Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives October 2015

Family / Thoughts

Leaves and Bumps

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 42/52

October will soon come to a close and the holiday season will be upon us. I’m a little bit excited about it. We had a long drive this weekend, and my husband and I planned out our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in detail. You know, so we can be prepared and all. It was actually his idea, which I thought was a little funny since he’s the Christmas music nazi that doesn’t want the holiday tunes playing until after Thanksgiving. We won’t tell him that we have already been listening to our favorite songs a few times a week since the beginning of October.

I am excited for November because: Thanksgiving. Not just the food, but also the way everyone starts to get all reflective about the things they are thankful for. I secretly love the Facebook posts that list people’s gratitude lists, and the general pause that comes with becoming still enough to recognize what has whizzed by this previous year. I’ll probably be in that space myself, even more than I usually am. I love seeing all the people who get serious about NaNoWriMo and write their hearts out. I don’t write novels, but I do think I’ll try and join in the push for focused writing effort in November, perhaps resurrecting my abandoned writing goal this year which was to write 10,000 words a week. I have the ideas stored up in my heart, but we’ll see if I have the time or discipline to write them out.

People have asked about our pregnancy, and it’s going very well. Nothing major to report, other than the little guy seems healthy and is getting more active by the day. I have enjoyed a tremendously energetic 2nd trimester (barely feeling pregnant) but I’m starting to feel the aches and discomforts that come with sharing one’s body space with another (growing) human. I have to attribute my energy and gusto to the walking I’ve been able to keep up on since the beginning of the year. This week, I surpassed the 500th mile for the year (I started tracking in January) which feels a little bit like a giant accomplishment for me. I’ve been on a health journey for a long while, but this year has been the first that I have been able to diligently and consistently get myself moving. I have offered every excuse over the years for why I couldn’t/didn’t/didn’t want to exercise…depression, busy with too many toddlers, pregnant, no time, etc….its all hogwash friends. You can’t afford to neglect your own body while you tend to all the other things. One day, when all those other things are a distant memory, you’ll still have your body – in whatever condition it is in by that time. It’s worth it to make time. You are worth it. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, find a way to make it happen. I don’t think I even realized how unwell I felt back then, but I’m converted. I have gained only a fraction of the weight I typically gain by this stage of pregnancy, and my life is more full, more busy, and more ‘interesting’ than it has been in any previous season. So put the excuses out with the trash, look in the mirror at your beautiful face, figure out what you can do to get moving, and then do it. I will cheer for you.

Our new little man, safe in his cozy spot, at 23 weeks.

“I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

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Update on run/walk goal for week 42 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 501.5mi in 2015

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1071. surpassing 500 miles traveled on foot (with purpose) for the year, 1072. weekend getaway, 1073. growing and kicking baby, 1074. box of apples, 1075. where hair-brained ideas lead, 1076. yummy chicken salad sandwiches on the road, 1077. planning out some new ideas for improving our household organization & spaces, 1078. pink puppy, 1079. new little girl boots, 1080. party plans for halloween with friends

Family

Fall Colors

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 41/52

There is so much I want to write about at the moment, but I am at the end of the day, and the end of my brain juice. I will say, I attended a writer’s retreat this past weekend, which was a delightful experience that I will surely write more about this week or next.

Here you see the kids pictured along the same path in the same park that we took a self-timer family photo in about a year and a half ago. If you care to compare how the people have grown over roughly 18 months of time, check out the original photo from March 2014. Man, that went fast.

We said goodbye to the little one’s curls this week. She’s as cute as ever, of course, but I feel a little sad about it. Turns out, the middle sister has been fitting in some mini-haircuts here and there as she can get away with it, so there were a number of odd chunks missing and the curls in the back were also becoming an out-of-control nest. Goodbye sweet curls.

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Update on run/walk goal for week 41 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 489mi in 2015

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“Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15

1061. new water bottle, 1062. weekend retreat with wonderful writers, 1063. new friends forged, 1064. heart revelations and new peace, 1065. some success in figuring out the current balance of things, 1066. tangle-free ‘do for the little one, even though the sweet curls are gone, 1067. polka-dot file boxes to organize my paper stuff,  1068. paper plates and the freedom to run the dishwasher only one time per day, 1069. extra-crisp, delightful apples, 1070. overhearing (uncharacteristically) kind interactions between my kids

Thoughts

Top 10 things I don’t do well…

1 – Plan Parties/Celebrations – So, I have to start out with this at the top of the list because the whole reason I thought to do this post is because of a blog entry I wrote nearly 2 years ago that I never published but happened to re-discover in my drafts folder this week. In the post, I mentioned that ‘planning kid birthday parties is probably in my list of Top 10 things I don’t do well’. That got me thinking about what things would really be on that list if I made one, so here you go: a slightly silly, but partly serious look at my weaknesses. I can make a kid party happen, but it is never a thing of beauty or Pinterest-worthy details. I can do all the purely practical things. I can make food for dozens, put dates on the calendar and communicate to the invited, but I am not a decorator, I loathe kid-party games, and even though my kids are so grateful for whatever fun we cook up, I spend the entire party feeling stressed out. I have been seeking to do better in this area and enjoy the process, but it is still not one of my strengths. We have a certain pal turning 6 years old in our house this week, and this year, to cope with my party-execution disability, I have outsourced the lego-madness/party activities to daddy. Bless the man.

2 – Follow Rules – The very presence of a rule makes me want to challenge it. Now, to be fair, I am a fairly straight-laced girl and I follow plenty of rules if I understand the benefit of them, but telling me I have to (or can’t) do something without giving me a reasonable explanation of why or why not will only make me push back and investigate a little deeper. I think this can be both a strength and a weakness because some ‘rules’ deserve to be challenged, and I think it is important to understand why we do or don’t do (or should/shouldn’t do) certain things as we navigate life, but that does sometimes get me into trouble.

3 – Follow Recipes – This goes right along with the following rules thing. I love recipes. I consult them and glean what I want from them, but I do not execute them. I really dislike step-by-step instructions for most things. I like figuring out stuff, and charting my own path to a destination. When I’m in the kitchen, I like to experiment and combine and detour from recipes and make my own creations (re: messes). This results in many failed attempts at (mostly baking) endeavors, but I have to say, I learn something new every time I flop.

4 – Rest – I’m convinced I don’t really know how to do this well. Now, I have a love for simplicity and have put a lot of energy in simplifying my life in all areas over the past few years, so I don’t feel like I’m in desperate need of rest from running ragged–but give me some open time and no responsibility, and I promise you I will find something productive (i.e., not restful) to do. I read books, but most often do so while walking on the treadmill. I write to pour out my soul, but it most often happens between unloading dishes, running toddler-terrorism interference, and cooking another meal. I study the bible, and fit in my lessons while I’m managing lights-out with 5 kids, which is no sedentary job. I usually only really rest once I’ve crashed after a long week and have no other choice because my body shuts down. Although, I do sleep awesomely for about 7 hours each night, which is a total gift because I might not otherwise make it through the daytimes.

5 – Let Things Go – I stew and think and mull and wrestle with literally everything that goes through my mind. There is not much that slips through without a good mull-over. I am always seeking to grow in wisdom and love, and I feel everything I experience right down deep into my bones. Good things. But when its time to let go of a season or a friend or a situation, the whole process of those things feels like tearing/stretching/torture to me. It’s because I care a lot, and because saying goodbye to things feels like a deep loss, every time, even if it is a good thing at the right time. I am learning to accept that about myself, but I’d love to be more (immediately) resilient when it’s possible.

6 – Clean House – It’s a deep shame, if I’m honest. It’s also the area I work harder at than any other thing in my life. The combo of my creative, always-turning brain, and my giant load of ‘helpers’ (re: also creative brains that make lots of messes) make it a losing recipe for me. I strive for peace, health, simplicity, and organization in our collective space, but truthfully, it is an area that causes me a lot of grief. People who keep minimal, tidy spaces are fascinating to me and I honestly cannot figure out how they do it. I can only hope and pray they will love me anyway, and not judge me in my weakness. I am learning, and I’m attempting to pass on some sense of orderliness to my children, but every bit of success in this area is hard-won.

7 – Have Fun – I’m a serious soul. I’m not a fun friend. I totally know it, and I’m mostly ok with it. I’ve made some truly awesome friends over the years who draw me out and make me have some fun, but its not what I’m good at all by myself, I admit. However, if you have an emergency, a problem to work through, a broken heart, or a need to blubber out your worries, I am totally your girl. As weird as it sounds, I actually love being that girl.

8 – Say No To Sugar – It’s a thing, I admit. Sugar is my thing. Makes sense. It’s in everything, everywhere, and every bite is so gratifying. I have come a long way, learning about what will really nourish my body, and choosing those things over the other things. I find it a little easier during pregnancy to make healthful choices, since it is for the baby’s benefit as well, but sugar remains a total weakness. For the record, ice cream, donuts, and other forms of dessert are currently banned at my house. We’re going for the fruit-for-dessert these days! Still sugar, but the kind that is straight from nature. MMMmm.

9 – Take Vitamins/Swallow Pills – I’m just not good at this. I try my best during early pregnancy to take prenatal vitamins, but I am not always successful. I avoid taking pills for any other reason whenever possible. Honestly, if its between taking tylenol and any other option to fix a temporary condition, I will choose the other option. Not to mention that sometimes I actually can’t get a pill down without a rather comical production.

10 – Watch Movies – If it’s not a kid-flick, or its not 10+ years old, chances are, I haven’t seen it. I don’t have time (or take time) to watch many movies these days. I’ve found that it is a rare movie that really captures my attention, and given a 2-3 hour window of time with nothing else to do, seeing a movie is not high on my list. That said, I do have some die-hard favorites that have enriched my life in many ways, so I am not against movies, I am just a bit out of touch. My watch again-and-again favorites include: Life is Beautiful (Italian version), Dan in Real Life, Anne of Green Gables, The Man from Snowy River, What About Bob…like I said. Old ones…old ones I haven’t watched in several years! If you have some recommendations for entertaining, heart-warming, or thought-provoking flicks, I’m open to suggestions!

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62: 1-2

1051. lavender soap, 1052. long, comfy dress, 1053. baby turns, 1054. new math-plan, 1055. made-ahead dinner, 1056. new thrifted costumes for all, 1057. tv-free days, 1058. the girl making paper feathers, 1059. “ominic” 1060. grace

Family / Thoughts

Real Talk: An Invitation

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 40/52

I sat with a friend at a coffee shop recently, talking about ideas and real life and such. It was dark outside with some wind and rain, but warm inside with a chocolate-dipped cookie and ideas bouncing back and forth about this and that. This blog has been on my mind lately. It has become a space that is representative of a small portion of my personal journey…ordinary life, quest for truth and understanding, a chronicle of my journey toward self-discipline and health, and some rumination on the beauty of this season of life. I have committed to myself to show up at least once each week, with the photo of the kids together and some bits of what we have going on or what is on my mind. For the most part, I have done that fairly well. The whimsy of it all probably fits the time we’re in, and what lands here may be just as whimsical going forward, but…

In an effort to be intentional about everything that I give my attention to, I have realized that there are a lot of things that I just don’t share here. I think some kinds of sharing come easily for me (hello deep-heart-of-the-ocean-land), and some take a little more effort.  My desire is to share honestly about our adventures and challenges as a family and encourage others on the motherhood (or parenting) journey. While I feel like my life is an open book, I don’t always know what would be of interest here in this space, or be helpful for others to know about our lives. I do receive questions from friends, on occasion, and I would love to move toward sharing some of my answers to those questions in a more public way, in case they are helpful to others.

So, I would love to invite you to provide some input about what you might like to read about here in this space. I’m ready to put a little more form to what I write here, and learning what you would like to know about, or see more of, will help me march forward with intention in that pursuit. I have a short list of ideas that I brainstormed with my friend, but I’d like to know from you what you think would be helpful/interesting/encouraging to read about. Ask me anything! Tell me what topics you’d love to see here. Some things to get your wheels turning: more on my health journey, homeschool and what that looks like for us, helps/thoughts for mamas of littles, practical life stuff with a big family, meal planning, parenting challenges/victories, pregnancy, marriage and family, overcoming depression, crafting/creativity, photography, devotional thoughts, more prayer guides (and if this, what topics?)…What are you curious about? What have you found helpful or encouraging that I could write more of? I invite you to give your input. Feel free to email me (or if you happen to be a fb friend, a quick message will do) —  lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com — if you have any questions to ask (for yourself, or questions you think others might benefit from answers to) or input to give! Thanks so much.

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 36:5-9 NLT

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Update on run/walk goal for week 40 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 14 Run/Walk miles traveled, 476.5mi in 2015

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1041. new fancy pencil sharpener, 1042. daddy home from a week away, 1043. beach adventures, 1044. oranges for dessert, 1045. caring friends, 1046. covalent molecule-building, 1047. quick-to-forgive hearts, 1048. community bible study, 1049. early bedtimes for mama, 1050. costco run by myself (a rare occurrence)

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Tenderness

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 39/52

It’s so easy to excuse ourselves for the snippy words that we blurt out when we’re short on sleep, short on time, and ultimately short on patience. It is understandable, in that one can totally understand why the short temper leaps into control at a moment’s notice on occasion. I am guilty. Very guilty.

The clock mocks me, while I race around the house, locating shoes and gathering lunch items while kids stand at the door, fighting about who gets to go out of it first. The baby toddles around, stuffing her hands into a left-out cereal box, leaving a rain shower of cereal bits all about her. Others walk by and crunch the cereal under their shoes and I cringe with every crunch, unable to do one thing about it in that moment while my arms are full. One person has two shoes that don’t match in their hands with a helpless look on their face, and another is wearing pants that definitely do not fit them in the ankle-zone, but assessing our destination and the level of grace others will offer me when we arrive there, I decide it isn’t worth it to be any later than we are to make him change the pants. The shoes get rectified, since that just has to happen.

Inevitably, squabbles will break out over something entirely trivial, and I will lose my cool. Don’t they understand how incredibly challenging it is to get everyone properly dressed, fed, (possibly) groomed, and prepared with whatever supplies they need before we get out the door? Maybe close to on time? No, they definitely don’t understand. I breathe in through my nose and somehow I can smell the temptation to blurt out something else that is less than gentle and I forcefully blow it out through my mouth without voicing it. At least, I attempt to. Sometimes it escapes, and every time it does, I wish I could have a do-over.

It is so very easy to let tenderness get shoved to the back of the closet while I’m herding them out the door.

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Years ago, I remember waking up in the night to a crying baby and feeling angry that the sleep I desperately needed was being interrupted. I would respond, of course, but not without muttering under my breath and stomping my feet every bit of the 20 feet to her bedroom. I would gruffly whisk her out of bed and settle in to nurse her on autopilot, struggling to stay awake, and struggling to deal with the resentment I felt at how spent, how poured out, how exhausted I felt. I didn’t want to be nice. I didn’t want to be tender. And I didn’t want to be awake any longer than I had to be.

With time and more babies and countless experiences of God’s faithfulness and tenderness toward me in many different circumstances, I have changed my tune about the night hours, and the role I wish for tenderness to play in my mothering. It still eludes me at times, when I am feeling the stress or exhaustion, but I try to recognize when the danger zone is coming, and take steps to bring myself low and quiet where I might find the tenderness I’ve dropped so I can pick it back up again.

Tenderness is something I’ve come to hold as a central value in my heart toward my children. I fight hard for it, and I do fail, but I will keep fighting hard for it, because I see that it is the tenderness that wins them, and grows them, and builds the trust between us I hope to always have. I strive to look them in the eyes and give gentle correction with a tender voice, even as I must hold firm to the expectations I put forward. When we are racing out the door and the stress is boiling up, I get us to the car and own it. I say out loud, “Will someone please say a prayer for me? I am feeling stressed and grumpy, and I don’t want our whole morning to be like this. I am sorry for being short with all of you.” Every time, one of them will speak out a tender, honest prayer for me and tell me how much they love me. I am humbled again by the grace they freely give.

When the babies wake in the night, I try to go with a light and willing heart, believing that I have been summoned not only to comfort, but also to pray in the night hours, and that this time is sacred; a quiet invitation into surrender and service that does not go unnoticed by the Lord. I draw the baby near and stroke her hair while I rock in rhythm and soothe her, taking care to communicate the magnanimous love I have for her by the gentleness of my touch, as that is after all, what God has done for me time and again.

Every new season of motherhood humbles me, and tenderizes me, and it is so completely good for my soul (though increasingly challenging as I journey) that I keep signing up for more of it. I guess if I could give one thought to the young mother, it would be to fight hard for tenderness toward your babies, especially in the moments that you’re undone, and you’re poured out. It doesn’t come naturally at first for some. It didn’t for me. But we learn as we go, that we can do hard things, and we can do them with a gentle spirit if we want to. You cannot spoil a child with kindness, only with inconsistency, so let us be consistently kind while we guide them through their early years, teaching them without words that they are important, valuable, irreplaceable treasures to be cherished.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

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Update on run/walk goal for week 39 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 13.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 462.5mi in 2015

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1031. stunning fall colors, 1032. 20 weeks in the books, 1033. fruitful brainstorming session, 1034. clean kitchen (a giant gift from a friend), 1035. a name picked, 1036. successful chemistry experiments with 6 & 7 year olds, 1037. trader joes ‘easy’ foods, 1038. opportunities to do things I love to do, 1039. returning library books on time, 1040. the boy’s first totally solo soccer goal this season