hello, again

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hello, dear old friends. ūüôā

I’m so sorry for my unannounced absence in this space. ¬†I haven’t posted in a bit over a month, the longest this blog has ever been silent I do believe. ¬†As I shared on my instagram account, there have been some personal things going on that have been difficult and discouraging, and I haven’t felt much like myself.

I also wanted to step away from social media for a few weeks, at least the producing of content side of it, and see what it did for my soul. ¬†I guess I’ve needed to sift why I keep this blog, what my hopes and intentions are. ¬†As a busy mother, it is hard to justify what feels like the extravagant wastefulness of keeping a blog, knitting, reading, editing pictures, etc. etc. ¬†I often hear from other mother friends “I don’t know how you have time to x y z..” and maybe in part because of the other personal hardships we’ve been facing these last number of weeks, I wasn’t sure that I did in fact have time for it. ¬†My home is seemingly always in varying states of disarray, there’s always work I must neglect in order to pursue creative endeavors. ¬†I often feel guilty because of that. ¬†I wondered if I’ve said everything I’ve needed to say, if I’ve begun to just take the same photos again and again.

Anyway, I can’t go into it all now because I only have a few minutes to write here today. ¬†What I can say is that I thought it would be harder to go without sharing and posting much. ¬†It wasn’t actually very hard at all. ¬†In fact, it felt surprisingly good to be silent and private. ¬†What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would miss taking photos and keeping a record of our daily moments. ¬†I did keep up with taking pictures here and there, but I was mostly just still and quiet. ¬†It made me sad, and that surprised me. ¬†Keeping the blog somehow helps me stay present and awake to my own life. ¬†It helps me pay attention and keep a record. ¬†It brings focus and a bit of purpose. ¬†It forces me to process, in a way. ¬†I don’t know all of the reasons why I feel compelled to keep on, and I don’t know that I will forever, but for now, I’m back and it feels good.

I’ve missed you, too, reader, and hope you know that I do so enjoy connecting with you and hearing from you.

So while my soul was feeling the very heavy weight of grieving some losses, winter gave way to spring in our little part of the world. ¬†I noticed it more intently this year than I have ever before in my life. ¬†Every day I have walked around our home, looking for the bulbs we planted last fall to sprout and bloom. ¬†They have! ¬†I can’t quite express the ministry it is to the soul to watch green things come out of the ground, but I know many of you know just what I mean. ¬†I’ve also planted new things in the soil. ¬†During the last few weeks I’ve had some time convalescing and haven’t been able to do my usual physical labor, so Brandon faithfully prepped the garden soil, tilling in our compost from the last year, while I sat near him knitting in the sun. ¬†We’re making better walkways between rows this year in a hope to minimize weeding. ¬†We’ve planted strawberry plants and more asparagus, even as daily there are shoots of asparagus popping up from what we planted last year. ¬†We’ve planted lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, edible flowers, beets and sunflowers all from seed and are hopeful that we will see them sprouting soon. ¬†It has been so lovely spending time each day out in the sunshine, enjoying the cool mornings and warm afternoons before it is unbearably hot and buggy.

The kids and I are all feeling the itch to wrap up our school year. ¬†Our homeschool co-op finished up this week, and we have about 5 weeks of curriculum to finish up before we break for summer. ¬†We’ve done some fun simple field trips, like visiting the Biltmore House (local to us historic home) to see the horses and animals and gardens. ¬†We have a field trip to a museum later this week and hopefully a couple little getaways are in our near future as well.

I hope that spring has come your way, too, and that you are experiencing the ministry of new green things, sunshine, honeysuckle and lilac on the breeze, buzzing bees. ¬†Sending much love to you today. ‚̧

on birthdays and finding joy

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My birthday last week was a fairly ordinary “workday” for me, and also not the easiest day with the children. ¬†I found myself scrubbing toilets and floors, folding laundry, settling sibling disputes, feeding hungry mouths–all the usual work that fills my days up to the brim. ¬†Of course there is a part of me that wants to just rest and be free from all work for a day (unrealistic), but then I also don’t mind taking care of these little ones that I love so much and this home that keeps us all together. ¬†I share my birthday with my mom, so my gift to her this year was to buy a few skeins of yarn for her to choose from so that I could knit her a shawl. ¬†She picked the color I had had on my mind for her, a rustic-y soft light red called Bergamot, and helped pick out a shawl pattern. ¬†I wanted to wind up her yarn on our birthday and cast on. ¬†I realized as I began knitting it that I was knitting this exact pattern just about this time last year on a road trip to upstate New York with Brandon’s family as a commissioned shawl for a friend. ¬†How funny and coincidental to be knitting it again at the same time a year later. ¬†It’s such an enjoyable pattern–all knitting and yarn overs and no purling!

I had planned on making a yummy dinner for my birthday since Brandon would be working a normal work-day and since we never really eat out with Phoebe and her dietary needs. ¬†I wanted to make Against the Grain’s Pesto Prosciutto Chicken with a GF pasta on the side, and creme br√Ľl√©e for dessert, which is my favorite. ¬†The dinner took longer than I expected and once I got it in the oven, the kids and I and Brandon decided to go for a walk while it baked. ¬†It had been raining and we had felt a bit cooped up. ¬†The kids splashed in all sorts of muddy puddles so B bathed them quickly when we got home while I finished up dinner and it was late and nerves were a bit raw by this time. ¬†My dinner didn’t look at all like the lovely cookbook’s pictures, which is always annoying, but it was still delicious. ¬†I had made a creme br√Ľl√©e earlier in the afternoon and infused it with culinary lavender because I love love love lavender especially in desserts.

We lit candles and I turned on french music because somehow everything felt like a french sort of dinner, and we ate at nearly 8pm. ¬†I had some cards to open, and then B put the finishing touches on the creme br√Ľl√©e, the kids sang happy birthday to me which was the best part. ¬†The fuzzy photo of me with phoebe is the only such picture I snagged on this day, but its worth including since this is me, turning 33.

I had received word in the afternoon that Brandon’s grandfather had died. ¬†He had been in the hospital after some falls and other health issues so we knew it was coming, but it still felt so soon. ¬†Sadly we weren’t very close with him, but it’s still surreal and strange to consider death on your birthday. ¬†Probably quite healthy. ¬†Really that’s what we’re all marking–here’s another year, gone. ¬†Another year comes–bringing me closer to my own end. ¬†Time is passing, time is coming. ¬†Let’s stop and celebrate and remember and pay attention.

We quickly got the kids to bed, then got cozy for a movie of my pick. ¬†We watched “Florence Foster Jenkins” which was so interesting and funny and also a little sad (based on a true story). ¬†I cried and cried at the end. ¬†I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who may want to see it, but I will say I commiserated with the protagonist (Meryl Streep). ¬†She loved music and in her mind she had a beautiful singing voice, but in reality her voice was terrible. ¬†She pursues singing and her husband tries desperately to protect her from the truth of her real performance. ¬†It makes you wonder: Is this reality that we know of ourselves the reality others know of us? ¬†Aren’t so many of us afraid that maybe everyone is really laughing at us and about us behind our backs? ¬†What if we are really quite terrible at the things we think we’re good at, at the things we most love?

I’m sure it was the combination of watching that movie, it being my birthday, and also processing the news of Brandon’s grandpa’s death. ¬†It made me think and wrestle a bit with life, with the things I love and spend time on, with my role as a stay-at-home mother. ¬†I sometimes wrestle with this blog. ¬†I don’t know why, it seems so silly in the light of day. ¬†I love sharing our little life here. ¬†It helps me keep track of things, our lives little record for now. ¬†I’m not sure if I’ll do it forever. ¬†It’s important to reevaluate frequently what I give myself to. ¬†I enjoy taking pictures and capturing these fleeting moments. ¬†I’m thankful to have a space to write and share with you whatever God seems to lay on my heart. ¬†I’m not trying to “make it big” or be somebody, I’m not making an income doing this. ¬†I don’t mind it being mostly small and personal and shared with those few who happen to find this place on the internet and with whomever it resonates. ¬†I leave it to God to use it as He chooses. ¬†But then sometimes I doubt myself. ¬†Are my motives wrong, self-serving? ¬†Is this a huge waste of time and a distraction? ¬†Is it too personal to share our family life so openly in such a dangerous and dark world? ¬†My blogging has brought occasional criticism, but mostly I feel it from my own inner critic. ¬†Brandon is relentless in support of it, which is always so odd to me because he is so anti social-media-anything. ¬†Anyway, for whatever reason this is where my mind went after watching that movie. ¬†Wrestling with the silliness of my spending time photographing, knitting, writing words, creating. ¬†Who has time for all of this when you have little ones and when the world is full of pain and need? ¬†Am I spending my life on what really matters? ¬†Are my little endeavors to bring beauty and joy and even occasionally to write words–are these small endeavors mattering?

I crawled into bed and picked up my book and opened to these words. ¬†(The author was sharing about finding a little resale boutique in her neighborhood, a beautiful little gem and yet she went in and found herself to be the only customer. ¬†She imagined being the store owner, the way the woman had attractively laid out her wares, rearranging and bravely taking a risk to run this little business that wasn’t really garnering that much attention. ¬†She wondered if the woman got discouraged on the days when there was no business. ¬†What makes her think things will work out? ¬†Why does she return to it day after day?):

“She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can’t not do it. ¬†She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion. ¬†Because its not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, ‘I’m so glad you’re here! ¬†I’ve been waiting for you to sell secondhand clothes in this space all of my life!’ ¬†It’s not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through those moments of sheer panic. ¬†I’m also pretty certain people aren’t stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she’s vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.

This is what I’m getting at: joy isn’t in the response of others based on what we do. ¬†Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do. ¬†Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in his honor. ¬†We serve for the smile on his face.

And joy begets joy. ¬†When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy. ¬†Artists appreciate another’s art, joy is derived from another’s joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another’s passion.

So whatever you’re doing–homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, coaching, putting words out into the world, or yes, running a small boutique–do it with joy as unto the Lord. ¬†Don’t look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you’re on the right track. ¬†Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world. ¬†He is smiling as you do what you do for him.

There is no mold, no one right way of showing Jesus, for where the Spirit is, there is freedom. ¬†He has made us each different, combining us all to make a collage, a collage that when you step back and look you suddenly see: it’s Jesus!

Different mediums.
Different brushes.
Different strokes for reaching different folks.
You there, with your unique talents, passions, and gifts.
Go in freedom.
Tell them about Jesus with your life.
Do it with grace and tangerine joy.”

-Christine Hoover, From Good to Grace

Isn’t that so sweet of God, to speak right to what I was struggling with at the long end of the day? ¬†He affirmed me, affirmed His love for me, affirmed my freedom in Him, affirmed His smile over me. ¬†What more could you ask for on a birthday? ¬†I hope you are encouraged, too, dear reader. ¬†Whatever you do, do it for Him, do it as unto Him, do it with joy and gusto and don’t worry about the response or affirmation or notice of others. ¬† Take risks. ¬†Live boldly. ¬†Be brave. ¬†Be a pioneer. ¬†Follow where He leads. ¬†When we get our eyes off of Him we get into all sorts of trouble, don’t we? ¬†It’s His good-pleasure over us that we’re after, it’s His approval alone that matters.

At the end of the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, after criticism about her singing voice, Florence on her deathbed said: ¬†“They can say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

So, sing, friend.  You go on singing, and I will too.  His ear is tuned to hear our voice.

 

 

 

leaves like a quilt

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Can it really be the last day of October? ¬†I don’t want to see it go. ¬†I have barely posted this month, besides my faithful yarn along posts, which is probably more interesting to me than to most of my readers. ¬†Dear reader, I’m sorry!

My little corner of the world has been spinning rather wildly, and this month has been busy. ¬†The first two weeks of it, my older brother was in town with his son, and I tried to squeeze in as much time with them as I could. ¬†The kids and I have been outside as much as we can be. ¬†They’ve started this new rhythm since the weather has cooled and the mosquitoes have died down, running to play outside as soon as they are done breakfast until Phoebe and I start school. ¬†They are out most of the rest of the day if we are home. ¬†Phoebe and Noah and I have been reading Island of the Blue Dolphins for our chapter book, which has inspired much of their play. ¬†Coincidentally, someone gave us a tee-pee also, so Phoebe has been busy playing that she is Karana gathering abalones and watching out for the Aleuts.

I just can’t get enough of the color and the beauty of this season. ¬†During a walk one day to our neighborhood park, Phoebe exclaimed: “the leaves are like a quilt!” ¬†I’m so thankful for the perspective of a child! ¬†School has been going so well with Phoebe, I really love doing it. ¬†It is taking up a decent amount of my time and energy, thus my lack of blogging this month. ¬† We really love Phoebe’s co-op as well, the community we are all finding there, and I’m always amazed at how much she¬†is learning and retaining. ¬†She has started a bit of music theory and learning to play a tin whistle, which she loves. ¬†Brandon and I are beginning to talk about Christimas/birthday gifts for them, as their birthdays are quickly approaching. ¬†I’m knitting each of them a sweater, which I really think I will feasibly have done in time. ¬†We’ve talked about giving each of them a musical instrument as well for their birthdays. ¬†Noah is dying for a drum, Phoebe has wanted a violin for some time. ¬†But we are still undecided.

We continue to hope for more improvement in Phoebe’s health, her diet, her growth, her eating habits. ¬†This month has been hard for me in that department. ¬†I realize my frailty, my weariness, my weakness. ¬†The pastor at our church yesterday was speaking about running the race (of faith) with endurance, and that part of what gives us strength for the race is the hope of Heaven. ¬†I was thinking about how my heart hurts and gets weary over this journey with Phoebe, and realized yes, this is part of it. ¬†This is not something that seems to be resolving easily with her, or quickly, and we wear out. ¬†We long for an end in sight, something we can fix our eyes on and run toward. ¬†Yet this is more ambiguous, uncertain. ¬†Our medical team is beginning to recommend more testing. ¬†She will go to Brenner ¬†Children’s Hospital in Wake Forest next month to see a pediatric specialist in Celiacs. ¬†I’m hopeful that we will have more help from there, steps we can take, things we can try, something.

We can’t trick-or-treat and don’t want to deal with having to rifle through the kids candy and pull out what isn’t gluten-free. ¬†I’ve just planned some simple and fun activities for us here at home, and found candy and chocolate that the kids can have from a local health store. ¬†We carved our pumpkin over the weekend and maybe will let the kids dress up and just walk around our quiet, mostly-old-folks neighborhood.

Anyway, so thats a bit of what our October was like, the best month of the year, and why I have been pretty absent in the blogosphere.  I want to not miss these days, these moments.  I want to capture it all, to write it down, to hang onto the glory of these days, each falling like golden leaves, slipping to the ground.  Now, behind us, underfoot, all stretched out like a mosaic, like a quilt.

stay with the music–words will come in time

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I have been blogging less because I have been writing less. ¬†My life has been busier, my time feels squeezed straight out, and so my heart and soul have been busier too. ¬†I don’t do well with this. ¬†It isn’t how I was made to operate. ¬†I do well with a lot of silence, a lot of hearing the wind’s gentle whisper in the tops of the pines. ¬†I do well with long stretches of study, reading, journaling. ¬†I do well with sufficient sleep. ¬†I do well when I have “filled the well,” so to speak, and the words tumble out of the overflow.

This season is gloriously full. ¬†This season has days that begin at 6 am with one daughter’s voice in the baby monitor saying, “That’s mine, Bee-bee!” ¬†It has days that begin with missed alarms, beds that have been wet again. ¬†Bills that are past due. ¬†Phone calls that must be made, laundry that piles, schooling that must be attended to. ¬†This season is a string of flight from one activity to the next, keeping the plate in the air that is just about to crash. ¬†Most days now I feel dizzy.

I wasn’t made to do this kind of thing well. ¬†It is a stretch for me, a place of deep dependency on a good and all-knowing Father to give me the strength and energy to keep from drowning. ¬†My soul gets buried in the heap and pile of duty and need and serving. ¬†It’s both okay and not okay. ¬†It’s life. ¬†I wouldn’t trade away these kids for a well-watered¬†soul¬†any day, but I send longing eyes to the heavens sometimes, like a wife to her lover.

There are all these words.  

There is all this pain.  

There is so much fear.  

There is such deep joy.

How can it all coexist here, in this frail flesh and blood? ¬†It’s as much a mystery to me as the commingling of Holy Spirit with my common man, bound up somehow in my person. ¬†What a strong God to constrain Himself, to bend low like this to me.

But the words are buried and the emotions need time to sift and process and simmer. ¬†They feel far away, on some distant shore while I’m carried away on the current. ¬†And I mourn. ¬†I fear¬†that maybe this fruitlessness means that nothing is happening internally. ¬†I wonder if¬†I am valuable to God only when I am producing. ¬†I fear¬†that maybe my voice will just fall silent.

I don’t know how to find my way back to my own heart, to the shape of my own soul. ¬†But I have learned: trace the old roads, the familiar paths. ¬†Go back to the simplest of truths and the ways that have found me before. ¬†Put aside needless distractions. ¬†Remember the rock from which you are hewn. ¬†Walk trails from a different season. ¬†Return to books that knew me and opened me before. ¬†Be content with the haunting quiet. ¬†Be content with simply being held and loved. ¬†Allow myself to accept the fact that He loves me simply because I am His, not because of what I have to offer Him. ¬†Settle deep into His words. ¬†Experience Him here, in barren lands. ¬†Remember: seeds germinate in darkness.

So I snap moments and I know they are important but I don’t know why. ¬†I know there is an undercurrent below the surface. ¬†I find things that remind me of who I am: ¬†Walking the trail I used to walk in my college days, back when my soul was near full to bursting with words from God, words from theological books, words words words, filling up so much silence. ¬†Climbing an old forgotten favorite trail with my two best girlfriends late at¬†night in the gathering dark, sitting under stars cupping steaming mugs and sharing hearts in a small circle of light. ¬†These scattered seeds, these heavy moments, weighty, full, quiet, their meaning and importance somehow deep, surely there, but out of¬†my reach.

And this poem by Malcolm Guite, poet + priest, opened up something in my soul this weekend.  Something in me sings with it.  Tears brim.  Call nothing common.  Accept it all for good.  And so I am here, singing from this place, exactly where I am.

Singing Bowl
Begin the song exactly where you are
Remain within the world of which you’re made
Call nothing common in the earth or air
Accept it all and let it be for good
Start with the very breath you breathe in now
This moment’s past, this rhythm in your blood
And listen to it
Ringing
Soft and light
Stay with the music
Words will come in time
Slow down your breathing
Keep it deep and slow
Become an open singing bowl
Whose chime is richness rising out of emptiness
And timelessness resounding into time
And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.

Quiet

Fall-entryway

Hey faithful readers!

This little blog has been and will be a bit quiet this week due to some unexpected computer problems (always the best, right?!). ¬†I’ll be posting beach pics and a contribution to a friend’s blog as soon as we get our desktop back from the apple shop! ¬†As always, thanks so much for reading along here + for your patience! ¬†Happy weekending!