Friday, November 21, 2014

Notice...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers, internet-wide, gathering to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and sharing a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!


Brooklyn notices everything. From tiny snippets of things on the floor (which she picks up and either puts in the trash or brings to one of us to put in the trash) to things on tables and shelves that I was certain were out of her reach (but weren't), she walks around with wide eyes that pick up on the minutest of details.

Besides watching her surroundings, she also watches us. If she finds an unattended hat or shoe, she tries to wear them (with varying levels of success). She tiptoes to try to put a key into the door knob. She climbs onto the couch to page through a book. If one of us laughs, she laughs, without having to know the reason. She knows that "hi" can have two meanings (a friendly greeting or a what-do-you-think-you're-doing query) and she uses it in both contexts. She points at things that she's not allowed to have and says, "no" (and then something gets them anyway).

She notices her surroundings, finding delight in the details, and also notices and imitates us. It's a lesson I should apply in my own life - keeping an eye on my Father, while also admiring the beautiful Creation He's placed me in.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For All Your Goodness

This week's gifts...
1048. Resetting from yesterday's off-scheduledness
1049. Warming the apartment while accomplishing necessary tasks
1050. Finishing the last "demo panel" that I needed for my knitting class
1051. Getting up and around before Mum and Dad got here (to watch Brooklyn)
1052. A full and excited class, and knitting evangelists who can't help but help
1053. Amazing nachos at Local Lime
1054. Waking up in just enough time to get ready and go to church
1055. The way Brooklyn says "hi" to everyone that walks by
1056. Superior officers who order Adam to go home, even when there's work to be done
1057. Adam having the morning off so that he could stay home with Brooklyn while I went to a doctor's appointment
1058. Taking a nap when I got home (the appointment took longer than expected)
1059. A long hot shower before Adam got home from STEP
1060. Kroger having all of the groceries we needed, so we didn't have to make multiple stops
1061. Adam emptying the dishwasher before he left for work
1062. Napping without worrying about what I wasn't getting done
1063. A quiet living room - in our last apartment, everything that happened in the courtyard and every noise near the front of the building traveled and amplified
1064. Two of three deadline writing projects complete and sent, and progress made on the third
1065. That God made me and knows me and calls me by name
1066. Fellowship North - the sense of community that we've found there has been refreshing and much-needed
1067. Gaining two pounds in 2 days - Sprout needs it!
1068. Brooklyn recovering from waking up from her nap delicate and managing to have a good afternoon


The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning - it's time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.

At New Community last night (our church's once-monthly communion service), we had an evening of thanksgiving. Squares of cardstock were handed out, someone got up and spoke about God's provision, reading from Mark 14 about Jesus sending His disciples to prepare the Passover meal and talking about how He prepares for every step and every circumstance and goes before us in whatever way He asks us to walk, then prompting us to list gifts on our cards as the worship team played a few songs.

They started with Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons, which I assigned to this project as a sort of theme song when I started it last Thanksgiving. Lyricists often say things in a much better way than I can, and it helps me stay on track when I have a 3 minute anthem that I can go back to. I chose the song because I didn't want to set a goal of counting to a thousand gifts over the course of a year and then stopping... there are so many gratitude projects floating around on Facebook and Instagram this time of year, but most of them end with dessert on Thanksgiving Day and then we get caught up in the Christmas rush, and I didn't want this to be like that. Those overrun last three days of November are the most important - a chance to gaze ahead to the Cross before diving into Advent, remembering our greatest reason for gratitude - and a thousand seems like such a tiny number when compared to an infinitely creative and merciful God.

Everyone was invited to clip their thanks onto some lines that were strung around the room - one became so weighted with cardstock and clothespins that it fell down. That's how I want to be, especially on the brink of a busy and somewhat uncertain season (both in terms of holidays, and of life) - overflowing with gratitude to the point that I fall on my knees, poured out before the One who poured Himself out for me.


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

If you're participating in one of those month-long gratitude challenges, how can you carry it over into your daily life in the coming months?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cozy


'Tis the season for doing cozy things. I had fun with my knitting class at church on Saturday, and I think everyone else did, as well. There was a range of skill levels and I was yet again deeply grateful for the irresistible urge that causes people who already know how to knit to jump in and help the newbies - I wouldn't have been able to manage so many people otherwise (I think there were about 18 - I never even stopped to count - ranging in age from middle schoolers to grandmas). No one did horribly (not that people do, usually, but there are people in the world that are not meant to knit), a couple of people did amazingly, and I'm looking forward to this week's follow-up class.


Along with putting Pentatonix' new Christmas album on repeat (I highly recommend it, if you're in need of new Christmas music - their take on Mary Did You Know is stunning. Also, who knew an a capella version of the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies was possible?) I've been drinking ridiculous amounts of Hot Vanilla. Mum happened onto the recipe when I was a kid (she doesn't eat chocolate, so she'd drink it instead of cocoa), and I've loved it since (Little Rock locals, a Cafe con Miel from Mugs, or for Fayetteville residents an Onyx Delight from Onyx is the same thing but with a shot of espresso in it, which never hurt anything). The dairy-free version is especially nice when you have a sore throat, and made with any kind of milk it's lovely before bed.

Fill your mug of choice with milk (any kind will do - I've been using So Delicious vanilla coconut milk) and heat, either in a pot on the stove or in the microwave (1.5 to 2.5 minutes). Add honey to taste (I like a couple of spoonfuls), a splash of vanilla extract (unless you use vanilla coconut or almond milk, in which case it's plenty vanilla-y), and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


I finished Brooklyn's legwarmers yesterday (just in time - she had a growth spurt and most of her pants are too short now) and got started on a pair for myself, with some yarn I got at Handheld last time we visited Fayetteville. The yarn is a delight to work with, and it's working up beautifully (no awkward striping or pooling) and I'm looking forward to being able to wear them. I'll post the pattern as soon as they're finished and photographed.

Which may not take very long. This morning I got over an inch done on them, between sitting in the waiting room for my ob/gyn appointment and the subsequent 20 minutes of monitoring. Sprout's a bit small (for no readily apparent reason), so I'm going to have twice-weekly visits for the foreseeable future. Laying on my back knitting and listening to Sprout's heartbeat isn't a bad way to spend half an hour, and stressing will only make it worse so I might as well focus on the good in the situation.


And there's plenty of good to focus on. The reading plan our church put out at the beginning of this sermon series is currently in Proverbs and Romans, and while catching up a few days ago I came across this in Proverbs (12:21) - No ills befall the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. It derailed me, since ills do befall the righteous, but then I remembered Ann Voskamp talking about how everything is a gift, and realized that that statement is true because it's a matter of attitude. I've still struggled to come up with 33 gifts a few days this month, but it's becoming more of habit/lifestyle. Gratitude is kind of like dieting... if you set an end number at which point you can go back to how you were before, then it's not going to do any lasting good. And only being grateful for the month of November won't cause me to be in-my-heart grateful if I switch back to being entitled on the first of December.


While I was inventorying the fridge and cabinets in order to make an updated grocery list, I was amazed to realize that Thanksgiving is next week and I need to get pumpkin pie fixin's the next time I'm at the store (that's my contribution - we're hopefully spending the holiday at my parents'). Wish me luck - I've never made pumpkin pie before, but Adam requested it and the recipe his mom gave me at least looks doable!

Prayers for Sprout would be appreciated (horror stories would not, thanks though). 
Also, do you travel to spend Thanksgiving with family (extended or otherwise) or open your own home to host friends and relations?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Still...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers who gather, internet-wide, to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!


I like to keep myself busy. Note that I keep myself busy, meaning that I maintain executive control over what I do (as much as possible). I'm more likely to overload myself with personal projects than to overcommit to things that others ask of me (not necessarily a good quality). If I'm not actively Doing Something (knitting, reading, writing, posting, taking pictures, suggesting walks and outings, etc), then my husband starts to get concerned and asks if I'm ok.

I'm almost threatened by stillness. It's seductively quiet - but I suspect that at any moment, something may spring from the silence, so I hold it at arm's length and examine it suspiciously. If I turned off my music, what might I hear? If I sat down my knitting, what might my hands be called to do? If I closed my book, what other words might be pressed onto my heart? Multitasking feels like the safest course of action.

But last month I started "practicing peace" and trying to be still. When I was silent, I did hear something - grace and encouragement and gentle reproof, asking me why I had so long asked for the gift of rest and then refused to open it once it was given, preferring to stalk it like a cat warily approaches an unknown but ultimately harmless object. When I stopped multitasking and focused on praying on paper instead of while doing other things, my hands were given unexpected tasks, but pleasant ones - guest posting and commission knitting.

Trust does not come easily to me. Not that I've been let down that often - I tend to take a preemptive approach and just refuse to open myself up to the possibility in the first place. But the Shepherd of my heart can be trusted, if only I will... He is ever faithful and, it seems, ever patient as He graciously waits for me to stop running in busy circles, to bring Him my burdens, to rest at His feet, and be still.

Does stillness come easily to you?

Average, Ordinary, Everyday

The weekly reckoning...
1024. Brooklyn bringing me a tub of coconut oil that she had gotten hold of, when verbally prompted
1025. and then handing it over without a fuss
1026. A freezer with an ice machine
1027. Brooklyn's deafening squeals of delight when she discovered that Adam was home in the morning
1028. Her new favorite activity - Leaning, with a Book
1029. Gourds, in all of their unique and knobbly beauty
1030. Adam and Brooklyn getting to spend some time visiting his parents
1031. while I spent five glorious hours Seeing People and Doing Things and Not Being Constantly Needed
1032. All getting the giggles together on the drive home
1033. The dresses an out-of-state friend made Brooklyn for her birthday finally fitting
1034. Her delight at dressing up, and the way any unattended clothing becomes a scarf
1035. A renewing evening with my Bear to end our three-day weekend
1036. Brooklyn (finally) adjusting to the time change
1037. Grace to make it through a long afternoon
1038. A dishwasher, so we don't have to do them by hand
1039. Sleeping in and having a jammy day at home
1040. Pomegranates - beautiful and delicious!
1041. Adam agreeing to a date night in because it was cold and I really didn't want to go out
1042. A car with a black interior and a functioning heater
1043. That Brooklyn does not have an allergy to nuts
1044. Time to take a bath and read until the water cooled off without feeling guilty about it
1045. Brooklyn sweetly sleeping in, despite the fact that she went to bed on time (but I did not and needed the rest!)
1046. Meeting Adam for lunch so that they could see each other before he has to be gone for a few nights


1047. The comforting simplicity of routine

Right. So, we're almost two weeks into November and I'm (remarkably) still on track with the one-thousand-gifts-in-a-month thing. But I've reached a quandaring point: I'm trying not to write the same thing every day (that feels like cheating, somehow) but so many of my days look exactly the same.

Get up with Brooklyn. Have breakfast together (the same thing we have every morning). Hang out here, me working on the computer while she plays, with pauses to read books aloud and sip pretend tea. Run errands, if necessary. Give her her snack. Have lunch and practice peace while she naps. Hope she doesn't wake up delicate (that makes for a long afternoon), then repeat the morning's routine (sans computer) until dinner. Eat dinner together. Bath (every other night) and bed for her. And then somewhere between the nap and her going to bed, Adam usually gets home and we spend a short evening together that involves some catching up and either board games or a movie.

It's a lovely system. I don't have a problem with it. But it is definitely forcing me to pay more attention to details - to note Brooklyn's quirks and developments, to count small steps as great strides, and in general it's increasing my awareness of how every little thing adds up and to truly understand the "butterfly effect" of the seemingly insignificant. Because in the end, every detail is a necessary part of the Story, and every breath and blink are gifts, and the existence of the mundane, the quiet routine that can be carried on even when you're tired or distracted or in need of rest and cannot think about one more thing, is yet another one of His mercies.


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons


Do you struggle to find the beauty in the ordinary?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Handful of Pixie Dust


As joyous as the upcoming family-centric holiday season should be, at this particular life-stage it can be more of a cause of stress than a blessing (especially for this introverted introvert). Trying to uphold traditions and necessary schedules, and finding the balance between others' expectations and what's best for our own little family... 'tis the season for grace. Lots and lots of grace.


I got some practice this past weekend, when we went to Fayetteville for part of two days. It could have been horrible - we drove up one morning and returned the next afternoon, stayed with my parents, visited Adam's, and had a long to-do list of tasks that needed to be accomplished while we were there. But it was lovely.


Brooklyn slept extremely well the one night we stayed, and awoke delighted (if a little earlier than usual). She was patient and contented for the drive both ways, and spent a grand Saturday with Adam and his parents as we divided-and-conquered and I met a friend for a couple of hours and ran some errands (and stopped by Handheld's beautiful new location for some yarn and a few moments of knitting).


There were so many possible opportunities to stress. Getting up in time to meet my friend. How was that going to work out with when Brooklyn got up? Originally I was meeting two people, so there was that coordinating to do (the second person ended up being able to come by where I already was). There were things that needed to be got. But Brooklyn needs to nap about 4 hours after she gets up, so if she got up too early that would shorten the time I had to do things in (and also shorten the time she and Adam got to spend at his parents')... the list goes on.

But you know what? If you just put on a cute outfit and decide to have fun with it, trusting that the ones (or One) who so faithfully take care of you will continue to do so, then usually everything works out (and if it doesn't, you at least had a good attitude about it and it doesn't seem as bad as it could). Faith, trust, and pixie dust, and you may take flight in a pair of tied-on butterfly wings. Toddlers can be insightful that way, and sometimes pixie dust is just another word for grace.


So I've learned valuable lessons in simplification, and faith, that I can apply to my day today and to the weeks ahead. My focus should be on today, anyway, instead of stressing about what's to come - the One who makes the sun rise and brings new mercies to every morning has a handle on tomorrow and He is faithful to provide.

What areas in your life could use a handful of pixie dust (also know as grace)?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Turn...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers internet-wide, gathering to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and sharing a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join, head here!

My mother-in-law left a silk leaf tucked into one of Brooklyn's books - she was delighted when it fell out at the perfect moment as we were reading it before bed!

Retrospection and introspection are favorite pastimes of mine. Turning around to see where I've come from, and turning inward to see how the adventures along my path have affected me, is how I gauge progress. I think that's part of why I love Autumn so much - it's an invitation to slow down from the rush of Summer and revel in the natural glory of changing leaves and changing seasons, with a cozy hoodie and a mug of something hot to keep your hands warm. You can't rush about when you're carrying a cup of cocoa - if you try, you'll end up wearing it instead of drinking it (I'm not speaking from experience or anything on that one... ahem).

But you also can't always look back - without turning your eyes to the path ahead, you'll stumble on roots and rocks and may even walk off the path entirely and look up to find yourself lost in the middle of the woods, with no idea how you got there or how to get back. The same goes for always looking up... and if you always look down, then you'll miss the beauty around you.

I haven't found balance yet - ultimately, I should strive to look around circumspectly, giving equal focus to where I've been, where I'm headed, to those walking beside me and to the path that I'm walking myself --- binding it all together by keeping my heart turned toward Jesus, because He is my companion, my guide, my purpose, my destination, and the Author of my story.