Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Motherhood

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

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Finding My Voice

One photo a week throughout the year. 4/52

From a young age, they tell me I have natural talent. It’s nice for them to say, but I’m a quiet, reserved child, so I’m not sure about that. I like to sing but I don’t like drawing attention to myself, which means I never sing very loud. I wait until the music is turned up a bit or until I’m in my room where I can close the door. I listen to my mother sing harmonies and quietly try to imitate her, tuning my ear to the nuances of the music.

In the middle years, my life is tumultuous. My dad doesn’t live at my house anymore. He took my youngest brother with him, and nothing feels stable or normal. I cope by muscling out perfect grades in every class, unable (or unwilling) to accept less. Anything less than an “A” would expose the reality that I am crumbling on the inside. I am fractured—just like my family—and I sing to keep myself afloat. It is the only art I can make, partly because I don’t really have to work at it that hard, and I am fighting deep depression. Maybe they were right about the natural talent. I like to think it was God’s lifeline to me. He gave me a voice to explore so that I might learn how to explore other things that bring life and joy—little by little, inch by inch.

I go to college and find myself thoroughly deconstructed. I can’t keep up the perfection I managed to muscle in earlier years. Instead I crack open the rawest place and scribble lyrics of my deep brokenness, squeaking out desperate prayers and pleas for God to come and help me find a way out of the dark place, proclaiming a desire to heal long before the healing comes.

God brings me a man that takes me by the hand right out of that mire. We make love and babies and very, very slowly, light begins pouring into me. He disarms me with his humility and opens up the spaces I’ve curled in around. The fears that hold me with fury start losing their grip. Simple times, little faces, and rearranged perspective starts me looking for beauty in new places: the ordinary moments of every day; the miracle I am living.

I find a camera in my hands and start freezing everything beautiful I see. At first I think I’m going to be somebody bigger or better, but I quickly learn that seeing deeply is far more important than the constant pressure to prove myself…to myself. Behind vanity, sometimes there are worthy pursuits. Vanity, however, can set the less mature person in a compromised direction. My subjects smile into my lens and I see the vulnerable moment just before I click when they are asking themselves, do I look ok? Do my faults and fears show? Does my nice outfit and carefully groomed appearance hide my insecurity? No, it doesn’t. It does help me see for myself that I am not the only one that constantly wonders if I am (fill in the blank) enough, and I see a new beauty in humanity that only comes in a shared vulnerable moment.

My sweet neighbor teaches me how to sew. I never wanted to learn, especially when my grandmother wanted to teach me as a child. It took too much time and effort to make things look perfect. I just knew it, even though I never really tried. She shows me the way to embrace things that take time; the value in one step at a time. Now I experience a calm purpose as I wash, dry, iron the fabric, tear the cut edges to square up, measure, cut, align, pin, sew, and turn. The process is beauty to me.

For many years, I carry a cavernous hunger. I am desperate to be filled, even though all the food I devour doesn’t touch it. I eat my feelings, as they say, and love the starch, the carbohydrate, and convenience of things in packages. I don’t want to cook, because I’m terrified of being locked up in a chauvinist marriage. I tell my good man from the beginning, I am not your house maid. I am not your cook. He loves me anyway, and does all those things until I learn on my own that filling the hearts and bellies of the ones I love is one of the greatest joys, and that chopping stuff with a good knife is therapeutic.

I write words in every different place over all the years from the early to the present. Journals, spiral notebooks, and one blog after the next. I don’t call myself a writer because it is scary to own my voice. I avoid. I hide. I agonize. I stretch. I try to write again and again until the dam is compromised enough to fall down completely and bring the rushing water all the way through the previously dry channel. My voice is found, and while I am trepidatious about the power it wields, I know that I can’t rest until I help others find theirs as well.

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Friends – I am eager to share a new venture with you. It is a project that is very dear to my heart, and I am believing it will be an encouragement to many. I invite you to check out Kindred Mom, a collaborative blog where many different women will be sharing about their motherhood experiences through story-driven essays. I would love your support as Kindred Mom is getting established. You can do any of the following:

> Follow us on Instagram and Twitter
> Join our Kindred Mom Facebook Group
> Submit an essay to Kindred Mom
> Subscribe to our Email List
> Read along as we begin sharing essays and let your mama friends know about the blog

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

1311. my husband’s constant (and sacrificial) support of all my crazy ideas, 1312. roozy boozy’s new haircut, 1313. hank starting to find his confidence with walking, 1314. big buddy’s constant hugs, 1315. riding together as a family (still new and quite exciting), 1316. seeing threads come together, 1317. making some new banners, 1318. met new neighbors, 1319. sermon on the vastness of God’s redemptive power, 1320. friends on the Kindred Mom journey with me

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Burdens Laid Down

One photo a week throughout the year. 1/52  — Taken January 1, 2017

There are maybe fifteen of us sitting in a circle, some holding babies, some quietly giving thanks that their kids are in the children’s wing of the church, coloring, laughing, and playing with bubbles on the other side of the building. Quiet space to think is not always afforded to moms with little ones. Constant noise and endless needs keep the mind running in high gear, always managing a mini-crisis or preparing for the next one that will undoubtedly arise within the next few hours.

I am the mom quietly giving thanks for an opportunity to think about all that 2016 brought to me.

Each mama in the circle has a pencil and a white sheet of paper with a few reflection questions to consider.

Line one asks me, “What are a few words that encompass your experience in 2016?”

I haven’t really given it a lot of thought until this moment, and I feel a little surprised that I write down: healing, restful, simple.

It wasn’t a dramatic or spectacular year in the ways I’m used to. It may have been dramatic out there in the wide world, but here in our little home, and in my inner-heart space, there was a settling; a breathing-out; a letting-shoulders-relax…a new experience for anxious me.

In February, I gave birth to my sixth child—a 10lb 4oz hunk of love that has delighted all of us throughout the year. The months that followed feel fuzzy in my mind, but I know that while I might have been tender, I was also full to the brim of joy and the reward of little faces greeting me every morning. Our family danced through the delicate transition period after the new arrival with more grace than usual, probably because God heaped it on us with great generosity.

Throughout the summer, I watched my older five play outside in the mild Seattle sun for hours and hours, it’s rays warming me through in a new and unexpected way. I cradled my infant son and felt the weight and beauty of his soul in place of the heavy burdens I’ve carried in years passed. I set down every other thing that I have collected over the years with the intent to prove myself valuable or successful or even just ok in my own skin—and instead took up the practice of breathing slow and looking up through the glittery leaves above me as I pondered the lavish beauty of life that is easily missed by those who are running, chasing, and thoughtlessly squandering what is right in front of them in pursuit of all the not-yet’s…as I have done for years without realizing it.

In October, I wrote all the thoughts I could about simplicity and my pursuit of it; a little surprised that I have begun to cherish the journey I started years ago when I first picked up the book Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. I’d venture to say that the pursuit of simplicity has been a difficult and humbling experience, but as I begin to discover the rewards of it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There are cords that hold us captive to things without our knowledge, but simplicity opens the door to a different, and more beautiful reality.

The last months of the year found me up to my ears in gratitude for the fullness of my life and the realization that even though I’ve struggled through years of hard things and hard feelings, sometimes there is a stretch of time where the angst falls away and the lungs are filled with hope that all the lost and broken things will one day be restored.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

1281. little hands that pinch and pat their way through nursing, 1282. the purple girl and all the purple things she loves, 1283. ‘seriously cute’ reminding me often that even when she grows up and moves away, she will visit me, 1284. mr. bubs and his delight that I run my fingers through his handsome hair when he hugs me close, 1285. my diligent guy who quiets my soul by quieting the house clutter, 1286. moments of grace with my growing girl who is learning how to carry herself with dignity as she straddles the line between imaginative child and blossoming teen, 1287. some quiet hours alone for the first time in a while, 1288. new books and new horizons, 1289. warmth of community, 1290. the satisfaction I find in creative collaboration

Motherhood / Thoughts

The Generous Parent

I sit on my deep red couch with my journal open on my lap. The chatter of childhood surrounds me as my six kids alternately play and argue their way through the morning, fighting over random toys or who gets to be in charge of the pretend play scenario they have cooked up. I make a list of things I shouldn’t forget to do, and jot down notes of quiet thoughts I simply don’t want to lose track of in the momentum of family life. I write down: What does it mean to be a generous mother?

About then, my seven year old plops on the couch next to me and leans into my personal space. One part of me wants to send him back to play with the others and preserve the gloriousness of not having someone touching me at every moment, but before I give that command, my eyes fall across my journal page—a Holy Spirit invitation to recognize that this is a moment I can choose to be generous with my son.

Even though I really want my space and a little room to think my own thoughts, I close my journal and put my arm around him for the awkward cuddle of a long-legged, tender-hearted boy who feels the need for midday mama-snuggles. I know these days won’t last, and just this once, I feel satisfied that I am aware of his need and prepared to sacrifice my space for a few minutes of filling his heart with my attention. In this moment, I am a generous mother.

I don’t always make the gracious choice. In my heart, I want to, but tiredness, busyness, and spread-thinness impedes my ability to give my children my best at all times. Most often, I am stumbling through parenthood, powered by love, but not always able to get the tenderness I feel for my kids to show through gentle actions and encouraging words.

Nothing else has illuminated my humanity and the daily struggle to circumvent selfishness in order to humbly serve my family quite like parenthood. I find that sometimes even small gestures of kindness require a significant effort (especially when I am short on sleep, and consequently short on patience). Sometimes it is easier to stay focused on my to-do lists, and on the never-ending tasks of ordinary life, without pausing to attend to the little ones who simply want my attention for a few moments.

Like any other mom, I want to give my children the best of everything, whenever possible. I entertain hope that they might be spared suffering, ridicule, poverty, and challenges throughout their lives. I pray for those things, but deep down, I recognize that I can neither promise nor guarantee safe distance from adversity. I often forget that what I can give them, and what they really need in these years at home, is a parent who is invested, attentive, and tuned in to their emotional needs in addition to their physical ones. I forget that generosity doesn’t always mean giving them stuff. Sometimes it means allowing the inevitable interruptions of childhood, and purposing to give my attention generously to each as they seek me out.

At Christmas, we give gifts wrapped with paper and tape that can be opened in the excitement of Christmas morning. Every other moment of the year, we have the opportunity to give gifts that are only opened with the tenure of relationship, by forged connection and trust built in the mundane moments. We must recognize that our attentive presence is invaluable for our children.

This is what it means to be a generous parent: to see and embrace our children, to hear about their dreams and worries with listening ear and words of encouragement, and to celebrate the small victories they have in every stage of development. If we can do these things in their years at home with us, they will see return on our investment throughout the rest of their lives.

*This post originally appeared as a guest post for Meredith M. Dangel. 

Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

A Simplicity Journey

Welcome friends.

This is day 29 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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I’ve been taking small steps toward simplicity every day for half of my life.

When I started, I wouldn’t have called it simplicity. It looked more like survival. I was the oldest child in a family fractured by divorce, my heart torn into five pieces that will never find their way back to the same original shape. I navigated my last years of high-school, attempting to feel as little as possible so I didn’t hurt so much. I chose Jesus for myself in that time, and have never regretted it a single day.

After survival, the steps looked like grief. When I left my mother’s home and went to college, I let the dam finally break and cried buckets of tears for months. I cried daily, prayed often, and poured out my sorrows into songs that I wrote with a sweet friend who journeyed alongside me through that tough season and every season forward.

After grief, the steps looked like drama. A young man sought my hand in marriage and I was all kinds of terrified about it. I tried sending him another direction. I tried to deflect his love with excuses and intensive conversations, but the good thing was: for the first time, I was thinking about my heart and what I wanted for it. In the end, he won me over and has added good things to my life ever since.

After drama, the steps looked like loneliness. I spent my first year of motherhood in an unfamiliar city without an established community to look to for support. I was 23 and knew nothing about raising a child, only that the deafening silence of being home alone with her for hours a day made me feel desperate to fill the empty space with anything. Except I couldn’t. For the first time, I tasted what stillness of the soul can accomplish…how margin and whitespace makes room for deep work within my heart.

After loneliness, the steps looked like surrender. The news of a third baby felt initially like an ill-timed joke, falling in the middle of our very poorest, most vulnerable time as a family. It was no joke, and after a stretch of wrestling with God about that timing, I started embracing the reality that I could argue with God about what is good for me, or I could give myself to the tasks He put before me. I chose to give myself to it.

After surrender, the steps looked like grace. I grew in faithfulness to my mothering task, and started learning about what it might look like to put my whole heart into the purpose of seeking the highest good for my family, even if it meant humbling myself, and learning how to receive what God gives with gratitude despite the times I do not completely understand it. I learned how to value small things done with great love.

After grace, the steps looked like diligence. I dealt with a minor health issue through my fifth pregnancy, and learned how to create new habits and live by my priorities like never before. I discovered a strength in me I didn’t know was there.

After diligence, the steps looked like joy, and that is where I currently stay; aware that life is a gift and that God really does heal, mend, restore, and redeem. I am walking proof of it.

Soulful simplicity is a journey, not a destination.

It is not an ideal to be worshiped, or an island to land on. It is an invitation to discover the peace, goodness, and healing of God in your own everyday life.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But 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 1:13-18

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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!

Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Simple, Faithful Heart

Welcome friends.

This is day 28 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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“It is night. I sit, reclined with baby in arms, awake with my eyes closed. There is a slight give in the chair, and I bounce rhythmically to the sound of easygoing rain. Only glass between us, the sky-water patters near to the ears and the soul in the otherwise quiet house…I recognize am not called to live a comfortable life, but one that is fruitful and marked by faithfulness, which sounds a lot less glamorous than the comfortable alternative. I struggle to lay down my pride, take up a humility that is beyond me, and order my life in such a way that my garden is well-tended. Consistent, constant, faithful, committed, thorough, invested, loving, patient, grateful. Jesus Himself, said that He did not come to be served, to but serve and give His life as a ransom for many. I hold those words to my heart and hope they sink in where I can learn to be the same kind of person, no matter the weather.” (from Rain and Rocking, February 2015)

Faithfulness is the natural result of a soulfully-simplified life. If I want to be a faithful person, I begin by simplifying my heart and home. I see my purpose, and I know my priorities. I faithfully attend the tasks required to tend them, even if those same tasks require much from me.

My life is not complicated by unnecessary commitments, or overburdened by excess things.

I don’t take my cues from social media and I don’t have to prove myself ‘enough’, but instead show myself capable, willing, and faithful in the small things. I can focus on what I’m actually responsible for and get rid of the rest.

I do not exhaust myself for pursuits that don’t make the list of my highest priorities, and I don’t find myself weary at the end of the day for no good reason.

I am not easily blown off course because the ties that would tug on me from this way or that have no hold here.

For you who long for this kind of peace, this kind of wellness within your soul, this kind of order within your home, I encourage you to be still, quiet your heart, and seek God. Ask Him for help. Ask Him for His peace, His wholeness, and His love to sink in to the deepest places. Pursue simplicity, one step at a time, and see if you do not discover the upside-down, beautiful, humble road to success in your pursuits.

“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, He increases power.” Isaiah 40:29

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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!

Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Create a Sustainable Schedule

Welcome friends.

This is day 25 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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Today, I have gathered 8 tips for creating a sustainable schedule.

1—Identify the underlying purpose behind what you commit to, and if something no longer serves it’s intended purpose, don’t be afraid to let it go. If you are asking yourself, “What is the point of this?” you will have a hard time following through on a commitment as soon  as you have some resistance or challenges come up. If you have already identified the purpose of an event on your calendar, you can put your heart into preparing, getting there, and engaging in whatever it is.

2—Honor the rhythms and limitations of your family without apology. You know better than anyone else what things will and won’t work for your family. Sometimes other people will try to make you feel guilty or otherwise pressure you to add something to your schedule, but you do not have to explain why you choose not to commit to them. Make the best decisions you can and stand by them.

3—Be protective of your family’s top priorities. Maybe you love travel? Guard your budget and time off to be able to invest in that. Maybe you love making memories together? Schedule in your family adventures so they don’t get pushed out by urgent unimportant things. Maybe you value having dinner around the table together? Plan your meals ahead and get your kids in the kitchen with you to bring it together every night. Whatever your priorities may be, it is important to keep them in mind when making decisions about your calendar.

4—Keep in mind that your schedule should be serving you, and if it isn’t, make some changes. It is easy to feel like we are at the mercy of our schedules and that we have no choice  but to do this or do that. We always have choices. That doesn’t mean they are easy choices, but there are ways to simplify, alter, and organize our lives to create a weekly rhythm that works for everyone in the household.

5—Simplify home and household systems so you can get through necessary tasks without wasting excess energy. There are many tasks that are necessary to keep a home together and moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that you should have to expend all the energy you have on those things. Look for ways to clear out what you don’t need and streamline tasks that you can’t get out of so they’re not so overwhelming when you get to them.

6—Develop a vision for your week ahead, or take a moment to plan just one day ahead. If you can see what is happening next, you can communicate with your family about what they might need to do to prepare. If you have a list of things that need to be tackled, you can stay focused and get those items knocked out.

7—Commit to things you can joyfully give your time to. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be things that are sometimes a stretch or a struggle, but you will be happier if you only commit to things you are excited about, or at minimum, able to show up with a willing heart to.

8—Keep an eye on margin and flexibility. Let’s face it. These two things are sustainable-schedule essentials.

“Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” 2 Chronicles 7:15-16

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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!

 

Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Celebrate Small Victories

Welcome friends.

This is day 24 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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It is easy to get caught in a cycle of looking ahead to what might be in the future, or looking behind and dwelling on everything that happened in the past, but never really owning the space we fill in the present. It is good to dream and cast vision for what is ahead, and it is good to reflect on experiences and lessons learned to process how we feel about them and how we have been shaped by them.

It is also good to find joy in the small place of this present moment, which might feel ordinary and like nothing special.

Let me tell you, today is special, and it holds unique opportunities for you. Maybe it’s not a terribly exciting day, and maybe you’re not doing terribly exciting things, but it is my guess that even if it’s just an ordinary day, you are pressing forward with all the courage you’ve got, attempting to do whatever is in front of you to the best of your ability.

Maybe you are gaining ground, little by little, and while your accomplishments for the day may not be garnering public attention and praise, you are taking steps forward from where you are. You may be inching along, or you may be sprinting to the finish line of a goal, but in either case, today I want to ask you to celebrate your small victories.

When you celebrate small victories, you acknowledge that the beauty of life is not only about big milestones, but also includes the in-between choices to be faithful in small things that turn out to be not so small after all.

An abundant life comes about because of seemingly insignificant choices to be faithful in everyday, ordinary tasks. These choices are not insignificant. They are the very things that build memories, build character, build a family, and ultimately build our lives. We look back on the highlights of our lives and can easily forget about all the living we did between the milestones. The interesting part is that the choices we make between milestones make a far bigger impact on the way our lives unfold.

The small choices you make matter. The choices you make to do the next right thing—to engage hurts and troubles, to invest in others, to connect, to create, and respond with love—build on each other and lead to bigger victories in life.

I see it like adding dry beans to a scale. Each little bean seems rather insignificant on its own, but as you add one after another, at some point, the scales are going to tip and you are going to recognize the greater accomplishment of what you have produced with your daily efforts.

Every step toward simplicity, toward wholeness, adds up. I’m comforted by this reality because there are so many days that are hard for one reason or another, but celebrating my small victories makes encouragement the force behind the momentum I have to continue forward. Whether you are gaining ground by inches or miles, the point is, you’re gaining ground.

Celebrating the small victories of my children are the very things that shape their character. Sure, there have to be limits and boundaries and lessons, but children are most motivated to do what they believe will be valued and celebrated. For this reason, I give high praise for the times they display servant-heartedness toward others in our family because that makes them interested and willing to serve in the future, knowing that their contributions and attitudes really make a difference for everyone.

I think the acknowledgment of small victories brings about affirmation that we are doing well. So often we want praise from others, but we can be encouraged in the quiet of our hearts by recognizing what we have accomplished in the small spaces of life and celebrating those efforts in our own ways.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

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Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Prioritize Rest

Welcome friends.

This is day 23 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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Soulful simplicity is ultimately about ordering your life in such a way that you have time, space, and energy enough to nurture relationships, establish a peaceful home culture, and let your soul breathe in the midst of your everyday life demands.

I have learned that it is not possible for me to do any of these things well if I am starting off the day exhausted, or if I’m trying to push myself too far beyond my physical limits.

Our limitations can be frustrating, but they’re also important. Limits help us keep a measure of balance in our lives…sometimes against our wishes.

It might sound weird to say, but when I was considerably younger, I often thought to myself, “Why do I even need sleep? If I could just keep going without having to stop for that, I’d get so much more done.”

True, I would, but that statement reveals a bit about what was most important to me in that stage of my life. It also reveals how little I understood my need for adequate and restorative rest. I valued productivity over all other things. Now, I still love productivity—very much—but I also see that living whole-heartedly is about so much more than having a list of accomplishments to show for my time spent.

I still struggle with this aspect of soulful simplicity. I am not good at resting, but I have experienced first-hand that when I prioritize rest and intentionally make it part of my life in different ways, it provides so many benefits that I can’t ignore it.

If you feel constantly exhausted, I would encourage you to build rest and refreshment into your week. To help you think about ways you can begin or improve your intention for rest in your life, I am listing some of the ways I prioritize rest in mine.

10 Ways I Prioritize Rest

1—I set early bedtimes for the kids, even our older ones, so that my evenings are typically an open space for me to tend my soul through writing, meeting up with a friend, studying the Bible or doing a creative project.

2—On the days we are home in the afternoons, I have everyone do quiet/rest times to recuperate from our morning activities. The little ones take naps and the older ones read or play quietly in their beds.

3—I schedule a “rest” day on my weekly calendar where I plan a little ahead so I have at least a small reprieve from the constant household tasks (meal-making, laundry, cleaning, etc). Sometimes I am only able to do it for half the day, but I find the intention to give myself that space helps me tackle those tasks with more diligence at other times during the week.

4—I consolidate as many tasks as I can in order to “gain” time later. This refers to creating household systems that allow me to give consistent effort in the same direction to what needs to be done, so that when I set them down for a stretch, I don’t feel like I’m stuck behind the curve.

5—I communicate with my family about what I need from them in order for our home care to be shared among all of us. I still do a majority of home tasks, but having help from the others encourages me a lot and helps me get through tasks more quickly.

6—I try to make time monthly or quarterly for a quiet retreat to re-group. For me, this is typically a simple date alone at a coffee shop for some hours to myself, but it could easily be an actual getaway to be refreshed.

7—I re-evaluate my schedule every so often and simplify my commitments, so I can be sure that everything I’m giving my time to is something I am able to joyfully give my time to.

8—For my heart, I thoughtfully disengage from social media for a periods of time so that I am not overwhelmed with all that input.

9—I have found that I really enjoy contemplative prayer and reflective writing. Both help me to clear my mind of all the things that cause anxiety and help me to find my center.

10—For me, time conversing with a friend (in person or on the phone) is incredibly life-giving. I could be dragging along all day and then share a bit of time talking with someone I care about and I am re-energized and ready to face the rest of my day.

What would you add to this list? How do you prioritize rest?

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:36

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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!