Thoughts

What is Soulful Simplicity?

This is day 2 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October! If you missed the first post in the series, you can check it out here. Thanks for taking the time to spend a few minutes here.

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You get up every day. You go all the places, do all the things, chase all the kids, make all the meals, sort all the laundry…and drop into bed every night, depleted, exhausted, and wishing that there were some way to actually recharge or refresh in time for the rat race that will begin again tomorrow. True rest is what you long for, but you are resigned to the fact that it just won’t happen like that. You know you will wake up tired, and you will begin a new day with a mostly empty tank, wishing for relief that never seems to come in a satisfactory way.

I know way too many people who operate on mostly empty far too much of the time. I was one of those people for a number of years, and I was well acquainted with eyes that watered often because they were just so tired. Even more than my physical exhaustion, my soul was curled in around itself, deeply burdened with anxiety, fear, and the wounds I carried with me, keeping me preoccupied with trying to keep my head above water—desperate for rest that I couldn’t find anywhere. My home outwardly reflected my inner struggle, and just like I couldn’t seem to get past the hard inner things, it was extremely difficult for me to feel like I was making any progress in the basic household areas either.

I have come to believe that there is no space—home space or heart space—that is completely unaffected by the things that are hidden away in forgotten corners or buried deep in closets you don’t want anyone to open. Clutter (spiritual or physical) is never a static entity. It is a sly fox, an irreverent foe that actively hinders you from experiencing freedom, peace, and rest—succeeding largely because most people perceive clutter to be a benign thing, instead of a formidable force that works against our peace. Clutter, in all its forms, provides a constant low-grade resistance to our ability to move forward. If it feels like your life is working against you, it very well might be.

Some things need to be carried (and I am not saying that even a simplified life isn’t a lot of work), but the weight of what you carry needlessly (or store or manage or shuffle around) robs you of time. It steals away the lightness of your spirit and weighs you down, making everything in your life more discouraging than it was ever intended to be. I’m talking about the clutter around your house, and the emotional baggage in your soul.

For many people, simplicity is about physical spaces being tidy, about homes being sparsely decorated and nicely designed, or it might be about having an open calendar or living successfully on a frugal budget. All of these can be true, but I would assert that they are an incomplete picture of what soulful simplicity really is.

It is the thoughtful, intentional allocation of your time and attention to whatever you are responsible for, but soulful simplicity also encompasses deeper, intangible things that affect the outer, visible things in life. It speaks of the structure and the strength at the core of your existence. It is a methodical process of clearing away everything extra (inside your heart, and inside your home), eliminating whatever is unnecessary so you can see clearly what has been left untended that needs to be dealt with in order for you to find true rest.

In Matthew 11, verses 28-30 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Everything I have learned about soulful simplicity is born out of this invitation that Jesus offers to anyone who will listen. Soulful simplicity is an invitation to recognize that the time and attention you give to any task or endeavor is a valuable commodity that should not be tossed around haphazardly. Without an effort to hold space for the most important things in life, essential things can be quickly overrun by other demands and distractions at a cost that many people sorely underestimate.

Living deep in clutter and emotional baggage is something like living in the weeds. Many people spend all their energy trying to chop the top off the weeds. Pursuing true, deep-hearted simplicity helps you to pull the weeds out by the roots and begin unearthing the riches of abundant life in God, recognizing that you can actually do something about the cycle of over-stuffed, over-filled, overwhelmed life you have.

The pursuit of soulful simplicity means that I examine closely every aspect of my life in order to make deliberate decisions about what I give my energy to. 

It is a perspective, a filter through which I strain everything that flows through my life, so that debris that doesn’t belong or isn’t helping me, is weeded out. Simplicity is a deep inward journey toward wholeness that turns itself outward, and within time has made my home a place of sanctuary and my family relationships ripe for peace, connection, rest and adventure.

“The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

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An Invitation

Welcome to 31 days of Soulful Simplicity! I am eager to share this series with you. Thanks for taking the time to spend a few minutes here.

Let me start by saying: simple is not the same as easy. Simplicity is a sneaky, upside-down concept that might surprise you as you break it open. On one hand, it can be a straightforward idea—but I would be willing to bet that you haven’t quite seen what simplicity is really capable of.

Simplicity will absolutely wreck your life.

It has wrecked mine in the very best way, and that is precisely why I’m here to warn you invite you along on that same journey. I am writing this series on soulful simplicity not because I am an expert at it, but because I have been a student of simplicity for some years now, and have discovered that anyone who will engage in the pursuit of soulful simplicity will find themselves on the way to (or in the midst of) a beautifully abundant life. That is my prayer for you.

Soulful simplicity is not just about having less and doing less for the sake of having less and doing less. It is not about merely conquering clutter or implementing slick systems to make everything in your life efficient (although those can be excellent). Soulful simplicity is about pausing, evaluating the status of your heart and the condition of your home, to intentionally make space for what will give you life, joy, and freedom.

Remember I said at the beginning simple is not the same as easy? If I can be real for a moment, pursuing simplicity can be fairly uncomfortable at times. It requires courage and honesty to look closely at our hearts and our homes in order to discern what is necessary, helpful, and worthwhile…a process that sometimes shines a light in places we would rather not see. The journey also requires patience, tenacity, and sometimes a bit of heavy lifting to get the (physical or spiritual) junk out. You will be asked to make tough decisions, and there can be a number of big feelings on board for the ride, but having experienced the beauty of a soulfully-simplified life, I have to say, I find it to be worth the trouble. If you decide to dip your toes into this incredibly rewarding (but sometimes uncomfortable) pursuit, please know that I am here for you–to encourage, pray, listen, or offer ideas.

It’s a journey. I am still in process myself, but I’m also full of hope that if I can share with you some of the insights I’ve gained along the way— you might also experience the peace I have come to know, you might become well-acquainted with rest, you might find relief from stress and worry, and you might find your aching places restored to wholeness. This is the unexpected, beautiful way that the pursuit of soulful simplicity has wrecked my previously frenetic, exhausting life.

The practice of soulful simplicity is a daily intention to clear away whatever is unnecessary to make room for what is lovely and life-giving.

If you are longing for deep and abiding peace within your soul, if you are in search of a way of living that allows you freedom from a busy, over-stuffed schedule, if you are eager to leave behind the loud, busy, stress-filled life for true rest and a lightness of heart, consider this series an invitation to discover or re-discover intentional and practical ways to establish habits of soulful simplicity. Thanks for being here.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

*Find all the posts in this series here.

An Invitation

Welcome to 31 days of Soulful Simplicity! I am eager to share this series with you. Thanks for taking the time to spend a few minutes here.

Let me start by saying: simple is not the same as easy. Simplicity is a sneaky, upside-down concept that might surprise you as you break it open. On one hand, it can be a straightforward idea—but I would be willing to bet that you haven’t quite seen what simplicity is really capable of.

Simplicity will absolutely wreck your life.

It has wrecked mine in the very best way, and that is precisely why I’m here to warn you invite you along on that same journey. I am writing this series on soulful simplicity not because I am an expert at it, but because I have been a student of simplicity for some years now, and have discovered that anyone who will engage in the pursuit of soulful simplicity will find themselves on the way to (or in the midst of) a beautifully abundant life. That is my prayer for you.

Soulful simplicity is not just about having less and doing less for the sake of having less and doing less. It is not about merely conquering clutter or implementing slick systems to make everything in your life efficient (although those can be excellent). Soulful simplicity is about pausing, evaluating the status of your heart and the condition of your home, to intentionally make space for what will give you life, joy, and freedom.

Remember I said at the beginning simple is not the same as easy? If I can be real for a moment, pursuing simplicity can be fairly uncomfortable at times. It requires courage and honesty to look closely at our hearts and our homes in order to discern what is necessary, helpful, and worthwhile…a process that sometimes shines a light in places we would rather not see. The journey also requires patience, tenacity, and sometimes a bit of heavy lifting to get the (physical or spiritual) junk out. You will be asked to make tough decisions, and there can be a number of big feelings on board for the ride, but having experienced the beauty of a soulfully-simplified life, I have to say, I find it to be worth the trouble. If you decide to dip your toes into this incredibly rewarding (but sometimes uncomfortable) pursuit, please know that I am here for you–to encourage, pray, listen, or offer ideas.

It’s a journey. I am still in process myself, but I’m also full of hope that if I can share with you some of the insights I’ve gained along the way— you might also experience the peace I have come to know, you might become well-acquainted with rest, you might find relief from stress and worry, and you might find your aching places restored to wholeness. This is the unexpected, beautiful way that the pursuit of soulful simplicity has wrecked my previously frenetic, exhausting life.

The practice of soulful simplicity is a daily intention to clear away whatever is unnecessary to make room for what is lovely and life-giving.

If you are longing for deep and abiding peace within your soul, if you are in search of a way of living that allows you freedom from a busy, over-stuffed schedule, if you are eager to leave behind the loud, busy, stress-filled life for true rest and a lightness of heart, consider this series an invitation to discover or re-discover intentional and practical ways to establish habits of soulful simplicity. Thanks for being here.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

*Find all the posts in this series here.

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. 

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.

August 

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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.

December

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.

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“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

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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

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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

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

January

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.

February 

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.

March

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.

April 

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.

May
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.

June

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

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“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

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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

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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

Leaves and Bumps

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 42/52

October will soon come to a close and the holiday season will be upon us. I’m a little bit excited about it. We had a long drive this weekend, and my husband and I planned out our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in detail. You know, so we can be prepared and all. It was actually his idea, which I thought was a little funny since he’s the Christmas music nazi that doesn’t want the holiday tunes playing until after Thanksgiving. We won’t tell him that we have already been listening to our favorite songs a few times a week since the beginning of October.

I am excited for November because: Thanksgiving. Not just the food, but also the way everyone starts to get all reflective about the things they are thankful for. I secretly love the Facebook posts that list people’s gratitude lists, and the general pause that comes with becoming still enough to recognize what has whizzed by this previous year. I’ll probably be in that space myself, even more than I usually am. I love seeing all the people who get serious about NaNoWriMo and write their hearts out. I don’t write novels, but I do think I’ll try and join in the push for focused writing effort in November, perhaps resurrecting my abandoned writing goal this year which was to write 10,000 words a week. I have the ideas stored up in my heart, but we’ll see if I have the time or discipline to write them out.

People have asked about our pregnancy, and it’s going very well. Nothing major to report, other than the little guy seems healthy and is getting more active by the day. I have enjoyed a tremendously energetic 2nd trimester (barely feeling pregnant) but I’m starting to feel the aches and discomforts that come with sharing one’s body space with another (growing) human. I have to attribute my energy and gusto to the walking I’ve been able to keep up on since the beginning of the year. This week, I surpassed the 500th mile for the year (I started tracking in January) which feels a little bit like a giant accomplishment for me. I’ve been on a health journey for a long while, but this year has been the first that I have been able to diligently and consistently get myself moving. I have offered every excuse over the years for why I couldn’t/didn’t/didn’t want to exercise…depression, busy with too many toddlers, pregnant, no time, etc….its all hogwash friends. You can’t afford to neglect your own body while you tend to all the other things. One day, when all those other things are a distant memory, you’ll still have your body – in whatever condition it is in by that time. It’s worth it to make time. You are worth it. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, find a way to make it happen. I don’t think I even realized how unwell I felt back then, but I’m converted. I have gained only a fraction of the weight I typically gain by this stage of pregnancy, and my life is more full, more busy, and more ‘interesting’ than it has been in any previous season. So put the excuses out with the trash, look in the mirror at your beautiful face, figure out what you can do to get moving, and then do it. I will cheer for you.

Our new little man, safe in his cozy spot, at 23 weeks.

“I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

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Update on run/walk goal for week 42 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 12.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 501.5mi in 2015

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1071. surpassing 500 miles traveled on foot (with purpose) for the year, 1072. weekend getaway, 1073. growing and kicking baby, 1074. box of apples, 1075. where hair-brained ideas lead, 1076. yummy chicken salad sandwiches on the road, 1077. planning out some new ideas for improving our household organization & spaces, 1078. pink puppy, 1079. new little girl boots, 1080. party plans for halloween with friends

Top 10 things I don’t do well…

1 – Plan Parties/Celebrations – So, I have to start out with this at the top of the list because the whole reason I thought to do this post is because of a blog entry I wrote nearly 2 years ago that I never published but happened to re-discover in my drafts folder this week. In the post, I mentioned that ‘planning kid birthday parties is probably in my list of Top 10 things I don’t do well’. That got me thinking about what things would really be on that list if I made one, so here you go: a slightly silly, but partly serious look at my weaknesses. I can make a kid party happen, but it is never a thing of beauty or Pinterest-worthy details. I can do all the purely practical things. I can make food for dozens, put dates on the calendar and communicate to the invited, but I am not a decorator, I loathe kid-party games, and even though my kids are so grateful for whatever fun we cook up, I spend the entire party feeling stressed out. I have been seeking to do better in this area and enjoy the process, but it is still not one of my strengths. We have a certain pal turning 6 years old in our house this week, and this year, to cope with my party-execution disability, I have outsourced the lego-madness/party activities to daddy. Bless the man.

2 – Follow Rules – The very presence of a rule makes me want to challenge it. Now, to be fair, I am a fairly straight-laced girl and I follow plenty of rules if I understand the benefit of them, but telling me I have to (or can’t) do something without giving me a reasonable explanation of why or why not will only make me push back and investigate a little deeper. I think this can be both a strength and a weakness because some ‘rules’ deserve to be challenged, and I think it is important to understand why we do or don’t do (or should/shouldn’t do) certain things as we navigate life, but that does sometimes get me into trouble.

3 – Follow Recipes – This goes right along with the following rules thing. I love recipes. I consult them and glean what I want from them, but I do not execute them. I really dislike step-by-step instructions for most things. I like figuring out stuff, and charting my own path to a destination. When I’m in the kitchen, I like to experiment and combine and detour from recipes and make my own creations (re: messes). This results in many failed attempts at (mostly baking) endeavors, but I have to say, I learn something new every time I flop.

4 – Rest – I’m convinced I don’t really know how to do this well. Now, I have a love for simplicity and have put a lot of energy in simplifying my life in all areas over the past few years, so I don’t feel like I’m in desperate need of rest from running ragged–but give me some open time and no responsibility, and I promise you I will find something productive (i.e., not restful) to do. I read books, but most often do so while walking on the treadmill. I write to pour out my soul, but it most often happens between unloading dishes, running toddler-terrorism interference, and cooking another meal. I study the bible, and fit in my lessons while I’m managing lights-out with 5 kids, which is no sedentary job. I usually only really rest once I’ve crashed after a long week and have no other choice because my body shuts down. Although, I do sleep awesomely for about 7 hours each night, which is a total gift because I might not otherwise make it through the daytimes.

5 – Let Things Go – I stew and think and mull and wrestle with literally everything that goes through my mind. There is not much that slips through without a good mull-over. I am always seeking to grow in wisdom and love, and I feel everything I experience right down deep into my bones. Good things. But when its time to let go of a season or a friend or a situation, the whole process of those things feels like tearing/stretching/torture to me. It’s because I care a lot, and because saying goodbye to things feels like a deep loss, every time, even if it is a good thing at the right time. I am learning to accept that about myself, but I’d love to be more (immediately) resilient when it’s possible.

6 – Clean House – It’s a deep shame, if I’m honest. It’s also the area I work harder at than any other thing in my life. The combo of my creative, always-turning brain, and my giant load of ‘helpers’ (re: also creative brains that make lots of messes) make it a losing recipe for me. I strive for peace, health, simplicity, and organization in our collective space, but truthfully, it is an area that causes me a lot of grief. People who keep minimal, tidy spaces are fascinating to me and I honestly cannot figure out how they do it. I can only hope and pray they will love me anyway, and not judge me in my weakness. I am learning, and I’m attempting to pass on some sense of orderliness to my children, but every bit of success in this area is hard-won.

7 – Have Fun – I’m a serious soul. I’m not a fun friend. I totally know it, and I’m mostly ok with it. I’ve made some truly awesome friends over the years who draw me out and make me have some fun, but its not what I’m good at all by myself, I admit. However, if you have an emergency, a problem to work through, a broken heart, or a need to blubber out your worries, I am totally your girl. As weird as it sounds, I actually love being that girl.

8 – Say No To Sugar – It’s a thing, I admit. Sugar is my thing. Makes sense. It’s in everything, everywhere, and every bite is so gratifying. I have come a long way, learning about what will really nourish my body, and choosing those things over the other things. I find it a little easier during pregnancy to make healthful choices, since it is for the baby’s benefit as well, but sugar remains a total weakness. For the record, ice cream, donuts, and other forms of dessert are currently banned at my house. We’re going for the fruit-for-dessert these days! Still sugar, but the kind that is straight from nature. MMMmm.

9 – Take Vitamins/Swallow Pills – I’m just not good at this. I try my best during early pregnancy to take prenatal vitamins, but I am not always successful. I avoid taking pills for any other reason whenever possible. Honestly, if its between taking tylenol and any other option to fix a temporary condition, I will choose the other option. Not to mention that sometimes I actually can’t get a pill down without a rather comical production.

10 – Watch Movies – If it’s not a kid-flick, or its not 10+ years old, chances are, I haven’t seen it. I don’t have time (or take time) to watch many movies these days. I’ve found that it is a rare movie that really captures my attention, and given a 2-3 hour window of time with nothing else to do, seeing a movie is not high on my list. That said, I do have some die-hard favorites that have enriched my life in many ways, so I am not against movies, I am just a bit out of touch. My watch again-and-again favorites include: Life is Beautiful (Italian version), Dan in Real Life, Anne of Green Gables, The Man from Snowy River, What About Bob…like I said. Old ones…old ones I haven’t watched in several years! If you have some recommendations for entertaining, heart-warming, or thought-provoking flicks, I’m open to suggestions!

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62: 1-2

1051. lavender soap, 1052. long, comfy dress, 1053. baby turns, 1054. new math-plan, 1055. made-ahead dinner, 1056. new thrifted costumes for all, 1057. tv-free days, 1058. the girl making paper feathers, 1059. “ominic” 1060. grace

Real Talk: An Invitation

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 40/52

I sat with a friend at a coffee shop recently, talking about ideas and real life and such. It was dark outside with some wind and rain, but warm inside with a chocolate-dipped cookie and ideas bouncing back and forth about this and that. This blog has been on my mind lately. It has become a space that is representative of a small portion of my personal journey…ordinary life, quest for truth and understanding, a chronicle of my journey toward self-discipline and health, and some rumination on the beauty of this season of life. I have committed to myself to show up at least once each week, with the photo of the kids together and some bits of what we have going on or what is on my mind. For the most part, I have done that fairly well. The whimsy of it all probably fits the time we’re in, and what lands here may be just as whimsical going forward, but…

In an effort to be intentional about everything that I give my attention to, I have realized that there are a lot of things that I just don’t share here. I think some kinds of sharing come easily for me (hello deep-heart-of-the-ocean-land), and some take a little more effort.  My desire is to share honestly about our adventures and challenges as a family and encourage others on the motherhood (or parenting) journey. While I feel like my life is an open book, I don’t always know what would be of interest here in this space, or be helpful for others to know about our lives. I do receive questions from friends, on occasion, and I would love to move toward sharing some of my answers to those questions in a more public way, in case they are helpful to others.

So, I would love to invite you to provide some input about what you might like to read about here in this space. I’m ready to put a little more form to what I write here, and learning what you would like to know about, or see more of, will help me march forward with intention in that pursuit. I have a short list of ideas that I brainstormed with my friend, but I’d like to know from you what you think would be helpful/interesting/encouraging to read about. Ask me anything! Tell me what topics you’d love to see here. Some things to get your wheels turning: more on my health journey, homeschool and what that looks like for us, helps/thoughts for mamas of littles, practical life stuff with a big family, meal planning, parenting challenges/victories, pregnancy, marriage and family, overcoming depression, crafting/creativity, photography, devotional thoughts, more prayer guides (and if this, what topics?)…What are you curious about? What have you found helpful or encouraging that I could write more of? I invite you to give your input. Feel free to email me (or if you happen to be a fb friend, a quick message will do) —  lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com — if you have any questions to ask (for yourself, or questions you think others might benefit from answers to) or input to give! Thanks so much.

How precious is Your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings. You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights. For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” Psalm 36:5-9 NLT

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Update on run/walk goal for week 40 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 14 Run/Walk miles traveled, 476.5mi in 2015

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1041. new fancy pencil sharpener, 1042. daddy home from a week away, 1043. beach adventures, 1044. oranges for dessert, 1045. caring friends, 1046. covalent molecule-building, 1047. quick-to-forgive hearts, 1048. community bible study, 1049. early bedtimes for mama, 1050. costco run by myself (a rare occurrence)

Injustice

I don’t often write about current events. It takes me time to process what I see going on out there, and because I purpose to do my best to speak hope, to live love, and to encourage others, I find it difficult to respond to much of what is going on in the world in such a manner. I am deeply disturbed by the many stories I hear of violence, injustice, and a general disregard for for human life.  I lose sleep over these stories. Some days I cannot function because of my anger and grief on behalf of those who have been wronged. On some days, paralyzing what-ifs and terrorizing fears hold me at the throat.

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What I find especially sad today is that for some people, many people, life is not about what-ifs and fears. It is about devastating loss, real injustice, and clear dangers that they cannot escape on their own. We live in societies with systems and structures that do not reflect value for all human life, because behind the systems and structures there are real people who either have no respect for life, or they hang back and watch the systems run and with inaction and silence, thereby passively condoning the injustice.

We promote oppression with attitudes and responses that diminish the pain and plight of others. We speculate. We justify. We stereotype. We hide. We close our eyes and ears to reality because the mess is so big, we can’t bear to acknowledge it. We don’t want to be responsible for doing something about it. I understand. I feel overwhelmed too. I’m a nobody. What can I do?

Can we open our eyes (or even better, our hearts) to the oppressed? Can we acknowledge that we are part of systems that oppress other people, even if we ourselves do not mean to harm anyone? Can we start talking about how to connect with the people around us, to hear their stories and struggles no matter how different they might be from us, and seek understanding? Seek real solutions? Can we be honest about our own fears and attitudes and how they keep us from loving others? Can we seek to live out love instead of just debating issues and taking sides in a useless war of words that help no one? Can we acknowledge our ignorance?

Somewhere along the line, calling someone ignorant became derogatory. The word simply means, “to have a lack of knowledge or information.” If we’re honest, can we acknowledge that every one of us is ignorant about something (probably many things)? Can we own that we often see (and align ourselves) with only one side of a story, which is a lot easier to do when we refuse to listen to other perspectives, often out of self-preservation? One side of anything is not the whole reality, and in some cases, is not reality at all for those who are directly involved in a situation.

We have to learn to listen to each other. We have to care about the long-term effects of the attitudes we cultivate, and we have to care about the things we teach our children, both by what we say and how we live. We have to know that we passively participate in injustice if we do not actively seek to end it by choosing love first and always, sometimes at a great cost to ourselves. We have to value every human life; the unborn, elderly, black, white, homosexual, heterosexual, married, single, divorced, rich, poor, housed, homeless, male, female, sick, healthy, and every other category that exists.

To those who carry deep wounds because no one has taken the time to hear your story, to walk beside you, and love you with more than words, I am sorry. I am sorry for the times I have missed those opportunities because I was busy, ignorant, or selfish.

You matter. Your story matters.

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5

 

Christmas Thoughts

Fog falls heavy and hard on the soul and I can’t make sense of how things can be so carefree in one moment only to feel completely frustrating in the next. Twists and turns of unexpected and frantic searching for the peace that is supposed to be here this time of year but feels more absent than usual.

There is no crisis, except one in my own heart, at the place where I couldn’t grasp and hold and control all that I wanted the days of December to be. I wanted laughter and meaning and the weightlessness of a perfectly beautiful season suspended in time and memory for the years to come. Instead I was met with the paradox of beauty found in the miry, desperate place…beauty that is missed when we make glossy the things born out of hardship.

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I thought for sure, being rather pregnant this Christmas season, that I would feel drawn to the story of Mary, carrying child in the expectation and uncertainty of what is to come, but that has not been the case. I still look and feel very pregnant, but my heart has identified most closely with the helplessness, the smallness, and the humility of baby Jesus. I have been pounded from all sides with struggles and sadness that derailed all my great plans for a carefree Advent, and while I have felt not-at-all comfortable in my moments of struggle, I do see how each one has given me a way to glimpse into the truest beauty of the of the Nativity…the gifts that come in unexpected packages, in unexpected places, but also with intention and purpose.

This month I have been truly humbled. Not the kind of humility the ego aspires to…that brand of humility that makes one appear noble or selfless when they really may not be under the surface. But the humility that rubs against tender places, the humility that hurts and costs more than maybe we thought at first glance, but also produces fruitfulness that would never be possible if we didn’t journey through seasons that put us in touch with the dirt, our faces in it, with mud made from our tears of lament and loss. It’s only in the dirt the seed can germinate, and yet, I do my best to resist going there until I have no other choice and am dropped right down in it.

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It seems like at Christmas, we want to make everything merry and bright and totally forget the ways the heart hurts and the soul struggles. But wounds are real, and acknowledging our struggles does not take anything away from the beauty of the Christmas story…if anything, it makes the story of the coming of Jesus as a helpless babe, entering into filth and humanity, all because of His great love for us…all the more beautiful. You can’t convince me that the Nativity was a scene of an immaculately kept barn, a warm and picturesque place of birth with angels singing and animals gathered round and an effortless arrival of a newborn child. I know way too much about natural childbirth to believe that. In the moments leading up, I imagine it was cold, dark, dirty, and desperate…which makes me feel just a bit better that this month for me has been anything but picturesque. It’s ok. The upside-down Christmas is maybe the truest one…The King of Glory surprising everyone and coming in the lowest way imaginable, not as a conquering King, but as a humble one, showing us even from the first moments of His life on earth that our journey with Him will be messy beautiful and not always perfectly merry and bright.

And so, I guess I wish you a messy Christmas…one that is hopefully merry and joyful and filled with magic, but more than pinterest-perfect, I hope it is full of deep meaning, connection with God and the ones you love, and marked by perseverance through your own struggles and trials with the promise that out of humble places come the greatest gifts.

http://solacearts.com