The Bigger Picture

Today I woke with the morning light spreading across a canvas of crisp blue winter sky. The one advantage of waking early with a little one is watching the sun wake up bright and ready for a new day too. The world looks full of hope first thing in the morning, with new light and new possibilities spreading before us.

For months now Darren has been building the chimney on our house. Day after day, brick after brick he worked away until we were finally able to sit in front of a crackling fire and smell the house filled with that wonderful wood and smoke aroma I love so much in winter.

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I learned something watching him lay brick, watching that same repetitive task done over and over again until something lasting finally took shape:

Life and all we hope to build unfolds slowly, brick by brick, day by day.

When I think about marriage or motherhood or staying home to raise a family, I often get mucked up in a romantic idea of how this big plan of mine is supposed to look. I forget though, that in the moment, day to day, things aren’t likely to look romantic or ideal at all.

I have to remind myself often, more so now in motherhood than ever before, that there is a bigger picture at hand. What I see and often get lost in day to day–the chores and messes and repetitive instruction of a little one–these are but bricks, small pieces of a much grander whole.

When I wash clothes and cook meals and sweep floors, I’m doing more than housework–I’m building a home and making this shell of a house feel like a home. When I kiss, and carry, discipline, and teach my little one–I’m more than babysitting; I’m raising a child who will become an adult who already carries with him an eternal soul. And so this daily work becomes a matter of eternal importance–forever, always, unending importance.

Darren bought a little plant for me at the store the other day. We were choosing paint for the cabinets when I saw a display of brand new succulents–I oohed and ahhd over them until we left with one :]

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I put the little plant on a window sill to sunbathe his way through winter. Today I noticed him sitting there in the morning light and thought what a pretty picture it would be–if it weren’t for the unfinished window trim messing everything up.

I took the picture anyway because it reminded me of this very thing I’m talking about–about the bigger picture and seeing beauty in the mess and unfinished work of life.

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So today I’m trying to stay focused on the long term and reminding myself over and over again that all these small things we do a million times over add up to a whole lifetime in the end.

The point is not so much what I’m doing today in and of itself but what today is helping me build for tomorrow. Bit by bit, brick by brick, I hope I can start to see the value and purpose in the tasks before me today so I may build something lasting and eternal for tomorrow.

Chasing the Light

Yesterday I woke to the most magical morning light; golden fingers dancing across autumn leaves lit the day with fire. I don’t like peeling out of bed in the morning—the covers are so warm and the world so cold—but I would wake with the dawn any day to catch the world clothed in amber.

Today the morning sky blushed in pink—deeper and richer shades melted into each other until the sky reached a grand finale of gold.

I suppose I didn’t notice the morning sky before we moved here—the trees blocked my view or perhaps the house faced the wrong direction. But here, in this house we’ve worked so hard on for these last two years, I feel like I’m dancing in a painting as the sun comes glistening across the field and, for a moment, every leaf and blade of grass drips in glitter.

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I have thought many times over the last few weeks, that perhaps God knows me quite well and hand-picked this small corner of the earth for me. I feel as if this picture I’m dancing in were painted by him, etched out by his finger and left as a package waiting to be opened with each new day.

I grew up in the wide open prairies and often I have missed the grassy fields and endless spaces. Here, an open field sits directly across from us and I always think as I watch the light dancing through the tall grass that it looks very much like the home my heart knows. A row of maples stands at the back of the field and before their leaves gave way, they stood together in red and orange and gold. Now the leaves are gone but evergreens stand behind the bare maples and oaks and make the view out my window look always a little green—green—such an important thing to my soul.

So I see God in this place—in the grassy field, and colorful maples…in the evergreens and the fog rising from the wetlands like feathery magic lacing through the trees.

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It’s not so bad waking up and facing a new day, a new challenge, or even the same monotony if you can at least start that day with the fresh, brand new morning light.

God is light and I see his fingers painting light all around me, ever reminding me that he is there—he is here—with me always.

When You’re Disappointed

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June 1st…today is the day we said we would definitely be moved into our house…only we’re not. I didn’t expect building a house would teach me so many lessons about life. One of those lessons being that no matter how hard you try, sometimes some things are just out of your hands.  I say similar words to my son all the time when he’s fussing about wanting something he can’t have or throwing a fit about doing something he doesn’t want to:

“You can’t always have what you want.”

“Life doesn’t always work out as you would like.”

“Sometimes the answer is no.”

Life lessons for a 10 month old and life lessons for his much older mama too.

Today I read something on Facebook from a friend who is making a big life decision. She said she and her husband have never sought to change where they are but have chosen rather to be content in whatever place they’re in for however long they’re there. If God moves them–as he several times has–so be it, they will go. But the idea of choosing contentment over constantly seeking something more, something different, that stuck with me–especially on a day I have long counted down to and am now disappointed by.

For a lot of years now, I’ve been in control of my life. I went to school just as I had planned. Married the man I loved just as I had hoped. We bought a home. Worked. Traveled. Had a baby. Everything was moving along just as I had intended–I was in control–or so I thought. I’m pretty sure now that if anything will teach you you’re not in absolute control, it’s having construction underway and a baby at the same time ;]

This post probably sounds grumbly but honestly I don’t mean it that way. Today is a day I looked forward to for a long time and it didn’t end up as I had hoped. But I’m fine. I’m much better and more okay with the situation then I ever expected, actually. God is working in me and he’s chosen to use this silly house over and over again to teach me lessons about himself and about myself.

Sometimes life requires that you get up and do and sometimes life requires that you be still and wait; both can be hard but both are able to teach us so much we can’t learn any other way.

So today, on this rainy June 1st, I’m learning to live where I am and to be content in this place until God decides to move me. I’m not in control–thankfully, I know who is.

Inspiration vs. Jealousy

If all goes as planned {and it never does}, we’re supposed to be moving into our house this summer. After years of looking for the right place, saving money, and now two years of rebuilding and remodeling–we’re finally almost there.

IMG_20150310_195322{“Um guys, this house doesn’t look super done.”}

But as I think about moving, I’ve been thinking too about how much I should share here and elsewhere on social media when it comes to the details of our new home. There’s a big part of me that wants to take lots of pictures and include people in this journey {especially those of you who’ve already been following the bits and pieces I’ve shared along the way}. But there’s an equal part of me that’s unsure if sharing is really the right thing to do.

Here’s why:

We’ve all heard about and dealt with the jealousy that comes with watching someone else’s life via social media. We talk about it, read articles about it, complain about it, and deal with it in our own lives–jealousy. People’s lives can look so perfect and put together on Facebook when the mess has been cropped out of the background and the right filter makes everyone look tan. You’ve done, I’ve done it, and we all kind of know everyone else is doing it too–but still, we see those pictures sometimes and think, “They get everything. My life sucks.”

I remember feeling this way on Valentine’s Day when Darren was helping our new renters move into the apartment we had just remodeled {unexpectedly, right in the middle of our house remodel} and so I didn’t get any roses or get to go out to dinner and spent that whole day feeling very, very, VERY sorry for myself. And rather than be a grownup and stay away from social media for the day, I instead scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and envied all the pictures of flowers, and date night, and all those freaking people who were so stupidly in love… ;]

So I worry that by sharing pictures of our home, people are only going to see the end product of years of work and envy us or think we get everything handed to us while they struggle along. People don’t see the work and stress and everything that’s gone into making this dream of ours come true–I know that because I know I look at other people’s lives and pictures the same way–I see one picture and one moment and don’t know or consider the rest of the story leading up to that one happy, enviable moment.

So, is it right to share only the pretty bits and pieces of a much bigger story and perhaps by doing so create feelings of envy along the way? I realize I can’t control how other people react–someone else’s jealousy is ultimately, their problem. But still, I don’t want to be one of those people on social media who overshares.

And then there’s privacy. My home is where I live, where my baby lives, it’s the most intimate space I inhabit. So should it then be shared publicly? Though I’ve blogged for years, I’ve felt much more private and unsure of sharing ever since Roman was born. There is something about knowing you are totally responsible for another person’s life that makes you stop and think a little bit harder about everything you do–including how much you share about them on social media. So I wonder now if it’s safe or smart to share our home in a space like this or if it’s better left off the internet and kept private just for us.

Those are the cons, but I see some pros too…

I get so much inspiration and enjoyment from seeing how and where other people live. My favorite blogs are by people who share their homes and lives and invite you in. Yes, sometimes on a bad day, I’ll see someone else’s home or life on a blog and envy them. But for the most part, I just enjoy reading stories and seeing pictures of how other people live. I’ve gotten so much inspiration for our own home by seeing the ideas of others and I would be really disappointed if these people decided to stop sharing. This makes me want to share pictures of my own home and life {even if it’s just a fragment of the whole story} and invite people in {even if it’s just through a word or picture}.

So I’m asking you sincerely, what do you think? Do you think it’s right to share put together pictures of our not-so-put together lives? Is it safe or smart to share a place as intimate and private as my home on the internet when I can’t control who will then know where I live? Do you like seeing other people’s homes and lives or does it just lead to envy and frustration?

Setting the Tone at Home

Roman in windowcrop

The other day I lay on the couch with my baby boy asleep on my chest. I have watched the seasons change and the world go by my living room window holding Roman there while he naps. The hot, sticky summer yielded to fall. Fall shed her gold and red robe of leaves and bowed to winter. Winter yields to no one. Spring is in hiding and I’m afraid, may never have the courage to stand in winter’s stubborn way.
Winter can be beautiful too, occasionally. That day the wind was blowing hard and the clouds were light and billowy and rolling end over end on their way out of town. The sky was deep-sea blue and the sun broke through. But still the snow fell—fell out of nowhere, fell in the sunshine and looked like glittering rain flitting through the light. It was magical, the sunlight and snow and fluffy fast clouds.

That day I drank my coffee hot and foamy instead of cold and dense. I sat and read and jotted some thoughts down on paper. I looked at my son and noticed his one-toothed smile and perfect little giggle.
I tell you all this because I’ve realized something lately: I’m usually too busy and distracted to notice the beauty all around me. Often, I have the living room blinds closed to keep the glare of the sun off the TV and I sit on the couch looking in at Netflix and housework instead of out at nature.

But that day was different. That day I decided to be still and quiet. I turned the TV off and put my phone down. I held my boy and lay there consciously watching the snow and clouds dance outside my window. I realized that I, more than anyone or anything else, set the tone in my home. I stay home full-time which means all day every day I am the one who determines how much TV, media, and noise is allowed in our house. And with that decision, I determine what my son is exposed to in the way of noise and distractions.

Already I’m an example to him and when I sit holding him with the TV on in the background while I scroll through endless feeds on my phone, I’m teaching him the art of distraction rather than of mindful concentration. I’m teaching him to fill his life with noise and motion rather than stillness and silence. What I do now is what I’m teaching him to do later.

If I want him to know how to sit still and play quietly, I need to show him by my actions how those things are done. If I want him to read and love stories, I need to read books myself and read to him. If I want him to love nature and spending more time playing outside than in, then I need to take him outside and show him what a beautifully intriguing world we live in. Just like I can’t eat junk food in front of him all day and expect him to love healthy food, so I can’t fill his environment with noise and distractions and expect him to want anything else.

10967813_10152645679501517_1705059145_n{Reading Anne of Green Gables together}

Sometimes the quiet drives me crazy when I’m home alone all day but I’m learning to be careful about my own need for noise and accidentally instilling that same need in my son. As a mom it’s my responsibility to teach and lead by example and that often means working on my own bad habits and growing myself into the same kind of person I would like my children to be; I can’t have expectations for them that I don’t live up to myself.

This is not just for my baby either; it’s benefited me as well. I’m enjoying the quiet and the peaceful feel our home has when it’s not filled with all the flashing lights and sounds of TV. I’m enjoying the things I notice and can concentrate on when I look away from my phone and at the world and people around me instead. I by no means think all TV and social media are bad, I’m just starting to recognize the ways I’m abusing good things and setting a bad example in the process. I’m learning to love the quiet and to live in that quiet rather than automatically drowning out my thoughts with background noise.

Good living takes discipline. It takes discipline and forethought to eat healthy meals. It takes discipline to sit down and read or to tap out words. It takes discipline to build strong, happy, healthy relationships. And I’m learning too that it takes discipline to manage the noise and distractions that come with our modern way of life, with cell phones and social media.

Every day I have a choice and an opportunity with the way I live, the home I build, the example I set. Each day is a new chance and building block but eventually those blocks add up from a foundation to a structure—so I must ask, what am I building today with this block? What will this house look like and how will I build and grow the people in it? It’s up to me, every day, one day at a time…and every single day and block counts towards the final structure.

You Can Grow Here

grow instaYou can grow from the rock, you can grow anywhere.

We own a duplex and live in one half while we rent out the other half. It’s small and cozy and the place we’ve called home for the last four years. I always wanted to move before having a baby because it seemed pretty ambitious to fit even one more thing in such a small space—especially a baby and all the crazy equipment babies come with these days.

I thought my plan was going to work out beautifully. We bought our fixer-upper over a year ago and even when I found out I was pregnant last fall, I still thought for sure we would be all moved and settled before the baby arrived. I was wrong. First we said it would be ready in the spring. Then we said it would be ready by the end of the summer. Now I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping we make it in by the end of the year.

And so sometime in the next few weeks we will bring our little baby home to the house I always said was too small for such things. It’s amazing how you can adapt and change as life and circumstances require you to do so. Somehow we have managed to make room for our little guy—a bassinette tucked in the corner by our bed, a small dresser for all his things against the last bare wall in our room, the living room rearranged to accommodate a rocker, swing, and bouncer all three, the stroller folded up against the door we don’t use, and cabinets emptied and rearranged for bottles and bibs and all his tiny foreign things. It’s tighter and more crowded than ever before and yet somehow, a little to my own amazement still, we have found a way to make it all work. As this little guy takes up more and more room in our hearts, so we have found a way to make room for him in our little home too.

It’s funny how this lesson has had to repeat itself so many times over in my life. Perhaps I’m a slow learner. I always think things have to be just so or they simply can’t be at all. But I have seen again and again that life is fluid and we must be flexible if we’re to survive the ebb and flow of things beyond our control. If you had told me nine months ago that we would be bringing our baby home to this crowded little house, I would have been frustrated and certain it couldn’t work. And yet here we are—hospital bags packed, tiny clothes washed and tucked away, ready to bring this baby back to the only place we can really call home right now.

And you know what? It will be fine. We’ll be fine. The baby will be fine. Nothing will be ruined even if things have worked out so differently from how I had planned. It’s just another step in this journey that will continue to unfold with or without our permission.

I’m sure being a new mother and learning how to care for a child will be much the same way—not at all how I think it will be or should be and yet we will grow and change and learn along the way how to do what’s before us—however imperfect it may sometimes seem.

Learning to Fly

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A momma bird decided to build her nest and raise her flock of five fuzzy birds in the rafters of our new house. We check in on them each time we’re at the house and have watched them progress from eggs, to little fuzz balls curled up asleep, to little fuzz balls peaking curiously over the nest and showing off their big yellow beaks. I about die from the cuteness and hope our own baby bird has a fuzzy head of hair like theirs.

Darren is holding off siding that part of the house until the baby birds have left the nest because he doesn’t want to hurt them. His heart is as deep and wide as the sea and I love the glimpses I get of the father he will be in the thoughtfulness he has for all living things.

darrenWhen Darren isn’t melting my heart caring for baby birds, he is terrifying me doing guy stuff like this—wiring the house by standing on a chair…on two planks…over the stairway…after he ripped two fingers open doing other such nonsense. He is excellent training for a man child.

card{Darren’s first Father’s Day card—it perfectly describes everything I love about him}

Speaking of baby birds, ours is almost here–we’re three weeks out from game day, or so we hope.

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This is my belly; it’s gigantic. I don’t know how many weeks along I was in this picture and I don’t think it really matters anymore. The other day an old man in the grocery store commented on my belly and wanted to know when I’m due. I told him next month and he said, “Oh, you’re not big enough to have a baby next month.” Well done old man, well done; there’s a reason you’ve lived so long ;]

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This is baby’s spot in our room until we move and have a nursery. I have a little canopied area set up by our bed with his bassinette—I call it his “baby throne” because that’s what it looks like to me with the canopy and lights and fanfare :]

What a bunch of rambling this post is; sorry. I leave you with some favorite lines from Victor Hugo:

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.”

As I think about having this baby in the next few weeks, I often recount these lines and think I know how the birds feel when they must leap from the nest and find their wings. I hope I can fly.

The Stuff That Weighs Us Down

I’ve been on a bit of a rampage lately, throwing everything I can get my hands on right out the front door. It’s the perfect storm of spring cleaning, packing to move, and that funny nesting thing pregnant women do. Darren has been keeping a close eye on everything he loves as I’m likely to throw it all away when he isn’t looking.

I’ve felt so weighed down by stuff lately. It seems my soul has gotten a bit tangled in all the material things we think we need and I’m trying to cut the cords and run free. Our house is packed full, busting at the seams and neither of us ever seem to know where anything is.

I’ve been sorting through closets and under beds and emptying drawers and pulling stuff out of every black hole in the house trying to get things packed and organized for our big move at the end of the summer. There are piles everywhere—piles to give away, throw away, and pack away for another day. And with every bag and box I pack I wonder why do we own all this stuff anyway? And heaven help us, why do we keep buying more?

“Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts… Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.” -Thoreau

For everything I throw out, more baby stuff rolls in and I’m always trying to find a balance between preparing the things we need for a little one and not letting myself get carried away by the truly endless number of things that can be bought for a baby. I keep reminding myself that women have brought children into this world and successfully raised them since time began—without most of the baby stuff that is now considered indispensable. I have a list I run through in my head when I’m trying to decide what to buy and what to do without—does he have what he needs to be fed, diapered, clothed, and put to sleep? If yes then what else is truly essential apart from my own ability to love and care for him outside of material things? It’s a question I’ve had to weigh over and over again as I’ve struggled with wanting more and more stuff.

I don’t think you ever fully realize how much you already have until you’re faced with the task of packing and moving every shred of it to another place. I keep finding stuff I forgot I even owned, clothes I haven’t worn in years—buried beneath all the new ones I’ve gathered but certainly didn’t need. For every forgotten thing I’ve pulled out of the closet abyss I’ve had to ask myself—if you haven’t used this item in all this time, do you really need it? Are material things worth gathering and holding onto if they are crowding our lives and weighing us down? It feels like a waste to throw or give something away that I once spent money on and yet is it not a bigger waste to crowd my life and soul with the weight of unnecessary material things?

“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ” -Thoreau

This packing and purging is good for me because it shows me how much I have and how much more I don’t need. It’s easy with moving into a new, bigger home to think that every room needs to be filled with more new stuff. But packing up piece by piece what we already have and thinking through the example we will soon be to our son has made me realize how careful I need to be in the way I deal with money and possessions. Like most anything, money and possessions aren’t bad by themselves—but they can be if they are allowed to become a hindrance rather than a help. I have to ask myself if the possessions I own rather possess and own me. Do these things serve me or am I a servant to them?

“Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, ‘I will simply be.’’’ -Thoreau

House Remodel Update {#2}

In just about three weeks we’ll have owned our shabby little 1860 farmhouse for a year. It’s hard to believe a whole year has come and gone and here we are still working away on this project. We still have a long way to go but it’s nice looking back and reminding ourselves of how far we’ve come over the last year.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

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DSC_0129{Where we started}

3-23-14-edit{Where we are}

It took us most of last summer just to get all the permits and approvals we needed to move forward with our plans. Then it took a month or so to empty the place of trash and get it ready for construction. We also had to take down the garage/addition area because it was sitting directly on the ground without a foundation and was caving in.

plans{Darren sketching out plans over the summer}

dumpster

cleaning out

wheel barrow cleaningYou know you have some serious work to do when your house needs to be cleaned with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

By last September we were finally ready to really start building and my brother and his family drove all the way from Louisiana to help us raise the roof. We wanted a full second story and more windows so that’s why we decided to do something crazy like raise the roof :]

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After that we had a foundation dug and poured for the addition and the remaining fall and early winter months were spent framing up the interior of the house and adding the garage and new construction.

men pouring forms

bobcat foundation

front framing

kel framing

after framing

Progress was slow over the winter because we had an especially cold, snowy season. But now that the temperatures are starting to improve and the snow is almost gone, we’ve been able to get rolling again. Over the last few weeks the guys have put in most of the windows, added the front porch, and roofed the porch and addition so the outside is “all buttoned up” as Darren says :]

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Next up is plumbing—happening this week hopefully. Then we have the siding, electrical, insulation, sheet rock, flooring, installation of the bathrooms and kitchen, and lots of lots of painting. Oh and the garage floor needs to be poured, and we’ll need trim and doors, and the back porch needs to be added, and there’s work needing to be done in the basement, and the chimney needs to be built, and…and…and…and there’s still a lot of work to do :] But at least it feels good to be moving again and seeing the place taking shape.

Right now I’m most excited about getting the siding on because it will look so much nicer and more complete when it has some clothes on :] Some grass wouldn’t hurt either but I think we’re going to have to deal with the muddy mess until next year when all the work is done and we’re able to reseed the yard. Patience, patience.

I’m still hoping against hope that we’re able to move in by August or September but we’ll just have to wait and see how things come along. Also, what the heck were we thinking building a house and a baby at the same time? That takes a special kind of crazy. I’m not looking forward to packing and moving with a newborn but c’est la vie…besides, these pictures I took around the yard last year always remind me why it will all be worth it in the end 8D

DSC_0820Some guy with a backhoe tried very hard to take this bush down on me. He kept saying the yard could be landscaped so much better without it but I crossed my arms and stood in the yard while he wheeled around tearing down every other green thing he could find and made sure he didn’t touch this bush. It’s not wise to mess with a pregnant lady even if you’re the one driving the backhoe ;]

DSC_0740I’m not tackling a garden this summer with everything else going on but I can’t wait until next spring when we are living here and I’m able to walk through my own yard and garden growing flowers and vegetables.

DSC_1053Relaxing under my favorite tree

tall flowers

DSC_0131Welcome home. This will be our view.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson