There's a little post with an announcement regarding my photography business over on my website today. >>go here<< If you're here at Everyday Light, I hope you'll stay, because this is where I'll be focusing much more attention in the coming months. Let's find some light to play in...
Simplicity and genuine fullness of life is the underlying theme in our household. We tend to keep a tight rein on our schedules and have mastered the art of saying no to unnecessary obligations. Yet somehow, it happens every year around this season: I find myself disenchanted with a life of simplicity. As the leaves begin to turn and the holiday season looms, the feeling of wanting more creeps up and my heart races to find a cure for this chronic feeling of nothing-ness. Fill the space. Pack the calendar. Buy all the things.
My flesh tells me that the work I do is not enough. Wife and mother is not a job description. Do something. Make something. Contribute.
But this year is different. I am making a concerted effort to remind myself every day that the work I do is holy not because I am the best at it; not because I lit it well, photographed it, and used the best filter to post on social media. It’s for whom I do the work that makes it holy.
I want nothing more in this season of our lives than to feel sunshine on my face each day, fill my lungs with fresh air, behold the faces of the ones I love the most, and taste all of the Lord’s goodness. Everything else is just excess.
After reading my last post, my mother texted me to let me know how much she enjoyed it. But she also said this to me:
“I do regret we never took a REAL vacation. I get sad about it sometimes. But only for you guys, never sad for myself…”
And it made my heart tighten to think of how there are mommas out there who are struggling to make it- maybe even on their own- and regretting the things that they cannot give their children.
You wake up before the sun every single day and work a job (or two, or three, like my mother) that you don’t love simply to keep the lights on and food on the table. You fight to make it to every game and concert and activity even though you can’t really afford to miss work. You make sure not to make promises for fear that you won’t be able to follow through. You have restless nights in the dark worrying about how you will afford school supplies, uniforms, fees, and club memberships… or worry about the pain of seeing your child’s face drop when you tell her she can’t do cheerleading this year. And you cry, but you’ve gotten really good at hiding it, because they aren’t tears for you, they’re tears for them.
So you take from yourself to give to them. Everything. You pour out of yourself until you feel like you have nothing left to give. And then you pour out more. And the lucky ones have a spouse that pours out too. But some of you mommas are the only vessel and you often feel like you’re running dry. But you keep pouring out what you can.
I know you do. I know it because I saw my own mother do it. And I didn’t really see it then- not until I had kids- but I see it now, in my childhood memories.
Oh mommas… don’t you know by now? Don’t you see? The material things that we can’t give our children do not matter. Not even a little bit.
What I took away from my childhood was so much more important that getting to stay a couple nights in a hotel room and ride some rollercoasters. A day at the beach could never have taught me what I know about mothering from watching my own mother. Hard work. Dedication. A spirit of determination. Accepting help when you need it, and never taking more than you need. Gratefulness. Joy in what you have, instead of sorrow for what you haven’t. And love.
Love in the form of late nights and early mornings, endless chauffeuring to games and activities, heart and soul- not money- poured into the simplest of days to make them special, ears that listened, pride swallowed, body broken, hands calloused, eyes tired, and heart full.
But can I tell you something? They see it. Your children. I know that you think they don’t care or appreciate you, but they see it. And someday, they’ll understand it too. They will feel it in their bones. Your love-struggle will be interwoven into the innermost fabric of their very being.
Don’t you see that what you’re giving them is so much more important than what you can’t give them?
You know what breaks my heart even more than knowing that *I* never got to take a vacation as a kid? It’s knowing that my mother never got a vacation. Because now that I’m a mom I know. I know that no one in the world deserved it more than her. Not for us, for her. For YOU, momma… but it never mattered to her as long as we were healthy and happy.
You have not struggled for nothing, momma… so keep going.
“What’s your favorite childhood memory?”
My husband asked me this not long ago, and while I consider my childhood happy, it was difficult to conjure up a specific memory that I felt embodied the essence of it. Shouldn’t that be an easy question to answer? Something joyous should always come easily to the forefront of the mind, right?
I won’t pretend I had a rough upbringing, but I was raised by a single mother who often worked two and three jobs to keep us afloat- long days and nights with little to show except full tummies and happy faces on her children. Many of my friends have wonderful childhood memories of going on vacations and visiting fabulous places. Or having big elaborate birthday parties and expensive Christmases. We never took so much as a weekend vacation, but our hearts were always full.
But then I remembered….one single moment that I feel was the most perfect and happy of moments for a little girl:
I’ve just awoken to a summer morning, sunlight blinding as I opened the metal screen door and sleepily step onto the astro turf-covered front porch. The pastures are lit up bright neon green from summer’s morning light, and the most perfect breeze blows through the front porch. My mother is on the west end of the porch, paint brush in hand, painting a large bookshelf white to go in my room. An airplane buzzes overhead and the wind chime clangs in the background. She looks up, and smiles.
That’s it. That’s the moment. Unceremonious and completely insignificant on a grand scale. And I often think of how my mother couldn’t have known that this was the moment that would be etched into my brain when I pictured my childhood. Her hair undone, a messy shirt thrown on, paint covering her hands. And then I think of all the moments in my own children’s lives that I’ve tried to make so picturesque and perfect. All the messes to which I’ve said no, and all the times I’ve insisted we not go out to play when the weather wasn’t ideal; and I wonder what they’ll remember about their childhood…
So today is a yes day. We’re embracing messy hair and dust on the floors and dishes left undone. No struggling against the ever-strengthening current of perfection. Today, we just play, because today could be the day. Any moment could be the one carved into their little hearts and burned into their memories. Today could be their moment in the porch.
A baby. Someone's baby. Face down on the shore. Washed up from the vastness they had hoped would bring them new life- water that held their fate. Desperation can be the only explanation for putting one's trust in something so volatile.
So we see the picture in the news and our hearts lurch and our stomachs turn, and so does the channel. We can't even watch as the world burns around us... And I have to wonder, are we doing enough? I don't mean our government. I mean us. I mean me. And where do we start? When our news feeds flip from one tragedy to the next, and our hands fall paper white from fear and our eyes burn and our minds race, where do we even start? And will our children see and learn from our mistakes? Will they still claim our Jesus if we sit back and wait on the bodies to wash up on our door step?
We can't say we didn't know- not just about the one dead baby in a sea of others, but about all of it. Here and abroad. In our streets and theirs. In our homes and hearts.
We can't say we didn't see the quiet racism and the systematic injustices that now spills over into outrage and boils in the streets. We can't say we didn't know of the murder of thousands in their mother's wombs before their lungs had even a chance to take in a breath. We can't claim ignorance to the disintegration of the foundations of families, hidden in the shadows of the internet where promises of instant gratification and self glorification live.
We can't say we didn't see. And if we see, we can't stand stock still while there is work to be done.
So what do we do? Where does that leave us? Shouldn't we feel the same desperation in our hearts to help a broken and dying world that those migrants felt before putting their hope in the water and cramming their courage into a boat?
Go. Move. Help. Be the Church.
I'm not talking about earning your way into heaven. I'm talking about embracing your humanity and conceding that we're all in this boat together, and our only hope is in the water.
There is hope in Christ.
There is truth.
The only water that holds the promise of life...
The first morning didn't start off the way I wanted it to: I overslept. And then I did something I swore I wouldn't do: I let the kids have donuts for their first day. I told myself I would just inject a little more coffee into my veins in order to handle the sugar-crazed maniacs into which they were certain to morph, but as I reached into the K-Cups box, I found it empty.
For two hours they asked if it was time to start. Vesper just couldn't wait! And when 9 a.m. finally came around, I took a deep breath, and rang the bell to signal the beginning of our very first school day. They ran in giggling and screeching. It was awesome. And the rest of the week has been awesome too!
I know it won't always be like this, but I'm grateful for an easy first week. I'll post again this week answering some questions we've gotten about our methods and routines and madness regarding homeschool.
In the meantime, thank you for the encouragement and the prayers and the well-wishes. I've gotten text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, wall posts, and Instagram comments all encouraging us in our first week, and I have to tell you it has meant so SO much to us. It truly means so much to know that we have a tribe behind us cheering us on. I hope you and your littles had a great start to the year too!
I’m a planner that likes to have even a vague idea of how things are going to transpire. I actually enjoy this process of laying everything out in front of my face and seeing all the pieces come together to form one big picture. But our first day of homeschool is tomorrow and despite my best efforts, I’m already seeing those pieces fall apart.
We had planned to begin a very loose, eclectic preschool curriculum with our three (and-a-half) year-old that included a short, focused time of “school” each day, more intentional discussions during “field trips,” and the addition of a few more workbook pages. I created a loosely-structured outline for our year using Unit Themes and got really excited about arts and crafts. But through my planning I started to realize that my daughter already knew most of the things in the curriculum. We’ve had shapes, colors, numbers, letters, and letter sounds down for nearly two years now.
What we needed was more Kindergarten curriculum mixed in. Cue scramble. Cue me staying up late at night re-working spread sheets to include more challenging activities. Cue the doubts and fears creeping in…
All around me, parents were sending their children off to school, and I was using every last second of my final week of summer with the kids to ensure our new routine would be a success- that I wouldn’t be a complete failure as a homeschool mom on our very first day.
And here’s what I’ve realized:
Dear Future Self,
Hey there, tired lady. You’re looking good! But I bet you’re not feeling so great, are you? Tired? Feeling a little tattered and unappreciated and worn thin? Wondering if it’ll ever click for the kids? Afraid that you’re doing more harm than good?
As I write this, there’s a sleeping little girl upstairs that wants to read and write so badly. My guess is that someday very soon, she’ll be able to do just that. And that sleepy boy? He’ll learn his alphabet and shapes and colors.
Now, I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I do know this: you chose this lifestyle for very good reasons. You know your kids better than anyone in the world. You know how they learn, you know what sets them up for failure, and you know just how to pick them up again when they fall, and set them back on the right path. No one is more equipped to do this than you.
I also want to remind you that even now, at this young age, your kids have caring, free-spirited, loving hearts. They are curious about the world around them and they’ve never met a stranger. They love learning and they love people. It’s a winning combination that requires strong character and integrity. And where do you think they might have learned something so delicately taught?
They’re going to be fine…
And you’re going to be fine…
Just keep going…
Around this time every summer, I watch the days start to get shorter and shorter. It's happening already. I can feel summer drawing to a close. My sticky skin feels he faintest hint of relief as shadows get longer each day.
But the ending of this particular summer feels significant somehow. It's the last time we'll mark the end of the warm season by beginning a school routine. For the first time ever, I'm cutting my own summer short by beginning to plan curriculum and set up a school room. It feels like the end of an era... from here on out, things are only bound to get busier and busier by the season. Activities will take precedence over impromptu date nights and our days of early bedtimes for the kids are numbered.
If I think about it too much, my head starts to spin. I get overwhelmed not at all the things left to do, but at my complete lack of control in it all. Then I have to remind myself: it's not about losing control; it's about finding a new normal. Soon, we will fall into a new routine, and yet no day will be like the one before.
My heart is excited for this new season! But for now, I'm hanging onto these last rays of summer...
click images to enlarge
She had been telling me about her for months. Anna (not her real name). How her pretty blonde hair was worn in pigtails with bows or woven into a long braid. She talked about her all the time, asking when we could go to her house or when she could come play at our house. And after a recent, tearful conversation with my daughter about her desire for “girl friends to play with,” my momma heart was happy to see her so excited about a new friend.
On the morning that I finally caught up with Anna’s mother at preschool drop off, her daughters hair was in those same bouncy pigtails. Mine had requested pigtails as well "just like Anna’s!" I introduced myself to her mother- a lovely and polite woman- and we made tentative plans for a play date in the near future. But the next week at drop off, as my bubbly little girl bounced into the hallway and greeted Anna, the little girl frowned and turned away without even acknowledging her friendly greeting. This of course did not phase my own daughter who has never met a stranger. I tried to brush it off as shyness, and tried not to put too much weight into preschooler antics. But at the end of the day, when I asked Vesper with whom she had played that day she replied “Anna!”. So I asked, "Did Anna talk to you today?"
“No,” she breathed her reply.
As we walked down the hallway to her classroom the following week, my daughter exclaimed, "Oh I hope Anna is here!" And as she burst into the classroom, she rushed straight over to the little blonde girl with her arms outstretched for a hug.
But again the pigtails turned and backed away, the same frown on her face. And just as I was morphing into defensive Momma Bear mode, I heard Vesper tell her,
"I'm so glad you're here! I love you so much!"
And my heart shattered...
Not because it’s difficult to see your child give pure, uninhibited love and be met with silence. Not because I want my daughter to be popular. But my heart broke because I hope she never cares. I hope that she always loves, no matter what. I pray that someday she will choose her friends for their hearts, and not for their hair styles. I pray that the Lord would send her friends with character and wild, messy beauty and glaring flaws because I pray that she would learn to love those flaws and love the flaws within herself.
I’m not worried. When I look at my daughter, I don’t see a girl who gives up easily. At three years old, she knows who she is and what she wants and she’s not afraid to go after it. And if she wants to love you, there’s no escaping it. You WILL be loved. And maybe I need to take a page out of that book- to love even when I feel unloved. When everything feels so… unlovely. What would it look like if we chose love every time- gave grace upon grace?
I have a feeling it would look rather like the cross. The One who loved even the unloveliest- even those who hated him. The God-man who could have remained on a throne, and yet threw himself among the lowest so that our flaws might be made right. A God that loves purely, without condition, even after we turn away over and over again.
And that’s a lesson I want my child to learn. That’s a heart I want her to have.
When you gain nothing: love anyway.
When you feel unlovely: love anyway.
When your heart might burst: love anyway.
When you feel run down, worn out, and battered by the world: love anyway.
My name is Chelsea. Redeemed. Wife. Mommy. Photographer. Light Chaser. I hope you find light here too.