Criss, Cross, Applesauce: darling, let me start again

Criss, Cross

My mom and I spent a big chunk of yesterday afternoon playing a very confusing game of “Catan: Junior” with the kids.

A game they normally play with my husband or with their cousins, we were very foggy on the rules and had only a 9-year old and 7-year old to explain them to us.

Yes, there was an instruction booklet and, YES, I read it but…just hush, okay? This lady comprehendeth not written instructions, especially of the boardgame variety, and neither does the lady who birthed me.

I have to admit, I was impressed by the command my little children obviously had of the game, but there’s this thing about elementary-aged kids: they’re confusing.

After about ten minutes of listening to them enthusiastically describe all the complicated ins and outs of the game in no particular order…like, seriously, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER… I was literally slumping in my chair in yet another state of motherly frazzlement.

It’s a stance I find myself employing often in our home and, frankly, I hate it.

I hate that I slump, ever.

I hate being frazzled.

And I hate not enjoying my life and my job to the max every minute of every day.

I just do, and you’ll never be able to convince me to give up on this Eden-inspired quest for holiness, joy and contentment.

And as we sat there trying so hard to enjoy a boardgame together, chairs squeaking, bodies wriggling, kids making kid mouth noises that just bombard your nerves, a memory flickered through my mind, not of a moment that actually occurred, but of one I once daydreamed about on a regular basis.

My newlywed husband and I had splurged on this awesome game called “Dread Pirate”. A winner of toy awards, it came housed in an actual treasure chest, with gemstone game pieces and a rugged-looking map as its gameboard.

I bought it with such reverence, dreaming of future days around a dining room table, enjoying this ridiculously incredible pastime with our family, and of course, we were all dressed as pirates, because, duh, and there was pirate music playing in the background, followed by a meal of Ring Tum Ditty, not because it is a pirate meal, so much, but because it sounds like a pirate meal (and it’s delicious, matey).

Let’s not get lost in the weirdness of my “memory”, please, and just focus on the fact that I had very motherly daydreams, all the time, as a young bride. Most of us did, didn’t we?…

My heart ached in those days with anticipation about the times my future children and I would surely share together: beautiful picnics in the country, apple-picking in some quaint place that I’d never even seen, watching movies on a big screen in the woods, making S’mores over campfires, having dolly tea parties with real dishes, singing all the best songs and reading all the best books.

I was a really, really, REALLY good mom in those days, as earnest and as loving as they came.

And then I had children.

One by one, day by day, those former illusions began to dissipate in cruel and consistent ways and I found myself staring face-to-face with the bewildering reality that I could barely manage to get three subpar meals down our gullets every day, let alone have themed meals. With matching costumes.

I just can’t even think most days. I can’t keep up with the schedules and the plans. I buy groceries all the time, and then we eat them. And the pantry is bare AGAIN. I forget to turn on the music. I lose track of what month it even is. I can’t find our SHOES, for crying out loud.

I just don’t have time or energy or brain capacity, on most days, to be the tiniest bit whimsical.

Sure, some of this undoubtedly has to do with the insane season of life I have just walked through: a friend of mine told me once that the mother of one of her friends referred to her baby-having days as “the lost decade.” She couldn’t remember it, really. Where had it gone? What happened??

Lord have mercy, I can SO relate to that. The past ten years are foggy, indeed, more persistent in their exhaustion and tumultuousness than they are in any of the things I so zealously intended and, with our fourth and last child (so far) nearing his 3rd birthday, I am finally…barely…beginning to see the bigger picture again.

I am crawling out of my own lost decade and I’m blinking at the sun and, honestly, I’m trying to learn how to walk again. How to interact with the outside world. How to be good at what I do once more, because, I did used to be good at things.

And this excruciating hope is dawning in my heart that maybe I can be really and truly good at motherhood…not good in everyone else’s estimation – I’m sure most people would assure me o’er and o’er again that I’m a good mom!…but GOOD, deep down inside. In a way that satisfies my longings. In a way that I believe and rest in when no one else is looking.

A couple of weeks ago, we left our toddler with my mom and took our oldest three and their friends to Incredible Pizza and, oh my goodness, I was dumbfounded by how easy it was. They got their own food at the buffet. They filled their own drinks at the fountain. They threw away their trash.

I could breathe.

I could think.

I could EAT!!!

It was…amazing.

My world seems to be shifting into something concrete once more, where I’m on top instead of at the bottom, where I’m bobbing instead of drowning.

And now, with all these things in mind, I’m wondering if this would not be a good time to step away for a bit, take five, and revisit the heart that I had when I first started my journey as a mother.

Because, yes, I was obviously delusional in those days and had no idea what parenting really entailed or that children were more like humans and less like Hallmark movie characters. And, yes, as I previously stated, I was definitely in a season of life that takes more out of the average bear than other seasons do.

But what if there is more to it than that?

What if, disillusioned about the former and beat down by the latter, I have arrived in an unnecessary rut, of sorts, one that I don’t HAVE to live in?

What if I’ve formed a habit that needs to be mortified and buried?

What if my vision has gotten fuzzy and I need to throw away the old contact lenses and pop in a new pair?

You know what, If I’m being honest, I don’t actually need to step away for a bit, or take five…I KNOW, with very little introspection, that these things are true of me.

I realized it yesterday, while I was slumping, frazzled, in front of Catan: Junior.

Somewhere along the way, I just stopped believing that I had it in me to run this ship with pep and creativity and enthusiasm and strength.

My disillusionment became my master, and I its slave.

The romance of my job faded. The honeymoon, as it pertained to my motherhood gig, threatened to end.

The symptoms of my disenchantment simmer on the burner of our life. When my kids ask me to play a game with them, I inwardly wilt and find a chore that needs doing. When they want to bake with me, I pull out the Pop-tarts. When they ask to go for a picnic, I point out the imperfect weather and suggest another day, maybe, one that never seems to happen.

And what has happened as a result is that, in between Mama’s “good days”, the ones where I FEEL like being the cruiseship director, and in between our magical holidays and our birthday blow-outs — because we do get very whimsical every once in awhile! — we habitually waste our beautiful, blessed, gift-from-God days together on junk like Facebook…Netflix…Amazon Prime…you name it. Not the good stuff from those venues…Facebook is awesome and Netflix and Prime are my boos…but…the dazed stuff. The lazy stuff. The addiction-like stuff. The I’m-going-to-plug-my-kids-in-to-this-screen-and-go-to-my-screen-and-forget-that-I-have-responsibilities sort of stuff.

The truth is, we know when we’re using these things for good or for suppression. We know it, but we don’t face it.

And what is produced as we melt once more into the allure of anywhere-but-here are countless days of lackluster living, of putting off fun for fear of the mess and exhaustion, of just getting by until bedtime so we can finally be alone and relax and enjoy cleanliness and quietude and…well, the life we were living before we had kids.

Did I mention that I hate slumping and I hate being frazzled?

Do you know what I hate even more than those things?

I hate wasting days.

The very thought slays me.

So, the kids and I have this practice we’ve done since they were very little, a tidbit I picked up in a Victorian-inspired book titled “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions” and actually remembered to employ: when we’re having a bad day or we’ve found ourselves doing more bickering than normal, we sit down together, we cross our arms one way and say “Criss”, we cross them the other and say “Cross” and then we throw our hands in the air and say “Applesauce!!!!”

We do this little chant a couple of times and, once the last word leaves our lips, our day has officially, according to us, “started over”. It’s like we’ve just woken up, the day is fresh, and we get to begin again, the past behind us, the wrongs forgiven.

It’s a silly little tradition, I suppose, but…it works!

Well, today, I want to give all of us mamas (or daddies) permission to say, even if only to ourselves, “Criss, Cross, Applesauce!!!” over the job we’ve done as parents.

Do you feel, deep down inside, like you’ve failed more than you’ve succeeded?

Are you disappointed in the way most of your private days at home go?

Are there things that you always wanted to do with your kids that you have just given up on? Personal dreams that you’ve maybe even forgotten about?

I invite you to join me in finding some time today…this week…this month…to steal away with a notebook and a pen or your electronic thingamajig, say a prayer to the God of new beginnings, and reconnect with that mother or father of your youth, the one you wanted to be for your kids when you first began.

What are all the things you really wanted to do as a family, more than anything? What daydreams gave you butterflies inside? What lessons did you want to teach them? What did you want to grow as a family? What did you want to build? What places did you want to visit? What character traits were you SURE you’d instill in them?

Write them down. Make a plan and a wish. There’s still time.

It is never too late to start again, eyes fresh, heart passionate, hope new.

I don’t know where this journey will take you, but I dearly hope it will lead me, someday, to a dining room table, surrounded by pirates, with a pot of Ring Tum Ditty bubbling on the stove.

~

Find a recipe for Ring Tum Ditty here. Find one of my favorite books, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions here (affiliated link). And, please, for the love of all that is good and beautiful, find Mrs. Gore on Facebook here! Thank you so much for reading today – I hope it makes a difference in your life.❤

Mrs. Gore Likes: Usborne Sticker Books

Summertime is in full swing, and I have some indoor fun to pass along for any mamas and daughters who want to stay in the A/C and enjoy quality time together.

If you’ve stepped foot in my house – and more specifically, our schoolroom – you’ll quickly recognize that I’m a super-duper devoted Usborne book fan.

Sometimes you jump on a bandwagon and live to regret it – for instance, Disney’s Movie Club, wherein I ordered every DVD that was ever made and now they’re all scratched up and we have to re-purchase the digital versions, thanks, kids! – but I have yet to receive an Usborne book that I regret.

In fact, I get kind of slappy silly about their books.

Especially their sticker books.

Especially…squeals and giggles!!!…their DOLLHOUSE sticker books.

For reals. Just ask my family and friends. I am a major geek about Usborne’s dollhouse sticker books!!!

So, wait. I have to backtrack for a minute.

I HAVE regretted one Usborne purchase.

I’m talking about the day, three years ago, that I bought Rebekah Usborne’s classic dollhouse sticker book — the CUTEST sticker book I have EVER SEEN!!! – and had to sit and watch her decorate it and put stickers in random places and keep my mouth shut about the whole thing while nodding and smiling encouragingly. I was literally sitting on my hands lest I snatch the book away from her and make it my own.

It was an intense day on the mommying front. I was flat-out JUDGING a preschooler’s sticker placement.

And I determined then and there that, next time I got a birthday card with money in it, I was going to buy my own dollhouse sticker book to play with all by myself.

(You think I’m kidding.)

Well…two long years went by, and I matured a little, and I became a little more magnanimous and…I made a decision.

I would still get me a dollhouse sticker book, alright, but…I’d also get one for both girls. I guess.

And instead of locking myself in my room, we’d all sit down and decorate our houses together.

And that’s exactly what we did!

Here’s the book. If you click on the picture, it will take you to an Usborne party link where you can get your own (but don’t do that yet because I’m not finished gushing yet. These things take time!):

Picture of Dollhouse Sticker Book (Revised)

Here we are WITH our books!

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Can you tell I’m excited?

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We’ve been working on our houses, here and there, for a couple of months now, one room at a time.

I realize that my daughters are sitting on a hard floor while I’m sitting on not one, but TWO, floor pillows, but I didn’t know that until I looked at these pictures, okay?

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We get somewhere comfy where we can spread out (like on two floor pillows! Or on my bed or at the kitchen table!), we pull out the page of stickers we’ll need for our dollhouse room, we work and fuss and feather our sticker nests, and then we lay them all out side-by-side and compare.

Then, in TRUE girly fashion, we go around the circle and say what we like best about each person’s house. It’s like my sleepover dreams from yesteryear have come true.

It’s about as femininely fun as it gets, and what I have been so pleased about — and what I didn’t plan, really — is that the fun has lasted for a long time. When I normally give my kids an Usborne sticker book (we’ve been through so many and love them all!!) to do on their own, they might complete it in a couple of days or a week, but doing this as a team has meant that we have savored the book as time allows. It has turned into an experience, and I think it is one we’ll all remember.

Here are a few pictures of the actual pages so you can get an idea of what the book is like. First is the “Hallway”. The blank hallway is on the left and the page of coordinating stickers is to the right.

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Here’s a finished hallway:

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Here’s a living room before we decorated it:

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and the finished product:

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The kitchen (my favorite…)

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and the kitchen with stickers (swoon!!):

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There are many more pages to decorate: a master bedroom, a boy’s room, a girl’s room, a baby’s room, an office, an attic, a garden. We still, in fact, have a couple of rooms to go! And they’re all precious.

The best news?

While the above is personally my favorite dollhouse sticker book of Usborne’s – it’s whimsical and children’s-book-ish and spans the ages that we have in our home right now – there are others available.

So next year we can do the Victorian Dollhouse together! (Again, click on the pictures to be taken to the book at Usborne!)

Picture of Victorian Dollhouse Sticker Book

And the next year we can do the Country Estate together!

Picture of Dollhouse Sticker Book Country House

And the next year we can do the Royal Dollhouse!!!

Picture of Royal Dollhouse Sticker Book IR

And the next year we can do the Grand Hotel!!!!

Picture of Grand Hotel Sticker Book

And by then I bet there will be MORE to choose from!!!!!!!! YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, calming down now.

My friend, Chrissy – who is my pal, my next-door neighbor and my personal Usborne consultant – has opened up a party link for me where you can scoop up your own dollhouse sticker books. All of the links in the post will take you there, or you can click here to be taken to the main page. If you’re interested in anything Usborne, it would make my day if you’d shop through our links, not only because it will personally help me stock up on more Usborne goodies for…um, homeschool (NOT for more sticker books, nervous laughter)…but because it will help Chrissy with her growing business. She is a pastor’s wife and mommy of 3 children UNDER THE AGE OF THREE. And she’s awesome. If you don’t already have an Usborne representative in your life, I invite you to allow Chrissy to help you with all your Usborne needs.

I never want anyone to spend money they don’t have or tempt you with things you don’t need or want, but if you have extra budget money and would like something fun to do with your kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews, these sticker books are obviously something I’m really excited to introduce you to.

Now. If you’d like some more Usborne recommendations, keep reading. If not, I’ll see you soon! (Or you can find us daily over at Facebook!)

~

Here’s another sticker book at the TOP of my list! Rebekah (age 7) and I have GREATLY enjoyed this “Fashion Long Ago” book and have stretched it out since Christmas. She just finished the last page, which was a “design your own fashions” section that she really loved.  This book, in particular, was very educational and resulted in some unscripted homeschooling. We read about the different fashions featured on each page, we would go and find fabrics like that in our house so she could feel them, we’d discuss books and movies where the characters might have worn such clothes…

it has been incredibly informative, it is SO detailed, and it has been right up both of our alleys. Find it by clicking on the picture below:

Picture of Sticker Dolly Dressing Fashion Long Ago

By the way, Rebekah has loved all of the “Sticker Dolly Dressing” books from Usborne. She’s done Christmas, and Ballerinas, and Weddings, and Travel and maybe more that I’m not remembering. They’re all fun!

If you’re looking for sticker books for your BOYS, Gideon (age 9) has devoured nearly all of the Usborne sticker book library. I asked his opinion and, at the top of his list is the Second World War (clicking on the picture will take you to the link):

Picture of Sticker Dressing Second World War

then the First World War:

Picture of Sticker Dressing First World War IR

then Pirates:

Picture of Pirates Sticker Book (Revised)

But there are SO MANY to choose from, and he has loved them all!

Betsie, who just turned 5, has so enjoyed the Teddy Bear sticker book series. The stickers are bigger and easier to handle, and once I introduced her to each bear, she was able to find the right stickers on her own. It made her feel like a big girl without the frustration that might have come from the more advanced sticker dolly dressing books.

Picture of Dress the Teddy Bears Going Shopping

Shhh, don’t tell, but I’m ordering this one for her for her first day of school in the fall. She’s going to freak out!:

Picture of Dress the Teddy Bears For School Sticker Book

Here is another line of sticker books for younger kids, called “First Sticker Books”. I got some of these for my little nieces and nephews for Christmas and they were a hit. And what do you know? They have a new DOLLHOUSE version! Life is good. There are a ton of these First Sticker Books, by the way, something for every kid.

Picture of First Sticker Book Dollhouse

Lastly, while I’m talking Usborne, I have to tell you about Sheppy’s new favorite book, a book I WISH I would have had for all of my toddlers. This isn’t a sticker book, per se, but it DOES have reusable band-aid stick-ons, and it is seriously an incredible book that consistently keeps him occupied in church. I think it should win the Dr. Toy award. The band-aids are magical and sturdy and they just keep on sticking. It amazes me.

Picture of All Better!

He is also loving this book. That is, when his siblings haven’t stolen it from him. They like to make compound words out of the word lists and Betsie likes to write people letters using the words from this book. It’s precious and it is also sturdy for rough little readers. We’re ordering the Farm version soon! And then the Food book!

Picture of My First Word Book

Okay, I am forcing myself to stop now because I really could go on for DAYS. I love Usborne so much. I’ll be back soon to share some Usborne books that we use in our homeschool, but until then, I hope you find some STICKER FUN to get you through summer!! Happy shopping!

~

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to field them in the comments section or over at Facebook. We’ve enjoyed many other books, and will be glad to answer your questions or help you find the perfect book for the child in your life! Chrissy can even make you a wishlist for the children you’re shopping for. Just shout out their ages and interests!

You Are Worth It: a letter to my family

A year or more ago…maybe two…I had an idea.

I suppose I could be categorized as a creative person, and while I don’t paint or sew or craft, when my heart feels something big, I yearn to DO something about it. To express it, somehow.

Most often, I do this through writing, occasionally I do it with a party, but every once in awhile, another outlet comes along that quenches my thirst for expression.

For many years now, I have been keeping up with the work of a young man who grew up behind me. He is a visual storyteller and, though his business title would probably fall under the “videographer” category, I marveled-from-afar at the talent of an artist in him, and eagerly watched every video he put out for the university he attended, and then for the weddings he filmed. They were amazing!!!

And somewhere along the way, a dream sprang up in my heart, and a twofold yearning could be found therein:

  • I wanted to make something really special for my family that would express my love for them.
  • I wanted to help Clinton exercise his talents and perhaps find another customer-base for his business: families.

The wedding industry is huge, yes? Americans have poured countless dollars into this one special event in a person’s life, and we don’t feel our day is complete without all the must-haves: an amazing dress, great food, an impressive cake, special music and, perhaps most importantly (or at least right behind the dress), a photographer and/or videographer.

It’s so important to us to have proof that our day existed, and to memorialize it somehow.

But…

what about life after the wedding?

What about the sacred space where our families are planted and take bloom?

What about the years after we make our vows – the years of intense spiritual growth and personal maturity – when God goes on to use the groom, and then perhaps the offspring we share, to sanctify us and help us to know Him better?

There might be a nitty-grittiness to marriage that is not there on the wedding day, but I’m a firm believer that the beauty of the union in its everyday state is so worth capturing and celebrating.

Granted, we do take a ton of pictures, most of us. You can scroll through i-photo on my desktop and get a pretttty good idea of what our family has done almost daily for the last ten years!!🙂

But videos are different. They allow you to see how your loved ones move. How they walk. How they laugh, from start to finish. How their mouths form words. How they hop off the bottom stair with gusto after walking carefully down the others. (that will make sense later).

And so, with all these ideas swimming around in my brain, I contacted Clinton with a crazy request: please, please, PRETTY PLEASE, come to our house and make a day-in-the-life video?!?!

PLEASE?!?!

I’ll spare you all the wordy details of our back-and-forth discussion that took place for months, trying to figure out how to even make this WORK – the equipment it takes to film a wedding video is crazy expensive, and it took some mulling-over to figure out how to truncate things in a way that we could afford – and, instead, I’ll just tell you that this project that was on again and off again for a long time was, out of nowhere in early May, brainstormed, planned, executed and DONE.

We went from scheduling an appointment to having the finished product in our hands in a matter of weeks!

And here’s what we had finally ended up settling on: a collection of recorded events that would paint a true picture of what our family does on a regular basis. We filmed a morning scene, with the kids actually eating breakfast. We recorded our morning Bible study in the schoolroom. We did our read-aloud. We played the piano and sang together. We had lunch. We played with toys. We went for a walk. Basically, we did everything we could think of that we do regularly enough that our kids wouldn’t watch the video someday and feel like they were watching a Pinterest version of our life.

The ONLY things, in fact, that weren’t realistic in our “movie” are as follows: 1. My house was SPOTLESS. There are usually parts of our house that are clean and tidy, but never the entire thing at one time! 2. I wore real clothes and shoes (I couldn’t let my cadaver feet be shared on the internet, I just couldn’t). 3. I was awake before everyone. In a truly genuine representation of our life, I would wake up with at least three kiddos playing recess on the bed around me.

Other than that, this was a pretty normal day in our neck of the woods! Minus the whole guy-with-a-camera thing.

So then, after we had finished with all the film and put Sheppy down for his nap, Mr. Gore, Clinton and I closed ourselves up in the schoolroom and made an audio recording of me reading a letter I had written for my family.

Which was, like, TORTURE for me. But that’s another story for another day.

And just like that, five hours and three wardrobe changes after we had started, we were done, and Clinton was on his way with a major piece of my heart stuck on a memory card.

I didn’t realize how accustomed I am to being the chief of my own creativity. Collaboration is super fun, but it takes a lot of trust. Thankfully, I put my trust in a guy who knows his stuff, and then some. And then some MORE.

Before I share the video, I want to take a minute to share with you what a meaningful experience this turned out to be for me. It was staggering, really…

The way the Lord put these specific heavy words and emotions on my heart the month our video ended up taking place.

The way Clinton messaged me with a request that I write something up for a voice-over a DAY after I had “coincidentally” been writing a mental letter in my head to my family. 

The way no one was sick and nothing happened to postpone our appointment. (I can’t even tell you how rarely that happens!!!).

I don’t put a lot of stock in my own discernment, but when it was all said and done, this entire project felt very incredibly Spirit-led and sovereignly-timed and, as a result, what had begun as a neato idea to memorialize my loved ones became something quite spiritual.

Thus, the entire week preceding our film day, that two-fold desire I’d had in the beginning was daily growing and morphing into something far greater…

I was VERY SURE that I didn’t just want to do this for my family, or for Clinton, anymore.

I wanted to do this for moms.

For people who, like me, have seen their childish dreams of fame and fortune crumble into chaff under the weighty glory of life at home.

For the dignity of family.

For the sanctity of human life, and for the scores of aborted children who never got a chance to say “I’m important! I’m WORTH it!!”

For my amazing Creator-God who knits together a people who are fearfully and wonderfully made and who, for some crazy reason, put four of them into my care.

And, oh, my dears, although I remained critical of all those personal things about me that I don’t love during my first viewing of the finished video, by the time I had finished my second viewing, there were tears of love and joy and motherhood streaming down my face.

I didn’t care what my “baby” voice sounded like (that’s an inside Facebook joke!) and what I looked like, ever. I could have had a big zit on my forehead. Or my muffin top could have been hanging over my jeans. Who cares??? This was what I had wanted to tell my family, this is how I wanted to capture them, this is what I wanted to DO for the One who created us!!!

And Clinton, the little stinker, was even more of an artist than I had initially realized: he had seen and put together things that I had not even DREAMED of, joining words and film and music into a beautiful and fluid medley that took all the things that had been on my heart and sent them heavenward in an act of genuine worship.

UMMM…CAN YOU TELL I’M EXCITED?!?!?!

When we shared the finished video on Facebook last week, I was feeling a LOT of things…

Scared — I was offering up a huge part of myself here and was mostly just hoping to be handled with care.

Hopeful — I REALLY wanted some people to see and appreciate Clinton’s work.

Excited — I was looking forward to a typical handful of shares from people who like our family and some sweet comments from those who enjoy things like this; I was excited to bring some light into their day, which is one of my favorite things to shoot for.

What I was NOT EXPECTING was the feedback that we ended up receiving. In fact, I was rather blown away.

The video seemed to hit a nerve, of sorts, solidifying deep feelings in the hearts of so many moms who have found unexpected joy in giving up their lives for the ones they’ve been entrusted with. Before the day was up, my Facebook newsfeed was full of our video, shared over and over again by friends and relatives who saw themselves in this SAME story and whose heartstrings were tugged by the reminder that their family is worth living and dying for.

{Sidenote: that nerve apparently ran a different direction over at Youtube, among those who do not see children and motherhood and family as “worth it”, further proof to me that this was, indeed, a spiritual act that engaged a spiritual battle. We witnessed some major darkness as a result of this project!}

And now, one week later, my emotions have settled into something far less complex: I’m just happy. Happy to have spent a day doing something that the Lord had convicted me of. Happy to have helped other mamas and daddies have a fresh perspective. Happy that Clinton’s work was so lovingly noted and applauded.

Happy to have taken a moment in time to tell my family — and my God — how I REALLY feel about them. For our time together is so short…

Before I tuck this video away into our collection of mementos and keepsakes, I’m offering it here today to my blog readers, in the hopes that it will remind you of what you’re doing in the trenches of home life, that you will see your children and your husbands and wives with renewed love, and that you will remember once more that this job you are doing of washing feet and wiping bottoms and making food…

it’s really, really important.

It’s eternal.

And it is so totally, completely, 100% worth it.

God bless you, as you raise up a family for the glory of God and for the spread of His Kingdom. I’m cheering for you, my brothers and sisters, from our little white house on a hill.❤

~

For more information on Clinton and ARETÉ Videography & Photography LLC, to discuss an idea for visual storytelling, or to book him for a wedding or a family video of your own, click here (and tell him I sent you and what you thought of his video!). I personally think it would also be awesome to do this same format, but write a letter to your high school senior doing their favorite things, intermixed with the typical scenes of them standing in front of old trucks and walking down railroad tracks and moseying through fields…you know, senior stuff! It would be such a beautiful tribute!

Okay, I’ll be quiet now, although I have a thousand more “visual storytelling” ideas.😉 Thank you SO much for watching our video (and listening to me go on and on about it!). If you want to keep in touch and hear daily funnies or encouragement, join us on the Facebook.❤

Mrs. Gore Likes…LulaRoe

Good evening, friends!

I’m popping over very quickly to share an exciting new find in my life.

“New”, I realize, is a relative term. There are LOTS of LulaRoe fans out there, I’m just a little late to the party.

This past week, we had most of my mom and dad’s grandkids out at their house in the country, and a special box arrived in the mail from my friend, Libby, while they were there…

Six – that’s right, six! – DotDotSmile dresses in a new floral print, part of a limited “Mommy and Me” release from LulaRoe.

Two were pink.

Two were blue.

Two were green.

Six were darling.

If you follow my page on Facebook, you might remember this video of Rebekah, showing off the DotDotSmile’s super-awesome “twirl factor”. We’ve had lots of twirly dresses in this house, but this is among the twirliest. It is SO twirly, in fact, that tumble shorts or tights are a necessity.🙂 Rebekah has shown this twirl off to anyone who will watch, and it always elicits a response. I mean, it is TWIRLY. I think I applaud every single time.

What Rebekah, in particular, also likes about this dress is that it is cool to the touch. A very hot-natured girl, she LOVES how this dress feels, and she often manages to wear it all day AND night. And the entire next day and night. And the entire NEXT day and night, until I force her to hand it over for washing.

Anyhow, I can’t tell you how happy these five little girls were — the sixth granddaughter wasn’t with us this week, but next time we’re all together, there WILL be a group picture! — when they first put on their dresses. My mom’s room seemingly transformed into a ballet stage as they each, in a dreamy world of their own, danced their hearts away. It was quite funny. I could get used to a house full of girls!

On our last night together, I pulled the girls from their wiffle-ball game – their mouths were blue from Gatorade, their feet were filthy, and their hair was a frizzy mess of brushed-out braids! Country living at its finest! – and snapped a few photos.

Keep in mind that these photos have filters on them, changing up the color of the dresses a little. They are a bit brighter, I think, in real life!

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Some things I especially love about the DotDotSmile dress:

  1. They are modest. If you’ll notice, we have older girls and toddler girls in our family, and this dress is appropriate for all. I know that my eldest niece, one year away from teenagerhood, is already having trouble finding clothes that are not too grown-up or too revealing for her. These dresses are stylish, but the girls who wear them still look like little girls. That’s a must in my book.
  2. They can’t wrinkle. I think you could put this dress in a Ziploc bag and send it to the moon and it would come out of the bag wrinkle-free. It’s slinky and awesome like that.
  3. They can change with the seasons. Earlier in the year, Rebekah wore her dress with cable-knit footless tights, boots, and a cardigan. On Sunday, it was a bit cool, and the girls wore a lightweight denim jacket over their dresses, one with Toms and one with moccasins. OR they look great on their own, with sandals!

Do you know what is super exciting for me? I liked the print of these dresses so much, I asked my friend, Libby, if she still had any of the “mommy” dresses left. She DID! I snagged a green one, so now our little family has a green, pink, and blue dress, and I’m actually pretty excited to be matchy-matchy with my girls. It’s our first time. We’ve coordinated for years, but we’ve never MATCHED. This is big doin’s.🙂 I’ll be posting a picture on Facebook soon of the three of us in our LulaRoe dresses. I’ve just got to wash my hair first.

Okie dokie. Sorry to sound like an advertisement, but you guys know by now that, when I find something I like, I’m really, really excited to pass it along! I just know there are so many moms out there looking for appropriate clothing for their daughters – and for themselves! – and I think you’ll be really happy with LulaRoe.

LASTLY, I’m sure there are LulaRoe consultants all over the map, but the one who is nearest and dearest to my heart can be found by going to www.libbybreland.com. When I was a preteen, Libby was my pastor’s toddler, and now she has a minister-husband and two little children of her own. I’m so proud of the hard work she is doing to help her family, and would love it so much if you would support her! She really knows her stuff, and was able to perfectly size all of us!

That’s all for now! I’ll be back soon to finish up the series I’ve been sharing. Thanks for shopping with me today!

 

Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (part 5)

Good day, sweet readers! On Monday, I shared the second resolution that has shaped 2016 and changed my some of my habits: Numbering my Days. You can read that by clicking here (and also find links to the other parts of this series). Today, I want to share some journal entries that I recorded while I was away from the blog that highlight how that resolution has played itself out in real life. My prayer is that it will minister to you today and draw your heart closer to love and family and home.

~

January 2, 2016

Sometimes it feels like you have had the best day of your entire life.

You look back on it to see what was so wonderful, and decide it had something to do with waking up in a tiny bed in your parent’s office with your 2-year old smushed up against your cheek. He is kicking and making racket because he is cold and you pull the hefty comforter back up to his chin and he calms down and says “tant too, Mommy!” from behind his big, pink pacifier. He squeezes his eyes shut and nuzzles your face with his head and, even though you hear the rest of the family stirring, you wouldn’t get up and disturb this moment for anything.

You just squeeze your eyes shut, too, and nuzzle back.

There is a glow between mamas and babies during togetherness like this, and it feels like time stops ticking for just a tiny bit as you focus your love on each other, two beams of pure affection meeting and filling the room around you with peace and innocence.

These glowing moments can’t last forever, but that’s okay because they fill you up just enough to last until the next one.

You are finally fetched, the two of you, by your eldest daughter, and you join the rest of the family for eggs made to order, biscuits, bacon, sausage and coffee.

The kitchen is bursting with the morning energy of nine children, aged 11 and younger, breakfast drinks are being poured like it is Spring Break in Breckenridge, coffee is being heated up in the microwave, and your age-defying mama is flipping eggs on the griddle and calling for the next lucky eater.

After breakfast, you wind up playing a fun game of Skip-bo at the kitchen table with your son and niece and sister-in-law, all of you still wearing your pajamas with bed hair sticking up all over the place.

Afterward, you plop down on the bus-sized sofa in a nest of feather pillows and flip through Country Living magazine for the first time in months and dream of making good food for your family and changing up your decor.

There are more meals to fix and eat and clean up, and at the end of it all, you sit around the fire pit in the back yard with your mama and sister-in-law and make dreamy plans for the new year ahead while your happy kids run amok all over the property.

You didn’t get one present.

You didn’t win the lottery.

You didn’t find out you were the recipient of your rich aunt’s fortune.

But you still have the gut feeling that you are wealthier than you ever deserved to be.

If I’m numbering my days and I am allotted 1,000 of them, I want at least 900 of them to be like this one.

~

January 21st, 2016

I just went upstairs, past midnight, to check on the big kids and turn down the lights.

Sometimes my heart speaks loudly enough to remind me to stop for a minute and drink in the room where they sleep. Three iron beds lined up in a row. Three sleeping children, all in their typical positions. Gideon, on his belly and all tucked under. Rebekah, sprawled out with her feet free of the covers. Betsie, body completely relaxed and draped across her toddler bed like she’s a marionnette, after the show.

Like a magnet, I was drawn first to Gideon. I sat quietly down on his bed, the creak of the bed-springs slicing through the room’s stillness. I reached down and quietly kissed him, happy that his sleeping hands were too unconscious to wipe it away.

“God…” I breathed, cupping his cheek in my hand. “Help me to do right by him.”

With my firstborn more than any of the others, I feel like I am failure. Like I am missing out on his best years. Like I am too hard on him and not understanding enough.

“Help me,” I continued, “to SEE him, to realize how young he is, to care about the things he cares about. Help me to LISTEN to him.”

I want to hear beyond the words he says and understand his heart, and I want to give him everything he needs to be happy-at-soul.

Next I moved to Rebekah.

I smiled, taking in the golden hair that lay wild all around her face. I tucked in a few stray hairs and then I cupped her cheek in my hand. I prayed for her protection, for her to be free from sin and free from danger. I thanked God for the light she brings to our home, the same prayer I pray a hundred times a day.

And then little Betsie.

Her bed, a toddler-sized version of her siblings, is more difficult to get to, and I crouched down on the floor beside her. The kiss on her cheek was full of love, as I have been desperate lately to convey to her how cherished she really is.

The third child, and the girl following a very bright and talented sister with the longest hair in the land, I worry that Betsie doesn’t feel seen enough.

“God, help her to rest in the love that surrounds her. Keep her safe, make her wise and strong. Help me to see her and to SHOW her that I see her.”

And then I thanked God for even the kindness of allowing me to pray specific prayers for each of my children, for I felt sure, on this night, that He was there beside me, giving words to my heart and turning them into requests to the only one who can do ANYTHING for our family, anything for the children I hold so dear.

I then leaned back against the wall and surveyed the nursery of my heart, and willed myself to see not what I wanted to accomplish there…not the unfinished toy boxes and the table that I want to move across the room…not the mess that the kids had made there in the aftermath of the holidays…

but the sheer beauty of childhood.

The nursery upstairs screams of innocence and of tender years, and just being there with eyes trained on the good fills me up inside.

It is a wonderfully good practice to sit for a minute while your children sleep and pray and love and think. I do it every night, some nights more intentionally than others, and then I turn off the lamp.

It helps me to count the day and to not forget that it happened.

~

January 25th, 2016

Gideon and I just meandered outside at my parent’s house to watch my dad and brother working with the sawmill.

There just comes a point in every day when it becomes obvious that your little boy needs to get outside and inhale a healthy portion of fresh air and get a day’s worth of wiggles out.

And, once the crisp air hit my lungs, I realized that it is probably good for a mama, too.

“Do you like to drink air?” Gideon asked, grinning up at me. I must have really been needing to get outside, for I was gulping in the change of atmosphere like I was on the brink of death.

“I do,” I laughed, taking in a big, exaggerated slurp. “I just wish I had a straw.”

He spent the rest of the short walk to the sawmill pretending to drink air through a straw.

Lucky for us, my brother, Jerry, was starting up the machine to cut the wood.

“Have you ever seen this work?” I asked Gid.

“Nah, I’ve only seen it break!” he replied. I’ve lost count of the number of times that boy has reminded me of Opie. And I had to laugh because that sawmill has, indeed, given my daddy a lot of heartache. But then, all machinery does. It’s just part of running a farm and business. Lots of stuff breaking all the time. I only have to deal with percolators and microwaves. His repairs and replacements are a little pricier.

I pulled the collar of my new grey sweater coat up around my neck, feeling so glad that I had, one, waited for it to go on sale and, two, purchased it with some of my leftover Christmas money. It is always difficult to let go of Christmas money, and I wasn’t sure when the coat arrived if I had made a wise choice.

But today, with that thick, soft warmth shrouding my entire body, I was finally able to let go of those last doubts.

Especially when Gideon decided to join me in it.

Trying to dissuade him from going back into the house where it was warm, I opened the coat and he leaned up against my body where I wrapped him up. He pulled the lapels up over his face, and the two of us rocked back and forth while my dad and brother slowly turned a huge log into planks of wood.

Before too long, Daddy came over to join us.

“Who wants to go feed the fish?” my dad asked in his boisterous and energetic way.

“Me!!” Gid yelled.

“Not me…” I thought.

“Run over to the garage,” he said, “and grab that bucket. Fill it up…”

“Wait,” I said, confused, “aren’t you going?”

“Nah!” he said. “You can go do it. Take the girls with you,” he said, gesturing to my daughters and niece in the yard nearby.

“But it will be so cold,” I protested.

“That’s why you need to go,” my dad said. “Movin’ around’ll git you warmed up.”

“But…”

“It’ll be fun! Holler at the girls…”

“But I don’t want them to go,” I insisted, inwardly sighing. “Me and Gid’ll go.” They would have loved it, for sure, but all I could picture was me, freezing to death, and trying to keep up with four kids who would also be freezing to death, and Betsie asking me to carry her for a quarter of a mile. While I was still freezing. To death.

An instant later, Gid and I were tearing secretly across the pasture, he with a red coffee bucket full of fish food held firmly in his hand, me holding onto my coat.

Heat tore into my shins and I realized that I had no recollection of the last time I had really RUN. It hurt. But it also felt good.

It surprised me how fast Gideon was. If I didn’t want to get left in his dust and miss out on feeding the fish, I had to actually put forth an effort.

“What if I had a heart attack right here on the spot?” I thought to myself as the cold air hit my lungs. I’d read too many stories this winter of people who had died shoveling snow. One minute you’re doing a normal outdoor activity, the next…

But we made it to the creek where a hidden amount of new trout, purchased by my daddy the previous winter, were hanging out, completely unaware that they were about to get a treat.

Do you ever have a flash of memory AS you’re doing something that you used to do, something that you completely forgot about? As I grabbed handfuls of the little brown pellets and cast them into the water where they fell like raindrops, I was instantly taken back to days I had long forgotten, accompanying my daddy to the smaller pond next to our old barn on a sweet little corner of our property. I would throw the food into the water, and here and there the sight of a fish would prick the surface, followed directly by a wide circle in the water that proved my eyes hadn’t been deceiving me.

It was exciting and soothing at the same time, and it made me feel important. Like I was helping out on the farm, and making the fish grow, and being a real country girl.

And now, here I was at the age of 34, with my son, experiencing all those feelings over again.

Gideon had obviously done this a few times with his granddaddy, and we soon turned the feeding into a competition to see who could throw their handful of food the farthest.

My heart hitched up within me to see how happy he was. Sometimes we make things so awkward for our kids, breathing down their necks and trying to get them to open up to us and reveal their hearts to us when, really, we maybe just need to take them outside and fill up their mind with something other than the parent who is staring at them and asking to them to share their feelings.

The words begin to flow, easily, and it warms me up all over to have shared a sacred moment with my boy today, discussing his upcoming birthday and talking about hard work and godliness and just carving out a memory together when we didn’t even have it on the calendar.

I have my daddy to thank, and his hungry fish.

Some days you “number” in advance – you know they’re going to special and you go into them with intentionality and care – but other days you number once they’re over because you never, EVER want to forget them.

~

Stay tuned for more! Next I’ll be talkin’ about husbands and marriage. Hubba hubba.

 

Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (part 4)

First, a thank you for hanging with me as I share what God has been teaching me since the beginning of this year! You can read the intro to this update here. But in a nutshell, this series is a description of where I’ve been since January (and why I’ve been away from this blog for so long!), listing the convictions that God laid heavy on my heart at the turn of the year, followed by journal entries that catalog my growth and experiences in that area. Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In this 4th part, I’ll share about the second resolution that has defined my practices and made life sweeter and more intentional than before! I hope it resonates with someone today and makes a difference in your life.  

~

Resolved Two: To Number my Days

I was so surprised this past October when my husband took off work to accompany my mom and the kids and me to the pumpkin patch. He is a family man, in every sense of the word, but during a very busy time of the year when so many things are vying for his pastoral time of study in the office, I thought he would have to forgo this trip.

“You’re really going?” I asked, thrilled as a farmer on harvest day.

“Of course I am,” he replied.

“I just thought you had to be in the office a lot this week…” I said.

“Listen,” he explained, “Gideon is 8 years old. The way I calculate it, I might have four or less pumpkin patch days with him before he has outgrown it. I wouldn’t miss this. I can work on Saturday.”

I was sort of dumbstruck for a minute.

I am one of the most “cherish every moment” moms you’ll ever meet. I mean, I tiptoe into my kids’ room every single night and watch each one of them breathe. I have photo-documented nearly every day of their existence. I deeply inhale the scent of their pacifiers, for fun.

But this idea of literally “numbering my days”…as in, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc…was not something I had ever really considered.

It is just so easy to slip into auto-pilot, especially when you’ve lived in the same place for awhile. You get into your routine of going to church, going to sleep, waking up, doing homeschool, going to bed, waking up, and so on and so forth until, I don’t know, your kids graduate and leave you weeping, in shock, in your empty nest!!!!!

But carrying around an acute – not to be confused with mournful – awareness of how short our lives are, how mist-like and here-this-instance-and-gone the next our existence really is, well, I think it changes things.

It helps us to choose the best thing, for instance, taking off work for an afternoon and going to the pumpkin patch, even if that means having to work on Saturday.

And it can apply to so much more than just childhood.

I hope this idea of “numbering my days” will help me to appreciate every single moment spent with my parents, whether it is at their house or my house or on the phone.

That I will drink in the gift of being in my daddy’s Sunday School class, knowing it will not last forever.

That I will stop and look around me at our family holidays, surrounded by siblings and siblings-in-law and nieces and nephews, and be SO grateful that we have all gathered in the same room once more on this side of heaven.

That I will go on walks with my littles, knowing they may not reach for my hand or pluck wildflowers for much longer.

That I will physically enjoy my husband while we are young and even halfway energetic.

That I will spend spare time reading to my kids instead of reading updates on Facebook, because there are SO MANY books to share and I can only read so fast.

That I will sit and talk with the members of my church body, and listen to them, while the opportunity is still mine. Especially our senior citizens.

That I will invest in my young nieces and nephews and go to their birthday parties and write them letters, garnering friendships with them that will serve us for a lifetime.

That I will be mindful when we pick out our annual Christmas tree that this experience is a privilege. Eight Christmas trees we’ve enjoyed as a family…how many more? I want to cherish each one.

That I will execute enough wisdom to know when to postpone an afternoon of cleaning to play American Girl dolls with my daughters who, at the very least, will only be little girls for 5 and 7 more years.

That I will let my kids climb in bed with me, keeping in mind that there are only so many days in their life that they’ll even want to do that.

It only takes a minute to feel passionate about this resolution, and here’s why: I know how old we all are, and I KNOW that not a one of us will live on this earth, in this capacity, forever. There’s just no getting around that. As snow comes in winter and swimming comes in summer, so courtship comes before marriage, toy-playing comes with childhood and nursing comes with infancy. In other words, this day I’m living is part of a season, even if it is too big for me to see, and it might be a season I never get to experience again.

And so I’m going to keep track and plan accordingly…

just like that guy who closed up his office and accompanied us to the pumpkin patch.

Mother’s Day in my Heart

I was kind of a toot on my first Mother’s Day.

The expectations I had built up in my heart — never verbalized, of course! – were sky-high. I wanted a new dress to wear to Sunday morning services. I wanted a wrist corsage (that’s right, a wrist corsage). I wanted to win the “newest mother” flower during the worship hour. I wanted a present from my husband, a present from my infant son and a present from my mom. I didn’t want to lift a finger the ENTIRE DAY.

Basically, I just wanted I and all of my contributions to the mothering world to be meditated upon by my entire circle from the first second of Mother’s Day to the very last.

That’s all, though. Nothing more.

Bless it. Needless to say, by ten o’ clock that night, I had crashed and burned into a sad heap of unmet expectations. Even though everyone was lovely to me and I had more than any woman in her right mind could ever dream of, it wasn’t enough.

Because, like a said, toot.

I was a big one.

Thankfully, as the years have gone by and God has gently and consistently pulled me away from myself, I am learning to celebrate Mother’s Day in a much healthier way, and it goes a little something like this…

My husband is off the hook.

My gosh, I KNOW this man loves me, I know he celebrates me, and I know he is thankful for me. Instead of expecting him to give me the moon and grovel at my feet, all before he preaches his Sunday morning sermon, I simply ask for a little time off sometime around Mother’s Day.

And sometimes, “time off” doesn’t always mean I want to be alone and away from my family. It just means that I’m free to do…well, whatever! By myself or with him or with the kids or with my mom or with Netflix.

For instance, last year, on the Friday before Mother’s Day, my mom and I loaded up my girls for a day on the town where we got haircuts, ate out, went shopping and, best of all, laughed and talked and celebrated not just motherhood, but the friendship that can grow between generations of women who are dedicated to one another for life.

That was our Mother’s Day. And it was awesome!!!

Rebekah and Betsie watched movies and ate snacks in the car while my mom and I took turns getting our hair did.

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Next we went to Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, one of those thoughtful places where hungry kids get balls of dough to keep them distracted until the food comes.

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Now, I have to interrupt this string of pictures to tell you a crazy story. See right over there below that American flag? And see the exit on the left side of the room? And see the booth right before you get to that exit?…

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I’m talkin’ about the area right beyond the lady in red…

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Yeah, so Ed Sheeran was sitting there, eating pizza.

We didn’t KNOW it was Ed Sheeran, at the time.

We noticed that he LOOKED like Ed Sheeran, and my mom might have even verbally pitied him for trying SO HARD to look like Ed Sheeran, but we never DREAMED it was actually ED SHEERAN.

Because…why would Ed Sheeran be eating six tables down from us at a pizzeria in Tulsa on a Friday afternoon??? The idea never even crossed our minds because it made absolutely zero sense.

Even though some of the staff were taking selfies with him.

But…

IT WAS TOTALLY ED SHEERAN.

He was apparently in Tulsa for a concert, and one of our friends who attended it said he actually mentioned Andolini’s Pizzeria during the show.

But he didn’t mention us.

Because he didn’t know we were there because we didn’t know he was there.

Nope, the only guy WE saw was a desperate Ed Sheeran look-alike. And the staff was taking pictures with him because he looked SO MUCH like Ed Sheeran that it was hilarious.

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I intently examined all of my pictures from the day and, sadly, there wasn’t one Ed Sheeran photobomb. Not a speck of red hair in the background.

Oh, well.

I did decide, however, that Betsie makes a great city girl.

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After Andolini’s, we popped down the street for some tiny desserts from Le Madeleine, heavy on the chocolate.

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And then we shopped our feet off!! It was an unscripted and lovely day — not a greeting card in sight! Not an expectation in my brain!! — but it was the BEST Mother’s Day experience I could possibly ask for.

Not because the world stopped for a day and recognized me.

Not because my husband sweated bullets trying to make sure he read my mind and gave me all the stuff I wanted.

Not because my children took a moment to thank me and read me a poem.

But because I was with the people I loved.

That’s what Mother’s Day should be about.

With the help of the Spirit, I don’t ever want Mother’s Day to be about ME again, because I am starting to learn that, without fail, when things become about “me”, they go downhill really, really fast.

If my kids want to do something for me someday, hooray, if my husband orchestrates a breakfast-in-bed, yippee, but God forbid that I ever end another Mother’s Day in that heap of misery again, not when I have living and loving to do with the very gifts that made me a mother in the first place.

So. That was Friday, but my “Mother’s Day” weekend continued to be sweet and fulfilling, solidifying lessons in my heart that had been a long-time coming. .

On Saturday night, even though they’d already had their church baths, the kids and I wound up outside in the street. Mr. Gore had called from the church (where he had gone to fix the computer) to tell us there was a brilliant rainbow in the sky.

Well, because of all the trees in our driveway, we couldn’t see it.

So we walked out into the street.

We still couldn’t see it, but after days of heavy rain, the lightning and thunder finally allowed us outside, and what was left were little rivers cascading down both sides of our street.

It was irresistible, and before I knew it, the kids were DRENCHED.

Cheeks flushed, eyes dancing, bodies jumping and running and kicking, their childhood was on full display, and I, the mother who, eight years ago, threw a hissy fit because Mother’s Day was not what I thought it should be, was absolutely at rest. I’d had more than enough to call it a successful holiday, and it wasn’t even Mother’s Day yet!

This was sincerely all the gift I needed.

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Listen, one thing the internet has taught me is that Mother’s Day is an awful day for a lot of people. People who have lost their moms, people who have terrible memories of their mom, people who want to have babies but haven’t succeeded, people who have suffered miscarriages of their precious children, people who aren’t married yet and feel like the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking…

this holiday, for so many of the people we love, is the absolute pits.

So much that it makes me wonder if I even LIKE this holiday anymore!…

But at the very least, I am just more and more convinced that, if God has woven motherhood into my story, I have more than I could ask for, period. I don’t need to be recognized at church, I don’t need to be pampered, I don’t need to become a Mother’s Day tyrant, I don’t even need all the gifts and all the thoughtfulness.

In other words, I don’t so much need to be celebrated…

I need to CELEBRATE.

Lucky for all of us, the only necessity for that is a grateful heart.

No corsages needed.

~

p.s. Great news! Late that Sunday night, the kids and Mr. Gore DID surprise me with an at-home pedicure and manicure that they ALL took turns administering. It was like a hilarious nightmare, all the way down to the box of polish they all chose together at Amazon, titled “Jingle Splash”. Happy Mother’s Day to me?…

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Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (part 3)

Follow the links to read Part 1 and Part 2!

~

Written on January 1, 2016, the following is a live-actionish journal page in response to my first resolution of cutting down on my internet hours.

Let me tell you, it was a real balloon-deflater to wake up this morning with a very strong urge to open up my computer. I shared a funny story about my son on Facebook late last night, and I was eager to see if there had been any response to it.

That is, after all, one of the fun things about the internet. We can chalk it all up to narcissism, but when I tell a funny story in real life, I enjoy hearing laughter in response to it, and that seems perfectly natural. Checking Facebook ‘likes’ and comments can become a self-worshipping addiction, I am sure, but it can also just be a normal act of conversing with other people.

Still yet, it bugs me that I feel a need to start my day off in such a manner.

I think if I could do one thing in the morning, without fail, I would like to think of God.

I want to wake up praying, and committing my day to Him. I want to open my eyes with a request that I might glorify Him in every single breath of the next 24 hours. I want to lie there for a bit with my heart beating a steady rhythm of gratitude to be alive and to have a purpose and to have the knowledge, however fundamental, of my Creator.

I’m praying that I get to that point and, by His grace, I’ll keep doing my best to resist the urge to go straight to social media before my feet even hit the ground.

I have to admit, I did pop over to Facebook this morning to check my notifications and messages when I got online to search for a recipe, but I kept it under five minutes, and I’m happy to say that I made it the rest of the day without frittering away any of my spare time on the computer.

What I received, in return, was a sweet and simple day with my family.

Betsie was so tired from New Year’s Eve events that she was on her third or fourth meltdown by 10:30 a.m. Concerned about her ability to make it happily through the rest of the day — and, frankly, tired of hearing her — her Papa sent her to bed with my silent “Amen, brother!”

We had partaken in a New Year’s Eve sleepover at my parent’s house in the country the night before and she was just plumb tuckered out. She wailed her way down their narrow hallway to the prettiest guestroom and threw herself behind the iron bed before piling floral-printed pillows up on top of her head.

Following quietly behind her, I dug her out and held her in my arms, trying to help her see the wisdom in what seemed to her like a punishment.

“But will you lay with me???” she sobbed. “Please? Will you lay with me, Mama???

We had so much to finish before our New Year’s feast at 1:00 p.m., but…

this seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin my renewed quest of fully living in my little world.

(After all, Betsie is literally “little”, one of the tiniest 4-year olds I’ve ever seen!)

I pulled up the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack on Youtube and my dramatic pipsqueak was eventually lying quietly beside me on the full-sized bed while I rubbed her back.

With nothing on my mind but what was in front of me, I really took note of her. The bones in her back that I have never personally known were there on my own back (I’ve NEVER been as skinny as Betsie, not even in my premier as a preemie!). The slope of her nose. The eyebrows that look like the quick stroke of brown from a paintbrush.

I wondered what she was feeling inside as the masterful music filled up the room. When I hear those songs from “Pride and Prejudice” I obviously think of love and English countrysides and manor houses and sunrises.

I imagine that little Betsie could hardly find the words to describe what the music was doing to her soul, but I said a prayer that it would build something in her that would be important for her future.

Those tiny decisions we make — decisions to look someone in the eye rather than past them, decisions to postpone our work for the sake of a sad loved one, decisions to turn on inspiring music to turn their thoughts to something higher than themselves — are probably more important than we’ll ever know or be able to measure. This is homemaking, at its core. Making a change in someone’s life by the simplest and  most repetitive of tasks.

The thought comforted me today, and I feasted on the luxury of spending just a short and stolen moment with only Betsie.

I prayed for her, that God would save her.

I then prayed for the rest of my family, that God would save them.

And I thanked God for the chance to even pray, because I KNOW me and I know how easy it is to choose something entertaining over sitting down to meditate and pray.

The storm now completely abated and behind us, the day went on to be full of activity, which is nothing unusual in our neck of the woods, especially on holidays.

My mom’s house is a never-ending flurry of visitors and meals and sleepovers; I daresay she has hosted more people in her cabin-esque house in the woods than the Biltmore in its finest day!

Another huge meal was devoured by another table full of people, and happy lines of seemingly countless little children were parading back and forth through the path that runs through the house. It tasted and smelled and sounded and felt like home, because we were all together.

Soon, we were rising up once more to clean the dishes and put away the food and sweep the floor and straighten up the chairs, tasks that become pleasures when you are in the company of good women, especially on holidays.

And then, just as we were loading up our family and heading home, we realized, to our great first-world distress, that our van’s heater wasn’t working. It was just what we needed to make the decision we had all been wanting to make anyway…

just like that, our bags were unloaded and the decision to bunk at Grandmother’s for one more night was proclaimed; it was an announcement that sent cheers up among the cousins, and it echoed deeply in my heart.

Before long, the littlest kids were playing Uno with Grandmother in a circle near the couch, and backed up against them was a circle of our own, playing Skip-bo and then Phase Ten.

Guess what?

The only reason any of us had to pull up the internet was to check the rules of the game. It was a beautiful night, even though I lost at cards, rather miserably.

Because I’d won at life, by God’s grace and intervention, for at least the first day of the new year.

And now…

I have 364 more chances to repeat this particular victory. Ready, set, go!

 

Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (Part 2)

Written in January, the next parts of this update will list the resolutions I made in 2016, followed by journal entries cataloging my success (or failure).  You can read Part One of the series by clicking here.

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I don’t always believe in “New Year’s resolutions”. Some years I have played it cool, like, “my resolution this year is to spend EVERY day like it’s the first day of the year”.

Or “my resolution is to not make a resolution.”

But I just cannot deny, however philosophical I’m feeling, that there is something wonderfully new and inspiring about January the first.

It’s like those days when I take a damp washcloth and wipe down the large chalkboard in our homeschool room. Even the kids appreciate this act of cleanliness and we all “ooh” and “aah” for a bit over the vibrant, fresh slate before us. It’s so pretty, after all. It’s so green.

Who will dare be the first to mark on it?

What shall be the first thing we write?

The new year looks very much like that chalkboard on the morn of January the first, and I’m sort of a superfan.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not playing it cool this year. I have a ton of resolutions.

~

Resolved 1: Get off the internet. Well, sort of.

One day, not so very long ago, my 8-year old son asked me what my favorite thing was to do.

“What do you think my favorite thing is to do?” I countered.

“Be on your computer,” he answered, without batting an eye.

OUCH, mister.

I have to admit that it stung a little because, even though I am a devoted(ish) writer whose “work” is on a computer, I have never wanted to be the mom who is forever behind a screen. I have tried very hard, from day one, to “cherish every moment” and to be a “hands free mom”, but you know what, writing times aside, there are just so many days when you accidentally find yourself wrapped up in something stupid on the internet, out of mindless habit.

You can really objectively see it, can’t you, when it is someone else? They have an i-phone in their hands and people are saying their name and they can’t hear or focus on anything other than the Facebook page they are perusing, the tweet they are composing, or the Youtube video they are watching. It looks so distracted. It looks so modern. It looks so typical. It looks so…blech.

But when you’re the one BEHIND the screen, and your mind is filled up with what you are reading — and you are so thoroughly entertained and engrossed and entrenched by all twenty tabs you have pulled up on your computer!! — you lose track, somehow. An hour feels like five minutes. Two hours feels like seven minutes. And an occasional “check-in” somehow turns into an entire day of refreshing a page and checking notifications and messages.

I daresay the internet and all of its charms has held a viselike grip on me during certain seasons of my life, stealing my moments until they pile up into days, and I am always quite ashamed to recall the countless hours I have spent in my lifetime just scrolling over things I’d already read or…had I? It all starts to sound the same after awhile, anyway. How eerie it is to see an old post from months past that I have ‘liked’ or shared that I have zero recollection of ever seeing in my life.

I looked at Gideon and sighed.

“I do like to be on my computer,” I admitted, my brow furrowed in honest thought. “But…do you know what actually makes me happier than anything else in the entire world?”

“What?” he asked.

“Just…watching you guys be happy,” I replied, searching for words to express what my heart was revealing to me at that very second. “Watching you grow. Being with you…”

And that’s when it really hit me – hard!! – that I had habitually been choosing monotonous and insatiable fluff over the things that, in actuality, make me so deliciously full inside.

It’s something akin to the deep-down enjoyment of being thin and healthy over the feels-so-good-but-then-feels-SO-bad enjoyment of eating a box full of donuts from the bakery. You may not be able to remember the difference when you’re at the donut shop, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a difference.

And so I knew, right there in my kitchen with my boy looking up at me from the table, that I needed to make a drastic change…I’d had all these big internet feelings since Thanksgiving…now I needed to set some boundaries that I couldn’t cross.

I needed to take control of the internet before it threatened to take control of me.

Therefore, though I have loosely adhered to this new mindset for the past two months, with a new year before me, it is time to make it final.

But WAIT! It’s difficult figuring out the best way to go about these sorts of changes. How easy it is to just pull the plug completely, losing all the good with all the bad, and that’s something I very much want to avoid.

I have made some incredible – and I mean, incredible – friends through the internet. I correspond with some of my best long-distance friends through e-mail and Messenger. I have support groups online that I thank God for with all my heart. I have a readership on my blog and on Facebook that I absolutely adore.

So…how do we slough off the bad without losing the good?

It’s a process, I believe, that takes honest and deliberate thought, and will probably look different for every single person.

When it came to formulating my own guidelines, I wanted them to be simple enough to keep me in check, but still allow me some breathing room.

Thus, for a normal school day, these are my goals. The plan is not to act as though these guidelines will get me into heaven, but I DO want this outline to be the norm for me:

  • Absolutely no internet in the morning, unless I need to look something up for school or lunch.
  • I may go to my own personal “Internet Cafe” for an hour a day, if I so choose. I am free, during this time, to peruse Facebook without guilt, to message friends, to watch goofy Youtube videos, or to check for sales on my wishlist at Anthropologie. I may have wi-fi all day long, but this is the only hour I want to really acknowledge it. Think “college days in the early 2000s” when you had to go to the computer lab to get online
  • No internet in bed. When I cross into my bedroom at night, the computer stays behind.
  • I may hop quickly online during the day for very specific reasons, such as ordering my groceries or making a purchase at Amazon or doing research for school or sharing a quick story, but then I hop right back up. No surfing allowed. If possible, I won’t even sit down for these things, so I’m not tempted to settle in.

So. Why all the nit-picky rules?

Because, even though I love, love, LOVE the internet, it is undeniable to this heart of mine that my family has been calling me home.

And so I’m going to shut this laptop, and I’m going read books out loud, and I’m going to remember what it is like to sit and pray with nothing distracting me, and I’m going to try to make some good food, and I’m going to hang twinkle lights upstairs, and I’m going to play card games and, who knows, maybe I’ll even dig in the dirt and make something grow. The sky’s the limit, so long as there’s not a cloud drive involved!

The sterility of the internet and the voices of the multitudes should no longer be allowed to hold me captive — God forbid it!! — when there is sweet LIVING to do.

Especially when the only one holding the keys to my chains is me.

It’s kind of embarrassing how the freedom I so desperately crave is just a matter of pushing a button and standing up.

~

This was my first resolution. Tomorrow I’ll share some journal entries that have cataloged my new practices!

Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (Part 1)

Written in December 2015: this is where yesterday’s post, and the 2016 journal I’ll be sharing in the days to come, realllllly started…

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The world has gotten so big lately.

I live in a 2,000 square foot house in a town of approximately 1,300 people, and yet, from a tiny screen that I can hold in my hand, I have 24-hour-a-day access to every major and minor breaking news story in the entire land.

Not only that, I can also – if I so choose – give ear to every phone-wielding human on the planet, including all 500 presidential candidates.

And sometimes it can all start to feel normal, this new “plugged in” mode of living.

We’ve gotten so used to it, in fact, that many of us can scarcely recall what it felt like to be excited to check the mailbox, or to be stuck on the highway with no way to tell our daddy that we had a flat tire, or to see someone at our 10-year high school reunion and have NO IDEA what they’ve been up to since graduation.

We are updated, to the max. We are connected, at all times. We know everything about every person and every subject, and if we don’t, we can look it up in a millisecond.

That’s not all bad, of course. I don’t miss being stranded on the highway and at the mercy of potential serial killers.

But then, occasionally, these moments of clarity pop up out of nowhere — say, for instance, during Thanksgiving break, when I’m typically away from the internet for a full week — and the drug of omniscience wears off and I remember, all of a sudden, how great it can feel to be a person who lives, for lack of a better term, “outside of the screen.”

It’s like stepping into the sunlight after quarantine.

And it didn’t really dawn on me until recently (this most recent Thanksgiving, to be exact), how incredibly heavy-laden I had become about all of it, namely, the scores of worldwide matters that I maybe don’t even need to know about in the first place.

It was definitely beginning to take a toll on me, and I didn’t even know it.

Does my mommy heart, for instance, really need to hear about every kidnapping in America? Do I need to read about every grisly murder that takes place on our soil? Do I need to hear about which celebrity has posed nude for a magazine today and who has a new sexual preference in their life? Do I need to hear about who is angry with whom and which group is outraged with which and who is calling for an apology? Do I need round-the-clock exposure to sinkholes and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and floods?

I mean, is it not scary enough that I personally had to take shelter from a tornado in the Spring of 2008?

Can we just still try to deal with that, maybe?!?

And it just makes me wonder…

perhaps we weren’t created to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders.

And it’s a feeling that I just can’t seem to shake, this overwhelming craving for the world to be little again.

In the little world around me, the one I actually walk around or drive in, there is a beloved extended family that I am always happy to spend time with.

There is a community that needs my attention and compassion and cooperation.

There is a church where I can invest my life and love.

There are real conflicts that I can actually help resolve.

There are four little faces, new to this world, who need my daily instruction and guidance. And to be wiped.

There is a husband with red, curly hair who longs for nothing more than…well, ME.

And this little world, the one that has been assigned to me, the one that I wake up in on a daily basis…

this I think I can do.

So this coming year, I so desperately want to leave the big world behind — and all of its voices and its opinions and its violence and its outrage — and I want to dwell, not in a head-in-the-sand sort of way, but in a this-is-where-I-live-and-I’m-going-to-act-like-it way — in the little world that surrounds me. The one that I can see with my eyes and touch with my hands and smell with my nose.

The one that takes blood and tears and sweat from my own physical body.

The one that has a heartbeat, or at least a heartbeat that I can hear.

In other words…

I’m going home.

~

Part Two coming soon!