Category Archives: Family

The slow letting go…

Today it happens. That first child I carried, the child I’ve practiced my parenting skills on the longest, is moving away. Not permanently. “Just” for 8 weeks, to live with her aunt and uncle and fulfill her dream of acting in a community theater company. It’s the first semester of her gap year–this first half is about working to save money for her second semester trip to Ukraine with YWAM to work with orphans and other outreaches for five months. So this is the short goodbye so her mama can practice.


On the trail 14 years ago…

This letting go has been in stages. You relinquish the hold first when they are born-other people can now hold them. Then as more independence comes, there is more relinquishing: letting go of her fingers when she started lurching around the room walking; letting go of the handlebars when she learned to ride her bike; watching her drive away in the van by herself the first time. Going on an international mission trip without us. Waving as she boarded a train to visit a friend last year. Graduation from high school in our backyard.

Last night, I was running over the list of things-we-should-teach-before-you-move-out. Don’t leave your drink unattended at a party or your luggage unattended at the airport: check.  How to potty in the woods: check. How to balance a checkbook: check. Remember who you are, sweet daughter of the King: check. Parallel parking: ummm…missed that one. My friend reminded me a couple of weeks ago that we’ve equipped her to learn what we’ve missed or fell through the cracks or we just didn’t think of. And I reminded myself of the words I spoke to Emily at her graduation–true words that I needed to hear as much as she did:

“Your father and I have not been able to give you what we wanted you to have, but God has given you the life you need to prepare you for the future. You are a treasured daughter of the king: brave and caring and persistent…

Character grows stronger in the face of challenge and you’ve seen more than your fair share of challenges in our family. As you have grown up in our home, you’ve watched job loss, job gain, parent going back to school, more job loss, depression, and starting up a small business. You’ve learned that life doesn’t always look like you think or hope it will. I hope you’ve learned that what looks like failure in the eyes of the world—losing a job, financial difficulties when starting out new businesses, and financial sacrifices aren’t failure, they’re part of life, and they are an opportunity to stretch your faith and reliance of Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. While we have not relied perfectly on Him, and I will admit, there has been more of the grumbling Israelite in the wilderness in me than I wish to say, I hope you have learned that though life can be hard, God is good. All the time. And while He won’t always give you what you want, somehow, you will have what you need.


Rounding the bend in the trail this July…

So here she goes…all packed and so excited with the same spirit of fun and adventure she’s always had…ready to try new things and meet new people…and while I will miss her with every breath, I am content to continue to let her go, the way she should go.



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Well…umm…here I am…again…

It’s hard to even know where to begin…do I pick up where I left off? Fill in the blanks of the last 7 months without a new post? Try to stutter around the awkward silence of  “where have you been?” I don’t really know what to say. The camera stopped working. The computer wouldn’t upload pictures, or if it did, they got lost. Then the computer died…well, I’ll just leave the last few months at that.

It can be very difficult to be grateful when things seem to continue to tumble down–crash down hard. And I tend to isolate myself when times get tough and I get overwhelmed. But the worst times are a bit less dark when you look for the Light. Looking for the gifts and the Giver in the middle of the strain and the pain and the “what on earth?”, well made it easier to keep walking. Not flying with wings like eagles, not running, just walking. Putting one foot in front of the other walking on through life. Soaring and running without being tired–I suppose those days will return. I hope they will. But for now, I am content to walk and not be faint.

So after a loooonnnngggg time of not telling what I’m grateful for, here’s another Monday morning, and doing my best to face it with an attitude of gratitude and joy in my heart. Here’s my overdue list:

  • Faithful friends who loaned us their car for the weekend, so we could all go to church!
  • A morning full of hugs from the Beautiful Belmont Girls of the Balcony, 9:00 edition. Oh, how I’ve missed those ladies and their encouragement and love!
  • Provision from God, using the most unbelievable waysIMG_4849
  • A two-week break away from everyday life, sorely needed by us all.IMG_4167
  • Grabbing an hour for tea with my amazing friend
  • Conversation between grammar lessons and picking up children with my other amazing friend
  • The messy: a counter filled with salt dough maps of Egypt and mummified fruit, the den turned into a road rally of hot wheels, tubs of fall clothes to sort through in the living room. The beautiful: children learning, playing and awesome clothes from the cousins!
  • Being home in my own kitchen, with hot running water and a dishwasher. Priceless!IMG_4662


Filed under camping, Family, Gratitude, Joy Dare

Intentional Holidays: Celebrating Advent

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;

Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

For me, Advent is this verse, Isaiah 40:3–clearing the way for the Lord, smoothing the highway in the desert. In a season that is often over-commercialized, hyped beyond anyone’s expectations, this is it. Clearing a way for Him. Smoothing the desert or wasteland of the world. Loving Him. Preparing myself for His coming.

My children look forward to this every year. It’s a big deal at our house. Last week I heard them discussing who was going to get to open the last door of The Advent Book on Christmas morning, trying to remember who got to do it the last previous years.  We started a long time ago, when we only had one child. My brother-in-law, who is a preacher, was astonished to hear my two-year old recite from memory almost the entire account of the birth of Christ. When you hear it everyday, a little at a time, it is hidden in your heart.Caleb and the Advent wreath

We started simply. A prayer, a Christmas carol (just one a week with wee ones), four candles, and a book. That was it. For a two-year old, that’s all we needed and it was a good place to start. We had pink, purple and white candles as some wreaths traditionally use, but we didn’t really even talk about the symbolism of the candles. Just the candles, a song and the story. That’s all you really need. We moved up to a circular wreath a few years later. Just plain and wooden and I decorated it with greenery and ribbon. The candles made a lovely spiral by the end of the month. A few years ago I received one of Ann Voskamp’s son’s Cradle to Cross wreaths that we use during Advent and Lent as well. I love it. Very simple, with Mary on a donkey circling her way around. It all culminates on Christmas morning. After we open our stockings and have breakfast, we light the wreath, sing, and open the book for the last time. Because this door is only opened once, it seems even more exciting to our kids. It’s a beautiful way to usher in Christmas!DSCN1227

We still use The Advent Book. In addition, after Advent, we read other books as well. Jotham’s Journey was exciting to read, as well as the sequels in following years. It’s a story of a boy who ends up in Bethlehem and witnesses what happened there. There are all kinds of stories you can read to add another layer to Advent. One of my favorites is an anthology of stories and poems, A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems edited by James Charlton. The book belonged to my great-grandfather, and I love to sit down with a cup of tea and a candle and dive in. It seems to be out of print, but you can get them, starting at a penny on Amazon. I have a link in my Amazon store, along with lots of other lovely books.DSCN1243

Some of my fondest memories of my children’s childhood is Advent. They aren’t perfect.  There’s been arguing about who gets to light the candles, pick the song, turn the page (I have 4 kids!). There’s been wiggly babies and toddlers, sick kids, you name it, it’s happened. But it’s worth doing. Start to think now about Advent and what you want to make it in your home.

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Repost of “I will not abide in death”

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditional...

A shofar made from a ram’s horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.” 1 John 3:14

Over twenty-four hours after our Shabbat meal with friends, where we celebrated a simple (and late) Rosh Hashanah, I am still scrubbing honey and caramel off the tablecloth and chairs.  We’ve incorporated Passover the last few years, but, as we’re studying Old Testament history this year, I wanted to add in other Jewish holidays as well. No, I’m not Jewish, nor am I trying to be.  But I am grafted into the vine and want to experience some of what God commanded in the Old Testament that has disappeared in the New Testament Church. There is something to be learned from these High Holy Days.

We dipped our apples into raw honey, a gift from a dear Messianic Jewish friend.  As she and her family were out of town and no one else I know in South Nashville has a shofar, we listened to the traditional Rosh Hashanah shofar on the internet while we ate.  I lit the Shabbat candles and stumbled through the Kiddush my friend wrote out on a yellow legal pad.  We broke the challah and drank the wine,  blessing the Lord of the Sabbath, and husband-fathers blessed their wives and children.

What amazing symbols! Blowing a ram’s horn to call people to the new year and to repentance–a ram’s horn as a reminder of the ram God gave Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son of the promise, Isaac.  There is always sacrifice in this life, is there not?  Apples and honey celebrate the sweetness of a new year given by the Lord.  The challah bread, coiled tightly before rising, baked into a swirl to remind us of the endless cycle of the seasons and the eternal reign of the Father.

As I read up on Rosh Hashanah I learned it begins the “Days of Repentance” or “Days of Awe” or turning to God. Ten days to ask for forgiveness and to grant it as well, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a solemn day when the Jews would fast and pray the Lord would forgive them for the sins of the last year.

All this leads me back to 1 John this morning.  If I show love by asking forgiveness of those I have wronged, I abide in life.  If I forgive those who have wronged me, even if they didn’t know they hurt me, I show them love and abide in life.  If I do not forgive, I abide in the death of resentment and unforgiveness. When a disagreement or misunderstanding grows to a cold silence, when I harbor my anger and end up taking it out on others in my life, I abide in death.  Don Finto preached on forgiveness many years ago and I have never forgotten it.  “Even if it’s 98% the other person and only 2% your fault, you must ask for forgiveness and forgive.”

So today, I choose to answer the call to repentance and abide in life.  It is hard.  I will ask for forgiveness.  I choose to grant forgiveness to people who do not know.  I will not abide in the death of unforgiveness any longer.

A repost from 2011’s Rosh Hashanah celebration.   This year Rosh Hashanah began sundown September 4; we ate challah, honey and apples at church in the Fellowship class before our evening classes began.

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Love, 19 years later

We married in the church we still attend today,IMG_0995

surrounded by family and friends,IMG_0996


IMG_0980many we’re still in contact with.IMG_0990


Some we haven’t seen since that day and have lost track of.IMG_0969

Some, whose pictures make me cry bittersweet tears, are already with Jesus…IMG_0976

IMG_0998We said our “I do’s.”IMG_0985

We lit candles and took communion.IMG_0984

He kissed the bride. IMG_0986

His father pronounced us (finally:)) “Man and Wife” IMG_0987

and we joyfully walked out together.IMG_0988



We fed each other cake.IMG_0997

We mingled with our friends and family,

then, with a quick run through a shower of bird seed,IMG_0983

we were off on our new life… that honeymoon life of young love.

And then, suddenly, three degrees, eight moves, five apartments, two houses, four babies, eight jobs, three lay-offs later, it’s been 19 years to have and to hold from that day forward. And what do you do, with those years of giddy love and infertility? Of graduation and unemployment and underemployment and everything in between? Of those never picture perfect moments? When the days are hard and the nights are harder? When that fairy tale doesn’t turn out like it does in the story books, there’s no white horse for the prince to ride on, just a beat-up old car with no AC or radio for the prince to drive to work in his cubicle?  You learn what love–real love really is. Not that ooey-gooey feeling you have. Feelings can come and go, almost on a whim, like a fickle breeze in spring. It may start out as that rush of emotion, but love with roots, no way does it stay there. It goes beyond fairy-tale feelings to the deep places of the soul and

“you learn that love is not some marvelous way you feel, but some hard thing you do.”

(Elizabeth Goudge in The Scent of Water)

Love that works night shifts and waits tables to keep everything afloat while he finishes college. That lives in an attic apartment only partially heated and cooled. Love that hoses off the driveway in a steamy southern August, after  your pregnant wife throws up on it after a trip to the grocery store. Love that clings together during infertility and miscarriage, labor and delivery, new jobs, job loss, pain and anxiety. Love woven together on purpose and with intention, because the “I do” was not just on your wedding day, like you think in the beginning. “I do” is every day. Every hour. Some difficult days, it’s every minute; with every breath.  When it’s not a matter of emotion, it’s a matter of will, and the cry “not my will but yours be done, Lord” is the cry of the head and heart of husband and wife that’s heard in the throne room of heaven. And the tapestry of life, the dark valleys and light mountain tops, shot through with the purity of agape love strengthened by the Holy Spirit is more beautiful for the both, and that cord of three strands is not easily broken. And this life that has been made together through blood, sweat, tears, and will is much more precious than any ethereal fairy tale ending you initially thought; because real, hard, life–lived in His Power is beautiful.


Filed under Family, Meditation

Guest Post by Happy Girl: Return of the Robins

Despite the sudden heat wave, it feels a bit like spring at our house. The roses have bloomed all over the rose bushes, and we did have some peonies before the storm knocked them out.



But we also have some new robins on the way. A couple of years ago we had a momma robin decide to make her nest in a cozy little spot next to the door, right on top of the lamp.


It’s been a popular choice for all birds to try to make their nest there over the years, since it’s shaded, dry, and no predators can approach without being seen. But we’ve always managed to knock the half-built nest out before any eggs were laid. The robin was the first one to successfully build a neat nest in between all our comings and goings, and lay 3 perfect, teal-blue eggs. So we didn’t knock it out, and had a great time watching the two adults raise their family.



Of course, we couldn’t use the back door for several weeks, but it was worth it to see the baby robins grow.


(sorry for the fuzzy pic, the blinds cast a weird reflection but we didn’t want to scare the parents away by raising it.)

All four kids collaborated and affectionately named the babies Rollo, Tess, and Fuffle, and the parents Matthias and Cornflower. All names from one of our favorite book series, Redwall.


(From left to right is Tess, Fuffle, and Rollo.)

After they flew away, we knocked the nest out and tried not to let any other birds nest there again. But the other day I saw a bird flying over there more than usual, and wouldn’t you know, the robins managed to build another nest.



So we get another chance to watch baby robins grow this summer! It’ll be a nice way for me to finish off my biology course. And writing, since Mommy’s letting me guest blog the updates! Happy Spring/Summer!


Happy Girl.

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On my husband’s forty-first birthday…the gift is mine

This is a tweaked re-post from 2011. It said what I still feel today, and I couldn’t really improve on it, except changing the number of years we’d been married…While it’s his birthday, I’ve the one who’s received the gift of getting to live my life with him…

We met in weightlifting class our sophomore year in high school. It seems funny to tell people that’s where we first met, but when I thought of it this morning, it seemed almost prophetic.

We were young–fifteen. He was wearing a Michael W. Smith sweatshirt–the first person in my school I’d ever seen wearing one. We were friends for a year before we started dating. He marched saxophone in the marching band, I was co-editor of the annual. He introduced me to Paul Simon and jazz; I introduced him to my youth group. We went to prom and on Mission Trips.

We graduated from high school, started at separate universities, but ended up at the same one after three  years. I studied nursing, he studied music.We both changed from the denominations of our families and chose a nondenominational church. Twenty years ago this July, he proposed on one knee and I said yes.

July 30, 1994, we married at our home church, in front of our family and friends. We were 22.

There’s always the “in sickness and health, for richer and poorer” part in there that you recite and think you mean, but really, have no idea what you’re talking about. No one does. If you did, well, most people would probably not keep going with the ceremony. Most people are optimistic or naive enough to believe that they will be the “in better/health/richer” category. No one thinks, “Hmm, let’s go for the worse, poorer, or sick path.”

But you can’t always choose these things. Sometimes God or a sinful world, chooses for you.

We started our life in a tiny attic apartment, only partially heated and cooled. He waited tables while finishing his degree. I worked nights in the hospital.

We moved 5 times in 3 years (don’t ask), then settled in a little house. We dealt with infertility, morning sickness, pre-term labor, a miscarriage, and by the grace of God, had four healthy babies.

There were job changes, job losses, career changes, misunderstandings, fights, problems. Trips to the emergency room, delivery room, funeral home; a trip to Disney World, camping trips and the beach. Love and laughter woven in with tears and pain. Sometimes when you look back at your  life-tapestry it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.

It’s been almost nineteen years of building those love muscles.

“In order for muscle to be built, it has to be pushed beyond it’s normal limitations…

Lifting weights basically tears muscles.

These fibers then heal stronger and larger than before.” (Ehow Health)

Isn’t that’s what life is all about? God taking us beyond our normal, natural-world limitations in our relationships? Tearing at our hearts and lives, healing spiritually stronger than before.

We walk together on this road, pilgrims in this world, strangers in this land, yoked together through this life.

We choose to stay together. We choose to love. No question about it. These past 3 years have certainly taught us that–we choose love through the difficult times and come out stronger on the other side. Life with each other and Jesus is unexpected, hard, fun, exhausting, miraculous, amazing. I would choose it no other way, yoked to no other, for this never picture perfect life. Happy birthday, my love!


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