Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives January 2014

Family / Life & Faith

Shadows

It’s been a good weekend. Sunshine. Togetherness. The best stuff. I am full of gratitude for the simplicity of our lives at this moment…Sure, I get irritable and we have bumps and not everything is always smooth, but it is really, such a good season. I should be back in a day or two with more thoughts to share, but for now, I’ll leave you with this week’s family picture. Love that we have shadows in January.

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One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 4/52

Life & Faith

Life’s Challenges

Challenging seasons seem like they will never end. I think more than half of my life has been a ‘challenging season’, where depression, fear, uncertainty, and inner-heart troubles kept me bound up in chains, a slave to my worry and hurts. I was not at all able to see beauty in the journey as I traveled through the dark days, and had even less understanding about what God was up to in my heart while He was asking me to take steps forward in faith, through my tears and trembling, as He agonizingly illuminated only the immediate step ahead. Why couldn’t He just light up the whole path so I could see what was coming? What would be so wrong about showing me the light at the end of the tunnel so I could worry less in the present?

I’ve wasted far too much time worrying about things that may never happen, and stressing about things I can’t change. I’ve concluded that worry is the biggest waste of energy out there. I still do it on occasion. It’s hard to get terrible thoughts out of your mind once they’re there. Journeying close to Jesus is the only way I know to get through those stretches of uncertainty, and now that I’ve entered a season of relative calm, I look back and see how much more was going on there than I could see at the time.

nature-scripture1

For one, I am convinced that there is no better place to be than wherever it is that God wants me to be, even if that place seems more simple or humble than I would have chosen. When I was a little younger, I had all kinds of whims and dreams and plans for myself, and every threat to those plans sent me in a tailspin, or at the very least, in some kind of defensive reaction, feeling like if I didn’t muscle my way through, all my dreams would be taken from me. To be honest, my dreams have changed dramatically since then, so I guess in a way they have been taken, but what has come in their place is just so much more wonderful than I could ever have planned. If given the choice to trade and get them back, I wouldn’t budge an inch. I’ll stay right here, thanks.

I no longer live in fear of what I might lose or what might happen in the future. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him (2 Tim. 1:12). He has, and does, and will continue to put me right where He wants me, and instead of fighting it, I look for understanding, for clues into what it is He is wanting to show me, to grow in me, and when I finally see it…I’m astounded. Every time. What if the challenges we face are there to ultimately help us find something deeper, or more real than what we are able to see without them? If that is true, will we hold our hearts differently? Worry a little bit less, and wait a little more expectantly for the lesson to become clear, or the blessing to be made full?

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Nesting & Reflecting

I have a few weeks to go. Five or six. The due date is disputed between what I calculated and what the first ultrasound dated the gestational age of the baby, so for the first time in five pregnancies, I don’t have a single date to go on. I don’t really mind. Also for the first time, I feel really free of worry and anxiety over the arrival of this little one. With the others, for some reason I needed to control the process as much as I could, which I’m convinced made the anticipation more stressful than it needed to be. This time I have peace. Maybe I’ll feel differently as the time approaches. I don’t know. But for now I feel it close. I also feel really aware of the pain to come, but it seems a tiny price to pay compared to the prize on the way. I’m so eager to meet her.

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This photo captured by the lovely Latisha Hale, a photographer and friend.

I’ve been turning the house inside out and getting rid of as many things as I can. All the things that make heavy the task of creating a home filled with lightness and love. The things we don’t need, or things that have sat idle for months or years, holding hostage space that needs to be freed. I have always been a little oblivious to clutter, and therefore my house has always had a bit more than others. But for some reason, in this season, it all needs to go. Every last thing is under scrutiny, and only the things that make life simple can stay. It feels a little like a new era dawning, but I’ll not presume to know what the coming months will hold for me.

I keep reflecting on the privilege of carrying a child. There is not one moment that I don’t feel unfathomably blessed. I know that not every woman that wants a baby is able to have one. Or another one. And I have so many dear friends who have wanted and waited for long, and sometimes unending seasons to hold a child of their own. It feels unfair to say, but carrying this child has made me more aware than ever before of the unfulfilled aches of other women. Every one of my discomforts, a reminder to pray for each of them the coming of blessing that fills the empty space in their hearts and bodies. The vulnerability I feel daily, a constant reminder to reach out to support the mamas in my life who live their days pouring out everything they have to their families, whether they be large or small ones. The weariness that comes over me, a reminder that every woman I know carries a heartache, and lives in tension of where she has been, where she is presently, and where she wants to go. For each of you I have just a few things to say.

You are brave, strong, and courageous. You astound with your resilience through so many of life’s challenges. You might not feel brave, but most of us rarely do even if you happen to be looking in at someone else’s particularly graceful moments…we each do what is in front of us the best that we can. You might not feel strong, but the heart muscle doesn’t show up quite like a bicep to outsiders. It is hidden away where no one but God sees, and most women I have met are considerably stronger than they feel. You can stay the course. You’re doing it even when your knees shake. And courage? When you don’t feel it, ask for help and encouragement from those around you. Or offer it to someone else with a hug or a kind word and you might find some for yourself. We need to speak life to each other…to build up, to strengthen and encourage instead of comparing, withdrawing, and isolating ourselves in our struggles. If you don’t know who to turn to, I’m always here.

Proverbs 17:17a “A friend loves at all times.”

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This photo captured by the lovely Latisha Hale, a photographer and friend.

 

 

Family / Life & Faith

Love For Every Season

I’ve been going through our family photo archives as I work on a personal project and have encountered a number of different emotions as I re-trace the roadmap of our family story as it has unfolded. Visual reminders of the many seasons already traveled in our short years together leave me reflecting on the journey with new perspective and consuming gratitude for every joy and challenge we’ve encountered.

Young, terrified, and completely unaware of what was coming our way, we tied the knot in a simple wedding that was made special by the efforts of the people we love. We had nothing to spend, and literally everything that made our wedding beautiful came as a generous gift from someone. At that time, I knew almost nothing about selflessness, and I would venture to say that I knew almost nothing about love either. My first years as a married woman were rough, but God graciously wed me to a man who is literally formed of loyalty, humility, and servant-heartedness beneath a steady and strong exterior…a blessing that baffles me and brings me to tears when I think of how well he has loved me and my imperfections with reckless abandon.

The simplicity of our first years could not be overstated. We had our first child two days after our first wedding anniversary, and made our way to California a month later with barely enough money to live even in the most frugal way. Very young and totally green, my love started grad school, and I started mom-school, learning first-hand that life as a mom has nothing to do with being glamorous, and everything to do with facing all your deepest fears, digging deep for strength you didn’t know you had, and making flexibility and resourcefulness your top skills.

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Taken with a self-timer on a tripod. One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 3/52

Since then, we have received unexpected blessing after unexpected blessing…some of those blessings being our additional children, and some of those blessings being uncanny provisions for giant needs that we could never have filled on our own. Some of those blessings being random bends in the road we are traveling that have led us in new directions that we never would have planned or thought possible.

When I sit back and take a look at everything, it’s hard to miss the love of Jesus woven through every season. Ups. Downs. The really low-downs. Through everything He has been faithful to provide every last thing we have needed, big or small, even in our most desperate circumstances. He has surprised and challenged me in countless ways. He has mended the broken and made me whole. He has cultivated a willing heart where there was an entirely selfish one before. He continues to guide with gentleness and resolve, moving me always toward humility and surrender because that is where the greatest blessings are bestowed…blessings that He is eager to give, when I am ready to receive. He reminds me daily that He is alive and present, writing my story His way and not mine because what He has to give would never make it here if I were writing the story myself.

So I surrender to love. His love. And I will keep saying yes to what He brings or asks of me. Not every step is easy, and not every bend in the road make sense to my little mind, but I know that He is with me, and the very road I’ve traveled already speaks of how worthy He is of my trust.

Family / Life & Faith

Small, Steady Steps

I’m learning how to take small, steady steps. To just do what needs to be done without stopping to agonize over how much I don’t want to do it. To ‘get my big-girl pants on’ and quit making excuses. That expression makes me laugh, but doesn’t that describe it well?

I’m in a season of some unexpected twists that have me tackling some things I didn’t really see coming. I’m doing fine. There is no crisis. But I am realizing that with my current responsibilities, I really can’t think about anything other than what it is that I need to do today, in real time, to hold our little world together. To keep things steadily moving forward. To nourish, guide, clothe, and encourage to the best of my ability…to keep in focus the foundational things that make a family strong, even when some of us have special challenges before us.

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Taken with a self-timer on a tripod. One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 2/52. Superman breathing in the goodness of life.

God’s grace is near, strengthening me for the tasks before me, and filling me with quiet confidence that He truly is with me while I journey. I’ve always been one to look ahead, to take a leaping start and charge forth in conquest, but this season is not at all about that. It is about small, steady steps, and surrender to God’s plans for me even when I don’t understand them or find them convenient. Pause to hear His voice, and try to respond with a willing heart, no matter the task.

Not to say that its easy, because it’s certainly not at times. I feel more tender than usual, and long for a time to come that I can take flight on an easy breeze that soothes while I soar the skies, but until then, I will make my peace with being in the low, hidden place, aware of my deep and desperate need for God’s care.

Life & Faith

The In-Between

I think it is important to realize that time is limited. We have a gift each day, an opportunity to make full something that is easily made empty with vain pursuits and distractions. At least in our era, we think we must pack the most we can into our schedules in order to really squeeze the best out of the time we are given. We fill our lives full of tasks and to-dos and stress and worries, taking on burdens that really don’t give a lot back in the way of fullness. Some do. A lot of others don’t.

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Of course we have work to do. Everyone has responsibilities to tend. But making the most of our time doesn’t necessarily equate to crossing the most tasks off of a list, however satisfying that can be. Sometimes soaking in the minutes and moments and the people around us, taking notice of what is in front of us and whispering thanks for the breath in our lungs, is all we need to do. We are at risk of missing much of what is important if we are moving to fast, constantly in motion, constantly striving.

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It is important to accept reality of where we are right now, in this moment, and what we need to do to steward well what has been put in front of us, challenges and blessings alike. To champion our spouses where they are and love them better all the time, learning to give more of ourselves instead of withholding. To love our children for who they are, not who we want them to be. Embracing them in that place of tension…cultivating love that guides toward truth and wholeness, but does not wound with criticism and thoughtless words. To accept ourselves, at the size we are, in the season we are in, at the place we stand, and learn that we are valuable regardless of what we tangibly have to show for our days.

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We have today to sow grace. Respect. Recognize the value of people (ourselves included) and nurture hearts and souls with kind words, helping hands…things that seem like they should be easy, but don’t always make the list of the day’s to-do’s. Life is beautiful and fragile, not guaranteed for a specific amount of time. That is why we must live in it…in the present, seeing that what we do with our time in the quiet, in-between moments is some of the most important work we can ever do in our lives.

http://solacearts.com

Family / Life & Faith

Priorities

When the year is new and everyone around feels a surge of either gusto or guilt to be doing more to make their lives full of whatever is deemed ideal. Pining for more and better and further, hoping this will be the year to leave behind all of one’s worries, limitations, and extra pounds so that by the end of the year, they can prove to themselves that they have advanced somewhere…to something beyond where they’ve always been.

Really, we will all grow and change this year before the calendar turns again. Whether or not we can see it clear, each one of us is different than we were one year ago. Changed by what we have seen, experienced, lost, encountered, or overcome. Some people have changed in ways they intended. Others in ways that just worked out that way. Some for better, some for worse. Some in big ways, some in small ones. Change is part of life.

I am a goal-setter. January and June. January’s list is where I dream big, think both practical and way outside of practical to all the things I would love to do sometime in my life. The things that fit into a bigger picture. I write the goals down and set my course for whatever has made the list for the year. And then in June, I revisit them and revise as necessary. Some things are crossed off as completed. Some things are dropped because they are no longer part of what I’m after. Other things are adjusted. And some things are added new. For me, the goals help me look ahead to where I want to be going.

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 Photo taken with a self-timer on a tripod. One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 1/52.

I will probably continue setting goals, because it works for me, but this year, more than the goals themselves, I am reflecting on what is most important to me in life. The goals are great, but I think intentionally taking stock of priorities can be a much more fruitful journey. Goals live on a list while priorities live in our everyday doing. Goals give us something to aim at as we look down the road, but priorities help us take the individual steps where we are in the present, starting from right where we are. If we know our priorities, reaching our goals becomes more realistic because priorities help us look at our immediate decisions and tailor our steps in the right direction.

Whatever your method of preparing for a new year, I hope you’ll take time to think about what is most important to you and set those things in order, so that as you step forward into new months, your goals are not forgotten, and your growth happens intentionally in areas that matter to you with every little step you take.