food and rewarding myself with food. After our family left on Saturday I decided to cook up the most delicious meal as a consolation for not even getting a bite of strawberry cake. Straw!Berry!Cake! I burnt the burgers. The side dish was just meh. And I was reminded that rewarding myself with food is the same old escapism.

And then, tonight, my husband helped me do the very complicated act of counting 30 days and I realized that I actually won’t be done until Tuesday night instead of Monday night. So I don’t feel very much like I’m winning because I have been living for Tuesday morning and all of its possibilities. I’m a little scared of what freedom will mean except for the fact that my body will definitely react when I reintroduce food. So maybe that’s just as important: realizing how that junk really makes me feel instead of idealizing the day when I will get to eat my beloved parmesan cheese again.

How are you all doing on your health journeys?

eggs2Some other random things about this day: we dyed eggs. I bought brown eggs which was a personal affront to our youngest. Somehow he survived and we were able to get the depth of color somewhat close to his expectations.

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I got to decorate a handful of eggs and I’m so very thankful that even though we are on the precipice of pre-teen (really, I think we’re already there) everyone sat down and was enthusiastic about trying all kinds of different techniques. Also? Our youngest two spent fifteen tear and grumble filled minutes holding hands and sitting very closely in the pursuit of harmony. I’m not sure it was going anywhere good. In the end, Daddy swooped in and settled it all.

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Today is a waiting day. Christ rested and waited in all of His power for His Resurrection morning. And tomorrow will be full of celebration. We invited a friend over to eat with us. It’s something we’ve done for the past few years for friends who are far from home in different types of ways. I really wanted to sew up some new napkins and all of the sudden I’m so very sure that I need placemats. I even got out my Grandmother’s tablecloth which always seemed so stuffy to me but Grover scratched the tabletop last week so it’s kind of necessary and now I realize I kind of like it. In the end I decided everything was lovely. Lovely enough. I copied Edie a bit for the place settings and called it a day. And my knives are facing the wrong way. Or are they? I can’t even remember.

Tomorrow is the Hope and Healing day. I pray you enjoy a beautiful Easter Sunday.

To my bright-burning girl on your 8th birthday.

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Eight and half years ago your Daddy and I stared at a tiny black and white screen with furrowed brows and tense white knuckles. You were there, bouncing around and being a bit shy.

When we finally met you months later  you were the tiniest bit of a thing. Your legs, always crossed, were so teensy that we worried they would crumble. Your tiny little head was covered in brown fuzz. You were lost in the bassinet.

From the very get-go we were told you’d be small.

And you are. Shortest in your grade. Shortest on your basketball team. Shortest in the league. Your feet barely grew a shoe size this year.

You are small.

But you are fierce. Strong. Stubborn. Persistent. Lovely.

I wanted a little girl to hold and dress up. I wanted to braid hair and giggle and pinch rosy cheeks. I got all those things.

But I got more.

I’m more than thankful for your brothers but you are the one who brought me low so that I was just a loamy bit of dirt for God to do the rebuilding. We have fought for each other, you and I. And I’m so glad for the fight. So glad to know that we found a way.

Because even when we are obstinate and battle ready, I can always look at your bright, bright eyes and love them. Always. They are like saucers full of spilled out coffee and your eyebrows dance so wonderfully there above them. And then there is the chirrupy bird-like way you tell me about your life. It is grace personified.

I hope so much that you learn to love well. That you won’t settle for the kind of love that is what you get out of it: approval, acceptance, identity, temporary happiness. It’s the kind that always leaves lingering loneliness.

I hope you know that you are fearful in the way you have been woven together. Every small stitch and over-under in you is characterized by the Hand that weaves all things. And I pray that out of that wonder, you will be able to love fiercely. I hope it’s the kind of sacrificial love that is an everyday, hard, rough, raw and beautiful kind of love. I hope you love to the pain.

I hope and pray that your bright eyes will be honed to seek out the hurting and the lost, that you will move into others with the same kind of persistence that even now you use so well. Oh how I dream that you will never let insecurity hold you hostage, that instead you will walk in the loveliness of knowing Who made you so very well. I know you will encounter seasons that will try to rob you of this lovely way of knowing yourself.  I pray and whisper it over you, this way you were pieced together in the most intentional way, and I ask for belief.

One of my greatest joys is to find little slips of paper pieced together, marker drawn cards, special cuttings and other projects that spill out of your swirling brain. Sometimes you will doubt these gifts, this way of leaning in to your calling. You will feel too small or too young or too different or too similar. Believe strong, little one. This gift of making beauty from your heart is part of God’s story for you.

In this world we connect boys and competitiveness. But it’s there, too, for girls in silent ways and it almost always ends in not-good-enoughs and be-betters. This competition–this comparison–it is the bold and angry kind of thief that smashes through your life even in the bright hours of a beautiful day with your joy in one hand and a sucker punch to the gut in the other. It robs and it bullies and it pushes into the kind of packs that hide and dull the wonderful way you were made. But Grace? It is the bolted gate. Lean in heavily, little one.

And you will fail. You will fail and fumble and feel wobbly on your life legs. I pray that you make mistakes knowing this: failure is not a commentary on who you are. It is not to be feared. Failure is a beginning and you are worth it. You are worth giant dreams and huge falls because I AM has made you and He has called you good. I pray that you won’t fear conflict, either. Conflict is not an end. It is an opportunity to work out how to love and love well. You are worth conflict, too.

And all these things push me to my knees often. In the kitchen over a pot of sweating onions. In the morning when I catch the first cold breath of day. At night when my eyes are limp with the heaviness of life in a day. I pray for you and for your brothers that somehow God will use the mess in me. How I lose my temper. How I do cry over spilled milk. How I say no because I’m too tired to clean up the mess tonight. How I have to cup your childhood-full face in my hands and apologize over and over. I fumble and falter and He makes new and I pray that you see how there is a beautiful banner over me. It’s the banner of grace, of lifted burdens, of new wineskin and hope.

Also? I really hope you learn to laugh like your daddy.

these stars of mine.

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On a fresh Spring morning, the dog and I fumble down the steps and out into the world. It’s still at least an hour from dawn and we are trotting through this sleeping giant playing our morning song.

It’s the soft plodding of my shoes hitting asphalt and cement over and over again. It’s the sharp tinkling of his tags against the metal clasp on his leash, gentle and melodic and full of his simple joy.

The sky is still the dark, deep blue of eventide and the wind is just barely carrying what will be the fragrant assault of the blooming season.

God begins His daily work, the beautiful and complex work of His hands: He wakes up the world. My song changes.

It’s the call and response of the Whipporwill, Lark, Wren, Blue Jay, Dove, Owl, Robin. How I can’t even begin to draw lines around one chirrup before another begins. How the soft wind blows the wisps of hair off my damp brow.

I am Abraham.

These are my stars.

Days walking in an unknown direction. Promises and dreams and hopes so full and pressed tight that I can’t hold them in. When the answer tarries. When I don’t feel His goodness, His light, His hope. In the dark of night.

I am Abraham.

These are my stars.

I have only to look. If He sends me where I don’t know. If He changes all my dreams. If He always answers with not-yets. If His goodness and light and hope feel far. If darkness surrounds me.

I have only to listen. I can’t count the beautiful ways He has made music through these feathered, winged things. I can’t count.

And even if all these things, I will always want to love the One who took bumpy skin and wispy feathers and tiny eyes and scrawny legs and put the melodic breath of a symphony inside.

Always.

whole ladies: halfway

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It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time to talk Whole Ladies again. Jessi’s got a post up today, too, so be sure to head over there.

Somehow here I am with another video. It’s probably because y’all were so nice. But. Let’s just acknowledge one thing: I get the most awkward screen captures ever. This week’s video is a little longer.

New Project 7 from ellen parker on Vimeo.

You can read more about Whole30 right here. Read my other posts right here.

This week we really, really enjoyed Venison Butternut Squash Chili, Berry Breakfast Sausage and Carrot Souffle. I’m too lazy to dig up pictures.

Ok. You’re turn. Smiley face.

a bit of everyday: grace.

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Today I decided to tackle a little bit of this. It’s not their fault, really. With all my redecorarranging there’s been nowhere to put all these little bits.

I also went to the library by myself. I was really just going to find a few movie choices for Friday night but when you have three very distinct opinions about fine cinema it just makes sense to go by yourself.

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I avoided working on this. It’s where I’m supposed to write and be inspired. Oops.

This morning I fell while running with my rascal dog, like with blood and everything. It seems we have a bit further to go than I thought. I think he was more traumatized than I was.

I hung up my winter coat for the last time, hopefully. And I made a total fail of a dinner. And my girl pretended to be Nate the Great while the boys played baseball on the field a few steps from our house. She cut and colored and stapled and told me about how she saw a smiley face in the clouds earlier in the day and she knew God was telling her that everything would be all right. When she was all done she asked me if I was missing something and I prayed and prayed that I would lose something soon just so that she could find it. Instead, I sent her hunting for a thing that was right where it should be. It’s a joy and a mystery to walk in the world of right-brained child.

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Tomorrow we’ll watch our youngest play in his first t-ball game. He’s more than ready.

whole ladies. an update.

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So. It’s Day 9 for me of a Whole30 and it’s a day to check in and talk about this journey with food. Somehow I let Jessi (Stop by her blog for a video, too!) talk me into recording a video. It is totally outside of my comfort zone and I am probably cringing right this very minute as you are reading because somewhere in my spirit I know someone is watching me talk into a camera thingy. But we want this whole thing to be a conversation and this talking to a camera thingy seemed to fit.

I’ll be sharing three things: a lesson, a challenge and a goal. Oh, I do so hope that ya’ll will chime in down there in the comments. I love to interact with you. Love to. It’s my favorite part. So, please share what God is doing in your heart and mind and body when it comes to taking good care of this thing with legs He gave us to house our hearts.

New Project 6 from ellen parker on Vimeo.

Now. On to the food. I ate some good food this week.

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This chicken was a favorite family wide.

And on Sunday I made the most delicious sweet potato soup.

Pioneer Woman Pot Roast. Are there words for this? It really is perfect even when you are out of beef broth and you substitute water and balsamic vinegar.

This recipe for turkey meatballs was tender and so good. I went with my own recipe for marinara and served it all over roasted spaghetti squash.

PS. Still cringing over here.

some community on a saturday morning.

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When God made us, gathered up our dust and breathed life in, He gave us a gift. The gift of knowing each other. We give bits and pieces of our hearts and who He is walking out our life here. We’ve been planted, all nestled in. And all the beautiful things that grow in and through us give Him glory. And in this garden for His glory, we spur each other on. We give good things to the soil and bring beauty to one another. We hold hands when life is hard. All this. All this is His splendor.It’s His Body moving and working and having it’s being in Him.

And this is what I love about the Influence Network. Because it is about joining hands and hearts and realizing that we affect people. At home. Online. In the grocery store. At work. We affect them. Influence is all about affecting people for the Lord. And I’m so thankful for that. It’s what I’ve learned and am still learning: that I have a little plot in this garden for His glory. It isn’t always beautiful or easy or comfortable but it’s mine for Him. It’s why I’m excited to serve as a Community Leader at this year’s conference.

On Wednesday the Influence community hosted a link-up, a tiny peek through the lamplit windows of our lives. I’m late to the party but here just the same.

So. Here’s a peek at a recent favorite photo with me in it (most preferred is already in the sidebar) and a few random things you  may or may not know about me:

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I totally left out the bit about how I had to wear an eye patch in second grade.

But maybe I’ll rustle that one up someday soon. You’re welcome. Smiley face.

a prayer for the right now and the almost there.

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Dear Lord,

Please don’t ever let me forget what it’s like to meet a five year old fresh from a night of sleep.

The cheeks swathed in pink. The hair mussed and smelling of apple shampoo. The eyes open, artless and tinted darker with sleep still hanging on.

Please don’t let me forget how there is still the slight puff of toddlerhood on a warm face. Or how it feels to have short and plump little arms fold around me, how it feels to get the tiniest scratch on my back from nubbin fingers.

I know what is coming, the good and the harder. How we totter at the edge of the heart realm. There will be beautiful moments filled with love notes and tears and adventure. There will be harder moments filled with rushed words and trying to meet in the middle. I’ll holler with pride at ball games and call my husband in tears over bad choices. I know all of this, half of me already in that world.

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Right now? I need to grasp so tightly how it feels to know the slight pudge of a still young belly’s deadweight against me. How it feels to kiss a soft neck and know that all of this child can still fold up in my lap with rounded knees and stumpy little toes.

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I relish what will come and that is why right now I need written all over my heart the way soft and full brown eyelashes just barely rest over rosy cheeks under full and wiry bedhead.

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Amen.

whole ladies. day one.

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Six months ago my dear friend sent me a text message.

So. I’ve been vegan for a week now.

Just like that. She jumped right in. All these months later, she’s still at it. I’m so proud of her. And when we sat in her kitchen just before Christmas and she talked about the freedom she’s felt in the most powerful ways, something turned a tiny cog in my brain and I’ve been wondering about what it means to be free ever since.

She can’t and doesn’t go through too many drive throughs. They eat out less. I picked up a veggie wrap for her the other day and I had to be really specific. It is work. She gave up some things. She’s gained a strong body, lots of energy and the knowledge that food doesn’t ever have to master her again.

We’ve been set free to be free.

I’ve only talked about this struggle of mine a handful of times. I’m a serial dieter. Weight Watchers. Clean Eating. Low Carb. Low Fat. The Zone. I’ve done them all. I’ve gained and lost weight over and over again. After Christmas I just decided to be. Eat. Be active. Stop striving for weight loss.

What I’m really looking for is freedom from feeling less than. From feeling a far cry from beautiful. From feeling like I’ll never succeed. The truth is that these are heart issues with one treatment. The Truth. Ironically, instead of turning to God’s Word I’ve spent most of my life turning to the very thing that keeps me from losing weight: food.

That’s what drew me to doing a Whole30 (you can find out all about it from the creators by clicking <— right there). It’s not about weight loss. It looks hard as blue blazes. I’ll feel weak at first. I’ll miss grains, legumes, sugar, sugar substitutes, dairy, Diet Dr. Pepper. But we all know what happens when we are weak. I’ll learn to say no. I’ll face down some major food triggers. Full disclosure? I hope I’ll lose weight but I’m pretty sure that will only happen when I stop focusing on it so much and learn to be more healthy about my food choices.

I mentioned this to my friend Jessi as we were texting back and forth last week. I’m in, she responded.

We start today and we’re inviting you. We’re going to be open about this. The heart stuff. The hard stuff. All of it. I’m choosing not to get on a scale the whole 30 days. Jessi will be doing it differently. But. We’ll be doing it together. We’ll share what works and what doesn’t.

We’ll share on Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest. And we’ve got a few ladies joining us. Will you? Even if you don’t do a Whole30, will you be honest about your struggle and join us in spurring each other on? We’ll be back next week with all the rough and the raw of giving up french fries and doing hard things and leaning in to the Lord.