Mrs. Gore’s Hearty and Unsolicited Endorsement of “Moms’ Night Out”

You guys know that I have hermit tendencies.

If it weren’t for a few good people in my life, I would be tempted to hole up and become buried under the rubble of puzzle pieces and mismatched socks and stray Cheerio’s that is my house.

One of those good people is my friend, Chrissy.

Since moving to our town, she has made a faithful effort to plan a ladies’ night once a month where a group of us meet up to do something…anything…different than the stuff we do the other 29 days of the month (i.e. putting the puzzles back together, matching the socks and sweeping up those Cheerio’s).

One time we went out to eat and gab and cackle like hens.

One night we met at my Mom’s house to play board games (and eat and gab and cackle like hens).

Last night, we decided to go see a movie…

and eat and gab…

And OH, did we ever cackle like hens!

The movie?

“Moms’ Night Out”.

Since I live in a black hole, I had heard only a few things about it. Someone shared the trailer on facebook, but I never got around to watching it. I heard rumors that it was shown at a ladies’ retreat at Falls Creek which really intrigued me. My mom heard someone talking about it on the radio…

but the only thing I really knew about the movie going in to it was that it was apparently clean and that it was resonating with women.

And what I was completely unaware of when I took my seat in the theatre, flanked by my friends, a small cup of Dr. Pepper to my right, a pile of buttery popcorn in my lap, is that I was about to be taken on a two hour journey cataloguing MY LIFE.

You guys, it was like watching my every day activities, my secret frustrations, my rarely-expressed fears and the chaos and hilarity of raising my little children play out on a giant screen in front of my face.

The main character was even a homeschooling mommy blogger! You can’t get much more relatable than that.

And sure, the story took twists and turns that my life probably (and hopefully) never will, but throughout the entire story was a thread of spot-on humor, a glorification of motherhood, and a wellspring of encouragement for the tired mommy heart.

I don’t want to give too much away, but by the time the movie was over, my life seemed so normal. So sweet. And most importantly…

so important.

And silly things that at one time tempted me to lose my cool were all of a sudden typical and funny, even…

the day Betsie left hot pink nail polish footprints in the living room…

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the day that I sold my soul for a sandwich (read the AWFUL story behind this picture here)…

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the list of things I “signed up for” (read the life-changing blog post here)…

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all of it.

Even this.

(God help me).

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I came home renewed, refreshed, and eager to embrace this season of my life with a healthy and biblical and light-hearted perspective.

And as I sit here on my stairs with my laptop, a naked toddler next to me begging for nail polish, a baby asleep in the next room, and two always-hungry kids in the kitchen, I’m seeing it all with fresh eyes.

This mess is beautiful, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be.

And so it is official: “ladies’ night out” watching “Moms’ Night Out” was a night well spent.

Go watch it!

And be sure to eat, gab and cackle like a hen while you’re at it.

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. :)

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

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

I am not an earth-shaker.

I’m not a politician.

I’m not very opinionated.

I’m certainly not argumentative.

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

But today…

I can’t stop thinking about you.

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

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

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

Were you hurt?

Were you taken advantage of?

Were you simply not planning this?

Are you just not ready?

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

But there is one thing I do know.

Abortion is a lie.

It is a quick fix that tells you “we can just pretend like this never happened”, all while preying on the most innocent and voiceless victims on the planet.

We can’t hear their cries.

We can’t read their thoughts.

We can’t see their pain.

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

What blindness! We, who take so much pride in championing tolerance and in protecting freedom…

we throw our inconvenient children away.

And I just wonder if the people who would encourage you to discreetly dispose of your baby will be there for you during those moments days, months, years later when your heart is crying out for the flesh and blood that once resided within you?

Will the ones who proclaim and pamper your rights have anything to offer you after the job is done other than a pamphlet and a receipt?

Will the abortion clinic send someone to counsel you if you live to regret your decision?

Do they really care about you?

It sure doesn’t seem like it from my perch.

Their world looks awfully cold to me.

Lifeless.

Terrifying.

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

But here’s what it comes down to for me, today…

This was my first baby, Gideon, when he was hidden away inside of me…

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This is Gideon today.

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

This was Rebekah…

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This is Rebekah today.

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

This was Betsie…

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This is Betsie today.

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

This was Shepherd…

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This is Shepherd today.

Six months old! (and way too big for his bassinet…)

He is 8 months old, and is the softest and sweetest baby I’ve ever held. And when he looks at me, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more loved in my entire life.

Each one was just a fuzzy picture on a sonogram machine…

a “fetus”.

They were hidden in my stomach.

They were nameless and faceless.

They felt like a cramp.

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

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I know you’re scared…

I was scared, too.

I know you don’t feel ready…

I honestly wasn’t ready, either.

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

I was terrified to “lose myself”.

And you might simply be ambivalent.

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

A baby that deserves to live.

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

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

Until then, you are the only one who can protect your child.

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

You’re a mama now.

Choose life.

~

Because this is such a controversial subject, all comments will be closed. You can leave a comment, but I’ll be the only one to read it.

If this blog post angers you or gets you all fired up about politics or causes you to think I’m an idiot, I invite you to mull that over on your own and discuss it with your friends. Please don’t waste your time with silly ol’ Mrs. Gore.

But, please, if you are pregnant and need help or direction to a crisis pregnancy center or a church in your area, message me at my Facebook page and we’ll do whatever we can to help you. You are not alone, and that’s a promise.

 

Annette.

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A dear friend left us on Saturday.

She smiled serenely at her husband when he told her “Good morning, sweetheart”, and the next time he came into the room, she was gone.

Here one moment.

With the Lord the next.

And while I am truly happy that she has left behind the body that has suffered through rheumatoid arthritis for years, my heart is crying out for her to come back.

Just one more conversation.

Just one more time to clasp her hands in friendship.

Just one more time to watch her interact with her husband, the love of her life.

Just one more chance to convey my appreciation for everything she taught me…

You would have loved Annette.

I can say that with certainty because everyone loved Annette.

It was impossible not to.

She was a tiny little spitfire of a woman, the epitome of a Southern belle, and anytime I had the pleasure of sitting beside her in conversation, I marveled at her ability to navigate truth, humor, and grace as she included and entertained everyone, somehow commanding the room and offering hospitality even when she was too frail to rise up from her chair.

She was like a queen, transforming by her presence a simple room in a senior living center into a palace, her nondescript chair into a throne.

And her husband was her king.

A true gentleman, Mr. J.L’s voice is kindness itself, full of rich tones that cover you with comfort and love when he speaks…

and, oh my. Together, he and Ms. Annette painted a breathtaking picture of Christ and His church, and it was a gift to learn from them as they effortlessly loved one another with every word they spoke and every glance they shared. Their home, free of malice and negativity, was an oasis, and you would be hard-pressed to leave their presence with a frown on your face.

When it comes to Ms. Annette, I don’t even know where to start…

I loved so many things about her. She was as sharp as a tack, and could hang with the best of wits and the cleverest of tongues; it is not everyday that my husband finds a worthy verbal opponent, and Ms. Annette always managed to drop the last joke. How I loved to observe their discourse, a veritable tennis match between two comedians, and my only job was to laugh and enjoy.

I’ll never forget the “bazinga” she dropped on me when I was pregnant with Rebekah. My church had been praying for me concerning some strange heart palpitations I was experiencing; after weeks of panic and worry wherein I mourned the fact that some other woman (the hussy Mr. Gore was sure to replace me with once I was dead) would be planning Gideon’s birthday parties, it was finally discovered that I was simply experiencing acid reflux, and, as we left the clinic that day, my beloved doctor prayed with us that “we would learn to trust you, God, even when we’re being a little bit crazy”.

Well, when Ms. Annette called my mom to check on me and heard the report that I had been diagnosed with acid reflux and a little bit of craziness, she clucked her tongue and said, “Well, you tell her she should get a second opinion!…”

After a pregnant pause, she dropped the punchline: “He’s right. She IS crazy”.

Ms. Annette was not only hilarious, she was beautiful. I still can’t quite believe that Hollywood never discovered her, but their loss was completely our gain. Whether she was in a wheelchair or a sickbed or sitting on her throne in the living room, she carried herself with dignity and poise.

Oh and…jewelry. Lots and lots of jewelry. Rings on her fingers, bracelets on her wrist, earbobs in her ears, dainty shoes on her tiny, little feet…

she fairly sparkled with gems and she sparkled with life, even as hers was coming to an end.

But it was her soul that shone the brightest.

We hit it off, the two of us, from the very first time we met. She watched me grow up, she saw me get married, and she held my babies. And through it all, she loved me.

Her love was pure.

Her love was faithful.

And in a church age where friends so easily come and go, that is no small contribution. It is a remarkable thing to have someone in your corner for life. Someone who checks on you. Who thinks about you. Who prays for you.

And even though Ms. Annette was too sick to attend our church for the past four years, she was for us.

I doubt that she ever realized how much that meant to two young kids just starting out in the ministry.

And so, as I thought about her life today, I mourned…

for the loss of another friend…

for her husband who had to go to bed without her Saturday night for the first time in 72 years…

for her daughter and best friend, Mary, who loved her as much as I love my own mom…

and for this broken and fallen world where death is a grave reality.

But in the midst of my mourning, I felt something else, something new, a reaction that I have always longed for but never mastered.

I rejoiced.

Death has taunted me my entire life, stealing joy from even the most beautiful moments; it has rarely visited my loved ones, but the fear of it has been a nearly constant companion, an enemy that never tires. It rains on my parades. It poops on my parties. It grips me. It mocks me.

And, in my childlike mentality, I’ve always considered it to be the worst thing that could happen, ever, to anyone.

And that it happens to everyone has been, until this point, inconceivable.

But in one last act of friendship on this earth, Ms. Annette, with her beautiful life and her peaceful passing, has given me a gift; for in her death, for the first time in my life, I am finding a hope that overshadows even my deepest fears. I’m starting to see it now…

this life really is just a vapor and a shadow.

It is a blink.

And in that discovery, I see a choice: I don’t have to be frustrated that my visits with Ms. Annette during her sickest days and my child-rearing days were too infrequent.

I don’t have to wish to see her just “one more time”.

I don’t have to mourn like all is lost for Mr. J.L. or Ms. Mary.

Because the beautiful, life-altering, Bible-based truth is this…

I will see her again.

I will clasp her hand.

I will chat with her.

I will see her smile serenely at the husband who loves her, their bodies free from the curse, their future eternal and perfect.

I will thank her.

And thank her.

And thank her.

This isn’t the life we were made for, but rather, the shortest prologue to our real story, and the friendship that I weep for today has really only barely begun.

What comfort! What joy!

What hope.

Ms. Annette and I always expressed our desire to live next door to one another in heaven…

and now that she has gone there before me, the thought grows fonder and dearer.

We meet to part…

we part to meet.

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Mrs. Gore Likes: Hearthsong’s Deluxe Platform Swing

This past weekend, we arrived at my parents house to find a surprise hanging from the trees.

Last year, my Mom had experienced one of these swings at my Aunt Susan’s house, and she just couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was and how amazing it was and how badly she wanted to find a couple…

so we sat down one afternoon last month and finally purchased them.

And now I finally get her enthusiasm.

Without further wordage, I present to you the Platform Swing from Hearthsong, the FUNNEST SWING I have ever…swung…swang?…swing-ded?…from.

For reals.

p.s. the following photographs are candid and genuine and were not taken for this blog post; rather, they inspired this blog post! Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Amy, for capturing the fun!

~

When you first load up, you have no idea how great it is…

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and then you find yourself screaming your face off in delight!!

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You can swing with your friends…

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or quite alone (and go REALLY high!)…

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you can swing if you’re young…

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you can swing if you’re old(er)…

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and, if you’re anything like us, you can swing all. day. long.

At some points, the kids were swinging high and laughing shrilly, and at others, they were lounging hammock-like, just staring at the trees.

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But just between you and me, I’m convinced no one loved the swings more than I did…

When I backed into one and laid down, I was expecting it to be fun, but I had no idea how awesome it would be. One of my quirks is that I react really loudly on amusement park rides and during those interactive 3-D rides; thus, when my Daddy pulled me back in this swing and let go, the following words came bellowing out of my mouth: “OH MY GOSH, I’M FLYING!! I’M FLYYYYYIIIIIIIINNNNGGGG!! I FEEL LIKE A GIANT BABY! I’M LIKE A GIANT BABY IN A CRADLE! THIS IS SO MUCH FUN! I LOOOOOOOVE IT!!! I COULD DO THIS ALL DAYYYY!!!!!”

Glad no one was around with a video camera.

And I can’t WAIT until I can cozy up on one of these with a good book and a long afternoon of nothin’. I’m convinced such a day is in my future!

Anyhow, by the end of our second day with the swings, my mom and I agreed that this must be the closest thing to flying that a kid (or an easily impressed adult) can ever feel.

They aren’t cheap, but if your summer budget allows, hurry! Buy one! And if it doesn’t, start saving up. You won’t be sorry!

Find yours by clicking on the picture below:


~

A few more things: Do your research before hanging. You need a very sturdy tree with big, sturdy limbs, or something very secure to hang it from, and hardware to hang it with. Also of note: We’ve only had ours for a weekend. I cannot attest to how long they will last, or how many injuries might come from them or how soon we’re going to stretch them out with our (my) postpartum girth. I’ll let you know…

~

About “Mrs. Gore Likes”: This blog is not a money-making endeavor, but since I enjoy sharing resources, I signed up to be an Amazon Associate, wherein I have the ability to share products and books and receive a small commission from anyone who shops at Amazon through my links (even if they don’t buy the actual product I shared). This outlet hasn’t allowed me to hire a cleaning lady or anything, but it has been fun to contribute to the family budget, even if it is only $10 a month. (The first month I made a whopping $3.47!!)

That said, I NEVER share anything that I don’t actually have in my home. And then I NEVER share anything that I don’t truly love and use. It is a matter of personal honor that I don’t dangle things in front of your eyes that will entice you to spend your hard-earned money; I want my blog to be a place where you come for rest and humor, not to find more stuff that you don’t really need.

But occasionally, I am so enthusiastic about a product that I feel it would be worth sharing. You’ll see those products and books show up in my Facebook news feed.

And then, even less occasionally, I come across something that just blows me away and I am so geeked out about it that I have to write a 600-word glowing review and share photographs of us enjoying it, whether it is from Amazon or not.

Enter “Mrs. Gore Likes”.

And if you hung in with me through that laborious explanation, Amazon should give YOU a commission!

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!

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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!