Beauty in Diversity

Tissue paper rustled as the gifts were opened. Eyes looked eagerly at the soft baby blankets and adorable baby clothes. I peered around at this group of beautiful women. Long hair, short hair, heavy make up and none at all. The gal to my left wore stylish booties and I had on my simple leather flip-flops. Skirts and skinny jeans side by side. Across the room sat a beautiful middle eastern woman, shiny gold necklace hanging below her burka and stunning dark eyes.

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We spoke slowly and added a few gestures to make sure she was able to follow the conversation. She is a brave soul to cross the ocean and jump into another world and another culture. To suddenly be the one who doesn’t understand many things.
What is a “garage sale”? What is a “sister in law”?

Back home, she had completed cosmetology school and was able to hold a respected job, here she is attending English classes every day, an outsider. Once that’s tackled, she starts over with cosmetology school, in a foreign language surrounded by pale blond haired women. And yet, we all sat around and watched as a friend opened baby gifts.
We smiled and chatted. Different and yet all the same.

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Recently a small online group started, all of us moms on a quest to live more purposefully and healthfully, to make good choices about our time, food and even tone of voice as we speak to our children. I cannot tell you how healthy this place has become. Each day we check in, and say how our day went and if we met our goals. It is also a place where we ask for prayer if our day is rotten or if we simply need some encouragement.

This morning, one girl bravely spoke up,
“…Most of you do not need to lose the weight like I do, but all coming together to better our health is so encouraging. I’ll be honest, I have about XX lbs to lose. (It’s very humbling to reveal this)… So thank you all for keeping me accountable…
Pray I will continue to be faithful and committed, if you think of it.”

Even though weight is not my issue, I have other very real and difficult issues. I typed back to her,
“While we may not all be fighting the exact same battles,
we are all fighting battles and in this together.”

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God created so much beauty in diversity, and he made all things well.
All shades of skin, widely varying body shapes and personality types.
God obviously is an artist with wide and vibrant tastes, and we all fit into his beautiful plan. But how quickly the beauty fades when we let comparison steal the unique quality God intently created.

It reaches far deeper than how much mascara you wear, or how good you look in skinny jeans. The cold fingers of judgement and comparison reach deep into our lives, and drive icy wedges between people who are intended to be arm in arm in our walk on this world. Fear and isolation takes the place of deep safety and fellowship.

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Grief and trauma often catapults us into a place of dark isolation.
The little girl who was raped by a relative goes into shock and tries to pretend everything is ok.
The newlywed who just miscarried feels like a failure and that no one knows the silent lonely loss she is facing.
The wife whose husband works long hard days with unpredictable hours serves supper cold again, and feels none of her friends know, or care.
The chilling report from the doctor locks the grandfather into a time frame he doesn’t know how to handle.
The refugee left shivering on the rocky coast after an endless night on the waters, holding her infant and all she now owns in a small bag.

This could be you, this could be me.

We ALL face battles. And while we may feel alone, we are not.
Every person you walk past in the grocery store today is a story.
They each carry words unspoken that burn deep,
and have carved the story on their soul.

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If you have walked a deep valley, and come out into the sunshine again, pause.
Look around.
Open your heart to see those still in the shadows.
Stretch out your hand and offer hope.
Courage.
Even just a deep breath and smile of acknowledgment, a word of support- these are the hands of Christ. Maybe he wants you to reach out of your comfort zone, and step into someone else’s journey.
To guide or accompany as they face their battle today.

Jesus left us here on earth to spread his love, in real and physical ways.
He suffered to assure us that we would never be alone in our suffering. In our tears, and in our joys. His promise to always be with us stands forever.

While we may not all be fighting the exact same battles,
we are all fighting battles and in this together.

Let your hand be an expression of hope today.
Let your words give life.
Let your smile assure someone they are not alone.

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Photo credits go again to grettagraphy.com and were taken over her time in the refugee camp.

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Safe in our messes

It’s a dreary Saturday here, but in spite of the heavy clouds and soggy outdoors, Daniel said, “We should have cake!” So I stood at the kitchen counter, whipping up the batter as bacon and eggs sizzled on the stove. The table was being set by young helpful hands, and my mind was running in about 14 directions, until a horrible crash silenced everything.

I whirled around and saw my sweet helper holding a plastic pitcher, but surrounded with shards of glass. It took me a few seconds to figure out what the catastrophe had been. Then I saw it, the remaining rim of a mason jar, but far worse, the Chemex coffee carafe standing gaping lopsided on the countertop.
My daughter’s wide eyes were filled with horror.

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I tried not to think about the fact that we use that coffee maker daily. Instantly I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I would make our afternoon coffee.

My words came out calmly, but halting-
“Oh no, it’s so expensive!”
There was no anger, just stunned sadness.
She slipped off to her room to cry, and I warded curious toddlers away from the glass littered kitchen floor and swept the shatters into the dustpan.

God has been teaching me to hold my tongue, to bite back words of anger.
I’m trying to speak life and love and hope into my children. I’m in a group of women who are holding each other accountable to our choices, words included.
It has been so healthy, so revealing, so vulnerable, and ever so good.
But again and again I find myself sweeping my own broken pieces into the dustpan, cleaning up another mess of mine.

But I called her back and held her.
“Honey, I’m sorry I wasn’t more gentle. Mistakes happen, and you didn’t mean to do it. I made SO many mistakes as a child. It is just part of growing up.”
Her blue eyes looked into mine and she managed a smile.
She forgives so readily.

I wish instead of mentioning the expense of replacing the Chemex, I would have dropped to my knees and assured her right off that everything was going to be okay. I wish my first impulse had be to hold her heart safe. I didn’t lash out in anger, but I did say words that chilled her little heart.

I remember when I was about her size, one day I climbed up onto my mom’s bathroom vanity and was snooping around in her makeup. My knees straddled the sink bowl and I picked up the glass jar of liquid foundation, but in my wobbly balancing act, it slipped from my fingers. The next thing I knew, there was makeup and glass shards everywhere. I looked in the mirror and vowed I would never forget this moment. Perhaps a bit dramatic, but it stuck with me. I remember the chilling horror that flooded my daughter’s veins this morning.

30120882_10213300203331607_1683868524_nMy mom was a medical student’s wife. She knew all about needing to stretch pennies, and how well I know that balancing act now. But I don’t remember her being upset at all.

I just remember the shame
I felt at my mistake.

Today, I am reminded to treasure children’s hearts more than things.
To pause and swallow salty words, and choose to pull close and hug.

I remember that I have paved the way for these children of mine, shattering things and making bigger messes than they have.

Children need grace and safety in their mistakes.
And as the years go by, nothing changes.
As an adult, I still need grace and forgiveness. I mess up big.

But I’m struck at God’s warm hand on my shoulder, as He helps me sweep up the last of the glass shards, and shows me the true lesson of a broken Chemex.

He is here, He is safe, in our shattered pieces.

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Springtime thaw

Spring is in the air, even though the weather man forgot to get out of bed this morning. It IS the first day of spring, after all, but it as gloomy and dreary as they come. I think Mr. Weatherman pulled the sheet up over his head and dove down deep to avoid the wrath of winter-bound mothers like me, who want blooms instead of fireplace warmth today.
It’s been one of those deeply confused winters here, where we wore flip flops and snow boots in the same week. We never knew for sure if it would be a coffee on the couch morning or sandwich picnic afternoon. Long branches of white blooms stood cheerily by my fireplace as another cold snap happened and their blooming buddies outside froze to death overnight.
But thankfully, my head is starting to clear, and my brain is beginning to thaw.
You know the spring melt – where all the frozen ice of the winter finally gave way to the warmth of the sun and melted in front of the daffodils?
That’s what’s starting to happen over here,
little by little, bloom by bloom.
And with the warmth comes hope.
I eye the yard, which lay dormant and tired all winter, and see the branches littering the yard with zeal. An afternoon date with the leaf blower will make a radical transformation under our massive willow oaks, who bequeath us with tons of despairingly tiny leaves. I’m eager to free the young blades of grass and watch the yard turn green and fresh.

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The closets, the garage, the kitchen pantry and bookshelves all are subjected to my determined ambition – we will deepclean and cull every corner of this home. The yard will stand in awe as the troops swarm over them with rakes and wheelbarrows and a dump truck load of mulch. And we will celebrate with short sleeves and a popsicle party.
I am a dreamer, and the last few weeks a property not too far from us has tortured me with its low price and begging potential. What some see as a tired old rental house to me is a house with great bones and potential, just needing a bit of CPR, plastic surgery and a lot of love.
But I slapped myself in the face a few days ago and closed the webpage, and turned my ambition my own unpainted trim. A sure cure for insomnia is to arm yourself with a paint brush and gallon of trim paint and work till 2 AM.
So I’m channeling my pining into focused priorities.
Trim and crown moulding will be the first box on the to-do list to check off, and then the yard once it has dried and warmed a bit (snow is in the forecast tomorrow).
Every once in a while, when I need a fresh dose of motivation, I watch an episode of “Hoarders” and then I fly off the couch and dive frenzied into the deepest darkest corners of my house, and all falls terrified under my touch.
To keep only what we need and love, and to free our home of all that burdens and clutters. Our homes are to be a place of freedom, not bondage. If my closet is full of clothes that make me groan, it’s time to cull heavily. With changing seasons, and pregnancy and nursing and then neither, it’s enough to make even the bravest catch their breath.
My goal this year is to be able to embrace.
To embrace today.
To embrace my children and be a safe place for their hearts.
To embrace the unfinished corners of our house.
To fix what I can, and be content with what I cannot.
But I’m also seeking to embrace what God has for me. Pressing into the dark corners of my heart, and letting God bring light and truth and wholeness.
To walk in truth in every moment, this is my desire.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
We are created in His image, and He has complete freedom for each one of us.
I’m raising the windows and letting the warm air in. It’s spring time, inside and out.

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Join me on this spring journey and embracing God in His fullness,
letting Him dig deep into the cold winter of my heart and letting spring burst in bright color.
Embrace hope.

Where is God wanting to thaw your heart?
Where have you closed the closet door and pretended the clutter doesn’t exist?
PC to grettagraphy.com who is doing the same, from the other side of the globe…

‘Cause Love is Deeper than Roses

I’ll never forget the moment the processional started playing. My heart was pounding so hard I was sure you could see it through my dress. I grabbed my brother’s arm and we started up that long aisle, and to Daniel’s glittering eyes and face all radiant.

I still love going to weddings. They are such a beautiful glimpse into this mysterious thing called love.
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But when the pastor leans over the pulpit and says, “…You have no idea what real love is,” I always stiffen. It didn’t happen at our wedding, but I’ve heard it several times…

Be gentle with this young couple because they ARE in love, and they DO know what love is.
Yes, innocent and juvenile at times, but on this day when they clasp hands and commit till death do them part, they are in love.

But in reality, love grows. It deepens. As life tosses a job change, a cross-country move, an early miscarriage, they hold tighter, they wipe each other’s tears, and they don’t let go. They love more fully. It is the same love that they treasured on their wedding day, just more mature.

I thought on my wedding day that five years had been a long time.
I had admired this guy for ever so long, but I knew that marriage didn’t fit with his adventurous missionary life style.
Thankfully, God’s story overrode my career plans and his, and 12 years ago, at 22 and 23 years young, we said: “I do.” To what, we didn’t exactly know.
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No one would have dreamed that as I stepped away from Isaac to Daniel at the front of the church, that in three years, Isaac would be gone. That Daniel would be the one up at those midnight hours searching for his body.

No one could have prepared us for the bumps and knocks that happen on the mission field. The burnout, the feeling of abandonment, the disconnection from home and the creeping cynicism I’d fight on our return to States life. This certainly wasn’t the rosy picture I’d always cheerfully imagined.

But Daniel was steady.
He was safe, as I dumped my wobbling emotions and volatile grief. Just like Isaac had sat and listened to me dump out my woes years ago, holding my hand and there for me when he couldn’t “fix it,” now Daniel pulled me close as I learned to let go of my brother.
Of my dreams and expectations.
Real love isn’t perfect, but it is faithful. It is never letting go.
Real love holds on when the shoulders heave with sobs, and eyes can’t see straight.

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Daniel has always been there for me.
We have had seasons of normal life, of an 8-5 job, a regular pay roll.
And now we are surfing the waves of raising four lively little mini-me’s, that keep us both on our knees and laughing till our sides hurt. Daniel’s school and work schedule keep us both panting, drinking deeply of our morning coffee together and winking at the long study hours where I keep the little ones quiet downstairs, and he crams upstairs on our bed. We couldn’t do this forever, but it is a season, and we are okay with that.
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Sometimes being in love means being willing to do without.
To let go of expectations and embrace the uniqueness of today. To embrace the fact that our marriage won’t look like anyone else’s. Like when I took the children and joined my mom and sisters on a trip to Texas to see my grandparents, knowing that my grandfather might never see the baby if I didn’t.

But it meant two weeks of being away from Daniel, of showing him the Alamo via FaceTime and blowing kisses as the moose face on the other side of the screen.
(iPhone cameras can be brutal to us long-nosed folks).

Or like the time when Daniel went to Togo to help out at aPhoto on 10-4-15 at 9.41 AM #2 mission hospital and his life was forever changed. It’s about odd hours of phone calls with me wrapped on the couch in a blanket and him on the other side of the globe, swatting mosquitoes and telling me about the fascinating surgeries he got to see that day. Of him sprinting from the airport to see the Eiffel Tower on his layover in true Daniel style, and sending me pics saying, “Someday we will do this together.”
Sometimes true love is about being excited for the other one while I make sacrifices.

Early on in our relationship, Daniel and I had a conversation about gifts, flowers, and chocolate. We are both free spirits and feel suffocated by expectations of chocolates and roses on certain days. We laugh and thank the other one for NOT buying us stuffed teddy bears. I would much rather a bouquet of wildflowers on a random day when it was genuine, over the dutiful dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. One year he nailed it with 750 tulip bulbs that we planted and got to enjoy for years to come instead of one bouquet on our anniversary.

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Real love is demonstrated in the nitty-gritty of life. In the filling the gas tank for me and checking the oil on my car. True love is helping me make the bed each morning, without a word. It is in the remodeling an old house for me or throwing the frisbee with the nine-year-old. Sometimes it means staying cool and calm while picking me up from a pool of blood and taking good care of me while I recover like he did two weeks ago. Love bends and stretches and grows.

When love is freely given, it is most powerful.
When it stands the test of time and holds strong in the salty moments too that love is best illuminated.

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And sometimes it means walking into the kitchen where I am washing dishes with a bouquet of red roses behind his back.
Like he did last night.

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Today is about being loved, and loving in return.
You might not be married. Days like today can feel salty and raw.
You might be in a marriage that burns painful each day.
Bouquets of roses are just a slap in the face because they represent what could be.
You might have faced severe betrayal and struggle even to want to love again. To trust. Love might feel like a lie to you.

But the truth is, today you are loved.
You are treasured.
You are delighted in.

If not by a man, by your Creator.
Stop and listen, He is whispering words of hope and joy.
Just listen.
And smile.

Today, you ARE loved.

The Fireplace that Could

When we first walked into this 100-year-old house, complete with leaky roof and sagging floors, we saw lots of work that needed to be done. But when we stepped into the big living room and saw this towering ancient brick fireplace, we swooned. It wasn’t perfect. Maybe that’s what caught my eye. I saw character.

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I saw beauty in the uneven bricks and age-old mortar.
I’ve always been a sucker for antiques, and old places restored and revived.

Here is the listing photo of our living room, before we applied any elbow grease at all, before the clutter disappeared and we ripped out the crooked shelves
(and before we stripped and stained the floors, whitewashed the walls, painted trim, etc.):

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But once we moved in, we discovered that the mortar was INDEED ancient,
and the slightest brushing up against it caused a fine shower of dust to settle to the floor. With four active children bouncing through the house,
we knew we had to figure out a way to seal it in.

Daniel sprayed it with a sealer, and while it was now all holding together quite well, the creamy mortar turned into wet looking clay.
I was mortified. Or mortorfied.

Every time I walked into the living room, I gulped. What had started out as something I loved was now a massive eyesore. This was NOT what I fell in love with.

The old yellow heart pine floors were sanded and re-stained and turned a lovely brown. The outside of the house got new siding and a roof. But this chimney had become the big bad wolf of the living room.
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To make matters worse, there were a few spots where the mortar had fallen out altogether, and invited tiny fingers to keep picking, creating larger and larger crannies. Something HAD to be done.

Then one day it DID get worse- I had a child who decided to go chimney climbing and stood on the corner brick and found it was no longer attached. Or causing it to be no longer attached. When the avalanche was over, there was a child, a chipped brick and lots of mortar power on the floor. No real harm was done, except the that someone’s pride was bruised and we had to stare at a haggle toothed mantle for months.

So I set out on Pinterest and researched every brick treatment option known to man. I didn’t want to paint it since I loved the variation in the brick. But something that would fill in the cracks and lightly cover the color while still letting some show through. I stumbled upon the German Smear idea, and yes, this was before Chip and Joanna launched it on their show.
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I watched every tutorial on Youtube about it, scoured for every blog post or article online till my confidence reached a level of launch-ability. I’ve felt frustrated that are so many projects in this house that I cannot do alone, but this was one I could.

I went to Lowes and got the bag of mortar the guy wearing the vest recommended. But when I got home, it was FAR too gray and corse for the smear I was looking for. It worked great for filling those gaping holes and reattaching the dislodged corner brick, but then I headed back to the store, a little more educated and a bit more self-dependent. Lowes workers have no idea what a decorative German smear is. So I came home with this baby.

I attacked it with a vengeance. Cleaned the dust and cobwebs off (yes, I am that mom who has spiders in her old home. Pardon me. We DO live in harmony, not like my last house with its genuine infestation of Brown Recluse spiders) and mixed it to milk shake consistently.
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It’s pretty simple. Spray the brick to get it damp, smear it on, focusing on the mortar joints, and wipe off areas of excess with your gloved hand and a damp rag. You do want gloves for this, ’cause mortar does nasty stuff to the skin. Don’t ask me how I know (and yes, I did start off with gloves, but they weren’t up for the length of the job. Ahem.)

Wipe off where you want less, and once stuff has dried, use a wire brush to remove any smear from areas where you want more brick showing through. This is where my husband showed up from long hours of study and could be my eyes from afar.  “That dark brick one level up, take a bit more off there…”

Be prepared for dust EVERYWHERE. If you can tape off the area behind plastic, you will thank yourself. If your husband is full of great ideas like mine is, he might even find an old door and create a work platform and dust catcher. Men are amazing creatures.
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All in all, the German smear was the perfect treatment for this chimney. It dramatically brightened up our living room, which oddly enough only has two narrow windows, neither of which ever get direct light, so every bit of natural light needs to be embraced.

The fireplace still isn’t complete; there are gaps between the brick and sheetrock that will soon be filled in, a mantle installed on the ledge (please drop your vote in the comments: white or aged beams?) and also the hearth will be redone.

Like the Nester says,
“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

I think that is a vital perspective when living in an old house, or living with children, or living on the mission field. Perhaps it applies to all of life, unless you live in the pages of Potterybarn or reside in the folders of Pinterest. For the rest of us, it’s a constant teeter-totter between reaching for what you envision and embracing the mess of now.

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I’m glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone and launched off in this project. Every time I step into my living room now, I’m embraced with the brightness of the white, instead of the tired clay red. It was a great $18 investment.

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Do you enjoy before and after home renovations as much as I do?
I’m excited to share more with you about our 100-year-old farm house.
Like the outside which is sporting a new siding color and roof shape and lovely meandering porch, and the complete gut job and brand new kitchen still slightly in the process.

Now, please loan me your opinion and drop your vote about mantle finishes in the comments below. Bright white or rustic barn beam?

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The Tug of War between Real Life and Simplicity

It was Sunday afternoon, and the children were lost in the world of legos and mini figures and tiny cars downstairs. The top step creaked under my feet as I rounded the corner into our bedroom. Daniel was stretched out on the bed, textbook and computer spread out in front of him. His dedication to school and biology and the mystery of muscles and cells blows me away. The light by the nightstand is often on till the wee hours of the morning before his heavy eyelids win and he snaps the textbook closed.

I paused mid-room. The dresser drawers were shut but contained a hidden evil.
I knew the drawers of little girls clothes were jammed, a hopeless jumble of wadded shirts, leggings, and mismatched socks. Having clothes on their level is both a blessing of ease and a curse of chaos. The widowed sock issue has reached epidemic proportions around here lately. Oh the glory of winter boots, which hide the fact that one tiny foot is wearing a purple sock, while the other sports a hot pink one.
Tell me I am not alone in this secret plight.

I’d had enough. The drawer and all its horror dumped on my floor and I tackled it with a vengeance. “Outgrown, discard,” and “keep” stacks grew around me. Words like “Capsule wardrobe,” “Simplify,” and “Minimal” floated around in my formerly frenzied but now clarifying mind.

Leggings on one side, tops on the other, panties in the middle and the drawer breathes a sigh of relief. I slide the drawer back into the dresser, and even the handles seem to smile back at me, just because I know what’s inside is organized again.

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Children’s clothing is a never-ending process around here, especially since I do it on a budget. Growing children, legs that seem to be adding inches monthly and arms that stretch beyond sleeve cuffs always catch me off guard. While I have loved finding just the thing I need at yard sales, consignment sales or thrift stores, it can get overwhelming.

A good friend told me the other day,
“We love our children better if they are wearing cute clothes.”
It sounds funny, but really, if they are wearing stained clothes or ragged, tired jeans, they look unkempt. But if they are wearing clothes that we picked out with care (yes, it can even be from a yard sale pile of .25 clothes) we will feel happier.
Funny but true.

I have recently been appreciating the idea of clearing out everything that does’t spark joy or have a good purpose… How many items do I have in my home simply because someone gave it to me, or I got it for a really good deal, but silently strongly dislike? Of course, I won’t use it if I hate it. So let’s do the deed and eliminate unwanted stuff in our homes.
Make it a place of beauty and purpose.

I love shopping with my sisters because they are quite gifted at style on a budget.
They have eagle eyes for flaws in used items. They have taught me to ask myself,
“Does it look worn?
Would I pay full price for this?
If I only had six tops in my closet, would this be one of them?”
The goal is in quality, not quantity.
A good deal isn’t always a good deal.

But the break down easily happens in children’s clothes.
When they grow like weeds, and look like the dirt that grows on them after a long afternoon in the yard, they DO need play clothes that allow for grass-stained knees and dirt.
Praise the Lord for a washing machine and yard sales on days like these.

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For some of us, shopping online versus shopping thrift stores is a better option.
Some seasons don’t allow for piling children into the minivan and braving long hours of half-price day thrift shopping or yard sale browsing.
There are seasons for all of us, and there is no right way for everyone.

So cut yourself some slack and embrace your season, your sanity, and realistic opportunities.

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I’ve had some really lovely second-hand finds, like a Gymboree pea coat for .25 or new with tags Carters items for a whopping quarter. I love when the handwritten sign on the yard sale table says “Children’s clothes: .25 or fill a bag for $5.” I carefully sort through and pull out the nearly new ones, even if they are not the right size or gender for my children.

In my garage, they get stowed in a tote marked “Summer Resale” and when warm weather rolls around, I either sell at a consignment sale or my very favorite- selling sized lots on my local Facebook marketplace. Everything is local and no shipping necessary.
Rolling the money I make selling used children’s clothes into the clothing my children DO need has been a fun budget challenge.

Last year I sold enough children’s clothes that it easily covered what I needed to purchase for them. This year I am creating an additional budget category: clothes for me out of what I make on Poshmark (disclaimer: yeah, it’s a referral link. You get $5 when you use it). While certainly a harder, higher dollar market, I’ve enjoyed finding and reselling quality shoes like Clarks and Keens. After all, who doesn’t love finding the very shoes they been searching for, but barely used for a fraction of the resale price?

I’ve also donated to and purchased from Schoola and they often have really good sales going. I love that I can skip walking down long and overwhelming isles in the thrift store and type in exactly what I am looking for. While it can be slightly hit or miss (since I can’t feel the fabric or see exact color hues) I have had some really great scores on here. It’s also nice to be able to donate and mail stuff off to them and not have to bother dripping stuff off at Goodwill.

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It takes constant attention, this thing of clothes on a budget.
But let’s never let it steal our joy, or lure us into the world of comparison.
Childhood memories capture the moments of sheer delight, of the mud puddles and carefree laughter.
Let’s cultivate a home where joy is everywhere, and Mommy is free to enjoy life with them.

I love white. I love Pottery Barn and clean, fresh style.
While I delight in my white bedspread, I currently can’t pull off white couches.
I want my home to be a balance of cleanliness and comfort. I want my children to learn to wash the mud from their feet, but also to feel welcome and comfortable in our home. Our brown leather couches wipe off super well. So much of life is about embracing seasons, recognizing limitations and choosing joy in the midst of it all.

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There are a million things that scream for our attention as mothers.
Even the best of things can distract us from what truly matters. God invites us into a dance, slow and steady, through the muddy footprints and piles of laundry. He asks us to listen to the song He is singing over us as we change diapers and nurse through the night. Seasons and demands change, budgets get breathtakingly tight, and we reanalyze the grocery list must-haves. But He is there, His hand extended and invites us into His presence.
The clothes, the food, and everything else carefully written on our to-do list- just hand it to Him.
He’s got this.  Even the clothes your children wear.

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What are your best tips for dressing on a budget and creating peace in your home?
I would love to hear your tips!

 

 

 

 

Where No Offering is Wasted

It was somewhere between 3 and 4 in the morning, and the bathroom was steamy hot.
I leaned my head against a folded towel and pretended that the tub and toilet were not filled with blood-stained water.

A distant faint hum grew into a loud buzzing in my ears, and I knew I was going to faint. “Daniel!” I said weakly, and immediately I heard him reply and jump out of bed.
Cold air hit my face as he pushed the door open,
“I think I’m gonna faint.”
He said something, but it was lost in the fog.
Next thing I remember I was stretched out on the floor, and he was taking care of me.

“Don’t call 911,” I whispered when I came to.
“I AM 911,” he said, with a hint of a twinkle in his eye.

Oh yeah, he WAS far more qualified to handle this situation than the volunteer firefighters just down the road at our local fire department.
My paramedic husband was just the man for the job. He leans in over a surgery, and carefully observes every move. He caught our last baby when she beat the midwives and was as calm and reassuring as a seasoned midwife would have been.
He’s a keeper, this brave man of mine.

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He got the bed ready, picked me up from the floor, carried me gently to bed and tucked me in. He took my blood pressure and managed to gulp discreetly. I knew it was low, simply by the draped over the bed feeling I had. He got me chlorophyll and grape juice and helped me figure out how to get the placenta to pass and the bleeding to stop.

We had waited a while to even tell the children about this pregnancy because of my history of early miscarriages. I hated to get their hopes up when they had been praying so hard for another baby. But we had ventured to tell them when I nearly hit the 12-week mark, and their eyes shone, and they hugged me tightly. Tirzah even cried herself to sleep, but they were tears of joy. But it was during that night that I saw the first blood.

I put myself on bed rest and researched like crazy. It could be this or that, but I knew under it all that it could just be another lost pregnancy.

And that’s what it was.

It’s over now, and I’ve been cared for and doted on so thoroughly it’s stunning. Daniel took the day off, and arranged for my mom and then his mom to each spend a day here so I could rest and the children be cared for. Friends have stopped by with flowers, food, and coffee.

“But it seems like such a waste!” Tirzah sighed. I nodded, all the weeks of morning sickness, nausea, the exhaustion- over, just like that. I always tell myself that the baby will be worth it, the sacrifice pales in the delight of a newborn clutching my finger.

But what about when the sacrifice is poured out?
Wasted. Gone. Nothing to show for the long weeks of sickness.

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We all love a good redemptive story, where the sweat and blood pays off, and our hero rides off victorious into the sunset. Vengeance is paid, good wins over evil. But when the cancer wins, the coffin is lowered, the dreams crumbled, is God still good?

Lately, my daughters have randomly asked big questions.
“Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers?”
It’s enough to make your mouth run dry; any cliche answer goes stale.
It’s these moments that parenthood undoes you. And you reach for words deeper than your mind. You reach for truth that is unwavering.

As I laid in bed, I kept getting this picture of water, poured out.
Splashed on a dry sandy ground, lost in a second.

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It was hot and dusty. They could feel the grit between their teeth, the chalky grime under their nails. The price of being one of David’s mighty men was high- no comfort, no family, no luxury at all. Everything was rough, from the simple clothes they wore to the grub that kept them alive.

And a sigh escaped David’s lips, “Oh, what would I give for some of that sweet well water from Bethlehem’s gate!” It was out of the question, the enemy line laying squarely between him and the water he longed for.

It was ridiculous. It was a dream of another lifetime.

But these crazy loyal men loved this leader of theirs. They were committed to him, to his cause, and even his smallest desires were deeply personal. They got their heads together and slipped off into the crowd of rowdy and rugged men.

The words fall silent on the pages here, and we have no account of the near calls they faced, the danger they plowed into, except for these:

“Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David.

But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord and said,
“Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this.
Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?”
Therefore he would not drink it.”

I’ve always felt sorry for these incredible men, whose lifeblood was risked for simple water. There it went, their very lives just dumped out on the dry ground.

What a waste. Nothing left to show for their risk. Just a bit of muddy sand at their toes.

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But something strikes me deeply now, as I read these words and let the water sink deep into my own dry heart. David, a man after God’s own heart, paused.
In this crazy moment behind army lines, when he was parched- he stopped.

His rough hands, calloused from taking care of sheep in the wilderness, calloused from playing music to the Lord, calloused from swinging a sword, now held a simple flask of the very water he’d been begging for.

Sometimes the deepest desire of our hearts, in turn, becomes a song of deep offering, of letting go, of choosing to see what God sees.

Instead of seeing water, David saw these men’s valor, their dedication, their absolute loyalty, and he knew he wasn’t deserving of that. He knew this was their very lives, and it was worth far more than water.

I breathe in deep, that shuddering kind of breath that comes after a long hard cry.
When the woman in you crumbles into a small child melted into her daddy’s arms.
It happens.
Life crushes.
Our dreams shatter and slip through our fingers like fine ocean sand.

Clutching does nothing but creates anger, for we stand nose to nose with the fact that we are helpless. We cannot control this.  We are forced to recognize that God is sovereign, even in the moments when all looks wrong.

He pulls us close and invites us to look through His eyes- to see beyond the desolation and waste of it all. To see the investment instead of the robbery. To see beyond just this little life we live.

With tears, we open our hands and this little one flies home.
Yes, we cry, but we smile through the tears.

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Would you be poured out like wine upon the altar for Me?
Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?

Would you?

God doesn’t call you in your strongest point.

He reaches in, past your strength, and touches your weakest area.
He meets you in your deficiency and lays it bare.
Your best accomplishments and most perfect presentations are just what he wants, but not to be waved as a trophy, but poured out on the altar of sacrifice.
He sees the water poured out, not as wasted, but as invested, directly into His heart.
He prepares us for abundant fruitfulness, but sometimes that means deep and painful pruning of what we thought were our most promising branches.

Our true joy is not in the bringing but in the giving.
Because there the story changes from the me to Him.
It becomes all about God. And when my life is about God, there is rest.

The dizzying buzz and noise falls silent, and we find we are picked up and carried,
and tucked into his arms. No offering is wasted here.