Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Practice What You Preach (Again)

Well, NaBloPoMo ends on a rather anticlimactic note for me...because it's 10PM and I have a grumpy, hurting baby. One of those nights where you just dread going to bed because you know you're going to be up a thousand times. I'm already tired before we even start. So, rather than a thoughtful and interesting blog post to wrap up this marathon month of posting, you get this--me, sleepy and full of dread and trying to preach to myself what I preached to you yesterday:

Jude doesn't feel good. I have no way of knowing what exactly is wrong with him. He's probably going to wake up and need me several times between now and tomorrow morning. It is what it is. My job, rather than to calculate and recalculate how many hours of sleep I'm not getting and throw myself a pity party, is to love my extend to him the patience and compassion I have been shown my whole give thanks that I have a little boy who needs me and is comforted by my praise God for the privilege of motherhood and the little trials that force me to die to self.

What, did you think I write this blog for you? I write because *I* am thickheaded and forgetful and need to hear this stuff. You just get to listen in ;)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Acceptance = Peace

I was emailing a friend earlier today to encourage her, and stopped as I found myself typing this line:
I am finding that when I accept what *is* without focusing so much on what “should” be or what I wish was, our house (and my heart) is a lot more peaceful.
Isn't that so true???! If only I could actually remember it, in the midst of trying parenting moments!

I can spend my time fuming about the things that go wrong. I can internally grumble and complain about  all the parts of my life that aren't fun and all the things I'd rather be doing. I can shame my kids, use harsh words, display my resentment and damage our relationship.

Or I can accept what is. I can deal with what comes each day, not what I wish would come or what some artificial ideal in my head says *should* come. I can trust that God has ordained all things, even this, for my good and for His glory. And I can ask Him for the grace to respond to what IS in a way that honors Him and serves my family.

A friend of mine gave me this wise advice a few months ago when I was venting my frustration over a particular issue with Elijah:
Amy Carmichael, a missionary who cared for orphans in India for 55 years, said it best when she wrote, "In acceptance lieth peace." I've found in my life that acceptance is everything. When trials come, I tend to go into fight mode. As Paul prayed for God to take his thorn away, I cry out over and over for God to take my trials away. God has responded to me the same way He responded to Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
So these days, while I still pray that God would do something supernatural in many of my circumstances, I also pray for the strength and patience to endure whatever He allows to come my way. I pray for joy, acceptance and contentment in everything I experience. I pray He would grow me to the point where I will truly consider my trials to be opportunities for joy.
Great stuff. Praying today that I will have eyes to see the beauty around me, a mind to know that God is present regardless of how I feel, and a heart to trust Him, choose gratitude, and rest in Him as I face what He has ordained.

My Portion
Divine Love Put Me Here
Joy. Here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 227

One of Steve's cousins read a passage of Scripture and offered some brief thoughts before we prayed and ate our feast on Thanksgiving Day. He shared the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, and pointed out these lines, adding emphasis on one significant word:

"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks" (Luke 17:15-16).

You can imagine that all the lepers felt incredibly glad to be healed. Presumably they continued on toward the temple to offer sacrifices and even celebrate. But this one didn't just have a generic sort of gladness or gratitude. He ran back to Jesus and gave HIM thanks. And as a result, he was more than just physically healed--Jesus told him that his faith had "made him well"--had "saved" him.

I felt convicted as I thought about all this. Once you're in the habit, keeping a list of gifts is pretty easy. But there's a world of difference between a generic "counting your blessings," the world's brand of thankfulness, and a specific, personal thanks to God through Christ. Am I just thankful? Or am I thanking Him? Am I so absorbed with the gifts that I overlook the Giver?

Or to quote C.S. Lewis: "Gratitude exclaims, very properly, 'How good of God to give me this.' Adoration says, 'What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations [flashes of light; displays] are like this!' One's mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun." (Letters to Malcolm)

I'm counting and counting, and praying that God will give me grace to look back up the sunbeam, to thank HIM for gifts like...

2434. Christmas parades
2435. cozy fire on a cold night
2436. the fact that my boys get to know some of their great-grandparents
2437. the juxtaposition of beautiful wrinkles and smooth, baby-soft skin
2438. a glass-blowing demonstration

2439. meals with friends and cousins
2440. grandparents babysitting
2441. pashmina scarves
2442. huge bags of hand-me-down clothes for Elijah
2443. brothers discussing theology

2444. furniture from my grandmother's house
2445. Jude and Elijah pushing each other down the hall in Great-Grandma June's walker

2446. women bustling in the kitchen
2447. men talking and holding babies
2448. four generations eating, laughing, singing, loving the Lord

2449. Ohio weather in November surprisingly warm enough to play outside
2450. pumpkin desserts
2451. evening card games
2452. spiced cider
2453. my boys loving Great-Grandma's cranberries just like their dad and his dad

2454. cousins throwing rocks in the pond

2455. covered bridge
2456. Pops's pretty Christmas lights
2457. children's ibuprofen
2458. extra snuggles when Elijah is feeling sick

2459. first time this year listening through Behold the Lamb of God
2460. Andrew Peterson's brilliant storytelling, and the way it moves me to tears
2461. the Brilliant Storyteller he is echoing
2462. the old, old story of Jesus and His love

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures in Babywearing

We are very glad to be home tonight after a wonderful week up in Ohio with our families. Can you believe I am on the ball enough to throw up a couple of brand-new photos to continue my NaBloPoMo streak?

Over the weekend I got a couple of fun babywearing shots. Jude didn't get worn as much this week as he usually does, but it was kind of interesting to notice that he seemed to miss it. On Thanksgiving Day he was a bit of a wreck for most of the morning. Steve and I both ended up wearing him quite a bit that afternoon, and later in the day he was absolutely content. It occurred to me that he's used to being on my back almost every day, and he hadn't been all week. I wouldn't be surprised if he was out of sorts because he just needed to reconnect and be close.

Here we are having fun in the backyard at Steve's grandparents' house on Friday afternoon:

And then on Saturday night the whole family was babywearing! I let Elijah ride on my back occasionally--he gets a bit jealous that Jude gets a ride all the time, and with my Boba carrier it's actually not that hard to wear him (the long, dangling legs are more of a bother than the weight!). He gets a huge kick out of being on Mama's back, and it doesn't last more than about ten minutes before he's ready to go play again, so I don't mind. Anyway, Steve put Jude on his back while he grilled hamburgers for supper, and Elijah asked to ride on my back. He was feeling miserable, so I was happy to oblige. Had to snap a photo of this first-time moment when both of us had kids on our backs:

 I honestly do not know what I would do without my baby carrier(s)!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Surfin' Saturday ~ 11.26.11

Just a few thoughtful articles about parenting this weekend...

Spiritual Protection for Your Growing Child (or anyone else) ~ Ed Welch, CCEF
"everything is about Jesus. Not only was Jesus the focus of all their understanding of Scripture, he was also the way of change—all true change goes through him. Over the course of a few months in your home, would a bystander observe that you are talking about a person or talking about rules that seem unrelated to a person?

"...Scripture is a story in cosmic terms with allegiances, powers, rescues, all on a huge scale. “Accept Jesus in your heart” is much too tame. The King of creation has spoken to us in Jesus. Once you know him you will want to say, “Jesus, I am with you. You are my Lord.”

Creating Spaces of Personal Time, Focused on Hearing Hearts ~ Sally Clarkson
"I do not expect them to conform to me–I let them be who they are at this season of life and I have adjusted my own age expectations to enjoy and really delight in who they are at every stage. It has brought me much pleasure. But I had to give up a little of my selfish self to enter their world. And so did God, and became Jesus.

"...Discipleship is always an issue of relationship. It is not about curriculum, church attendance, rules, indoctrination, but always about reaching the heart."

Clang! Clang! Clang! ~ Whole Foods, Healthy Living
I really appreciated the honesty and the gentle rebuke of this post. Bloggers don't always have it together as much as they appear. And when we strive to do wonderful things for our families, be it cooking or organizing or saving money, we're not really serving them if we're not loving them in the process.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Favorites ~ Lips and Cameras

I will never, ever understand the phenomenon of Black Friday. You could not pay me enough to go shopping today. Well, OK, I probably would do it for a very large sum of money. But I would not enjoy it. I'd rather shop online any day...and so on this epic shopping day I'll at least give you two quick leads on great products that would make excellent Christmas gifts.

Hurraw! Lip Balm
Love, love, love this stuff. Given that I'm putting it on my mouth, I like using something with all-natural ingredients! It's also silky-smooth and not sticky, and the scents/flavors are totally yummy. I can personally vouch for lime, coffee, and coconut--but there are several more I want to try!

Camera Strap Covers on Etsy
I used some birthday money earlier this year to buy something I'd had my eye on for quite a while--a camera strap cover. Besides being totally cute, the covers make wearing your camera a little more comfortable. And most importantly, they give me a place to stash my lens cap, which I am forever misplacing! I ended up ordering two because I couldn't decide on fabric--the black and white damask/bright minky I originally thought I wanted, and this pink and brown floral one I fell in love with at the last minute.

There are a bazillion Etsy stores selling these. Pickleberry Lane had great prices and great service, though the cover was a bit wider than I imagined and it's fairly short--it only just covers the wide part of my strap. Other stores offer narrower and/or longer straps (if you want to cover the entire strap) and custom add-ons like ruffles, if you're willing to spend more. A few favorites that made my decision difficult:

SewTamz offers endless options; I really like the pink and black damask with ruffles
HappySnapz has low prices on lots of fun, bright fabrics, like this pink and brown Michael Miller
A Diva and 3 Dudes Design also has excellent prices and cute fabrics--I would have ordered from her if I hadn't waited too long to get the striped fabric I liked (it was sold out).

I just noticed while composing this that Pickleberry Lane is also having a 20% off sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday--other stores might be doing the same, so check it out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Thanksgiving 2011

With a nod to Kelly who started me on this tradition, I have to break from Multitude Mondays once a year and devote my Thanksgiving Day post to a mega-gift list. How quickly can you think of 100 things you are thankful for this year, 100 undeserved gifts showered on you? Mine include...

1. evidence of God's grace at work in my life, changing me
2. having to humble myself and ask forgiveness
3. learning things that make me question what I thought I knew and believed
4. being forced into situations where my weaknesses, not my strengths, are on display
5. reminders of how finite and limited I am

6. God never sleeps
7. He never changes
8. He extends forgiveness freely and endlessly
9. He gives guidance and wisdom to those who ask for it
10. the way His power is displayed in my weakness

11. windows
12. arches
13. cozy fires
14. marble runs
15. wooden train tracks

16. Kindle library lending
17. the ability to read
18. more books in our house than I have time to read
19. people who are gifted storytellers, in print or on film
20. soap

21. hair elastics
22. photography
23. mascara
24. striped shirts
25. laptop computers

26. fuzzy sweaters
27. boys in matching blue oxfords
28. the click of high heels on hard surfaces
29. the clickety-clack of rapid typing on a keyboard
30. the fact that I don't have tinnitus

31. intricate, hand-stitched quilts
32. old houses with character
33. family heirlooms
34. family stories
35. family resemblances

36. being adopted as a daughter of the King
37. being molded and transformed to resemble Him
38. an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade
39. knowing that He is able to keep me
40. the anticipation of what Heaven might be like

41. my children knowing and loving some of their great-grandparents
42. our parents' and grandparents' delight in our children
43. beautiful wrinkles and aged faces
44. baby-soft skin
45. a conscious awareness of how rare and precious those moments are

46. written prayers in my journal
47. others' written prayers
48. not having to compose formal prayers with eloquent language in order to speak with God
49. Jesus opening the way for me to access the throne of grace
50. the Spirit interceding for me when I don't have words to pray

51. wedding rings
52. comfy sweatpants
53. heavy blankets
54. hairbrushes
55. toothbrushes

56. friends who take time to encourage
57. friends who let me know I have encouraged them
58. adjusted perspectives
59. the discomfort of gray areas and realizing I don't have all the answers
60. a wise husband with whom to hash through complex issues

61. living in a climate with all four seasons
62. the glorious colors of fall
63. stark, bare branches against a winter blue sky
64. the way I appreciate the color green so much more in spring
65. the extended daylight of summer

66. not knowing the future
67. knowing the One who controls the future
68. His promises to work all things for my good and His glory
69. the times He doesn't give me what I want and think I need
70. the times I am able to see and appreciate how what He gives is better

71. the astounding variety of gifts and passions God has given humans
72. people who love and are good at things I do/am not
73. people who are better than me at the things I love and try to do
74. the times God uses my gifts to bless others
75. times of quiet and anonymity

76. cousin hugs
77. argyle
78. pearls
79. DNA
80. thunderstorms

81. email
82. snail mail
83. long walks
84. leather couches
85. bridges

86. music
87. pumpkin desserts
88. frou-frou coffee drinks
89. antique convertibles
90. sharp knives

91. God condescending to become man
92. Jesus rising from the dead and being exalted above all
93. the grandeur and glory of the redemptive narrative of Scripture
94. the poetry and honesty of the psalms
95. knowing how the story ends

96. Steve
97. Elijah
98. Jude
99. our church
100. being indwelt by the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WFMW: Freezer Cooking and Inventory

Another anonymous commenter recently asked for food tips:
I also love food stuff -- hearing what works for you, good recipes, tips, etc. I'm particularly on the hunt for good slow-cooker recipes these days, so if you've got any of those, please share!
This dovetails nicely with yesterday's post about saving money by cooking and eating at home plus Works for Me Wednesday, which I seem to do only about once a year when I'm trying to fill up space during NaBloPoMo :)

My first tip is to cook for a crowd. When I was first married, someone gave me a subscription to Taste of Home's Cooking for Two. I've got some great recipes I still use from that magazine, but honestly? I think cooking for two is a stupid idea. All that work, and all that mess, for two portions--no leftovers, even? Good grief!

I regularly cook for about 4-6 people (at least), because we eat leftovers for lunch almost exclusively. It's quick and easy, not to mention healthier a lot of the time. But last year when I was pregnant with Jude, I discovered the joys of freezer cooking. And oh my goodness, why didn't I do this before?!

Of course, it only works if you have the freezer space, and we just got a stand-alone freezer for this very purpose a few months before Jude was born. But really, it's life-changing. Anytime I'm making something that will freeze well, I double the recipe. It's so much easier to make a bigger batch once than to go to all the trouble and deal with all the cleanup two separate times! Some of my recipes are already big, so I don't have to double them--I'll just make half again as much, or make the regular batch and freeze half, only saving enough for us to eat it leftover once (which is nice because then we're not totally sick of it by the time we eat the leftovers three times). Soups freeze particularly well, and if you freeze them flat in ziploc bags, they stack and thaw nicely.

For dishes like lasagna or enchiladas, I line a glass pan with foil and freeze the unbaked dish just long enough for the food to be solid--then I pop it out of the glass pan and put the foil-wrapped food in a ziploc bag. When I want to bake it, I take it out of the bag and put the food + foil back in the glass pan to thaw in the fridge and then bake. Similarly for meatloaf, I put it on a cookie sheet and freeze it, then pop it off the sheet and put it in a bag.

I also freeze partial meals or ingredients. For example, I'll mix up all the ingredients for tuna noodle casserole except the noodles--so then all I have to do is boil some noodles and mix it all together, very simplified. Or I'll cook a huge crockpot full of dried beans and freeze them in one-can portions. I cook whole chickens and shred the meat, then freeze it (flat--it thaws much more quickly) in about one-pound portions, and I brown about 5-6 pounds of ground beef at a time and freeze it (again, flat!) in one-pound portions. Doing this makes taco night or spaghetti night a breeze, because all I have to do is add seasoning or sauce.

My other tip for freezer use is to keep an inventory. I typed up a list of things I commonly have in my freezer, organized by category, with extra spaces to write in other items. I then slipped the lists in plastic page protectors and taped them to the top of our chest freezer. I also taped a wet-erase marker to a string next to the list. I can tell at a glance what's in my freezer, so that things don't get buried and forgotten. It also helps me to plan ahead (I've only got one bag of beans left, so I need to add them to my grocery list and cook some more). Having the list taped to the lid and having the marker right there helps me not forget to add or erase things when I get into the freezer--otherwise this system totally doesn't work. (I have problems making it work for my upstairs freezer, which I'm in and out of a lot more often.) I still have to empty and re-inventory/reorganize the freezer about once or twice a year, but keeping an ongoing list helps immensely.

I'm so glad I've discovered all these tips and tricks for cooking in bulk and using my freezer! It was absolutely wonderful when I was newly postpartum. But even without a newborn in the house, it's a lifesaver. I love to cook, but with two little boys, life happens and it's sometimes hard to get a good meal on the table. Having pre-made food in my freezer means I have [healthier and cheaper] options besides take-out for those days when everything seems to fall apart, or when I know I'm going to be gone all day, or when I just don't feel like cooking. And it just plain makes life easier to make twice the food for the same amount of prep time and cleanup!

How has freezer cooking worked for you?

[Check out We Are That Family for more Works for Me Wednesday tips!]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finances and Staying Home: Four Words

An anonymous commenter recently asked:
My husband and I have a 7 week old, so I'd love to know some of your tips for budgeting in order to stay at home.
Thanksgiving week seems an appropriate time to talk about this--because when I stop to think about our financial situation, the primary thing I have to feel is gratitude. Steve provides more than enough for our family to live on, so I have the freedom to care for our boys and our home full-time. I recognize that my ability to be at home is a privilege, and the relative ease with which we can make that work is a blessing I don't take for granted.

Really, I feel like the last qualified person to write a post like this, because so much of where we are financially has nothing to do with anything we have done right. Steve and I were set up for success in some huge ways that were out of our control. We don't deserve any of what's been handed to us! Both sets of our parents are wise and generous, having both instilled smart financial principles in us and given lavish gifts to us. I received a scholarship to college, leaving me with no school loans. My husband has a terrific job at a solid company. Did we work hard in school? Does Steve work hard to earn his pay? Sure. But even this is grace: God gave me the mind to be able to excel academically, and put me in a family where education was valued and emphasized. God gave Steve the same, as well as a skill set that just happens to be in a field that pays relatively well. We can't take the credit--it is all GRACE. 

So I recognize that any advice I can give is coming from a place of privilege. We aren't wealthy, but we got a wonderful "head start"--and all we can do is humbly give thanks and seek to be good stewards of what we've been given.

There are plenty of other blogs you can visit on the web for solid advice on budgeting and saving money. I am in awe of the stay-at-home-moms who exhibit incredible diligence and skill in stretching their family's income! So for that kind of advice, you'll have to look elsewhere. But I think I have about four words to offer in the way of general thoughts:

GRATITUDE. Look for the ways God is providing for your needs. Look for the ways He is abundantly providing far beyond what you need. And give thanks--start counting! From the fact that I can drive a few miles and fill up a grocery cart with food, to the hand-me-downs that friends and family give us to clothe our boys, to the skills Steve's dad taught him to be able to work on our house...all these gifts we don't deserve and did not earn, just grace upon grace. And on a similar note...

PERSPECTIVE. You can be Eve, turning your attention away from all that you've been given to focus on the one thing you lack. There will always, always be people who have things you don't have. Or you can look at all the people who don't have what you have. If you make more than $2/day, you are already richer than half the world!

There's a real sense in which you really have nothing; it all belongs to God. And then in another sense, you have everything, because you are His heir! He has merely entrusted money and possessions to you temporarily, to use wisely, for His glory. So give generously and with your eyes on eternity.

FORESIGHT. Though this is too late for the original commenter, it may be useful to younger readers. If the idea of staying home with children is even a possibility down the road, I would highly recommend that you and your husband never get used to living on two incomes. Steve and I agreed from the start that if I worked before we had kids, we would not use my income as part of regular living expenses. Adjusting to the expenses and altered lifestyle of a baby is hard enough without also having your budget drastically reduced! Use the second income to build an emergency fund, or invest for retirement or college, or pay off debt--but don't use it to support a high standard of living you can't sustain on only one income.

And for the single ladies: Think twice before accumulating debt during your single years. Avoid it whenever possible! Even school loans may have a dramatic impact on your future family long-term. I'm not saying you should never take out loans for college. I *am* saying that you should consider this carefully, recognizing that your debt will be a burden to your family, if you get married, and may even hinder your ability to stay home.

SACRIFICE. All things considered, we live very comfortably--you can hardly call our lifestyle "sacrificial." But we do have to prioritize in order to live and give as we do. Every family's priorities are different, so the things we go without may seem like necessities for others, and vice versa. But I'd guess that in almost any family, you can find some ways to scale back and give up things you don't *really* need in order to allocate funds elsewhere. For example, we don't have TV. We have basic cell phone plans, without data or unlimited texting. We drive higher-mileage cars; we have old, hand-me-down furniture. We don't go out very often. These things are minor, but they add up.

Two other quick tips worth mentioning: One key part of our budget is "discretionary money." Steve and I each get a little money out of every paycheck that is ours to spend, no questions asked. Anything extra we want, whether it's coffee at Starbucks, a new book for Kindle, clothes or shoes, whatever, comes out of that money. If I want something big, I have to save up; when it's gone, it's gone. I think this has really helped me to curb unnecessary spending.

And then, learn to cook. We very, very rarely eat out. I think our food budget is actually pretty high because of the way we choose to eat, but it doesn't have to be. You can save a lot of money, even if you're not into "extreme couponing," just by eating at home. Cook for 4-6 instead of two, and eat leftovers for lunch. Buy foods in bulk where possible; cook from scratch instead of buying processed ingredients. Not only can you trim your food budget this way, but you will also likely see long-term savings in your health care costs.

So, that's my two cents on finances and staying at home. What do the rest of my readers think? Weigh in below with your own advice and experiences about managing your money (as well as your favorite websites for budgeting or money-saving tips).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Failure, Fear and Freedom

I was honored to be asked recently to write a guest post for one of my newest favorite blogs: Christ in the Chaos (formerly known as Life with Littles). Kimm is a woman who loves and breathes the gospel--and who graciously lets us read along and be encouraged as she preaches it to herself in the midst of everyday motherhood! I can't tell you how many times I've printed off posts or copied quotes just in the few short months I've been reading. This is definitely a blog to add to your feed reader--or you can follow her on Facebook.

Over at her place today, I talk about the failure I feel as a mother and the ways I'm tempted to fear...
Motherhood has laid me low like nothing else. Over the last four years, God has used two precious little boys to humble me to the dust, to expose just how "false and full of sin I am," just how inadequate and helpless and dependent I am, no matter how much I might wish otherwise. I have, to be totally honest, hated it at times for that very reason. I don't like being brought face to face with the reality of what a mess I am, what a failure I am and how totally I screw up all the time.

And if I don’t like knowing how far I fall short, I certainly don’t like for others to know it. I want to be the mom people admire; I want to have the kids everyone finds delightful. Instead, those around me see me fumbling and stumbling, no more awesome in this parenting gig than I was four years ago when I held a tiny newborn and wondered, “What have we done?”

So when I am full of despair at how little I have grown and changed in the last four years…when I am embarrassed by my children’s behavior or fearful of how other moms are judging me…I have only one place to go.
[continue reading over at Kimm's awesome blog...]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy, Adorable Boys

As I enjoy Sunday family time, a couple of quick snapshots of my boys--Ten on Ten provided me with some photos that didn't make the cut, but which I still very much enjoyed.

Elijah is SO hard to photograph these days--he either refuses to look at the camera, or makes a very fake cheesy grin. I captured this shot while he was enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: crawling around on the floor with Jude. 

Another shot from the impromptu changing table photo shoot. Tell me, is there anything cuter than baby toes? 

We are blessed to have a nice park close to our home and the boys love swinging. Elijah is working up to the big swings, but for now prefers the baby swings since he can go so much higher when he feels more secure. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Surfin' Saturday ~ 11.19.11

Vote for Me, Please! is hosting a waterbirth photo competition. At my doula's suggestion, I entered two of the amazing photos she took of Jude's birth. Voting is open to the public--would you mind taking just a few moments to click over and vote for my pictures? (Fair warning: Many of the other pictures on the site are rather graphic!--but the links take you directly to my photos.)
Photo #1
Photo #2

Just in time for Christmas! I have always enjoyed Janelle Mahaney Bradshaw's photography, featured at GirlTalk--now she has opened an online shop where you can purchase artwork. I am going to have to do a little browsing as soon as I get a few minutes (like when NaBloPoMo is over!).

Make My Notebook
Another shopping tip for the journaler in your life--I saw this site advertised in a magazine, and I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but it looks promising: you can choose size, cover image, and paper type to customize these handmade journals.

Picture the Holidays ~ Paper Coterie
I really love Paper Coterie's products, and I'm intrigued to participate in a photography challenge they're hosting called "Picture the Holidays." I don't know much about it, but I've signed up and am looking forward to prompts that will help me slow down, pay attention, and take more photos (along the lines of 10 on 10). Wanna join me?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick Check-In

I made it over halfway through NaBloPoMo before getting to the "it's the end of the day and I'm tired and I haven't written a blog post yet but I don't want to lose the challenge" post :) That's allowed once, right?

I've got several posts in the works, including...
~why homebirth?
~why hire a doula?
~two fabulous stocking stuffer ideas
~revisiting a couple of old posts on anger
~reflections on various passages of Scripture and their connections to parenting

...but for tonight, I don't have the mental energy to bring any of them to completion. Instead I'll leave you with questions--what's your favorite type of post I write? What would you like to see me write about during the rest of the month?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remembering to Praise: Happy Birthday, Jude!

Most days I forget to praise.

I named him Jude so I would remember, so I would fight for joy and choose to say, "This time, I will praise the LORD." But the days are still long and mothering small children still exposes all my rough edges, all the dark and ugly parts of my selfish heart that resist this never-ending call to lay down and die. I say it a hundred times a day--"Jude!" [Praise!]--but still I forget.

So I make lists. I read books and blogs and articles, and I write my own so I'll hear the words I so easily forget. I do this to remind myself that I have countless reasons to praise the LORD, from the Incarnation and the Cross to the Resurrection and my own adoption and redemption. And for the last year thirteen months, I have had a million more reasons to praise, if I will just wake up and pay attention to this beautiful little boy.

Jude came into our lives in a way that was an answer to many prayers and an occasion for much praise. Over the months that followed, I have felt overwhelmed by many struggles, but I have also experienced much grace.

Nursing, despite all my expectations and hopes that it had to be better the second time around (surely experience had to count for something), was a total nightmare for about eight weeks. But by grace, I persevered--my boy grew chubby thighs on my milk alone--and at thirteen months, he signs "milk" while he's nursing and flashes me a gap-toothed grin that melts my heart.

Sleep? Overrated, Jude says. I'm not my big brother; I don't need twelve hours a night plus naps (yes, I was ridiculously spoiled by Elijah). But I have a husband who helps with the middle-of-the-night parenting. I get a lot more sleep now than I did a year ago. And in the early morning hours, when my quiet time has been interrupted and I've had to go rescue a pajama-footed towhead from his crib earlier than I would prefer, he sits in the middle of the floor and tosses every (unfolded--I'm not usually stupid enough to leave the folded loads within his reach) piece of laundry across the floor, and giggles.

Mealtimes? A chore, I'm not gonna lie. I delay solids as long as possible because exclusive breastfeeding is easier, faster, more convenient, less messy, and free. I dread this stage, when pickiness abounds and he's not old enough to be reasoned with. But, hello First World problem! I have food to feed my child! Lots of it! A wide variety, and it's got plenty of calories and nutrients, and he can, in fact, consume it and digest it! Also he looks hilarious with black beans smeared all over his face.

When I stop and slow down and think, I have to "who gets the last word" myself. The newborn stage still isn't my favorite. The years may be short, but the days are long. BUT the years are short! I have a healthy, happy little boy (two actually!). God has chosen an incredibly kind way of refining me. I am forgetful, but He remembers me and He reminds me. He has set before me a monumental task, for which I am weak and inadequate, but He walks with me, He fills me, and He demonstrates His power and sufficiency through me.

A year ago, among my many fears, I wondered whether I would slog through the darkness of postpartum depression again. I am overcome with gratitude when I sit here and realize how my Father has protected and preserved me. There have been dark days. I have felt discouraged and full of despair. But I have been *present* this year. I have been more able to enjoy Jude's babyhood. And however haltingly, however infrequently, however weakly--I have been able to praise.

Happy (belated) birthday, sweet baby Jude.

Today, I am praising God that you're ours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Celebrating Waiting

Usually waiting is a process to be dreaded, avoided, or endured. Who among us likes to wait for what she doesn't have but earnestly desires? But this fall, I am very much looking forward to a season of waiting.

Over the last several years, I've read all kinds of beautiful ideas for celebrating Advent and building Christ-centered traditions in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It seems, though, that every year Advent sneaks up on me. I don't think much about Christmas at all until after Thanksgiving is over--and then Advent is already underway and I don't manage to do much of anything different or special.

This year, now that Elijah is old enough to begin to understand and participate in some special celebrations, I am looking ahead and making plans for "celebrating waiting" during Advent. I want to spend the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas helping my family focus on Jesus and building excitement about His coming to earth!

The most significant thing I'm anticipating this year is doing a Jesse Tree. If you've never heard the term, a Jesse Tree is a special kind of Advent calendar that tells the grand story of God's plan of redemption, from Creation all the way through the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus. The concept comes from Isaiah 11, where God promises His people that He will bring "a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" (v. 1). Each day of Advent, you read a story from the Old Testament and look for Christ in that story, adding an ornament to your Jesse Tree to represent a prophecy or an ancestor in the lineage of Christ.

I've downloaded and printed Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional, and just this afternoon I went shopping to purchase a small tree and begin collecting ornaments. The devotional, which can be downloaded for free, includes color pictures that you can cut out and mount on cardstock for simple ornaments, but I like the idea of using three-dimensional objects instead. I've gotten ideas and inspiration for this from Passionate Homemaking and Rocks in My Dryer. You can get as fancy or as simple as you like--and you can build your collection over the years, rather than having everything "just so" right away the first year.

My wonderfully talented husband recently finished making an Advent wreath modeled after this beautiful one designed and made by Ann Voskamp's son (available for purchase on the website). It is gorgeous!

And a few other pre-Christmas resources and links for your enjoyment:

~I've heard great things about Nancy Guthrie's collection of Christmas readings, entitled Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. I bought it last year but only got to read a couple of the essays, so I hope to make it through the whole book this year.

~One of my favorite Advent traditions, ever since discovering them four or five years ago, is reading through some of John Piper's Advent poems. I've attempted to write poetry in strict meter and rhyme only enough to know that it's very, very difficult to do well. Piper has (in my opinion) an extraordinary gift for it. Not only is the poetry beautiful, but his "imaginative reconstructions behind figures of the Bible" are amazing. Every year I am moved and awed by the way he points to Christ and the glory of God in these poems. I don't believe he writes new ones anymore, but the 25-year archive of past Advent poems is available at Desiring God's website. I highly recommend listening, not just reading.

~I hope to revisit Noel Piper's excellent book Treasuring God in Our Traditions soon--it's been several years since I first read it, but I know it had some wonderful ideas for meaningful Christmas celebrations.

What Advent or Christmas traditions do you anticipate and enjoy each year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rudeness Meets Patience

The phrase that comes out of my mouth more than any other these days (with the possible exception of "Gentle! You need to be kind to Jude!") is "Try again. You may not speak to Mama that way."

The four-year-old in our house is learning and testing the power of words, which means we're experiencing a lot of screaming and yelling, a lot of arguing, a lot of rude comments and demanding instead of requesting. It's aggravating, to say the least. So I spend a majority of my day correcting and scripting. But the tone of that correction varies dramatically--and I felt convicted about that last week when I read some insights from Tim Keller's book King's Cross

Keller explores the "Request of James and John" in Mark 10, where Jesus has just finished describing to the disciples how He will be tortured and killed. After this grim and sobering prophecy, the first words out of his closest disciples' mouths are startling. Keller writes:
"James and John say, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' That's a great way to start a prayer, don't you think? 'Oh Lord, I have a humble request, and I want you to do exactly what I say.' Jesus puts up with them graciously--that's the way he was. 'What do you want me to do?' he asks. He doesn't say, 'Um, would you care to start over?' Or 'How dare you talk to me like that? Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who you are?' He simply says, 'What do you want?'"
Now, obviously I need to correct Elijah when he speaks disrespectfully. My job as his mother is to teach him how to express his desires and emotions appropriately, without rudeness or screaming/whining. But there is a world of difference between a calm, matter-of-fact "You may not speak to me that way. Try again," and an angry, indignant "You may NOT speak to me that way!! TRY AGAIN!"

I can (should--must!) correct and teach Elijah without getting personally offended and outraged. The difference between Jesus and James/John was infinitely greater than the difference between me and Elijah! While Elijah is instructed to obey and honor me as his mother, I am more like him than not. We stand as peers before the holy God. And I am not inherently worthy of respect and honor in the way that Jesus is. So if He can respond patiently to James and John's (and my own!) ridiculous arrogance and petulant demands, how much more do I need to display that same patience as I interact with my four-year-old son (who IS a child, not just acting like one)?

Oh, how thankful I am for the way God is slow to anger, infinitely patient, abounding in love and compassion toward me. And oh, how I need His grace as a mother to enable me to reflect those qualities to my impressionable sons.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 226

"...I lie on the ground, face down in the carpet, penitent with thankfulness for a life undeserved, for beauty and happiness unmerited, grateful for the stars and the starlings, for the grass and the leaves and the bound-up bales of love I've been given..." (N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl)

Thanking God this week for...

2304. phone conversations with my mom
2305. Jude finally eating scrambled eggs
2306. leftovers remade into something more appealing
2307. finally connecting with a neighbor for a walk on a gorgeous day
2308. the joy and peace she exudes in spite of her circumstances

2309. free pizza from Papa John's
2310. bright and beautiful moon
2311. footie PJs
2312. Elijah spinning in circles trying to get his other arm in his footie PJs
2313. bright yellow gingko trees

2314. the crunch of dry leaves underfoot
2315. the beauty and variety I saw on Thursday when I paid attention
2316. star-shaped sweet gum leaves
2317. Elijah using kind words, displaying patience
2318. the smell of homemade granola

2319. Jude's fake sympathy cough anytime someone coughs, sneezes or clears their throat
2320. Elijah wanting to wear sunglasses because his 12-year-old friend is wearing them
2321. the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge downtown
2322. time to sit and read while nursing
2323. seventeen pounds of turkey smoked and pulled, eaten and frozen

2324. homegrown lettuce from a friend
2325. Elijah's Sunday school teacher
2326. pumpkin pie cake
2327. a backrub from my sweet husband
2328. dishes and kitchen tools from my grandma, constantly reminding me of her

2329. 70-degree weather, short sleeves in mid-November
2330. encouraging, challenging, convicting words on motherhood from Ann Voskamp
2331. two children, and the holy ground I walk on every day at home as I raise them
2332. the opportunity to learn to lay down my life for these boys
2333. the Lamb of God who laid down His life for me

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Old Photographs

Sometimes the world of digital photography blows my mind. Recently I was looking at old photos of my ancestors, and I was thinking about how crazy the developments of photography have been over the last 150 years. A photograph of my great-great-grandmother was a rare and precious thing. I mean, these were people who could count on one hand the number of times they'd had their portrait taken in their entire life. And then you have my boys: in four years, I have taken literally THOUSANDS of pictures of Elijah. 

I had to laugh when I imagined having an iPhone camera and explaining it to my great-great-grandmother: This is my telephone. It fits in my pocket. It also has a typewriter and a camera all rolled up inside. With no wires attached. I'll use it to take your picture, and not only will you be able to see it immediately, but I'll also post it on an imaginary wall where people around the world will be able to see it instantly. 

I mean, seriously?

Anyway. I use Picasa for most of my photo organizing and editing, and one of the things I love about it is the ease of scrolling through and looking at old photos. ("Old" here meaning within the last five years, rather than 150 years ago.) No pulling photo albums off dusty shelves, searching for the right book or flipping pages to find the right age. With just a few clicks, I can easily find Elijah at exactly 13 months, or 2.5 years. I do need to be better about printing and preserving photos, but I do love having them all on the computer at my fingertips. 

So this week's Sunday cuteness is a photo of Jude at 12 months with the giant lion, and a photo of Elijah from around the same age. Steve and I were amazed when we scrolled through some fall 2008 pictures the other night and saw how much Elijah has changed--in many of the pictures, he hardly looks like the same kid. It makes me really curious to know what Jude will look like down the road. 

Jude and the Lion, 12 months - this was one of my favorite 12-month outfits, and Jude wore it exactly once, for this photo. He's so much bigger than Elijah was that he started out this fall already too big for a lot of our cute 12-month winter clothes. 

Elijah, around 13 months. This was one of my favorite pictures of him that month. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surfin' Saturday ~ 11.12.11

Because God Really Knows How to Meet Needs ~ A Holy Experience
When You Are in Desperate Need of Hope ~ A Holy Experience
Ann Voskamp's posts from her Compassion International trip to Ecuador have brought me to tears twice this week. Just beautiful. I really love and believe in the ministry of Compassion, and I think these blogger trips they do are quite amazing. The level of transparency they exhibit really impresses me. If you're not familiar with Compassion and/or don't currently sponsor a child, I'd especially encourage you to check out Ann's posts and explore the possibility of participating in God's grace and generosity to those in need.
[see also: Is Compassion International a Good Investment? - a post from June's blogger trip to the Philippines]

Our Local Occupy Protest ~ That Lady with All of Those Kids
Just made me laugh :)

Food Blog Search
This looks like a neat tool: a custom Google search engine that pulls search results from a couple of thousand hand-selected food blogs, so you can find tested and proven recipes from trusted foodies rather than crossing your fingers that whatever regular Google turns up will be amazing.

Why Read Books? For People. ~ GospelLife
A thoughtful and helpful exhortation to think about *why* I read: "Reading the Great Books opens a window into the minds, hearts, and souls of people. Great literature opens our eyes to the emotions, motivations, and values of people. By understanding people better, we are better able to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to people’s lives."

Samira & Daniel: Hitched!
Just for fun--if you like photography and/or weddings, you'll enjoy checking out the photos from the recent wedding of one of my college suitemates. She looks like a movie star, and the photography is just gorgeous. Incidentally, Samira also has her own calligraphy business, and her work will blow your mind.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 11.11.11

To end the week, a little Simple Woman's Daybook...

Outside my window...
sinking autumn sun (I love the angle of late-afternoon autumn sunlight!), mostly-bare trees. It's been a crisp but gorgeous day--perfect for this morning's outing to the Veterans' Day parade!

I am thinking...
that this quiet afternoon is an unexpected blessing--with not getting home from downtown until after 3:00, I didn't think there was any way I'd get Jude down for a nap!

I am thankful for...
the men and women who have sacrificed to give me freedoms I take for granted--for example, a friend of mine noted on Facebook today that she was thankful for "the freedom to choose how many children to have, how to have them, and what and how to teach them." Things I hadn't considered, but am glad about. I forget that others have made tremendous sacrifices so that I can live the way I do.

From the kitchen...
my house smells glorious because I have homemade granola in the dehydrator--haven't made any in ages and we LOVE that stuff. Earlier this week I did some experimental baking: Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream as well as Nutella filling and/or icing for some of them. It was a fun and delicious experiment :) Tonight and tomorrow are both just C.O.R.N., as Home-Ec 101 likes to call it (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)--we need to eat up the enchilada casserole I threw together as a way to salvage beef molé leftovers (I do not recommend that recipe, though I was proud of my improvised casserole based on a friend's idea), sloppy lentils (I do recommend that one) and/or the baked potato soup I made last night (my own combination of this new recipe and an old one of my mom's).

All day tomorrow we (okay, Steve) will be smoking a 17-pound turkey, which is currently sitting in brine in the fridge. Good times. Soon I hope to try out Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream and/or Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes. Frosting cupcakes is NOT my gift--they look rather sad and disgusting--but oh well if they taste yummy :) Ooh, just thought of one other recent new recipe--I can highly recommend Smitten Kitchen's red wine chocolate cake, after making it last Friday, and the whipped mascarpone topping is fantastic.

I am wearing...
jeans, this shirt in Tidal Teal Heather (got it last Christmas and love it--and wow I am a little link happy today!), socks. Need to go put on my slippers; my toes are cold.

I am creating...
a clean desk. I miraculously found a desk underneath the mountain of vaguely-desk-shaped clutter in our office last Friday, but I still haven't completely finished the job and dusted.

I am going...
to get off the computer and go try to tackle that kitchen as soon as I finish this blog post.

I am reading...
mostly just Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Baptism: Three Views. I recently finished and *adored* Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, and also enjoyed David Halberstam's Firehouse. I've been dipping into A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers a few times. And in the car or while I'm alone in the house doing mindless chores, I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I had absolutely no interest in the Harry Potter books until I read this Andrew Peterson article, and now I'm really enjoying the audiobooks (I'm about a third of the way through #2).

Bible-wise, I'm mostly still in 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, and Mark (using King's Cross as a sort of commentary).

I am hoping...
to celebrate Advent/Christmas in some really special and meaningful ways this year. More on that soon.

I am hearing...
popping noises on Elijah's monitor. I wish I knew what caused that. It's super annoying.

Around the house...
the kitchen is a disaster (see above). I've got some cleaning and decluttering to do before our friends come over on Sunday!

One of my favorite things...
Jude signing "nurse"--melt my heart! He doesn't always do it when he *wants* to nurse, except at bedtime. But often while he already is nursing, he'll sign "nurse" (we use the sign for "milk"--opening and closing your fist) and then grin at me.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
just a quiet Friday night/Saturday with my guys, playing catch-up around the house. Looking forward to having some friends over on Sunday night. Then Steve and I have a date to use a Pad Thai voucher from Living Social next week, yippee!

A picture thought I am sharing...
Elijah and me, standing on the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River. Elijah is obsessed with bridges, and this was the first time we'd ever explored this one downtown. A great end to our morning/afternoon watching the Veterans' Day parade and enjoying a picnic lunch at Riverfront Park! Not sure why E looks so angry in the photo--he was thrilled to be on the big bridge. Three and four are not very photogenic ages, in my experience :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ten on Ten: November 2011

I found out about the Ten on Ten photo project several months ago, and NaBloPoMo is finally giving me the motivation to give it a shot (ooh, bad pun...that one's for you, Zo). Founder Rebekah Gough explains:

I started the Ten on Ten project back in January of 2008. My amazing family had just given me my very own SLR for my 28th birthday. I had given birth to my second son (sixteen months after my first) and out of desperation to combat a horrible bought of post pardum depression I longed for a project to help me find beauty even when my world was so exhausting and hard with two little ones running around. 
The project has since grown to be a fun and interactive way for bloggers from all around the globe to document a snap shot of their lives too, once a month on the tenth taking a photo an hour for ten consecutive hours. Finding much life and beauty among the ordinary things of our day! 

Tonight is Date Night In for Steve and me, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get the second half of today uploaded and posted--but I thought I'd go ahead and take some time this afternoon to post my first few photos. It has been fun to keep my camera nearby all morning and pay closer attention to the beautiful ordinary all around me!

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to Me

Today marks the eighth anniversary of this blog. How is that even possible?

I created Lavender *Sparkles* back in 2003, as a college senior--probably when I was supposed to be writing a paper or studying for a test. I only knew about one friend who had a blog, but I loved reading it (he has long since stopped blogging, sadly). So I started my own on a whim. I didn't post again until nine months later, and those first few months of posting were...well, let's just say I've grown up a lot in eight years.

Anyway, here we are, and I still marvel at the idea that there actually are several of you who "read my random musings." Thanks for sticking with me through posting feasts and famines. Thanks for giving me your precious time and putting in your own two cents. Thanks for taking the time to encourage me and for saying my kids are cute. I often think of how I want my blog to be more than it is, but have not devoted the time or the discipline to making that happen. In the meantime, I'm grateful for an outlet to write when the urge does strike me, and for the readers who care about and respond to what I have to say.

I'm also taking nominations for a name change. I really don't like Lavender *Sparkles*, but as my favorite writing prof in college would tell you, I'm terrible at titles.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Photographic Evidence of the Awkwardness

T-minus 16 minutes and I don't have any drafts close enough to be able to finish them before midnight. So, for your daily laugh, I present to and Steve. in middle school--circa 1994.

I can't believe I am actually posting this...

Wow. I mean, what are you going to say besides, "Bless her heart." That is really a face only a mother could love.
Thank You, Lord, for contact lenses, and braces, and learning to do my hair (believe it or not this was actually GOOD hair...because this was post-growing-out-the-mullet...oh yes I did have a mullet). And thank You for giving Steve a growth spurt...

I can't just leave you with that one. OY. Here we are on our way to our senior prom: 

Unlike middle school, these were actually good times...but it's way more fun now, when Steve actually *knows* that I love him, and loves me back, and I'm not overanalyzing his every move and hyperventilating because prom is almost over and we haven't even gotten to have one single slow dance together... (I never did tell you that whole long story, did I?)

But oh, the days when those were my biggest problems :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 225

"...for gratitude to work, there must be one responsible--a Giver of gifts." (N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl)

This isn't just a "things that make me happy" list. I'm disciplining my eyes to run back up the sunbeam to the sun, to recognize the kindness and generosity and extravagant love of the Father who gives all good gifts, including...

2272. a friend's listening to the Spirit and letting Him convict me instead of pointing out what she saw
2273. the way He did, indeed, open my eyes to my sin
2274. the privilege of participating in 40 Days for Life
2275. a gorgeous day for a zoo visit
2276. crisp, sweet, juicy Cameo apples

2277. wrestling meerkats
2278. monkeys screeching, Elijah laughing hysterically
2279. Steve's help peeling, coring and slicing nearly a bushel of Mutsu apples for the freezer (to use on oatmeal pancakes)
2280. long-overdue chores finally finished
2281. eyes to see grace and a heart to celebrate it

2282. opportunities to point out to Elijah in the moment how God is providing grace
2283. Steve's commitment and loyalty to me
2284. Candy Cane Joe-Joes
2285. Elijah singing unrecognizable (made-up?) songs about Jesus
2286. desk unearthed from mountains of clutter

2287. my new once-every-two-weeks babysitter, and the hours she gave me on Friday to be productive without interruptions
2288. fabulous dinner and fun/conversation with friends
2289. Steve's early Saturday morning meetings with a friend
2290. carpooling
2291. reminders that my thoughts and plans are not God's

2292. His thwarting seeds of idolatry growing up in my heart
2293. a long-overdue catch-up phone call with an old friend
2294. the way Steve gets and loves the gospel
2295. the fact that our salvation is works-based: but based on Christ's works, not our own!
2296. a friend letting me borrow her Ergo at church when we left our carrier at home

2297. her graciousness when Jude peed all over it
2298. the humbling experience of realizing we were supposed to have cleanup duty last week but skipped out
2299. children's picture book about autumn leaves
2300. gorgeous, gorgeous weather
2301. mosquitoes finally gone

2302. the motivation that NaBloPoMo provides
2303. YOU, for stopping by here regularly to see what I have to say

Sunday, November 06, 2011

My Favorite Guys

As I rest and enjoy family time today, I'll leave you with a couple of recent photos of my favorite guys:

Daddy and Elijah enjoying last month's trip to the pumpkin patch. That doggy hat was a library story hour freebie a couple of years ago and we've gotten SO much mileage out of it :)

Jude, moments before his first haircut. A sweet friend got rid of his baby mullet the day before he turned ONE (which I'll be posting about, with pictures, soon!).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Surfin' Saturday ~ 11.5.11

A little link love for the weekend--things I've recently bookmarked on Delicious:

Cultural Cliches ~ Femina
A little encouragement for a season in which I found myself lamenting to my husband just a few nights ago that nothing on my daily to-do list is critical/urgent...

New Studies Prove that Replacing Mom Jeans Can Result in Surgery-Free Liposuction
Hilarious and enlightening. Are you wearing Mom Jeans? Do you have the dreaded Long Butt? Check out this fashion guide complete with helpful photos!

Our New and Exalted Identity ~ Tullian Tchividjian
"If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: Who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not your sin. As my friend Justin Buzzard recently wrote, 'The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.'”

Stories are Soul Food: Don't Let Your Children Hunger ~ N.D. Wilson / Desiring God
After recently reading and LOVING Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, I'm definitely interested in reading more of N.D. Wilson's work. Here, he makes a compelling case for stories: "Christians believe that this world is so much more than a mechanical soulless machine. And yet, we tend to tell our children stories that (we hope) will only speak to their intellects. ...Kids (and adults) don’t just need the truth in their heads — they need it in their bones. They need to know what courage looks like and tastes like and smells like before they ever have to show it themselves. They need to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly — heroes and villains can show them why. They need to loathe the darkness and love the Light."

25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes
I've always felt intimidated by scarves. But now I'm feeling motivated to get one and try it out. Besides being super informative, this video is stunning in its creativity and execution! Watch it just to appreciate the talent even if you don't care about scarves :)

Friday, November 04, 2011


Browsing through my drafts folder, I found a half-finished meme from a year ago. Seems like the week for randomness--why not? Sunday Snippets on a Friday night, with questions courtesy of Zoanna.

1. What is one thing you really look forward to every day?
Steve walking in the door after a day of work. I love the excitement on Elijah's face and in Elijah's voice when Daddy comes home, the way he comes running to get a hug and a kiss. I love the way Jude hears the back door open and frantically crawls toward the kitchen, or throws himself backwards if he's in the baby carrier, writhing to get out and get in Daddy's arms. And I love getting a hug and a kiss myself :)

2. What is one of your good habits?
Giving thanks. Whoever got me started on "Thankful Thursdays" a few years ago did a beautiful thing...then Ann Voskamp has kicked it up a few notches, especially with inspiring me to keep a visual homemaking journal on my kitchen counter where I scribble lists of gifts throughout each day. Would you believe I am up to 8700 since I started counting a couple of years ago?!

3. What is one of your bad habits?
Picking at and chewing my cuticles. I just can't stop, no matter how many times I've tried. And now Elijah has picked it up--URGH!

4. How does your place in the birth order affect you, positively and negatively?
I'm the classic female firstborn, bossy and opinionated :P Which is in a lot of ways negative, but has also developed qualities in me like responsibility and leadership and such.

5. What is something you really admire about your best friend?
She adores her husband and is committed to only speaking well of him to others. I remember having conversations with her before we were married about how she hated to hear other women at beauty salons and various places having these man-bashing sessions and complaining about their husbands. She vowed that she wouldn't do that--and as far as I know, through eight years of marriage, she has kept that resolution. I love the way she respects and builds up her husband!

6. Do you prefer baking or cooking?
I really like both--which is in itself a huge testimony to the grace of God. Maybe baking best, just because I have such an incurable sweet tooth :)

7. What was the most embarrassing thing you've done lately?
While I was in Ohio spending time with my mom, we stopped at a gas station one morning to grab drinks. She stayed in the car and I ran inside. When I came out, distracted, I headed straight for the nearest car. It was similar in color and style to my mom's car...but when I opened the passenger door, I was greeted by a surprised old man who said, "Wrong car!" I was mortified as I apologized and hurried around to my mom's car parked right beside it. My mom was laughing so hard she was crying.

8. What is one thing you'd like to accomplish in the next year?
Plan and execute a women's retreat for the beautiful ladies at our church. With help, of course--in fact, our planning committee is meeting tomorrow afternoon.

9. What is something you'll pay "good money" for?
A baby carrier. I don't know how any parent survives without babywearing--and a GOOD carrier makes all the difference. The one that gets the most use at our house these days (Jude is on my back daily, sometimes multiple times a day if he's particularly cranky) is the Boba.

10. What was something that made you laugh today?
Elijah, talking with Daddy in the car on the way home from hanging out with friends tonight: "Daddy, you can sleep at my house."
Steve: "No, actually you get to sleep at my house."
Elijah: "Um, actuawy, it's mines house."

Thursday, November 03, 2011


For the longest time, whenever I imagined the spiritual metaphor of climbing a mountain, I always pictured someone headed straight up the steep side. But it was pointed out to me a few years ago that no one ever climbs a mountain that way. I can't even climb the little hill across the street that way! Whether you're driving or hiking or however you intend to ascend, if it's steep at all, you always have to use switchbacks. Sometimes they're circles around and around the mountain, slowly rising. Othertimes it's just back and forth, back and forth, gradually up one side.

This makes me feel a little better when I think about how many times in life I have felt like I'm going in circles. I've been here before; I've learned this lesson in the past, just apparently not well enough. Here we are again, the same struggles over and over and over... But the reality is, it's not *quite* the same lesson I learned before. My elevation is a little bit higher; I'm a little bit closer to the summit--just following the switchback, coming to the same spot at a slightly higher level.

I so often feel discouraged when I think about how long I have failed in the same ways, how many times I have been defeated by the same sins. I look over the last four years of motherhood especially and feel like I haven't changed at all--my heart is still just as ugly as it was revealed to be at the very beginning of this journey.

But a few experiences just in the last few weeks have encouraged me: I *have* grown. If I take the long view, oh so much has changed. I am not the same person I was in middle school or high school. God has done SO much work in me even since college. The climb is slow and arduous, more sideways than vertical. I stumble and lose ground, yes. But I'm fighting to trust that we are indeed climbing. And the God who launched me on this journey and walks beside me has promised that we will, without a doubt, reach the top one day.

[edited repost from the archives]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On Surviving Middle School

I'm kicking off NaBloPoMo with a really different kind of post, for me...brought to you by This American Life (one of my very favorite podcasts) and my blog-friend Zoanna, who requested memoir writing this month. This week's TAL episode was "Middle School," and listening to it this morning took me right back to the nightmare that was junior high. So, I have no idea where this will end up, but here goes a little stream-of-consciousness reminiscing about my middle school years...

Sixth, seventh and eighth grades were among the worst years of my life thus far. Can I get an amen? It began with drama, drama, drama among my little group of friends (we were often referred to as the "preps"--though I never could get anyone to explain to me what that meant exactly). My BFF since second or third grade suddenly decided she really didn't like me or most of the other girls in our group anymore, so there was this huge split, with her and a couple of girls who made the cut on one side, and me and the others left bewildered, wondering what we'd done or why she found us so unbearable. OY, the drama.

Slumber parties were a big source of entertainment and drama in these years...I have vivid memories of "slam books" and fights and people getting their feelings hurt, of trying and failing to stay up all night long, of Truth or Dare and freezing each other's underwear, of scaring ourselves silly doing things we had no business doing...

Things on the girlfriends front kind of calmed down through seventh grade, as far as I can remember. Then in eighth grade I experienced a whole new level of betrayal: I'd patched things up with my BFF (it seemed we were always on-again, off-again, and it was always her who was pulling back--maybe I was smothering?), and I'd also gotten close to a new girl over the summer who was a year younger but lived in my neighborhood and played on my softball team. During volleyball season that fall--one particular bus ride home stands out in my memory--the two of them suddenly decided that *they* were best friends. And I was OUT. I never did understand what happened or why, but the pain of that loneliness went deep.

Oh, the awkwardness...the angst-y journal entries...the is a wonder any of us come through junior high unscathed. Thankfully for me, high school was a MAJOR turning point. Life changed significantly for the better once I got to choose my friends more and hang out with kids in other (older) grades. Everyone kind of settled down, grew up, and spread out in high school, and though there was still plenty of awkwardness and angst, I have many happy memories of high school. (And, I'm glad to say, though my elementary and middle school BFF and I sort of drifted apart peacefully through high school, we ended up reconnecting in a really fun creative writing class during our senior year, and saying goodbye on a sweet note.)

I had a random but enlightening realization about all the junior high dating stuff just recently: It occurred to me that the two girls from my class who were always the most popular with the boys, the ones whom every guy in our class liked, the ones who hopped from "relationship" to "relationship" (because what does "we're going out" really mean when you're twelve?!) all through middle school--they are the only two girls who aren't married now, at (almost) 30. Don't get me wrong--they have both been successful and have fulfilling, even exciting lives. I'm not at all implying that they should be pitied or that they're sitting around wishing they were married. But I find it highly ironic nonetheless.

My identity throughout middle school was so wrapped up in all the boy-girl stuff. None of the boys ever liked me, except a couple whose attentions I found embarrassing or appalling (I am sure I did my share of *being* the cruel kid, so anxious to be popular and not ostracized that I was willing to do the ostracizing at times). I was frequently teased about my acne; I towered over all the pre-pubescent boys; I was too smart for my own good. So although I mostly maintained a position (if somewhat precarious) in the popular crowd, it was not a popularity with the opposite sex. My love life was a crash-and-burn disaster before it ever got off the ground. I harbored secret crushes on various boys and felt so much self-hatred, equal parts "why don't any of the boys like me?" and "it's obvious why none of the boys would ever want to go with me."

So I sit here at 29, married to the handsomest guy from our class, who is also incredibly smart and successful and awesome (and who was, incidentally, also a pretty big nerd with no love life in middle school)...and I just want shout to every boy-crazy, self-loathing, anxious junior high girl I've ever met: Your self worth does not depend on whether these stupid tween boys want to "date" you! None of this drama, none of your singleness now, has any bearing on your future happiness or your chances for love! In fact you are much better off being spared the heartache and potential life-changing snares of getting wrapped up in relationships at this stage of your life!

The junior high kids were my favorite age the two summers I was a camp counselor--I vastly preferred them to the too-cool high school girls--and I tried to tell them these things. Their boy-craziness drove *me* crazy. I don't think they really heard me.

Anyway. It's past my bedtime and I've rambled long enough about junior high. I'm not sure this will be interesting to anyone but Zo, but for lack of anything else to post tonight and a desire for sleep, there you have it :) Maybe for your enjoyment later this month, I will dig up some embarrassing photos and/or post some circa-1994 journal excerpts, a la Cringe.