Della.

From Della to Mr. Gore, July 2007…

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If you had told me two weeks ago that my first outing with Baby Shepherd would be to Ms. Della’s funeral, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But such is the nature is death…

if we knew when it was coming, we would spend every waking moment in bedside vigils, hanging onto the ankles of those we knew would soon be departing.

As it was, they were so habitual and ordinary, I don’t even remember my last words to Della.

I know we were probably standing either in the dimly-lit church sanctuary or in the fellowship hall, where we crossed paths Sunday morning after Sunday morning after Sunday morning, for as long as I can remember.

I would have told her how beautiful she looked.

(She always looked beautiful).

She would have asked how I was feeling and might have exclaimed over how much Betsie has grown or how handsome Gideon looked in his dress clothes or how Rebekah’s hair is getting so long.

(She always took time to notice the kids and ask how I was doing).

We probably hugged, and I am positive that I felt happy on the inside just to see her for that brief moment before we moved on to our respective Sunday School classes.

(Della always made me happy).

But whatever greetings we swapped during our last meeting on this earth, one thing is certain: I had no idea they would be my last to a woman who meant so much more to me than a passing hug, and who I admired for so much more than her physical beauty.

If I had known…

I would have cradled her beautiful face in my hands and told her that she was dearly loved…

I would have thanked her for consistently exhibiting to me those Christian fruits that are most admirable in a woman of God…

I would have asked her to tell me all of her funny stories one last time so I could write them down for safekeeping…

I would have recorded her speaking voice so I could listen to her rich and indescribable tone anytime I wanted…

I would have asked if I could come over and learn how to make her to-die-for homemade rolls…

I would have told her that, during the toughest days we’ve had in the ministry, her unswerving faithfulness, gentle guidance and genuine words of encouragement helped keep us going…

I would have hugged her tighter, I would have memorized the lines of her face, and I would have sat beside her at worship…

I would have asked her to wait just one more week, so she could hold my new baby…

And I would have promised her that I would miss her every Sunday and at every women’s fellowship and everytime I drove past her tidy, yellow house for the rest of my life.

Della was not a relative of mine, and if it were not for our like faith, we never would have known each other…

but when the grace of God reached down and plucked her from the road that leads to destruction to place her on the path to life, and then did the same for me years later, all of that changed; by the world’s standards she wasn’t my grandmother or my great aunt or even a distant cousin — she was just a “little old lady” who went to the same church as me.

But my redeemed heart knows better…

she was my sister. My mother. A vibrant, intrinsic part of my family.

And though I know we will spend forever in the same place, my humanity weeps bitter tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

Tears that bring to mind a day, half a decade ago, when Mr. Gore and I were discussing our future and weighing the pros and cons of him applying to be senior pastor at the church I had grown up in; to say that things at the time were messy and complicated would be an understatement. And although my husband was inexperienced and fresh out of seminary, he was a brilliant man with accolades and references galore; he could most likely have found work anywhere…

but “anywhere” wasn’t the story God had written for us. He wanted us here, and He tuned our hearts and our passion to stay, no matter how difficult the road ahead seemed to be.

The church was in turmoil, the budget was limited, and due to an unfortunate church split five years prior, well over half of the remaining membership was over the age of 65. There was one baby in the nursery and he was ours…

But it didn’t matter. We were in love.

“I just can’t leave them…” Mr. Gore said, with conviction. “I want to be their pastor. I want to walk them through the rest of their life. I want to preach their funerals…”

My heart agreed, most vehemently.

But here we are so many years later, and my, those funerals are hard…

Each lifelong friend who leaves us for “Beulah Land” leaves a huge vacancy in our hearts, not to be filled until we meet once more in our forever home; God has only caused our love and tenderness for them to multiply, and while our initial dream of walking these dear saints through life has come true, it carries with it a pain that we couldn’t have imagined…

The day before Della’s funeral, Mr. Gore went to her viewing at the funeral home. Finding himself very much alone with the body our friend left behind, he sat and wept. Della had ministered to him in ways no one else ever saw, giving him godly advice, sending him encouraging notes and cards, praying for him

much like our sister Thelma and our brother Richard, the world might not have known the tiny little lady in the little yellow house, but she mattered, and her role in the Kingdom was vital and beautifully performed.

Since the day we pursued this ministry, God has been so faithful to us and to our church. The division we inherited has flown the coop. Old wounds are being healed. Our membership, though smaller, continues to grow purer and purer. Love abounds. And while our budget is still limited, God has met every single need.

If the thought ever crossed my mind that we would be giving something up to “lay down our lives” for a church that was tiny and troubled and, frankly, not-the-coolest, five years with Della (and so many like her) has proven me stupid…

we have gained the world, drinking in priceless wisdom and encouragement from some of God’s very best, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ.

We grieve over the precious and important member we lost this September…

even as we thank God for the gift of knowing her at all.

~

Della, holding Baby Rebekah at our women’s fellowship in 2009

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Want to know more about Della and the sweet people in our church? Read one of my favorite posts: The Early Birds

I love you.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden, the space between us was much too far…

The practical side of my brain was telling me to just shut my eyes and go back to sleep. We were running on just a few hours a night, and I had homeschool in the morning and a newborn beside me who would undoubtedly be waking me up in an hour anyway. We needed sleep.

But I needed him more.

I sat up, moved the co-sleeper that was safely cradling our infant boy to the side of the bed, and crawled beside him, curling up into the arms that have been faithfully holding me for seven beautiful years.

The months of pregnancy that had built a huge belly between us melted into a distant memory…

I was home.

Tears gathered in my eyes, and my heart sang a silent love song to my husband as I reveled in the security and comfort of his embrace.

I love you…

because I know I don’t deserve you.

because you make me think of God, just by looking at you. His grace is evident to me when you walk into the room.

because you have given me enough beautiful memories to last a lifetime.

because I know without a doubt that you love me back.

because you are mine.

because you are good and kind and gentle, and only grow more so with each passing day.

because when you smile at me and delight in who I am, I feel like I am safe. Cherished. Your dream come true.

because you know all my secrets and scars and you forgive me freely. You love me like I’m flawless, even though we both know that I am not.

because your heart is so tender and your eyes are so watchful. You treat me like I am a priceless treasure…

and being married to you has been the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

I never, ever get tired of you, and when you walk out the door, I already want you to come back. There will never be enough days, enough minutes, enough time to spend in your company.

The world lied to me. They told me that marriage would be stifling. That it would be boring. That the honeymoon would be over…

bunch of dummies. They were so wrong.

Life with you is an adventure that never stops, and the more I grow in my love for you, the closer I grow to the God who created that love. You lead me to Him, and so I rejoice in our marriage with every fiber of my being.

And I never, ever want it to stop. If God would be so good, I’d love to spend eternity with your hand in mine…

or at least a lifetime.

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I love you, Mr. Gore. Forever and ever.

A Weekend Dance Camp

I love it so much when my friends pull awesome tricks out of their hats.

And my sweet friend, Megan, does so quite often, though she would insist that she has no such hat and certainly no tricks.

But that’s another reason I love her so much – a more humble and servant-hearted woman would be hard to find, and every “event” she plans and hosts with her children in mind has an extra heaping of thoughtfulness and tenderness and love…

thus, when she brought up the idea of employing two of her cousins for a two-day summer dance camp for all the little girls in our lives, I knew it would be special, for many reasons.

First of all, we live in a rural community. There are no dance studios in our town, and the closest one is quite far away. To enroll any of our daughters in a dance class would mean a lot of commitment, loading up and driving “to town” more often than any of us probably want to.

Secondly, we have a very like-minded group of mama’s in our church. We share similar thoughts on childhood, modesty, and worldview, not to mention the fact that most of us are working with pretty tiny budgets; thus, many of the more professional dance programs close to us wouldn’t necessarily be a good fit…but that doesn’t mean we don’t want our girls to experience the joy of dressing up in a tutu and twirling around like ballerinas!

And somehow, Megan was able to create the perfect scenario for all of us. Two days. Little commitment. Down the street from our houses. Laid-back. Experimental. Safe. Innocent. Inexpensive.

And the best part was, our daughters were surrounded by their best friends. What is sometimes a very uncomfortable situation for little girls (I was terrified when I took my first dance class full of strangers) became one of the sweetest bonding experiences they’ve had yet.

And at the end of the camp, all of their friends and family members joined in our church’s extension building to watch a very short – and sweet – recital. Anyone who has ever sat through a two-hour long recital to watch your child dance for 5 minutes would appreciate the 10 minutes we spent watching our own daughters dance, the entire time! And I can’t imagine what a confidence-booster this was for our girls, and all for the incredible and unheard-of price of $15.

After the recital, the girls walked down to the church’s parking lot where our friend, Kodi, treated them to free sno-cones from that morning’s Farmers Market. I hope they never forget that day, sitting with their pals after their first dance performance together, enjoying one of the best treats of summer.

And so I share ALL of the above not because I’m against a more professional dance scene – again, if we lived closer to a wholesome studio and money was no object, I would be the first in line – but because I know many of you are like us, living in small towns on small budgets. Take a cue from Megan, and find a way to bring a fun weekend of dance to all the little ballerinas in your life.

Take a look!

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~

A super special thanks to Megan for coordinating this camp, and for her sweet cousins, Katie and Kara, for being such amazing dance teachers and bringing their expertise to our small town at such an affordable price. You truly ministered to us, and to our daughters!

Disneyworld Who?

Those of you who follow my blog’s facebook page (because I obviously needed a place on the internet to share more words and pictures!!!…) know that I shared the following status update last Thursday night:

“I understand that places like Disneyworld are magical and memorable family destinations and if we had extra cash laying around, I would be the first in line…

but there’s something awfully fun about declaring a weekend “staycation” and going to the grocery store with your family to buy everyone their own pint of ice cream and their own box of sugary cereal.

I got Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream and a box of Cocoa Puffs…”

~

This is true, and I still have the tummy ache to prove it.

But let me backtrack for a minute…

When my parents announced that they would be going out of town with my brother and his family over Memorial Day weekend, my Mom offhandedly mentioned that Mr. Gore and I were welcome to crash with our brood at their cozy little home in the country. She is always and forever making generous offers like this, and so I just kind of brushed off the thought of it, initially.

But as a very hectic week progressed, and as Mr. Gore’s old back injury continued to flare up more and more with little relief, I began to really mull over her offer. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to “get away” for the weekend and truly relax, without really having to “get away”? For my parents happen to live 10 short miles away from us…

I finally mentioned the option to my husband, and before I knew it, our plans were set in stone: a 4-night family “staycation” to our home away from home.

And, as usual, I learned a few things on our “trip” concerning “staycations” in general, and ours, in particular, and I thought today would be a good day to pass them on to you. Because I really do love you, you know. You can thank me in heaven. Or, if you don’t want to wait that long, in the comments sections below. Or both. It’s up to you, really…

1. Seriously. The first night of your vacation, go to the grocery store as a family and buy whatever the heck kind of junk you want. Aside from each of us buying our own pint of ice cream and our own box of cereal, we bought potato skins, fried green beans and cheesecake from the freezer section, chocolate donuts, strawberry cookies (Betsie’s choice), special granola bars, loads of fresh berries, and the first can of Pringles I’ve bought in nearly a decade. I haven’t had that much fun at the grocery store since I was leeching off of my parents and writing checks like there was no tomorrow.

2. The whole point of a staycation is to STAY. So yeah, yeah, I know we broke the rules a little and stayed at our home-away-from-home, but we really had to and here’s why: at our home in town, the phone rings a lot, we have to wear clothes all the time, and our kids have to come inside to use the bathroom. Though my parent’s house is very close by, it is extremely remote, and all of our town rules can be broken. So if you can, staycate in the country, where your kids can swim in their undies and skitter across the pasture to go tinkle.

3. However, if you want to have a romantic getaway, do not sleep in your parent’s room. Or in your parent’s house, for that matter. My most heartfelt apologies, Mr. Gore. I was wrong. You were so right.

4. Keep in mind that staycations can bring with them a fair share of hard work. I told my Mom that I am forever blaming our messy house on all the stuff we own, and the types of floors we have that “show dirt”, but, I learned something during our 2nd day at her house without her there to help me manage everything: It’s not our stuff. It’s not our floors. It’s us. We’re a mess.

And while it was so nice to be away from all of the looming projects that I am constantly aware of in my own home, I still had to clean a lot, do lots of laundry, cook lots of food, shepherd lots of hearts, bathe lots of kids, and I still fell into bed, exhausted, by the end of each night. It put things in perspective for me, though, and helped me to better recognize and come to grips with the true nature of this season of our life, full of the fun and wonderment of childhood, yes, but also full of nonstop work. No matter where we go or where we are. Even on vacation. But especially on staycation.

5. You know what’s awesome? Packing light, wearing your clothes, getting them unbelievably dirty, washing them that night, folding them, and putting them on again the next day before repeating the entire process all over again. I could get used to that, especially for the kids…so this is me, declaring war on their closets the minute I finish this blog post. Or the next day. Next week. Well…just, soon. I mean it.

6. On a real vacation, you usually take your family to places they’ve never been, so on a staycation, it is only reasonable to invest in a few movies your kids have never seen, some games they’ve never played, and maybe some toys they’ve never played with. In our case that meant “Summer Magic”, Go Fish, and a huge box of sidewalk chalk that had vibrant colors the likes of which we have never sidewalk-chalked with.

7. Go on walks. Play outside. Read stories. Take naps. Play games. Watch movies. Dance in the rain. Take your first swim of the summer. Get muddy. And be prepared to bathe your kids no less than 8 times a day as a result.

8. But most of all, get ready to enjoy living and see with fresh eyes the simple pleasures that are available to you every day of the year if you could just take the time to notice and enjoy them. Nature, family, home, ice cream…

it doesn’t take much, does it?

Disneyworld is still on my list of wishes, and perhaps someday, I’ll be taking snapshots of my kids at the Magic Kingdom. But until then, I think we’ll survive just fine in our own neck of the woods…

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Gideon muddy face

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p.s. the Pringles were delicious.

The June Bride Rejoices

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I didn’t realize it until this past week, but it sometimes causes me great trepidation that what I share here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary will cause a reader, perhaps walking through suffering or experiencing a life very different than mine, to experience discontentment or frustration with their own life…

And my trepidation is so great that I often hold back for fear of wounding a soul in distress who happens upon my words.

Will the single woman be saddened by my glowing endorsement of marriage?

Will the childless woman feel pain when I describe the more glorious aspects of motherhood?

Will someone mistake my blessings as luck, or worse, God being nicer to me than He is to them?

It pains me to even think of it.

And as a result, I sometimes filter my happiest moments, for fear of adding to the potential hardships of my sisters in the faith.

But the thought came upon me this past week that, while my heart is pure in those thoughts, I might be doing a disservice to the path God has set my feet upon and that, in a world that is ever attacking the family, and marriage, and motherhood, and femininity, I should speak more honestly and comprehensively about my life, even on my very best days. As much as I strive to remain transparent in my struggles as a wife and mother, so I should strive to remain transparent in my joys and triumphs.

If I am going to consider honesty one of the most important aspects of my writing, then…I must be honest through and through, yes?

It was good – or more likely, supernatural – timing, for my heart is extremely full tonight, and for good reason…

Mr. Gore.

Our days with little ones are hectic. Distracting. Busy.

During our courtship, we had little more to do than see every movie that was released and work really hard at not fornicating. But these days…well, we’re wiping kids and looking for missing shoes and strapping babies and toddlers into carseats and peeling and slicing apples and running up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs and breaking up fights and, basically, working around the clock, not only to keep our 3 little ones alive and healthy, but to train them in the fear and knowledge of God and to lead them in the ways of Christ.

Exhausting.

Bringing up children is without a doubt the hardest work I have ever done, and Mr. Gore is right there alongside me, working as hard as I am.

Therefore, on most nights, after finally tucking our ragamuffins into bed, we quite literally collapse into two separate heaps in the living room, me on our old antique settee (with springs that poke me in the bottom), him in our favorite leather chair, and, aided by our favorite sitcom of the moment, we allow ourselves to just relax and melt into the deliciously quiet evening.

And it just happens. The days are so full and the nights become so habitual that…sometimes I forget to think about him.

Oh, I kiss him goodbye and I welcome him home and I laugh at his jokes and I work by his side and I cuddle up next to him at night, but somehow, in the midst of living, I can fail to ponder and relish the gift of…him.

But the other night, I had this dream. I was contractually bound to another man in an old-fashioned betrothal, but I was madly in love with Mr. Gore. And he was in love with me. Separated from him in my dream, and intent on being with him forever, my heart – the real one, not the dream one – must have quickened within me, and as I continued to sleep and eventually view our happy and triumphant ending, my eyes were miraculously pulled out of the fog of our daily routine, and I woke up with an incredibly happy heart, one that was focused and fixated on this man who has stood faithfully beside me through nearly 8 years of marriage.

I woke up in love.

And my, it felt so good to go about my regular duties with a lovesong in my heart, one that saw beyond the work I was doing and was intentionally and singularly focused on one of the greatest gifts God has given me.

My husband.

My partner.

My best friend.

He knows more about the ugliest parts of my heart than anyone else on the planet, and he loves me anyway. He has seen me at my most raw and vulnerable and he doesn’t scorn me the next day. He has heard my grittiest confessions, and he freely forgives, every time.

And, though human and as prone to failure as the rest of us, he strives to love me as Christ loves the church.

And that is my favorite part of our love story, and one that I am now committed to proclaiming, not that we’ve stumbled into some kind of Disney-prince-and-princess-happily-ever-after, but that our faithfulness to one another and our enjoyment of our married state points to something far more beautiful than the fleeting and emotional love that this world seeks so doggedly after and always fails to find…

it points to something higher. Something truer. And something very, very lovely.

Redemption.

Salvation.

Sanctification.

Grace.

Because, without the grace of God, and built on anything other than the truth of Scripture, our marriage would be nothing more than a roll of the dice, hinging on how we woke up feeling that day and whether or not we had a good dream during the night.

It is that great grace, undeservedly given, that enables us to choose to love each other. For life.

I don’t know about you, but I think that makes the story of Aladdin and Jasmine seem kind of lame in comparison. Magic carpet ride…meh.

That lovesong in my heart only continues to increase as our 8th wedding anniversary draws nigh.

A couple of days ago, I watched my favorite movie with my kids, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the “June Bride” song that our entire wedding was built around brought back so many cherished memories that I was practically a puddle of sentimentality by the time the movie was over.

And so if you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit some of those memories here in the weeks to come.

Not to make you gag.

Not to make you pine.

Not to make it seem like my life is all sunshine and flowers and roses…

but to recount how faithful God has been to two people who were conceived in sin and came into this world hating the Light.

Let us all start cherishing and celebrating our marriages, not because we are “lucky in love”, but because they can be one of the most beautiful tools used to point a dying world to a very living Savior.

Especially those of us who married in June…

My Sweet Home: Junk Be Gone! (Part 1)

It is incontestable.

The #1 problem facing housekeepers today has to be (drumroll, please!)…clutter. Overconsumption. Excess.

In an unprecedented age of convenience and innovation, the American homemaker should have it so easy…

key word: should.

We throw dirty dishes into a machine and push a button to wash them. We do the same with our laundry. We have airtight windows and doors, keeping more dust out of our houses than ever before. And cooking can be as easy or as difficult as we want to make it.

But we also have an unprecedented problem…

Junk galore.

Knick-knacks in every available space.

Stuff everywhere.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Did I mention ‘toys’?…

Whether we intend for it to happen or not, the modern American family is the recipient (and usually also the pursuer) of unending goods, and even if we’re trying to keep our spending and our consumption to a minimum, there is so much stuff floating around out there that we end up with it in our houses anyway. Gifts. Hand-me-downs. Osmosis, maybe?…

All of which can be blessings (except for osmosis…I actually don’t even know what that is so I don’t know if it is a blessing), but if we don’t learn to master them, they can positively enslave us.

Slowly, I am becoming aware that, the less stuff we have, the happier we are.

The less stuff we have, the more time we spend together as a family.

And the less stuff we have, the cleaner our house stays. Even when it’s dirty…

Because I’m really not looking anymore to have a spotless house. My floors will not always be shining, because I have 3 children who drool and spill and drop raisins and Cheerios and track in mud and dirt and grass nonstop. I’ve come to grips with the fact that a perfectly shining house just isn’t in the stars for me right now. But regardless of how young our kids are or how many we have or how dirty they keep our floors, we can have a neat house…

and let’s face it, we have to be able to walk through our rooms, and the fact that we can’t sometimes is a ridiculous situation that we have created of our own accord. And you know that whole routine of freaking out when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door because the house is a wreck? It is becoming less and less acceptable to me.

Because of this reason alone: I’ve been convicted that this sort of lifestyle doesn’t seem to mesh with the biblical call of hospitality. How can we have open homes and lives when we are appalled for anyone to see them? How can our own children feel comfortable in their house when they are tripping over toys with every step they take?

Something’s got to give, Mrs. Gore!

And so I wanted to share some tips with you over how I am defeating, room by room, this seemingly epic problem. My goal in decluttering is that, by truly simplifying our life, I will take full advantage of the ease afforded to a homemaker in my position today, using all that spare time that my dishwasher gives me to read to my kids or do something truly useful, rather than forever finding hidey-holes for the massive amounts of junk we have. What a waste of time and energy, spending it all on things that are flammable and fleeting.

It is a never-ending and sometimes exhausting process, but it has already been well worth my time, thought and perseverance.

However, to keep this post from being twenty thousand words long, I’ll have to share that list with you in my next post.

When it comes to words, I will obviously continue to be excessive.

But until then, be mulling some things over, won’t you?…

Do you spend a frustrating amount of time putting things away that aren’t really useful to your family?

If someone walked into your house right now, would you be embarrassed?

Are you a slave to your possessions, or master? 

Are your children slaves to their possessions?

Think about the time you dedicate each day to housework. How much of that time is spent simply putting things away? 

~

Part Two, coming up…soon! Maybe tomorrow? Maybe not.

My Sweet Home (Prequel #2)

Our family loves the song “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers.

We sing it at the top of our lungs in our old gold minivan, and even Baby Betsie shouts out the “ho!” and “hey!” parts like a champ.

But watching the Lumineers perform live at the Grammy’s, I grew slightly suspicious and devastated as the camera cut to Taylor Swift singing along in the audience.

Why?

Because…

During my favorite part of the song – the chorus – where the band sings “I belong with you, you belong with me, in my sweet home…”, Taylor, who I am confident is very proficient in memorizing popular song lyrics, was clearly singing “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart” as she made a heart shape around her heart.

And I knew…

I had the lyrics wrong.

A quick internet search proved this to be true, and I now know that this song is talking about young, unrequited love, and not me and my husband and our kids and our little white farmhouse on the hill.

Bummer.

But then I decided that, since I will never be on the stage or in the audience of the Grammy’s, I can sing the song however I darn well please.

And so I have made it our banner song once more, and I sing it at the top of my lungs and with all the love in my heart…

I belong with you,

You belong with me,

In my sweet home…

There is nothing sweeter than the comforts of home, is there? I grew up in an extremely home-y home. My Mom is gifted at making others feel loved and comfortable, and when I still walk into her house today, my heart relaxes with me, and I feel like I can take on the world.

Though much younger and less experienced than she, this is what I strive to do in my own house today.

Make it a home.

Make it a place where my kids feel brave and content and whole.

But that’s just it…

These things don’t happen naturally or of their own accord, and you can’t be a home-maker without the making; neither can you produce a place of warmth and love by sitting on your bum all day, blogging and eating onion rings. (Sorry, that’s just my guilt talking. I ate one too many…).

I will admit, it took me a few years to get over the fact that I am no longer the recipient of all the home-making and am now the home-maker, but I have found that, though the work is nonstop and very taxing, the entire family benefits from the hard work of my hands and my mind, including…me!

When the house is tidy, and when there are tokens of beauty and love surrounding us, I feel serene and content and happy to be here. On the other hand, when things are a mess and I have been lax in my duties and nothing is organized, well, I feel crummy and uninspired and my attitude pretty much matches my house.

All that to say, homemaking might be work, and it might be nonstop work, and it might be really taxing work, but…it is good work.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin periodically sharing with you some of my favorite components of our home, and some tips I’ve picked up in my 8 years as a homemaker. Some are tiny and obvious, some are sizable and profound, and some would never be noticed if I didn’t take a picture and blog about it.

But together, they are beginning to make  a seamless and fitting backdrop to the place where we live, move, breathe, eat, play, work and sleep.

Our sweet home.

My Sweet Home (Prequel #1)

I’ve wanted to do something here at my blog for the longest time, but until now, I didn’t really feel free to do so…

mostly because of the state of my heart.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have bratty tendencies, and it is no secret that I love compliments and feeling important. I used to think this was just “how I was” and I even kind of cherished that part of me and thought it was cute…

but once I became aware that this inherent nature of mine was rooted in sinfulness and pride, it didn’t feel so cute anymore.

Mind you, this was not always my motivation for doing what I did and wearing what I wore and buying what I bought. Even on my least bratty and most humble days, I have always loved beautiful things, and I love fine fabrics and I identify with Betsie Ten Boom, in that, if I were to find myself in a prison camp, I would do whatever it took to decorate my cell. I see no problem with this shade of my personality, and actually see it as a gift from God; that said (and this is where what could be beautiful can turn ugly)…

I can sometimes feel myself veering off course and caring more about receiving accolades than glorifying my Maker. You know…my chief end. The reason I’m here. What I was created for.

God has had mercy on my sinful state, however, and over the last decade, He has continually tweaked me into a person who at least hates that side of myself rather than revels in it, and more and more, I try to put a lid on the brat in me and lock her up inside my coat closet where no one can see or hear her.

Especially when it comes to this blog. It is so important to me that what I share here is genuine and I take extremely seriously my responsibility to the younger women in my church, my readership, and eventually my children (who will be forced to read Mrs. Gore’s Diary for their 12th year of homeschool), and I therefore doggedly strive to keep my motivations for writing and sharing pure and honest and, most importantly, God-honoring. Thus, if I feel like I’m sharing party pictures to be a show-off rather than a help to other party-planners, I shut that post down, as quickly as I do the ones where I find myself ranting or spewing bitterness about past struggles. And if I don’t, my husband (who graciously edits everything I write) does. (Thanks, Mr. Gore!)

Alllllll that to say, I haven’t felt 100% free until now to share, from a pure and happy and non-show-offy heart, aspects of our home life that might inspire other homemakers.

Why? Well…I’m 31 now, and I haven’t changed my razor in like, 8 months. My house is most usually a wreck and I have finally come to grips with who I truly am and what I was truly created for. In other words, I’m content right now where I am, and have lost most of my former self-absorbed aspirations to BE somebody and to make it to some unforeseen tier of importance and acceptance.

I am happy at home, and I’m happy to be Mrs. Gore, whether thousands of people ever recognize my name or not.

From this place of genuine motivation, I find myself making a living place for my family rather than for the editors of Country Living magazine, and as a result, I think what I have to share will be much more important than it ever could have been when I was trying to make much ado out of Mrs. Gore.

And allllll that to say, there will be a new tab in my blog called “My Sweet Home” where I will share ideas and tips and photographs of how I try to make the house we live in a place of retreat and rest and comfort. It will be positively random, but if it helps especially my younger audience, just starting out in this world with a tiny budget to work with and with no idea how to keep a house, I will be too, too happy.

~

Coming up tomorrow, I’ll share why I call this series “My Sweet Home”. Is it because my home is “sweet” and beautiful?…probably not. Stay tuned!!

Bathed in the Gospel

encouragement for Christian mothers: "The world can very much disparage and downplay the calling of motherhood, and sometimes I am the first one to listen, forgetting that this full-time job I have of caring for children who would be helpless without me is kind of huge, and that, while I may not be changing the world as I prepare their breakfast…  I have at least changed theirs."

The way she lifted her legs in perpendicular fashion as I lifted her out of the bathtub let me know that the way we do bathtime has become routine to her…

Laying a clean, full-sized towel completely out across the bathmat, I always set her down “just so” on her bottom before pulling the back part of the towel up to her neck and then wrapping the rest of it over her shoulders and around her arms. I finish up by swaddling her little legs, feet, and toes, patting her dry as I go.

Once she looks like a little terrycloth burrito, I grasp her by her towel-covered arms, and, lifting her up into my left arm and perching her on my hip, I hold her legs in a sitting position with my right arm.

We go straight to the bathroom vanity where she says “Hi, baby!” to her reflection in the mirror, her hair a riot of wet, dripping curls, her smile exuberant, her skin glowing with health and cleanliness. I then carry her into my bedroom where a laundered set of clothes awaits her on the bed next to a new diaper, Johnson’s baby lotion, and a brush.

This is our routine, and we could both probably perform it with our eyes closed.

She is used to being bathed, my little one, having the yogurt washed out of her hair, the dirt washed out of her fingernails, the living washed out of her day…

She is used to being wrapped up and dried, cuddled and loved, lotioned and combed, diapered and groomed.

She is used to being dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

Just like she is used to raising her legs just right to land on her towel.

And I realized as I dried her today that, what might feel like routine to me…or even sometimes drudgery, if I’m being honest…says something monumental about her life, as well as my role as her mother…

and that, while bathtime is such a common ritual for us that she knows how to hold her body when she emerges from the tub, the very essence of our routine says something.

Something big. Something important. Something eternal.

Because her simplest routines contrast so deeply with those of children all over this fallen world. They have routines, too…

Rocking themselves to sleep at night in orphanages with too many babies and not enough workers.

Hiding food in their highchairs to make sure there will be enough for their next meal.

Moving from foster home to foster home, different bed, different rituals, different guardians.

Pulling dirty and wrinkled clothes out of a pile before dressing themselves and going to school.

Eating whatever they can dig up in the pantry or whatever someone will give them for free.

Getting on a church van to attend worship and learning about who made them from strangers rather than family.

Bearing their own fears and burdens with no one to talk to, no one to comfort them, no one to guide them.

And it should never be lost on me that, in many ways, one of the simplest and most obvious differences between those children and my little girl who sticks her legs up when I lift her out of the bathtub is…me.

The world can very much disparage and downplay the calling of motherhood, and sometimes I am the first one to listen, forgetting that this full-time job I have of caring for children who would be helpless without me is kind of huge, and that, while I may not be changing the world as I prepare their breakfast…

I have at least changed theirs.

When my children are clean, it is because I’ve bathed them. When they are full, it is because I have fed them. When they sing a song from memory, it is because I have sang to them so often that the words have imprinted themselves on their brains. When they are wearing  clean and pressed clothes, it is because I have washed and ironed them. And when they learn how to walk those ancient paths of truth, it will hopefully be because, aided by the Spirit and covered by grace, they are following behind me and their Papa.

The things I do as a mother all day, every day, might be simple gestures…

making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…

singing hymn after hymn until they fall asleep…

telling them who made the flowers and the rocks and the trees and the sky…

reading them a story…

cleaning up their vomit…

buying them healthy food at the grocery store…

bandaging the tiny cut that made them cry…

taking the time to really listen to them while they talk…

getting the stains out of their clothes…

but they are gospel gestures.

And it hit me with beautiful and convicting clarity today that any amount of passion I have for the sanctity of human life, any compassion I feel for the orphaned or the abused or the hurting, any desire I will ever have to bring the good news to a lost and dying world…

well, it starts here.

At bedtime.

At breakfast, lunch and supper time.

At reading time.

At bathtime.

At home.

And while it may not always feel like I’m doing anything really important in the world and while there are days that I entertain the notion that my life is pretty mundane and that my college degree was a huge waste of time and money, I need to periodically remind myself that I’m doing something pretty big.

And so are you…

Remember that the next time you pull your baby out of the bath and she knows what to do with her legs.

The Greatest Generation, Indeed

On the Sunday before Christmas, Mr. Gore and I sat down after  lunch to watch “White Christmas”. I had been terribly behind in my holiday movie viewing and was determined to catch up before Christmas Day.

But five minutes into the movie, I was silently crying. And not the kind of cry where one tear leaks out during the sentimental scene of a movie, but the kind where your shoulders are shaking and you’re working really hard to get a grip before your husband notices. “What’s wrong me with me?!” I thought…

Is it the story of the demoted general that set me off?…

or the nostalgia of watching one of my favorite movies one day before Christmas Eve, our beautifully lit Christmas tree in my peripheral vision?…

No.

Turns out I was pregnant and didn’t know it.

But, hormonal fluctuations aside, my tears were actually stemming from something else entirely, and it only took a few seconds of introspection to figure it out.

I have a longtime love for classic movies, dating back to my 12th year when I first saw June Allyson in the 1949 version of “Little Women” at my Aunt Myrtle’s house. Until that day, I knew very little about the treasure trove of “old” movies available for our viewing pleasure today, but five minutes into that sweet little version of one of my favorite books, I was a goner, and silly as it sounds, my life was forever changed.

As soon as we returned home from our trip, my Mom and I hunted down my own copy of the movie, a VHS tape that I still have today, and my home collection of classic films has consistently grown since that time, as has my appreciation for an era that I had previously had very little knowledge of. Nearly 20 years later, our musical playlists are full of tunes from Bing, Doris, Frank, Gene, and Judy (but my favorites are Bing and Doris), my clothes are almost always a nod to my vintage sisters, our life is often a throwback to another era, and you’ll more likely find my children watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy” than any show on Disney Jr. (mostly because we don’t have cable…).

And I think I might be in love with Gary Cooper (via Seargent York). Sighhh…

When the calendar hits 1960 is when Mrs. Gore and all of her love for nostalgia dies, but until that cultural shift takes place, you’ll find my heart. I love the clothes. I love the tunes. I love the backdrops and the technicolor and the “special” effects. I love the time.

But the reason I was crying today had very little to do with my love for old movies…

and everything to do with my love for the people those old movies bring to mind.

You see, part of the reason I love a classic film is that, when I watch it, there is something so familiar about it…

I know these people.

I recognize the cadence of their voices…

the way they hold themselves…

their manners…

their humor…

their little bitty waists…

their houses and their furnishings and their wardrobes…

and guess what? Many of them are still among us.

Their hair is grey now and more wiry than before, their eyes are hidden behind thick glasses, and their gait is measured where it once was spry, but there is no denying the fact that the era that those classic films represents is still very much alive today.

And these are my people.

I see many of them every week at church.

They are gentle and kind.

They aren’t vulgar.

They dress like ladies and gentleman, and their actions match their clothes.

And, like the soldiers singing “We’ll Follow the Old Man” in White Christmas, many of them were off being heroes during WWII, fighting one of the greatest villains the world has ever known, spending Christmases away from their families, and writing love letters to the same spouses they are with today.

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.

Many of these precious people don’t understand our culture today, and if they seem quiet or stand-offish, I think they are probably just at a complete loss as to how they can engage such a foreign group of young folks. Or perhaps many of them think we don’t need or want them in our lives…

That’s why I want to encourage you today to take the first step and reach out to the elderly in your churches and in your community. Ask them questions about their past. Listen to them talk. Seek their guidance and advice. Pick up on their gentle humor.

I guarantee you that, in the course of your conversation, you’ll recognize the voices of Bing and Doris and Gary and Judy…

but you might also gain a wealth of wisdom, and perhaps some of the best friends you’ve ever had.

~

Me with one of my best friends in the world, Ms. Annette. Her friendship and wisdom enrich my life…

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.