Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives March 2015

Family / Life & Faith

Practicing Quiet

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One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 12/52

This is a Monday invitation to practice quiet, to pray and to yield to whatever the Lord has. There is a whole week ahead that is sure to have it’s share of noise and busy and aches and bumps. There may be surprises and struggles. There may be hard things, unexpected joys, new discoveries, revisited hurts. Who knows what the days will bring?

For me there will be a lot of laundry, cooking, mediating sibling conflict, and sweeping up the dining room floor of a random assortment of food scraps and project clippings. There will be graceful moments that I feel the wind under my wings and the tasks flying off my list, followed by very done moments where I hide in the bathroom for a second to breathe – but only a second, because there will be little hands banging on the other side of the door as soon as they’ve discovered I am in there. Little ones rarely agree to any request for personal space.

There will be moments I look around and try to remember what I’ve done that day because whatever it was, it surely won’t show itself in the condition of my house…that whole do-the-same-task-over-one-hundred-times-and-no-one-would-ever-guess-because-its-all-still-a-mess thing. There will be moments I remind myself that being present has to be more dear to me than doing it all perfectly, or I will lose out on the most important interchanges of this week.

Whatever your days will bring to you, I invite you to start your week by taking a breath and feeling the weight of your own soul. When you breathe in, let your elbows shift out just a bit, and allow yourself a little more space to be where you are, honest and real. Open a conversation with God and ask Him to be near and to help you through whatever the week brings, and see if He doesn’t steady you as you go.

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Update on goals for week 12:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 12 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 129.5 cumulative in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 12 ~ estimated 5,000 words completed, 44,200 cumulative in 2015

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“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” Hebrews 6:19

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:39

667. Jesus, 668. living words, 669. friends to celebrate with, 670. early morning exercise, 671. meal planning, 672. clarity, 673. the kids’ prayers, 674. headbands on baby curls, 675. tickle time, 676. making new friends, 677. new church home, 678. birthday stomp rocket fun, 679. milk-carton animals, 680. writing breakthroughs

Family / Motherhood

Have Courage and Be Kind: Thoughts on Parenting

Like many others have done in the past week, I took my girls to see the new live-action Cinderella movie. I am generally not much of a movie person, and I could personally take or leave the whole princess thing, but my husband suggested I take the girls (probably so he didn’t have to suffer through it himself…love you babe) so to the theater we went.

I didn’t have high any expectations, but by the end I had cried a number of times, and I found myself genuinely grateful for a movie that shared a beautiful message amidst all the fairytale fluff.

Have courage and be kind.

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Birthday week! One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 11/52

It is a simple slogan, for sure, but one with a ring that resonates in the heart of this mama.

This line describes the style of parenting I’ve come to own as I’ve matured as a parent. Before I expand on that, let me tell you a little bit about my early days as a mother.

I have always loved my children. As soon as I learned of my first pregnancy, I wanted to be a mother, even though prior to that, I might have shared different feelings about the prospect. I was young (age 23 at her birth) and as eager as anyone to try my hand at this parenting thing. When she arrived, I was completely blindsided by how challenging it is to care for a newborn. When she started walking and her little brother arrived, I was still up to my ears in the learning curve of both parenting and of general out-of-college-adulthood. When my third-born arrived, I was full swing into the, “You-have-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-so-hard” dance.

I had very little confidence in myself or my parenting choices, so I spent a fair amount of time anxiously second-guessing myself or totally ignoring things I could have been tending to that might have made life a little more peaceful. I was also easily irritated by my children (hello, lack of sleep and the impossible juggling act of 3 kids under 4 years old), and I had not yet realized that my feeble attempts to orchestrate any kind of peace in our home were not working at all.

If I’m honest, I felt a lot of shame during those years. I was ashamed of how disastrous my house was on a daily basis. I was ashamed of how impatient I was with my toddlers and their very normal needs. I was overwhelmed, and lots of days, I was anything but kind to my kids and my husband. Our lives were out of order on many levels, and I tried to duck and hide from having to openly acknowledge my role in that reality. Avoiding the truth made it easier to avoid the terribly humbling realization that, as a mother, I have a tremendous amount of influence over the health and atmosphere of my home.

The arrival of my fourth child is somewhat of a sweet bend in the road of my motherhood journey. Her middle name is Grace, and it is truly in that season that I learned in a very personal way that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  It is in that season that I started being more honest with myself about what I could do humble myself and serve my family without complaining about it…and that has ushered us into a sweet and beautiful season that I would not trade for anything.

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So how does one have courage as a parent?

It might be different for you, but I’ll share a little list of what that looks like for me:

Having courage looks like taking responsibility for my own attitude and how it affects my family. The days that my head is in the game and I have a cheerful disposition about my role are the smoothest days.

Having courage looks like intentionally seeking to connect with each of my children and grow the trust between us by listening, spending time together, and communicating honestly.

Having courage looks like setting healthy boundaries for all of us. This has meant simplifying our lives in every way I am able to — reducing our commitments, reducing the amount of stuff that we own, clearly laying out (and following through on enforcing) expectations for behavior, and talking together about being content with what we have.

Having courage looks like seeking wise counsel when I need help. It is humbling to ask for help, but every single time I’ve reached out to someone I trust for advice on a particular issue, I walk away with valuable perspective, and usually, a lighter burden.

How does one be a kind parent? Again, you could take this a number of different directions.

I try to speak with my children, not at them. I’ve learned that my tone and delivery make all the difference. I can show kindness by simply choosing kind words, even with a saucy preschooler or a moody nearly pre-teen. This is not always easy for me.

I try to follow through on what I’ve said I will do, whether that’s a promise to do a certain activity, or following through with a consequence I’ve put forward in a disciplinary situation. Consistency grows trust between us, and helps my children know what the ‘rules’ are in our relationship. If the rules are always changing, or I don’t follow through with what I’ve said, they learn that it is only sometimes important to listen to my words, which causes lots of problems…from experience.

I try to encourage more than I correct. This is actually the hardest one for me, because it really takes a lot of effort to not spiral down a negative slope while correcting behaviors and attitudes that I have been repeatedly correcting. All day. Correction must happen, but I’ve learned that my children are much more responsive to correction when they do not feel defeated. In every situation, I want them to know what is expected of them, and I want them to know they are capable, intelligent, and worthy of respect regardless of the choices they have made that day. A child who feels loved and valued will naturally put more effort into whatever is asked of them.

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If you find yourself struggling in a season of parenting, I think its ok to take a few steps back and think about it might look like to Have Courage and Be Kind at your house. If you are in need of a friend to journey with you in that pursuit, I’m glad to be here for you. Feel free to send me a note!

Linking up with Mama Moments Monday.

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Update on goals for week 11:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 11 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 117.5 cumulative in 2015 2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 11 ~ estimated 3,000 words completed, 39,200 cumulative in 2015

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“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

656. amazing message about the power of weakness, 657. “coffee” with a sweet friend, 658. birthday week and homemade doughnuts, 659. great anticipation, 660. generous birthday gifts and warm wishes, 661. slight updates to the blog, 662. a husband who helps in so many ways, 663. meeting new and interesting people, 664. cherry blossoms, 665. truth that heals

Family / Life & Faith

Simplicity

There is something to simplicity, something to life unencumbered by unnecessary things. I’ve been chasing simplicity for a long while, and while I’ve experienced some awesome blessings in the midst of that journey, I’ve also happened upon a number of discoveries that are less-easy to accept.

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One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 10/52

Part of simplicity is making space for what is really important, and part of making that space is saying goodbye to whatever occupies that needed space—for a season, or forever—however sentimental, comforting, useful, or valuable those items might be. This is true for the tangible world around me, but also for emotional and spiritual things. There are emotional ties that have to be cut, ideals, convictions, and pursuits that have to be pruned for there to be any space for fruit to grow in my life.

It is both hard and humbling to realize that the presence of anything in my life means the sacrifice of something else. If I want peace, I have to let go of worry. If I want contentment, I have to let go of my desire to have more or different things than I already have. If I want to be healthy, I have to give up the sugar I enjoy so much. If I want to be connected with my husband, I have to let go of the need to be right about everything and focus on cultivating grace and understanding between us. If I want my children to have a patient and attentive mother, I can’t stack my schedule with a hundred other things I’d love to be doing, even if they’re great things.

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It all sounds so noble, but in practice, it is hard, and often rather painful to give up some of these things. Every single worthwhile thing comes at a cost. Are my highest priorities important enough to make deep sacrifices for? Yes. Is it really hard to accept this reality in some moments, even though I’m living the life I have chosen? Also yes.

If you’re in a season of simplifying your heart or your house, I offer prayers for the wisdom, courage, and resolve you need to get from where you are to where you want to be.

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Update on goals for week 10:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 10 ~ 10 Run/Walk miles traveled, 105.5 cumulative in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 10 ~ estimated 3,200 words completed, 36,200 cumulative in 2015

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“Blessed is the one You discipline, Lord, the one You teach from Your law; You grant them relief from days of trouble.” Psalm 94:12

651. smooth monday, 652. warm, sunshiny days, 653. learning to have grace for myself and others, 654. pizza night excitement, 655. pig pants

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Like a Child

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One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 9/52

I wrote the following piece on an old, lesser known blog of mine from a few years back, in October 2012. Thought I’d share it today in this space with a few small adjustments. As we begin another week that will surely be full of its own challenges, I pray a blessing over you, that you would discover again (or for the first time) how desperately and completely God loves you. 

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So incredible, the heart and mind of a child. I have four (now five), so I’ve had a closer look than most at the depth and complexity of each little person and the many things they ponder. I love when their eyes narrow and one cheek crinkles up to meet the furrowed brow when they ask their many questions. It’s a wonder to see curiosity abound with no limits; little sponges, but not the kitchen sink variety. They are the kind that has legs and seeks out adventure, seeks understanding, pays very close attention. Selectively. You know I had to throw that in.

It’s easy to get irritated by them. I mean, I forgot a long time ago what it’s like to see things for what the physical eye will notice, to consider things for what something looks like in honest light without jaded lenses between. I struggle to see what is really there instead of what I want to see, or not see, or what I feel in light of my emotional wounds and developed biases. I have also forgotten how to imagine and innovate with just what is in front of me, however simple it may be. I have forgotten that what it’s like to know just enough to propel the adventure forward and be content with that. My children know a whole lot more about contentedness than I do, even though I’ve been working on that for a good many years. What’s up with that?

They teach me so much about what it looks like to live by faith. They look to the only place they know to go for comfort, for sustenance, guidance, direction, understanding, and love. They look to their parents. Why am I slow to learn when I know exactly where to find those things? I think the Lord gave me four (five) children because I’m at least four times more dense than the average person regarding how to find the peace and comfort my soul seeks. If I could see myself like a child with a parent that offers me comfort, sustenance, guidance, direction, and understanding, my days would be a whole lot lighter. Some days I remember that God loves me and promises to journey with me through every hard thing, but a lot of days I spend fretting, forgetting what He says to me, and giving power away to the enemy who seeks to destroy, or at least, paralyze me from living in forward motion, from walking in faith. If he can keep me from moving forward, responding to God and doing ‘yes’ and ‘faithfulness’ even in the face of my great fears, he can keep me from so much of what God has for me. So here is to learning how to be like a little child, over and over again every day.

Beaming faces pile on top of me and shower kisses and gifts of scribbled treasure, fully trusting that I will feed them, clothe them, and love them without reservation. They are confident that I will care for them when they are sick and cuddle them when they are low. Does not our great Father promise to do all the same and immeasurably more when we go to Him?

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Update on goals for week 9:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 9 ~ 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 95.5 cumulative in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 9 ~ estimated 5,000 words completed, 33,000 cumulative in 2015

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“Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah 2:5 

636. park time with the fam,  637. huggabear hugs and baby’s first steps, 638. improvement on writing goal, 639. blissful sunday nap (with cuddles), 640. our awesome homeschool cooperative, 641. building rockets, 642. the one who tells me I’m the best mama in her life, 643. husband cleaning the kitchen (bonus points), 644. peace over big decisions, 645. sweet visit to a new church, 646. the mysterious love of God, 647. retracing a journey and the milestones in it, 648. new mercies daily, 649. sunrise walks, 650. the good and necessary pain of being humbled again and again

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

One

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Frosting/sprinkle boogers are the best, especially on a one-year-old face. This little love has brought us exorbitant amounts of joy this year, which is fitting since “Joy” is her middle name. I made my first from-scratch cupcakes in honor of her birthday, which I have to say turned out rather well. I’ve always been intimidated by making cakes/cupcakes from scratch because somehow the pervasive marketing of cake-mix companies made me think that it couldn’t possibly be easy to make them without a box. Well, I’m glad to say, I’ve overcome that hurdle and not only was it a lot easier than I expected, it was more rewarding as well.

It makes me think about all the things we do a certain way because we don’t know any other way, or we think that doing a task another way must surely be too hard. We keep going the way we know, traveling in the ruts of the road on autopilot, wherever the road leads–without thought or intention to choose the path before us. We take the default, familiar way because we can’t imagine the wonderful that could be waiting around the untraveled bend. Sometimes the familiar way is the best way, but sometimes the familiar way is the way that keeps us from a rapturous adventure of discovery and beauty.

Whatever way you take today, let it be the one you choose, not the one you take because its just where the ruts direct you.

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One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 8/52 Taken in the same location this photo was captured just over one year ago.

 

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Update on goals for week 8:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 8 ~ 12 Run/Walk miles traveled, 83 cumulative in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 8 ~ estimated 2,000 words completed, 28,000 cumulative in 2015

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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

626. one year old darling, 627. from scratch cupcakes and frosting, 628. goofy baby teeth, 629. visit from mama, 630. green lake walks with treasured friends, 631. sun sparkles on grass in the early morning, 632. new hairdo, 633. signs of springtime, 634. pantry cleanout, 635. little graces