Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives August 2015

Family

Quirks & Lost Curls

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 33/52

So many thoughts about one little photo. What better fun than playing in the dirt in your back yard, burying fallen pears in a hole with 1) a self-made masking tape crown on your head, 2) mismatched clothes, 3) a winter jacket even though its 80ish degrees outside, 4) shoes on the wrong feet and wearing Target-employee colors, and 5) no pants? Quirky bunch.

I don’t know how we’ve managed it, but until this week, we’ve never had an unsanctioned haircut in the house, which is amazing considering the number of children involved. The smiley sister who got her hair cut last week decided to try out her own developing skills on the littlest sister and cut herself two little curls from the side of her head. I would have included a photo of where they went missing from, but honestly, it’s barely noticeable (whew). I almost missed the whole event altogether until I found a pair of kid’s scissors on the table and these two little curls on the floor. Let’s hope this is the last of our hair shenanigans.

This kid lost another tooth today, and looks entirely too old in this photo. Stay little please. Pretty please.

How precious is Your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings. You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights. For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” Psalm 36:7-9 NLT

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Update on goals for week 33:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 33 ~ 18 Run/Walk miles traveled, 379mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 33 ~ 2000 words completed, 98,100 words in 2015

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961. a solid 18 miles, 962. delicious loaded potato salad and burgers on the grill, 963. details and work done in preparation for homeschool co-op that starts in a few weeks, 964. nighttime graces with a sick little, 965. lots of behind-the-scenes creative work, 966. rock pillows, 967. evening backyard girl’s night with amazing food & friends, 968. digging into a new book, 969. new box spring (and consequently whole revamped bedroom area) for the oldest who couldn’t be more excited about her new space, 970. later evening crafting with #1 when she told me out-of-the-blue how special I am to her

Family / Life & Faith / Poetry

Nothing

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 32/52

i say yes under my breath, yes
i know this truth
yes, with eyes closed and a knowing nod
pain and purpose
ache and honesty
longing and love that remains near in every season
every season
even when it feels far

**

low times hang hard in the back of the throat
struggles and searching for reasons, relief
desperate days turning over every last stone
looking for promised peace
a way out
a light ahead
waiting ever so long
losing bits of hope
a trail of broken pieces i feel will never be gathered

i can hear nothing except a tiny voice
in the core of my heart
whispering, ‘don’t give up’
‘trust Me’
‘I have wonderful things in store for you’
‘keep walking’

i shake my head
surely not me
surely not wonderful things for me
how will i ever hold wonderful things
when i am so full of pain
what room is there for wonderful things?
rivers of sorrow, a force going out
others bewildered by my inability to smile
even a little bit
for years

i wrestle and struggle to set my face forward
to pick up weighted feet and soul
to journey on to where i will taste and see the Lord is good
not just hope and pray it is so
one tiny step after another
through darkness and fear
each one a step in faith as i hope in God
not yet seeing what is promised
but knowing that God does not lie

**

dear heart, it is true
God is good, so very good
and He is with you in the darkness
in hardship, in shame, in valleys, in waiting
in loss, in longing He walks with you
gathering the broken pieces
that will one day be restored to life
to fullness, wholeness
dancing and joy
by the remarkable power of His love
which cannot be kept from you
by any means in the universe

for nothing shall separate us from the love of God
nothing at all

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“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19 NLT

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you…In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He, Himself, will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”  1 Peter 5:6-7, 10 NLT

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Update on goals for week 32:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 32 ~ 13.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 361mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 32 ~ 5100 words completed, 96,100 words in 2015

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951. new-to-me maternity clothes, 952. the great bedroom clean-out, 953. seeing baby on ultrasound, 954. little spitfire’s haircut, 955. some rain and some sun, 956. first pre-season hawks game, 957. pizza with g & g mac, 958. my ultra-handy blue tooth speaker, 959. planning some timeline activities for fall, 960. moving message at church

 

Family / Home / Life & Faith

Rhythms

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 31/52

A wind blows through and turns the house upside down. It’s the wind of youthful energy, and it comes with sparks, wonder, quarrels, questions, messes, attitudes…and so much more. Not long ago, I would easily be swept into the wind, tossed all about with anxiety and stress, wanting so much to do it all perfectly, to manage chaos and make space for good things, but unable to get my hands on the reins to steer the wild horses.

I did not wake up one day with a lightbulb over my head and a perfect solution to my troubles, but I have slowly, over time, grown to understand that I can have peace, purpose, and direction no matter what is going on around me.

It comes down to rhythm. Or rhythms, plural.

My twenties proved to be a decade-long struggle to find any sense of rhythm to life, and it started with my inability to recognize that I needed some rhythms if I also wanted peace. I was on an epic thrill-ride, throwing my heart into everything with gusto, sometimes without thought as to how one choice might affect another. Having no order to the day, the week, the month, and no vision for peace throughout the various facets of my life often left me with heartaches, frustration, wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted opportunities.

Suffice it to say, I have struggled for a long time to establish healthy rhythms.

When it comes to music, some people think you either have rhythm or you don’t. We’ve all seen the one person in a group that is clapping opposite all the others, either striking the wrong beats or struggling to clap where there is a beat at all. We have seen people on TV who are learning to dance, but instead of gracefully moving with skill and precision, they awkwardly wobble through the unfamiliar steps. I relate, in many ways.

But rhythm-in-life is not something that we just have or don’t have. It is something that we thoughtfully and intentionally establish, as we learn more about what rhythms look like and what they can offer us.

As defined, rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound, or a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes. That’s it. Just a pattern. Habits. The big rocks you put in your jar before filling the cracks in with sand and smaller pebbles. I think rhythms are especially important for mothers, and for their families. At least that has been my recent experience.

I don’t think every family would jive with the same rhythms, but I do think every family can benefit from establishing ones that uniquely fit them. That said, I’ll share some of what that looks like for me, in case it helps to spark some ideas that might help you identify some rhythms you already have or want to establish.

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**Feel free to skip the rest of this entry if you like. It’s a peek into what works for us, but may not work for everyone. It is meant to be descriptive of our normal, not prescriptive of what anyone else should do. I tried to make it concise, but….that didn’t happen. Read on at your own risk!

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Morning Rhythms – Admittedly mornings have gotten easier as my children have grown a bit, but I try to let the kids know what to expect for morning while I’m putting them to bed the night before. If we’re planning to have a home day, I encourage them to stay quietly reading or playing in their beds until a specific time so I can have a more leisurely wake-up. If we’re planning to be out during the morning, I will tell them that when they wake up (either on their own or when I wake them), they need to be dressed and ready to head out the door without being prompted by me. Once they’re ready, they are to put their energy toward anything they can find around the house that needs to be done, which are typically things like: reorganize the shoe-cubby that is constantly destroyed anytime someone retrieves their shoes, pick up stray laundry from around the house and put it in the right place, put any toys away that might have been left out, get their water-bottles filled up and sitting on the table so they’re ready for when we leave.

Mealtime Rhythms – Whatever the first meal of the day that we’re home for, I set a timer for myself to spend one hour in the kitchen. This is most often breakfast, but some days it is lunch, if we’ve had an early activity to be at that sends us out the door with granola bars & bananas. I know that probably seems like a long time to be in the kitchen, but I have found that it works for me to just set the timer and commit to it. At night, after I put the kids to bed, I do not spend time in the kitchen finishing up dishes, or around the house putting everything back in order. I like the quiet of the late evenings, so I spend that time writing or doing other creative things I’m not able to do when the troops are awake. Instead, I do this morning routine: wash and load dishes, make breakfast, set out meal items for the day that need to be defrosted, prep meal elements for dinner that I can stash away in the fridge, clean out the fridge and pantry and take stock of what I need from the store that week. I put on some music or listen to the audio option on YouVersion, delegate other tasks to kids who wander in and need something to do, and put in the time. I feel like it gives me a return all day long, when I come back to rinse just a few dishes after lunch, or start dinner with everything half-done for me already when we get to 5pm.

Bible Study Rhythms – I love the Bible, but I will not read it if I don’t have structure and accountability to do it. I accomplish this by participating in CBS (Community Bible Study) during the school year, and by hosting independent studies with a friend during the summer. I like listening to the Bible on YouVersion’s iPhone app, and as I mentioned above, do that most often when I’m cleaning the kitchen or driving somewhere. I don’t study the Bible because I ‘should’, and I don’t think anyone should ever feel guilty for not studying it. I study it because it gives me strength, grows my understanding, challenges me, and helps me through days in ways I can’t fully articulate…so in that way I totally recommend it, but it should never be something done just to check it off the list.

Fitness Rhythms – I have never been into fitness. In fact, I avoided it like the plague for a good 12-15 years until it was clear that I needed to make some changes. It’s not that I didn’t know exercise would be good for me, its that I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t really think it was necessary or feasible for me as I started adding more babies to my life. Something about bumping into my 30’s woke me up to the need for me to care for myself, especially in this area. I have seen my greatest successes this year in setting a goal to run or walk a minimum of 10 miles per week. Then I told all my friends about it so I could have their encouragement and accountability (which several have been outstanding about making sure I have both), and now I’ve run/walked almost 350 miles in 2015. This is huge for me! I accomplish this by going to the YMCA several days a week, where I can check my kids into a class for a bit while I use the treadmill, by walking with friends in the early morning (6 or 7am) or late evenings (8pm – when the kids have gone to bed). I probably go 6 days a week, consistently, and I can’t begin to say how life-giving it has been for me. I feel strong, energetic, clear-minded, not stressed all the time. Highly recommend finding your own groove.

Chore Rhythms – I’ve tried lots of different approaches to kids and chores over the years. Charts don’t work for me. Assigning the same chore to a kid for a week or more doesn’t work for me. We do chores on the fly 1) whenever we’re preparing to leave the house (whoever is already ready gets assigned one or two), 2) before any meal time – If I’m in the kitchen preparing food, they are elsewhere in the house tending to a job they can complete in 5-10 minutes, and 3) whenever I get a wind to put everything in order. We start some hoppin’ music, I sometimes assign certain tasks, and everyone works together until the work is done, looking for things that can be done whether or not it has been asked of them. It’s not perfect, but I have seen improvement over time in the kids’ ability to recognize what needs to be done and their follow-through in getting it done without me nagging them to do it. Win all around.

Homeschool Rhythms – This should have its own post one day, but for now, I’ll just say that I have a handful of things that the kids know need to be done every single day before they can do other fun things. School tasks may happen at different times on different days, but the rhythm for the kids is knowing the list of items they need accomplish before there will be any TV time or computer time. They will often bring a reading lesson to me because they’re ready to do it for the day, knowing that it will happen sometime anyway. I like that this approach makes them take initiative some of the time. There are some days we do things that are not on this list, but as a baseline, this keeps us moving through the week without me having to be the steam engine that makes it happen.

Bedtime Rhythms – I already mentioned a little about these above, but I try to keep the order of bedtime the same, even for the older kids. At the end of the day, I’m spent and have very little left to offer, but I have committed to being as present with them as I can for at least a short time. Some nights everyone gets ready without a lot of drama, and those nights, I’ll sit with them to read or have discussions about all kinds of things they have questions about. We sing songs and pray. On nights, when they are not as cooperative, I shorten the story/question time, and have them fall asleep more independently. I rarely stay until everyone is asleep, but I do try to get them through the transition zone, where they have calmed down and are quiet in their beds. Because this takes my last bit of energy for the day, most days, that’s why I push all remaining chores left to do until the morning.

Anyway…that ended up being way longer than I anticipated, but I hope you found some value in it. I feel like all of these things contribute to having a sense of order, peace, and harmony in our house.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

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Update on goals for week 31:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 31 ~ 18 Run/Walk miles traveled, 347.5mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 31 ~ 2600 words completed, 91,000 words in 2015

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941. childcare trade and time with a sweet little guy, 942. brainstorming awesomeness with a friend, 943. a favorable read on the scale,  944. new phone and fitness tracker app, 945. wading pool time with friends, 946. calendaring dates for the upcoming months and plans in the works, 947. friends over for a steak dinner (and mad husband skills to cook the steak), 948. meeting a friend’s new little one and hearing her amazing home-birth story, 949. peanut butter cookies, 950. new book in the mail

Family / Life & Faith

Help

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 30/52

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” James 4:10 NLT

So often, the things I need to do are things I don’t want to do.

Wait patiently.

Clean out the fridge.

Forgive someone who has hurt me.

Scrub toilets.

Be gentle with the ones who constantly push my buttons.

Fold the laundry that has been waiting for days.

Pray about things instead of only worrying about them.

Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Actively listen.

Choose carrots instead of cookies.

Let go of the past.

Organize disheveled bookshelves.

Live with gratitude.

The truth is, I need help to get through even the most basic tasks of my day without seeing my attitude tank, my courage fail, or my perseverance disappear. I find that trying to muscle my way to anywhere only leaves me exhausted, and wishing that things could be different than they are never gets me very far. Life is what it is. I am where I am. Wishing doesn’t make the hard stuff go away.

I’ve learned that help is always near. He lives where the heart beats, and leaps into action the moment I call on Him. Sometimes I say a nice prayer, all tidy and sweet. Sometimes I yelp it out in desperation, in a little less graceful fashion. Sometimes, on the days I totally forget that God is for me, not against me, on the days I forget He invites me to abundance in the shadow of His wing, on the days I forget that I am His beloved child…I just keep struggling on in my own strength, only to meet frustration, heartache, and sometimes despair, until I remember at last that help could be mine if I would ask for it.

I think some people are annoyed to ever have to ask for help, to acknowledge a personal need (or many needs). Can’t God see how we struggle and just step in to rescue us? Can’t God wave His hand and just make all those rough places smooth and easy? I think He could. It is within His ability, for sure, but there is something about recognizing God’s fullness while we encounter our own emptiness. The equation is less about asking for stuff and more about realizing that we are absolutely dependent on Him to fill our lungs every moment. It is about honoring the majesty of God with our lips and our lives, humbling ourselves in order to receive life, full, abundant, and eternal, straight from it’s Source. Maybe we are to pray without ceasing because in every moment that we pray, we are the ones that open the door to God, ready to receive the wonderful gifts He wants to bring, but will not force, upon us.

I’ll be the first to say, it is counter-intuitive to humble oneself in a DIY, self-made culture. Everyone wants to climb to the top of a mountain and say, “Look what I did, all by myself!” But maybe we’re actually called to journey wherever the Lord leads (which may very well NOT be to the top of a glamorous mountain) and ultimately say, “Look what God has done.”

“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

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Update on goals for week 30:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 30 ~ 16.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 329.5mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 30 ~ 500 words completed, 88,400 words in 2015

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926. “locerapter” coloring page, 927. friends over for an afternoon, 928. wading pool time + zany enthusiasm, 929. having people on my team, 930. feeling energetic, 931. walks around the lake several times with friends, 932. the honor of journeying with friends through vulnerable seasons, 933. pizza night, 934. wrapping up summer study on Colossians, 935. t-rex coloring contest & named subjects: super-crusher, orangey, rockstar rexxy, and mr. lover, 936. some purging successes, 937. a son who wants to be a chef (and now helps happily with making dinner), 938. being able to respond calmly during times my patience is put to the test, 939. breakfast eggs and smoothies, 940. rest