Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives November 2015

Family / Life & Faith

Revelations

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 47/52

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

I referenced a few entries back that while on the Abide Writer’s Retreat in October, I happened upon some personal revelations that I’ve been chewing on ever since. I kind of love the revelations that are so meaty, so personal, I can’t just be like, “Yep. Great! Moving on.” It takes some time of really sitting with them to begin to understand what they really mean for me. So here I am, two months later, sorting them out.

During the Saturday morning session, I spent some time sitting on a wooden bridge that stretched over a wide river, listening to God in the relative quiet. The river was actually rather noisy, which I found comforting since there are only rare times at my house that are truly quiet and I don’t know what to do with myself in total silence. I started across the bridge with great intention of finding the very middle and sitting down to take in the beauty of the foggy fall morning from the center of the river, not realizing that once I sat, I would not be able to see anything except the solid metal safety rail that lined either side of the bridge unless I really strained to see through the cracks in the boards beneath me or stood up again. I just laughed to myself at my gross oversight of my intended viewpoint, and decided to close my eyes instead.

I didn’t mean to write a lot during those next 30 minutes, but I did. I only had my notebook open to jot a note or two down of what I heard in my spirit while listening. Our workshop leader had given us a few questions to think about, one of which involved identifying one source of pain we currently hold.

Mine relates largely to the peculiar loneliness and odd solitude that comes in the life season I am in as a mother of many children. Yes, I am surrounded by little people at all times (which is a great and deep blessing), but I am also tucked away from the world ‘out there’ and in a way, drawn out of the many deep and beautiful relationships I’ve had with friends over the years where I have enjoyed easy/frequent communication and get-togethers. Friendships don’t (and maybe can’t) happen like they once did. I’ve struggled with that.

I realized that through all my lowest years, it was those connections that helped carry me through tough times. I can name friends from literally every season of my life that have been there, holding me together, fielding my many thoughts and feelings, journeying, praying, and bringing about a companionship that literally saved my life at times. I still have (great) friends, but I have found that I can’t seem to make peace with the distance/space I’ve found in nearly every one of my dearest relationships. It’s one of those tender places that just keeps feeling raw and uncomfortable no matter what I do.

I write on the page, “Light shines through the water running over rocks.”

And then, “A crutch to help through a time of injury can no longer be a crutch through the last stage of recovery. Restoration cannot happen if you do not regain strength in your limbs, and leaning does not help you grow strong.”

Bam. Where in the world did that come from?

I read it over again and only barely understood it. Months later, I’m still chewing, but I understand a bit more.

I am pretty sure I have felt ‘broken’ for most of my life, and I have not known how to deal with the brokenness part of my identity now that a new season is upon me. I am no longer broken, having experienced a tremendous amount of inner-healing in recent years, but I have been terrified of walking in total faith because walking in faith has implications…If I walk as if I am broken, I excuse myself from having to live into the power, authority, and responsibility God has given me to do all things to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). If I walk as if I am broken, always leaning, it makes my voice small, and makes it easier for me to skirt around things that God has called me to. It allows me to always give an excuse for why I can’t choose the brave things.

If I recognize that I am no longer broken, but healed, and begin to live like it – going to God in prayer for everything and seeking Him to renew my strength at every turn – how can the aches that have weighed on me for so long keep me from the abundant life He intends for me? The riches of heaven are so different from the riches of earth. I find myself mining, searching, scouring for the heavenly ones wherever I can. Sometimes it takes removing comforts to find the gumption to dig in the right places for those gems, but I’m starting to get it.

I write on the page, “All colors, both of light and shadow, have something to say. Some speak out with strength, and some hide in darkness, unable to feel the light. There is beauty in the movement of the sun as it moves to touch as many sides of a tree as possible throughout the day.”

It dawns on me that don’t have to see the sun to see the light it produces, but it isn’t until I see the sun (where the light originates) that I can recognize why it is spectacular…how it has traveled from millions of miles away to find this place, at this time, to fall on me. I am struck by how light moves stealthily around shadows to reach every side of an object. I am reminded that I must always be looking for the light, no matter how desperate, dark, and discouraging things seem around me, and that I should always take every action I can to position myself where the light will touch me. I can hide. I can crawl back in the shadows, or I can stand up tall, like a fire-golden tree, stretching up and stretching wide to catch the sun’s rays with deep gratitude for the ways they warm and grow me, even if that process is very uncomfortable at times.

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Update on run/walk goal for week 47 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 561mi in 2015

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1121. little one talking more and more, 1122. mama here for thanksgiving, 1123. new tablecloth & holiday decorations, 1124. tree cut & set up by dad, lit by me, and decorated by kids, 1125. small victories in the storage room junk war, 1126. weekend walks in the sun with friends, 1127. december parties planned, 1128. five new ‘hap birt-day to you’s’ (candles), 1129. lesson plan charts for each child, 1130. new math curriculum + kids’ excitement over it

Family / Life & Faith

A Song to Share

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 46/52

I was introduced to this song last spring when my children and I learned it together over the course of a few weeks during Bible lessons at our homeschool cooperative. It’s a humble song, but one that continues to comfort me in deep ways that I can’t fully explain. I love that it speaks to the hope of the future, while acknowledging the hardship of today and the brokenness I see experience in this lifetime as I seek struggle to be faithful with the seeds God has put in my care. All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy. Perhaps you will find it comforting as well…

Psalm 126 (featuring Molly Parden) << bandcamp link where you can listen for free

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy

Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping, Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom for the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry, Lord please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping, will go out with songs of joy

The nations will say, He has done great things
The nations will sing songs of joy

Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping, Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom for the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry, Lord please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping, will go out with songs of joy

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5

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Update on run/walk goal for week 46 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 548.5mi in 2015

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1111. sunny weekend days and 2 walks around the lake with lovely friends, 1112. rearranged house and the making of new spaces, 1113. our ‘thanksgiving’ table (which I will share more about later), 1114. the cat naps that get me through, 1115. dramatic live reading of philippians at church, 1116. deep peace, 1117. little movie-watchers that take up every inch of the living room floor, 1118. mama in town, 1119. planning out an awesome non-traditional thanksgiving meal, 1120. bubble tea with tapioca

Family

Watercolor

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 45/52

“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

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Update on run/walk goal for week 45 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 13 Run/Walk miles traveled, 536mi in 2015

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1101. watercolor therapy, 1102. justin rizzo christmas album..early, yep! 1103. walk with grace in the early am (happy birthday!), 1104. passed my glucose test…i cried happy tears of relief, 1105. completed membership process at quest, 1106. writers group meeting & conversation, 1107. a new box of delicious tart oranges (a fave thing right now), 1108. new lightbulbs all around the house, there is light! 1109. my lefty girl, 1110. afternoon naps

Creativity / Poetry / Prayer

Paris

They spill
Tears like arms flung out
Desperate to console, comfort, understand
Where tears fall short, prayers move and maneuver
Going quick where tears and arms cannot reach

It howls pain, the city of love
Torn deep at the hands of evil men
Whose hate compels them to hurt; to wrestle violent for power
With the banner of widespread fear

They will not find what they seek
For love cannot be quenched
Love cannot be banished, or imprisoned, or stamped out
For it lives and springs from ashes in tears and arms and prayers
That refuse to let darkness be the pen that writes the end of the story

We raise a banner of love with prayers for the broken
The ones wronged, and the ones wrong
May love ever have the last word

Prayers for Paris

“Evil will not deliver those who practice it.” Ecclesiastes 8:8b

“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

Creativity / Life & Faith / Poetry

Poems from Abide Retreat

As I mentioned in this post, I wrote some poems as part of a few of the workshop exercises. The first was a spinoff of Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins. We borrowed the first and last lines, and filled in the middle with our own poetry.

Trust

Glory be to God for
Plentiful peace found on paths of fleeting sorrow
Soul spoken awake to dwell in artful rest
Bright wings to bear skies beyond a bristled nest
Take flight to follow forth on trust no longer borrowed
Praise Him!

The second poem is a pantoum, which is a particular form that builds on repetition in a particular pattern. I find this style to be most enjoyable being read aloud.

Glory, a pantoum

Too wonderful to comprehend at once, in full
Shrouded mystery kept from bare sight that would surely blind
Light in firegolden trees and shimmers on water
Moss clings tightly to a rock that does not move

Shrouded mystery kept from bare sight that would surely blind
Glory restrained, revealed in small ways for simple hearts to understand
Moss clings tightly to a rock that does not move
Invited to experience glory in still and solemn peace

Glory restrained, revealed in small ways for simple hearts to understand
Light in firegolden trees and shimmers on water
Invited to experience glory in still and solemn peace
Too wonderful to comprehend at once, in full

Creativity / Life & Faith

Abide: A Writing Retreat

About a month ago, I attended my first-ever writer’s retreat. It was a humble-in-the-best-way, not-your-average conference for writers of faith. I’m not sure exactly how I became convinced I should go, because despite my ten years of privately writing out my heartaches and thoughts in various spaces, I hesitate to call myself a writer. I guess this is a common thing among writers. Somewhere, there is some invisible list of qualifications that make some writers ‘real’ writers, and other ones are…something else. I concede that by the simple fact that I put words down, I technically am a writer, but I’m certainly not an author or a writer with serious professional ambitions, which is why I hesitate to identify as one. More than anything, I see myself as a communicator, and written words just happen to be the easiest and most accessible way to communicate with others in this season of life.

On the way up to the retreat’s remote location near Leavenworth, Washington, the mountainsides were ablaze with autumn color. I was curious what I would discover about myself, or about writing, over the weekend, being in a space without children (a rare opportunity for me) and without any real idea of what to expect. I guess most events of this nature focus on how to build a platform, how to get a book published, or any number of other outward-facing topics for all different types of writers. This retreat was different. For starters, it was a very intimate setting with about 10 other women, and any part of the ‘business’ of writing was not on the agenda. It was a space to listen and to explore the creative side of writing from a context of faith and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I arrived there with a stupidly oversized suitcase…not because I took all that many things with me, but because I am pregnant and I need all my special pillows. Pregnant mamas everywhere can nod their heads now. I kept laughing to myself about the size of the thing, and made jokes about my luggage to anyone who happened to notice that it was associated with me, feeling the need to confess that it was all pillows and not a bunch of unnecessary stuff. I had all of 2 outfits, a few simple toiletries, my journal, and the pillows, without which I could not be guaranteed a comfortable night’s sleep. Comfort matters, friends.

We gathered first for dinner, sharing names and backstories. I am always a little amused when people look at my round belly and ask me if this is my first baby. It’s a rare person who doesn’t bug their eyes out when I tell them this is number six. I know, its totally weird. But it’s also awesome, I say. The truth is, for all its challenges, I’m so grateful for the story God is writing in my life, even though it is so different than what I expected or might have written myself, and even though I find it more difficult all the time to wrestle with the isolation that comes with mothering a big family.

We kicked off the evening session with worship, and sang together for a long stretch of time. They were trusty, old songs I loved years ago and was glad to revive in my heart. The sound of our voices together was beautiful, and a perfect way to set the tone of the whole weekend. We followed worship with meditating on a particular scripture for a long stretch of time, really letting it wash over and sink deep. I was reminded of the beauty of drinking deep from the Word, not just drinking much, which is my usual approach in my season of life.

How well do we really listen? To listen well, we have to be still, become quiet, be comfortable with silence and waiting. We have to find a way to open the ears and the heart to tune in to something that is on a different wavelength than the noise that is typically pawing at us from every direction. That is really what this weekend was about.

The morning session was a look into writing as a spiritual practice. Our speaker offered us some perspective about the value of listening to God in quietness and recording the things He puts in our hearts during that time. I am already a fairly reflective/contemplative person, so I wasn’t quite expecting to be so profoundly touched by the assignment to go sit in nature for half an hour and record what comes to mind. I plan to share more about those specific revelations in a subsequent post…but they are far too deep and poignant to gloss over here. Suffice it to say, I ended up with pages and pages of thoughts from a short 30-minute sitting, and recognized that I need to find a way to continue this kind of practice on a semi-regular basis.

The other sessions that day were about playing with words. Another of our speakers introduced us to a few different forms of poetry, and invited us to create our own poems based on those forms. If I don’t consider myself a writer, I certainly do not consider myself a poet, except maybe one of the most accidental/free-form kind. Still, I enjoyed these exercises immensely, and feel like they have given me new inspiration going forward. My compositions can be found at the following link:

Poems from Abide

I really enjoyed meeting the other writers who attended the retreat. We were only together for two nights, but it was a truly wonderful experience holding space and creating together. There was clearly an abundance of talent and heart in attendance, and I look forward to continuing the relationships that were ignited there.

In all, I have to say the retreat was not especially remarkable, but it was incredibly powerful for me personally. There were no fancy lights, or famous writers, or 10-steps-to-success tools. It was simple, and understated, and lovely in every way. It was an intentional space held open to listen, take notice of things God wanted to bring to my attention, meet other thoughtful and creative women, play with words, and specifically dive in to writing as a spiritual practice, which I will continue to do with intention.

If you’re curious to read more about the retreat, I offer the following links:

From the two lovely women who put the retreat on:
Jody Collins –
(Prior to the retreat) Rethinking Writers Conferences
Retreat Recap: Yes He Abides

Kimberlee Conway Ireton –
(Prior to the retreat) Abide: A Little Announcement and Invitation 

From a few of the attendees who shared their reflections:
Nancy Ruegg –
The Wisdom of the Woods

Alyssa Santos –
Power Made Perfect

 

Family / Life & Faith

What I Used To Think

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 44/52

Linking up with Sarah Bessey.

I used to think that I would hurt forever. That the inner turmoil I wrestled with daily would be my constant companion for the rest of my life. It felt dark all around, and all I could count on was the throbbing pain in my chest, and the tight hold in the back of my throat to be present with me as I awkwardly and desperately felt around in the dark for something, anything to pull me out of hopelessness. I knew brokenness better than I knew anything else, and I braced myself for whenever the next wave of it would come, believing that there would never truly be relief from it, not this side of heaven. Grief weighed heavy on my shoulders, and fear bound my feet, leaving me to painfully struggle, inching forward on my face—for years at a time.

I used to think that healing would never happen. That God’s promise to make all things new was nothing more than a platitude; that restoration is something that comes after this life. I used to think that the pain of the day would be the pain of always, and that I would never know the joy that other people seemed to have. I was like the woman with hemorrhage, bleeding out slow and sure, aware that no one I knew could fix my troubles and make the suffering disappear.

Then I touched the hem of His garment for myself. My story is a little different than hers. Apparently when she touched Him, she was instantly healed and knew she was healed in that miraculous and magnificent encounter. The process for me was a bit longer, and looked a little more like me fighting against the very thing that would bring me the freedom I sought. Surrender. Let the light in to the broken, dark places.

Could I forgive? Could I let go? Could I trust Him to meet all my needs? None of these are easy things to ask because things that hurt and things I fear are the things I hold—or they hold me—tightest. Yet, He asked me to do it. To leap into His arms and leave the rest behind.

I thought I had a right to be angry and stay angry, not realizing the bitterness that grows out of that cycle had power over me—power to keep me from freedom; power to keep me from wholeness, goodness, and life. I didn’t want to let go because I didn’t want to somehow diminish the magnitude of my heartaches.

Surrendering to Jesus didn’t mean erasing what I experienced…it meant redeeming it—or giving me new perspective about it at a minimum—a process that took longer, and required more of me than I ever expected, but has also brought about more blessing than I ever imagined.

Surrender more, surrender again, surrender all.

I didn’t know that I would find peace, or that I would find joy that blows my mind every single day, even in the midst of my soul aches that sometimes reappear. I didn’t know that learning to gaze at the Lord, not my own inner-hurts, is the very thing that helps me to see the hidden gifts that God offers me…gifts found in the invitation to know Him in both His suffering and His victory. I can’t have one without the other, and now that I see with new eyes, both parts of the journey are beautiful in their own ways.

I used to think that I would hurt forever, but now I know that the power of God is real, the love of God can heal all wounds, and that sorrow does not have the last word.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. “ Philippians 3:8-11

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Update on run/walk goal for week 44 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 11 Run/Walk miles traveled, 523mi in 2015

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1091. the hell (help) button, 1092. rainy day stop at the library, 1093. new community group friends, 1094. glucose test behind me (no results yet) 1095. writing goal met for the week, 1096. friends coming for dinner, 1097. the joy of sharing photos with friends, 1098. new things in the heart, 1099. peace, 1100. clean kitchen

Family

Halloween Fun

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 43/52

Pocahontas, Raphael (Ninja Turtle), Bumblebee with paper flower, Ninja, Snow White. We spent the evening enjoying a meal and some games with friends. I don’t love halloween, but if I have to celebrate it, this is the way I would choose every single time. Amazing friends, food, fun. Thanks to my sweet, creative, and talented friend, we had a home halloween party that was enjoyable, and best of all, not stressful for me (as nearly all parties are). She made her own bat chandelier, angry eyes wall decoration, dirt (cookie & pudding) cups, and pin the eye on the monster game..among other things. Too fun. The little sister didn’t want to take any photos though, so despite the fact that she had a great time all evening, you will see that she is letting us know how she feel about photos (or maybe it was having to hold her brother’s hand?).

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

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Update on run/walk goal for week 43 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 10.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 512mi in 2015

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1081. halloween party, 1082. surviving the week with relative grace, 1083. new (hand-me-down) wilson jersey for the 3T, 1084. ice cream chart, 1085. healthy foods this week, 1086. favors prepared for a belated birthday party, 1087. peanut butter cups, 1088. last minute costume alterations, 1089. a night w/ (awesome) homeschool co-op moms, 1090. buddy makes a goal in his last soccer game of the season