Friday, August 30, 2013


Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It's the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.-Frederick Buechner

Recollections #12 of 36
A recollection of the people I know or don't know, who work tirelessly, selflessly, intentionally, sacrificially, humbly, for the peace and joy of others. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and be forgiven, their need for one another's help and company and divine gifts, their hope (and experience) of love surpassing death, their gratitude.”
-Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
I have never known Jesus apart from his church- not the building- his people. My earliest memories are of a lively and warm fellowship of people gathering. The children were fed hot-dogs and finger jell-o and sent to the basement while the adults crowded together in the living room for Bible Study. From the sounds upstairs we understood studying the Bible to be something to do with singing and deep laughter.

Maybe it is in the way that our earliest impressions are formed that I carry within me this great and stubborn affection, this idealistic hope, for church. I still think of it as something nourishing and safe, the way I perceived it as a child, though I have spent time in churches now long enough to experience it many times as just the opposite.

Church- community- is where I first knew conflict that was not resolved. It is the first place I watched people be rejected. It is the place at times most hurtful, where I have felt at times the most insecure or inadequate. I have often asked myself why bother.

Church- community- is also the place where I have found the greatest meaning. Where I have met the wisest and kindest and humblest people. Where I have been confronted with my own sin and called to fuller life. Where I have loved and been loved. It is one of my first recollections of joy.

I don't know that I could follow Christ apart from his Church- a community of believers, two or three or five hundred.

It still remains in my heart as it's ideal- not a church building but a house; warm and doors held open, every window flooded with light and the sounds music and of deep laughter- what it is meant to be, what it one day will be- the way I have experienced it most in glimpses.

Recollections #11 of 36

Friday, August 23, 2013

what I have learned this summer about writing

I am giving myself time to let my thirty-six recollections simmer. This process of recollecting joy is gratifying and has given me a lot to think about this week.

I have often thought about the need for setting up ebenezers, (Practical Theology for Women) for remembrance of ways that God has met me, provided for or comforted me at specific times in my life. I think of these recollections as a way for me to do that. As a result, I find myself wandering down paths I have not traveled in a long time, to some of the places where I first sensed the love of Jesus.  I want to take my time.

So I am interrupting my series of recollections to write about writing.

This is what I have learned this summer about writing:

1. I require time to write. Uninterrupted time. Lots of it. This is the greatest challenge of course but when I can get it, it is heaven.

2. Live in the season. The common advice I seem to hear on writing is to push through, write write write, and I agree, but I would offer this levity: Write when you can, but be present in your life when you can't. Pay attention to life. Most words happen while doing the dishes anyway.

3. Blank paper. The very best solution for journaling/ free writing/ list making/ mind mapping/ note taking- reams of cheap copy paper. Old one sided paper works great. I have spent a lot of time trying to come up with systems. I like to write with pen, so doing everything on the computer doesn't work. Copy paper is the solution for all of this. It is cheap; I'm not afraid of scribbling on a nice journal. It is always nearby. It can be folded up and stuck in a pocket. I can keep all of my random sheets of paper in stacks and sort it eventually, tossing anything I don't need to keep and storing the rest in a three-ring binder. This is such a simple thing but it really has set me free to write fast and sloppy, and not be looking around for the correct notebook.

4. Community For the past six months or so I have been attending a fiction writer's workshop and I love, love, love, (love) it. The only drawback is that it only meets once a month. I have found it to be the perfect balance of encouragement and critique, on a very professional but not intimidating level, and has allowed me to meet some really wonderful writers. So thankful for this.

5. Without Fear As with all creating or life- we need to be able to do it without fear of failure or imperfection.

6. The Creative Personality Creative friends, you must read this from Psychology Today. Fascinating, and affirming.

7. The biggest thing I am learning to do for myself as a writer is to give myself the space and permission to write, which always involves saying no to someone or something else.

8. Writing is so much fun.

day after day

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

Thursday, August 22, 2013

strangers in a strange land

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes. 
-Madeleine L'Engle

There are many quotes from Madeleine L'Engle I could post here. I am most grateful to her for the way she opened up and affirmed to me the life of the artist in knowing God, and the relationship of imagination and faith.

It might be a good idea if, like the White Queen, we practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast, for we are called on to believe what to many people is impossible. Instead of rejoicing in this glorious "impossible" which gives meaning and dignity to our lives, we try to domesticate God, to make his might actions comprehensible to our finite minds. -Madeleine L'Engle 
When I have something to say that I think will be too difficult for adults, I write it in a book for children. Children are excited by new ideas; they have not yet closed the doors and windows of their imaginations. Provided the story is good... nothing is too difficult for children.” -Madeleine L'Engle 
Don't try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition. -Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

(Recollections #9 of 36)
(Recollections are based on this song by Sara Groves. They begin here).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And then you do

So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?
I'm not sure. That's my answer: I'm not sure.

One thing about having a baby is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him any more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of- and then you do, you love him even more.

― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

(Recollections #8 of 36)
(Recollections of Joy are based on this song by Sara Groves)

I Am

(Recollections #7 of 36)
recollections based on this song by Sara Groves


My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.

While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.

-Brennan Manning (Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging)

(Recollections #6 of 36)
(Recollections are based on this song by Sara Groves)

ten times a day

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light." 
— Mary Oliver

Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness." 

— Mary Oliver

(recollection #4 of 36)

there will come a time

(Recollections #4 of 36)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Come in!

If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If you're a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in! 
Come in!
― Shel Silverstein

(recollections #3 of 36)


You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. 
I'll take grace. 
I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it.

— Mary Oliver

(recollections #2 of 36)
based on this song by Sara Groves

the greatest clues

Maybe it's all utterly meaningless. Maybe it's all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we're in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us. Any fiction that helps us pay attention to that is religious fiction. The unexpected sound of your name on somebody's lips. The good dream. The strange coincidence. The moment that brings tears to your eyes. The person who brings life to your life. Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues.  
-Frederick Buechner

(Recollections #1)

recollections of joy

What was it about the day, the evening, why, from some small darkness did despair gather such force- a great weariness that came and and lay heavily over me, a late summer evening, so that I could barely lift my head?

And in the night I woke, and the choice came nudging open the door as a great affectionate labrador, salivating and wagging and urging me again, toward impossibility.

And I chose again to walk this path of life- of hope and beauty and pain and imagination and I chose to keep myself fully alive.

Since that night I have been thinking about this path, how to keep myself on the path, how not to grow old, how not to become tangled in the briars of life or lost wandering down the wide paths of despair.

I turn thirty-six this week. The tipping point, the scale points closer to forty, this journey, life, it goes on, it always does.

My plan is to post thirty-six lovely things.
Lovely things that heal or make us less lonely or more homesick for the place we belong.
Thirty-six recollections of joy. Thirty-six signs of life.
For myself, to remember, should I get lost.

If time were ever to wear you away 
And circumstance should bind me 
If age should bring a dark night on my soul 
If fear and doubt should bind me 

Please stir my heart 
Take me back to the fire 
And bring to me recollections of joy 
And renew my first desire 

If pains and trials come to me 
And I cannot stand strong 
If fools adjust my theories 
To believe your truth is wrong 

Please stir my heart 
Take me back to the fire 
And bring to me recollections of joy 
And renew my first desire 

I swear it will never happen to me 
But how I can I know 
For Peter swore the same to thee 
Oh, hear the cock crow 

Please stir my heart 
Take me back to the fire 
And bring to me recollections of joy 
And renew my first desire 

Sara Groves, Stir My Heart
(Listen to it here)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

soup 8.15

I took the day off yesterday and today. The kids are still here, of course, but we are at home, and quiet. Laying low. We need to do this once in a while, and especially now at the end of summer as I prepare myself to get back into the discipline and routine of school.

Our school plans for the year are to continue homeschooling Sam, and send Annie to public school kindergarten. There are several reasons. For one, we were happy with Sam's kindergarten experience and hopeful that Annie will have the same teacher. Two, we felt like it was a good introduction to Sam for what school is, meaning the kind of priority that it is, and having her familiar with the school routine gave us a head start when we began homeschool in first grade. It also made her appreciate homeschooling much more.(!!!)

For now I think that it will be good for Annie to have this opportunity too. It is the plan but anything can change. The past few years I fretted a lot over this decision- and it is a huge, important decision. But I have learned not to take it too seriously--

The question we will ask ourselves each year, with each child, is where can they receive the very best education, for their personality and temperament and learning style? I would like to think that most years that answer will be at home with me. But maybe it won't. We can be free to flux and change and prayerfully consider each year what is the very best education for each child. And now that I know we can homeschool- that we can enjoy it even- I feel more freedom to embrace the school idea, knowing we can always bring her home.

I am very excited to be joining a Classical Conversations community this year. After reading and hearing so so many positive things about Classical Conversations, and after meeting the wonderful people who are a part of our local group, I am so looking forward to joining this co-op once a week.

We are continuing to follow the Well Trained Mind curricula. We had a good experience with it last year, and so I didn't really think about not using it again this year.

A few good things I have read lately:


Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Wendell Berry meets Marilynn Robinson. This book was a very tall slice of blueberry pie, on a long pier on an August night in Maine. Dark chocolate with sea salt. The fist sip of a perfect cup of coffee. Rich, quiet, tender, thoughtful, lovely. For all of the reasons I read fiction, this book is it. I need to read everything by Kent Haruf.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
This is a modern-day take on Jane Eyre. I like the idea of imagining a modern-day Jane Eyre, but probably any attempt would be set-up to fail. I found this especially unbelievable. This was a long read and almost entirely disappointing.

Good Links:

Mary, Martha, and the Main Thing
And then we think we’ve got it down, and then we begin to judge the actions of others and the moment we do this we’ve once again lost the plot.

On releasing perfection: simple homeschool
Stop looking for perfection in others and seeing only flaws in yourself. We are all imperfect. Crop out what isn’t working in your life and celebrate what is. 

George Saunder's Advice to Graduates: the NYTimes magazine
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Hard times, pretty pictures: small things
We’re all thrown in the deep end at one time or another, and it’s sink or swim, sink or swim.  And if you are counting on perfection in the world of parenting, you’re going to sink.
And since strong, competent high achievers earn human admiration, we are tempted to believe that they impress God in a similar way.
That’s the last thing Paul wants us to believe. Paul knew better than most that it is not human achievements that showcase the grace of God. It is human helplessness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

who we are

Overheard: Girls like chocolate.
Then, Mama likes chocolate that's why girls like chocolate.

Navigating this world of parenting can feel overwhelming.
There are so many opinions- so many strong opinions-
and as many different parenting styles as there are parents.

Being a person given to doubt, I can easily doubt myself. Being a person given to guilt, there could always be something to feel guilty about.

Lately I have decided that there are a million ways to be a great parent, and zero guarantees.

I have friends who are concerned, engaged parents on every range of the spectrum, and I think they all are great parents raising really great kids. Mostly, they are great people.

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting. The question isn't, "Are you parenting the right way?" as it is "Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?"

If we want our children to love and accept who they are, we must love and accept who we are.

-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Another day, another overheard conversation. The girls were inventing names for each of us if we were one of the seven dwarves. Mom, they decided, was Happy.

And I decided to give myself a day off from guilt.


Brene Brown's advice for Wholehearted Parenting:

-Acknowledge that we can't give our children what we don't have and so we must let them share in our journey to grow, change, and learn.

-Recognize our own armor and model how to take it off, be vulnerable, show up, and let ourselves be seen and known.

-Continue on our own journeys to wholeheartedness

-Parent from a place of "enough" rather than scarcity

-Mind the gap and practice the values we want to teach

-Dare greatly

Perfectionism is contagious! Perfectionism is teaching our children to value what people think over what they think or feel.

:: from Daring Greatly
Reading this list again I remember how very valuable this book is, and think I will go back and read it again. Whether or not you are a parent, I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

Friday, August 9, 2013


It can be an excruciating experience to read books with my youngest child.
She is a bit controlling, and more than a bit impatient,
and so as we are reading the story she is asking- demanding-
Why? What is going to happen?
Why is her face sad? Where is he going? Where is her mama?
She is looking at the pictures, hardly listening to the story,
frustrated by the things yet to be revealed as the story is told,
on the next page, and the next.
And meanwhile her sisters are growing impatient because they just want to hear the story already.

And aren't I just like Josie-
Why? What is going to happen God? 
Where are we going? 
When is this going to take place? 
What is the point? 
Why this and not that? 
What does this mean? 
Why does this hurt? 
What are we supposed to do now. ..?

And maybe God is saying, Hush, child, we are getting to that part. Listen. Enjoy the suspense just as you would trust your favorite author. There is this beautiful story I am weaving here, if you only will listen, and live freely, and wait.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

the early years

I just sent an email to a friend about this, and it has been on my mind a lot so I wanted to type it quickly into a blog . . .

Dear Moms of Young Children,

You have no idea how crazy life is right now. You don't realize how tired you are, or how much that affects everything. Everything. 

You are probably just going through the motions, trying not to think because who has time to think anyway. You can't admit that life is hard because it might sound like you're complaining and you're not- you are wildly, unspeakably grateful. And tired.

One day, I promise, you will stand up and shake off the dust and say, a hundred times a day, Can you believe how easy life just became? I can't believe how easy this is! 

All week I have been thinking, someone should tell moms after giving birth that her own birth is two or three years away. She is now wrapped so tightly around her children, but one day she will unfold again and find herself in a new way. The person you were is still there. Your branches right now are being pruned, and they need to be, but they will grow back.

As I have been looking back at the baby phase I've been thinking about some of the things I wish I'd done differently.

1. I wish I hadn't tried to do so much. I knew I couldn't do everything I wanted to do, but I shouldn't have felt so guilty about it.

2. I wish I had spent a little more time on a dirty floor with my kids rather than cleaning it. A messy house is okay.

3. I wish I hadn't let them grow up too fast. I think I allowed the girls to move on to Disney when they should have still been watching Peter Rabbit. 

4. I wish I had leaned in earlier to the no-sleep thing. My kids couldn't sleep and I thought I needed to fix it, but that only created stress. What I needed to do was put mattresses on the floor and keep a family bed. It is okay for children to need to be close. The same is true for many of the things we think we need to fix. I wish I had learned this sooner.

5. I wish I had been better about not giving them sugar.

6. I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself. It wasn't God demanding so much from me. The limitations He gives us are a gift, they set us free. His yoke is easy.

This is what I don't regret: 

I was not a perfect mother, I could fill several blog posts on what I wish I'd done differently. 

But I know that I enjoyed my kids. 

It came as such a terrific surprise- the gift of motherhood, of being entrusted with a life- it is the most magical thing that can happen to a person. I never took it for granted. I became tired and blew it in many ways. But I could not have delighted more in being a mother.