the expectation of imperfection (archived)

I am not gentle with myself.  I am a perfectionist & if I can’t do something perfectly, I usually have a “why even bother attitude”.  Desires become idols really quickly in my heart, & when the outcome isn’t what I’d like, or I can’t have something exactly as I’d like, I am really let down.  It’s a dream if mine to have a thriving family homestead one day.  (One we may be putting off a while for hospitality’s sake.)  Eventually, I want to grow (& raise!) most of our food with my kids helping & enjoying our own homegrown, seed-to-table, slow food.  Canning, preserving – the whole ‘putting food by’ is a huge desire of my heart.    I want to learn farming skills with a passion, but I’m trying to break my idolatry cycle, so I’ve laid this desire at His feet, & asked Him to help me learn, but also, to not let my dream become an idol.

My first attempt at gardening occurred last fall & it was a complete failure.

I had a success rate of zero from the seeds I planted.

The seedlings I bought were were either uprooted(!)

or eaten by squirrels.

I know why the garden failed (sunlight, soil, water, critters, season – you know, essentially everything), &, yet, I found myself really surprised by the fact that I was hardly upset. The Lord met me in my failed garden.  He answered my prayer!  Not the way I’d had liked, but He grew me through my failure!  Having a dead garden is hardly inspiring, but hearing whispers from the Lord that my garden wasn’t part of my identity?  It was worth the failure to see that idol surrendered.

We planted our garden on the shady side of the house last year because we were having 6 trees cut down on the sunny side.  When the trees were cut, the men laid the logs exactly where I wanted my garden to go. My husband is a busy man & has not had time to move 6 trees’ worth of logs to the upper part of our yard (or when he did have time, I’d much rather him have spent it with me because, well,  he’s busy & time with him is precious).  All of this to say – we were intending on moving the garden to the sunny side of the house, but never got around to it. (If you need fire wood, holler.  We’ve got you covered.)

On a whim, I grabbed some seeds from Target one day.  Only about $5 worth, & thought, if I plant them & they grow, wonderful.  If not, it’s ok, because the garden isn’t placed perfectly.

When I started weeding the beds, I found that there was a plus to not moving the garden bed – some of the seeds I planted last fall are growing!! Namely, a carrot.  1. Whole. Carrot.

& lettuce, too!  (There may have been more since I was weeding & pulled up a bunch before I realized the some of the weeds were crops. Whoops.)

I took this as a super great sign.  Maybe last fall’s garden wasn’t a complete failure, after all!!  I started planting my new seeds with great expectation, & with a jump in my step.

Well, there’s a certain little helper of mine…

This Guy!

who likes to be everywhere I am, & into everything I’m doing – including the garden.  We have a raised garden bed, & from everything I’ve read about raised beds, you’re really not supposed to walk in them because it compacts the soil.  Try telling that to an independent toddler.

It’s very shocking.  Dirt?  That can’t be messed with or stepped on?  Yeah, he doesn’t think so.

The day I started planting my peas, he was helping, too.  How did he help?  He pulled up my ONE CARROT from last fall.

Not all the way out of the ground, but enough for me to see that it was actually, really, a carrot!  Do you see that orange?  Because I had already let go of the idea that this garden was actually going to yield food we were going to eat, seeing the little spot of orange absolutely brightened my day.

Also, I experienced a very unexpected gentleness with myself, not expecting everything to work.  I let my baby get messy & step in the garden.  I let him touch the plants, & when he pulled one up, it was really exciting to see a spot of color under all the dirt.  & it helped me remember part of my dream is having a family garden – one my kids are comfortable with.  I want them to remember gentleness & fun when they look back at our garden, not one they weren’t allowed to really understand or get into.

The diaper, I know.  He sat in a puddle & slid down a mud hill, all in the name of Fun.

Also, they’re little, right?  Especially the baby.  He doesn’t understand soil compaction.  He understands fun, though, & he’s teaching me all about it.

The Lord has helped me come to terms with the fact that this isn’t the season for our family to grow our own food, but He’s also helping me learn that it’s ok to try things without the expectation of perfect success.  & the expectation of imperfect, I’m learning, is a really great, gentle place to be.

Where you have room for exploring things – like eating dirt.  (Him, not me.)

& little boys can go outside & explore without those pesky clothes getting in his way.

We left a rug out in the rain – for a while – & when we finally moved it so it could *ahem* dry out, we found a salamander hiding underneath!  I had never seen a salamander before!

I’m learning that pictures don’t have to be perfect to convey emotions… like thrill & excitement.

Dirty feet can be really precious.

Just like dirty finger nails.

& climbing trees can be fun with flip flops & without shoes.

Not expecting perfection has really lightened my heart.  When I asked the Lord to help me release my idol of a perfect garden, He – like He always does – has given me so much more.  He’s helping me see that it’s ok to not expect perfection from myself, or my kids, or my husband.  He’s also helping me see that when I do mess up, even in something small, like leaving a rug in the rain, or planting seeds too late, He still makes all things work together for our good.

room to breathe easy. (archived)

Over the past couple of months, my husband, Ben, & I have been feeling a gentle push to move.  We love our home, our neighbors & our church, so we’ve waited.  Then a push came again in a very large & tangible way when one of our beloved neighbors listed his home & it sold incredibly quickly.  We met with a couple of realtors who told us, “yes, economically, now is the time.”  But was it?  The company Ben works for has been experiencing a shaky period, & that’s a scary thought – sell a house & then potentially be without a main source of income.  We prayed about it, & Ben met with people in his company & we were, yet again, given a push to move.  So we started looking at what was out there, so we could get a feel for what is on the market.

We didn’t want to leave our church, but we knew we wanted land so we can increase (err… begin to learn) self sufficiency skills, & finding a 4 bedroom home with 5+ acres around our church is simply not in our price range.  We knew Ben’s job would be our anchor physically, so we decided to start looking further from our church, keeping Ben’s commute as a main focus.  I prayed about it.  Ben prayed about it, & we were so torn.  Certainly, developing farming skills isn’t a bad goal since it’s spoken about in Proverbs frequently, & though we love our church so much, I began to really lean into the fact that the Lord is with us wherever we go.  I got to point where I simply prayed, “We will go where you send us.”  We started looking on the east side of the city.  It would be an easy interstate commute for Ben, & land is much more affordable.  I began researching some churches in the city & even found one I thought our family would really love.

We started packing, getting our home ready to show (not easy with little ones, oh my!).  In our last meeting of the year, we asked our missional community group to pray our decision, & for God to give us peace & direction.  The night, my husband told me, “I don’t want to move away from our friends.  Or our church.  I don’t feel like a piece of land is worth leaving a place we feel so called to be.  I’ve been praying about it.  God is directing us to move, yes, but I don’t feel like He wants us to leave our church.”  (As if we needed any further push to stay at our church, the next week we learned that one of Ben’s stores is moving close to our church in July!!)

I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse of the market & finding a home with land within a reasonable drive to his 2 stores, his office, his lawn care customers & our church?  Very limited.  They’re not move in ready (we’re talking serious renovations required) and we are looking at 3 bedrooms, not 4 – which means we would have to be much more intentional about being hospitable – something we feel very called to be.  Still, we’ve been praying.  Guide us, please.  Let us know which way you want us to go.

Saturday, while Ben & I were painting (all the trim! in the whole house! oh my goodness! it took forever!), we starting talking again about our dreams with moving.  I want a mini farm.  Farm dogs.  Veggies.  Fruit trees.  Room to Breathe… but with what we’re seeing on the market right now, we won’t be as able to be nearly as hospitable as we’d like to be.  My husband’s gentle response, “I think focusing on hospitality is more biblical than having a large piece of land.”  My heart sunk, but he’s right.  We’ve talked about foster care.  We talked about Safe Families –  we’ve even started our family application.  We have talked about having room for someone who needs it.  It doesn’t set well with us to move away from that goal.

So now, with our home almost ready to list, we have a goal.  We want to keep our mortgage payment the same (or less), & find a home close to our church with room to share.  Any home size is capable of being hospitable, that is true, but we want to move in a direction where it’s easier than now.  When I was searching for a church in the city, I listened to Dhati Lewis’ sermon, Recapturing the Lost Art of Hospitality.  He mentions how he & his wife have always looked for homes that will accommodate more than just their family.  That’s our goal with this move.  Though I would love home on land with Room to Breathe, we’re trying to find a home where others in need have a Room to Breathe Easy.  Stepping out in a faith is a little scary, but He will take care of us.  He has shown us that more times than we can count. It’s time for us to really work more towards loving others with the gifts He’s given us.

things i’ve made: dad’s father’s day scarf

title: dad’s father’s day scarf (ravelry link)
craft: knit
materials used: thick & quick
made for: my dad
when: 2011
how often is it used: unknown
other:  this was my first project using thick & quick yarn, & the scarf came together surprisingly fast.  the whole thing kind of flew off my needles.  weaving in the ends was not as nice.  that was probably the longest part – which is saying a lot because this was in back before i had to relearn how to knit.  (i learned to knit in 2003, right after i was in a car accident & my left wrist couldn’t withstand the weight, so for years i knitted with the left needle either tucked in my armpit or resting on my thigh.  everything took ages, but i didn’t know any better, so i kept on trucking.  once i learned to crochet in 2012, i stopped knitting because everything came together so much faster with a hook.  late last year, almost exactly 10 years after i first learned to knit, i decided to relearn how to how my needles & i’ve fallen back in love.)
would i make another? the pattern, for sure.  it’s really fun & comes together quickly, especially with the thick & quick.  another scarf just like this?  maybe for my boys when they’re older.

things i’ve made: bearded hat (archived)

I’ve decided to occasionally share posts about crafting projects I’ve made.  I make things & forget about them, & end up thinking I never complete a project.  This is a sort of reminder of “yes, at times, you do actually complete things you set out to do.”  Ha!  Dishes are completed & then used again.  Laundry is washed, dried, folded or hung, put away… & there’s still more laundry to do.  Sometimes it’s nice to reminisce about the tasks that have been completed & will stay that way.  :-)

title: Bearded Hat (ravelry link)

craft: crochet

materials used: Lion Brand Thick & Quick (a favorite) & some black yarn in my stash

made for: my sweet Andrew

when: sometime in 2012-2013

how often is it used: rarely, because Georgia.

other:  i made this for andrew at my husband’s request while i was on bedrest with paul.  andrew told me he liked it, but because it’s essentially a ski mask & we live in Georgia, it’s not gotten much use.  he did use it when the snow came, & it was so cool seeing him wear a little piece of something i made.  he even told me how warm it kept him face while he was outside!  i’m a crochet/knitter in Georgia, so i don’t see a whole lot of clothing/accessories i’ve made be utilitarian.  it was a sweet moment.

would i make another? nope.  unless specifically requested by someone close to my heart.  it was a quick crochet project, but for the amount of use it’s gotten, not hardly worth the yarn.  it’s pretty cute, though, don’t you think? look at Luke back when he used his paci!!  with a beard!?  so cute!

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever (archived)

God knows me so well. He knows if He lays it all out for me, I wouldn’t understand.  He has been so good, so gentle, & yet, so amazingly obvious.  He’s been so patient. It’s not about me, this story He’s telling, but I love the part He’s letting me play.  The story He’s telling with my life.  I’m on the backside of the tapestry right now & I  know I won’t see the full glory of the story He’s telling this side of heaven, but the parts He reveals to me – the pieces where He whispers His love, His sovereignty – bring me to my knees in awestruck wonder.

For example, on March 17th, 2012, my husband & I had one of the biggest arguments of our marriage when I begged to have my tubes tied.  I didn’t want to become pregnant again only to lose another baby.  I couldn’t handle it, I said.  I was simultaneously convinced I couldn’t have any more children, so each month that passed without a pregnancy was like my heart was being torn open again.  In my weakest moment, my husband stood firm.  He was gentle.  He agreed to adoption.  He held me when I cried, but he couldn’t let me make a permanent decision based on an emotional reaction to a lack of faith.  And then, on March 17th, 2013, I entered my 38th week of pregnancy with my precious Paul.  Just in case you need things spelled out like I do, 38 weeks is full-term.  Because God is HUGE!

Also, we lost our sweet baby, Hope, on Thanksgiving 2011.  I became pregnant with Paul in June 2012.  7 months later.  The number 7 is often called God’s number.  It represents God’s perfection & sovereignty.  This may be common knowledge to most of you, but this really just sank in for me last year.  Someone mentioned it, or I read it in a study, & I thought of Hope, & counted from when she went to be with the Lord to when I conceived Paul.  7 months.  Because God is sovereign & His timing is perfect, & because He has to lay it all out for me, even knowing I won’t understand until a year later. 

… & then I was reading again today.  Psalm 30.  DANCING!!

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

I have to thank Him.  How can I not thank Him forever for what He’s rescued me from – repeated childhood sexual abuse, atheism, rape, drug addiction, an eating disorder, a history of self-harm – to this life. 

This beautiful, messy, more wonderful than I could ever deserve, amazing life.  With my boys.  

& that incredible man!  

And He let it all happen in a country where I am allowed to shout my love for Him!  Where I can declare the wonders of his name without threat of imprisonment or fines or death.  And I sit here & wonder… am I doing enough?  No.  Can I do more?  Yes!  Lord, use me.  Tell more through me.  My story, my world, my desires are small, but Your story is Huge.  Let my heart dance for you until you call me Home to King Jesus.

(The above video is an excerpt from a sermon by Dr. S.M. Lockridge. If you’d like to hear the whole sermon, it’s here you tube.  He reminds me of old school pastors who open with jokes, his accent reminds me of my grandfather, & his message is Truth.  Amen!)

a year of dancing (archived)

We took the boys camping for Paul’s first birthday.  It was our least favorite camping trip ever.  Half way through the second day, my husband & I looked at each other & had a serious conversation about the possibility of not ever going camping again.

But see, every night, after the boys were asleep, Ben & I would gather around the campfire together & tell stories & laugh.  Then we’d start recounting the moments of the day that had stressed us out, & they seemed less stressful.  Around the fire, we were able to see the good in the day.  Not the glass on the gravel or the 3-year-old who kept riding his tricycle away.

We saw brothers who were excited about moving around outside.
& baby yawns 
We saw a boy make a friend he adores.  That he got to play with almost every hour of daylight, & into the moonlight, & by firelight.  They made smores & rode bikes.  We saw the sweetness & excitement of new friends & new found freedom, when one must keep their helmets on just in case.
We saw runny noses in dirty tents become just part of the charm of the (dirty) moment.
& we saw a baby turning into a boy.  (Andrew won’t let me call Paul a baby any more because he’s one.  I’m pretty certain Paul agrees.) 
We saw the spirit of this child in full force.  No reins.  No inhibitions.  Just go.  He is a force.  A beautiful, amazingly strong-willed, gorgeous force.  I cannot wait to see how God uses this boy.  How God uses all of my boys.
We got to see glimpses of The Force, still. 
We remembered our many (mini) adventures…
& we saw big brothers celebrate the life of their ‘little bro,’ their “Pauly.” 
…we saw moments of tenderness
& sugary sweetness
& messy, ooey, gooey fun…
& on the drive home, I remembered God’s promise of dancing.  It wasn’t just for the little boy while he was in my belly, but for his life.  For our lives.  There is always beauty.  Always life, dancing.  We just need to look for it.  It’s been a glorious, wonderful, messy, amazing year of dancing with our boy. 
Happy birthday, baby Paul!

new old things. (archived)

I have this thing. I don’t like to buy anything new that isn’t absolutely necessary. We live in a culture that thinks you need new, better, more all the time. Media screams it. And I get it. I feel the same way a lot of the time, but I just can’t. I can’t go to the store & buy a picture frame when I know Goodwill has 7 dozen… for at least half the price.

All of this to say, our living room needed seating. If you ever find yourself in need of furniture, I highly suggest trying second hand first. There are so many great resources for second hand furniture, it’s unreal. This time, I searched Craigslist, but you can find great stuff all over the place – yard sales (not my favorite. I don’t shop yard sales often, but the last time I did, I scored 2 dresses – 1 from Anthropologie, the other from J Crew for .50. Total. A quarter a dress.), ReStore, even Etsy has some great finds if you don’t mind paying shipping, or you find a seller in your area.

Enough talk about these things, & onto what’s fun. Our new old seating! So, we have 2 new orange velour chairs. We got them from a funeral home in a small town just west of the city, & it was quite a trip! I told myself when we left, I was never going to leave my camera at home ever again. The chairs were being kept in a prefab garage that also housed 3 classic cars, including a Jag that my husband really liked, &(!) 2 antique hearses. Like this, my friends. I had never seen anything like it. One of the hearses had a child’s coffin in the back. It took my breath away. I can’t imagine being surrounded by so much mortality so often. When I took a deep inhale at the sight of the glass hearse holding the child’s coffin (!), the sweet lady who sold us the chairs said, “Oh, yes, I know. We have tons of old junk.”

I wasn’t thinking they were junk at all. More like a marriage of amazing & eerie. The chairs were cool, though, & for $30 each, we were more than thrilled to take them off her hands. They’re a little threadbare on the ends of the arms, but I have plans to make them a bit better later on. (The marks on the wall behind the chairs are from a blue chair we used to have there. Our living room walls are currently painted in a flat white, so they’re all but impossible to clean. We’ll be painting over the summer, hopefully.)

Once we had our orange chairs, I learned that someone else in our family would like the burlap sleeper sofa that used to belong to Ben’s grandmother. After a weeks’ search, we found this beauty on CL for $75. It’s orange, too, which wasn’t planned, but what can you do. We haven’t figured out the perfect placement of everything yet, but we’re certain we can make the 3 orange pieces work together.

The deal now is that I don’t feel like our rug goes very well with our room. I’ve already found myself searching CL for a more suitable rug, but see, it’s not needed. It’s just what I want, not what I need. I’m fighting worldliness on this pretty heavily. If I could find someone who wanted to trade rugs, that would be perfect, mutually beneficial, but I’m almost certain that’s not going to happen. As much as I want to get a new old rug, when we don’t need it, I just can’t justify it.

I do love the orange, though. A couple of years ago, our whole living room was beige. Now, it’s super colorful – it’s filled with color & I just love it… & if something happens to it all (pray not!!), I would be sad, yes, but wouldn’t be devastated because they weren’t super expensive… & I’d get to treasure hunt again.

craft swap: what i gave (archived)

I participated in my very first craft swap!  I read about it over at beauty that moves & jumped over to SweetPotatoClaire to see what it was all about.  Quite a few people participated, & it was super fun thinking about what to make once I learned who I was paired with.  My swap partner was Lisa over at Wild Thyme Farmstead.  Lisa is busy mom & homesteader.  I wanted to make her some things that would make cleaning up inside easier, so she could get out of doors (a place she loves to be) faster.  :-)

I was late mailing my package (& writing this post) because I had my wisdom teeth taken out right before the cut off date for the packages, & then when I was up again, I was literally drowning in chores.  (This is also why there’s been no blogging lately.)  Amanda was very gracious & I hope Lisa enjoys (& get plenty of use out of) them.

Here’s what I made for the swap.

This knit up very quickly, which was wonderful because I was reminded pretty early into this project that knitting with cotton is not my favorite pastime.  I chose this pattern because my mother gave me one of these cloths a year ago & it’s still my favorite thing to clean with.  It’s great for almost all light jobs (counters, table, soaking up small spills).  I want to make myself another 40 of these, but it’s the cotton on the needles that stopping me… & cotton is part of why it’s so wonderful.  I’ve read that many knitters dislike knitting with cotton, unless it has a certain texture.  Does anyone have any experience with a cotton that’s been a pleasure?  (Pattern here)

This piece took just a bit more time (maybe 2 hours?), but I found cotton & crochet to be a better pairing for me.  The cloth a bit larger than the knit one, & it has much more texture.  I thought this would be more useful for medium jobs (sticky, dried on messes, etc.) – or perhaps for drying small pieces after a quick sink wash..?  I’m a little sad that the twists in this cotton has muted the pattern.  It really is pretty.  If you are interested in getting a better look at the grit stitch pattern, there’s quite a few better decipherable pieces on Ravelry.  (This one is one of my favorites.)  I want to make another one of these for myself, also.  (Pattern here)

This was my own design.  What started as a simple circular cloth, ended as a dense dish scrubbie with a shell edging.  I wish I had taken notes as I made it, but I didn’t even think to until I was adding the edging.  Oh, well.  I thought a scrubbie would be a nice addition to Lisa’s new kitchen cloth set.  It’s keeping with the same cotton theme, but without being *yet another* dish cloth.  I hope it does its job well for Lisa.

& no harm shall come to him. (archived)

This boy has two older brothers, & they love him fiercely.  They’re protective & very much in love.  Paul had shots today.  Three shots & a finger prick.  He cried, but ate right after & his drama was over.  His older brothers’ tears & anguish over Paul having to “get THREE shots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” lasted a good 20 minutes.  Andrew wept with his knees pulled to his chest, occasionally ranting about how terribly The Fall has effected his life. Luke wailed at the top of his lungs, a lot of the time on the floor.  Paul stared blankly at Luke as Luke apologized for “letting that happen to you!”

The nurse said, “Are they crying because their baby brother was hurt?”
“Um, yep.”
“That’s so sweet,” as she walked into the hall, shutting the door quickly.  Because they were super loud.

When the boys were all calm (15 minutes later), we went to the lobby.  Waiting kids noted all 3 boys having tear-stained faces.  Andrew, my oldest, was not a bit ashamed.  He said, “my baby brother had to have three shots.  It was very hard for him, & we don’t like to see him hurting.”

I think he’s going to be rotten, this Paul… & super protected.  Just a guess.  …& I’m not ever, never, ever going to take Paul’s brothers to an appointment where Paul is being vaccinated again.

Snowpocalypse 2014 (archived)

Andrew is my cold weather child.  Every winter he prays for snow, & he isn’t very pleased with the usual dusting we get here in Georgia.  

It snowed on Tuesday.  Real, sticky-to-stay at least 12 hours (northerners are laughing), powdery snow.  Andrew knew what it was when he saw it.  An answered prayer.  “He heard me!  He answered my prayer.  It’s like you say – sometimes we have to wait for God to answer… & he did today!”

As people were stranded all over the city, & neighbors rallied to help each other, a little boy’s heart swelled with thanksgiving & praise.  
I don’t always see the very obvious ways God acts in my life, & so often when He does, people try to quiet the spirit that says “This was for you.”  The Lord said to be more like children.  I saw what He meant by that in this wintry adventure.  Andrew knew deep down that this was an answered prayer.  No second guessing, no rationalizing.  He felt comfortable praising & celebrating the gift…  & you know what?  I think it really was a gift for him.  

Luke did, too.
There were other gifts witnessed over the course of Atlanta’s snowpocalyspe, as well.  Husbands & wives were able to look at each other with absolute elation after being apart for hours (some for 24+ like my friends, Jess & Derick).  Daddies were able to scoop their kids up & finally go play outside in the snow after being stranded away from their families.  A woman stepped up & even created a Facebook group to arrange shelter for stranded commuters.  All gifts.  Relationships, neighbors willing to help.  They’re usually there.  We just don’t always see them.  We take for granted that we’ll be home for dinner, or that we’ll be able to tuck our kids in bed, or sleep at home. 
Wives. Husbands. Friends. Kids. Neighbors. Car. Home. Bed. Shoes. Coats. Managers willing to let people sleep on the floor.  All gifts. 
The human spirit that rallies & warms itself towards others in times of need?  A piece of God planted in our hearts.  Most certainly a gift.
I’m surrounded by Him all day long, but I don’t often see Him.  I saw Him on Tuesday & Wednesday.  I saw him on the news, on Facebook, & in the face of my son.  This was my gift.