Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

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Life & Faith / Thoughts

This Girl I Know

I have to tell you about this really terrific girl I know. She’s a dear, sweet friend, and we’ve formed a bit of an unexpected friendship while we travel through two very different seasons of our lives…me with my four kids in ‘momland’ and her, living with a great big longing in her heart to be a mama but with no children yet. She loves children, and even though it has not been easy, she has not let her infertility journey rob her of the joy that other people’s children bring to her. Instead of pulling away, she has even pressed further into our sweet friendship as the months have passed and she remains waiting, which has humbled and blessed me in unspeakable ways. Basically, I just want to say in a really public way that Sarah rocks. And not just in the “Sarah is cool” sort of way (but yes, she is very cool)…she rocks my world with her courage, joy, servant-heart, and surrender to God’s plan for her life even though the plan has thus far not seemed to align with her deep longing for a child.

The reason I bring all of this up is that Sarah has also started a new blog and I wanted to share it with ya’ll. She shares about her creative projects, favorite recipes, and her infertility journey. I’m encouraged by her and inspired by her strength and would love for you to check it out if you feel so inclined. Presenting: The Little Dove.

©Solace Arts 2011

Family / Thoughts

Resurfacing

Hello. It’s been a while. I had a few days of introverted quietness last week, followed by a few truly horrible days of illness related to nursing a baby (isolated to mama, right over Mother’s Day). I’ll spare you the details unless you really want them. So no blogging for a long stretch. It’s good to be reminded that I must always hold my plans loosely because things often (or almost always) go differently than I think they will. But I’m back. I think. And I hope to be illness-free for a long time.

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For your amusement, I’ll share these old photos I found on my phone from sometime during the rainy season when all we had to do for fun was stay inside and find dorky ways to busy ourselves. It was probably early November last year, just before A got her glasses (notice the crazy eyes in the last photo?) Yes, we’re totally a walking advertisement for the Dark Knight movie my children have never seen.

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This all started when J made the first face and laid out his own clothes to make the body of the “train track man”. Not sure how that bit of creativity escalated into this. I think we’re just trying to do our part to contribute  to the stereotype that homeschoolers are weird. We are and we love it! I hope you laugh out loud, because I did! What a bunch of sillies.

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Life & Faith / Thoughts

Journey

The words come slow, but I don’t really mind. A lot of things are slow these days, in a certain manner of speaking. Simple. Gritty. Rubbing a pearl right out of the sand, I like to think. An ocean of noise on the outside, but in my little oyster home, a solace. A sanctuary.

I used to think I knew so much. And then I broke into pieces years ago. Humbled by the knocks of life that taught me that I am not invincible. Experiences leading to the choice to feel or to medicate the pain, both with difficult consequences. The road to accept and surrender to what God has given (or has allowed) even though it hurt, or the road to reject those things in favor of denial, self-protection, and start on a quest to find meaning in life apart from God. Not an easy choice when you just want the bleeding to stop. When you know that to surrender means also to suffer…in a way. Suffer through a season to gain a reward that may not be tangible in this life, to grow in character in uncomfortable ways, and emerge on the other side with an entirely different perspective about life.

I chose to feel. To press in. To pray and cry out to God for healing. For mercy. For a future and a hope just like He promised. I chose it over and over again every day for years. Many days with knocking knees and tears down my cheeks, afraid that the light at the end of the tunnel would never come. But still I journeyed. On my face, seeking the Lord for the fullness of His heart. For the calling He has for me. Searching for purpose. Longing for connection. Looking for beauty.

And this is where I am. With light shining all around. Laughter ringing in my ears and in my heart. All the time. Hope near to the tattered soul. A recipient of great mercy, great healing, and great blessing. Looking ahead to the mountains, knowing I will be able to climb each one with His help, even if days ahead are filled again with pain somehow. He has my full confidence.

And I just have to tell you that if you’re there, in the dark place….the hard place…there is hope and healing and wholeness to be found in Jesus. There are no shortcuts on the journey. Not that I know of, anyway. For me, it has been long, slow, and difficult process of yielding. Repeatedly. When I wanted to do anything else but yield. Wanted to run. Wanted to escape. Wanted it to be easier. But I’m discovering that the things that come easy rarely mean as much to us as the ones that come at a high price. I have learned that I cannot see what He sees, but I can see Him. I have learned that burdens are not to be carried alone. And the greatest gifts in the world, the ones that He gives, come dressed in the most unexpected ways.

 

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Life & Faith / Thoughts

Flowers and a May Day Message for You

http://solacearts.com

You are lovely just the way you are. You don’t have to dress up or down. You don’t have to fake a smile when your heart is a mess. You don’t have to be strong, or act smart, or put on beauty with outer things. Who you are, the whole you, the imperfect you. The quirky, silly, fun-loving you. The anxious, wounded, fearful you. All of it is beautiful, valuable, and worthy of love. So as love knocks on your heart today, whispering words that you ache to hear, fling the door open wide and welcome Him in. You are precious to Him. Yes. You. Are. And if you are feeling low, or stressed, or tired, or hurt….open up your hands and let Him take your burden and give you His peace and joy.

And if you need someone with skin on to talk to, I am here. Happy May Day.

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Thoughts

Start a Blog

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Maybe you’ve thought about starting a blog before, but you came up with a nice list of excuses why you shouldn’t. Yeah, there are a lot of blogs out there. If you start one, you’ll just be adding to the noise, right? You’ll totally run out of things to blog about. Or people will snooze right through what you share. Or you won’t be able to compete with other blogs out there.

Of course, different blogs exist for different reasons. Some are marketing engines. Some are public personal journals. Some are helpful guides in an area of expertise. Some are alternative sources of income. And if you want to start a blog, it is helpful to know what your goals are and what steps you can take toward that end. But I’m willing to bet that there are probably a few people out there who have thought about starting a blog and haven’t jumped in for silly reasons.

I have to say, there are a few people who I can think of that I know have wisdom and insight, funny life experiences, great creative ideas, knowledge in niche areas and no blog on which to share any of the above with the rest of us. Tragic, don’t you think? You absolutely never know who might stumble across your blog at just the right moment to read something that totally helps them, encourages them, inspires them. You can be a blessing to people you have never met! I’ve received a few really special notes lately about this new young blog, and each one encourages me to keep moving forward (thanks for your support, friends!). But if you don’t start sharing, none of those things can happen.

If you’ve had a passing thought to start a blog, I just want to say (from my humble vantage point) I’m totally interested in reading what you have to write. There is no one else like you, and no one else has your unique perspective, and what you have to add to the blogosphere is totally valuable, just like you are. My favorite blogs are the honest, unpolished ones that have real people telling their real stories.

And friends, if you need me to call you out by name and give you a nudge (or a hard time), I can totally do that. And if you have a blog already that I don’t know about, now would be a good time to fess up and send me the URL. That is all.

P.S. If you do want to start a blog and don’t know where to start, I’m glad to help point you in the right direction. Just send me a note! 🙂

 

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Rain

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Restlessness. Angst. Worry. Disappointment. I feel myself pull away from everything and turn inward. I get easily irritated with my kids and let the reigns go on the plans for the day. I check out. I can’t put my finger on what is wrong with me, but I also can’t seem to take in a therapeutic deep breath without feeling like I’m taking in water instead. I flail. I search for hope. For a quiet in my soul. I remember that today is a gift, even with all its troubles…acknowledging that my troubles are quite small even if at moments they feel big to me.

I learn of a mother that labored to welcome a baby sleeping, and the few hours she had with him dead in her arms are all she has for a lifetime. I promise myself to hug mine as often as I think of it and thank God again and again for the little ones in my care. I hear of a young man who should be in his prime years of life, enjoying his wife and dreaming big (as he was doing not more than a year ago) who is now fighting for his life against a rare and aggressive cancer with hospice at his home and death at his door. I feel sad for what cancer takes from one…from all. I weep for the aches, the pains, the uncertainties of many.

I long for Jesus. For the healing He brings to the broken and the hope He offers to the hurting. For the strength He gives to the weak. The strength He gives to me.

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Boston

http://solacearts.com

I’ve been searching for words all afternoon. Not sure I’ve found them. Except to say that you can bet I am and will be praying for those in Boston and beyond who are feeling the deep impact of an event of this magnitude. I think of the terrible injuries, physical and emotional, sustained by people and families and hearts that want to be full of faith for a world marked more by love than hate, but instead they feel doubt, fear, and anger closing in. I am familiar with the internal struggle in the aftermath of tragic events, which can be a struggle even (or especially) for those of us who were not there but imagine what else could go wrong in the world around us. I’m sure that more than one person I know will be falling asleep with heaps of questions and worries on the mind.

It is hard to understand why things like this happen. Clearly it takes forethought, planning, and execution to accomplish something like this, and it makes me uncomfortable to think about how misguided one (or many) could be to craft such a scheme. A plot to attack people gathered to cheer on a time-honored physical demonstration of the enduring spirit of humanity. What a low blow.

I guess I want to speak to the worriers (like me)…the ones who wonder what tragedy is waiting just around the corner to leap out and catch us by the throat. Awful things do happen too often. That’s true. But we cannot live ruled by fear, or even by anger…there is no freedom in either of those. Freedom can only be found choosing to be not afraid…to waste no energy on the doom of the future and spend all that we have loving, sharing, uplifting, and overcoming today’s troubles together. Freedom is found in opening our hands to receive supernatural strength, enduring faith, and unending love from God so that we can share all of those things with others in times of need. Without Him, all we have are eyes that only see the shadows, wings that are broken, and hearts that are faint.

Life & Faith / Thoughts

When Goodbyes Come

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Dear friends from my childhood said goodbye to their father/husband in the wee hours of the night last night. His name was Bill, and he was a really special guy. I haven’t seen him in years myself, having moved away from my hometown and been on the move ever since, but I can hear his warm, deep voice, “Well hey there, Miss Em!” resonate throughout my heart with the little twang at the end of his phrases. I have such fond memories of much time spent with Bill and his family in my young life. My dad and Bill used to be fishing buddies, and from the time I was really young, I went along on trips and grew accustomed to catching 5-7lb rainbow trout out of their favorite fishing spot. He was a no-nonsense, hard-working, deeply loving man who invested a lot in my family, for which I am very grateful.

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Because I know so many  dear friends and loved-ones are mourning his passing, I wanted to pay a small tribute to a great man. I hold the memories dear and will not forget the adventurous, genuine spirit of our dear Bill. Much love to those who need it today. May the Lord be near to you in your grief.

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Life & Faith / Motherhood / Thoughts

Home

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This sign sits on my desk. I’ll confess that it is often buried under the piles that accumulate in my workspace, but I re-discover it every few days weeks when I clear down the mess and I love the small reminder that it is to me to be intentional about the environment I create in my home. It has taken me quite a few years as a married and mothering woman to get a handle on what I can practically do to bless my family each day. I’m not naturally gifted at home decor, organization, or really anything in the realm of domesticity, which is something that I’ve learned to accept about myself and also look for ways to improve.

A few years back, it dawned on me that our home was in haphazard disarray. Truthfully before then, I didn’t notice it one bit. I was too busy sorting out issues of the heart and adding children to the family to worry about a pile of laundry (or…umm…several piles of laundry), cluttery piles and unkept beds. There were no systems for anything around here. I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I had one, then two, then three children. It was a really hard season. Not until #4 arrived did I start to find myself seeing clearer and breathing in grace.

A few things have happened that started changing my world…the details of which are too many to share in this moment, although I may share soon. The short version of the story is that I went (or am going through) a personal transformation that has changed my whole perspective about who I am, what I’m here to do, and how I am to do it. And to start, I’m to let go of worry. When worry is close, faith is far. So much of my time was spent worrying and wasting all kinds of energy on things that are not the most important things. What is most important right now? My attitude. More specifically, my attitude toward my home and family.

I think about how much my attitude influences my children, and even my husband. When I’m cheerful, willing, and diligent, I find all of them are also more cheerful and responsive to me. Do you know what a gift it is to have responsive children? They’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. We have squabbles and epic messes and challenging days like any other family. But I know they hear my words, and very often, they listen closely because I am taking the time to be more thoughtful about how I speak, teach, correct and demonstrate. I think about how this home is the beginning of their story, and how desperately I want their story to start well…their hearts to start whole, full of love and wonder, and for wisdom to take root in their lives. I feel the weight of responsibility to do everything I can to sow those seeds.

The household stuff is still a major struggle for me. Every time I rally to organize a corner or a closet, I feel like I should have a cheer squad there, whistles and hollers, and a nice colorful ribbon at the end to celebrate my victory…but the ‘can-do’ attitude it takes to jump in and do what needs to be done each day with a joyful heart is coming easier with practice.

 

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Hugs

The children spend all day imagining other worlds, playing out stories, and synthesizing a nonsensical beauty out of the most unlikely objects. They’re about my feet as I do my household tasks, and I get such a unique look into their individual personalities, weaknesses, and strengths. Inevitably, usually in the afternoon, a child comes in search of hugs and snuggles, and I’m happy to oblige. It occurs to me how very blessed I am to be surrounded by the love of my children.

Before we were married, my now-husband and I had our share of petty arguments, the worst of which was over a chicken nugget. Ridiculous, I know. But when you’re young and you don’t know how to let go of unimportant things, you pick a random thing to blow way out of proportion and fight about for hours. And I’m willing to bet most couples have at least one argument about  a completely stupid thing. Anyway, I digress. I had this great knack for choosing an unimportant issue and wrapping up all my anger, pain, and fears from past circumstances that really had nothing to do with our present disagreement, and when we got to it, I could really unleash a furious bundle of crazy on my sweetheart. More than once, when he didn’t know quite what to do, he would just wrap his arms around me and hold me in a tight hug while I fought him and cried and stomped my feet in protest. He just held on, firm but tender, until I worked it out. I fell in love with his ability to disarm me…to meet me in my heartaches and tantrums and just be there with me until I was through…in a hug that reminded me of his love, his patience, and his willingness to journey through my emotional baggage.

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Over the years, I’ve watched friends in different situations, braving the storms of their lives with courage and bravado on the outside, only to realize that my unmarried friend in the middle of grad school, and my mom-friend going through a tough divorce, and my own amazing mama go for weeks or months on end without a real hug that whispers love and reminds them of how infinitely valuable they are. I’ve come to believe that a hug can go a long way for someone who has been feeling very alone. It can bring comfort where comfort is sorely needed. For cancer-mamas who worry about whether their children will live. For working mamas who spend every ounce of energy they have to be a superhero to all and stay-at-home mamas in the trenches who are at risk for forgetting what it is like to be a woman not covered in snot, spit up, and poop. For women who have longed for a baby but whose arms are still empty. It’s great to smile at people to brighten their day, but a smile is cheap compared to a hug. A hug costs something…not money, but courage to step over the invisible barrier that keeps us all safely inside our own comfort zones, to say “I am really here for you, even in the mess.” And even if the people around you look put-together, you just never know what someone is really going through in their private life.

If you’re in a tough season, I want to send out a virtual hug. If you live close, I’m good for a real hug any ol’ time. And if you are someone who just wants to encourage someone else, find someone to hug today! You might just bring encouragement to them at just the right time.

Has there ever been a time when an unexpected hug has impacted you?