words on the wind

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On Friday evening, Brandon took the older kids to a baseball game to see our local team play.  The tickets were complimentary and fireworks were happening after the game so of course everyone wanted to go.  I stayed home with Wren since the game would be starting at her bedtime, far too late to keep the little bird out.  (I tried to convince Brandon to take my camera and get some photos but no such luck.  Sorry!)  After everyone left she and I went out for a long walk and I savored the freedom of walking one little baby strapped snuggly in a stroller.  Able to go my pace and distance, we walked to a neighborhood close by that has a lovely, quiet little lake.  It has been unseasonably hot and dry here for a couple of weeks, but this night as we were walking the wind picked up and it was cool and blustery.  We went all around the lake and the streets up above it while the wind blew wild around us.  I felt myself unwinding in the quiet, able to think, able to listen.  It sounds odd to say, but as I thought about the people who lived in these homes and how nice it must be to live on the edge of a lake, I felt that someone there must be a writer.  I could feel the words on the wind.  I used to think of myself as a writer, writing words in journals (and poetry sometimes too) since my earliest years, writing and writing and writing.  Yet in this season of motherhood, it all feels so muddled.  Even as I type these words little ones interrupt and pull on me.  There are almost no times of day without those constant needs and interruptions except for evenings, when I feel totally fried and weary.  I don’t journal anymore, really.  My most tidy record of these days is this blog, and it is fairly intermittent lately, too.  The writing I used to do is more absent from this space.  I’ve been missing it, feeling like maybe I had it all wrong and I’m not a writer at all.  What kind of writer goes so long without really writing?  I mourn the loss, I think maybe its too late anyway.  And as I was walking along the edge of the lake, wind blowing wild through my hair, I could feel the words on the wind, flying just over my head, if only I could reach up and grab them with my fingers, but they flew by, just out of reach.  Maybe I only imagined it.

With the close of May, and the close of another school year, my mind clears a bit.  There is still the tying up of loose ends from this last year, testing to be scheduled, and the planning and researching that already must begin for our next year.  I can’t ever really turn that off, but I hope if I get some of it done early in the summer that my mind can rest. In the space in my brain that opens up after our homeschool year ends I find myself thinking about and returning to creativity.  I think I will stoke those flames a bit this summer.

June begins.  I find myself standing outside our little stand-alone garage with the peeling white paint, spraying water over bare dirt.  This side of the garage faces our neighbors home and borders our yard and theirs, and I imagine they wonder what on earth I am doing on this neglected side of our garage watering dirt.  I feel a little silly.  I defensively want to them them that I’ve planted sunflower seeds here and I can just see them waving tall in August heat, brightening up this little drab side of the building.  I’m full of hope that my daily watering will bring something beautiful out of this barren dirt.  I can see it just there, in my mind’s eye, and so I stand here and do this work though I look a fool.

I hope to show you those sunflowers one day, the fruit of toiling over scraggly dirt and neglected corners.  For now, photos of our garden.

 

hello, again

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hello, dear old friends. 🙂

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. ❤

first day of fall

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Last Saturday was the first day of fall, my favorite season officially arriving at last.  I had hoped to make the day an autumnal celebration, but as is so often the case things went differently than planned.  Philippa wasn’t feeling well, I had only gotten a few hours of sleep, and Brandon was working so the thought of pulling much together was exhausting.  Still, I was thankful I had a few things ready beforehand so we could still make it special.  The children hung a leaf banner for me on the mantle and I pulled out little baby pumpkins for them to paint, which we’ve done for a few years now.  I had hoped to plant some flower bulbs around our property but couldn’t muster the energy.

For me, the coming of fall is much anticipated, bringing all its beautiful colors, crisp air, and coziness.  I don’t mind winter and the cold short days one bit, in fact I crave it, but I know many people dread the long season of cold and dark.  It will be my first time planting bulbs this year, and it struck me a bit poetic, planting for spring now just before winter.  Planning and anticipating the season that will come because of the work of the season I’m in now.  These flowers need to overwinter in the soil.

I had woken up that Saturday morning with so little sleep behind me and another long day ahead, and I was fighting discouragement.  When I’m in that place, I should know better than to give much credit to my thoughts, but I was feeling overwhelmed by all I’m trying to juggle lately, I was feeling discouraged about this blog space.  I feel like I have less and less time to write, which is why I primarily began blogging (a space to share everything God teaches me along the way, a place to pay attention to His presence in my ordinary days).  I feel like my purpose in blogging gets muddled, and who really reads along anyway?  For so much work and effort squeezed into such little pockets of time, is it really worthwhile?  There is so much on the table, and so little I can feasibly give myself to.  Yet that very morning, God sent along some particular encouragement to keep going even if I can’t see where it is all headed.

You see, we do important work in our winters.  There are some things in us that simply MUST overwinter before the fruit is born.  We can’t rush the story.  We can’t see now where our faithfulness in this present season will take us.  We need to stop worrying about our destinations so much, and instead trust the process that will lead us there.  Be faithful here, plan for spring, hope for blooms, but carry on into winter.

This past Saturday was a much better day.  With the children, I planted a couple varieties of tulips, allium, and daffodils, along with some clematis plants a friend had given to us.  We will be eager to see them in spring, and will think often of those little bulbs all snug in the frozen soil throughout the winter.

“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.”

-Christie Purifoy

Also, the maple pumpkin custard I made for dessert to celebrate the autumn equinox recipe was found here and it was easy and a big hit with everyone!

yarn along

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I’ve been knitting this baby blanket for our little girl, coming the last week of February.  I’m not a great lace knitter, I don’t think, in that I don’t really have much practice knitting from charts and in order to follow of line of instructions I really need total focus.  I’m not to the point where I can memorize lace.  Thus, I must have quiet to work on this blanket!  Sometimes I can do more mindless knitting while I do school with Phoebe.  This project is something I can only work on when the kids are in bed at night and I’m not watching something I’m terribly interested in.  That being said, I absolutely love working on it and wish I had bigger chunks of time to do so!  I am adding one extra lace repeat on the side and bottom to make the blanket a bit bigger.  I already love how it’s looking and can’t wait to see it block out when it’s done.  Knitting with Quince & Co. is always a treat!  (Brandon graciously let me indulge on yarn for this project.)

I’m reading A Circle of Quiet for the first time.  Just a few pages in, really, but enjoying and commiserating with her reflections on motherhood and creativity.  Often find myself craving my own little circle of quiet.  These days, even though I attempt to rise earlier than the kids, Philippa’s little ears seem to hear my coffee brewing on the stove and she always creeps out with tousled hair to snuggle with me in the dark while I read.  So few moments truly quiet + alone.  I ache to spend more time writing, as I used to, but feel like there is so little time in these busy days, and my brain is going in so many directions that the work of focus has become quite a labor.  I know that there are seasons of producing in our lives and also seasons where seeds are lying dormant in the soil doing the necessary work of waiting in the dark.  Good things will grow eventually, and we must be patient with the process and not always ancy for the fruit.  Each day and season has its own gifts to be enjoyed and thorns to handle.

Linking up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
Affiliate links included.

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.

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)

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Early yesterday morning, Elisabeth Elliot slipped away from this earth into the fulness of the presence of her Savior, the One she loved so dearly and so well.  I didn’t find out until late last night and it greatly affected me.  Such a mix of emotions.  Somehow a world without her in it feels a little scarier–she was so passionate about holiness, about embracing the costly + sacrificial life Jesus calls us to, about obedience + mission, about giving up all else in eager pursuit of Him.  She wasn’t afraid to say what was unpopular in her day, often drawing criticism for being anti-feminist or anti-women.  She was committed to say and do whatever she found in Scripture, submitting entirely to God’s authority and upholding His Word, desiring more to obey and bring Him glory than to tickle the ears of her audience.

In her last days, the last ten years, she grew silent as her mind deteriorated under the shadow of dementia.  These past few weeks I’ve been reading “Keep a Quiet Heart” and often thinking of her, how revolutionary it must have been in her day to be a published female author, writing from the jungles of Ecuador.  How did she do it?  How did she juggle being a mother, a widowed mother, and find time to write?  How did she literally do it–by hand?  Shipping tattered pages likely blotted with sweat and the crumpled creases from a toddler’s hands across miles to an editor?  How did she go on to write 28 books over the course of 54 years?  I was going to write her a letter to ask her just such questions and found this recent article about her (then) current state.  I was profoundly affected by these words:

Elliot stopped giving speeches in 2004 as her health worsened. When she realized she was losing her memory, she put into practice what she had long preached: “From acceptance comes peace.” Her husband said she turned to the Bible for comfort, especially Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Gren says Elliot has handled dementia just as she did the deaths of her husbands. “She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God,” Gren said. “It was something she would rather not have experienced, but she received it.”

Hearing these words, Elliot looked up and nodded, her eyes clear and strong. Then she spoke for the first time during the two-hour interview, nodding vigorously: “Yes.”

Having lost my own grandmother to the slow and dehumanizing effects of dementia/Alzheimers, I am familiar with what Elisabeth Elliot must have faced, and with what courage she faced it.  I mourned when I read those words, realizing she was, in essence, already gone, unreachable now.  All that I would have access to were her words.

And, oh, what a treasure trove of words.  I think of how In the Shadow of the Almighty convicted me in my college years, beckoning me to live a life of great purpose, devotion, ruthless trust in the face of suffering.  Passion and Purity helped, convicted, and shaped my dating years and in many ways kept me from much heartache and wasted time.  A Path through Suffering and Secure in the Everlasting Arms were two of the most prominent books that shaped me and comforted me in my early years of marriage; she introduced me to the Everlasting Arms that carried me when my dreams seemed shattered, my heart broken.  A number of weeks ago I began working slowly (and savoringly) through Keep a Quiet Heart, to which I turned because of how divided, fretful, distracted, busy, and overwhelmed my soul has felt lately in this season of mothering three little ones ages 4 and under.  In an age of internet, social media, constant connection, presence, and activity, I have felt the hushing whisper to keep a quiet heart.  Throughout some of my most difficult and formative seasons, her role has been that of a trusted and steady guide–much like the rudder on a boat tossed on the wild + stormy seas.  Quiet, unseen beneath the surface but firm, fixed, strong, steady, able to keep the weighty and unruly boat back onto its course.

It, for some reason, deeply spurs me on.  It reminds me–we only have so long here.  We have been given talents, gifts to be faithful with.  We have been given a certain allotment of time, a certain tenure on this earth in a particular generation.  As Ann Voskamp said recently, “A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over.  A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted… in the small moments missed.”  What am I doing with my time here?  Am I numbering my days carefully, spending my life on what matters?  Whose kingdom am I building?  What/who determines my goals?

“It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.”
(Ecclesiastes 7:2)

It is good for us to reflect on Elliot’s life and death, to mark a life well-lived, to celebrate and observe it, to glean from it, to mourn it, to rejoice over her completion and restoration in the presence of God.  (“Her God,” I wanted to write, because how personally she loved and knew Him.)  I’ve been musing this week over the parable Jesus tells about the kingdom in Matthew 25, what we commonly refer to as “The Parable of the Talents.”  These verse struck a new chord with me this morning as my thoughts were fixed on Elliot:

“Take the thousand + give it to the one who risked the most.  And get rid of this ‘play-it-safe’ who won’t go out on a limb.  Throw him out into utter darkness.”  (Matt. 25:28-30 MSG)

She was one of those few that risked the most to invest the most.  She was a woman who suffered many things, so many losses, and yet she went forward bravely.  I read a comment written by a woman about her last night that has rolled over and over in my mind today:  “It was always comforting to know a person like Elisabeth Elliot existed among the moaning and groaning, unsatisfied women of our world.”  Yes, that was her.  Kind in her ways, but having no time for the whining and complaining of Christ-followers, fretting over their discomforts.  She struck me as having the salty preservative quality in her culture that Christians are called to have, being a voice and a presence that called straying, compromising feet back to the narrow path.  She makes me want to be a better writer, a better mother, a better lover of Jesus.  She makes me want to raise my daughters up to be like her: distinct, set-apart, meek yet strong, influential, uncompromising, loving much, loving widely, living obedient and pure lives.

This woman invested her life and time to pass on the wisdom she has gleaned in her journeying with Jesus and she did so masterfully in the form of the written word.  Truly, the family of Christ owes her a debt of gratitude, a debt of honor!  How wonderful it is to know she is satisfied and complete, made whole and perfected now in the presence of her Savior, although her presence here will be sorely missed!

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Here are some links to some other words about her:

Elisabeth Elliot by the Gospel Coalition

Alzheimer’s, the Brain + the Soul by Tony Reinke via Desiring God Ministries.

Words by Elliot’s husband, Lars Gren, on her website.

Peaches in Paradise by John Piper

Mother’s Day

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My soul has felt a bit crowded lately.  I’ve realized that I “write” constantly, usually in my head because I often don’t have time to scribble down the thoughts in between dirty diapers that need to be changed and sibling squabbles that need to be mediated.  I’ve found that whatever I’m learning, whatever God is teaching me needs to find expression, usually in the form of writing.  It’s how I make sense of it, but more than that, it’s part of the process.  We come to God thirsty, He pours into our souls, and we fill up, we overflow, we spill over.  Writing is how I spill over.

But lately?  There hasn’t been much time or space and thus, a crowded soul.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  It was one of the best days I’ve had in a while, and it was so simple.  Breakfast + coffee made for me by my husband and the kids.  A bouquet of azaleas picked from the yard.  Worship at church with our spiritual family.  Then we grabbed a few items for a picnic and headed up to one of my favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway near where we live.

We talked about it on the drive up, my husband and I, that there has always been some part of me that craves getting up on the mountains, in the mountains, yes, but more so up on the very heights of the land.  Where the wild whipping wind and the faintest flapping wing of a bird riding the updraft are music to the moment.  It was perfect yesterday.  Holy ordinary.  We captured a few moments, chatted with a few other hikers out enjoying the glorious day.  We played and laughed and got a little sun-burned.  The landscape was moody and dark with rain clouds one moment, pierced by sun rays the next.

I can’t find words for it, but it just does something for me.  So spacious, so abundant, so other-wordly and wild, it feels like my soul can expand and exhale.  A perfect little escape for a weary momma with an overcrowded, busy soul.

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To all the mommas out there, I hope you had a sweet Mother’s Day, feeling the celebration and the smile of God over you as He so highly esteems your every effort + work of faith!