What can a donkey teach you? Oh, just lots of stuff.
Today, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Emily Wierenga.
Emily's newest memoir, Making it Home, releases on September 8, and I've invited her to post an excerpt from her book here. I know you'll love her story about finding finding peace, identity and purpose...and you'll also fall in love with her along the way, just like I did.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, Emily, but—they said no.” I’m on the phone with my agent two weeks after giving birth to my nearly nine-pound Kasher and I’m crying before she starts because I know.
“It’s been so long,” I whisper. It’s all the breath left in me.
“I know—I’m so sorry,” she says, and we’re silent together, except for my hiccupping sobs. An editor has been courting the manuscript for a year, and after three hundred and sixty five days of waiting, the publishing board has said no and I have nothing.
Forgetting how doctors had said I wouldn’t be able to have children, forgetting about the miracle that lies in my arms and the other one that’s coloring a picture at the Ikea kids’ table. Forgetting about the man who lives to make me laugh, who’s making wine in the kitchen, forgetting the sound of Mum’s voice on the end of the line, the voice of a woman I’d thought would die now lives, healed of her brain tumor.
Forgetting that a book deal is not what gives me a name, but it’s all I hear: the sound of rejection on the other end of the line, the sound of me, being made a fool, for all my waiting and hoping.
The champagne bottle unopened in the fridge.
“Everything okay?” Trent mouths the words at me. I shake my head. Kasher asleep in my arms and my agent telling me I should spend some time writing what I want to write. To put this book aside and just do something that brings me joy.
I don’t know what that means.
I don’t know how to do anything for joy and then I remember dating Trent. I remember that kiss in the rain outside his townhouse; I remember hours on the carpet with my head on his chest, talking, listening to the radio and I remember midnight bike rides to Rundle Park, playing Frisbee golf and watching movies just to hold each other’s hand.
A joy that writes what it wants to.
“Alright,” I say, and my agent prays with me and we say Goodbye.
I wonder how long she will put up with me. I haven’t sold anything yet and Aiden’s showing me his picture. It’s a scribble of green marker—his favorite color—and he’s got green on his lips and he’s smiling but his eyebrows are raised. He’s wondering if I like it, and he’s only two. His mommy’s fears course through him and I kneel down and hug him, tell him, “It’s magnificent, son, I can’t wait to hang it on the fridge,” and his small body relaxes.
He knows in this moment that I love him because I said I like his picture but I want for him what I want for me: the long-lasting sense of self in spite of what the world tells him. I want him to be so at peace that he can sleep in the boat while the storm rocks and I want him to know without a shadow of a doubt the confidence that makes a person walk on water.
And maybe if I learn it, he will too.
This excerpt is taken from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir (the sequel to ATLAS GIRL), Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose. Order HERE.
What does it mean to be a woman and to make a home?
Does it mean homeschooling children or going to the office every day?
Cooking gourmet meals and making Pinterest-worthy home décor?
In Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose, author and blogger Emily Wierenga takes readers on an unconventional journey through marriage, miscarriage, foster parenting and the daily struggle of longing to be known, inviting them into a quest for identity in the midst of life’s daily interruptions. Get your copy HERE. Proceeds benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree.
Get FREE downloadable chapters from Making It Home HERE.
Hazel Marie made her debut on August 3! One week old today, she is healthy and beautiful.
I had the privilege of being with Lauren, Robert, and Ivy (age 2) for the first five days of Hazel's life.
I have almost no words for the wonder of this new life, brought into the world by my daughter, but I'll try today.
You see, there's this feeling.
I've experienced it three times now, with each new grandbaby, as I looked at both of my daughters with their pink bundles in their arms. Perhaps it's because my girls have had daughters that I've felt this way, I don't know.
Maybe it's a rite of passage.
But I look at Lauren. It's like I'm seeing her through glasses with magic lenses: I see her as the beautiful, grown-up woman that she is, while simultaneously seeing her younger self - the child who loved to draw pictures, and whose hands were always creating something out of found objects. Bits of string, shoe boxes, paper and tape...always lots of tape.
Somehow, I feel her little arms around my neck and remember the stories we read at bedtime and the kites we flew in the field behind our house. Cookies and milk after school, the piles of dishes and laundry that I could never really get control of.
The years of work and love, and confidence and doubt.
I see it all, images overlaying images; some faded around the edges, but still vivid and full of color.
I see myself, too. I see how I obsessed about whether I was doing a good enough job as a mom.
Was I serving enough vegetables? Was I teaching the right life lessons? Did I lose my patience too many times? Making the right educational choices? Allowing her to wear mismatched socks way too often?
My magic glasses fade away, and here is Lauren, holding out her new baby for the two year-old to kiss.
And I know all the years of work, and love, and confidence, and doubt are ahead of her, as well.
I kiss the top of MY baby's head. My beautiful girl, this young mama.
And I press her close. I want to say this, but I can't speak:
All of the wonder is ahead of you, too, honey.
Hold on tight for the ride.
It's wonderful and messy and hard and good. You'll question yourself a million times along the way. You'll stay up late praying. You'll be overcome with joy a million more times.
It will feel like a spinning tilt-a-whirl sometimes.
But listen, don't worry.
Motherhood is supposed to be this way.
And one day, a couple of decades from now, you'll find a pair of magic glasses in your pocket that lets you see the past, and the present, all at the same time.
You'll see how Hazel and Ivy grew into beautiful mamas, and how they invited you to spend the first few days with them and their new babies, because they needed you to help them settle in. You'll marvel at their patience, their ability to watch Daniel Tiger with toddlers for hours, their kindness and generosity and love.
And you'll still feel their little arms around your neck, and be able to see the kites and the cookies, and hear the sleepy whispers at bedtime.
You'll remember your doubts. You'll remember how you sometimes worried, and you'll see now that you shouldn't have.
Because now you see how it all turned out, and the sheer beauty of it catches you, holds you, and leaves you breathless in its wake.
You'll feel so very proud of those kids you didn't ruin with the mismatched sock thing.
You'll see just. How. Amazing. They are.
And you'll feel simply...grateful.
Thank you to Heidi Thaden-Pierce, Lauren's wonderful doula, for the gorgeous birth photos.
If I seem a little bit giddy, it's probably because every other minute I'm thinking about the imminent arrival of my third granddaughter, Hazel Marie. Lauren is my oldest daughter, and she is READY for this baby to come!
Hazel was "due" on Monday, but of course she will come when she's good and done in there.
She will be joining sister Ivy Grace (age 2), who talks about her constantly.
Last year at this time, we were waiting (and waiting) for my daughter Meghan's first baby to arrive. Two and a half weeks past her due date, Heidi finally arrived on her mama's birthday, August 2.
Heidi is almost one year old!
The past two summers have brought baby girls into my life.
It's only right that they should meet up with their moms at Target, for a little retail therapy. Being a toddler is tough, man.
And as I look forward to this new one, I'm filled with excitement.
Another little girl to read books to, be silly with, and have tea parties together. We shall play in mud puddles, learn about nature, watch clouds, and chase butterflies. I will teach her how to take naps in forts, which is one of my specialties.
We'll get to make memories for life.
I can hardly wait!
I'll be taking a break from blogging so I can focus on this special time....I'll keep you posted, though, on Hazel's arrival.
I've been thinking.
And you know how I get quiet when I'm thinking, right? I've tried to sit down and write a decent blog post over the past week or two, but I've been stuck.
Lately there's been such a clamor of voices all around me that I've just had to pull my head in like a turtle to process it all. It seems that everyone has such loud opinions about everything right now: gay marriage, politics, the war on terror, abortion, nuclear arms deals, the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it... pick a topic and there's a chorus of outrage and anger that erupts.
I get it, I get it. Believe me, I do.
And I'm all for righteousness, and fighting the good fight, and standing up for justice. There is certainly a need and a place for it.
But I've got this gnawing feeling in my stomach that we, as people who bear the name of Christ, are missing something really, really important.
I keep thinking that while we are waging the culture war, we are losing the love war.
And this is what I want to say:
Let's bring back the fruit of the Spirit, y'all.
When did it fall from fashion?
Galatians 5 puts it this way:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things. (NLT)
I guess I'm trying to figure out where in the Bible Jesus might have said, "Be the loudest and most abrasive person in the room so you can get my message across."
Or where He might have commanded us to criticize anyone who holds a different opinion than us.
I can't find a scripture to support name-calling, or finger-pointing or hate-mongering. But we do it anyway, because "we have Right on our side," and it entitles us to judge and to belittle and to scorn anything that smacks of oh, I don't know...too much liberalism, too much conservatism, or compromise, or even a (gasp) slightly different interpretation of scripture.
I just haven't seen a whole lot of love lately, and it bothers me.
I see indignation and wrath as our default setting. We're so quick to put our dukes up and assume a fighting stance at the mere mention of our pet topics.
But is this how we should act? I'm struggling here, folks.
Allow me to put forth this today:
As people of faith, we should take a higher road.
Let's be the ones to love people who disagree with us. Let our words be balm and healing to those who are wounded around us.
Let's stop having to be right about everything, and instead build bridges made out of gentleness and goodness. Right will win out in the end, anyway.
Let's quit having to say the last word; and with gracious self-control, listen to the other side. We might learn something.
Let's outdo our enemies, whether real or perceived, in kindness.
Let's not qualify our generosity for only those who "deserve" it.
When we start to lash out in anger, let's ask, "what would love do here?"
Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Love one another, love one another, love one another.
I can think of no better example of this than the members of Emanuel AME Church and the people of the city of Charlston, after the racially motivated shooting that killed nine. Their words and acts of forgiveness inspired a fresh wave of reconciliation across the country, and made me examine my own heart in a new way.
This kind of grace - this fruit of the Spirit in the face of evil - is more powerful than anything else I can imagine.
It leaves me in awe of what is right and good, and it pulls me toward it.
It pulls me to Jesus.
And isn't that really what it's all about?
Today, let's put down the anger and run toward the love. Let's be part of something bigger and grander and more beautiful than anything this world can understand.
Let's bring back the fruit of the Spirit, and let's set our world on fire with it.
My newest obsession is cold brew coffee. In a word: YUM.
Perfect for summer afternoons when you need a little pick-me-up, this recipe will make you happy because it's simple, makes plenty, and tastes divine. Because it is literally brewed cold, (as opposed to brewing hot, then pouring over ice) it has a mellow flavor and a greatly reduced acidity factor.
Not many things fall into the "This Changed My Life" category for me, but this cold brew coffee would qualify - it's that good.
So, with a shout-out to my son-in-law, Nathan, who shared his technique with me, here goes:
1. Make a Concentrate.
Measure 3 parts water to 1 part coffee.
I happened to have Starbucks on hand, but any dark roast coffee will work.
I use 1 1/3 cup coffee for 4 cups of water. This tests my math skills, for which I need more coffee. See how this works?
2. Stir well, and let brew on counter overnight, or up to 12 hours.
Make sure those grounds are all mixed in! That's goodness, right there.
3. Pour your brew through cheesecloth or coffee filters to remove coffee grounds.
I use a coffee filter in a small colander over a bowl. Note: It drips through verry slowly, and it's difficult to be patient at this point.
4. Pour your strained concentrate into a pitcher or jar.
5. Dilute the concentrate with equal parts water.
I add about 4 cups of water to my 4 cups of concentrate. 4+4 adds up to 8 cups of deliciousness...plenty for several afternoons worth of enjoyment.
Feel free to adjust the ratio according to taste.
6. Serve over lots of ice, leaving plenty of room at the top for Half and Half and sugar. Or sweetened cream.
I like lots of cream and sugar. YUM.
Pioneer Woman (who makes a huge vat at a time) highly recommends sweetened condensed milk and I can only imagine how heavenly THAT must be.
PS I tried PW's recipe too, but again...my math skills. Reducing a gigantic quantity to a manageable scale was too much for me.
Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? I promise you it will change your life, or at the minimum, your outlook on it. It's possibly the best thing I've accomplished this year.
We all want to simplify our lives -- starting tomorrow. We would start today, but we've got too many things on our plate to begin the process, right? I hear ya.
Here are five things you can do today that will make a difference immediately, regardless of how complicated your schedule is.
1. Decide what's important.
Make a list of the three or four essential things in your life. What would happen if you eliminated everything else today? Imagine the "worst case scenario" if you didn't make that batch of brownies for the PTO, or if the laundry didn't get done, or if you didn't chaperone the field trip. Chances are, life would go on.
Do the essentials first, and THEN fill in with the extras.
2. Be a Uni-tasker.
Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has become a way of modern life, but it actually makes you less focused, less engaged, and less efficient. It robs each task of your full attention, energy and creativity. Doing one thing at a time means that you are present and able to make the most of each moment.
When you stop juggling "the next thing," you'll find the beauty and joy that's in front of you right now.
If you start having heart palpitations every time your phone or device is not in your hand or on your person, it's a good sign that you're addicted to it. Limit your email checks to a few specific times each day, and consider that Facebook can function just fine without your current status. Change the notification settings on your devices so you are not distracted by alerts popping up.
Here's what I learned when I took a Social Media break last year. I still struggle with this, and have to constantly recommit to unplugging.
Social media has its place, but let's be honest: it crowds out real living.
4. Embrace "Enough."
In a culture that celebrates the "new and improved" versions of everything, we can easily get sucked into thinking we need more and better stuff than we already have. Do you have food to eat? Clothes to wear? A car to drive? You have more than billions of people on this planet. You have enough. Practice gratitude and model it to your children. Less stuff = less to take care of, less to worry about, less to spend money on.
Less stuff = freedom.
5. Say "no."
Truth: You will always be asked to do more than you can or should. Setting healthy boundaries around the things you value (your family, your time, your faith) means that you'll have to say "no" to good things in order to preserve the best things in your life. Make a habit of asking for time to think about a new commitment before adding it to your already-full life. Discuss it with your spouse and family, or a friend, before you commit to anything. Others can help you see your own limits when you can't.
Learn that a healthy "no" brings a "yes" to peace and simplicty.
The past couple of years, I've committed to breathing.
To letting go of the unnecessary.
I've found that it takes a constant effort to keep chaos at bay and simplicity at the forefront. These five things are helping me make better decisions and enjoy each day to the fullest....and I am breathing. Are you?
How about you? What is YOUR best strategy for simplifying? What will you do today that will make life better? I hope you'll share!
I have the fun pleasure of being the guest co-host on the Sorta Awesome Podcast with Megan Tietz this week!
You might know Megan from her former (very popular) blog, Sorta Crunchy, and her book, Spirit-Led Parenting - From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year.
Megan and I have been online friends for years, but this the first time we've had the chance to sit down and chat. We talked about everything from cold-brew coffee, to parenting adolescents and teens, to finding wisdom in unexpected places. She is delightful, y'all!
I'm a regular listener to Sorta Awesome - I use my laundry-folding/dish-washing time to catch up with Megan and her co-hosts. There's always something great going on with these gals!
Sidenote: one of the things I've been learning from the podcast is about the Myers-Briggs personalities (ENFP, anyone? Or INFP? I still don't know), which Megan is pretty much an expert in. Fascinating! Scroll through the archives and you can find plenty on that, including this one here.
Hop on over to take a listen! Of course, Flash is one of our topics, and it was fun to share one of my favorite stories from the book.
Talking with Megan reminded me again how God uses the ordinary moments in our lives to reach out to us, interact with us, and show us His love.
See you there!
I planted it more than a decade ago.
A lavender plant in a four-inch pot that held a tiny dream.
I was so hopeful back then. We'd moved to the country from our suburban neighborhood, and I imagined that someday I'd have a beautiful lavender farm on this place.
I could just see it: row after row of fragrant purple mounds that would be part of our new life and business.
But first, I'd see how well lavender would grow in the hardscrabble ground. I knew it wouldn't be easy. People told me it didn't have a chance. I chopped a hole in the rocky soil and set it in anyway.
"Go, little baby," I urged it.
And then life got tough.
The economy tanked.
We had to work hard to make ends meet, all while trying to finish raising our family in the whirlwind of high school and activities. The stress made my chest hurt at times. My husband and both lost sleep. We were exhausted, spent.
I abandoned the lavender farm dream, and went into survival mode.
The little plant was nearly forgotten in the years that followed, but somehow it hung on through blistering heat, record-setting drought, ice storms, and finally, torrential rains.
Every now and then I'd pass by it on the path, and see the small mound of silvery green foliage and marvel at its tenacity. Though alive, its growth was stunted by both the elements and my lack of care.
Not once did it flower.
It just survived.
It was like all of its strength was used up to simply stay alive, and there wasn't a single drop left over for something as frivolous as a bloom.
I understood, only too well.
Sometimes, just staying alive is the best you can do.
Surviving is victory.
It is victory enough.
Then the other morning, Tom pulled me outside. "You'll never believe it!" his eyes danced with a secret.
Our footsteps hurriedly crunched down the path on the hard ground. He brought me to a standstill in front of the lavender and pointed with a flourish.
"Take a look at this."
My breath escaped in an awestruck sigh.
Fresh purple blooms floated above the green mound like a tiara. The warm breeze made them dance, tethered on their stems lest they frolic away.
I sank down in front of it and slowly rubbed the colorful florets between my fingers. The distinctive scent immediately permeated the air and lingered on my skin, and I had to smile.
Baby, you survived.
You made it.
Just look at you.
The ground around you is nothing but rock that doesn't hold water.
And yet you found a way to put down roots.
The drought nearly killed you, but you clung to life anyway.
The harsh elements seemed to stunt your growth, but braving them made you resilient.
You didn't let neglect stop you.
You just kept going.
Year after year.
And even when no one gave you any hope of surviving...
you did it anyway.
You are strong.
You are brave.
And you are spectacular.
Sometimes, just surviving whatever it is you're going through is victory enough.
You've got to just hang in there. Keep on going.
Cling to life.
Because there will come a day when your roots will hit water, and your leaves will open, and you'll send up new shoots that are made to hold flowers like banners.
The sun will come out...and you. will. blossom.
Your day will come.
Maybe it's already here.
It's the day when "just surviving" is over, and your flowered tiara will float above you in a fragrant testimony to all that you've weathered.
Victory, my friend.
You will survive.
And you will bloom.
The desert and parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.....
they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
After eight years of blogging, I'm finally putting my favorite posts into one, easy-to-access place. I'm not finished adding to it, but thought I'd go ahead and post it now, and I'll let you know when I'm done!
Older Kids and Empty Nest
Dear Lonely Mom of Older Kids - my most loved and shared post of all time
Home as Sanctuary
My Easy, Real World Housekeeping System (with downloadable PDF)
Friendship and Relationships
And I've shared some of my best heart on these wonderful websites:
Why It's Time We All Got a Lot More [Good] Stubborn - A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp)
Five Excuses Jesus' Donkey Didn't Make (But We Do) - Faith Street
Three Things to Tell Your Teen Today - Raising Generations Today
For When You're Not Enough - Going Beyond (Priscilla Shirer)
You've Hit a Roadblock - Now What? - Christianity Today
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My husband was frustrated with the amount of clutter and debris piled into our closets and drawers. "Every single thing you open has a bunch of junk in it," he said, disgustedly. (We've had this discussion many times, just in case you were wondering. This particular one took place several years ago.)
"I mean, just take a look at this drawer," he pulled open a drawer from a small desk in our bedroom. In it was a jumble of old Christmas cards, pens, paper clips, spools of thread, movie ticket stubs, lone game pieces, Music Theory medals and paper awards.
"And what the heck is something like THIS doing here?" he scooped it up and held it in his palm for me to see. "Why do we have ROCKS in our drawers?" I did not like his tone.
I looked down at the smooth, striped stone in his hand.
"Oh, that's not a rock, that's Stretch!" I said, laughing. "Lauren found him when she was about 7 and named him Stretch because that's what he looks like. He's very special."
Tom immediately looked skeptical. Just to prove my point, I told him to go show Meghan and ask her about it. Meghan was then a senior in high school, and I knew she'd remember.
I heard their voices from her bedroom.
"Do you know anything about this?" his voice had softened by this time, and I could tell he was showing her the rock.
"STRETCH!" she exclaimed excitedly, the moment he opened his hand. "Wherever did you find him?? I wondered where he was!"
I could hear Meghan tell her dad about how she and Lauren used to love finding rocks. Fat ones, sparkley ones, black ones, skinny ones. But none were are as special as this guy. He was flat, yet rounded and smooth. He fit just perfectly in their little hands. And with his stripes, he practically named himself!
Lauren introduced Stretch to me and then set him on the wooden kids' table that sat in our kitchen.
Stretch kicked around as a paper weight for quite some time. For awhile he lived on the window sill above my kitchen sink, and then finally one day he became a member of the junk drawer club.
He made the move with us from city to country, having survived numerous rounds of cuts as we purged our belongings down to the essentials and important mementos.
It's really no surprise that Stretch found himself in the company of the medals and awards. I look at those tarnished trophies that celebrate our children's accomplishments, and I have to squint my eyes to recall the ceremonies in which they received them. I can't even remember what most of the certificates were for.
But Stretch, now I can remember Stretch.
Holding him in my hand brings a flood of memories.
He was from a time of pure innocence, an era of my kids' childhood laughter and play. There were birthday parties and Santa Claus, recess and make-believe. The dress-up clothes were never put away neatly, the kids' table was awash with craft supplies, and there was always some kind of drama with playmates going on.
It was such a messy, noisy and crazy time of life.
Who would have thought it would be over so soon?
But I look back now, and of all the things we've saved from those years, Stretch holds a certain place of reverence in my mind. His simplicity, his quiet strength, his ability to keep secrets, and his knowledge of all that's happened in this family make me treasure him all the more.
When I see him, I envision my beautiful grown daughter as she was at age 7, sparkling with excitement over finding just the right rock.
"See?" she said, holding out her palm. "Isn't he just perfect?"
Yes, honey. He still is.
Do you have an object or collection from your kids' childhood that means something special to you? Something that brings a warm memory? I'd love to hear about it today!
This post first appeared in here back in 2007.
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