Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm feeling pretty grateful. Not for the usual reasons, either. Oh sure, there's always the usual things. Healthy kids, a roof over our heads, the freedom to worship our way in our country. Those are big ones, to be sure.

But today I'm thinking back on the last year and being grateful for the not so great things. I'm grateful for my husband losing his job when he did, which led to where he is now, a much better situation. I'm grateful for those hard and scary weeks when we couldn't see God's plan but lived each day with as much faith as we could muster. I'm thankful for a pregnancy I never would have planned at a tumultuous time in our lives, and how God's ways are never ours. We'd miss out on so many beautiful blessings if we always chose the easy path. I'm thankful that the last time we came close to buying a house, it didn't work out and we are still in our 1200 square feet behind my parents, a home we could afford when things were impossibly tight.

This year has held a lot of hard things but when I look back, I see how we've grown. How hard moments we'd never choose have matured us in ways a smooth and easy year never could have. And how every step of the way, our always good God was right there, lighting the way.

Every year there are good things to be grateful for. The high points, the mountain top moments. The things we think of as blessings. The happy, pretty things that make sense to celebrate. We've got those things in spades. A beautiful healthy family, close relationships with our families, every thing that we need and yes, remembering to be grateful for them is important. But when I can reflect on the things that don't always look like blessings, then I can find gratitude for God's ways - all of them. All is truly grace. We never walk alone.

Looking back on the past year, I feel stronger than I ever did before. More sure that I can always trust God to love us completely, to never leave us and to always, always be our source of true Joy.

Maybe that's why this Thanksgiving means more to me than I remember it ever meaning before. This year, I'm grateful for the constancy of Christ. The only thing that matters.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Joy

It happens every year.

Twice a year, for me. At the beginning of every summer, I have grand plans of celebrating the freedom of summer, relaxing and enjoying each sun-filled moment. But before summer even begins, the calendar begins to fill with obligations - usually good, happy ones, but obligations nonetheless - and I feel it. That undeniable deflation of realizing that this summer will be much like the last. We won't get it all done. I'll probably be a little stressed, and much of the long awaited time will be frittered away doing goodness knows what. The long awaited summer time soon a distant memory.

I feel that way at the beginning of the summer and again when the holidays roll around. My cheerful, Christmas-loving friends start in with their "X days til Christmas!" countdowns and I can practically see the Christmas season fill up - but not in the intentional, Christ-centered way I hope and plan.

I started my yearly spreadsheet last week - list of gifts to buy, things to do, parties to attend, new things to try. Looking over the next few weeks color coded in text, my eyes blurred. "Once we get back from our trip to Virginia, I'll be able to relax," I found myself thinking. "Well, at least after we unpack the van and then I do all the laundry and put the suitcases away. Then." That's right - the trip after Christmas.

That's how it is for Moms at Christmas. I know because every year I start out intentional. Peace-focused. Each year we buy less and less even as our family grows and we strive to hone in on "what really matters." Yet each year I still reach the end of the season and feel quite a bit like I've just run a marathon - and hardly remember it.

But it's not just Christmas. Or the holidays. Or summer. Life as a Mother in the center of a family will always be a great deal of work - but also a great deal of blessing. We may not have the luxury of tenderly holding every moment and soaking it in, the way everyone always tells us to. But we have the privilege of living it in the way it comes - often like a hurricane, time marching on while we hang on tight.

Today I started my pre-holiday prep by catching up on laundry and organizing one of the kids bedrooms. Life and daily jobs won't stop for me just because children are on break or husbands get holidays off work. But instead of wallowing in the knowledge that my vocation means daily, 365, no vacation work - I can take joy in knowing that I have the privilege of creating beautiful traditions and memories for my family. That's really what it comes down to. No burn out required.

This year, and each year, the only thing I want this year is more Joy.  Joy isn't dependent on a quiet, clean space or a relaxing day. Joy is possible right in the midst of the crazy whirl of wonder that our family holidays bring.

Next weekend family will flood in from all over and so it will begin. Busy, noisy, loud, crazy. I'll do what mothers do, the behind the scenes work that no one really sees unless they do it, too. And I'll enjoy every exhausting minute.

All I want for this year is more Joy. And the wonderful thing is, I know that I'll surely receive it.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Around Here

We got our first little dusting of snow yesterday and the temperatures have plummeted, seeming for good. Things around here are slowly coming back together after the one tumultuous time after another, just in time for the holidays. Here's what things look like around here. I'm

~ Knitting hats for Christmas. It seems my knitting mojo is coming back just a little bit at a time. Small, quick, mindless projects are all I can really handle right now, so hats are just the thing. I'm still working through yarn from my Yarn Fairy, which continues to be such a blessing to me! I should be able to get at least a hat for each family member from the stash she sent us. While knitting I'm

~Listening to podcasts. I'm all caught up with Serial and like This American Life as well. Podcasts are really perfect for me. I can focus on knitting and, unlike when we watch movies, not have to ask J "what just happened?" during a scene when I was working a cable. Any podcast recommendations for me?

~Planning Christmas. Every year I say "This year is going to be light!" and it is - lighter even than the last. I'm loving the feeling of being remarkably un-stressed about gifts or shopping. Small, light, simple.

~Making peace with the mess. And realizing it's not half bad. Eight of us in this little tiny house and I'm realizing that we are doing alright. I'm catching up on laundry and setting out donations on the porch and acknowledging that those messy kid bedrooms? Aren't so bad when you realize three children live in each small room. It's not picture perfect, but it's real life.

~Growing a little more quickly this time. It seems that the seventh times' the charm when it comes to physical memory. This is the first pregnancy when I can say I definitely will look pregnant for all nine months. And I'm oddly ok with that.

~Feeling overwhelmed with gratitude at these kids of mine. Sure we have tough days and there's always a tangle or two to unravel, moments that seem completely insurmountable or just too hard for this tired mom to engage in. But there is so much goodness, too. Watching my kids love each other, cheerfully serve, rejoice with one another and grow in so many ways never ceases to push me right down in gratitude. We've got riches over here of the eternal sort. And it's so thrilling to see.

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