Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Family

Family / Motherhood

Take Notice


One photo a week throughout the year. 7
/52 (a few weeks behind)

I sliced my index finger open tonight. I was carefully cutting up potatoes to roast in the oven. I wasn’t rushing. I wasn’t distracted. Miraculously, there were not three little people circling my legs as I stood at the cutting board, as there often are. Still, somehow the blade met the edge of my finger and took with it a bit of material it would have been nice to have kept to myself.

Ouch.

I didn’t cry, but I did feel a little stunned.

How did that just happen?

All afternoon, I have been thinking about the jumble of thoughts I’ve had in my brain all week. I sometimes feel myself moving about on auto-pilot–as moms are known to do on little sleep–while my brain whirrs away in some other place, but just a few hours ago, the glorious Seattle sun came out and beckoned us to the park for some fresh air and play time.

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I sit on the park bench where things become clear, sun on my face and the crisp March breeze blowing the straggling hairs across my face that have fallen from my unwashed top-knot mom-‘do. I watch my kids dart to-and-fro about the playground.

Slow down, Em.

Slow. It. Down.

See them running and laughing? Take notice.

The one in yellow leggings and an oversized sweater: She’ll be five next week, even though it was only a few blinks ago that she was swaddled up in a pink blanket, smiling in her sleep between feedings. Her spindly, runner-legs carry her around the park loop and her wild hair follows behind.

Take notice.

The one in a blue athletic jacket and the oversized, awkward teeth of a pre-teen boy. That is your son that came home from the hospital at seven and a half pounds and is now nearly staring you in the eyes. Nine on Saturday. Nine years old. How did that just happen?

Take notice.

I will, I say to myself. I am taking notice.

I notice that for all the irritating moments of the same messes and the same squabbles happening over and over, that we are knit together. These mundane, ordinary days are the ones where the seeds once sown are sprouting and growing…not quite like I imagined, but better. Sweeter. More interesting and challenging. Young hearts eager to squeeze all the fun out of life and a mom who wants to make sure that every day of innocent childhood that can be afforded to them be kept so, carefully guarded with love and sacrifice.

So I watch and cherish the time, fiercely protecting these years from the angst and horror of the outside world. There will be a time when the carefree days are clouded with the complicated issues of humanity, but for now, I revel in the lifeline they are for me. They remind me daily that there is heart-rending beauty in the midst of this broken world.

PS. For those who are worried about the cut, I am fine. It’s not serious, but not awesome either. I’m here typing awkwardly with all the wrong fingers while my bandaged digit points at the screen so I don’t accidentally tap it against the keys. I guess one could call this adventures in writing.
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“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18

1341. the purple dress, 1342. big brother doing dishes of his own accord, 1343. gentle reminders, 1344. seeing a friend’s heart awaken to the love of God, 1345. growing Kindred Mom community, 1346. healing conversations, 1347. podcast plans, 1348. husband to the rescue (re: finger), 1349. growing into vision, 1350. a sweet gift from a new friend in the mail

Family / Motherhood

Flourishing in Motherhood

One photo a week throughout the year. 5/52

We arrived to our weekly homeschool group a few minutes late, as usual. No matter how highly I personally value punctuality, I have not been able to reliably get myself and six kids to destinations on time since my youngest was born nearly a year ago. With all my heart, I want to arrive on time, but I’m only one woman and there are quite a few personalities in my family that frequently prevent me from finding success in that quest.

Still, every time I arrive somewhere late, I feel defeated.

The other moms are huddled in a circle, sharing pertinent announcements and prayer requests with the group. I’m late, but my friends open the circle and draw us in with warm smiles. I have one hand on the stroller where my little guy is squirming around, attempting to escape the clutches of his 5-point harness. My other hand pats the head of his 3-year old sister who is sitting on my foot with her arms wrapped around my leg while she warms to the new environment. The other kids have dispersed to look for their friends who are in the adjacent gym space, bouncing balls and running about with energy to spare.

I’m here. Whew. I’m here.

One sweet newcomer to our group begins sharing about the tumultuous journey of watching her elderly father approach death. His health has been steadily declining, and everyone expects him to pass at any time, but whenever the family makes peace with his passing, he rebounds back from the brink of death for a few days.

She tells us how it is hard to be caught between savoring the last days/weeks with him and mourning the life that is slipping away before her eyes.

Tears are streaming ferociously down my face. I genuinely feel for her, but there is also a moment where I realize that her vulnerability to share with our group has poked a hole in my brave-mom facade, revealing the raw and tender part of me that I’ve been hiding all week.

We comfort her and pray for her, and then I find the courage to say out loud:

I feel like a constant disappointment these days…

The rest of this essay appears on Kindred Mom…head over there to read the rest!

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:4-5 NASB

1321. essays received for Kindred Mom, 1322. a smoother week than last week, 1323. baby walking everywhere, 1324. valentine-making with friends, 1325. kid wonder’s night out with friends, 1326. small amounts of seattle snow, 1327. invitations, 1328. the growth I see in myself over time, 1329. compliments regarding my sons, 1330. jill briscoe talk – the importance of living our mission

Family

New Ride

One photo a week throughout the year. 3/52 

Eleven months ago, when our youngest was born, we outgrew the miracle mini van we have been driving for the past 5 years (the story of that van is part of this post, if you are interested to read about it). Adding one more baby put us over the 7 seat limit of our Sienna, so we have been driving 2 cars whenever we have to go somewhere as a family for the past year. Most people would have seen this as not ideal, but we were not in a position to buy a new vehicle at that time, so we committed ourselves to making it work. Most of the time, it wasn’t an issue. During the week, I was with the kids while daddy was at work, and the seven of us (kids + mama) fit in the van just fine for our normal activities.

The biggest sacrifices we made were 1) not being able to do much traveling outside the city for the year, and 2) my husband and I not being able to sit beside each other (and I’ll be honest..hold hands) in the car whenever we did travel together. We went to church and other local destinations caravan style in two cars with hands-free ear buds in so we could still talk en route to wherever we were going.

I didn’t think we’d be getting a new vehicle for a while, as we’d been able to make the caravan set-up work fairly well, but looking ahead to spring and summer (and a number of trips we hope to be taking), we have been talking on and off about all the specifics we would need in a vehicle upgrade to meet our needs. My husband wasn’t excited about a passenger van (believing the one pictured above would be out of our price-rage/too hard to find)…the other passenger van options were underwhelming for him. I, personally didn’t see how an SUV option could be a great long-term fit for us, with growing legs and the travel bug we have. We talked, looked, prayed, and waited.

A few weeks ago, we had a date-night planned and a sweet friend over to watch our kids. It was the perfect opportunity to go on our own and check out a few of the SUV options my husband had narrowed down the search to. One sit in a third-row seat, and we realized that an SUV really wasn’t going to work. Fully prepared to wait months more if needed, we left the dealership in conversation about what other options were out there.

The next morning, he found the listing for this van, the Nissan NV 3500 – a newer 12-passenger van with a number of awesome features, at a dealership 20 minutes from our house. It was a bit over what we wanted to spend, but not prohibitively so, and since he had been looking for one of these to check out in-person for many months, we decided to go check it out. These vans are typically used for commercial purposes and the passenger configuration is less-common, so they are really hard to find. At a minimum, we thought it would be a great opportunity to see it in person in the event we wanted to get one in the future. I had no idea we’d be driving it home that night.

There are a host of smaller details surrounding the purchase of this van that are meaningful to me, but tedious to write. Suffice it to say, I doubt there is another vehicle in the world that meets our family needs more perfectly than this one does (and will for the foreseeable future).

We are all excited for the adventures to come, and I feel incredibly grateful for the space, the smooth ride, the ability to travel together, and the blessing of holding hands with my hardworking husband who made this purchase possible. I have been on a high ever since we brought it home, and every time I step up into the driver’s seat, I am reminded of what a gift this vehicle is, what a gift my family is, and what a gift this life I live is. Grateful is an understatement.

Watch out grandparents – we hope to bring our jumbo van and delightful crew to see you sometime soon.

“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NASB

1301. Voxer & Voxer groups – great for busy moms, 1302. launched new site for moms, blog post coming soon, 1303. successful homeschool week, 1304. dinner tonight with friends who are moving soon, 1305. important mail sent off, 1306. upcoming girls night invitations sent out, 1307. physics experiments with friction and inertia, 1308. everyone working together at home, 1309. laundry mostly done, 1310. calls from faraway friends and family

Family / Life & Faith

Nicknames

One photo a week throughout the year. 2/52 

I asked for smiles, and I got mostly smiles. The one on the left looks a little constipated, but he did technically comply with my request. I am in love with the oversized purple hat that swallows up Roozy’s head, and the swagger that Missy Moo carries with her wherever she goes. There is KidWonder in the back, masterfully wielding her big-sister powers to get a smile out of our nearly-toddling little guy. Oh,  and handsome guy on the right, heart-eye emoji’s for you.

As I am looking ahead to a new year of possibilities, I have been thinking about what I want this blog space to be for me going forward. There are some new exciting things on the horizon (I’ll be announcing very soon) that have helped me realize that here on this blog, I want to continue sharing the most genuine thoughts about my years with these sweet kids–about my thoughts for them and my adventures with them–so that one day they might return here and discover new things about what their mama treasured in her heart during their young years.

Many of you know that I don’t share their names on the blog, which has been my small attempt at preserving some online anonymity for them as they grow. One day, they will make choices about how they want to be represented online in connection with their real names, but in the meantime, I feel that it is a small gift to give them the space to be shrouded in at least a little mystery as I tell our family stories.

That said, I have been mildly frustrated by the limitations of writing intentionally about each one without their names, so, I’ve landed on the compromise of sharing their nicknames here instead.

In birth order, I’d like to introduce:

KidWonder – My creative, effervescent oldest daughter who enjoys life to its very fullest and is constantly creating with whatever materials she can get her hands on. She is a quirky, artsy, hilariously random, and unlike any other person I’ve ever met…in a good way. She sees the world in her own way, and in the most pure and innocent sense, does not care what anyone else thinks of her.

Mr. Clean – My oldest son; a sharp and organized guy who will take every word you say literally. If I say we are leaving the house at 1pm and his watch shows 1:01pm, he will playfully heckle me about why we haven’t left yet. This trait is one part annoying, two parts useful. In many ways, he keeps our house on the rails without trying. He loves order, and shows strong leadership ability…both things that challenge me in good ways.

Big Buddy – My middle son who is a little more tender-hearted than his older brother, loves music, and has a quirky and varied musical palette. He loves everything from classical to Michael Jackson to electronic music to indie bands. He often asks me poignant questions about abstract things, and I love that he is curious.

Missy Moo – This girl brings spirit to our house. In a family full of personality, she shines brighter (and talks louder) than anyone else. I suppose that is what it takes to be heard as the fourth-born. She is a sweet singer, has shown significant interest in being a runner, and is an unstoppable force.

Roozy Boozy – This little miss is all about purple these days. She has been self-planning her next (3rd) birthday for the past 8 months, which is set to be a purple extravaganza. She has a stubborn streak like her oldest brother, but she’s also a keen observer of things. She’s a quieter soul (thus far), but has no problem standing up for herself.

Hank the Tank – Somewhere in the first months of life, Daddy started calling this guy Hank the Tank. He was big at birth (10lbs 4oz) and grew quickly from there. He’s a content, strong fella who has a tender heart and bright smile, and has bonded closely with Daddy — more than the other kids at this age. He has never been a cuddler (he actually actively resisted cuddling from the earliest days, which was a surprise to me), but he is a fierce force of love. I’m interested to discover more about him this year as he turns 1 year, begins walking, and joins the ranks of the adventurous (mobile) Allen kids.

1291. our weekly dinner group, 1292. connections with new friends, 1293. group voxer chats, 1294. answered prayers, 1295. beauty found in unexpected places, 1296. re-discovering the tub of special baby clothes I’ve saved for each child, 1297. little creative minds experimenting with physics principles, 1298. friends sharing breakthroughs, 1299. moments I remember to be silly with my kids, 1300. a new van

Family / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Your Child’s Heart

Welcome friends.

This is day 19 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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The simplicity of a child’s heart is a thing of beauty. I am convinced God has given me six children so that I could discover—six times over—just how much joy, wonder, and beauty a single child can bring into the world. I have been on a mission to understand simplicity and live a soulfully simple life in part because I have learned that doing so helps me to see my children and their hearts with a new lens—one that I completely missed when I was caught up in the busy life. It is really easy to miss just how profound a child’s heart really is.

Years ago, before I became a mother myself, I lived with a family for a summer during college. Husband, wife, daughter and son. The kids were young, maybe 1 and 3 years old at the time. They were sweet, funny kids who constantly did delightful things that made their mama light up and laugh loudly at different times throughout the day. When I think of her now, many years later, the image that comes to my mind is her great big smile and hearty laugh as her toddlers poured their joy into her through every means at their disposal, and I can’t help but long for my children to one day remember me that way.

Do your children see you smile? Do they know that you delight in them?

It is a struggle for me to put my adulthood on the shelf with all my worries and responsibilities and sit on the floor where my children play and join them in their world, even if its only for a little bit of time each day. Children are full of wonder, creativity, curiosity, and trust, and as I have re-discovered the beauty of childhood through my little ones, I have a swell of desire to hold space for this time they have to engage the world with wide eyes and open hearts.

Mamas of little ones: Do you see your child’s heart? Are you able to see through the struggles, the tantrums, and the frustrations that come in the young years and see how brilliant and incredible your little person is? Delicate, but resilient. Tough, but tender. Stubborn, but teachable. Rowdy, but eager. And you have a front-row seat, with a front-row responsibility to guard and guide them to a life full of good things.

There is no greater privilege or opportunity in the world than to influence the heart and mind of a child with love and diligent leadership, both of which require great personal sacrifice if they are to be effective.

I hope you see the opportunity you have to fill them up with love, deposit wisdom into their hearts, teach and correct them with gentleness, build trust and security, establish connection and communication—all of these big things in these little years. If we don’t make the investment now, we are not going to magically have any of those things with them later, when they are up against bigger challenges with higher stakes. Little seeds grow up into big things.

If our homes and our arms are not a soft place to fall a safe place to learn and grow and make mistakes, where else will they find that respite, connection, and peace? Not with us. For this reason, I take the pursuit of my children’s hearts incredibly seriously.

Something that encourages me: perfection is not required to have a good relationship with a child, but it does take the daily intention to clear away whatever is unnecessary to make room for what is lovely and life-giving between my children and myself.

This is soulful simplicity: parenting edition.

My goal every day is to consider my child’s heart, not just their behavior. As such, the following things are the practical things I try to do when responding to them through all the challenges we run into.

Get quiet, get close. I don’t know about you, but it takes a hot second for me to go from calm to boiling mad at some of the things my children do. My natural response is to yell. I hate that. A wise mama-friend I met a few years ago gave me some advice that I think about often. She said to me, “When your children are acting out, instead of raising your voice, make it quieter so they have to lean in and come close to hear you. Diffuse and disarm, instead of escalating situations with your own anger.” I have been hanging on those words ever since. It is not easy, but I can tell you, it is effective. Without flares of anger to cloud my judgement, I am able to make much more thoughtful and strategic parenting choices.

Be attentive. Listen to your child share about what is on their mind and heart. You can love your children well by listening to them, and don’t be surprised what you learn from them. I do believe I have learned more from my children than I have learned anywhere else. It’s remarkable, really.

Look for ways to nurture your connection. Tenderness goes a long way, even when you have to wear your parenting pants. You children need your leadership, but they need it with love and communication. The goal is to journey together—learning and growing in your respective roles—and that happens best when your relationship is built on tenderness and trust.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5a

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Family / Homeschool / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Pacing the Day: A Mom Strategy for Sanity (2)

Welcome friends.

This is day 15 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The first two weeks of the series can be found here. I hope you are enriched by this series. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Note: This is part 2 of a look at what it means to Pace the Day. I recommend going back to read part 1!

Yesterday I introduced the concept of pacing the day. As I mentioned there, this idea came to me early in my mothering journey and I have developed and tweaked it over time as our family and our needs have changed. I have used the following technique in a variety of ways over the past several years, and I want to say from the outset, there is no single “right” way, but instead some guiding principles and tools to help you figure out what pacing the day might look like with the personalities in your house.

The following things are required to pace the day well.

1) You have to throw out your notions of a hard-and-fast schedule in favor of routines, which are a little more squishy than schedules but do establish some patterns that your kids will pick up (and thrive) on.

2) You have to step out of frantic/reactive mode and do some observation so you are able to assess where everyone is at, and what they need next. Sometimes I literally find a corner to disengage from the crazy and just watch them. This is a great time for a hot drink near a lovely window.

3) Patience. Some people tell me they just don’t have it, but from my own experience, I will say, patience is a muscle that you can strengthen. I am only a (mostly) patient mother because I have been tested, and tested, and tested, and as I have struggled to respond to my children in a gentle and caring manner, my patience has grown. Perseverance gets you places!

So back to the main idea: Pacing the day is like holding a hand of cards at the beginning of the day, knowing that each card will be played at some point, but the order and timing of when you play it will vary from day-to-day and is a strategic, forward-thinking move. It is a little bit like choose-your-own-adventure. Mothers who want a household to adhere to strict schedules (by the clock) will possibly not love this idea, but I still hope you’ll read along because I think you may pick up some valuable ideas even if you’re a more scheduled person than I am.

If you are ready to pace the day, the cards in your hand are as follows:

Do Ahead, Communicate, Go Mode, Buffer, Margin, Choice, Re-set

Each of the cards has its own role in the mix, and they work together to achieve a (mostly) smooth and peaceful day. I’ll break each one of them down for you, from the perspective of what we usually do, especially in the morning.

Do Ahead
This refers to any task that I am able to take care of ahead of time. It goes nicely hand-in-hand with my Plan One Day Ahead list, and includes things like: filling water bottles, making to-go lunches, making and following a meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so there is no guesswork about what we’re eating and I just have to shuffle the ingredients around. It also includes my personal early morning routine which is to wake and diaper/dress both of my youngest children before I even leave my bedroom. I keep their clothes in my room, and find a lot less resistance to getting out the door if those two are taken care of right off the bat.

Communicate
My older kids are able to do many tasks on their own. When they wake, I instruct them to dress all the way to the shoes before they eat breakfast. If we happen to have a day we are not going anywhere, I will have them get started on independent school tasks instead, and serve them breakfast as they’re working on penmanship or English. I try to communicate well about what we have going on for the day, and offer a 1 hour, 30 minute, and 10 minute warning before we need to leave the house. I verbally toss out what they might want to have in order to be prepared for whatever activity we are headed for, but they know it is their responsibility to have shoes on, have a coat, have a filled water bottle in hand. Most often, the youngest two are already dressed by breakfast, and everyone (except me) is ready to leave 10-15 minutes before our target time. While they wait, I assign them a small clean-up job that can be completed before we leave. During that time, I am typically doing my hair, pulling a lunch together if I didn’t do it ahead of time, or last-minute changing a diaper.

Go Mode
This one requires a bit of practice to get your kids motivated, but when they have a hold of the concept, nothing will be able to stop you! We use go mode as we do household cleanup, engage with school tasks or prepare to leave the house. I have one child that is a day-dreamer and moves about life at a relaxed pace. Family quirk story: This child is wildly imaginative. She struggles to attack a job or a task with focus and tenacity, but if she can pretend to be an animal, she will kick into gear and get things done. Ever since she watched Jurassic World, she has been enamored with velociraptors, and in an effort to get some fire under her one day, I invited her to complete her tasks with, “velociraptor speed.” The kid turned into a velociraptor and cleaned up everything in sight. Weird, but hey, if it works! I also explained to my kids that sometimes in the last few minutes before we need to leave, I need everyone to get up, get moving, and handle their individually assigned tasks while I’m tending to my last details. We call this “Busy bees”, and when I call it out, everyone knows that it is Go Mode time to leave the house. We also do timed challenges and sometimes have rewards to practice this skill.

Buffer
With six kids, I hear a lot of questions and get many requests from the kids throughout the day. They range from ultra-simple things like “Can you please tie my shoe?” to things like “Can we meet up with X friend at the park today?” Honestly, it is question after question around here. Questions are great, and I encourage them, but I don’t give an immediate answer to anything that is asked of me unless I’m sure of the answer I want to give. Because I try to make good on anything I agree to, I am a little stingy with my “yes” answers. I also don’t revel in saying “no” all the time, so instead I create a buffer with a statement like, “I know you would like to do ______ today, but I will need to think about what we have going on today before I give you an answer. If I’m not able to fit that in today, we will find another time for it.” My children love this because they nearly always get what they want (if its reasonable), but they get it at a time and in a way that works for me. I think its a great idea to practice creating a buffer anytime other people in your life ask you for things as well. It buys you a little time to decide if you really want to commit to something or not by acknowledging their request, and setting a small boundary that you will not leap into just any request that comes your way. It makes your choices intentional. This is one way I have simplified my life…don’t answer immediately!

Margin
This one is pretty simple, but not always easy. Keeping a margin in your day means that you do not overschedule yourself. It means keeping a block of time somewhere in the day that is left open for whatever is needed, or it might mean being willing to drop a commitment from the day to re-set instead of keep on going. Margin is one of the biggest reasons I homeschool my children…it gives me the flexibility to be in charge of my entire daily schedule and not have to live by a school calendar or daily bell schedule. I am not in the car for hours a day (unless I want to be), and my kids are not sitting still in desks for hours a day (unless I want them to be). Now that I have tasted the sweetness of having margin in my day, I can’t go back to the busy life. No way.

Choice
This is toddler parenting 101, but I think its an important card to hold when you’re managing a household of kids of all ages. Regarding choice, it comes down to this: I supply the options, they make the choices. There are many times that a child comes to me and says, “I want to play video games right now.” We don’t use our game system on weekdays to encourage more productive learning activities (and if I’m honest, preserve the helpful, positive attitudes of screen-free days), so I have no problem responding with, “That is not a choice right now. You may do _____ or _____,” and I supply their options for them. There is usually not much of a fight, because they already know the parameters for video games, but more than that, I don’t often insist that they do one particular thing. I give them two choices, and they take it from there. They love their autonomy, and I love that I still have a handle on the direction we’re going.

Reset
This might be the most important of all pacing the day strategies. Knowing how to re-set if the day has turned upside-down is a desperately needed survival skill for moms. What works for one person may not work for another, but I would encourage you to give some thought to making a list of five things you can do to re-set your day if it comes to that. Some of the things that land on my list are: quiet time (everyone separated—usually in their beds—to read or quietly play until a timer goes off), go outside (I used to be a mostly-indoor mom, but I have learned there is something to getting out and letting everyone have their space from each other), do something with my kids that helps us connect (read a book, paint together, have a silly dance party), do one-on-one check-ins (I do these sometimes during quiet time and invite the kids one by one into my room for a few minutes to talk about whatever is on their minds), or my last-resort: lay a blanket out on the living room floor, put a bunch of snacks out, start a movie and take an ears-open nap on the couch while they’re glued to it. << This is typically how I survive the toughest parts of pregnancy and/or being sick.

I hope that gives you a bit of a glimpse into how I manage my days at home, and possibly some ideas to incorporate into your own version of pacing the day. You’ve got all the cards, so choose which ones to play when they are needed. I try and take in the cues my children give me and steer them toward “Go Mode” tasks (being out of the house, household cleanup, school time) or Margin/Reset time if Go Mode isn’t going very well.

I would love to know if you find any of this helpful, and if you have any questions for me, please feel free to be in touch.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

The Purpose of Home

Welcome friends.

This is day 9 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The first week of the series can be found here. I hope you are enriched by this series. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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What is the purpose of home? It may seem obvious, but I think its a worthwhile question. After all, home is more than walls and rooms, floors and ceilings. If it were merely a building to keep some things in and some things out, we wouldn’t differentiate homes from any other building.

But home isn’t just any other building. It is a particularly special place where some understated-but-important things happen on a daily basis. To illustrate, I compiled a list of what home is—some from my own sentiments of what home is or ought to be, and some from a few close friends who weighed in for me about what they believe the purpose of home to be. I hope some will resonate with you and assist in the process of helping you to soulfully-simplify your home for the benefit of your family.

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Home is a refuge. It is a place of comfort and rest; a sanctuary and soft place to land.

Home is a place of worship. It is a holy space where I engage ordinary tasks as a demonstration of gratitude for what God has given into my care.

Home is a greenhouse. It is a carefully curated environment intended to nurture, support, and develop the character of little ones into honorable, upright men and women.

Home is a kitchen. It is a place where hearts and bellies are filled with goodness, and where our table becomes a gathering place to offer my family gifts that nourish their bodies and their souls.

Home is a workshop. It is where we build a life together, fusing memories and shared experiences into a bond of lasting love for one another.

Home is a place for hospitality. It is a place where insiders and outsiders alike are welcomed in, are seen and heard, and generously poured into with attention and care.

Home is a garden. It is a place that has a season for planting, a season for blooming, and will one day produce a harvest revealing what is sown there.

Home is a workplace. It is a place I must show up to daily, ready to work diligently on mundane tasks that establish and preserve the peace of my household.

Home is an anchor. It is a place that reminds me of what is important, and acts as a hub to return to when adventures and seasons come to an end.

Home is a dance party. It is a place to sing at the top of my lungs, dance silly with my wide-eyed littles, and scoop them up for whimsical twirls and cuddles.

Home is a heart. It is the place that pumps life to the family, and a place that—when deeply damaged—is difficult to heal from.

Home is a family. It is where we all invest in each other, journey together, and sharpen each other. It is where we grow, learn, forgive, and laugh together through everything we experience.

Home is sacred. It is a essential space that serves to grow, nourish, and strengthen a family. Clarifying the purpose of your home will help you know how to best spend your energy in it.

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-8

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Examine the Culture of Your Home

This is day 5 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October! If you missed the first few posts in the series, you can check them out here. Thanks for taking the time to spend a few minutes here.

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What is the culture of your home? Have you ever stepped back to see how everyone interacts with each other, how your home systems work (or don’t work) for the benefit of all, or who sets the overall tone of your home throughout the day? Is there peace, or discord? Are your kids happy to help or apathetic about contributing their efforts to the household? Is there effective communication between family members, or is everyone disjointed and disconnected?

These are a few of the questions I ask when it seems like we’ve gotten off the tracks at our house. Family culture is closely related to the pursuit of simplicity within the home because if the culture, systems, and relationships in your home are full of frustration, disconnection, and distraction, all of the above will have a significant impact on what kind of success you can hope for in pursuit of soulful simplicity.

In the course of my journey, I have recognized that my own attitude is the single biggest factor in the current condition/culture of our home. I happen to be the at-home parent, and as such, have the greatest amount of influence regarding the tone of our home. When I am engaged, patient, and providing adequate leadership to my kids, I can gain a lot of ground in many different areas. When I am tired, distracted, annoyed, or impatient…it doesn’t go as well.

When I first discovered this pattern, it wasn’t my favorite realization. I wanted to blame the chaos of our lives on everything and everyone else, and learning how to take responsibility for the role I played was not all that fun because it meant that I had to figure out how to stay on target a lot more of the time. As I have journeyed forward, however, I am glad for the gentle and patient nudges from God to slow down, dig deep, and give the best of myself to my family–whatever that happens to look like at any given time. For me, taking this role seriously means I look for strategic ways to boost the morale among my children, sow encouragement into their hearts and teach them how to do the same for their siblings, smooth out household systems that may not be working for us, and make sure I’m communicating well with my husband so we can stay on the same page.

A peaceful home is never a coincidence, it is an intentional and multi-faceted pursuit.

I want to put a few strategic ideas out there that may help you wherever you are in the process of nurturing your family toward soulful simplicity.

Give your kids opportunities to show you how capable they are. 

I look for ways to help my kids discover what they are capable of and hold them accountable to their ability. In practice, this means I include them in household tasks as appropriate. My current two year old does quite a few chores alongside me. She isn’t an independent helper yet, but I invite her to join me in what I’m doing and there is rarely a time that she chooses not to willingly contribute her effort because she loves feeling included, and she loves being useful. Within time, she will be able to do these tasks without my help. This contributes to peace within our home because little hands are busy with constructive things, and the help really does amount to a lighter load for me, especially when all the kids help in the various ways they are able.

Cultivate connection and communication with each member of your family, and I would add, cut out whatever you have to in order to preserve both of these things.

I often tell my kids out loud, “You are an important part of our family,” and I thank them for their specific contributions in household tasks. I think children thrive on feeling a sense of purpose within a family system, and when I affirm the value of their work, and recognize the effort they put into including and encouraging their siblings, it bolsters their internal motivation to continue developing those habits. This process does require time and patience, but the investment produces a great return if you stick with it. If your schedule is so full that you are feeling disconnected from each other, make a change. Build space into your week that is scheduled just for connecting and conversation.

Whenever it is possible, work, play, and rest together as a family.

Time together is priceless, whether it is work, play, or rest. One of my favorite recent memories of my crew happened while all of us were sorting and folding a huge mountain of clean laundry together. I don’t remember how it got started but someone started laughing about something and before long, we were all laughing our way through the pile. Absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had doing laundry. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is your presence…both your physical presence and your attention. You don’t have to be doing “fun” stuff at all times. You can invite them into your tasks, projects, dreams and rest, and see your family culture take on a new facet as you work together in the same direction.

“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 13:4-8a NASB

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Family / Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

My Pursuit of Simplicity

This is day 3 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October! If you missed the first few posts in the series, you can check them out here. Thanks for taking the time to spend a few minutes here.

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Simplicity and I were not completely friends at the beginning. In a way, I feel like I was a little bit suckered into it for a few years before I willingly hopped on board. I had six babies in ten years, and even after just a few, I learned that there is no expansion of the family without also the expansion of chaos. All the moms of one or more children are now nodding their heads up and down as they read this. Solidarity, mamas.

Not long ago, I would have said my journey toward simplicity was something I got into in my twenties and have more fully realized in my thirties, but after reflecting a bit, I realized that simplicity has been an underlying theme in my life from the beginning. When I was very young, I lived with my parents and two brothers in humble homes, on a single income, in a small quiet town. We did not take extravagant vacations or own particularly nice things. I wore mostly hand-me-down or thrifted clothes (which I didn’t mind a bit until I was a teenager), and I remember holidays being simple, but full of love. The gifts I was given were always thoughtfully chosen, and the vacations we took were always to majestic outdoor locations where there were rivers and mountains nearby.

As a hyper-aware child, I knew that my parents lived on a frugal budget, and early on, I took mental notes about how to not keep up with the Jones’. I am grateful for the ways that they planted seeds of contentment in my life—showing me in practice that more is not always better, that meaningful time with people I love is irreplaceable and needn’t be hijacked by a multitude of ways to spend too much money, and that slowing down and stepping out of the race to success and productivity (most often outdoors) brings respite to my soul.

I’m including photos from my childhood in this post, and I would be remiss to not explain the above two photos. On more than one occasion, my brother and I made our own fishing poles with a stick, discarded fishing line attached to the end, and a soda can as the fish bait. It was never my goal to catch a big fish with that particular set-up…I was really just hoping I could get a little 2-inch fish to swim into the hole of my soda can if I was patient enough. We took turns casting it out into the water and reeling it back in, holding the can up to our eyes to look inside and see if we had caught one. These are incredibly precious memories of uncomplicated times. Now that I am a mother, looking at these photos intensifies the desire I have to offer my children the beauty of a simple childhood, rich with experiences and delightful pastimes like I was given by my parents.

Less really is more if we’re talking about having less stress, less stuff, and less hassle in exchange for more peace, more connection, and space for more love to grow between us.

I didn’t find my way back to simplicity all at once. After spending some of my high-school and college years in a different (busy-to-be-busy) mode, it wasn’t until I had a few babies of my own that I had to face the reality that I could not conquer the world, chase every dream, or share my time with other people in the same way and also meet all the demands of motherhood with any measure of gracefulness. I was deeply humbled by the arrival of my third child in particular, and happened to pick up a book about that time that spoke volumes to my weary mom-heart. The ideas it contained have been with me ever since. It was a leaping-off point for me to beginning my own pursuit of soulful simplicity with intention, although, it has taken me some years to sort out what this journey would look like for myself as a mother of a growing number of children.

If you’re interested to check it out, the book is Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. I will forewarn that it is a fairly dense and theological read—definitely not a quick self-help title—but it contains so many thoughtful principles that have become priorities in my life even today and it is an incredibly rich read.

“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth…I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:2a, 3 (NASB & NIV translations)

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Family / Marriage / Motherhood

On This Day

*written on our eleventh anniversary on 7/16/16

On this day eleven years ago, I woke to a cloud of a wedding dress hanging by the window—the skirt, billowy tulle, and the bodice, intricately beaded. I didn’t bother to have it properly fitted, because no one told me I should, and with my college student wedding budget, I had insisted on buying a gown I could take home off the rack. It was perfect to me just as it was, and two little safety pins worked wonders on the slightly-too-long straps. The cloud skirt was a touch long, but I proudly hiked it up or outsourced it to my groom at certain times throughout the day and he didn’t seem to mind. We were on the clouds together, declaring our vows to one another in front of everyone we knew.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day ten years ago, we ate outside at a seafood spot on the Seattle waterfront — me with a giant watermelon-belly, and my husband with a twinkle in his eye, hoping I would go into labor at any moment so he could finally see the little girl he had been longing to meet for months. Two days later, my water broke spontaneously on the carpet of our bedroom, not long after he had been playfully heckling me about why I wasn’t in labor yet. Our sweet firstborn daughter would be born less than four hours after that, kicking off a new, exciting, and humbling season of parenthood that would forever change us both.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day nine years ago, I was bursting with news that we were expecting our second baby together. The first year of parenthood had proved to be enjoyable enough to warrant a second round. Our firstborn—a year old—toddled about with the wide-eyed wonder she still has to this day, enjoying to its very fullest all that life offers. Her untamable curls matched her free spirit and that year we grew each other in untold ways. She catalyzed my rediscovery of joy and beauty which I had struggled to see during my earlier years of depression and wrestling with God, opening and mending a wounded heart that spent too many years closed off to freedom. We often skipped and danced around in our living room together.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day eight years ago, we had two little people – a mini-me and a mini-daddy. The little guy at three months old was just starting to pack on the signature rolls of Allen babies. More than smitten with her little brother, sister often crouched near where he lay in the round curve of a Boppy nursing pillow, surrounding him with stuffed animals of every variety, and employing whatever antics necessary to get a giggle out of him. I knew in my heart then that he had a lion-heart just like is dad. The four of us braved a couple of lean years in the heart of the city of Angels while daddy worked toward his graduate degree and I sorted out some of my identity as a mother and frustrated artist.

All-in for whatever might await us.

On this day seven years ago, I was round with a second boy-child, feeling the heat with swollen ankles and a weariness known only by moms very pregnant in the sizzling summer months of southern California. My heart was full and growing fuller, even though another baby at this moment wasn’t my plan and would not have been my timing. Sometimes God ignores our plans and instead directs our steps in a way that will ultimately bring out the best things we never would have chosen without a nudge. A wrinkle in my ideal turned into a blessing that I would never give up. Later that year, we moved north with our new son and two toddlers back to the only place that felt like home—Seattle—without a home or a job to count on.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day six years ago, we were just starting to settle in to the first and only single-family home we have ever lived in together — a quirky off-white house of considerable square footage, mismatched flooring in every room, and more space than we knew what to do with. Our firstborn fittingly called it “our castle” and it truly was. I swept the floor feeling overwhelmingly grateful for the gift of this space and the sparse furniture that couldn’t have filled even one room in the house, but was all we had at the time. We made the ends meet with a creative combination of jobs between the two of us—our roots reaching down into the damp Seattle soil where things grow lush and lovely. We leaned hard into grace and into each other to bring it all together.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day five years ago, we found ourselves the new owners of a sparkly white minivan, an unexpected blessing that preceded the discovery that we would be welcoming a fourth child into our family. For a few years, we had been driving a sedan with three car seats in the back (looking something like sardines in a can), but on a cloudy afternoon, someone took off in the sedan and we never saw it again. I walked through the lot where I had parked it, in disbelief that our car had really been stolen, and quite aware that we were not in a position to replace it. It seemed like an impossible situation. That month, I learned about trusting that God will meet my needs, which He always does, and I keep wondering why that surprises me every time. We spent weeks looking for the right new vehicle with strikeout after strikeout because of budget constraints or a vehicle’s questionable condition. In a story of far-too-many incredible details, we ended up with a van that we couldn’t have afforded, except that at the perfectly right time, some friends unexpectedly sent a substantial check in the mail as a free-and-clear gift that made it possible for us to purchase the van we have now been driving for five years. It was only a week later that I found out we were expecting another baby. The van was a need, a gift, and a comfort for us as we marched into new territory as a family.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day four years ago we had our hands full with four beautiful children, two boys and two girls, and we decided at the time that our family was complete. Rather unexpectedly, daddy got a new job that perfectly fit the needs of our crew and launched him in a new career direction, prompting a change in my role around the house. It was a gentle, but important shift for me. I had been mothering for six years, but truthfully, I resisted the role and title of homemaker the entire time. I loved my kids, but I did the bare minimum it took to manage the household because I despised all the mundane tasks it involved. We had always equally shared the household load, and I liked it that way, but my husband’s career shift meant a number of things had to change. I could choose otherwise, but wisdom said to me, “Invest yourself. Dig in and do the work of a homemaker with your whole heart, and see if it does not bring about immeasurable blessing.” So I tried, and over time have found that promise to be true. We still work together as we always have, but it strikes me funny that we are now in oddly traditional roles, even though we both had always been averse to them before.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day day three years ago, we traded our certainties about family size for a little more adventure with the announcement of yet another pregnancy – one fraught with unexpected challenges and turns, but one that would bring us surpassing joy in total surrender to God’s will for our lives. Months later, we welcomed a fierce little force of nature whose name means, “life of favor and joy”. Our daughter’s entrance into the world profoundly marks the place in my life where fear (which once held me by the throat) would no longer rule me, and it doesn’t.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day two years ago, we looked around at our once large and sparsely decorated house to see that it was truly filled to the brim with love and children. We filled up that white van with car seats in every available space and added mountains of wrappers, papers, jackets, and random trinkets to the van floor—evidence of the adventures of a big family.

All in for whatever might await us.

On this day one year ago, we celebrated ten years of marriage—a decade of loving, laughing and growing together—with the announcement that yet another child would be joining our family. He is a little boy that now lights up our lives in this present time that we celebrate our eleven years together. We have learned about giving everything we’ve got to love each other well. We have learned to laugh often, to forgive readily, to believe the best in each other, and to live with wide-open hands to receive God’s great gifts and surprises when they come.

All in, for whatever might await us.