A letter from a younger me

Dear Sara,

Someday you will be 40 and only weeks away from graduating that curly-haired girl you call your oldest; that girl who was just in grade school yesterday. Life is going to change a lot between now and then. You will move. You will travel. Some friendships will come to an end. New ones will begin. There will be a death to some dreams and the birth of new ones, and in between there will be a sense of loss. The isolation of homeschooling won’t be forever and you will find yourself again.

One day, though, you will be forty, and you will be filled with regret and doubt and mama-guilt, even though right now you don’t believe in any of those things. You will wonder if you made the right choices, did the right things, spent those fleeting years wisely. You will question every parenting decision you ever made and you will doubt yourself to no end.

I want to remind forty-year-old you that you did the best you could in those years. It’s easy for you to look back now and see all the things you could have done differently and better. You are older and wiser, with more tools and more resources for handling life. You are not the same person you were when they were little. When they were little you did what you could to make it through each day. Some days were better than others, but you were there. You were present. You loved them the best you could. And you learned. You did not stay the same. You grew and changed and so did they. You leaned hard on Christ and you confessed to them when you were wrong, and they saw that we all need Jesus.

And in these teenage years, you all continue to grow and change, and one day you will be fifty and the last one will be out of the house and you will still likely question everything because that is what mamas do. At forty, with five girls in the house, there are hormones and feelings and opinions; they are legion and they are strong. But you will survive. And you will all be stronger for the process.

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Persist, dear mama, never give up. Hang on by your fingernails if necessary. Fight for those girls and fight for your marriage. Fight for the life God has called you to. He is good and He is faithful. And He is more than enough, even when you feel less than enough. Especially then, in fact.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Christmas and Life – 2017 Edition

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To all our Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! The past couple of years since our last card have been a wild ride. We love hearing from family and friends near and far, and look forward to your cards every year!

Grace is in her senior year of high school here at home and looking ahead to what she will do after graduation. She has worked at Bobo’s Drive-In as a carhop for over a year and also interned at both Golden Rule and Haiti Lifeline this past summer. Grace loves hammocking and Trader Joe’s Chai Lattes.

Emma is a sophomore at the Vincent Academy for Girls. She has been a faithful part of the Golden Rule office staff for over a year and is also thinking ahead to what she wants to do after high school. Emma loves traveling and the show Stranger Things.

Chandler is a freshman at CPLS – that’s three high schoolers! Enrolling the younger three in school has been a good change for all of us and they are all growing in their new environment. Chandler traveled on her first team to Haiti this past October and fell in love with the little island that has captured all of our hearts. Chandler loves acting and spending time with her friends.

Ellie is a 7th grader at CPLS. Ellie tried her hand at sports for the first time this year, participating in the school’s junior high volleyball program. Watching her challenge herself and grow in something that doesn’t come naturally was fun to watch. Ellie loves Harry Potter and art projects.

Amania is in 5th grade at CPLS. She continues to be a natural on the soccer field and has decided to try her hand at basketball this winter. Like Ellie, it’s fun to watch her be challenged and learn some different skills. Her persistently positive outlook on life is a gift to our family. Amania loves school and her family.

We have also had the privilege of hosting Gemima Joseph in our home part-time for the past fifteen months. Gemima is a friend from Haiti, here to attend Johnson County Community College and eventually Washburn. We have learned a lot in our time with Gemima and are thankful she is here. Gemima loves warm weather and Reeses Pieces.

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Matt celebrated his 15th year in business this past February. We continue to look back in amazement at how God has blessed our little company and we are thankful to work with the best group of people around. The company has grown significantly in the past few years and we are excited to see what the future holds. Matt loves Starbucks coffee and scaring his office-mates.

I graduated from Washburn with my Bachelor of Social Work in May. Not everyone can spend twenty years completing a four-year degree, but I managed to make it happen. The past two years have brought some big changes as I transitioned from being at home full-time to working part time in two environments that I love – as support staff at the girls’ school and as the director of the Oasis Project with Haiti Lifeline. I’m so thankful to Matt and the girls for their flexibility and support as we all navigate new roles and expectations at home. I still love writing and the beach.

We hope that your holiday season is full of joy and laughter, and if it’s not, we pray you know God’s presence in the midst of it all. He is faithful, even when we are not, and He is good, even when life is hard. May you know the fullness of His love for you this coming year.

For His Glory ~

Sara, for the Vincent Seven

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When You Want to Go Back in Time

A friend sent me these pictures yesterday. Five years ago, when all our babies were still babies, and each of us had one more child yet to join our families.

And I had the urge to give in to the ugly cry, but I was about to walk out the door, so I had to hold myself together.

So often lately I have had an intense longing to go back. To rewind time to a simpler season. I’ve been longing for our old homes and old places in life. Our family has done some hard growing up this year and we’ve entered a new, inevitable season. It’s one we’ve been working toward and that is ultimately good, but it hasn’t come without a cost. And I think that has opened up a window in my soul that longs for the past. And even though memories can be good, an unhealthy longing for those days is not productive because the past is not where we live.

Those earlier years, five years ago, and even before, they were simpler times. Not easier. Not by a mile. Those days were hard. And, mamas, don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. But there is a simplicity to the days of feedings and naps and early bedtimes. There is a simplicity to grade school and third grade math and schedules that can be contained. And ten years from now, I’m sure I will see that this season is its own sort of simpler time too.

I have a woman I look up to who told me once something along the lines of, “First you have babies and toddlers and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they get older and you have teens and it’s hard, but it’s the best thing ever. Then they grow up and go to college and get married. And they move away and you have grandbabies and it’s just you and your husband again. And it’s hard but it’s the best thing ever.”

Every stage of parenting is hard and exhausting. There’s no getting around that. Every stage also comes with abundant joys and rewards. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder for them. Life is about change; nothing stays the same. For those of us that don’t love change, that can be hard. But if we can learn to weather the storms and enjoy the beauty of each season, we just might find that change often brings the best things ever.

For His Glory ~

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When Grace Shines Through

Barely old enough to buy the champagne we toasted with, we took vows and we promised forever and I felt safe and you had hope and we walked back down that aisle with grand plans but no idea what the future held.  And a decade and a half later we woke up in the middle of our hurried thirties with five kids and a business and a million responsibilities, next to a person we thought we knew too well but maybe didn’t know at all.

And we both broke vows and we broke each other’s hearts and you lost hope and I built walls to keep myself safe.  And we almost lost it all.

But hope holds on and safety can be found when we refuse to let go.  And for a year now we have fought, often with each other, but also for each other.  And we have learned that it’s possible to fall in love with the same person over and over and over again.  We’ve learned that forgiveness comes at a cost but it is worth the price because redemption is our reward.

And on nights when I want to give up and make my own safety behind those walls, on nights when you lose hope and we wonder if we will ever be us again, God reminds me that our surrender is to Him because our trust is in Him, and we must choose to stay soft toward one another and always assume the best.  Because this love is real and true and imperfect and broken, but in all those broken places, His grace shines through.

Sometimes I wake up with the sadness
Other days it feels like madness
Oh…what would I do without you?

When colours turn to shades of grey
With the weight of the world at the end of the day
Oh…what would I do without you?

A decade goes by without a warning
And there’s still a kindness in your eyes
Amidst the questions and the worries
A peace of mind, always takes me by surprise.

I feel like I’m walking with eyes as blind
As a man without a lantern in a coal mine
Oh…what would I do without you?

My imagination gets the best of me
And I’m trying to hide lost at sea
Oh…what would I do without you?

The difference between what I’ve said and done
And you’re still standing by my side
A guilty soul and a worried mind
I will never make it, if I’m on my own

So you’ve got the morning, I’ve got midnight
You are patient, I’m always on time
Oh…what would I do without you?

You’ve got your sunshine, I’ve got rainclouds
You’ve got hope, I’ve got my doubts

Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?
Oh…what would I do without you?

~ Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, & 52}

Here we are. December 29.  The year is almost over.  The past few weeks have been….interesting.  They’ve been crazy fast and unbelievably long.  It never really felt like Christmas and yet Christmas is over.  We celebrated three birthdays, and also enjoyed several Christmas celebrations since I last reviewed.  Time flies.  Except when it doesn’t.

Early November brought the return of Matt and Emma from Haiti and led straight in to planning and preparations for birthdays and Christmas celebrations.

We celebrated Ellie’s birthday first with the Pinterest fail of the year.  I was attempting to make a rainbow cake.  It didn’t work out so well.  (hahahahaha)

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Next up was Thanksgiving and some wonderful celebrations with family (and a few exciting games of Nerts here at home).

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Grace adopted a bunny.  His name is Timothy.  And he’s quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

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We celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday.  She opted to make her own cake.  I have no idea why?!?!?!

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We wrapped up the kitchen project, 98% of the way anyway.  Which, if you do many DIY projects like this, you know that’s as far as they ever get until it’s time to move.  The transformation is unbelievable.  We’re even a little shocked when we go back and look at pictures of what it was just three months ago.

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And then there was the #TeamNovember party for the Haiti team.  Ugly Christmas sweaters abounded.  As did food and laughter and friends new and old.

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Then we hit the final week of school, and crunch time for Christmas prep and shopping.  Up to this point we had been in kitchen and party mode 110%, so ten days out from Christmas I had done next to nothing in that department.  So, a day at the coffee shop to think and browse and organize uninterrupted, plus the magic of Amazon Prime and Christmas went off almost seamlessly.  (One child’s gift to me didn’t make it until the day after Christmas, but such is life.)  The girls and I celebrated the end of shopping and the end of the semester with cupcakes at a local shop.  Hurray!

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Last, but not least, we celebrated Matt’s birthday over the weekend.  He and I snuck away to Kansas City overnight where we talked about the past several weeks and looked ahead to next year.  We met some dear friends for late night refreshments and came away from the weekend feeling more connected to each other than we have in weeks.  He ended his birthday with an exciting case of the stomach flu (along with two of our girls; another one had had it two days before Christmas).  Fortunately it was fast moving and everyone was well again by the next day. I am beyond blessed to be married to the man that I am, and the past several weeks have reminded me of that.

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The beauty of the last seven or eight weeks have been heavily clouded by the return of a very dark season for me personally.  The sun, I’m pretty sure, didn’t shine at all for several weeks, and that never helps.  But some personal struggles in our home opened my heart and mind up to a season of confusion and doubt that I haven’t experienced in a very long time.  The Lord used my time away with Matt and some of our conversations, along with the prayers of a few dear friends, to lift that veil and peace and joy have returned to my heart and mind, and for that I am endlessly thankful.

I will close with the gifts I have listed over the past several weeks, along with another picture of Timothy, just because he’s so darn cute.

3081.  75* —> 35*; goodbye fall, hello winter

3082.  strange, long weeks; wrestling with attitudes and self-doubt; my God who is greater than all of it

3083.  soul baring talks on date night

3084.  raking leaves in the snow

3085.  bread and wine, laughter, prayer, and friends

3086.  blankets, heating pads, hot coffee – warmth on bitterly cold days

3087.  Timothy the bunny

3088.  a heart that longs for more

3089.  my big, big God

3090.  hard weekends, long talks, relationships restored

3091.  my Ellie turning 9

3092.  kitchen mess that means kitchen progress

3093.  nights to lie awake praying

3094.  Thanksgiving celebrations – food, family, laughter

3095.  words of grace, hope, and courage on a Monday morning

3096.  feeling tired and empty, running to Jesus

3097.  reconnecting with old friends

3098.  “Friendsgiving” and laughing til our sides hurt

3099.  a God who knows how my heart aches and is worn and weary and who folds me in His love

3100.  Emma turning 13 – the gift of her

3101.  a tree, lit and decorated

3102.  our 12th annual company Christmas party

3103.  continuing to wrestle

3104.  finally laying it all at God’s feet

3105.  peace

3106.  a good week

3107.  the end of the semester

3108.  the start of something new

3109.  celebrating the birth of Christ

3110.  answers to prayer and conversations that finally bring peace, restore trust

3111.  celebrating my beloved

3112.  the grace of God and essential oils that held off the stomach flu (for some of us at least)

That’s it for us right now.  I pray that your New Year is wonderful and filled with joy and hope.  But even if it’s not, we know that God is faithful and He is good.

For His Glory ~

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Nine

This beauty turned nine yesterday.

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Seems hard to believe the baby of our bio girls is going to be double-digits in just a year.  Ellie is our resident book worm.  She’s also our resident “messy”.  Pictures like this next one embody the (tidied up by mom) path she leaves behind in every room.

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Reading, piano, ballet, and drama (the organic kind, not a class) define her life right now.  Whatever she feels, she feels it strongly and she doesn’t experience much of the in-between.  She remains my primary snuggler and the one most eager to do school.  She can talk more than all of our other girls combined and may be the reason this blog is titled what it is, but she is definitely one of my five favorite girls in the world.  I’m thankful for the gift of this girl’s life and the blessing it is to be her mama.

For His Glory ~

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For When You Wear Regret Like a Robe…..

While on vacation Matt told me about an article he had read, written by someone who regretted saving herself, her virginity, for marriage.  And I laughed and said that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. I read her article.  And my heart breaks for the bad theology she was raised in and for the broken religion she was taught because, based on her post, so much of it is so far from the gospel of grace that Jesus lived.   And as a church we have so far to go to teach our young people that purity matters but it does not define us and that we stay pure because we trust that the God who made us really does know what is best for us, not because of pride or fear or shame.  And this morning I read Ann’s words on why to wait and they were beauty and grace.

On that same vacation I read Just 18 Summers and pondered the caricatured pressure, anxiety, and regret these families lived with and how they were an over-stated reflection of what so many of us feel and it seems to me that Satan has two primary tactics in which he wages war – pride and regret.  And while the book and the article are unrelated, the messages of pride and regret go hand-in-hand.

We wear our pride and think we could never make those bad choices, do those awful things – never have sex outside of marriage, never drink too much, smoke, do drugs, yell at our parents / spouse / children.  Because we’re good people, rule followers, righteous, and we just.don’t.do.that.  Until we do.  We fall and we stumble and we sin and we wake up in the dirt and mess of our own choices.  And while all can be forgiven, none can be undone.  And regret climbs on like a weight we can’t put down and it follows everywhere like an ugly shadow.

Or our pride keeps us on edge, trying to put forth an image, make us something we know we’re really not – pulled together, controlled, prepared, practically perfect in every way.  Until we realize we’re not.  And we see the time that was wasted pretending when we could have been living real. And our heart breaks for the relationships lost and broken while chasing the wind.

And I know regret well.  I can’t fathom regretting saving oneself for marriage.  It just doesn’t register.  But I can I understand the feelings of how is this suddenly okay, when it’s never been okay before.  I get that.  But giving away pieces of one’s soul in the name of being more at ease on your wedding night seems counter-productive.  But I know Satan will use any method to keep us from experiencing the fullness of God’s love, even to the point of making someone regret trusting His word.  And I have bags full of stuff I could carry around and regret from my pre-marriage life, but I’ve never been a big fan of living with regret and I see how those things shaped me and changed me and life carries on because God is bigger than all of it.  And while my pride was totally stripped, regret never really haunted me.

Until I became a mother.  And the thought of how my singular influence could so shape a life and that latent perfectionist within has never been able to handle the pressure and Satan found a way to saddle me with that burden of regret early and I daily have to lay it down.  The things that should have been said differently, or not said, or should have been said that weren’t.  The time that should have been used more wisely.  The snuggles I skipped, the stories we didn’t read, the encouragement I didn’t give to my husband or children.  And the hours I could spend focusing on what didn’t happen…..that’s when Satan wins a victory.  Oh, I could invest so much time and energy into what could have been but what would be the point?  I cannot go back.  I don’t intend to have more babies just so I can try again.  God has given me this one marriage and these five girls.  He’s given me eyes to see where we need to go, not just what we missed in the past.  I can’t go back and re-do any of it.  But I can make the most of now – being present, being available, being real.

And I think this concept of regret is a fairly Western, 21st century problem.  I don’t imagine my grandparents or great-grandparents or yours sitting around the fire at night lamenting all the “quality time” and “experiences” their children didn’t get.  They didn’t feel pressured to provide swimming pools or elaborate fire pits or elite sports teams or study abroad opportunities to make their lives full.  They lived their one life the best they could.  They loved, cared, and provided for their families the best they knew how.  Our generation has the luxury of worrying about the quality of time we spend with each other  or activities we are involved in and we’re killing ourselves because of it.

There are so many many things that could have been done differently.  I don’t want to spend this one life looking back wishing for  a do-over.  I want to look ahead with hope and joyful anticipation of all that God can make out of the ashes of a messed up past.  He makes beautiful things….
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For His Glory ~

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*image source – Pinterest; original source unknown

Fourteen

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This one.  Today she is fourteen and lovely and nearly as tall as me.  This year she will begin high school and learn to drive.  And it only just now seems reasonable to me that I should have a five year old, but I look over and I have a young woman.  And it seems just yesterday that she was sitting on the couch watching Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues with her eyes watering because she would.not.blink.  And how does this wonderful world spin so fast?

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Sidenote and unrelated fact about the above picture: Grace is now babysitting for that swim instructor’s two year old son.  How time flies….

This child is our guinea pig child – the first born that is one constant experiment in parenting do’s and don’t’s.  And we’ve learned so much and we have so much left to learn and the next several years will bring a whole new level of education as we navigate goals and plans and new freedoms and responsibilities and the inevitable interest in and of the opposite sex.

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But for today we give thanks for the gift of this girl – the first of our five.  She remains steadfast, responsible, strong, more than a little stubborn sometimes, funny, incredibly artistic, smart, and with a heart captivated by Haiti.  This mama heart is not ready for the letting go that the next few years will bring, but God has plans for her.  Big, good, wonderful, beautiful plans for her life.  And she is His to use.

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Happy Birthday, my beautiful Grace.

Love,

Mama

Things to Remember

On Saturday there were tears, and maybe some gnashing of teeth, as worries over children and their character overwhelmed.  As some problems were brought to light and as the new school year looms ever-closer, this mama’s heart was heavy and discouraged.  Every fault, every failure, every short-coming, it seemed, could be traced right back to me and I felt, once again, I could never be enough. And Sunday dawned with much needed heart-felt worship and a sermon kicked off with Pharrel Williams’ “Happy”.  And the day ended with a LeCrae concert and an unexpectedly amazing time of worship and encouragement and just plain fun. Some things were remembered that Sunday that need to be remembered again and again.  Things like God’s faithfulness and His promise and that these children are His and as parents we must do our best, but it’s not about us. Some thoughts from the past couple of weeks that my soul has been holding tightly to:

  • Why aren’t we more enthusiastic? (All of the following is from Pastor Jim’s current sermon series, until noted otherwise):
    • we forget how good we have it
    • we have unrealistic expectations
    • we have a grumpy gene (heh 🙂 )
  • Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV) – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Choose to set your mind on the things of Christ.
    • Oh my mind has not been here.  I have been distracted by so many things; many good things even, but not Christ.  But my prayer of late has been that Jesus would make Himself first in my heart again.
  • How do we become more enthusiastic?
    • Let the peace of the Messiah control your heart.
    • Be thankful.
    • Let the message dwell richly.
  • On parenting:
    • Know your child.  Know yourself.  Know Christ. (oh yes!)
    • Some people are just runners.  They will run from law and they will run from grace.  Law (legalism) does not draw anyone back.  Grace draws its own back home.  Hold fast to the gospel of grace.
  • Romans 12:11 (NLT) – Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

And then there was that LeCrae concert, with speakers like Tyrone Flowers and Phil Davis and that oft needed reminder that this world is more than what we see and that there is a daily battle for our hearts and minds.  And fresh off my own emotional wrestling over kids and choices and hearts, Tyrone Flowers pulls out Jeremiah 29:11, that verse that has given me hope for over twenty years, and God quietly reminded me that not only does He have a plan for me, He has a plan for them too.  Each of those girls sitting to my right was created by Him – on purpose and for a purpose.  And while I definitely have a job to do with them, their ultimate outcome is not up to me.  He has a plan.  I can trust that plan.  It may not look like I want it to look, but He has a plan and it is good.  

For His Glory ~

 

 

 

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Week in Review: 2014 {Weeks 19, 20, 21, & 22}

I’m a broken record….how does an entire month keep slipping by between each post?  Not cool.

May was our first month of “summer”.  School ended and activities wrapped up.  We experienced a full week with no where to go and nothing to do.  That was glorious.  June has started and with it bursts of crazy interspersed with some slow spells.  I have high hopes for a great summer.

May wrapped up Emma’s first soccer season.  We resisted sports for so many years, partly because I didn’t want the crazy schedule.  Practices, games, and the constant changes due to weather and other conflicts; I just wasn’t interested.  But this year we relented with volleyball for Grace in the fall and soccer for Amania, then soccer for both Amania and Emma this spring.  The schedule was nuts, but it was actually also quite a bit of fun.  Getting to observe Emma as she starts to come into her own and doing something her older sister has never done was a gift.

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We also wrapped up ballet for the school year with the annual spring recital.  Ballet is so very different from sports (duh), even down to its very predictable schedule and year-long build up to a two-minute performance.  But it was a blessing to Ellie this year, as she also had a chance to sort of come into her own with an activity that has been done by all of her older sisters, but only by her right now.  Watching her in class, I saw this silly, squirrelly girl mature and focus and take this opportunity very seriously.  She was lovely in her performance and is very excited about moving up to pre-pointe in the fall.

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We celebrated off the “official” end of our school year earlier in the month with a trip over to Kansas City and an afternoon of shopping at the Legends.  It was a wonderful afternoon with my girls and a gorgeous day to walk around and shop.

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May also meant Mother’s Day, the opening of the pool, and a sweet baby cardinal in our bushes.  I don’t think things ended well for this little guy, but we try not to think about that.

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So my big goals for the summer include going back through every room in the house, decluttering, cleaning, organizing, and hopefully wrapping up some small projects that don’t involve my very own general contractor’s assistance.  I’ve come to the conclusion that moving is some sort of multi-stage process (probably another “duh”).  Last summer we packed, unpacked, purged, and put away.  But we had to move fast because nothing was really planned and it turned out to be a much bigger project than I think either of us anticipated when we said, “Hey, let’s make an offer on that house!”.  Now that we’ve had a year in the house and I don’t feel the pressure of the deadlines, I am going back through and being as thorough and ruthless as I can be.  I’ve only been through four rooms and we’ve already sold quite a bit of stuff and hauled five good-sized boxes to the local rescue mission.  As I’ve been purging and cleaning, I’ve been aware of a recent run of shares by friends on Facebook about minimalist living.  I’ve read the articles and there is so much that appeals to me about the idea, and we are certainly continually working toward having less, all the while consuming more, and it seems to be a bit of a merry-go-round for us.  As I talked with one friend this week about how to actually pursue a minimalist lifestyle, we both agreed that really, the most effective way to get there would be downsizing one’s house.  And since I’ve already declared that I am never, ever, ever moving again (at least not for a very long time, Lord willing), that’s not going to work.  Just the change in storage space has forced me/us to re-evaluate what we hold on to, but I know we can continue to do more to reduce our possessions, eliminate excess, and simplify life.

My other big goal is working through the book Cleaning House with the girls.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough, even if your kids are already hard workers around the house.  I will do another, more focused post on it and our experience, but her analysis of where our “helpfulness” as adults is taking our kids is eye-opening and motivating (and maybe a little frightening).

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That’s pretty much it for us.  This week is going to be a fun one for the kiddos, so hopefully I’ll be able to post again soon….like less than a month.

 

Have a blessed Monday, friends!

For His Glory ~

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