The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery

UpstairsDownstairs

Every Sunday night when the season is right, you will find Mr. Gore and me, after banishing…er, tucking in…the children upstairs, settling down into our favorite living room chairs to catch up on the latest drama at Downton Abbey.

This historically-trenched soap opera thoroughly entertains me, and the characters are often referenced in our house.

A lover of history, it is just pure fun for me to see a page from the past come to life on my television screen, and the opportunity to visually become better acquainted with the practices and lifestyles of years gone by is a gift, of sorts, even though the propagation of modern beliefs can be laid on pretty thick, at times.

I can overlook that, though, for the pleasure of hearing Lady Violet’s latest display of side-splitting drollery.

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But as I was anticipating a new season of Downton this week, and daydreaming about the maids who work downstairs and the ladies of society that live upstairs, I realized, maybe for the first time ever, how many tasks I am personally responsible for as a homemaker, in general, and a homemaker with children, in particular, in my home.

The same is true for you, I’m quite sure of it.

Ignore the little fact that Downton is a vastly larger estate than many of us will probably ever even visit on this side of heaven and that our own houses are surely elfin in comparison, and just stay with me for a minute.

For starters, I literally go upstairs and downstairs a lot. We built a two-story house five years ago because I thought it would be “fun”, and when I’m not hauling baskets of stuff from the downstairs to the upstairs, I’m hauling baskets of stuff from the upstairs to the downstairs. And when I say “baskets”, I mean baskets.

But those aren’t the only “upstairs and downstairs” I’m talking about, the literal ones.

I’m talking about how, as homemakers and mothers, we juggle the upstairs and downstairs of an entire estate.

We are the “lady of the manor.” The event planner. The scullery maid. The chamber maid. The housekeeper. The chef. The nanny. The chauffeur. The lady’s maid. The butler. Add homeschooling to that, and we’re also the governess!

And I’m not pointing these things out to whine – puh-lease don’t get me wrong on that! – but, rather, to present a realistic picture of what we’re up against.

Mostly so I can get to this single question: Why in the WORLD are we continually heaping all this crazy guilt upon ourselves?!

What is with the insane, superhuman expectations?

Why do we continually feel like failures because we can’t “do it all”?

Tell me, if Mrs. Patmore was teaching George and Sybbie their lessons and giving them their baths and tucking them in at night and keeping the entire house clean and all the laundry done, do we sincerely think she would have time to make a fancy, gourmet meal even ONE time a day? No way! PB&J for lunch it would be, no problem.

Could Lady Grantham arrive at her nightly dinner party, perfectly coiffed and at ease after a hectic afternoon of cleaning out the automobiles, weeding the rose bushes and dusting the ceiling fan? I’m going to pretend like she couldn’t.

And so, while this silliest of blog posts is in no way grounds for entitlement or pity, it IS a light-hearted attempt to wake you up, woman.

In today’s culture, we ARE the upstairs and the downstairs of our life and we have a LOT on our plates, which calls for some very practical wisdom.

Namely, this: Pick a lane, m’lady.

We cannot “do it all”, every day. It’s impossible.

So instead of habitually trying, and then crashing and burning into sizzling heaps of frustration, why don’t we just start picking a few things to do really well in one day and call it good?

It’s simple, really, especially if you think of it in terms of the Downton staff…

Let’s see, who shall I be today? Will I be Mrs. Patmore, and make a really delicious and beautiful and painstaking meal for my family? And a homemade three-layer cake, perhaps, for dessert? Wonderful! But this means I can’t also try to pull a Mrs. Hughes and orchestrate a deep-cleaning of the house.

Or, if I DO want to be Mrs. Hughes and get all of my rooms tidied and oversee the organization of the entire house, I CAN’T be Mrs. Patmore. I will give myself and my family grace and order a pizza instead! (Or at the very least, pull out a Crock-pot.)

Shall I be Mr. Carson and get all of our affairs in order?

Shall I be Lady Grantham and host some friends for the evening?

Shall I be Tom (circa Season 1) and shuttle us hither and thither, running errands?

Shall I be Mrs. Crawley and fill up my day with good deeds toward the community?

Shall I be Lady Edith and…um…gaze worriedly into the distance? (Poor Edith. God bless her.)

Shall I be Anna and tend to the ones I’ve been entrusted with? Shall I gently brush their hair and groom their fingernails and see to their winter wardrobes?

Or who knows? Maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes on Saturdays, so we can start the week with a clean house. Then I can be Mrs. Patmore on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Or maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes in the mornings while the big kids do their independent schoolwork and be Mrs. Patmore from 3:00 – 5:00 in the afternoon. But then I can’t be Anna or Tom or Mr. Carson, too.

Or maybe…just MAYBE…I’ll be Lady Mary Crawly and I’ll put on my fancy clothes and I’ll go out to dinner.

Even better? Maybe I’ll be the Dowager Countess and sit in my favorite room with tea and scones and read a BOOK if I wanna!!!

(Okay, you’re right. There’s only ONE Dowager Countess. Forgive me for trying.)

Obviously, I could go on and on with this crazy string of mathematics, but you get the point.

How about we stop trying to be Downton-Abbey-in-the-flesh and simplify things a bit?

How about we work hard at whatever it is that we set our minds to, give it our very best, love the people we’re doing it for, commit the whole lot of it to our Creator, and then…

well, RELAX.

Mistress of the manor, why in the world would you shame yourself for the Mrs. Patmore meal that your friend just described cooking on Facebook??

You’ve been Mrs. Hughes-ing it all. day. long.

Dear lady, how could you possibly feel like a loser to come home to a messy house today? You got a houseful of kiddos ready and chauffered them around from morning till evening! And brought groceries home, to boot!

So here’s what I think you should do, and this is a gentle, Mrs. Hughes-esque order. (Because, really, why would ANYBODY, in their right mind, argue with Mrs. Hughes?)

You’re going to stop pretending like it is possible to be an entire household staff all day, every day. You’re going to put in your hours as one who is working for the Lord, and at the end of a long day, you’re going to focus on what you’ve DONE rather than what you HAVEN’T done and you’re going to feel good that, though things will never be as sparklingly perfect and well-run as Downton, you do a pretty bang-up job at manning the upstairs and the downstairs of your own personal estate.

And then, just for kicks, you’re going to fix yourself a treat, you’re going to set yourself down, you’re going to put up your feet, and you’re going to enjoy a couple of hours of mindless television.

May I kindly recommend PBS?

Sunday, 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.

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Thanks for reading!

Special thanks to the blog Austenprose for helping me get my Downton titles right: A Downton Abbey Etiquette Primer: How to greet the Earl of Grantham and other British forms of address

If you’d like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, follow our page on Facebook!

 

 

Howdy Do, from Me to You – Part Two!

Read Part One here

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SO, as I was saying last week before I was so rudely interrupted by myself, one of the HUGEST lessons I have learned since I started sharing my writings on the internet is this:

priorities have really got to come first (i.e. husband, kids, church, and home before internet), they must be pursued with DELIGHT lest they become drudgery (and sometimes this requires a magical combination of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and determination), and, accordingly, trust in God must be fostered every step of the way.

There have been so many times when my spirit has just railed out in desperation during this season of my life, and I’ve internally shouted out a prayer ceiling-ward of “God, please give me time to write this book!!!” Or this blog post. Or this desperately important list of things that people need to know about me.

When we have passions within our hearts, whatever those passions may be, it can be difficult to lay them on the altar of self-denial and loving-others-more-than-we-love-ourselves.

And what results is a stringent exercise in holiness, finding the perfect balance between giftings and callings…yes, giftings and callings…because I think there is a difference!…and coming to a steady and even joyful faith that, if God wants us to do something, He’ll give us the time and presence of mind to accomplish it.

Simple as that, really.

So, yes! I believe this wondrous thing, with all of my heart! We can trust God with our “birds of the air” stuff like food, clothes, etc., and we can also trust Him with the fluffy stuff, including our dreams and hobbies. If our Creator has a purpose for those things, He’ll do with them what needs to be done. In other words — and we all already knew this in our heads — He has it ALL under control, and all we need to do is just simmer down and follow Him.

What peace!

And the reason I’m sharing all of these things in the first place is because this newfound resolve has really planted a new heart behind my blog and my writing “career.” (Ha!)

You see, during the earlier years of my blog, when a random post I wrote went surprisingly viral, I immediately struggled with the temptation of turning this creative outlet into a machine, of sorts.

Up until that point, I had only been writing for family, for friends, and for my own pleasure, and I didn’t know how to adjust, overnight, to an audience of people that I didn’t know. There were so many of them! And they wanted to hear more from me!!

I was flattered, I was atwitter, and I had no clue what to do next. So…

I turned to the internet for answers.

(Always a brilliant idea, yes? NO.)

All the research I found said I should write *this many* times a week, and keep my blog posts to *this many* words (riiiiiight), and that, cha-ching!, I could make *this much* money doing all of the above.

It sounded exciting!

And during that time, my life, whether I intended for it to or not, began to take on a manufactured hue, and there were days when even I couldn’t tell if I was writing for God or for more readers, or if I was hosting birthday parties for my kids or for Pinterest followers.

It was tricky. Life is rarely black and white, so I won’t do my past the disservice of saying I was a full-out fame chaser who saw dollar signs everywhere she looked. Temptation is more nuanced than that and, as a believer, I was as genuinely trying to serve my God and my family then as I am now.

But, in the midst of my good intentions, there were heavy pulls in several directions. I had gotten this teensy tiny droplet of fame on my tongue and I felt tug after tug to find more of that flavor, and fast! I couldn’t help but feel an eagerness to see where the road would take me and, most importantly, whether or not it could get me independently wealthy!

But, my dearest dears, I have good news.

Through His Word and His Spirit, God has slowly and graciously brought me through the trickiest part of that trickery.

I understand now that I CAN’T write for readers, because readers come and go. (For reals, I’ve lost about as many “followers” on this journey as I’ve gained!)

I can’t write for fame, because fame is a mirage.

I can’t write for the sake of money, because the love of money is the root of all evil and it will poison everything I say and everything I do.

What is left, then, and what should have been there all along, is to write for God, for His glory, for His fame, for His pleasure.

As a result, I am developing an ever-deepening love for the Spirit of God who leads me daily. So kind, He is. He gives me freedom. He helps me to be genuine. And — even better than “going viral” — He allows me to contribute in small and beautiful ways to the Kingdom of God, which is the sort of gift that leaves the recipient speechless, breathless, the works.

And THAT…finally!…leads me to what I want to tell you most of all, and I hope it will bring you some measure of comfort on this Friday morning: as a rule, I don’t write about anything these days unless my heart is truly passionate to do so, nor do I feel any pressure a’tall to publish so many blog posts per month or keep them to so many words.

And what I really want you to take away from that is the assurance that I’m trying not to use you. To manipulate you. To stir your heartstrings so you will ‘like’ what I’ve written and share my blog with others.

The same is true over at the Facebook page. I tell stories as they happen if I feel like it, I share the pictures that grab my heart, no more, no less. It is exceedingly rare that I will think to myself, “Oh! You’ve haven’t updated to FB in two days! You’d better think of a story!”

And my prayer is that, with this mentality at its heart, this space on the internet will always be a safe place for you to come, for refreshing, for humor, for truth, and for, as much as I can offer during this hectic time of our life, friendship.

(You don’t know HOW HARD it is not to reply to my private messages and comments! I want to, OH, how I want to!).

Call me crazy and self-indulgent, but I just wanted you to know these things today.

The world is FULL of people who are trying to sell you stuff, who are trying to use you to get somewhere higher. And while I can’t promise that I won’t ever do that, I can pinky swear that I am at least trying to refrain from it, with all my heart.

Full disclosure for any newbies, at this point, the only money making part to this blog has been my account at Amazon Associates. If I share a product…which, again, I only do when I feel eager to show you something we are actually enjoying…and you shop for anything at Amazon from the link I share, I will get a tiny commission. It pays less than a paper route, but it makes me happy to add a tiny something to the Gore family fund and to make up for all the time spent behind a computer screen. To everyone who does their Amazon shopping through my links, THANK YOU! (It doesn’t take much to make me giddy, you know. I’m going to go look up how much I’ve made this month so far, hold on, I’ll be back…Okay, I’m back. $10.03, baby!! I’m RICH!!!!!).

Anyhow, other than Amazon Associates, I am very picky about shielding my readers from ads and junk and more “stuff” and nonsense.

Why? Because I genuinely cherish you, and I take my tiny role in making your journey more enjoyable very seriously. Hence this 1400-word blog post about that very thing.

Friends, I can say this with an honest heart: I share my “journal of life and life abundant” not because I want to be famous, not because I want my kids to be famous (please, God, no!), not because I’m trying to build a mansion or buy a Volvo, but because…

gosh darn it, life is BEAUTIFUL.

My God compels me to share that with anyone who fancies a listen.

Thanks for being one of those people.

 

A New Wish

January the First, 2015

Before the children were whisked off to bed this New Year evening, we gathered around a chair at the kitchen table and opened the mason jar that had been sitting on our computer desk for 365 days.

The jar’s lid was lightly covered with a year’s worth of dust, and it is really a lucky happenstance that I had seen it hiding behind the computer last week, for its contents had been long forgotten by this addle-brained mama.

Had I really made a card for each person in our family (including my parents and grandmother) and jotted down their favorite part of 2013? And had I asked each person to share a wish for the year to come?? And had I then carefully folded up each card and placed it in the jar that was on our desk???…

Apparently, I had, and my handwriting on each card was enough to prove it.

(But I am in good company. My husband had also completely forgotten this New Year exercise. We’re compatible like that).

And it was like unlocking a short-term time capsule this evening, giving us a surprise glimpse into who we were and what we were thinking a year ago. Our children clustered around me, I screwed off the lid, popped the top, and began to pull out our words from the first day of 2014, one by one.

The children giggled as I read their cards. We had forgotten that Betsie had called my grandmother “Miss Granny Bear” last year and that her wish was to go visit her house in Texas. We couldn’t believe that our dog, Jake – and Gideon’s favorite thing about 2013 – had only been a part of our family for a year and a half. We were chagrined that we had never taken Rebekah ice-skating, her only wish for the year 2014, but assured her that we could make up for that…

and then I opened my card.

My one great wish for 2014?

“I want to have a book published.”

I smiled at my family.

“Well, I’ve almost finished writing my first book, so that’s a good start!” I laughed.

But, in my heart, I was communing silently with my Creator and thanking Him for the changes He has wrought within me since January the First, 2014.

A year ago, it had been a burning passion.

I wanted to see my name on a book. I wanted to accomplish something tangible. I wanted to succeed in the writing biz. I wanted to move from the blogging world to the publishing world.

And I wanted it bad.

But somewhere along the way, after pouring my heart and soul into the book that I have been writing since this summer, after hearing 52 incredible expository sermons from the Word of God, after being sanctified day by day by day by day by day, my desires have shifted in monumental ways so that, before I pulled that year-old wish out of the jar, I had completely lost touch with the woman who wrote those words at the beginning of the year.

I have changed, and until this evening, I didn’t realize how much.

And by the sweet grace of God, the thing I truly cherish the most about 2014 and the thing I long for the most in 2015 has nothing to do with what I will accomplish or how I will succeed or if I will ever be a published author…

but everything to do with how I have known and will know God better.

And with all these things in mind, I wanted to pop in here for a bit to offer up a word of encouragement to each of you for the year we are leaving behind and the one we face ahead…

Do you know what? It really doesn’t matter if you lost the ten pounds that you planned to lose in 2014. It doesn’t matter if you are killing it at your job. It doesn’t matter if you have managed to organize your house. I doesn’t matter if you’ve mastered the art of couponing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve found your way to a better you or gotten all your ducks in a row or have started to experience your “best life now”. It doesn’t even matter if you got your book published (or if you finished writing it!)…

but have you grown kinder?

Have you lost a bit of the zeal you had for your own name?

Have you learned to trust Him more?

Have you become more patient?

Have you learned to love your spouse better?

Have you grown bolder in your witness?

Have you developed a greater love for God’s word?

Have you persevered through difficult relationships within your church body?

Have you been conformed daily to the image of God?

Have you seen – in one or a hundred ways – His continued work in your life?

These.

These are the things that we should measure our years by. These are the things that should cause us to rejoice at the close of one year and inspire us to pray for the opening of another. These are the fruits that we should be pursuing and wishing for. And these are the things that should allow us to close our eyes in relief and to realize that, YES, this has been an enormously successful year!

I know Him better than I did last year. His Word makes more sense to me than it ever has before. I have grown in wisdom and understanding…

I am still His, and I am still loving the one who loved me first.

Oh, friends, what more can we ask for?!

And so there is no doubt. I may not have even finished the book that I was hoping to have published yet, but 2014 turned out to be one of the most successful years I have ever experienced, and my one wish for the year to come, the wish I folded up into our empty mason jar this evening before sending the children to bed, is this…

whether my name is on a book by year’s end, whether my words ever go beyond the space they now occupy, whether the world will ever tip their hat to my accomplishments, may I strive to be an encouragement to anyone who needs it in 2015 and to pour myself out for others.

I have to tell you, I am so excited to open our jar next year and see how God has answered my prayer and granted the wish of my heart.

If, indeed, I remember by that time what that jar is behind our computer.

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And now I want to leave you with my favorite photos from 2014, which is a prayer in itself.

2014 is the year that I truly became content in my calling, and this captured moment, to me, represents all that I learned and all that I am resting in today. I never want to forget what it felt like to relax and begin freely living in the life He has crafted for me, and these pictures represent that time in a tangible way.

Here is me and Betsie, cuddled up under a blanket watching the rest of our family play in the yard. I’m not wearing make-up and no one knows who I am and my name is not in lights, but this is who I want to be, forever and always. A mama who has found her home, who is rejoicing in her Kingdom work and who is finally content to the tips of her toes.

God is good, to fix our hearts.

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Happy New Year from Mrs. Gore to the wonderful friends who have found a home here. You all have been a HUGE part of my sanctification and growth, and I thank God for the gift of this readership every single day. May we bring glory to our God in 2015!

And now I hope you feel free to share! How has He fixed your heart this year? What changes has He wrought? How are you hoping to live for him in the year to come?

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Guess what is sitting in my lap this very minute?

Surprisingly, it is not a child.

Not surprisingly, it is not a puppy. (I don’t like to hold animals).

Unfortunately, it is not a tray with a piece of apple pie and a cup of hot coffee.

Iiiiiiiiit’s…

myyyyyyy…

new laptop!

After a long year of probation in which I gathered funds while commiserating the mistake of drinking coffee next to my previous laptop, I was given the green light to start shopping for a new one.

And now it is finally here, and the timing could not be more perfect.

Shepherd is now almost nine months old…

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and while he is still frequently waking me up in the night, I am getting back into the groove of things, and the book project that I had to shelve before I gave birth to him is back in the forefront of my brain and heart, itching to be finished.

And, by golly, I’m gonna finish it, Lord willin’ the crick don’t rise.

May in its insanity is kind of filled up, but I have a month-long date with June, and my hope is to at least have a rough draft by July 1st. You will undoubtedly be hearing more about this in the future.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting smack dab in the middle of a season of spiritual growth, something that fills me with joy and expectation. I’m doing lots of listening, and am asking God to make lots of changes in my heart that I honestly feel only He can bring about.

Last Saturday was Ms. Annette’s memorial service, and oh my, I was so inspired.

The common theme concerning her contributions to her friends and family was that she lived for others; the consensus was that, when you went to her house to check on her, she had a way of turning the questions back on you and how you were doing.

It caused me to contemplate the things we really stress over in this life…things like our girlish (or not-so-girlish-anymore) figures, our houses, our possessions, the perceptions that other people have about us…we can kind of obsess over any or all of the above.

But, at the end of our days on earth, do we REALLY want the following things to be said about us at our funeral?…

“She had a rockin’ body”.

“Her house was so clean”.

“She had the cutest clothes”.

“She threw Pinterest-worthy birthday parties”.

“She had all her ducks in a row. Her children were perfectly behaved, groomed and coifed and she was so put-together”.

No!

No!

I say it again, No!

‘Twould be a life wasted, would it not? Yet those are the things we sometimes chase after with all of our beings.

As I sat on the edge of my seat during the memorial service, my heart was yearning for more, and I realized with certainty that, at the end of my life, I desperately want one thing to remain: Christ.

“She lived for others”.

“She was such a good listener, and even when someone asked about her, she ended up asking about them”.

“She was generous and would give even her best things to someone who needed them”.

“She never held a grudge, but forgave freely”.

“She died to herself daily”.

“She was so kind”.

“She was so joyful”.

“She was so wise; she had a biblical answer to every question”.

These are the things that I want to cultivate in my life, and if I “stress” about anything, I want it to be that I am not looking more like the Savior quickly enough and that I am not redeeming the time while the time is mine.

And this is why a life hidden in Christ is so important; even in her death, Ms. Annette was inspiring the young women who followed behind her to lose themselves in the gospel just like she did. Every life counts, and the Kingdom is moving through every action, every word, and every remembrance of its inhabitants. MAN, that gets me fired up! God, be great in me! Change lives through mine! Don’t let me die worshipping the idol of ME!

And this is totally off-the-subject, but I can’t move on to the next thing without mentioning what Mr. J.L. said when a mic was handed to him at the service. In that rich, deliberate voice, he said (and go ahead and grab a hankie before you read this), “On May the 10th, 1940, 74 years ago, we went on our first date. And on May the 10th, 2014, we have our last date on this earth…”.

What a legacy. I also want to “stress” over protecting and cherishing my marriage in a world where it is so very easy and acceptable to throw marriages away.

You know you’ve lived a successful life when your memorial service changes futures; I pray that the things God convicted me of on Saturday will bear fruit in the days and years to come.

Later that day, I had the chance to take my kids to Mom and Dad’s house where we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing in the backyard and, before the night was up, I realized that I had received the best Mother’s Day gift I could ask for by being blessed with sweet, unplanned moments with each of my children.

Gideon and I got to talk about eternity and how God continues to fix his little heart.

Rebekah sat next to me drawing in the dirt while we had a lengthy and enjoyable discussion on true beauty and the fruit of the spirit.

Betsie and I had a tickle fight.

And Shepherd fell asleep on me in my favorite swing where we rocked for nearly an hour with a beautiful canopy of trees overhead.

What more could a Mama ask for?

Not a thing.

Except for maybe breakfast in bed and a $500 giftcard to Anthropologie.

And on Sunday, I was deeply moved and challenged by the preaching of the Word, and came home so eager to grow in the areas of evangelism and Christian unity and brotherhood.

I am realizing more and more that, though I have been driven my entire life to make much ado out of yours truly, the cry of my heart is no longer to become a household name. I understand now that, should God choose to allow my writings to spread and a book to eventually be published, it will not have anything to do with who I inherantly am, but rather about the assignment He has given me.

Isn’t that a beautiful thought? In God’s kingdom, there is no one more special and no one more annointed than someone else; we simply have different jobs to fulfill. I crave to fulfill mine in a way that brings glory and honor to God, no matter how big or small my task may be. If you want to hear more on this subject, take a listen to my husband’s sermon that so clearly laid out these truths.

And I hope it brings you comfort to know that, by the grace of God, I am not seeking to become the next Christian celebrity; that might have been a dream at one point in my life, but no longer, and with each day that passes, I just long more and more to be a voice of encouragement and truth and friendship in your ear. That’s why it means so much to me that you are here in the first place: you have received my offerings so graciously and with such enthusiasm that it quite knocks me over. Figuratively, of course.

Wow. In all honesty, I don’t really know where this rambling blog post came from, but thanks for listening all the same. I got to try out my new computer and jot down some thoughts that I really wanted to hold onto.

I’ll leave you now with my top 4 Mother’s Day photos. As usual, my kids were so obliging and photogenic. Good times.

Great(ish) memories.

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Now how about you? Do you have anything to share? How is God changing you? What is He teaching you? What was your best Mother’s Day moment? It’s your turn! Feel free to ramble as much as I did. :)

Hallenewyear, Amen.

I have started and deleted this post 3 times.

First, trying to play it cool, I wrote a line about how I don’t know what is expected in these end-of-the-year blog posts that everyone writes, but here goes…

Then I made a joke about how we barely made it across the finish line of 2013, parched, panting and digging our nails into the ground as we crawled to January 1st, 2014…

but, you know, that was just me being lazy, trying to come up with something to say; my second attempt, especially, was a borrowed and regurgitated sentiment, one that rolled off my tongue without truly capturing what is on my heart…

so let’s start again, shall we?

From an objective standpoint, I suppose you could say that this past year has been the most challenging we’ve ever faced. There were days when I didn’t know how we were going to juggle everything, how we were going to afford everything, and honestly, how we were going to survive and still be allowed to call ourselves Christians; 2013 will forever be branded upon my brain as the year of the puppy, the baby and the back surgery.

Actually, that’s not true. My brain no longer has the capacity to have anything branded upon it. By the year of 2015, someone will ask me when Baby Shepherd was born or when Mr. Gore had his spinal fusion and I’ll stare at them blankly and blink rapidly while I will myself to remember…anything. My name…my political affiliation…what’s for supper…who’s Jake?…

But you get what I’m saying.

2013 was intense.

But sitting here in my room on New Year’s night, and looking back in reflection, it feels less like a difficult year that stands out in a series of not-so-difficult years…

and more like…

another year full of grace-for-each-moment.

Just like 2012.

And 2011.

And 2010…

and every year that we have been held firmly in the hand of the Lord.

Which, if I understand the theologies correctly, encompasses eternity past, present and future. Brother Spurgeon, am I right, or am I right?

Our struggles in 2013 might have been unique compared to any we have walked through before, but that in no way changed the fact that God worked every detail of life for our good and for His glory. The days were incomprehensibly challenging, but He handed them to us very gently, and love and peace and joy were around every corner, even in the hallways of the hospital…

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in my ever-increasing age, I am beginning to realize that life is a series of days is a series of moments, and every year has its share of struggles and suffering, just as every year is interlaced with beautiful, abundant graces. And at the heart of all of it is a Creator who is much more involved in the minutia of our daily life than we ever give Him credit for. He measures our blessings and our sufferings so expertly, you’d think He was the God of the Universe or somethin’.

That, my friends, was the most roundabout way ever to say this: our God is good.

Even in 2013.

Especially in 2013.

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~

Happy New Year!

The Internet is Alive with the Sound of Critics (and it hurts my ears)

Last night, our family of six sat down in the living room, bowls of popcorn and leftover Halloween candy flanking us, to watch something rather extraordinary on our television set.

We were a day late, and so I had already seen the reviews. Most were positive and the show had been very well-received, especially by Oklahomans. But true to the cultural norm, the negative comments also abounded: “Panned” by critics (or the two critics listed in the article), repeatedly compared to the 1965 Julie Andrews film, and nit-picked on nearly every corner of the internet (I’m looking at you, facebook and Twitter); if you wanted to hear an opinion on The Sound of Music live television event, you didn’t have to look far.

Still yet, I remained unfazed in my determination to enjoy this night. I knew going in to this that Carrie Underwood was an unseasoned actress. I knew that this was a live musical, not a movie. I knew there would be possible hiccups, or lighting problems, or sound issues…

in fact, all of those things actually added to my excitement! Would one of the nun’s candles accidentally blow out? Would Carrie stumble? Would her voice break? Would one of the children forget their lines? Would a spotlight fall from the rafters and crash onto the stage?

Truth be told, I knew none of the above had happened or I would have read about it online before the movie had even ended. But still…I couldn’t help but be nervous.

But even greater than my nervousness was admiration.

Admiration for a television network planning something that the entire family could actually sit down and watch together; I have been a mom for 6 1/2 years and this is the first time we were able to sit with our kids in the living room and watch something on primetime television with no fear of profanity, adult humor, violence or lasciviousness.

Admiration for an entire cast and crew who were willing to stick out their necks to try something daring and different, knowing that the critics would be ready to pounce.

And most of all, admiration for an Oklahoma girl who must have bit down thousands and thousands of stomach butterflies, pushing herself in ways she had never done before, to bring the magic of Rodgers and Hammerstein to a new generation of viewers.

As I watched Carrie Underwood perform, I thought of all the little girls across the nation who would be tuning in to see their favorite country singer on air for 3 whole hours. And what brought tears to my eyes was imagining that they arrived to NBC that night for the name of Carrie Underwood…

but left with a beautiful redemptive story in their hearts and a new playlist of songs that will serve them for a lifetime.

Yes, indeed, the tears were flowing over here.

Several times.

And as the touching story of the Von Trapp family played in this new format before my eyes, I wasn’t thinking about Carrie’s acting, or shadows on the set, or who had the best singing voice. I wasn’t thinking about who could have played Maria or any of the other parts better. I wasn’t even thinking about Julie Andrews or the movie that first stole my heart many, many years ago.

I was swept away, thinking of my blessings, living in a land where I don’t have to kowtow to a dictator.

I was thinking of the beauty of music that brings families together.

I was praying that my daughters would have hearts like Maria.

I was thinking about Carrie Underwood’s mama and how proud she must be.

I was thinking about my children, and thanking God that, while it would be a huge deal for all six of us to scrape together enough money to attend a live musical, we had been given the opportunity to watch one of the best for free without ever leaving our home.

And I am convinced that, regardless of how much money they brought in or how good it was for ratings, NBC gave us a gift this first week of December.

Thus, today’s blog post isn’t really about my heartfelt endorsement of The Sound of Music. I don’t need for every person in America to love the same things I love. In fact, one of my favorite things about living here is that we are free to have an opinion and are free to talk about it on the corners of the street if we want to…

but what I do crave in our entertainment-saturated culture is a little more kindness.

A little more gratitude.

A little more wonder…

And I’m not just talking about the professional critics.

I’m talking about all of us, who have been blessed by so much culture and so many different venues of entertainment that we have become underwhelmed and critical about every. single. thing.

With great blessing comes great responsibility, and we would all do well to take a step back, to contemplate what life could be like, to remember what life used to be like, and to reclaim some of the more admirable attitudes that should surround events like this week’s live television event.

Thankfulness that great music and great stories are being passed down to our children.

Camaraderie with our countrymen that encourages one of our own for doing something incredibly brave and applauds them for their extraordinary talent.

Humility that abhors pretention and doesn’t even care if we know everything about everything.

Kindness that, if it cannot say something nice, says nothing.

Wisdom that discerns when opinions are needed and when they are superfluous and indulgent.

Simplicity that gets excited when entertainers put on a show for us to watch.

And awareness that those on the screens we glue our eyes to are real people, with real feelings and with mamas who have internet access.

Again, I don’t really care if you loved The Sound of Music and I don’t need for you to be a fan of Carrie Underwood.

I just want you to be nice.

You know, like Maria.

~

As ever, my first concern is for my readers. All comments will be read by me, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to further debate will be published. Thanks for understanding!

Dear Beautiful

Dear Beautiful, a letter to my daughters about being pretty

To my beloved daughters, aged 4 and 2,

I remember when I was quite young and my Mama would tell me what made a girl pretty…

her smile. She said a happy smile was the prettiest thing in the world.

And she always told me that it was what was on the inside that counted.

“Inner beauty”.

I listened.

I tried to take it in.

But I didn’t really believe her.

Because I had seen what beautiful was…

She-Ra. She had long, blonde, flowing hair and a white mini dress. (and a unicorn with rainbow wings).

Miss America. The ballgowns, the swimsuits, the sparkly crowns, the perfect smiles.

Barbie. Big boobies. Big, big boobies.

Paula Abdul. I don’t know. I just loved her. Did you know she used to be a Laker Girl? I did, because I read her biography. In the 3rd grade.

As a little girl, I looked, wide-eyed, upon the outward features that made something beautiful to me – a certain type of hair, a beguiling turn of the eye, a fancy schmancy body – and I dreamed of attaining that level of pretty.

And the more I admired what was beautiful to me, the more my mom’s definition of “pretty” seem kind of hokey and like something people said to make sure that every girl at least felt pretty, whether she was or not; inner beauty was a good thing, and I wanted it, but it seemed to have little bearing on whether I was perceived as a beautiful person or not. And I wanted to be jaw-droppingly beautiful.

I spent years, even my outwardly-prettiest years, shrugging off her compliments. “You’re my Mom,” I would say, “of course you think my hair looks good like this.”

“You’re my Mom,” I’d laugh, “only you would think this dress looked nice on me.”

“You’re my Mom. You have to say that.”

But, little girl, then I had you.

They placed you on my chest, squalling and crying and covered in birthing stuff, and everything she ever taught me about beauty made perfect sense.

You were alive and breathing and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

And every morning when you walk down the stairs and I see that you are still alive and still breathing…beautiful.

I finally get it now: the prettiest thing about a girl, any girl, is that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. She is alive. She is a person. She has a soul.

Do you understand how fantastic that is? God made you! I know He did, because you weren’t there, and then you were there.

I didn’t make you.

Fate didn’t.

A coincidental twist in an evolutionary cycle didn’t.

God did.

I like to think about Him crafting you, weaving all of your different features together into a unique and breath-taking work of art.

Your hair? It’s so amazing. It was made by God.

For you, Rebekah, He chose golden hair, with a natural side part that suits your face just right. It is straight and silky, with a slight bend at the end; sunlight runs to dance among your strands, crowning you like a glowing halo. God gave you a gift when He crafted your locks.

And Betsie Fair, yours is light brown and wild, a perfect match to your carefree and joyful childhood. When you wake up in the morning, your mane is as big as your eyes, ready to take on the world, ready to catch syrup and dirt, ready to make a most fitting frame to your precious, ornery little face.

Your hair is beautiful.

Your bodies? They were made by God, so different, but equally lovely.

Rebekah, my love, your body is like your spirit: strong, sturdy, and precious to behold. When I hold you in my arms, my heart is full and soothed.

And Betsie, your slinky, skinny body is so fun to watch. You run and hop and leap and dance uninhibited, and I marvel at the way you move, like an instrument that proclaims with every step that God is singing over us.

Your bodies are beautiful.

Your eyes? God made them, giving me windows into your sweet, sweet souls.

Your cornflower blue eyes burn holes into my heart, Rebekah Sunday…

and Betsie, your naïve glances cause me to melt.

Your eyes are beautiful.

Your hands? God made them. They’re beautiful.

Your feet? Your toes?

Made by God.

Beautiful.

Your nose? Your mouth? Your lips? Your teeth?

God, God, God, God.

So beautiful.

And oh, those smiles.

Your Grandmother was right. When you smile and your eyes perk up with twinkles of happiness, you are the essence of beauty. And when you throw back your head and laugh, the trees tip their hats and the mountains bow in reverence to this pinnacle of God’s creation.

Yes. Your smiles are beautiful.

So, please, my darling daughters…

Don’t spend a day feeling miserable and fat.

Don’t look with covetous eyes at the hair that was given to another girl.

Don’t wish for blue eyes when yours are green.

This world is not your mirror, a reflection of what you are lacking or what you should look like.

It is your playground.

Live here, freely, happily, and unhindered by the chains and lies of a worldview that says some people have beauty and some don’t, that some have perfect bodies and some don’t, that some are made for magazines and the big-screen and some are not…

because that’s about the stupidest and most shallow thing a girl can believe.

You were created for richer feasts.

When you gaze at your reflection, do your mama a favor and admire the handiwork of God. And then…

walk away.

Run and play.

Sing.

Laugh.

Dance.

Love.

Tell your friends how beautiful they are.

And, through the grace of the God who made you, work every day to purify your soul and mortify your sin, leaving a beauty inside of you that will dazzle this sad and captive world with the light of Jesus Christ.

They will never know what hit them.

Falling on Grace

The following was written the night before Mr. Gore’s spinal fusion and I’ve just gotten around to finishing it up. Thanks for waiting. Even though you didn’t know you were waiting.

~

Betsie fell down the stairs this morning.

I was walking a few steps behind her, a hamper full of random stuff on my right hip, when I saw her foot slip just past the landing before she tumbled down…

down…

down.

My eyes were fixed on her slender little neck the entire time, willing it to remain untouched, prayers of “Oh, Lord!” and “Oh, God!” bouncing off of my tongue in panicked tones.

Her shoulder.

Her knee.

Her arm.

As she was rolled and tossed about by stair after stair, seemingly every part of her body made contact with the floor, except for her neck.

Finally, she landed with a “splat!” on her belly in the kitchen and I shot down to retrieve her, the hamper that I dropped in my distress tumbling down behind me, leaving a slew of toys and clothes on the stairs as it fell.

She was screaming.

I was sobbing.

And as we sat on the bottom step and rocked back and forth, our tears flowing, my heart racing, I could tangibly feel the grace of God in my arms.

In the body of my little girl who was alive and unbroken.

In her beating heart and her breathing nostrils.

Within minutes, her tears were spent.

But mine were just beginning.

“It’s okay, Mama…” she soothed me with her halting and precious toddler vocabulary. “You need some…toilet…paper?”

I nodded, and away she scampered, soon returning with a tiny piece of tissue that she used to pat my face and neck.

You know you’ve cried a river when your neck is wet.

It was awful, terrible, horrible and every other word in the thesaurus for “really super duper bad”.

But it was also interesting…

once my initial distress had subsided and I could think and say something besides “are you okay?” and “oh, Betsie” and “thank you, God!!”, and once my tears finally stopped flowing and my hands stopped shaking, I felt a surprising amount of gratitude for what I had just gone through.

For one, Mr. Gore’s surgery was tomorrow and I’d been needing to cry about it. Two birds. One horrifying stone.

And secondly, with that pending surgery in mind, my apprehensive heart needed to be reminded of the seen and unseen grace of God that guides our every step.

My husband has led me in this truth for years. A naturally fearful person, my anxiety began to climax when I first became a mom, and I found myself drowning in worst-case-scenarios and constant thoughts of what-could-happen…

Mr. Gore never indulged or babied these thoughts, but faithfully used the Sword of Truth to slice through my sin and lead me to a renewed mind, always pointing out that I was ignoring the million ways that God had taken care of me to focus on one scary situation (at a time) that hadn’t happened to me.

When he put it that way, I slowly began to see my fears for what they were: silly. Senseless. Illogical. Ungrounded. Totally unnecessary.

But even though I’ve grown, I still struggle sometimes.

Especially the day before my husband will be heavily sedated and having his spine tinkered with.

And for all these reasons, although it scared the living daylights out of  me, seeing Betsie tumble down the stairs and walk away unscathed made me feel loads better about…well, everything.

It brought to mind all the times we’ve gone up and down the stairs and haven’t fallen. All the drives we’ve taken without crashing. All the sicknesses we’ve endured for a day or two before getting completely better. All the food we’ve eaten without choking…

all the millions of seconds and the countless moments where grace has sustained us and kept us safe and kept us from stumbling and kept us from sin and we never even had a clue.

I’m not promised health and life on any given day this side of heaven, and no amount of positive thinking can buy me that sort of security; but whether we live or die, are sick or healthy, are rich or poor, the grace of God is as sure on surgery day as it is on going up-and-down-the-stairs day. And whether Mr. Gore is working in the garden or going under the knife, his story is written and his life is firmly held in the hand of a most-wonderful Creator.

These are hard truths to comprehend, but they are comforting.

Rebekah asked me one day if I loved God more than I loved her…

I was about to pop out a textbook “of course I do!” but the words lodged themselves in the middle of my throat; I know my heart, and on my worst day, in the words of John Calvin, I am “an idol-making factory”, doting more on things seen than unseen. I might be redeemed, and I might even be devout, but my penchant for blindness and stupidity knows no bounds.

But the reason her question really stumped me was because, even on my best day, my love for God feels so different than my love for my family…

the two are all bound up together in a thick cord of awe and affection and gratitude, and if I am being very honest, it is hard to separate and categorize them sometimes.

Thus, my answer to what I wish was a simple question went something like this: “When I say ‘I love God’ it doesn’t feel like the same love I have for you, Rebekah. My love for you is different. But one thing I am really sure of…my love for you leads me to God. I can’t look at you and love you without thinking about God and loving Him more…”

I love my husband. I love my kids. They are walking reminders to me of the greatness of God, who can so intricately design specific personalities for specific purposes at very specific times; I am continually astounded and filled with wonder by the scope of His craftsmanship and I have a houseful of His handiwork to study. To me, their very presence shouts of “God!” It is like living among the stars…

But that love runs so deeply and throbs so intensely, and if I don’t guard myself, my worship can turn towards the created over the Creator. And questions plague me.

Would I still love God if Betsie had broken her neck today?

Would I still love Him if Mr. Gore doesn’t wake up from his surgery tomorrow? If he wakes up paralyzed?

Would I still be faithful if one of my worst-case-scenarios comes true?…

Oh, how I tremble in the wake of these accusatory questions, and there is only one thing that causes the trembling to stop.

Grace.

The grace that tumbled down the stairs alongside my baby girl this morning.

The grace that will be with us tomorrow as Mr. Gore is wheeled into a surgery room.

The grace that has kept, is keeping, and WILL keep my feet from walking away from the faith, come what may.

The grace that has been there, since day one, before I even knew it existed.

While I Sit in Bed With Hurting Skin

There is always a silver lining…

when I finally stopped to contemplate a nagging source of discomfort this morning and found that I felt positively achy all over and had come down with some sort of sickness, I thought I was in for an awful, horrible day.

Not so much. I took a much-needed nap and now, while I sit here in bed and try not to think about how bad my skin hurts (you know what I mean? When your skin hurts and even your clothes feel bothersome?), I have the time and freedom to try to gather some of the whirling and swirling thoughts that I’ve been longing to capture for the past couple of weeks.

As I shared on my facebook page the other day…

SO much to say. Too tired to say it.

Right now, though? Not too tired. The only loser in this situation is you, dear reader, who will have to try to keep up with the following stream-of-consciousness that is far too random and varied to gather up neatly into anything very intelligible.

1. I love Baby Shepherd (whom we have dubbed “Little Shep” for reasons I will explain someday). It sounds utterly ridiculous to the ear, but the more kids you have, the easier this all gets. I have never been more laidback with an infant in the house, which means that I have never enjoyed a first month like this. There are three reasons for this phenomenon: 1. I finally grasp the notion that “this too shall pass” and know from experience that these sleepless nights and sleepy days will be over in a jiffy, which, roughly translated, means that I am not FREAKING OUT like I normally am when my sleep receives any kind of interference. 2. I have a TON of help (more on that later), and 3. I’m even deader than I was when I wrote about being “pecked to death“, and have truly become a bit of a hippy. The sound of a baby crying used to send me spiraling into panic mode. Today, I finish my cup of coffee and say “quit yer yappin’ you cute little booger!”

2. I know how everyone loves to hear from new moms who fit into their old pants right after having a baby. So I am very excited to announce to you all that only one month after giving birth to my fourth child, I am ROCKIN’ my pre-pregnancy pants. Everything but my belly and my lovehandles and my muffin top fit into them. Oh…and they’re not really “jeans” so much as they are cropped sweatpants with an elastic waistband.

And they are so, so, so uncomfortable. I shall chuck them tomorrow and reintroduce my beloved maternity leggings. I can still wear those because I’m a hippy now. Aaand because I still look pregnant.

3. I mentioned this on facebook the other day, but I need to expound. If you ever need to know what to get for a big family who just brought home another munchkin, take a cue from my friend, Chrissy, and all the ladies at our church, who brought us food for the entire MONTH of September. The day we brought home Little Shep, Chrissy and her husband, Zac, brought us soup, homemade Irish soda bread (Lord, have mercy) and my favorite brownies, along with a calendar showing me what nights to expect meals. She and the ladies at church had been communicating via facebook what they would be cooking so we would have a varied menu, and with about 3 huge meals per week from them, we were easily able to cover the other nights with leftovers. HEAVENLY doesn’t even begin to describe that gift, and I will never forget it! p.s. Consequently, October 1st was the worst day of my life, a new page on the calendar with no meal plan already written on it. Wahhhh!

4. My husband is having a pretty major back surgery next Wednesday. Which means that I will be completely in charge of this joint and will be taking out the trash for the next 6 months. Thankfully, I am still high on labor fumes and feel like a cross between a pioneer woman and a soldier, and so I am READY. Let’s do this thingy.

5. Speaking of being high on labor fumes, there is something brewing in the heart of me that I have had trouble articulating. Not being pregnant anymore + this upcoming surgery that has me feeling very sentimental + the work of the Spirit + my new and improved hippy soul + the truth of the Word = a speechless and “incandescently happy” Mrs. Gore. I am seeing life with fresh eyes and new joy which means that my prayers have even been speechless. Seriously. I was so full of joy the other night that I asked my husband if we could pray, but when it came time to put words to my heart, I couldn’t. Instead I just used my CareBear stare to send a beam of happiness and love to my Creator. He is so good. Life is so beautiful!!! And not for any of the reasons we expect it to be. It is beautiful because He is beautiful. And that’s enough to cover over all the ugliness this world has to offer.

6. Speaking of beautiful, I splurged on the most awesome carpet bag from Anthropologie, telling myself that I could use it as a “diaper bag”, but the longer I had it hanging on the doorknob, the more glaringly obvious it became that my “bag” was a pretty giant piece of luggage. Even Mary Kate and Ashley couldn’t have pulled this bag off as a purse. It was basically a suitcase with handles. And so I returned it. Sniffle, sniffle. Did I just say that life is beautiful? Because life is the worst.

7. I just repositioned myself on the bed and my skin definitely still hurts. Which means I can keep writing.

8. Get this. You would think that starting a new year of homeschool 5 days after giving birth would be a case of ill-timed horror, but it has been exactly the opposite, simply because I was forced to rearrange any bad, third-trimester habits, and fast! As a result, unless I am feeding the baby, I don’t spend any time of the computer until well after lunch. The same goes for the kids’ television viewing, if they have any at all. And oh, friends. This has been revolutionary, and I have discovered that drinking my coffee while water-coloring with my kids is a million times more fun and satisfactory than drinking my coffee with facebook. We’re having a ball.

9. Remember up there where I said I would expound on all the help I have? Part of the reason I sound like a chipper Pollyanna today is because I have not had to walk this path alone. My Mom has come to my house almost every morning since before my due date and we have tag-teamed this entire operation. The two of us zip all over this house, tidying up, reading books aloudto the kids, doing laundry, soothing criers, fixing meals, teaching devotionals and phonics, and yes, drinking coffee on the front porch. I make lists and she picks up and delivers my groceries for me. All that to say, without her, I would be a haggard mess of a woman, and I thank God for His provision. The same goes for my husband, who often takes the big kids to work with him in the afternoons so I can rest or write or clean, who puts the upstairs kids to bed at night and who chips in with housework, even though he is down in the back. And the best part of all of this? Between the three of us hardworking adults, the house is still a wreck and nothing is ever completely done; I will remember this in the future when I’m frustrated that I alone can’t get everything done! ‘Tis impossible, truly.

10. And one last thing, before this becomes a 1500-worder. I was home alone with my girls the other night, and we fixed each other’s hair and played with lipgloss. And then I died from sheer bliss. Call me crazy, but I could stand to have another daughter or two.

And that about sums up September…

did I mention that my skin hurts?

What A Day That Will Be

As my 2-year old Betsie would say, “Oh derr…”

Things are about to get all sentimental up in here.

The baby has left my tummy, and though it might make me sound a bit dramatic, I am already reconnecting to the old Mrs. Gore…

the one who really likes people and loves life and enjoys playing with my children and also the one who cries at beautiful things.

Not to be confused with Small Elephant who just cries at…things.

Like, seriously. Inanimate objects. Scents. Plants. Anything.

And my heart is light with relief, and delightfully heavy with an awareness of what I’ve been given, not just for this vapor of a life, but for eternity. Because He is good, I am so sure that God will save my children, and though my prayers for them are desperate, they are also confident. I think I will be with them forever, in the Eden we could have/should have/would have lived in were our hearts not so wicked and prone to wander…

and I rejoice in this knowledge.

But I live in a pilgrim’s body, with a pilgrim’s heart and a pilgrim’s understanding, and the dying part of me acutely feels the passing of each day we have on this earth together…

Even though I hope and believe in eternity, I long for it as if it doesn’t exist. And when I hold my newborn baby boy, a part of me praises God for the forever Kingdom we will be a part of, while another part of me mourns for this transient and blink-of-an-eye life that I can so tangibly feel in my arms and see with my eyes.

It passes so quickly, and the joys and beautiful moments and triumphs from which I would drink so deeply slip by as I scramble, wide-eyed, trying to hold on, trying to remember, trying to cling to the shadow rather than to the hope, and I am reminded over and over again that I am far too sinful and far too stupid to properly understand this great, big, mysterious, overwhelming life.

Holding Baby Shepherd…

it’s like holding Baby Gideon all over again.

6 and 1/2 years since the day my eldest and I were born into a mother/son relationship, 6 1/2 years since my soul was awakened to the nurturing fire of motherhood, 6 1/2 years since my feet were set on a path to dying more and loving more and feeling more and wanting less…

and as I breathe deeply of the sweetly indescribable scent of new life and baby lotion and as I feel once more that velvety soft baby skin underneath my chin, those 6 1/2 years of memories dance wildly about in my mind, causing me to cry, causing me to laugh, causing me to pray.

There are no words, really. Just silent meditations. Wordless pleas. Whispers of thanks. And maternal cries for help to survive the heartbreak of seeing them grow.

Gideon…

Rebekah…

Betsie…

and now Shepherd.

I would hold each of you just as you are for an eternity.

I would go back to any day in our history and stay there forever.

I would journey with you to our future and never leave your side.

And so I entrust us all to God, for safekeeping, knowing that one day our faith really will be made sight. The pilgrim will be gone. The citizen will be born. The mysteries will be revealed.

And we will rest in the place that our hearts have longed for since the day we first met.

“What a day, glorious day that will be…”