The Grace of Absence

I’ve been pretty absent around here. I’ve written post after post to explain why. But I never hit publish. Something was always missing. 

So here I am. Months since last sharing. Months since my last monthly look back. Months since naming a season.

And the longer I’ve been away, the harder it’s been to come back. Because I should feel bad for all the things I haven’t shared here. 

But instead, I feel joy at the time I’ve spent reading with my little ones. Sitting with them. …Even the time I’ve spent washing clothes and dishes. 

Because friends, it’s been a long four months. A season of late nights and work on the weekends for my husband. A looooong “busy season.”

And instead of feeling that weight and over committing myself, I’ve followed after what God set before me and let go of the rest. 

I nurtured my family. I cared for them. 

I worked on myself. I continued reading my Bible and re-read the New Testament. And have completely fallen in love with it. 

I cared for our home. I’ve organized and sorted. Marveled after how much the children have grown. Organized donations. Cleaned and tidied. 

I enjoyed reuniting with neighbors as spring weather came upon us. 

I traveled. Celebrated my husband’s birthday, rejoiced with a friend getting married, attended a women’s conference, saw friends and family, and learned about other cultures while serving women. 



I planted our garden. Trimmed back spring growth. I pulled weeds and planted new flowers. 

I continued my practice of daily gratitude. And realized that it has not only changed my heart, my perspective, but my behavior as well. 

I volunteered at the kids schools. Bug day. Check. (So wish I was joking about that one.) Valentine Party. Check. And I attended even more events. Mothers Day tea. Check. Open house. Check. Book fair. Check. 

We took a family vacation. We shared close quarters. Packed light. And enjoyed ice cream outside every day. 

But most of all, I’ve had fun. I’ve laughed and cuddled. I’ve taught new responsibilities. And I’ve watched my little ones flourish and grow.

How was your May (and March and April)? Mine was/were pretty wonderful. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for regular pictures, updates, and maybe even a little inspiration. 

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A Letter to All Those Boycotting Target…From Your Friend

Oh dear friends. I am going to be honest. 

My heart is hurting. It’s broken for this world. It’s sin. It’s fallen-ness. It’s separation from God. From holiness. 

But even more than that my heart is breaking for the people. People alone. People confused. Hurt people. Fearful people. Because this isn’t how we were created to live. It isn’t the image we were made to reflect. 

And that brings me to the reason for my letter. 

This is not about whatever you, or I for that matter, believe about gender identity. It simply isn’t. 

Instead, it’s about addressing the fear. The people. The hurt. The anger. The words. And even the hate — whether intentional or not. 

You see friends, I understand fear. I understand the deep seated desire to protect your children, your family, your loved ones. I understand our desires for safety and protection. Truly, I do.

But I think we allow those desires to infiltrate our faith. Our peace. We allow our desires, our sense that we are due safety to supercede the most important commandments God gave. 

Jesus tells us that the most important, the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might (Matthew 22:37-38). How can this be done? What can we do to love God well?

Well friends, we can obey. Obeying God, praying, reading His Word, trusting Him. Giving offerings and sacrificing. That. That’s how we can love God well. 

And that means remembering God’s sovereignty. It means remembering that all we have is His. It means remembering His faithfulness. It means remembering that He is our strong refuge. Our strength. Our courage. 

Jesus, in the very same breath, goes on to tell us the second most important commandment: to love others as ourself (Matthew 22:39). 

Pause for a minute. Allow that to sink into the very depth of your soul. What does that mean? Who do we need to love? Just those we understand? Those like us, those with similar beliefs? 

Or. Or are we called to more? To the hard and uncomfortable. Are we called to grow and move outside of our comfort zones? To a place where we love all. Not of our own accord, but through the Holy Spirit. To a love that shows Christ. 

Because friends, that’s our job. We must be the light of Christ to those around us. We are called to love those in the world as Christ did. 

And that doesn’t look like fear. It doesn’t look like angry Facebook posts. It doesn’t look like boycotting. 

Instead, it looks like compassion. It looks like engaging and learning. 

It looks like Jesus. Stepping away from the stones to throw, and stepping forward. Moving closer. In love. 

Because friends, people are important. They are immortal. Eternal. And that’s a reminder each and every one of us need. The very ones you are rallying against are people. People with an eternity. And if you love Jesus as much as you claim, then frankly, that should matter. A lot. 

So instead of loving yourself more than those around you, remember this. This isn’t about you. It’s about others. It’s about eternity. 

So what are you going to do about that? I, for one, suspect that boycotts and Facebook posts aren’t the answer. (I would love to hear from you, but if you forget your manners, please expect your comment to be removed.)

The Fullness of February: A Look Back

I almost missed looking back on February. I’m not sure why. I feel like March has lasted forever. No end in sight. 

Except there is an end. And it’s today. 

So here I am, reflecting. Remembering. Remembering faithfulness and hope. Remembering the power of community. 

February was a quick month. It was a month that began with phone ‘dates’ and play dates.  And ended with seeing my new nephew, time with our small group, and mornings spent with friends. 

  
Perhaps more than being a quick month, February was a full month. Something I think I will be seeing more of in these coming months. And something that I think should be celebrated, when done right. 

You see, I believe in rest (so much that I’ve been nicknamed sloth in the past). But I also believe that Jesus asked us to serve others. Abundantly. He didn’t ask us to do only our favorite things. Or to love others by doing the minimum. He asked us to go the extra distance. To stretch outside of the comfortable. To love, and live well. 

February, of course, held Valentine dances and parties with the kids. Moments that are big and important in their eyes. Moments that allow us to love well, oh so easily. 

   
   
It held frequent play dates and coffee dates. February held moments with close friends that I only see once every few months. Moments that fill my soul. 

February, literally, held babies. February began with cuddles with my sweet niece and ended with my darling nephew. Meeting him this month is one of my very favorite moments from February. I don’t think there is anything quite so beautiful as a brand new baby. Especially one that has been hard sought and fervently prayed over.

   
   
February also gave us opportunities to serve others. We brought the older kids to Feed My Starving Children. It was an incredible time, working with others, to make a difference in the world. A time to teach our children generosity and love. We had friends at our house for mornings and for nights. We made dinners to celebrate new life. 

  
And oh how we celebrated. We celebrated friendship. We celebrated new beginnings. And we celebrated with my brother (in law) and his family as they began a new journey in Texas, planting a church in Austin. We celebrated life. 

And I celebrated my completed Bible reading. It was a joy. It was also a 3 month plan that took me 6 months. But it was a time that strengthened my heart. My soul. It strengthened my love for the Word. And it was a beautiful time of growth in my own life. And so as I jump back into reading the New Testament, I do it will joy and excitement. Anticipating God’s movement in my life and the way He will use my quiet time with His Word.  

February was certainly a full month. But it was filled with moments to love others well and to be loved well. It was filled with life. 

I know it’s a little far away, but go back and look at your February. What moments can you be grateful for? 

The Ugly Motherhood Moment

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend Hope Spoken. If you’ve never heard of this women’s conference, you should check it out. 

It was a beautiful time away. A time of quiet. A time of rest. A time of community. A time of worship. A time that left me feeling refreshed. 

  

And so you can imagine my shock when I stepped foot back into my house. My home filled with the ones I love. Filled with love. And need. Constant need. 

Gone were the quiet, peace-filled days. Gone was the endless food, prepared by other hands. Gone was the incredible fellowship. 

And it was replaced by boogers. (Literally. I’m not calling my kids boogers. Though it may or may not be true.) It was replaced with shouts. And screams, let’s be real. It was replaced by exhaustion. It was replaced by rough mornings. Tough moments. Tears. It was replaced with strain. 

I thought the weekend of rest would prepare me for re-entering real life. The #Momlife. 

But instead. Instead it was ugly. Instead I was ugly. 

Ingratitude reared its ugly head. And if I’m honest, it stuck around for longer than I’d care to admit. 

As the days continued, thanklessness followed. So I pushed into my daily practice of gratitude. I served my family. I cleaned, organized, shuttled. Though my heart struggled to catch up to my actions. 

And it’s taken those small moments to urge me back to gratitude. The moments of sweet smiles and messy kisses. The moments of toothy (and toothless) grins. The whispers of love as the lights are turned out. 

Well, it’s taken those small moments and wise friends. Friends that remind me of truth, of who I am. Friends that remind me why I chose motherhood. And friends that remind me that the struggle, the mess, and even the ugly are normal. Friends that point me back to the Word: “But He said to me, ‘ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, than I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) 

Though it was a struggle for a few weeks, I am thankful for it. It was a reminder to walk with Him in gratitude. An example of how to come back to the richness of His grace. 

And a great reason to plan a trip back to sunshine-y Texas ASAP. 😉 

Have you had an ‘ugly mom’ moment, day, or week? How did you escape it? 

Made for More: Living in Community

I’ve been thinking about spiritual disciplines lately. Wondering at how we were created to live. Spiritual disciplines are difficult. They don’t seem to come naturally. But I have found that the very best things tend to be uncomfortable. That the biggest avenues of growth are most often, the most difficult ones. 

And so I find myself led to a new series of blog posts. I can’t promise their frequency. However, many have already been written in my heart and on my mind. And I am looking forward to getting the words down.


You know I love community. I love the bond that develops between neighbors. The way parents unite for their children, as they create community within the PTO and at youth events. I love the community found within the church. Each of us are a part of so many different communities.

But one of my my favorite communities is that of a small group. It’s even better when you are part of a group with some of your very best friends.

Greg and I lead a small group every other week. Our group is a comfortable one. It’s one that’s made for everyone, we don’t have an ideal demographic. Though currently made up of families, we believe that there is so much grace when people in different stages of life come together. Because the people that sharpen us, that encourage us, that move us towards more are the very ones that seem completely different from us. They are the people whose giftings are different; the people who are in a different stage of life; the people that see the world, that see people differently.

Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.  (Proverbs 27:17)

Our small group enjoys time together. We spend time living life and discussing our lives together. Honestly, it grew naturally as we studied the Bible together. We have decided to read a chapter of the Bible before each gathering. When we meet, we discuss the chapter together. We have decided to forgo a book study of the Bible, because we know the power of the Word. Book studies and devotionals are beautiful and certainly, a means for growth. But we know that learning how to study the Bible is vitally important. We see our small group as a tool to grow another spiritual discipline: studying the Bible. One of my very favorite parts of our small group is the way we have all grown in seeing the Bible as more approachable.

As a small group host/leader that has a houseful of children, we have built a small group that welcomes children. We have a time of devotion with our children, on the same reading we will be covering. And because children see what we are doing: meeting as Biblical community; we invite them to come join our gathering, as they choose. They usually spend their time playing together, building their own communities. But the littlest ones sit at our feet, toddling back and forth between adults.
A beautiful reminder of what community is: a joint venture of different people. Choosing to live life together. Choosing to walk with our families, raising our littles, encouraging us to more. Together.

We came up with this adaptation to our small group meetings because of our own children. Man Child would ask if that particular day was a small group day. He would ask if our friends and our sitter were coming. And it struck us, that we were doing this wrong. Our children knew what we were doing, they saw our meeting, they heard our discussions. And then were asked to step out of that space. We intentionally excluded our children from a beautiful lesson. A lesson about friendship, about growth. About community.

And so, for this last season of small groups, we’ve altered our perspective. We’ve remembered that this group isn’t all about the adults. It isn’t only about learning to read our Bible well. It isn’t only about encouraging our friends. But it’s about raising another generation to see what biblical community is. To understand the benefits of deep, intentional community.

Biblical community isn’t only about the raising up of ourselves or our friends. But it is about the raising up of our families. To know God better. To live the way He created us to live. And to do it all more fully. 

I would love to hear about your community! What makes it great? What are your favorite tips or tricks to making community work?

love to you

The Beauty of Remembering: A Look Back at January

I love this tradition.

Pulling up my calendar (yes, I still use a paper calendar), my journals, and my phone. Sifting through pages, words, and pictures. Remembering the beautiful and hard moments of the prior month. Those moments that when pieced together, paint a beautiful picture of the month before. And usually, it’s a picture of grace that I hadn’t even noticed as I lived each of those moments.


You know how much I love remembering. It builds gratitude. Throughout the Old Testament and within the old covenant, God urges His people to remember. To pause their daily lives and take time to remember His work in their lives. His provision. His steadfastness. 

Honestly, I think it’s something we miss so much today. This remembering builds my relationship with God, the trust I have in Him. It builds and strengthens my faith. Not because of something I have done, but because spending moments looking back shows me the way God is faithful amidst the everyday moments. The ways God is faithful and refining me in those hard moments. Remembering shows me the way God is working each and every moment to shape me. So that I reflect His perfect Son more clearly.

You see, if someone asked me what January held, I would shrug and say nothing. But as I glimpse through the words in my journals, my gratitude list, my calendar, and my pictures I see something I missed. I see the grace in the everyday. I see grace in the small, easily taken for granted moments.

This year, January began the way it has for 11 years: celebrating marriage. This year Greg and I ran away to Lake Geneva for a few days. We treasure these moments of time, reconnecting. Remembering each other, without the (joyful) distractions of our littles.


We enjoyed time with friends and family. Celebrating birthdays and the everyday. Enjoying life in community.

     

We watched as the littles continued growing and learning. Goosey-Girl is picking up reading so well. Boy-Child is growing with his social skills (a big goal for us)! Man-Child is learning the art of self-motivation and putting forth his best effort. And Baby-Boy, who really isn’t a baby, is talking more and more. And really embracing the joy of having so many playmates.


January began a new season of activities, new “date nights,” and annual doctor visits. (And good news for Boy-Child at his appointments.)


  

January was also a month of mishaps. The most memorable being my car dying when I needed to pick up Boy Child from school. This may not seem like a huge deal, but Boy Child has some special needs + severe anxiety. Throw in me arriving to school (very) late and in a different car …and a lot of his “old” anxieties resurfaced. However, this crazy afternoon reminded me how continually blessed we are by our neighbors.

I also re-started my Etsy store: Crochet A Smile. I love crocheting and am excited to be working with yarn more, once again. I love the personal way handmade items touch people and families. And I feel so honored to be a small part of those moments. Be sure to follow along on my with me and this handmade adventure! You can follow CrochetASmile on my Instagram or Facebook pages!

crochet bear
I love spending even just a few minutes and seeing the way a month wasn’t quite as I remembered. And January was certainly one of those months. How about you? How was your January? Can you take a few moments to remember January? Did you miss something small, like I did, in the rush of life?

  1. love to you

The Fullness of Generosity {#WholeMama}

We just finished the madness of dinner. I don’t know if dinnertime looks quite as disheveled at your house as it does at mine – but oh my. Over here, it’s basically a mad dash to fill each person’s needs as quickly as possible before tears and shouts erupt. It is honestly exhausting. But somehow, once dinner is finished, everyone suddenly and magically changes their mood. Their needs have been met. And now they can suddenly see the other people that had been sitting at the table with them all along. They can play kindly together. They can speak encouraging words to one another. They help each other and offer compliments.

It’s incredible the changes in our attitude, our demeanor, once our need has been met. 

 

O T H E R S   >   O U R S E L V E S

It seems opposite the world culture – this idea of serving others before ourselves, but it is possible. Important, even. 

This constant putting others interests and needs before our own is most certainly difficult. It is an endeavor that runs against our very flesh. Our body shouts for more. Even beyond our bodily needs, we are naturally selfish. We search for praise, recognition, and love. All aimed at filling our own desires, forgetting and even minimizing the needs of those around us.

Ironically, as we fight to fill ourselves, we hurt those in our very communities. The people we care most about. No matter who you are: your age, your gender, your job; no matter the relationships you are in – you can be generous. So often we equate generosity with something big, something using all of our resources, something only those with extra can possibly do.

G E N E R O S I T Y   I N   O U R   R E L A T I O N S H I P S

In motherhood, I have noticed that there are so many small areas that I can be generous. I can pause and give extra cuddles to my daughter. I can sit and read one more book before bedtime (or anytime really). I can whisper words of encouragement as Boy Child treads off to make new friends.I can give Man Child a bonus day to play video games. I can pause my house cleaning to play with Baby Boy.

I can be generous with my time when I wash the last dishes in the sink (knowing how much my husband loves a clean sink). I can give my time freely to a friend in need of community. I can lend a hand when a mom needs help with school pick ups. Even a simple cup of coffee is a generous way to show someone they are loved.

I see the small ways my children live out generosity. They share their bike with a neighbor. They include other children in their makeshift game at the park. They freely, and generously, open their hearts to those around them. 

#WholeMama

T H E   F U L L N E S S   O F   G E N E R O S I T Y 

Generosity is more about our hearts than about our actions. True generosity gives of ourselves freely. It does not measure the time or resources lost. It doesn’t keep track of the things that could have been done, had this person not been in need. It simply gives.

 

With each and every word I write, I find myself coming back to the One. One person, who lived generosity to the fullest.

He healed many.
“Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched Him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.” (Mark 1:41)

He met people where they were.
“When the crowds learned it, they followed Him, and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” (Luke 9:11)

He taught with authority. He preached the Word. He preached His very self.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

He forgave sins:
“And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’…But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'” (Mark 2:5 + 10)

He fed people abundantly:
“And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” 
(Matthew 14:20-21)

He raised people from the dead:
“And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” (Luke 7:14-15)

He gave Himself freely. Even unto death.
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this He breathed His last.'” (Luke 23:46)

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.'” (John 3:16-17)

And this is the generosity to which we are called. To love others as we love ourselves. To place others as more important than our very selves. To run contrary to what the world and our very flesh screams. To show a love so big, so vast, so full of mercy that others no longer see us but only see Him shining forth.

How are you generous? We love donating to organizations, friends in need, and ministries. But we believe it is important to be generous in our actions, of ourselves as well. So we live in community, we serve friends and neighbors, we volunteer with organizations. And we love. 

love to you

 

Want to read more about #WholeMama? You should join us over at #WholeMama!

Here are my other #WholeMama posts:
On Settling
Celebrating Motherhood
Power to Flourish
Intentional Quiet
Embracing the Mess of Me
Musings From the Sky: Thoughts on Prayer
Finding the Balance: Space & Community
Seeing Small: Embracing the Ordinary Moments
Laughter, Mom, & Poop