Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives June 2014


Halfway & My Writing Process

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 26/52

We have reached the half-way point of 2014. Half behind. Half yet to come. For me, this is about the time that I take a look at the goals I made in January, cross off what I’ve done, delete what is no longer a pursuit I wish to spend time on, and make new goals for the rest of the year. You’re welcome to read about my thoughts on goals/priorities here. Since I haven’t formally done my re-evaluating yet, I don’t have any specific goals to share, but the biggest change from my original list is the unexpected closing of my photography business of 9 years. I didn’t plan that one! My goals for the rest of the year will include making a more serious effort to grow as a writer, lots of homeschool and family goals, and some personal fitness-related things.

I was tagged in a blog hop by my new blog-friend Rachel Haltiwanger at The Inspired Story with some questions about my writing process. Rachel describes herself as an “arms-wide-open type” and I resonate with that description. I’ve only recently become acquainted with her blog, but she has already inspired and challenged me through her writing. Check her out!

What Am I Writing or Working On?

Right now, writing for me is more about just writing something each day…an intentional attempt to express the richness of my life experience so that others will hopefully be encouraged. Life is busy with 5 kids ages 8 and under, and it really does take most of my energy to keep up with them. However, I’ve felt a call to write for nearly 10 years and only more recently (in the past year) have found the courage to write and share more publicly on this blog.

Behind the blog scenes, I free-write as often as I can. In July, I will be focusing my attention on two separate themes that have emerged from my free-writing over the past year and working toward developing and expanding on those themes. Either may become a larger work down the road, but for now I’m not putting pressure on myself to ‘write a book’. Instead, I’m doing my best to develop good habits for a healthy writing life, and move toward more focus and discipline as a serious writer.

How Does My Work Differ From Others in its Genre?

I’m not sure I know the answer to this question. First of all, I don’t really know what my genre is, besides a very general “Creative Non-Fiction” label. That is so wide open! I think my writing is an extension of my heart and spiritual life. I don’t really know how to separate the reality of my experiences with God from all the other parts of life, so that is probably something distinctive about my work.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I don’t have a consistent process, really. Writing looks different from week to week, season to season. At times, I embark on ‘writing challenges’ where I make some short term goals and try to  dedicate all my free time to completing those challenges. For example, last November I did a 5 week challenge. My goal was to write 60,000 words in five weeks. The result was 60,000 words of wildly random free-writes, but I did feel it was successful in moving me forward as a writer. This July I will embark on a similar challenge for me with a lot more focus as I narrow in on the themes that have surfaced.

I find with a challenge before me, if I cultivate space for where I’m headed, I’m a lot more successful. I set up a new document and title it with the date (YYMMDD) and later I add a keyword to the end that will help me remember what I mostly wrote about that day. I typically set up the new document every evening for the next morning, and save/close whatever I wrote for the present day before I turn in for the night. About half of my blog posts are lifted out of a free-write. The other half of my blog posts are inspired by the photos I took that particular week or situations I encountered. I keep a journal to jot down prompts and ideas as they come, and those often become my free-write prompts.

What Other Writers Would I Like to Introduce to You?

Christin Taylor – I have a huge amount of respect for Christin and have been privileged to follow her writing journey for several years. She is a published author and a true wordsmith. Christin – I would love to have a glimpse into your process!

Lesley Miller at Barefoot at 45th – I was introduced to Lesley’s writing through Christin (above) when we both participated in a writing workshop that Christin facilitated. She doesn’t know (I guess now she might!) that I have stalked followed her blog for several years now, through the births of both of her children.

Hillary at Capturing Motherhood – I’m not sure if Hillary would really call herself a writer, but I have loved following her blog for years now. She writes in unconventional form, but I am always blessed by the thoughts she shares. She also loves photography, which is another thing we connect about. Hillary – I’d love to hear about any part of your creative process…writing or photos!

Kimberlee Conway Ireton – I first met Kimberlee through a local homeschool program where both of our families participated. I read her most recent book earlier this year (I highly recommend) and fell in love with her thoughtful writing style. She is wonderful!

So friends, if you have the time, I’d love for you to answer these questions on your blogs!

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106. color by number books, 107. freedom in every sense, 108. perspective, 109. taco chili & cornbread, 110. new astronomy book, 111. pink polish, 112. blog hops!, 113. help along the way, 114. pouty lip from a certain someone…not working, 115. happy baby, 116. room to grow, 117. community, 118. joy of giving, 119. weekend down time, 120. writing journey

Life & Faith / Poetry


waves of trouble crash
heart-sand swept out
drawn to deep
where current makes strong from weak
wind makes rough the calm seas

words swell full the dry, parched soul
emptiness generously filled
thirst wholly satisfied
brokenness masterfully mended
in tossed and blinding water

pride traded away for lasting love
to flood only insides and outsides
upsides and downsides
life full to the brim with promise
only if pride will drown

the invitation to see eternity
beyond skin and sorrow
a humble journey
never walked in comfort
never found in marketplaces
discovered only in hearing
the spoken Truth of ages

the upside down life
riches found in giving all
goodness found in yielding
spring hope alive in desert places
life called out of barrenness

spirit threads spun
by feeble hands gentle
knees down, eyes up
to the mountains where
faith is set in stones
with careful thought

in distress, not destroyed
for You help and have helped
then, now, and again
before and behind and beside

good courage, no fear
for You are with me

You are with me

“His name will be the hope of all the world.” Matthew 12:21 NLT

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91. tape measures and bobbins, 92. which do you like better? questions, 93. many children to brush my hair, 94. the size and complexity of the universe, 95. healing, 96. friends to walk beside, 97. creative kids, 98. life-giving words, 99. grace, 100. shifting perspective, 101. spiritual hunger, 102. happy face stickers, 103. costco trips, 104. sleeping baby, 105. clear direction



One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 25/52

Who says you have to keep your eyes open for a picture? Not the orange boy. Sweetest rebel I know, with a wild ornery streak. The kid protests pretty much everything, just because he can, sometimes playfully, sometimes not. Still, I love him.

This little lady has been asking for a long time to get her ears pierced, and it finally happened.

The ears were pierced and we’re so happy about it. And a tiny bit sad. This one used to sleep on my shoulder, cuddled into the side of my neck. Sniff.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

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76. spiritual hunger, 77.paint time with kids, 78. quiet evening, 79. deep breaths, 80. promises, 81. arms around the neck, 82. differences, 83. mystery, 84. ears pierced, 85. wide-eyed wonder, 86. jumpy jumps, 87. possibilities, 88. prayers, 89. moving forward, 90. connection

Life & Faith


Heaviness and heartache are two things that have defined many seasons of my life. I am familiar with the pain of loss, the emptiness of abandonment, the fear of the unknown, and the constant concern that I would never be free of the weight I’ve carried on my shoulders for years.

Painful experiences cause the heart to shut down and most people medicate the pain with anything that will temporarily relieve the hurt. Unfortunately, the relief really is temporary, and many times, a greater price is paid in the long run for medicating instead of dealing with our heartaches.

Giving voice to our hurts and fears, turning to face them and learning to push back instead of running from them is not easy, but is possibly more honest, and more effective in moving a broken heart toward healing. When we live wounded and act like it is no big deal, we lie to ourselves and turn a blind eye to how the damage done to us (or by us) affects our future and our interactions with others. Time, by itself, heals nothing.

Beauty can come out of ashes if we will let it. It doesn’t happen in the timeframe we demand. It doesn’t always look like we would have planned.

In Jeremiah 30:17 there is a promise. “‘For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the Lord.”

Years ago, during the toast time at my wedding, my father shared this verse during his speech:

“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

At the time, I was overjoyed to be starting a life with my love, but I was a seriously broken individual. Over the past 9 years, this verse has encouraged me, and I have seen God do every one of those things in my life, little by little. God is in the business of restoration for even the most-broken. Brokenness might be the story of my past, but it is no longer the story of my present.

If you’ve ever tried cleaning up shards of shattered glass, maybe you realize that the putting back together a shattered life is a miraculous endeavor…one that takes time, and care, and power beyond what we have in and of ourselves.

Sometimes it is still a struggle to recognize how far I’ve come. My past tries to act like it is my present and keep me from acknowledging the goodness of this present season. It doesn’t help me to ‘forget the past’. I can acknowledge it. See it there for what it was, and realize that what is real for me now is healing. The past need not have any hold on me today.

Wherever you are in your journey, I just want to say,  please don’t give up hope that there is goodness and joy to be had. For you. Not all paths lead to the same destination, not all decisions are good ones. But Jesus is a good decision, and He leads the broken into life. One with joy and purpose and goodness and peace.

He desperately loves you, just like He desperately loves me. Many people think they have to be cleaned up and ready to put faith in Him, worthy to receive the riches of heaven. But none of us are worthy. Not one. Not even after we’ve been trying to live a holy life for a while. And yet He invites us in. If you’re looking for peace or longing for restoration, put your faith there. Jesus does not disappoint.

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him was not anything made that hath been made. In Him was life; and that life was the Light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness; and the darkness does not comprehend it…As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe in His name.” John 1:1-5, 12

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61. creative time with friends, 62. new skills, 63. ideas, 64. leisurely morning, 65. hope, 66. homemade pizza, 67. wall print with a message, 68. restoration, 69. quick calls of encouragement, 70. my dad, 71. insights from Ephesians study, 72. communication, 73. happy attitudes, 74. my camera, 75. deep breaths

Family / Motherhood

Wednesday Thoughts

I would like to dedicate these delightful baby smiles to my friend Susie who started treatment for a rare form of cancer this week. I feel like I know-but-don’t-know how emotional a journey she and her family face with these developments. Sending many prayers for miraculous healing and sustaining grace in the meantime. I also thought the rest of y’all could use a dose of baby chubs to brighten your day. Little miss has been the easiest and sweetest baby ever…the biggest challenge with her is keeping those rolls sufficiently cleaned out, since they’re practically everywhere.

If you have ever wondered how it feels to be part of a big fun family, I encourage you to ask this little one about it. I think her smile says it all. Perfectly describes how I feel about being in this family. These kids are wonderful. And they also drive me bonkers.

The couch-surfing hooligans below challenged me to a laundry race (which we will tackle tomorrow). They (together) get a load of laundry to fold and put away, and I (by myself) get a load to fold and put away. Whoever gets done first gets to be ‘the bosses for the day’. We had a trial run today (the stakes were different, but the challenge was the same) and it was a dead tie, so I’m a little nervous to see what tomorrow holds. If they end up being the ‘bosses for the day’ I’ll let you know how that goes.

This chica is turning 8 years old in less than a month, and I feel like I’m seeing her transform into beautiful butterfly. She has always been a delight, but I’ve also struggled with her personality at times and have not always appreciated her strengths. She’s looking so grown up, and is starting to act like it too, which is what startles me most. Like its the beginning of the end of my precious time at home with her. Which is silly because we’ve got 10 years to go (by conventional wisdom) but I feel so aware of how the time is whizzing by, as are my opportunities to fill up her childhood with happy memories. I think hard on what I can say and do at every moment to impress on her heart how much she is loved, so that one day when she does go, she’ll always have a soft voice in her heart reminding her. I read once that the way you speak to your children will become their inner voice in the future, and while I don’t know if that idea is solid through and through, it did give me pause and made me really stop to think about my tone of voice, choice of words, and making the most of every interaction. Of course instruction and correction is a big part of my job, but I’m learning that there are ways to do both with tenderness, and oddly enough, the tender way is often the more effective one.

The poor and needy are seeking water when there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the wild olive; I will set the cypress in the desert, the plane [tree] and the pine [tree] together, That men may see and know and consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41:17-20

46. sticky toddler hands, 47. dinner meal success, 48. laundry races, 49. poetry, 50. a friend’s morning visit, 51. watercolor creation, 52. simplicity, 53. notecards, 54. the ability to freeze moments, 55. worn, loved Bible, 56. sunset shadows, 57. clearing out, 58. homeschool milestones, 59. planning ahead, 60. the heart’s dreams

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Good News

He turns five this fall and I wonder how the years all got tucked in the fold of one blink.

“Good news, mama!”

He flashes his handsome smile my way with ‘cool dude’ shooter fingers that seem ready to fling whatever good news my way. He tells me his delightfully insignificant bit. I want to scoop him up and kiss all over his face, so I do it, because I can and because he continues to precede most anything he says with, “Good news, mama…” which kills me every time.

In between his excited giggles, I tell him, “Good news, buddy! I’ve got buckets of kisses for you!” We kiss silly and laugh ourselves into a pile on the floor and I sigh my bursting heart right out of me.

It occurs to me that motherhood has allowed me to learn about savoring little moments, taking notice of what I used to sprint right past in my quest to do more, run faster, push harder. I wanted to do important stuff, and make sure I didn’t miss every opportunity to advance in the world, whatever that looked like. I didn’t know then that the getting more actually meant being able to see less…and that the holding less actually makes more room for love to sink in deep to revive my weary bones.

With a week ahead and who knows what headaches to come, I want to offer you some good news. You are loved.

Not because you’re doing big important stuff (although you might be). Not because you have your stuff together (although you might be on the cusp). You don’t magically earn love when you have passed go and collected $200 and awesomely dominated the Monopoly board. Love is already there, whispering to you if you can quiet the noise to hear. Beckoning to you if you can slow down a moment to see with the eyes of your heart. You are valuable to God just because you are you. You cannot become less valuable or more valuable to Him because of what you do or don’t do. The love is deep and wide and totally big enough for all your mess.

Maybe it’s just me that is a mess. But you know what? A mess dressed in love is way better than a mess dressed in shame, pride, fear, or apathy.

So put on love like a cloak. Let it sink into your bones and revive your spirit. Feel the weight of how lovely you are, just the way you are, to God, and let love carry you through your week ahead.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 24/52

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31. quiet evenings, 32. my good news boy, 33. baby giggles, 34. mess dressed in love, 35. truth that comforts, 36. long drive conversations, 37. simplicity, 38. clean kitchen, 39. a really good dustpan, 40. curiosity, 41. lego creations, 42. laundry brigade, 43. fun new fabrics, 44. peace, 45. limits that lead me to wonderful discoveries



Daddy Bear

Chatter from the back seat makes its way up to me and we all agree, he is totally a bear.

“Daddy is big and strong, and a bit hairy like a bear. His hugs are like bear hugs and when he pulls you in close, he’s like a warm cozy spot,” the girl says with a wrinkled nose and a bit of a smile.

“And sometimes he’s grumpy like a bear too,” says one of the boys, and we laugh because its true. Don’t we all have our grumpy bear days?

We talk about the reasons we love daddy. I think quiet in my heart, how love became real to me because of him, and how my life became full of goodness with him at my side, in large part because he has been at my side. He’s an understated fellow, leading our family with a steady, quiet love that gives beyond convenience and into the realm of extravagance.

He is the above-and-beyond dad that makes pancakes for hungry tummies while mama nurses the baby. The rough-and-tumble dad that makes sure everyone has all the wrestles and tickles they need to be sufficiently worn out for bedtime. He is the dad that says yes, when mama would totally say no, and I love him more for it (even if it annoys me a little at times).

He’s the dad that works all day (and then again late into the evening) but still takes time to connect with each of the kids individually to talk about the day’s adventures. He’s the dad who does whatever he can to help – laundry, cooking, cleaning – without complaining. He’s the dad who talks tough but melts into a puddle of goo when the baby starts cooing at him with her bright beaming smile.

He is the dad that celebrates everything, the big and the small, and delights in giving gifts for no reason, just to see their elated expressions. A tender-hearted, servant dad and husband who shows every one of us how special we are to him in his own unique ways, giving his great big bear hugs when we each need them most.

Honey, I am thankful for you not just today, but every day, for everything you do…the seen and the unseen. You’re one-of-a-kind and we love you very much. Happy Father’s Day!


16. remembering to count my blessings, 17. lush green, 18. devoted friends, 19. tenderness, 20. bubblegum in a dish, 21. light ups, 22. good news, 23. soccer games, 24. sweet secrets, 25. working brakes, 26. new music, 27. helpers, 28. discoveries, 29. creative space, 30. dads


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Family / Motherhood

Random Stuff

Hey friends. You may be tuning in for the weekly photo, but you’re going to find so much more in this post. I debated breaking things up into a few different entries, but the truth is, if I don’t share these all at once, the week will get away from me and it probably will not happen. So enjoy the randomness of this one. The one thread of continuity is that these were all taken during the same weekend…but that is about it!

We had Poppi & Nonni (grandparents) here for the weekend, which was a great time. The weekend started with soccer games for the older two. The pink child played goalie and had a great time of it. The blue child is sporting the temporary mohawk Nonni gave him & his brother the night before, and shows off the hole in his smile that marks the loss of his first tooth. Tooth number two came out a day later, but I don’t have a photo of that yet.

Here is Nonni and Poppi with the kiddos. Serious/normal, followed by the obligatory silly photo. We had so much fun with them this weekend!

As for me, I said goodbye to about 8-9 inches of my hair. It was time for a substantial cut. The black and white photos come to you via mirror magic in the bathroom. In the family photo below, you can see it is significantly shorter.

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 23/52

This dude has been all about worms lately. He names each one he finds. This one was ‘Wormy’, but we’ve had others named ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Emmett’ (Lego Movie). Wrinkled hands courtesy of a fun afternoon at the spray park.

Here is a slightly grumpy face from the littlest miss. Followed by a really excited face from the one who was participating in the spray park fun for the first time.

This chickadee has been getting more goofy by the minute. We did some photos of ourselves at the spray park. It was supposed to be smiley photo followed by two silly ones….except she was ‘joking me’ and did a sweet face when I was doing a silly one. Sneaky child.  “I got you!” she said with her wrinkled nose and giggles.

She got her shiner by taking a tumble down a rocky two-step drop on the way to the car when we headed out to the spray park. Since then, she has been telling everyone that she bonked her face on the floor. Still the cutest face.

And this one was tuckered out after all the fun. As kissable as they come.


Family / Motherhood


It goes without saying that adding children to a family can bring about many changes. As more children have joined our family over time, I have learned that those changes cannot always be predicted or anticipated. I expect change, but I am always surprised by how change materializes in real life.

Some changes are in family dynamics. The children all have individual relationships with each other, and how they grow and change with time (and new additions) is fascinating. Everyone has a role to play in the family, and dynamics definitely change when a new baby arrives. It’s kind of like everyone’s personalities are tweaked just a bit to reach a renewed sense of equilibrium in the greater whole.

There are also changes in routines and schedules. Before baby’s arrival, I tried to think about what ‘normal’ might possibly look like with a newborn added to the crew. Our new normal looks nothing like what I thought it might. And in fact, more than just our schedules have changed…

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 22/52

My heart has long been torn between wanting to invest my creative energy into my photography business and wanting to do my best at this homemaking thing. Every time I have a baby, I step back from business for a few months to adjust and then leap back in, always trying to keep my foot in the door and convince myself I can do everything I want to do at the level of excellence I expect from myself. I want to be an excellent mom. I want to be an excellent photographer. I want to be an excellent writer, and cook, and _____. I just want to be excellent. Put forth my best effort and do my best work, no matter what I’m doing.

A few weeks back I started feeling that itch to shoot some family photo sessions and get my business engine going again (which involves a LOT more than just shooting sessions). I put out an offer for friends and started getting calls to schedule sessions, which was awesome, except that I realized all in one moment that I just can’t do everything that is required to actually have a forward-moving business. I want to. I would love to shoot sessions and create custom albums and wall prints and market my business and reply to client emails quickly. I want my clients to have a great experience working with me, and to have my personal attention and investment in their session.

I also want my children to know how important they are to me. I want to be able to give them the best of myself, to do everything I can to give them a great start in life.

One afternoon, my two year old was hanging on my arm while I was replying to emails for the aforementioned sessions, crying, begging to be held and asking me to read her a book. I tried re-directing her, offering a snack to get her to leave me alone. There was a moment that it all hit me…what it is I must sacrifice if I want to blaze my trail as a professional photographer in this season of my life. I realized just how often–as in, multiple times a day–I put off my children’s reasonable requests for my attention because I have other things (business things) I need to tend to.

To be clear, I do not think there is anything wrong with mothers pursuing dreams or having their own businesses. Moms of all types are heroes. It is just clear to me that right now, in my situation, my family really needs my full attention. The truth is, for years now I have felt guilty and uncomfortable with how my attention has been divided between home and business. In other seasons, I was able to figure out a reasonable balance to photographing a few events and a limited number of sessions a year, but it always felt stressful, and I had a hard time feeling like I could do anything well. I was just not ready at that time for big changes to the equation.

But now I am. So I have decided to close my photography business for the remainder of 2014, and possibly beyond. I’ll re-evaluate early next year to see where we’re at, but for now, I’m going to do this full-time undistracted mama thing. It was a tough choice but since making this decision, I feel more peace in my days, and of course my kids are overjoyed that we can read books all day long, head out to the park whenever we feel like it, and I’m not always spread as thin as can be (with the short temper to prove it).

I am still available to do family sessions here and there as they fit into my life, but only for charitable causes I want to support with 100% donations directly to the cause, or for friends who might be interested in trading services or goods. I imagine within a few months I will be going absolutely nuts if I’m not photographing anything, so I would hope that my friends will keep me in mind to photograph their families in exchange for some kind of trade.  I’ve already brainstormed a list of things that might be helpful/useful on our end for trade, but I’m really open to suggestions as well.

That is what is new around here! I welcome any questions about this transition and hope y’all will cheer me on as I head into a new season of surrender. Love to all.