On Jesus and Motherhood

I open the dining room curtains to a pink dawn and crisp pre-fall morning. Espresso simmers on the stove top—admittedly the only thing that gets me out of bed some mornings. Laptop and coffee in hand, I slip away into the guest room hoping to eek out a few minutes of writing before my babies wake up.

I think about Jesus, His twelve disciples, motherhood, and social media—a mixed bag of old and new, of timeless truths, and human nature.

The world we live in today begs for attention and thrives on the affirmation of virtual likes, comments, and shares. Likely, people have always looked for this sort of approval in one medium or another regardless of the day in which they lived. But this need for notice and approval seems so very quantifiable today with actual numbers of “followers” and thumbs up to tell you just how popular (or unpopular) and noticed (or unnoticed) you really are. IMG_20170716_093307_819I follow a lot of moms on Instagram and read many a word written by moms of littles just like me. But they aren’t really like me at all, are they? Most of them run their own creative business on the side, are publishing books, homeschool half a dozen children or more, pull the weight of a public ministry, or simply rock life as a domestic diva with a perfectly curated home and gourmet meals on the table. That’s not exactly where I’m at, no not really.

These women challenge and encourage me with their lives and words—that’s why I follow them. But who am I kidding if I don’t admit how small I feel in comparison as I just keep my head above water and am thrilled if I post a few words here each week.

The numbers tell me I’m not like them, that I’m not seen or heard, that in a world screaming for attention, I am silent and invisible, unseen and unheard.IMG_20170808_222639_248 This is where Jesus comes in.

I get stuck in my own head sometimes. Stuck filling my heart with lies instead of truth. I go to social media and try to quantify my purpose and meaning with little thumbs up and numbers of followers. But then I’m reminded, Jesus only had twelve. Twelve “followers”—the small group of men he invested in deeply with his time and words and the few he would send out to further the story he had to tell. Just twelve men.

I look at my life, my home, my husband and two children. It doesn’t seem like much sometimes, my impact in this life and world. What difference can I make when all I can do is keep four people (including myself) alive each day? If I were just one of those women who does it all and is followed by many, then I could make an impact and do something lasting. Then the numbers would tell me I have purpose and influence. The numbers would tell me I matter.

But Jesus…

He invested for a short time in a few, not many. He had twelve followers and that was enough for him. Jesus saw the impact deep investment in a few could make on many. Those twelve men went on to turn the world upside down and spread the gospel message to numbers unquantifiable.IMG_20170829_063413_632 My world is small but my people matter immensely. I’m learning to look beyond numbers and to invest deeply and completely in the people and work before me. This isn’t easy, feeling small and unseen in a world shouting for attention. But who I am and what I’m worth is defined by Christ and not my sphere of influence on social media. Social media is fine. Having tons of followers is fine. But numbers are only helpful when they point us to Christ and his work rather than our own fame and glory.

So help me, God, to see you in the people and work before me however small and invisible my life may sometimes feel.

Soli Dio gloria.

A Selfless Man in a Selfish World

IMG_20170814_061957_246I’ll never forget the night we met, the way we fell into conversation seamlessly and became friends almost instantly. There was hardly a moment from that first meeting when it didn’t feel right having you at my side. It’s surprising then, how long it took me to decide for sure that I really loved you, that I really wanted to marry you. Looking back though, I’m glad I took my time. Not because you’ve disappointed, but because we were so, so young and because I realize better now than I ever could have then just how significant that choice of life partner really is. IMG_20170814_062137_610We’ve been married for nine years and together for twelve. I hear those numbers and think I must have done the math wrong—how are we old enough to have been together for twelve years? But then I look at the life we’ve lived in those years and it hardly seems time enough to contain it all. Moving across the country, a condo we could barely afford to heat, a tiny downtown apartment, our first house, and our ridiculous farmhouse remodel. We’ve traveled, made two babies, worked various jobs, and started a business of our own. In all of it, I’ve learned something significant about you, about the man you are and what a lucky girl I am to have you at my side. IMG_20170814_061844_794I’ve learned in a loud world preaching self-promotion and a me-first mentality, a man who is humble, who is self-sacrificing, who sets his own wants aside to better serve his family—that is a rare find, you are a rare find. If I had understood just how uncommon your character is when I was 19 and toying with who to marry, I would have made my decision much faster.IMG_20170815_074139_745You have always loved me well but never did I realize how well until we had children. These years with little little ones are intense. We don’t sleep through the night. Someone always needs us and the margin of time left for each other or anything else can be thin. But in a time when I’ve seen many men step away from the intensity of home and family, I’ve seen you step in and stand up. IMG_20170721_215341_888You work a high-stress job all day followed by a long commute each night. But still you walk through our door ready for the next job—the kids and house and wife still needing you, still wanting what’s left of your time and attention. You get on the floor and play with our son, sit and give a bottle to our daughter, show up with ice coffee and a warm hug for me because you remember not only yourself and your own hard day but think of me and what my day might have been like as well. You mow the yard with our son on your shoulders and help wrangle two children on different schedules into bed. You give from the moment you get up to work and provide for us until the moment you hit the bed again at night.IMG_20170721_215210_339We are old enough now to see the marriages of friends and family crumble. It stings, watching people you love fall out of love with each other. I realize when a marriage or family falls apart, there is likely some level of fault on both sides. But I’ve seen too that many of the marriages I’ve watched disintegrate have done so because a man who took on a wife and family and all that home life requires decided one day (or many days over and over) that he didn’t want that life after all. It’s not that he didn’t love his wife and kids, he simply loved himself more. So he left.

But you have stayed. You have been humble. You have been selfless. You have listened and served and worked on behalf of others when your time and talent could have easily been used to promote self or to earn more money or to have more hobbies and things. You could have bought that boat and spent your days on the lake like you’ve so often talked about—but you’ve chosen our family first instead a million times over. There’s nothing in the world wrong with a boat, but a man who can discern where his time, energy, and money are most needed and who is selfless enough to live accordingly is a rare find indeed. IMG_20170707_211648_100How incredibly humbled and thankful I am that you are mine. I hope I love and serve you half as well as you love and serve us ❤

It’s Good to Be Home

Life has been a little cray around here lately—and by lately, I mean for months. I spent most of last fall and this winter either not feeling good or trying to catch naps whenever possible thanks to pregnancy. I’m excited to be expecting again so it’s fine and definitely worth it but it also feels like a chunk of my life is missing from those hazy months.

IMG_20170509_103347_440Spring rolled around and we got busy with travel, lots of company coming to visit, and all kinds of miscellaneous crazy. It’s been a fun couple of months packed full of people and places I love—but oh my word, I’m ready for some down time with my boys.

Sunday, my parents packed up and headed home after a two-week visit. We had a great time with them (and everyone else who’s come to visit over the last couple of months). But when Monday rolled around and I sat alone in my quiet house (as quiet and alone as things ever are with a two-year old running around 😉 ), I have to admit, it felt nice to watch the dust settle on my life for a bit. IMG_20170508_204442_403I sat down with my day planner to figure out what’s next and it was really nice to see that nothing major is on the agenda for the next few weeks. I even cancelled a couple things I had planned on doing just to free up the weekends and spend a little extra time enjoying my boys before the next wave of activity hits. IMG_20170509_094322_351These next three (hopefully) quiet weeks feel sacred and I’m doing my best not to add anything unnecessary to our days.

This week its felt nice just to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, cook a meal in my kitchen, and sit around the table with my little family. Sometimes I get tired of the routine that comes with being a wife and stay-at-home momma—the endless cycle of laundry, dishes, meals, errands, and diapers. IMG_20170508_204110_747He’s a cute little imp but trust me when I tell you, he’s a holy terror to grocery shop with 😀

But the exhaustion and busyness of the last few months have shown me how valuable and peaceful these little routines can be. When we’re frantically moving from one thing to the next, just trying to keep our heads above water, it’s easier to recognize and crave the value of quiet days at home with the people who matter most.

IMG_20170508_204252_318So for the next few weeks, I’m savoring the quiet and the routine. I’m enjoying the time with my boys and preparing for my baby girl. Life will change tremendously in a couple months when our daughter is born. So until then, I’m holding onto and enjoying life as it is—and not allowing guilt or the American obsession with busyness to distract and pull at me.

Our days are numbered and short. Our people are precious. These are the things I’m keeping in mind and wrapping my heart around today ❤

Exploring the City with Littles

1495044412744Because of where we live, most of our out-of-town visitors want to see the cities near us while they’re here. Daytrips to Boston and NYC used to require no more planning than how to get around on the train and where to eat. But adding a child to that equation changed things quite a bit and we’ve learned a few lessons along the way about tackling cities with a little one in tow.

IMG_20170507_104639_988So far, we’ve walked Kansas City, Boston, Quebec, and NYC with our little guy along for the ride (literally, he has no idea how lucky he is to be carried everywhere lol).

Because we love traveling and also think kids are all right (I’m 7 months into making another one so they must not be too bad) I’m always on the lookout for ways to make trips with children easier and more enjoyable.

img_20170207_091752236.jpgOur little guy has traveled with us by car, plane, train, boat, and in all kinds of carriers as we’ve explored on foot. Here’s what I’ve learned about city adventures with little ones so far; I hope this helps if/when you take on a family adventure of your own :]

Keep in mind that I’m speaking only from my own experience with one child who we’ve traveled with from 1 month up to 3 years. Every child is different so what works for us at a certain stage may just make your kid cranky or angry—hopefully not, but you know, every kid is different ;]

Newborn to One Year: {Baby sling/Carrier}

When our guy was a baby up to about a year old, the easiest, most comfortable way to go anywhere with him was holding him close in a baby sling (I prefer the Moby wrap) or a baby carrier (I prefer the Ergo, Darren the Baby Bjorn). He would snuggle in close and either watch the world contentedly or sleep. Carrying him also saved us the hassle of a bulky stroller in congested spaces like the subway or busy sidewalks.

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Toddlers Stage 1 to 4 Years: {Backpack Carrier}

Once Roman outgrew the baby carriers (sad day) we started looking for another way to carry him with us minus a stroller and without actually having to hold him in our arms all day (that ain’t going to work, trust me). We ended up trying a backpack carrier and fortunately both Darren and Roman love it most of the time (it’s too heavy for me to wear except for short periods). We use a Chicco carrier and it has worked great for us so far.

IMG_20170507_105900_904One lesson learned about this kind of carrier though—after a whole day on your feet in the city, these do still get heavy and uncomfortable. We spent the day in NYC this past weekend and were both regretting not bringing a small umbrella type stroller as a backup plan.

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While carrying Roman on our backs was perfect for navigating the train, busy streets, and ferry, it was totally exhausting. And Roman got tired of being in there after a while and ended up in our arms anyway. So if you’re planning a full day on your feet, I definitely recommend bringing a small stroller as well—something that folds up flat for trains and easily opens with one hand if possible. We use an Urbini and it’s fine (though I wouldn’t say great).

Diaper Bag and Supplies:

Figuring out how to carry your kid is one thing; figuring out how to carry all their stuff is another thing all together :]

I’ve tried all kinds of bags while out walking (sling, shoulder, backpack) and found the most comfortable is definitely a backpack because this distributes the weight across both shoulders instead of just one.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Carry as little with you as possible. While it’s nice to be prepared, it’s not so nice carrying an overly heavy load or jostling through an overstuffed bag when you need something. Bring what you think you’ll use as far as diapers, wipes, change of clothes, drinks, snacks, etc. but try to use travel size when possible and keep in mind that if you run out of something, you can almost certainly buy more where you are.
  • Only bring one bag: Along the same line of not carrying too much, don’t try bringing a separate purse for yourself. Grab your wallet and whatever bare necessities you need with you for the day and combine them into the bag you carry for baby.
  • Bring your own drinks and snacks: You and your littles are going to get thirsty and hungry and buying drinks and snacks in the city adds up fast. Save your money for activities or an actual meal and avoid the $5 bottles of water and bags of chips.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! City walking, especially when you’re carrying a child or backpack all day, is hard work. Your feet are going to hurt. So while it’s nice to be cute, try to be cute and as comfortable as possible. I’ve started throwing an extra pair of shoes/socks in the bag so I have the option to change if my feet really start to hurt.
  • Dress your child comfortably: Again, I know its fun to put your kids in cute outfits, especially when you’re out and about. But keep in mind that your child is going to be bundled into some kind of carrier all day and exposed to whatever weather you’re out in. The softer and more comfortable their clothes, the happier they’ll be. I put Roman in a button under onesie so his shirt doesn’t ride up and a soft pair of pants/shorts. If it’s cold, I put a pair of footie pajamas under his outfit so no skin is exposed where his pants ride up at the ankle. Keep in mind too that you’ll be changing diapers in all kinds of weird places if changing tables aren’t available so the easier the outfit is to get them in and out of, the better.

Anyway, I hope these ideas help and I hope you take lots of adventures with your families. While kids do complicate things, they also add a lot of joy and laughter and it’s so fun watching the world through their eyes. I’ll never forget Roman’s face when we stepped out of the subway and he saw all the lights in Time’s Square for the first time—totally made the craziness of bringing him with us worth it ❤

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When Motherhood Isn’t Your Thing

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I always knew I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Before Darren and I ever decided to marry, I told him what I wanted to do and he agreed–someday, when the time was right, I would leave the workplace and stay home. And that’s exactly what I did–after 6 years of marriage, work, home buying, and traveling, we decided it was time to start a family and whole-heartedly welcomed a baby into our lives.

I loved the first year at home–though of course, at times, it was very hard and was a huge adjustment from my former office job. That first year was just me and Roman most of the time as Darren was working, going to school, and remodeling our house. From sun up to sundown (and plenty of times throughout the night) Roman was in my arms or at my side. I was zeroed in that first year, present and focused on enjoying my baby boy before he was no longer a tiny little thing in my arms. I am proud of that first year and have very few regrets about how I spent my time with our son.

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But this year, with a now 18 month old toddler, things have been different. I’m struggling. No, I’m drowning. I’m starting to realize that the baby stage was my happy place but this whole toddler stage just isn’t my jam. Roman is a wild, busy little thing and we are both going a little batty being stuck inside during these long winter months. He’s bored and I’m bored and we’re both driving each other crazy.

Truth be told, I want to put him in daycare and go back to work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m just surprised to find myself feeling this way after so many years of wanting to start a family and stay home.

Maybe I’m just tired, discouraged, or disillusioned. Maybe it will pass as things often do.

Or maybe motherhood isn’t my thing and it turns out I’m really not all that good at the one thing I spent my whole life preparing for.

I don’t know.

I know Roman isn’t going to daycare because it makes no sense for me to go back to work right now. By the time I settle into a job and know what I’m doing, I’ll be pregnant again. That’s just where I’m at in life right now. I want more children and I want to stay home with each child for at least the first year and you can’t just hop in and out of work at your own leisure. So for right now, my life is at home.

I don’t have a problem with committing my life to home for as long as this is where I need to be. I’m just struggling to figure out how to make this whole home all day every day with a cranky toddler thing work in such a way that there’s some peace and happiness in our lives again.

I want to be a good mom, not the cranky, frustrated one I’ve become of late. But how do I reconcile who I am and how I’m struggling with patient, loving parenting and a happy, healthy home?

Beats me.

If you have answers, I’m all ears.

I’m sorry this isn’t my usual “life is beautiful and magical” type post but I’m just not there right now. This isn’t a mommy blog but I’m knee-deep in motherhood and struggling to find my voice in this space as I once did. I miss writing and photographing and I’m determined to get back to it. But in the meantime, this is where I’m at, this is why I’m absent, and until I can come back with something nice to say, I’m not coming back at all :]

A Pea in the Pod

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For a couple months now I’ve had a little secret that only Darren and I knew—our first baby is on the way, due July 9th of this new year. For 13 weeks now this little bud of life has been blossoming in my heart and body and it’s a strange feeling carrying a little life and soul around with you everywhere—how differently you think about everything when such a responsibility is yours.

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{Just me}

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{Just you}

But what a joy it is to anticipate new life, to hear that fluttery little heart beat for the first time and to see the profile of your very own child moving around on the screen during an ultrasound. It is magic if there is any magic in the world.

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{Just us}

Often since I found out I’m expecting a verse has swept through my mind, a line from Hannah when she was promised a child:

“For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1 Samuel  1:27

For this child I prayed.

I pray.

I will always pray.

And the Lord heard me.

Hears me.

Will always hear me.

I can think of no greater gift.

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{Just the beginnings of our own little family}

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Darren, Kari, and baby :]

Tis the Season…of Consumerism

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond and writing his work of the same name he said that “men have become the tools of their tools.” He wrote that in the mid 1800s so I imagine he might have had a mental break had he ever met the internet.

Just imagine Thoreau with an iPhone for a minute; it makes me smile.

I went to Walden Pond once. I drove out with a friend and together we sat by the water’s edge with journals in hand and wrote about the beautiful, quiet place we found ourselves in.

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We walked in the replica of the tiny cabin Thoreau built for himself and I snapped a few pictures of Mr. Thoreau reading my very own copy of Walden Pond :]

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I like Thoreau. I like what he stood for and what he did by example. But I’m not very good at following that example. I’m much better at online shopping and Angry Birds, truth be told.

It seems like simple living should be, you know, simple. But the world we live in is awfully glittery and I choose consumerism and material things far more than I would like you to know.

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I think about this a lot this time of year. Not only because of Christmas shopping but also because my birthday is a month before Christmas and Darren’s is a month after. So for three months straight we are thinking about buying and getting things. I have nothing against birthday and Christmas presents; I think both can be thoughtful demonstrations of love for the other person and that is certainly what we hope to accomplish by giving each other these gifts. Still though, it’s easy to get carried away by it all, by all these shiny, glittery, latest and greatest things that we convince ourselves we simply must have and give each other.

Fortunately this year we are broke.

Not really, but we are building a house…in the woods…with a big garden beside it…with all the hope in the world that it will help lead us to simpler, more meaningful living. But even houses in the woods built with good intentions cost money so this year we have to really stop and think about every dollar we spend.

And you know what? It’s been super wonderful. Seriously. I like not worrying so much about what I’m giving and getting for birthdays and Christmas. I like that every single gift I bought for Darren this year was picked out based on what I know he’s good at and will love. I like that this year feels a little slower, a little less about things, and more about building dreams together. I like that on my birthday Darren gave me a remote-controlled monster truck because every time we end up in the toy aisle I drool over them. That’s a nutty thing to give a girl but he knew I would like it and it made me smile that he remembered and did something that felt hugely thoughtful to me.

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how hectic and frantic these last few weeks before Christmas are. About how people are stretched and stressed to the max by all the shopping and parties and decorating. And I think that’s really sad. Because the shopping and the parties and the decorating are not what this is about. I’m a Christian, so foremost I think this is all about Jesus. But even beyond that, this really should be about people and love and thoughtful, heartfelt giving–giving of gifts we picked out with something special and specific in mind, gifts of our time just to be with people and to enjoy each other….gifts that matter for more than the glitter.

Walden Pond

I’ve let the beauty of Christmas get away from me many times before by focusing on all the wrong things. But this year–this quiet, slower year–is teaching me something I hope I won’t forget.

Let’s not be the tools of our tools, okay? Okay :]

The Bee’s Knees

I, like most people probably, sometimes think I need something new, something different, something more to be happy. I was really quite convinced that I needed a newer, better camera to take any photos worth having. I got that new camera a while ago and I do really like it. But a funny thing happened….

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I came across a camera we have had for years and started looking through the pictures on it…pictures I forgot all about when I got my newer, fancier, better camera. I found pictures of days at the beach and walks in the woods and I found a whole collection of pictures I took when Darren was helping his dad with the bees.

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Darren’s dad owns a bee pollination business, so if you ask me, he might as well be a snake charmer…but nobody asked me. I just take the pictures and swat at the angry, furry little bees…that’s all.

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I’m getting sidetracked though because the point of this post is that I like these pictures. I like the colors and texture. I like the sun flair and the little black blurs flying around everywhere. I like these pictures even though they were taken on an old camera and forgotten about for a couple of years after I moved on to newer, better things.

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Which just goes to prove that even though there is nothing wrong with new stuff, there is nothing wrong with old stuff either. Actually, in some ways, I think I used to be more creative when I was taking pictures because I was working with cheap point-and-shoot cameras and I had to be clever about getting artistic shots instead of just depending on all the fancy settings on my new camera.

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So there you go, life lesson #57: New is not always better.

Life lesson #56 was to not swat at the bees.

And life lesson #55 was to never, like ever, fry chicken in flip flops…unrelated, but true.

100_2302{Crates full of jars used to feed the fat cheeky little bees}

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The Comforts of Home

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Today we are home, curled up on the couch watching football. The cat is curled up on the other couch, because obviously, he needs a whole couch to himself…diva. The Pats are playing the Dolphins. I would rather be watching my home boys, the Chiefs, but they don’t show their games out here. We were in Kansas City a few weeks ago and were almost late for our flight because I just had to see the Chiefs finish their game while I had the chance. They normally lose, you know, so watching them win for once is a lot of fun :]

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We had big bowls of hot soup for lunch today and dipped thick chunks of warm bread in it. The heat is on because it’s cold, cold, cold outside and we are sipping mugs of hot coffee to warm up. I sprinkled cinnamon over the coffee grounds before brewing it; between that and the pumpkin creamer, it’s just about the perfect mug of coffee for a crisp fall day.

The whole house smells like the jasmine and sandalwood incense I’m burning…I love how the tangy, sweet smell of the smoke permeates everything in the house.

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This morning we went to church and I worked in the nursery. There’s a bit of a baby boom going on among my friends right now. Every time one girl has a baby, another announces she’s pregnant. It’s fun…all these kids and babies and watching families grow and change. Sometimes working in the nursery is completely exhausting because all the babies melt down at once and you’re left wiping tears and noses and wondering what on earth you did wrong. But this morning, it was fun. The kids were mostly good and it was nice visiting with the moms and watching them visit with each other. It made me really thankful for my church family and the little group of girls I hang out with here; their friendship means so much to me and I was reminded of that this morning.

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Last night we had dinner with Darren’s brother and sister and their families. We all live within 15 minutes of each other and I love the way we are able to spend time together and move in and out of each other’s lives. My sister in law made a big batch of chili and my brother in law made an apple pie. We all sat around eating and talking while the kids played on the floor. Our new baby nephew was passed around and held while the bigger boys climbed all over us and wrestled with each other on the floor. It was nice.

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I tell you all these bits and pieces because together they remind me of one thing…comfort. Our little home and mugs of hot coffee are comforting on this Sunday afternoon. Spending time with our friends at church was comforting this morning. Dinner with family was comforting last night. Even the cool weather and hot meals are comforting. And with all these bits and pieces that make up our normal, everyday lives–I’m thankful. Thankful for the comfortable, familiar things that settle our hearts and minds and for the weekends that give us a chance to rest and regroup before heading into another busy workweek.

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This is why God gave us a Sabbath–because he knows us and knows we need rest and refreshment. It has been good this weekend to be reminded of the simple gifts of home and family and to enjoy this day of rest in our little home.

Fleeting.

The sunsets here in New England have been stunning lately. During the day the sky is a crisp, clear cobalt blue. Then as the sun slips down in the evening it paints everything in shades of pink, orange, and gold. For a few fleeting minutes the whole world from land to sky is on fire with brilliant color. The leaves are gold and blushing. The sky is gold and blushing. And we are gold and blushing standing in the same brilliant light.

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I chase the sun and the light around with my camera trying to capture and tame them in my lens but they’re rebellious and always run ahead of me. The sun and the light are not meant to be captured or tamed, just soaked up and enjoyed instead.

The other day I was at the beach at sunset and the sky was showing off again. I had to catch it. It was too pretty not to hold onto. I was with my brother and his family but I just took off running for the sun and left them without explanation standing on the beach. I held tight to my camera and ran across the sand, crossed the road holding up traffic, down the sidewalk to the end of the houses and out to a clearing where I could get an unobstructed view. But the sun wouldn’t obey. The colors were perfect—and gone before I could rein them in and save them to show you.

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So I walked back up the sidewalks, back across the street, and back through the sand to the water. When I came in view my nephew came running and pulled me along by the arm saying I must see what he’s done. I must see the hole he dug. He was digging for gold, you know, and his work must be reviewed. He ran ahead of me on the beach and I followed his little footprints in the sand.

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I praised the hole he had dug that was now filling with water. And I thought—this moment, these babies, those little footprints in the sand, a tug on my arm to come see what he’s done—all this is just as fleeting and perfect as the ever-changing sun.

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