Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives April 2013

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Do Good

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“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” Galatians 6:9

This verse is on my mind this morning. My whole fam has been under the weather, myself included, and for the past six days I’ve pretty much been living in my pajamas, doing as little as possible aside from making meals and keeping up with the main areas of the house…and even those things are happening at about half-speed. I’ve made peace with our limitations even though we have missed a lot of fun things over the past few days, but I’m determined to re-gain some focus today, starting with this little verse. Let’s take a look at what it does and what it doesn’t say.

What it DOES say:

Let us not become weary in doing good. What does it mean to be weary? One definition is to be mentally or physically exhausted from hard work, but did you know that another definition is to become impatient or dissatisfied with something? Ding, ding, ding. How many other people will admit to staring at a pile of laundry or a sink full of dishes and think of all the other things you’d rather be doing? How many mamas will admit to being impatient with their kids again and again in the course of a day? I don’t know about you, but both of these things ring true for me more often that I care to admit. I totally need Jesus every day, every hour, to renew my heart and mind. I don’t think God expects us to never be tired from the work that He asks us to do inside the home (or out of it!), but I do think He wants to caution us against the impatience and dissatisfaction that can stand between us and doing the good we really want to do for our families.

What it DOES NOT say:

Let us not become weary in doing everything. Anyone on the hamster wheel? Racing, juggling, piling more and more onto an already full plate. Trying to keep up with everything that everyone else expects of you? Almost every mama I know feels pulled in 100 different directions, spread thin, and honestly exhausted by the end (or the middle! or the beginning!) of the day. I just have to point out that this verse encourages us not to become weary in doing good, but it doesn’t say we have to do everything. I keep coming around to this idea that simple is always better when it comes to structuring our days at home. I would rather have a few (or even many) household tasks left undone with room in the day for quality time with my kids.

What it DOES say:

At the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Keep going, mamas! I know how hard it is to get through a day with your sanity. I’m right there. But just like a farmer doesn’t know what kind of crop yield he will have at the end of a season, we can’t see right now what our efforts will produce later. I have experienced both sowing and reaping seasons in my life, and from experience I will say, digging in and doing the work that God puts before you will bring beautiful, meaningful things out of the messy, muddy dirt.

What it DOES NOT say:

 At the time we so desire, we will feel successful at our jobs. Most moms I know could talk all day about how overwhelmed they feel by the many things they juggle. Not many of us go to bed at night feeling satisfied with all we accomplished throughout the day. Just because we do not feel successful does not mean that we haven’t gained ground in one or more areas. It is the sum of many thousands of simple, faithful tasks, and small, meaningful acts of kindness toward our families that build strong healthy homes and happy, whole children.

What it DOES say:

As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. As we have opportunity. Recognizing opportunities is not something everyone is good at. If we are frazzled, distracted by facebook or relationship dramas, or even slaying our to-do list with ferocious prowess, we might miss the opportunities around us to speak into a child’s heart at an opportune moment, opportunities to bring encouragement to a discouraged friend, or opportunities to help a neighbor with a task. And if I’m honest about how this little line is hitting my heart, I’m feeling a tug to ‘do good to all the people in my house‘….by offering grace, patience, tenderness, and kindness to each one of them, especially the ones that push my buttons and work against all my efforts at a clean and orderly home. Not naming names.

What it DOES NOT say:

Let us act like we are good and stop there. How many people who profess faith spend more time managing the outward appearance of their ‘goodness’ but don’t do anything to serve or encourage others…something that transforms our hearts from within? It’s a bit of a tough question, because I’m guilty too. I have always been what some would describe as a ‘good girl’, if we are talking about the outward things I have and haven’t done in my life. But truthfully, I’m a sinner, and I will be the first to say that any good in me is because of Jesus. I think it is important to highlight that this verse doesn’t tell us to BE good. It tells us to DO good. Get up. Take action. Do stuff that blesses others. That is how the world will know who Jesus is.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35

Thoughts

Start a Blog

http://solacearts.com

Maybe you’ve thought about starting a blog before, but you came up with a nice list of excuses why you shouldn’t. Yeah, there are a lot of blogs out there. If you start one, you’ll just be adding to the noise, right? You’ll totally run out of things to blog about. Or people will snooze right through what you share. Or you won’t be able to compete with other blogs out there.

Of course, different blogs exist for different reasons. Some are marketing engines. Some are public personal journals. Some are helpful guides in an area of expertise. Some are alternative sources of income. And if you want to start a blog, it is helpful to know what your goals are and what steps you can take toward that end. But I’m willing to bet that there are probably a few people out there who have thought about starting a blog and haven’t jumped in for silly reasons.

I have to say, there are a few people who I can think of that I know have wisdom and insight, funny life experiences, great creative ideas, knowledge in niche areas and no blog on which to share any of the above with the rest of us. Tragic, don’t you think? You absolutely never know who might stumble across your blog at just the right moment to read something that totally helps them, encourages them, inspires them. You can be a blessing to people you have never met! I’ve received a few really special notes lately about this new young blog, and each one encourages me to keep moving forward (thanks for your support, friends!). But if you don’t start sharing, none of those things can happen.

If you’ve had a passing thought to start a blog, I just want to say (from my humble vantage point) I’m totally interested in reading what you have to write. There is no one else like you, and no one else has your unique perspective, and what you have to add to the blogosphere is totally valuable, just like you are. My favorite blogs are the honest, unpolished ones that have real people telling their real stories.

And friends, if you need me to call you out by name and give you a nudge (or a hard time), I can totally do that. And if you have a blog already that I don’t know about, now would be a good time to fess up and send me the URL. That is all.

P.S. If you do want to start a blog and don’t know where to start, I’m glad to help point you in the right direction. Just send me a note! 🙂

 

Creativity

Time Together

http://solacearts.com

My dear friend Sarah and I like to host DIY Project Parties every so often to create a space of purposeful time together with other women in our lives. I find that having a date on the calendar and a pretty project to do helps me be intentional about relationships outside our home, and I always find myself so thankful to have connected with all the gals who show up to the parties.

Last night, we hosted a Jewelry-Making party at Sarah’s home, and everyone made a few little pretty things to take come. The projects are fun, but for me, it is so much more about the time together, and honestly, I don’t know the first thing about making jewelry. Sarah took a trip to the bead store in advance shared supplies with everyone who came. What a gal! She made this cute little table display to show off the beads, and people arrived, they started creating.

I love seeing other people engage in creative work. It might be a simple project or an involved one, but seeing them think about how to bring their vision to life in a personal piece of art is fascinating for me. It is interesting to me that everyone start with the same materials, and the creations they end up with are all so different from each other…a celebration of our unique personalities and perspectives. If you’ve felt isolated or disconnected from people you care about, think about putting something on your calendar to get those people together! Time together is such a gift.

http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com

Life & Faith

Picture Me {im}Perfectly: Worry

My friend Hillary hosts a weekly Picture Me {im}Perfectly link-up, which is the inspiration for this post. She has a heart to get real, and share honestly about the {im}Perfect things about our lives, to help each of us remember that none of us have it all together…something that can be hard to remember when you are looking at someone’s life through a computer screen. If you’re not familiar with her blog, I encourage you to check it out. She is a gem.

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I have story after story that show time and again how God has provided for me, pulled me through a tight spot, lifted me up when I was low, and brought me great blessings. And yet, I am one of the world’s best worriers. I worry about all kinds of things, from founded concerns to very irrational ones, and I waste a lot of energy on stuff that ultimately steals my joy instead of putting my energy that into things that will preserve it.

I worry about whether or not I am making the best decisions for my kids, and whether I’m doing enough to prepare them for life. I worry that society is on a downward spiral and what that might mean for the quality of our lives in the future. I worry about whether the foods we eat are actually growing and building our bodies for good work, or if they are poisoning us. I worry about unexpected tragedy and political unrest. I worry about injustices happening around the world, and the ones happening here in my own backyard, where victims have nowhere to turn for help. I worry about the lack of respect for human life at all stages and of people from all backgrounds that has nations and corporations and groups and individuals advancing initiatives other than love, respect, and celebration of our shared humanity. I worry about the future of our nation and the problems (and debts) our children will inherit.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If there were a way to quantify the time and list the ways I worry about things I cannot change instead of focusing on things I can, I am sure it would be an embarrassingly long list. I tell you all of this because I feel like I see people all around me who seem like they have everything together…like they don’t worry about anything and have unwavering faith. But my journey is one of trembling as I go, searching for truth in a sea of junk, and second-guessing myself at many stops along the way. All that to say, I am on a quest to spend less time on worry and more time pursuing better things.

http://solacearts.com

Creativity / Life & Faith

Friends Greatly Missed

http://solacearts.com

There are many things I’d love to say about this family. First, I miss them like crazy. Originally from Sweden, they spent a few short years here in the US filling many hearts with joy, and showing us all how to have courage in the midst of hard times. Last fall, they returned to Europe for good and I have been missing them ever since. Sofia and I bonded in a time of great suffering for their family (their oldest was diagnosed with Leukemia just a few months after I met them…you can read more about it on Jacob’s website). We journeyed through ups and downs together, faced personal fears together, and explored big dreams together, months later I’m still a little sad over the distance now between us.  I’m so glad I have these photos of them during their last days here in the US.

http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com

Sofia is an inspiration. She inspired me to write and submit and essay about her journey to an essay contest for a respected blogger last fall, and out of hundreds of entries, the essay was chosen as one of the top-honored essays. I was really surprised to be named among the winners (I wasn’t crazy about my writing…it’s not easy to squeeze an epic tale into 800 words or less!), but I was grateful for the opportunity to share about the beauty and courage of her story. You’re welcome to read that essay here.

Sofia & family – I think of you often. We simply must conquer the 9 hour time difference between us so we can catch up over Skype on all the little things! I will keep praying for Jacob. Hugs from us to all of you. Miss you much!

http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com http://solacearts.com

Creativity / Family / Homeschool / Organization

Painting

http://solacearts.com

One thing I find is an easy but fun activity for my kids to do on a rainy day is to paint. There was a time that I was adamantly against all activities that risked making a huge mess, and the idea of toddlers and preschoolers painting, in my house, with brushes and paint and water, made me break out into a cold sweat. For a while, I thought of it as a who-would-ever-do-that-to-themselves activity, and as such, we didn’t do much of it. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that if I spend my time and energy trying to keep them from making messes that inconvenience me, they are going to internalize a belief that they should not go, explore, do, and create with freedom…which is not at all what I want for them. Granted, it still has to be manageable, but I’ve learned that the best things in life get messy and that’s ok. For those who aren’t so sure they are ready for a painting day, I put together a few tips that have helped me make this activity fun for them and not a big deal for me.

1. Get a cheap dollar store tablecloth to keep with the paint supplies. And if you don’t have one, use a kitchen trash bag laid out flat at each workstation. I just fold up the tablecloth (without cleaning it) and store it in the painting box. I sometimes keep the kitchen bags for a few sessions, but eventually I toss them out.

http://solacearts.com

2. Use washable, watercolor paint. I’m sure we’ll try some other kinds in the future, but for now this is what works for us. I’m still searching for a ‘favorite’ brand. Crayola works fine, and RoseArt works but isn’t great, and our favorite paint thus far (the round palette) is an unmarked mystery brand and I’m not sure where it came from. If you have a kids washable watercolor paint that you love, I’m all ears!

http://solacearts.com

http://solacearts.com

3. Use a ceramic bowl for the water. A cup will work, but a bowl, especially a heavy ceramic cereal bowl does not tip easily. I typically let each of the kids have their own bowls at their workspace instead of sharing, and they always enjoy making the water turn different colors.

http://solacearts.com

4. Find a great container to store all the paint supplies in one place. I actually use these clear plastic tubs all over the house. (more on my organizing methods, which are functional but not impressive or beautiful, at a later time). Our tub is labeled for the kids (any tub with “Kids” on it is open for their use…tubs not labeled with that are off limits)…plus I do have another tub of painting supplies for mommy. 🙂 The tub includes all our paint sets, brushes, kitchen bags/tablecloths, and sometimes the apron makes it in there. Most often, the kids take their shirts off  of their own accord during painting. Well, actually, half of the kids spend 90% of the day in their underwear already, so the apron doesn’t get used much.

http://solacearts.com

5. Don’t be afraid to display artwork for a while and then toss it out. Seriously, I if I have to save every paper they fill with paint or marker drawings or scribble words, I will drown in paper. I love celebrating their creativity for a time and then moving on. We often talk about how it is good to let go of some things to make room for new things, and everyone understands the drill around here. I do keep a tub (like the one pictured above) to drop the more ‘special’ art pieces that I plan to save for a longer time (or forever). That tub will be sorted and archived in a more permanent way whenever I get to it, but the tub is a quick way to get it out of my hair and keep it safe from little hands, gusts of wind, and the abominable paper monster.

6. Paint alongside your kids, even if only for a few minutes. When I stop what I’m doing and sit down to paint with them, they absolutely love it. They like to watch how I do things, and they also like to chatter on and on while they fill their pages with beautiful colors.

7. Have everyone help clean up. My kids know (as with pretty much any ‘special’ activity at our house) that in order to participate in the fun, they must also participate in the cleanup. One usually dumps the water and rinses the bowls. Another rinses out the paintbrushes. And I have to say, they really love doing anything that requires cleaning stuff in the sink. And the last one puts all the paint sets and washed brushes back in the container. The only thing left for me to do is fold up the tablecloth and make sure all the painted pages get to the right place. Easy peasy. It’s actually one of the easiest-cleanup activities we do.

http://solacearts.com

Family / Homeschool

Now Reading

http://solacearts.com

A is now reading with ease and gobbling up books. It has been interesting as we are out and about (especially driving) now that she can read billboards and advertisements. Lots of funny thoughts and questions. All. The. Time. The kid never stops talking. We’ve even asked her if she’s a chatty Kathy, but she says, “Of course not. I’m a chatty A!” Little M shows more interest in books at 1 year than any of the others did, and I think that may be due to the fact that the big sis has started reading to her. It is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

http://solacearts.com

For those who haven’t been around us to hear for themselves, M also has her own little voice. She has a signature sound that is something like a squeaky ‘huh?’ ‘what?’ or ‘uh?’ and we all get a giggle out of asking her leading questions to which the answer is always ‘huh?’

http://solacearts.com

Here you see the big brother squeezing in to see as well. Love a good kid-pile on the couch.

http://solacearts.com

 

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Embracing Motherhood, Part 1

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This is probably one of my favorite photos of me and A when she was my only child, circa late 2007. She is slouched over my J-filled belly and nuzzled into my neck…a place reserved for a special few. She had such faith in me as a mama even though I was new at it. We bumbled through together, and I guess we still do. Bright and shining, she is. Filling my world with energy, imagination, and lightness of heart.

I’ve recently been reflecting on my mothering journey and how interesting it is to look back on the seasons. When I became pregnant with A (surprise, three months after our wedding) my life and plans were de-railed in the most glorious way. We were on the Five-Year Plan which turned into the Have-Three-Kids-in-Five-Years Plan, and then one more after that for good measure. What is really ironic is that I never saw myself as a mother. I never especially wanted to have kids, mostly because I was afraid that I would mess them up, or at least pass on my personal issues (which I guess is still a risk), and with all the heartaches I carried in my later adolescent years, I just didn’t want to go there. I actually hadn’t even planned to get married for a long time (or ever) until I met my now-husband who spent a good 3 years trying to woo me before I trusted my heart to him. What I mean to say is…this motherhood gig was not at all my plan, my dream, or even my wish until God changed my heart via a positive pregnancy test. I finished the one term of grad school I was enrolled in at the time, but I didn’t return after that, and now I have a full house of kids instead of a Masters degree.

Anyway, I guess I wanted to share all of this to say that we all make plans…but sometimes God’s plans are different. And in my experience, although often not as glamorous or self-gratifying, His plans bring more fulfillment than anything we can find on our own. So if His plans are on the table next to yours, it would be worthwhile to reach out and embrace them, though it might take all your heart, soul, mind and strength to do so.

I’ll leave you with some excerpts from my journal, dated November 2005 – shortly after I found out I was pregnant, followed by a photo of K, holding A for the first time:

There is a miracle inside me. I am certain. A brand new life, a brand new joy. A new baby is to join our new family sooner than we expected. I have wrestled and surrendered, wrestled and surrendered. The Lord holds me in a place where I am to receive and embrace my womb and whomever may be growing there. I am anxious about the changes that would come with a baby so soon, but I also feel peace. We don’t know what is going to happen, but something between K and I speaks a firm and silent ‘yes’ to what may come. We realize it is soon, but we are full of joy. I would not want to undo what is done, no matter how soon it has come. Miracle inside of me, I embrace you.   

Lord, only You know what will be woven into the tapestry of our lives. You know the children that will come. You know the blessings You have prepared for us. And You know the provision that You will swiftly send to us as we need it. I trust You, and I thank you for this blessing. 

Jesus, what joy You have brought to me, after years of weeping and mourning. You have prepared this little wonder, this overwhelming gift for K and me. Please hold our hearts and teach us more about how to walk with You, to hear from You, and order our lives in a way that pleases You. 

Hello, little one. Inside me, you are growing, and your father says (after looking it up on the internet) that you are about the size of the ball on a ball-point pen right now. Just a wee little one you are. It is remarkable to me that my body feels different already and you are barely big enough to see. I am in awe at the process of conceiving and growing a child within my body, and I am so excited to see your little face and little hands when you are born. I am overjoyed at the opportunity I will be given to pour all my love into you. You are already loved.

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Life & Faith / Thoughts

Rain

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Restlessness. Angst. Worry. Disappointment. I feel myself pull away from everything and turn inward. I get easily irritated with my kids and let the reigns go on the plans for the day. I check out. I can’t put my finger on what is wrong with me, but I also can’t seem to take in a therapeutic deep breath without feeling like I’m taking in water instead. I flail. I search for hope. For a quiet in my soul. I remember that today is a gift, even with all its troubles…acknowledging that my troubles are quite small even if at moments they feel big to me.

I learn of a mother that labored to welcome a baby sleeping, and the few hours she had with him dead in her arms are all she has for a lifetime. I promise myself to hug mine as often as I think of it and thank God again and again for the little ones in my care. I hear of a young man who should be in his prime years of life, enjoying his wife and dreaming big (as he was doing not more than a year ago) who is now fighting for his life against a rare and aggressive cancer with hospice at his home and death at his door. I feel sad for what cancer takes from one…from all. I weep for the aches, the pains, the uncertainties of many.

I long for Jesus. For the healing He brings to the broken and the hope He offers to the hurting. For the strength He gives to the weak. The strength He gives to me.

Life & Faith

Prayer Requests & How to Subscribe

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Prayer has played an instrumental role in my life story. I’ve barely scuffed the surface of the events of my life thus far on this blog, but I’ll give you the short version. I am a deeply passionate and emotional person whose story was once full of heartbreak. I have seen very low and very dark days, and there were stretches of time that I could not see those dark days coming to an end. Ever. I couldn’t smile for years. I couldn’t laugh or let people in. I couldn’t accept that anyone would ever love me and I never believed that I would know what it feels like to be whole, fulfilled, and joyful.

From the depths of my pain I cried out the Lord and He heard my cry. He brought people into my life that covered me with their love and covered me with their prayers…and as they prayed, things started to change. It was slow and hard. I almost didn’t want to let go of my heartaches, because they were so familiar, I thought they belonged with me always. And now, several steps into that journey, the Lord has healed places in me that I never thought possible, and has brought about blessings that cause me to weep for joy again and again. Every day. The dry, thirsty ground is now drenched in grace and loveliness.

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It is such a deep and meaningful part of my journey, that I want to make it a priority to seek the Lord daily for the requests of others who are in search of wholeness…in search of the good things God gives when we hand over our heartaches and baggage to Him. In search of wisdom, insight, counsel, or encouragement.  So I’ve added a button on the sidebar where you can go and submit prayer requests. I don’t mind if they are big requests or small requests, because I’ve learned that the Lord cares about all our requests when we search Him out with humble hearts. So if there is anything on your mind, send me a note and I will pray on your behalf.

Also, you can now subscribe to the blog by RSS or email! Thanks for reading.

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” 

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