When I am feeling so overwhelmed by all the bad that comes in and out of my life, I feel like I am the screw up, that nothing I am doing is helping anyone in my life. In fact, I am making it worse. My husband, my children, my friends, they all would be better off without me trying to help them. Now, this of course is a lie. It’s not true at all. It’s something I believe because I see so many things failing in my immediate circumstances. I can’t see the whole picture and how I am an important part of it. And that I have the capacity to do good. We are not good, so how can I believe that I am? It’s the Holy Spirit, that is all. Because, I can do a lot of crap all by myself that truly is no good without the love of God working through me.
I have encountered a lot of hurt, and some straight up bad stuff recently. People around me who have so much hurt, that there is no carefully constructed phrase that will make things hurt less. I remember when my friend lost her baby a couple years ago, I had no idea what to do. She is such a strong person, such a strong personality, that I didn’t want to be some coddling, cooing girlfriend whom she had never met before. I’m the friend who sat around the table with her debating things, hashing out ideas, complaining about getting older. Just being the strong personalities we are. When her community surrounded her in her grief, I saw folks craft those loving phrases, bring flowers, gifts, and meals. They offered playdates for her big kids, and showered love. These things are all good. I wanted to be her friend in a way that united us and brought a sense of normal (even though nothing ever could be). I brought my kids over to play with hers and I brought a buncha doughnuts. Evil, gooey, love from the bakery across the bridge. And we talked. Normal, it can never be in that state of grief. But can I tell you, I have no idea. Absolutely none.
The pain of losing a parent, betrayal by a spouse, caring for a chronically ill family member, suddenly becoming a single parent, giving birth to your still born baby, being a child of divorce, being abandoned, sexual molestation. I have no idea what any of these things truly feel like. I have only been there, next to those I love, as they go through the muck, the fire, the pain. I feel guilty for not knowing. But in this world, there will always be that knowledge. Pain.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I have only lived 37 years. I have had my heart broken many times. But for all that breaking, I also am full of thanksgiving. I am thankful for the prayers of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. My great-aunt who never married, and drove me bonkers with her pestering, she prayed for me. I feel like I have been living with a cloud of witnesses calling out on my behalf. Maybe that’s a reason that 37 years have seen less than some. Still, what can I give when I have not been in the shoes of those who now suffer? You know what, it doesn’t matter. Haven’t I learned my lesson? It’s not about me, so I cry out to God and I pray and I believe in my naive way that “everything’s gonna get better!” Actually, it’s more like, “No, no way, this can’t be happening.” Creation groans for the Lord, and so do I.
For those who are living in a personal hell of pain from sickness, abandonment, exhaustion, victimization, betrayal, I want to say that you are important. Your best efforts are really, truly, enough. For those who need you and love you, you are strength, light, hope, love. Don’t believe that you are less. Those children, parents, friends, spouses, they know you aren’t perfect. There are tears, and screams, and long never-ending sighs, but you are doing a great job. The Lord God is our perfect Father and he looks at us purified in the blood of Jesus and He holds us so gently in His hands. He does not grow weary, even though you do. He will make a way through the fire, the water, the hell, and you will be that vessel, all glued back together, that can hold everything once again. He heals, restores, builds up, and loves.
I may not always feel important. But I hope this word reaches someone who needs it. I often tell new mommies, “You are doing a great job.” That’s all I wanted to know. To all who need untethered encouragement. Here it is.
I have yet to find good jeans for my daughter, Eden. She plows through the knees of everything. Last spring, we went to Old Navy and bought some cute jeans and tops. The jeans did not make one year. Of course, I’m not totally sure these jeans will fit her much longer. But, until they don’t cover her bum at all, I wanted to patch her teal jeans, because they are cute. I saw this pin on Pinterest and I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I didn’t take a ton of pictures during this pair, but little sis now wants her own monstrous knees, so I’ll show you steps of Tessa’s too. So, first, trim the fringy, hairy bits from the holes of your jeans. Make it nice and clean. Then, next, you make a small rolled hem under so your opening has a frayed edge no more! Then, I gathered a strong material and a pretty material that would fit inside the hole and the surrounding weaker area, like a good patch should.
Next, I sewed the two materials together with a simple stitch. So, one side of the patch is strong and one side is pretty. Pin the patch to the inside of your jeans and sew the patch with as small stitches as possible to the jeans in the shape of the square you cut out. Small stitches will hold the patch well, but not be super visible. I am not really good at this, my mom was, and I’m sure if you read that this works and looks better, you’ll try it!
Next, cut your felt out. I used poly felt, because I wasn’t sure if wool felt would work at all. After Eden has worn these jeans a few times, and I’ve washed them once, I’ll say be ready for the teeth to get messed up first. I may even replace them later. I tacked the teeth in, just under the rolled hem. Then after the teeth are set, I went ahead and tacked down the entire mouth hole. I also tacked down each tooth, I figured that would help with the wash and wear.
The eyes that the Pinterest pin showed were just ‘x’s’ and I thought that worked the best too. I grabbed some light pink embroidery thread and made some x marks the spot eyes.
The night before I finished these, I stopped before I made the monster mouth commitment. When I told Eden the next morning that I thought about making the patches monster mouths she had a twinkle in her eye and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Give this one a try! It’ll take the sting out of your sore index finger when you see monsters grinning on your child’s knees. Eden went around the next day or so pretending to bite us with her knees. Crazy kid. Who does she belong to?
Most nights I am home. I am doing dishes, cleaning house, doing laundry. Joel and I put the kids to bed, give hugs and kisses and then we exhale and, hopefully, I get to sit on the couch and watch something fun on TV before I fall asleep. Joel usually falls asleep half an hour or more before I do. Most nights, it’s totally relaxing. It’s normal and it decompresses my day. But then, my extroverted side gets board some days.
Since I homeschool my kids now, seeing other adults can be a challenge. At work, we are all busy managing other children. Other homeschooling moms have all their own schedules and older or younger children to manage. I mean, really, all moms, no matter how we school our children, we are all busy. Soccer, drama, choir, girl scouts, doctor’s appointments, naps, church, family. It’s exhausting. I have made a personal choice to limit those things. I also have very little family in town. I get lonely. Are you lonely too? I see my mom twice a week. I am fulfilled by my job. But I get lonely. There’s something wrong when I have so many women whom I love to be with, and I’m pretty confident that they like to be with me too. Why don’t we see each other? Why aren’t we desperate to be with our friends? I run through all the things that we are in charge of and the many different things we go to, and I’m not surprised. It doesn’t help the fact that I’m lonely sometimes.
I have been saying that I need to “be the friend I want to have”. This method should bring friends closer to me, or help me make new ones. Right? This motto backed up on me last week. I was letting the loneliness take over my will to reach out. I became tired of reaching out. I mean, why isn’t anyone else reaching out? There are many reasons and it would make this post too long. But nevertheless, I must keep reaching out. Someone has to do it. Everyone needs that life line to make you realize, “Yes, I am lonely, and I will battle my dirty house another time. I will drink some tea and wake myself up so I can spend another 2 hours awake and with friends. I will gamble with my awkwardness, my blabber-mouth (or painful silence), my inadequacies to be with people. To be with people that I love and that God loves. It is important. Stop being selfish y’all! It is so easy to do the normal stuff, do something different!
I believe that God gave us our mountain home so that we can have people over more. I take that to heart. I will invite people over, again and again. Every time I feel lonely I will decide to reach out. It’s really hard. But there are plenty of evenings when I can curl up and troll Pinterest or read one of my goofy graphic novels. Netflix will not disappear. I have lots of cute clothes I hardly ever wear because I don’t GO OUT! Let’s go out, friends. Let’s invite others out. Send me a text, I’m probably, almost always, available.
This week I’m the helper at Tessa’s Pre K class and my general rule is that the craft I do must come from what I already have in the house. It’s pretty easy when there are only 8 girls. A craft for one gender: even easier, just sayin’. So to will spring here sooner, I bring you our flower bed. Think happy late winter crocuses! (and pay no attention to my son’s dirty cereal bowl)
I’ve been collecting paper egg cartons for the next time we get farm eggs, or for crafting. I don’t hoard much at home, but keeping 4 or 5 cartons has been very helpful. I also have a happy dream about replicating that awesome Anthro window display. Someday. Anyway, first step separate your egg carton into desired size of flower bed. We chose three sections each.
We pre-painted each flower bed green. We kept it pretty brushy, so it looked like grass and dried faster. Also, punching a hole through the top of each section with a pair of scissors would be good too. It makes for easier stem insertion.
Then, when you’ve chosen 3 colors of cupcake papers you like, fold three of them in half all together and snip a small slit through all three papers. Insert the pipe cleaner stem through the slit and make a loop or twist in the center to keep them on.
After doing this craft with the Pre K today, I would definitely do this with older kids, like 5-6 year olds. The 3-5 year olds needed lots of assembly help, which I figured would happen, but it would be nice if the kids had more control for this craft.
Hedgie, he is named. It’s my turn to be the parent helper for our little Pre K co-op and so I hit up my Pinterest board called “Littles Gonna Make” for an idea. See, I don’t call my time on Pinterest a waste, it’s actually work. I get ideas and I make them come true. I also have yet to have an epic ‘Pinterest fail’. I choose wisely, but oh man, when I do get an epic fail, be sure, you will see it here! Anyway, I found this tutorial and it looked fun. The problem with using it for Pre K is that I had a whopping total of 3 paper plates. That meant that just Tessa was going to get to make this. It took her no time at all cuz she has mad scissor skills. For someone a year younger, it would be a great practice and a cute successful result. First, you fold a paper plate in half. Then, I took some tacky glue and smeared some on the plate where the hedgehog body will be. Then, you (or in our case, the kid) draw the profile of the hedgehog on one side and cut the face out. Tessa used a purple sharpie so when she watercolored Hedgie, his face wouldn’t smear. I guess you also could make him festive and give him a googly eye. I love googly eyes.
Hand it off to the youngster with the scissors and let them chop away at the top half! The fringes are very satisfying. Tessa enjoyed painting Hedgie’s front and back a browny-orange. Of course, she happened to color the face again with a flair felt tip pen and that pen, my friends, bleeds when wetted. Just a side note.
Good little craft. If we had had enough plates we would have brought the Mitten story and made hedgehogs. We will leave that for another time. Or you can snatch that idea up, I don’t blame you.
Little Makers gonna make! No hating.
Without really trying, we had some fun around our sweet town and our sweeter ‘hood. I am just in love with this picture of the kids at Rock City. Rock City is just a few miles from our house and Joel hasn’t been inside since we all snuck in at night back in college. So, Joel was excited to get us a family pass for this year. Today was a little grey outside, but we had a great time finding the gnomes everywhere, enjoying the coolness of the big rocks, and saying witty and strange things with tourists standing nearby. I think Joel took pictures for the same couple three different times with their iPad. It was a banner day.
Some Fridays we have free time. Some Fridays we invite friends over to the house, but this week we were all ready to be out of our house. I couldn’t convince the kids to go hiking, so the zoo is always a nice option. We grabbed up a membership when we went to the Atlanta Zoo this fall. It made the trip cheaper then, and now we get to enjoy animals! This Friday was also beautifully cool and sunny. In this golden age of parenting, all my kids walk at a good pace on their own, they can survive with little to no snacks, and they all enjoy what they are seeing. They can read the signs, and have a bit more roaming freedom. These things sound silly I’m sure for others with older kids and teens, but man, I am really loving this stage. Josiah takes off to see the crow and get him to say, “Hello” and the girls can still giggle at my side at the prairie dogs. One of my favorite parts of the zoo is the jaguars. They are almost always awake and roaming. I am hypnotized by their size and pattern. So, so beautiful. This go around, he was pacing back and forth and the kids positioned themselves at different places along the viewing window and the big cat just paced between all three of them. So fun, and wonderful.
My parents are in the throws of trying to find a new house and sell their huge one. They have a very specific punch list, and we have been giving our advice and perspective when asked. When we were scoping out listings that they have been seeing, we found this place that was around the corner from our mountain home. We noticed it was huge. 3 kitchens, 3 floors…why have we never noticed this spot? So we went on a little walk. This place is enormous, but it needs so much work. The owner had divided it up into three separate apartments and none of them are very nice. But it butts up against national forest and a bike trail. It has an incredible view. It is almost completely sided with mountain stone, and it has so much space. It would make an incredible lodge. Joel and I love to check out these properties, and especially since we are so in love with where we live, we are fascinated by the little places tucked away in the woods.
Our Snow White cottage. It is owned by the Parks Department and it neighbors the historic Craven’s House. It sits stripped and empty. Not much left of architectural merit on the inside. But it is so magical still. It has a slate tile roof, little rock constructed garage and storage areas, pretty porches with that haunting sage green perfectly peeling and rough. I am always drawn to it. I want to take more pictures of it, I want to pose my children in it, and it has an amazingly large ginko tree in the front yard that makes the whole yard turn to gold in October. Unfortunately, this house will probably be torn down by the Parks Department in order to keep the historic relevance of the grounds. This house isn’t Civil War era, and so it’ll go bye-bye in order to bring the battlefield back to it’s original form.
We live down the street from the Incline Railway. It’s the World’s Most Amazing Mile right? You can drive under the railway on Shingle Road. There is also a little stopping point at this point where you used to be able to get a “half way pass”. I would love to that pass, it would make our location so much fun! We could bop down to get ice cream or go to Grandma’s. We are in a wonderful location and it is really fun to still have railroad tracks down the street, just like we had in Jefferson Heights.
There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy our spaces. I have always enjoyed those little pathways that are less traveled and less publicized. I want to have these little special places that will fill up our Saturdays and Sundays. I love to learn what our city holds and learn more about it, from that place of discovery with my kids and my husband. If you get to enjoy your places, and are willing to share, I’d love to see them. The places we share become like a special ‘show and tell’ we want to share what is ours, but in order to love those things and places more, the sharing part is oh so necessary.
Children should not die from cancer. Children should not be chronically ill. Young men should not find their bodies are filled with disease and young women should not be having major surgery just so their bodies can be mobile. Marriages should not fail. Children should not have to wonder why their family is falling apart. Babies should not die in the womb. Our love for Jesus should never die, we shouldn’t fall out of love with Jesus. But you know what, all this stuff happens.
This just happens to be what is happening in my small first world. First world problems. Medical science can’t fix all, our bodies still die. Even if it’s a twelve year old’s body. Lord God. We need breakthrough.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
I believe this. We have studied Ancient History for the past year in our home schooling curriculum. A lot of this study has been the Bible and the prophets. The prophet Jeremiah lived through trying times. He watches his people being persecuted by a foreign land and he knows God’s heart for His people and it breaks. It was broken. He had to take away their freedom, even their identity. The people of God were eventually stripped of their Promised Land, driven away to Babylon. They were made slaves, and treated with cruelty. The Babylonians were mean folks. It took Nebuchanezzar four tries to completely conquer Jerusalem, and other prophets cried out to God and man about the plans that the Lord had for His people. I believe that His plans remain, to bring us all to Him even when we have heartbreak and pain and we see things crumble beneath us. We see and hear prophecies, and we choose to not believe them, we chose instead to live as victims of circumstances and become buffeted by the enemies plans.
But, Jesus loves us. We are weak, and He is strong.
I must say, I have never been comfortable as an intercessor. I like the idea of long prayer meetings, but I, like my children get wiggly and impatient at them. But I see that my role during these storms in my world is to be an intercessor. I pray when I wash dishes, when I drive, when I do my kick-boxing workout (which is a really good way to make fighting through something physical all about the spiritual instead). I pray with my children, we talk about what we can, and I do a lot of staring out the window. I’m really not that deep, I just have to stare out the window. It’s a form of center for me. God has given me a gift. That gift is out my windows. The days that carry bad news, or days that are unbearably long, there is a bit of a reprieve out those windows, even on the greyest winter days. The light shines through the empty branches. Birds bop from branch to branch and back and forth from the bird feeder. The shapes that surround these woods are from Him. So I find I am brought to those places of prayer, worship and knowledge of God in what is around me. I joke with Joel that I’d lose my mind if we didn’t live in the woods, but I do believe that these days, I don’t think I could be more thankful for this gift. He cares about our needs. He will do as He has promised.
I also can never get enough of Isaiah (the 40′s especially)
The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.