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.

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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.  

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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…

~

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! 

Where I’m At!

A sweet reader, noticing that I hadn’t published a blog post SINCE JANUARY, checked in on me last week, and I realized that it was high time I popped over here to the blog to post an official update.

Mrs. Gore’s Diary has not been anywhere close to this quiet since its inception in January 2011. In fact, if you would have traveled from the future and told me a half a year ago that I would go THREE WHOLE MONTHS without blogging, I would have said, “What happened?? Am I dead?!?! WHO DUNNIT???”

Mostly because this space on the internet, since day one, has been pretty important to me.

I adore this jotting down of my memories and my moments, and it is so dear to me to have a place to share them both with like-hearted readers who have treated them so lovingly.

So…with all this blog fidelity in my heart, where in the world have I been??

First, do keep in mind that I write over at the Facebook page nearly every single day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have a ball there, sharing funny stories, poignant moments, pictures, videos and product reviews – it’s the perfect format for my life right now, and I’m ALSO not exaggerating when I insist that I have the nicest Facebook readers on the whole internet! It’s as happy as Mayberry over there, which is exactly my sort of town, even if it has to be found online.

But if you’re NOT a Facebooker, I can see how you’d probably be worried that I might have fallen off the face of the earth.

Good news!!

I have not.

In fact, I’m here, right this minute, sharing these words! If you could stick your finger through your computer screen, you’d poke me right in the eye!

So here’s the dealio. (and I’ll try to keep this shortio.) (but we all know I won’tio.)

God willing, I have not left blogging behind for the long-haul, but there have, in fact, been several things contributing to my lengthy absence, small things that, whenst added all up together, turn into THREE MONTHS OF BLOGGITY NOTHINGNESS.

First of all, and this is such a piddly and ridiculous reason, my Mac has reached maximum storage capacity, so that I cannot upload any new pictures without finally being forced to go through the thousands and thousands of photographs and videos that we have on our desktop. In fact, I’m not only going through them, I’m editing them, I’m uploading them to Facebook and Shutterfly, I’m sending them to our external hard drive, and then I’m deleting them. The process is so mind-numbingly slow, and most of my holiday and party pictures from the last couple of months are still on my camera, which literally KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT with photographic angst. Thus, when I have sit-down time, I am usually working on pictures instead of writing, which is just the opposite of “the berries”.

Now…have I slowed down with taking NEW pictures to keep this problem from continuing to escalate? No, I have not. I just keep snapping away, la dee da, and soon, our new camera will ALSO reach maximum capacity, and then we’re all really going to have A PROBLEM ON OUR HANDS!!!!! I think I have camera stress as evidenced by my excessive use of all caps. It might be a first-world problem, but it is a PROBLEM. OKAY?!?!

Secondly, and this is much less piddly and unimportant that my first reason, our family has been catapulted into a busier stage of life than ever before.

WHO knew that, when your daily napping infants and toddlers grew to school age and you decided to keep them home and act as their educator, you would no longer have as much freedom to sit in front of a computer for hours and hours and spill your guts to anyone who would listen?!

Call me naive, but I honestly didn’t see that coming. However, with our oldest now in the 3rd grade, our schooling has picked up significantly, to full-time-ish job hours (with a heavy emphasis on the “ish” part).

On TOP of that, our ministry life has also rapidly picked up, with more teaching and meeting opportunities than we previously had; I pinky promise that we are still being exceedingly careful with our schedule to make sure that we keep our family tight and whole, but I’m telling you, we went from about 10 miles per hour for the last 8 years to a cool 75 in 2016.

On top of THAT, with our kids more grown up and the matriarch of the house less pregnant/nursing/newborning than she previously has been, we are also having an unprecedented amount of people in our home, which means that I have another full-time job on my hands: keep this pit of our house picked up!!! Daily!!! And, unfortunately, there is no “ish” to this department of my life. It’s full-time, to the max. In fact, I’m sweeping right now! And boiling a chicken. (Just kidding, I’m sitting and helping Betsie with her school. But there are clothes in the dryer, so there!).

Which leads to the third thing. With the above point in mind, on the heels of this new season of life, I have found myself in a bit of a homemaking boot camp.

Can I tell you something about Mrs. Gore’s adolescence? I was the last child in our family – which we all know means I was very important and celebrated and tended to – and I had a very busy school and social life, to the point that I usually came home at night to eat and sleep. What that means, more or less, is that, when I got married, I didn’t know how to do NUTHIN’.

Mr. Gore and I moved into a tiny seminary apartment that was easy enough to keep picked up, and I began dabbling in cooking and tidying up. But just when I was finding my feet as a housewifey, I got pregnant and we moved back in with my parents for what turned out to be three years – I might have tried to help carry the housekeeping load during that time, but my mom was right there beside me, holding up the universe and making it look easy (while also making me feel like I was doing an AWESOME job at being alive). Looking back, I don’t know HOW much I really did then. Did I ever cook? Did I wash our sheets or did she? I don’t know. It’s all very fuzzy, in a hazy good sort of way, so I doubt that I was doing much, even if I felt like I did.

Anyhow, by the time we moved into our first real home – with two stories to take care of! – I had a toddler and a new baby and mountains of boxes to go through that had been in storage for years. And then I got pregnant again…and then AGAIN…and, well, 2015 was honestly the FIRST TIME I began to come up for air for a very very long time.

That said, this past year has felt like a brand new world where I sort of have these crazy things like, I don’t know, brain capacity and confidence and drive and a SPIRAL-BOUND PLANNER, for crying out loud and, as a result, I’m finally becoming the queen of this here domain.

And though I had performed somewhat decently in my homemaking capacity during those baby-growing-and-birthing-and-nurturing years, I am now intentionally pursuing rigorous cleaning routines and meal plans and laundry rituals for really the first time in my entire life. This is, of course, in between homeschooling.

Conclusion: Dang it, being a homemaker/homeschooler is HARD WORK!  (Even though I LOVE IT.) And you really can’t sit down very often, or the entire operation will come crumbling down on top of your head.

But!

But!

BUT!

Even more than all of the above, there are, in fact, deep and spiritual reasons that I have been away from my blog for such an extended period, and it’s some really good stuff. The Lord has been working very specifically on my heart since last Thanksgiving in ways that have completely changed my life and my practices. I would go on and spell it all out here, but I have actually been keeping a loose journal about it some of it and, if you don’t mind, I’ll let it do the talking.

How about tomorrow?!

And just like that, what do you know? I think I’m blogging again!

it’s good to be back.

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery

 

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery: How to be the lady of the manor AND the scullery maid without going Edith on everybody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is with the insane, superhuman expectations?

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

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

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

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

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

Namely, this: Pick a lane, m’lady.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

well, RELAX.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May I kindly recommend PBS?

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

~

Thanks for reading!

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

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

 

 

An All-American Halloween

A couple of years ago, I saw this precious costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalogue (click on the picture to be taken to the product page).

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Rebekah was singing by then, and I could just picture her in this vintage-inspired get-up with her chubby toddler body singing “God Bless Am-ayy-ica.” Here, I’ll help you to imagine it better.

So I added that costume to my (sorta sad) Halloween wishlist at Amazon with hopes to someday center our family costumes around it.

Is that normal for people to have Halloween wishlists for their family-themed costumes?

Don’t answer that.

But then, darn it, these kids ’round here started getting opinions.

We did “Red Riding Hood“. (Okay, which I was totally pumped about).

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Then Mr. Gore had his back surgery and I barely had time to throw this “Hospital” idea together (which actually won us the costume contest that year! BOOM. Mic drop.)

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Then it was “Star Wars“, all for the love of our then seven-year-old son, Gideon.

And I hope you’ve noticed the glaring omission of the Chasing Fireflies patriotic costume that had now been on my wishlist for THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS.

Nope, no red-white-and-blue sequined number, just a slumping Darth Vader who doesn’t know how to hold a lightsaber.

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It’s like I’m in prison or something.

Thus, even as Rebekah and I conceded last year to what felt like maybe a Holy-Spirit-led Star Wars decision at our costume planning meeting (don’t judge), we both made it clear before we adjourned that NEXT year (meaning, this year) we would finally do it…

AMERICA.

No comments, no questions, no take-backs.

There was only one problem, however.

Rebekah wasn’t digging the costume I picked out for her all those years ago at Chasing Fireflies.

I’m sorry, WHAT????

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Rather, she fell madly in love with a random Betsy Ross costume that we somehow stumbled across at Amazon one day.

In fact, she loved it so very much that she put it on her Christmas wishlist, even though the smallest size was for 9-11 year olds (she was 5).

And…she got it.

Her Grandpa and Grandma, who have this uncanny ability to sense what their little ones will love the most off of their lists, bought it for her, and it’s true, when I asked Rebekah what her favorite gift was after Christmas, she got all dreamy-eyed and sighed “My Betsy Ross costume!”

So I decided to love it, too.

It was way too big, but she adored it so much, and I said “buh-bye” to my little 1940’s USO girl before 2014 was even over.

Maybe the next time I have a chubby and fabulous preschooler who voluntarily memorizes and sings patriotic songs, I’ll buy it for HER.

But, in all seriousness — if we’re allowed to “be serious” when we’re talking about Halloween costumes — it’s important for a mama to learn somewhere along the line that, if she will just GO with it and release her freakish control-freak tendencies, life can be great and maybe even better than it would have been if she had remained dictator-of-the-costumes-and-all-the-other-stuff.

(For instance, I wouldn’t trade the memories of our “Star Wars” Halloween for ANYTHING!)

But before we get to the costumes, there’s one more thing I want to tell you about.

You guys know me well enough by now to know that we wouldn’t just be dressing up on Halloween and then calling it a day. Everything has to have meaning around here and things that happened on this day need to line up with things that happened on that day and ALSO with things that will happen in the future and I couldn’t help myself…

sometime around two years ago, this costume theme began to grow into another complicated vision that I just couldn’t let go of.

You see, I love the 4th of July almost as much as I love October 31st, and most of the characters we would be portraying on Halloween had also, long, long ago, conveniently been featured in 20th Century wartime propaganda posters.

Well, guess what? I HAPPEN TO LOVE WARTIME PROPAGANDA POSTERS!!! Golly gee, who doesn’t?!?!

So here was the plan: as each person got dressed in their costume on Halloween Day, I dragged them out to our shed through the wet grass to try and replicate the posters that we had found of our characters. Soon, I’ll be sending the photos off to a graphic designer to be turned into posters – featuring us! – that I can hang up every July.

Do I exhaust you?

Because I certainly exhaust myself.

And definitely my husband and my mom.

ANYHOW, I look forward to showing you next summer the wartime posters we’ll hopefully have hanging all around our house!

But enough with the whys and the hows and the whats and the posters.

Are you ready to see this year’s costumes?!?!

~

First up, we have Uncle Sam, played by the best of good sports, Mr. Gore.

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What a hero. Not only does he play along with my photo shoots, he then scurries down the street to head up our town’s Trunk or Treat, never once acting embarrassed that he is wearing a taped-on goatee. I love that man.

(p.s. If you are looking for details and links to our costumes for a future Halloween, I have a follow-up post in the works!)

~

Next up! Rosie the Riveter, played by your truly.

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I spent a good amount of time on Halloween afternoon practicing Rosie’s pose in front of our computer camera:

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The pose was much harder to replicate when I was outside in the cold in front of the neighbors without a mirror image!

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Can I tell you, though, what I enjoyed most about my costume this year?

Most days, I feel the need to cover up my arms with a cardigan, but I was kinda unexpectedly proud on this day to show off my Mama guns as a tribute to the men and women of the Greatest Generation. There were so many vamped-up costume versions of Rosie out there, making her look all pin-up-y and such, but I ask you, fellow citizens, would the women that Rosie represented be trotting all over town trying to look sexy on Halloween night?

Nay, I say!

They’d be flexing their big ol’ arms from working hard and holding down the homefront and toting around old-fashioned, heavy babies, and they might be a little thick in the middle because they weren’t averse to a good piece of pie after supper. In that regard, the role of Rosie was created for me.

In fact, I mentally called my costume “paunchalicious” because the elastic band of my worksuit sat right on my biggest problem area. It was all good, though.

For this night, I embraced it.

I think it must all go back to the red lipstick. That stuff does something for a girl’s confidence, even when she’s wearing something akin to Carharts.

~

Next up, we have the amazing Captain America! I had never seen this particular poster before, but I LOVE it.

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And here’s our “Cap”, about as handsome and inspiring as the original, if I say so myself.

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Gid the Kid loved this costume, purchased for 40% off at the Disney Outlet in Branson, and my biggest struggle was keeping him from wearing it day and night before Halloween. He is still wearing the gloves every day, with every outfit.

I’m just personally thrilled that he’s still cool with wearing costumes. I don’t see Peter Pan much around here anymore, and I was afraid we’d lost him.

~

Next we have the beautiful and industrious Betsy Ross. I couldn’t find a Betsy war poster, but this artwork served as our inspiration.

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Here’s our Betsy. Not to be confused with our actual Betsie. This is really Rebekah, my co-heart behind this “America” theme, and the biggest fan ever of the costume she FINALLY got to wear. Special thanks to Grandmother for hauling a sewing machine over at the last minute to shorten the skirt to a wearable length!

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Next, we have the statuesque Lady Liberty!!!

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Played by our actual Betsie (not to be confused with our Rebekah Betsy). Betsie loved, loved, LOVED this costume, and I did, too! I can’t help but feel that it went on sale just for us, after years of being too expensive!!!

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We actually did two poses with the Statue of Liberty, and this second one just positively slays me. Betsie is shy in some scenarios, but on costume picture day, she’s our best actress!

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(#ohhoney)

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And, lastly, I present to you our majestic national bird…

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played by Shepherd Gore!

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I would have made him a nest, but everything was wet, and we had to hurry to get his photos before his 2-year-oldness started showing.

The funniest thing about Shepherd is that he HATED his costume SO BAD. We had tried to put it on him a couple of times, but he ran away from us screaming his head off. I had honestly assumed that he would be wearing his American flag shirt on Halloween night.

Thus, imagine my shock when I was finishing up Rebekah’s photos by the shed and this little eagle came running across the yard towards me, flapping his wings, so he could get his picture made.

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It made me want to say old-ladyish things like “Well, I never!” and “Will wonders never cease?!” It was the best surprise of my night.

So. Those are the official “poster” poses that will be made into our 4th of July decorations.

Now here are just some fun shots we got of each character in between takes.

First, Uncle Sam:

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Okay, so that was the only pose I had of him. I have, like, fifty of that same pose, and you’ll notice in the upcoming pictures that he holds this pose for the entire night. The sky could be falling in on our heads and he would never break character.

Here’s Rosie (these were taken by Gideon, my budding photographer!):

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Captain America:

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Betsy Ross:

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The Statue of Liberty:

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and our Eagle-boy:

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Finally, here’s the whole crew. I will cherish this picture forever!

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And these, too…

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Psst! Little known fact. Did you know that Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter fell in love and had patriotic babies? They live underneath the Lincoln Memorial.

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It may feel, sometimes, that our country is going berserk-o, but we’re still mighty proud to live here and call the U.S.A. our home. We’ll fight for her, we’ll pray for her, we’ll pay our taxes and we’ll love her. Until she takes away our right to homeschool, then we’re outta here. Haha. Just kidding. But totally serious.

AMERICA RULES!!!

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~

Thank you, DEAR readers, as ever, for making Halloween extra fun for me!! Our Facebook group is my favorite place to go to on Halloween night once the kids have eaten ungodly amounts of candy and passed out on the floor.

If you haven’t already, pop over to our page and share a picture of your costume! And ‘like’ our page to get frequent updates and stories from the Gore family. Happy Halloween 2015!!

A New Kind of Love for an Old Kind of Friend

Mr. Gore and I made a departure from our usual this week…

we WENT somewhere.

Just the two of us.

It was actually one of those situations that sounded like a great idea when we accepted the invitation six months earlier, but as the day loomed closer, the pits in our stomachs grew heavier.

You know this already, but we sort of like it here, in this house of ours on the hill. We like our living room and our comfy chairs. We like our life. More specifically, we like our KIDS.

But we had committed ourselves to this “Pastors Encouragers Conference” hosted by Dr. Ted Kersh’s Equipped by His Word, and we felt it important to honor that commitment.

Thus, early Monday morning, we loaded up the kids, dropped them off at my parent’s house, and began the long trek to Branson, Missouri.

As we neared Tulsa, the temptation to turn around grew pretty strong, but we powered through and, before long, we were pulling into the parking lot of the Thousand Hills Golf Resort in Branson.

It was a beautiful location, but I have to admit that it did little to chase away my unease. Condos and rolling hills are great and all, but have you seen my 2-year old Shepherd? He’s the berries.

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Why are we here? I thought. How did we get ourselves into this??

But then I shook hands with Dr. Ted Kersh in the lobby of the conference center, and the anxiety that had chilled my heart for days began to thaw on the spot.

As I told Dr. Kersh and his lovely wife, Jerri, on the last day of our meeting, the two of them and their team could have invited us to a concrete slab in the middle of nowhere and it would still have been the “Pastors Encouragers Conference”. In other words, THEY are the Pastors Encouragers Conference, with skin on, and I don’t know how I could have traveled so many miles on this earth without having met them before.

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All that to say, what felt so foreign as we were pulling in to Branson immediately morphed into a homecoming, and that feeling of warmth and reunion only deepened as the conference went on.

Over the course of the next two days, the Lord did incredible things in my heart, things I never, ever saw coming.

And at the top of the list is that my husband and I met so many amazing people, forging deep connections with brothers and sisters from all over our home state.

Thus, as we drove back home on Wednesday, I just could not stop talking about the new friends we had gained, recounting the funny conversations we’d had, the sweet prayers we prayed together, the experiences we’d shared, and the specific struggles that we’d found we have in common.

There is no doubt that something special happens when you come into contact with folks who are like you and who share a line of work that is nearly identical to your own; in that room full of men and women who well know the joys and difficulties of life in the ministry, we could walk up to near about anyone and strike up a deep conversation about all the feelings about all the stuff.

Obviously, I was on cloud nine about ALL of it.

But it’s funny how the Lord works, isn’t it?

He is in no way a one-dimensional God, and can somehow encourage AND convict us at the exact same time.

And just on the other side of my bubbling-over joy, there was something at work within me, a conviction, a line of questioning, and it wasn’t until we were about halfway home that I was finally able to identify what was bugging me…

why am I not this excited about the people in my own life?

Because this is a true story: you could take just about any person or couple from my church, set them across the table from me at a conference like this, and I would fall head-over-heels in love with them like I did with all the new friends we made this week.

I would be drawn to them, like a magnet. I’d want to know all their stories and their struggles. I’d want to see pictures of their kids or grandkids. I’d have the best manners and listen intently to every word they said. I’d even spontaneously want to buy them stuff and invite them to our house!

And I’d most certainly talk about how much I love them ALLLLLLL the way home.

In other words, I’d be EXCITED to have met such an amazing brother and sister, and I would count the experience as sovereign and divine.

This shames me, a little.

And I wanted to write about this shame today because I know that I’m not alone. We all do it all the time, don’t we? Aloof, at times — or, at the very least, comfortably lazy — with one group of people, we come alive in other settings with people who are really not that different than the folks we’ve cooled towards.

And I don’t necessarily mean “cooled” in a purposeful and malicious way but simply that, well…we just haven’t taken the time to SEE them awhile. We’ve gotten into the habit of skimming right over them.

So what’s the deal? What’s keeping us from having an excited conference-sort-of-love for the people in our day-to-day life?

I think I have the answer to that question.

It’s easy to love people for three days at a conference. At a retreat. On vacation. On Facebook. In another state.

But when you’re trying to do 1 Corinthians 13 LIFE with people, day in, day out…

well, that’s another story, completely.

And it’s important to note that we’re not necessarily being fakes when we’re around a new group of people. Sure, we are probably presenting to them the very best versions of ourselves, but there’s nothing wrong with that, really. No one slumps and burps and reveals all their grisly secrets to strangers – we’re not wired that way.

No, where we go wrong is in never taking the time to offer this same sort of energy, care, and gratitude with the people we see all the time.

Let’s employ our imaginations for a bit…

If you went to another church and your pastor and his wife were serving there but you didn’t know them, would you just adore them? Would you wish you could have a pastor like that? Would you wish you could know his family better and count them as friends?

How about your godly parents? Pretend like you’ve never seen them before and you met them at a retreat. Would you sit and drink in every word they had to say? Would you go home singing their praises and wishing you could spend more time with them and glean wisdom from their life experiences?

What about the ladies in your peer group? If you were in a small group with them in a place other than your hometown and heard them talk for the first time, would you be excited to have met them? Would you think they were funny? Would you laugh your head off at their jokes? Would you sympathize with what they’re dealing with at home? Would you genuinely wish the very best for them, for the glory of God and for the good of the Kingdom?

Then…

what’s holding you back with the people whose pictures are on your refrigerator? The folks who daily fill up your Facebook newsfeed?

It could be any number of things, really.

Perhaps there is a long-held resentment bubbling below the surface of a friendship. Maybe we’ve grown tired of hearing this person talk about their blessings and/or struggles and have, without really meaning to, started to impatiently listen to what they have to say. Or to half-listen with both our ears and our hearts.

Maybe there is baggage between us and another person, keeping us from wanting to fully invest in a relationship with them. Sure, if we met them for the first time at a conference we would want to be BFFs, but there’s that weird thing between us that feels to hard to overcome.

Or maybe there are no hard feelings in our heart, whatsoever. Maybe we’ve just grown used to each other, like the proverbial “old married couple”, a familiarity that isn’t BAD, per se – that’s part of the joy of being in a family, to find someone you can be YOU and relax with! – but maybe we’ve gone too long without studying and appreciating the gift.

Or, who knows? Maybe we’re just so busy that we haven’t stopped in ages to really SEE the people we do life with. That can so easily happen, can’t it?

Regardless of the cause, I just want encourage you today. Yes, thank God that you have a family of people that you’re comfortable with – that’s a loveliness that shiny new friendships can never compete with! – but when you go to church this Sunday, or even when you walk into your kitchen today, take a moment to see your people with fresh eyes.

Whether it is your peers at church, the retired missionaries that teach Sunday School, or even your own family members…imagine them, as strangers, sitting across the table from you at a conference.

Would you not think you had just met the best person ever???

I can truly say this would be the case with about 100% of the people in our little neck of the woods.

Let’s love them with renewed zeal. Listen to them. Notice what they have to offer – their sympathetic ear, their humor, their passion for the lost, their artistic ability – and be EXCITED about that. Be the lady that you are at the conference in a room full of fresh faces. Be the cheerleader that will point out how great they are, how happy you are to have met them, how blessed you feel that God would allow you, by His great grace, to cross paths with them.

Fall in love, all over again, with the life you’ve been entrusted with and the people who fill it up.

You know what? I’m thanking God that this conviction He has laid on my heart in no way dampens the relationships I made at the Pastors Encouragers Conference. I can boldly say that I made new friends there that I love with a passion, friends that I plan to pursue and cherish forever.

But there is extra grace in these newfound friendships, as they have also revealed to me a sleepiness that I might have never identified on my own.

Who we are at the conference doesn’t say much – anyone can give their best for three short days – it’s who we are in the day-to-day trenches of life with the people we see all the time that reveals who we really are, and I KNOW that I can do better.

Can you?

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Thanks for reading today and listening to my heart! If you’d like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook by clicking here.

And to discover more about Equipped by His Word, click here.