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.

~

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?

My Sweet Home – Christmas 2014

Before 2015 arrives and the Christmas decorations go back to the attic for another year, I tidied up my house and took some photos of what our home has looked and felt like for the past month.

This year was our best Christmas yet, and the peace that permeated my soul this season seemed to spill over and encompass our home in a cozy and life-giving atmosphere.

It wasn’t always perfect, no, not a bit. There were boots and scarves and mittens scattered to high heaven. There were baking days where the kitchen was unrecognizable. There was the aftermath of Christmas morning…

but in between the Christmas merriment, our little home seemed to glow with a sweet holiday ambiance that just pleased and ministered to me so deeply, enough to inspire me to work hard all year long to present my family with such a back-drop, one that puts the soul at rest…

one that shelters and encourages…

one that embodies all of the meaning and emotion behind the word “home”…

Merry Christmas, from Mrs. Gore’s House!

 

 

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Christmas on Grandmother’s Porch

Special thanks to Benjamin Grey Photography for capturing this day for us!

~

Last year, as our Victorian Christmas photo shoot came to a close, I had this fleeting vision of our family tossing on some cozy and festive winter clothes and dragging a Christmas tree on a sled to the open-air pavilion next to the creek on my parent’s property where we would decorate it with strands of popcorn and cranberries, followed by a hot chocolate party next to the fire.

I already knew what coat I would wear and everything, and from that day on, I’ve been gunning for this year’s photo shoot.

(we won’t pause here to discuss that I have serious problems).

Thankfully for my entire family, there are 365 days in a year, and I had ample time to tone things down a notch so that, by the time our annual Christmas picture day arrived last week, I had settled on simply purchasing a small tree for my parent’s front porch and taking some fun pictures there, right next to the heated house. We could still have popcorn and cranberries and hot chocolate, but it would be the easier, quicker, less-involved and long-walky version.

And WOWZERS, did this turn out to be enjoyable!

If I’m being truthful, picture day used to throw me into hysterics, and it thrills me to the core to be able to measure God’s continued work in my heart by how much more relaxed and laid-back I am about this entire unnecessary-but-super-fun tradition. I had FUN this year. Lots and lots of fun. Even the day before when I was packing up half of my house, ironing tiny dresses and bathing kids on non-bath day!

Mostly because it was just a good time to think about my family, to enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the Christmas season and to meditate on all we would be celebrating together in the week to come.

The details of this “photo shoot” were pretty simple to throw together. Candy canes. Plaid. A simple tree with white lights. Leather shoes. Chocolate. Popcorn. Enamelware. Galvanized metal. Cranberries. Flannel.

You know…Christmas stuff!

And, even better, COUNTRY Christmas stuff!

And I’m so happy today, not only to have pictures of my little family at the ages of 33, 33, 7, 5, 3 and 1, but to have us all sitting on the porch where I grew up, attached to the house that contains my history. This is heart stuff, right here, and you guys know how much I love heart stuff.

Soooo…

ready to see the pictures?

Me too! I just wish I would shush already and show them to you!

But I’m feeling very talkative!

Because I love Christmas!!

Okay, seriously. Here are the pictures.

Up first…candy canes! I like candy canes. Always have. Teeth permitting, always will.

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 followed by a medley of marshmallows of traditional white, pink peppermint, and star-shaped-beauties from Williams Sonoma that cost roughly a thousand dollars.

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 First up, we took some group photos out in the pasture.

Can I tell you something? I think I look sassy in this picture, which is funny because I’m not a very sassy person. 

Who knows? Maybe I’m growing sassier in my old age.

I’ll keep you informed.

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 Little Shep, looking all grown up and slightly perplexed. He doesn’t know why his mommy is being sassy. He misses his old, non-sassy, obliging mommy.

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Gideon, shivering from the cold under the wing of his mother who drug him out in it, in the first place. He’s very loyal.

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And Poor Betsie. Those are goosies on her arm. But I couldn’t bear to put a shirt under that glorious puffed sleeve. I made it up to her later with cookies, fruit snacks and tickle fights.

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So, speaking of Betsie, we quickly moved out of the pasture and onto the porch, and here she is, doing a curtsy, in the to-DIE-for vintage baby dress I bought at Vintage Market Days in Tulsa.

Yes, I bought it in October with this photo shoot in mind, and yes, it was the last piece in my photo shoot wardrobe puzzle. Everything else had already been procured.

No, we’re STILL not going to pause to discuss my problem. Leave me alone, okay?

(Gasp! I AM getting sassy!)

p.s. Betsie makes me laugh.

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During this portion of the shoot, we took turns warming up in the house…

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Except for hot-natured Rebekah who had no problem on this outdoor picture day. I’m just really glad she kept her shoes on.

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And here is our crew of littles, the foursome that I get to do life with. I love them to pieces. Seriously. It’s popular these days to say that you should be your kid’s parent and not their friend, but when I’m not busy parenting them and teaching them to be civilized, these are my PEEPS, yo.

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During a brief intermission, Sheppy found some dirt to play in. Typical.

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I’m learning that it is a good idea to keep things hoppin’ when you are photographing littles. For our first porch activity, we strang… strung?…stringeded?…stringalingadingdonged?…some popcorn.

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Then we strang…strung…oh, forget it!…we did the same thing with some cranberries that we did with the popcorn.

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And then while Grandmother heated up some hot chocolate, we just hung out on the porch for a bit.

Sisters…sisters…there were never such (sort of) devoted sisters (they’re getting there, okay??).

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And, oh dear. I honestly, sincerely, really, truly, seriously CANNOT believe how old this child is. Months away from 8, and taller every day, it seems. Stop it, Gideon! Just stop it.

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I’m glad some of us are still 5. I can handle 5.

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3 is even better, especially when they get a boo-boo and need someone to hold them.

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and 1? 1 is PERFECT.

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Moving on.

Next we hung candy canes and our star ornaments on the tree. 

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and to wrap things up, we had hot chocolate and cookies and marshmallows for a treat.

At 9:30 in the morning.

The recipe for these pretty – and quite yummy! – cookies below can be found in Pioneer Woman’s new holiday cookbook. I love her. But you knew that already.

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And now comes my favorite picture of the entire shoot, THE picture of the century, really, wherein our friend, Ben, was able to capture the essence of my happy, hospitable, loving, generous, lovely, servant-hearted mama.

I will treasure this picture for the rest of my life.

She didn’t know she’d be having her picture made on this day OR in this moment. This is just who she is, what she always looks like, and what she always seems to be doing, delivering food or drinks to her family.

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I like it in black and white, too…

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But I REALLY like it in color.

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Finally! Hot chocolate time!

Now, I find the next picture humorous, for several reasons:

1. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us.

2. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits.

3. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits and drink hot chocolate.

4. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits and drink hot chocolate with a tray of holiday-themed Christmas cookies and treats nearby.

5. My husband and I, not surprisingly, do not look natural in this picture.

6. He looks pained.

7. I do not look sassy, but severe and cold-hearted.

8. But I’m sharing it anyway, because, honestly, my coat is FABULOUS here. We’ve been together for three years now and it still feels right, you know?…

(me and the coat, I mean, not me and Mr. Gore. We’ve been together for fifteen years. And it still feels right, too. Except for when we are having hot chocolate on the porch).

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and you’ll be happy to know that, after this, we just enjoyed our hot chocolate, standing, walking, or however we normally consume our hot beverages on a cold day.

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I hope that your Christmas, too, was full of family, joy, pretty Christmas colors, and maybe a couple of expensive star-shaped marshmallows from Williams Sonoma.

Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Gore family!

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~

Thanks for stopping by! To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family and hear funny snippets from our days at home, find us on Facebook!

The Best Thing I Have Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever Done with my Kids. Ever.

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Four children have graciously been entrusted to our care thus far, and my husband and I have nearly reached our 8th year of parenthood.

These years have been as full as our hands.

We’ve had themed birthday parties. We’ve started a homeschool. We hold to all the great holiday rituals. There have been “Daddy-Daughter dates” and “Father-and-Son outings” and shopping days for just the girls. There have been “Life Day” celebrations and Field Days and theatrical plays and countless moments of family togetherness.

But nothing we have done or hosted or accomplished or planned in our time as a mother and father has compared to what God has wrought in our midst in the last month.

It began as a stirring, a spontaneous tug, during a typical read-aloud session at school. The book was “Sarah Whitcher’s Story”, and as I read aloud to my two eldest children, my heart experienced a quick pang of yearning when the story highlighted the Whitcher family’s nightly ritual of reading the Bible together.

The children in this story were practically babies, just like ours, and the scene brought to mind all the stories I’ve read over the years of pioneers and Pilgrims, stories of families who had so much less than we do but who treasured the Word of God as their life and breath.

These forefathers and mothers had no picture Bibles. No daily devotional books. No storybook collections of biblical heroes.

Just the Bible.

The thought flitted across my mind as quickly as the turn of a page. “I want this…I NEED this…”

But before I knew it, the plot of the story thickened and I was following Sarah Whitcher through the woods on a big adventure, her family ritual forgotten, and along with it, my desire to follow suit.

And so how could I know possibly know that, later that evening, in an act of true love and kindness, God was going to bring my yearning to fulfillment and bring to pass a MOST surprising turn of events?

After tucking the children into their beds that night, I spontaneously plopped down nearby in my Granny’s old mauve upholstered rocker and opened up my son’s Bible to the first chapter of John.

It was as Spirit-led a moment as I’ve ever experienced, so sacred and poignant and perfectly-timed that it took my breath away, on the spot!

How well I remember the nights in years past when we attempted to have “family worship” in that very same nursery, children rolling all over the place, interruptions galore, tears and fighting and eyes that were glazed over in ambivalence. My husband and I would leave the upstairs nursery after “family worship” and I would feel more frazzled and frustrated than I had been during the children’s bathtime, which is saying quite a lot.

But this night was so very different.

The room was still. Calm. Beautiful. And by the light of the lamp on the corner dresser, I began to read.

The words of John’s witness rolled off of my tongue and landed straight upon my heart where unceasing prayers sprang up for our household. And the children listened, spellbound.

I finished the first chapter and moved to shut the Book, but to my great surprise, they asked for more.

I finished the second chapter and they asked for more. 

I finished the third chapter and they asked for still more.Occasionally, there would be an interruption so a question could be asked. Or one of the children would exclaim, “Hey! I know this story! We read this in our class!!”

By the end of the fourth chapter, two of the three children had fallen fast asleep. I shut the Bible and, after kissing the sleepy straggler goodnight, I tiptoed downstairs with my heart absolutely full of worshipful contentment, amazed beyond belief at what had just taken place on the second floor of our home.

The next night was very much the same.

Teeth brushed, final bathroom runs complete, pajamas on, the eldest children crawled into their beds, I turned on the lamp and, with my 3-year old nestled in my lap, I began to read, picking up from where we had left off the night before.

Once again, they were eager to listen, asking questions, making comments and proving without question that their hearts were ripe for this harvest.

The words of Life, coupled with the intoxicating ambiance of a nursery turned down for bedtime, seemed to calm them and feed them, simultaneously, and it is with this beyond-simple ritual that we now consistently end our day. My youngest daughter falls asleep in my lap, without fail, and most usually her big brother and sister eventually join her in slumber, dictating where we will end that night’s reading. Sometimes we cover four chapters, sometimes we read one, but every night of our Bible reading has been undeniably rich with meaning and satisfaction and familial affection.

And best of all, perhaps, is the nourishment that I, their mother, have received from this practice.

It is no secret to those who know me well that a “daily quiet time” of reading the Word has long evaded my grasp. To my great shame and distress, I have tried and failed for a good twenty years to sit down with my Bible on a faithfully consistent basis to draw strength and wisdom from its depths.

I have cried about this failure, I have heaped guilt upon my head because of this failure, and I have prayed about this failure, begging God to give me a love for His word that I would find irresistible.

And, oh my.

I never dreamed that He would choose to answer these prayers for help in such a perfect way, surrounded by my favorite little children aged 7 and under. As I read to my babies, the Spirit pricks my heart, illuminates mysteries, woos and comforts and convicts. To my children, I am just reading, but in my heart, I am being changed, and I have grown addicted to the daily rhythm of rocking my family to sleep under this spoken cadence of truth.

And as I make my way down the stairs every night, I can feel it from my head to my toes that, of all the things I have done for my children, this one is the most important, by miles.

The Bible was enough for Sarah Whitcher’s family and their counterparts because it was all they had.

And do you know what? It is still enough today.

~

I am passionate about helping young families. If God has used this post to encourage you, or if you know anyone who will benefit from it, I invite you to share! And if you’d like to stay in touch with Mrs. Gore and her family, find us on Facebook!

A Fairytale in the Flesh

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It has been a lifelong theme, for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We begin to choke on them.

We can’t swallow.

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

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

Except, that is, for one.

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

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

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

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

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

even as mankind spat upon the gift.

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

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

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

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

But just this one time…

a happy ending was coming…

and it was going to change the world.

Their world.

Our world.

The fairytale came true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all the wrongs will be made right.

Our souls will finally rest.

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

but He is no fairytale.

He is real.

I believe.

Do you?

~

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

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

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

I suppose I should start at the very beginning…

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

Now, I must admit, I didn’t “get” it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For four, Rebekah’s wig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Then we had a little squishy Ewok. I die.

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

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And THEN…Lord, have mercy…Darth Vader.

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

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

Whatever, man. I’m new here, okay?

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

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Good guys.

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

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

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Group fight!

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

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And, finally, a few family pictures.

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

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

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

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

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I know I say this ever year, but…

best. Halloween. EVER.

~

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

Halloween Costumes = Family Fun (Part Three)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace. Always grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

Mud (and New Arrivals).

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

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

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

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

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

And sometimes they’re REALLY filthy.

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

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

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

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

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And every time I checked on their progress…

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they were a bit dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and DIRTIER.

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And the porch? Lord, have mercy.

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

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They can make the biggest, most colossal messes…

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

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

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And, in the meantime, Amy made us this:

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

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The Dollhouse Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did we start seeing our homes as dollhouses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and…

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

To LIVE in, you dummy.

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

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

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

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

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

couches, by golly, are for sitting on.

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

Throw blankets are for unfolding and curling up in.

Dishes are for eating spaghetti on.

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

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

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

Beds are for sleeping in.

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

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

Closets are for hiding our piles of clothes.

Toys are for playing with!!!

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

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

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

Beautiful messes happen around good food and lively conversation.

They happen when siblings are taking a splashy bath together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was beautiful.

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

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

~

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

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~

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

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

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

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

Daggnabit, I’m ’bout to cry again.

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

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

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

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Gasp! I see a picnic up ahead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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apples!

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fried chicken!

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biscuits!

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pies!

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

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

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and it was time to par-tay.

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

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This one right here?

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He’s about to lose a tooth.

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Ta-da!

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

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It must have been all those apples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A birthday story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hid Oinky behind my back.

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

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

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

Did they hug?

No.

Kiss?

No.

Rebekah grabbed Oinky and immediately settled him in to nurse.

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

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

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

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

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

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