Come to the Family Table


If you’ve been around my blog for any time at all or know me in real life, you know I value the table and the ministry of good food.  In fact, I have dedicated a portion of this blog to “the table” (see sidebar).  As a busy mother of three little ones ages 5 and under, meal time can easily be hectic, loud, and disconnected.  My home often seems too shabby or dirty to invite others into.  In our culture addicted to “busy” and “hustle,” meal time can essentially be nonexistent, with family’s running through drive-throughs and inhaling food as they race from one commitment to another.  Even in the Christian culture, I wonder if meal time and gathering  in one another’s homes has become sort of a lost art, a lost way of communing together, seen maybe as less valuable than serving in our local church.  Have we forgotten how often Jesus met with others around a table spread with food?  How often hearts were opened around a table?  That is what drew me to Ted and Amy Cunningham’s book, Come to the Family Tablemy own hunger to reconnect with a very simple and seemingly lost ministry.

The message is Jesus, and the tool is the table.  The table is still the place where we bring uncommon people together.  God uses the home and our table to bring different backgrounds together, whether rich or poor, conservative or liberal, regardless of religion or past or present.  We are all about inviting people to church, but what about inviting people into our homes?  Around the dinner table walls come down.  This is the beauty of hospitality.  God can use you and your home.  (Cunningham, Come to the Family Table)

The book is organized into two main sections.  The first five chapters make up part I of the book, which centers around “the family table is for us.”  These chapters lay the biblical foundation for savoring meals as a family around the table, practical tips on how to make meal time a priority, and even talk about developing a family constitution.  The last five chapters of the book make up part II, centering around the idea that “the family table is for others.”  The authors discuss hospitality, giving simple tips and also encouraging consideration that gathering around the table with others might be a powerful way to invest in the marriages and families of others.  Each chapter ends with a recipe, a game or conversation guide for meal time, as well as an appropriate devotional and prayer.

I loved the way the authors focused on the family table (even in a restaurant setting) as a way to first reach out to each other in our core family, but then also as a way to reach out to all of those around us.  Rather than seeing our time around the table as a chore to hurry through or a meaningless physical experience, authors Ted + Amy Cunningham redeem the table as a powerful tool for kingdom work and ministry.  Ultimately, they reveal that the family table is a way to savor and enjoy Jesus.  This book is full of tools, tips, recipes, games, conversation starters, ideas for hosting and ministering to hurting friends and loved ones, ways to include and value children at the table, and so forth.  The recipes include are simple and wholesome: blueberry lemon muffins, chicken soup, zucchini coconut bars, one-pot apple cider chicken bake, giant stuffed meatballs, sweet or savory crepes, to name a few.

This would be a great book for those longing to reclaim mealtime as a time to slow down and reconnect with each other.  This book would be a great help for newlyweds who are just beginning to think about opening up their home and practicing hospitality.  This book would be a fun and easy read for a husband and wife and a way to discuss dreams and goals for their home.  I also believe this book would be a great encouragement to families who feel they have little time to minister to others, a reminder that serving God truly can be as simple as a cool glass of water to a person in need given in Jesus’ name.  The Cunningham’s writing was light, helpful, humorous, welcoming, Christ-exalting, simple and yet packed with meaning.  I felt as if I had been invited to their family table.  I thoroughly enjoyed this quick read and will definitely be reflecting on it for some time to come.


Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.


ordering the home

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I heard this song last week while watching Shauna Niequist’s launch party for her book Present over Perfect that releases tomorrow.  I can’t stop singing it.  It made me cry because Brandon and I have been in the process of looking for our very first home.  We have been renters for 10 years and have saved a downpayment many times only to have to spend it on hospital bills, pregnancies, and obscene amounts of car trouble.  It has been a long and rocky road, requiring a ton of trust and patience in the Lord’s plan and timing.  I am probably more comfortable with waiting at this point than we are with moving forward.  It has become normal and it feels safer.

Our lease is up at the end of this month on this rental we’ve been in for the last two years, and our landlord is only willing to sign a six-month lease rather than going month-to-month, so we are back on a holding pattern somewhat, it seems.  I trust the Lord’s timing and am thankful that I don’t have to hurriedly pack up a house during this month meanwhile starting my very first year of homeschooling with Phoebe.  My sanity is thankful.  But my heart longs to have a place that I have the right to call home.  We’ve always lived in borrowed spaces and, as grateful as we are for our many many blessings, that does take its toll after so many years.

Anyway, I’m hoping I can sing these words over our new home one day soon.  Until then, we call this temporary place our home.  It teaches me time and again that my place here in this world is ultimately temporary and God is preparing for us a Home that will be everything our hearts have always been restless for.  The longing is piercing, but it isn’t bad to be reminded of the reality of the tension we live in.  We really were made for a better place, the paradise of His presence and His perfection, and our souls know our exile.

So it’s been on my heart to get our house in order.  Things tend to pile up and clutter when you have three little ones.  Mentally I need to quiet the home, declutter, take care of the piles gathering dust here and there, minimize and sell what we don’t need or use.  I want to carve out a small space in the home for schooling supplies to make a special little spot for Phoebe.

Phoebe and Noah have been sharing a room since Noah was 3 months old, and they have pretty much loved every minute of it.  Philippa has been in her own room.  For a long time, Phoebe and Noah have been party animals at night after lights are out, usually coming out to go to the bathroom a handful for times, plus giggling and jumping around out of their beds.  Noah seems to be the rabble rouser, and Phoebe, on the healing journey with an autoimmune disease, is the sleepier one who tends to drag during the day because of the late night shenanigans.  So we decided to separate them, putting Noah in his own big boy room for the first time, and moving Philippa into Phoebe’s room.  Noah and Philippa are little BFFs and if we put them together, they would only keep up the late night party pattern.  So, last week we moved beds and furniture around.  The kids thought it was great fun, and they’ve been sleeping well in this new arrangement.  Noah was a little scared the first night all on his own, but I think he was really proud of himself in the morning and I think as the second-born/middle child, it feels really special to have his own room.  We’re still working on moving decorations around and finishing up, which seems sort of silly if we may end up moving soon, but I’m feeling the need to get the house in order and organized as much as possible before school begins.  Everyone keeps telling me its only kindergarten and it is really no big deal, but I know it will be adding a sizable chunk to my weekly workload and I will feel more prepared going into it with house projects crossed off my list.

In an ideal world, at least.  😉  Everything is in disarray and disorder for now.  I try to make a few small goals a week toward this end, keeping up with all my usual weekly work keeping a home running, always working toward order, and learning to enjoy the inevitable chaos.


let the children play

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“There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that our children’s play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work.  We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.)… But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view.  Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”  -Charlotte Mason (quoted in For the Children’s Sake)

“There are many reasons why children have been reduced to a point where they don’t play with joy, initiative, and creativity.  Often so far as their personality is concerned they are wheelchair cripples, too disabled even for crutches.  Restorative actions means scheduling time, time which is not obviously “improving.”…Certain factors encourage play.  It is often easier home-based than institution-based.  There should be space, and lots of free time.  Children need to be outdoors (for hours).  They need to make noise, mess, and to have access to raw materials (old clothes for costumes, hats, tables to turn into camps, etc.).  They need privacy from intruding adults, but they need interested support in quarrels, thinking of another way around a problem, providing food, and, at the end, bringing the children tactfully back into the world where supper is ready, the camp has to be packed up, children are tired and ready for the soothing routine of evening stories.”
-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Our home days are my favorite days, “home days” meaning the days we aren’t running around doing errands, restocking our various shelves or visiting with friends.  We love all of that, too, but we always try to have some uninterrupted hours outside, too.  One rainy days, we go hunting for puddles and momma gears up mentally for a tub full of muddy, sodden boots and clothes for laundering.  There are things that matter far more than a perfectly tidy home.  I heard a quote on the radio this week that a perfectly tidy home is a sign of a life misspent.  Maybe I’m just comforting myself with those words, but it is a comfort.  Of course, I dream of a perfectly kept home, and there is a great value in a tidy and relatively neat home for providing structure, refuge, and sanity for the family.  But there are more important things at stake than a handful of stray crumbs, cheerios stuck to placemats, laundry heaped clean in a basket.  Children are growing up day by day.  They need affection, affirmation, encouragement.  They need eye contact.  They need to be unhurried.  They need spontaneity, curiosity, exploration, dirt and discovery.

And the reality is us adults need all of that, too.  Having children is a very good thing for us “grown ups.”  It is helping me to be a child again, to remember what a world full of wonder we live in.  It is bringing laughter and silliness again, where once maturity and sensibility was so prized.  It is teaching me, as C.S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in the dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that I am “finally old enough for fairy stories again.”  And I’m so glad.

I’m only learning, though, and often regress.  I’m thankful for these words from For the Children’s Sake, and find myself reminded that children are born learners.  Its often our systems and programming that bore them to death and teach them amiss that learning is a tiresome, bothersome endeavor.  The reality is that if we take them out into the natural world, which is so full to the brim with curiosities, beauty, ugliness, creativity, function, pain, and philosophy, they are sure to find things that spark their wonder, and we can stoke the embers of that wonder into flame.  We do that by getting down with them, exclaiming with wonder over their discoveries, asking questions and prompting their thought, finding books and videos that explore the matter further.

The geese on our nearby pond are nesting, and we just happened to check out a book from the library all about geese families.  We have been checking the geese every day if we can, whether walking to the lake, or hoping on our bikes after dinner in the dusky evening to see if any goslings have hatched.  I am learning wonder again, over things so small and things that didn’t matter much to me before.  I am learning to notice again, to wonder and to find ways to see the glory of God on display in these small and simple things He has seen fit to fill the world with.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.”

Romans 1:20

Roots + Sky // These are Still Planting Days


Nearly ten years ago we set up our first home together in a freshly-built basement studio apartment, newlyweds with barely a dime to our name.  After our first year of marriage, we followed the Lord’s leading out to Colorado and had quite an adventure, then followed His leading back to the quiet mountains of North Carolina.  We’ve moved a number of times since then, always from rental to rental, and we’ve experienced many financial set backs over the course of our marriage.  Today we are in a bigger home than that tiny studio apartment, and we have three children now, instead of two dogs, but we are still on borrowed ground.

We’ve always longed for a home of our own.  We’ve always dreamed about the day when we can put down roots.  This year we’ve been quietly dreaming and hoping we could possibly buy our first home.  We don’t know yet if God will open those doors for us and provide a place, and we are content with our sweet little rental in the meantime.  So it has been interesting reading Christie Purifoy’s book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons.  Of course this book would find its way into my hands as my heart aches with its own dream and hopes to find “home.”  I found myself so often in her words, my heart so often nodding its “yes.”

“Wandering taught me to desire rootedness.  In the wilderness, I began to long for a place where my heart and body could settle, free of striving, free of restlessness.  A place where my feet could touch ground.  A place where I could grow.  Like a tree.

I do not think this is my dream only.  Not everyone longs for life in the country.  Not everyone feels affection for old houses.  But whether we are homebodies or world travelers, we all long for the moment of arrival.  We all dream of the rest and peace we imagine waits for us at the end of a long journey.”  (Purifoy, 19)

Purifoy writes the story of Maplehurst, the name of their old brick farmhouse sitting at the end of maple-lined lane.  It is the story of their first year at “home” after years of “wandering in the wilderness,” as Purifoy calls it, the story of their homecoming and home-finding in those four unlikely walls.

“This is the story of my journey home.  This is the story of a kingdom come.  It begins with a full moon, the birth of a baby, and a September breeze that told us our years of wandering were finally at an end.”  (Purifoy, 14)

It begins in Autumn, with the joyous arrival and acquisition of this beautiful plot of land, a place to tend the soil, to cultivate the hearts and souls of the three children + baby on the way, a place to put down roots and reach out wide to neighbors.  It begins with the fulfillment of a dream and the anticipation of a new baby, born only weeks after moving in.  Autumn gives way to winter, and Purifoy beautifully weaves the story of their family into the story the seasons tell us.  Winter descended with both aching beauty and hardship, a barrenness that cried out for the thaw of spring.

“Gardens are born in winter.  Not only in fireside dreams, but also in the messy work of tending small pots on sunny windowsills.  And in the harsh work of planting early seeds in cold soil…

I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season.  These are still planting days.  These are the early days of small beginnings.  Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.” (Purifoy, 95, 96)

Winter gives way to Spring, to budding branches and budding relationships with neighbors finding their way through the gap in their split-rail fence.  Spring brings new life, both in the soil and in Purifoy’s own heart, tumbling into Summer’s bounty and abundance.

“The ache of winter and of early spring is the ache of exile.  The ache Adam and Eve knew so well.  Yet it was different once.  Adam and Eve knew what they had lost.  Their beautiful garden.  Their meeting place with God.  Their innocence.  It is not the same for us.  We are born into exile and must learn to recognize what we are missing.

It isn’t enough to know that we yearn for God.  Somewhere along the way we must also learn that creation is God’s good gift.  Its true identity is not the chaos and horror we observe on the nightly news.  We must learn how to walk with God on the ground of our own lives, how to meet with him in our kitchens and neighborhood sidewalks and backyards.  We must become acquainted with the righteousness Christ has made available again.  To recognize and release the nails of our sins.

Only then can we begin to receive the life that is to come, the world that is to come.  Our hunger is the exile’s hunger, but it is also the first step in our homecoming.  We hunger and in doing so learn the shape of our emptiness and the world’s great emptiness in order to prepare room for God’s presence.  We imagine we are cultivating food or friendship or beauty.  But we are, in all of these ways, cultivating God’s glory in our midst.  We spread our tables and fill our plates with glory.”  (Purifoy, 165-166)

More than just the story of finding “home” at Maplehurst, Purifoy teaches us about our longing for heaven, really, for our return to Eden.  She helps to uncover within us the haunt of exile and the longing for Home, showing that this desire is not just about buying a home or owning a plot of ground, but a desire for God’s kingdom come.  A desire to redeem the land, a desire to see God build His kingdom here, yes, even here on this broken sod.  This cursed ground that eagerly waits for the redemption of the sons of God, for its own redemption from corruption.  This terrestrial sod?  He will renew and restore it because what He makes is good, yes indeed, very good.

If you long for home, if you hunger for God’s kingdom come, if you love metaphor and looking for all the ways of God revealed in the moments and the things He has made, in the turning of seasons and the turning of hearts, you will so treasure this book.  Purifoy’s Maplehurst has stirred up my longing for my own “Maplehurst,” but not in a discontented or envious way.  It has reminded me that our longing for a place to cultivate and to redeem is a part of our makeup, a part of God’s design in us.  It is a good thing, a thing of glory.  It is kingdom work.

For my husband and I, and now our three children, these are still-wintry planting days.  These are still days of “farmhouse dreaming.”  These are days of finding home even in the unlikely and often impersonal soil of a borrowed house.  These days are still an important part of the journey Home, not to be missed or grumbled about.  These are days that stir up our anticipation and eagerness over what is to come.

“It is true that we do not yet possess an enduring home, but we are looking for it.  We are watching and waiting and straining to catch a glimpse of the coming of that which John saw: ‘The Holy City. . . coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2).  And I am beginning to see.  Perhaps because it is spring, or because we are still singing Easter hymns each Sunday, but I am beginning to see small glimpses of my forever home.”  (Purifoy, 150)

You can find more from Christie Purifoy on her blog here:,
or purchase a copy of her book and lose/find yourself at Maplehurst here:


Thanks to Revell Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

season of light

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Our week has been sort of slow, quiet, different.  We started off the week with a stomach bug which thankfully didn’t pass through the family as we thought it would, but it took a couple of days for Phoebe to be herself again.  And we’ve been battling a head cold.  And it rained for half the week.  So we have been pretty hunkered down.  As much as I hate battling sickness, it has given us some time to just be together and read books, snuggle, knit, watch movies, stay in our jammies.  In the midst of it, we’ve been observing Advent together, momma reading this book in the mornings in the early + dark quiet, bent over coffee.  Kids gather over this book in the evenings, freshly bathed and coloring ornaments to decorate the Jesse Tree as I read.  We’ve slowly been pulling out Christmas decorations, putting things here and there as we have time.  Phoebe made my bed for me this morning, and I snapped a picture of that simple grace.  In all its rumpled glory, it sings of her sweet spirit, her kindness and the quiet way she serves even at her young age.  I hope I can be more like her.

It’s been sweet, savoring this season of light so far.  Remembering our Savior, the hope of His birth, the way it proclaims the Gospel to us:  Jesus came, even in the midst of a very broken and fallen and evil world, a wicked generation.  He still came.  He didn’t just come to visit us, God visiting man, He came as one of us, God and man.  The hope in this!  The glory!  That He knows our frailty in an experiential way.  He knows our need.  Our weakness.  He offers Himself to us.  I pray for you and for myself this season that above all else we open our hearts and hands to receive Him.


a home weekend

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This weekend we had our first frost, and some of our coldest temps yet.  It was a “home” weekend for us, getting some projects taken care of here, like finally turning our empty raised garden bed into something useful for the kids: a sandbox.  (Unfortunately at this house we have no full sun in the yard and thus didn’t attempt a little garden plot this past summer.)  The little ones have really been into making mud pies lately, and we realized we don’t have a ton of things for them to do outside in the yard.  Part of me wants to say I believe that gives them more “scope for the imagination” (as Anne Shirley would say), but part of me knows that is just laziness/cheapness on our part.  We do want to encourage them to play outside and be creative and interact with the natural world as much as possible, so a sandbox/mud pie kitchen is a great option.  Maybe it wasn’t the best weekend to make a fun play area outside, being frigid and all, but the kids loved it!  First they went to Lowes with daddy + helped pick out the sand, then they helped unload it and spread it in the “sandbox.”  Meanwhile it was cold enough to warrant a big pot of chili + some time spent knitting (I’m just learning!) and some hot tea.  Sand can now be found in all sorts of cracks + crannies, but I guess it’s worth it. 🙂

the Father’s love

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Well, all the kids have been battling a minor head cold the past few days.  We had a quieter weekend with more tasks and mundane work at home to catch up on on Saturday.  Yesterday we stayed home from church, not wanting to pass on the sickies, opting instead for a quiet easy walk at nearby Lake Powhatan.  We always ache to be with our church family, but the days when we are forced to stay home with feverish babies are days to receive with open hands, a good sort of rest and quietness.  We basked in the sun and the glorious first-fall-feeling day, all bundled up to keep little sick ones warm in the wind.  We spent the afternoon resting, reading, snacking on the porch after naps + looking through old photo albums, then riding bikes in front of our house while dinner simmered on the stove.  Simple things, small things, all the things we can easily take for granted.  What a gift it is the have each other, to be together, to work through the hard moments when we are all sharp and fractious, stumbling along in our journey to understand grace, offering quiet sorry’s and long hugs.  What a sweetness to just let the work sit, as much as we are able, and let our souls sink down deeper in our faithful God.

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I’ve been reading through the Gospels all year.  I thought I’d be farther by now, but it has been the sweetest, most powerful journey alone with the Lord, just His Word and I, and I’ve had to go so slow to just savor the beauty of all His Spirit has been speaking to me.  I’ve chased whatever rabbit trails He’s told me to, sought for understanding only to find usually more questions and mystery.  But I have felt so very near to my Savior and so much more reacquainted with His ways, His agenda, His heart beat.

Lately I’ve been in the first few chapters of Luke.  You can’t come to early Luke and not feel like it’s Christmas time.  It’s just heavy with the anticipation surrounding that time of year.  It’s hard to say which Gospel writer I enjoy best, each so distinct and variegated, but I do think it could be Luke.  There’s something about the way he turns a phrase and tells a story.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus was like growing up.  After the accounts of His birth, we have no details to fill in the gaps between his birth and his 30’s, other than the singular story of Him, recorded by Luke (2:41-52) of Jesus at age twelve.  This singular story recording that time when Mary + Joseph lost Jesus for three days, giving us a glimpse into His boyhood and the mysterious way that He was both fully human and fully divine as a child.  Here Luke finds it important to tell us that at age twelve, Jesus was beginning to display His independence, His God-ness, His otherness a bit more.  His wisdom astounded the leaders + teachers in the synagogue.  He was already beginning to be aware that He had to be about His Father’s work.  He was already beginning to move away from dependence on His earthly parents with a growing awakening to His calling, a strength, a focus, a settledness and resolve.  Yet, when His parents scolded Him in their great relief to have found Him, the Scriptures tell us He submitted Himself to them.  Willingly, He submitted His God-ness to live under their human, yet God-given, authority.

From this point on, in every Gospel account, we don’t see Jesus do a thing until He has first been baptized by John the Baptizer and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him.  Every work of Jesus thereafter recorded in the Scriptures flows from the infilling of the Holy Spirit, an outpouring from within.  His work is preceded by His baptism, the Father’s pronouncement of Sonship + good pleasure over Him.  This is how His work begins.  This is where our work must begin also.  First, our own house in order.  First, our own soul.  First, our own rootedness + settledness in our identity as His dearly loved child.  First, our own experience of His love lavished on us.

Then all our work can flow from the awareness that He is the orchestrator behind it, the generator of it.  The sustainer of us in it.  Then, and only then, our identity is not dependent on our work or our success, but in that deeply personal work He has already accomplished in us in the secret place with Him.  This frees us up from striving for a name, striving for an outcome, being crippled by the negative response of others–whether that be indifference, unpopularity, misunderstanding, or plain criticism.  Only when we know we are settled securely in the Father’s love + good-pleasure over us do we really have anything to pour out onto others.

“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well-pleased.'”
(Luke 3:22)

How He would need these words in the days to come.  He went straight up out of the waters of this moment into the bone dry heat of the desert to fast and be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights.  How He would need those words to draw upon in order to finish His course, in all the ways that the coming days would test His certainty of His Father’s love and good-pleasure over Him.  How He would need those words when He hung on the cross in His bleakest and most desperate moment, when He would cry out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?”

Maybe you need those words today, too, in your Tuesday work.  In your ordinary moments and your boring mundane.  In the tasks that you are putting your hand to, the hidden work that no one sees, the uncelebrated and passed-over, the thankless efforts.  May He speak His love over you today as you head into a new week.  May your own soul be at rest in Him, so that you can abide in that place even while heading into the fray.

Summer is coming to a quiet little end around here, melting sleepily away into chilly morning air.  (We still have a beach trip planned, so I’m hoping some warmth hangs around for a little while longer!)  The goldenrod are blazing their signal, summer giving way to fall.  DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0413 DSC_0415 DSC_0398 DSC_0381 DSC_0384DSC_0430DSC_0434DSC_0427

This next picture was taken by Phoebe:


These three were taken by Noah:

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I love seeing their little happy fingers holding the camera and clicking away.  I love seeing their perspective.

saying goodbye to the house


A couple of weeks ago we made a last-minute weekend trip home to my in-laws home in South Carolina.  They’ve recently decided to chase a dream of theirs and move to the beach, leaving behind this house they raised their kids in for the past twenty something years.  My husband, who is not really the sentimental sort, wanted to go see them and “say goodbye to the house.”

A house lived in this long holds a lot of life.  It is the bones of the family, in a way, holding, bearing weight, giving structure.  Most of my husband’s memories and biggest moments happened in these walls.  The Christmas mornings spent sitting with his brother + sister at the top of the stairs waiting for mom and dad to say they could come down.  The timeouts in their bedrooms.  His first love.  His first broken heart.  All the big moments, all the ordinary + mundane moments, too, that make up a life.  I remember vividly my first visit to his home, this, his world.  I remember playing guitar on the deck of the pool, laying down on his arm, feeling him counting on his fingers behind my head, counting the months until he would propose.  I remember coming to surprise his parents, driving the 2 hours from North Carolina where we live to tell them about their first grand baby growing in my womb.  It’s a special thing to bring your children home to the house you were raised in, seeing them toddling on the floors so familiar to your own shaping.

It was good that we were able to make it back for a visit one last time, make some more sweet memories together, see the youngest grand baby bond with her Baba for the first time.  So long, yellow house!

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evening walks

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So this weekend last year I believe was the weekend we moved into this home + this side of town.  There’s something about being in a place for a year.  Seeing it in all its seasons.  There’s something about growing up and changing in a place that seems to mostly stay the same.  We live on the backside of a retreat center, in the residential section.  It’s sort of an odd arrangement but we love living in a little hidden cove of quiet in the city.  It was our first summer experiencing this place with campers coming and going every week, our usual walks interrupted with camp activity and hustle.  Now kids are back in school, camps close up for the off season, and we are back to our evening walks all over the deserted retreat campus.  The little ones love visiting the lake and “fishing,” looking for the moon and watching the bats in the evening sky darting back and forth.  My heart felt full and melancholy at the same time.  Seasons come and seasons go.

I was talking with a couple momma friends earlier in the day yesterday about how we feel that nagging sense of being behind sometimes, always behind.  In a culture that is always pressing ahead to the “next thing” and the “next stage” it can be awfully hard and terribly counter-cultural to just slow and linger where you are.  My daughter will be 5 in December and we’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to start preschool with her this year.  But if I’m honest, the only real reason I’m feeling that niggling worry is because I don’t want her to be behind and because so many of her peers are already in school.  The reality is, she’s my first.  She’s my oldest.  And this is probably the last year we will ever have like this, just us at home, days full of errands, play dates, adventures outside, books piled high, dress-up and coloring and cookie baking in the middle of the day.  Once she starts school, even homeschool, our minds and schedules will begin to revolve around school.  Our freedoms will change a bit, our family dynamic will change.  So, as eager as I am to dig into school and embrace that new season ahead, I’ve decided to just linger over this little season right here, with my three little ones at home and the sweet freedom of unscheduled learning.  My plan is simple: read a lot, play outside a lot.  Probably my number one goal “educationally” this year is to increase and stimulate wonder over their world.  To give them a lot of time and attention, play and surprise.  To excite them about learning.  To learn as we go, but not to worry about it or stress over it.  I don’t think “my” way is better than anyone else’s.  I’m so thankful for the freedom we have in our own families to choose what works best for our own family dynamic.  I’ve thought over these words many times in the past few weeks, taken from Jean Fleming’s book A Mother’s Heart:

Now is the time to get things done. . .
wade in the water,
sit in the sun,
squish my toes
in the mud by the door,
explore the world in a boy just four.

Now is the time to study books,
how a cloud looks;
to ponder “up,”
where God sleeps nights,
why mosquitoes take such big bites.

Later there’ll be time
to sew and clean,
paint the hall
that soft new green,
to make new drapes,
refinish the floor–
Later on. . .when he’s not just four.

Irene Foster, “Time is of the Essence”

Sunday adventures


We have sort of unintentionally made a little family habit of drawing away on Sundays after worship, pulling away from our ordinary and escaping to the wild places nearby.  I love revisiting the same familiar haunts, but my husband is best energized in exploring.  So, we’ve sort of made a loose rule to get out somewhere new most Sundays.  We pack a bag of easy snacks + quick bites for lunch/dinner (think cold cuts, cheese, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, cold pasta salad, veggies + hummus) and usually skip naps and hit the road after church.  The kids love our adventures.  We don’t do it primarily for them, to be honest.  We do it because it refreshes and quiets and reenergizes us + our marriage in the best way.  We do it because we need the shift in perspective. But we definitely do it for them as well.  Children are so full of wonder, awe, and a natural ability to enjoy and to go slow.  Familiar black swallowtails, bumblebees and wild mountain blueberries become brand new again through their eyes.  We love (and sometimes hate) how they continually force us to slow our pace to keep in step with them rather than our usual habit of hurrying them to keep up with us.  It’s good for us.  Being with them reminds me almost daily of Jesus’ words:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”  (Matthew 18:3).

What is it about children that Jesus found so essential?  I wonder if it isn’t their simplicity.  Their easy joy over the simplest of wonders.  Their unhurried ways.  Their bright hopefulness and trust, their dependency without worry.  I want to be more like that.  When I watch them running and laughing I find myself thinking, they really are the best of us, the best of humanity.

These pictures are from a couple weeks ago.  We went back up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  We used to be in the Mitchell area a ton during our college days (Outdoor Ed majors) and I think the last time I was up there was when my husband and I led a 21-day wilderness backpacking course together in our early years of marriage.  Pretty awesome to be back there with kiddos in tow, showing them this beautiful place so special to our hearts + story.  It was actually up on commissary where our story together really began.

Afterward we had a little picnic at a nearby overlook, staying long and soaking in the quiet and the evening light.  I think these will be some of my favorite snapshots from the summer.

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