Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives July 2015

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood


One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 29/52

I could tell you many stories about times in life that I felt inadequate, weary, unable to overcome obstacles, incapable of repairing circumstances, and like my cup was totally empty. I could tell you stories from last week about every one of those things. It is no secret that life is hard. It is hard in different ways for different people, but every one of us is up against challenges…physical, financial, personal, societal, spiritual. Some people spend a lot of effort downplaying their challenges because they see that others’ struggles seem far bigger than their own, while others downplay because they want to look put together, like they’ve got a handle on every last thing. Others magnify their challenges, dismissing the hardships of others because they believe that no one could possibly be struggling more than they are, which is most-likely not true.

The truth is, anything we struggle with, big or small, is real to us. Sometimes things that are small, seem big. And some things that are big, seem small. It is not actually helpful at all to downplay or magnify our personal challenges. I think acknowledging them is the best place to start.

I struggle to want to do dishes. I stand at the sink and think about how unglamorous it is to scrape melted cheese from plates and scrub dried milk stains out of the bottom of cups. I want to kick myself when I fail to rinse out the blender carafe until hours after I’ve poured a smoothie, when all the strawberry seeds are stuck like glue to the sides. It’s annoying to toss half-eaten bits of things into the disposal and remember the pans I left out, unwashed, overnight with the remnants of last-night’s dinner. There are a million other things I would rather be doing than washing dishes. The hardest part for me is the sheer number of times per day that I have to load, start, and unload the dishwasher, just to have what we need for each meal. The struggle is real. For me.

Last week I watched a documentary clip about mothers in Haiti who make-by-hand and feed their children dirt-cakes that have been dried in the sun because they have no other source of food to offer them. Their poverty is so great, they cannot even afford the most basic staples to feed their families. My heart broke, and I had a moment that I felt really ashamed for my personal doing-dishes struggle, knowing that every one of those mothers would be overjoyed to be in my disheveled kitchen to gather even the melted cheese bits, an half-eaten lunch items and dinner remnants I am annoyed to be discarding, in order to nourish their babes. All of a sudden, I saw my struggle from a new perspective. Do I still struggle to want to do the dishes? Sure I do. But with a new perspective about the blessing it is to have a kitchen, and a whole set of dishes to use and wash, and a fridge to store healthy and delicious foods to feed my family, and a dishwasher to help with the cleanup job, I feel like its just a bit easier to stand at the sink over and over throughout the day, running clean water over dirty plates and giving thanks for each one and the mess that was on it.


“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” Philippians 2:12-16


Update on goals for week 29:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 29 ~ 16 Run/Walk miles traveled, 313mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 29 ~ 7,600 words completed, 87,900 words in 2015


911. “crazy” swim suit conversation, 912. walking the lake with my oldest, 913. making progress on planning the chemistry unit I’m teaching this fall, 914. writing my faith story, 915. purple elephant unicorn painting, 916. some cooler days, 917. park day with co-op friends, 918. first photo session in a long while, 919. j’s bindi freckle and our laughs about it, 920. the Lord that goes before me in anything He calls me to, 921. colossians study with friends, 922. hobby lobby trip with gift card for the birthday girl, 923. seeing the kids work together, 924. afternoon naps, 925. the blessing of being received and challenged at the same time

Family / Life & Faith / Poetry

Quiet Life

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 28/52

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.” 1 Thess. 4:11 NLT

I wouldn’t say that I set out to live a quiet life. In fact, looking back just a few years, I think I was trying to live as loud as possible. I threw every ounce of energy I had into learning, strategizing, doing, maximizing…completely convinced by the messages that had be coming at me since high school.

“You can be anything you want to be.”

“Live out loud and make your mark on the world.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make your dreams come true.”

“There is no time to waste. The time is now!”

“Do whatever makes you happy.”

“When opportunity knocks, open the door, or you just might miss the chance of a lifetime.”

No pressure. And there are probably hundreds of other lines that belong with this list.

It was a whirlwind ride; exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I threw all my eggs in risky baskets, hoping and believing that if I just worked hard enough, or did the perfectly right things, I would one day ‘make it’. All the while, I bumbled along, tossed all about without an anchored vision for my life’s greater purpose. I noticed at a young age that the ‘heroes’ of our culture are typically the ones who show some outstanding amount of skill, success, notoriety, or accomplishment, and for a long time, I wanted to be that kind of hero; someone ‘important’. I was immature, and confused about what really makes a person important in the world. How easy it is to elevate some with esteem for what they have to show for their lives, while completely overlooking vast numbers of honest, hard-working, everyday people.

There was not an identifiable moment that my perspective changed. It has been little by little, over time, and through deeply personal challenges. A chisel to stone, deep and shallow cuts, shaving away the unnecessary things and re-fashioning me altogether to recognize the real beauty in life is not at all what I imagined it to be in earlier years. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that at times it has been extraordinarily painful, and yet, it has also been extraordinarily good.  It’s the tension of both/and, as a good friend says. Beauty is found in unexpected places, and all life is valuable.

I have learned that not every inspirational line is true. There are a lot of things that sound great to a young and eager heart, things that drip with gratifying and promising honey….but at closer inspection, sell something empty. What happens when you learn that something you’re in love with eating is both nutritionally bankrupt, and seriously unhealthy for your body? You might still eat it in a moment of weakness (hello, sugar addiction), but on occasion, you will probably think about it a little more carefully before slurping it down. In the same way, we should be discerning about the messages we internalize and use as our compass for life. Some will be bankrupt, and may send us down a path that at the end, looks nothing like it did at the beginning. This whole discovery has me searching for ways to tune out the noise, and push out the busy.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.”

Maybe we need more quiet so we can hear a little clearer when the Holy Spirit whispers to us. Maybe we need to mind our own business because minding others’ only serves to make us feel inadequate, or make us feel superior, when we are neither. Maybe we need to work with our hands, because only then can we understand what it means to toil, to labor, and eventually reap a harvest.


The Chisel*

You hold the chisel to sculpt the stone

Command the rock to crack and let the water flow

Carve Your way like a river through my soul

A pebble on the sand is sculpted by the tide

The same way You whittle down my pride

Wash over me, I long to be refined

In spite of all the edges that are rough and plain

You hold me like a jeweler holds a gem

You are etching in the lines of righteousness

With a skillful hand, and perfect artistry

Make something beautiful, something beautiful of me

*from a poem/song I wrote in 2003


Update on goals for week 28:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 28 ~ 13 Run/Walk miles traveled, 297mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 28 ~ 3200 words completed, 80,300 words in 2015


901. bedtime question hour, 902. my little olaf (warm hugs), 903. watermelon on a hot day, 904. organized bookshelves and purged toy bins, 905. divine protection in a serious situation, 906. crisp romaine, 907. sweet 9th birthday party, 908. mini-me sewing buddy, 909. health and well-being, 910. anniversary cards in the mail

Family / Marriage / Motherhood

Celebrating 10

On this day, ten years ago, we were joined together in holy matrimony. It was a humble and beautiful day that marked the beginning of our humble and beautiful life together as husband and wife. These have been, hands down, the best years of my life. Full of joy, full of love. Full of hardships and healing. Full of goodness and grace. I guess, in a single word: full.

I stood there in a giant white dress, trembling but trusting that life with him could be good. Believing that ten years down the road, I would still be laughing and that God would still be helping us live out love. Knowing that in whatever challenges we faced, we would cleave to each other no matter what.

And here we are. Still laughing, still loving.

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days now, wanting to have just the right words for this milestone we’ve reached, but really, I just look at pictures and wipe away happy tears because this man is, and has been, a tremendous gift to me. So much so, that words just don’t do it. He is a treasure of treasures, a true servant-heart, and as faithful a companion as I could have ever asked for.

Plus he is a super daddy, and that is a wonderful thing.

On this day, nine years ago, we sat at a restaurant celebrating our first married year, me with a remarkable belly and him with a nervous sparkle in his eye, ready for labor to start any minute so that he could meet his (first) baby girl. It did take another 2 days before she would make her appearance, but she wasn’t in his arms for two minutes before his daddy-heart bloomed in a glorious sunburst. If you ever have the privilege of seeing a daddy-heart bloom before your eyes, you’ll know what a tender and beautiful sight it is.

I find it a wild thought that this little sweetie with a smooshed nose at birth is turning nine years old on Friday (correction, Saturday! But the party is Friday and I was tired when I wrote this), and we’ve been blessed with a whole crew of little sweeties since. You can see more daddy/kid pictures from the father’s day post I made last year, if you like that sentimental sort of thing (you clearly know where I’m at with that).

To celebrate our 10 years, I really wanted to have some special photos taken of us all together. Photographer Brian David Casey came out to capture these for us, both to help us capture our family as it has grown, and also to help us announce that we’re still growing. Did you go back to re-read that sentence? Yes, you read it right! We are excited to announce that to kick off our next decade together, we’re expecting another little one in February.

“This journey that we’re on….how far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. When you say you love me, that’s all you have to say.” ~ Josh Groban, When You Say You Love Me

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…But they delight in the law of the Lordmeditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1:1-3

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Psalm 127:1-5

891. tater tots for lunch and afternoon naps on the couch, 892. diva batgirl, 893. when the kids work together cooperatively, 894. e-eye, e-yuh, 895. birthday gifts for the girl and her wide excited eyes when she opened them, 896. prayers answered, 897. how freely my kids ask me questions, 898. kettle chips, 899. family photos, 900. ten years with the most amazing man


Snippets and Waterfalls

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 27/52

My grandmother asked me to explain the little numbers at the bottom of my posts. I thought I would share with you as well. I record little moments or observations from my week, partly for myself to remember, but mostly as an intentional way to list the small details of what I’m thankful for that week. I find that it helps me celebrate small victories and honor tender moments that could easily be forgotten if I didn’t record them, and it also helps me find peace, tracing dot-to-dot God’s sweet mercies in my life. For those unfamiliar, the practice (for me) stemmed from reading Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which was a very impactful read for me a few years back.

For fun, I thought I’d expand on my list for this week and tell you a little more behind the story of each.

871. “Once when I was a little kid,” says the 3 year old. – I was at the stove cooking dinner and my Sassypants McGee came to tell me a story about, “Once when I was a little kid, I wore the same clothes as my baby sister. Isn’t that weird?” Yes love. And you’re weird in all the best ways.

872. freedom from things that distract from the best things – I’m doing my best to eliminate ‘autopilot’ activities that suck up time but don’t bring me encouragement or a good return on my time spent. TV, Facebook, etc. I also find myself increasingly dissatisfied with digital interactions, when there are coffee dates to be had and conversations to have over the phone. The mom life can be very lonesome at times, and I’m finding that staying connected online is not a substitute for real-time and face-to-face conversations.

873. the power of moving water – We spent a few days out of town and visited the waterfall below. The photo captures only about half of the falls, which is a 100ft drop from top to bottom. There was a fence between us and the edge, but I was rather moved by the power and intensity of the falls.

874. pristine nature – Again, our out-of-town time up at the highest point reachable by vehicle between Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan (north Washington). Above the tree-line, and feeling close to the sky among the mountain-tops.

875. celebrating 10 years in our own unique way – Out of town, complete with a fun photoshoot with our crew and the talents of a photographer I respect, a few days of restful fun, and time away from phone & internet access.

876. togetherness – Every day, but especially over our little trip.

877. swim floaties – A feisty three year old in a seahorse floaty getup is entertaining, to say the least.

878. the comfort of familiar voices – I had a great conversation with my dad one evening that left me feeling really encouraged.

879. picture lake – Where we started our sunrise photo session. Photos to come.

880. renewed mercies, every morning – I’m so thankful that each day starts new. A new opportunity to love and grow and learn.

881. thank you card in the mail – I confess I struggle to send physical thank you cards these days, but I received one and appreciated it a lot.

882. sweet bible study time – Doing a study with some girlfriends on Colossians, and finding myself quite encouraged, both by the study and the women involved.

883. inches forward – I haven’t been meeting my writing/running goals every week, but I’m still moving forward, so I celebrate those victories.

884. cleaned-out fridge – It’s a task I dread, but one that has to happen pretty often around here. I always feel really satisfied after I’ve done it, even if I totally dragged my feet for 2 weeks before diving in.

885. safe travels – Our trip out of town and back, no major troubles.

886. “belly jeans” aka Billie Jean – This is what the 3 year old asks for when she wants to hear this particular MJ song.

887. little MJ fans – MJ is the new hot thing around here. It’s cute and funny to see how seriously they take their MJ dancing and lip-syncing.

888. sewing supplies – Went for an hour with a friend to get some things I needed.

889. laughing brook and the smiling pool – I’m reading one of the Old Mother West Wind series books to my children before bed. I really love these simple, sweet children’s books.

890. healing hand – One of the more eventful things that happened on our trip was our middle guy rolled off his bunk in the middle of the night and hurt his wrist. I was worried that it could be serious, but after prayers and feeling out what of his reaction was drama and what was real, I’m no longer concerned about it and he’s healing just fine. I really think it was a specifically-answered prayer. Thanks be to God.


Update on goals for week 27:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 27 ~ 6 Run/Walk miles traveled, 284mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 27 ~ 1000 words completed, 77,100 words in 2015


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9

871. “Once when I was a little kid,” says the 3 year old, 872. freedom from things that distract from the best things, 873. the power of moving water, 874. pristine nature, 875. celebrating 10 years in our own unique way, 876. togetherness, 877. swim floaties, 878. the comfort of familiar voices, 879. picture lake, 880. renewed mercies, every morning, 881. thank you card in the mail, 882. sweet bible study time, 883. inches forward, 884. cleaned-out fridge, 885. safe travels, 886. “belly jeans” aka Billie Jean, 887. little MJ fans, 888. sewing supplies, 889. laughing brook and the smiling pool, 890. healing hand


Halfway Through

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 26/52

Half the year is behind us, half still ahead. It is interesting to mark the seasons and reflect on what has happened in that time. I’m pretty sure all the kids have grown about 6 inches each since January. They’re eating like it, anyway. We’ve had some fun times, including this weekend’s water fun in our dead grass.

For me, this year has thus far been about a new level of simplicity, self-discipline, intentionality and learning to live right where I am with gratitude. I didn’t know it was possible for me to grow even more introspective than I already was, but I think that has happened as well, so I’m rolling with it. It has been a lovely, challenging, lonely, beautiful time.

I’m doing less wrestling with God and more surrendering. Open-handed, but with intention is really the way to live to find peace. There are things I can’t change, and things I can. Knowing which is which, and putting energy in the right areas makes a world of difference.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20


Update on goals for week 26:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 26 ~ 10 Run/Walk miles traveled, 278mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 26 ~ 1000 words completed, 76,100 words in 2015


856. little feet learning how to step on half the sprinkler to make it spray higher, 857. relief from the heat, 858. outfits mostly chosen for upcoming photoshoot, 859. almost no cooking this week, 860. rsvp’s for the birthday party, 861. ice water, 862. comfy pants, 863. dishwasher, 864. the everlasting phone (dropped a number of times but still working fine), 865. kindle and the books i’ve been reading, 866. afternoon naps, 867. world cup soccer, 868. american ninja warriors-in-training, 869. the quiet night, 870. independence

Life & Faith / Poetry

Carrying Wind

carrying wind, gentle swell
blow loose the knot in center
bring down the heart from anxious peak
to calm, to still, to settle

carrying wind send comfort near
to troubled mind and soul
breathe long and banish fearful thought
for truth to conquer all

carrying wind, the help You give
to any who should ask
be swift to anchor, swift to move
with wisdom in the dance

carrying wind, the hope of life
kept safe in rocky cleft
though worn and weary through the storm
in every way is blessed

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:8-10

846. silk flower bouquet with a playdoh center, 847. bedtimes gathered ’round, 848. inspiring stories, 849. freedom from fear, 850. wise counsel, 851. homemade splash-pad playdate with friends, 852. downstairs bedrooms in the heat, 853. hard-won miles, 854. very full fridge and freezer, 855. watermelon birdies