Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives November 2014

Creativity / Family / Life & Faith

Celebrating Advent

You can pretend not to notice that I’m sharing this post one day before Thanksgiving, unless of course you are a fellow Christmas-lover who has also been indulging in Christmas music since the first of November (or before) like I have.

Last year, I embarked on the new adventure of intentionally planning out December’s Advent activities for our family. I made a calendar and a list of things we would do together to celebrate in a more thoughtful way than we had in the past, trading  out-of-control holiday shopping craziness for reflection, peace, and sweet memories made together. For me, this practice is about casting vision for an on-purpose approach to celebrating together that reflects our family priorities. It is not meant to be some impossible to-do list that (if not executed perfectly) means we have failed at what would be ‘ideal’ during the holidays.

Will we do everything on this list? Not a chance. Will we do most of them? Yes, whatever fits. It is really just a road map for me as I reach to make Christmas about reflection, generosity, and togetherness. If you are in search of a similar experience this Christmas, I invite you to borrow whatever you find helpful from this list. Most of all, I hope you’ll give thought to being intentional this December instead of getting lost in the sea of jingles, billboards, black friday deals, and all the rushing ’round.

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 47/52

Advent 2014

december 1 – get christmas tree + decorate

december 2 – make jesse tree & ornaments together

december 3 – find new christmas music to enjoy

december 4 – read christmas books from the library

december 5 – visit nursing home & sing christmas carols

december 6 – go to a tree-lighting ceremony

december 7 – make & send christmas cards for grandparents

december 8 – make red & green play doh

december 9 – give away toys to make room for new ones

december 10 – send a family christmas card + mailed gifts out

december 11- deliver a care package to Seattle Children’s hospital

december 12 – holiday work party w/ daddy

december 13 – watch the nutcracker ballet

december 14 – family lego night + hot chocolate

december 15 – make paper snowflakes

december 16 – clean the house from top to bottom for holiday fun

december 17 – buy some canned foods + donate it

december 18 – make cookies together

december 19 – cookie decorating with friends + deliver some to the fire station

december 20 – sing christmas carols

december 21 – watch a christmas movie

december 22 – see the lights + hot chocolate

december 23 – review the jesse tree

december 24 – read the christmas story from luke

december 25 – open presents + make christmas day video


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“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:2

471. meaningful times with homeschool mama-friends, 472. supplies procured for sewing projects, 473. baby crawling and standing, 474. neighbors spared in home fire, 475. the kid who flipped a pancake ‘for the first time in her life’, 476. thoughtful family, 477. health and safety, 478. reflective music, 479. laughs around the dinner table, 480. sleepy cuddles

Family / Life & Faith


One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 46/52

Life is lived in tension. There are desires and ideals and plans and hopes, and then there are realities, imperfections, challenges and insecurities. They clash and wrestle their way for attention. Where I long to be is often far from where I am, and I am caught in the space between the present and the not-there-yet. The moment I start to feel at ease with where I am, the seasons change and I am asked to let go of things I don’t necessarily want to pry my fingers off of. The fruitful plants of summer are turned under for their winter slumber in a violent way. It is a gruesome but necessary death that makes ready the soil for spring’s planting, or for whatever comes next. Then arrive new experiences that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first, but I flail and fumble my way through to new goodness, new life.  Life is perpetual transition, perpetual motion; a grace and a hardship at the same time.

I’d like to say I’m learning to make peace with the tension, but really, I struggle with it as much as anyone. What I do know is that I am not the same as I was yesterday. Or last year. Or five years ago. And I am grateful for that. As I journey, I see the wisdom in letting seasons be what they are, not what I wish them to be. Here I am, trying to let them be.


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O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as You, O LORD, with Your faithfulness all around You? You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” Psalm 89:8-9

456. park shenanigans, 457. miss m’s satisfaction after her big climb, 458. productivity amidst chaos, 459. laughs over silly creations, 460. new and interesting books from the library, 461. documentary about the universe, 462. clarity, 463. open hands, 464. little chefs,  465. successfully organizing spaces i’ve been avoiding, 466. shelter from cold temperatures, 467. husband home from a long trip, 468. making time for creating, 469. kim mcmanus, 470. starting a big project



Family / Life & Faith

World Adoption Day

We are glad to be celebrating World Adoption Day along with friends from around the world.

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 45/52

Adoption is a cause that is near to my heart because, hello…children are amazing! Have you hung out with any kids lately? They are creative, silly, terrific little people, and every child should have a forever family. Adoption makes that possible.

In honor of all those who bring hope to children by giving them the opportunity to flourish in a family–as courageous parents who grow your families through adoption, as brave women who choose life for your babies, as ardent supporters who fund and support those around you who adopt–we raise our hands and happy faces to celebrate you!


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“In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemptionthrough His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:5-7

446. All those I personally know who have adopted, 447. friends over for pizza night, 448. sweet family time,  449. big dreams and where they go, 450. our tremendous homeschool community, 451. grace, 452. successful week at the gym, 453. watching my creative child draw horses, 454. enthusiastic readers, 455. baby falling asleep in my arms

Life & Faith


We are two steps into the holiday season and if you are not already overwhelmed with signs and jingles and commercials about everything you need to buy to supposedly make life cheery, you will be very soon. I heard the first Christmas song of the season on the radio Halloween morning. Silly radio people getting their holidays all mixed up. I happen to be a fan of Christmas music for any-time-of-the-year listening because I find hope in the story of Jesus’ birth. Emmanuel, God with us. Such a hope. But I was still surprised to hear Christmas music on the radio in October.

It is sad to me that Christmas has become about excess and materialism and our own unique brand of discontent…the kind that searches for fulfillment in the consuming of more food and more stuff than anyone really needs.

I don’t think we mean to be voracious consumers. It’s just so easy to believe, when we look around at the frenzy and the ‘fun’, that this is what celebrating is supposed to look like. It CAN look like that, but it doesn’t have to. I am hoping to purposefully pursue celebrating the holidays from another angle…one that is simple and marked by generosity.

We usually equate generosity with money (for good reason…it is good to give money to causes of worth), but how else can we be generous? If we don’t have dollars to toss every which direction, what else might generosity look like? What does it look like to live a truly generous life?

I think generosity is a posture of the heart. It is about giving something we have to bless others, and it really doesn’t have to be money to make a difference in someone’s life. I strive (and struggle) to be a generous person. In theory, I like the idea of generosity, but sometimes I find that old habits (ahem, selfishness) keep me from living this well. I’m a work in progress, I suppose.

I’m starting small. Every day I look for ways to be generous with my children–to give them undivided attention when I can, hearty laughter over their antics, and gentle words when they need correction. For the record, these are my ideals, not always the reality. Some years ago, I stayed with a family for a summer in college and the mom laughed so often, it was ridiculous and awesome. Seeing the way her children lit up when she laughed has stayed with me over the years. I want my children to really know how much I delight in them. What better thing is there than laughter in the home?

I think we can be generous by being kind to others when it isn’t expected. Offer encouraging words. Show kindness through an act of service. Show up. Listen. Everyone we meet has challenges and heartaches of their own whether we see them immediately or not, and every time we encounter someone, we have an opportunity to reach out and leave a bright spot in their day. Just a few days ago, I was with a friend at Costco. I usually just get through the line and head home, but my friend struck up a sweet conversation with the cashier and during the 2 minutes we were in her line, we had the opportunity to hear some of her story and and my friend offered some kind words in return. It was a reminder for me to be a little less hurried and a little more friendly as I go about my daily life. I often feel very shy in groups/public places, but this is one area I’d love to learn how to be more generous in.

And lastly (for now), I think we can be generous by sharing our lives openly. I can’t tell you how many one-liner thoughts I’ve chewed on for days afterwards from a random person who just blurted out a revelation or experience in conversation, or posted about a life lesson or observation on their facebook status. Your life and your story matters, and if you generously share it, you never know whose lives you will touch.


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“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

441. friends over for the afternoon, 442. freezer meals to the rescue, 443. before-bed reading time, 444. cuddles, 445. learning how to let go



One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 44/52

This is what you call a “pull-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-and-take-a-photo-real-quick-because-it-is-(lightly)-raining-and-the-seahawks-game-is-going-to-start-in-five-minutes” family photo. Check out the amazing colors on that tree! Gorgeous.

In family news, the oldest continues to dazzle us with her handmade creations of all types, made promptly upon inspiration, at all hours of the day and night. The next oldest is turning out to be a super-star house cleaner and organizer…and he likes it. More of that please. The middle guy decided one day recently that he wanted to learn how to read like the older ones and is cruising along with that endeavor like a boss. Missy Moo is up to all sorts of 2-year-old nonsense that involves a wide range of emotions and a variety of hopelessly adorable expressions and phrases. If I tell her I am making food for everyone, she always adds, “And me? And me?” She also adds “By the way” to the end of most things she tells me. I think she picked it up from her older sister. And the baby one is on her knees cruising the house for tiny items to shove in her mouth indiscriminately. Yes, we are busy. And yes, we are having the best time of it.


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“You shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:7b

431. neighbors that are still neighbors when they move away, 432. halloween shenanigans, 433. kids completing their math curriculum + celebratory ice cream party, 434. voting, 435. a smooth monday, 436. new sewing patterns, 437. new-to-us dressers and friends who help move them, 438. baby laughter, 439. quiet time dates, 440. fall colors that inspire and infuse the season with beauty

Life & Faith


You sat across from me in your backyard and told me all the reasons why you could never overcome your fitness hurdles. Caught in a tangle of negative thoughts, you seemed so convinced that where you were is where you would stay forever.

I can’t, you said. But God had other plans.


I wake up thinking about you and the miles in your wake that have brought you to this place; a race for hope and help for the least of these, His children. Months of growing the distance and the heart with every early morning yes, every mile, every ache, daily turning out comfort for something better.

I find my running shoes and my keys to the van and drive to the gym. I know-but-don’t-know that I have a divine appointment there. I think about what preparations you must be making and the thoughts you might be thinking as you stare at a long stretch of miles between you and the finish line. I shake my head in wonder and whisper prayers for help to come to you in the most needed moments.

It is not until I am on the treadmill that I start to cry. For the distance between us, for the joy of knowing that you have tenaciously persevered through many hurdles and today, you will overcome the ultimate test of endurance, the NYC Marathon. You are there running, while I am here running, and I spontaneously purpose to run a tenth of the distance in solidarity with you, in awe of you and the yes you are living as you run for hope.

You are love-in-motion, doing what you can to help prevent the exploitation of children, running like the wind to live the gritty Gospel, the one that says it is not enough to have the faith without the doing. You are running the race as one who is intent on winning the prize…like a mother who would seek to protect and restore the lives of vulnerable and compromised children.

You have done it, and I’m so proud of you.

Well done.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.“ Romans 10:15


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