Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Family

Family / Motherhood

The Tender Weeks

The weeks after birth are interesting. They are a blur of disrupted sleep, healing from the physicality of birth, navigating wildly unpredictable emotions, encountering new challenges, and adjusting to the shifting family dynamics—something that happens with the arrival of every baby whether its baby one, baby two, or baby six. I find the whole thing to be something like an obstacle course run with a blindfold on. There are tumbles and bruises and feeling wildly lost while I’m bumbling along, but there are also sweet, tender, intimate hours of bonding with my new little person and discovering new things about the resilience and abilities of my other kids.

Sometimes I have to laugh at how silly it all is. I am a mother of six children. How did we get here? How did they get here? It has been a blink and a journey all at once.

I am filled with wonder at the beauty of life, at the gift of children, at the untold glories of being a mom. I am also up to my ears in the ocean of newborn-and-lots-of-other-kids’ needs while trying to physically and emotionally recover from childbirth myself.

A few nights ago, I conversed with a sweet friend who gave birth to her fifth child, also at home, about two weeks after my little guy’s birth. She recounted her arduous natural labor, her tender first days afterward, and the struggle to process both the beauty and terror of her experience. I resonated with every last word even though I have already started to forget. It has only been five weeks, but the memory of the most horrible parts of labor are already fuzzy. I’m still tender, for sure, but I am healing—thanks to the generous support of the community around me. There have been meals, gifts, prayers, helpers, and maybe most importantly, listening ears.

Four days old

The conversation reminded me about how incredibly important it is for women to process their birth experiences in the weeks and months following—for their own inner healing. This is true for mamas who experience unexpected trouble during the birth process and those who experience heartbreaking losses, but I also think it is important for mamas who have a normal labor and a perfectly healthy child in their arms afterward. I know for me, with special regard to my unmedicated labors, the births were beautiful, but they were also traumatic. Being able to share the story (sometimes again and again) with trusted friends, to acknowledge the hard parts for what they were, and to give voice to the fears I fought against in order to welcome my child into the world make all the difference in my well-being post-partum. Talking about the pain and the fear somehow lessens their hold on my long-term memory, and helps me move forward into wholeness.

I think maybe this goes for other parts of life too. Sometimes talking about the hard things we’ve been through makes a way for healing to find its way into deep places. If something comes to your mind when you read that, maybe you could use a compassionate friend to listen to your story? If there is anything I will always make time for, it is this very thing. If that is where you’re at, ring me anytime, or find a trustworthy person to share with. It is important. You are important.

“When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:4-5

1221. glorious sunshiny days, 1222. park adventures with six, 1223. our collapsible wagon that makes park days possible, 1224. time with friends that fills me up, 1225. surviving birthday month, 1226. baby smiles that started Easter morning, 1227. some longer sleep stretches, 1228. new (free) cabinet for storage, 1229. successful writing time, 1230. new tunes

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Victorious: A Birth Story

*This is an account of the birth of our newest sweet son. It is intensely personal, not especially graphic, but may not be of interest to all readers.

The way I get through difficult experiences is to let true words ring in my ears over and over, helping me to focus my mind on what is true instead of what I am afraid of. My soul considers words carefully, repeatedly turning them over like a rock in a pocket; worries rubbed right out against the smooth and even surface of true things. I draw in deep breaths, hoping the air I take in will displace the angst that ominously threatens to rule me.

In sitting position, I listen intently and rock gently with closed eyes. Music pours quietly from the tiny speaker on my phone beside me, straight into my soul, strengthening me through increasingly intense waves of pain. Contractions started suddenly only minutes ago, but they are already full-force and close together. I can’t handle sensory input from anywhere else, so I shut everyone out of my laboring space and give myself to the process and the music. I am strong, but tender. I am ready, but uneasy. I am well aware of the work ahead.

I know my husband is preparing the delivery space just outside the door from where I am, which is little more than a twin mattress on the floor, properly made up to receive a struggling, laboring woman, a new child, and the fluids that go with. It’s a humble stage, but somehow comforting as such. He flurries around trying to piece things together without a road map, and I feel his excitement after waiting long weeks and months to meet his new son. For the sometimes gruff exterior, the man has a beautiful soft heart for his children.

I hear the midwives arriving. I can’t open my eyes, but I start to cry when they reach me. I am relieved to have skillful, compassionate women at the ready to help me through what I know will be a trauma even as it is a gift. I hear my sweet sister-friend arrive at nearly the same time as the midwives, ready to help our older kids upstairs settle into their temporary bed on the fold-out sofa mattress. She whispers excitedly that she will take care of everything upstairs. I can’t acknowledge her in that moment, but I feel a deep sense of gratitude for her willingness to drop everything and come straight over to help in the small but essential ways she does.

The midwives set up their supplies and check in on me. I answer questions when I am able, and I resolve to not brush away the doppler they put on my belly to hear the little one’s heart rate every so often, even though its almost a reflex to wave it away. The music continues, and I sway and rock in rhythm, deeply focused on overcoming each excruciating contraction, which continue to come with vigor.

Every so often my phone dings with a message from the friends that know I am laboring. I don’t read them until later, but I find strength in the sound of them coming, knowing the content is prayers and encouraging words sent my way.

At the peak of the discomfort, I want to crumble. Each contraction is so difficult to manage, and they fall so close together, I have very little relief. I dig for the grit in my bones to press forward, to open and surrender instead of bracing against the pain. In one moment I can do it. I am convinced. In another, I sink low, tense up my shoulders and hope that someday this agony will end. After a minute of angsty pause and counting slow breaths out, the pain lightens for a moment, only to begin again a moment later.

The music lifts me in the perilous moments of struggle.

“I will trust here in the mystery, I will trust in You completely,” and I choose to trust again at the start of each contraction.

“Let the weary rise, lift their eyes to see Your love crushing every lie, every doubt and fear.” I am aware that while I tremble, I am overcoming my fears in real time. I am doing it. I am breathing through it. I am moving through it.

“With Your breath in me, I will worship.” I realize anew that worship in distress is perhaps the most effective way to overcome. It doesn’t help to try and hide, disengage, complain, or cower from the trouble before me. Worship is a battle cry of perseverance through hard things.

“Hallelujah, hallelujah You are making all things new.” A new little person is on his way into our home. I am in so much pain, but so eager to see his face. I am so honored to have this task.

“You will lift my head above the mighty waves…and in my weakness You are the strength that comes from within.” I am reminded that the power of God is perfected in the weakness I feel acutely in these hours. He is sustaining me, upholding me in the moments I am sinking.

“You cause my faith to arise, stand at attention, for You are calling me to greater things.” I pour out every last bit of myself for this task, reserving nothing, giving all. Great love and great labor.

“How I love you, You have not forsaken me.” I feel the nearness of God–peace to steady me when everything physical within me is torrential. Somehow the brief space between the swells filled with calm and resolve.

“I am the wind in your sails.” I am convinced my sails are going to buckle and collapse, until a wind carries me forward in the very momentary relief between the close, intense contractions.

“It will be worth the risk you’re taking, what you make of this moment changes everything.” Once I see this boy, my life will never be the same. I know my son will be in my arms soon, even though time slogs along agonizingly slower than usual.

I replay the songs again and again as labor progresses over the course of two and half hours, clinging to the words more fervently with the escalation of pain.

It all starts to feel impossible, like the pain will never end. The baby will never come out. I will never open my eyes again, and I cannot remember what not-pain feels like.

The water breaks and I break too. It is all so much.

Somehow we get to the mattress outside the door, the midwives, my husband, and me. I am having an out of body experience, hearing myself scream and feeling contortions of my body that I cannot control, my eyes still tightly closed. I know nothing except the strong arms that keep me from breaking apart…the arms of my husband who is heroically holding me through the last frightful minutes. I am terrified. I am screaming. I am frozen.

And then he is there. My heart and womb spilled out. I am broken and filled in the same moment. My son, whose name means victorious, is in my arms. With that, I am pleased to introduce you to the newest member of our family who was born in the late hours of a Friday evening at the end of February, about five days overdue. He weighed 10lbs 4oz, and measured 22 inches.

*The music referenced can be found here and is very worthy of a listen.


52+ Sibling Photos in 2015

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

Here is a look at the weekly photos we took this year, all in one place. There are a few extra photos tossed in. I’m really grateful these guys put up with this project for 2-straight years. I think its about time to give them a little bit of a break…but only for a few weeks.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1


Update on run/walk goal for week 52 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 600mi in 2015


1185. days home with no agenda, 1186. daddy making meals here and there, 1187. bubble tea, 1188. the many friends that make life rich, 1189. looking ahead to a new year, 1190. sunshine walk around the lake even if it took almost 3 hours, 1191. cuddles, 1192. delicious lasagna, 1193. the safety and freedoms we have that many are not afforded, 1194. a year full of health and traveled miles on foot, 1195. child one’s enthusiasm for all of life, 1196. child two’s ongoing helpfulness and incredible work-ethic, 1197. child three’s tenderness and soft heart, 1198. child four’s spunk and sweetness, 1199. child five’s love for mama, 1200. child six’s rolls and turns

Family / Life & Faith


One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 51/52

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

The weary mama rejoices, even though sometimes rejoicing means closing the eyes and letting tears fall; a mix of happy and sad. A pause and a breath to hold in the lungs and the heart the beauty and the ache of this season, these days, this distance, this fullness. Some things are simple, but not easy at all. Some things are exquisitely beautiful, but are wrapped in unexpected packages. Some things challenge, but also inspire the heart to hunger still, to leap out of apathy into action, to persevere. Sometimes rejoicing looks a little more like whispering quiet-but-genuine thanks to God for all He has done in a full and wonderful year, holding us together–trading our anxiety for peace, our loneliness for love, and our heartaches for hope. ‘Tis the wonder of the upside-down way of Jesus.


“Lord, through all generations You have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, You are God.” (Psalms 90:1-2)


Update on run/walk goal for week 51 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 6 Run/Walk miles traveled, 595mi in 2015


1171. receiving lemon bars in the mail, 1172. dancing game and little dancers, 1173. cookie making and decorating, 1174. clearing out our whole sprinkle collection for said decorating, 1175. movie night with friends, 1176. bubble tea, 1177. incoming christmas cards from all over, 1178. kids at work spreading their christmas cheer, 1179. cleared out storage room & playroom, 1180. singing the kids to sleep in the dark, 1181. trust forged, 1182. smelly (the good kind of smelly) dish soaps from a friend, 1183. finished hawks ornaments, 1184. daytime naps for mama, 1185. star wars

Family / Thoughts

What I learned in 2015, Part II

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 50/52

Last week, I posted the first half of this list. Here we pick up in July. 


In July, I celebrated 10 years married to my best friend and sweet heart. We did a photoshoot to commemorate how we have grown together with our crew of awesome little people, and to announce our pregnancy in photos.

> I have learned that a lot of adventures can be crammed into ten years with someone you love.

> I have learned that love expands in all directions when its growing. It expands up like a strong tree, and deep like a river dumping into the ocean, and out…like a pile of joyful little faces that keep us constantly on our toes.

> I have learned that laughter is therapeutic.

> I have learned that love is about giving all you’ve got, and then giving more. When two people are doing that, marriage is a beautiful thing.

> I have learned that I don’t need crazy vacations or far-away trips to enjoy time with my husband.


In August, we were busy doing summer things. We didn’t do any crazy stuff, and minimized our travel this year, but we made memories doing simple fun things together.

> I have learned that the rhythms we create for all the various parts of our lives together are incredibly important for the peace between us.

> I have learned that just because I sometimes feel inadequate, does not mean that I am. For sure, I lean hard on God’s grace every day, but I also think He graciously grows a mama’s heart and equips her to be the perfect care-taker of her family.

> I have learned that living a quiet life is a worthwhile pursuit. It doesn’t mean having no voice. It does mean faithfully cultivating wholeness in and around ourselves, and finding contentment in our current season.

> I have learned that a simple summer can be very fulfilling. Aside from some trips to the wading pool and a few adventures with friends, we spent time together doing normal, fun, summer things.


On the first of September, I resurrected my photography business that had been closed for about 2 years, since the birth of my fifth child. I also learned that our coming (sixth) child is a boy!

> I have learned that some things I have ‘given up’ are on the shelf for a reason, and I never know quite when they will come back around. It happened with music 10  years ago (still on the shelf), and I thought there would be a longer stretch with photography as well, but I was surprised to see this one back so soon.

> I have learned that living with open hands makes it easier to let go of things…and receive them back when the time is right.

> I have learned that I can operate a business that works for me, my passions, my family’s needs & my personal limitations, even if it looks different than every other person I know in the same industry.

> I re-discovered how much I love creating heartwarming photos of kids and families.

> I learned that just when I didn’t think I could be more in love with an unborn child, my heart swelled even bigger learning about the little boy we will welcome in February.


In October, I attended a writing retreat in the woods with one inspiring group of women, and read a book about vulnerability with another inspiring group of women. I guess the theme for this month was connecting with inspiring groups of women!

> I recognize that my own perspective about my life story and purpose has changed from what it used to be. At one time, I saw the story through a particular lens, and that lens is now different…which is a good thing.

> I have learned that I am a writer, even if my writing journey looks different than other writers.

> I have learned that living a whole-hearted life requires being vulnerable…and even though vulnerability means there is a possibility of being hurt, the possibility of connection and relationship is worth the risk.

> I have learned that I can ‘hear’ a lot when I make time to be still and quiet.

> I have learned that it is okay to recognize what I don’t do well and own what I do.


In November, my husband made us an exquisite dining room table with his own hands and a friend’s tools (I’ll post photos when the matching benches are done), I took the longer glucose tolerance test to determine if I have gestational diabetes this pregnancy like I did with #5 (I passed the test! No GD!), and I also taught 10 weeks of chemistry to a group of 6 & 7 year olds.

> I learned that I enjoy handmade things over manufactured things almost all of the time. Sometimes it is the artful piece itself, sometimes it is the heart that went into making it, and sometimes its a mishmash of both of those things.

> I learned that part of cultivating gratitude is creating the space and habit of giving thanks. I named our new table, our “Thanksgiving” table, and we will sit at it every day of the year and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

> I learned that my pie-making skills are reasonably good, after making the second pie I’ve ever made in my life for Thanksgiving.

>I learned that there is a lot of art in scientific disciplines. I’m still not highly technical, but I have developed a greater appreciation for science through the process of teaching it last year and this year in our homeschool cooperative.

> I learned that my husband’s chemistry background is rather handy, even though he no longer directly uses that education in his career. It was fun to step into his intellectual world to learn about chemistry in order to teach it to my students. For the bad rap it gets, I also never realized how incredibly fascinating chemistry really is.


In December, we have been spending our time staying focused on lessons, since we will likely take a break around the time our baby arrives, and we have also been doing advent-related activities and projects. I have completed not quite 600 run/walking miles for the year, which feels like a giant accomplishment for me.

> I have learned that the peculiar loneliness that comes in this season of motherhood is kind of tough to overcome, despite valiant efforts, but I know other mamas experience it also.

> I have learned that I enjoy burning candles in the evening. I have been lighting them before dinner, and blowing them out before I go to bed.

> I have learned that pregnancy with 5 other kids in the house is going by at lightning speed. We have only 10 weeks left before we meet our little boy, which is a wild thought.

> I have learned that I do not require a great variety of Christmas music to be happy with our holiday tunes. In fact, there are really just 3 albums I have listened to at all this month.

> I have learned that through ups, downs, bumps, and bends, God continues to surprise and delight me with unexpected goodness in unexpected places.


“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12


Update on run/walk goal for week 50 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 10 Run/Walk miles traveled, 589mi in 2015


1161. miles walked – so close to 600! 1162. craft/holiday party with two fun friends, 1163. life-giving time and holiday festivities with new friends, 1164. a small round of christmas cards out to family, 1165. a new ornament for the tree, 1166. the friend who thoroughly and lovingly cleaned my kitchen…way above and beyond, 1167. a night out with my sweetie, 1168. loud carol-singing by a 3 year old, 1169. grace to get through a few challenging days at home, 1170. updated materials for the new year regarding my photo business

Family / Thoughts

What I learned in 2015, Part I

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 49/52

Last year, I posted a list of things I learned throughout the year. I thought I would do something similar this year, but it ended up being a lot longer than I expected, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. Here is the first, and you can see the second next week! Updated: Part II of this list


I started off the year differently than any other year in recent history. Instead of my usual laundry-list of personal goals, I made just two – one for writing and one for fitness. I have surprisingly kept up with my fitness goal all year, which is a total feat for those who know my impressively non-athletic history, and I put my writing goal to rest in early fall after realizing that my original goal was not very realistic for me.

> I have learned that my quest for simplicity in life continues to benefit me and my family in various ways, some that I expected and some that have surprised me.

> I have learned the difference between struggling to do many things poorly and the success of doing few things well. I hope to continue doing few things well going forward.

> I have learned that being disciplined is a matter of the mind, and is about making decisions that lead to action instead of making excuses for why I can’t or don’t want to do something.

> I have learned that it is ok to put some things to rest. Goals. Relationships. Books that are not interesting. There are times to stick things out, and times to let things go.

> I have learned that intention matters. If I intend (or purpose) to do something, I have a better chance of accomplishing it than if I just think about it.

> I have learned that exercise is a basic need. I need to move my body…and after a year of focused, consistent exercise, I feel better than I ever have in my life – even  at currently 7.5 months pregnant.


I watched a dear friend give birth to a sweet son in February after a long season of infertility, loss, waiting, and fervent prayer for a sweet child to hold. Attending the birth itself was an intimate and moving experience. Having walked through low days with this friend, it has been a total delight to see how her world has lit up this year with her son’s presence and bright personality.

> I have learned that sorrowful seasons do not last forever for those who wait and hope in the Lord. His gifts are good, and are never late.

> I have learned that waiting is not fun or easy or comfortable, but good things are worth the time it takes for them to arrive.

> I have been reminded that traveling through life with trustworthy, life-giving friends is a complete gift that lifts the soul when one is weary.

> I’ve learned that friendship is about showing up. The few things you need in common is that you care to connect, share in life’s ups and downs, and encourage your friends whenever you get the chance.

> I have learned that rhythm and routine go a long way to establishing peace in our home.


We have a pile of birthdays in February and March, including my own birthday. We celebrated one, three, seven, and thirty-two.

> I’ve learned that celebrating life is something that should happen every day. Cake and candles and presents are not needed to recognize the gift of life…Each day we can give thanks and celebrate the small things — that we breathe, love, and grow together through every season.

> I have learned that throwing formal birthday parties is not something I enjoy…in fact, it stresses me out.

> I have learned that for me, parenting is a journey toward ever greater patience and tenderness with my kids. I have more than I used to have, but I continue to strive for more.

> I have learned that having a very busy one year old can make the days very interesting. You never know just what mess you will find waiting around the corner.

> I have learned that looking at the world through the eyes of a child helps me see things I would miss every time with the eyes of an adult. For this reason, I am thankful I have so many children to learn from.


In April, I published my first prayer guide on the topic of “Strength”. I meant for it to be one of several guides shared this year, but I haven’t been able to prepare any others for distribution yet. This is on my list to tackle in 2016.

> I have learned that it takes only small, intentional efforts to help others feel heard and supported. We so easily overcomplicate things.

> I have learned that no matter how many terrible things I hear about happening in the world, every time I read about a new one, my heart breaks again.

> I have learned that in the midst of a very scary world, there is refuge in Jesus for the anxious heart.

> I have learned that it is ok to be sensitive. I am, and while I’ve always struggled to accept that about myself, I also think its a huge asset in some areas of life.

> I have learned that I am able to influence the tone of my home by keeping my own attitude in check, and helping my children to understand how their attitudes affect them and those around them.

In May, my second son (third-born child) was baptized. It was a pleasure to stand in the water with him as he made a public declaration of his love for Jesus.

> I have learned that I can simultaneously honor the mysteries of God (what I do not know or understand), and hold to the truth that I do know.

> I have been reminded that unexpected turns in life’s journey are sometimes the best things that can ever happen to you.

> I have been reminded that motherhood looks different for every woman, but somehow we all share similar struggles, heartaches, sacrifices, and the deep knowing that there is nothing more important than loving and caring for a child.

> I have learned that the kindness of God knows no bounds, not even my own stubborn, anxious heart that sometimes tries to stand in the way of what God would give me. He gives what He gives, and with a particular posture, I can often discover the wisdom in it, whether or not I understand it right away.

> I have learned that traveling inches forward through the toughest seasons is every bit as victorious as logging miles behind me in the easy ones.


In June, I discovered I was pregnant with our son who is due in February 2016. Of course I didn’t know then that he was a he, but I was excited nonetheless.

> I have learned that no matter how many times one has been pregnant, pink lines are still exciting, and a little bit terrifying.

> I have been reminded how quickly the heart can grow to love a new person, even if they are smaller than a poppyseed.

> I have learned that there are two parts to forgiveness…the part where I choose it in my heart (to forgive) regardless of the other party’s involvement, and the part where I give it directly to the other party when they ask for it. It especially makes me think about from whom I may need to seek forgiveness from.

> I have learned that five kids in a strawberry patch is a pretty fun thing to watch.

> I have learned that sometimes important kids questions come at unexpected times, and no matter how many I have heard in my day, I always feel like I’m fumbling to answer well.

Check back next week for Part II


“When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” Titus 3:4-8


Update on run/walk goal for week 49 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 9 Run/Walk miles traveled, 579mi in 2015


1151. ongoing discussions with a 3-year-old about childbirth, 1152. the ‘big, fun baby’ in my belly, 1153. sleep-in morning, 1154. handmade ornament-making, 1155. sewing lesson for a 9-year-old, 1156. ice cream, 1157. PNB Nutcracker performance with my daughter, 1158. craft party with friends, 1159. cozy days at home, 1160. sweet christmas cards arriving in the mail

Family / Motherhood

12 Days of Christmas

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 48/52

Short and sweet tonight because I haven’t found the bandwidth to do any writing this week. I’ve been in the kitchen a lot, making a variety of delicious things, and I think all my creative energy is going there. We have also been full-steam ahead with homeschool tasks, knowing that around the time of our baby’s arrival, we will slow down for a time, so for now, we need to keep moving forward. There is a lot of Christmas music happening, and earlier today the middle child in this week’s photo was singing (a more rare occurrence for him) and trying to remember the words to the 12 days of Christmas. He has a lot of them down, but every time he gets to the end of a cycle, you hear, “And a present in a bear (bare?) tree…” I haven’t the heart to correct him.


Update on run/walk goal for week 48 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 9 Run/Walk miles traveled, 570mi in 2015


“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Mark 10:14-15

1141. safe travel to and from leavenworth despite challenging conditions, 1142. new ornaments for the tree, 1143. christmas party, 1144. generous gift of little boy baby clothes from a friend, 1145. successful advent calendar activities, 1146. better-than-average monday (in terms of peace and productivity), 1147. new books from the library for mama, 1148.  mini-cupcakes, 1149. super-cheese grins, 1150. santa in the weekly photo



Advent 2015

For the third year in a row, I have planned out activities for us to do in preparation for Christmas. The first year, I took a total shot in the dark at putting some form to our family’s celebration of Advent (having no significant liturgical background to speak of), and started off our journey toward a more ‘handmade’ approach to the season. We are still using the original Advent board I made (which at the time, I thought may not survive a year in the Christmas Box, but have been surprised at how well it has held up). The second year, I updated our activity list with new things…some of which worked out, and some of which didn’t. I wanted to make a Jesse Tree with ornaments, but when I started in on the project, it did not come together the way I wanted it to, so I temporarily abandoned it. This year, I wanted to try again, and see if I couldn’t make the Jesse Tree a more central part of what we do daily leading up to Christmas day.

Yesterday, the kids and I spent time making the tree out of felt and fabric, and for the time being, we are using paper ornaments. Eventually, I would love to make felt ornaments to use again and again, but that will not happen this year. The tree didn’t turn out exactly as I planned, but it will do for now, and we’re just going to celebrate the ‘done over perfect’ philosophy. I picked up the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and just two days in to the scripture/readings, I have to say, I am really enjoying it. The kids enjoyed coloring the ornaments, and I can see this activity being something we repeat again in the years to come.

This year, our activities are heavy on the creative-end. The kids are all crazy-nuts about making things, so I wanted to give them a number of hands-on projects to keep their hearts and hands happy. I also find that doing too many activities out of the house amidst the hustle and bustle is not as relaxing or enjoyable for any of us. So, at home, making-a-mess it is!

December 1: Make/Begin Jesse Tree + Ornaments
December 2: Begin reading A Christmas Carol
December 3: Make Cinnamon Applesauce Heart Ornaments
December 4: Christmas Party
December 5: Tree Lighting Ceremony
December 6: Make Snack Snowmen
December 7: Make Christmas Cupcakes
December 8: Seahawks Kids Club Holiday Party
December 9: Write and send a Christmas letter to someone special
December 10: Nutcracker Ballet / Candy Cane Hunt
December 11: Do a Christmas Word Find
December 12: See Christmas Lights
December 13: Make & Paint Popsicle-stick Snowflakes & Ornaments
December 14: Do An Act of Service Together
December 15: Decorate Ice Cream Cone Trees
December 16: Make Mini Paper Angels
December 17: Complete a Christmas Tree Maze
December 18: Make Beaded Candy Cane Ornaments
December 19: Hot Chocolate/Family Game Night
December 20: Watch a Christmas movie
December 21: Make Sugar Cookies Together
December 22: Decorate Cookies with Friends
December 23: Read the Christmas Story in Luke
December 24: Open a Gift
December 25: Christmas Day! Make a Christmas Video

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:1-2

1131. luncheon day at cbs, 1132. chore chart victories, 1133. vanilla-frosted banana cake, 1134. unexpected conversations about death and heaven with a three year old, 1135. jesse tree made, 1136. new beautiful book, 1137. singing together, 1138. drop-in visit from a new friend, 1139. rediscovering a darling coat in our storage room that now fits #2 daughter, 1140. tapestry table

Family / Life & Faith


One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 47/52

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

I referenced a few entries back that while on the Abide Writer’s Retreat in October, I happened upon some personal revelations that I’ve been chewing on ever since. I kind of love the revelations that are so meaty, so personal, I can’t just be like, “Yep. Great! Moving on.” It takes some time of really sitting with them to begin to understand what they really mean for me. So here I am, two months later, sorting them out.

During the Saturday morning session, I spent some time sitting on a wooden bridge that stretched over a wide river, listening to God in the relative quiet. The river was actually rather noisy, which I found comforting since there are only rare times at my house that are truly quiet and I don’t know what to do with myself in total silence. I started across the bridge with great intention of finding the very middle and sitting down to take in the beauty of the foggy fall morning from the center of the river, not realizing that once I sat, I would not be able to see anything except the solid metal safety rail that lined either side of the bridge unless I really strained to see through the cracks in the boards beneath me or stood up again. I just laughed to myself at my gross oversight of my intended viewpoint, and decided to close my eyes instead.

I didn’t mean to write a lot during those next 30 minutes, but I did. I only had my notebook open to jot a note or two down of what I heard in my spirit while listening. Our workshop leader had given us a few questions to think about, one of which involved identifying one source of pain we currently hold.

Mine relates largely to the peculiar loneliness and odd solitude that comes in the life season I am in as a mother of many children. Yes, I am surrounded by little people at all times (which is a great and deep blessing), but I am also tucked away from the world ‘out there’ and in a way, drawn out of the many deep and beautiful relationships I’ve had with friends over the years where I have enjoyed easy/frequent communication and get-togethers. Friendships don’t (and maybe can’t) happen like they once did. I’ve struggled with that.

I realized that through all my lowest years, it was those connections that helped carry me through tough times. I can name friends from literally every season of my life that have been there, holding me together, fielding my many thoughts and feelings, journeying, praying, and bringing about a companionship that literally saved my life at times. I still have (great) friends, but I have found that I can’t seem to make peace with the distance/space I’ve found in nearly every one of my dearest relationships. It’s one of those tender places that just keeps feeling raw and uncomfortable no matter what I do.

I write on the page, “Light shines through the water running over rocks.”

And then, “A crutch to help through a time of injury can no longer be a crutch through the last stage of recovery. Restoration cannot happen if you do not regain strength in your limbs, and leaning does not help you grow strong.”

Bam. Where in the world did that come from?

I read it over again and only barely understood it. Months later, I’m still chewing, but I understand a bit more.

I am pretty sure I have felt ‘broken’ for most of my life, and I have not known how to deal with the brokenness part of my identity now that a new season is upon me. I am no longer broken, having experienced a tremendous amount of inner-healing in recent years, but I have been terrified of walking in total faith because walking in faith has implications…If I walk as if I am broken, I excuse myself from having to live into the power, authority, and responsibility God has given me to do all things to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). If I walk as if I am broken, always leaning, it makes my voice small, and makes it easier for me to skirt around things that God has called me to. It allows me to always give an excuse for why I can’t choose the brave things.

If I recognize that I am no longer broken, but healed, and begin to live like it – going to God in prayer for everything and seeking Him to renew my strength at every turn – how can the aches that have weighed on me for so long keep me from the abundant life He intends for me? The riches of heaven are so different from the riches of earth. I find myself mining, searching, scouring for the heavenly ones wherever I can. Sometimes it takes removing comforts to find the gumption to dig in the right places for those gems, but I’m starting to get it.

I write on the page, “All colors, both of light and shadow, have something to say. Some speak out with strength, and some hide in darkness, unable to feel the light. There is beauty in the movement of the sun as it moves to touch as many sides of a tree as possible throughout the day.”

It dawns on me that don’t have to see the sun to see the light it produces, but it isn’t until I see the sun (where the light originates) that I can recognize why it is spectacular…how it has traveled from millions of miles away to find this place, at this time, to fall on me. I am struck by how light moves stealthily around shadows to reach every side of an object. I am reminded that I must always be looking for the light, no matter how desperate, dark, and discouraging things seem around me, and that I should always take every action I can to position myself where the light will touch me. I can hide. I can crawl back in the shadows, or I can stand up tall, like a fire-golden tree, stretching up and stretching wide to catch the sun’s rays with deep gratitude for the ways they warm and grow me, even if that process is very uncomfortable at times.


Update on run/walk goal for week 47 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 561mi in 2015


1121. little one talking more and more, 1122. mama here for thanksgiving, 1123. new tablecloth & holiday decorations, 1124. tree cut & set up by dad, lit by me, and decorated by kids, 1125. small victories in the storage room junk war, 1126. weekend walks in the sun with friends, 1127. december parties planned, 1128. five new ‘hap birt-day to you’s’ (candles), 1129. lesson plan charts for each child, 1130. new math curriculum + kids’ excitement over it

Family / Life & Faith

A Song to Share

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 46/52

I was introduced to this song last spring when my children and I learned it together over the course of a few weeks during Bible lessons at our homeschool cooperative. It’s a humble song, but one that continues to comfort me in deep ways that I can’t fully explain. I love that it speaks to the hope of the future, while acknowledging the hardship of today and the brokenness I see experience in this lifetime as I seek struggle to be faithful with the seeds God has put in my care. All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy. Perhaps you will find it comforting as well…

Psalm 126 (featuring Molly Parden) << bandcamp link where you can listen for free

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy

Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping, Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom for the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry, Lord please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping, will go out with songs of joy

The nations will say, He has done great things
The nations will sing songs of joy

Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping, Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom for the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry, Lord please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping, will go out with songs of joy

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5


Update on run/walk goal for week 46 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 548.5mi in 2015


1111. sunny weekend days and 2 walks around the lake with lovely friends, 1112. rearranged house and the making of new spaces, 1113. our ‘thanksgiving’ table (which I will share more about later), 1114. the cat naps that get me through, 1115. dramatic live reading of philippians at church, 1116. deep peace, 1117. little movie-watchers that take up every inch of the living room floor, 1118. mama in town, 1119. planning out an awesome non-traditional thanksgiving meal, 1120. bubble tea with tapioca