Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I Learned in August

Linking up with Emily to share a few things I learned last month:

1. Nighttime park trips are magical. And I don't mean like dusky, sunset trips. I mean like, NIGHTTIME. Like Annie insists we wait until it's "really dark". Peyton and the kids came up with this idea and the other night I joined them for the first time. It was cooler of course and the park was mostly empty (a few teenagers were hanging around- more talking and texting, less necking and petting, I know inquiring minds want to know). Peyton calls the slides the "dark dark caves" and we went up and down them with the kids. To be honest, they were sort of creepy in that neat, magical way. I don't think the kids pick up on that yet, exactly, but I did. I sat up at the very top of the tower that the slides come down from and listened to their excited voices and watched their shadows dance. It was lovely and perfect and I wonder how much beauty like this I miss because I refuse to stop and be still like that.

2. I finally- six years into marriage/living on my own-am sort of finding my cooking "style". 

The other night I realized that if I worked a bit more on trying some new recipes I might not only have a handle on things in the kitchen, I might have a style. This is oddly comforting to me. Maybe because my mom had a very definite home cooking meat and potatoes style and Peyton's parents had a very definite large family casserole style. I think part (definitely not all) of my ambivalence in (and sometimes dread of) the kitchen is that I couldn't pinpoint how I wanted us to eat. Anyway, one of my best discoveries this Summer was a super simple tomato tart that is just delicious, pretty, healthy, and easy. Then last week, I cooked these fish tacos that meet the same specifications. Last Winter, I became obsessed with this six ingredient tomato basil soup. Other favorites of ours are veggie dinners and taco bars in the Summer and spaghetti and chili in the Winter. Here's the thing about all these dishes-
- They taste DELICIOUS. This is clearly the most important thing. But not worth sacrificing the rest, most nights.
- They are SUPER easy. They don't have a ton of ingredients and aren't very time intensive.
- They present well. You can pair them with salads or fresh produce and especially in the Summer it's a pretty presentation. I can feign being capable
- They go beyond healthy and with these three things they are *mostly* made of "real" food and not processed junk. It's not accident this is last. As much as I've wanted this to be, it's never been a priority in our kitchen. The kids eat tons of fruits and veggies but I've always been that mom that cooked with lots of cream of chicken soup for dinner and that kind of thing. However, sort of by accident, I've discovered that I can put together meals without it and they are still tasty, easy, and present well.
Now to just find a few more recipes to rotate and be consistent!

3. We have a READER.
A homeschooling friend and I talk about this sometimes- when do you call your child "a reader"? I mean, ovbiously once they can read. But it's not the first word they read, is it? The first sentence, the first book, the first time they begin reading fluently without sounding everything out? When? Not that it matters much, it's just interesting to think about. Anyway, I'm confident Annie is very officially a reader. She read aloud a good bit of this dinosaur book to Graves's while back and last night she was reading sentences from an adult book that Peyton got from the library. I wasn't too impressed with the former (I'll admit to being impressed with the latter) but here's what I do observe: she has SO many hours in her day to figure out what SHE wants to do with her education (like learn to pronounce dino names and read to her brother) and she has had such a soft, gentle place to be wrong and I think (for her) that's been paramount in her being brave enough to try things in which she might fail. I've said it before, but watching her learn to read has probably been more significant to me than being there for her first steps and first words. It's just so amazing. 

4. Our new schedule is requiring a good bit of adjustment and calendars/planners are key. I keep meaning to write an actual post about Peyton's schedule changing up, but it has been a BIG change. Mostly for me, if I'm honest. Anyway, we have been making tons of use out of Google Calendars (at Peyton's insistence) and really planning our days. And I've been enjoying my new planner. I feel like we're both enjoying planning our days in small increments rather than just making a big to-do list and running around trying to accomplish things.

5. Tongs make good tools for cleaning up and creative solutions often work better with Graves than overt consequences.
This past week, he had privileges taken away multiple times this week for not cleaning up his room. Who cares? This weekend I let him do it with a pair of tongs and he finished in ten minutes without me needing to keep on him the whole time.

 6. Completely finishing the main room of the house felt incredible.
We spend a lot of our day in the den. The kids watch television in there when they get up, I do morning school in there with them, Annie spends most of rest time there or in the kitchen, we often hang out in there all four of us, Peyton and I sometimes watch TV in there (especially when we get take out) and it's by far the most used room when we have visitors over. I've always loved the room. It's just spacious enough and I love that the colors are bright but not overpowering. I do still want to change out some pictures in the frames, but that's something I'm not in a huge hurry about.

7. Good books inspire me.
This seems pretty obvious and it's one of those things (it seems like I have at least one each month) that I knew in my heart but maybe forgot the full extent of. Anyway, I feel more creative, more engaged, more alert, more inspired, and perhaps most of all more joyful when I am reading good books. I often (often!) fail to prioritize it and it should be a wake up call.

8. A really people heavy week is going to simultaneously nourish my soul and deplete my strength. We had a pretty heavily peopled week a week or so ago and it about did me in. But at the same time, I felt like my heart was very full, my soul was nourished and healthy, and we were, in many ways, fulfilling a large part of the purpose of moving back here. It's hard balance but I'm determined to find it most of the time and live as thankfully as possible in the tension the rest of it.

9.  One thing that has been fun about trying different denominations and traditions as we search for a new church is that I've been introduced to some new songs I might not have ever heard otherwise. We were visiting a Baptist church this past weekend and I heard this song I've never heard before called God, Whose Giving Has No Ending. I couldn't find a version on YouTube that I really loved but here's a couple of stanzas I thought were beautiful:
God, whose giving knows no ending,
from your rich and endless store--
nature's wonder, Jesus' wisdom,
costly cross, grave's shattered door--
gifted by you, we turn to you,
offering up ourselves in praise;
thankful song shall rise forever,
gracious Donor of our days.
Skills and time are ours for pressing
toward the goals of Christ, your Son:
all at peace in health and freedom,
races joined, the Church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
lest we strive for self alone.
Born with talents, make us servants
fit to answer at your throne.

What I'm Into: August

On the Nightstand:
I did pretty good this month, actually.

Immersion Bible Study: Mathew- J. Ellsworth Kalas
Finished this up and towards the end it wasn't my favorite (and usually I'm a fan of Kalas). Nothing I disagreed with, just stuff that I sort of already knew or didn't seem truly insightful.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World Full of Impossible Standards- Jen Hatmaker
I finished this last month, but I wanted to link to my full review. I really enjoyed the book. It's hysterical but also full of Truth.

Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston
I had never read this book but when I read a bit about it on the Hollywood Housewife and saw it was this month's selection for Read Great Books, I decided to get it from the library. It's a story about truth and finding oneself and discovery and figuring out what ultimately matters. And also about gender, and race, and society. And also about nature and beauty and love. The imagery is amazing, the dialect is (HARD at first) but also amazing, and the story is amazing. It was the first fiction I've read in a good while and I fell so in love with it. I also had the best time being part of the online discussion. It was really fun!

Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)- Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, David Zahl
I've only read the very first little bit, but it's great so far. Review next month! 

And my old staples:
Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)- Ethan Richardson, Sean Norris
Despite having a great month, reading wise, I didn't pick up these as much as I'd like. 

On Their Nightstand: 

Simon and Schuster: Children's Guide to Birds- Jinny Johnson
We finally finished this bird book. It's about a hundred pages, relatively detailed, but very age appropriate for an early elementary student. We read every single page and when she was feeling generous AP let me get away with not telling her all the scientific names. She did mention before we returned it to the library that we forgot to read the forward. She can read a lot of it by herself and she spent good stretches of time paging through it on her own. Her absolute favorite game to play is for us all to pick a bird to read about and then to pretend to be that bird (for example, she will get "nectar" from my floral curtains when she's a hummingbird, she will "steal" costume jewelry when she's a magpie, and she makes sure Graves helps care for the babies when they are penguins). It's been such an adventure and I've learned a LOT myself!

[Annie was SO excited to realize that "Early" is an American Robin.]

We've just flipped through them so far, but I'm Real excited about The Home Adventure Library volumes (and the presidents!) that I bought years ago for about 25 cents a piece.

Not exactly reading but, this little ten dollar activity book has provided Annie with HOURS of naptime fun. She finished the last one the other day and I had a new one ready for her! (And yes, she has a box of paper crafts in her closet and keeps her favorites on her windowsill). 

On the Shelf:
Restless: Because You Were Made for More- Jennie Allen
I"m doing this study with a group that a friend is leading at a church in the area and I'm really excited about it. I actually just read the intro on Monday.

Telling God's Story: A Parent's Guide to Teaching the Bible- Peter Enns
I read about this somewhere and thought it sounded amazing. There's actually curriculum for years and years, but I just wanted an overview. Planning to start it soon.

At the Theater (or from the couch):
Oh my gosh. This was a beautiful film. So raw and poignant. It felt so real and true to the story and deeply personal. The movie chronicles the events surrounding the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march lead by Dr. King. It was difficult to watch in a lot of places but it was amazingly well done.

Hot Mad Ballroom
This precious documentary is about this fascinating program in New York City public schools. They teach students to ballroom dance. I loved the footage and the commentary from teachers, dancers, and students.

On the Small Screen:
We got the last season on DVD and we've only watched like two episodes but I haven't loved it as much as previous sessions. Am I alone in this? Will it get better? I'm sort of sad about it.

The West Wing
Well, it's been awhile. I watched a few episodes this month and I always forget how much I adore the characters. I don't know why I don't watch it more when I love it so much. I guess because Peyton's already watched it, it's hard for me to carve out time to watch something just by myself rather than watch something together when I do want to watch TV. 

In My Ears:
Peyton found this old school country radio station and we've been EATING IT UP. 100.9 The Legend, we love you. In case you don't know what I mean by "legends":

Around the House:

The Deep South and the Big Apple: my heart stretched thin over twelve hundred miles. Makes sense to have a little tribute to both in the heart of the home.

A little more progress...Peyton went and dug the fifty volume Harvard Classics from out of my parents' storage unit. We wanted them there in case something happened to our house. They belonged to a great grandmother in a time when higher education for women was not the norm. So very special.

And with that final touch, the most used room in our home is DONE! 

Minnie chalk painted her own old baby doll cradle for AP and painted this frame for their bathroom yellow. And Mickey printed out and put together a binder of some plans I found for a project I've been dreaming about since Brooklyn! 

We finally got curtains hung in the kids' room. We used these (shower) curtains from Anthro that they had in their nursery. The tiny embroidery around the bottom of each ruffle is actually primary colors but it looks pastel (or invisible) because it's so small. I sort of love them but I also don't really (in this space; I'll forever love them generally). I feel like they're a little much and maybe too babyish. Also: I hate the way these windows are at a right angle. I left them for a bit, but then tried something different...

Giving the Ikea curtains a try. The others just seemed to overpower the room. Annie said she loved the ruffles because they seemed more like a princess, but honestly they've prevented her bird watching (because of how Peyton hung up the rods you can't slide them back and forth and they looked dumb over to one side) and we can't have that. We'll see how these grow on us. 

I'm going to miss my little pigeon hole desk so much but I have big plans for the sunroom that won't accommodate it. And LOOK! I made myself limit my extra (there's tons in the big desk too) stationary and such to just that Tiffany box in the top of my closet (in the interest of full disclosure, some of it was gifted to our tiny writer).

Speaking of, I can't wait to string up my hymn calendar in the sunroom but...that room still needs a lot of love. This month's was one of my absolute favorites and I couldn't stand the thought of not enjoying it all month.

In the Kitchen:

Rachel Ray's fish tacos with Summer salsa were as easy (and healthy!) as they were amazing! I left the spice rub off the kids and they devoured them, too. 

Mickey's chicken salad- he sent me a whole bunch of it. So glad he figured out how much he loves the kitchen!

and WATERMELON while it's still good! 

In My Closet:
Annie said in the sweetest little voice "Momma, I like your polka dots". It's one of my favorite things when she compliments something I'm wearing but it makes me feel like she's so grown up :(

My go to Summer shoes (for three out of four of us)? Chucks and Saltwaters 

In Their Closets:
My consignment goals have changed a lot in six years. This time I've tried to spend a fraction of what I used to and as they get older I'm trying to think about what THEY care about. This monster shirt was a little more than I wanted to pay for a used t-shirt, but Graves told me "this is so awesome" and he's already named them each and told me what kind they are (l to r: cave monster, google monster, alien monster, water monster). Also, he put it on before I had a chance to wash it and I just didn't fight it- I guess I've changed in a lot of ways!

In My Mailbox:
Voluntary Simplicity has been actually amazing, but there are some things I refuse to sacrifice. Like surrounding myself with good words and sending good words onwards toward others. The Little Things Studio never disappoints!

In My Cart:

I also got Graves these (if you haven't noticed the dress code at the Schoolhouse in the Suburbs consists mostly of jammies). There was a point in my life where I'd buy ahead even cute pjs if I found them. Well, I got these several years ago in a 5T for Graves. Annie found them when I was sorting stuff after we moved home and was obsessed. Of course, I told her she could wear them this Winter and Graves was disappointed he didn't have any. I grabbed these 4T ones at sale recently and he's been wearing them on repeat despite the fact that according to Peyton, with our new AC unit, "82 is the new 80". Nobody be surprised if there's a picture in matching dino jams on our Christmas card.

This wasn't my purchase so much as it was Peyton's, but I think it's so much fun so I had to share! Peyton got a trailer for his bike to go to the Y and the grocery store and close places. I guess it's sort of like a second vehicle. Annie kept saying it reminded her of a Coney Island ride! 

So excited! I've been wanting one for years but I couldn't justify the price. So when I saw the Blue Sky collaboration I snatched one up!

Around the Town (and At Home):

After I uploaded these, I realized that the vast majority of the month was spent on me learning to drive standard. BUT, I'm really getting it and I'm going places by myself somewhat on the regular now! 

Not our first ten pm junk food run, but it was our first ten pm junk food run driving standard without another adult in the car. Whoo hoo! (And I only had to recrank the car at two lights and I only drove about a mile with the parking brake up.) Also: granny glasses, First Presbyterian Day School football tee, and no makeup FTW.

Obviously, with our new, more simple, lifestyle we try to do less of this, but after doing some intensive Lakeland Drive driving by myself, I decided a "treat yo' self" moment, a la Tom and Donna, was in order. (And yes, I realize a meatball sub is an unconventional treat for a thirty year old suburban mom of two.) It's actually the fist time I've "dined in" at a fast food type place in awhile and it was sort of surreal to realize I didn't need a code off my receipt to unlock the bathroom (which is how folks in the city keep the homeless population from using their bathrooms as temporary hotel rooms). I hope I always remember things like that. I think I will; it's such a part of me. Incidentally, I'm glad I took a pause, regrouped, and had a glorious no kids in the background phone visit with a friend. Because right after this I accidentally wound up at a light on a really steep hill. I tuned on my flashers and it took me about six green lights worth of tries but no one even honked, several people smile-waved, and I DID IT!

My fun goal on my goals list this month was getting a sno cone. After a practice drive to Clinton the other daay, we decided it was the perfect day!

We did it! We got up super early (for us) and were all ready for church and out the door by 7:15. We dropped Peyton off and made it to church an hour early for Sunday school. Breakfast in the car and then some fun on the church playground (I told Peyton it's not like they're wearing Feltman anymore- my, I have changed a LOT!) and then Sunday school, church, and a longish ride home. A very low key afternoon, early suppers and bedtime routines, and back to get P by eight. I handled the morning driving like a boss and came in just under the wire with my goal to be back in Clinton by dark. I stalled on a hill at a pretty busy intersection, though. Thankfully it's right next to Walgreens because, despite the precious folks behind me who actually backed up a bit (maybe they were some sweet MC students- bless their hearts) I was crying and shaking by the time I got there and Annie wanted to know why I was scared (apparently, I said I was and didn't even know it). Graves was asleep but woke up promptly when Peyton suggested Newks. We devised a plan for avoiding that light and I'm going to practice hills a bunch this week. I'm tired and grumpy but also proud and thankful. I told Peyton our backwards life is so funny to me because all I can think is "Is it Monday yet?!?".

Curry cranberry chicken salad Mick made for me when I mentioned I was stressed out and this vodka cocktail Peyton made with Minnie's Crystal Lite iced tea (he probably thought it would help HIS stress level to get a drink in me). I am not a fan of most adult beverages, but this was so smooth and tasty. Friday night at my parents' house = perfection. 

Camp out in the den- what a way to end a day!

Peyton's new schedule has given him a lot more time at home and several people have asked what he's doing with his free time-- he ordered one of those adult coloring books, but in the meantime he's just joined the kids =)

I found these cards I used to love about eighteen years ago. We checked to make sure they're all appropriate and the kids have been enjoying drawing one apiece each morning as part of school. 

On the Blog:
I wrote this about my thoughts and emotions regarding Peyton's issues with his faith. It was hard, but so good to write.

I wrote this after saying goodbye to my sweet old Buick for the last time. Bittersweet in every way. 

I am determined to own this driving standard thing. Like I said, it was kinda a theme this month. 

On My Heart:
- I felt like this month FLEW. Faster, I think, than any other month since we've been home. Maybe that says something. Like about how I'm adjusting. I'm not sure.
- I do feel like I'm catching on to driving a standard but it's been REALLY hard. I'm a terrible driver as it is and it's sort of terrifying. So basically, I'm pretty proud of myself.
- I notice more and more of myself in Annie it seems like everyday. I wonder if this will continue on every day until she's an adult or if at some point it'll level out and I'll cease to be surprised by just how VERY much like me she is.

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying for our whole little family and that we will all experience God powerfully.
- I'm still praying that we find a faith community that feels right, but I'm sort of constantly re-evaluating what that looks like. And more and more I'm realizing I may just end up having different needs met at different places. Certainly, we want a "home base" to worship on Sundays, but I'm attending a mom's group at a different church one weekday morning and I'm listening to sermons online. And always, I'm listening to brothers and sisters who love me speak Truth to me. I think the church is bigger than what I envisioned and maybe that's part of what I'm supposed to learn from this search (which is often really frustrating).
- Peyton's schedule did change and it's been great but it's been tough, too (mainly on me- everyone else is doing great with it, I think). I'm praying that we'll continue to adjust and that we'll find a good groove.
On the Calendar: 

We're easing into Fall- finishing up our first "term" of school, starting soccer and blastball, and we'll hopefully start to have some cooler days soon and maybe we can camp some! 

What I'm Into

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekly Smorgasbord

Here are some great links for y'all! Now that I'm finally about caught up with my Weekly Happenings posts I'm hoping I can get a little more consistent with these too, because this is a lot of links/thoughts/words. I never expect anyone to read it all, but it's a lot to even sort through to figure out what interests you. I know I prefer these lists to be shorter, but I hate to miss sharing a good link. Anyway, pick your favorites!

On Faith:
Posted: 05 Aug 2015 08:53 AM PDT
"Even in the Eden of my girlhood, I was taught that desire led to death. So when I came to faith, rather than give in to desire, fall into sin, and die, I decided to kill off desire instead. This is what I thought church was for. I lay down before her — the church — like I had on the dorm room floor at the moment of my salvation. I waited for passions to die. I waited to feel alive. Even as I was ingesting Scripture like it was water to guzzle for the fires of desires within, I felt that I was losing my life and my strength. If you were to ask Seth why we left that mega-church in Tulsa, he'd have a different answer that had much to do with politics and money, the shady ways of church gone high-minded and business savvy. But for me, I just left tired of wrestling desire. Church couldn't help me with it anymore."

Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:46 PM PDT

"I would argue that it is because we are suffering in the Bible Belt, and in America, but in a strangely new and different way. We do not suffer in the way that our Christian predecessors did where we are enslaved, imprisoned and even martyred for our beliefs by those who oppose Christ, instead our suffering is at our own hands and in our hearts.We are enslaved to the dogmatism that would allow us to judge and persecute our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from lofty pedestals of our making. We are imprisoned by our own selfishness that would cause us to grumble and complain at minor discomforts. And we martyr ourselves repeatedly on public display as we claim the cause of Christ, while all the while the sacrifice He truly made is overshadowed by our own self righteousness." Interesting take on Christian persecution in the United States that I've never thought of.
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:45 PM PDT
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:42 PM PDT
"When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn't mainly about us, and what we're supposed to be doing—it's about God, and what He has done.But the Bible isn't mainly about us, and what we're supposed to be doing—it's about God, and what He has done. When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God...Because the power of the story isn't in the lesson. The power of the story IS the story. And that's why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn't: That the Bible is most of all a story—the Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. That—in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost Him—God would always love his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."

[More thoughts on this soon. Y'all know I occasionally like to turn my thoughts on a link into a whole post and this one is begging me to do just that.]
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:40 PM PDT
"The true message of the church is not traditional family values. Sexual purity and sanctity of life are important moral points, but they are not the central message of the church. The true message of the church is Christ and Him crucified. The notion of "traditional family values" is much too tepid and loose an expression of the law. The standard of behavior that the Cross of Christ teaches isn't just family values, but obedience to God to the point of death. If we make our stand on traditional family values, it is too broad – there are some people that seem to be acceptable under that umbrella, making the blood of Christ unnecessary. It says that if your sin happens to be more easily covered up and in line with traditional family values, you are allowed at the communion table, but if your sin is outside those traditional lines then you are not. The true law says that no one belongs at the communion table, and that no matter who you are, grace must be lavish and shocking and scandalous. There isn't one person anywhere who isn't a desperately evil and guilty sinner in need of salvation. That's why they call it "salvation"!"
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:26 PM PDT
""Seven years ago, I was sitting on the ledge of a thirteenth floor window. I'd tried to quit drinking so many times but I couldn't do it, and I'd finally given up. My mind was racing through all the shameful things I'd done, and I kept hearing this voice saying: 'Jump you piece of shit. Jump you piece of shit.' So I put my hands over my ears and started rocking back and forth on the window ledge. Suddenly I heard this small, still voice: 'Say a prayer,' it said. And I didn't want to hear it. It was kind of like your mother knocking on the door while you're watching porn. But then I heard it again: 'Say a prayer.' So I started praying, and I totally surrendered, and I felt an evil presence leave me. And I just kept saying: 'I can't believe you still love me. I can't believe you still love me.' Then I cleaned up my room, threw away my baggies of coke, took a shower, and went to work.""

Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:13 PM PDT
"Discern the balance of agency: If you're in charge of making it happen, it's misguided Law. If God's in charge, it's Gospel. If it's a mixture, it's Law." Because there ain't nobody who doesn't need a pocket guide to distinguishing Law and Gospel."

Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:14 PM PDT
"Instead, I'd like to point out a problematic, but fairly common assumption in many corners of evangelicalism — an assumption that needs to be challenged. It's the idea that sin is something out there that we need to watch out for. The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from. It's easy for a Christian family that seeks to honor the Lord with distinctive, holy living to adopt this mindset: "The world is evil, and our family is good. Therefore, we need to protect our family from the evil outside." Along these lines, training up children in the way they should go becomes primarily about sheltering our kids. We deliver our kids from evil by avoiding evil influences "outside" our home. We forbid certain television shows, monitor their internet usage, and avoid neighborhood kids. In some cases, we turn to homeschooling or Christian education." OBVIOUSLY, we're going to have to have guidelines in our parenting (and the writer goes on to clarify that his kids aren't allowed to watch some shows, even cartoons), but it's a mindset that takes this thinking too far that is dangerous. He didn't articulate this, but I think the root reason we do is a need to feel like WE are in control. That's something I've struggled with a lot in the past months and I see it as the problem in so many situations (not just within Evangelicalism, either, FWIW).

On Friendship:
Posted: 01 Aug 2015 06:18 PM PDT

"Here are a few things you need to become Somewheres: An ability to welcome the contradictions in each other. Ferocious trust. Secret keeping. A shared sense of humour. A ferocious belief in the inherent goodness and holiness in each other. An equal amount of butt-kicking and hair-petting. Bravery. Silliness. A common core. The capacity to laugh through tears. A bullshit detector. An aversion to the phrase, "I'm fine." Unconditional welcome. Time, so much time. Openness to being challenged. A lot of small and inconsequential talk to lay the foundation for the big scary talks. Loyalty like blood. Showing up at the right time. Light for the darkness. And then there is the part you can't predict or plan or program: magic. There needs to be a bit of that Holy Spirit drawing together, a sense of purpose and destiny, an answered prayer, a shared language all your own discovered at last."

This actually provoked a lot of feelings for me (see #3 here).

On Children:
Posted: 01 Aug 2015 09:07 PM PDT
"Out on the playground, she approached the boy reassuringly, like a trained hostage negotiator. "Do whatever you need with the belt," she told him gently. "Just keep it away from people." Slowly, Will began to calm down. They walked over to some woods near the school, and she let him throw rocks into a stream, scream, and yell until, at last, he burst into tears in her arms. Then they talked and came up with a plan. The next time he felt frustrated or overwhelmed, Will would tell another staffer that he needed his helper. If Robinson were off campus, they would get her on the phone for him." 

Posted: 15 Aug 2015 03:23 PM PDT
"You see, Chase's teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or "exceptional citizens." Chase's teacher is looking for lonely children. She's looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She's identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class's social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she's pinning down- right away- who's being bullied and who is doing the bullying."

On Community:
Posted: 16 Aug 2015 11:50 AM PDT
"This last line stopped me cold. The man is holding his hand to his chest. He's sober and sincere. There is a weight around those words. My son gave him something that he has been craving: someone's undivided attention—just a smile really."

On Education:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:39 PM PDT
"His grandmother and I are raising him. I worry about putting him into the public school system. I was a teacher for many years. I've seen so much confidence destroyed by the standardized system. Every human is born with natural curiosity. I've never seen a child who wasn't inspired. But once you force someone to do anything, the inspired person is killed. I dropped out of school myself in 7th grade. So I know. I taught a GED course for years, so I've seen the end results over and over. I've seen so many kids who have complexes and insecurities because they were forced to do something they weren't ready to do, and then they were blamed when they weren't able to do it. What we call 'education' today is not organic. You can't take something as complex as the human mind, compartmentalize it, and regiment its development so strictly."

On Storytelling:
Posted: 01 Aug 2015 08:48 PM PDT
"Former Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted a series of story guidelines in 2011 which she learned from her colleagues at Pixar. Recently, Imgur artist DinoIgnacio superimposed all 22 rules over stills from Pixar films. See the great images below!"

On Simplicity:
Posted: 05 Aug 2015 07:33 PM PDT
A couple of people on IG mentioned that they love when I share about simplicity. I've loved this blog for awhile and this is such a great post. Look at this precious teensy little nursery!

On Happiness:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:57 PM PDT
Interesting graphic.

On the Charleston Shooting:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:30 PM PDT
From my friend Ann Lowrey Forster: "When young white guys shoot up schools, we focus on mental illness. When young black guys shoot up streets, we focus on depravity. When young brown guys blow themselves and everyone around them up, we focus on ideology...All are relevant in all cases."

On Inexpensive Food Options:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:15 PM PDT
We had a corner store and yeah you had to eat the blueberries that day or the next. But they were like $1.00. You can't get a package of blueberries for that in Mississippi! So worth it. [As an aside, our kids' diet is probably like 75% produce. Which is great because I'm never going to be one to like make my own bread and cook everything from scratch. I'm going to be one who gives herself BIG backpats when she cooks things with cream of chicken soup because SHE COOKED.]

On Medical Abuse:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:16 PM PDT
"Los Angeles, CA—Mother Kimberly Turbin (previously known as "Kelly" to protect her privacy) has filed a complaint with the Central District of the Los Angeles County Superior Court against her former obstetrician, Dr. Alex Abbassi, for forcibly cutting her with scissors 12 times ("episiotomy," the cutting of the perineum between the vagina and the rectum...) despite her explicit refusal to consent during the 2013 birth of her only child."

Glad she finally found a lawyer but ugh.

On Movies:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:24 PM PDT
I cannot wait for it to hit Netflix. It's about moving and memories and hard emotions. We were thinking AP might like it but then we realized she's probably a bit to young to really get it. Peyton goes "yeah, I think this is more a movie made for older kids....and for you". LOL.

On Projects for the Future:
Posted: 06 Aug 2015 09:22 PM PDT
I want to build a Little Free Library.

Noteworthy Quotes from the Week(or Month):
"There is a lot going back and forth about the Planned Parenthood video. I'm not going to try and explain it like I know something. But let's look at a few of the topics that everyone agrees are attached to this, no matter your political persuasion: Harvested human organs. Money changing hands. Corporations. Lack of transparency. Vulnerable people. Business contracts. You can spin this pro or con, but either way, it spins bad. Very, very bad. For anyone who has ever thought they'd have done things differently had they been German in the nineteenth thirties, here's your challenge. The German people didn't have the full picture, but they had accounts that included words like these--words that don't go well together. So if you feel yourself saying, "Let's not be too hasty. Let's see what comes out about this." Understand, that's exactly where a lot of people were in the thirties. It is called the banality of evil." -Thom Chittom
"Preachers: if you can't figure out a way to tell people that Jesus died for their sins...say JUST that, and sit down." -Jono Linebaugh
Let us make an end: as long as you are struggling like the Pharisee to be alive in your own eyes–and to the precise degree that your struggles are for what is holy, just, and good — you will resent the apparent indifference to your pains that God shows in making the effortlessness of death the touchstone of your justification. Robert Farrar Capon
"You really only need twelve or so close relationships to be healthy. And two-hundred Facebook friends to go insane." -Don Miller 
Deceptively editing a video to make someone sound like she'll sell you the organs of aborted fetuses is really easy. All you need is a video camera, some editing software, and for the woman to say "I'll sell you the organs of aborted fetuses." -Lutheran Satire Facebook page 
"At Starbucks this morning had 8 or so Jehovah Witnesses sit down at my table and we had a great conversation. It was the usual demonstrating to them with just a few verses how Jehovah Witness theology contradicts the Scriptures. But after almost 15 years of evangelizing to Mormons and Jehovah witnesses, I've used a new tactic that I thought I'd share. After I have torn down their worldview (which I still think is essential), I always now (and I did this morning to them) look them straight in the eye and say something like: 'We are all on a journey. And no matter what happens with your faith in the future don't give up on Jesus. The group you are currently a part of has Jesus wrong but that doesn't mean Jesus is wrong. Cling to Him no matter what.'  I have found this to be especially impactful for those involved in cults like Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses. Don't give up on Jesus." -Justin Bass
"Rant warning--If you name the name of Christ, stop using crass, derogatory, or profane words to address the President of the U. S. if St. Paul could write, "Honor the king" referring to the mentally unstable emperor Nero who murdered Christians, then you can speak respectfully when referring to God-ordained governors with whom you disagree politically. It is beneath you to speak in such a way. Disagree with his policies, take issue with his moral stand on issues, and critique his economic principles, but do so with a respectful tone, a spirit of humility, and with a remembrance of the greater King whose name you bear as one called Christian! Matthew 5 is our model if Jesus is our king!" -Daniel Blaylock
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Charles SpurgeonI was (obviously) struck by the ‪#‎plannedparenthood‬ video exposed yesterday. It aimed a gut-punch at my core. I have been doing some hand-wringing, and I have also been on my knees.It's not hard for me to put myself in the position of a pro-choice person. Once upon a time, I was fairly vocally pro-choice, and at some distant moment in history, I was a single, teen-aged pregnant person. I know what it's like to believe in a woman's right to choose; I believed in my own right to choose. Through undeserved grace and boundless support, I chose to reject the abortion option and now have a pretty remarkable eleven year old, instead of great grief. But, I did believe in my right to choose. I thought, "This is the best of all possible worlds - my right to control my own destiny was preserved, and tragedy was avoided." It was only some years later that I came to the place of realizing that making the wrong choice would have been much worse for me, not to mention for my darling daughter, than having had the choice taken from me. I came to this conviction when I gave up on autonomy as the ultimate goal. Self-direction is good, as far as it goes - I'm an American, and by damn. But, self-direction has to be submitted to ethics and morals, and in my view, to the ethics and morals of the one true God. I know why women have abortions. Many are abandoned, abused, raped. Some, like all of us, are selfish, greedy. Most are scared and unloved and unsupported. But, we also know why Planned Parenthood (and, by extension, the abortion industry) exists. It is not to love on those women who suffer from abuse, rape, and abandonment. The purpose of Planned Parenthood is to further their abuse; it is to complete the project of woman-as-object; it is to ensure that our (patriarchal) capitalism can continue uninterrupted by the undesirable female function; it is to enable hundreds of thousands of American men as they flee the responsibility of children they sire; it is to profit from the trafficking of pieces of babies. When folks sit in judgment of the women entering abortion clinics, I grieve. I don't generally support sidewalk counseling, as I see it as an invasion and judgment at the place of vulnerability instead of a shepherding and loving when these women needed it. Praying outside clinics, yes. But, until you have been there, abandoned, shamed, and living in a society that shuns an improperly-timed child, you dare not pronounce an obvious easy right choice. A right choice, yes. That it is easy and obvious, no. But, I will gladly stand in the public square and scream the clear and obvious wrongness of those sipping their Cabernet and profiting from the industry. Abortion is anti-feminist, anti-morality, and anti-choice. It exists because we live in a country that has denigrated a primary function of women in favor of economic advantage. Years ago, I read a wonderful novel, The Cider House Rules by John Irving. It speaks to the heart of this issue, and holds the line that I held for so long - abortion is a tragedy, but often the lesser of the two tragedies in a world that has failed women and children. Dr. Wilbur Larch, one of the two main characters, runs an orphanage and delivers babies, and also reluctantly provides safe abortion in a world where it is illegal and unsafe. He often is charged with saving women from botched, back-alley abortions. He loves the children he takes in, and he grieves over the abused and abandoned women. He is heavy with the weight of it all, and always torn. Dr. Larch is the opposite of ‪#‎DeborahNucatola‬, who smacks her salad and speaks of livers and hearts and crushing in just the right places. If you hold, as Bill Clinton did, that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, please know that Planned Parenthood is the enemy of rarity. It is the enemy of the women it claims to serve." -Ann Lowrey Forester

Noteworthy Images from the Week (or Month):

{I still think they are so cute.}

Hope you were encouraged and edified!