Pensive Puppy

Isn’t she the sweetest? I love how she is griping onto Zach’s hand in these photos.

We are in a very specific season of puppy care right now. Our washer hums all day, and there are quite a few “accidents”, as well as opportunities for us all to practice patience.

I’ve been singing that song from the Veggie Tales version of Esther for weeks …

“ Puppies are cuddly, puppies are cute. They’re never nasty or mean. I’d give a home to all the lost puppies, if ever one day I were Queeeeeeeeen.”

Because, yes, of course Puppies are cuddly and cute. We are halfway through our puppy journey, and frankly I am ready for them to go to their new homes. I have a feeling that some people would be baffled by this. Who could not love adorable little balls of fluff?

Well, I do enjoy them. They’re fun. But they are smelling up my house, making endless messes, and crying at 3 am every morning.

It’s like having a group of babies. But penultimate babies, because puppies are definitely a step down from ultimate.

While they are snuggly and soft and sweet… they aren’t babies.

I’m not a dog person, I’m a baby person. I like actual children over “fur babies” ( and that term annoys me to no end) all day, everyday.

I have been contemplating this recently. How our culture has witnessed a rise in people choosing to not have children, but who lavish love and attention on their pets.

For millennia, children were considered to be blessings- the ultimate goal, the thing needed to make your life complete.

In our current culture, every year or so the news media estimates the staggering cost of raising children.

As if you could some how do a cost versus benefit on something so intangible.

How much does unconditional love cost? What is the worth of being witness to someone’s first word, first step? How do we asses value to another eternal soul?

We can’t , and we shouldn’t.

These puppies are fun. I will look back fondly on this season, as I’m sure my children will.

But the relationships we have with these puppies will not define my life. They could never come close to replacing the love I have for my husband and children. There’s simply no comparison between a dog who won’t remember me in April, and the children that grew from a single cell in my body.

Winter Sunsets and Dependable Kindness

I have a very kind husband.

The kind of husband who has forever changed my view of men.

You see, I grew up with men who equated machoism and control for manliness. Men who were selfish, unreliable. Men who valued status and power and wealth. Men who thought using women was acceptable. Men who were unreliable. Men who never had the courage or guys to dig in, do the hard work, stick around.

Enter Zach.

He’s proven that he will do whatever it takes to make our marriage work, and I’m so grateful. He is raising our boys to be godly men, and I couldn’t be more encouraged. He genuinely adores our daughter, and I’m so grateful.

He’s gentle, but he’s a far cry from being a pushover.

My husband is strong, tough, manly.

But he is also tender, thoughtful, kind, and perceptive.

Day in, day out.

Dependably.

I have a photo session coming up that I’m a little nervous about. It’s a larger group than what I normally shoot. There are some unfamiliar elements in regards to time, place, etc.

Before I could say any of this , he had a plan. He took me location scouting, after putting in a 14 hour work day.

He got out of the truck and tromped around in the snow because I needed a subject to practice my lighting on.

That’s the everyday kind of love that really matters to me, to the marrow of my bones.

He’s on my side. He cares about the things I care about. He is kind.

If I try to thank him, he’ll shrug it off. Say it’s no big deal.

But dependable kindness is the biggest of all deals.

Valentines Day will soon be upon us. This is a good time to remind our children that Hollywood romance has nothing on the Daily Dependable kind of love.

Of Winter and Rest

Wayne Muller says: ‘Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight.”

Winter is an invitation to rest.

I have been known to resist the colder temperatures and shorter day light hours. I’ve struggled in the past over long stretches of cold weather.

But I’m older. Hopefully a little wiser. And I know now that winter is an invitation to slow down.

Labors don’t cease because the days are cold and short. But instead of balking , fidgeting against the cold and the dark, I can tie the opportunity to slow down. To end my work day a little earlier. To linger around the table a bit longer.

To light the candles. To embrace the quiet. To appreciate the opportunity given to me.

What does rest look like for you? Reading a good book, curled up next to the fire? A guilt-free nap? Resting is more than merely ceasing our labors. Resting is to recognize the fact that the world is not dependent on us. We don’t have to carry its Weight on our shoulders. We can rest because we can trust. The two concepts are indivisible.

We trust that God is good.

We trust that we have enough time.

We trust that all is working together for Good.

We know that our value is not dependent on how much work we can cram into our days.

And so , we can embrace the invitation to rest.

The power of creativity

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Pablo Picasso

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Sometimes I just need a good quote , something that reminds me I’m not the only one who thinks a certain way.

Sometimes I need to know I’m not the only one who is struggling.

Sometimes I need some art therapy.

Children are great teachers in this area. They remind us to enjoy the process instead of focusing on outcomes. I say I’m a recovering perfectionist. I say the prices of creating is more important than a perfectly executed project. But my inner critic is loud. And , oftentimes, there is a world ready to pounce on each and every perceived flaw.

And that’s when I look for a quote by one of my beloved famed philosophers … ( who also happens to be a talented actor) … Mr. Denzel Washington, who once said :

“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

And, about the process versus criticism :

“If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup I possibly can. My effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it.” – Denzel Washington

These are great reminders. As creatives, sometimes we can feel lonely. Sometimes we can feel as if the hours we pour into our work goes largely unnoticed.

Sometimes we feel like we just want to Make Good Things, but the world demands we learn how to market ourselves and the things we make. There is a tension there. We can take comfort in the fact that it is not New. Those that have gone before us had similar struggles. (Don’t believe me? Read a biography on Monet or Jim Henson.)

Creativity is healing . Creativity is intuitive. People that are naturally creative are often not as proficient at the business side of things.

That’s ok. We can learn .

Girls, grab your planners! It’s a new year!

Are you a journal keeper? Do you enjoy planning? I do, on both counts.

I do Morning Pages every morning, which is basically three pages of stream of consciousness before you start your day each morning.

I also write weekly in my Next Right Thing Journal by Emily P Freeman.

I am currently working out of two planners – one my mom created for me for my personal work and home tasks, and then a second planner just for homeschool lessons and assignments.

First semester it was all in one place and it was a bit messy- I’m hoping that dual planners help my crazy brain this semester.

My boys purchased a gorgeous leather notebook for me for Christmas this year, and as I am turning 35 in April, I plan to record my special moments in that notebook. I’m calling it Year of 35 because I’m so unique in the arena of naming things . 😜

My Year of 35 pages thus far :

* 2021 Memories : a few notes on each month .

* My Word of the Year : the word, the definition, and some thoughts

* 10 areas of my life and their corresponding goals/ intentions

* one page for each of my “main” relationships

* a page of Dreams for the next year. These aren’t goals exactly, more like things I hope to accomplish.

I used to plan five or so goals for each area of my life. I think growing older, plus the season of life I’m in, are contributing to me aiming more for Adjustments rather than Complete Overhauls.

I like how my morning time is working, I like my rhythm of working out, I like how our homeschool is progressing… so rather than big audacious goals, what I need are more minor adjustments.

I love SMART goals, and Five Year Plans. But I don’t plan to utilize them this year.

The next five years will be very important, as I will be graduating 3 of my children in that span of time. Not having a five year plan doesn’t mean the time period is not important. Rather, it means I’m learning to lean in and asses in each season what my children need most from me.

Where are you at ?

Are you a bit sad and nostalgic for the year that had passed?

Are you looking forward to the year to come, ready and eager to turn the page on the calendar?

Do you have huge goals that you’re ready to chase?

Or do your resolutions look more like gentle intentions this year?

Not Quite Done Christmasing

I have learned a handful of lessons this Christmas Season.

The top three that come to mind are:

1) we will continue making good, meaningful memories.

2) When I don’t over decorate, then I’m more peaceful, and not itching to undecorate immediately the day after Christmas.

3 ) We don’t have to stop celebrating Christmas on December 25th. We can continue for as long as we like. In fact, many people celebrate until January 6th- Epiphany. I decided that is what I’m doing this year. ( Even though classes resume the 2nd.)

The first lesson is meaningful to me because I have been feeling excessively nostalgic. My oldest has his license, my second has his permit.

My second youngest is a freshman, my oldest will be a senior in the fall.

There are ongoing conversations about what it means to be a man, and why it’s easier to never try drugs in the first place rather than trying to overcome an addiction.

There are part time jobs and honest conversations about character traits, and plans about what the future might hold.

And while all this is good and wonderful and full of hope… I miss the little days. I miss being their whole world . I miss snuggles on the couch, and whispered secrets.

I miss them and they’re still all right here. This seems excessively ridiculous, and that is precisely why I’m sharing it.

And all this is to say, that in the very midst of being sad and nostalgic, we had a great time together. Looking at lights, playing games, just talking and drinking coffee.

I realized that this might have been the best Christmas yet.

And I also said this last year.

And the year before that.

So, then by my own admission- each and every Christmas is the best ever.

Meaning that just maybe, we are still living the “good old days”, right now.

Maybe even though I feel sad that my kids are growing up, I can acknowledge that we’re still making great memories right now.

This is a necessary and valuable thing to remember.

My second lesson is pretty self evident. By choosing to decorate three main places , I am not “tired of” Christmas decor by December 26th.

My third lesson ties into the first two.

We’ve had some great times of celebrating this Christmas season. We also have had a lot of hosting , volunteering, and projects.

I don’t feel like I’m finished celebrating Christmas, so.. I’m going to keep going.

The tree is staying up. I’ll still be lighting the red candles, and playing calm, contemplative a Christmas carols.

And I have a big Christmas party to host this weekend with family from out of town.

I’m not finished with that trappings of Christmas, because at the end of the day, there is a deeper reason to all of this.

This isn’t where I trot out the tired “He is the Reason for the Season.”

He is. And most of us acknowledge that.

But He is also the motivation for the season.

And this year in particular, He had given me so much.

He has worked miracles in my home, my children, my marriage, my finances, my church …

He worked year-round miracles . Miracles of hope and healing, “far as the curse is found.”

“Repeat the sounding joy”, indeed!

I’m not finished Christmas-ing because I’m not done contemplating all He has done for me.

And I can’t help but want to help others find the peace that He has brought me as well.

On a more practical note, Will I be pulling my hair out when I’m back in the thick of homeschooling and running children places and still have to take down my tree on January 6th? Only time will tell. 😉

Your turn! What have you learned this Christmas season? Funny or serious , sentimental or sacred or none of the above. Feel free to comment below, or if you’re more comfortable with journaling about it, then I would like to encourage you to take a few moments to do so.