A Fairytale in the Flesh

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It has been a lifelong theme, for me.

A yearning for “good ol’ days”. An attraction to happy endings. A steady heartbeat of longing for things that cannot be found where we are, no matter where we go.

This world is a hauntingly beautiful song that is being played on a slightly off-tune instrument. One side of it is so lovely that it brings me to my knees in praise and amazement and the other side splits my eardrums in two, tempting me to claw at the dirt in a desperation for escape.

Relics from Eden abound. In love stories. In the laughter of children. In nature. In acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.

But the strains of discord ever threaten, and ruinous vines entangle what should have been perfect. Divorce and adultery shatter families. Children become victims. God’s handiwork is decimated and cluttered by our filth.

And isn’t this why we love good books, inspiring movies, and fairytales? Any story, really, that will carry us away from the reality we try so desperately to ignore?

Craving wells up and reverberates through shed tears as we survey all the tales that should have been fact, tales of redemption, of true love, of peace, of hope. In those pages and on those screens, our broken and searching hearts whisper that “yes! This is what life is supposed to be like! Shouldn’t love last forever? Shouldn’t men should choose to do good, even when it is hard? Cannot even the vilest offender be redeemed and spend his life in beauty??”

And, fueled by the ache within, we labor our lives away, attempting to craft fairytales with our own hands and by our own means.

We pursue love, dreaming with stars in our eyes of how that man or woman will fulfill us and make life the song that we’ve been trying to write since we could pick up a pen.

We pursue a life of comfort, with a couple of healthy kids and a cozy house with all the trimmings.

We pursue fame, attempting to fill up the burning of our hearts with more recognition, more ‘likes’, more followers.

The options for soul satiation are so shiny when they are still on the shelf.

And so we choose an available portion with glittering eyes, greedy with hope that this will be the solution that will finally tame our hunger.

We pick up a spoon, we dig in and we feast with passion…

but as we chew on life, the realization soon settles that every single dish we have chosen to fill up our soul was nothing more than a heap of dry ashes masquerading as fulfillment.

We begin to choke on them.

We can’t swallow.

We drown in a rush of bitterness and disappointment that life, once more, has let us miserably down.

Try as we might, there is just no dodging the truth that every single fairytale this world has to offer is a phony, an illusion that, once tasted, loses its luster and dissolves into dust.

Except, that is, for one.

A mother and father traveled far from their home, and in a borrowed stable, a baby boy was born. They bundled Him up like parents do, but contained in the flesh of His humanity beat the very heart of God.

He lived a perfect life, fully God, but in a body that was fully man. He loved. He had friends. He lost friends. He witnessed death, seeing and feeling the sting that haunts the human race. The wretched sting that haunts us today. And, like us, He wept, tasting the salt of human tears that sprang forth from a heart that felt real human pain.

He was Emmanuel, God in the flesh, and everything He touched was made beautiful. Lame were healed, blind were given sight, sinners were redeemed, and His perfect words of truth and wisdom sliced through the veil that had shrouded centuries.

Bur three years into His public ministry, the time arrived for Him to fulfill what He had come to earth to do. The fall of man needed to be paid for, and He, in the greatest act of love the world has ever known, was going to provide the sacrifice.

His body groaned the night before His crucifixion, and His spirit was violently tested as He submitted to the will of the Father. But still He marched, resolutely, surrendering himself to his enemies and to the cross of a criminal. He was nailed up and tortured, and in unspeakable pain and suffering, He willingly took every last trace of mankind’s punishment as His own…

even as mankind spat upon the gift.

And all those things that plague us? The tragedies, the disappointments, the addictions and the brokenness that leave us raw with pain and longing?

He defeated them on our behalf, annihilating each and every one with a passion that made the earth quake in reverence.

And then He was no more. The debt had been paid in full, His spirit was given up, and His dead, limp body was carried away as His mother and His friends mourned in despair that the Light of the World had been snuffed out.

They buried Him in a borrowed tomb and the next three days were filled with unimaginable darkness. Darkness of soul. Darkness of grief. Darkness of doubt. Yet another fairytale had been dangled before human eyes, only to end in utter disappointment and loss.

But just this one time…

a happy ending was coming…

and it was going to change the world.

Their world.

Our world.

The fairytale came true.

In the exact miracle that He and the prophets of old foretold, three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Hundreds of witnesses saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, and a hunkered down and mournful Church rose up, bold and fearless, in belief. They had seen this man die, and now, He was in front of them, the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.

He remained among them for forty days, teaching and ministering, before ascending into heaven where He is preparing a place for all those who believe on His name, even those of us who have yet to see Him with our own eyes.

And in a day that is coming soon, oh glorious day…

He will return to this fallen and disappointing world and He will make all things new for those who put their trust in Him.

Love will become true and eternal, children will be safe, creation will shine in all of its intended glory, and all of those stories that we wish could be REAL, those glimpses of Eden that are so beautiful that they bring us pain…

They will be an every-day, every minute reality, as natural to us as our fears are today. The craving will be satiated. The ache will disappear. The emptiness will be filled up and forgotten.

And all the wrongs will be made right.

Our souls will finally rest.

My heart is irresistibly compelled to believe and to proclaim it, that Jesus Christ is the fairytale we’ve been hunting, the love that will remain, the comfort that is forever, the hope for today, tomorrow and eternity…

but He is no fairytale.

He is real.

I believe.

Do you?

~

All comments are welcome and read, but are only made public by my discretion. To hear more from Mrs. Gore, find me on Facebook or Instagram! Thank you for reading!

The Dark Side of Halloween (No, not THAT “dark side”. The “Star Wars” one).

I am very giggly and giddy tonight. Halloween is over, I ate a lot of candy, and really, I’m just pretty darn tickled about our costumes this year.

I suppose I should start at the very beginning…

Gideon, 7 years old, saw this random “Boba Fett” costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalog early in the summer, and he fell madly in love with it. So much that he got a job, worked for hours and saved up enough money to purchase it by himself. It was like he was Jacob of the Bible and that costume was Rachel.

Now, I must admit, I didn’t “get” it.

Mostly, I think, because I don’t “get” Star Wars. I’ve seen enough clips of the movies through the years to feel like I’ve seen it, but if I really sit down and think about it, I don’t really know what the story is about or what happens in the end. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve never seen Star Wars.

My husband, on the other hand, spent the first seven years of our firstborn’s life shielding him from the Star Wars storyline. He wanted the entire trilogy and any surprise twists to completely blow our son’s mind, and I’m pretty sure I almost saw him tackle someone when they were referencing the Luke/Vader relationship in front of Gideon before he’d see the movie.

And so it was a HUGE deal when, after his 7th birthday, he and Gideon went to the house of our friends, Zac and Chrissy, where a really awesome Star Wars watch party was laid out for them – I really should dedicate an entire blog post to that sweet party sometime – and the rest is history. Gideon has been a pretty big fan of the franchise ever since.

Still yet, this Boba Fett costume that Gid was so set on having really just boggled my mind. I don’t even know who Boba Fett is, and it was a lot of money to throw down for a costume of any sort, especially one that looked like it could fall apart if you looked at it funny…

but it was his money, and he worked really hard for it, and we honored his decision. The costume arrived, and true to his quirky nature, he was stoked to wear it at every possible opportunity.

Fast forward to an evening in September when we were having our first rousing family discussion on this year’s Halloween theme.

After a few ideas had been tossed about, Star Wars came up and I immediately started shaking my head “NO” because Star Wars is not a family costume theme I ever would have imagined myself partaking in. Because, you know, I’m not a trekkie. (Just kidding. I said that to my husband tonight to get under his skin).

But later that night, and this is proof of how much I love my boy, I started to think things over. If we DID go with Star Wars, Gideon already had this beloved costume he could wear. Boba Fett. One costume down is a BIG deal when you have a six-person family, you know?

And it had been a really big rite-of-passage for him and his Papa to watch those movies together earlier this year. If we were ever going to dress as Star Wars this really was the year to do it…

I couldn’t deny that it just seemed like it needed to happen. Then and there, I decided this was a year to take one for the team. Star Wars, it was!

And you know what? If you’re going to take one for the team, you might as well GO for it and surprise your son with a costume he would never expect you to wear. My costume this year was a gift for Gideon, a token of my love, a reminder that I see him and hear him and I “get” him, even if I don’t “get” who Boba Fett is.

All that said, the reason I’m so giggly is because our Halloween this year was full of humor – I found myself laughing at every turn, even now as I upload pictures.

For one, Betsie kept telling people we were dressed up as “Star Whores”.

For two, the pictures we snapped before our Trunk or Treat kind of crack me up, for numerous reasons.

For three, my husband kept making lewd jokes about the characters he and I were portraying (you’ll understand when you see the pictures).

For four, Rebekah’s wig.

For five, the feminine spin Betsie put on her boyish costume.

It was just, altogether, a funny, funny night. I am sure I will always get tickled when I see these photos, and I hope they bring you joy, as well.

Oh! And I have an idea for you to tuck away for next year. Plan an extra twenty or thirty minutes on Halloween to find a spot with good lighting for picture-taking, have an easy little photo shoot, and you can just relax the rest of the night and let your kids trick or treat without snapping a gazillion photos. I told the kids that, if they would cooperate and give me some good pictures at the start, we would be done with all formal photographs for the rest of the night. It was so nice to know when we departed for our Halloween fun that these pictures were already in my possession.

So. Up first, we have Princess Leia. When I ordered this costume (free for us with our Amazon reward points!), I assumed we’d chuck the wig and just do Rebekah’s own hair like Leia’s, but DUDE…this wig was hilarious. I couldn’t part with it. (p.s. and if you’re a Facebook reader, you’ll notice Rebekah’s faithful “lady smile”).

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Next we have Boba Fett. There is no doubt that this night was especially fun for Gideon. He is the most costume-oriented child in our family, and it was a treat to dedicate a family theme to him. (Rebekah has dibs on next year’s theme, by the way. She, too, took one for the team).

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And now, little Yoda. At least that’s who everyone thought she was. In actuality, her name was “Yodette” because she had a hairbow. Betsie made sure that she corrected everyone on this point at the Trunk or Treat. “I’m YodETTE”. I also really appreciate the posing skills Betsie employed tonight. She was in rare form.

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Then we had a little squishy Ewok. I die.

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Then…hubba hubba…Luke Skywalker. I don’t know who Luke Skywalker is, but I think I love him.

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And THEN…Lord, have mercy…Darth Vader.

Gideon about busted a gut when I came walking out of the master bathroom in this get-up.

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My husband, by the way, was APPALLED by the way I held my lightsaber. “You can’t touch the blade!” he exclaimed. “You will LOSE your hand!”

Whatever, man. I’m new here, okay?

He also wanted me to take a scary picture where it looked like I was trying to choke someone, but I don’t think I nailed it. I just look like a weirdo.

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Good guys.

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And (since Gideon wanted to be on my team), bad guys.

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Then, of course, my husband and son had to act out a fight scene, and I swear to you, when I saw the last picture in this series, I fell over laughing. That one is going in a frame to hang next to Gideon’s bed.

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Group fight!

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Luke and Vader, going at it. Tee hee. My husband titled this Halloween “A Freudian Star Wars”. I’ll let you mull all this over.

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And, finally, a few family pictures.

I mentioned this on Facebook already, but my husband noted that, in the first picture, I look like a sheepish Darth Vader or a teenager whose parents made her dress up for Halloween.

And again with the lightsaber. I need to take a lightsaber safety course or work on my villain acting skillz, I guess. I just don’t think I have it in me to be fierce.

Oh, and also take note of  a detail my cousin, Jeff, pointed out: “And the award for most congenial Yoda goes to…

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Action shot! Again, props to Betsie for really going for it.

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I know I say this ever year, but…

best. Halloween. EVER.

~

p.s. when time permits, I’ll come back and add links, reviews and info to our costumes!

Halloween Costumes = Family Fun (Part Three)

Here it is, two days before Halloween, and I’m just getting around to posting pictures of last year’s costumes!

I had so much to share last year about our town’s Trunk or Treat and our little family celebration, but I guess I was too busy chasing down The Pioneer Woman (can you believe that was a YEAR ago?? If you don’t know what I’m referencing, click here, straightaway!) and then we moved on to Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now here we are, 365 days later. Time flies.

Anyhow, if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll already know that I am a Halloween enthusiast – my family doesn’t travel much or spend a lot of money on extra-curricular activities – and so it is true that Halloween is one of our biggest days of the year. We spend money on it and everything. Mostly because I am not a maker of costumes, but an unapologetic buyer of them.

We had an awesome plan for last year’s costumes, plans that I have still tucked away for a future Halloween, but then I had a baby and, one month later, my husband had major back surgery, and then, three weeks later, it was the week of Halloween and we just had to scrap our “plan” and make do.

I have no memory of where this idea came from or who to credit it to…was it me? Mr. Gore? My mom? Rebekah? The Holy Spirit? The next-door neighbor? I honestly don’t know…but it turned out to be a super fun theme, and one that was actually quite meaningful and timely for our little family.

My husband’s back surgery (and the year leading up to it) was a huge deal, taking a major toll not just on him and me, but on our family and on our church. Thus, when 0ur small town’s Trunk or Treat turned out to be his very first post-surgery outing, my heart was just going nuts to see him up and walking again, pain-free, as he partook in one of our favorite family holidays.

When he was dealing with chronic pain, unable to sit at the supper table for meals, unable to drive without intense pain, unable to be at rest without heavy medication, I had wondered if our life would ever be normal again.

And now, on October 31st, 2013, it was.

It was a special Halloween, indeed, and I’ll never be able to look at these pictures and just see “Halloween”.

I see relief and victory and hope and love and joy and…

grace. Always grace.

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I was “Doc McFrazzled”, my husband was, you guessed it, a surgery patient, Rebekah was a nurse, Gideon was a medic and little Betsie was a “sick girl”.

We covered our car at the Trunk or Treat with the Red Cross flag we made for Gideon’s birthday party, and it was just so convenient to have Baby Shepherd nearby in his bassinet, portraying a newborn in our little hospital nursery.

Because, you know, he was one. I didn’t even have to dig that nursery tag out of storage – it was still in my bedroom!

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This was the most inexpensive Halloween we’ve ever celebrated! All we had to buy was a couple of rolls of gauze. :)

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The rest was found in our dress-up box and from family and friends who work in the medical field.

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And when we won the costume contest later that night, I almost went into cardiac arrest and had to be toted off to our makeshift hospital. I can’t tell you the last time I won anything, and this was a really great moment for our homeschooled children who don’t have many opportunities to compete or win rewards. They…actually, WE…couldn’t stop talking about our luck that night.

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It was the best Halloween EVER, but then, I’m pretty sure I say that every year. Halloween does that to me.

~

Want to see other Gore family costumes from years past? Click here to find Part One and here to find Part Two.

Mud (and New Arrivals).

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Amy, was busy at the hospital bringing forth another nephew for me to love, and while we waited for the good news, we were living it up at my mom and dad’s house in the country, cousin style.

Mom and I have decided over the years that it is much easier to team up than to go it alone. Whether you are having a dinner party, or deep-cleaning your house, or keeping watch over a houseful of kids, two REALLY are better than one.

I could have kept my four kids at my house, alone, while she kept her four grandkids at her house, alone, and we could have talked to each other on the phone periodically, swapping stories about how bored the kids were and about how they were asking every five minutes when they were going to get to play with their cousins…

OR we could spend every waking moment together, sitting on the back porch, sipping coffee, while eight happy, nature-loving kiddos crawled, toddled, walked, ran, climbed, jumped and skipped all about us.

In fact, when this group of cousins are together, we hardly even SEE them – they speak their own cousin language, the fights are very few and very far between, and they play their little HEARTS out, from morning till night – leaving us to merely hold down the fort and brace ourselves for feeding and bathing time, because, as you well know, the payback for letting kids play hard all day is that they are hungry…nay, starving…and dirty…nay, filthy…by the end of the day.

And sometimes they’re REALLY filthy.

During the baby’s nap time, the littlest of the bunch disappeared to the front porch for a spell, and five minutes later when we went to check on them and make sure all was well, we discovered this…

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What can you do when you find a mess like this but to just let them GO for it? Their cleanliness was already beyond preserving, they were completely thrilled and occupied and we had a pot of coffee that needed drinking, so…

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we gave them a good scolding, we warned all the other children not to go NEAR that mess and we left them to it.

2-year old Abel, 3-year old Betsie and 5-year old Kate had the time of their life while the others seethed with jealousy that they hadn’t stumbled upon this muddy fun. But we had a new baby to meet that evening, and there was NO WAY we were going to administer eight post-mud baths before then.

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And every time I checked on their progress…

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they were a bit dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and DIRTIER.

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And the porch? Lord, have mercy.

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But there are few things as precious in this life as children who are free at play.

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They can make the biggest, most colossal messes…

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but they’re so stinkin’ cute while they’re doing it.

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p.s. I totally left the cleaning of this ear to my mom. This was one of her kids for the week, after all, not mine. ;)

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And, in the meantime, Amy made us this:

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Welcome to our world, baby Jude. Can’t wait until you’re joining us in the mud.

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The Dollhouse Effect

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I was tidying up the playroom at my mom’s house and had sat down for a minute in front of her giant three-story-plus-an-attic dollhouse to put the furniture back where it belonged and straighten up the mess.

“How ironically funny,” I thought to myself. “This is basically what I do all day, every day, but on a teensy-tiny miniature scale…”

Put the chairs back in place. Straighten up the slipcovers. Gather up all the tiny bits and pieces and put them in bins or buckets or baskets. Move the porch swing out of the master bathroom and put it back on the porch…

just kidding. That last thing only happened in the dollhouse and has never taken place in my actual house. Yet. 

But, you know what I was really struck by as I sat on my bottom in front of that precious particle-board construction?

If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I can flip this dollhouse anaIogy around, treating my homemaking duties just like I’m a silly little girl arranging her toys.

Meaning, everything must be in its place and look a very certain way or I will go to bed that night concluding that I am a failure on the housekeeping front. And, sometimes, on my most controlling days, after I deep-clean and tidy everything up “just so”, I will have this desperate urge for us all to just leave the house until bedtime so we won’t mess it up again!

“Let’s go drive around, kids,” I’ll be tempted to say. “We’ll, you know, go…look at stuff?…until it maybe gets dark outside?… and then we’ll order take-out and eat it in the car before going home and going STRAIGHT to bed. Yay! Fun times! Family togetherness!”

All because I have arranged my dollhouse how I want it and I don’t want anyone else to play with it for the rest of the day. 

Now, I don’t know if this is a natural inclination that women have wrestled with for centuries, or if it is a new issue that we have picked up in the age of catalogues, television and, oh yes, you KNOW I’m going to say it, Pinterest, but it really does cause a girl to wonder…

When did we start seeing our homes as dollhouses?

When did the roofs we live under become anything other than a shelter to keep us warm and dry and safe from the outside world?

Did Father Abraham’s wife, Sarah (who ALSO had many sons), get bent out of shape when her tent was messy? Did she stay up late arranging her silk, tasseled floor pillows and dreaming of a day when no one would sit on them and smush them out of shape? Did she think her tent looked its very best when it resembled a showcase tent, or a tent-hotel that no one had checked into yet?

And when it boils down to it, is this a neatfreak issue or a “keeping up with the Jones’s” issue or a materialism issue?…

You know, I honestly don’t know the answers to those questions, but I DO know this. Regardless of its origins or motivation, the dollhouse effect feels so very wrong.

It is one thing to express creativity in our homes and work hard to produce a place of beauty to please our eyes, but we can get so weird about it.

For example, while knowing it isn’t true that houses really look like the ones we see on television, we fight for such a house, anyway. And even though it is obvious to us that the dwellings we admire in magazines are nothing but gussied-up dollhouses that have been “staged” for a photo shoot, we continue to compare our homes to them, allowing a needless root of discontentment to spring up in our hearts at how miserably our own castle holds up.

And before you know it, we’ve gone and modeled every room in our home after houses that somebody else told us we should have…

There should be five perfectly fluffed pillows on the couch and a basket of neatly folded throw blankets nearby, and there should be shoe cubbies that keep all of our footwear organized, and the dining table should be gleaming and featuring some sort of gigantic seasonal centerpiece, and the sink should be glistening with nary a dish in sight, and the laundry baskets should be completely empty, and all the clothes in the closets should be organized by color, and there should be a line-up of bright, shiny rainboots at the backdoor, and the toys in the playroom should all be in labeled bins, and there should be three blankets of varying textures and prints layered on the master bed (along with a gazillion shams and throw pillows artfully arranged at the headboard), and the bathroom should be completely untouched with a shelf boasting a giant glass canister of bath salts that we never use because they make the bathtub feel icky and gooey and another canister holding twenty bars of soap, and oh!, then another one filled to the brim with those natural-looking sponges that look so darn pretty in a jar (even though no one in our family uses sponges!), and…

and…

and in the midst of all this stagery, I think we can somehow forget what the purpose of a house is.

To LIVE in, you dummy.

(Sorry, I was talking to myself there, but feel free to include yourself if it applies).

And all the stuff that is inside a house is supposed to make the living more enjoyable and/or comfortable, not become the source of our insanity and stress.

Now, before I go on, I have to assure you that I am not advocating laziness or carelessness, nor am I bashing home decorating and organizing; I deeply value hard work and I love beauty and I crave order and I believe in taking good care of our things and I want to continually teach my kids to respect their loved ones by helping and doing their part around the home.

But I also never, ever want to forget that my family does not live in dollhouse.

We live in a people house, and we’re kind of supposed to live here. And if houses are for living in, then…

couches, by golly, are for sitting on.

Pillows are for smushing up into a ball to make the small of our back feel more comfortable on the couch.

Throw blankets are for unfolding and curling up in.

Dishes are for eating spaghetti on.

Napkins – even the cloth ones! – are meant for wiping our messy spaghetti mouths on.

Tables are for catching the extra spaghetti that falls off of our plate.

Floors are for walking on (and catching the spaghetti that fell off the table).

Beds are for sleeping in.

Laundry hampers exist to hold dirty clothes; no dirty clothes in the world? No laundry hampers.

Bathrooms were created to be the epicenter wherein every manner of our dirtiness is purged and cleansed.

Closets are for hiding our piles of clothes.

Toys are for playing with!!!

And this precious lil’ white farmhouse we built five years ago and moved into with our budding family? This is our home, one that, for the love of Pete, I want to live in and let my family live in.

Which leads me to what I set out to write about today in the first place. With all these things in mind, by the grace of God, I am learning to see the difference between a lazy mess and a beautiful mess, a dollhouse and a real house. Lazy messes are sickening – they make your stomach turn because you know that you can do better and that your family deserves harder work than that.

But beautiful messes, once you learn to let go of that stinky quest for magazine-quality perfection, cause your heart to quicken inside of you as you realize that this…this!…is the reason you work hard as a homemaker in the first place, to give your family the room and the freedom to live.

Beautiful messes happen around good food and lively conversation.

They happen when siblings are taking a splashy bath together.

They happen over art supplies and blank canvases or an empty table and a couple of jars of Play-doh.

They happen over movies in the living room, throw blankets and pillows and popcorn all over the floor.

They happen in a room full of toys that inspire the imagination to soar, where dinosaurs can play with Calico Critters, even though they don’t match.

They happen in sandpiles and mud puddles and snow-covered yards.

They happen when all the decorative pillows are off the bed and families are cuddled up to sleep together.

They happen when we are living life with the ones we love.

And, sometimes, they happen over afternoon cookies and coffee, inspiring you to sit down and share what you’re learning about homemaking with the world.

Grandmother (or “Mother Bear”, as 3-year old Betsie has dubbed her) had come over for the afternoon, and the three of us had sprawled out in the schoolroom to enjoy a snack together. We talked. We laughed. We read books. We lounged. We made crumbs. We made spills. We lived!…

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It was beautiful.

And it reminded me that this is why I buy pretty decorations and sweep the floors and keep dishes clean and fluff the pillows and wipe off the table, not so our home can look like a dollhouse or the latest issue of the best home decorating magazine…

but that I might make room for the next beautiful mess.

~

p.s. If it makes you feel any better about your life, this is what our shoe cubby looks like. I just don’t know where we’d put that one flip flop if we didn’t have it. I’m super glad we paid money for it.

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~

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A Beautiful Girlhood Birthday Picnic (inspired, of course, by Nanny McPhee Returns) – Part Two

So, like I was saying in yesterday’s very important and explanatory post, on a Tuesday afternoon in early June, Rebekah’s siblings and a handful of beloved cousins departed to a remote and mysterious location, laying down a trail of flowers for her to follow to her picnic party.

Here they are again, in case you forgot how cute they looked. Please excuse my daddy’s ugly trackhoe…and backhoe…and tractor…in the background. They were NOT invited to the party, but they came anyway.

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About fifteen minutes later, my husband and I gave Rebekah her basket and informed her, with great melodrama and gravitas, that there was a trail of flowers for her to collect that would lead her to her party. Once every flower was picked up, not only would she be at her surprise you-know-what (pssst! “picnic”), she would be a “big girl”.

Daggnabit, I’m ’bout to cry again.

Stop looking at me. Here. Look at these pictures instead.

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"The Flower Path to Girlhood" - a rite of passage birthday party

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“The Flower Path to Girlhood”. I might have to frame this one.

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Gasp! I see a picnic up ahead!

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Now, before I show you the rest of our celebration, I’ll show you some pics Amy took of the party set-up before the guests arrived. To have a “Nanny McPhee” inspired picnic, all you really need is a wheat field, some quilts, some baskets, some potted plants, a miniature picnic table, a lot of food, some old furniture, some metal chairs and a thousand antique dishes. That’s all. But especially the wheat field.

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Our menu included fried chicken, biscuits, little mason jars of fruit salad, a basket of Gala apples (Rebekah’s favorite), chocolate pie, miniature apple, strawberry and blackberry pies, and homemade ice cream.

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To wet our whistles, we had lemonade, sweet tea and a little pitcher of water with sliced strawberries.

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Now, a word on these fantastic little drinking vessels. I noticed some very similar to these in the Nanny McPhee Returns movie, and, just happening to have a giftcard burning a hole in my purse, I went posthaste to Anthropologie to buy some of my own. Fortuitously, these glasses in my cabinets will now serve two purposes, 1. to hold thirst-quenching liquids and 2. to remind me of the day my 5-year old became a “big girl”. Oh, great. Now I’m going to cry again. Good thing I have these gorgeous glasses to catch my tears. (Click on the photo to find these glasses at Anthropologie!)

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This is skipping ahead a little, but speaking of drinks, I really liked the contraption my mom came up with the pour the tea into some glass bottles we brought along…

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it’s not every day that you find a lady with an antique enamel funnel laying around.

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Now, a series of food pictures. A bucket o’ glasses o’ fruit salad!

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apples!

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fried chicken!

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biscuits!

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pies!

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pies with hearts in the middle?! (Nice touch, mama).

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But, enough with the still-lifes. Let’s get back to the party! The flowers had all been collected…

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and it was time to par-tay.

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Now I have to interrupt this series of party pictures for a funny announcement. See this little boy eating an apple?

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This one right here?

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He’s about to lose a tooth.

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Ta-da!

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But wait, that’s not all! A couple of minutes later, Gideon’s cousin, Anna, ALSO lost a tooth!

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It must have been all those apples.

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In a funny twist, the apples that helped the big kids lose their teeth brought relief to Baby Shepherd who is GROWING teeth. Apples are hilarious!

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And, while we’re on the subject of apples, here’s my nephew, Abel, enjoying one, too…

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But, enough about them apples. Back to the party!

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After everyone had eaten to their belly’s content, we brought out the pie, Rebekah’s favorite, Grandmother’s chocolate meringue pie. This also happens to be MY favorite pie, so thank you, Rebekah. (And thank you, Grandmother!!)

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I think this next picture is funny because I was so beside myself as we lit the candles, thinking that Rebekah was probably also beside herself with excitement, when actually she was, you know, yawning and messing with her dress. Birthdays schmirthdays.

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Now, may I interrupt this party to tell you a little story about the stuffed piggies who attended our party? The following is from a Facebook status I shared back in June:

“A birthday story…

For Christmas, I impulsively bought a little stuffed pig for Rebekah’s stocking that was at the check-out counter at Pottery Barn Kids. It was on sale, and it was just sitting there looking at me, and Rebekah has this thing for pigs, so…I snatched it up and gave it to her for Christmas.

It turned out to be her favorite gift, and the two have been inseparable. She named her “Oinky” and it is the first thing she wants when she is sad. She LOVES that little piggy!

Last week, Rebekah’s Sunday School teacher approached me and told me that, when she asked her what she’d like for her birthday, Rebekah answered “a mama for Oinky so she’ll have someone to take care of her when I’m gone”.

Long story kind of short, we started looking, and there just so happened to be a mama-sized Oinky available at Amazon. We ordered it, and when Rebekah arrived at her class this morning, it was hiding in a birthday giftbag for her from Miss Linda.

When Rebekah pulled that big ol’ pig out of the bag, her face went through three levels of surprise before she could get a word out! “A mama for Oinky!!” she squealed (NOT like a pig). “I have to show her!!”

Together, we ran to the pew outside her Papa’s office where Oinky was hanging out with Baby Shep in his carseat.

I hid Oinky behind my back.

She hid “Piggy” (aka mama pig) behind her back…

“One…two…three…” we said, and we pulled the piggies out of hiding so they could meet.

I have to say, it was a pretty precious reunion.

Did they hug?

No.

Kiss?

No.

Rebekah grabbed Oinky and immediately settled him in to nurse.

Which, after having four little piglets of my own, is pretty much exactly how those first meetings go.”

All that to say, it was such a joy to have both Piggy and Oinky at our party. They were our honored guests!

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And the rest of our evening was spent just running around, snacking, playing, laughing, eating homemade ice cream, and getting bit by ticks. Simple, country fun, the best there is, and I am so happy that Amy and her kids could be in town on this beautiful afternoon to celebrate with us.

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As the peaceful evening wrapped to a close, Rebekah mozied back to the house with her basketful of flowers in her hand and a memorable rite-of-passage evening in her heart.

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She was a big girl now, and I could finally go to sleep that night feeling that the occasion had been appropriately memorialized.

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Happy Birthday, Rebekah Sunday! May your “beautiful girlhood” be as lovely as your golden hair, your Nanny-McPhee-Returns-inspired picnic and your favorite pink dress. Now quit makin’ me cry, you little stinker! You’re not allowed to turn 5, ever again, and that’s an order.

A Beautiful Girlhood Birthday Picnic (inspired, of course, by Nanny McPhee Returns)

So.

Who is PUMPED for some birthday party posts?!

This is going to be totally out of order, but I can’t wait any longer to share this particular party with you, so it gets to go first. But first, a tiny bit of backtracking…

As my eldest daughter’s 5th birthday approached, I found myself in alternating states of distress and bewilderment.

Still sinking under a lingering postpartum fog, I just could not get it together! My brain was kaput and, two weeks before her June birthday, I still hadn’t nailed down much of anything. State Fair party? Pretty picnic party? Lots of guests? Just the cousins? Meal? Just dessert? Presents? No presents?

I DON’T KNOW!!!!!

I was so heavily annoying myself that I can’t imagine what a bother I was being to my husband, my mom and my party-planning soulmate and sister-in-law, Amy, for not a day went by that I wasn’t discussing and hemming and hawing over what we were or weren’t going to do. It was sincerely obnoxious.

Finally, for the love of Pinterest, after flipping and flopping and switching and swapping, Rebekah’s 5th birthday extravaganza did me a favor and seemingly planned itself for me with a crazy-busy weekend:

On Friday, we attended Abigail’s 10-year old Kit Kittredge party (more on that later!) and stayed the night. Honestly? This would have been enough of a party for Rebekah. We could have put a candle on her piece of cake, sang her the birthday song and called it a day.

On Saturday, we popped over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house in OKC and spent the day swimming. This, too, would have been enough of a party for Rebekah, especially when she saw the giant “Frozen” balloons her Grandma bought as decorations.

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On Sunday morning (her actual birthday), before we left for Sunday School, we had a sweet little breakfast in the sunroom together. Again, this would have been enough of a party.

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On Sunday evening, we celebrated with our church friends after prayer services by sharing the cake Rebekah had been DREAMING of for an entire year: chocolate with chocolate icing, chocolate chips, marshmallows and M&Ms. This was all for her, a true gift from me (making bizarre custom cakes is not my love language), but when she saw it and thanked me over and over again, I had to admit it was completely worth is.

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And SERIOUSLY. I truly could have stopped there and it would have been a fun, blessed family-and-friends-filled weekend of celebratory birthdayness, MORE than enough for anyone, especially a FIVE-year old.

But you guys know me by now.

I needed to have just one more little party, not so much for Rebekah, but for me.

You see, we’d been zipping all over the place all weekend, bookending her birthday around church services, and I just needed to steal another day to celebrate my daughter.

Because, in my heart, birthdays are not just about my children. They’re about commemorating the days when our entire family’s life changed forever. This is big stuff we’re celebrating! And so it is an important personal ritual for me to meditate on the gifts of my children by sweating like a mule while I haul furniture and decorations all over the countryside to host a party that matches up with all the sentimentality of my heart. It’s what I want to do and what I need to do and what I like to do.

And so I did it.

And it turned out to be one of the sweetest days of my life.

The inspiration for this day sprang entirely from one of my favorite movies, “Nanny McPhee Returns”. I am so captivated by the Nanny McPhee movies, but the second one in particular is extremely dear to me. I love the set, the costumes, the scenery, the story, the casting and, did I mention the costumes? I die.

And every time I watched it and observed the family’s celebratory picnic in their wheat field, my heart swelled up with this longing to follow suit.

Well, with a very special birthday to celebrate and the perfect pink dress hanging in our closet, the time was right! Watching the movie once more and taking extra notice of the details, I made a few purchases and, added to a mountain of stuff I gathered from my own house, the perfect scene was set for our own Nanny McPhee picnic.

But, you guys, what really tickled me the most about our evening had to be the “Beautiful Girlhood” theme that sprang upon us at the last minute, adding a sweet rite-of-passage element to this party that nearly bowled me over. I could share all the details of how it came about and how it all centered around a heavily-discounted flower-picking basket that we stumbled upon at Williams Sonoma, but I’ll spare you and just tell you what we did:

After spending much of the day setting up in the surprise (and rather remote) location while the kids played in my parents’ backyard and my mom cooked up a storm, we all started getting gussied up in our Nanny McPhee inspired clothing.

Once everyone was dressed, Mr. Gore, Rebekah and I stayed at the house while the rest walked to the party and dropped a trail of flowers along the way that would lead Rebekah to them.

Twenty minutes later, with the flower-gathering basket on her arm, the three of us prepared to depart down (and go ahead and make fun of me) “THE FLOWER PATH TO GIRLHOOD”. Getting down on my knees, I looked into my 5-year-old daughter’s eyes and told her that, once she collected every flower, she would not only be at her surprise party in the woods, she would be a “big girl”.

Oh, man. Call me silly, call me sentimental, call me melodramatic, I don’t care, for, other than my wedding walk down the aisle, this was one of the sweetest and most meaningful walks I have taken! Not to mention that it fully captured the fancy of our girl who is entering the world of “beautiful girlhood” right before our eyes.

Sniffle, sniffle.

I’m so pleased to share our party with you today and, with it, the reminder that life is beautiful and so worth celebrating.

~

One of the biggest parts of this party was the clothes.

Rebekah’s girlhood has centered so much around this dress, for which I am forever indebted to my sister-in-law, Amy, who gave it to us after we accidentally stole it out of her dress up box. (Long story, but THANK YOU, Amy).

Vintage Gunne Sax, it makes Rebekah feel so beautiful and she wears it about every other day.

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I curled her hair with a curling iron (first time!) and I let her borrow my floral metal headband from Anthropologie…

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There is no doubt that much of her joy on this day had to do with how her dress and hair made her feel pretty and celebratory.

We all need days like that, don’t you think?

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And I was so thrilled by everyone’s clothes! One thing I love about my mom and Amy is that they “get me” and, never making me feel stupid, they just show up in the perfect ensembles to please my silly eyes and heart.

While I put some last-minute things together, Amy took some fun pictures of the kids in front of the corn crop.

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Finally, after a day of hard work and preparation, the hour had arrived.

Whisking Rebekah inside the house, her siblings and cousins fulfilled their task and began laying down the trail of flowers…

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and…

I’ll show you the rest tomorrow. :)

Help a Mother Out: the How-to

Biblical and practical tips for keeping the mom in your life from going INSANE

I hope that Saturday’s blog post about helping the moms in your life impacted you, and I’m excited today to move on to the more practical aspects of how to make that happen. But first, I have a tiny little story to tell…

My fourth child is about to have his first birthday, and just recently, I have found myself rising above the funk that I have been in since his birth. For ten long months, I’ve been in a haze, heavily sleep-deprived and unable to conquer the realm that I have been charged to keep. In fact, the only area of my life where I wasn’t failing was my ability to make egg-in-the-hole for our supper every. single. night.

Two months ago, however, I realized with a start that I had signed up to host our church’s monthly ladies fellowship at my house. Talk about kicking me into gear! For a concentrated week, I cleaned and polished and organized and before I knew it, I was on top of things again. My house was sparkling and so was my heart. It was perfect timing to match the clearing postpartum fog in my brain and, with this completely fresh slate, I have kept my house comfortably tidy for weeks, even managing to keep laundry cleaned and put away.

Until two weeks ago. A busy schedule interrupted my new mojo and, day by day, the house slipped, and with it, my attitude.

I was cranky.

I was frustrated.

I felt ten steps behind and I felt like a failure. And in the midst of all that gloom, I lost site once more of my purpose: to glorify God in my home and to share the gospel with my family.

 Until last Thursday.

When we were in the city for our kids’ music classes, my mom snuck in and cleaned my house for me.

Just like that, in the span of one afternoon, with clean floors under my feet and an uncluttered backdrop in my periphery, I am on top of the world again, and I tell you this story for this specific reason: in a couple of hours of unmerited and unsolicited service, my mom not only cleaned my house, she gave me freedom.

The next morning when the children came downstairs, I was able to greet them with a happier heart than I’ve had for days. I made my bed, I did a load of laundry, I started on the dishes and I made my family a good breakfast, simple things that, in my previously frustrated state, felt almost impossible to accomplish.

My point is this: when you give up your time and energy to “help a mother out”, you are not just giving her a good surprise or making her feel loved. You are not spoiling her. You are contributing to her ability to mother her children well, to love her husband well and to commune with God, and in so doing, you are helping your local church body and you are living the gospel message out for her family to see.

Helping the moms in your church is, without a doubt, powerful and life-saving Kingdom work and it spans generations.

 ~

 So, we’ve established that moms need help.

 How are we going to help them?

 #1. Love.

 Because it is obviously impossible to address every possible situation in one blog post, I want to start with this, the one act that will never fail and that will work for any mom: love. Love the fire out of the moms in your church. I assure you, they need every ounce of it they can get, regardless of how “together” they seem to have it. Pray for a heart that is full of love toward this group and see how the Spirit moves you.

#2. Compassion.

Many young moms are not just facing the most physically hectic and draining years of their life, they are learning to spiritually die to themselves for the first time. At least, that’s how it was for me. I needed practical help, but I also needed patience as I found my footing in a world that I was completely unacquainted with and slowly learned how to work hard and live for others. If you can manage to help the young Mrs. Gore’s in your life without being put off by their seeming lack of vision, purpose and get-up-and-go-ness, you’ll really be doing them a favor. Hang in there with them, teach them by example, instruct them gently and someday, they’ll be writing super-long blog posts about how you helped them through their metamorphosis.

 #3. Use your giftedness.

I am learning great things about how God crafts the church. Our gifts are chosen by Him to be used by Him for the benefit of the church He has placed in our life. So what are you good at? It is no mistake that you’re good at that thing you just thought of. It is also no mistake that you attend church with that frazzled mama two pews behind you. How might you turn your gift toward her?

#4. Use your season.

I remember when some of our friends were in a season of life where discontentment could have become an issue for them. They were ready to have kids, but circumstances were preventing it and so what did they do? They POURED themselves out for us and invested in our kids. This was just downright beautiful! I have also learned so much by watching my mama, at a time in her life when she could be traveling and doing whatever she wants to do, invest countless hours and funds into giving us the help that she remembers needing as a mom with young kids. This is how the body of Christ looks so different from the world, choosing to die, even when they don’t have to. God has you where He has you for a reason and that reason is to help me. ;) I kid. But, seriously. Bloom where you’ve been planted and watch as God unifies your church and causes it to flourish.

 #5. Service with a smile.

If you took a survey and asked moms where they most need help, I am almost 15% positive that their answers would fall in the category of housekeeping. There is just so much to do and, when the children are little, there is no one to help. I would daresay my life is easier with four children (aged 7, 5, 3 and 1) than it was when I had a 3- and 1-year old! And if it weren’t for the support of those around me, I don’t know that I would have graciously survived it. Here is a short list of things that have been done for me that knocked my threadbare socks right off my feet.

  • Laundry. Laundry is a great way to start helping moms out, because it is something you can pick up and take back to them. At least once a week, my own mom drops by and demands that I send a couple of loads home with her. The next day, she brings them back and, being very comfortable in my home, puts them away. Sometimes she helps me with the ironing. Sometimes she helps me fold the five loads I have stacked up in the laundry room. All of it is immeasurably helpful. Like, to the moon and back.
  • Cleaning. Being served in the area of cleaning has been life-giving. I’m talking, LIFE-GIVING. My husband, my mom, and my friend, Chrissy, have each routinely surprised me with a completely cleaned house while I was away, and I almost die of happiness, every time. It NEVER gets old. Also, as often as she can, my mom drops by and spends the day helping me clean my house. When you add a helper, a filthy house goes from completely overwhelming to totally doable. I don’t know how I’d make it without these boosts. I’m not exaggerating. I also once heard of a church member hiring a professional deep-clean for her pastor’s wife who had small children. I can’t think of a better or more useful gift!
  • Cooking. I’ve mentioned this before, but when we came home from the hospital with Baby Shep, our church ladies prepared healthy, delicious meals for us for an entire month. It was heavenly. And, occasionally, even if we don’t have a newborn in the house, a friend will drop off food for no reason at all. Sometimes it is a half a lasagna that their family couldn’t eat alone. Sometimes a basket of fruit. Sometimes garden-fresh produce. Sometimes a dessert, fresh out of the oven. ALL of it is a gift that deeply blesses me and lightens the load.
  • Miscellany. During particularly difficult seasons, we’ve had neighbors and friends drop by and mow our yard. We’ve had friends surprise us by cleaning out our van. And here’s something kind of awesome: I have loved observing one of our older church ladies who is gifted at gardening use her time and energy to plant a garden for a friend with young kids who showed interest in planting one. She faithfully checks in and helps them tend it, as well. Be creative and remember that there is probably no area of the mom’s life that couldn’t use some “tlc”. Personally, our life is chaotic from our cars, to our sidewalk, to our porch and to every last inch of our house. Pick a spot, any spot.
  • Childcare. I’ve come down on “me time” in past writings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is important for young moms to have some time to themselves. Just today, my husband took all four kids for an hour so I could clean without interruptions. It was so nice and helped me to be refreshed for the second part of the day. There are so many options for helping in this area. Sometimes my mom and dad take all four kids overnight, giving us two whole days to rest and reorient our house and schedule. Sometimes they take one kid overnight or for the afternoon (don’t underestimate how taking even one child off a mom’s hands will help her!). You could get with some other ladies and offer to keep the kids from several families at the church for the afternoon. You could offer to baby-sit one evening. But if those ideas cause you to shiver, how about acting as a mother’s helper? It would be so helpful to have someone come to the house and play with the older kids in the yard while the babies were napping. Or come for an hour and read books to the little ones if mom is homeschooling older kids. I also know of a lady in our church who accompanies one of my friends to her doctor’s appointments, keeping the siblings in the waiting room. Whether your goal is to give mom some me-time or to help her juggle the chaos of her life, the possibilities are extensive.
  • Church nursery. Again, moms are first and foremost responsible for their own kids and should be happy and willing to help in the nursery at church; that said, I cannot express what a HUGE blessing it is to get to go to church and not go straight into a room to do what you’ve been doing 24/7 for the past week. Getting out the door with little ones in tow is a herculean effort, and some weeks, I am exhausted before we’ve even walked in the church doors. And remember, the more people who participate in a nursery rotation, the less any one person in particular will have to keep it. Spread the word, get people excited and do whatever you can to ensure no one is routinely stuck in the nursery (something we’ve all probably experienced!)

 #6. Teamwork.

This is for all the husbands out there. Your wife needs help! It took a lot of communication, a lot of trial-and-error, and a handful of years to get there, but my husband and I are getting into a routine that helps our marriage to thrive under the stress of this season of our life. For instance, here is our recent bedtime routine: he puts the big kids to bed upstairs while I put the baby to bed downstairs and tidy up the living room. We sit down and relax and watch a television show. We get up, clean the kitchen together and start the dishwasher. We go to bed. And then, in the morning before he leaves for work, he unloads the dishwasher and makes the coffee. This gives me such a headstart on the day! We also take turns keeping the kids so the other can go out with friends. We’re a team, and it makes all the difference in our home life and in our marriage – when everyone is working hard together, it makes resentment a true rarity. It takes time to learn these things, but if you’re new at all this and have ever harbored the notion that your wife “just stays home all day” while you’re at work, I humbly invite you to get a new worldview, and godspeed.

#7. Sisterhood.

We need to return to the world where it took “a village to raise a child”. Us moms are so busy being either paranoid or prideful that we try to do everything by ourselves. Posh! It is such a blessing to me when our church ladies grab one of my kids and help them fill up their plate at potlucks. It helps me when they tell my kids to slow down when they’re barreling down the aisles at church. It helps me to be in a room with my friends who also have little kids and tag-team holding babies and wiping noses and breaking up arguments over toys. We’re on the same team, you know, and today would be a good time to start acting like it.

#8. Encouragement.

And lastly, encourage the moms in your church. Every so often, someone will say something out of the blue that just knocks me over…

“Your children are really well behaved. You’re doing a great job.”

“You’re a natural mama.”

“The gospel is so evident in your home.”

Who? ME?! Are you talking about MY kids? It is always a shock to my unsure heart to hear that I’m doing okay. Kind words bring refreshing to the soul and do wonders to calm the inner storms that we try so very hard to keep quiet. Gifts of encouragement can be as varied as the giver, a hand-written note, a quick Facebook message, a token of love and appreciation, a short prayer in the hallways of the church, and you’d be surprised at how big of a boost a simple Facebook “like” or comment can give. You “like” the 25th picture I’ve posted of my kids this week? Lady, you just made my day.

It always pays to remember that every single person we pass – even on the internet – is fighting personal battles and could use a pat on the back.

~

And there you have it. In just under three thousand words, I’ve managed to write a book on the one thing I wanted to say today…

When you help a mama, you have helped the Church, both present and future.

~

And now I invite you to share. My original intent was to ask only those of you with moms in your life to share this on their behalf, but I also want to challenge YOU, little mama. Do you need help? Are you drowning? Tell your church family. Tell your pastor. Ask for help. Let people into your messy house and your disorganized life. Break down the walls of pride and perfection and begin a transparent conversation about your REAL life. Your help may not come overnight and it may not come ever – and if it doesn’t, you must not point fingers – but do your part and entrust the rest to God.

And thank you to ALL of you for hanging in there and reading this lengthy post. I am passionate about the church and long to see it strengthened and purified! I hope these thoughts help us along just a tiny bit.

As ever, you can follow Mrs. Gore’s Diary by signing up at the top of this page to receive e-mail notifications or by ‘liking’ us on Facebook.

Help a Mother Out: A Cry for Help. A Call to Arms.

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Over the past year, I have shared a couple of posts that directly relate to the heart of a mom; personal responsibility is a big deal to me, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last decade, it is that most of my problems begin and end with sweet little ol’ me.

I truly believe that the Spirit’s work, paired with a believer who is eager to mortify sin and grow in godliness, can overcome the most overwhelming odds.

(I speak, of course, of dishes).

In that regard, we moms are without excuse and should flee from entitlement and bitterness.

We’ve established these thoughts.

Been there.

Done that.

Roger, over and out.

Today, however, I humbly want to grab the ear of, well, basically everyone else.

The friend of a mom. The mom with bigger, more independent kids. The single. The newlywed. The grandmother. The widow. The married couple who haven’t had children. The aunt. The uncle. The neighbor.

I need to let you in on a little secret…

the mom in your life with young kids needs help.

It’s an emergency!!!

Because, as responsible as we each are for our own actions and territory, we were also created for community. We’re supposed to be there for each other. We’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.

Er…not that little children are burdens.

That totally came out wrong.

Anyhow, to flesh out my point, I’ve been looking at it this way…

imagine that one of your church sisters is taking in her ailing mother.

Imagine that her mother needs round the clock care and can’t do anything for herself, that she frequently needs to be spoon-fed, to be cleaned up, and to be changed. Imagine that she cried uncontrollably for long periods of time as her daughter tried to find ways soothe her. Imagine that she woke her daughter up several times a night, night after night after night, sometimes for weeks or maybe even months in a row.

That would be enough, I suppose, but let’s keep going for a little bit.

Now imagine that the woman also had an ailing father, one that was a little easier to care for but that still needed constant care. He could pick up food and eat it, but all of his meals had to be prepared for him. He needed help getting dressed. He had to be bathed. He would have random meltdowns, especially when he was sleepy. He would make giant messes when his daughter was focused on taking care of her mother.

And then imagine that this woman had other typical responsibilities to shoulder. A house to clean. Classes to teach. A yard to care for. Groceries to buy. Laundry to wash. Relationships to nurture. Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

Now…

please.

Pretty, pretty please, tell me her church would rally behind her to help?

Would not a sister or a brother come alongside her and help her carry the load?

Or would they cross their arms and say “she made her bed, now she can lie in it.”

Would they roll their eyes at her when she grew weak and wonder why she’s being so dramatic?

Would they smirk and say “I paid my dues when I took care of my own parents. Now it’s her turn.”

Oh, dear. I sincerely hope not.

I think you know where this is going…

Our churches are full of such women who have found themselves in a season of life that is routinely exhausting and overwhelming, caring for one, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes…FOUR!! (haha)…and sometimes even MORE little human beings who are wholly dependent upon them.

And, in many churches, I’m afraid this group of women are suffering alone. I think the reasons for this are manifold:

1. Many young mothers put on a brave face. Pride keeps them from asking for help because they don’t want to look weak or needy or imperfect. Thus, they show up to church, paste on a smile, and save their tears and honesty for the privacy of their homes. No one knows they need help because they never ask.

2. Motherhood is such a normal part of life. Sure, we’d rally behind the lady who was caring for her parents, because that just doesn’t happen everyday. But the lady with the toddler and the infant? That’s normal. Comical, even. It’s so cute to see her plop down in a heap of exhaustion while her two-year old climbs on her back and her baby crawls under the church pews (really…it IS cute).

3. We fail to recognize how drastically society has shifted. Where once local communities thrived and neighbors could be called upon to watch over the kids so mom could run down to the grocery store, or grandmothers were close at hand to help however they could, many moms now live on an island of sorts.

As a result, many of the young moms in our congregations are drowning in housework, fatigue and loneliness and feeling completely cut off and alone.

Now, before I move on, I know what you’re thinking…

“Presumptious, much?”

Should a lady who has little children REALLY be writing a blog post about how women with little children need help with their little children? Isn’t that like announcing your birthday on Facebook with a link to your Amazon wishlist?

You’d think. But what you may not know is that I have been approved to write this article, because of the following factoid alone: I have a LOT of help in my life. My husband works flexible hours right down the street, my mom lives 10 miles away and I have a church full of wonderful people I could call upon should the need arise.

In fact, the helpful and thoughtful people in my life are actually the ones who INSPIRED this blog post, giving me experience to draw from and a success story to tell of how moms can thrive under the care of a loving support system.

As such, I feel very comfortable today initiating this conversation and speaking on behalf of the demographic that I represent; for their sake, I will shout from the internet rooftops what they’ve been hiding. Listen closely and you can hear the cries of their heart…

HELP!!! I’m sinking, I’m drowning, I’m dying, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

~

I hope I’ve caught your ear and your heart. Stay tuned for Part Two, full of practical ideas for helping the moms in your life. Coming up Monday!

Love in the Midst of Parenthood

Love in the Midst of Parenthood

Nine years and I still find myself, at times, sinking under the glorious weight of my adoration for him.

It is different than it used to be. I was so young and free, with nothing better to do than lie on my bed or curl up on the porch swing and daydream about him. My days were filled up with a yearning that he answered however he could, a love letter in the mail, a midnight e-mail, a two hour phone call, a stroll down our country road with hands intertwined…

he was my world and I was his.

From morning until night, my heart was gazing at him, feasting on the love that God had written for us.

The memory squeezes so hard, it hurts.

Today, however, there is little time for gazing and feasting. We are surrounded by a boisterous and spirited army of tiny noise-makers who are hungry, thirsty, dirty, tired, bored or have a desperate need to be tickled. When we whisper, they want to know what we’re talking about. When we have a conversation, they want to add to it. When we kiss, they giggle, and when we hug, they want to join in and make it a group affair.

They crawl into our bed at night.

They come downstairs during our evening free time.

And even when the world is dark and their voices are no longer heard, there is the baby across the room from us in his temporary crib. He may be sleeping, but he is present.

But you know what?

It’s okay.

Marital love is more resilient than I ever gave it credit for, bouncing back from interruptions and finding a way to grow through the cracks; our life may be more crowded, but our capacity for love has only multiplied with each new life that has joined our ranks.

There is no competition here for my affection.

This is no war for my heart.

We are a family.

And when I look at my children, I see their Papa.

When he treats them tenderly, I am wooed.

And though the love between us that was once a beam is now a zigzag, jumbled up in the four stairstep offspring who share our home, they all lead me back to him, anyway.

The romance comes in snatches now. When I am sweeping the crumbs into the dustpan and a random thought of him crosses my mind. When a sweet song plays over the radio. When I see a photo that captures who he is. When I am sitting in the living room and overhear his laughter from the upstairs nursery…

love washes over me just as surely as it did when our hands first met and when our lips first kissed.

I can see him, you know, over the tops of their heads.

And I don’t plan on ever taking my eyes off of him.