Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives May 2013

Life & Faith

Friends Across the Years


These two have a special place in my heart. Caleb and I were in the same kindergarten class. Jenni and I have been friends since my first year of high school. I have had the best seat in the house watching their love story blossom and grow over the years, even if I was totally the awesome third wheel for a portion of that. In short, they are both very, very dear to me.

We’ve been through many seasons. High school. Heartaches. Dating. Marriage. Our twenties and all the changes that came with them. When I was expecting my oldest, they spent Mother’s Day with us at Green Lake and brought me this big cookie to celebrate my journey into motherhood. Never has my hair been so short or so red as in this photo from 2006. Wow.


The message on that cookie meant a lot to me. Even though life has been busy and everything about our lives has changed drastically as we’ve added one child after another to our family, they have cheered us on, encouraged us, and somehow we’ve stayed friends across the years and the many life adventures that have come.


Well now these two are on the precipice of a new journey of their own. They are expecting twin boys later this summer. It’s a beautiful thing to see, and yet, it has already proved to be an unexpected and somewhat frightful experience for them thus far. Out of respect for their privacy I won’t share the details, but I did want to ask for your prayers on their behalf. Their babes are at risk for a very early delivery, and the pregnancy has been emotionally and physically tough for them already.  I want to soothe and reassure that everything will be ok, but the truth is, I don’t know what will happen.

What I do know is that God strengthens the weak. He hears the prayers of those who call out to Him. He loves. He restores. He is able to step in when everything seems impossible and the worst things hang in our minds and squeeze the back of our throats. I know that love covers and hopes and protects. And I see how God has put these two people together so they could know His love with skin on through each other…and now I ask with my whole heart for God to hear their prayers…my prayers…for healthy boys, delivered safely at the right time (which is not now at 25 weeks), a healthy mama, and a strong and steady papa.  Please, Lord, come and help. Knit this family close while You grow these special boys strong and healthy for their entrance into the world.

I captured these photos of Caleb & Jenni in 2006 at Alki Beach (not that you can see the scenery), not long after my husband bought me my first camera…right about the time photography started taking over my life (in the best way). Caleb & Jenni – We send our love and many prayers. Here for you always.




Setting Up the Pins

Total love affair with the music of Sara Groves. Well, one album at least. I haven’t stopped listening to Fireflies and Songs long enough to listen to any other albums of hers. Every song is great and speaks volumes to me. Most for deeper-heart reasons, but this one is just simple goodness. It helps me remember that it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing…there are treasures to be found, riches to be mined, and a sweet blessings that come when I just do what is in front of me with diligence and joy. For me, the pins are the staple household chores…laundry, dishes, sweeping, and setting order to the house. They never have been my favorite tasks, but just hopping to ’em seems to set everything else in the right place for the day, and really, when I’m not dragging my feet and finding every other thing I could be doing, they get done faster than I think they will. Anyway, I highly recommend this album. And now I’m off to do the morning dishes!


Setting Up the Pins

man in a silk tie heads downtown
setting up the pins for knocking em down
people in cars all rushing around
setting up the pins

let’s get rich find a way around
setting up the pins for knocking em down
we’ll get gadget with a whirring sound 
for setting up the pins

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down

you can find joy in the fertile ground
setting up the pins and knocking em down
you can try to fight it till you’re anger drowned
setting up the pins

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down
it can feel simple but it’s really profound
setting up the pins

rent a tent, build a stage, throw a party, get a gown
buy a ticket, rent a car, pack a bag and leave town,
cook a dinner, clean the kitchen hit the light
brush your teeth, read a book, say a prayer good-night

everyone everywhere some way some how
are setting up the pins for knocking em down
it can feel simple but it’s really profound…

my grandmother had a working song
hummed it low all day long
sing for the beauty that’s to be found
in setting up the pins and knocking em down

Life & Faith / Thoughts

When Things Become Clear

I don’t know if you can relate to the feeling of being ‘in a fog’, but I have to say, I’ve been there for a lot of years of my life. In most recent years, I have been in the ‘mommy fog’ of the early years with my kids where the combination of disrupted sleep, compromised brain cells (I have to be real–the tack-sharp memory disappeared with the first pregnancy, and I have yet to see it return), and the sheer volume of tasks to be done in a day make it hard to start and finish one task, or even one thought without a really concerted effort. For example, I sat down 2 hours ago to begin this post and promptly got distracted with approximately 100 other things…and my children are even sound asleep in their beds and are unable to distract me.

The fog is a familiar place for many, I hear. Bumbling through life with some sense of direction (or maybe not), but also with a lot of questions and uncertainties, wondering if we’re making the right choices or doing the right things. Obviously some choices are clearly right or wrong from the outset. But a lot of choices are more ambiguous….like the question ‘which one do you like better?’ Is there really a wrong answer to that?

As I mentioned, for the past few years I have lived in the mommy fog. Changing, feeding, bathing, rocking, nursing, cleaning, driving, cooking. Many days all a blur and spent on auto-pilot, just doing what I had to in order to make it to the end of the day. I found my own ways to ‘escape the madness’ for a few blessed moments via my hidden sugar stash, afternoon movie time, mandatory naps for all (which can no longer happen without dire late-night consequences), time on facebook or editing photos. Normal stuff. And while I don’t think any of those ‘escapes’ are bad in and of themselves, I did start to notice an increasingly ugly attitude in my heart toward my kids was something more like, “Can we just skip past this hard part where you need so much of my attention and energy and get to the easy part when I won’t have to physically do so much for you so I can do the other things I want to do?” Just honest.

And then I bumped into a few reality checks. Time is short. The future is uncertain. Today is what I have.

I feel the weight of the gift of this moment. This home. These children. And each day I have the choice to escape to my own world or press in to theirs…to do the same tasks I was already doing, only with a new perspective, a new joy, and in the process, discover a lot of things I was missing in the fog. I have discovered a clarity and a deep sense of purpose as I have become the homemaker I never wanted to be, or at least, never set out to be. And truthfully, as I have invested more of myself in the mundane tasks of mothering, seeing them less as necessary tasks and more as a willing investment in the health and wholeness of my family, I have noticed that each of my children, my husband, and even myself have a sharpened sense of direction moving forward, deep inner peace, and a lightness to our days. Lots of days are still hard…but not nearly as hard as when I had no idea why in the world I was put here at this place, with these responisbilities. Somehow, understanding that tilling the soil, planting the seeds, and watering the ground makes it possible for God to bless and grow something truly beautiful in your field, it makes the hard work worthwhile.

Family / Motherhood


The most beautiful woman I know is pictured right here. Today is her birthday, and I have a few things to say.


Mama, I wish I could be there to celebrate with you today. As the years pass and I learn more about the journey of a mother, I grow to understand your heart and what you have been through more than ever before. Before I was a mama myself, I am pretty sure I took for granted what it is a mother does. What you have done. For me. Sure, you fed and cuddled and clothed and cheered me through every season of my life. I could always see that. But what I didn’t see until more recent years is that you laid your whole self down…dreams, hopes, happiness, and even health…to give me wings. To give me a fighting chance at a life filled with goodness. I didn’t know how deep a mother has to dig to find the real gold to give her children. Again and again. How she takes lashes to the back as storms rage while her little nest is covered, protected, and kept warm under her wings. How she gives more even when the tank is empty, and how she holds everything together when the strength is gone and the heart is broken and the future is uncertain.

I didn’t understand the magnitude of the gifts you have given me. Not just life, but life with wonder. Hope. A persevering spirit. Life with courage, adventure, love. Many of those things at the expense of your own. The gratitude I have for what you have given me is not measurable, and I suspect I will continue to discover even more of those treasures as my own children grow and shine light on the next parts of the motherhood journey.

In case you’re wondering where in the world I found this knockout photo of you, I went in search of a snapshot to put into this post and happened upon this frame from under the Santa Monica pier in the summer of 2007 when my oldest was turning one year old. What a beauty you are. Those kind eyes stare me right through. Happiest of birthdays to you and hugs from us all.

Life & Faith / Motherhood


I have a bond with her unlike any other. Her birth ushered me into a new season of the heart. Leaving behind past brokenness, insecurities, and the need to control and fix everything wrong in the world…for a new season of surrender, overwhelming peace, deep restoration, and remarkable joy. I guess that is the shortest way to describe my journey this past year. I have learned so much, and yet feel more aware than ever of how little I really know.

Little moments fall on my heart with surprising impact. Truthfully, I’m very tender most of the time. Colors are bright. Smells are fresh. The littlest things pluck my heartstrings and bring tears to my eyes. My senses are alive with wonder of God’s heart for His children…His heart for me.

I lay with the little one on my bed, cuddling her to sleep. She is part of me in a way I can’t explain. Different than the others in the way she regards me. I have taken more care, found more patience, invested more of myself in the moments I have with her day and night, only to find us more tightly knit together. It took me some years to embrace the more tender parts of motherhood…nuances I missed the first few times I had a babe-in-arms. I run my fingers through her hair, over her eyebrows and cheekbones and chin with a slight tickle. I play with her fingers and she just soaks it all up. There is no move to wave me off. She has no desire to be anywhere else than where she is, and neither do I.

She lays still, looking into my face. Content, happy, and secure. I think about how I have found that place with Jesus after years of thrashing and pushing away and frightfully searching for what fulfills, what preserves, what upholds…without realizing I would not be able to find it unless I drew close, grew still, and looked straight in His eyes for my strength and comfort. Something I didn’t honestly know how to do until Mia Grace, His Grace, came to me.

I didn’t even know how much her name would mean to me until it was already her name. Mia Grace, My Grace. But it does mean so much. I am weak, but He energizes me with grace and power that is not my own. And I am truly sustained. Filled. Lacking nothing I need, and actually, nothing I want either. For those that know my voracious hunger for life, you might recognize how great a statement this is. God is good and faithful. Always. Even through the valley. The shadows. The heartaches and trials. His grace is sufficient and His purposes are established in us and often in spite of us. He does work all things, especially the hard things, together for good for those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28)

“My grace is sufficient for you, and My power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9


Life & Faith / Thoughts

This Girl I Know

I have to tell you about this really terrific girl I know. She’s a dear, sweet friend, and we’ve formed a bit of an unexpected friendship while we travel through two very different seasons of our lives…me with my four kids in ‘momland’ and her, living with a great big longing in her heart to be a mama but with no children yet. She loves children, and even though it has not been easy, she has not let her infertility journey rob her of the joy that other people’s children bring to her. Instead of pulling away, she has even pressed further into our sweet friendship as the months have passed and she remains waiting, which has humbled and blessed me in unspeakable ways. Basically, I just want to say in a really public way that Sarah rocks. And not just in the “Sarah is cool” sort of way (but yes, she is very cool)…she rocks my world with her courage, joy, servant-heart, and surrender to God’s plan for her life even though the plan has thus far not seemed to align with her deep longing for a child.

The reason I bring all of this up is that Sarah has also started a new blog and I wanted to share it with ya’ll. She shares about her creative projects, favorite recipes, and her infertility journey. I’m encouraged by her and inspired by her strength and would love for you to check it out if you feel so inclined. Presenting: The Little Dove.

©Solace Arts 2011

Family / Thoughts


Hello. It’s been a while. I had a few days of introverted quietness last week, followed by a few truly horrible days of illness related to nursing a baby (isolated to mama, right over Mother’s Day). I’ll spare you the details unless you really want them. So no blogging for a long stretch. It’s good to be reminded that I must always hold my plans loosely because things often (or almost always) go differently than I think they will. But I’m back. I think. And I hope to be illness-free for a long time.


For your amusement, I’ll share these old photos I found on my phone from sometime during the rainy season when all we had to do for fun was stay inside and find dorky ways to busy ourselves. It was probably early November last year, just before A got her glasses (notice the crazy eyes in the last photo?) Yes, we’re totally a walking advertisement for the Dark Knight movie my children have never seen.


This all started when J made the first face and laid out his own clothes to make the body of the “train track man”. Not sure how that bit of creativity escalated into this. I think we’re just trying to do our part to contribute  to the stereotype that homeschoolers are weird. We are and we love it! I hope you laugh out loud, because I did! What a bunch of sillies.



Life & Faith / Thoughts


The words come slow, but I don’t really mind. A lot of things are slow these days, in a certain manner of speaking. Simple. Gritty. Rubbing a pearl right out of the sand, I like to think. An ocean of noise on the outside, but in my little oyster home, a solace. A sanctuary.

I used to think I knew so much. And then I broke into pieces years ago. Humbled by the knocks of life that taught me that I am not invincible. Experiences leading to the choice to feel or to medicate the pain, both with difficult consequences. The road to accept and surrender to what God has given (or has allowed) even though it hurt, or the road to reject those things in favor of denial, self-protection, and start on a quest to find meaning in life apart from God. Not an easy choice when you just want the bleeding to stop. When you know that to surrender means also to suffer…in a way. Suffer through a season to gain a reward that may not be tangible in this life, to grow in character in uncomfortable ways, and emerge on the other side with an entirely different perspective about life.

I chose to feel. To press in. To pray and cry out to God for healing. For mercy. For a future and a hope just like He promised. I chose it over and over again every day for years. Many days with knocking knees and tears down my cheeks, afraid that the light at the end of the tunnel would never come. But still I journeyed. On my face, seeking the Lord for the fullness of His heart. For the calling He has for me. Searching for purpose. Longing for connection. Looking for beauty.

And this is where I am. With light shining all around. Laughter ringing in my ears and in my heart. All the time. Hope near to the tattered soul. A recipient of great mercy, great healing, and great blessing. Looking ahead to the mountains, knowing I will be able to climb each one with His help, even if days ahead are filled again with pain somehow. He has my full confidence.

And I just have to tell you that if you’re there, in the dark place….the hard place…there is hope and healing and wholeness to be found in Jesus. There are no shortcuts on the journey. Not that I know of, anyway. For me, it has been long, slow, and difficult process of yielding. Repeatedly. When I wanted to do anything else but yield. Wanted to run. Wanted to escape. Wanted it to be easier. But I’m discovering that the things that come easy rarely mean as much to us as the ones that come at a high price. I have learned that I cannot see what He sees, but I can see Him. I have learned that burdens are not to be carried alone. And the greatest gifts in the world, the ones that He gives, come dressed in the most unexpected ways. http://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.comhttp://solacearts.com

Family / Motherhood

The Sweetest Thing

There is simply nothing sweeter than this little dimple on this little face. I’m certain you can’t find anything in the world to top it. Gratitude is bursting out of my heart for this little treasured girl and for everything her presence has brought to our family. She has changed my life and the whole course ahead. I call her my “Sweet Love” because she is.

Family / Home / Motherhood

Everybody Helps

I used to have one million and one plastic cups spilling out of my cupboards overhead, making plastic cups one of my least favorite things in the kitchen. Anytime anyone wanted a drink, they had to come to me. And with so many thirsty camels in my house, I was getting tired of fetching water cups over and over. And over. This basket makes life easier for me (no fetching) and for them (no asking). I only recently started using it in the kitchen, but it will now be a permanent fixture until we’re past the season of plastic kid dishes. It is one small way that I reinforce with the kids one of the staple phrases in our house, “Everyone helps!”

We have been using this cart in the kitchen since we moved in because we have only a small amount of counter space, and it has been re-configured a few times as our needs have changed. The microwave is now below and the basket rests on top so the kids can easily get what they need. I typically direct one of the kids to unload the ‘kids’ dishes’ from the dishwasher and organize them in the basket. Here you can see J (5) doing the job. I have also had E (3) and A (6.75) complete this task without trouble.

Sometimes it takes a little re-organizing to make everything fit just right, but J has gotten the hang of it.

I asked him how he felt about doing this chore. And this was his response. Despite the thumbs down, I’ve never had to ask twice for this job to be completed. And somehow, just having someone else clear out the plastic things from the dishwasher makes unloading the rest of the dishes seem like a 1-minute job. I’m sold.