Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives October 2014

Creativity / Family

Costumes

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One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 43/52

I have mixed feelings about Halloween. I would say I mostly dislike it. I don’t like the candy that is floating around everywhere to tempt my little people into sugar-frenzy. While I do let them have some, I can’t help but have serious anxiety about the GMO sugar and additives and dyes and chemicals and all the other things that just shouldn’t be in our food, but are there.

I am not a fan of celebrating death. I can get behind pumpkins and hot drinks and fall colors and the changing weather, but the skeletons and goblins and coffins and spiders…not my favorite things. I would skip over Halloween altogether if it weren’t for the cute faces that plead with me every year to get a new costume and go trick-or-treatin’.  They love all types of dress-up and pretend play, and costumes are a staple around our house all through the year, so that makes Halloween a draw for them.

The quality of most costumes for sale these days leaves much to be desired. There are good ones out there, but you can expect to pay a pretty penny for them. Then there are some not-so-good ones that get a run or a tear after the first day, or were somehow not even stitched correctly in one place or another, and somehow, you pay a pretty penny for those too. Well, no more, my friends.

Every year since the first halloween with my first kiddo, I have planned to make costumes instead of buy them, with the hopes that I could make something quality that would hold up to the nearly 24/7 wearing for the next 6+ months our costumes now endure. (Really, I dare you to drop by on a random day, and you will more than likely find at least one, if not all my children in their costumes instead of clothes.) This year is the first time I have actually made a costume of any kind (how is that for good intentions/procrastination?), and I managed to do four of them! The kids couldn’t be more pleased, and I have to say, I’m really happy about it too. My husband commented that he was “really impressed” that I pulled it off this year, after hearing me talk about it for the last 8 years. This is the first time I’ve made anything from a pattern on my own, so I feel extra accomplished about that. Yay for learning new things.

We have (from left to right): Ninjago ninja minus the sword he will have by Halloween to accompany the costume, Princess Anna of Arendelle (our take on it, anyway…we had the red dress already, so we switched up the colors and made a blue cloak instead), Queen Elsa with a long flowing cape, and Captain America with a daddy-made shield out of cardboard and tape. The baby doesn’t have a costume, but she may before the week is over…we will see how ambitious I feel. I may just put a tutu on her and call it good.

We snapped this week’s photo after dark, so I set up 2 of my off-camera flashes to light the shot. Try not to fall off your chair laughing when you look at the ninja-boy’s eyes. Makes me laugh out loud every time I look at him.

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“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

421. successfully sewing from a pattern, 422. a clear desk and mind, 423. stories and how they change our hearts, 424. late night silliness with missy moo, 425. an organizing cart for crafty stuff, 426. balanced day of work and play, 427. how great the Good News is for all of us, 428. God’s patience with me, 429. pare-down progress, 430. gentle words

Life & Faith / Motherhood

The Joy

kid_silhouette

It is dark and early morning. Hush hangs gentle over the house, with sleeping sounds of five children and a husband deeply resting. Peace lives here, and I whisper thanks in my heart for the honor of living it.

The baby stirs in the next room, and I go to her, tenderly lifting her close so our cheeks might touch in a groggy silent hello before cradling her in my arms the way mothers do. She is warm and I remember how cold life once was, a lifetime ago it seems. I feel her weight in my arms and in my soul and squeeze just a bit to tell her so. Good morning, little one. She reminds me daily that this humble, simple life is one of joy, not just an endless list of mundane tasks to complete to keep the four walls standing.

Mothering is a joy. It is a trial, a heartache, a sacrifice, and a journey, but with the right spectacles on, I see how giving more of myself brings me more of the good stuff in life. It’s one of those odd, upside-down Jesus things that make little sense at first, and all the sense in the world when you’re in up to your ears, which I am.

For years, I have straddled the fence between control and surrender, but control quietly put itself in the closet about the time this fifth child showed up, and I breathe out the relief. Living with fists clenched tight is just not worth it. If we can stop and be honest, there is very little we control, and if we control anything, it should be our attitudes, our tempers, our thoughts. The rest of what we think we control is an illusion. We can influence. Direct. Decide. Do. There is freedom for all of that. But control? Control is not what we have, despite our best attempts to grasp it. It is what we grapple for. Naturally. We think if we write our stories our own way, we will be satisfied, but…

The joy is the surrender. It is the open hands. It is the walking faith with eyes on nothing else but the Word made man. The joy is receiving what He gives. It is the trusting and seeing how personally and intimately God loves us, and letting that love wrap around and grow and spill out. It is the yes we say, even when we have no idea how the yes can happen. It is the giving what we have and seeing it returned ten-fold.  It is the face of a child that every day reminds me that to surrender to God is to discover the life of joy.

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrew 12:1-2

“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b

411. parenting victories, 412. help from God, 413. excitement over handmade halloween costumes, 414. productive meal prep for the freezer, 415. a quiet week, 416. kind words from my husband, 417. cuddles from big kids, 418. encouragement from my oldest, 419. seeds, 420. the tender heart

Family / Life & Faith

Fall Times & Love

There is what I said, what I meant by what I said, what you heard, what you think I meant…Plus our individual and peculiar lenses through which we see everything in the world, lenses which have been shaped or scarred (or both) by our life experiences. In short, there are many ways to miscommunicate.

Fortunately, there are also many ways in which to love, which I think is the best way out of any miscommunication. There is love that covers. Love that listens. Love that reaches to hold near instead of pushing away. Love that waits patiently for things hoped for. Love that perseveres arduously and gently still. Love that wisely holds the tongue when it would be more gratifying in the moment to spill out garbage words. Love that rejoices with the truth. There is love that gives and keeps giving and then gives some more. That is the love that I long for and do my best to live. Still working on the gentle part, and the patient part, and the giving more and more part.

http://solacearts.com

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 42/52

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“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

401. gracious ones, 402. inward and outward simplicity, 403. freedom from pressures, 404.  hopes and surrendered dreams, 405. costume making success, 406. dry salami and cheese and walnuts and pretzel crisps, 407. quiet nights, 408. forgiveness, 409. prayers answered, 410. new delightful friends

Life & Faith

Holding Stories

Sometimes our life stories need a home. They need somewhere to go beyond ourselves. Ears to listen and the presence of a friend to remind us of true things we can’t see through our tears. A nod or a hug to acknowledge our journey and help us feel less alone in it. A voice to speak courage when we feel like ours has been misplaced. Or used up. Or shot through the heart.

I think of the many friends who have trusted me with hard stories over the years. The hurts and heartaches that press. It is never a burden, but rather, an honor to walk beside. I think of the friends who hear my heart and press into it. The ones who don’t leap to fixing and fussing. The ones who sit when I’m sitting in despair. The ones who dance when I’m dancing in victory. The ones who hold my stories in their hearts and say, “Yes, I see you and know you and love you just how you are,” over years and bumps and turns. Today, I am thankful for those friends.

http://solacearts.com

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“’Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'” Matthew 11:28-29

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391. cbs study & new study friends, 392. unconditional love, 393. parenting wins, 394. plans for a cooking day with a sweet friend, 395. clarity, 396. prayers answered, 397. modern technology, 398. the breathing out, 399. when love breaks through walls, 400. daily graces

Life & Faith

Not Just a Sign or a Sacrament

Music keeps my head above water on some days. It is playing nearly all the time at our house, and I have been known to replay the same song 100+ times because of the way that one line, phrase, or stanza speaks to me in a given season. Because of this, these songs act like their own little milestones in my life, bringing me back to where I emotionally and spiritually was during my obsessive repeated listening of that particular tune. I think of it as meditation, of sorts. This is the latest one I have been smitten by, and I’ll just confess upfront that many/most of my repeated listens from this past year are by Sara Groves. The girl has a way with honest words. The blood of Jesus is not just a sign or sacrament to be observed, but is a love that is real in our lives, if we invite Him in. He stands at the door and knocks. I feel this real love tangibly in my life, and this song hits a tender spot.

Awakening – Sara Groves (<<Youtube link to listen…audio isn’t the best, I recommend looking it up on Spotify if you want better quality)

Dress down your pretty faith
Give me something real
Leave out the thee and thou
And speak to me now

Speak to my pain and confusion
Speak through my fears and my pride
Speak to the part of me that knows
I’m something deep down inside

I know that I am not perfect
But compare me to most
In a world of hurt and a world of anger
I think, I’m holding my own

And I know that you said, there is more to life
And I know, I am not satisfied
But there are mornings I wake up
And I’m just thankful to be alive

I’ve known now, for quite a while
That I am not whole
I’ve remembered the body and the mind
But dissected my soul

Now something inside is awakening
Like a dream, I once had and forgot
And it’s something I’m scared of
And something I don’t want to stop

I woke up this morning
And realized that Jesus is not a portrait
Where stained glass windows or hymns
Or the tradition that surrounds us

And I thought it would be hard to believe in
But it’s not hard at all
To believe I’ve sinned
And fallen short of the Glory of God

And He’s not asking me to change in my joy for martyrdom
He’s asking to take my place
To stand in the gap that I have formed
With His real and His sweet and His real amazing grace

And it’s not just a sign or a sacrament
It’s not just a metaphor for love
The blood is real, His blood is real and it’s not just a symbol of your faith
So leave out the thee and thou and speak now

http://solacearts.com

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“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

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381. invitation to life with hope in it, 382. soft places to fall, 383. grace on tougher days, 384. answered prayers, 385. baby giggles and brother antics, 386. hodgepodge kid dinner, 387. anchor of the soul, 388. sara groves music, 389. the leaning in, 390. stars and polka dots

 

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Five Years

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It is the early morning and I am strapped to a hospital bed with a terrible night’s sleep behind me and an adventure ahead. I hear from a nurse that a patient has arrived that delivered her baby in the car on the 405 freeway an hour ago and I say a prayer of thanks that it wasn’t me, while at the same time wishing that it was, because at least then I would be through the harrowing part of this journey. Twenty-four hours ago, I chose to induce labor four days past the promised arrival date for a variety of reasons. I wanted to control this one thing, to get through the storm and be on the other side of it, and yet, it is clear that I am not in control. Anxiety digs it’s claws in and I feel more desperate than ever to get done with this. I wait and imagine myself into labor, with no progress. Twelve hours of pitocin and no change. I am discouraged.

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Everything about this pregnancy was a trauma to my soul. The day I found out I would be having another baby, I cried. It was not my plan. The timing was off and nothing made sense about having a baby during grad school years and our simplest, poorest days. I was blindsided by the two pink lines and the weight of what they would mean for us. In my heart, I wrestled with God, questioning what He must be thinking to bring us a child at this challenging time, because I had done everything I knew how to do to avoid it. It was not my first choice, but I responded with a yes in my heart. Yes, I would do this. Yes, I would lean hard into God for His provision and help, mostly because I had no other way to go. And yes, I would still wrestle the whole way to maintain some sense of control, until I realized (after the fact) that surrender was the whole point. I did not choose Him, but He chose me for this task.

http://solacearts.com

In the hospital, round with child and a heart that did not feel ready to accept God’s plans for me, I somehow found myself in the middle of God’s transformative work in my life anyway. I see it now as the kindness of God. He knew the plans He had for me, and was not about to let me alter them to fit my own will, even if it meant pushing me past my comfort zone. Ok, way past it.

He planned this boy for our family, and through his birth and five years of watching him grow, I am convinced that through the most uncomfortable season of my life, God was illuminating for me His desire to make the proud heart (mine) humble and to pour out gifts of immeasurable worth even though I have not deserved them.

My second son arrived on the scene after a wild 45 minutes of hard labor following a night of anxious nothing, and has continued to surprise and delight us every day since. What treasures are found when we accept what the Lord gives, even if it makes no sense at first. Happy Birthday, my son. I am so thankful for you, and for everything I have learned from you in your five beautiful years.

http://solacearts.com

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“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”  John 15:16

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11

“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5

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371. my sweet beautiful birthday boy with the biggest heart, 372. highly sophisticated interlocking brick system creations, 373. a special daddy-made birthday breakfast, 374. discovering beauty in unexpected places, 375. reminders of faith milestones, 376. a household schedule that is working, 377. family meetings, 378. generosity of strangers, 379. promises fulfilled, 380. wholeness of heart

Family

Sunday Fun

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One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 41/52

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Watching the game today, and doing an updated photo of us with our banner. The last one didn’t include the face of the littlest miss, since she was still cookin’ at the time. Number three is turning 5 in a few days, and in celebration, he got a neon green Hawks hat. He is one excited fellow. Also, my creative child spontaneously made a Marshawn Lynch jersey for her beloved “Bunny Girl” in support of the team. Funny girl.

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By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

361. grace that covers, 362. family time, 363. moving forward into new things, 364. commercials recited 6-year-old style, 365. restful sleep, 366. connecting with my brother, 367. the care of friends, 368. some really rad 2nd-hand organizing tools, 369. the freedom to freely worship, 370. reading time before bed

Family / Life & Faith

Small Things

I’m learning to be faithful in the small things. Seems a little silly, but it is a revolutionary thought for me. Small steps forward, taken consistently over time, take you somewhere. One can dream epic dreams and plan epic adventures and have all kinds of thoughts in the quiet of their minds, but the one who takes a small step forward is ahead of the one who is still dreaming about it.

 

http://solacearts.com

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 40/52

http://solacearts.com

For me, those steps are putting the essential things in the bucket first, and filling in the gaps with the less-essential things…whichever ones fit. It’s easy to fill the bucket with what gratifies us most immediately, and not be able to fit in what really needs to be in there.

What are your most essential things?

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“Who dares despise the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10

351. birthday fun with a new friend, 352. possibilities, 353. seeds planted & sprouting, 354. encounters with God, 355. lovely light and cute kids at some family photo sessions, 356. longings fulfilled in unexpected ways, 357. homeschool adventures, 358. children working awesomely together, 359. peaceful mondays, 360. the life and example of Daniel

Family

Silhouettes

http://solacearts.com

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 39/52 

So much to say and so little time. Here we are standing atop a pyramid of baled hay at a fall festival. I think I love silhouettes.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

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341. weekend trip, 342. refreshed perspective that comes from a weekend trip, 343. time with a dear friend, 344. grandpa mac stories, 345. plotting and planning surprises, 346. after dark corn maze, 347. big box of honeycrisp apples, 348. new kicks, 349. silhouette children, 350. life-giving conversations