Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives January 2017

Family

New Ride

One photo a week throughout the year. 3/52 

Eleven months ago, when our youngest was born, we outgrew the miracle mini van we have been driving for the past 5 years (the story of that van is part of this post, if you are interested to read about it). Adding one more baby put us over the 7 seat limit of our Sienna, so we have been driving 2 cars whenever we have to go somewhere as a family for the past year. Most people would have seen this as not ideal, but we were not in a position to buy a new vehicle at that time, so we committed ourselves to making it work. Most of the time, it wasn’t an issue. During the week, I was with the kids while daddy was at work, and the seven of us (kids + mama) fit in the van just fine for our normal activities.

The biggest sacrifices we made were 1) not being able to do much traveling outside the city for the year, and 2) my husband and I not being able to sit beside each other (and I’ll be honest..hold hands) in the car whenever we did travel together. We went to church and other local destinations caravan style in two cars with hands-free ear buds in so we could still talk en route to wherever we were going.

I didn’t think we’d be getting a new vehicle for a while, as we’d been able to make the caravan set-up work fairly well, but looking ahead to spring and summer (and a number of trips we hope to be taking), we have been talking on and off about all the specifics we would need in a vehicle upgrade to meet our needs. My husband wasn’t excited about a passenger van (believing the one pictured above would be out of our price-rage/too hard to find)…the other passenger van options were underwhelming for him. I, personally didn’t see how an SUV option could be a great long-term fit for us, with growing legs and the travel bug we have. We talked, looked, prayed, and waited.

A few weeks ago, we had a date-night planned and a sweet friend over to watch our kids. It was the perfect opportunity to go on our own and check out a few of the SUV options my husband had narrowed down the search to. One sit in a third-row seat, and we realized that an SUV really wasn’t going to work. Fully prepared to wait months more if needed, we left the dealership in conversation about what other options were out there.

The next morning, he found the listing for this van, the Nissan NV 3500 – a newer 12-passenger van with a number of awesome features, at a dealership 20 minutes from our house. It was a bit over what we wanted to spend, but not prohibitively so, and since he had been looking for one of these to check out in-person for many months, we decided to go check it out. These vans are typically used for commercial purposes and the passenger configuration is less-common, so they are really hard to find. At a minimum, we thought it would be a great opportunity to see it in person in the event we wanted to get one in the future. I had no idea we’d be driving it home that night.

There are a host of smaller details surrounding the purchase of this van that are meaningful to me, but tedious to write. Suffice it to say, I doubt there is another vehicle in the world that meets our family needs more perfectly than this one does (and will for the foreseeable future).

We are all excited for the adventures to come, and I feel incredibly grateful for the space, the smooth ride, the ability to travel together, and the blessing of holding hands with my hardworking husband who made this purchase possible. I have been on a high ever since we brought it home, and every time I step up into the driver’s seat, I am reminded of what a gift this vehicle is, what a gift my family is, and what a gift this life I live is. Grateful is an understatement.

Watch out grandparents – we hope to bring our jumbo van and delightful crew to see you sometime soon.

“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NASB

1301. Voxer & Voxer groups – great for busy moms, 1302. launched new site for moms, blog post coming soon, 1303. successful homeschool week, 1304. dinner tonight with friends who are moving soon, 1305. important mail sent off, 1306. upcoming girls night invitations sent out, 1307. physics experiments with friction and inertia, 1308. everyone working together at home, 1309. laundry mostly done, 1310. calls from faraway friends and family

Family / Life & Faith

Nicknames

One photo a week throughout the year. 2/52 

I asked for smiles, and I got mostly smiles. The one on the left looks a little constipated, but he did technically comply with my request. I am in love with the oversized purple hat that swallows up Roozy’s head, and the swagger that Missy Moo carries with her wherever she goes. There is KidWonder in the back, masterfully wielding her big-sister powers to get a smile out of our nearly-toddling little guy. Oh,  and handsome guy on the right, heart-eye emoji’s for you.

As I am looking ahead to a new year of possibilities, I have been thinking about what I want this blog space to be for me going forward. There are some new exciting things on the horizon (I’ll be announcing very soon) that have helped me realize that here on this blog, I want to continue sharing the most genuine thoughts about my years with these sweet kids–about my thoughts for them and my adventures with them–so that one day they might return here and discover new things about what their mama treasured in her heart during their young years.

Many of you know that I don’t share their names on the blog, which has been my small attempt at preserving some online anonymity for them as they grow. One day, they will make choices about how they want to be represented online in connection with their real names, but in the meantime, I feel that it is a small gift to give them the space to be shrouded in at least a little mystery as I tell our family stories.

That said, I have been mildly frustrated by the limitations of writing intentionally about each one without their names, so, I’ve landed on the compromise of sharing their nicknames here instead.

In birth order, I’d like to introduce:

KidWonder – My creative, effervescent oldest daughter who enjoys life to its very fullest and is constantly creating with whatever materials she can get her hands on. She is a quirky, artsy, hilariously random, and unlike any other person I’ve ever met…in a good way. She sees the world in her own way, and in the most pure and innocent sense, does not care what anyone else thinks of her.

Mr. Clean – My oldest son; a sharp and organized guy who will take every word you say literally. If I say we are leaving the house at 1pm and his watch shows 1:01pm, he will playfully heckle me about why we haven’t left yet. This trait is one part annoying, two parts useful. In many ways, he keeps our house on the rails without trying. He loves order, and shows strong leadership ability…both things that challenge me in good ways.

Big Buddy – My middle son who is a little more tender-hearted than his older brother, loves music, and has a quirky and varied musical palette. He loves everything from classical to Michael Jackson to electronic music to indie bands. He often asks me poignant questions about abstract things, and I love that he is curious.

Missy Moo – This girl brings spirit to our house. In a family full of personality, she shines brighter (and talks louder) than anyone else. I suppose that is what it takes to be heard as the fourth-born. She is a sweet singer, has shown significant interest in being a runner, and is an unstoppable force.

Roozy Boozy – This little miss is all about purple these days. She has been self-planning her next (3rd) birthday for the past 8 months, which is set to be a purple extravaganza. She has a stubborn streak like her oldest brother, but she’s also a keen observer of things. She’s a quieter soul (thus far), but has no problem standing up for herself.

Hank the Tank – Somewhere in the first months of life, Daddy started calling this guy Hank the Tank. He was big at birth (10lbs 4oz) and grew quickly from there. He’s a content, strong fella who has a tender heart and bright smile, and has bonded closely with Daddy — more than the other kids at this age. He has never been a cuddler (he actually actively resisted cuddling from the earliest days, which was a surprise to me), but he is a fierce force of love. I’m interested to discover more about him this year as he turns 1 year, begins walking, and joins the ranks of the adventurous (mobile) Allen kids.

1291. our weekly dinner group, 1292. connections with new friends, 1293. group voxer chats, 1294. answered prayers, 1295. beauty found in unexpected places, 1296. re-discovering the tub of special baby clothes I’ve saved for each child, 1297. little creative minds experimenting with physics principles, 1298. friends sharing breakthroughs, 1299. moments I remember to be silly with my kids, 1300. a new van

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Burdens Laid Down

One photo a week throughout the year. 1/52  — Taken January 1, 2017

There are maybe fifteen of us sitting in a circle, some holding babies, some quietly giving thanks that their kids are in the children’s wing of the church, coloring, laughing, and playing with bubbles on the other side of the building. Quiet space to think is not always afforded to moms with little ones. Constant noise and endless needs keep the mind running in high gear, always managing a mini-crisis or preparing for the next one that will undoubtedly arise within the next few hours.

I am the mom quietly giving thanks for an opportunity to think about all that 2016 brought to me.

Each mama in the circle has a pencil and a white sheet of paper with a few reflection questions to consider.

Line one asks me, “What are a few words that encompass your experience in 2016?”

I haven’t really given it a lot of thought until this moment, and I feel a little surprised that I write down: healing, restful, simple.

It wasn’t a dramatic or spectacular year in the ways I’m used to. It may have been dramatic out there in the wide world, but here in our little home, and in my inner-heart space, there was a settling; a breathing-out; a letting-shoulders-relax…a new experience for anxious me.

In February, I gave birth to my sixth child—a 10lb 4oz hunk of love that has delighted all of us throughout the year. The months that followed feel fuzzy in my mind, but I know that while I might have been tender, I was also full to the brim of joy and the reward of little faces greeting me every morning. Our family danced through the delicate transition period after the new arrival with more grace than usual, probably because God heaped it on us with great generosity.

Throughout the summer, I watched my older five play outside in the mild Seattle sun for hours and hours, it’s rays warming me through in a new and unexpected way. I cradled my infant son and felt the weight and beauty of his soul in place of the heavy burdens I’ve carried in years passed. I set down every other thing that I have collected over the years with the intent to prove myself valuable or successful or even just ok in my own skin—and instead took up the practice of breathing slow and looking up through the glittery leaves above me as I pondered the lavish beauty of life that is easily missed by those who are running, chasing, and thoughtlessly squandering what is right in front of them in pursuit of all the not-yet’s…as I have done for years without realizing it.

In October, I wrote all the thoughts I could about simplicity and my pursuit of it; a little surprised that I have begun to cherish the journey I started years ago when I first picked up the book Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. I’d venture to say that the pursuit of simplicity has been a difficult and humbling experience, but as I begin to discover the rewards of it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There are cords that hold us captive to things without our knowledge, but simplicity opens the door to a different, and more beautiful reality.

The last months of the year found me up to my ears in gratitude for the fullness of my life and the realization that even though I’ve struggled through years of hard things and hard feelings, sometimes there is a stretch of time where the angst falls away and the lungs are filled with hope that all the lost and broken things will one day be restored.

“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 ESV

1281. little hands that pinch and pat their way through nursing, 1282. the purple girl and all the purple things she loves, 1283. ‘seriously cute’ reminding me often that even when she grows up and moves away, she will visit me, 1284. mr. bubs and his delight that I run my fingers through his handsome hair when he hugs me close, 1285. my diligent guy who quiets my soul by quieting the house clutter, 1286. moments of grace with my growing girl who is learning how to carry herself with dignity as she straddles the line between imaginative child and blossoming teen, 1287. some quiet hours alone for the first time in a while, 1288. new books and new horizons, 1289. warmth of community, 1290. the satisfaction I find in creative collaboration

Life & Faith

Cultivating a Teachable Heart

He really is a stand-out kid; smart, capable, clever, and helpful. He brings me more joy than I could say with his goofy 8-year-old grin, and the thoughtful ways he cares for others. He also knows how to push my buttons with incredible precision.

Whenever I correct his behavior, he resists, pushes back and tries to wrestle me for control…all too often. Many times I can take it in stride—stay the course, and calmly hand down a reasonable consequence—but give me the right recipe of exhaustion, feeling spread thin, and boiling frustration over the fact that we have been around this bush a million times, and you will see my grace for him melt away as hot anger overtakes me.

I think to myself, “If only he wouldn’t contest my authority. If only he would listen to me and understand that his choices have real consequences. If only he could see that what I do is ultimately meant to help him. If only he were a little more teachable, maybe this wouldn’t be such an exhausting experience.”

For all my frustration with my son’s stubborn behavior, I can be exactly the same way.

When a leader or trusted friend points out a sensitive area of in my life that I can’t (or don’t want to) see, I throw up my defenses and try to reason away things that may need to be addressed. When God convicts my heart about a behavior or an issue, my natural tendency is to deflect, compare, or excuse myself from it. Acknowledging weaknesses, mistakes, and straight up sin isn’t comfortable for anyone. In fact, it is something like digging out an infected splinter. It might hurt in the moment, but it is ultimately for the best in the long run.

“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when He corrects you. For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom He delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12

To be teachable means that I choose to be humble.

It means I am open, listening, and ready to take action in a new direction, with new perspective when it is given to me—even if dealing with the circumstance is inconvenient or uncomfortable. It means I lay down my pride so that I might receive wisdom from God as a willing student of His grace, acknowledging that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8). There is a deeper reality than what we often see on the surface.

Sometimes God corrects me, not to humiliate me, but to keep me from harm.

Sometimes God prunes my branches, not to damage me, but to help me bear fruit.

Sometimes God humbles me, not to make me angry but to soften my heart and prepare me to receive His good gifts.

Sometimes God slows me down, not to punish me, but to help me hear His voice in the quiet of my heart.

Sometimes God allows me to feel weak, not to put me in my place, but to show me how mercifully He can heal the deepest hurts as I trust myself to His care.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

To cultivate a teachable heart means I recognize that sometimes there are things in the picture that I do not see.

Cultivating a teachable heart opens me up to understanding myself and my circumstances from a new perspective. It means that I can move forward, humbly and confidently, after receiving the Lord’s discipline, care, and guidance for whatever challenges lie ahead of me without my pride in the way.

Cultivating a teachable heart is a core part of being a disciple of Jesus. It requires that I acknowledge my dependence on His grace, and invites me to remember that as His child, He delights in me. He corrects me entirely for my benefit, that I might lay hold of abundant life and the peace that passes all understanding.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

*This post was originally a guest post for Christine Chappell