Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Marriage

Family / Marriage / Motherhood

On This Day

*written on our eleventh anniversary on 7/16/16

On this day eleven years ago, I woke to a cloud of a wedding dress hanging by the window—the skirt, billowy tulle, and the bodice, intricately beaded. I didn’t bother to have it properly fitted, because no one told me I should, and with my college student wedding budget, I had insisted on buying a gown I could take home off the rack. It was perfect to me just as it was, and two little safety pins worked wonders on the slightly-too-long straps. The cloud skirt was a touch long, but I proudly hiked it up or outsourced it to my groom at certain times throughout the day and he didn’t seem to mind. We were on the clouds together, declaring our vows to one another in front of everyone we knew.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day ten years ago, we ate outside at a seafood spot on the Seattle waterfront — me with a giant watermelon-belly, and my husband with a twinkle in his eye, hoping I would go into labor at any moment so he could finally see the little girl he had been longing to meet for months. Two days later, my water broke spontaneously on the carpet of our bedroom, not long after he had been playfully heckling me about why I wasn’t in labor yet. Our sweet firstborn daughter would be born less than four hours after that, kicking off a new, exciting, and humbling season of parenthood that would forever change us both.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day nine years ago, I was bursting with news that we were expecting our second baby together. The first year of parenthood had proved to be enjoyable enough to warrant a second round. Our firstborn—a year old—toddled about with the wide-eyed wonder she still has to this day, enjoying to its very fullest all that life offers. Her untamable curls matched her free spirit and that year we grew each other in untold ways. She catalyzed my rediscovery of joy and beauty which I had struggled to see during my earlier years of depression and wrestling with God, opening and mending a wounded heart that spent too many years closed off to freedom. We often skipped and danced around in our living room together.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day eight years ago, we had two little people – a mini-me and a mini-daddy. The little guy at three months old was just starting to pack on the signature rolls of Allen babies. More than smitten with her little brother, sister often crouched near where he lay in the round curve of a Boppy nursing pillow, surrounding him with stuffed animals of every variety, and employing whatever antics necessary to get a giggle out of him. I knew in my heart then that he had a lion-heart just like is dad. The four of us braved a couple of lean years in the heart of the city of Angels while daddy worked toward his graduate degree and I sorted out some of my identity as a mother and frustrated artist.

All-in for whatever might await us.

On this day seven years ago, I was round with a second boy-child, feeling the heat with swollen ankles and a weariness known only by moms very pregnant in the sizzling summer months of southern California. My heart was full and growing fuller, even though another baby at this moment wasn’t my plan and would not have been my timing. Sometimes God ignores our plans and instead directs our steps in a way that will ultimately bring out the best things we never would have chosen without a nudge. A wrinkle in my ideal turned into a blessing that I would never give up. Later that year, we moved north with our new son and two toddlers back to the only place that felt like home—Seattle—without a home or a job to count on.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day six years ago, we were just starting to settle in to the first and only single-family home we have ever lived in together — a quirky off-white house of considerable square footage, mismatched flooring in every room, and more space than we knew what to do with. Our firstborn fittingly called it “our castle” and it truly was. I swept the floor feeling overwhelmingly grateful for the gift of this space and the sparse furniture that couldn’t have filled even one room in the house, but was all we had at the time. We made the ends meet with a creative combination of jobs between the two of us—our roots reaching down into the damp Seattle soil where things grow lush and lovely. We leaned hard into grace and into each other to bring it all together.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day five years ago, we found ourselves the new owners of a sparkly white minivan, an unexpected blessing that preceded the discovery that we would be welcoming a fourth child into our family. For a few years, we had been driving a sedan with three car seats in the back (looking something like sardines in a can), but on a cloudy afternoon, someone took off in the sedan and we never saw it again. I walked through the lot where I had parked it, in disbelief that our car had really been stolen, and quite aware that we were not in a position to replace it. It seemed like an impossible situation. That month, I learned about trusting that God will meet my needs, which He always does, and I keep wondering why that surprises me every time. We spent weeks looking for the right new vehicle with strikeout after strikeout because of budget constraints or a vehicle’s questionable condition. In a story of far-too-many incredible details, we ended up with a van that we couldn’t have afforded, except that at the perfectly right time, some friends unexpectedly sent a substantial check in the mail as a free-and-clear gift that made it possible for us to purchase the van we have now been driving for five years. It was only a week later that I found out we were expecting another baby. The van was a need, a gift, and a comfort for us as we marched into new territory as a family.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day four years ago we had our hands full with four beautiful children, two boys and two girls, and we decided at the time that our family was complete. Rather unexpectedly, daddy got a new job that perfectly fit the needs of our crew and launched him in a new career direction, prompting a change in my role around the house. It was a gentle, but important shift for me. I had been mothering for six years, but truthfully, I resisted the role and title of homemaker the entire time. I loved my kids, but I did the bare minimum it took to manage the household because I despised all the mundane tasks it involved. We had always equally shared the household load, and I liked it that way, but my husband’s career shift meant a number of things had to change. I could choose otherwise, but wisdom said to me, “Invest yourself. Dig in and do the work of a homemaker with your whole heart, and see if it does not bring about immeasurable blessing.” So I tried, and over time have found that promise to be true. We still work together as we always have, but it strikes me funny that we are now in oddly traditional roles, even though we both had always been averse to them before.

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day day three years ago, we traded our certainties about family size for a little more adventure with the announcement of yet another pregnancy – one fraught with unexpected challenges and turns, but one that would bring us surpassing joy in total surrender to God’s will for our lives. Months later, we welcomed a fierce little force of nature whose name means, “life of favor and joy”. Our daughter’s entrance into the world profoundly marks the place in my life where fear (which once held me by the throat) would no longer rule me, and it doesn’t.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

All-in, for whatever might await us.

On this day two years ago, we looked around at our once large and sparsely decorated house to see that it was truly filled to the brim with love and children. We filled up that white van with car seats in every available space and added mountains of wrappers, papers, jackets, and random trinkets to the van floor—evidence of the adventures of a big family.

All in for whatever might await us.

On this day one year ago, we celebrated ten years of marriage—a decade of loving, laughing and growing together—with the announcement that yet another child would be joining our family. He is a little boy that now lights up our lives in this present time that we celebrate our eleven years together. We have learned about giving everything we’ve got to love each other well. We have learned to laugh often, to forgive readily, to believe the best in each other, and to live with wide-open hands to receive God’s great gifts and surprises when they come.

All in, for whatever might await us.

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

Family / Life & Faith / Marriage

To Listen is To Love

Do Not Copy

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 16/52

My sons sit in the back seat of our mini-van, having a little conversation that I missed the beginning and the end of.

Son #2 says excitedly, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?!?!”

Son #1 replies with a deadpan expression, “No, I am not ever thinking what you are thinking.”

I laugh to myself because, even without knowing any context, the two lines say so much about their (very different) personalities.


The two of us stay up talking awhile. And when I say we are talking, I mean I am talking. He is listening, attentively, and inserting random quippy remarks between my heavy-hearted sharing. It’s like he knows that I’m all worked up about things that either have a solution or are completely out of my hands. I’m grateful for his patience, and his willingness to let me say it all out loud. I speak it, have a good cry, and laugh in between the conversational bullet-points because of his witty antics. No matter what is on my mind, he finds a way to make me laugh about it, if only for a moment until I get back on the serious train.

He seems satisfied with even a little laugh. There is no shushing me, or rushing me through the list to get it over with. In our years together, he has learned how to hold my stories, to give my wrestling heart the space it needs. It no longer scares him like it once did, and I no longer feel like I have to tuck the edges in around the stories just-so for him to understand or validate me in a certain way. Whether there is understanding or not, there is love…selfless, gentle, steady, listening love. It is an indescribable gift.

In earlier years, I wanted a certain kind of interchange between us, where I would share, and he would think about the topic just how I do, offering insightful responses and a comrade’s faithful corroboration. You know, for smooth seas and all. That didn’t often happen. We have often disagreed, and and our perspectives have clanged together like cymbals of different sizes. At times, our differences have annoyed me because I could not always see the beauty in them, or the reality that the rich and full life we share together is rich and full largely because of what we each uniquely bring to the table. Our differences, the very things that make life together sweet. At times we both have insisted on our own way at the expense of an opportunity to strengthen our love or encourage the other.

As the more stubborn of the two of us, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for grace that is all-encompassing if we will only entertain it, sow it, and see what grows in the garden of listening love. We are learning together. I gather his comedy in my arms and let all my cares blow away as I breathe out and his embrace tightens around me.

“Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19


Update on goals for week 16:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 16 ~ 10.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 167mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 16 ~ 1,000 words completed, 58,925 words in 2015


711. early morning misty walk, 712. peace after days of inner-wrestling, 713. listening ears that love well, 714. baby kisses and spastic dancing, 715. a little weekend sewing time, 716. an afternoon out to give my wardrobe some attention, 717. a successful thrifty adventure, 718. waterfall jokes, 719. limits and the goodness they bring, 720. little white flowers

Family / Marriage

Goose Poop and Diamonds

I am twenty-one and fresh off the plane from Martha’s Vineyard where I spent a full term away from SPU at a music consortium program, testing my little wings in a music-artist community and planning out my path to stardom as a recording and touring musician. It is December 2004, and I am ready to be home in the northwest and figuring out what I will really be doing with my life going forward. I like to sing, but I’m clearly not cut out for the music business. Maybe I have the talent, but I no longer have the heart, and the dream I’ve held close for twelve years makes an exit. There is something new around the bend.

My boyfriend picks me up at the airport looking like a grizzly mountain man, with a wild beard that deliberately hasn’t been groomed since my departure three months ago, in protest of my absence. I feel genuinely caught off guard when he hugs me and tugs the luggage out of my hands, tossing it in the back of his car right after he opens the door for me. He always opens the door for me. He looks nothing like the clean-shaven guy I left when I took off from Seattle. He promises to shave away his protest when we get back to campus so I will quit looking at him weird.

We board a travel bus to Spokane for a Christmas holiday with his family. While I was away, he wrote me a letter literally every day (hello sappy romantic) and we also talked on the phone nearly every day…for hours. It was ridiculous. I could have probably saved a fair bit of money and heartache by skipping the far-away adventure, but it was a fun wrinkle in our story, and truthfully, it is one of those things I just needed to do.

We sit close in the same bus seat and awkwardly hold hands because it has been so long since we’ve had a long conversation that wasn’t over the telephone. The bus bumbles along and we talk. I tease him, telling him that he should ask me to marry him now that I’m not going to be a rock star. I honestly don’t know that he has the ring in his pocket and plans to ask when the moment is right.

His mom picks us up at the bus station and we head straight for what I’m told will be a spectacular display of christmas lights that I simply must see. The gate is closed and there are no lights, so the plans change and we head to downtown Spokane. I’m oblivious to everything, and all my usual powers of observation are completely absent. Of course.

We park and pile out of the car (his mom and brother and sister) and there is some shuffle and scuffle about where to go next. He wants me to go see the carousel with him across the street in the park, but it is super cold out, and I say maybe we can go inside a store or coffee shop where it is warmer?

He insists we go, so we break off from the group to head for the carousel. I start sensing the clues. My hand is slipped into his coat pocket for him to keep it warm and he’s starting to rub my ring finger with his thumb while we walk. He is also walking awkwardly, looking nervously everywhere except the carousel in front of us. Later he tells me he was looking for a place to kneel where there wasn’t goose poop on the ground. He drops to his knee, holds up a dainty little sparkle, and asks me the question. Will I marry him?

I feel instantly everything at once and I just cry. I fall into him and cry hard. He holds my shoulders searches my face and waits for an answer that doesn’t come until he asks out loud, is that a yes? I nod because I can’t say anything, and he breathes out the biggest sigh of relief. Yes. I said yes.

Ten years ago this month. I said yes.


Then: Taken the day after he proposed to me. December 2004

Now: One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 49/52 This is (most of) us in pajamas.


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“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

491. ten years of yes, 492. new recycling can on the way, 493. a child’s generous heart, 494. elderly folks we visited who smiled and sang along to our carols, 495. sewing project happiness, 496. late night conversations, 497. tucking in sweet children, 498. voices that inspire and challenge, 499. peace that surprises me, every day, 500. kids singing along to songs on commercials