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