Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives August 2013

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

The Heart Soars

“Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.” – A.W. Tozer

The last few days have been good. Quiet. The sort of uneventful week I’ve needed. I have lived in my pajamas for 2 straight days. There is nothing on my calendar, but a million mundane things to do at home. The more I press into them, the more I realize how good simplicity is…how the mundane things add up to a day of beauty. I feel like we’re moving in slow motion, and I’m aware of every moment, nuance, breath, and hidden joy of life with young children. I know, as well as anyone, how brief my time with them is. That’s not to say that every moment is easy. There are plenty of hard ones. But every moment is meaningful. Worth something. And I’m so thankful that I’m no longer in a rush to get past this part like I once was, not that long ago.

I have today to fill their hearts with truth, wisdom, love, and memories. Right now is the aiming of the arrows…The day to choose my words carefully, and speak ones that give the heart wings. Years ago, I heard a speaker talk about the idea that every single time you interact with someone, you are either actively building, or actively breaking trust with them. I think about this with my children, and despite daily failures to keep my composure or get things together for whatever we have planned, I am trying with all my might to actively build trust…Listening calmly and completely when they talk to me without being distracted (this is the hardest one for me). Responding thoughtfully and not reactively to issues as they arise (also a challenge). Patiently directing and guiding through the inner-heart dealings of sibling relationships (instead of…um…impatiently doing this). Recognize that they are growing and changing at light-speed and if I hope to keep up to walk beside them, I really have to be present just to notice how their hearts are taking shape in the now.

I feel as though I’m in another world. One where time runs slow and everything is magnified so I can see close and pay attention to details. Where I can’t afford to waste time on things that don’t ultimately matter, (like, ahem…worrying about everything)….or I’m wasting energy that is required for the building of a solid, joyful, fruitful home. I see that there is no unimportant job in the greater task of homemaking. The little things go a long way to making our space and time together lovely. Why has it taken me so long to accept this? Oh. Maybe because I saw so many of those things as bothersome. Uninspiring. Not really worth my time….until now.

Now I’m seeing home with new eyes. Looking closer at the idea that while I’m here in this season, I’m actively making my home a place of peace and rest for my family…and that the unseen things really are seen by Someone, and even if they don’t know, those same unseen things are very important to a number of other someones that live here. If I’m honest, I’m still feeling like this can’t be real. I can’t be here. Not with 4+ beautiful children and a hard-working, adoring husband. Not with a whole and soaring heart, free from heartaches and troubles of the past…but that is what happens when Jesus takes the wheel, and I do not resist, adjust, or reject His plans for me.

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Becoming the Woman I Never Wanted to Be

Barefoot and pregnant. That’s me at this moment, for the fifth time. And even though that phrase is often laced with negative meaning, I’m proud…no, thankful…to be both of those things. Motherhood is a journey and children are truly a gift, albeit gifts that come with a lot of responsibility.

I’ve been thinking a lot about attitudes, how they shape our beliefs, how beliefs inform our choices, and how choices impact the world around us. Little thoughts, a pebble dropped into a pond, ripples sent out to a space beyond where they started. When my pebble plunked in, I had no idea what ripples would come after. I did not always value what I have come to value in life now…I was a different person, in a different time, with a different attitude about what I wanted out of life. I have always respected the mothers in my life, but if I’m honest about my real thoughts from that time — I didn’t want to be a mother. I didn’t want to be domestic. I didn’t want to see anything get in the way of my dreams and ambitions, and I worked very hard to that end.

I had plans of my own. I was going to do great things. Soar to great heights on the winds of feminism that blew under my wings in my youth. Find my own way through the jungle. Lean on my own understanding, because, lets face it, I “knew everything”. I vowed to be a strong, independent, successful woman, and somehow thought I knew what that meant. Now, I don’t mean to rag on feminism.  There is no way for me to really personally know what oppression women have faced in previous generations and in other parts of the world, and there has clearly been a need in this generation for women to find freedom from the sometimes quiet, sometimes deafening forces at work to make women anything other than free, loved, and valued. I recognize that my field of vision is small and my understanding of the depth of women’s issues across the world is likely even smaller. I’m just one person. But I do think we have been sold lies about the value of women in this culture…lies about what it really means to be free…lies about what love looks like.

I have heard and read many stories. I know many women who have been devalued by others and still more women who devalue themselves on a regular basis. I’ve watched as one friend after another has engaged in self-destructive behaviors in the name of their freedom to do so, or their inability to recognize what is at stake. I’ve cried over the loss of genuine respect for women’s bodies, women’s wombs, and women’s heart’s from all sides, all while trying to figure out how to sort out the mess of voices that scream at me every day about who I should be, what I should do, and what I need to be happy.

It is a total lie that a woman’s value is found somewhere, in some social circle, or some job title, or some accomplishment, or some dress size. If you’re searching for significance somewhere, you’re looking in the wrong place. I know, because I’ve looked. It’s not a somewhere, it’s a Someone. The Creator of your soul, in fact, that wants to show you just how beautiful life can be.

He gives wisdom. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

He gives grace and mercyBut God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…Ephesians 2:4-5

He gives strengththose who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

He gives good giftsEvery good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

He gives Himself.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

I write all of this to say, I have tried it the other way. The by-myself way. And when I did that, I was empty. Broken. Totally faking strength and bravado. I didn’t know it then, but comparing that DIY season to how full and rich and good my life is right now as a yielded servant…and mother…and homemaker…There are just not adequate words. I have found peace in the quiet of home. Purpose in the task of raising children. Joy in the most mundane household tasks. That is not to say that anyone else’s story will or should look like mine…but I do think searching for truth, searching for Jesus, and holding our hands open to what He gives and takes will bring about the most meaningful life we could hope to live, even if that life begins to look like something very different than what we have planned.

Stop trying so hard to prove that you are valuable. You only become a slave to your own expectations, your social circle, your family, your scale. There is nothing ‘free’ about that. You are valuable just the way you are. And if you are able to press into the truth of God’s word, you will find that true freedom looks a lot different than what our society, media, and even politicians tell us.

As for these photos, I made a pie today for the first time in my life, at thirty years old. I giggled all the way through the process because I never in my life have wanted to make a pie until I got the overwhelming desire to this afternoon. To me, making pies is a quintessential picture of the domestic woman I never wanted to become. How funny is that.

If you would like prayer for any situation in your life, send me a note. I will pray. Thanks for reading.

Life & Faith

A Teachable Heart

If there is one thing that inspires me, it is a teachable heart. Someone who truly listens in conversations and searches high and low for truth and wisdom, wherever they may be found. We all have our biases and opinions, but the teachable heart is able to put them aside and consider new ideas – even ones that might offend one’s own pride or challenge a deeply-held belief about something. Humility is the hallmark of a teachable heart…and humility is one of those funny things that eludes us when we chase it too hard. Not a prize to be held, but a Holy Spirit energy that transforms us from the inside out if we allow it.


I have this friend who is a constant blessing to me. She happens to have the most teachable heart I know, even though she would be the first to disagree with me about that. I do know many others with hearts of gold (I’m very blessed in the friendship department), but this one friend is someone who repeatedly illuminates for me the glories of a soft and moldable heart…truthfully because she has one that I am privileged to see in a very personal way. She’s not perfect. None of us are. But over and over, she has faced her darkest demons with courage and reached her hands out for truth and lasting hope….Taking hold of it at the cost of the appearance of strength, but gaining much more than anything inauthenticity can provide. So many of us want to hide from what hurts and troubles. I do at times. But she moves the other direction…forward in spite of fear, to her knees when trouble comes, reaching out to love even when hurt hangs close. I’ve learned so much just by journeying with her and having a front row seat to the work God does in her life.

“Heed counsel, and act on instruction and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Prov. 19:20

Creativity / Homeschool

Making Colors New

This is how we spent the morning. I didn’t mean to start into this project, but while I was organizing other things and the kids were getting on my nerves with their bickering, I knew I had to give them a task to do. The crayon basket had already been dumped out and needed to be picked up, and I had the brilliant idea of asking them to sort the broken ones from the others. A bit later, when that task was almost finished, I suggested they take the papers off the broken crayons….more to keep them busy while I finished my task. Only then did I think about actually melting them down to “make colors new” as E put it.

Just so I didn’t find myself in a messy pickle, I did google up a few different tutorials before jumping in. We decided to sort the pieces by color. I sprayed the muffin tin with cooking spray so they would pop out easily when cooled. It definitely did the trick and cleanup was a breeze. I put them straight in the oven at 275 degrees for about 8 minutes. The trickiest part was pulling them out of the oven while hot, but once the tray was safely on the cutting board, all was well.

I let them cool for about 10 minutes on the cutting board, and because all of us were getting impatient and they were still slightly warm, I put them in the freezer for about another 5 minutes. I flipped over the muffin tin and tapped the bottoms with a butter knife and they popped right out. Everyone took a turn coloring with them, and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. I’m just glad it was so easy and thrilling for them. Even superheroes like a good art project!

Family / Life & Faith

How the Sunflowers Grow

We spent the weekend away. Just a little trip to see loved ones that live just far enough away to make it a challenge to see them often. It was unexpectedly meaningful in quiet ways. Whispers of a love that holds feeble hearts together through passing years…Love that prevails through every storm.

I return home with a kaleidoscope of emotions. Thankful for the time, and sad for it’s brevity. Swallowing hard the reality of passing time…how it weathers and wears on the body and the soul too. How these are the moments we have to say our love and show it. We don’t know what other moments we will be given.

These sunflowers live in my grandfather’s garden. They are notably beautiful, and also abnormally tall. They are supposed to grow to be 5-6 feet tall, and these tower to 12 feet, plus…leaning a bit from the weight of their beautiful blossoms and enormous stalks.They stretch up and fling open their arms. Wide open to the sun, wide open to the rain. Drinking in whatever the sky gives with gratitude and putting it to good use. They stay where they are planted and in good soil, grow to heights unheard of.

I feel a little like a sunflower that came from this garden.

I pattered my little feet through these very garden rows as a tiny person, and watched every different kind of plant grow through the years…most often to be twice as tall or fruitful as expected. Clearly, the soil is rich with goodness for life, the plants cared-for with knowing, gentle hands. I have been nourished and sustained by the fruitfulness of simple lives lived diligently in the quiet, secret place, giving everything and living in a way that I aspire to. Faithful. Humble. Grateful. Giving me good soil to stand in while I reach my little hands up and learn to drink in whatever is given, finding the good, the wisdom, and the importance in every experience allowed me.

It was hard to drive away when I have so much left to say. So many thanks to hand back for every good thing given to me from this home. From these hearts. I could try to repay what I have been given, but it could never come close to being adequate. So instead I’ll try to live out what I’ve learned from them. To be diligent, compassionate, committed, and generous. Faithful, humble, and grateful.


Life & Faith / Motherhood

When You Open Your Hands

I have spent 95% of my life holding on tight. Desperate for reassurance that everything will all be ok. Seeking control of as many factors as I can, thinking that somehow if I can control it, I can come out of the storm in one piece. I have lived afraid of many things. Some tangible, some not. Some rational, many not at all rational. And my need to always hold the reigns with a death-grip has colored every part of my life, from the very personal and nuanced, to the very public and pronounced…often at a greater cost than I realized at first.

It’s hard to live any other way when you are constantly in emergency mode, which is the mode I’ve operated in for as long as I can remember until recent years. I know the tougher days of life better than I know the light ones,  and quite honestly, it’s easier to close fists tight around the things I hold dear than to trust that God is actually good, and generous, and interested in the wholeness of little me. But He clearly is all of those things, and even though I have been stubborn, slow, afraid, and resistant to the idea that His goodness could color my world brighter than the grey that I know…here I am. I feel the weight of blessing…the weight of glory of the human soul…the magnitude of love and the depths of peace that I never understood when I was trying to hold my world together by the strength of my will.

There is a lot I don’t understand. Many things that are tough to accept. Oceans of tears and prayers sent up in desperation for myself and others. And I find myself struggling to keep my hands open even though I know with all my heart that I can’t receive anything from God if they’re closed. So when the hard moments come, I breathe in deep, remind myself of true things, and lean on true friends. I will not live in fear of what I might lose or what I might never have. Instead I will trust God by walking forward as He calls, believing that He will hear me and He will help me too.

Isaiah 64: 4-5 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways.”

As for these photos, I love them for many reasons. They remind me that:

1. Toddlers find everything. Including Theo chocolate bars.
2. I have a choice about how to respond to every situation. I can take the reigns and remove the chocolate immediately, or I can just move the kid to a better area and let her finish what she started…much to her pleasure and delight.
3. Life is messy. And sometimes the mess is worth the trouble, even if it does ruin a pair of pants. Wasn’t able to get the chocolate out on the first wash, anyway.
4. My blessings are many, and I’m utterly grateful for them.