Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent reflections

Hurry hurry hurry to be slow! This is That Week for moms everywhere - the one where we all long desperately to live up to our resolve to go slow and savor the graces and moment-by-moment beauties but wherein seeming reality strikes hard and can shatter that peace and the focus on what Advent really means as we yearn backward toward the glories of Eden, toward the incomprehensible violence that the manger does to our self-suffiency, and forward toward the restoration on Christ's return.  

So I am struggling along with all of you to stay there in that Reality instead of the frantic pace I am more apt to set for myself.  Part of the beauty is that even if I fail big, and then fail harder, that Reality doesn't splinter or shift but remains truth and I am secure so even my striving to have sincere focus isn't the hinge on which family joy rests.  Jesus is the hinge of my family's joy -  not me. 

So I sit quietly in the evenings, putting away the busy work and instead resting in the repetitive back and forth of the needles along these little mittens and feeling joy at the idea of little hands encased inside.

One week until Christmas Eve, friends.  Be struck with the wonder of all the complexities of His birth, from the shock of God in a feed trough and diapers to the upside down of the ceremonially unclean shepherds receiving the first invitation to see God in flesh.  Grace and peace to you all.

Joining the Yarn Along crowd over at Ginny's blog today!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be Not Afraid

 There is no calm like the calm of a clean and cozy house after a day full of squealing, screechy, squabbling, scrumptious children.  

That calm is here tonight.  The soft piano Christmas carols playing to lull children on toward sleep bring peace.  All one hundred counted messes are put in their places and the dishes are drying and please, sir, can I have some more of that chocolate caramel pretzel bark (which turned out delicious in spite of the fact that two ingredients were altered and it was made anyway in the smack middle of the loud and rowdy afternoon)?  The soft tree lights twinkle in the dim room and I remain baffled over how the home went from wake-of-tornado to tidy and warm in just an hour.

If you know our story, you may remember that last winter and then especially in the spring we had care of a darling little girl for a time.  Though we longed for her to stay permanently and the ache was great when we no longer tucked a fourth dearling in every night, we knew it was next to impossible, and sure enough, she left us after two months.  I did not think the story was over, but since then I have felt and heard the Lord saying to my heart, "Not yet, not yet, wait, child."  I am slowly learning to heed that voice of patience and calling.  I still don't claim to know the reason for this quiet holding and can only trust that the Spirit has been leading, guarding and moving. 

This week, that leading to wait suddenly lifted from both Jesse and I simultaneously and changed to, "Now."  We did try and we have been blessed to have this beloved in our home again this week.  It has been a week full-

Full of... well... what can I say?  Joy and gratitude.  I know my daughters would say the same thing as they extravagantly open their arms and hearts to this dear child that they love as their own sister.  The list of things that make them happy at the end of each day have included her each night. I don't know anything.  I don't know what will happen tomorrow or the next day or next week, but then, you don't either.  All I know is that for tonight, I am grateful.

Oh, mothers of young children, listen, my friends. Don't fall into thinking there is nothing you can or should do to minister to a lost and hurting world beyond the immediate care of your children.  Be earnest in prayer for opportunities to come to you and be watchful to make the most of every opportunity.  Sometimes I hear and read from the Christian community that our ministry as mothers is simply to our own children and husbands and oh yes how very very important our ministry to our families are and I would be the last person to diminish the importance of caring for the little flock that God has given us. But please, please, my friends, be discerning of your own heart.  Do not hide behind your children as an excuse from all of the courageous and small or even great acts of love you can provide to the Least-of-These you encounter.  It will not be easy, it will likely be pain-full, but it will also be beautiful and joy-full.  You will be a warrior busting down the gates of hell that hold captive the Least of These in despair and you, even you, can bring the hope and light of Christ Jesus, often in ways you wouldn't be able to do as well if you were not a mother. 

Be not afraid, says the angel to young Mary and to the cast-off shepherds - for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  

Be not afraid.  Seek the Savior. To do that, you must run to where He is, and that place where He resides is always downward and upside-down.  Go there and you will rejoice and ponder.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Yarn Along

I am later than usual to join the yarn party today!  I am still working away on sets of children's Bon-Bon mittens to be gifted.  I thought I had finished another pair but then realized that I had ridiculously knit two right mittens instead of a left and right.  Um, duh?  So I am now making a left mitten. 

I am really enjoying the fact that we switched to Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for our Advent readings around the breakfast table.  It is really beautiful and somehow hanging a little ornament on our Jesse tree is the highlight of the morning for little ones. 

My dear husband surprised us the other day by picking up the supplies to each paint our own ornaments.  What a fun family activity it turned out to be! Even Rosie's turned out really lovely!

Joining with Ginny's Yarn Along, better late than never!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Messy Beauty


All those years my mother gathered snacks for the big day, the Christmas tree decorating day.  Picking out the tree, eh, that was alright, but oh decorating.  Now that was something to look forward to.  Out came  the perfectly salty homemade chex mix, the satsuma oranges, the dips, the crackers, the summer sausage and special cheeses and lunch meats, and the boxes of ornaments.  And all six of us gathered around, and I can remember even when my youngest brothers were the ages of my own children now and we laughed and made fun of the weird ornaments and told stories and talked about our favorite ornament while Johnny Mathis crooned in the background.  

The first Christmas after Jesse and I married, we were both students and we were broke.  How to afford a Christmas tree?  Surely we needed one, I thought, so we scraped together money- was it out of the big jar of change Jesse had collected over the years?  We made our way to Walmart where we had just enough for the cheapest tree we could find.  And we took that tree home and we hung our ornaments on it and I sat back and looked at it and 

-oh how I cried. 

They were homesick tears and tears over the Ugly-Beautiful of change.  My parents home was (and is) a beautiful haven and in comparison our shabby little ground-floor apartment and our spindly sparse tree was so Unlovely, I thought.  My dear young husband, he looked at me baffled.  After all, hadn't we found a way against all odds to have our first tree?   I'm sure saw the glass half-full as he usually does, a quality that I now strive to emulate but one that used to drive me crazy until I learned that actually the glass isn't half-full but is is overflowing with blessings.

Now in our cozy little quirky home, I smile over those early days and they help me remember that the things that trouble me now are just as fleeting as that first Christmas tree.  

So we bundle the kids in heavy coats although it's all the way up to 43 degrees today, and we go hunting for a tree and I am thankful I dressed them for a possible picture opportunity because, surprise, Santa has come to visit the quiet nursery and we are the only shoppers and no lines.  Three little girls shyly edge closer and are won over by the offer of a candy cane and smile pretty for a picture. Then we tie a tree to the car and we put this tall green plant in our living room and it is beautiful.

And now it is my turn to spend the afternoon in the kitchen preparing special treats for the evening and we feast on satsuma oranges and homemade salty Chex mix and crackers and cheese and meat and the children's eyes shine.

My mother and I Skype just before we commence with munching and hanging and I mean to tell her but forget in the bustle of the children and breakables and the dishes of goodies.  I mean to tell her thank you.  Thank you for showing me the importance of special memories to children and adults alike.  Thank you for smiling (and at times, I'm sure, crying) through the hard years, like that year the tree fell over and fell over and finally had to be tied to the wall, or that Christmas we were all sick with the stomach flu on Christmas Day.  Thank you for teaching me that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful and that the chaos is part of the messy beauty of life together.  I'm doing my best to pass that legacy to the next generation.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Three little kittens...

There is something desperately magical about taking a loopy skein of yarn and transforming it into a garment for a loved one.  One pair of mittens finished, and another will be finished tonight, and then... churning out more for Christmas gifts.  They are fast and simple Bon Bon Mittens and I think I might make myself a pair one day in a solid color that will show off the sweet cable better than the 220 Paints my girls selected.  I am considering adding a bit of girly flair to them so that my three year old princess will wear her purple and green ones, so if you have suggestions of a border I might add or some other idea (a button?  a knit flower?), please do share a comment!

Inner shouts of joy and triumph tonight over completing all 30 of my continuing education hours in order to maintain my speech pathology certification.  My goal was to complete them by Thanksgiving and I'm within five days of that goal.  I am glad that the evenings of study are finished for now.

It is cold, with temperatures struggling to reach freezing in the afternoons now.  We wake to delicious frost on the grass, the gate, the stones, though no hoarfrost yet, which will transform the drab dying gray to a mystical fairyland.  Just about five weeks ago we were still garbed in shorts and sandals, yet here we are in the first week of December and can no longer step out of the house without a scarf and thick coat, with breath hanging in close clouds around our lips.  The chill makes for cozy days now, with the garden sleeping soundly, and more time for reading.  I am truly reading North! or Be Eaten! now (I know,  I know, it's been "my yarn along book" for weeks now), and it has finally gripped me.  I am thrilling through each pristine page of Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan (from Food In Jars) and really enjoying The Nesting Place which has been on my wishlist for a long while. Every year I look with intense expectation toward the Advent devotional we choose to read as family this year.  This year we are reading Ann Voskamp's new and beautiful book as a family, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, which may be a little over the heads of our children in parts but is so beautiful as I listen to my husband read it aloud at the table after breakfast every morning.  It is a little different than her usual writing style, a little simpler, a little less verbosely poetic which suits children who would miss many of the double meanings  and turns of phrase that characterize her style.

In the midst of this cold coldness, my husband came in the door with this adorable critter this afternoon. It is likely that she was abandoned on the road near our house since she was completely disoriented in the road.  That happens a lot out here where we live.  The results of this scenario are yet to be decided, though she is so so beautiful and sweet that she would probably make a fine addition to our family if we can't find an owner (and I suspect we won't but we will at least try).   We have been talking about finding another dog, but have put a decision off, since being a one-dog-family has been nice and peaceful.  We were thinking along the lines of a smaller dog since Gideon is such a massive (yet-lovable) beast.  But our Lyddie-girl, who is usually not much of a "dog-person" is in love with the puppy which surprised me, and this pup also seemed really taken with her.  We'll see what happens. This may become a Fern-and-Wilbur situation.  *smile*

I am linking up with Ginny again today and as always, eager to see what others are making and reading this week.  Christmas is on its way and we are eagerly preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth and remembering to look forward to His return!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November Glimpses

 Knitting happening here, rapidly in evenings.  I am churning out several pairs of Bon Bon Mittens from Tin Can Knits using Cascade 220 Paints but have made several strange mistakes so actually after all the frogging I have only completed one mitten.  I don't make mistakes like that all too often anymore, but I think it happens to the best so then it will certainly happen to me too.  I finished the first mitten and wove in the ends and everything, then knit the second one and when comparing it to the first realized I made at least one or two strange mistakes on the first and then frogged the whole first mitten.  I would have been more upset if it wasn't a toddler sized mitten that knit up in an evening or two.  

Not a lot of reading here but much podcast listening while doing Thanksgiving food preparations and Christmas preparations and cleaning in the afternoons while the girls have quiet time. I am listening to CraftLit (oh yay, CraftLit is back from hiatus!) with the book Herlandia,  as well as Dusted (a new podcast about Buffy, one of my all-time favorite shows), Never Not Knitting, Serial, and  Revive Our Hearts... Figuring out how to stream podcasts using the Stitcher app on my phone has been really fun this past week or two.  I don't get a lot of time to even poke around on the internet so finding a way to keep my mind engaged while doing housework.  I am still reading North! or Be Eaten a very little at a time (...still....), just picked up Cold Comfort Farm from the library but haven't started yet, and I will probably devour The Nesting Place when it arrives after Thanksgiving, which I bought for myself using birthday money.  I love Myquillyn's blog and have been wanting to read her book for months now.  

I recently won a giveaway over at Nourishing Days and received a copy of one of the Mama's Notebooks that I have seen reviewed and raved about on several blogs.  It came today and it is so lovely that I hardly want to start marking it up yet!  It has a single page for planning each week and a whole page opposite for notes and lists and such.  I have been using a yellow legal pad for all my life organization right now but I will relish transferring everything into this pretty spiral bound calendar+more.

Oh, and the recipe above is for Spinach Lasagna Rolls,  a Weight Watchers friendly recipe that allows me to get a pasta fix for fewer points and it is a fall and winter staple in our house!  Try it - I know you'll love it!

I am joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along as usual!  Won't you leave a comment so I can be sure to follow over and see your projects this week?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I have started this post several times, trying to wrap my heart and head around the realization that my first baby is five years old.  I know, I know - just wait until... she's 10, 15, 20, 30, I hear the voices say, and I am, I am waiting with joy.  If she is this lovely, precious, joy-imparting after just five years, what embodiment of beauty will she be in those future days?  

The party, the birthday, it was joy.  The scavenger hunt to find the new bicycle tucked into the back of the ministry bus - joy.  The sharing of a birthday with two friends, the ear piercing that makes her look so grown - joy.  Seeing her read aloud on the laps of those who taught me to read - remarkable. Watching in awe the caring love my little girl-sisters have for one another, the kind of love that didn't get jealous over the birthday girl's attention but that participated in bestowing it - beauty.  

This joy and beauty is not without imperfection. We have our share of grabbing, shoving with hands and words, pushing each of us to be in the front.  This big girl, now,  she has her momma's perfectionism, the one that shows its face when the laundry pile won't fold perfect smooth, when the letter won't form perfect under her pencil, and she grits her teeth and her forehead wrinkles, and she moans with frustration. 

And I hear the words coming out from between my lips, the ones I hear in my head over and over some days:  It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful.  I bend low over her head and say them again, a reminder that beauty isn't in perfection but instead is often wrought in and through imperfection. 

Don't forget, sweet one.  You are imperfect yet you are so beautiful.  The work of your hands will never be perfect, but it is beautiful.  Let go of flawless to find joy.  We can practice together, you and I, and remind each other of the truth.