Good, Good Friday

As many of you know, by the grace of God, Good Friday has become one of the most important days in the life of our family.

Several years ago, we started a new tradition of dressing in black to remind us of the death of Jesus Christ and to help us understand the mournful aspect of his crucifixion.

Sin is dark. Heavy. Horrific.

And never has that sin been so on display than when the son of God gave up His life for a world who hated Him.

Our clothes on Good Friday help us to contemplate that.

We spend the day simply, occasionally singing hymns and reading stories, and our food is easy to prepare.

It is a true day of rest.

A day of worship.

A day both sad and wonderful…

This morning, we gathered around and read the story of Jesus’s death.

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Then, Papa rubbed mud on Gideon’s arm. “This is what our sin looks like,” he explained. Dirty. Gross. Dark.

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Then he gave Gideon a mud-soaked rag. “Now wash the dirt off of your arm,” he instructed him.

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“I can’t!” he laughed. “It’s too dirty!”

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Rebekah’s muddy rag couldn’t clean Gideon. Nor could Betsie’s.

Only the clean rag in the bowl of clean water could wash the mud away…

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“Jesus is the only one who can wash our sins away,” Papa explained. “His blood is the only thing that can make our sinful hearts clean.”

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As I watched Mr. Gore share the good news with each of our children, muddying and then washing their hands, I marveled over the beauty of the gospel and prayed that the truth would plants itself deeply in their hearts, even as it continues to transform my own.

Now, I don’t quite know how to segue from that touching illustration to this next picture, so I won’t even try. After getting cleaned up and preparing our lunch, we walked to the shed for a picnic.

In a stroke of whimsy, Gideon and Rebekah asked to pull Shep’s stroller like carriage horses, so…

voila! I think this shall henceforth be our new mode of transportation.

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Once at the picnic table, we relaxed and ate at our leisure, nowhere to go, nothing to do…

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and surrounded by nature and stillness, my heart was full of prayers…

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God save Betsie…

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God save Rebekah…

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God save Gideon…

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God save Shepherd…

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God save and preserve my marriage.

My husband.

My church.

My friends.

My family.

And God save me.

~

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;

what can avail to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide!

Whiter than snow you may be today.

My Sweet Home – Tulsa Vintage Market Days 2014

Preface: I was not compensated in any way by VMD or any of its vendors for this blog post. I am just a supremely happy customer and supporter. 

~

I’ll never forget the first time I attended the Round Top Antique Show in Texas’s beautiful Hill Country.

A teenager, I was just beginning to fall in love with vintage and, even though In Style was my daily life source, I was also becoming a faithful reader of Country Living; through its pages, my taste for antiques and things of yesteryear began to sharpen and develop.

And at Round Top, standing in the midst of miles and miles of fabulous junk, I found a community of folks who felt the same way I did. It was FABULOUS. I thought I might be in heaven.

The downside: it was almost as far away as Beaulah Land, nearly 500 miles from home.

And even though we had the luxury of staying with my beloved Aunt B who lived nearby, it was a rare occasion that we could actually make it to her neck of the woods on the same weekend of the show.

Everytime we made the long trek back home, lodged precariously between our newfound treasures, I found myself wishing there was a show like Round Top in Oklahoma. A place not only to find beautiful vintage items for my home, but to network with like-minded people who could help me find the things I was looking for.

Enter Vintage Market Days.

Now in its 3rd year, it is everything I loved about Round Top, but better: 1. It is more intimate than Round Top - I can see everything at the show without dying of exhaustion or drowning in vintage-overload, 2. It gets better every year (this past weekend’s event was the BEST!), 3. IT IS SO CLOSE TO MY HOUSE!!!

So…what IS this “Vintage Market Days”, you ask?

According to their website, they are “an upscale vintage-inspired indoor/outdoor market featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, home décor, outdoor furnishings, consumable yummies, seasonal plantings and a little more. The Market is a three day event held several times a year in various communities. Each Vintage Market Days event is a unique opportunity for vendors to display their talents and passions in different venues.”

In other words, imagine if you could gather a large group of your favorite Etsy vendors in one location and line them all up in a row. Sprinkle a few incredible food trucks in between and add live music to the background. And then imagine that your mom (or BFF) is strolling along beside you and you’re moseying the day away buying little trinkets that will cozy up your home and help you to remember your day together…

that’s Vintage Market Days.

The only thing we were missing was Aunt B! (But I’m determined to have her here for the Fall show!)

I am a bit of an amateur when it comes to photography and “on-location” reporting, but here’s a humble offering of my day at VMD; this collection is anything but comprehensive, as I found “working” and shopping are kind of hard to do at the same time, but mayhap it will provide a tiny glimpse into an event that is too beautiful and exciting for photographs or words…

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Want to see what I DIDN’T buy? But almost did?…

These letters are cut out of old Reader’s Digest Condensed books. I found an “R”, “E”, “A” and “D” and seriously considered buying them for our schoolroom. Maybe next time…

(p.s. I’ve seen these at Anthropologie, too!)

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Wanna see what I DID buy?

Those two nightstands.

Cha-ching!

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Every booth at VMD was cleverly set up, but I especially loved Calamity Jane’s Funk and Junk

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this onesie at Calamity Jane’s booth made me chuckle…

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And how cute is this booth? Magpie featured a huge selection of vintage rose wraps…

and the sweetest smile in the land. I want to be her friend, don’t you?

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Also droolworthy? This lemonade stand. My daughter has been longing to sell lemonade, and I think this would be a most suitable vehicle. I don’t have a website for this vendor, but I have an e-mail address if you’re interested.

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Lunchtime! The biggest improvement in this year’s market was most definitely the food. My mom and I were beyond excited to try The Local Table’s food truck…

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and they did NOT disappoint. Mom ordered chicken tacos. I one-upped her by ordering chicken and waffles with pineapple salsa and spicy maple syrup…

but both were tuh-die-fer.

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Later that afternoon, we ordered dessert from Harmony House Lunch and Bakery. My photos in NO way do justice to the preciousness that was this booth. I loved everything about it!

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especially the menu…

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And although I was way too full for any other snacks, I was so happy to see Sweet Daddy Corn again – they kind of saved my life at last year’s show by keeping my starving preschooler happy! This stuff is seriously delicious…

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Okay, back to shopping!

Aside from booths of antiques and repurposed and refurbished goodies, there was jewelry. I especially liked Tarnished Charm’s huge selection of upcycled accessories…

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but most of the booths showcased antiques, none of which were snobbish, fussy or unaffordable. My mom came really close to bringing this little cabinet (backed in chicken wire!) home.

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and it is only fair that I share a photo of Kevin and Jayne Wilson from Do Me Up! Antiques in Winfield, Kansas, because I kind of harassed them about that precious chicken trophy she is holding…

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Awesome live music was performed by Tulsa singer-songwriter Steve Liddell

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and a great day was had by all…

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even Baby Shepherd.

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Aside from my nightstands, I came home with all sorts of new goodies, like this enamel teapot…

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and these iron rockers for the backyard…

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and these vintage painted frames by A Simple Place...

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oh yeah…

and maybe a chicken trophy…

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which you’ll most likely be seeing again in the near future. :)

The next Tulsa Vintage Market Days is September 26-28…

who’s coming with me?!

~

Want to know more about Vintage Market Days? Visit their website at www.vintagemarketdays.com or follow them on Facebook.

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places: finding joy and rest in God's seemingly small assignment for your life

I’m so proud of him. He has given up so much to be here…” I said, for perhaps the 18th time in as little as a year.

And although it escapes my memory who I was talking to, I know exactly who I was talking about: my husband.

A hyperintelligent young man, he was accepted into Princeton University as a high schooler and had plans of graduating with a law degree, undoubtedly at the top of his class. And with his nearly perfect test scores, he could have accomplished it all without paying a cent.

But God had a different course for his life, and after several sleepless nights and the heaviest spiritual wrestling matches he has ever experienced, his plans were rerouted: he would become a minister. That acceptance letter to Princeton was discarded and to Oklahoma Baptist University he went, where he graduated with honors before continuing his education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

I knew he was a smarty-pants all along, but it wasn’t until after we married and I joined him at SBTS that I realized exactly how brilliant he was. He excelled in all of his classes on the advanced track to a Masters of Divinity, and was a shoo-in for the prestigious P.h.D. program. On several occasions, I heard his friends make light-hearted predictions that he would be the next president of the seminary.

I was certainly in awe of him. Because not only was he as bright as a 200-watt, he was down-to-earth. Humble. Kind. A magnificent speaker. Wise. And one of the funniest people I knew, with a wit so sharp it could cut the blues right out of you. Everyone liked him. He always knew what to say. He never took a wrong step.

He could have done anything.

But one semester into his very exciting and beloved P.h.D. studies, God tapped him on the shoulder with another unmistakable call, and after seeking guidance from his professors, with bittersweet resolve, he walked away from his very bright future, for three reasons…

1. God was strongly compelling him.

2. I was pregnant and he wanted to give me and our baby more than his work load would allow.

3. Our tiny church back home needed help.

Fast forward seven years. He has been senior pastor of that church now for five years. Attendance: 100, on a good day.

Growing up, he probably expected that by the age of 33 he would be a well-established lawyer, and I have no doubt in my mind that we would be bathing in dollar bills by now.

And even after he surrendered his life to the ministry, I’m sure there were dreams. A big, thriving church with thousands of podcast subscribers. Magazine articles and book deals. Big-time speaker at SBC conferences and church camps. Board member at OBU and SBTS…

instead, he willingly and passionately oversees this tiny flock that God has bound to his heart.

He creates tissue-paper poofs for baby showers, he keeps nursery on some Sunday mornings when our other pastor is preaching, he drives elderly congregants to the hospital, and he unclogs church toilets.

The work is challenging, and the results are slow.

No one really cares what he could have been.

And the only writing he does these days is the daily Bible reading guide that he crafts specifically for our congregation to help us meditate on the exposited Sunday text.

There are no book deals. No interviews. No headshots. No board meetings.

And what I didn’t realize was that there were hidden parts of me that struggled with this until I heard those words come out of my mouth yet again: “He has given up so much…

the Spirit pricked me.

What, exactly, my dear, has he given up?

Money?

Prestige?

A name?

All passing fancies and possible traps that could lead to the ruination of Mr. Gore.

Ten thousand people instead of a hundred?

As if the one hundred were not worthy of a life laid down for them…

as if the one hundred deserved someone less smart, less wise, less qualified, less caring.

I would never have said it in so many words, but what God uncovered in my heart that day was the lingering (and toxic) idea that big gifts needed to be used in BIG places, and that anything less was sort of wasteful.

Silly me.

Indeed, from a worldy perspective, Mr. Gore has given up much to obey God’s call on his life, and I have watched him continually lay down his life to pursue difficult things and to crucify the parts of him that could have been used to build up a kingdom for himself.

It is never easy to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

There is great loss involved.

But how twisted was my underlying thought that there was any import in the number of people someone impacted, rather than in the impact itself?

As if success could be gauged by how many church members one had, or how many baptisms, or how many students, or how many awards, or how much money, or how much exposure, or how many Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest followers, or how many subscribers, or how many fans…

as if the unseen work of God could be measured and weighed and calculated.

It is important to note that this belief I was harboring in my heart was nearly undetectable. I LOVE our church (almost as much as my husband does). I love my life. I pursued these people and cried out to God to spend my life with them. You would have to move me from this place kicking and screaming, and there is nowhere on earth I would rather be than walking alongside the brothers and sisters God has placed on my path. But my constant acknowledgement of what Mr. Gore had given up was a red flag, and, once I examined my heart, I found a root of pride twisting its way through my belief system.

And, as we all know, roots of pride must be demolished.

As usual, God has been faithful to uproot and rebuild me, and it is for this reason that I am so eager to encourage you today.

To the mom who chases after toddlers. The blogger with fifteen subscribers. The pastor’s wife who disciples two young women. The pastor who never receives a plaque at the associational meetings. The church body whose building is outdated and embarrassing. The layman who sees the same two employees all day, every day. The photographer who has seven clients. The teacher in the small classroom in the small school in the small town. The musician who sings and plays on the smallest stage. The grandmother who invests in her handful of grandchildren. The prayer warrior in the tiny church. The homeschooler whose college diploma gathers cobwebs in a cardboard canister while she teaches her children how to read…

Never let the miracle escape you that, even though your light is shining in seemingly small places…you have a light.

Your work is no less important to the Kingdom and no less assigned by the God of the universe.

And if you lined up all of our rural towns and our private homes and our homeschools and our classes and our ministries and our prayer meetings and our blogs and our tiny churches where God is being made much of day by day, and you flew up into the clouds and you looked down at night, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate the big lights from the little lights…

you would just see one giant, beautiful remnant that reached all across the world and back again.

A light is a light is a light.

Don’t be ashamed that yours is shining in a place that no one else knows about.

Don’t feel like a failure because you’re not moving on to “bigger” and “better” things.

Don’t be afraid to live and die in a tiny church in a nameless town.

And don’t think that your gifts are wasted because the recipients are few.

Your light is a vibrant and necessary part of God’s story, whether you are shining on the biggest platforms in the world…

or the smallest.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may seen your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

 

Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday

So…speaking of “spirit-led parenting“, I’m really excited to tell you all about Gideon’s 7th birthday!

You guys know how I feel about holidays, in general, and birthdays, in particular. It’s my thang.

I love a good party, almost more than I love Hostess donuts.

Gideon’s parties have been especially fun and adventurous; if you were with me last year, you might remember that the first part of March was spent crafting Red Cross backdrops and collecting WWII memorabilia for the soldier party of the (last) century.

But this year was different, for some reason.

Even though I had a really fun (REALLY FUN!) theme in mind, I just wasn’t feeling it. My mind was picturing the entire party, but my heart was definitely being led in a different direction.

And so, finally, I listened.

The end result was that, rather than our typical birthday bash, we completely scaled back and spent Gideon’s seventh birthday in a more contemplative and simplified frame of mind.

Does this mean that I’ll no longer be crafting grandiose vintage-inspired parties for the kiddos? Heavens, no. I’m already planning Rebekah’s June picnic party.

But was this the right thing to do this year for this child? Most certainly, yes!

It was a BLAST.

Wanna see what we did?

(You’re in luck! I took lotsa pictures!)

~

The day before Gideon’s birthday, my Mom borrowed him for a bit, freeing me and the girls up to make him some special surprises at home.

This is a new tradition I want to incorporate into our celebrations from now on, because it was a really special time of thinking and talking about the birthday boy and working together to convey our love to him. I can’t help but think this will foster sibling affection, for both the recipient and the party planners.

First, we made him all sorts of paintings (like this almost-completed ship on the sea)…

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Then, while Betsie slept, Rebekah and I baked a birthday cake and cupcakes.

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Once Betsie woke up and the cakes had cooled, I decorated Gideon’s…

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while the girls decorated the cupcakes. Rebekah used sprinkles. Betsie used her hacking cough. (What’s a birthday without a few germs?)

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and here is their handiwork. Sweet sisters! They were as excited as I was!

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Later that night, we made a switch, leaving the girls at Grandmother’s for the night and picking up Gideon.

His birthday celebration had officially begun!

First, he got to order whatever he wanted to eat from our local Drive-thru. Then, after supper, we moved our mattress into the living room where we watched a movie together and spent the night. Baby Shepherd was very pleased to join us, even donning his tie-dyed romper for the occasion. He is such a hippy.

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SAD NEWS. Mr. Gore got came down with a stomach virus in the night and started throwing up.

But please, tell me the planning of this day was not indeed Spirit-led! If I had been trying to put together a big party by myself, I would have been devastated. As it was, I was able to keep a cool head and continue with our plans, even though my husband wasn’t able to join us until later that evening. I am VERY grateful to God for helping us have a great day, regardless of viruses.(And I am super proud of my husband for still managing to make Gideon a personalized Star Wars t-shirt that day).

So. After waking up and getting everything ready, I loaded up the boys and surprised Gid by picking up his great friend, Isaiah, and taking them to breakfast at McDonald’s. Isaiah is one of our favorite people in the world, and it was too cute watching him tote his giant gifts for Gideon all over the place. My son is blessed to have him for a friend.

p.s. these two can put down the pancakes!

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After eating and taking Isaiah back home, we drove to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, where my Mom and the girls had been working hard all morning to surprise Gideon.

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Our paintings were lining the walls…

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and everything looked so clean, simple, and pretty.

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After putting Shep and Betsie down for naps, Gideon, Rebekah and I embarked on what might have been my favorite part of the day, driving down to the creek to spend the afternoon doing some of Gideon’s favorite things.

First, fishing…

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Then, a picnic. The preparation was too easy, simply a galvanized tub full of Gideon’s favorite foods. Whole fruits and veggies, granola, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and…Pringles. 

confession: The Pringles were for me.

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U.S. Grown apple juice (and kids).

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It was quite fun to sit in the sun with nothing to do but pop blackberries into our mouths and spit sunflower seed shells into the grass. 

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I think we should have days like this more often…

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The kids agree with me.

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Sidenote: have you ever seen anyone eat a bell pepper like this? He loves them.

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After lunch, we drove to the road near the lake and gathered up a bucket of rocks.

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Then we drove back to the creek and threw them in the water. Are you noticing yet that this is the easiest and cheapest party I’ve ever thrown?…

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Now, if you’ll indulge me, a series of pictures of my seven-year old boy.

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and, if you’ll indulge me a little further, a couple of my 4-year old country girl…

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and now I’d feel badly if I left out Betsie…

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(Sorry, Shepherd. If you wanted to be featured in this part of the post, you really should have woken up sooner. Snooze. Lose).

After several hours had passed, we loaded up and drove back to the house, where Granddaddy was waiting for us to give Gid a driving lesson. This was a pretty big deal! Sniffle, sniffle. My little boy, growing up and driving off into the sunset…

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just kidding. They just drove through the pasture for a bit. I guess I can handle that.

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Then (after switching spots) they drove to the lake for some more fishing. And what Gideon didn’t know is that his Grandpa, Grandma, and cousins were coming for his party. When they arrived, my niece, Abigail, and I tiptoed up to the lake to surprise him!

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The rest of the evening was spent relaxing, eating freshly-caught fried fish (Gid’s favorite), and just enjoying the gift of family…

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Lastly, to top off a day of favorite things, Gid got to do a little burning. If you find this strange and/or confusing, just trust me that it makes a lot more sense if you live in Oklahoma.

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When the sun went down, we mozied inside where we popped all the balloons, played with all the new toys and enjoyed a sleepover together…

~

I share all of the above not just for my memories and not just to celebrate the beauty of life (my son’s, in particular), but to encourage all my fellow mamas – big party, little party, expensive party, cheap party, lots-of-guests-party, intimate party…it doesn’t REALLY matter. Just love on your little one, follow your heart, and the day will be a major success.

By the end of Gideon’s birthday, my goals for the day were completed: friends, fish, picnic, throw rocks, drive, cousins, grandparents, eat, cake, presents, burn the pasture.

And Gideon…now SEVEN YEARS OLD!!!…went to bed flushed, dirty, smokey, sticky and 100% happy.

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And I went to bed even happier.

(and wayyyyyyy less tired than usual).

(with wayyyyyy less clean-up to do the next day).

(with wayyyyyyy more money in the bank).

Spirit-led Parenting

"The challenge isn't so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don't want to."

While it has obviously tied up my writing time, nursing a baby for the past 6 months has not only given me lots of time to play Candy Crush, it has given me lots of time to think, about lots and lots and LOTS of stuff.

But the thing I’ve been ruminating over the most has been so freeing and so life-changing, it sort of begged me to sit down for a bit this afternoon and share the wealth.

Spirit-led parenting.

It is changing everything for me.

Question: how many parenting blogs have you read in the last two months?

Me? Probably 15 or 20.

Make that 25.

At least.

Articles are great. They are easy to read, they address one specific topic, and they give these great daily boosts of encouragement and motivation. I love a good article.

But articles can also be dangerous.

Here’s why…

What you are essentially reading in most articles and blog posts is an author’s personal conviction. Something has come up in that person’s life that has bothered them, and they are turning over a new leaf. Or, like me, they’ve been ruminating on some “stuff” and they sit down to hash it out on their blog.

It is a gift to be let in on these glimpses of personal growth and conviction, and they can be greatly used by the Spirit to promote change and conviction in our own hearts.

But what we, as readers, can sometimes do, is stand up from our daily dose of internet consumption in a fog of guilt-by-comparison.

What?…This lady doesn’t spend time on the internet? I must be a bad mom for loving Facebook so much.

This lady doesn’t tell her kids to ‘hurry up’? I’ve said that at least five times this week! I’m the worst!!

This lady doesn’t buy paper plates anymore? I’m never going to use a paper plate again without feeling like a failure…

And in this rush to heap guilt upon our heads, we make a major mistake, failing to recognize that what we are reading is one snippet from one person’s life that is very specific to their situation.

Let me explain.

I threw in the part about the paper plates because, GASP, I am the lady who doesn’t buy them anymore. After deciding to give them up a couple of years ago, I haven’t bought one. single. package.

I know. I’m incredible.

Now. Imagine if I shared that information in a blog post highlighting tips for cutting down on waste or ideas for improving your monthly budget.

And then imagine that you got that guilty feeling in your stomach because you can’t imagine giving up paper plates. “How is she able to do that?” you ask yourself, “I’m such a loser!!”

But what you wouldn’t realize in that 1000-word blog post (what?! sometimes I keep it to 1000 words) is that, yes, I gave up paper plates, but there is no way in a hundred years that I could give up disposable diapers. Or wet wipes. Or paper towels. Or Hostess donut gems.

It didn’t hurt me much to give up paper plates.

And my real motivation for chucking them in the first place? I wanted extra spending money for fresh flowers.

Because fresh flowers make me happy, and in comparison, paper plates, in my opinion, are kind of…meh.

SO. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you read about my paper plate fast.

Now, that was just one example, and a silly one at that, of the misguided comparisons we can make as readers. But now let’s take it to the next level.

What do you do when you read blogs that focus on the very essence of who you are, a wife, a mama, a daughter of God?

Do you unobjectively compare yourself?

And even worse, do you immediately make unfair judgements about yourself followed by sweeping resolutions to make improvements, thinking that if you “do” or “don’t do” these things, you will be more pleasing to God?

The possibilities are clearly endless…

Give up screens for a month.

De-activate your Facebook account indefinitely.

Pull the plug on television. Forever!

Decide that Santa is the worst.

Decide that Santa is okay so long as he is portrayed as St. Nicolas.

Decide that Santa is the BEST.

Do Elf on the Shelf.

Don’t do Elf on the Shelf and think that people who do Elf on the Shelf are ridiculous.

Orchestrate precious birthday parties for your kids.

DON’T orchestrate precious birthday parties because parties are the stupidest, most indulgent thing ever.

I could go on forever, but if we are not careful in our blog perusal, we can tie man-made nooses around our necks, so that the only way we feel successful in the parenting department is if we adhere to this ever-growing list of goals, ideas, resolutions, wars, stances, boycotts, philosophies and even menus.

Our days are spent in guilt because we aren’t sitting in front of our kids, watching every minute of their growth, and because we said this one phrase to this child, and we didn’t throw the party like this one Mom did, and we don’t eat anything organic or we have too much stuff in our house or WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUFF or we….

whew. Can I stop now? I’m exhausted.

The internet (and even this blog!) is RICH in help and advice…

but sometimes our little tummies just can’t handle that level of decadence.

We are one person.

With one story.

And this is why I’ve been so encouraged lately, not only to be a better reader, but to realize that there is a huge difference between listening to another believer’s journey and gleaning wisdom from their story and unjustly comparing myself to them.

There are things that we, as parents, MUST do.

Bible things.

Deutoronomy 6:1-9, I Corinthians 13, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:15 (and many more).

And then…

well, then there are the other things.

The nonessentials.

The opinions.

The personal convictions.

The things that we’ll find alllllllll over the internet.

And while the advice and journaling from other believers might just change our life for the better, sometimes we are so busy trying to be 100 other people, we forget to listen to the most important voice in our lives…

the voice of the Spirit.

The Helper.

The Comforter.

And here’s what it all comes down to.

I know when I’ve been sitting at the computer too long with my back to the kids. I can feel it in my heart and I can see it on their faces.

(But then, if I’m being honest, I can also recognize those free moments when I can spend some time with my friends and family on Facebook).

I know when I need to put down Candy Crush and just watch my baby nurse and marvel at God’s miraculous provision.

(But then sometimes I feel perfectly allowed to zone out with some chocolate candy balls and stripy candies and exploding candies. Key word: candy. p.s. I will CRUSH you).

I know when I need to allow my daughter to bake with me and learn alongside me.

(But sometimes, after gauging the situation and her countenance, I can send her on her way because I need to hurry so we won’t be late to church).

The challenge isn’t so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don’t want to.

All of the above was the most roundabout way ever to say this…

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every mom and wife and lady on the internet. We don’t know their situations any better than we do Martha Stewart’s or Michelle Obama’s.

But then again, let’s also be very honest about our own situations and focus more on pleasing God with our innermost thoughts and motivations than we are on fulfilling this pipe dream of perfect parenting.

Are you spending too much time on the internet? Only you know that. (but you know you know it).

Do you need to give up something to be financially faithful? (may I suggest paper plates? Just kidding).

Have you assumed that by doing what everyone else is doing that all is well between you and God? You’ll know the answer to that if you simply ask, and it is a really important question.

Are you fulfilling lots of 10-step programs to better housekeeping and homeschooling and parenting but failing to live the gospel out for your kids to see?

It would just be really unnecessary to lose ourselves in a sea of helpful voices only to forget that God Himself is in our homes. Right here. Beside us. In us. Everywhere.

He knows what is best for our family.

He knows how to parent the quirky individuals He crafted for us to bring up.

He knows what we need to add, what we need to give up, where we are excelling and where we are lacking.

He knows our schedule. He knows our hearts.

And He even knows when we should have a big ol’ birthday party or scale things back a bit…

which leads me to my next post, “Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday”, coming up next week!

~

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you snuffed out the voice of God in your preoccupation with looking like the perfect mom?

How is He teaching you and convicting you in your specific situation?

Do tell!

 

 

 

A Surprise Valentine Breakfast

I’m glad you guys seem to love me so much, because, after blogging for 3 years, one thing is very clear: there is no rhyme or reason to this blog.

And speaking of love, while I’m plugging away at writing up some memories from Gid’s 7th birthday, I thought it would be a good time to FINALLY share the pics from our Valentine celebration.

You know, the one from last month.

Pinterest is laughing at me right now, isn’t it? Valentine’s Day is so last season.

But that’s okay because, honestly, I’m behind in every area of my life right now, and this has actually led to something GREAT.

As I usually have the house decked out for V-day on February 1st, I felt pretty much like a miserable failure when the week of love arrived and my house was not dressed for the occasion.

Rebekah was throwing up all week long, and things just weren’t working out for me; there was no possible way I could have the house cleaned up and decorated by the 14th.

Something had to be done.

If only I had a completely empty room just sitting around that I could put ALL of our Valentine stuff in…

well, I did.

The sunroom!

Recently emptied of all of its furniture and cuteness to become Jake’s temporary dog-home, it was the perfect place to hold a little party for the kids.

The sunroom is separated from our kitchen by an antique door, and what excited me the most was that, by covering the door’s large window, I could completely deck out the room and have it ready without the kids ever seeing it.

The entire day before Valentine’s Day, they had NO idea that there was a party waiting for them just beyond that door.

But I knew. And I was pretty giddy about it.

There was nothing really spectacular about this party. I already owned all the decorations, the books, and the games, and the breakfast menu was our typical pancakes and bacon.

The fun was in the surprise and in taking a moment in our day to celebrate a holiday together.

Take a look!

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I hid out in the sunroom and took pictures of the kids when they saw the party table…

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Mr. Gore pretended to be surprised, too. Please notice the completely trashed-out, non-decorated room behind him that matched the entire first floor. But NOT the sunroom. :) Sigh. I love the sunroom. And Mr. Gore.

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I say this every time, but I think this was my favorite party ever…

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We ended up our breakfast by reading our little collection of Valentine books together. (The Day It Rained Hearts is our favorite!)

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And then we opened our valentines to each other. The night before, Mr. Gore and I made handmade cards for each kid with pictures of us and them, and they were a huge hit.

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I would show a picture of Rebekah with her valentine, but she threw up on it right after this, and all over our party table.

But, still. It was a great morning.

And best of all, it completely inspired me to keep the sunroom empty, so that, during these crazy years with little ones underfoot, I’ll always have a safe place to celebrate our holidays.

Did I mention that I love the sunroom?…

~

Coming next to a sunroom near you: a Nursery Rhyme party! (maybe).

When “I Signed Up For This” Doesn’t Work

My New Year’s resolution of “I Signed Up For This” has done me a lot of good, for several reasons:

1. It has connected me with many new enthusiastic readers, all of whom I love and appreciate dearly. Hi, you’s guys! Welcome to our online community of randomness.

2. It resulted in my first ever magazine article (Yippee!).

3. It has actually worked.

Most days, I feel like a new woman on the motherhood, homemaking and homeschooling front.

Like, you know, a grown-up or somethin’.

And I can’t TELL you the last time I sighed when I loaded the kids up in the car. January 1, at the latest. (Two months may not seem very long for some of you, but for a perpetual sigher, it is like a millennia!)

As far as resolutions go, this one (by the grace and help of God) has seemingly reformed me, through and through.

Oh…

except for that frustrating day last month.

And that horrid afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

And last night, for a spell. 

And, um…all day today.

Even though a “mantra” or a resolution might pull a sinful woman like myself out of habitual and mindless complaining, there are days – lots of them – where I need something more.

Something deeper.

Something higher.

Today was definitely “one of those days”…

A random foot injury caused me to acutely feel every step I took, and in a two-story house with four little ones underfoot (pun intended), that’s too many to count.

Another covering of snow outside our windows was causing me to feel hemmed in and blahhhhhhh.

The children were rabid with cabin fever. I actually think they had foam coming out of their mouths.

I couldn’t think of anything to fix for lunch OR supper.

Rebekah’s hair was a tangled mess and I couldn’t find the hairbrush anywhere.

There were about two thousand tiny pieces of Play-Doh under the kitchen table.

And the list went on and on and on and on…

By 3:00 p.m., I wasn’t only sighing, I was hissing.

What had begun that morning with just a hurt foot continually climaxed to the point that a typical littering of Play-doh in the kitchen made me want to lay in the floor and cry like a baby; my despair had stacked up so high that I was being buried underneath it, and I felt like I was drowning!

I really knew that things were beyond my reach when I told myself “remember, you signed up for this…” and myself responded by saying “shut up, Mrs. Gore!”

Yikes.

Touchy.

On any other day, none of the things I mentioned above would necessarily cause me to want to throw in the dish towel.

Which is my point, exactly.

Rarely are the toughest days circumstantial, usually having more to do with how we are feeling on the inside than what is actually taking place around us.

As this kind of sinkhole frustration can be very common in the “trenches” of motherhood, I thought it would be a good idea to pen my thoughts on a day when I needed more than a New Year’s resolution, in case it might be a help to someone else.

Without further ado…

What do we do when “I Signed Up For This” doesn’t work?

1. The first thing I always try to do when I want to implode is to take a moment to pray.

This doesn’t have to happen in the quiet privacy of my room or in the church sanctuary. In fact, on this day, it took place in our schoolroom with kids running all over the place. I sank down onto the antique steamer trunk that holds all of our curriculum, I put my elbows on my knees, I propped my chin up with my hands, and squishing my cheeks up and down with my fingers, I began to talk to God.

“What is UP with me today?…”

What followed was a good moment of introspection coupled with many minutes of wordless pleas for help, in which I identified that my problem, as usual, had little to do with what I had been handed that day, and more to do with my lack of purpose, discipline and contentment.

Seriously.

I’m not being hard on myself and I’m not heaping unnecessary guilt upon my head; this is just pure, unadulterated truth, that I have a gloriously sweet and blessed life, yet, when left to myself, I will always, always find something to complain about.

Dang.

Talk about sobering.

But while this sort of “digging in” is always painful, I really believe that if I skip this step, I will miss something huge.

Here’s what I mean: imagine if life was composed entirely of comfortable moments. For instance, a morning at the spa followed by a shopping spree followed by a deliciously catered lunch followed by a nap followed by an idyllic walk through the countryside, day after day after day…

Or even in less grandiose terms, imagine if my life as it is was frustration-free. My foot would not be throbbing, my menu would be planned, my children would be so thirsty for knowledge that they would sit on the edge of their seats and drink in my every word, I’d know where the hairbrush was hiding, and I would be constantly aware and accepting of the fact that what I’m doing here is important and eternal.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what it is: a dream.

And while a hiccup-less life is what I sometimes (always) long for, without the hiccups…

I would never grow.

I would never conform into something that looks less like me and more like Christ.

And so, while it might seem like the spilled milk and the beyond-energy-filled 1st grader are random happenstances in the day, they are so much more than that.

Or, rather, they can be.

Being at the end of our rope reminds us of how tiny we are. How fallen. How needy.

They remind us that there is a Care-taker on whom to cast our burdens.

And, as a result, they allow us to pursue holiness when we probably wouldn’t be otherwise motivated to do so.

This is why it is a good thing that “I signed up for this” doesn’t always work.

And this is also why, although I truly adore “me-time”, I never want to run to it first, because doing so would be like applying a band-aid to a mortally gaping wound.

My wounds need antibiotics, not bandaids.

And so I run to my Father, where healing and change are found.

2. After I have asked for help from God and confessed my sin, I feel very free, happy and wise to look for help from outside sources.

In the vein of “I Signed Up For This”, yes, our children and our homes are completely and 100% our own responsibility, and we are not entitled to outside help or relief. We shouldn’t whine about it. We shouldn’t expect it.

But on the other hand, we are not meant to walk this life alone.

Do you feel overwhelmed at the mountain of tasks that lie before you? That’s because there is a mountain of tasks lying before you. You can’t tackle that by yourself.

Do you feel like you just can’t do it all? That’s because you can’t. If you can find me a woman who can cook three meals a day, spend time with the Lord, bathe and groom all of her kids, teach them all their different lessons for the day, bathe and groom herself, nurse a baby every three hours, clean the entire house, buy all the needed groceries and school supplies, do all the laundry, read aloud to each child, and still be sane by 3:00 p.m., I so desperately want to meet her and learn all her secrets.

In my house? It’s just impossible. I need help.

And help can look a thousand different ways…

Sometimes it is enough to simply put a movie on for the kids so I can retreat to my room for some alone time. Television, when used wisely and in moderation, can be a great friend in times of need!

Sometimes my husband takes the big kids to the church in the afternoon while the little ones sleep, giving me a chance to clean or write or nap or simply to cry without an audience.

Sometimes I call my mom and ask if she has a day she can help me deep-clean the house.

Sometimes we all just load up in the van and drive around town counting animals.

Sometimes we retreat to mom’s house for afternoon coffee and snacks.

Sometimes I ask my husband if we can get a pizza for supper.

Sometimes we do a joint supper with friends to brighten up our routine and pull us out of the doldrums.

I could go on and on, but it is less about the particulars, really, and more about the principle: after engaging in combat with the “old woman” that still hangs out in my heart, and after diligently chipping away at the root of sin that my despair has illuminated, I seek to start afresh and give myself a break…

no guilt…

no shame.

Because it is just an incontestable fact that sometimes mommy is broken and needs to depend upon her support system, whether that can be found in a husband, a church family, a mama, a sister, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or, yes, a 30-minute show on Nick Jr.

~

There is no formula, really, to any of this, and being a mama is no different than any other calling: there are easy moments, there are joyful moments, there are average moments, there are very sad moments, and there are excruciatingly difficult ones…

such is the rhythm of life and sanctification.

But every moment counts, and can be used for God’s glory and for our good.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m sitting on a trunk in the schoolroom squishing my cheeks and trying really, really hard to hold it together. I hope you will, too!

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Not Making Your Pastor Wish He Was Anything But a Pastor

One aspect of my life that I don’t talk about very often is the fact that I am married to a pastor.

My shepherd at church is also my shepherd at home.

Not to be confused with my infant baby, Shepherd. You can tell him apart from my husband/pastor shepherd because he wears onesies and his name has a capital “s”.

Anyhow, this not only makes me the heralded “pastor’s wife”, it makes me an expert in all things pastorly.

And since I am both a full-time layperson/congregant and married to a full-time person of the cloth, I thought I would merge my two worlds today and give some pointers on how people like us (the congregation) can be a help and not a hindrance to people like us (the minister and his wife and family).

As usual, I can only talk about things like this because our church is the totes awesomest. I give you my word, there is no hidden agenda or lurking jabs in the words that I shall henceforth be sharing.

Or in the words that I heretofore shared.

Let us begin.

1. Obviously, don’t be a poo-poo head.

I’m glad we had this talk.

2. Guard your little words.

As your God-appointed leaders, your pastor spends his week praying and, if you’re lucky, maybe even fasting, with you in mind, expecting the Lord to do something great in your life; thus, imagine how it must deflate him when he sees you at church and says “Good morning! How are you?” and your response is “It’s cold in here” or “Your microphone is too loud.” Um, ouch. Try instead to tell him what you appreciate about him or how the Lord used the sermon to impact you. He truly wants to hear about it. Then you can tell him you’re cold. In a nice way, of course (see point #1).

3. Likewise, guard your big words.

Speaking of “um, ouch”, I’ve taken note over my lifetime in church of how folks tend to speak more bluntly to pastors than they do others. As a full-time SAHM/homeschooler, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if someone walked into my home and started picking apart my realm, not only finding fault with the things that make up my entire life, but sharing my faults openly with others, all before giving me pointers on how to do my job better. It would be heartbreaking. Guard your tongues, ye brutal and loose-tongued opiners, and, not to be redundant, but…see point #1.

4. Give your pastor plenty of family time.

Our church is the BEST at this. We are five years into our ministry here, and never once have I felt that I am competing with the church for my husband’s attention. Granted, he has set firm guidelines in this area, but our church has also done its part, giving him freedom to come home when he chooses, to keep flexible office hours, and to arrive and depart from church with his family rather than in separate vehicles (meaning, no late-night meetings, etc.).

A church that competes with, rather than nurtures, their pastor’s life at home fatally damages his potential for fulfilling his biblical call. Tsk, tsk, tsk. That’s worse than being a you-know-what  (see point #1).

5. Incline your ear and follow your leader.

My husband pour hours into preparing his sermons, every week. On top of that, he writes a daily Bible reading guide so we might better ingest the exposited text. He asks us to pray for specific things. He encourages us in specific areas. He gives us tasks that are unique to our situation…

that’s his job.

Now it is the job of the congregation, myself included, to follow. The most encouraging church members are the ones who really listen and do the things their pastor asks them to do (obviously, this includes neither sinning nor drinking any kind of poisoned fruit punch).

6. Think about your particular gifts and use them to minister to your minister.

It has been a joy for me to watch our congregation encourage our family, in all kinds of different ways. Their gifts literally keep us going. Whether it is the deacon who makes hospital visits to give our pastors plenty of study time, or the older women who tidy up my husband’s office, or the young mom who brings us food, or the widow who frequently sends us encouragement, or the couple who constantly prays for us, or the man who mows our yard, the love and generosity of our church family makes the way so much easier for us.

Do the same for your pastor, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get an in-ground swimming pool in heaven.

7. Work hard to keep your pastor safe.

You can do this in so many ways. Pray for him. Give him plenty of rest. Pray for him. Protect him from she-devils with wicked intentions. Pray for him. Be his visitation buddy. In other words, be his watchdog and his mother hen. Taking care of your pastor helps ensure he will be equipped to take care of you.

Oh and don’t forget to pray for him.

8. Give him time and room to grow.

Although it is imperative that he meets the requirements that scripture lays out for his eldership, your pastor is being sanctified just like you are. Remember, pastors are people, too. And people are poo-poo heads sinners.

9. Give him time and room to preach.

It has become a token joke in today’s church culture to make references to the length of the pastor’s sermon, and although this is usually in good fun, I can imagine that it could easily turn harmful.

Imagine, for a minute, the pressure of knowing that the God of the universe was watching to make sure you said everything you were supposed to say. And then imagine looking out across of sea (or a small pond) of people who were tapping their feet and checking their wristwatches, expecting you to accomplish that daunting task in twenty to thirty minutes per week.

Cherish the pastor who is more afraid of God than he is of you, and give him the freedom to do his job and do it thoroughly and “with joy” (see Hebrews 13 below).

10. View your pastor and his family as a team.

This advice is more practical than it is biblical, but I appreciate it so much that, when our church members pray aloud for my husband, they pray for me and our children, too. I also personally love it when women include me in messages they send to my husband or seek us both out for advice; it is in no way necessary (because I read all his messages anyway), but it is a very cool thing to do, and it strengthens our family unit, which, again, is only for the good of the church.

11. Pay him well.

Many dole out big bucks for their doctors, dentists, accountants and personal trainers without question, but then expect their pastor and his family to live like paupers.

You pastor has been assigned by God to watch over your soul and train you in righteousness, the single most important aspect of your life…

you can help by making sure he doesn’t have to worry during the week about how he is going to afford some cornbread to go with his beans.

(Kudos to our church family for our generous salary and for a yearly cost-of-living increase!).

12. Include him in your decision-making.

I’m guessing at the math here, but 9 times out of 10, congregants approach their pastor for advice on big decisions…

after their decision is made.

Contemplating a huge change? Tempted to join another church? Feeling like getting a divorce? Make haste to the preacher-man, seek his biblical advice and counseling, and, if he isn’t leading you in something that is unbiblical, do what he says to do. Which leads us to our next point…

13. Make the way easy for him by submitting and not grumbling.

This one is straight from the Bible. Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Your pastor will answer to God for how he led you. You will answer (also to God) for how you followed.

‘Tis a very freeing and simple arrangement, is it not? I wish I had realized that sooner.

14. Keep poo-poo heads accountable.

Lastly (but almost certainly not leastly), if you hear someone speaking ill of your shepherd, either gently rebuke them or change the route of the conversation. Their words will not only harm your pastor, they could harm your own ears, planting seeds of discord in your heart that could lead to a root of bitterness. Which could turn you into a…well, see point #1.

~

As with any list of advice or etiquette, I am sure these pointers are far from comprehensive, but I hope they provide some helpful insight. How I could have used this list when I was younger! If I could go back and be a better sheep for my former pastors, I most certainly would. Consider this my public apology, for when I typed these words and revisited old memories, I felt sheepish, indeed. Baaa.

I also deeply apologize for how many times I said or referenced “poo-poo” in this blog post. 

~

Mrs. Gore’s comment policy: all comments are read and appreciated, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to lengthy internet discussion are approved.

And, finally, because I love ya, a pin for your bookmarking and sharing convenience…

pastor tips

Our Faux Victorian Christmas

It all started with a dress.

But first, a bit of backtracking.

Every year, regardless of how scant or abundant our wardrobes are, we come up with Christmas and Easter clothes. Sometimes they’re casual. Sometimes they are built around a hair bow or an overcoat we already own. Sometimes they include a few hand-me-downs in the mix…

but every year, we get dressed in our new (or newish) duds and take some family pictures.

We don’t do this for Christmas postcards or even, believe it or not, for the blog…

we do it for me.

Because I wanna.

It might be silly, it might be unnecessary, it might be a TON of work, but…I love it.

Especially the outfits.

Last year’s Christmas clothes were hardy and festive, and even better, practical; thus, my intent this year was to find something similar, something that shouted “Christmas!” but, not exclusively. Something we could wear to church or to the library or even to play outside in, all winter and early-spring and late-fall long.

But then, scrolling through Boden’s summer sale, I saw a dress in the little girls’ section.

It was a satin party dress.

It was so impractical.

Even on sale, it was more expensive than any dress we’ve ever bought for one of our children.

And it was the LAST dress I needed, looking nothing like anything I had pictured for any of our Christmas clothes, ever.

So, obviously, I bought it.

Because the moment I pictured that dress on Rebekah Sunday, I was a goner. My sentimental brain went trotting along ahead of me, dreaming of beautiful Victorian Christmases, and simple and clean scenes of winter whites and creams, until I arrived (four months later) at this year’s “photo shoot” with two things in mind:

1. Memorializing all of our children in their various ages, but especially 4-year old Rebekah. On the cusp of girlhood, this was her year, and since her special dress was almost as beautiful as a wedding gown, I thought it would be fun to take some bridal-inspired photos that we might potentially use on her wedding day, like pictures of us getting ready, tying her sash and fixing her hair. I thought it would also be fun to get pictures of the boys getting ready, buttoning their vests and so on and so forth.

2. Memorializing our home. We all know that, unlike snapshots, professional pictures aren’t really a true representation of life. They are us at our best, with our clothes perfectly pressed and our hair expertly groomed. Well, I wanted pictures of my house like that, too, clean and shiny and all gussied up for picture day.

Alllll that to say, although these pictures almost didn’t happen (if Rebekah looks ethereal it is because she was throwing up for the five days leading up to this), we pulled it off, and I near about died when I saw the finished product…

it is everything I hoped for and more, and I have to brag on my friends Ben and Leslie at Benjamin Grey Photography for their truly amazing talent. I am so happy I paid them with real money this time instead of homemade granola.

I am also so grateful for my husband and my mom, without whom my schemes of whimsicality would never come to fruition.

~

First, the boys got ready…

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Then Rebekah, the belle of the ball…

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Then Betsie Fair, also the proud recipient of a Boden party dress (it is rare, indeed, for Betsie to get a non-hand-me-down dress, especially one made of velvet!)…

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Now I have to pause for a moment to prep you for the next pictures.

For the past year and a half, 2 1/2 year old Betsie has been obsessed…I mean it, obsessed…with lipstick. Before she could even talk, she would drag people’s purses to them and start puckering up her lips and grunting until they shared some lipgloss or lipstick or chapstick.

I have seen her perform this expression countless times, and I had no idea that Ben had caught it with his camera until I received our photographs.

Some photos are sweet, some are funny, and then some are just gifts.

These photographs are a gift to me. I have titled them “Betsie in a Nutshell”.

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Here’s a few more of Rebekah, sitting in my new favorite chair (more on that later)…

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and we can’t forget Baby Shep…

(goochie goo, you fat wittle bubbey baby!)

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Next, we all moved to the living room for a few photos…

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And we finished up outside…

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On a normal day, our life is anything but Victorian.

But it’s fun to pretend sometimes.

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Thanks for pretending with me. ;)

A Sock-Hoppin’ Valentine Party

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means…

party time!

If you’re new to Mrs. Gore’s Diary, let me fill you in on the past 10 years. Since becoming a grandmother, my mom has made it a practice to host fun “class parties” for her grandkids. It gives the kids – all of whom are homeschooled – a chance to celebrate with their cousins, and it is such a blessing to their mamas who usually just have one job: show up!

The parties vary. We’ve had Easter parties, Halloween parties, a Christmas baking party, a 12-12-12 party at 12:12 p.m….

but we always have a Valentine party.

I think it must be one of her favorites, and I can’t remember a Valentine’s Day growing up when my mom didn’t deck out the table with special candies and gifts; because of her, I’m a pretty big fan of February 14th myself! Especially now that I have children of my own.

Last year, she decided to give Valentine’s Day a twist and hosted a simple and fun 1950′s-inspired party. The celebration was at my house, and the children were instructed to dress in whatever 50′s-style clothes we could come up with in our closets. And Mom took care of the rest!

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Before the party started, we took a few family pictures in the dining room. Gideon’s “costume” was easy: jeans and a white t-shirt. Rebekah (left) wore a shirtdress with a pink cardigan, and Betsie (in the middle) was the perfect size for her cousin Abigail’s poodle skirt from a Halloween long, long ago…

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I have to show this one, too, because when Rebekah saw it as I was going through pictures for this post, she laughed a little and said “Oh, my hair is always flowing like that…”

Confident, much?

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and Amy’s crew (Abel, Anna, Kate and Abigail) looked so precious with their neck- and hair-ties and cardigans!

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Anna and Gid, Valentines for life…or at least until they realize they’re too related to get hitched. 

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“Best fweinds” Kate and Rebekah.

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My mom (a child of the ’50′s) whisked Gideon to the back to give him a real 1950′s ‘do. Here’s the front…

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And here’s the back.

(I was already in love with this boy but this hairdo got me all shook up!)

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The kids congregated around the dining table…

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where Amy (playing waitress) came to take their burger orders.

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On the menu was heart-shaped hamburgers (you have to admire a woman who can make shapes out of raw meat), french fries…

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and yummy, beautiful strawberry milkshakes!

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 The meal was served ’50′s style in burger baskets lined with Valentine tissue paper.

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And now a few pictures of children happily eating and slurping…

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When lunch was over, it was time to play some games.

First, the limbo…

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then, a rockin’ rollin’ dance party…

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then a hilarious, knee-slappin’ game of spin the bottle…

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and then we played Valentine Bingo.

Each child was given a Bingo card (free printables here!) and a pile of mini marshmallows to mark their numbers…

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whoever won got to pick a toy from a prize table my mom set up. And, although this isn’t always our game-playing philosophy, each child won TWICE, until all the prizes were gone. It was, after all, a holiday!

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After Bingo, Amy gave a bubble-gum-blowing demonstration…

IMG_0025Then all the kids were given a piece of bubble gum to experiment with…

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after some perseverance (and maybe a few tears?), Abigail succeeded in blowing her first bubble! Obviously, my mom’s parties are as educational as they are fun.

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And then we wrapped the party up with some more fun pictures…

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Pinterest is full of breathtaking and professional parties, and while they are inspiring, they can also be kind of intimidating; I hope this encourages you to remember that laid-back and fuss-free parties still exist and that you don’t have to empty your college fund to celebrate with the children in your life. Come to think of it, I think I prefer my mom’s parties to the professionals’..

maybe because they remind me of growing up, safe and happy, under her nurturing wing.

Can’t WAIT to see what she comes up with this year!

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For more Valentine inspiration, click on the Valentine tab in my blog’s menu or visit my Pinterest Valentine board.