Twelve/Twelve

Sol is sprawled out sleeping at the top of the stairs like a dog. He’s going through a phase where he doesn’t want to lay down in his bed, or do anything I ask of him, so he pouts at the top of the stairs until he passes out. Sometimes he dumps laundry on the floor, uses the hamper as a step stool and covers himself in deodorant from atop my dresser. He’s quite the booger and is really good at pushing buttons, but his sweet grin and dimples wins me over every time.

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It’s the end of the year and I’ve been reflecting a bit on the fact that we’ve added two people to our household this year. We got rid of one restaurant. It’s quite a lot of change, but it’s good rebuilding change, and I am thankful for all the neat things God prompts us to do.

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Our house feels so small now that it’s winter. We may have added an entire addition, but the kids and I still generally spend all our time in the same room. I remember fondly the days that we lived in a 2,700 square foot house and wonder how it would feel to have extra room with these four kids + one grandma. Of course, this thought process is impossible because this IS what we have and it’s great to be squished together all the time (or so I tell myself).

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I was nursing Winnie to sleep tonight while watching the shadows of our paper snowflakes dancing on the ceiling. It is amazing how magical some cut paper can make a room look, and even more amazing that the boys are getting old enough to actually make some beautiful ones.

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God is truly a God of miracles, of healing, and of answered prayers. It NEVER looks like what I think nor do I think I could write up an accurate portrayal of the amazing work he has been doing in my life and in our community. His timing is perfect, it is good, and it so much more radical, yet normal, than I could ever have imagined.

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Brad and I are married so we have arguments. Often they’re stupid and about rabbits and other times they’re about big and important topics like our kids or what we’re doing with our lives. The days are so full taking care of others that when everyone is finally in bed (or passed out at the top of the stairs) the last thing I want to do is spend that time arguing. Sometimes we go to bed mad only to wake up with an anger hangover. Today my love brought home a huge bouquet of daisies, big enough to fill two quart jars, because of a difficult conversation (read: fight) last night. It’s so good to be loved and to love.

Black Friday

I wrote a couple of rants about Black Friday this morning and quickly deleted them all because I sounded like a jerk.

Finally I asked God what he wanted me to write about Black Friday and I heard “nothing.”

To those that choose to get up early and enjoy this time shopping with family, God blesses and loves you.

To those that choose to buy nothing today, God blesses and loves you.

That’s it. God loves us.

Photo dump

Yesterday and today were shitty days.

As the days wore on it felt like one rock after another was piled onto my back until I was slumped over and sad.

But! The story gets better, it gets better because I have friends who at the drop of my hat will pray for me and my shitty day. And not just say they will pray, but literally stop working and pray to God for my life, and then take the time to send me eight minute long voxes with words that the Spirit gave them through prayer.

I am so blessed.

Then I spent time looking through pictures from the last 3 months because I took nearly 2000 photos that needed edited.

To look through these moments, many already forgotten about, and to see a good life is pure joy. For that brief moment a shutter opens to capture light and darkness and shows it is good.

A prayer for despair.

Take your right hand and make a first. Now take your left hand and make a fist. Crash your knuckles into each other, opening your palms as your hands spread away from each other.

This is the spirit world. Every day, every minute, every second. Good and evil are clashing, brawling and fighting for territory on earth.

When bad things happen, it looks like evil is winning. Everyone talks about the evil, thinks about the evil and fears the evil.

“How can we fight the evil?” we ask. “What can we do to make this better?”

But dear friends, we alone are not capable of this fight. We will crumple in sadness and despair at the hopelessness of this fleeting world.

The boldest response to evil is prayer.

We don’t need more programs, rules or regulations. We need more shouts and cries to God for his Kingdom to come quicker to our world.

God save us. Save our world. Save our friends and our neighbors. Show us what to do next for your Kingdom.

Backs and Babies

I just started putting the baby on my back. I celebrate this milestone that allows me to bend over again.

A baby on the back reminds me of the first summer here in this spacious place, carting Sol around while we learned to tend animals.

It’s hard to believe we’ve cared for two babies in this place now, but not harder than believing I have four children. Others have shared a similar sentiment and the surprise over how my life has turned out is often written in the fine lines of a friend’s face. I don’t blame them, this wild, free, chaotic life is not something I could have imagined.

Today I saw a picture from when we only had one son. A time when we thought we would only have one son, that we were a one and done kind of people like my parents and grandparents before me. Generational only-childness.

I think back to some of my happiest childhood memories spent with my best friend and her siblings. I loved her house, it was loud and full of life. My house was quiet, dull, and often lonely.

I should have known this is the course I would subconsciously crave.

Naturally, as I’m talking about a loud life the baby woke up and as I went in to do my signature bounce/sway back to sleep I felt extremely privileged to hold this entire body in my hands and care for her with the depth of my love. I don’t often feel this way, especially about a waking child at night.

Lately I’ve been having these amazing experiences with God. There’s been these moments of clarity in which I’ve felt more in tuned with His will and Spirit than ever before and it’s incredible. Then the feelings go away for a couple of weeks and I worry I’ll never feel them again. It feels so good that I never want that communion to cease. I want to greedily hold onto it forever and ever, and then I remember that is what Heaven will be and I relax a little. I am so grateful that we get to touch His kingdom here on earth.

I have such a hard time ending these posts because I don’t have a point or a clear line of thought. It’s a rambling bunch of thoughts that come to me as I’m typing. I do pray that God lead me before every one of these posts and, while I don’t think every word is divinely inspired, I can feel his gentle presence with me as I write. I pray that others feel pushed outside of the “normal” realm of worship and prayer, and are inspired by how wide and deep God’s kingdom is. These writings are extremely cathartic to me and give me great joy.

What are the things that give you a feeling of great joy deep within your chest? Dive in.

Dreaming.

I wanted to eat at The Bridge for lunch today.

A wave of heavy grief rolled in. Sadness that it’s over, relief that it’s over.

Over the past year I’ve slowly shed parts of my former life. I told myself that homesteading wasn’t important, that vacations weren’t for us, that sewing and the creative life aren’t necessary.  We had to be able to do The Bridge with all our hearts.

But, I am beginning to realize some of these things are important, and are us. The values of tending the land and of creating new things are integral for our family and community.

It has left me picking up the pieces of a shattered former life and trying to figure out what sticks. I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am stronger.

Dreaming. It’s exciting.

Cleanliness.

A couple of summers ago I sat outdoors, nursing a baby at The Wilds, while my family puttered around the gift shop.

A middle-aged woman at the table next to me engaged in discussion with a younger couple, probably her children, about how another woman kept house.

“She doesn’t even keep her stove clean.  I clean my stove every time I use it, I deep clean each burner every week, you know, that’s what you’ve gotta do to keep it clean.  I just don’t know what to do with her.”  On and on this lady described the shortcomings of another’s housekeeping and how angry that made her.

How, with an amazing view of God’s glorious and beautiful land right in front of her, could she be spewing such hate?  Did she even notice the rolling hills and blue skies?

I wondered if this is how everyone else feels, because I certainly do not wipe my stove every time I use it and do I ever really scrub those burners?

Today a friend was telling me how dirty her house was.  I could see the look of despair in her eyes, of realization that she can never get it as clean as she would like.  She’s a new mother, an amazing one, and she reminds me of the early days of motherhood when suddenly I cared about keeping the house clean but no longer had the time or energy to do so.

“Sometimes I look at the big beautiful houses around the park, and instead of admiring their architecture or gardens, I think about how clean they probably are inside,” she told me.

Your house says a lot about you, but it doesn’t say everything about you.

My favorite houses are those that let me in, no matter what lies behind the door.  They don’t clean up for me, cover the holes in the walls or the dishes in the sink.  They say, “Come on, come in, we’re so happy to see you.”

One of my best friends is an inviter, quick to have me over even though her house is just as chaotic as mine; full of noise, kids, animals and toys spewed about.

What I see is exactly that, fullness.  She has a life full of love, friendship, andfamily and she spends her days giving herself to others instead of worrying her house will get dirty.

Brad told me that he likes when I visit her because I come home relaxed.  She’s not a poor housekeeper, in fact she has white couches and small kids (crazy, right?!), but she’s doesn’t try to hide the fact that messes are made and things get broken.  Her honesty and openness encourages me to present a more humble and honest view of myself to others, knowing that my warts can help others to feel more comfortable with their own difficulties.

A few years ago, we were watching fireworks in a church parking lot.  We met a family with two little boys that took a liking to Theo and while we chatted with their parents they ended up playing in our van.

One of the boys, about four, boldly told me my van was a mess and I should clean it. Annoyed and defensive (I’m an adult, I don’t have to clean it) I stammered something about knowing that it was a mess and we should clean it.

Did a four year old just call me out?  Did it make me feel bad?  His observation bothered me for a while until it occurred to me there was probably a lot of pressure placed on cleanliness in his household.  I thought, I would rather have old french fries in the crevices of my van than children that point out other’s dirt.

A clean house can probably be fun, but I know for sure that a messy one is.

Love, self-awareness & Craigslist.

The other night while lying next to Brad I remembered one of my first moments of self-awareness.  I recall playing in the field near our crick (hello, I’m Appalachian and a crick is a small creek) thinking about how I could have been born anything, a frog or a butterfly perhaps, but I was born a human.  Not only that but I was born a specific human to a specific family with a specific set of emotions, feelings and interests.

This is a little mind blowing as a kid, but also interesting to think about the possibilities.  What if I had been born a frog?  What if I had been born someone else?  What would that look like?

I became aware that this inner dialogue is all mine, and that it’s only mine.

I imagine Theo is getting close to this age and it excites me.  I look forward to my children aging and learning and experiencing the stages of life.  Even though it tugs at my heart to see them growing so big I certainly don’t want them to stay little forever.  The world is ripe for exploring.

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On Instagram the other day (yea, so much for my social media fast) I noticed how many comments on famous pages would say something like “I LOVE your page, great content!”  or “I love your purse, hat, shirt, etc.”.  It occurred to me how adulterated the word love has become and how I am absolutely part of the problem.  Every time I use the word love in a context other than the intense affection God has for me or I for someone else I essentially deem it meaningless.

I’m trying my best to reserve love for something more than a handbag or a shirt.

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I got to use a machete yesterday and it was way better than a weedeater.  I highly recommend it.  Wielding a giant knife seems dangerous but it was in fact quite satisfying and quickly destroyed the pokeberries that are everywhere (things that worry me: stray toddlers ingesting poisonous berries).

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A few weeks ago, Sunday service was held in the front room of our church where floor to ceiling windows look out over the river toward downtown.  It was such a great experience not only to sing in a smaller, more intimate setting but also to be actively praying for our community as we watched cars go by.

It was a windy day and every time it gusted I imagined the Spirit of the Lord moving in this town, blowing out evil and making space for his Kingdom to grow.

To God be the glory.

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After reading my post the other day Brad told me that I’m a good writer.

I responded with a stupid “What do you mean?”

He retorted, “you can accept it or not, but you know what I mean.”  Well, that meant a lot coming from my publisher husband.

After that I felt joyful and happy and I’ve probably let it go to my head.  Everything I know about writing I’ve learned from Brad.

The main lesson: less is more.

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A couple of years ago my grandma gave me a pack of fly tape as a gift.  There’s no better way to make someone feel like crap than to hand them some fly tape for their kitchen.  I can see the flies, I know they’re there and if I wanted I could certainly buy some fly tape of my own.

Naturally, I threw it in a drawer and scoffed at the idea of dead flies hanging around.

This summer when I had finally had enough of these pesky flies I dug through drawers until I found the fly tape.  It turns out this stuff is magical, especially with three boys, chickens, and screen door that doesn’t shut all the way.

I put a new roll up this morning and 3 hours later it had caught 10-15 insects.  It works and it’s chemical free.  Thanks Grandma.

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Brad went on a craigslist run this afternoon so he texted me the address on his way.  I knew the house was out there but after an hour and a half with no response I was officially freaking out.

I couldn’t stop wondering, at what point do I call the police?

So, I did the worst thing you can do in this situation: I googled “Craigslist murders”.

Turns out, Brad spent an hour and a half at this guy’s house, prayed for him, chatted with him and then DIDN’T buy the damn window because it wasn’t the size it was supposed to be.  He also taught him how to properly measure windows.  Oh, and all of this was outside of cell range.

I’m glad he’s OK, but he should definitely never do that again.

The smell of life.

The boys are outside and Winnie just started crying in her room.  I’m neglecting the chores, deciding instead that I will embrace this quiet moment to write.  Naturally, my quiet moment has now been interrupted by the aforementioned crying baby and the middle boy coming in yelling at the top of his lungs for me.  The door has again been left open, leaving our kitchen a safe haven for the flies.

A drink of milk and 10 minutes of rocking later, I sit here again in the quiet.  The air conditioner is running, but it smells like a dead mouse is trapped somewhere in the duct.  A reminder that our house is old, smelly and falling apart.  Not that I need that reminder, I think about it every day.  In fact, it is such a concern for me that it causes me great anxiety, especially in the warm months when everything grows out of control, smells are more pronounced and boys are dirtier.

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I remind myself what a gift this house is.  The summer we first moved here, aside from difficulties that come from being in a new place, it felt magical.  Everything was beautiful and this house even in its “as is” state was much nicer than our previous one.  Many evenings I ran outside at the sight of a golden sunset, marveling at the beauty and our fortune to call this home.

What has happened to me over the past two years?  When was the last time I dropped the dishes and ran out to a sunset, or walked down over my precious hill to spend quiet time with God?

Why did I allow life to suck me dry of all courage to live a joyful life?

I feel it seeping back into my bones.  I feel like I can take back my life, that I can submit myself again to God’s will and to stop giving the devil his foothold.

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I just turned around, it looks like the rain is about to start.  Our basement is a moldy, musty mess, and the last thing we need is any more water in it.  We threw out bags of stuff this past week, not important things (of course, there aren’t a lot of things we deem important enough to get upset over), but things nonetheless, ruined by the deluge of water that ran into our basement.  Our house smells musty, and my constant headache and allergy symptoms lead me to believe it is indeed making me sick.  My anxiety is having a real field day with this house right now.

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Earlier this week we ran away and spent the night with my in-laws.  It was a good respite for the boys and I while Brad spent the day in meetings.  I came home less tired than I had left, which is pretty good for a night in a strange bed.

As soon as I got home, though, I felt even more anxious and worried about the state of our house than before I had left.  My in-laws have this beautiful house, and my mother in law is great at cleaning and keeping tidy.  Her house is lovely, her gardens are lovely and it is a peaceful place to be.

The contrast to our house which is full of chaos, noise, dirt, building materials, and weedy gardens just about put me over the edge.  Will I ever be adult enough to keep our place under control?

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My writing is different today and words are flowing freer than they have for quite a while.  I’m reading the “The Crosswicks Journals” by Madeleine L’Engel, and her beautiful words has inspired me to just write.  Usually, I think of a topic that has been on my mind and try to fit a succinct blog post around it.  My stash of half written documents tells me that method is complete crap.  Today I prayed that the Spirit would lead me to write something because I was feeling so joyful from L’Engel’s book.  I do feel like He came through and is here with me.

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I had to go close the kitchen door again (hello flies!), and caught sight of all three boys playing intently in the garage.  Theo is building something out of a giant box, Ira is watching, and Sol is riding his trike.  I think they are the most wonderful children even though they can seem like such monsters at times.  Their frustrations and anger make me so much more aware of my own anger and how I frequently act as ridiculous and irrational as my two year old.  I never expected children to make me confront my own humanity, my own being, and my own emotions in a way that would force me to better myself.  I certainly don’t want to teach them more bad habits than I already have even though I know I will.  I am flawed and human, but I always strive to apologize after an outburst and explain to them that I was not acting my best.  I hope that they have a better understanding of their emotional selves as they grow than I did.

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It feels like we have had so much change this past year that I’ll burst if anything else changes.  Except that I’m longing for change because what we are doing now is so exhausting it’s not sustainable.  We are to the point where I think we are going to work ourselves, especially Brad, to sickness.  We sat in our new addition last night, supposedly my grandma’s room if she ever decides to move in, and talked about our options, about our future and what might lie ahead for us.  It felt lovely.

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This is a lovely day.  A lovely, ordinary day.  Thunderstorms are darkening the skies and for the first time in a week we don’t have to leave the house.  I’ll never understand why there are “days in which the whole world seems like a rose garden and days in which our hearts seem tied to a millstone” as Henri Nouwen wrote, but I know God is with me in both.