11 November 2014


It is hard to be obedient.

I’d been sensing the nudge of the Holy Spirit for awhile. When September came around, it was an indistinct sense that something was up, something was coming. As the fall progressed, the sense grew stronger. One morning I read Matthew 16-18 and there were several verses that seemed to pulse off the page and command my attention:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16: 23-24).

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting(Matthew 17: 20-21).

If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18: 8-9).

It became suddenly clear to me that God was calling me to a time of intense focus on Him. I didn’t know yet what form it would take, but I knew it would be a departure from the ordinary.

Life went on. September blurred into October, and I kept doing the things I do: feeding the boys, helping them get ready for school, emptying the dishwasher, reading the Bible, meeting with people, taking pictures, reading blogs, journaling, doing laundry, reading magazines, tidying the house, getting groceries, perusing my calendar. But underneath each of these normal, everyday things was a current of expectation. And as October waned, I flipped forward to look at the next month’s calendar and suddenly knew what I needed to do. I needed to practice saying NO. I needed to observe NO-vember.

Although I was certain this was the direction I was to take, I was a little unsure how exactly to go about it. Was I supposed to say NO to everything? To certain types of things? To certain people? Being a girl who likes to understand expectations and follow directions, I was uncomfortable with the vagueness of this challenge. So I kept grappling.

He reminded me that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). Even though I’ve read this verse a gazillion times, this got me thinking: what vestiges of OLD are holding me back from the NEW? I thought about habits I’ve had for years, those that have lingered not because they’re unobjectionable but because I’ve never fully or continually surrendered them. I thought about patterns of thinking that consistently undermine me (I’m talkin’ about you, Insecurity and Comparison). I thought about my inconsistent levels of discipline, and my tendency to choose fun over work.

And He pulled my attention again to those verses from Matthew, reminding me that He is the great revealer, and that there is no substitute for time with Him.
So I should block out time for Him.
which means saying no to:
so that I can say yes to:
Social engagements
Solitude; focused time with Him; honing in on His purposes for me

He was calling me to be mindful of His things, not the world’s things; to deny myself and follow Him.
So I should say “no” to the things that distract me from Him, distract me from His purpose for me. 
which means saying no to:
so that I can say yes to:
Frivolous spending
Financial responsibility; giving
Agreeing to a task/invitation in order to garner favor or avoid conflict
Relying solely on Him for my value and definition
Frittering away hours on social media
Devoting time to Him: reading the Bible, praying, and writing

He was alerting me that some of His purposes are accomplished only through prayer and fasting.
So I must make time and room in my life for these things.

He was exhorting me to cut off anything causing me to sin and cast it from me.
So I should avoid situations where I might look to others for my definition, or be distracted or tempted away from Him or His purposes. This could be as varied as eliminating social get-togethers, cutting out sugar, or not going into stores.

As I reviewed my calendar with these things in mind and prayed some more about it, I arrived at these guidelines for the month:

  • More time daily in prayer, Bible-reading, and reflection
  • More time daily doing what I sense He’s been asking me to do, but I’ve let slide: write, and develop a writing ministry
  • More time daily doing what fills, stimulates, and energizes me: reading, writing, creating
  • Renewed surrender of my food addiction

  • Say NO to plans with people, with the following exceptions:
    • Pre-existing commitments (like the annual visit from my friend Jess and the quarterly Art Playdate with Mary and Rachel).
    • Standing weekly or monthly commitments (like Growth Group, weekly lunch with my family, phone call with Mary Margaret, or mentoring commitments)
    • Those that directly further one of the above goals.
  • Say NO to time-frittering behaviors (watching shows on DVD, reading blogs, checking Instagram) totaling more than one hour daily except on our weekly Date Nights, when we can watch a movie.
  • Say NO to going shopping other than the annual trip to Anthology when Jess is in town and an antiquing trip with my mom for my birthday.
  • Say NO to eating whenever and whatever I want.

One thing I want to be clear about: These were the things God was challenging ME to do for this particular time. He was asking me to do some things that don’t come naturally to me, which is exactly why I need to practice them. This month is intended to be a reset. An interlude. A Selah. A stop-in-order-to-continue. I do not believe He is calling me to live indefinitely with minimal social commitments, though there’s always the possibility that He will. I want to be open to whatever He is teaching me. That’s what makes this so exciting!

So I have delved expectantly into this month of NO. And I will be excited to emerge from it, with new perspective and a fresh understanding of YES.

10 July 2014

What's in my bag?

I've had a couple of questions about what I keep in all these little pouches so I thought this was the easiest way to share. 

Turquoise Tool Kit (bottom left): pens/pencils

Black/white/yellow Vera Bradley (top left middle): sunglasses 

Khaki/red geometric (top right): vintage wooden game pieces that I use to keep track of the boys' behavior while we're out and about 

Olive and black small Chilewich (middle): one for each boy's behavior chips

Orange pinked West Elm (bottom middle): Masala Chai tea bags

Black pinked West Elm (bottom middle): bandages and sometimes sunblock 

B&W composition book (top right): wallet

Black/khaki linen tartan (top right): hand sanitizer, lotion, nail clipper, business card holder, face powder, mascara, lip gloss

And THAT, my friends, is why I rarely carry a small bag!

01 July 2014

My Month In Numbers

Julie Kirk of Notes on Paper has inspired me to (among other things) document "My Month In Numbers". Check out her June numbers here: http://notesonpaper.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/my-month-in-numbers-2014-june.html?m=1.

These are my stats for June:

20   rainy days (I'm the only one who's thrilled about this!)

7   industrial-strength shelves we bought & assembled for the bomb-shelter storage room 

18  Sterilite totes (finally the white lids are back!) we bought for said storage room 

102  Instagram posts

9 + 3   items purchased at Elkhorn Flea Market for myself & for others, respectively 

19 + 28   dollars paid for said items

12 + 17   total of so-called "bloody owies" sustained by Ezra and Nehemiah, respectively 

6     nights I survived as a single parent while Harry was in CA

23   episodes of The Good Wife I watched while he was gone

2     Peas in a Bucket, which will cease to exist as of July 10. SO SAD. 

Can't believe I've resisted this project for so long! It's been a fun way of categorizing my memories and I will definitely be doing this regularly. I didn't decide to participate in June's MMiN until the first of July, so I wasn't thinking numbers throughout the month. I can already tell that I'll have a lot more data-laced memories to sift through for July. 

18 May 2014

Rough Draft No. 3 - Answers Without Answers

"What does that mean, Mommy? 'Yahweh'?"

How to explain the unexplainable?
The One who Was and Is and Is To Come?
How do I explain I Am,
  the One who has scattered stars
  and molded lives,
Who writes each story with infinite grace,
  In all its pulpy rebellious mess?
How do I explain the One who destroys decrepit homes
  and rebuilds them into castles,
  who sees promise in barren wasteland
  and makes of it a prosperous garden?
How do I explain the bark of a tree,
  rough and protective,
  or the roots,
  those invisible providers?
What does it mean, I Am?
  splintering Healer,
  warrior Shepherd,
  the Searcher, the Fortress.

I have known words and I have known songs,
but I could shift letters into their dappled patterns
and never capture Him.

16 May 2014

Rough Draft No. 2 - Holy Contradiction

I want to yearn for You. 
I do.
I want to plug my ears with my fingers
  until You are all I hear,
  a whooshing 
I want to pick my way up
  the jagged rock of You,
  certain of every foothold,
  knowing that my gasping self
  will always find
  its next breath
  in You.

I want to burst into parties —"SURPRISE!" —
  and search the faces for You.

You are treasure.
No grimy coin on the sidewalk,
No quarter flecked with gum,
You are the lottery and I win You every time.
Every time I fix my eyes on You,
and not on others' scurrying feet
or the pulsing lights above.

I want to be the lost sheep
relieved You found me,
and I want to be the 99
never doubting You'd return.
I want to sing of You and keep You to myself
  (a jealous hoarder am I)
  but You are infinite
  and I cannot consume You.
I want to rest and I want to flee —
  but You say
  yoke: easy
  burden: light.

I want to wear out my shoes looking for You
  finding You
  following You.
And when You bloom through Your word
I will gladly exhaust myself
gathering more and more of You
into my already-bursting arms.

14 May 2014

Rough Draft No. 1 - Mother's Day

A couple of years ago, I'd gotten in the habit of going to Starbucks daily (sometimes even twice - What?!). After awhile, I decided to assuage some of my guilt by doing something productive with the time I spent there, so I challenged myself to write a poem each time I waited for my drink to be made. Sometimes I only ended up with a line or two, sometimes I came away with a nearly-finished piece. Either way, it was fulfilling and (as often happens when I commit to doing something creative daily) it made me increasingly observant and productive. 

After leaving my job in mid-September to become a stay-at-home mom, my Starbucks budget basically evaporated and with it, my prolific poem-generation. So a couple of months ago, as my younger son and I were waiting in the car for older brother to get out of school, it occurred to me that I could make waiting-for-school-to-get-out my new poem creation time. And I've decided to further challenge myself by posting these rough drafts here. I'm hopeful that this process will inspire me to keep writing and thinking and honing, and that it may inspire some of you to do whatever you do for creative expression. 

Just a reminder that these are ROUGH DRAFTS. They are not finished, polished pieces, though I hope that I will eventually post the final versions as I complete them. Also, I am creating all of these posts from my phone, so the formatting will almost certainly be awry. This drives the perfectionist in me CRAZY, but I've decided to stop letting her stand in the way of actually doing things. So without further ado...

Mother's Day

The sudden-sharp growl of thunder
shook the house 
and before it had pealed itself out
I was padding down the hall,
knowing one would cry out
(and he did)
and one would stumble from bed
(and he did).

I like this about motherhood:
the knowing.
Knowing when to ask about his day 
and expect an answer,
knowing when tantrum
is really just code for lonely,
gauging moods like wind.

I don't know much.
I don't know string theory,
or how to grow a tomato,
and I can't remember 
the quadratic equation,
but I do know
how this one likes his oatmeal
and how that one
likes to be alone only when he's angry.

And I like the knowing of them,
the knowing that,
on days like this —
  skies clouded pewter
  and rain pelting ground —
there is nothing they want more
than to burrow under wool blanket
with their soft jumble of plush friends
while I read 
and they breathe me

02 March 2014

Ode To A Long Winter

As a lover of the cold and inclement, the grey and dreary, I am a happy, happy girl. This winter has had everything I love: big snowstorms, cloudy skies, day after day of must-stay-inside cold. Winters like this feed my soul. Of course, I am surrounded by people who feel very, very differently, people whose favorite greeting tends to be along the lines of, "Ugh! Can you believe how long/cold/endless this winter has been? Aren't you so excited for spring?!" At which point, I must decide between honesty ("Actually, I love cold, grey weather, so I'm a little depressed that spring is coming") or pretense ("Mmm-hmm...", sympathetic-seeming smile). I know that those of you who crave the warmth of the sun and the green of the spring, this plodding winter is near-torture. So I'd like to call your attention to some reasons that I love a good, long winter and maybe - just maybe - you will find yourself a way to enjoy its last freezing throes. 

It's easy to ensconce yourself inside and wait out the cold, but winter is a great opportunity to have some friends over for a cozy get-together. Calendars tend to be emptier than in the warmer months and many folks are desperate to break up their routine after so many months of weather-enforced seclusion. Easy, comforting meals like soups or crock-pot fare are welcome, and you don't have to dust your shelves too carefully, thanks to the forgiving darkness of winter. 

Although this may seem at odds with the community I just encouraged, solitude is its necessary partner. In warmer weather, there are outdoor activities aplenty, most of them involving other people. Calendars fill up and evening get-togethers often seep into the bedtime hours because of the extra light. This leaves all but the staunchest introverts with little to no downtime. Enter the dark of winter. Closing the drapes and settling in for the night at 5:00? Perfectly acceptable. Putting the kids to bed at 7:00? Utterly feasible. Spending an evening by the fire reading, writing, or being creative? Blissfully possible. Take advantage of these waning short days to spend some evenings getting reacquainted with yourself.

Crackling fire 
Growing list of finished books
Tea, tea, and more tea
Wool blankets
Card games, board games, dice games
Reading Harry Potter aloud 
Sweaters and lounge pants 
Cutting paper and doing fun stuff with it
Watching the snow fall & the squirrels scamper
Turning off music/TV and savoring the sounds of the house: heat kicking in, dishwasher churning, wood floors settling 

Here's to enjoying the final 17 days of winter!