Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives December 2014

Family / Life & Faith

50 things I have learned in 2014

A random, mixed up list of reflections on what I’ve learned in 2014. I would love to hear about what you have learned this year. What has stayed with you?

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One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 51/52

1) I have learned that solitude/quietness makes space for sweet things, even if it is uncomfortable.

2) I have learned that change can be good, and it can also be tough to accept. There are a great many things have changed in my life this year. Still, I’m thankful.

3) Some people think the ‘important’ parts of life are the milestones and the mountaintops. I think perhaps the most important things in life happen in the margins, in the time between milestones.

4) I have learned that after disliking mushrooms my entire life, I do like the taste of them. I still can’t say that I love the texture of mushroom pieces, but after learning to make cream of mushroom soup and stroganoff from scratch. Yum. Yes, I like mushrooms.

5) I have learned (or re-learned) that I can do hard things. I’ve done lots of them this year. I would do them again if needed. Hard doesn’t mean impossible, and even impossible things are possible with God.

6) I have learned that even when I have given away (or thrown away) more than half of my possessions in a quest to simplify, there is always more that can go. Having “enough” looks very different to me today than it did a year ago.

7) I have learned that fear does not have to run my life. I’m determined to make choices in faith instead of fear. I have had some success with that in 2014. More to learn, always.

8) I have learned that babies bring joy. Each one of mine has been another step toward surrender to God’s will for my life. Where I make room in my heart, He fills to overflowing with blessing and joy. It’s amazing, really.

9) I have learned that every incoming message influences me, and that I can and should choose wisely what I give my attention to…not because I am unable to handle disturbing or upsetting news, but because there is a whole lot of garbage out there and as with food, if I fill up with garbage, I can’t expect a whole lot of soul-nourishment out of that.

10) I have learned that God asks me to be faithful, not extraordinary. That is humbling and freeing.

11) I have learned that my children teach me many things when I tune in to them.

12) I have learned that I can let go. Sometimes I care about things so much that I have trouble doing this, but it is possible, and I can find peace in surrender.

13) I have learned that sewing is a really great hobby. It is super practical, and really pretty enjoyable with a basic understanding of how to tackle things, and some quality tools. At one time, I thought it was a total bore, but I have grown to like it very much.

14) I have learned that is possible for me to get healthy. This year I lost 50lbs in the span of 10 months after having a baby. I mean, 9 lbs of that was the baby, and I guess a few lbs might be accounted for by extra fluids during pregnancy but yep. A whole lot of pounds gone. I have never before made such an effort to be active, and I’m really happy about both how great I feel, and how the (not-as-important) numbers reflect that.

15) I have learned that I really do feel great when I am active and eating well. Before pregnancy #5, I was not especially healthy, but through a series of events, got started taking this health thing seriously, and I don’t think I really knew how ‘not well’ I felt before. Energy, strength, endurance…Things I have now that I never did before.

16) I have learned that I can finish things I start. It’s not always easy, and its not always pretty, but I can do it. I have also learned that I can table things I started if they just shouldn’t be finished. Some things just don’t fit.

17) I have learned that worrying gets me nowhere. I have spent far too much time worrying in the past.

18) I have learned that I genuinely enjoy watching football. The athleticism, strategy, collaborative nature of the sport. I surprise myself, but I have enjoyed it a lot this season. Go Hawks.

19) I have learned that I enjoy reading aloud to my kids. This has not always been the case. I struggled to enjoy reading to them through my earlier years as a mother, but we’ve found our groove, and it’s a happy thing.

20) I have learned that I am still smitten by the sweetness of a sleeping child. Especially when they sleep on me.

21) I have learned that things that are imperfect are sometimes more endearing and more meaningful than the ‘perfect’ alternative.

22) I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if I wear make-up every day. In 80%+ of our family photos from this year, I’m not wearing any at all. I have found a lot of freedom in that, and while I don’t love every photo of myself (or lots of them, really), I’m learning that editing out the undesirable things is not worth the trouble. Each one of those photos is meaningful to me, perfectly imperfect.

23) I have learned that ‘today’ is the most important day of my life. None of us know how much time we’ll be afforded on this earth. This year I’ve said farewell to a number of people who passed away, some unexpectedly. Reminds me that today is important, and that I need to make the most of the time I have now.

24) I have learned that parenting is hard. Raising 5 kids is totally kicking my butt…in the best way. This year, I’ve learned more about organization, stewardship, grace, self-discipline, and juggling than any year previously.

25) I have learned that park shirts are probably the most brilliant idea I  have ever executed.

26) I’ve learned that control is an illusion. There is far more out of our control than what is in it, and its ok. Let it go.

27) I learned that I am a writer. I have found it hard to own this in years gone by, and I have struggled to figure out if or what I might do with writing for a long time. Now I just own that I am a writer, and I write whatever I write.

28) I have learned that a two-year-old in a giant sombrero is pretty much the cutest thing ever.

29) I have learned that I like my boys’ hair buzzed. We tried a few different hair cuts for them this year, and none of them fit quite the same. Good thing is, they love it buzzed too.

30) I have learned that lovely things can tell an important story just like broken things can.

31) I have learned that I do not have to be working outside the home to be fulfilled. I closed my business earlier this year after nearly 9 years of it, and it is possibly the best decision I made all year. I still love photography and will likely pursue it again in the future, but quite honestly, in some seasons there are more important things than chasing dreams.

32) I have learned that it is ok to ask for help. Not just ok, actually its awesome. Share the load. You can’t carry it all. Plus, friends that are in it with you are the best kind of people.

33) I have learned that I can say yes to my kids. I used to be a ‘no’ mom. No to everything. I still say no sometimes, but I’m learning to say yes as often as I can. It’s all part of that ‘the years are short’ thing.

34) I have learned that who we are connected to and how we connect are important. Even the smallest connection impacts our lives. We are influenced by the people we are around, whether or not we admit it, and sometimes it is the fringe folks, the risk-takers, the unconventional, and the ones who are different from us that enrich our lives the most.

35) I have re-learned that my husband is a rockstar dad and an even better husband. He is always looking to make me laugh and support me. This year has been sweet in untold ways.

36) I have learned that my big feelings don’t have to run my life. They really try to. Sometimes they succeed. But I see now that I can direct my disproportionate amount of emotional energy in the right places and see a fruitful return.

37) I have learned that I can gain a lot by listening.

38) I’ve learned that I really love to read. I have read more books for pleasure this year than any other in my memory.

39) I have learned that if I want my home to be a refuge, I have to work hard to make it so, shutting out influences, stuff, and people that are toxic to cultivating peace.

40) I have learned that motherhood in the little years can be a desperately lonely season. It can also be overwhelmingly chaotic and full. Moms need hugs.

41) I have learned that laundry never ends. Ever.

42) I have learned that I can’t save the world, but I can pray. And I try to do just that, as often as I can. If you need prayer for anything, please reach out. I’m here for you.

43) I have learned that it is not necessary to overthink everything. Now if I could just stop doing that.

44) I have learned that sewing from a pattern and cooking from a recipe are not the worst things ever. I have never been a pattern or recipe-user (in the traditional sense), but this year I’ve done both a few times with (surprise!) great results. Who knew?

45) I have learned that delaying all screen time until the late afternoon help sets a peaceful and productive tone for the day, and the days I cave early, I always regret it. I have learned that my kids are ultra-sensitive to screen time. Come to think of it, I am too.

46) I have learned that contentment is something I have to intentionally cultivate. It is easy to be discontent with what I have, who I am, and where I wish I was. It is hard work to not compare, not complain, and just give thanks for what is in front of me.

47) I have learned that its best to buy the kids their own tape. If I don’t, none of us have any tape when I go looking for some.

48) I have learned that love disarms.

49) I have learned that sometimes the things we want most are not the things that will most benefit us. Sometimes wisdom is counterintuitive.

50) I have learned that new mornings, and new years bring new mercies, just as the Lord has promised.

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“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:4 NLT

511. sweet Christmas memories, 512. reconnecting with old friends, 513. the first post-Christmas trip to donate stuff, 514. a baby and a juggling scarf, 515. unexpected blessings,  516. generous extended family and dear friends, 517. seahawks in the playoffs (woohoo!), 518. new vision for homeschool, 519. a butterfly calendar for the new year, 520. the beautiful and surprising year that was 2014

Family / Life & Faith

Space

We have studied astronomy this fall. Planets. Comets. Constellations. Galaxies. I have never been so aware of how small I really am in the context of the greater universe. I am not even a speck. I am a speck on a speck. Have you ever thought about how wild it is (thanks to insane telescopes) that we can see to far reaches of the universe, but we can’t yet actually physically get a human onto the closest planet to earth? It could happen in the future, but it hasn’t yet.

http://solacearts.com

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 50/52

As I have explored space with my kids these past few months, I have been inspired and overwhelmed by the expanse of space and the undiscovered wonders in it. Truly awesome, in every sense of the word. Here we are, in constant motion, rotating, orbiting, and somehow flourishing on a planet that has been perfectly crafted for us, the only place of its kind that we have yet discovered.

If you think about every detail that is required to sustain life on earth, it is a miracle that we are here. If you think about the expanse of the created universe and the sheer size of what is out there, it is humbling to realize that God spoke it all into being, and that same God breathes life into us…something He chose to do with great intention and purpose. If you think about the magnitude of the created universe and how much greater the love of the uncreated God must be… For you. For me. A love so great, that while we cannot possibly fathom His greatness, He came to earth, to us, in the most humble way. As a baby. A radical, but simple statement of what He values: humanity. He came here for us–for us to maybe see in a way we might understand, the light of His goodness and the newness of life found in Him alone.

There is nowhere we can go that His love cannot find us. His love is big, extravagant, enough. Out in the far reaches of space, He is there. In the quiet of our hearts, where we question if God could really love us, little specks. He is there. Will we see what He longs for us to see?

http://solacearts.com

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“He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His children.’” Acts 17:24-28

501. hope,  502. a generous friend and a needed date night, 503. a husband that makes me laugh, 504. beautiful christmas cards that arrive daily, 505. eggnog ice cream in a waffle cone, 506. a stroll through lit up trees, 507. vision for a new year 508. all that space stuff that blows my mind, 509.  christmas surprises on the horizon, 510. the pause of advent

 

Family / Marriage

Goose Poop and Diamonds

I am twenty-one and fresh off the plane from Martha’s Vineyard where I spent a full term away from SPU at a music consortium program, testing my little wings in a music-artist community and planning out my path to stardom as a recording and touring musician. It is December 2004, and I am ready to be home in the northwest and figuring out what I will really be doing with my life going forward. I like to sing, but I’m clearly not cut out for the music business. Maybe I have the talent, but I no longer have the heart, and the dream I’ve held close for twelve years makes an exit. There is something new around the bend.

My boyfriend picks me up at the airport looking like a grizzly mountain man, with a wild beard that deliberately hasn’t been groomed since my departure three months ago, in protest of my absence. I feel genuinely caught off guard when he hugs me and tugs the luggage out of my hands, tossing it in the back of his car right after he opens the door for me. He always opens the door for me. He looks nothing like the clean-shaven guy I left when I took off from Seattle. He promises to shave away his protest when we get back to campus so I will quit looking at him weird.

We board a travel bus to Spokane for a Christmas holiday with his family. While I was away, he wrote me a letter literally every day (hello sappy romantic) and we also talked on the phone nearly every day…for hours. It was ridiculous. I could have probably saved a fair bit of money and heartache by skipping the far-away adventure, but it was a fun wrinkle in our story, and truthfully, it is one of those things I just needed to do.

We sit close in the same bus seat and awkwardly hold hands because it has been so long since we’ve had a long conversation that wasn’t over the telephone. The bus bumbles along and we talk. I tease him, telling him that he should ask me to marry him now that I’m not going to be a rock star. I honestly don’t know that he has the ring in his pocket and plans to ask when the moment is right.

His mom picks us up at the bus station and we head straight for what I’m told will be a spectacular display of christmas lights that I simply must see. The gate is closed and there are no lights, so the plans change and we head to downtown Spokane. I’m oblivious to everything, and all my usual powers of observation are completely absent. Of course.

We park and pile out of the car (his mom and brother and sister) and there is some shuffle and scuffle about where to go next. He wants me to go see the carousel with him across the street in the park, but it is super cold out, and I say maybe we can go inside a store or coffee shop where it is warmer?

He insists we go, so we break off from the group to head for the carousel. I start sensing the clues. My hand is slipped into his coat pocket for him to keep it warm and he’s starting to rub my ring finger with his thumb while we walk. He is also walking awkwardly, looking nervously everywhere except the carousel in front of us. Later he tells me he was looking for a place to kneel where there wasn’t goose poop on the ground. He drops to his knee, holds up a dainty little sparkle, and asks me the question. Will I marry him?

I feel instantly everything at once and I just cry. I fall into him and cry hard. He holds my shoulders searches my face and waits for an answer that doesn’t come until he asks out loud, is that a yes? I nod because I can’t say anything, and he breathes out the biggest sigh of relief. Yes. I said yes.

Ten years ago this month. I said yes.

engaged-0001

Then: Taken the day after he proposed to me. December 2004

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Now: One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 49/52 This is (most of) us in pajamas.

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“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

491. ten years of yes, 492. new recycling can on the way, 493. a child’s generous heart, 494. elderly folks we visited who smiled and sang along to our carols, 495. sewing project happiness, 496. late night conversations, 497. tucking in sweet children, 498. voices that inspire and challenge, 499. peace that surprises me, every day, 500. kids singing along to songs on commercials

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Injustice

I don’t often write about current events. It takes me time to process what I see going on out there, and because I purpose to do my best to speak hope, to live love, and to encourage others, I find it difficult to respond to much of what is going on in the world in such a manner. I am deeply disturbed by the many stories I hear of violence, injustice, and a general disregard for for human life.  I lose sleep over these stories. Some days I cannot function because of my anger and grief on behalf of those who have been wronged. On some days, paralyzing what-ifs and terrorizing fears hold me at the throat.

nature-0001

What I find especially sad today is that for some people, many people, life is not about what-ifs and fears. It is about devastating loss, real injustice, and clear dangers that they cannot escape on their own. We live in societies with systems and structures that do not reflect value for all human life, because behind the systems and structures there are real people who either have no respect for life, or they hang back and watch the systems run and with inaction and silence, thereby passively condoning the injustice.

We promote oppression with attitudes and responses that diminish the pain and plight of others. We speculate. We justify. We stereotype. We hide. We close our eyes and ears to reality because the mess is so big, we can’t bear to acknowledge it. We don’t want to be responsible for doing something about it. I understand. I feel overwhelmed too. I’m a nobody. What can I do?

Can we open our eyes (or even better, our hearts) to the oppressed? Can we acknowledge that we are part of systems that oppress other people, even if we ourselves do not mean to harm anyone? Can we start talking about how to connect with the people around us, to hear their stories and struggles no matter how different they might be from us, and seek understanding? Seek real solutions? Can we be honest about our own fears and attitudes and how they keep us from loving others? Can we seek to live out love instead of just debating issues and taking sides in a useless war of words that help no one? Can we acknowledge our ignorance?

Somewhere along the line, calling someone ignorant became derogatory. The word simply means, “to have a lack of knowledge or information.” If we’re honest, can we acknowledge that every one of us is ignorant about something (probably many things)? Can we own that we often see (and align ourselves) with only one side of a story, which is a lot easier to do when we refuse to listen to other perspectives, often out of self-preservation? One side of anything is not the whole reality, and in some cases, is not reality at all for those who are directly involved in a situation.

We have to learn to listen to each other. We have to care about the long-term effects of the attitudes we cultivate, and we have to care about the things we teach our children, both by what we say and how we live. We have to know that we passively participate in injustice if we do not actively seek to end it by choosing love first and always, sometimes at a great cost to ourselves. We have to value every human life; the unborn, elderly, black, white, homosexual, heterosexual, married, single, divorced, rich, poor, housed, homeless, male, female, sick, healthy, and every other category that exists.

To those who carry deep wounds because no one has taken the time to hear your story, to walk beside you, and love you with more than words, I am sorry. I am sorry for the times I have missed those opportunities because I was busy, ignorant, or selfish.

You matter. Your story matters.

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5

 

Family

Snowmen

We spent Thanksgiving and the weekend after it 300 miles from home with some of our favorite people. I would say the trip was 98% awesome. I’m docking 2% for the last day because our oldest had about the worst day of sickness we’ve seen in a long while. After calming her tummy down, we jetted home about 12 hours earlier than planned (in the middle of the night) so we could be home just in case anyone else decided to get what she got.  So far, no one else has, and I’m chalking that up to some answered prayers. Hopefully we will not see any more of that business around here. The middle-of-the-night drive was rather peaceful, and with no clouds in sight, the views by the light of the moon were breathtaking.

http://solacearts.com

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 48/52

We arrived home to snow that was a few days old and some treacherously icy front steps. Immediately upon arrival, we all crashed into our beds until morning when we decided it might be safe to venture out and get our Christmas tree, hoping the tummy sickness would not return. We planned to visit the same tree farm we’ve been to for the past few years, but neither of us sleepyheads thought to check their hours. We drove an hour out of our way to find a closed sign on the gate. Lame! I was disappointed, but it really was a nice drive out there even though we didn’t cut down a tree. We did, however, find a lovely tree at a roadside lot on our way home, which I’ll probably post photos of later. Today the kids went out to enjoy the last of the snow that is quickly melting, and together they welcomed a new member of the family. Meet “Frosty”.

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Of the experience, one child said, “You have to be careful when you are making a snow ball because your hands might get refrigerated.” 

http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com

I was also asked if I ever made a snowman when I was a kid, how old I was when I made it, and if I did it by myself. I just pulled up this pic for them from 1989 of me and my bro and our Walkman-wearing Postal Service Snowman, which I think was the first one I ever made.

snowman

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“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us.” Ephesians 2:14a

481. Thanksgiving memories, 482. generous family members, 483. sleeping in several days in a row, 484. answered prayers, 485. midnight drive and views, 486. christmas tree provision, 487. costco helpers, 488. sunny day snow time, 489. frosty, all his leaves, his inverted carrot nose, and all the shrieks of delight from the kids while they put him together, 490. childhood memories