yarn along

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I can’t believe I didn’t get any other posts up last week but it was our first week resuming our usual school schedule and getting back into the swing of things.  Phoebe also had some strange cough that really mostly reared its head at night and had coughing fits that would lead to her throwing up for multiple nights in a row.  No fever or congestion at all, so it was really odd, and she said she felt fine.  Anyway, that along with Wren having a rough week sleeping, my own bad case of vertigo, and I felt like I was just surviving the week a bit.  It also rained most of the week so we are endlessly happy to see the sun today and it’s almost 60 degrees!  I’m hurrying to get this up and then we’re getting outside to a local nature area for a walk and play.

I finished the body of my Tecumseh sweater and am onto the first sleeve.  I’m really excited to have this done and ready to wear maybe within the week?!  We’ll see.  Meanwhile I still have like 10 other projects on my brain that I can’t wait to either cast on or keep working on, but I’m trying to stay focused.

My sister-in-law drew my name for Christmas (my family drew names to exchange gifts this year) and part of her gift to me was this book, The Quotidian Mysteries, which is one that’s been on my wishlist for a while!  I’m enjoying it so far.  It is mercifully short, also, which helps me feel like I’m not such a failure when it comes to reading progress lately.

Sorry for my absence last week and I’ll be back in a day or so hopefully with a regular post.

Joining up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
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making progress

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.

waiting

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It’s that time where I start to get texts and inquiries from people, where neighbors walk by and holler, “you still here?” and all those last minute projects feel so terribly crucial.  Every day it seems I make a little bit of progress mentally in checking things off my list to be ready for baby.  I’m just a few days away from my due date, but I’m feeling more peaceful about it all than I have with any of my other pregnancies.  Thats a gift from the Lord!  I had a ton of anxiety going into my birth with Philippa after such a traumatic delivery and recovery with Noah.  Because her birth went so much better, I’m feeling more at peace with how this one will go.  Of course, I say that and that could change as soon as labor actually begins!  Pray for me and with me that I would remain at peace, fixed and focused, and full of joy.  I’ve just been feeling more joy and excitement to meet this little one than anything else.  I’m treasuring these last days with her moving around quietly inside, knowing I may never experience this again.  And I’m enjoying good nights of solid rest, knowing those will evade me soon for some weeks.

I appreciate the little bursts of energy and motivation I have some days to get things accomplished that have been waiting for attention for months.  Reorganizing the open shelving in our kitchen.  Hanging new light fixtures as well as treasured photos that have been sitting in boxes since we moved in.  Giving all the kids hair cuts on the porch, and wishing I could squeeze in one for myself.  (I’m desperate enough to be tempted to cut my own.)  I love seeing the little basinet in our bedroom when I glance down the hall, knowing it will have new life in it again soon.  This new little person we don’t know yet, but soon won’t be able to imagine our lives without.  The bursts of energy do help to get projects done, but usually they are followed by days of increased tiredness.  It’s just the rhythm for now, and I’m being gentle with myself in it, for the most part.

Phoebe and I are still working diligently on school, but I can feel myself losing steam and motivation there.  Brandon is starting to take her to her weekly co-op so I can stay home with the littles and the change of schedule is a little weird for us, but also really neat to have him more involved in her schooling.  It’ll only be short-term as I recover from birth and keep the baby home for the first number of weeks.  My parents treated us to a really fancy date the other night, maybe the nicest restaurant we’ve ever eaten at, and we talked so much about our kids and schooling.  His thoughts and observations were really fun to hear and helpful to me, and made me feel like he’s getting a peek into my “work” that helps him understand a bit more of my world.  I love that he’s interested and truly enjoys doing schooling with Phoebe when he gets the chance, and that he has ideas and excitement for our future in it with all the kids.

My parents also gifted us a new BOB stroller which is so generous and helpful, and when they were watching the kids during our date the other night, they all brainstormed name ideas and wrote them all over the box.  Super cute, and I wanted to snap a picture of it so we don’t forget.  We still haven’t 100% decided on a name, I have literally so many I love (few that Brandon approves of, though), and I think as usual we’ll just need to meet her and see what fits.  But don’t give me suggestions!!  We want to name this little one. 🙂

This week has been up in the mid-seventies and sunny here in NC, and it feels so odd to me to be ready to welcome a baby in such weather!  All my babies thus far have been born in the deep middle of winter.  It’s fun and different this time.  I have a feeling this little one wants a March birthday.  I’ll keep you posted, but know that it may be quieter around the blog for a little bit!

hello, September

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The weather has cooled ever so slightly, mornings are darker when the alarm goes off at six am.  I’m feeling more and more back to myself, like this old soul is waking back up after being in a weird pregnancy slump for months.  September in North Carolina can still be as hot as August some years, and I know we may still see some hot days before October.  Even still, I’m celebrating every little hint of cooler days and the happy change that comes over these hills at this time of year.  When I was my sickest with this pregnancy, many hours and hours of many days all I could do was lay down.  I couldn’t read, watch anything, knit, scroll through social media.  There was just no distraction that didn’t make me nauseous.  I didn’t realize how tightly wound up I was until I was forced to just SIT a whole lot and do nothing and be with my thoughts (depressed and grumpy as they were).  I could listen to worship music and that would help set my sights beyond my condition (which is really a very blessed condition indeed!)  Having a few months of this has slowed me down in a way I didn’t know I was needing.  I’ve slept more hours in a night because I’m not staying up till the wee hours knitting and reading.  The anxious needing-to-always-have-something-to-busy-my-mind-with feeling has ebbed.  I’m noticing quieter things, enjoying small moments of grace that I might otherwise rush past.  It’s been hard and not something I would have volunteered for (to be sick) but the forced quieting of my soul has been a gift.  God is always faithful, even when we don’t love His process.

I’ve felt bad for the children while I’ve been basically out of commission, but they have found lots of entertainment in our pretty simple bare yard. 🙂  Boredom is so often the impetus for creativity!  They’ve been busy climbing trees, scavenging in the garden for neglected vegetables that have grown far too big, and playing in the hammock.  I hear one of them yell, “hey guys, let’s go outside and fall out of the hammock!” and the rest yell, “yeaaahhh!”  That’s their game, to get in altogether and whoever is at the front catapults themselves over the edge and then they get in the back of the train again.

We checked out a book from the library called Wiggle and Waggle about two worm friends, and Phoebe has been worm hunting ever since.  She’s claimed a few worms for pets, checks on them constantly, kills a few and then finds a few more.  It grosses me out but I don’t want her to know that, it’s probably good she doesn’t mind getting her hands in the dirt even if bugs make me squeamish.

It’s probably early to have mums and pumpkins on the porch, but I needed something bright and cheery and a local friend of ours was giving away free pumpkins, so we loaded up on them.  Hopefully they last through November, but they make me happy every time I see them, so they will have brought plenty of joy, no matter how long they last.

And a couple of evenings ago I made one of my most favorite soups (recipe here, but I omit the olives and sub black beans, and also omit the quinoa because it makes me really sick.  Sometimes I add wild rice instead, sometimes I just leave it grain free and it’s just as delicious.  I also add handfuls of spinach at the end, too).  It’s one of my favorite meals, along with those super easy grain-free rolls which everyone in our house goes nuts over.  We lit candles for the first time in a long time and the kids knew momma must be feeling better.

There are pumpkins and candles and soups and cold mornings and warm slippers and leaves falling in the grass and children playing late outside and bent over school books, and all is right with the world again.  I had a checkup this morning and took the kids along and we got to see baby.  Hopefully that makes it more real for them.  Little one looked like he/she was sucking his/her thumb, and kept crossing his/her little legs so he/she looked pretty cozy in there, too.

Come to the Family Table

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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.

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

 

Seeing Clearly

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“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
(1 Corinthians 13:12 MSG)

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
(ESV)

It’s sort of cheesy, I know.. but the back of this stitching project I recently finished keeps singing this verse over me.  This is as good as it gets folks.  We see the scribbly backside of the masterpiece, and we can sort of make out shapes and letters and colors, we can sort of see an order to it.  The very best and brightest of us, the very godliest to walk the earth–this is as well as we can see it.  Won’t it be incredible to get to glory and finally see if fully?  To see it rightly?  To know as we are known?

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Yes, I think the relief and joy and delight we will feel will be nearly more than we can handle, certainly more than we can hope to comprehend this side of heaven.  Hang in there, friends.  His plan is good.  There is an order.  He has an explanation for it all that is going to exult your heart until the end of time.  His ways are higher.  His ways are love.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:9)

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
(Psalm 92:4)

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.”
(Psalm 145:8-9, 17)

All praise to Him for that truth.

Also, littlest one has been trying to get her hands on this project ever since I started it.  I’m really thankful to Alicia Paulson for creating this fun stitching kit and I’m eager to frame it and see it in the kid’s room!  Minutes borrowed from each day over the course of a few months and here is the final result.  There are a TON of mistakes (so don’t look too closely), but I’ve realized I’m not a perfect needlepointer and I don’t really mind imperfections.

Happy Friday, folks, and hope you have a lovely weekend!

Making

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

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Lately I’ve been playing around with making things.  I think there are a few reasons why I suddenly feel the need to make more art, but one sticks out to me in particular.  When you are busy in the work of parenting + homemaking, when this life of laundry, meal making, dishes, discipline, training, playing, errands, and mundane rhythms is your everyday, it can feel sort of endless.  The long-haul nature of it can wear on a person who likes to see a finished product or an accomplished goal.  The reality is, we cross many things off our lists every day, we finish a lot of menial tasks every day, and that counts for something important and it feels GOOD.  Then, little feet jump out of bed in the morning and the tidiness and order gives way to glorious chaos once again.  It’s the reality of our work as mothers, bringing some semblance of order from chaos day in and day out.

Beyond the actual work of managing and running a home, the work of raising little people into adulthood is D A U N T I N G.  If we look too far ahead, we can feel entirely overwhelmed and underprepared for what lies in the future.  The thing about parenthood is, it’s a fairly thankless and inglorious job.  More than that, it’s a marathon not a sprint.  Not even a cute little 5k.  It’s long-haulish.  Because of that, we find ourselves parenting to our particular children’s individual needs + bents and we see little glimpses of progress, but more often than not (at least in our home) we slap our proverbial foreheads and think, “How many hundreds of times have I told you this?!?!”  (Or maybe we actually say it, if we are having a weak moment.)

It’s such a work of slow returns and slow progress.  Surely progress is happening, growth is happening right under our noses, but it’s often as imperceptible as our children’s physical growth.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been craving some crafty projects lately, things that I can start, work on, and F I N I S H and see that I have, in fact, accomplished something.  Not only is the work itself soothing and relaxing, but the end product reminds me that I am still able to accomplish something lasting.  It reminds me that one day, I will see all the days of labor that melted into weeks, into months, into years produce a great harvest.  It even whispers to me that much like my children are, in a sense, the masterpiece my life is working to produce, in the very process of this … God is making a masterpiece out of me.  All the intense ways that motherhood presses me–it’s shaping and forming me more into the image He is after, the image of His Son.  I am His workmanship, and His goal is for me to grow up into full spiritual maturity.

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  (Ephesians 4:13-16)

When we grow weary in the seemingly endless and slow-producing work of parenting, let us remember He is parenting us and we are just as slow and stubborn and forgetful as our darling children.  And if it helps to alleviate some stress or to give you that sense of satisfaction that comes from accomplishing + finishing something?  Go make something.  It could be anything… a batch of cookies, a meal, a card, a bouquet of wildflowers, a hand-sewn or embroidered dress.  Enjoy the small steps, the small minutes of working with your hands, producing something, and seeing your effort come to fruition in the end product.  And while you’re at it, remember, you are His workmanship, His masterpiece, to the praise of His glorious grace.

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(The weaving pictured above was inspired by the lovely Beautiful Mess blog + you can find free tutorials for weaving here.  This weaving was my first and I’m already working on another!)