Have Courage and Be Kind: 7 Spectacular Things about 2015’s Live-Action Cinderella

I grew up on Disney Princess movies. Sleeping Beauty and her pink (no, blue!) dress. Snow White and her terrifying journey through the woods (no, really…TERRIFYING). Belle with her precious lil’ nose stuck in a book. Ariel and her beautiful singing voice.

And then there was Cinderella.

One of my very favorites.

Even as a preschool-aged girl, I admired the rich timbre of her voice and I so desperately loved everything about her story. Her attic bedroom. Her bluebird and mouse friends. And don’t even get me started on the ballgown and glass slippers.

But, mostly, I think what I loved most about Cinderella was her dazzling rags-to-riches happy ending, and the message wound its way deep into my young heart that, no matter how my heart was grieving, if I’d simply keep on believing, the dream that I wished would come true.

Cinderella said it would.

And so did Jiminy Cricket.

And lots and lots of other animated friends.

Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I have slowly come to the realization that, in reality, most dreams DON’T come true.

And sometimes none of them do.

This news was initially quite distressing to me, but over time, I have begun to understand that, in truth, there’s something SO MUCH BETTER than getting all the things you want out of life and having every single one of your childhood dreams come true.

And the new live-action Cinderella movie told this sort of happily ever after, exactly.

It took my breath away to watch my beloved daughters, especially my 5-year old, being carried off by the INCREDIBLE message that this new Disney masterpiece brought to life in one of the most beautiful movies I have ever, ever seen.

Today’s Cinderella didn’t tell my little girls that all their dreams would come true.

She actually told them secrets FAR SUPERIOR to that, and as a huge believer in the power of story-telling, my greatest prayer is that the movie we watched together on Thursday last will inspire them in ways that I will never be able to measure.

Who am I kidding? I was inspired. And here I am, a mom in my 30’s and still wanting to be like Cinderella. But not for the reasons you’d think.

Here are just a few of those reasons, proof that really well-written fairytales are not just for children. They’re for grown-ups, too:

1. An innocent countenance.

First of all, can we just stop for a minute and talk about the breathtaking Lily James? She is a flawless flower, plucked straight from the meadow, and I am such a fan of her performance that I can’t even find room in my heart to be jealous of her. Just…bravo, you beautiful girl, and congratulations on the role of a lifetime. You lived up to Cinderella, in every possible way, and took her to a level beyond anything I ever could have imagined. You ARE Cinderella now, forever and ever. Thank you, for accepting this part, for all your hard work, and for giving the daughters of our country someone to emulate.

Obviously, I was dazzled!

But not simply by her outward beauty (of which there is a LOT).

You see, somewhere during my adolescent years, a role model emerged that took my eyes of the good and the wholesome, and I began to put more stock in that daring sort of beauty that immediately caught the eyes of men and weakened their knees. These vixens of the silver screen influenced me, and it really did seem like only these sorts were able to snag any real attention from the opposite sex. It pains my heart that I believed them and ever tried to imitate them.

In a culture full of bold women with bold eyes, it was so refreshing to see someone so gentle as Cinderella on the big-screen. Someone so good. Someone so modest and pure and, yes, KIND.

There were obviously no heaving bosoms in this movie, no damsels in distress, no challenging and lusty glances, just a sweet young woman who went about her work and who wasn’t a slave to her own interests and her own dreams.

A true heroine.

I want to raise girls like that.

Girls like Cinderella could change the world, if only they would believe they have value.

2. A simple and quiet ambition.

You guys know from past stories that I can get a little cray-cray around celebrities. Cough, cough…Pioneer Woman. But my husband, God bless him, has been a constant and needed voice of reason to remind me that celebrities are just people.

The new Cinderella movie brought this point to life, I think, when it repeatedly pointed out that the prince was “an apprentice to his father’s trade”.

I want to work very hard to see celebrities – and royalty – in this light, no more special than the lady next door, unless, of course, they are “brave and good and love their father” like the prince. That was what made him really special to Cinderella and what she valued about him. Not his crown. Not his charm. Not his looks.

That’s a happily-ever-after I can get behind.

I don’t want my girls to long for princes or titles or fame or fortune in their love stories, just a good, godly man who loves them well.

What more could any of us ask for than that?

3. An indwelling magic.

The Disney fairytales of yesteryear were stories of triumph, of some sort of magic getting you from a bad life to a good life and of helping you escape from where you are to where you want to be.

This sort of ideology, while lovely in a movie, is rather weak, in heart, and dissolves the great pillars of faithfulness and perseverance in the reality of daily life.

The new Cinderella, however, teaches that the best magic is found within, no matter your circumstance.

Cinderella wasn’t pursuing any life other than the one she was living, and the magic of her story was not saved for her triumphant escape from suffering and her elevation to the palace, but was actually what fueled her all along.

We are all probably familiar by now with the secret her mother imparted to her early in the film:

“Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.” 

Hollywood can’t be all bad if there are people there writing lines like that, and I am thrilled to say that my daughter has memorized those words, of her own accord. If we can muster up this sort of magic in our homes and amongst our families, and even in our suffering, who knows what sort of real-life fairytales might ensue?

4. A contentment with memories.

When Cinderella’s mother died, the narrator says that her pain eventually lessened and her memories became her feast.

In fact, those memories of her “golden childhood” went on to sustain her during her darkest days as an orphan and servant, keeping bitterness, the true slayer of hearts, at bay.

I have often thought that, should something very tragic happen in my world – and, please, God, don’t let me practice this – I should never have any reason to question God’s goodness to me. There have been too many glimpses of Eden to ever be overshadowed by misery, and I would hope that my memories of God’s grace would carry me through any seasons of doubt.

This tenet was further expressed after Cinderella’s night at the ball in the fact that she wasn’t breaking her neck to make it back to the palace and see the prince again. She had her memory of that night and it was enough for her.

I found this sort of contentment very beautiful and terribly inspiring.

5. A beautiful determination: HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND.

A week has gone by and I just can’t get over this mantra that dominated the entire film.

So simple, but those are the best lessons, aren’t they? The ones that you can easily repeat in times of need.

This message of “having courage” and “being kind” is mighty POWERFUL, and leaves the self-absorbed “every girl can be a princess” stories that I grew up with in the dust.

Let’s repeat it to our daughters, o’er and o’er again, and also to ourselves, until we are, by the grace of God, a people of kindness and courage.

6. A love for family.

As an avid fan of my parents and my family and my church, I found in Cinderella a kindred heart. When her step-sisters were asking for fripperies as souvenirs from her father’s journey and all she wanted was the branch that brushed his shoulder, I melted into a puddle of goo.

Then I looked intently at my daughter and hoped she was in some way understanding the level of beauty that was being offered to her young and absorbent heart.

Cinderella went on to endure years of hardship just to be true to her home and to her parents, and I was cheering her on every step of the way.

7. A freedom in forgiveness.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t expound on the “happy ending”, but you really HAVE to believe me that this was the best ending to any Disney Princess movie, ever. Go see it. Take a hankie. Or, if you’re like me and your tears start flowing during the “Frozen Fever” short before the movie, take two.

Three cheers to the screenwriters of this story who were brave and thoughtful enough to add dimensions to Cinderella’s tale that could be the foundation for a new generation of “princesses”, girls who have courage, who are kind, who are pure, who treasure the good guys, who love and honor their families…

girls who know what “happy endings” are all about.

~

If you are a Christian mama, I encourage you to talk with your littles about Cinderella’s story and take it a step further. We know from God’s Word that none of us are “good” or “kind” without the redemptive work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I want my girls to understand that “being like Cinderella” is only something that will work if their “courage” and “kindness” is a direct result of the grace of God and is used as a vehicle for His glory. In our home, judging by her fruit, 2015’s Cinderella is obviously a Christ-follower. ;)

To read another great review on this movie, click here. And as always, you are CORDIALLY invited to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook by clicking here. No glass slippers required.

Ode to a Cardboard Box

Mr. Gore took the big kids “on a date” yesterday afternoon (i.e. lunch and grocery shopping), and while Shep took his long, afternoon nap, my mom and I were going to attempt Day 2 of spring cleaning by tackling my master bedroom.

That only left one person with nothin’ much to do.

Betsie.

She had been such a trooper by staying behind, and her unspoiled nature was gloriously on display after her siblings departed.

“We’re having a ‘HOME date’!” she giggled to me and her grandmother as we sat around the table eating tacos. Excited by her day as an only child, she was chattering a hundred words a minute, and it was so fun to just look at her and delight in who she is.

I should buy her something,” I thought to myself, wanting to reward her for being a good sport and making the best out a day that might seem kind of lame to other kids.

But then the wiser voice within me spoke up: “Why would you do that? Are you crazy??

Truly. What better way to spoil an unspoiled child than to buy her toys every time she acts unspoiled? Silly me.

So I just smiled at her instead and gazed into her eyes, even as my heart longed to shower her with blessings.

And that’s why I’m so very thankful that a perfect reward presented itself about thirty minutes later.

I was unloading a box that had been sitting in my room since Christmas, preparing to break it down and send it out the door, when that wise voice piped up again.

“What are you throwing that away for, you big dumb-dumb?”

Betsie, meet box.

The two were inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.

Now, any of you who keep up with us on Facebook know that this beloved 3rd child of mine, though brilliant in many regards, can be a bit of a dingaling. I shared the following story on Facebook yesterday:

It was just Betsie this afternoon, so I hauled out a big cardboard box to keep her busy while I worked on my bedroom.

Her goal was to design a very beautiful house, so before I left her to it with a bucket of markers, glue and construction paper, I got a big, sharp knife and sawed some windows on the side.

“Now stay WAY back, Bets,” I warned her. “This knife is very dangerous.”

“Okay,” she said, agreeably, “I’ll just get inside the box.”

Sigh. I love that girl. We call her “Oh, honey” (from “How I Met Your Mother”) in her ditzier moments, which is approximately 2.5 times a day.

Anyhow, after the windows were finished, I moved on to my work and left her to hers, occasionally checking in and snapping a few photos.

I had to laugh when I noticed that she was busy working in her default Smeagol position.

Betsie has crouched like Smeagol from “Lord of the Rings” since she was just a tiny thing. One day, I had her in the walk-in shower while I cleaned the bathroom, and I looked over to see her crouching and trying to pick up a bar of soap.

She looked over her shoulder at me, and with her wet hair plastered down on her head and her giant eyes gleaming seriously at me, she sort of looked exactly like this…

375068_10152751167490464_1530719967_n On days like that, instead of calling her “Oh, honey” we call her “my precious”.

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Moving on, can I just say that, while I ADORE having a big family, there is something really special about having some one-on-one time with each of your children?

These sorts of simple activities like making houses out of boxes COMPLETELY frazzle me when we’re all home together – maybe because there are four people asking me for things at one time while I’m trying to divvy up markers and supplies!!! – thus, I was kind of blown away by how EASY it was to enjoy this sort of homemade fun with just one of my stinkers.

It reminded me that I can be FUN and spontaneous, even on spring cleaning days.

So long as half of our kids are out of the house and one is asleep.

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Tisn’t a Pinterest-worthy box, but…

it’s OUR box.

And we love it.

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That’s chocolate ice cream on her face. Life is good.

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By the way, Betsie’s my favorite poser in the family.

That girl is cray.

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When it came to her house-box, her very favorite part was the “welcome” mat I drew for her.

“A RUG???!!!!” she squealed when I finished.

I want to be like Betsie when I grow up.

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The window and curtains (decorated by Betsie) were a big hit, too.

After she colored them in, she gave her box a kiss.

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I think this ragamuffin has finally found a home.

She wants to live her forever.

And sleep here.

And eat popcorn here whilst watching “Sleeping Beauty”.

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Turns out, she was also very territorial of her box. (Being an only child for the day will do that to ya).

About an hour into box-time, she asked me to add a few words (sentences) to her “welcome” mat.

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“Don’t come in. In a minute, Betsie’s going to go to sleep.”

Not very welcoming.

But when Sheppy woke up from his nap and backed in to her box until he kerplunked right down in her lap, she didn’t kick him out.

So maybe she’s hospitable, after all.

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The moral of this story is: we KNOW the best things in life are free, and we KNOW that boxes make the best toys, but sometimes we forget.

It’s good to be reminded.

Greatness.

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He stopped by after work today to take Gideon to the pond to work on “the clubhouse”.

They were gone for who knows how long, but it wasn’t long enough.

It never is, and when Gid came back home from a couple of hours with his granddaddy in the great outdoors, he declared, “this is the best day I ever had. I wish it would never end…”

Like his mother, Gideon tends to speak in superlatives to express the triumphs or misery of his heart.

“Worst day ever”.

“BEST day ever…”

And so I know what he was trying to say: “I just had so much fun, and my heart is so happy that he came by…”

And what I find astounding about all of it is not so much that Gideon had “the best day ever”, but that this man, this granddaddy of my children, this daddy of mine, who labors long hours at a grueling job, will stop by on his way home from work to give his grandson the best day he EVER had.

Astounding, but not abnormal.

I’ve lost track of the number of days he has stopped by of an afternoon, taking his heavy and dirt-crusted work boots off on the front porch, or stomping them thoroughly down, at the very least.

Sometimes he brings a snack from the local gas station.

Sometimes he is bearing gifts, a cool rock he found for Gid, an animal skull to add to our random collection, a piece of antique metal he dug up on the job.

And on the many afternoons we find ourselves at his house when the workday ends, the routine is always the same: he takes off his boots, he greets us congenially, he gets a Ginger Ale out of the fridge, he fetches a box of Cheez-its out of the pantry, he rustles up a container of peanuts, and he takes his seat at the head of the table – the same seat he has occupied since the table was purchased four decades ago – where he and the kids start divvying up the snacks, munching and drinking to their heart’s content.

It is so moving for me to see my children digging through the snap-closured pockets of his tan work shirts, the same work shirts he has worn every day for as long as I’ve been alive, and finding the same treasures that I used to play with as a little girl. The tip cleaners. The soapstone chalk.

And the reason I’m watching it all so closely and taking it all in is because it has been ruminating in my heart these past few years, this thirst for real, life-changing truth, this settling down of my ambitions.

I just so wanted to BE something.

To have my name recognized.

To gather up some fanfare.

To make a lasting impact.

I realize now that this is an inherent craving of the human heart and is nothing more than a misplaced hope that masquerades as something praiseworthy. “Leaving behind a legacy” and so on and so forth.

The knowledge that we should live forever, the Romans 1 realization that God is real and that we are without excuse, tries to cover its sight and find relief in a quest for eternity in something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We grasp for recognition or validation in anything other than this call to lose ourselves, thinking that if we can just be somewhere important…on the cover of a magazine, on the dustcover of a book, on the screen of a television…then we’ll count.

We’ll be REAL.

Our name will maybe, somehow, be attached to something that will live on, once we’re gone.

But this is all a mirage, isn’t it?

We should have known it was the minute we first felt ashes in our mouth after a perceived achievement lost its luster and gathered dust in the memories of all who were there to witness it.

Wasn’t I “Most Popular” once in a long forgotten yearbook?

Or…was I?

All of the silly, youthful triumphs are long gone, and in their place a new hunt arises as quickly as the old victory is shelved.

What can fill me up now?

A new accolade? A new title? Another subscriber?

But I’m really and truly starting to see it.

Beyond the spotlights, far removed from the viral, a figure emerges.

He looks like a nobody.

Same jeans, shirt and boots, every single day.

Same lunch in the same lunchbox.

The circle of his influence is miniscule. A couple of work hands he oversees five days a week. The wife he has been married to for forty-four years. Four kids, scattered across Oklahoma. A couple of handfuls of grandkids. A Sunday School class. A small church.

But his life is starting to outshine the elite.

He sins everyday, but his sin grieves him. He shares about his struggles weekly with his Sunday classroom of young adults.

He works tirelessly, in sickness, in snow, in sweltering heat, in overtime.

He daily rises earlier than he has to, to spend time in the Word of God and to study his Sunday School lesson.

He gives his hard-earned money freely, wherever the Spirit leads.

And every single day, he chinks away at the natural man until he looks more and more like the Christ who saved him so many years ago.

His hair is graying.

The wrinkles on his face are deepening.

The frame of his body has grown leaner.

But his godliness increases and his love for self decreases and his ambitions diminish more with every step he takes.

And on his way home from work, he stops by the house of a 7-year old boy to spend time with him, just because he loves him and just because he remembers what an impact his own granddaddy had on him so many years ago.

Do you know what, fame?

I want to be like that man.

Nameless, in the sea of recognizable faces.

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Weathered, among the shiny, the faux and gilded.

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Ordinary, but pointing daily to a greatness that holds up the world.

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I’m continuing to let go of the pursuit and I’m just thinking that, if I can turn out to be the sort of “great” that my daddy is, the sort of great that points directly to the One who made me and who loved me first and who saved me from sin, death, hell and myself, the sort of great that is the ONLY great that actually lasts forever…

that would be so great.

~

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

~

Thank you for reading today! Comments are welcomed and cherished. If you are new here and would like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook, find us by clicking here!

 

Peace for the Precious

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Jen Hatmaker posted an article this week about the dangers of “precious” parenting, encouraging moms everywhere to take a page out of the 1970’s parenting manual and let go of the fabricated magic that we are all trying so desperately to create. You can read it by clicking here.

Oh, man. I completely get what she is saying.

Although I have worked through most of the madness by now, there have been birthday parties in years past where I was stressed to the max and antsy for the child I was supposedly celebrating to just get out of the way, already, so I COULD DECORATE AND PUT THE LITTLE CHALKBOARD SIGNS BY EACH PLATE OF FOOD TELLING EVERYONE WHAT THAT FOOD WAS!!!!

Because, honestly, how would my 4-year old guests KNOW that those were cupcakes on the cakestand unless there was a sign next to them that said “cupcakes”???!!!!

Obviously, there were days on the motherhood front when I was a freak whose priorities were totally out of whack. I needed an article like Jen’s to grab me by the shoulders and say “TONE IT DOWN A NOTCH, SISTER!”

Thus, I feel like her latest blog was very timely and needed, for scores of mothers who feel stressed and guilty by today’s parenting trends.

What I ALSO feel, however, is that there could be a lot of mamas out there who need a boost of another kind, and that’s what I am hoping to provide today.

You see, it didn’t take me too long, once I joined the blogosphere, to recognize that my family would most likely be categorized as what Jen calls “precious”.

We are, for better or worse, a family of “snowflakes” and if you HAD to categorize my parenting style as an automobile, it would probably, darn it, be a helicopter.

For instance, the birthday parties.

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The Halloween costumes.

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The earnestness of it all.

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And if I, as a precious mother, am not exceedingly careful in my study of these sorts of personal testimonies and opinions like Jen’s (and VERY exceedingly careful in the comments section!), what can easily happen is that I can take a simple blog post that was meant to encourage or enlighten or entertain and turn it into my own shame.

And that, my precious, is why I want to speak to you today.

Before I move on, I want to make it clear that I am in no way refuting Jen’s article. In fact, I LOVE her take on parenting.

Through her consistent warnings against helicoptering, I have learned to let my kids play in the front yard with me only hovering by the living room windows where they can’t see me instead of the front porch right next to them. I have been reminded to let them make mistakes and to teach them to clean up their own messes. I have been inspired to step back and let them do big things for God when the time comes.

These have been big lessons for me, and I am beyond grateful for the guidance and am ever hungry for more. We need to listen to other moms, moms who are different than us, moms who are the same as us, but most importantly, moms who have actually walked through motherhood. If motherhood is anything, it is a learning process, is it not?

But I am also very sympathetic to those who, with the best intentions, have found themselves feeling lonesome in their zeal.

As a precious mom, there have clearly been days when I needed a voice like Jen’s to help me “snap out of it” and to show me a different path, but then there have been other days when I simply needed someone to lift up my chin and tell me that I’m doing okay.

With the latter days in mind, I want to offer some relief to my fellow snowflakes, and I feel sure that Jen, who is a passionate advocate of sisterhood and who annually takes time out of her crazy life to talk with me about “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Facebook, would approve.

Let us begin.

Are you a Pinterest mom? Are you precious? Are you a snowflake?

Hi. I “get” you.

And while I “get” you, I can also see how the Pinterest circuit can be overwhelming to moms who aren’t wired in those ways and results in mom-guilt galore.

Not a mom on the planet is free from the temptation to compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others, and the strengths of the “precious” are displayed ALL OVER THE INTERNET.

If a non-Pinteresty mom is feeling down about herself and logs onto Facebook to see something like this….

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it would understandably come across as very showy and nauseating.

And who knows? A lot of this stuff might actually BE showy. I don’t know. Every mom is different, and even more complicated, every day is different. I’m sure there have been days where I was being showy, and the next day I wasn’t. I’m a sinner who just happens to have a good camera and a knack for color-coordinating. There are going to be issues.

So, even though it can wound the precious person’s enthusiasm, I understand the distaste.

Bunting? Scrapbooks? Shadow boxes and time capsules? To many, this stuff is TOO MUCH. It’s insanity.

But not necessarily to us, right?

Being “precious” is our wheelhouse. It’s not, on the pure days, something we pursue out of stress or one-upmanship, nor is it something we force ourselves to be. It’s just what we do, yo. It’s natural. It’s how we show love. It’s how we express creativity.

And while I am unfortunately not organized enough for a time capsule or crafty enough to sew or patient enough to make shapes out of food, there are traditions and practices and beliefs in my home that make other moms feel like total losers. I know this is true, because I have heard it o’er and o’er again, most usually after a birthday party.

Likewise, I have often allowed myself to feel like a loser compared to the incredible moms I know. Some can sew. Some make amazing meals for their family. Some are so beautifully health-conscious. Some are the epitome of FUN. Some can decorate cakes. Some are budget queens.

I might live big on birthday party days and catalog the fun for Pinterest, but what about all the days in between when I’m shuffling through the mess and buying chicken bits at the gas station for our supper?!

And I just can’t help but think that what all of us mamas have GOT to start recognizing in the midst of all this learning and growing and blogging and discussing, and what we HAVE to rest in at the end of the day, is this…

God has wired us all so very differently.

It may sound ridiculous, but for some of us weirdos the joy is actually found IN the magical details and the stress comes in feeling like we are alienating others with our decoupage. (I don’t actually know how to decoupage, but still. You know what I mean).

As a thoroughly precious person, I sincerely love making some extra magic for the world. I love whimsy. I LOVE CHILDHOOD. I am a Victorian, at heart, and even though I can learn from their chill vibe and use their strengths to help me be a better parent, I will never, ever be a 1970’s style mama whose kids roam around the neighborhood. I admire those types of moms. I love them. I kind of think they’re hilarious! But they are not me.

Do you know what?

We get excited about birds at our house. Like, we cluster around the living room windows and we count robins, for crying out loud.

We “fly” through the house listening to the score from the 2003 live-action “Peter Pan” movie.

We have special clothes just for the pumpkin patch.

We sing the soundtrack to “Les Miserables” AS A FAMILY, 3-year old included.

We discuss our family Halloween costumes all. year. long.

We even love photo shoot day! Well, most of us, anyway.

We are precious.

But here’s the thing that I have learned to hold onto after going through a very awkward and reclusive phase concerning my mothering skills, and I hope it will encourage you today, whether you are precious or not.

Get ready because, if you are a believer, this is the best news you’ll ever read (post gospel, of course)!…

God gave my kids to the exact type of mama they would need to grow up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

You see, there is a reason that Gideon, Rebekah, Betsie and Shepherd Gore have been placed under the wings of a precious mother. My influence, my heart, and my wiring is apparently a sovereign part of their story, and there is a great peace that comes with that knowledge.

If you poke me too hard, I will bleed. If you say mean things to me, I will cry. I’m not hard. I am a soft person and my heart aches just from opening my eyes in the morning.

And if you squeeze me, do you know what will happen? A birthday party is going to shoot out of my ears like confetti. It’s just who I am!

And because He is good, I fully believe that God will use all of these things to craft the adults that He intends my children to become.

I don’t want to lazily rest in my preciousness. There is a LOT of room for growth here, and through voices like Jen’s (and, okay, my husband’s), I have learned to not rush in and scoop up a crying child every single time they fall. (Even though I am dying to!). I have learned the difference between celebrating God for creating the child rather than making an idol out of the child. I have learned to very carefully toe the line between raising entitled, narcissistic kids and grateful, God-worshiping kids.

And so I will be the first to admit that, if a snowflake indulges completely in her snowflakiness, she can totally handicap her kids! THIS is the point Jen was making, and I have tucked it away to guide me. Listening to the un-precious ones has kept me from becoming a slave to my natural tendencies.

But there is a balance that keeps me from despair.

There is a place for my sort of oozy tenderness. There is a use for the sentimental creativity. There is maybe even an outlet for time capsules! We need more softness in this scary world, don’t you think?

And that’s where the precious ones can shine.

That was a lot of talking, but I share all of that to say this: if you, as a mama, are being true to the daily leading of the Spirit and are finding your parenting manual in the living and active Word of God, are your kids going to be okay?

Even if you have themed birthday parties?

Even if you still slather your 8-year old in baby lotion after his bath? (What? Did I just say that out loud?)

Even if you do photo shoots and start planning for holiday wardrobes months in advance?

You betcha.

It takes all sorts of mamas to make the world go round, and even if we never line up on the tertiary subjects, we can relax in our common anchor, the most important thing in the motherhood equation, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we as precious moms have that, if our earnestness is based on a heart that adores children and this magical season of life, if our over-the-topness springs forth from a heart that finds the sanctify of human life something that starts at home, if we are humble enough to listen and grow and change, then we’ve got nothing to worry about.

Let’s listen closely to the wizened voices of the ones who have blazed the path for us and draw from their unique strengths and add their wisdom to our arsenals…

but let’s also never be ashamed to be the sort of precious that God created us to be.

Pinterest is counting on us.

~

Three cheers today for all moms, and I hope this brings relief to any readers who needed it. These motherhood topics can be so very sensitive, so please use extra discretion in your comments! I see all comments, but only those that lead to edification will be published. Thank you for visiting, and if you’d like to receive almost-daily updates and stories from Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!

If you’ve never commented here and your comments are not going through, I am away from my computer. I’ll try to have everything moderated by tonight! Many thanks!

A Medieval Birthday Party

I don’t know what you did last weekend, but my son…

my firstborn…

my BABY!!!…

turned 8.

If you’ve been on the internet long, you know that it is a thing for moms to get on Facebook and bemoan the passing of another year of their child’s life and to say cliche things like “Where did the time go??” and “Time flies!!” but, do you know why this is so?

BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

My baby was…a baby!…just yesterday and then I did ring-around-the-rosies with him three times and when I stood up from “we all fall down” and shook my head around a little bit (I dizzy very easily), he was EIGHT.

I can’t make sense of it, and so I do the only thing I can to help me process the phenomenon, and I throw a ridiculous party.

Birthday parties help my mind to stop for a week or two and memorialize what is passing by me so very quickly; in the blur of moments and days, I thrust my hand forward and I grab my child by the shirt collar and I plop them down at a party table with pictures and candles and all the love my heart can manage to serve up in one measly day.

My kids love their parties, but someday they are going to realize that these parties were actually for ME! 

And although this year’s theme wasn’t my first choice, it turned out to be really special and left me full of all kinds of warm and happy feelings.

You see, Gid has wanted a “knight” party for a couple of years now, and after my husband gave me a little bit of guidance on the subject (I was pulling for a different theme and Gideon was obviously trying to make me happy), I decided to go for it, regardless of the fact that the medieval wasn’t really calling to me.

But that’s okay, because moms are in the business of dying-to-themselves, and I eventually found GREAT JOY in giving Gid this party of his dreams.

Of course, it really helped that he and his cousin, Anna (who will turn 8 on April 2) requested to have this party together, adding a fun “princess” factor to the affair, and more importantly, ensuring that the most important element to ANY party would be by my side, and I speak, of course, of my sister-in-law, Amy.

In one of our many back-and-forth e-mails about this shared celebration, I declared to her that “I am never doing a party without you again” and I’m going to do my best to stand by that statement. Amy did her thing an hour away, I did mine and, as usual, it all merged together at my mom’s house in perfect unison.

And since my “thing” was to brainstorm, make the Pinterest board, and gather up decorations and food, I stopped in at Reasor’s the day before the party and let the grocery store tell me what I needed to buy.

“Speak to me, grocery store,” I said. “Present to me the medieval…”

This was a bad idea, because as we all know, grocery stores just want to make money – they don’t really care about you! – and spend money I did. Not a ton of money, mind you, but enough to make me start sweating just a little.

My list grew bigger and bigger as I shopped, but the GOOD thing about this is that, by the time I left Reasor’s, the majority of our party’s food AND decor had been procured, and it had only taken me about thirty minutes.

When you stick with the rustic side of party-throwing and stay away from birthday party companies where paper products and decorations abound, your party finds a way to come to life through the beauty of simple and timeless components.

Like pewter and radishes.

(Radishes were not initially on my list, but they sort of MADE the party. You’ll see for yourself soon).

Anyhow, I might have gotten a little carried away in the produce aisle, but HOW PRETTY are these colors?

Bam.

Medieval. IMG_3280 Now, before we move on, I feel like it is important for you to see the party site before the party. Which, sorry, leads me to a long story…

Our plan was to have our medieval celebration down at the pavilion by the creek where we have most of our parties. It’s in the woods, it’s beautiful, it makes the perfect backdrop to just about everything, and we all love it there.

But I have VERY BAD BREAKING NEWS.

It was pouring down rain from morning till night on the day of our party.

And it was chilly.

And here’s yet another reason I love Amy: rather than encouraging me to move the party indoors as common sense would dictate, she supported me in my determination to squeeze our big outdoor party onto the only outdoor space that wasn’t wet, which was my parent’s tiny front porch.

“There’s stone and rock in the background,” I told her over the phone, “and more importantly…”

“…good lighting,” Amy finished for me.

Good lighting is everything, especially if you are like us and like to “go” to your own parties well after you’ve hosted them, when children are tucked into bed and your captured memories are waiting to be viewed and edited on your computer.

So here’s the new party site, and you’ll laugh when you see how we had to squish our 9 children into this area. Our five-year-olds, wedged between the table and the rock wall, barely had room to exhale.

Thankfully, they think we’re normal, so they just play right along, even if rain is pouring just past the edge of the porch that shelters them. Rain is quite medieval, you know. Children would have been wet and cold in a real medieval village. We’re just being accurate.

ALLLLL that to say, this is the porch the kids saw when they came to Grandmother’s house earlier that afternoon. IMG_3290 And, presto chango…

bippety boppety boo…

after a couple of movies in Grandmother’s bedroom…

the next time they came outside…

this is what the porch looked like!!! IMG_3310 Squeal! I love parties! I love surprises!

And finally? After a couple of years or snubbing them? I LOVE KNIGHT PARTIES!!! I’ll break down the menu and details in a bit, but here are a few pictures of the set-up… IMG_3314 IMG_3342 IMG_3317 IMG_3312 Now how about some details?

For the main course of our meal, our plan was to have a giant, roasted turkey. My brother, Jerry, is a master at smoking foods on his Big Green Egg, and he agreed to contribute the bird.

HOWEVER.

On the morning of the party, his smoker BROKE.

BEFORE he could cook the turkey.

We didn’t know what to do, but Jerry had the genius idea to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Wal-Mart. I would never have thought of that, and even though it pains me, I have to thank my brother for saving the party.

Even though his smoker was the one that almost ruined it.

Now that I think of it, this might have been his plan all along. IMG_3300 We boiled some little golden potatoes for this dish (some pricey little boogers that called to me at Reasor’s) and, after laying down a bed of radish greens next to the chicken, we surrounded the chicken with potatoes and (raw) radishes, not because this is actually a recipe and not because we actually ate all of it together, but because it looked AWESOME.

If you ever throw a medieval party, please, do yourself a favor and let this be your main course. Too easy! IMG_3293 Did I say that I got carried away in the produce aisle at Reasor’s? Because I also got carried away in the bakery, coming home with two round loaves of pumpernickle, two round loaves of sourdough, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread and twelve, giant wheat rolls. IMG_3294 And pears! Glorious pears!

No one ate the brown pears, but…sigh…don’t they look so medieval? Love. IMG_3299 I also got carried away in the cheese section of the grocery store, but that’s okay, because it all tasted so very Gouda. IMG_3298 Grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. We STILL have grapes. This was just 1/4 of the grapes I bought. IMG_3301 Now, another reason our parties come together easily and for little cost is because my mom has some surprisingly random things on hand, like the red goblets and the silver serving pieces and, I don’t know, six little pewter bowls, perfect for holding grapes!!!

Do you have little, pewter bowls hidden away in some forgotten cabinet?

I don’t.

Mom does. IMG_3296 And this is an idea I got off of Pinterest, Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies. Brilliant! IMG_3302 For the flowers, I spent a goodly amount of time amongst the selection at Reasor’s, finding a mix of bouquets that would draw all of our colors together. Hot pink, red, lavender and purple did just the trick, and made Anna’s seat of honor especially lovely and fit for a queen. IMG_3305 This next idea was also gathered from Pinterest. If I’m the grocery store part of the party, Amy is the craft part, and she whipped these awesome chair-backers up from felt she already had at her house. IMG_3306 She also made the portcullis you see here, fashioned out of duct tape.

I hate messing with duct tape almost as much as I hate doing crafts. I LOVE Amy, for happily taking on these aspects of party life. (I also love her new baby, Jude). IMG_3515 And now…

NOW…

I present to you the highlight of our party, the pièce de résistance, the “sword in the stone” birthday cake that our friend, Tammy, made IN HER HOME KITCHEN.

Tammy graduated high school with me and lives right down the street in a normal house that does not, as far as I know, have a magical kitchen, and so I can’t fathom how she can do this when I can barely get the icing on a cupcake. She amazes me. Check out this cake!!! IMG_3334 Aside from a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice (with the labels torn off) and a pewter pitcher of water, this was it!

Easy.

Possibly cost-effective (if you don’t buy enough fruit for a vegetarian army and enough cheese for a ship full of mice).

FUN.

Now let’s send in the clowns! We let Gideon and Anna come outside first. I’ll share more on their costumes later, but right now I just need you to understand that, to get these pictures, Amy and I had to be in the yard, in the rain, sloshing through mud from one side of the porch to the other. I couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

But the kids LOVED it and they couldn’t believe the new and improved porch. It was like stepping back in time! IMG_3323 IMG_3324 IMG_3325 IMG_3338 IMG_3340 Now. We couldn’t let Gid and Anna dress up in costumes and have the rest of us in jeans and sneakers, amiright?

There was a time a couple of weeks before the party when I was dreaming big and searching at Amazon for medieval costumes for all of us, but when it came down to it, everything we wore to this party was something we already owned or something the kids decided to buy with their own money.

I was especially proud of the wizard costume my husband came up with when he was at his office on the day of the party. He borrowed a baptism robe from the baptistry, he made a staff out of a big stick and a creepy animal skull that Gid’s Granddaddy gave him one day, he painted streaks on his face with shoe black, and he wore jewels on every finger that he bought himself at Dollar General.

This Papa loves his son, for sure, and I love him all the more for it. IMG_3304 When it came to my outfit for the party, I didn’t know WHAT I was going to wear and kept leaving my closet empty-handed…

until, that is, Gideon requested that I dress as a witch.

Done. If you remember, I happened to have a Darth Vader robe in the attic, and my hair is very bushy, especially in the rain. I took a special spooky picture just for Gid. IMG_3588 My niece, Abigail, used her own money to buy this super-cute wizard costume. IMG_3361 When the party was over, we sneaked outside for a more “organic” wizard picture. This girl is growing up so fast. We’re nearing preteen years, so it thrills me that she still likes our kiddy parties. IMG_3603 My daughter, Rebekah, completely balked on the costume I dug out of dress-up our box for her, the “Brave” Merida costume she got two Christmases ago and a snowy, white cape.

She wanted to wear her very favorite “pink dress”, the one that she has worn to almost every party and holiday since 2013, but I stood firm, and when she saw the pictures, she gasped and said “I DO look like a true princess!”

“And what can you learn from that?” I asked her.

“What?” she asked, confused.

“You need to ALWAYS TRUST MOMMY with your wardrobe” I said.

She laughed.

I wasn’t joking. IMG_3347 IMG_3351 And Betsie.

I can’t even.

She wore her “Frozen” Anna-inspired dress from Little Adventures, plus a velvet cloak that was given to us by a friend, and topped it with my own metal flower headband from Anthropologie.

Looking at the pictures, Rebekah said of her little sister, “She looks just like a little meadow princess!” I agree. IMG_3358

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All the girls felt especially beautiful because their Grandmother gave them LIPSTICK. Oh the glamour! IMG_3356 We failed to get a good picture of my niece, Kate, outside in her princess costume (she spent most of the party squished against a wall), but here’s one from before the party. I’m jealous because I ALWAYS wanted a hat like that when I was a little girl.

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Young Abel made the cutest little knight, donning a tunic that his mommy made out of a pillowcase! He is also wearing a fun dragon cloak that captured the fancy of everyone at the party.

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And then there was the squishiest, cutest dragon in all the kingdom, Little Shep. His costume belonged to Gideon many moons ago, from the after-Halloween sale at Pottery Barn Kids. IMG_3372 Now, let the party begin! You don’t expect me to caption all of the following photos, do you? Good. I knew I liked you. IMG_3365 IMG_3390 IMG_3392 IMG_3396

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IMG_3406 IMG_3411 After everyone had received their drink, my husband came outside to bless the meal. There were some theatrics involved… IMG_3415 but what I especially loved was noticing the little princesses to the right with their hands clasped in prayer.

Mayhap they are praying for the conversion of all of the wizards and witches at the party, which most assuredly happened. ‘Twas the beginning of a great revival. IMG_3422 IMG_3426   IMG_3423 Moving on, would you like to know a little trick I have?

At some point in every party, I tell the kids to laugh so we can take a happy picture. It’s not a FAKE picture, because there HAS been laughter all throughout the party. I’m just making sure that we can prove it! IMG_3443 The next hour or so was dedicated to a leisurely supper outside, pretending to be medieval.

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The young king here was obsessed with blowing this candle out. His mother was obsessed with keeping it lit. IMG_3471 Standing room only on this side of the porch, but Betsie managed to steal a barstool.

If she had tipped back her weight at all, she would have fallen completely off the porch. But the lighting was good, so, there’s that. IMG_3481 Here’s the birthday girl, glowing with girlhood and joy. Methinks she takes my breath away. IMG_3493   Wanna hear something funny?

The day after the party, when I asked Gideon what his favorite thing about the day was, he said, “the radishes”.

I had lost count of how many he ate, but when he burped in my face, I realized that it was exactly twelve.

Kings can be so boorish. IMG_3507 IMG_3517 My nephew, Abel, liked the pears. (I like Abel). IMG_3522 At some point, I got a scary picture of Gid holding his Papa’s weird staff. He thought it was awesome, and I guess I can see his point. If you’re a boy. IMG_3536 Here’s something else funny. Amy told me to peek into the kitchen to see how my daddy was eating. Poor guy.

We took his table.

His chairs.

His peace and quiet.

He’s used to it, I think. :) IMG_3518 After playing around a bit…

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we took a few more staged pictures before moving into the warm house. Here is Gid with the magical cake… IMG_3542 And Anna and the cake… IMG_3551 And finally, the entire merry group. IMG_3576 When the house was fast asleep later that night and I was able to take the time to look at each face in the photo, my throbbing feet did a little happy dance… IMG_3582

I can’t imagine now why I ever had a problem with the idea of hosting a medieval party. Because they’re obviously the BEST.

Happy birthday, Anna and Gideon! I wish you both a future filled with joy and fellowship and feasting.

And lots and lots of radishes.

~

Stay tuned for Part Two, a blog post completely dedicated to the products and costumes featured in this party!

The Late-night Song of a Mother Sparrow

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“Everyone else is asleep,” Rebekah said, her long, golden ponytail draped over her right shoulder. “Can you come cover me up?”

It had been a special movie night upstairs and, after a long and tiresome day, Gideon and Betsie had fallen asleep early.

Rebekah’s cornflower blue eyes burned a hole in me, and I felt that familiar tug in my heart that I had better move, this time out of my cozy and warm chair, and take an opportunity to minister to one of my children.

How often is it that I have the luxury to love on one child without the others there to ask for reciprocation?

“Do that to me!” and “It’s my turn!” are, after all, some of the most-used phrases in our home.

And besides all that, it had been a rough day. My patience was down to the very last thread by the time my husband came home from work, and I was not proud of the fluctuations that had taken place in my actions throughout a day of testing on the homefront.

And so, ignoring the ache in my feet and the lazy in my bones, I resolutely set aside my computer, I took her by the hand and we walked upstairs together.

A “fresh start”, even though it was nearing ten o’ clock.

I had just remarked to her an hour before how tall she is becoming. She’ll be six in June, but it has been a trademark characteristic of this beloved second child to always seem much older than she is, both in build and manner. She looks seven, all of a sudden! And so it made me very happy, as we made our way upstairs, to note how small her hand still feels in mine.

We padded quietly on bare feet to her bed, being careful not to disrupt her snoozing siblings.

She laid noiselessly down on her pink, floral sheets, and I was picking up her old, threadbare quilt to cover her up when I felt that tug again.

She must have felt it, too, because the words were coming out of her mouth as my heart was already saying “yes”.

“Lay with me?” she asked. “I love it when you lay down with me.”

I smiled and nodded and, lifting the quilt higher, I slid in beside her before letting the blanket fall down over us both.

She immediately claimed my left arm and laid it across her chest.

“Why do I love this arm so much?” she laughed, holding it close like she always does.

I laughed with her, feeling more useful and important than I had the entire day over.

“Will you tell me some stories about when I was little?” she asked, blinking at me pleadingly.

It has become a favorite pasttime for all of our children, backing up the advice I have read in so many parenting and educating books. Children love to hear stories about their families and themselves, the books say, and I am forever racking my brain to come up with one that they haven’t yet heard.

I hesitated, trying to think of a really good one.

“Just talk,” she instructed me. “Tell me…anything! About when I was a baby!”

And so I started at the very beginning. How I felt when I found out she was a girl. How I picked her name one morning in Sunday School class. How she was weeks past her due date. How, from the very beginning, she has brought comfort and help to our family. How she spent her first six months of life, staring at me, waiting for my eyes to see her so she could convey her love through smiles and giggles. How she began to take command at a very young age, keeping everyone, including the grocery store, in order.

“Was I everything you wanted?” she asked, eyes gleaming.

“No,” I told her, honestly. “You were everything I didn’t even know I wanted. You were everything I needed.”

Her expression lit with satisfaction, and I knew she understood the sentiment I was trying to convey. But then…Rebekah has always understood. Before she could speak…before she was “old enough”…I knew that she knew and I knew what she was trying to tell me.

It is a gift of hers, I think, to understand, and one that reaches me in deep places. I think it might even keep me going sometimes.

I told her all the stories I could think of, some that made her smile contentedly, some that made her throw her head back and scrunch up her eyes with my favorite belly laugh.

And then our conversation eventually turned to Him.

“I just hope,” I whispered, “that you will always, always follow God through His Word, Rebekah. This world is so confusing and people have so many ideas about who God is and what is right and wrong, but even when life seems scary and you don’t know what to do or what to believe, you can trust Him.”

“And God always has a plan,” she murmured, gazing right through me with her powerful eyes.

And then the privacy and comfort of the nursery invited us into a sacred conversation.

Secret fears were shared, fears that I didn’t even know she had. I will keep them just for her, safe in my heart and in my prayers, but what had begun as a routine tucking-in was turning into something so beautifully holy and reverent, casting ridicule on my earlier reluctance to rise from my silly chair in front of a screen.

These are the moments worth living for, the ones where you are living for someone else.

Will I ever remember that up-front, without coercion? 

“God will take care of me, won’t He?” she finished, voice quavering.

The Spirit was kind to my speechless brain, and led me quickly to the simple food she needed…

“Do you see the lilies of the field?” I asked. “Does God take care of them?”

She nodded, lips pursed.

“The birds of the air?” I continued. “Does God care for them?”

She nodded again, a tiny smile playing at one corner of her mouth.

“Then how much more will He take care of you?” I smiled, feeling that same truth bringing comfort to my faithless heart. “You can believe that, Rebekah. God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. Sad things might happen, scary things might happen, but you must ALWAYS keep these two things close to your heart: God is in control and God is good.”

She nodded a final time, visibly comforted by the mantra her Papa taught me many years ago. I say it all the time: God is in control and God is good. It answers every question and assuages every fear.

Our arms were intertwined by now as we laid side by side, and I took her left hand in mine.

“I know a song that might help you remember what we talked about tonight,” I said. “Would you like to hear it?”

She nodded, and I began to sing the hymn, long forgotten, but divinely remembered on this special night with my young daughter, and as I sang, I praised my Father who fathers and mothers the ones I love better than I ever could.

With His voice in my ear and by His guidance and grace, I am confident that they will know Him and love Him…

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart feel lonely, and long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

I sing because I’m happy

I sing because I’m free

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*

And just like that, before I could even make it to the second verse, her hand grew slack in mine and her heavy breathing told me she had fallen asleep, ushered into slumber by a voice that, forty-five minutes before, felt too tired to make a peep and too comfortable to go upstairs.

Ah, I am a broken mess of a woman.

So needy. So weak.

So straying. So self-interested.

But His eye is on the mother sparrow, too, and by His grace – and His grace ALONE – I sing.

Happy in Jesus.

Free from myself.

~

*His Eye is on the Sparrow by Civilla Martin

~

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Grandmother’s Valentine Tea Time…and Supper…and Sleepover…and Breakfast

Many of you know my mom by now.

Superhero.

Perpetual (voluntary) servant.

Holiday magician.

And what I love most about her ability to hostess with the mostess is the ease with which she shows hospitality.

Hospitality is her gift. It oozes from her fingertips. It wafts from the open windows of her living room.

And it doesn’t matter if the person she is serving is eighty-eight years old or a prince or a pauper or her 33-year old daughter or a one-year old who has no idea what is going on…

she loves and she serves and she gifts and she ministers and she parties.

How blessed are the children in her life who are growing up under her grandmotherly wings, and my prayer is that her gifts will live on and multiply in the lives of her grandchildren, bringing light and hope and comfort to a world that needs all of the above.

On Valentine Eve, I packed up the last of our things at the house, I threw my finally finished sugar cookie valentines into cellophane bags, and I gave her a quick call to see if we were still on schedule for this year’s “homeschool Valentine party”.

“Come on out anytime! But, now…don’t expect much…” she warned me. “I didn’t go ‘all out’ this year.”

I snorted, used to this sort of humility from her, knowing full-well that her party would be off the chain.

Which it totally was.

~

We happily left behind the Valentine catastrophe that was our own home…

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And we headed to the country where Grandmother and cousins and parties and rest and relaxation were waiting for us with anticipation

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The children were forbidden to enter the party place and had to wait on the porch, but I snuck in to get a few pictures before the chaos descended.

How did she describe this party, again?

“Not much”?

HA!

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I DO know what she was trying to say with the “not much” stuff, though. Rather than a big meal and desserts and party games like we’ve done in the past, this year we decided on a simple tea-time party, with cake and ice cream only and lots of free play-time for the kids. 

The decorations consisted mostly of things the kids could take home: a giftbag of fun candy for each child, a Valentine activity book under their plate, a small mason jar filled with roses and then a special wrapped gift from Grandmother. The girls received a silver necklace with a heart charm, the littlest children received various toys and whatnots and Gideon got his very own tortoise comb in a leather case that is embossed with the words “Hey, Slick!” (I die).

Moving on…

Party time!!!

The kids were instructed to line up on the porch and await further instructions.

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Heeeerrrre’s, Grandmother! Hi, Grandmother! You’re beautiful and amazing and we’d be lost without you!! Just in case you didn’t know that!!

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Time to come in!

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I love their happy faces. These kids word hard in school, and it is so fun to take a day off for some pampering and celebrating.

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Sigh. Is there anyplace more satisfying in the world than a familiar table with the ones you feel at ease with?

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I honestly don’t think there is.

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Not surprisingly, the kids tore into their presents first.

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Here, Betsie shows Abel how to work his new train whistle.

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and then the candy was tackled! There was some good stuff in those bags. (I know, because I stole some when the kids weren’t looking)…

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And then we dove in to the dessert. There was pink milk for drinking…

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ice cream hearts with sprinkles for eating…

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and enough chocolate cake to keep our tummies happy until suppertime.

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And one of my favorite things about these parties is that she never forgets the mamas!

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But the highlight of the party turned out to be, without a doubt, the activity books mom bought for each child. They worked on these books all evening long, from the 3-year old to the 10-year old. You never know what’s going to strike a chord with little people, do you? I’ll share a link to these books at the bottom of this post. If I remember.

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And then we were DONE!

As beautiful as the pre-party table was, I am training my eye to see the beauty in the aftermath, as well. Good things happened here, even though it looks like a disaster zone.

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After dessert, the kids ran around and exchanged the valentines they had made for each other. It was a mad-house! And so fun to watch! So fun that I forgot to take a picture! But here’s Abigail with her valentine from Gid.

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By the way, I told my friends that I should get a medal for making it through homemade valentines with Betsie this year. Hours. It took hours.

She had very particular things she wanted me to write on each card, most of which were very obvious, such as “Dear Gabbie, I am making you a valentine card. I am bringing it to you at church tomorrow. Valentine’s Day is this week…” and so on and so forth.

But this one was my very favorite.

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I don’t know why, but that just tickled me. “I am so happy for you”.

Anyway, after the great valentine exchange, we went outside for a few group pictures before everyone got changed for the next phase of the party. 

I could not love these people more if I tried. Not possible.

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(the next is my new favorite picture of Sheppy, haha!)

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So on to the “next phase of the party”…

this was my dad’s doing, and so typical of his idea of a fun time. The kids were directed to throw on some play clothes and work boots, and off they went to do some labor, loading up their Granddaddy’s backhoe with rocks. :)

 But I think they had as much fun doing this as they did partying. And so I love the way this Valentine celebration showcased the personalities and preferences of my mama and daddy so well.

By the way, we did not purposefully arrange the kids into a heart shape in the next picture. It just happened. Valentine’s Day is powerful like that.

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The kids were MOST thrilled when, returning back to the house after their “job”, their Granddaddy blessed them with a wage! They lined up, oldest to youngest, and closed their eyes while he rummaged through his wallet for their earnings.

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Betsie was so happy with her 3 dollars.

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And the rest of the evening was just spent relaxing outside…

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A couple of hours later, with the sun setting in the distance, we finally wandered back into the house.

The kids played with their valentines…

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and then there was a pretty epic game of hide-and-seek.

It did a little somethin’ to my heart to see this new generation hide in all the best spots my brothers and I used when we were little.

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We supped together and finally, to wrap up the evening, we gathered around in our pajamas to watch one of the best animated love stories of all time, “Beauty and the Beast.”

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Close to midnight, after lots of giggling and switching beds and getting situated, the last child fell asleep and I turned off the lamp.

Nestled up on one of the couches with my firstborn, I could hear the peaceful breathing (and a few light snores!) of seven beloved children, and I thought my heart was going to explode.

Valentine’s Day sure takes on a new spin when there are children in your midst, does it not?

FAR too early, morning came, and seven alarm clocks roused me from my sleep.

We had a pancake breakfast…

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and just like that, Amy and her kiddos were loaded up and headed back home.

And we were so very sad.

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It was the best “not much” party we’ve ever been treated to, and we can’t WAIT to see what Grandmother has up her sleeve come Easter. <3

~

Special thanks to my mama for another great party. You are an integral part of our homeschooling operation, and we are so, so grateful.

And if you are interested in the activity books for next year’s Valentine’s Day, you can find them by clicking on the picture below.

The Decision that Led Me Back to Them

We’ve all heard the advice, and many of us have shared it…

Know your limitations.

“No” is the most important word you’ll ever learn to use.

You can do anything but you can’t do everything.

I certainly have.

In fact, I’m really great at being lippy about all the things I will do and won’t do and how I will or won’t do them and how I will stand firm on my resolutions and such as and so forth.

But then, just recently, a real-life opportunity actually arose for me, and I was blinded. Stunned into forgetfulness. Stupefied by the option in front of me.

A wonderful church in my husband’s old stomping ground asked me to come and speak to them. Me! Silly ol’ Mrs. Gore, a stay-at-home nobody in tiny-town Oklahoma.

It was not my first request to speak to a group of women, but it was my first when I was not pregnant, nursing, hot flashing or insane.

In other words, this was one I could actually consider.

And, all of a sudden, in the face of this request, all of my lip service about maintaining my schedule and being content to devote my life to the homefront flew right out the window.

Granted, my immediate reaction was a resounding “NO WAY!”, but this was quickly followed by a nudge to at least pray about it.

And in the weeks that followed, my internal responses were all across the board….

I didn’t want to, not at all.

I wanted to, so much.

I didn’t want to for spiritual reasons.

I did want to for spiritual reasons.

I didn’t want to for sinful reasons.

I did want to for sinful reasons.

There were good things at play, for sure. I wanted to obey God in my decision, first and foremost. I wanted to help the Church, with a passion. I wanted to meet some of the precious readers who have so deeply encouraged me in my writing and in my personal life. I wanted to see some of the faces of sisters that I would be spending eternity with and know their names and hear their stories. Golly, I wanted to have a morning with grown-ups and free food!

But, as ever, in the nuanced heart of a sinful-but-God-loving woman, there were also intentions in motion that, even though I was feeling timid at the thought of public speaking after so many years away from the microphone, frightened me more than stage-fright ever could…

you, see, if I’m being honest, there is this deep and hidden part of me that still sometimes wants to see how far this ship will sail.

If I go, perhaps I can get more blog followers.

It will be good for my chances at publication if I have more “fans”.

And…they want to pay me??? I could make real money for my family without having to make granola??

Maybe I could make a career out of this. Who knows?! The sky’s the limit!

And the only thing that was clear in the face of all of these thoughts and questions is that I did not know what to do.

I so adore Augustine’s famous quotation: “Love God and do as you please”. But sometimes, our hearts are so complicated that we’re not even sure if we’re purely loving God, nor are we sure what would please us!

And so I prayed.

For weeks, I prayed.

And this very week, when I was still squirming from the indecisiveness of my decision, with one day left to give my answer, I used another great tool that God has given the Church and I sought advice from many trusted and God-fearing friends.

Well, God is faithful, and before the night was up, I had my answer.

This time? During this season in my life? I was going to need to decline.

There were many factors that contributed to my decision, but the words that truly sealed the deal actually came from an Ann Voskamp article that was sent to me by a dear friend (to read it, click here).

I clicked on the link, I began to read, and through the words and example of this far-away sister in the faith, all of the swirling and tumbling thoughts that I hadn’t even realized were captivating me began to subside, the fog of all of my hidden and unhidden motivations and desires cleared, and I was set free.

Not free from this church and the opportunity to speak to them – how I LONG, in the purest regions of my heart, to spend a morning with these sisters and talk to them about all the amazing things that God has done in my life!

But free from myself.

Free from my drive and ambition.

Free to be who God has made me to be during this season of my life.

Free to release the pressure of trying to build, trying to maintain, trying to fuel the machine of my own industry and creativity.

Free to rest in the sweet and joyful pursuit of the hearts that have been entrusted to me, for now…

him.

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And him.

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And her.

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And her.

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And him.

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And so I’ve learned something big this month: God is sovereign even over the possibilities. 

How He grew me this month! I found Him in every step of this decision, illuminating aspirations in my heart that I thought were long ago mortified, tweaking my love for the Church, wooing my heart into even considering doing something out of my area of expertise for His glory, using the body to teach and advise me, but most importantly…

before the clock struck midnight on my deadline…

gifting me with a renewed contentment in my personal calling and a fresh purpose concerning what my life needs to be about.

Sometimes you forget how happy you are until something seemingly bigger and better comes ’round the bend. You wrestle with your heart in the dark for a bit, the haze finally lifts and you are reminded that it’s okay to choose the small stuff…

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and you wake up the next morning feeling like you could fly.

~

Shout-out to First Baptist, Choctaw, for extending such a gracious invitation for me to come and speak (even after I told you I might be the worst public speaker ever), and for allowing God to work in my heart through this process. You have been an important part of my sanctification and there will always be a special place in my heart for you!  As I told Daina, should I ever pursue the public speaking realm, you guys are at the top of the list. <3

A Lesson From Bud and June

Their story gripped me from the very beginning.

The headline itself, describing their plight, was full of enough foreboding to leave a pit of sorrow in my stomach for the rest of the day: Elderly Georgia Couple Missing After Trip to Buy Craigslist Car“.

And the minute that click of my mouse took me from headline to news source and my eyes locked upon their picture, a sob escaped from my mouth.

“God, no!” I begged, tears spilling onto my cheeks.

I jumped away from my computer, burned by my heart’s reaction to the faces featured in the photograph.

There was just something about their picture. The way he peered into the camera like many of the men I know and love. The way they were dressed. The kindness in their eyes.

They looked like my sort of people.

They looked like family.

And now that I am better acquainted with their story and who they are and what they believe, I am realizing that “family” is exactly what they are.

Bud and June Runion were devout believers, my brother and my sister in the faith, and I think my heart recognized that from the very start.

But on that first day, I could not bear to even imagine what they were enduring and I quickly walked away from my computer, trying desperately to shut out the sick dread and worry that threatened to overwhelm me on their behalf.

It didn’t work.

Bud and June and their well-being had made an immediate home in my heart and I could not get them out of my mind. Thoughts turned to prayers, and the prayers became a vigil, of sorts, as the weekend dragged by with countless wishes for good news from Georgia.

Therefore, by the time Monday’s sobering story emerged that their bodies had been located, I, a girl who has never even met them, wept in anguish.

The injustice of their end threatened to suffocate me, the empathy was crippling and, judging by the number of people who have been outraged and saddened by this story, I was not alone in my grief.

We hear sad stories about people we don’t know every single day, stories that cause us to stop for a moment and say a prayer for a family far away, stories that remind us this world is not perfect, stories that receive a moment of silence in an otherwise hectic day before we move on and forget…

but Bud and June’s story was different, wasn’t it?

It certainly was for me.

Their story cut deep, inexplicably reaching me at the level where groans reside, so that I can say with certainty that I am a different woman today than I was before I had heard of Bud and June Runion.

Their death changed something in me, flipping a switch that awakened something new in my heart, something so big and so mysterious that I have never fully grasped before, and it is simply this:

We were not made for this world.

This is not a new concept, nor is it one I am unfamiliar with.

I feel the stings from this truth all the time, I KNOW in my brain and from the Word of God that it is so, but here’s the thing, and if you have been a reader here for long, you’ll recognize this as a familiar struggle: if I’m being honest, “not being made for this world” is a reality that I have tried and tried and tried and tried to suppress, for my entire life.

I say I believe it on Sundays and after Bible readings, but then I go out and fall in love with this present world all over again, I stick my fingers in my ears, I put on my rose-colored glasses and I play pretend that I will never die and that my loved ones will never die and that some sort of heaven is surely attainable on this earth if I can just keep us all clustered together, safe, and well, and having pretty birthday parties…

and in this oh-so-human understanding, I continually shut out the eternal aspects of my soul, along with my purpose for even being on this earth in the first place.

It is the worst kind of ignorance, because it is an ignorance that knows better.

But Bud and June’s story has been the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

These two were good people. Family people. Godly people. And that their life could end in a manner that so causes the sympathetic human heart to writhe in distress leaves me with only one conclusion, obliterating the lies that I have habitually told myself and making the truth so irrefutably clear that I can no longer deny it:

Any attempt I make to set up a kingdom on this passing earth, and any avenue that I pour my life into, and any purpose that I attach my hope to OTHER THAN THE PURE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is nothing but a fool’s errand.

It will disappoint. It will shatter. It will wither.

And this heaven that I’ve been searching for, this satisfaction that evades, this safety that I crave like one parched and panting will ever and only be found when I line myself completely up in the Word of God and lose myself in a life lived for His glory.

The farce has been exhausting to uphold, and though this journey toward truth has been excruciating on my soul, I can sense that uncharted levels of joy and peace are finally on the horizon.

I believe with all of my heart that God was not missing on the day that Bud and June did not come home.

He is always working, telling stories that we, in our humanness, cannot begin to understand, and though we see through a mirror dimly, stories like Bud and June’s remind us to at least start asking questions and begging for sight.

I have been begging like never before for sight. And I am therefore convinced that if the surveyors of Bud and June’s story walk away from this sad newsweek simply striving to “be more careful” and to avoid entrapment…

or only with a fresh resolve to “cherish each moment” while our time on earth is at hand…

that we are completely missing the point.

The point is that we are dying.

Every single day, we are dying.

And the only hope for salvation is the truth that Bud and June were believing in well before their time on earth was done.

And so I want to ask you the questions today that I’ve been asking myself, questions that we should ask ourselves daily…

Where is your hope?

What are you believing in?

Are your actions and your practices matching meticulously up with your words?

It is time to stop trying to hold this present and seen life together by the flailing tips of our fingers and start asking the big questions, the ones that hurt to have answered, the ones that require hard things of us, the ones that result in a change of direction, a change of lordship.

It is time to look for truth.

I did not know Bud and June Runion on this earth, but I know their God. And as professing believers in Jesus Christ whose lives bore witness to their changed hearts, their faith has been made sight and they understand all things now. They have made it through the labor pains and have forgotten any of the sorrow or sadness that colored their life before (John 16). They realize now the things that are so difficult for us to grasp, that this life is a vapor and a shadow, that what we are experiencing now is a flicker compared to eternity, that the world to come is a million times better than the fallen world we inhabit now.

Knowing this, believing this, even though their story is heartbreakingly sad and incomprehensible, I sincerely don’t think Bud or June would want us to feel pity for them.

I don’t think they would use their last words to warn us about using Craigslist.

I don’t think they would say “live every day to its fullest because it could be your last.”

I don’t even think they would say “hug your family close tonight because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

I think they would say “repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

I am believing, with more fervency and resolve than ever before, and I am praying that my life will prove it.

~

To keep up with the family of Bud and June and to learn more about this amazing couple, visit their Facebook page. And if you would like to hear more about the gospel message of Jesus Christ, please click here.

Thank you for reading! With love and hope, Mrs. Gore

Dear Mama (an open letter to the woman who is considering abortion)

For the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this previously published blog post has been updated and revised.

~

Dear Mama: an open letter to the woman who is considering abortion

I am not known as an earth-shaker.

I’m not a politician.

I’m not too terribly opinionated.

I’m certainly not argumentative.

Most of my words center around the things I see every day. I write about what I love. I write about the ordinary. The simple. The quiet.

But today…

I can’t stop thinking about you.

I don’t know you, but your story is heavy on my heart.

And since I don’t know who you are or where you live, I want to give you my words today and pray that they will find you, wherever you are.

I don’t know what has happened in your life that has brought you to this decision you’re trying to make.

Were you hurt?

Were you taken advantage of?

Were you simply not planning this?

Are you just not ready?

I have no idea, and I will not pretend that I can understand the pain or fear or panic that you are experiencing.

But there is one thing I do know.

Abortion is a lie.

It parades as this harmless act of grace, a helpful service that whispers “we can just pretend like this never happened”, but underneath the sterile facade is a grisly industry that ruthlessly preys on the most innocent and voiceless victims on the planet.

We can’t hear those baby’s cries as their lives are being snuffed out.

We can’t read their thoughts.

We can’t see their pain.

And under this seemingly enlightened guise of “women’s rights” we strip theirs completely away in the most epic display of bullying the world has ever known.

We, a great and liberated nation, who take so much pride in championing tolerance and in protecting freedom…

we throw our inconvenient children away.

I’m not going to share all the pro-life arguments with you in this letter. You’ve probably heard them already. And if you haven’t, you can read them all over the internet.

But here’s what it comes down to for me, today, and I hope it gives you courage…

This was my first baby, Gideon, when he was hidden in my womb…

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This is Gideon today.

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He is seven years old, with an imagination as big as the sky. He loves wearing costumes and drawing pencil sketches and playing tag. His eyes dance when he is happy and his soul is old and complex.

Gideon was real when he was in my tummy and he is real today.

This was Rebekah…

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This is Rebekah today.

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She is five, and the world has been a better place since the day of her birth. She cares about people, and she brings light and love to everything she touches. When she grows up she wants to be a nurse and an artist and a farmer.

Rebekah was real when she was in my tummy and she is real today.

This was Betsie…

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This is Betsie today.

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At the age of three, she is full of joy and energy, and when she laughs, your heart can’t help but smile. I feel like the luckiest person alive to watch her grow up, and I can’t imagine a day when she didn’t exist.

Betsie was real when she was in my tummy and she is real today.

This was Shepherd…

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This is Shepherd today.

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He is 16 months old, and is the sweetest boy I’ve ever known. And when he looks at me, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more loved in my entire life.

Shepherd was real when he was in my tummy and he is real today.

Before each of these children were born, they were just a fuzzy picture on a sonogram machine…

a “fetus”.

They were hidden in my stomach.

They were nameless and faceless.

They felt like a cramp.

And now, here they are, changing my life and changing the world.

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And the only difference between who they were then and who they are now is that they’ve grown older. Simple as that.

Oh, my. I know you’re scared…

I was scared to have a baby, too.

I know you don’t feel ready…

I honestly wasn’t ready, either.

You might be afraid of what you’re going to lose…

I was terrified to “lose myself”.

And you might simply be ambivalent.

But, regardless of what brought you to this point, you have a baby in your tummy.

A baby who is real. A baby who is alive.

A baby that will someday be a swaddled-up newborn, then a precious toddler, then an imaginative preschooler, then a beautiful big kid who is discovering the world…

a baby who will someday have the voice and the ability to show you that he or she has rights, too.

Until then, Mama, you are the only person on the planet who can protect your child.

Please, don’t believe the lie. There are so many options for you that do not include aborting your baby.

Choose life.

~

Because this is such a controversial and sensitive subject, comments will be tightly monitored.

Feel free to share, with gentleness, and if you are pregnant and need help, message me at my Facebook page. You are not alone, and that’s a promise.