A Heart of Thankfulness {A Blessings Photo Essay}

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This year season of my life has been hard…really hard. Since last August I’ve been struggling with various teeth and body issues that no doctor or dentist can figure out. I’m desperately trying to stave off new symptoms while trying to maintain life by masking current symptoms. Life has been hard. I’ve had to give things up that I didn’t want to in order to hang on to the most important stuff. (Do you hear the crickets chirping in this here blogosphere?) But despite that, I’m sitting here this Thanksgiving day looking around and knowing I’m blessed. I see His hand all around me and if I don’t look to the little things and count them then those blessings that fall like living rain can roll right off my back soaking into the ground, wasted.

So today I need to count because gratitude needs to be my lifeline during this time of not understanding.

Can I start with the beauty of the season? Just look at the simplicity of the pumpkin above. The shape and color, the contrast against my weathered porch, the complimentary fallish leaves strewn just so. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Perfect.

Then there’s the dying back of the garden that holds it’s own in beauty compared to it’s spring and summer counterparts. Sunlight bouncing off of maroons and mauves in the morning light. Tawny browns of seed heads contrasting against bronzed, dying leaves.

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And the mornings. Oh how I wish I could enjoy more of them but whatever is attacking my body seems worst then. The mornings that I do make it to my front porch are like an oasis to the chaos of my day.

Hot coffee.

Living words.

Feeding souls.

And this town…

I’m thankful for this small, midwest town. The community is strong here. The houses are mish-mashed and beautiful, ornate and simple. The business is small, local and cozy. The churches are reaching hearts and building family.

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I love that my children can walk to the library or to the drugstore. I love that they can bike to a friends house or walk up to the park. I love the memories they are making. I love the security that a small town affords us for our growing family.

And my heart swells with thankfulness for my children. They are growing faster than the weeds in my yard. I watch them stretching their minds. I listen in on their sibling conversations. I inwardly smile at the first awkward stirrings of teenage years quickly approaching. I treasure the conversations in my heart. I laugh at little hands and little feet stirring up trouble. And I breathe deep baby fat and double chins. These are my legacy…my stories…my beautiful mess.

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And as Advent draws near, I am thankful for the Lord that provides. Our dollars are tight. They already have to stretch beyond our means to cover our chosen life-path. This month He provided a new couch set…well, new to us. Perfect in condition, color, and style to nestle into the space of our Victorian living room. A chance stop-in at the Goodwill. Under $100 for the whole trio. As Advent approaches and winter settles in, it means dark mornings, candlelight and the thankfulness of my heater as I curl up with His word and wait for the Christ-child.

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For to even open up the door these days invites in the too chilly air. Frost sparkles the world and for very brief moments I soak in the beauty of upcoming winter. My imagination runs wild with thoughts of silver fairies and legends of jack frost. And when I return to the warmth of the house, to the smells of fall cooking and fill my belly with the comfort of potatoes and pumpkin and squash, I am again reminded of how blessed I am compared to most. My house is old and I don’t know if I will ever find the money to make it whole and not broken, but even amidst it’s brokenness it brings me daily joy.

As does my husband whose very heart and commitment to our family sings of his sacrificial love of us. His talented hands feed us, sing to us, embrace us. He is father and still soul mate. I am lucky indeed.

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Let them give THANKS to the LORD

For His UNFAILING LOVE

And His wonderful deeds for men,

For He SATISFIES the thirsty

And fills the hungry with GOOD things.”

Psalm 107:8-9

happy thanksgiving

An unexpected surprise…


Here we are again!

Bun number seven in the oven warming. As if my life wasn’t blessed enough {wink, wink}, we are adding joy to our numbers. Expected to be here mid June of next year, already the kids are spending every evening meal fighting and voting over names.  So far, Rauga (from Bay Blade) is top pick for boys and Dora is top pick for girls. Ummmm….no?

Names aside, the kids are super excited. Our dinner converstion the week before (I am NOT making this up):

Them: “Mommy, when are we going to have another baby?”

Me: “Why?”

Them: “Because Eli isn’t anyone’s big brother and he needs to be a big brother too.”

Me: “We are NOT having another baby just so Eli can be a big brother!”

Guess the jokes on me!

The Blessings of Spring {New Life}

I can’t help myself. Spring is…well, springing up all around me and I just can’t stop taking pictures! Oh how I wish I had this lens so I could take macro to that next level. But, I digress.

I’m popping in momentarily to this blog in order to drop off some seasonal pictures that I don’t want lost and to list my utter gratitude for new beginnings and all the hope that it carries.

{blessings 603 ~ 608}

  • spring meals full of fresh berries and long awaited greens
  • fresh eggs for the perfect (my first) souffle
  • leisurely breakfasts with daddy
  • rays of morning light basking my children in beauty
  • the first strawberry shortcake of the year
  • fresh salads for dinner ~ a meal in itself!

Oh, my yard! Did I mention my yard? I have gardens! Beautiful, glorious, blooming gardens. I have hydrangeas ~ big, full mature, white snow ball hydrangeas ~ just started to bud at the front of my house. I have the first signs of Lilacs growing up the side of my house. I have spring blooming dogwood, cherry, and apple trees in the backyard. There is a beautiful glowing salmon pink bush full of apple rose-like flowers. I have no idea the name but am basking in it’s beauty all the same. There is promise of lilies and black eyed susans and purple cone flowers and clematis to come in the summer. There will be a plethora of daisies for my little Delilah to pick at her hearts content. And the bulbs…did I mention those? You really must take a look. All gorgeous from the first crocus to the daffodils and then the tulips. Even the weeds are at the height of their beauty! Have you ever seen such wonderful speckled lavender spots on the viola? And it’s dandelion season! Can’t even tell you how happy that makes me! Cheers…to my garden!

{blessings  609 ~ 626}

  • green shoots promising the first spring flowers
  • the first purple crocus rising up from the dead
  • the sunny face of daffodils waving in the March breeze
  • spring rains puddling in perfect drops on flowers
  • walking to church and picking posies
  • using collected antique jars to display children’s posies as art
  • ground warming to dig in dirt
  • worm play with littles
  • hearing the first robin and chickadees chirping in the trees
  • the biggest blooms of the magnificent magnolia tree
  • little girls getting lost in it’s branches
  • cherry blossoms against the blue sky
  • the sunlight piercing tulips velvety petals
  • newly bare feet trolloping among the flowers
  • speckled violas against garden-dirty blue jeans
  • recycled {free} seed starters
  • newly bought, hope-inspired, garden seeds
  • first shoots and the miracle of germination

And it’s almost Easter. There is no cheerier holiday than this. Practicing Lent and sacrifice in the last bits of dead winter only to celebrate with the Resurrection  of Christ’s return just as all is coming again to life…words can’t describe. All around me are signs pointing to Him and my need of Him. Plants that look dead, never to return…we almost give up when at the very last possible moment buds spring forth. A beautiful picture of our black dead souls, foul with sin, are not left for dead but clothed in a new righteousness of a new beginning. Life is breathed back into us and Christ’s light cloaks the filth. We appear more glorious than the rarest flower before the King. And all we can mutter is, “Praise Him!” with heads hung in humbleness.

Because of the move and gathering our bearings here, we didn’t get to celebrate the fullness of Lent. But we do have a humble tree adorning our table hung with signs of life. The girls love it as do I. It is the bane of Adam’s existence as he gets daily tangled in it’s branches. But to me it is the perfect small touch that I can add to this beautiful new home.

{blessings 627 ~ 634}

  • the King has come!!!
  • broken branches that lend to traditions
  • Easter pastels
  • Beatrix Potter and her little lovely books
  • playing easter egg hunting
  • egg baskets
  • offering myself for church busy bags
  • Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around

And then this amazing thing happened the other day. My kids came running inside yelling, “Mom, mom…there’s a baby cow outside!!!!” What? A cow? So I went to see for myself. There sitting on the other side of our fence was a baby girl cow only an hour old. And we got to watch her arise and take her very first wobbly steps. Can I just say my breath was taken away? ‘Thank you, Lord,’ I whispered. Right here in our own backyard the miracle of life.

{blessings 635 ~ 639}

  • the miracle of new birth
  • first wobbly baby steps
  • squeals of kid delight
  • capturing first steps on film
  • long baby cow eyelashes…oh how long, and how beautiful!

 

 

 THANK YOU, OH HAPPY SPRING!!!!!!

{blessings 639 ~ 646}

  • light in the evenings
  • playing outside from breakfast till bed
  • new neighborhood friends
  • bare feet covered in mud
  • trampolines
  • swinging high in the sky
  • brave girls buried alive
  • tree climbing

{House L.O.V.E.}

Moving day weather was a gift from above. A spring-like 64 degrees, sunshine, wear-a-T-shirt kinda moving weather. Just perfect. Being bone-tired and only three of us, a fourth of the move ended up in the garage. Not quite as planned but we were officially moved in. The next day’s weather held out as boxes were slowly dragged inside from the garage. Not too many left, I thought to myself patting me on the back for all the work done.

Than my husband came home with news of a winter storm a-brewin’. So out to the garage we went in the drizzle and dragged in the remaining boxes. Then we woke up to this…

Almost 12 inches of snow came down in a fairy tale blanket of sparkles. I said a mantra prayer ~ thank you, thank you, thank you ~ all morning long as I continued to unpack boxes in the cozy comfort of a heated new home. Only a gift from above, that timing! He is amazing!

We are settling in nicely here. All boxes are unpacked. Pictures are hung on the walls. The place has felt instantly like home from the first night. No night trauma transitions of littles. All is well and one is even sleeping better. Every morning I wake up to my colored walls and revel in the small details of my home. It’s these details I love the most. They are the architectural details that people won’t notice first but make up the bones of why this house feels like a home to me.

Porcelain roses on my very own chandelier…hinges that hold up story-book doors…vintage lights that look just as lovely with a cobweb or two…filigree holders for the everyday things…knobs that look like antique buttons…key holes to spark little imaginations…

My mother-in-love called the other day just as a friendly reminder to my husband that a gift was in order for this Valentine’s Day. I love her dearly but when he told me I just laughed.

“What could be a better gift than this house?” I said to the man who gave up his farm dreams to give me this Victorian girl dream. “I mean, even the walls of my favorite room are the perfect Valentine red!” And they are…deep, rich jewel-toned ruby red. And I am in love with them.

And who needs temporary flowers that will wither away in a matter of days when right on my very table I already have something that is lighted perfectly by the morning sun? I am reminded of a tiny blog post I ran across the other day at pea soup. She said,

Dear Universe,

fewer major life events, more pretty light, ok?

Yours, Suse.”

Perfectly said! (You must go visit her. Pictures are divine!)

Just look at this beautiful family of mine sitting in this beautiful room eating breakfast for dinner! What could be more perfect?

Later as I was soaking in this amazing tub I was reminded that most people pay a lot of hard-earned money to vacation away in a tub just like this! I am luxuriating in warmth, soaking my cares away. Little voices sound far away as my husband gifts me again with an alone bath.

It is these selfless acts of love that grow us. I was reminded of that as I read my Starbucks cup this week. The world we live in tells us to be just like this Starbucks heart. All arrows point inward towards ourselves. But it is when we reverse these arrows in an outward direction towards others that love actually grows. This is what I want to contemplate this Valentine’s Day.

Happy Heart Day, everyone!

The Perfect Gift ~ An ER Visit

Because my husband is the best he surprised me with a little gift…even though we weren’t to get each other anything. This year it was quiet, understated and just right! A few good things to curl up with…

Did I mention that the real gift this  year is this ~

Because who can beat a Victorian claw foot tub and a porch swing?

Well, maybe this can.

It is 12:57 am and my husband is at the emergency room with a little boy of ours. Pneuminia? Croop? Whooping Cough? Fluid in the lungs? Can’t tell but it’s getting worse by the hour. So a Christmas Eve vist to the ER it is. Did I mention how incredible my husband is?

The true gift of Christmas ~ 

One self-sacrificing daddy who loves to an unimaginable depth.

Perfection Through Imperfection {Thankful Christmas Moments}

After reading this amazing post When It Isn’t Perfect, I need to reprioritize. The Bible talks of renewing my mind. When I start thinking one thing then I need to replace it with a truth. Now I’m sure scriptures are thinking much more along the lines of writing the truth of His Word on my heart, but for me I just need to remind myself of truth on a much baser level. This season of life has me really struggling to keep Christmas as the beautiful forefront of my family.

So, instead of seeing all the needles under the tree that I will vacuum up at least twice today (Did I mention our 1 year old pulled the whole tree down the other day and that the garland has been confiscated due to structural issues?), I will choose to see…

A mother-in-love who graciously gifted handmade ornaments that littles could touch for a season.

Instead of the lack of garland (see above), I choose to see…

Vivid imagination that sparks play in a season that will pass by way too quickly.

Instead of my floor that sticks to my feet as I walk through the kitchen and dishes piled high, I choose to see…

Littles playing in flour and helping daddy make imperfect gingerbread cookies.

Instead of worrying about the millions of scraps and toys and clutter on the floor (did I mention I had already vacuumed twice?), I will choose to see…

Children actively creating, making a paper town come to life.

Instead of seeing the marker on the walls that will need to be scrubbed before we move and the stains that need to be purged from the carpet and all the rest of this home’s imperfections, I choose to see…

The beauty of my morning walk by the window that I will greatly miss. Stunning really. Didn’t even have to go outside to take these pictures. Right through my dirty window pane, all finger-printed up, these images glowed through. How breathtaking. There is a lot about this house I won’t miss. This living room window will not be one of them!

Instead of seeing all the muddy boots in the entryway mixed in with shoes in heaps of chaos with a sprinkling of toys thrown in just for fun, I will choose to see…

Fleeting play days that melt quicker than a memory!

I know that one day I will look back on these photos and cry with a longing deep wanting them back and not even blink at the list of worldly mess that threatens to collapse on me today as a young mother. Renewing my mind and repairing my heart today. Belting out some Christmas songs of old and not caring who hears my out of tune voice!

 

Living Liturgically Through Nature

 

Some days you wake up overwhelmed and all you see is the mountain in front of you that seems impossible to climb. Sometimes you just can’t get past the next thing that needs to be done because the list seems endless. Nothing stays clean or orderly and life is messy. But sometimes you wake up on a morning like this and are thankful that the ice in your driveway won’t allow you to make it into church.

The kids will be missing the Walk Through Bethlehem, of which I was really hoping we could attend. I think the experience of them being able to time travel back to the city where Jesus was born and experience what that would be like in a very tactile and real way would be such a valuable experience and memory. Instead we were blessed with snow. And in this season of life we are blessed to live in the country. I knew when the sun peeked out that I just had to take advantage of the light and grab my camera for a morning walk. Full of warm carrot muffins and hot coffee, I headed out breathing deep the chill in the air.

There was no need for a temple house of worship this morning. Sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath. This morning my worship came in being still.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” ~ Psalm 46:10

I didn’t have to sing. I didn’t have to read. His creation was my liturgy and I sank deep in it’s beauty. There is the deep sustenance – bread of life – that we are to drink from daily but that never negates the beauty in the fleeting. Sometimes we just need to stop, even when chores beckon, and be a Mary and sit at the feet of His creation. After all, this was for His and our pleasure. How can we enjoy if we don’t stop to even pay attention? Soon cars will spray fumes of gray across the white and sun will melt the soft powder. Crystals that shine brighter than any diamond will fade into the dreary background of life. But here, for this moment only, it is perfect.

As I walked all was silent and I heard the birds trilling praise up towards blue sky. I heard the sound of water softly running in the neighboring river. The only other sound was the crunch of snow beneath my feet. The only sounds of life around me where the fading memories of deer in footprints. Even the grass was silent, heavy with the weight of snow.

Be still and know that I am God. 

This verse whispered over and over in my head and through my heart. Oh thank you for this day. Oh thank you that you gave me eyes to see beyond the ordinary. Thank you that my soul longs to translate this perfection into art to share with others. There is no greater muse than You!!!