for the house-lover

What Happens in Our Fields of Gold

13899866064_f32103f2bd_oUnless you’re driving to Wilmington or Charleston, there is no Interstate that takes you directly to the coast of North or South Carolina. Instead, you have to choose a back roads route. This drive to the beach is always one I enjoy because the smaller towns offer vignettes of life you can watch as you drive by. Be careful not to speed, though. The cops love to catch beach traffic speeding through the 35 mph zones.

This house in the photo above sits on SC-38  right after crossing over I-95. Those yellow fields are straight out of Oz, as if the poppies and the yellow brick road had a baby. I had to take a picture because of course.

While we were at the coast during our short spring break, I thought a lot about the place in life where we are now. The end of April marks 10 months since John left his job at the church. Part of the fog I’ve talked about lately is I’m sure because of this time of transition we’re living in. It’s what we wanted and in many ways what we hoped it would be, but in my eagerness to leave the parts of the job that were taxing on my husband, I forgot to grieve leaving the parts that were good.

One of my own personal struggles is a temptation to always look ahead to the next thing, idealizing the other-ness of what is not rather than embracing the essence of what is. That’s not always bad, but it is a delicate kind of learned art to be able to look ahead while also celebrating now, to imagine what could be without discounting what is.

As I’ve been reading in the gospels lately, I’m reminded of how personal, present, and local Jesus was when he was here on earth. He didn’t teach about roads he hadn’t traveled on or cultures he didn’t live among (even though as all-knowing God of course he could have). Instead, he chose to sit with neighbors in neighborhoods, to walk with them in celebration and in grief, to eat meals and use the stuff of meals – bread, salt, wine, fish – in his conversations. He spoke of the future because that’s why he came, but he didn’t do so at the expense of the present.

Curious once we got back home, I looked up the yellow-brick-road poppy field house on google maps. Here is a screenshot of what I found:

house on hwy 38

Maybe the woman who lives in that house looks forward to those yellow flowers blooming every year. Maybe that field is the first thing she looks at when she walks outside no matter what time of year it is, remembering the beauty that was before and the promise of beauty to come again. Maybe “beauty” is a terrible word for what I’m trying to say here. Maybe she doesn’t divide it up like that at all – the beautiful and the not beautiful. Maybe I don’t get to say what’s beautiful since I don’t actually live there.

As a traveler with a curbside view, I notice her house because of all the pretty color, snap a photo and that’s all I see. But it doesn’t always look that way and the people who live there know that. They embrace the yellow when it comes but they don’t leave with it. They continue to live there, among the brown fields with their golden memory, beneath the sky when it’s blue and when it’s gray, within the little white house on the vast green lawn at the end of the gravel driveway.

Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.

 And if this is your house? Please tell us about the fields of gold in spring and how it feels in winter, about the distant tree-line and living on highway 38 and if you always have that Sting song in your head. Or this Eva Cassidy version (thank you Katie Reid!):

(email subscribers click here to listen)

To have these posts delivered into your inbox, sign up with your email address right here. I post a few times a week as well as a short Saturday post. Always glad to have you.

December

My recent Stitch Fix pants are fitting a little snug this morning, which can only mean one thing: we need to get a new dryer.

Seriously, though, it was a great weekend with family. And also food. I hope the same can be said for you and yours. (And by ‘yours’ I mean your family, not your pants.)

sister's house

John by the fire

11105091944_06697d9e0f_o

on the farm

If you’re just now coming back online, we have been sharing what we learned in November here on the blog – the linky will be open until Friday so there is still time to add yours.

Today is the last day of super deal savings at DaySpring. There is a lot already on sale, including A Million Little WaysIf you use the code ’30SPECIAL’ you get an extra 30% off, which makes the book only $7. If your whole cart is $50, you also get free shipping. Just wanted to be sure you knew about that.

Finally, tomorrow I’m looking forward to brining back Tuesdays Unwrapped for December. I hope you’ll join in during the season of Advent as we celebrate on purpose the lovely, the messy, and the unexpected gifts of our daily rhythm. Choose one gift of your ordinary day and find the miracle secret it holds. Write it out, breathe it in, capture its image, see it new.

As you prepare your post for tomorrow, you can hopefully find answers to any of your questions here. I hope to see you then!

Now I’m off to do something about these pants.

When My Soul is Truly at Rest

While looking through an old journal yesterday, I came across this statement I had written at the top of one page, dated February 8. The year was 2005.

if my soul were truly at rest

Below that statement, I listed out what I thought would be true of me if my soul were at rest (here are the answers I gave in 2005):

  • I would enjoy my daughters more completely (they were 13 months old at the time)
  • I would not hold John to unrealistic expectations (we had been married 3 and a half years by then)
  • I would not dwell on all my life is lacking
  • I would like myself

Yesterday, I asked this question on Twitter. Here are some of the responses:

If my soul were truly at rest, I would . . . 

  • worry less.
  • dream bigger and expect more.
  • make peace with disappointment.
  • be peaceful without anxiety.
  • love more people.
  • smile more.
  • create and risk more.
  • stand taller and hold my head up more.
  • think of others before myself.
  • breathe deeper.
  • notice more.

Then, I asked on Facebook, too. Here are about a third of the responses:

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.46.45 AM

I’ve thought about this question over the past 24 hours a lot, and I’m pleased to say I would answer it differently now. I don’t feel pressure to enjoy my girls like I did then. I don’t hold John to impossible standards – at least, not to the extent I did before. Sometimes I think about what I’m lacking, but not in the same way.

And now? I like myself. Sure, I get on my own nerves sometimes. But in general I pretty much like myself.

In those areas for the most part, my soul is at rest. Today, I would answer that question like this:

  • If my soul were truly at rest, I would laugh more, I would stop making so many lists, I would be able to sit still for longer periods of time, I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear.

I have experienced soul rest more completely now at 36 than I did at 28. I hope that continues to be true of me as I get older.

As I read your answers on Twitter and Facebook and as I thought about my own, the phrasing started to grate on me – to ask if your soul were truly at rest implies it never is. It keeps soul rest somewhere out there, beyond my ability to grasp. It could even bring shame and discouragement to consider all the ways your soul isn’t at rest and all the peace you lack as a result.

So I decided to re-phrase the statement.

I would rather take out the “if” altogether and replace it with “when” -

When my soul is truly at rest, I laugh more, I stop making so many lists, I am able to sit still for longer periods of time, I don’t make decisions out of fear.

Do you feel the difference there?

It feels kinder now – possible, livable, hopeful. It feels true.

Rest - Chatting at the SkyAsking myself questions that matter are important for my own spiritual growth. But equally important is the tone I use when I ask the questions. I want to cast a hopeful vision, not weigh myself down with despair.

When Jesus invited the weary to come to Him in Matthew 11, it was an invitation to wear the light burden of love, not the heavy burden of shame.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30, Message

Instead of finishing this statement: If my soul were truly at rest . . .

I would stop searching.

I would take the risks I’m afraid of.

I would stop worrying.

Now, let’s finish this one: When my soul is truly at rest . . .

I stop searching.

I take risks.

I trust.

See the difference? I think it matters.

What about you? What is true of you when your soul is at rest? Let’s practice remembering in the comments:

When my soul is truly at rest, I . . .

the kind of movement that makes a difference

On a whim last Saturday, we decided to move the furniture around in our living room. This is a fairly familiar event in our house but the difference this time was John. Normally when I move furniture I wait until he’s gone, mainly because I work well with deadlines and I know I have to be finished before he gets home.

by the fireplace

But having him there meant I could bark orders instead of doing all the work myself. I found out I get really bossy and know-it-all-y when I’m moving furniture.

The thing about moving the TV to a less important wall is you also have to move the sofa.

When you move the sofa, you have to move the rug.

greensboro

Then the chairs need to go somewhere else and now there’s a big blank wall you need to fill and before you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into, three rooms of your house are completely different. (Cue mouse holding a cookie.)

living room

It feels just about right, now – an appropriate way to usher in a new season of change. I like how it fits.

My sunroom office is a little more full but I like it that way. It’s just the right space to settle in with Brennan Manning’s Souvenirs of Solitude in the mornings. His chapter called Really Human, Really Poor has been my morning reading for several days just because I can’t get over how true it is. He speaks of being poor in spirit but of resisting self-hatred, something I have struggled with understanding.

He tells this story and had me laughing outloud:

Distracted after a disturbing phone call, I left the monastery to give a talk to the inmates of Trenton State Prison and began with the outrageous greeting, “Well, it’s nice to see so many of you here!” And so it goes.

Frequently not in form, on top, or in control. That is part of my poverty as a human being, and self-acceptance without self-concern simply expresses a reality. An impoverished spirit prevents the poor man from being a tyrant to himself.

-Souvenirs of Solitude, page 92

His reaction to himself in that awkward moment caught my attention. There was no wringing of hands or heavy anxiety for having mis-spoken. There was only an acceptance of the reality of his own frailty accompanied by his refusal to hate himself for it.

And so I recognize a longing in my soul for this kind of lightheartedness. It helps to listen to Ellie Holcomb and Jillian Edwards sing With You Now. As I do, I take a few deep breaths in. It is in the delicate place of embracing my humanity without despising it – there is union with Christ in this space.

My to-do list is bulging, each task more time-consuming than the one I just finished. I have work to complete and a mounting sense of shame that the reason I’m unable to finish is not because it’s too much work but because I am lacking something vital to continue – organization, creativity, skill, the ability to focus.

All of those may actually be true.

But I’m learning my relief will neither be found in continuing to chase an ideal of my productive self, nor in hating myself for my inability to get everything done.

Rather than resenting my weakness, I believe Jesus is asking me to embrace my weakness. Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean despising self but releasing self from the expectation of being anything but poor. Small. Helpless. Worn.

My soul needs to remember the kind of movement that will make a difference:

Don’t try to handle your anxiety. Bring your anxiety into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to fix your loneliness. Bring your loneliness into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to hide your addiction. Bring your addiction into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to change your attitude. Bring your attitude into the presence of Christ.

Don’t despise your humanity. Bring your humanity into the presence of Christ.

There is still responsibility, there is still action that comes from me. But my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better. My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities, failures and successes all into the presence of Christ.

Lord Jesus, remind us of your presence with us as we do the next right thing that makes sense. And may you keep our hearts light along the way.

when the light shines differently here

For two hours I sat by the pool in the shade and still came home with a tan line. That’s how it is in the South – even when you sit in the shade, the summer sun still finds you there, hiding in the shadows.

pool

We moved to Detroit from South Carolina the summer after I turned 17. I worked at a kids camp that year, earning $80 a week. Well, at least I’ll get a tan working outside all day.

But I didn’t. Not like I expected.

Turns out the sun hits at a little different angle in Michigan than it does in South Carolina. And time spent outside that would have caused a sunburn in the South turns a barely-there brown in the Midwest.

That’s one of my first memories of Detroit – how the sun shines differently there.

I think of some girl friends in Ethiopia right now, there on the east side of Africa so near the equator. Haley at The Tiny Twig and Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl are traveling along with a whole team of women to see what The Mocha Club and FashionAble are doing for Ethiopian women – rehabilitation from the sex trade and employing them in the sustainable trade of weaving. I’m following their trip and you can, too.

They walk under this sun today, the same light landing on shoulders at a different angle during a different time zone.

But the same light, nonetheless.

My kids start school two weeks from today. I feel myself grieving the closing of the season. It seems impossible since they are still little tiny infant babies, but my twin girls will start fourth grade and our son will start first grade and then it will just be John and me home during the days.

In a month or so we’ll begin to notice the light fading earlier in the evening and rising up later in the morning. We’ll all adjust to this new kind of rhythm that comes around this time every year.

wedding

This sweet couple had their wedding ceremony in the bride’s grandmother’s front yard, white chairs on grass, programs fashioned into fans to fight off the still air of early August. John officiated the wedding, one of his favorite jobs as a pastor.

But technically he’s not a pastor anymore as today marks six weeks since he left his pastoral position. This will be our first fall as a married couple without the bustle of welcoming a new class into the youth group.

We are a strange mix of thankful and thoughtful.

As we continue to wait, we also move forward into what comes next: a new school year to start, a new book to launch, a new season to embrace.

For now, though, we still have two weeks left of the summer sun and all the ways she casts her light.

What kinds of changes or transitions are you anticipating this fall? How is your soul adjusting to the idea of it?

Artists & Influencers :: they’re teaching me about home

Last Monday, I introduced a series inspired by this question: What do you know for sure?

I tried to come up with a response to that question, but instead of a list of answers coming to mind, I kept seeing a list of people.

And so I bring you week 2 of Artists & Influencers.

For the next several weeks I will continue to share with you some people who are helping me uncover and affirm those things I know for sure about a variety of topics and challenge you to identify and celebrate who those people are in your own life.

Last week we talked about writing.

Today, let’s talk about home.

The other day I was watching The Brady Bunch with my kids. It was the one where Greg is a man now that he is a freshman in high school so he totally needs his own space.

After much sweet talking from Mrs. Brady, Mr. Brady reluctantly agrees to give up his den where he does all his architecting so that Greg can have his precious space.

“Now don’t go and do anything drastic,” Mr. Brady warns his man-child Greg, “No nail holes or paint on the wall.”

Oh Mr. Brady. How much you have to learn about home.

Tim Keller says this about home in his book, The Prodigal God.

“Home, then, is a powerful but elusive concept. The strong feelings that surround it reveal some deep longing within us for a place that absolutely fits and suits us, where we can be, or perhaps find, our true selves.”

Home is a powerful concept, one that is hard to define in a way. Is it a house? A family? God alone?

Still, here we are. Living fully on this earth, within these walls painted Sea Salt and Svelte Sage, among these people who look like us but who are also other than us. I’ve been thinking about home this week, about what it is an what it isn’t.

Here are some artists and influencers who are teaching me about home:

1. My sister.

I used to be like Mr. Brady, thinking drastic meant a tiny hole in the wall. I cried real tears once trying to hang a picture and realized it was crooked so I had to hammer a *shudder* nother nail in the wall so the picture would be straight.

Real tears, I tell you. For the love.

my sister’s living room

My sister has always influenced how I think about my home, but since she started her blog, her encouragement has become even more bold. Not only does she remind me that paint and nail holes are the least risky thing you could do in your life, but she also consistently reminds me that the imperfections in my home may actually serve a greater purpose.

“I’ve decided not to wait until my house is perfect to share it, use it and love it.  I regret those years where I spent my time wishing my home was something more and not enjoying what I had.” - The Nester

She is the home evangelist for real people and she’s teaching me about home – she’s teaching me that it’s okay to want to make your space beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be so.

2. Shannan Martin.

I don’t know what it is about this girl. I read her blog for a long time and then I met her in real life and we hung out until the wee hours. And then when I read posts like this one, about The Golden Globes mixed in with words about poverty and about how she is embracing them both?

from Shannan’s house

I feel like I’m home. Every time I read her.

I can’t explain it, but aren’t some people just like that? Shannan is one of those people. She puts into words things I didn’t even know I needed to say.

She asks bold questions about home and family that she doesn’t always have the answers for. But she is brave enough to work on living the answers instead, no matter the cost.

I’m learning from Shannan about home because she has a lot to teach about it, though I’m not sure she knows.

3. Edie.

I still remember the day we found out Edie’s house had burned to the ground. It was December of 2010, right before Christmas.

Edie had already been such an encouragement to me (and so many others) through her blog, Life in Grace. We had all read about their adventure of buying this beautiful home on the lake and designing and decorating it to reflect the personality of their family.

So when that house burned down, it was hard to get my head around. I remember scrolling through her blog at old photos of her home thinking, those drapes burned. That kitchen sink, that owl on her bookshelf, all of her beloved books.

Edie’s house

But they rebuilt, both home and heart. Here is a peek, in her own words:

“While we worked hard to rebuild the bricks and mortar, He went to work on our stone hearts. The truth is, we don’t have to lose everything to feel our poverty.  We sense it in the depths of our souls.

It’s all just rubble.  And our card houses teeter on disaster. We’re all a mess, house fire or not. We know we need  someone—someone who knows us and loves us in spite of ourselves.

That is the hospitality of scripture.”

Don’t you want to read more from her? Me too. She has a new e-book that releases today: 31 Days to a Heart of Hospitality.

There is often a real struggle within me – a longing to fill my home with beautiful things mixed with a desire to live more simply. These three women are teaching me that those two desires don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

***

I have more I want to say on this topic, but it’s already Tuesday and seeing how this is a Monday series, I’m going to go ahead and post it. For now, I leave you with the obvious theme song for today’s post:

These are some of the artists and influencers who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about home. What about you? Who are the people in this season of life who are teaching you about home? What are they saying?

So far we’ve talked about writing and home. I have an idea where I’m headed next, but do you have any requests for the series? Is there a topic you would like to explore?

for your Christmas

May your Christmas be filled with laughter. As you miss those who can’t be with you, as you feel the truth of where you are right now, as you move through the packing and the cooking and the coming together, may the miracle of Christmas carry a lightness into the center of your being.

The world is broken, but Christ has come. Light wins. Hope lives. And the souls of the saints breathe a sigh of sweet relief. Enjoy your Christmas, friends.

in which I have work to do so I ask if you live in Alaska

For the past month, my life has taken a turn for the simple. I stay home, make food, give my girl her pink medicine. I wipe off the kitchen table with a hot cloth, make chicken soup on the stove, re-heat my morning coffee. Again. If you knock on my door, I’ll answer it but that’s about as intentionally social as I am able to be.

Once the kids are in bed, The Man and I watch Alaska: The Last Frontier and I fall asleep on the sofa.

After nine days of sick, the kids are all back in school and I turn my full attention back to the manuscript that is due in a little over a week.

I put down the quiet words, treasure them up, wait to see if they’re worth keeping. They simmer and I do, too. I come back the next day, read them back, shake my head, start again.

The words come slow on my commitment work, and I feel a pull to come over here to write in a place where the words are open and immediately received. I can’t take them back that way. Sometimes that’s good for me.

It’s the last day of November and I had every intention of sending out another newsletter this month. But then I realized that all I would have to offer is something like hey y’all. Whatchya doin?  and I didn’t think it was worth it.

And so I come here with not much in my hands today. But I wanted to come anyway just to change my writing pace a bit and also ask if you’ve seen Alaska: The Last Frontier? And also, do you live in Alaska? On a frontier? Because if you do I want to hear all about it. Or even if you just plain live in Alaska. The whole sun-not-coming-up-until-ten-and-setting-at-two completely fascinates me. And also gives me nightmares.

book club, The Big Sale, and $5 books

I can’t believe I already have enough stuff to fill a whole ‘nother bullet point post in just one week, but I do. That works out nicely for me, in a way, since every last drop of creative writing juice I have in my brain is being poured out all over the manuscript that is due in three ish weeks. So for today, here are some things that may interest slash inspire slash help you out on this fine Friday.

1. The Same Page Book Club. These girls chose Grace for the Good Girl as their first book ever for their book club and they’re inviting anyone who wants to join in. It’s not too late to read and link up. And if you haven’t yet gotten a copy of the book . . .

2. Grace for the Good Girl is only $5 at LifeWay!! What? I know. They ran this sale last spring and now they’re running it again. The sale applies to purchases both in store and online through November 24.

3. Does your teen girl need to read Graceful? Here are 10 ways to tell. (click on the photo to read the post at (in)courage).

10 ways to know if your teen girl needs graceful

4. Come to The Nester’s Big Sale! It’s this Saturday in Huntersville. I’ll be there. I may bring some books with me just for kicks. I’ll definitely bring a wad of cash because hello, the stuff they’re selling is real stuff. Not yard sale-y. You coming?

5. Simple Mom Podcast. Here’s some fun news – I’m going to be joining Tsh somewhat regularly for her Simple Mom podcast. Now you can listen to Tsh and I talk about driving a minivan, writing books, and wearing boot socks. I know. It’s going to change  your life. Or at least it will make cleaning the kitchen a little more fun if you have it on in the background. You can listen here.

I’ll try to come up with a for your weekend post for tomorrow that says something other than May your weekend be filled with food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

state of a life

We watched the State of the Union address last week, and when I say watched I mean it was on for 10 minutes and then I turned it to American Pickers. But it’s the end of January, a good time to think about the state of where things are right now. My sister did a State of the Nest post last week and I thought how much I enjoy when bloggers I read pull back the curtain a bit and let us in to see things we don’t normally see. Consider the curtain pulled.

I am on a fast road to becoming more of an introvert than I already was. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I filled up a whole book with my own talk and now anyone, from strangers to neighbors can walk into any Barnes and Noble in the country and read it or if it is just part of getting older. But I am slowly beginning to hold my cards closer to my chest as the years are rolling on by.

I’m not saying that’s a bad or good thing, I’m just saying it’s true. I’m thankful for the friends who know me well. I’m craving simple moments with my husband. Silence and solitude are top on my list of things that keep me sane. My neighbor told me about a book that I can’t wait to read – Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. The title alone gave me freedom. It just released last week and is in the top 5 on Amazon so maybe some of you have read it or at least heard of it?

Some other books I’m reading? I’m on the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts. I know it’s been out for a year but I’ve read it with slow, thoughtful intention and now I don’t want it to end. I finished Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, a small book about learning to listen to your own design as you consider vocation. I’m also reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. All of these books together are changing how I think in a good way. They are all hardcovers and I have taken the book jacket off all of them because I have a hate relationship with book jackets.

Here is my family last month. I have precious few photos of all of us together because I’m usually the one behind the camera. Our family albums are filled with my husband looking like a single dad – poor man raising all those children alone. I’m sure his wife was a lovely creature, God rest her soul. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law always insists I get in the pictures when she’s around so I have just enough photos to prove that I am, indeed, not dead or missing.

The twins are in second grade now, all loose teeth and long legs. Our son will start kindergarten in the fall and then a week after that they will all be driving and getting married because that is just the way things go. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

This spring I will be slash have been speaking at some events and retreats, perhaps adding to the introversion that is going on. The idea of standing on stages and talking makes me want to spend equal time hiding under tables, silent. But I am beginning to embrace the beauty and relevance of speaking out loud the messages that have come in the quiet. There is a different kind of aliveness that happens in those settings. It definitely keeps me dependent and small.

We are currently (as in, today) picking out covers for my second book, the one for teen girls. It is between two beautiful covers and I can’t choose so when I’m done with this post I’m going to print them out, put them both on my mantel, blindfold myself and pin the tail on the cover. I can’t wait to share the winner with you. It’s a great problem to have, two beautiful covers. It could easily be two awful covers and it isn’t. I really love Revell.

Speaking of mantel, remember my mantel before we moved in? Well there it is, in all it’s unpainted, dark paneling glory. I changed some things around this weekend. I took an hour and painted the wall of the mantel white and hung my black and white pictures.

Yes, that is the same house. If you are curious and haven’t been around here much, you can read more about how we knocked down the living room wall wall and painted the dark paneling. This mantel has been through a lot of change over the four years since we moved in. I predict more change in the future. But for now, we’ll let her rest.

I’m considering starting a little newsletter of sorts for anyone interested – just a free not-very-often update on the state of things. It will be a place to tell you of upcoming events, to share some things I may not share on the blog, to maybe offer downloadable photos, to perhaps ask for prayer. See I am very decisive on what this would be. With all the chattering email and other fun online-y things, I can’t imagine that would be something anyone would sign up for which is why I haven’t done it. But I am discovering sometimes I have things I want to tell you about but the blog doesn’t always seem like the best way to do it. Perhaps you have a better idea? I’m all ears. And that is not a joke about how much my ears stick out. Just so you know.