Monday, July 27, 2015

On Doing the Small Things

There have been so many big happenings in our country this summer.  Shootings and Supreme Court decisions and flags and protests and all things heavy and confusing. My soul has had a difficult time processing all these events along with my own hurts, disillusionments, heartaches and questionings. The good is that I have gotten old enough and know myself well enough to make room in my life and schedule and days for margin and rest and renewal when these times come.  If I try to barrel forward when there is stress in body, soul, and spirit and neglect to pay attention, slow down and listen, then things inevitably get much worse.

When the Big Things in life start to demand my attention, I have found that doing Small Things keeps me grounded and discerning.  Big Things are when you have church disagreements, parenting problems, life decisions, betrayal, financial problems, death, change, transition, illness, spiritual struggles, relational strain, job stress.  These always come, and we are never immune to the toll that living in a broken world takes on us. The Big Things threaten our sanity, our spirituality, our well-being.  They shake us and rattle us and throw us off course. They don't seem to care about how frail we are, how depleted our spirits feel, and that our resources are limited.  We cannot control these Big Things. They will have their way.

What can we control? The Small Things.  I can get up each morning and make my bed and get simple, comfortable and pretty clothes on. I can feed a little one breakfast and tidy my kitchen. I can move the laundry forward from washer to dryer to hands to hangers in closets. I can open the Living Word and receive bread for my hungry spirit and water for my parched soul. I can reach out to friends and ask for prayer and for wisdom. I can read a stack of picture books to young children and talk to older children about life and goals. I can take a new mother a meal and mail a birthday package to a dear friend. I can snuggle up to my husband and receive his warmth and care. I can gather fresh flowers in vases to brighten our home. I can make beautiful things with my hands. I can plant seeds in soil and water. I can surrender myself to the Lord, His sovereign and good plan and to the dailiness of loving the ones in my path.

The Big Things always try to tell us that the Small Things don't matter. They try to paralyze and make us stagnant and myopic.  The temptation to throw up our hands and lose heart and drown in our miseries is strong. We feel weak, and we think that we are powerless in our lives. It takes tremendous fortitude to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep doing the next right thing, and to keep loving the person in our path.  There is a holy tension between a surrender that is waiting and trusting and open-handed and yet moving forward, living on purpose and with daily intention. An active trust.

As the Big Things have made a strong appearance in my life this summer, I have chosen not to fight them but to receive them as gifts.  The Big Things are painful but they always, always produce good and beautiful fruit in my life.  I certainly don't like it, but I also know that God uses pain in extraordinarily redemptive ways.  And when the Big Things start to become Bigger than God in my heart and soul, I promptly set them mentally aside the best that I can so that seeking God in the Small Things come first. God shows up in my heart with His peace and His light and His love when I am taking long walks, sewing quilts, preparing meals, changing sheets, folding towels, rubbing backs, setting tables, praying, writing, reading, stitiching.  When my hands get engaged, my heart calms and is able to hear and to discern and to trust.

May we not despise the Small Things where God is active and present and heals. Jesus walked around in fields and went fishing and fed people and celebrated weddings and touched strangers.  He did the most normal of activities in the midst of very Big Things that were happening and that we going to happen. He listened to God as He walked and as He talked and didn't rush to figure it all out and get to the More Important Things. Every small step was the Important Thing and so it is for us.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Weekly List, July 20

I absolutely adore making lists and the deep satisfaction of checking things off. Brain to hand to paper helps me to make sense of my life and my daily priorities. Many friends enjoy seeing my lists, so for now, I have decided to share a personal photographed list every Monday. In the early years of the blogosphere, there was something so interesting about taking a peek into someone else's everyday life. My weekly list will be a small peek into mine.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Summer Daybook

I can't seem to write anything that is coherent right now. There are just too many things that keep shifting and changing and happening that my brain and heart can't keep up and process it all well.  I do want to keep up the habit of blogging that I began, and just need to move past what I think my posts should be (thoughtful and clarifying) and just be okay with writing as-is (messy and more messy).

So in the spirit of Elizabeth's "gathering my thoughts" posts, I am going to share the current things in my life that I am doing and thinking on.  Nothing profound or necessarily inspiring, but where I am.

Outside my window:

Temps are back up near 100 which means my daily afternoon walk must be done by 10 am otherwise it's unbearable.  We have spent more time at the pool this year than any other year (older children and not being pregnant/having a baby/toddler changes everything). We have lots of baby Silkie Bantam chicks walking around the yard and it's the truly the sweetest.  I got out into my neglected raised beds, weeded them all, mowed and I planted some pumpkin seeds.  I find such tangible hope in a packet of seeds...that life will bloom despite all the areas of our lives that seem to be dying.

Listening to:

Normally I love having a lot of podcasts going but just like I have had to curb the non-fiction books, I have also had to put boundaries on the podcasts.  Just too much information-overload that ends up paralyzing me and making my mind too cluttered.  I did however listen to Todd Henry's Accidental Creative podcast titled "Your Collective". It was only 12 minutes but gives lots of ideas on the types of community we need to do our work well. My current music is a lot of Josh Garrels and Damien Rice's song Trusty and True.

Clothing myself in:

The Dottie Angel Frock that I made. Also, my "uniform".  V-neck t-shirts, necklace, yoga skirt and flip-flops.  It will always be my go-to.  I haven't found shorts in years that fit me right or are the correct length.  When I went to Holden Beach on vacation in May, I actually found some shorts at Walmart that fit perfectly.  Chino, upper mid-thigh length, cute patterns, and $10.  Those are my second uniform.


I am currently setting down most non-fiction and allowing my over-active mind to find rest and escape through fiction.  Reading fiction is like watching a movie for me...both allow me to get caught up in a story and find my own personal connections (or not) and offer me a reprieve from the details and scenarios of my own life.


I have been slowly reading the book Anything by Jennie Allen with a group of women in my church. My spiritually idealistic nature wants God to call me to big things...I could sell everything and head overseas if that was His call.  I find it much harder to realize that my surrender, my "anything", is to be continue to be faithful in my home and to homeschool over the long haul.  I really wanted God to release me from homeschooling and to give me work that feels better, more emotionally comfortable, but He has made it very clear that this path is my current vocation.  I would be lying if I didn't say that I have been angry about this and frustrated and disillusioned. But I wake up and say, "Yes, Lord. Not my will but Yours be done."  And I walk this path out by faith and with my eyes on Him and not on what I think my "rights" are.

Carefully cultivating rhythm:

I am choosing to get enough sleep this summer.  Rest is so vital for health in spirit, soul and body. It's the best self-care, and I am thankful for a husband who knows me well and tries to make sure that it happens for me.  After neglecting meal planning for six weeks and consuming way too much pizza, I sat down and made a July meal plan and starting looking at cookbooks again as a way to inspire me back to homemade, fresh foods. In learning, we continue to move slowly forward in math, phonics, audiobooks, library trips and field trips. Potty training and babysitters have been in the mix this summer which is awful (the former) and amazing (the latter).  Mike and I have gotten strict about going on a weekly date night which has never been a part of our 18 year marriage.  Our rule is to keep it FUN and not heavy or about the kids. It's the best new habit of the year.

Creating by hand:

I am rather good about drawing boundaries in my life with time commitments and not over-scheduling. What I am not good at is setting mental boundaries with who/what is taking over my brain.  I can get a bit obsessive about people's problems and about people's needs which is kind and compassionate when under the power of the Holy Spirit, but toxic when it's done from a savior mentality.  Choosing to create is a very tangible way that I can keep my mind guarded and focused and productive because it requires concentration and creative thinking. It allows me to push other's issues aside and ushers me into the present moment.  I am currently committed to hand embroidery and sewing as ways to take care of myself, bring beauty into my world, and give meaningful gifts.

Keeping house:

June/July are always decluttering months and slowly dusting and purging our learning spaces (dining room!) The crazy thing though is that in a large family, everything gets so dang dirty/messy and cluttered so fast right after you feel like you cleaned.  We've got a serious "lived-in" look going on over here. My house is so worn and weathered after 10 years of living, birthing, and homeschooling here.  Maybe instead of "lived in" I could rephrase that as "loved in".

Crafting in the kitchen:

Shrimp tacos.  Lots of fruit. Rainer cherries are the summer candy of choice.

Giving thanks:

Mike. My daily Voxing with two dear friends. Psalm 121. Friends who show up with poison ivy cream and Krispie Kreme donuts. Breakfast and lunch dates with women.  My sewing machine. My maltipoo Lily. My king-sized bed.  Books. Little boys as superheroes.

Planning for the week ahead:

I'm not. Soon my life will be filled with plans as schooling gears back up in August and the calendar gets full and we begin the momentum towards the holidays.  For now, I choose rest and slow summer with lazy days and quiet evenings.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Weekly List, July 6

I absolutely adore making lists and the deep satisfaction of checking things off. Brain to hand to paper helps me to make sense of my life and my daily priorities. Many friends enjoy seeing my lists, so for now, I have decided to share a personal photographed list every Monday. In the early years of the blogosphere, there was something so interesting about taking a peek into someone else's everyday life. My weekly list will be a small peek into mine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I Learned in June 2015

June has been a doozy. It's usually my favorite month of the year. It speaks to me of long, warm days, getting lost in hours of fiction, decluttering my home, hours at the pool, creative projects and grilled meals with fruit salads. All extracurricular activities recede and margin-filled days reign.  The good life.  This month has held those things but also some health issues for me, deep and hard conversations with friends, disillusionment with the Body of Christ on all sides, and the pain that our country is in over racial and sexual identity issues.  It all feels like too much to ponder and hold. In light of all of this, here are some of the things I have been learning:

1. Unity doesn't mean uniformity or theological agreement. The foundation of unity is our identity in Christ. Unity isn't holding hands and smiling and warm hugs and nodding yes...sometimes it is fought for with tears and questions and listening and humility and disagreement while sitting at picnic tables and Panera and my dining room table. Unity means vulnerability. Unity means that we keep showing up and we don't give in to the very real temptation to fight or flight when we feel threatened and scared.

2. Reading heals me.  Besides sleep and food and connection, reading is one of the highest forms of self-care for me. Always has been and always will be.

3. When in doubt, go love someone.  There is so much in the Bible that is hard to understand and so many faithful Christ followers deeply disagree. However I think no one would disagree that the highest commands are to love God and to love others.  That much is clear.  So when your theology and thinking is challenged or you are in a space of doubt and confusion, the thing you can know is that it is always His will to go love the person in your path.

4. Sewing always proves to be a great way to get out my mind.  I internally process a lot of things. My mind is very very active and the ideas and thoughts that seem to go on overdrive are forced to stop when I engage an activity that makes me think.  Sewing makes me slow down and focus...the measuring, the seam allowances, the understanding of patterns and construction. I spent all last Saturday making Dottie Angel's just-released Frock Pattern from Simplicity and I adore it.  Planning to make many, many more. I also made four of these wonderful headbands and it was a quick, satisfying and practical project.

5. Friends ground me and pray for me and I am not alone.  I have had many seasons where I have felt so deeply alone and unknown and under-supported.  As stressor upon stressor arrived this month, I had many different friends listen and reach out and pray for and with me.  My temptation was to feel untethered and unseen but my dear friends from so many different walks of my life encouraged me and listened and prayed. It has been a beautiful, redemptive thing to experience.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Weekly List, June 15

I absolutely adore making lists and the deep satisfaction of checking things off. Brain to hand to paper helps me to make sense of my life and my daily priorities. Many friends enjoy seeing my lists, so for now, I have decided to share a personal photographed list every Monday. In the early years of the blogosphere, there was something so interesting about taking a peek into someone else's everyday life. My weekly list will be a small peek into mine.

Today's list are the goodies for the dinner that I am taking a new family that is new to the area. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

God at Walmart

If you know me, you know I have a giant dislike for Walmart.  The lighting, the crap, the clientele, the chaotic parking lot, the terrible carts, ad infinitum. That landscape never seems to change, but once in a while, cheap and convenient shopping wins so I put up with their scene for 20 minutes

On Thursday morning, I reluctantly entered those Supercenter doors and walked briskly down each needed aisle with a tightness in my chest due to anxiety-overload. I was emotionally drained by disagreements I had been having, schooling decisions that I am wrestling with, and that overall pressure I feel as a wife, mother of six, friend, and mentor. Combine those pressures along with figuring out my boundaries so that I can focus on personal projects and ideas that fill me, and I found myself in a perfect storm of internal stress.You know this feeling, right? The ache to live balanced and well, to love Jesus and others, to somehow find the magical solution where nothing is ever neglected and all blooms beautifully. Sigh.

I grabbed some ingredients to pull together some Pad Thai for dinner and tried to find a check-out line that wouldn't trap me for yet another 20 minutes. I was drawn to that rare Walmart phenomenon in which the cashier actually seemed to be moving efficiently. She was a warm-natured African-American woman with a bright smile and shiny eyes. As she was scanning my items, another Walmart Worker sidled up to her and began to share a sad story with her about some painful family issues she had been having. (Another reason why Walmart is strange...people overshare their drama in the checkout lines when they are supposed to be working...but I digress...but seriously) My biggest worry at this point was that this conversation would slow down my getting out of there because STRESS and WALMART. My spirit was already feeling teary and fear-filled and clamoring that I just needed to get out of here and go find some quiet already and deal with my issues.

But without skipping a checkout beat, the Joy-Filled Cashier glanced over at her associate, and with a giant smile and without reproach said, "TRUST AND BELIEVE!"

And in that crazy, crappy Walmart Moment, my spirit received that beautiful truth from one of my Must-Be Sisters.  A smile slowly spread across my face, and I knew that in what seemed like the Unlikely Spaces, God was speaking to me and offering me faith and grace. I didn't need a quiet space or a magical solution. I needed Jesus in the form of His Body to speak some Faith right into my spirit.

God meets us in the daily, ordinary and quotidian tasks of life. Over soap suds and in traffic. Check-out lines and laundry baskets. Toddler tantrums and juice spills. His Presence shows up in these spaces that seem utterly chaotic and confusing, and He gently speaks and comforts and lifts and corrects and infuses and calms. Everyday we have the Gift and need eyes to see Him and ears to hear Him. We are not without a Shepherd and not left here as orphan lambs to figure out our days and our lives alone. He offers us Himself which is far greater and more beautiful than a script of answers for life that we so think that we need.

What my anxious heart needs is relationship and abiding and through that, I learn to really live, to trust and to believe.