Sunday, December 7, 2014


My one word for 2014 was "ignore." I remember well writing this. I remember the frustration I felt regarding facebook, especially. Many posts in my newsfeed had gotten under my skin: political, religious, and especially those I'd thought judgmental. I'd felt the need, often, to comment—to express my “righteous indignation”—but even when I'd managed to refrain from commenting, I'd found myself arguing in my head with the person whose words had offended me.

Sometimes, after crafting an argument in my head for days, I'd blogged it out. Those argumentative posts, while popular, hadn’t fulfilled my purpose in blogging: to capture my family and myself in words. I hadn’t been writing for my children but, instead, to those with whom I'd disagreed most vehemently.

Over time, I'd damaged relationships—including some that I hold most dearly—with anger, distraction, or both.

I started unfriending and unfollowing people whose words offended me but realized pretty quickly: I wasn't any less angry or angry less often. Facebook felt like a bottomless barrel of offense, and the facebook friends whose words offended me had, in most cases, nothing in common but me. I was the common denominator. I knew my anger was my problem, but I didn't know how to fix my problem! Finally, I deactivated my account.

I was facebook free for four months, and it was a good four months. It was quieter in my head. I thought and wrote happier thoughts, and God seemed nearer. I seemed nearer to myself.

Ultimately, though, I missed my friends...some with whom I retain contact only through facebook. I missed the ease with which I could get in touch with them, ask them questions, and keep up with not only their lives but also local events and opportunities. Facebook is an incredible source of information!

Since reactivating my account, I've handled facebook a bit better. I avoid it when my feed blows up over a particularly divisive issue. In most cases, when someone's words offend me, I choose not to comment, and inasmuch as possible, I choose to think about something else. I still unfriend and unfollow on occasion.

But what I really want to share with you is this: my counselor, in talking with me about my reactionary tendencies, suggested gently that I'm giving most anyone the power to trigger my anger at any moment. I'm like a marionette dangling from thousands of strings. The great irony in this is that--often, when I respond with anger--it's because I feel like someone is attempting to control me: trying to tell me what to think or do, judging me, patronizing me. But only in getting worked up (over what I perceive as someone's attempt to control me) do I lose I, effectively, hand over control.

I shared some of my struggles, recently, with a pastor friend. (I would be remiss if I failed to say: it was incredibly providential that we even had the time and space for the conversation; we were supposed to be meeting with others who were--through no fault of their own--running late.) My friend is a student of Bowen Family Systems Theory, and he offered me a new word: differentiation, which relates to one's ability to separate his or her emotions and thinking from that of others. A person with a high level of differentiation, according to Bowen, will find himself or herself capable of connection (relationships) with others, in general, but disconnection from others' emotions and thinking. 

I realized: I don't want to ignore others. I want to differentiate from others. I want to grow in terms of emotional maturity. I want, in short, to be able to think and convey with calmness and dignity: inasmuch as you are you, I am me, and I will choose how I behave and think. 

So my word for 2015, and the remainder of 2014, is differentiate. I'm tired of being a marionette! And isn't God good for helping us, oftentimes through other people? I'm so thankful.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pain, Rage, and Thoughts on Advent

If you were my therapist--asking what I'm thinking or learning, or how I'm being led--I would tell you I'm thinking about pain and rage. I'm thinking about everyone's pain and rage, but it's easiest (safest) to write about my own, knowing I am--to a certain extent--everyone. I am him, and her, and you.

I'm just figuring out: I know very little about managing my pain. I'm talking about inner, not physical, pain. My parents didn't offer much help in this regard. I know they did the very best they could with what they had. Also, in all fairness, no one else has offered much help, either.

I'm forty years old. I know I'm responsible for my own behavior, that I have choices regarding all of my behavior. I know I'm lacking some tools in my toolbox but that they can be acquired. I didn't know these things for the longest time.

A friend said to me: "You're more than your emotions, you know." His words penetrated my consciousness like an arrow shot out of the dark. I received them immediately and as truth, but with surprise. That was a year ago, maybe: an important moment in this leg of my journey.

I'm more than my emotions. In times of conflict, I don't have to fight. I don't have to flee. I don't have to be anyone's doormat, ever. (I've never chosen that last scenario, anyway, but know how it works.) I have the option to say: "I'm going to take a break from this and come back to it when we're able to have a civilized conversation." As I've written before, that option feels unnatural, even painful, to me. But I'll choose it over and over until I've learned it...because I don't want any of my children, at forty, to have to pay someone to learn something (s)he should be learning from me.

And, now. Advent.

My friend Sharon asked me to go with her to a Blue Christmas service held on the first night of Advent. I took Clementine, my five-year-old daughter, with me. I took her mostly because she had dance class until shortly before the service, but given that her mamaw had flown to heaven at the end of May, I wondered if there would be takeaways for her.

A Blue Christmas service makes space for sadness at Christmastime. It acknowledges that grief is part of the human experience and that Jesus, having suffered Himself, understands. I watched my little daughter write: "I miss Mamaw," on a piece of paper; cry real tears; light one candle; and carry another candle from darkness into light. I hadn't imagined that the service would hold so much meaning for her.

I could use more of this, I thought, in my life. If I have to wait--if I have to, for example, take a step back from conflict--I would prefer to do so in an atmosphere like this. I would like for someone to stand beside me, wordless, in my darkness. I would like for someone to pass me a candle...or the peace. I would like for someone to acknowledge my pain. These things would go a long way, I think, toward diffusing my rage.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mindfulness: Poem of Thanksgiving (Repost)

What is man, that thou are mindful of him? Psalm 8:4a

He sees you clearly in the bleary, in the crowd, under the one umbrella you've managed not to lose;
road raging in your car, whaling on the wheel, bellowing unheard insults at the driver just ahead;
lying on your hollow belly, crying for one whom you love but haven't yet been able to hold, or for
one whom you love whom you lost before you'd thought how you might, without, get up and go.

He sees you reaching deep, tapping into next-to-nothing, scraping at scraps just to comfort a friend;
dragging--another day another dollar--into a joyless jobplace because dear ones depend on you;
fighting to forgive (s)he who stole a piece of your soul and walked away, never once looking back;
cooking, cleaning, diapering and dreaming of the day when your art will wing its way out. And out.

He is mindful of you.

Thank Him.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fight or Flight

I liked our new marriage counselor immediately. She's deadpan, and I don't tend to run the roads with suchlike, but Lord help: when sparks are flying between him and me--or me and me, for that matter--the counselor's impassivity is such a gift. Also, she has the kindest eyes I've ever seen.

She's seeing us separately, for now. When she asked, last session, what I was learning or thinking, or how the Lord was leading, I told her a little about a class I'm taking through Canvas Network on behavior management. It emphasizes making small shifts in one's own behavior, as teacher, in order to impact the behavior of one's students. I signed up for the class because I'd never studied behavior management and had recognized a deficiency when teaching sixth-grade English, also because I find myself flailing in this area, even now, while home educating Jim's and my four- and five-year-old daughters.

Online instructor Paul Dix explains: humans have both an emotional mind (the limbic brain) and a rational mind (the prefrontal cortex). The emotional mind is dominant and has--smack-dab in the middle of it--a nut-shaped object called the Amygdala. The Amygdala's job is to respond to threat signals (Danger!) by releasing small bursts of hormones into the rational brain. Once the Amygdala has triggered, rational thinking stops, and a body prepares for fight or flight.

My emotional mind, I told the marriage counselor, controls me too often. I'm pretty much always ready for fight or flight, and while I'd thought I'd like to be a person who yells a little less, especially at the kids, I hadn't realized the serious ramifications of such behavior. If any of us is "on eggshells," so to speak, (s)he isn't learning the way she should...which may well provide the single best explanation for why I'm not a genius by now.

At this point, the counselor whipped out a couple of huge, matching volumes, and we took turns reading aloud through a section on being reactionary. "Well, what do you think?" she asked when we finished. "Can you relate to any of that?"

"I can relate to all of it," I said, then: "I had no idea I was so broken."

"We're all broken," she said, "and the point isn't to beat yourself up. This is learned behavior, and it's difficult to overcome. But you're worth it; do you hear me? You're worth it. And so are those you love."

I'd tell you I haven't written much, lately, because I've been busy, but truth is: I've been busy for far longer than the four years I've been blogging. It's closer to the truth to say I've been learning and processing so much that I haven't been able figure out how or where to start sharing.

Jim's and my marriage isn't any happier than any other romantic relationship I've ever had, which is to say: it isn't very happy at all. Jim's and my marriage is holy, however. The way we deal with one another isn't holy, always (or even most of the time), but if nothing else, our marriage has an "iron sharpening iron" quality to it.

This man will not leave me alone. He will not let me be who I am. It's exhausting. I feel picked at, nitpicked, roosterpecked.


I have to ask myself: have I become, over the course of this relationship, closer to who God would have me be? And yes. Unequivocally. God doesn't leave us alone, either; does He?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chip Turns Two

Dear Chip,

I scolded you, last night, for dumping a bottle of blue Powerade onto the rug. It's your horrible thing, the dumping, and my first experience with a child's taking it upon himself to free anything (liquid or solid) he can from a container.

Anyway, when I fussed and you looked up at me, it was with Grandma B.'s eyes. I'd never recognized them in you, before: not like that. It took my breath. I blinked back tears, stood up quickly and walked into the kitchen so as to distract myself and avoid an ugly cry for which I had no energy.

You're two years old, now: old enough that I can say with certainty that you're not the little boy I dreamed, the one for whom I thought I was trying all those years. I know you're not him because I can still see him so clearly; he looks exactly like your dad but with Cade's (Papaw's, my) nearly black hair. Maybe he's the baby I lost. I'm thankful for the vision of that little boy because it sparked my efforts to bring you here. I would not trade you for him. I would not trade you for anyone.

I realize--when I compare your first two years with the first two years of your siblings--I regret much less. I've learned the hard way: nothing's guaranteed. Just because a person wants a healthy baby doesn't mean she'll get (or keep) one. And I'm starting to figure out, I think, just how quickly it all goes. I've soaked up your life, and I'm almost proud of how spoiled (loved) you are. I haven't tried to wean or sleep-train you, yet. "Mama's baby," I've taught you to say, and yes.

You're not as verbal as your sisters were at your age, but you're learning new words all the time, and you know exactly what's going on. I love to watch you pray, how you pinch your eyes closed as hard as you can and spring them open just in time. "Amen!" you call out with a grin. You let us know when you're scared, when you want a gummy (fruit snack), when you don't think we're funny. Over and over, you look at me and say: "I love you."

Sometimes I wonder who you'll grow to be, and sometimes I think I know. I doubt you'll lose your love for music, balls, animals, or water. I wish Grandma would give me her opinion on this subject and so many others. I wish, on this autumn day, she were here. Then I catch your eye and remember she is: that she's well inside both you and me.

I love you so much.


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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Own It: Smart Cookies Fail Forward

This blog post fulfills the last requirement for my 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers class.

The final module revolves around the subjects of failing and thriving. My definition of failure is the irreversible ending of a project or relationship. I considered both project and relationship failures when completing the exercises and probably enjoyed writing about the project failure more, if only because it isn't a true failure, yet, and I'm able to view it with optimism.

The outcome to the exercise was expected, but it's good to see my words in black and white. I know what I need to do to improve the situation with the project, and all that's left is the doing it. Sitting on my hands isn't working out.

I've completed my personal journey map of the class in Google docs, and you can view it by clicking here.

Own It: Remix with Your Tribe!

This blog post fulfills a requirement for my 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers class.

My definition of "remix" is to create something new and reflective of oneself, having welcomed the inspiration of others. My favorite exercise in this module involved producing a collage of several ideas I'd curated. I broke lots of rules by curating mostly in my own head, transforming the content instead of juxtaposing it, and producing more of a composite than a collage; however, the finished product was prompted by the exercise, so I'll share my creative process.

I started with this photo from a recent session:

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As you can see, I had exposure issues, and at my distance from the happy, young man standing on a swing, it looked like I'd photographed a hanging. Still, I hesitated to discard the photo and tried to think of a way to "save" the image and use it in a way pleasing to my client.
I turned the tree into a silhouette of sorts and changed the black of the silhouette to blue. Next, I incorporated some texture: a relatively new area of exploration for me. At that point, I searched Pinterest for "tree quote." I found one that seemed fitting for the family, then modified and incorporated it. I played with various fonts for both the quote and the family name. I was really liking the image at that point but felt like something was missing: the "wings" of the quote, I realized, so I added the bird sticker that looked, to my eye, like a cardinal (our state bird). The outcome is original, I think.

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My tendency, as an artist, is to rely more heavily on photography than editing. Most of the edits I perform are simple: tweaks, really, and I'm glad to be able to do so much of the work with my camera as opposed to my computer. Frankly, though, there are times (as in this case) that I don't like an image straight out of my camera. In those instances, sometimes I discard, and sometimes I make time and space for a different kind of art: one that requires heavier editing. It can be thrilling to make something out of nothing or very save something I've considered throwing away.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Own It: Rock Your Tribe

This week's theme, in my Five Habits of Creative Teachers class, is "tribe." The word tribe connotes closeness and loyalty to me. My definition of tribe is a close-knit group of people who can count on one another through the ups and downs of life.

My favorite exercise in this module was the creation of a "Life Ring." Here are the instructions for the exercise, as provided:

Focus on roughly 5-9 major life arenas where you will invest your time, with self, family, work, and community (SFWC). Put your “master in the middle”; this is the primary driving force behind all your decisions – and in every life, there can only be one master. If you try to have more than one master, eventually your Life will intersect events so that you have an “identity quake”, and must choose your primary master. Under each arena bubble, list those most important habits that you will commit to each day or each week. This is not simply a “to do list”, but a list of habits. When the Life Ring has a clear “master in the middle”, 5-9 arenas, and a short list of habits under each arena, it is complete. (Credit for LIfe Ring Exercise to CIC course (Links to an external site.) from U of Pennsylvania)

And here is the Life Ring I created:

The reason I liked this exercise, to be honest, is that I've been feeling discouraged over a few of the major life arenas I've identified, above, and the exercise helped me remember that Jesus is, or should be, at the center of everything I do. I'm a visual learner (and person), and I really appreciate the opportunity to think about not only what's most important to me, but also how to tie everything back to Jesus.

The outcome of the exercise is neither surprising nor expected, but I will say it's clarifying. The biggest insight I got from doing this exercise is that--even though I feel overwhelmed, sometimes, by my life--I can easily make little changes to not only improve each life arena but also center myself more consistently in Jesus. I'm supposed to tell you something that didn't work out for me, and initially, that something was sharing on Google +. I got a notification that I needed to receive an invitation to join the class community. Somehow, though (I have no idea how!), I got in without an invitation, in the end.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Own It: Build Your Own Playground

For my Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers class, I built my own playground. My instructors encouraged me consider Dr. Stuart Brown's principles for play: purposeless, voluntary, inherently attractive, allowing freedom from time, giving a diminished consciousness of self, having improvisational potential, and having a continuation desire.

My playground includes a lake because I'm a water bug from way back. I prefer fresh water over salt and love to swim and canoe. I also love the mystery and shade of the woods, especially on horseback, and I wanted to show that horses are available for riding just outside the frame. I included a library (front and center); a giant shoe in which to cook, bathe, and rest; and some swings, of course: my favorite ride.

My instructors asked how often I'll be visiting my playground (I'm thinking I'll just move there?) and whom I'll allow to join me. I'll have many visitors (living and dead), but not at the same time, and they'll visit by invitation only. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Jay, Charleigh drew your name from a hat, this morning. You win Pure Eyes, Clean Heart by Jen and Craig Ferguson! Congratulations!

Meghan, Clementine drew your name from a hat, this morning. You win Playdates with God by Laura Boggess! Congratulations!

If each of you will please send me your address as a pm on facebook, I'll get your book to you. Thank you both, and happy reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Own It: Curiosity Mystery Solved

I need to preface what I'm about to write with an explanation, of sorts. I'm taking three online classes, right now, through Canvas Network: Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring Her Work and Writing Life; Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice; and Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers. I'd never heard of Canvas Network until my bloggy friend Amanda, who knew I was reading the Little House series to the girls, mentioned the class on Wilder.

Canvas Network is a center for open online learning. The three classes I'm taking? Free. The Wilder class is out of Missouri State; the teaching-online class is out of Kirkwood Community College; and the creative-teacher class is from the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Will I get credit? No, but I'll earn certificates of completion, and more importantly, I'll learn things. Canvas Network: check it out.

Anyway, the following will fulfill a requirement for Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers.


Part 1: In your journal, reflect about yourself as an (.) person, a (!) person and a (?) person. In other words, the passive and indifferent you, the dogmatic and inflexible you and the inquisitive and curious you. 
  • Does one describe you more than the others?
  • Does it depend on context? If so, when are you most (.) (!) and (?)
I see myself as a (?) person. I'm rarely passive and indifferent about anything outside of other people's business. If I'm to be found dogmatic and inflexible, it's generally because I feel like someone is taking a heavy-handed approach in trying to change my way of thinking; I'm more than happy to dialogue with those who have different viewpoints, but I shut down when I feel bullied or patronized. 

I'm in a really good place, right now, in terms of following my curiosity, traveling outside of my comfort zone, and growing. My enrollment in this class, along with several other things, proves this.

Part 2:  Let's take it one step further. We're going to build a five by five strategy to implement curiosity in our lives.
  • Brainstorm for a few minutes about some times or things in which you would like to be more (?)
  • Select 5 of those that you would really like to follow up on.
  • For each of those 5 come up with a list of practical strategies that will enable you put them into action.
Brainstorming: earning, marketing, branding, WordPress, niche, SEO, publishing, histogram, fill flash, RAW, filters, Pixlr, Photoshop, Lightroom, piano, art projects for the girls, Charlotte Mason, Virginia history, weight loss, healthy eating, exercise 

I really don't want to narrow these down because I see them as falling into five distinct categories:
  • Marketing
  • Blogging/Writing
  • Photography
  • Homeschooling
  • Physical Well-being
The biggest challenge I face in exploring new ideas/things is in finding the time. I've come to realize that I can't neglect my physical health any longer: even if I have to let something(s) else go. I plan to start exercising daily, even if that just means taking a walk with the kids. My other strategies pertain to all the categories: spend less "wasted" time on the Internet and a set amount of time per day--even if just thirty minutes--learning something about one of the brainstormed topics, above.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review/Giveaway: Playdates with God

I met Laura Boggess in the blogosphere and consider her a friend. She reminds me of home, and when I say that I mean East Tennessee. Laura is actually a native of West Virginia, but I guess I'm not enough of a Tennessean to be able to tell much difference; she's felt kindred to me from the outset, and I'm blessed to have received a copy of her new book Playdates with God in exchange for an honest review.

I started reading Playdates with God as I was reading several other things, and that was a mistake. If you're familiar with Laura's blog, you know there's not a lot of bang-clash to her written voice. Thank God. I get tired of bang-clash, and Laura's voice travels like fog, like mist, like dappled sunlight, like the tinkle of piano keys from some unseen place up the hollow. There's a poetic, ethereal, almost haunting quality to it. It isn't the kind of voice that will assert itself or rise easily above the din. It's a lot like our Father's: still, small.

I say all that to say: you'll want to carve out space and time for this book. Inasmuch as I do not think it's best read when one is reading ten other things, I do not think it's best read in one sitting, or when one is in a hurry. It reminds me a bit of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts in that it includes a million little profundities-- examinations of scripture, quotations from great thinkers, grains of truth, nuggets of wisdom--that are impossible to digest quickly. I do find Laura's writing tighter and more succinct than Voskamp's.

Each chapter of Playdates with God can be enjoyed independently of the others, and the book can very nearly be considered a collection of essays on a similar theme: seek God through the rediscovery of your childlike (or newlywed!) heart.

I do recommend this book and plan to reread it in the ways I've suggested, above. More than that, though, I recommend your continued attention to this author. She can write anything (essays, research, fiction, poetry, etc.), and she can write it well. If I were to prophesy a bit, I'd tell you her best work is yet to come and that it will deliver a quiet punch unlike any we've experienced since Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle.

Laura Boggess' Playdates with God is available at Amazon (paperback and kindle). I'll be sending one blessed someone a copy directly from Amazon. If you'd like to enter my giveaway, comment below. The winner will be chosen/announced in one week on October 14th, 2014, so be sure to check back; I'll need an address!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review/Giveaway: Pure Eyes, Clean Heart

I've been blessed to cross paths with Jen Ferguson in the blogosphere, where she facilitates a community called the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. Jen's husband Craig is recovering from an addiction to pornography, and Jen is recovering from an addiction to control. Together, they made the incredibly brave decision to write Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They blessed me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Honestly, I don't know that I've ever been more touched by a work of nonfiction. This book is God-breathed. Anointed! Reading it, I felt washed over by the prayer that went into it.

I LOVE the way it's put together (her perspective, his perspective, gentle suggestions about how one might, with the help of the Lord, approach a specific challenge).

I LOVE the humble tone. The bravery, honestly, and of these people makes me want to curl up and cry. There is not one iota of pretentiousness or bossiness, and I know--as one who's very sensitive to tone, as one who CANNOT be told (by another human) what to do and how to think--that's why the message affected me so very deeply.

I LOVE the applicability of this book. I believe wholeheartedly that it will help EVERY married person, ESPECIALLY if (s)he's a Christian. If (s)he's NOT a Christian, this book may very well lead him or her TO Christ. There is so much, here, about love...forgiveness...honesty...authenticity...grace...surrender (I could go on and on!): the most basic and necessary ingredients for healthy marriage.

I'd promised to lend my copy to a friend when I finished reading, and I don't know: I'm going to have to buy her a copy or something, because I just can't. I need to go back and reread certain things...underline them...sit with them awhile...maybe write them up my arm with a Sharpie.

Trust me: even if pornography has never been an issue in your marriage, you will be blessed by this book. You will learn from this book. You will be inspired by this book. You will start praying for this couple to make a video series out of this book, for your small group Bible study. You will wish you had the money to buy a copy of this book for every married couple you know and every church library in your county.

For a chance to win a copy of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from Pornography, just leave a comment, below. The winner will be announced in one week, on October 13th. 

You can purchase a hard copy of the Fergusons' book here, or the Kindle Edition here. I am confident that you'll have no regrets.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The God-sized Void

So. I'd chunked up a bit, but I wasn't particularly bothered until my fingers swelled up like hotdogs. My feet swelled, too, and I could barely squeeze them into a pair of shoes that--I kid you not--used to flop off my heels. I felt fatigued and thirsty often, dizzy sometimes, and after a couple weeks, I decided to see someone.

I didn't have a doctor but found a physician assistant who could see me within a couple of days. She ran a bunch of blood work and, a week later, assured me I was fine: cholesterol a wee bit elevated, she said, but not enough for her to recommend a course of treatment. She advised my losing twenty pounds and taking it easy on the sodium.

I'd been planning since mid-August to enter a Daniel fast on the date of the follow-up and received the PA's words as a sign. I'm thankful for my lab results (and pleasantly surprised, in particular, by the ones related to my blood sugar) but know I'm pushing it. I know I'm too heavy. I know I'm too sedentary. I know I'm too tired, too often, and I know I struggle in holding my eyes open after I eat dessert.

I know this isn't God's best for me. I know I'm not my best, for God.

I love the cleansing aspect of the Daniel fast but the spiritual aspect, even more. I know God sees me. I can hear His voice more clearly when I'm fasting, and over the last couple weeks, He's used the words of others--Lysa TerKeurst, Jen and Craig Ferguson (more about their book, Monday), Seth Haines, Laura Boggess, and my own Pastor David--to reveal to me: all my life, I've looked to man, food, or both to fill a void only the Lord can fill.

I've asked God to heal me: to help me turn to Him--no one and nothing else--for approval, comfort, and love. He is so faithful. I know He will continue to work in, through, and with me.

I have eight days more to go with the Daniel fast. I appreciate its three-week time frame because it takes three weeks, supposedly, to break a habit. I've written that before. I've also written before: I hope to continue making healthy food choices after coming off the fast. I'd like to continue avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar, and sugar substitutes for the most part.

I appreciate Lysa TerKeurst's strategy with sugar/dessert, which is to consume it only according to a long-range plan: never spur-of-the-moment. I've thought about what that might look like for me. What desserts do I know I'll want before the end of the year? I can think of three: an apple cider doughnut on Carter Mountain,  a Nutter Butter ghostie at halloween (a tradition), and a slice of my mama's pumpkin pie over the holidays. What if I were able to commit to eating only those three desserts between now and the end of the year? What if I were able to commit to one sandwich per week (on wheat bread) bowl of cereal per week...Diet Coke only when we go to the movies or eat in a sit-down restaurant? These are the sorts of questions I'm asking prayerfully.

Will you pray for me? Will you ask God to make my hunger for Him, only? I'm tired and tired of being tired, and more than that, I'm tired of feeling desperate. I know God alone is the source of the peace I've sought in so many misguided ways.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth

Somehow, Jim found out at the end of July that the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth was going to have a temporary exhibit on The Wizard of Oz. I'm a huge fan; like, it's a thing.

The exhibit was scheduled to open just a few days after our trip to the beach to hang out with family. "You know we're gonna have to drive back over," I said to Jim. He just shrugged. Bless it; he already knew. But in the end, we were glad for the second trip on August 9th because we were able to enjoy the ocean a smidge. (It had rained during the daylight hours of our first trip.)

The location of the Children's Museum of Virginia is charming, and the museum itself seems new and established all at once. It blows the Children's Museum of Richmond right out of the water. We were granted four free admissions through the ASTC Passport Program, and the baby was free, so we paid admission for Charleigh, only.

The Wizard of Oz exhibit revolved around the book as opposed to the movie and therefore didn't excite me as much as The Wizard of Oz exhibit we'd seen at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh in 2012. It was cool nonetheless, and we all enjoyed the museum, in general (and not just in that awww-look-at-how-much-fun-the-little-kids-are-having way). I found the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection and Dr. Forces Traveling Energy Extravaganza especially amazing.

Top Center: Clementine Crawling under Part of the Train Exhibit.
My camera wasn't wearing the right lens for the train exhibit, but it was AWESOME.

After we left the museum, we ate the dinner Jim had packed for us and drove to the beach. It was a beautiful afternoon, and Clementine was wearing the crown she'd made in the CreARTivity section of the museum.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unblogged Happiness: July Edition

On July 3rd, I fell down the steps in our log cabin. I was carrying Chip. In those moments of falling, all my effort went into keeping him in my arms, and I did; he walked away without a scratch. But because I didn't break my fall or even try, something terrible happened to my tail feather. I can't tell you what happened, precisely, because I didn't go to the doctor.

I didn't go to the doctor because I injured my tail feather by falling down steps in 2001 or 2002 and learned at that time: a doctor can't do a durn thing for an injured coccyx beyond prescribing pain medication I can't take. (Don't laugh, but I broke my foot falling down steps in 1993; I should live only in ranchers!)

So, in July, I stood a lot and sat on a donut cushion. I iced my hind end. I shifted from one cheek to the other, and we tore up the road, anyway. July is memorable for its pain. (I'm doing much better, now, but haven't healed entirely.)

In a great effort to catch up, here are some previously unblogged photos from July:

07/01 - Trip to Holliday Lake.

The girls' friend Maeve, with Charleigh

Charleigh and Abi

Chip and Abi


07/04 - A second trip to Swift Creek Berry Farm for blueberries, this time with Cade's friend Phillip, Phillip's mom (and my friend) Margie, and Phillip's friend Gavin. I still think it funny that Cade wasn't with us. I've said it before and I'll say it, again: I'm so thankful for Cade's friends and their families.

Clementine and Phillip

07/04, 07/05, 07/08, 07/19 - Cookouts and Play Dates with Small-group Friends.

Jim and Caleb



Jackson and Lexi

Rena and Jackson

Clementine and a Toad

Rachel and Caleb

Chip, Charleigh, Zach, and Zeb

Charleigh and Caleb

Daleen and Caleb

07/19 - Culmination of Scout Camp. Cade and several of his friends made Order of the Arrow.

07/23 - Stop at Hampton Carousel (my all-time favorite!).

07/29 - Trip to Bear Creek Lake.

07/30 - Homemade Bread at Cary Street Cafe. Michael Laroche (the guy singing, below) is a member of Jim's and my small group. It had been a long time since I'd been out, but I figured supporting Mike was as good as it gets in terms of excuse/opportunity. My friend Beth Stoddard, her daughter Shannon (my girls' favorite babysitter), and son-in-law Travis joined me. It was fun to surprise Mike (who was bowled over, to be honest!), and the music was great! (Homemade Bread's album Echo is available here, through cdbaby, and they have a facebook page, here.)

In the event that you've been missing me, I have a post up at Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, here. I have--in case you missed the news--a sister blog for my photo sessions, here, annnnd you'd bless in "liking, " here, the facebook page for my photography.